Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in July 2016
  1. Night. Elie Wiesel. Translated by Stella Rodway. Foreword by Francois Mauriac. 1958/1960. 109 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. War of Two. John Sedgwick. 2015. Berkley. 432 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. Donner Dinner Party. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3). Nathan Hale. 2013. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Lowell Blair. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Library]  
  6.  Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
5 Decades "Visited" in July 2016:
  1. 1770s, 1780s, 1790s
  2. 1940s
  3. 1960s
  4. 1980s
  5. 1990s 
Picture books:
  1. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. G. Neri. Illustrated by A.G. Ford. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Duel: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words. Dennis Brindell Fradin. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2008. Walker. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. Don Brown. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust. Karen Gray Ruelle. Illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix. 2009. Holiday House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Worst of Friends. Suzanne Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2011. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Poems in the Attic. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. 2015. Lee & Low. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Hill of Fire. Thomas P. Lewis. Illustrated by Joan Sandin. 1971. 64 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Hotel Mystery. (Whodunit Detective Agency #2) Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. White Fur Flying. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 116 pages. [Source: Library]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The House on the Strand. Daphne du Maurier. 1968. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Incubation. Laura DiSilverio. 2016. 348 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Waiting for the Magic. Patricia MacLachlan. 2011. 143 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. The Heir. (Selection #4) Kiera Cass. 2015. HarperCollins. 346 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness. 2008. Candlewick. 479 pages. [Source: Library]
Historical Fiction, all ages: 
  1. Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #1) Nathan Hale. 2012. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Big Bad Ironclad (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #2) Nathan Hale. 2012. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Donner Dinner Party. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3). Nathan Hale. 2013. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Hamilton Affair. Elizabeth Cobbs. 2016. Arcade. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Twenty and Ten. Claire Huchet Bishop. Illustrated by William Pene du Bois. 1952/1978. 76 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. Cyrano. Geraldine McCaughrean. 2006. HMH. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Hotel Mystery. (Whodunit Detective Agency #2) Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Classics, all ages:
  1. Night. Elie Wiesel. Translated by Stella Rodway. Foreword by Francois Mauriac. 1958/1960. 109 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. 1601. 220 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Lowell Blair. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. BBC Radio 3's Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, translated by Anthony Burgess. Adapted for radio by John Tydeman. First aired 2008.
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. The Journey That Saved Curious George. Louise Borden. 2016. HMH. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. G. Neri. Illustrated by A.G. Ford. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. War of Two. John Sedgwick. 2015. Berkley. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. Don Brown. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Duel: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words. Dennis Brindell Fradin. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2008. Walker. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Worst of Friends. Suzanne Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2011. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust. Karen Gray Ruelle. Illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix. 2009. Holiday House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Night. Elie Wiesel. Translated by Stella Rodway. Foreword by Francois Mauriac. 1958/1960. 109 pages. [Source: Bought]
Christian fiction: 0

Christian nonfiction: 
  1. Theologians You Should Know. Michael Reeves. 2016. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. One of the Few. Jason B. Ladd. 2015. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Judge Not. Todd Friel. 2015. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  4. Blessed My Whole Life Through. Eldon Hatch. 2009. 88 pages. [Source: Gift]
  5. Big Beliefs: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths. David R. Helm. 2016. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. How Church Can Change Your Life. Josh Moody. 2015. Christian Focus Publications. 76 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 
  7. David Brainerd: May I Never Loiter On My Heavenly Journey. John Piper. 2012. Desiring God. 34 pages. [Source: Free Download]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

This week on Now and Then

So I thought I would share what I've posted on my new-ish blog, Now and Then. I hope you'll visit and leave a comment or two.

First, on Sunday I shared two posts. The first was looking at Country Pride songs, now and then. The two songs were "Song of the South" by Alabama and "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band.  Preparing for that post, I learned there were FOUR different versions of Song of the South. The song started out its life--in 1980--as a slow, soulful ballad. It haunts, trust me. But by the time Alabama recorded it in 1988, it was a happy-clappy, peppy, rallying song to get a crowd going. I ask you to decide Who Sang It Best?!

 On Monday, I turned to gymnastics. I shared Mary Lou Retton's uneven bar performance from 1984 U.S. Nationals...and also Madison Kocian's Uneven Bars from just a few weeks ago. Uneven Bars is one of the events you can CLEARLY see just how different the sport has become.

On Wednesday, I went for fashion. I shared "teen party" fashion from 1959 and 1988.

On Thursday, I created a playlist for Western Barbie. She came out in 1981, I believe. Perhaps 1980. But around there. The assumption being, that "Western Barbie" was a *real* person listening to and loving music. I also shared Western Barbie's commercial.

On Friday, I shared a GUESS WHO game with Country Music is.... I shared thirty lines from thirty different country songs. Read together, I think, you get a great glimpse of what country music is all about.

And today, I shared a picture of a DOLL you won't really see being marketed today. The "selling feature" of this one from 1964, is I CRY REAL TEARS WHEN YOU SPANK ME. And the doll's bottom, reads the word HERE.

This week's posts, show a bit more variety than last week's posts.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Donner Dinner Party

Donner Dinner Party. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3). Nathan Hale. 2013. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale returns for this third hazardous tale in this graphic novel. The story that will prolong his life and delay his hanging is the story of the DONNER PARTY. His immediate audience, of course, is the hangman and a British officer. It's very convenient that since being eaten by the large American History book he can see the future and use the future to tell super-entertaining stories. Readers first meet the Reed family led by James Reed. Other families will be introduced as they journey west and join (and quit) wagon trains. The dangers are MANY. Some dangers are unpredictable and almost unavoidable. Other dangers they walk straight into confidently, sweeping away warnings. Usually if not always, always, it's the MEN making the decisions and the women and children who can do nothing but except the judgement of husbands and fathers. The story is FASCINATING AND HORRIBLE at the same time.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is quite a compelling, absorbing read. You wouldn't think there would be a lot of characterization in a graphic novel, but, surprisingly there is. I had read very little if anything about the Donner Party, and, so I found it really interesting. I knew it was a grim story, but, I had not realized there were survivors too. So it wasn't quite as depressing as I first imagined it to be.

I definitely recommend this series of graphic novels. Even if you don't necessarily love reading graphic novels. The focus on history has me hooked. And I've become quite fond of Nathan Hale and his two would-be executioners.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Singalong Saturdays (Summer Songs, Again)

Today's prompt: Songs that remind you of summer. I'm adapting it a bit to focus on songs that remind me of a particular summer--1997.


This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I'm choosing to focus on the Backstreet Boys. I remember going shopping for school clothes and getting a sampler of their music--maybe even on cassette--from a department store. It was love at first listen. And when their album released that August, I believe, I bought it.

Hearing any of these songs brings back that summer and COLLEGE.



Also I can't help including Sugar Ray's Fly.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 29, 2016

My Thoughts on Call The Midwife, series 3

 Call the Midwife, series 3
1 Christmas special + 8 episodes

Jenny Lee = Jessica Raine
Trixie Franklin = Helen George
Cynthia Miller = Bryony Hannah
Chummy (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne) = Miranda Hart
Sister Julienne = Jenny Agutter
Sister Monica Joan = Judy Parfitt
Sister Evangelina = Pam Ferris
Shelagh Turner = Laura Main
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Alec Jesmond = Leo Staar
Tom Hereward = Jack Ashton
Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell
Sister Winifred = Victoria Yeates

Season three is the last season with Jenny Lee. That may be one of the more notable things about this season in retrospect. (We also see a lot less Chummy after this season. I know she makes no appearance at all in series 5, and, I'm not sure how much she's around in series 4. But I think she is some at least.) 

Shelagh. Last season's finale saw Shelagh become engaged in Dr. Turner. In the Christmas Special, these two were due to be married near Christmas. But DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA. This episode has so much drama. Much of it being caused by the discover of an unexploded German bomb left over from the war. And then there's POLIO. This is such a heart-felt episode. How is it possible to care so much about fictional characters on a TV show?

Episode one. New Nonnatus House. New Sister midwife. I really, really like Sister Winifred although it takes a few episodes to come into her own and feel like she BELONGS. In this episode, Chummy helps deliver a baby in an emergency, and is asked to come back to work part-time as a midwife.

Episode two. Cynthia and Sister Evangelina are in conflict over "new" methods to help mothers during childbirth...Jenny gets a promotion....and viewers meet Doris a pregnant woman who is between a rock and a hard place.

Episode three. Trixie and Sister Julienne temporarily take on prison duties and serve pregnant prisoners. Sister Julienne becomes especially close to one of the young girls, and, becomes a character witness of sorts. The young woman desperately wants to keep her baby and not be forced to give it up for adoption. Trixie--well, good news, she meets Tom...and the bad news, well, she gets LICE. Shelagh and Dr. Turner learn that she cannot have children. Already several episodes this season are about adoption. So it's easy to see where this might be heading.

Episode four. The beginning of the end for Jenny's time at Nonnatus House. Alec Jesmond is in a horrible accident. PC Peter Noakes is one of the first responders, also, I believe Dr. Turner is as well. They know him as Jenny's boyfriend, making it even more difficult. They KNOW it is really bad. Bad news, the two had been fighting that day. Good news, they do get the chance to make up.

Episode five, Shelagh is back working in an administrative role at least. And sister Julianne and Jenny are both away. Nurse Patsy Mount, now a midwife, joins Nonnatus House full-time. Sister Evangelina has a jubilee party. But she has to be tricked into attending. This celebration is all the more meaningful the second time around. (If you've seen season five, you know exactly why). The pregnancy case is very troubling in this episode.

Episode six, Trixie goes on her first date with Tom. But it does not go according to plan. Shelagh and Dr. Turner begin to look into what it would take to adopt a child...and viewers get to know a little more about the newest midwife, Nurse Mount.

Episode seven, this one has DRAMA and then some. Chummy's mother comes to town. Chummy, at first, thinks this is a visit. But several things soon come to light. Her parents are separated now, her mother doesn't have much money, and she is in a LOT OF PAIN, as she has terminal cancer. Chummy has about a hundred emotions at any given moment. And it's up to Peter to know what to do. His strength in this episode and the next are AMAZING. He is such a good, good guy. Sister Julienne and Cynthia, not to be left out, deal with a VERY VERY VERY mentally troubled woman after delivery.

Episode eight, Shelagh and Dr. Turner get GREAT news during this episode. But poor Chummy spends this episode in turmoil and angst. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sister Monica Joan in this episode. And Jenny is supportive as well. These two cluster around Chummy and her mother and it's just beautiful to watch. Painful but beautiful. Jenny--who came back in episode seven--decides to stop being a midwife and switch to what we would now call hospice care. She does help deliver a baby in this episode, I believe, and her patient's cousin, I believe, is PHILIP WORTH, her future husband. This is young Jenny's last appearance in the show.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Journey That Saved Curious George

The Journey That Saved Curious George. Louise Borden. 2016. HMH. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: For many years, I was intrigued by the story of Margret and H.A. Rey's flight from Paris on bicycles in June 1940.

Premise/plot: This children's nonfiction book is just right for elementary readers. It begins by providing background and context for young readers. Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein grew up in Germany. Both were Jewish. At some point in the 1920s, he moves to Rio de Janeiro. She follows a little while after. They meet again there, and fall in love. Paris is one of the stops on their honeymoon--they are Brazilian citizens now--and Paris is where they decide to remain. They work many happy years together in Paris. But their work--and their lives--are threatened when World War II goes from being something you read about in the papers--to something happening a few miles outside the city limits.

As Jews, they are at great risk if they remain in Paris and Paris is captured by the Nazis. But. For better or worse. They waited a little too long to leave the city...in an easy way. The last rush sees them desperate to find two bicycles. I believe the book says he had to build the bicycles himself from parts. But it isn't just a story about saving the authors' lives, it's a book celebrating the manuscript that would become Curious George. That was one of the possessions that they took with them--on their bikes. Of course what you may not know is that "George" wasn't George just yet. The monkey was originally called Fifi. And publishers had already agreed to publish the book before they made their flight...

The book focuses on H.A. and Margret Rey, their work as writers, and how the war effected their lives.

My thoughts: This is a very enjoyable read. I loved how the author was able to reconstruct their lives and give readers a behind-the-scenes look into the writing and illustrating of books. The book felt personal, but, always appropriate.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there--family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape. We were taken. 

Premise/plot: I'm tempted to not give any premise or plot at all. To just say: READ THIS BOOK. But I'm not sure that's exactly fair. While, I do think this book should be read WIDELY, I think it's only fair to tell you a little bit about what to expect. It's set in 1941 in Lithuania. Lina, the heroine, and her family are in a difficult position. They're trapped between two worst-case-scenarios: Stalin, on one side, and Hitler on the other. No matter which "wins" control over Lithuania, Lina and her family--and so many others--are in great danger.

The book opens with Lina's family being arrested. It doesn't get any cheerier from that point. Lina, her mother, and her brother, Jonas, take the reader on quite an emotional journey. It's an incredible read, partly set in Siberia as well, which is where these 'prisoners' end up.

My thoughts: This was a reread for me. There is a companion book newly released this year starring Lina's cousin Joana. The companion book is set at much closer to the end of World War II. I read Salt to the Sea not really realizing its connection with Between Shades of Gray. It worked. So if you do read the books out of order, that is okay. But definitely I think you'll want to read both books.

I love this one. I do. I love the characterization. I really, really, really love Lina. And I love Andrius as well. Just because there is a tiny bit of romance, don't mistake this one for a proper ROMANCE. It's so much more than that. It's a fight for survival, and, a fight for DIGNITY. It is very bittersweet. But if you're looking for a book you can't put down, this one is it.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Listening to George, CONCLUSION

This will be the last post for my George Strait Project. I thought I would make a few lists, answer a few questions, etc.

One word to describe George Strait's music: TIMELESS
Some phrases to describe his music: consistently high quality;  forever true to himself, true to tradition; western swing at its best! makes you want to sing and dance!
Was the project fun? Yes, for the most part.
Did I get tired of George by the end of July? More than I thought I would be. I thought it would be impossible to have too much George in your life.
Did I only listen to George Strait? That's how I started out the month. But by the end, I was ready for a little distance and some other artists to listen to.
Would I recommend this project for someone else? Yes. But I would suggest spreading it out throughout a six month or even a year period. You could cover two to three albums per month and get it done in a year.
Would I be interested in doing another chronological project? Yes, probably. I'm not sure WHO at this point. And it will probably not be any time soon. I am also not sure if I'd ever devote that many posts to music at Becky's Book Reviews. Though if it were to be a year-long project, one post per month wouldn't be seen as quite the invasion that George became!!!
Which albums are MUSTS? If you were to only have TWO albums in your collection--say you have zero George Strait at the moment--then definitely 50 Number Ones (2004) and and 22 More Hits (2007). That would give you 72 of his best songs.
Favorite album from the 1980s? Probably Ocean Front Property. I really LOVE that one.
Favorite singles from the 1980s? Fool Hearted Memory, Amarillo by Morning, You Look So Good In Love, The Cowboy Rides Away, The Chair, Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her, Baby Blue, Ace in the Hole, Am I Blue, Famous Last Words of a Fool, Ocean Front Property, It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You, etc.
Favorite songs from the 1980s that were never released as singles? Friday Night Fever, 80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper, Dance Time in Texas, My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You, You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues...
Favorite album from the 1990s? I don't think I could ever, ever, ever choose. I might could come up with a top three albums from the 1990s...Livin' It Up (1990); Lead On (1994); One Step at A Time (1998).
Favorite singles from the 1990s? You Know Me Better Than That; Easy Come, Easy Go; The Big One; Check Yes or No; Lead On; Blue Clear Sky; One Night at a Time; I Just Want To Dance With You; We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This; Write This Down.
Favorite songs from the 1990s never released as singles?  Someone Had to Teach You; She Loves Me (She Don't Love You); Is It Already Time; You're Right, I'm Wrong; Baby Your Baby; Stay Out My Arms; I Wasn't Fooling Around; Nobody Has To Get Hurt; That's Me (Every Chance I Get); Real Good Place to Start; That's Where I Want To Take Our Love; Always Never The Same.
Favorite album from the 2000s? I'm torn between Twang (2009) and Honkytonkville (2003).
Favorite singles from the 2000s? Don't Make Me Comve Over There and Love You, Troubadour, Twang.
Favorite songs from the 2000s that were never released as singles? Honk if You Honky Tonk, I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor, She Used to Say That To Me, Texas Cookin', It Was Me, Where Have I Been All My Life
Favorite album from the 2010s? Cold Beer Conversation
Favorite singles from the 2010s? I Got A Car; Drinkin' Man; Here for a Good Time.
Favorite songs from the 2010s never released as singles? Three Nails and a Cross, I'll Always Remember You, It was Love, Take Me To Texas, It Takes All Kinds.

Country Music Is....
  1. No more late nights, comin' in at daylight, and no more doin' you wrong.
  2. Nickels and dimes, memories and wines - she's on his mind once again.
  3. I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free.
  4. He must have stolen some stars from the sky, and gave them to you to wear in your eyes.
  5. We've been in and out of love and in-between.
  6. With a little mouth to mouth she was ready to go.
  7. Well, thank you, could I drink you a buy?
  8. Even my heart was smart enough to stay behind.
  9. I don't worship the ground you walk on.
  10. A devil when she held me close, an angel when she smiled.
  11. Don't put it all on the line for just one roll.
  12. All the times before she'd break down and cry.
  13. There won't be no more next time doin' me wrong.
  14. Truth be known, you're dyin', cryin', lyin' there in bed.
  15. I miss picnics and blue jeans and buckets of beer.
  16. When you hear twin fiddles and a steel guitar, you're listening to the sound of the American heart.
  17. We tried to work it out a hundred times, ninety-nine it didn't work.
  18. I'm not the hero who will always save the day.
  19. Oh they just don't make hearts like hers anymore.
  20. My heart's the only part of me that's not in love with you.
  21. She said I don't recall seeing you around here you must be new to this town.
  22. But I never felt this feeling with anybody else.
  23. I got my fingers crossed that this goes on and on.
  24. I hit my knees and told God how much I hurt.
  25. I caught you lookin' at me when I looked at you. Yes I did, ain't that true?
  26. We'd each be hurting somebody else if we don't say our good-byes real fast.
  27. That's where I wanna raise the babies that we make.
  28. My heart's been on a long vacation, but now it's beating like a cha, cha, cha
  29. Today I'm right where Mama prayed I'd be.
  30. Some peddle steel whining like a whistle of an old freight train... 
Can you identify which songs these lines are from? 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Time Cat

Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Gareth was a black cat with orange eyes.

Premise/plot: Jason is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But that begins to change when in the midst of complaining out loud to his cat, Gareth, Gareth surprises him by talking back. The cat reveals that he can visit nine different lives--any time, any country--and he can and will be happy to take Jason with him.

The times visited by Jason and Gareth: Egypt 2700 B.C., Rome and Britain 55 B.C., Ireland 411 A.D., Japan 998 A.D., Italy 1468, Peru 1555, The Isle of Man 1588, Germany 1600, America 1775.

If you're a cat lover who also enjoys time travel, this is a GREAT read.

My thoughts: I really, really, really found this to be a GREAT read. I found it entertaining and just FUN.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.
When I was a child, I always had cats. They seemed very fond of me. Then, after I became Pharaoh, they didn't seem to care for me half as much.
Jason thought for a while. "I don't know," he said at last. "Did you wear that headdress and that beard before you got to be king? That might have frightened them. And another thing," he added, "did you shout as much? Cats don't like being shouted at."
Neter-Khet brightened a little. "That might be it."
"Even so," Jason said, "when you weren't shouting, you'd think they'd have come around again."
"Oh, they did," said Neter-Khet. "But they'd never play or purr when I ordered."
"Did you expect them to?" Jason said. "No cat in the world will do that!"
"But I'm Pharaoh," Neter-Khet said. "I'm supposed to give orders."
"That doesn't mean anything to a cat," said Jason. "Didn't anybody ever tell you?"
"Nobody tells me," Neter-Khet said. "I tell them. Besides, they were my cats, weren't they?"
"In a way they were," Jason said, "and in a way they weren't. A cat can belong to you, but you can't own him. There's a difference." (19-20)
The only thing a cat worries about is what's happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time. (125)
Cats are good at being cats, and that's enough. (127)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What's On Your Nightstand (July)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Currently reading:

Johnny Cash: The Life. Robert Hilburn. 2014. Little, Brown. 688 pages. [Source: Library]

Why the sudden interest in Johnny Cash? I have no idea really except perhaps my discovery of "Music on Murder Row," and the question what IS country music? I am finding this a very interesting read.


Testament of Youth. Vera Brittain. 1933/2015. Penguin. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

I've been wanting to read this since watching the movie. It's good, but, the chapters are LONG. 

Golf Without Tears: Stories of Golfers and Lovers. P.G. Wodehouse. 1999. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I am reading this for the VT Reading Challenge (aka Challies) for the "sports" category. For the record, I don't like golf....but I do love Wodehouse. So it is working for me.

Man in White. Johnny Cash. 1986/2006. WestBow. 194 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't gotten very far in this one. But it's a fiction novel about the Apostle Paul...and I'm interested in reading it in the weeks ahead.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Hotel Mystery

The Hotel Mystery. (Whodunit Detective Agency #2) Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every year, on the day before Christmas Eve, nearly everyone in the little town of Pleasant Valley does the same thing: They all head to the holiday buffet at the town's hotel, where they find turkey, ham, roasted carrots, and mashed potatoes and gravy, all served on big platters in the beautiful dining room.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are friends and classmates who formed the Whodunit Detective Agency. Over Christmas vacation, these two are working at the town's hotel. (Jerry's uncle works there.) The hotel is in great excitement because the hotel's best and most expensive suite has been rented out to a family, the Braeburn family. Making the new guests HAPPY is to be their top priority. But their stay is not uneventful, and before the book ends, Jerry and Maya will need to solve a crime.

My thoughts: This is the second book in the Whodunit Detective Agency series. It is an early chapter book with a lot of colorful illustrations. These mysteries are simple and straightforward. The characters aren't exactly complex and intriguing. But. I think for the intended age group, these mysteries are fine reading material.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Minnie is a white, long-haired, teacup-size Chihuahua.

Premise/plot: Minnie and her owner live in Paris, France. Francoise (the child owner) and Minnie travel with the Mom to Hollywood to hand deliver a beautiful, glamorous dress to an actress for a movie. Most of the 'plot' of this one focuses on the trip there and back. While in Hollywood, Minnie gets her big break and stars in a movie of her own.

My thoughts: Could the cover of this book possibly have even more glitter? I didn't think so. The plot is what it is. It isn't horribly creative or clever or new or unique or compelling. More frivolous and predictable and obnoxious in a cutie-sweetie-pie way. Now, if the book had been a super-sweet story about a cat instead of a dog, would I feel differently? Maybe. But I don't see a cat dressing up and following directions. That would have been a whole different story. Several pages might have even been spent on trying to get the cat into traveling bag.

I was unimpressed with the writing of this one. But what slightly saves it are the illustrations.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Diamond Mystery

Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The streets were empty in the little town of Pleasant Valley.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are classmates and friends who have opened a detective agency out of Maya's basement. They live in the small, quaint town of Pleasant Valley. The book opens with Mohammed Caret hiring these two child detectives to find out who is stealing diamonds from his shop. Their cover will be that he has hired these two children to do some light cleaning and run a few errands for him. They meet the three employees that work for him. And after a day of close observation, they are ready to solve the case.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. It's an early chapter book. I'd say just about right for second graders. It's the first in a mystery series for children. It has been translated into English from the Swedish.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Listening to George, part 10

2009
If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2009-2015.

Twang is George Strait's twenty-sixth album. It features thirteen songs. Four songs from the album were released as singles: "Living for the Night," "Twang," "I Gotta Get To You," "The Breath You Take."

The other songs on the album include: "Where Have I Been All My Life," "Easy As You Go," "Same Kind of Crazy," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," "Arkansas Dave," "He's Got That Something Special," "Hot Grease and Zydeco," "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," and "El Rey."

George Strait has some writing credits on this album. Three of the songs he cowrote with his son: "Living for the Night," Out of Sight, Out of Mind," and "He's Got That Something Special." One song was written by his son, "Arkansas Dave."

"Where Have I Been All My Life"

First stanza:
Been down the road to work and back
Been in what I thought was love a few times
But every once in a while I stop and ask
Where have I been all my life 
Premise/plot: The singer is reflecting on his life, and questioning, perhaps, why it took him so long to realize some important, essential things in life. He's grown up, in other words, and seeing life a whole lot differently than he used to.

Favorite lines:
These days broccoli don't taste so bad
And neither does swallowing my pride
And I'm agreeing more and more with my old man
Where have I been all my life
Been learning that forgiveness is as much for myself
As it is for the other guy
And I read the good book these days and believe it
Where have I been all my life
My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. I can relate to it in many ways.

Favorite songs: I really enjoy all the songs on the album. But I really want to highlight "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," "Easy As You Go," and "Hot Grease and Zydeco."

2011
Here For A Good Time is George Strait's twenty-seventh album. It features eleven songs. George Strait and his son wrote or cowrote seven out of the eleven songs on the album. Three of the songs were released as singles: "Here For A Good Time," Love's Gonna Make It Alright," and "Drinkin' Man."

Other songs on the album include: "Shame On Me," "Poison," "House Across the Bay," "Lone Star Blues," "A Showman's Life," "Three Nails and A Cross," "Blue Marlin Blues," and "I'll Always Remember You."

"I'll Always Remember You" is co-written by George Strait, and, it is written for his fans--about his fans.

"Three Nails and A Cross" is without a doubt one of my favorites on this album.

The song I'd like to pay special attention to is "Drinkin' Man."

First two stanzas:
I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God
I'd never, ever take another drink again
I fought it like the devil, but you know that you're in trouble
When you're fourteen and drunk by ten a.m.
Tried to hide it from my mom and dad, all my friends said, straighten up
I just laughed, said, you don't understand
That's a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin' man
Premise/plot: An honest look at the ugly truths of alcoholism. Country music often--but not always--glamorizes drinking, drinking a lot, getting drunk, being stupid while drunk. But not all country songs treat it that lightly. The song ends exactly the same way it begins, repeating: "I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God I'd never, ever take another drink again."

My thoughts: I think this song would pair well with "Where Have I Been All My Life," and "Three Nails and A Cross." I think you could imagine one person progressing from one to the other. The key perhaps being, "Three Nails and A Cross," as the middle song.

This song is the COMPLETE and TOTAL opposite of Toby Keith's Red Solo Cup.

2013
Love is Everything is George Strait's twenty-eighth album. It features thirteen songs. Four of the songs were written or cowritten by George Strait. Three of the songs from the album were released as singles, "Give It All We Got Tonight," "I Believe," and "I Got a Car."

Other songs on the album include: "Blue Melodies," "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This," "I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing," "That's What Breaking Hearts Do," "When Love Comes Around Again," "The Night is Young," "Sitting on the Fence," "Love Is Everything," "You Don't Know What You're Missing," and "When The Credits Roll."

My favorite is probably "I Got A Car." It's a fun, little story song.

"I Believe" was written in honor of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

2015
Cold Beer Conversation is George Strait's twenty-ninth album. It features thirteen songs. Three of the songs are written--or co-written by George and his son. Two singles were released from this album, "Cold Beer Conversation" and "Let It Go."

Other songs on the album include: "It Was Love," "Goin' Goin' Gone," "Something Going Down," "Take Me To Texas," "It Takes All Kinds," "Stop and Drink," "Everything I See," "Rock Paper Scissors," "Wish You Well," "Cheaper Than A Shrink," and "Even When I Can't Feel It."

I do like the two songs that were released as singles. But I am clueless as to why they didn't release IT WAS LOVE as a single. It is a GREAT song. And I just think it has HIT written all over it!

I really like Take Me To Texas. George loves to sing about Texas!
Take me to Texas, on the open range
The Rio Grande is in my veins
It’s heaven there and so my prayer
Is that you’ll take me anywhere in Texas
The only home I know
I’m a child of the Alamo and the Yellow Rose
So when I go
If you were ever curious what it would be like if Dr. Seuss wrote a country song, then give a good long listen to "It Takes All Kinds." This one is just catchy and FUN.

"Everything I See" is another must. A son is singing a song about his father who recently died. This one would also make a great single, I think.

This was the album that "inspired" the project in the first place.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Library Loot: July

So where have I been? Despite my lack of 'library loot' posts, I've actually been averaging about three to four trips to the library per week. There is the difficulty. If you know you're going to the library "tomorrow," it's hard to get down to writing a library loot post "today." But since it's been almost a month since my last post...here I go:

New Loot:
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas, fils
  • Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
  • Double Fudge by Judy Blume
  • Golf Without Tears by P.G. Wodehouse
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
  • Waylon: One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn
  • Man in White by Johnny Cash
  • Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
  • Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  •  Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham
  • All-Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Leftover Loot:
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  • A Royal Experiment by Janice Hadlow
  • Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick

  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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My Thoughts on Downton Abbey, season 1

Downton Abbey, season 1
7 episodes

Upstairs
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham = Hugh Bonneville
Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham = Elizabeth McGovern
Lady Mary Crawley = Michelle Dockery
Lady Edith Crawley = Laura Carmichael
Lady Sybil Crawley = Jessica Brown Findlay
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham = Maggie Smith

Downstairs
Mr. (Charles) Carson = Jim Carter
Mrs. Hughes = Phyllis Logan
Mr. (John) Bates = Brendan Coyle
Anna = Joanne Froggatt
Gwen = Rose Leslie
Thomas Barrow = Rob James-Collier
Miss (Sarah) O'Brien = Siobhan Finneran
Mrs. Patmore = Lesley Nicol
Daisy = Sophie McShera
William Mason = Thomas Howes
Tom Branson = Allen Leech

Other Households
Isobel Crawley = Penelope Wilton
Matthew Crawley = Dan Stevens
Josephy Molesley = Kevin Doyle
Mrs. Bird = Christine Lohr

So, in the spring I was quite happy with the final season of Downton Abbey. I have never rewatched this series, so I thought this summer might be a good time. (Especially now that I've rewatched all of Call the Midwife, and there is a void in shows to binge-watch).

So, this is a rewatch. I am assuming that most people who have any interest in this one, have already seen this season, at least once. I will not purposefully come out and spoil things unnecessarily. But. I will talk freely about this season.

Equal time is spent between the upstairs and the downstairs.

People I loved downstairs = Mr. Bates, Anna, Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Carson. Now by the end of the sixth season, I can easily say that I've come to love more characters.

People I liked downstairs = William, Tom, Gwen, Daisy, Miss Patmore.

People I really DISLIKE downstairs = O'Brien and Thomas. I really LOATHE both characters. Now, O'Brien never, ever, ever redeems herself in my opinion. Thomas, on the other hand, as the series progresses, there are moments where I actually don't hate him.

People I loved upstairs: Dowager Countess and Sybil. I love the Dowager Countess!!!! Of the three sisters, Sybil is the one you'd actually want to know in real life and be friends with.

People I liked upstairs: Lady Cora, Robert Crawley, Lady Edith. Of those three, Lady Edith may be the most controversial for 'liking.' I do like Edith, however. I think Lady Mary has spent years and years and years tormenting her, without her parents ever correcting Lady Mary's behavior. I think she has dealt with a lot, not just from Mary, but from her own parents. There is a conversation in which it is revealed that neither parent thinks that anyone will ever, ever, ever want to marry Edith. Both parents assume that Edith with be the one daughter whom no one marries because no one wants, she will be the one to 'nurse' them in their old age, and, then they joke about how awful that will be to still have her around. I just CRINGED. Still, I think Robert and Cora have their redeemable moments.

People I really DISLIKE upstairs: Lady Mary. Mr. Carson may be the only person in the entire world that Mary is ever kind and respectful to. In every battle with Edith, Lady Mary seems to be the instigator. She also seems to be the one to keep adding fuel to the fire. Lady Mary is rude, hateful, spiteful, inconsiderate. Not just in private, when the two are alone, but in front of the entire family--why does her family think her rudeness is acceptable????--and as if that wasn't bad enough, in front of dinner guests as well. Lady Mary seems to exist to humiliate Lady Edith whenever, wherever possible. Now, that being said, Lady Edith, does not stand back and let Lady Mary say and do whatever without reacting and responding. I think Lady Edith was PROVOKED into doing what she did. I don't think it was inevitable. I think Mary's own actions--in more than one way--led to the gossip that 'ruined' her.

Other characters I loved: Matthew Crawley and his mother, Isobel. I honestly don't know why Matthew falls for Mary. I don't know what he sees in her, and continues to see in her, that keeps him coming around?! Mary's natural inclinations are to hurt and inflict pain at her whim. That being said, do I like Matthew in spite of his liking or loving Mary. Yes, for the most part. I do think Matthew is unnecessarily RUDE at times. For example, even though he's not interested--in that way--in Edith. He didn't have to rebuff her when she was making small talk. It wasn't as if she was saying, MATTHEW, I LOVE YOU TRULY, MADLY; FORGET ABOUT MARY, LET'S RUN AWAY THE TWO OF US, AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. She was just trying to avoid an awkward situation and make the best of it. And he would have none of her small talk. Now, Edith is used to people treating her rudely, as if she is "less than." After all, her own flesh and blood treat her that way day in and day out. I think Matthew's standout moment comes when he rescues Lady Sybil, takes her to his own home, has his mother nurse her, sends for Mary, etc. When Mary seems Matthew as a HERO, that's when Mary decides that she likes Matthew after all. More than a "toy" an actual human being. Now that I think about, Lady Mary reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara.

Isobel. I really love to see her interact with the Dowager Countess. And also with Dr. Carson. She is a genuine person, and one you can't help loving.

Season 1 Highlights:
  • The family learns about the sinking of the Titanic, learns about the two next-in-line heirs being killed.
  • Lady Mary is upset not that her 'future husband' is killed but that she might lose what she's come to think of as her rightful inheritance.
  • Lady Mary invites someone to ride/hunt at Downton Abbey, and, then ignores the guest she invited to flirt with the guest her guest invited.
  • Lady Mary is NOT responsible for Mr. Kemal Pamuk coming into her bedroom--that would be Thomas who led him to her door and left him, knowing Mr. Pamuk's intentions--but she is at least partially responsible for not doing everything in her power to stop him. She was not exactly forced. She protested at first. Which makes me think that she's only partially responsible. He clearly was not a 'no' means 'no' guy. But she stopped protesting and became welcoming. To her credit, she never claims she was unwilling. Though she very well could have told her mother that he showed up in her room uninvited, and forced his attentions. Her mother might have been more sympathetic. 
  • Lady Mary's secret is voluntarily kept by Anna and her mother. It is held as ammunition by Thomas and O'Brien. Daisy also witnesses something of the aftermath.
  • The family accepts Matthew as the next heir, but, Mary is contrary and hates him except when she's flirting with him. But she only flirts with him a third of the time. The other times she leaves him confused and hurt.
  • Miss Patmore has a health crisis.
  • Daisy has an attack of conscience. And changes her mind about which footman is for her.
  • Thomas and O'Brien are set on destroying Bates. In many, many episodes, they plot and scheme. Carson seems to stay a step or two ahead of them.
  • Anna and Mr. Bates fall for each other, though, he likes to keep a little distance between them because his past is problematic.
  • Tom starts falling in love with Sybil....but she is so busy helping out Gwen that I don't think she's really noticed the swoon-worthiness of Tom just yet.
  • O'Brien reveals her evilness. And a family mourns as a result. 
  • The family learns that war has been declared.  (World War I)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Announcing a "new" blog: NOW AND THEN

This July, I've started a new blog projects of sorts called Now and Then: A consistently inconsistent blog 'celebrating' the past and present. I've got some quotes up from old favorites. But mainly this week I've focused on two things I love MUSIC and iceskating. 

This week's posts:

Posts that NEED you (yes, you) to vote on something:

Country "Mexico" Songs, Now and Then #1
Country "Drinking" Songs, Now and Then #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #2 

Which song do you like better? Blame It On Mexico or Mexicoma? Margaritaville or Red Solo Cup? The idea of these 'battle' posts is that I'll be sharing TWO songs, and you'll help decide which of the two is your favorite.

Figure skating posts:

Evgeni Plushenko, Now and Then #1
Russian Pairs skating, Now and Then #1 

I do hope you'll visit my other blog and leave a comment or two if you're so inclined!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Thoughts On Call the Midwife, Series 2

Call the Midwife, series 2
1 Christmas special + 8 episodes

Jenny Lee = Jessica Raine
Trixie Franklin = Helen George
Cynthia Miller = Bryony Hannah
Chummy (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne) = Miranda Hart
Sister Julienne = Jenny Agutter
Sister Monica Joan = Judy Parfitt
Sister Evangelina = Pam Ferris
Sister Bernadette (aka Shelagh) = Laura Main
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Jane Sutton = Dorothy Atkinson
Alec Jesmond = Leo Staar
Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell

I LOVE and ADORE this show so much. This second series is great fun. The whole reason I'm rewatching the show in the first place, is while I had no trouble at all checking out the first two discs of season five from the library, there was a longer hold for the third disc. So I decided, well, why not use this "waiting time" to rewatch series two through four!

What you should know--there is no going slowly with Call the Midwife. I have found this is one to binge-watch.

The Christmas Special. It is Jenny's first Christmas at Nonnatus House. The episode focuses on the community and upcoming Christmas preparations--specifically a nativity play. The pregnant mother in this one is a teenager keeping her pregnancy secret from everyone....

Episode 1. Is the show issue-driven or character-driven? I think the answer is a bit of both. Both stories in this episode have their tragic side. In one story, we've got a girl literally brought up captive on her father's cargo ship--she being brought up to "service" all the men on board, including dear old dad. Trixie and Sister Evangelina are called to respond to this emergency call. This is one of the stories from the Call the Midwife memoir. In the other story, we've got spousal abuse. A pregnant mother (she's pregnant with her second child) is being abused by a horrid husband, and, Jenny can do little about it....

Episode 2. More than two stories in this one! Several stories last multiple episodes. So the show is becoming more like a soap opera. Only an actually good one. Cynthia (I was almost tempted to call her SISTER) has a rough time in this episode. Jenny thinks she's falling in love with Jimmy...only to find out that one of her new patients knows Jimmy much TOO WELL. Chummy decides to fulfill her dream to be a missionary in Africa with Peter's full support.

Episode 3. Jenny takes some time off from midwifery, conveniently just in time to save Jimmy's life. Jane comes to Nonnatus House. I really, truly LOVE Jane even though she doesn't stick around for the whole series. I can relate to her completely. And the fact that in the memoir she gets a good, happy ending makes me very pleased indeed. This episode also briefly introduces us to Nurse Mount. I thought nothing of it the first time around, it was only in rewatching I was like HEY, I DIDN'T KNOW SHE SHOWED UP IN THIS SEASON. The pregnancy case in this episode is STRANGE.

Episode 4. This episode mainly focuses on JANE and introduces the character of Reverend Applebee-Thornton. I LOVE LOVE LOVE parts of this one. A baby with special needs is born, and, the mother has a hard time accepting that her baby is not perfect. Can Jenny help? And how much help is too much help? I really love the husband/father in this one.

Episode 5. This episode is PAINFUL. Not because it's bad, but, because it is so very INTENSE. A woman is DETERMINED to end her pregnancy no matter what. And Jenny knows the woman is upset, but, can't really interfere and fix anything. Trixie gets in and out of a predicament when she starts dating a celebrity of sorts. Also SISTER BERNADETTE starts to show she has FEELINGS for Dr. Turner...and viewers see that he returns them!

Episode 6. Oh this episode gets to me. We're introduced to a single, pregnant woman estranged from her father. The woman is trying to keep her pregnancy secret from everyone--but Jenny knows what she knows. The woman is nine months along, and there's no fooling Jenny! The dying father is played by an actor I failed to recognize before...a familiar face from LARK RISE to CANDLEFORD. (He's not the only familiar face from that show we'll end up seeing....) Dr. Turner is able to get an X-Ray programme to come to Poplar, and Sister Bernadette is tested to show a little girl how easy and safe it is. SISTER MONICA JOAN has a fit in this one, if I remember rightly. And it's Fred to the rescue!

Episode 7. Chummy and Peter return from Africa!!! And their family is about to grow! Sister Bernadette is in a sanatorium undergoing treatment. Her crisis isn't just physical, but, spiritual as well. There are several cases in this one...but my interest was all on Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette.

Episode 8. Jimmy introduces Jenny to his friend, Alec. Chummy has her baby, and, it's OH-SO-DRAMATIC. Fred gets a lot of attention in this one. His pregnant daughter visits, and, when her pregnancy becomes a bit complicated, it is up to Fred to babysit his grandson. Fred also gives Chummy some much-needed cheering up. Sister Bernadette makes a life-changing decision, and, reveals her name: SHELAGH. I love, love, love, love how Dr. Turner and Shelagh meet one another. Swoon!!!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Singalong Saturdays (Drinking Songs)

Today's prompt: Favorite Drinking Songs

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I thought I would connect this post in with my current George Strait Project. For those that haven't noticed, I am listening to George Strait's albums chronologically this July. I only have four albums left, which will either be one long post, or two smaller posts.

I thought I would choose one 'drinking song' from his first album, Strait Country (1981), and one 'drinking song' from his last album, Cold Beer Conversation (2015).

I could go with "Unwound" or "Blame It On Mexico." But I think I will go with the much lesser known gem of Friday Night Fever.




I have several options from Cold Beer Conversation: "Cold Beer Conversation," "Stop and Drink," "Wish You Well," or "Cheaper Than A Shrink." But I think I'll go with Goin' Goin' Gone.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Paris in July Playlist

Maurice Jarre
I have definitely enjoyed participating in the Paris in July blog event. Today, I thought I would share my top three French composers.

3. Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) was a composer who did a LOT of movie scores. Most likely, you are familiar with his scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Ghost. Also he did Passage to India, Is Paris Burning?, The Man Who Would Be King, Jesus of Nazareth, and A Walk in the Clouds.

His biggest hit, of course, was "Lara's Theme."

2. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is a popular choice for figure skaters. I'll be honest. That's how I came to know his music.

I'm sharing with you today:
Danse Macabre
Carnival of Animals
From the Carnival, but for the impatient sort, The Swan
Samson and Delilah, and, for the impatient sort, Bacchanale
Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor

1.  Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is definitely my FAVORITE, FAVORITE French composer. He is perhaps best known for Carmen, the opera. And I do love that. Though I prefer instrumental versions for easy-listening. But I really ADORE L'Arlésienne.

I'm curious if anyone will see the connection between these pieces of music and a certain children's television program. Bizet must be a big favorite of the LITTLE EINSTEIN folks.


Carmen Suite #1 and #2 Playlist



L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 & Suite No. 2



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness. 2008. Candlewick. 479 pages. [Source: Library]

I have been meaning to reread Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go for a couple of years now. It is the first book in the Chaos Walking series. I really did EXPERIENCE the next two books in the trilogy. (I was going to say enjoy, but, can you ENJOY a book that is so dark and suspenseful and emotional.)

Here are a few things you should know before picking it up.

1) It is science fiction. It is set on another planet, aka "New World." The planet has a handful of small settlements, including Prentisstown, the hometown of our narrator/hero. The planet's biggest settlement is Haven.

2) Todd is our narrator. He is a few weeks away from his thirteenth birthday. He "becomes a Man" on his thirteenth birthday. He is an orphan being raised by two men, Cillian and Ben.

3) There are NO WOMEN in Prentisstown. Todd has been taught all his life that there was a plague or virus that killed all the women of the settlement.

4) A virus (perhaps the same virus that allegedly killed all the women?) has made it so that all the men can hear one another's thoughts all the time. This is called NOISE. It isn't just men, though, they can hear thoughts of animals too. Manchee is Todd's dog. And he's a bit too forthright to say the least!

5) The book is thriller-esque. It's essentially one big action-sequence from cover to cover. Well, perhaps it takes three or four chapters to get him on his way. But once he gets started...he stays going. It's an intense, action-packed book.

6) He doesn't go alone. Manchee, his faithful dog that he once didn't even want, is with him....but more importantly he meets Viola.

7) Viola basically "dropped from the sky" and right into his path. Viola is the sole survivor of the settler's scout ship. Her parents died in the crash. The ships with thousands of more settlers is about seven or so months behind the scout ship. Todd cannot hear Viola's noise. Viola is the first female he can remember seeing--apart from reading the memories of the men in his settlement--which is not the same thing I think you'll agree.

8) Both Viola and Todd are in GREAT DANGER. Why?????? Well, it has to do with SECRETS and SCHEMES and PLOTS. The mayor of Prentisstown is ambitious and manipulative....to pick two of his tamer qualities.

9) Todd has some internal conflict going on inside....he cannot bring himself to kill. So while I might have spent a good deal of time emphasizing the ACTION, ACTION, ACTION aspect of this one, that doesn't mean it is without characterization and complexity.

10) Be warned it doesn't really have an ending.

11) It has profanity. A good deal of profanity. For some people it may be off-putting enough to pass on the book. For others that might be a big non-issue.

12) Poor grammar is part of the world-building. This may or may not bother readers!
Men lie, and they lie to theirselves worst of all. (22)
But a knife ain't just a thing, is it? It's a choice, it's something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don't. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again. (84)
The knife is alive. As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me to tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it to as well, my will has to join with its will. I'm the one who allows it and I'm the one responsible. But the knife wanting it makes it easier. If it comes to it, will I fail? (341)
"War is a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters too." (392)
I can read her. Cuz she's thinking about her own parents also came here with hope like my ma. She's wondering if the hope at the end of our road is just as false as the one that was at the end of my ma's. And she's talking the words of my ma and putting them into the mouths of her own ma and pa and hearing them say that they love her and they miss her and they wish her the world. And she's taking the song of my ma and she's weaving it into everything else till it becomes a sad thing all her own. And it hurts her, but it's an okay hurt, but it hurts still, but it's good, but it hurts. She hurts. I know all this. I know it's true. Cuz I can read her. I can read her Noise even tho she ain't got none. I know who she is. I know Viola Eade. I raise my hands to the side of my head to hold it all in. "Viola," I whisper, my voice shaking. "I know," she says quietly, pulling her arms tight around her, still facing away from me. And I look at her sitting there and she looks across the river and we wait as the dawn fully arrives, each of us knowing. Each of us knowing the other. (420)


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Listening to George, part 9

2003
If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2003-2008.

Honkytonkville is George Strait's twenty-second album. From that album, three singles were released: "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa," "Cowboys Like Us," and "Desperately."

The other songs on the album include: "She Used To Say That To Me, " "Honkytonkville," "Look Who's Back From Town," "As Far As It Goes," "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor," "Honk if You Honky Tonk," "Heaven is Missing an Angel," "Four Down and Twelve Across," and "My Infinite Love."

I would not rate the three singles as being the best songs on the album. In fact, I much prefer some of the other songs on the album. I really, really LOVE some of these songs. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Honk If You Honky Tonk." And I LOVE "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor," and "She Used To Say That To Me," and "Look Who's Back From Town."
Well, I got a bumper sticker
On the back of my truck
There ain't another like it
'Cause I had it made up
I can tell who's behind me
They give themselves away
Lay on their horn when they read this phrase
Honk if you honky tonk
Don't if you don't
But, if you do
Don't you love to
Honk if you honky tonk 
In 2004, George Strait released 50 Number Ones, an album featuring 51 songs. It included one new song in addition to all his number one singles. The new song was "I Hate Everything," and it became his fifty-first number one hit. 

2005
Somewhere Down in Texas is George Strait's twenty-third album; it was released in 2005. Three singles were released from this album, "You'll Be There," "She Let Herself Go," and "The Seashores of Old Mexico."

Other songs from the album include: "If The Whole World was a Honky Tonk," "Somewhere Down in Texas," "High Tone Woman," "Good News, Bad News," "Oh, What a Perfect Day," "Texas," "Ready for the End of the World," and "By the Light of a Burning Bridge."

My favorites from this album include: "If the World Was a Honky Tonk." "Somewhere Down in Texas," "Texas," "Oh, What A Perfect Day." One song that grew on me was "Ready for The End of the World."
If the whole world was a honky-tonk,
And it revolved around an old jukebox,
We'd tell our troubles to the Bar,
Over cryin' steel guitars,
And soon, they'd all be gone.
Yeah, if you asked me what I thought,
I'd say: "We'd be better off,
"If the whole world was a honky-tonk."
An' oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
When you're in my arms, I've got sunshine,
An' the sky's always blue.
Couldn't ask for better weather,
To do what I do:
Oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
I know the end is near
I've seen the warning signs
Been preparin' myself
Layin' in supplies
I bought a case of Jack
A boxed-set of Merle
I'm gettin' ready
Ready for the end of the world
I'm gettin' ready for the end to come
That final hour it all comes undone
An' she drops the bomb
An' says he ain't my girl

2006
George Strait's twenty-fourth album, It Just Comes Natural, was released in 2006. From this album, four singles were released: "Give It Away," "It Just Comes Natural," "Wrapped," and "How 'bout Them Cowgirls." There are fifteen songs in all.

Other songs on the album include: "She Told Me So," "That's My Kind of Woman," "He Must Have Really Hurt You Bad," "A Heart Like Hers," "Why Can't I Leave Her Alone," "One Foot In Front of the Other," "I Ain't Her Cowboy Anymore," "Texas Cookin'" "A Better Rain," "What Say," and "Come On Joe."

It is harder to find favorites on this album perhaps. It is not my favorite or best. It is a good thing this one has fifteen songs, that's the only way I was able to find ten songs that I'd want to listen to over and over again.

My favorites include: "A Heart Like Hers," "How 'bout Them Cowgirls," and "Texas Cookin'". 

In 2007, George Strait released the album 22 More Hits. These are the hit songs that didn't quite make it to #1. But so many of these songs are iconic and essential. Songs that come instantly to mind when you think 'George Strait.' Songs like "Amarillo by Morning" and "The Cowboy Rides Away." It featured no new songs.

2008
George Strait's twenty-fifth album, Troubadour, was released in 2008. From this album, three singles were released: "Troubadour," "River of Love," and I Saw God Today."

Other songs on this album include: "It Was Me," "Brothers of the Highway," "House of Cash," "Give Me More Time," "When You're In Love," "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song," "West Texas Town," "House with No Doors," and "If Heartaches Were Horses."

From this album, I really love "It Was Me," "Troubadour," "I Saw God Today,"  "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song," and "Give Me More Time."
The first time I met her
She walked right up to me and said you're who I've wanted to find.
There was a man she had seen in her dreams and it was me.
She said I can't believe it cause I've never been in here
And I've passed this so many times.
It was her night to find destiny and it was Me
And we danced every song that they played, and talked until closing time
The closer I held her, the more I knew her destiny wasn't that far from mine.
Then I saw a reflection of someone unfamiliar looking back when I looked in her eyes
The happiest man I'd ever seen and it was me
I was a young troubadour,
When I rode in on a song
And I'll be an old troubadour,
When I'm gone 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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White Fur Flying

White Fur Flying. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 116 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed Patricia MacLachlan's White Fur Flying. I loved Zoe and her family. Her mom rescues dogs--Great Pyrenees--fostering them until they can find forever homes. Her dad is a veterinarian, I believe. He brings home a parrot one day that is in need of a home. The parrot was--and this is very surprising to me--one of the highlights of the book. In fact, without the parrot, I don't think this novel would work as well, be as emotionally moving. She has a sister, Alice, who is always talking, telling stories, writing poems and stories, etc. Zoe's own character is revealed slowly throughout the book. Kodi, the other "family member" is a dog--Great Pyrenees, of course. He likes having other dogs around, and doesn't mind them coming and going.

So. The novel opens with the family watching the new neighbors move in. They haven't officially--or even unofficially--met the new family yet. And so some are quite busy making up stories about who they are, and why they're moving. Phillip is a boy around 9 or 10 that is moving in next door. He's the quiet type. The really-super-quiet and choosing-not-to-talk-at-all type. But that doesn't keep Kody and Alice and the other dogs from wanting to make friends with him....

Why is Phillip so silent? Will befriending dogs "save" him and help him reconnect with the world again?

This one is predictable enough--if you're an adult reader especially. I can't say honestly whether or not I would have found it predictable enough as a child. For one thing, if a book had a dog on the cover, I wouldn't read it because I was afraid the dog might die. Even though it might be on the slightly-predictable side. I found it very high on the feel-good side. I liked the way the book made me feel, especially at the end when Alice shares her poem. I think that is worth noting. Predictable does not always equal "bad."

© 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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