Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in June 2016
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2016. Roaring Brook Press. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [POETRY, CONCEPT BOOK OF SEASONS]
  3. Prairie Evers. Ellen Airgood. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [CHRISTIAN]
5 Decades "Visited" in June 2016

1. 1930s
2. 1950s
3. 1960s
4. 1970s
5. 1980s

Picture books:
  1. When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2016. Roaring Brook Press. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [POETRY, CONCEPT BOOK OF SEASONS]
  2. Barnacle is Bored. Jonathan Fenske. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Strictly No Elephants. Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Be A Friend. Salina Yoon. 2016. Bloomsbury. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [CHRISTIAN]
  6. Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Mo Willems. 2011. HarperCollins. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. An Apple Pie for Dinner. Susan VanHecke. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Frog and Toad Together. Arnold Lobel. 1972. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
    [SERIES BOOK]
  2. Frog and Toad All Year. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1976. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] [SERIES BOOK]
  3. Days with Frog and Toad. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1979. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] [SERIES BOOK]
Contemporary (general, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Prairie Evers. Ellen Airgood. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Education of Ivy Blake. Ellen Airgood. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Truth of Me. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Gidget. Frederick Kohner. 1957. 154 pages. [Source: Bought]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.,) all ages:
  1. The World of Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne. Illustrated by Ernest Shepard. 1926. 353 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955. 590 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Life As We Knew It. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. [9 hours, read by Emily Bauer] [Source: Review copy] [AUDIO BOOK]
  4. Flowers for Algernon. Daniel Keyes. 1966. 311 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. John Gardner. Illustrated by Charles J. Shields. 1975. 73 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. George's Marvelous Medicine. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1981. 89 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The BFG. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1982. 199 pages. [Source: Library] 
  12. Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
Historical Fictional, all ages:
  1. A Lion To Guard Us. Clyde Robert Bulla. 1981. 117 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
Mysteries, all ages: 0

Classics, all ages:
  1. Bleak House. Charles Dickens. 1852-1853. 912 pages.  [Source: Bought] 
  2. Best In Children's Books. Volume 6. 1958. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Best in Children's Books, Volume 31. 1960. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
Nonfiction, all ages: 0

Christian fiction:
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. First Virtues for Toddlers. Mary Manz Simon. 2016. B&H. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. The Joy Project. Tony Reinke. 2015. Desiring God. 122 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. John Piper. 2013. 94 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Breaking the Islam Code. J.D. Greear. 2010. Harvest House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Five Love Languages of Children. Gary Chapman, D. Ross Campbell. 1995/2016. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5.  Exalting Jesus in Philippians. Tony Merida and Francis Chan. 2016. B&H. 209 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life. Ray Comfort. 2010. Living Waters. 128 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  7. How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible. Keith Ferrin. 2015. Bethany House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Seasons of Waiting. Betsy Childs Howard. 2016. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Reading The Word of God In the Presence of God. Vern S. Poythress. 2016. Crossway. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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More Many Mini Reviews (Period Drama)

Madness of King George (1994)
I loved it and I hated it. I really pitied the King in many, many, many, many places. And the way he was treated by his doctors and by his SON and by some of the politicians was heartbreaking. There were a few scenes that just ANGERED ME. That being said, the KING could be a trouble-maker. This film was beautiful at times. But I really wish it had had subtitles. I don't really think it's appropriate to call it "funny and entertaining."


Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music (2016)
So glad I watched this one. It is one of those movies with an embedded flashback. The "current" story has Agathe reaching out to her great niece--a teenager, I believe--who is determined to run away from her "mean" father and stepmother. She shares her life story with her, and, that life story is, of course, of the Von Trapp Family. It is a very different movie than The Sound of Music. I really enjoyed this one for the most part.


Jane Eyre (1944)
Is this my absolute favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre??? Probably not. But Orson Welles is super-charismatic and this one is very gothic. I really do love it! It may not be faithful to the book, but, as a movie it excels!!!

The Seventh Cross (1944)
DRAMA at its finest. This is set in Nazi Germany and it's INTENSE but oh-so-good. It's about seven prisoners who escape and what happens to them all....

Nicholas Nickleby (1977)
My friend was right. This is a GREAT, GREAT version of Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, it is long. But it is funny and charming in places. One always knows which characters to boo and hiss with Dickens, and which to just laugh at. I would recommend this version over the one I reviewed previously!!!

She Stoops to Conquer (2009)
I love this one. I've seen it twice now. And it is very funny. You wouldn't think a centuries-old play would make you laugh, but, it does!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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An Apple Pie For Dinner

An Apple Pie for Dinner. Susan VanHecke. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day, old Granny Smith wanted an apple pie for dinner. She looked around her cozy kitchen. She had flour and butter. She had sugar and spices. But there was one thing she didn't have.

Premise/plot: Granny Smith wants to make an apple pie but has no apples. What will she do? She'll take a good look at what she does have--plums, in this case, and make the most of it. She herself has no use for plums--at least not that day--but someone, somewhere will. So Granny Smith sets off to go trading...

My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. It's based on an English folktale. I'm not sure how familiar that original folk tale is today, but, it felt vaguely almost familiar to me. It was a relief to learn that it was inspired by a folk tale. I liked Granny Smith very much. I liked how she set about to do things and actually got things done. I liked all the people she met along the way. I liked how she included them in the ending and asked them to share the pie! The illustrations are very unique and handcrafted.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Truth of Me

The Truth of Me. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

The Truth of Me almost has a melancholy feel to it. Robbie, our narrator, and his dog, Ellie, will be spending summer at his grandmother's house. These two have a special bond. Robbie feels safely and securely loved by his admittedly eccentric grandma, Maddy. He is staying with Grandma Maddy while his parents go on a music tour in Europe.

Robbie doesn't always feel so loved when he lives with his parents. The good news? This isn't one of those melancholy books about parents separating or divorcing. The bad news? His parents don't make time for him--their careers come first, always. And even when they're at home, they're not in the moment WITH Robbie. Sometimes Robbie learns more about his parents by reading newspaper clippings of music reviews and listening to music programs on the radio than by actually observing them and talking with them. This young boy points out to his grandmother that his mother loves her violin more than she loves him. And the grandmother admits that is probably true--for better or worse.

Robbie loves being with Maddy. And Maddy has a way with stories, and, a way with animals. Some people think she's spinning stories, making up all the animal stories she tells. But Robbie believes her. He may just become part of one of her stories when they start to camp together....

It isn't that The Truth of Me lacks a plot; it has one, it's just a melancholy one where even when fun stuff is happening, one never really loses a sense of loss or sadness. It brings to mind when Sadness says, "Remember the funny movie where the dog dies." Now, that was NOT a hint that Ellie dies. The dog's life is never in danger.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Strictly No Elephants

Strictly No Elephants. Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in.

Premise/plot: Readers meet a boy and his pet elephant in Lisa Mantchev's Strictly No Elephants. The book recognizes loneliness and celebrates friendship. One day the boy and his elephant want to go to a pet club meeting, but neither is allowed inside because of a sign that states: strictly no elephants. He's sad, but, hope is not lost for he soon meets a girl with a pet skunk. Together the two decide to form a club of their own where ALL are welcome.

My thoughts: I really, really liked this one. I read it several times, and liked it more each time. I liked the text. I liked the message. The text incorporates little lessons about friendship into the text. It isn't completely seamless, but, it works for me just fine. The illustrations are practically perfect. Loved them!!!

Watch the Emily Arrow video.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Audio Book: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. [9 hours, read by Emily Bauer] [Source: Review copy]

Lisa is pregnant.

In an effort to be more well-rounded, I decided to listen to an audio book or two this summer. And since I prefer to listen to only books I've already read and loved, I decided to go with Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (This was my second time to listen to the story.)

Premise/plot: Miranda gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at a cataclysmic event that changes life on earth forever when a meteor crashes into the moon changing its orbit and proximity to earth. The book is Miranda's diary, and through her entries we meet her mom (Laura), older brother (Matt), younger brother (Jon), father, stepmother (Lisa), her mother's boyfriend (Peter), and a handful of her friends and classmates (Dan, Megan, Samantha). It reveals one family's struggle to just survive.

This won't be a proper review really. More a rambling list of observations.

From the very first time I read this one, I've really, really, really, really WANTED it turned into a video game.

Miranda and her family don't mention music much at all. But I personally would GO INSANE if I couldn't listen to music. If there was a video game, I'd want the family I create to have at least one musician in it (piano, acoustic guitar, violin, etc.) so that music could be made even without electricity.

Even after having read it so many times (probably six or seven???) I am still bothered by the inaccuracy about the water supply. Miranda makes such a deal of being on well water and their well running dry halfway through the novel. Remember that they've been without electricity for most of the book. (Except for when it comes on in fits and bursts allowing Miranda to vacuum and her mother to do laundry.) Wells don't pump water without electricity. The family would have had to find an alternate source of water practically from the very beginning of the novel. And being without water that much sooner would have complicated all aspects of their lives. (Their main source of water after the well goes dry is to melt snow and ice and boil it for purity.)  

The diary gives Miranda an opportunity to vent. Let's be honest, in her situation, we'd all need a safe place to VENT. Miranda records her many heated arguments with her Mom. She doesn't come out looking like a saint. But I'm not sure she's meant to. As an adult reader probably a lot closer to her mom's age than Miranda's 16, it is easy to form judgments about Miranda.

Miranda is VERY opinionated about Christianity. The book is not faith-friendly. And really in the book's three-hundred-something pages, the only villains (except for some street thugs stealing plywood) are Megan's minister, and the President of the United States (who can't magically make things better for every human on the planet). Miranda and her mom are definitely opinionated in terms of politics as well. (Let's just safely guess that the author was not a Bush fan.)

I do think that a cataclysmic event like this would make everyone--no matter their age--contemplate their own mortality and reflect at least a little on the big questions of life. What happens when I die? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? How can I know that I will go to heaven? What can I do to be saved? What is heaven like? What is hell like? So the fact that Miranda and a few people in her life are talking about these things seems believable enough to me. And since Miranda does not come from a religious family, it makes sense that she'd be muddled about what Christianity is all about. It makes sense that she'd reflect the modern society of not really believing that there is such a thing as sin. And it also makes sense that she'd reflect society's misunderstanding of what the gospel actually is. I think we very much live in a time and place where even those who've been exposed here and there to "the church" in some form or another--even if only coming through talking vegetables--believe that you earn your way into heaven through good works. That Christianity as translated through our culture is DO THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS. DON'T EVEN THINK OF DOING THAT.

The gospel isn't about a long, rigid list of rules and laws to be kept. The gospel is saying here's the long list of rules [the Old Testament]. You haven't kept these rules and laws since the time they were given to you. You've never been able to manage keeping them. Ever. No matter how many times you try and fail and fail to try, you can't keep these rules. Stop struggling and striving and listen to the good news. For anyone who gives up the fight to be good enough on their own, to all who admit that they are unable and unwilling to keep the law, to all who are honest about their need for help...there's GREAT news. Someone came and perfectly kept the law on your behalf and in your place. Jesus. He DID it all for you. It is done. He lived the life you could never, ever, ever, hope to live. He died the death you deserved. Believe that He has done it all, that it is indeed finished, and eternal life is YOURS.

The gospel is not to be confused with the prosperity gospel. The gospel is not believe in Jesus and get that dream job you've always wanted! Believe in Jesus and be cured of cancer! Believe in Jesus and get that dream body! Believe in Jesus and you'll never need another alcoholic drink in your life. Believe in Jesus and your gambling addiction will be broken forever. Believe in Jesus and your marriage will be saved.

Speaking hypothetically, I think a cataclysmic event of this nature would perhaps bring out the best in true Christianity, perhaps driving a zealous revival and urgent evangelism, perhaps even street evangelism. But reveal all the flaws of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel believes in the power of your words, and that you speak your own reality. That if bad things happen, that it is your fault.

According to Amazon, twenty mentions of the word "God," twenty mentions of the word "hell," sixteen mentions of the word "church," and fifteen mentions of the word "heaven."

I think it is important to remember that her use of religion in this book is for DRAMA and CONFLICT and TENSION. And it was not to be offensive or potentially offensive to a portion of her readers. Megan's pastor, in my humble opinion, falls shy of preaching the true gospel and is much closer to a false teacher.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Be A Friend

Be A Friend. Salina Yoon. 2016. Bloomsbury. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dennis was an ordinary boy...who expressed himself in extraordinary ways.

Premise/plot: Dennis (aka "Mime Boy") is lonely until he finds someone who really, truly gets him. Her name is Joy. And they can be friends without saying a single word. So long as they can use jazz hands to laugh together!

My thoughts: I love this one. I do. It is cute, sweet, and true. What a celebration of friendship...and imagination...and being true to yourself. My favorite line: There was no wall between Dennis and Joy. It was more like a mirror.

Do watch the Emily Arrow song.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mad for Musicals, part 1

1776 (1972 film; 1969 Broadway)
Written by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone
Stars William Daniel as John Adams, Howard Da Silva as Ben Franklin, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson, Donald Madden as John Dickinson

Premise/plot: A musical focusing on the (Second) Continental Congress and the fight (led by John Adams initially) for America to declare its independence from Britain. Much centers around the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. When the movie opens, most if not all delegates oppose independence, but, by the end, most support it.

My thoughts: At 165 minutes it is LONG. A LOT of profanity and blasphemy. A lot of coarse jesting and joking among the delegates. There are two 'light' romances in this one. John and Abigail and Martha and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps if I loved the music, I would not have found it so tedious?!

Favorite scenes: The Lees of Old Virginia is probably my favorite scene/song from this one. Something about Richard Henry Lee's character makes me laugh. Ben and John coax/trick him into being the delegate to propose a resolution for independence. He's enthusiastic and says he'll go "right away." He is a bit full of himself, it's true, and he is slow in leaving. Eventually,  John Adams ends up in the fountain, I think!

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Written by Robert Buckner and Edmund Joseph, featuring music of George M. Cohan
Stars James Cagney as George M. Cohan, Joan Leslie as Mary, Walter Huston as Jerry Cohan, Rosemary DeCamp as Nellie Cohan, Jeanne Cagney as Josie Cohan, and Richard Whorf as Sam Harris

Premise/plot: A musical biopic about the life of Broadway performer/dancer/writer/producer/musician, etc. George M. Cohan.  The musical opens with his birth on the fourth of July. And the film concludes with him meeting President Roosevelt and receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.

My thoughts: I saw this several times growing up, and I liked it. Recently I saw it for the first time as an adult. I like it. But I don't 'love, love, love' it.

Favorite scenes: I like the sequence around Mary's A Grand Old Name. How he accidentally "gives" Mary's song away to a star for a new show...but she doesn't mind because she has HIM. Zoom in on her wedding band.

West Point Story (1950)
Written by Irving Wallace, Charles Hoffman, John Monks Jr.
Stars James Cagney as Elwin 'Bix' Bixby, Virginia Mayo as Eve Dillon, Doris Day as Jan Wilson, Gordon MacRae as Tom Fletcher

Premise/plot: A down-on-his-luck Broadway producer (performer) Bixby reluctantly is bribed to go to West Point to see if he can coax a talented cadet (Harry Eberhart's nephew) away from a military career and into show business. Bixby arrives wiling to produce the show and be the dispenser of wisdom...but his TEMPER gets the best of him time and time again. And he ends up having to live like a cadet himself. The show seems doomed to fail...until he calls in a favor from an actress he discovered....

My thoughts: This is one of the earliest Doris Day performances I've seen. (Though I have seen Tea for Two released the same year.) Overall, I liked it. Not love, mind you. The musical numbers were not the strength of this one. But I really liked the story and the actors. Gordon MacRae was VERY charming in this one.

Favorite scenes: I like Doris Day. Here's Ten Thousand Four Hundred and Thirty-Two Sheep. By the Kissing Rock.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: 3rd through 5th Trips In June

New Loot:
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Triumph of William McKinley by Karl Rove
  • The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein
  • A Royal Experiment by Janice Hadlow
  • Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
  • Railhead by Philip Reeve
  • Rash by Pete Hautman
  • Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Last Panda Standing by Jarret J. Krosoczka
  • Never Say Narwhal by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • 23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde
  • Alamo All Stars by Nathan Hale
  • Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
  • Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
  • Home Life in Colonial Days by Alice Morse Earle
  • The Ninth by Harvey Sachs
  • A Hard Day's Write by Steve Turner
  • Fallen Founder by Nancy Isenberg
  • Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria  Whelan
  • Ten Billion Tomorrows by Brian Clegg
  • A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland
Leftover Loot:
  • Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up To Take On America's First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins
  • Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater by Larry Stempel
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

  Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief 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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Best in Children's Books, 31

Best in Children's Books, Volume 31. 1960. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

Let's go vintage! This title is the thirty-first volume in a long series of books called Best in Children's Books. It was published in 1960 by Nelson Doubleday. It blends fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry. It has many contributing authors and illustrators.

Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the Far West by Smith Burnham with illustrations by Edward Shenton. This is an excerpt from Hero Tales from History (1922, 1930, 1938). If there is a politically incorrect buzzword related to Native Americans--this story has it in abundance: savage, powwow, red men, peace-smoke talk, redskins, red braves, war dance, peace dance, scalp dance, snake dance, papoose, etc. There are better stories of Lewis and Clark to share with young readers these days.

Tattercoats by Joseph Jacobs with illustrations by Colleen Browning. This little story reads like a fairy tale. It even has a little romance.

Singh Rajah and the Cunning Little Jackals by Mary Frere with illustrations by Edy Legrand. This is an excerpt from Old Deccan Days or Hindoo Fairy Legends Current in Southern India (1898). This is an animal story about a LION who is tricked by a family of jackals who don't want to be eaten--they are the last animals in the jungle. What I like best about this story are the color illustrations.

The Middle Bear by Eleanor Estes with illustrations by Phyllis Rowand. This is an excerpt from The Middle Moffat (1942). The Moffats are in a play for charity. The play is The Three Little Bears. It's quite charming.

Chips, The Story of a Cocker Spaniel (1944) by Diana Thorne and Connie Moran with illustrations by Phoebe Erickson. This is a sweet though predictable story of boy meets dog.


The Picnic Basket by Margery Clark with illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham (1924). This is an excerpt from The Poppy Seed Cakes. This one is illustrated in color. And the illustrations are very interesting--bright and colorful. If you enjoy vintage work, then these illustrations will prove appealing. The story itself is about a boy and his Auntie going on a picnic together. There are plenty of twists and turns in this one!

Windy Wash Day and Other Poems by Dorothy Aldis with illustrations by MAURICE SENDAK. The poems come from All Together (1925, 1926, 1934, 1939, 1952). I like the inclusion of poetry. I really like the poem "Naughty Soap Song."
Just when I'm ready to
Start on my ears,
That is the time that my
Soap disappears.
It jumps from my fingers and
Slithers and slides
Down to the end of the
Tub, where it hides.
And acts in a most diso-
Bedient way
AND THAT'S WHY MY SOAP'S GROWING
THINNER EACH DAY. (86)
Go Fly a Kite is a nonfiction piece by Harry Edward Neal with illustrations by Harvey Weiss. I found it boring, you may find it instructional.

Salt Water "Zoos" is another nonfiction piece. No author is given credit. It is essentially about large aquariums and oceanariums. (This book was published several years before the first Sea World opened. My guess is it used to be a lot harder to see dolphins and sharks and the like.) The focus is on Marineland of Florida.

Cornelia's Jewels by James Baldwin with illustrations by Don Freeman. This one is short and historical in nature. The overall tone is very sweet with a focus on family. Cornelia's "jewels" are her two boys.

Three Seeds by Hester Hawkes with illustrations by Hildegarde Woodward (1956). This story is about a boy and his garden. The setting: the Philippines. Luis, the hero, misses his father who works in Manila most of the time. He can only come visit his family once or twice a month. One week he brings home a package of American seeds. The packet must have had a hole, however, because only three seeds remain. (The title spoils it all doesn't it?) The boy has hope, however, and with the help of a kind neighbor, the three seeds are planted...and from those three seeds comes a promising future.

Let's Go to Iceland and Greenland. This is a sad little feature, again no author is given. Readers do get five photographs and one map.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Mo Willems. 2011. HarperCollins. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of the first story: Amanda was at the library getting her books for the week. Her alligator was not. He was waiting for Amanda to get back.
Want to read 6 1/2 surprising stories about 2 surprising friends? What if those stories are written by Mo Willems?!

I am a BIG, BIG fan of Mo Willems. I am. So I was so excited to read Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. I was happy to discover six (and a half) stories about a little girl, Amanda, and her best friend, a stuffed toy alligator. It was wonderful to see how many stories highlight Amanda's love for reading. Willems' shares with readers the titles of Amanda's library books: How to Raise a Tiger, Whale Songs for Beginners, Climbing Things for Fun and Profit, and You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs! (I thought the titles were clever--my favorites being Climbing Things for Fun and Profit and You Can Make It Yourself: Jet Packs!) The stories are just fun and imaginative and--at times--sweet.

For example, in "A Surprising Value," Alligator is worried--and a bit sad--to discover that he's only "worth" seven cents. That he, in fact, came from the sale bucket. But Amanda reassures her dear friend that there was a very good reason no one else wanted to buy him,
"No one wanted to buy you because they knew you were meant to be my best friend." After that, Alligator felt better. (And that's the truth.) (44-45)
I also enjoyed the last story, "A Surprising Discovery." In that story, Alligator is again worried. This time he's worried because Amanda has brought home 'a surprise' from her day at the zoo. She's brought home a new toy, a stuffed panda. This panda does NOT look like it was from the sale bucket. No, the panda definitely cost more than seven cents. So Alligator isn't all that happy about this new friend. Not until he realizes that Panda is great fun. Alligator used to spend his time waiting for Amanda; spent his time being bored, bored, bored. But with Panda around? Well, it's fun to "wait" for Amanda! Here's one of my favorite quotes from that story:
When Amanda comes home, we will have fun, thought Alligator.
We will sing songs!
We will dress up!
We will make discoveries!
Maybe Amanda will have another surprise for me!
Alligator smiled.
"Surprise!" yelled Amanda, swinging open the door. "Look what Grandpa got for me at the zoo!"
It was a panda.
The panda was huge.
The panda was fluffy.
The panda did not look like it came from the sale bucket.
Alligator did not like Amanda's surprise. (58-60)
I enjoyed all the stories. I did. And I would definitely recommend this one.


Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Thoughts on Two Thirties Musicals

Showboat (1936)
Written by Edna Ferber & Oscar Hammerstein II
Stars: Irene Dunne as Magnolia, Allan Jones as Gaylord Ravenal, Charles Winninger as Cap'n Andy Hawks, Paul Robeson as Joe, Hattie McDaniel as Queenie

Premise/plot: Magnolia, the heroine, grows up on her father's showboat, when the showboat's star attraction is forced to leave, Magnolia takes her place and becomes quite popular. A newcomer to the act is a young man named Gaylord. The two fall deeply, madly in love with one another...and end up leaving as well to live life as a married couple. But happily ever after it is not....

My thoughts: OH MY EARS. If you've heard Irene Dunne sing, then you know why I'd begin with a strong exclamation!!!! But Allan Jones--in this movie, at least in a few scenes--looked remarkably like Matthew McConaughey. I don't know why!!!

Show Boat was originally a musical on the stage (Broadway) in 1927.

Favorite scenes: Paul Robeson singing Ol' Man River and Ah Still Suits Me.








Swing Time (1936)
Written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields
Stars: Fred Astaire as Lucky, Ginger Rogers as Penny, Victor Moore as Pop, Helen Broderick as Mabel, Georges Metaxa as Ricky Romero.

Premise/plot: Lucky doesn't prove Lucky when viewers first meet him. Pop and the rest of the show business act conspire to keep him from his wedding to Margaret. He ends up still very much single and much broker. (He recklessly made a bet (for all his money) with one of his friends that he'd "be married by the end of the day.") Lucky and Pop end up going to New York, still very much penniless except for his lucky nickel (or dime???). Lucky meets a young woman, Penny, who is a dance instructor. At first she HATES, HATES, HATES HIM. But then she begins to warm up to him when she realizes he is her ultimate dance partner and they've got a chance of making it BIG if they stick together.... Will they keep it professional, or are they destined to fall in love?!

My thoughts: I love this one so very much!!!

Favorite scenes: Fred Astaire singing You Look Wonderful Tonight to Ginger Rogers--as she's washing her hair in the other room. I also adore A FINE ROMANCE.







© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sing Along Saturdays (Summer Theme Song)

Today's prompt: what song will you be blasting nonstop over the summer?

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.


I really don't listen to contemporary music at all...well not much. And I think that's what this prompt is about...since the theme summer songs was just a few weeks ago. But one thing I have had essentially on repeat this summer is HAMILTON.

I will share two songs that go back-to-back in this musical. The first is "Helpless" and the second is "Satisfied."




For those that haven't heard of Hamilton, it is a musical about the life of founding father, Alexander Hamilton.
Well, I was just going to keep it to those two songs...but I'm also tempted to include at least one of King George's songs. (He sings three.) They're just so fun!!!



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 24, 2016

The Education of Ivy Blake

The Education of Ivy Blake. Ellen Airgood. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

The Education of Ivy Blake is a companion novel to Prairie Evers. Both books are middle grade realistic fiction. Both are slightly bittersweet, think Because of Winn Dixie. I enjoyed the Education of Ivy Blake very much.

Since Ivy's mother killed her husband--Ivy's father--she hasn't been the same...at least not in her daughter's eyes. Even her "good days" are strains and stretches. It seems her mother is incapable of being happy, of being content, of being consistent, of being stable. Ivy could cope with her distant, weird mother for the most part since they were living with an aunt. But now that the aunt has died, and it's just the two of them, living with her mom has been impossible. For a while, Ivy found relief and protection by living with the Evers. Her mom wanted to leave her behind, being so newly in love and eager for a new beginning. But now that her mom's love life has soured, she wants Ivy back so she can start a new new life in yet another new town. Ivy doesn't trust her mom, but, her mom is her mom is her mom is her mom. Ivy's loyal. Ivy's brave. Somehow Ivy will make her life beautiful and purposeful.

Ivy is a great character. This book is emotional, but not overly DRAMATIC.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30 Days of Books #30

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.


Today's prompt:  Your favorite book of all time

My answer may come as a surprise to some, a roll-their-eyes to others, or even a shrug. But. If I'm being honest The Bible is the one book I love first and foremost. The one book that I read every single day. The one book that I read multiple times per year. The one book that I meditate on. The one book that I've memorized from. A book that I own multiple copies of. A book that has me singing praises literally.

This particular edition pictured is the HCSB chronological Bible. And I do think that it would be a good choice for those who don't know the big picture of the Bible but who want to know the big picture of the Bible. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

30 Days of Books: #29

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt:  A book everyone hated but you liked

If this question was about movies it would be so easy. But. I think I'll go with The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Prairie Evers

Prairie Evers. Ellen Airgood. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

Prairie Evers is one of those books that had me at hello. I really felt an almost instant connection with Prairie, the main character. I not only enjoyed spending time with her, I genuinely enjoyed spending time with her family: her parents, her great-grandmother, her best friend whom she considers A SISTER.

The book is definitely a coming-of-age story set in New York. (Though not in an urban setting. This is very small town, a bit rural. Her parents are giving farming a try. And Prairie is super-excited to have her own flock of chickens.) The book opens with some shocking news: Grammy, who has always, always, always lived with them, is moving, returning home to North Carolina. She'll be moving in with her brother. A few chapters later, Prairie is in for another shock: she'll be attending school for the first time. She's been home schooled for all of her life by Grammy and by her parents. She's loved it--absolutely loved it. And her own curiosity has made her a strong and willing student. But she's intimidated by the idea of attending a traditional school. She's never been around that many kids of her own age. And she's worried that she won't fit in, that she'll be laughed at or bullied, that she won't make friends, that no one will like her.

The focus of this one is on friendship and family. Prairie's first best friend is a girl named Ivy. And Ivy is a gem of a character. Ivy's story is compelling. I look forward to reading the companion novel soon. I would definitely recommend this one.

Prairie Evers is one reminder why I tend to love and adore middle grade fiction the most.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

30 Days of Books: Day #28

I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.


Today's prompt:  Your favorite title(s)

Louise Loves Art. Kelly Light. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

I am choosing this one because it has a super-clever title. Louise, the heroine, loves, loves, loves art. She is always making masterpieces. But. She also has a little brother named Art. And this story is about what happens when Art destroys--with scissors--her latest masterpiece. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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A Lion To Guard Us

A Lion To Guard Us. Clyde Robert Bulla. 1981. 117 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading Clyde Robert Bulla's A Lion To Guard Us. I saw this one on the library shelf, and, it said TAKE ME HOME. It is historical fiction and follows three siblings as they travel to America in 1609 to the first (and only) British settlement of Jamestown. The novel opens with Amanda hearing news of her father from a stranger--a sailor. Amanda is serving--in her mother's place--in a household. (Her mistress (Mistress Trippett) isn't the nicest or best.) Soon after the book begins, the mother dies leaving Amanda the sole guardian of her younger siblings: Jemmy and Meg. She wants to go to America and find their father. The problem? The family's money was taken by Mistress Trippett when the mother got sick and took to her bed. She's now claiming that the money isn't theirs but hers. And she's so insulted by their asking for the money, that she keeps all three out. Fortunately, they find a sympathetic soul in the doctor that treated the mother. This doctor, Dr. Crider, has dreams of his own. And those dreams include traveling to America. He takes the children in and promises a bright future for one and all. Their new lives will start aboard the ship The Sea Adventure. But readers learn that life is full of uncertainty...

I loved this one. It is historical fiction at its finest. I enjoyed the chacterization and the action. It's a very simple yet emotional story. Definitely recommended!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

30 Days of Books #27

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt:  The most surprising plot twist or ending

Cain His Brother by Anne Perry

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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By the Great Horn Spoon

By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A sailing ship with two great sidewheels went splashing out of Boston harbor on a voyage around the Horn to San Francisco.

Premise/plot: Jack Flagg, our young hero, runs away from home--with his butler, Praiseworthy--to seek his fortune (literally) in the 1849 California Gold Rush. While the two set out with enough money to pay for their passage aboard a ship, the two are robbed while buying their tickets. They decide to stowaway though not for the entire voyage. They turn themselves into the ship's captain. They tell their story and prove willing to work. While working, one of them comes up with a genius way to catch the thief whom they are sure is on board. This is just the first sign that this team is unstoppable and that together they are in for a lot of adventure, danger, and FUN. The book chronicles their journey on the ship, and, in California. There's more comedy than drama. Which I think is overall a good thing. It's good to be kept smiling. And while this one may lack intensity and edge-of-your-seat suspense, it has a lot of feel-good adventure.

My thoughts: I may have a soft spot for this one because I spent so many hours playing Goldrush. I liked the comedy. I liked the friendship. I loved the resolution. How the two were working so hard so they could head back East to save the family home. And well, I won't spoil it. But it's lovely!

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2016 Completed Challenges: Once Upon A Time X

Name: Once Upon a Time X
Host: Stainless Steel Droppings (sign up here)
Dates: March 21-June 21 2016
# of Books: Signing up for Quest the First; five books from any of these categories (fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, mythology)
All reviews should be linked to the review site.

1) The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought] [fantasy, children's classic]
2) The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought] [YA/Adult fantasy]
3) The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 352 pages. [Source: Bought] [YA/Adult fantasy]
4) Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955. 590 pages. [Source: Bought]
5) The Girl in the Tower. Lisa Schroeder. 2016. Henry Holt. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade fantasy]
6) The Toymaker's Apprentice. Sherri L. Smith. 2015. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [MG/YA Fantasy]
7) The Children's Homer. Padraic Colum. 1918/1982. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] [MG Fantasy, Children's Classic]
8) Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy] [J/MG Children's Fantasy; Children's Classic]
9) The World of Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne. Illustrated by Ernest Shepard. 1926. 353 pages. [Source: Library]
10) A Midsummer Night's Dream. William Shakespeare. 1596. 181 pages. [Source: Library]
11) James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]
12) Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
13)  The BFG. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1982. 199 pages. [Source: Library]
14) Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]
15)  Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 20, 2016

30 Days of Books #26

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A book that changed your opinion about something

Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann.  If I could send this book to myself twenty-two to twenty-five years ago, I wonder what I would have made of it?!?! How much grief I could have saved myself. Now, I am not advocating eating unhealthy and being as large as possible. Far from it. Just celebrating the fact that you can eat healthy, exercise, and still not be thin....and that is okay.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl

Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]

If you enjoy folk or fairy tales, you might be a potential reader of John Gardner's story collection. The book contains four stories: "Gudgekin the Thistle Girl," "The Griffin and the Wise Old Philosopher," "The Shape-Shifters of Shorm," and "The Sea Gulls."

I think my favorite story is Gudgekin the Thistle Girl. The heroine is a poor girl named Gudgekin. Every day she gathers thistles for her stepmother. The stepmother is never, never satisfied. But Gudgekin keeps going out to do her best. One day a fairy intervenes and her luck is seemingly changed forever. With the fairies help, she's able to appease her stepmother and please herself. The fairies do the work, while she's spirited away to have fun. One day--again with the fairies help--she meets a Prince who falls in love with her. You might think you know where this one is headed, and, in a way you'd be right. But it is how long it takes for these two to get to happily ever after that may surprise you.

The second story confused me greatly. After the fifth or sixth time through the first two or three pages, it finally clicked that maybe just maybe it was intentional. The griffin visits the poor villagers to distract, confuse, and frustration. No one can remember how to do anything when he is nearby. Eventually I found the rhythm of this story. I still don't like it.

The Shape Shifters of Shorm, the third story, was entertaining. I liked it. But I didn't really love it. Essentially, a kingdom is being bothered by shape-shifters, the king offers an award for anyone who rids the kingdom of all the shape-shifters. A few step forward and volunteer for the task. But none are ever heard of again. Why?!

The Sea Gulls is an odd story. It contains plenty of magic, some spells, etc. I think it is an appealing enough story for readers. Essentially in that story, a king is met one day by an ogre who wants to eat him. The king says let's play a game of chance. If you win, you eat me. If I win, you wait seven years and eat me and my children then. The king won. (He cheated.) Most of the story is set seven years later....

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

30 Days of Books #25

Illustration by E.H. Shepard
 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A character who you can relate to the most

Probably Toad from Wind in the Willows
"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.
OR
"What are we to do with her?"
"Nothing at all because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know her from old. She is now possessed. She has got a new craze--this time it's Hamilton--and it always takes her that way in its first stage. She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind her.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Socks

Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't reread Socks by Beverly Cleary since I was a child. I remembered very little about it except that it was about a cat, which, I must admit is the most obvious thing to remember! The first chapter introduces readers to Socks, her litter mates, and the boy and girl who originally "owned" her and were trying to sell all the kittens. Bill and Marilyn Bricker adopt Socks and take him home. Several chapters focus on these early, happy, good years. (Actually, I'm not sure how much time passes, Socks isn't particularly great at noting months, seasons, or possible years.) A few chapters into the book, Socks is upset by a shrinking lap. Mrs. Bricker is having a baby, and, Socks doesn't particularly care one way or the other about it...until the new baby changes everything. Less attention, less food, no lap-time, a lot of noise, visitors who warn of the dangers of having a cat around the baby, etc. Will Socks make peace with Charles William?

I enjoyed this one. I didn't love, love, love it. Not like I love, love, love the Ramona books. But it was an enjoyable read. I liked the ending, it felt right to me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

30 Days of Books: #24

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A book you wish more people would read

The Light Princess by George MacDonald.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Bleak House

Bleak House. Charles Dickens. 1852-1853. 912 pages.  [Source: Bought]

It has been almost six years since I first read Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Did I enjoy it more the second time? Yes, I think so. I really, really liked it the first time I read it. Though to be honest, there were a few times I almost gave up on it until I discovered a good adaptation of it. But the second time around, I really LOVED IT.

I think the 'romance' worked better for me the second time around because I knew who Esther would choose and I was prepared for it. When I first read the book, I was so under-impressed by the doctor that I forgot him once he went away to sea. I did not see him as the love of her life that she dared not hope return her love. This time I paid for attention and tried to see him through her eyes. I still really, really LOVE John Jarndyce (can I have him, please?!?!) but I've come to accept that she rightly belongs with the doctor.

I also came to a better appreciation for Inspector Bucket. I trusted him more and didn't see him as a villain. 

Read Bleak House
  • If you enjoy Charles Dickens
  • If you enjoy reading classics
  • If you enjoy reading LONG books
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature
  • If you enjoy classic mysteries, Inspector Bucket is one of the first fictional detectives
  • If you enjoy stories about law and inheritance
  • If you enjoy understated romance
  • If you enjoy guardianship stories
  • If you enjoy stories with angelic heroines
  • If you enjoyed watching the miniseries
Read my first review for the particulars of the plot

One sentence summary: Bleak House is about a long, often-thought-hopeless, law case that seems to doom all involved with it, perhaps with the exception of John Jardyce and his favorite ward, Esther Summerson.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales

Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. John Gardner. Illustrated by Charles J. Shields. 1975. 73 pages. [Source: Bought]

Love fairy or folk tales? You should definitely seek out John Gardner's Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. This book has four original stories with magical, fantastical elements. The four stories are "Dragon, Dragon," "The Tailor and the Giant," "The Miller's Mule," and "The Last Piece of Light."

I can honestly say that I enjoyed all four stories. I'm not sure which story is my most favorite and which is my least favorite. Probably my least favorite is The Tailor and The Giant. Don't expect it to have a lesson or moral, and you may find it intriguing. It's certainly a spin on the theme of courage. As for my favorite, that would probably be Dragon, Dragon or The Miller's Mule.

Dragon, Dragon features a kingdom being terrorized by dragons--or a dragon, I can't remember if there's more than one. The king offers a reward, of course he does, and one by one three sons attempt it. But who will kill the dragon? Perhaps the one that actually follows his father's advice. Just a guess!

The Miller's Mule grew on me as I read it. It certainly kept me guessing as I read it. A miller decides to shoot his old mule; the old mule speaks--begs for his life. The miller spares his life--for better or worse. The mule promises to make him a wealthy man IF and only IF he follows his instructions carefully. The miller agrees...and it seems the mule is out to kill him in revenge....who will best who?

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sing Along Saturdays (For Dad)

Today's prompt: songs you jam to with your dad
This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.


My first selection is David Bowie's Golden Years. One of Dad's favorite soundtracks is A Knight's Tale. This is my absolute favorite song from that soundtrack. And it was my first introduction to David Bowie. It is probably my favorite song of his--although I like quite a few!



My second selection is Sweet Home Alabama. I don't remember a time when I didn't know this song. It's one of my Dad's favorite songs to play on the guitar.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 17, 2016

2016 Challenges: COYER Summer Vacation

COYER Summer Vacation
Hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun, Michelle @ Because Reading & Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh My!
Link Reviews Here ; sign up here
June 18 - September 2nd
# of Books: My goal is 12

What I've Read:

1) The Joy Project. Tony Reinke. 2015. Desiring God. 122 pages. [Source: Bought]
2) Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. John Piper. 2013. 94 pages. [Source: Bought]
3) How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible. Keith Ferrin. 2015. Bethany House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]

I plan to read a mix of books: fiction and nonfiction, review copy and books I've bought.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30 Days of Books #23

  I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.


Today's prompt: A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

 I think I have owned this book [Schindler's List] for about fifteen years. I think I've read the first seventy-to-hundred pages about six times. I never do finish it. Not because I don't *want* to finish it. But because I get distracted, tempted away by lighter, easier reads. And then when I come back to the book after being away two or three weeks. I'm like....I don't remember where I'm at and who all these people are....I guess I'll have to start over again. Do I want to start over again now? Usually the answer is NO, not now. My most recent attempt was in April.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Thoughts on the Beatles Anthology

This June my Dad and I watched The Beatles Anthology. (Thank you, inter-library loan system!) I was tempted to say rewatch because we had--as a whole family essentially--watched the television broadcast in 1995. The TV broadcast was six hours--including commercials. The DVD release is about ten hours--no commercials of course. So there was SO MUCH MORE to watch.

When I first watched The Beatles Anthology, I was somewhat familiar with the blue and red albums. (The red album was 1962-1966; the blue album was 1967-1970). I didn't have any absolute definite favorites.

Within a year of watching The Beatles Anthology, I would own all the albums--even Yellow Submarine. I listened to their music--a lot. I watched their movies--some. I read a handful of biographies. I even did a research project on The Beatles in college for a history class. (Another fun 'research project' I did in college was a report on the Teletubbies for a linguistics class.)

This video has a lot to offer fans: interviews with all four Beatles (John's portions being from radio and TV interviews), interviews with others close to the Beatles Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinall, George Martin, Brian Epstein (his portions coming from radio/TV interviews), footage of the group performing, rehearsing, filming, traveling, goofing around. The TV broadcast kept more to the point perhaps in telling a narrative story. There was a beginning, middle, and end. The DVDs allow a lot more messy completeness. A lot more rehearsals. A lot more full performances. What viewers get is a very, very human side to the Beatles.

So there are eight episodes total. The first episode really just gets down to basics. When each Beatle was born. The home life of each Beatle. How each Beatle got interested in music. How each Beatle learned to play music. How they met each other--when they met each other. The early days of performing in public--and getting paid for it. The rest of the episodes really focus on THE BEATLES. Getting discovered. Recording singles and albums. Playing various clubs. Getting fans. Touring and performing, etc. There are a lot of details in this success story. And it's a fantastic, absorbing documentary.





© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Matilda

Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

Premise/plot: Matilda, our heroine, is an absolute genius. (She's taught herself to read and to do times tables). But her parents are terrible human beings. Mr. Wormwood is a used car salesman who is really dishonest. Mrs. Wormwood, well, maybe her greatest fault is neglecting her children? Both Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are addicted to television and abhor the written word. Hate isn't too strong a word for how they feel about their daughter. Matilda escapes from her home most every day to visit the local public library. (She's read every book in the children's section and is now making her way through the adult section with a little guidance from Mrs. Phelps.) Another escape soon becomes school. The good news is that Miss Honey, the teacher, LOVES AND ADORES her genius pupil. The bad news is that the headmistress is evil, cruel, abusive. (Was Dahl inspired by Jane Eyre!) Matilda's reaction to injustice is naughtiness and cleverness. How can she use her brains to get revenge on those she sees as being unjust or in the wrong???

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I more than like it actually. Perhaps because Matilda LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to read and there is a lot of dropping of book titles and authors names. Perhaps because Matilda finds the library to be such a wonderful place. Perhaps because two of the nicest people in the book are a librarian and a teacher. Regardless this one is definitely worth reading.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

My Thoughts on Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth
2014
Set during World War I
link to the soundtrack

I'd heard good things about this one, and I was not disappointed. Testament of Youth is a movie to be experienced not exactly enjoyed.

It is based on Vera Brittain's autobiography. The movie opens with Vera, her brother Edward, and two houseguests--her brothers' friends--Victor and Roland all enjoying each other's company.

Vera has big, big dreams: to study at Oxford. Her immediate ambitions include university NOT marriage. So falling in love with Roland was not exactly in her plans. But the more time she spends with Roland, the more it's feeling like it could very well be love.

The good news is that Vera is accepted into Oxford. The bad news? The good news is essentially interrupted by really bad news--the WAR. Her brother, Roland, and Victor all go away to war. She tries her best to study, but, soon finds herself too distracted to continue on with her dreams since her brother is so far away from fulfilling his. She decides to become a nurse.

Most of the movie is about her experiences during the war. Her experiences as a sister fearing for her brother. Her experiences as a girlfriend and fiancee. Her anxiety and broken-heart. There's a super tragic scene that involves her in a wedding dress and a phone call. Her experiences as a daughter--how to balance doing her part for the war effort and maintaining her own sanity of sorts, and taking care of her parents. Her experiences as a nurse. All of these 'experiences' are intense. One isn't exactly more important than the others.

The movie stars Alicia Vikander as Vera. She did a WONDERFUL job. Taron Egerton stars as her brother Edward. Colin Morgan stars as the adorable Victor. And Kit Harington as Roland. Emily Watson stars as her mother, and Dominic West stars as her father.

Do expect emotion and drama. Don't expect happily ever afters.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30 Days of Books #22

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.



Today's prompt: Your favorite book you own

I'm still not sure I understand the exact question. If it's a 'favorite' of mine, I almost certainly own a copy of it. But if it's about which particular copy of a book you love most...then I'll go with my first copy of Gone With The Wind. This book originally belonged to my great-grandmother and grandmother before being mine.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Here is James Henry Trotter when he was about four years old.

Premise/plot: James, our hero-orphan being raised by two horrid aunts (one horribly fat, one terribly skinny), finds his fortune changing quickly one day when he meets a complete stranger--an older man--who promises to show him something wonderful and then pulls something out of his pocket...a small white paper bag filled with tiny green almost-glowing things. He's given instructions on how to use these green things to have a super-wonderful life. But. On his way home, he trips and the green things are lost...on the ground....but that is not the end. The title should give away the rest.

My thoughts: This one was weird and silly and unexpected and unique. I didn't hate it certainly. It is very Dahl. But I didn't love it. I find Dahl's lack of characterization annoying in some ways because instead of characterization we don't get more action or more adventure, we just get cruelty. Cruelty seems to be one thing all Dahl books have in common.
Aunt Sponge was enormously fat and very short. She had small piggy eyes, a sunken mouth, and one of those white flabby faces that looked exactly as though it had been boiled. She was like a great white soggy overboiled cabbage. (6)
I liked this one better once James enters the giant peach and meets all the insects who have been effected by the mystery green things.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Thoughts On And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None (based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
2015, 3 episodes
Set in 1939
Link to the score

Reasons for watching: Not because it's Agatha Christie. While I enjoy *most* of her novels. This one is near the bottom for me. I just don't like it. So why did I watch? Short answer: Aidan Turner. Long answer: LOOK AT THE CAST. If you've seen any period dramas or BBC dramas over the past few decades, you'll recognize most of the cast.

Three I recognize from Bleak House. Charles Dance. Anna Maxwell Martin. Burn Gorman. (Mr. Tulkinghorn, Esther, and Guppy)

Toby Stephens was in the 2006 Jane Eyre. Aidan Turner was in the Hobbit movies and Poldark. Miranda Richardson was in Belle, Testament of Youth, The Young Victoria, Merlin, Enchanted April).

Spoiler-Free Section. The premise is ten strangers are invited to an island for a house party. Opening scenes show the letters of invitation being typed. Viewers see them traveling to the island. Eight of the ten arriving by boat all at the same time. The host for this house party is mysteriously absent. But they continue on with dinner all the same. After dinner, a record is played. The contents of the record are shocking and scandalous....

Content Advisory?!?! I was disappointed with this one. This one had a good bit of profanity. Including the f-word. And it was all so unnecessary. You expect BLOOD AND VIOLENCE from Agatha Christie but not foul language. This one also had drug use, drinking, smoking, and sex. So all around I'd say if you're looking for a 'clean' miniseries, this one is probably one to skip.

Worth watching? It depends on what you like in a movie. If you love blood, gore, violence, creepy, thriller type movies that are dark and ultimately depressing....then yes.

S
P
O
I
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This one had me shouting at the TV. What was I yelling, you ask, DON'T TRUST MR. TULKINGHORN. Now I don't blame most of the strangers for not knowing what was going on. But two of them KNEW MR. TULKINGHORN was bad news already. There is no excuse for Guppy and Esther. 


© 2016 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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