Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Reflections

Favorite picture book: The Bossier Baby. Marla Frazee. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early reader:  Hippopotamister. John Patrick Green. 2016. 84 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite speculative fiction: Scythe. Neal Shusterman. 2016. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite historical fiction:  Blood Red Snow White. Marcus Sedgwick. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library; Audience: YA, Adult]
Favorite classic: The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite nonfiction: Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service. Annette Bay Pimentel. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite Christian fiction:  Moonbow Night. Laura Frantz. 2017. Revell. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Favorite Christian nonfiction:  The Character of the Church. Joe Thorn. 2017. Moody. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Nighty-Night. Leslie Patricelli. 2017. Candlewick. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy; board book] 
  2. Board book: Max Gives Thanks To God. Todd and Jackie Courtney. 2017. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Boss Baby. Marla Frazee. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Bossier Baby. Marla Frazee. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Mother Bruce. Ryan T. Higgins. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Olive and the Embarrassing Gift. Tor Freeman. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. The Little Grumpy Cat That Wouldn't. Illustrated by Steph Laberis. 2016. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Gift]
  8. Before Morning. Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Beth Krommes. 2016. HMH. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Purim Chicken. Margery Cuyler. Illustrated by Puy Pinillos. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Yellow Umbrella. Jae-Soo Liu. Music composed by Dong II Sheen. 2002. Kane/Miller. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service. Annette Bay Pimentel. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Thunder Boy Jr. Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. 2016. Little, Brown. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  13. When Spring Comes. Kevin Henkes. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. 2016.  40 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Vincent and the Night. Adele Enersen. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  15. Ideas Are All Around. Philip C. Stead. 2016. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. Freight Train. Donald Crews. 1978. 26 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  17. Rain. Robert Kalan. Illustrated by Donald Crews. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Hippopotamister. John Patrick Green. 2016. 84 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. My Kite Is Stuck and Other Stories. Salina Yoon. 2017. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Harriet the Invincible. Ursula Vernon. 2015. 250 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Of Mice and Magic. Ursula Vernon. 2016. 225 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Ratpunzel. Ursula Vernon. 2016. 229 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Another Brooklyn. Jacqueline Woodson. 2016. 177 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Everything You Want Me To Be. Mindy Mejia. 2017. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. Scythe. Neal Shusterman. 2016. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Wrath of the Storm. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2017. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Out of the Silent Planet. C.S. Lewis. 1938. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  4. A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller Jr. 1959. 335 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. We. Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Clarence Brown. 1924/1993. 225 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Abel's Island. William Steig. 1976. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Blood Red Snow White. Marcus Sedgwick. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library; Audience: YA, Adult]
  2. The Silent Gondoliers. William Goldman. 1983/2001. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Apple and the Arrow. Mary and Conrad Buff. 1951/2001. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Projekt 1065. Alan Gratz. 2016. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. Jean Lee Latham. 1955. 251 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Victoria. Daisy Goodwin. 2016. 404 pages. [Source: Library]  
  7. Darcy's Hope: Beauty from Ashes. Ginger Monette. 279 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author]
  8. Message to Adolf. Osamu Tezuka. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. 1983/2012. Vertical. 648 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Message to Adolf, part 2. Osamu Tezuka. 1983/2012. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Vertical. 608 pages. [Source: Library]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Everything You Want Me To Be. Mindy Mejia. 2017. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Classics, all ages:
  1. The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. We. Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Clarence Brown. 1924/1993. 225 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller Jr. 1959. 335 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. The Macdermots of Ballycloran. Anthony Trollope. 1847. 636 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. The Kellys and the O'Kellys. Anthony Trollope. 1848. 537 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Watch and Ward. Henry James. 1871. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Roderick Hudson. Henry James. 1875. 398 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. Out of the Silent Planet. C.S. Lewis. 1938. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service. Annette Bay Pimentel. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Off Balance. Dominique Moceanu. 2012. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero. Claudia Ann Miller. 1999. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Mary Lou: Creating an Olympic Champion. Mary Lou Rhetton and Bela Karolyi with John Powers. 1985. 170 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Utopia Drive. Erik Reece. 2016. FSG. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Moonbow Night. Laura Frantz. 2017. Revell. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Out of the Silent Planet. C.S. Lewis. 1938. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Board book: Max Gives Thanks To God. Todd and Jackie Courtney. 2017. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. 2017. Moody. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Character of the Church. Joe Thorn. 2017. Moody. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. A Christian's Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament. Alec Motyer. 2015/2016. Christian Focus. 144 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  4. The Heart of the Church: The Gospel's History, Message, and Meaning. Joe Thorn. 2017. Moody. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. My Heart. Julie Manning. 2017. B&H. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  6. No Little Women. Aimee Byrd. P&R. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. New English Bible. 1970/1990. Illustrated by Horace Knowles. 973 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Openness Unhindered. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. 2015. Crown & Covenant. 200 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Psalms of David. Illustrated by James S. Freemantle. 1982. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Prevailing Prayer. D.L. Moody. Foreword by Erwin Lutzer. 1987/2016. Moody. 143 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Thru the Bible: 1 and 2 Samuel. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1997. Thomas Nelson. 308 pages. [Source: Bought]
  12. Three Treatises. Martin Luther. 1970. Fortress Press. 316 pages. [Source: Gift]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Off Balance

Off Balance. Dominique Moceanu. 2012. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When you have traveled the world, won Olympic gold, and gone through a very public court battle against your parents all by the age of seventeen, surprises don't come easy.

Premise/plot: Off Balance is the autobiography of gymnast Dominique Moceanu. The focus is not just on gymnastics. It is on her many aspects of her life, then and now. For example, here are a few things this one is about: forging a relationship with a sister she was clueless existed, her extremely tense relationship with the Karolyis, her love-hate-love-hate-love-hate relationship with an abusive father, her love-hate relationship with gymnastics, her love-hate relationship with her body, with weight, with food, exposing the harsher side of gymnastics.

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this one. The chapters alternate, most of the time, between then and now. Readers learn about her parents arranged marriage, her parents coming to the United States, her parents struggle to make ends meet, her early years, her initial interest in gymnastics, the first coach she really, truly loved, loved, loved (in Florida), the move to Texas and the Karolyis gym, her first competitions as a junior and as an elite gymnast, her mistreatment at the hands of the Karolyis and her father, her journey to the Olympics, going on tour with other Olympian gymnasts, finding a new coach, injuries and setbacks, her failed comebacks, the court battle with her parents, her wild years, her settling down with a husband years, etc.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero

Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero. Claudia Ann Miller. 1999. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I gazed in near disbelief as my daughter Shannon sat stunned on a blue mat on the floor of the cavernous Georgia Dome with more than thirty thousand fans gasping in the stands and millions more watching on the television.

Premise/plot: The book is Claudia Miller's biography of her daughter, Shannon Miller, a world-famous, super-decorated gymnast from the 1990s. The book shares her experiences (as a mother, as gymnastics judge, as a Christian Scientist) as much as Shannon's experiences. This is good in that it gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the daily lives of the Millers. This is bad in that it shifts the focus from Shannon Miller herself at times. (It reads more like an autobiography of Claudia Miller than a biography of Shannon Miller).

Readers do learn in great detail about Shannon Miller's life practically from the first time she ever jumped on a trampoline in the early 1980s until 1998 when the book was published. More time is spent on the 1992 Olympics than the 1996 Olympics. Every meet--no matter how big, no matter how small--gets some attention in this one. One cannot help but be struck by how much WORK went on behind the scenes. A lot of attention is paid to her coaches, her training, her injuries, etc.

I was surprised in a way HOW much of this one focuses on the fact that Shannon and Claudia are Christian Scientists. Every time (practically) that Shannon consulted a Christian Science practitioner, readers hear of it in this biography.

My thoughts: I definitely liked this one. Shannon Miller was definitely my favorite, favorite gymnast from this time period. I followed the sport of gymnastics as closely as I could at this time. I was interested in learning more.

You can tell this one is written by her biggest, biggest fan, her mom. You can tell when she gets defensive or upset. For example, she got upset that Kerri Strug got all the media attention at the 96 games. She felt her daughter deserved more attention and more recognition. (And her bitterness had not dissipated two years later when this book was published.)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mary Lou

Mary Lou: Creating an Olympic Champion. Mary Lou Rhetton and Bela Karolyi with John Powers. 1985. 170 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The first time I really began dreaming about the Olympics was in 1976, when Nadia won her three gold medals at Montreal. I was eight years old that summer, and I can remember lying on the living room floor back home in Fairmont, watching the whole thing on television.

Premise/plot: This biography features alternating narratives between Mary Lou Retton and Bela Karolyi. They wrote this biography with John Powers. This book focuses almost exclusively on the sport of gymnastics. Mary Lou's chapters focus on her training and competing. One gets a good sense of the mental and emotional struggles that accompany "becoming" an Olympic champion. Bela's chapters focus on his coaching in Romania and the United States. His narrative goes a bit into politics and why he felt he and his family had to defect from Romania and seek to make America their new home. His personality is a strong one. (So is Mary Lou's, by the way). Both narratives the focus is on working hard all the time and never, ever, ever letting go the fight.

My thoughts: This was one of the books that I checked out from my school library in junior high. I've been watching gymnastics since the late 1980s, and I'm a big, big, big fan of the sport. I've been meaning to reread it for quite a while. I had to interlibrary loan it, but, it was worth it!


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Karamazov Brothers

The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Aleksei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, a landowner of our district, extremely well known in his time (and to this day still remembered in these parts) on account of his violent and mysterious death exactly thirteen years ago, the circumstances of which I shall relate in due course.

Premise/plot: If you're looking for DRAMA and philosophy, look no further than Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov.

If Jerry Springer had had a talk show in the nineteenth century, the Karamazov family would have been his guests. Where to start?!

The father Fyodor has three sons by two different wives. Dmitry (Mitya, Mitry) is his oldest son, but, the two are VERY, VERY estranged. Why, you ask!!! Because both of them are chasing the same woman--Grushenka (Agrafena). She is possibly the town's most notorious 'loose' woman. Dmitry is not really free--in terms of honor--to chase her. He's technically engaged to another woman, Katerina Ivanovna. But for the past month--before the novel opens--he's seen only Grushenka. Ivan (Vanya) has fallen in love with his brother's cast off fiancee. And Katerina doesn't know which role she wants to play in this: the heartbroken victim or the strong survivor who moves on with her life and makes a new start.

On a fateful day, the three brothers, and, the has-no-shame father meet Starets Zosima privately at a monastery. Zosima is a local legend, a local holy man, and Aleksei (Alyosha) reveres him. (Alyosha is a monk at the time, and he remains so until Zosima's death). This family has brought a few tag along friends with them to witness the spectacle. And it is a spectacle. A cover-your-eyes and squirm-a-little spectacle where the father offends everyone but himself. Alyosha is soon torn in a dozen directions by his brothers. He's the perfect mediator it seems, too bad he never seems to find whatever brother he's looking for at the time! Still. He always listens and listens well as each brother confides in him. In fact, it's just not his brothers who confide in him, it seems the whole town knows he's a good listener.

Dmitry is absolutely desperate for money. But is he desperate enough to kill his father, and to steal his father's envelope of money? Yes, he's got a temper. Yes, his temper is made worse when he's been drinking. Yes, he makes dozens--if not hundreds--of "I'm going to kill him one of these days" statements. But is he capable of murder? And is love--or lust--motivation enough to kill a man he hates?

My thoughts: This one is a GREAT read. I loved the writing; I loved the increasing level of suspense. I loved, loved, loved Alyosha. I felt for many of the characters and genuinely wanted to see justice done.

Favorite quotes:
In most cases, people, even evil-doers, are much simpler and more naive than we generally suppose. And the same is true of you and me. (12)
For the realist, faith is not born of miracles, but miracles of faith. (32)
The important thing is not to lie to yourself. He who lies to himself and listens to his own lies reaches a state in which he no longer recognizes the truth either in himself or in others, and so he ceases to respect both himself and others. Having ceased to respect everyone, he stops loving, and then, in the absence of love, in order to occupy and divert himself, he abandons himself to passions and the gratification of coarse pleasures until his vices bring him down to the level of bestiality, and all on account of his being constantly false both to himself and to others. (55)
Only be steadfast in your repentance, and God will forgive you everything. There is no sin, nor can there be any sin in the whole world, that God would not forgive the truly penitent. It is altogether beyond any man to commit a sin so great that it would exhaust God's infinite love. (65)
Man has been created for happiness, and he who is wholly happy has a perfect right to say to himself: I have performed God's will on earth. (69)
The more you practice love, the more you will be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul. (71)
I love mankind, he said, but I'm surprised at myself; the more I love mankind in general, the less I love men in particular, that is separately, as individuals. (72)
If there is anything, even in our time, that can protect society and reform the criminal, make a new person of him, then it is Christ's law alone, operating through his own conscience. (81)
You will experience much grief, and in grief you will find happiness. Here is my commandment to you: seek happiness in grief. (97)
Man is beset by too many mysteries on this earth. Fathom them as best you can, and survive unscathed. (136)
I think that everyone should, above all else on this earth, love life. (289)
What's amazing is not that God actually exists; what's amazing is that such an idea--the idea of the necessity of God--could enter the head of such a savage and evil creature as man, an idea so holy, so moving, so wise, and which does so much honor to man. (294)
Clarity is absurdity. (296)
One can love a man only when he's out of sight; as soon as he shows his face, that's the end of love. (297)
One can love one's neighbor in the abstract and sometimes even at a distance, but close up almost never. (297)
The world rests on absurdity, and without it perhaps nothing would be accomplished. (305)
As soon as I feel I want to understand something I immediately have to renounce facts, whereas I have decided to stay true to facts... (305)
Life will bring you much misfortune, but therein will be your very happiness, you will rejoice in life and convince others to rejoice in it too, which is the most important thing of all. (356)
One can retain precious memories of even the worst families provided one's soul is capable of seeking out what is precious. (363)
What a book--the Holy Scriptures! And with it what miracles and what power have been given to man! It is just like a sculpture of the world, of man and of human nature, and in it everything is named and set out for all eternity. (365)
By interpreting freedom as the propagation and immediate gratification of needs, people distort their own nature, for they engender in themselves a multitude of pointless and foolish desires, habits, and incongruous stratagems. Their lives are motivated only be mutual envy, sensuality, and ostentation. (393)
Young man, do not neglect prayer. Each time you say your prayers, provided you are sincere, there will be a new spark of emotion, and, along with it, a new idea, previously unknown to you, which will raise your spirits anew, and you will understand that prayer is education. (399)
Brothers, be not afraid of human sin, love man even in his state of sin, for this is already a likeness of divine love and is the highest love on this earth. Love all of God's creation, love the whole, and love each grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love animals, love plants, love every kind of thing. If you love every kind of thing, then everywhere God's mystery will reveal itself to you. (399-400)
Anyone can be a scoundrel--and, come to think of it, everyone is--but not anyone can be a thief, it takes an arch-scoundrel to be a thief. (620)
Have you noticed how dogs sniff each other when they meet? Its' some sort of natural law for them. Funny sort of law. There's nothing funny about it, it's just you don't understand it. Nothing in nature's funny, however it may seem to man, with his prejudices. If dogs could reason and criticize, I'm sure they'd find plenty that would seem funny to them, to say the least, in the social relationships between people, their masters--even more than funny, I should say, because I'm firmly convinced that we're by far the more foolish. (662)
I'll suffer for everyone, because, when all's said and done, there has to be someone who'll suffer on behalf of all. (742)
Joy comes from God, and is his greatest gift. (742)
Man cannot live by Hosannas alone, those Hosannas have to be tempered in the crucible of doubt--and all that sort of stuff. (805)
Love cannot be born of nothing, God alone can create something out of nothing. (936)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Share-a-Tea January Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
I usually have a couple of books that I'm currently reading. I usually read the Bible while drinking tea at least once or twice per day. And another book for the other tea times. The Bible I'm currently reading is the 21rst Century KJV Bible. I finished my other tea book Friday afternoon. So I'm going to be picking another one to start on today or tomorrow! (I've also been reading off and on in Steven Lawson's Foundations of Grace.)

Yes, I've finished several books. In late December, I finished Three Treatises by Martin Luther. If I'd not had such a WONDERFUL experience reading this one while drinking tea, I never would have started this challenge. Initially I wanted to call it the Tea-o-logy Reading Challenge. But didn't want to potentially limit interest by saying it was only for theology! The next book I read for this challenge was a very short read at the start of the New Year, William Goldman's The Silent Gondolier. Next, I read a Newbery winning children's classic, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. These three were mostly tea reads. Mostly. But the next two were longer--much longer--and I read them whenever, wherever. The New English Bible was one of them, and the Karamazov Brothers was the other.

I haven't picked out my next books yet.

Favorite quotes:
Brothers, be not afraid of human sin, love man even in his state of sin, for this is already a likeness of divine love and is the highest love on earth. (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Karamazov Brothers, 399) 
We are not here on this earth for long, we commit many bad deeds, and we say much that we should not. Therefore, let us all take advantage of any opportunity of social interaction to say a kind word to one another. (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Karamazov Brothers, 936)
I did come across a character sketch by Anthony Trollope of a servant who loved tea a little too much!
Mrs. Kelly kept two ordinary in-door servants to assist in the work of the house; one, an antiquated female named Sally, who was more devoted to her tea-pot than ever was any bacchanalian to his glass. Were there four different teas in the inn in one evening, she would have drained the pot after each, though she burst in the effort. Sally was, in all, an honest woman, and certainly a religious one; — she never neglected her devotional duties, confessed with most scrupulous accuracy the various peccadillos of which she might consider herself guilty; and it was thought, with reason, by those who knew her best, that all the extra prayers she said, — and they were very many, — were in atonement for commissions of continual petty larceny with regard to sugar.
On this subject did her old mistress quarrel with her, her young mistress ridicule her; of this sin did her fellow-servant accuse her; and, doubtless, for this sin did her Priest continually reprove her; but in vain. Though she would not own it, there was always sugar in her pocket, and though she declared that she usually drank her tea unsweetened, those who had come upon her unawares had seen her extracting the pinches of moist brown saccharine from the huge slit in her petticoat, and could not believe her.
I drink a lot of different teas. The past two weeks I've really come to LOVE my chocolate mint tea. Most of the time while drinking this one I was reading Dostoevsky. My second favorite tea I enjoyed this month was Bigelow's Lemon Ginger with probiotics.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Message to Adolf #2

Message to Adolf, part 2. Osamu Tezuka. 1983/2012. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Vertical. 608 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mama, today I killed people.

Premise/plot: The second half of Message to Adolf begins with a letter of 'confession' from Adolf Kaufman to his Japanese mother. This book sees us through World War II and beyond. If there is a main character, it is Sohei Toge. But really there are dozens of characters. All falling somewhere between extremes. Good and evil. Sane and insane. Smart and stupid.

My thoughts: This will cover my thoughts on both books. I can understand that it would be really difficult to read a graphic novel that was 1200+ pages, so it had to be broken up into parts. But there is one story, not two.

Did I like the characters? Not really. I think perhaps with the exception of one or two characters--mainly the women characters--every character made big mistakes. It feels wrong to call these ethical slips, "big mistakes" when we're talking about things like rape, beating up women, and murder. It's not just the "bad guys" that are committing these crimes. But the good guys too. Even the main character--in the first book. My favorite characters were probably Mrs. Kaufman and Mrs. Kamil. One woman ended up running a restaurant and marrying the 'hero' Sehei Toge. The other was a Jewish baker.

Did I like the story or the action? Again the answer is not really. The story is very brutal and violent. This is expected in part. Japan and Germany were at war with the world. I did not expect the Nazis to be portrayed as "nice." The book depicts the casualness, the nothingness, of murder felt by the Nazis. What I wasn't really expecting to see depicted in both books was rape. Two main characters (Adolf Kaufman and Sohei Toge) essentially RAPE women and get away with it for the most part. They never once think, hey, what I did was wrong. While Kaufman really never recovers his boyish innocence--once he joins the Hitler Youth, it's over for him--Toge essentially is depicted as a great guy, the hero we all should be cheering for.

As I mentioned, murder is all too commonly depicted in these books. Because of the brutal violence (scenes of torture, rape, murder, physical abuse) and the sex scenes (some consensual, some definitely NOT) this is definitely an ADULT book.

What was the message of the book? I'm not sure. During the war, the tension (in the plot) came from people wanting to reveal "secrets" that could destroy Hitler and "end the war" and those wanting to protect Hitler and destroy the secret documents and kill anyone who had seen them.

I am sure there is some significance to the book being titled Message to Adolf, but, I'm not quite sure I can guess the author's intent fully. It's easy--for me--to conclude that WAR IS UGLY AND BRUTAL AND MAKES YOU DO HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE THINGS TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. But was that the author's message?

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Message to Adolf #1

Message to Adolf. Osamu Tezuka. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. 1983/2012. Vertical. 648 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is the story of three men named Adolf.

Premise/plot: Message to Adolf is a massive two volume graphic novel set for the most part in Japan (and Germany) during the 1930's and 40's. The 'hero' is a Japanese reporter named Sohei Toge. After his brother is murdered by Nazis during the 1936 Olympic Games, he vows vengeance, to find the murderers and finish his brother's work. A political secret led to his brother's death, will it lead to his own?

My thoughts: This one was originally serialized in the early 80's. It has been newly translated into English and in book format. I found it very dramatic--a cliffhanger every chapter at least, dozens of close calls. The action follows several families connected in some way to Kobe, Japan. That is where two of the three Adolf's enter in. One Adolf (Kaufman ) has a German father and Japanese mother. He's best fiends with another boy, another Adolf. His family disapproves because Adolf Kamil is Jewish. There are several stories throughout, but essentially it is about the war and the choices one is forced to make.

I'm not sure how I feel about part one. Honestly, it kept me reading, but, it doesn't really have a proper ending. Will seek out the other volume.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Before Morning

Before Morning. Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Beth Krommes. 2016. HMH. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing, let the sky fill with flurry and flight.

Premise/plot: Before Morning is not a picture book; it is a poetic 'invocation.' A young child longing for a snow day, a family snow day--and putting all that longing into words. The text is spare--for better or worse. The illustrations tell the story. It is almost as if the text and illustrations switched jobs. The text give some shape to the story, and, they are certainly lovely, in their own way. But if for whatever reason you don't grasp the story through the illustrations, then, it can be a confusing read. (You might have to read the illustrations carefully and slowly a few times to follow the characters.) The text leans more toward the abstract than STORY.

My thoughts: Personally, Before Morning isn't my kind of book. For poetry lovers, yes, this one might work well. Or for art lovers. The illustrations are incredibly rich in detail, and, they are distinct. (The kind of art that says, PUT AN AWARD STICKER ON ME, PLEASE.) But in terms of story, it didn't wow me.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Purim Chicken

Purim Chicken. Margery Cuyler. Illustrated by Puy Pinillos. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Purim is coming," crowed Cock-a-Doodle-Doo. "Time to rehearse our Purim songs," mooed Moo. "And make groggers," bleated Bleat. "And eat hamantaschen," baaed Baa. "And wear costumes," neighed Neigh. "For our Purim play," quacked Quack.

Premise/plot: Cluck, the hen, is an audience member (presumably again) along with Honk, Hoot, Bleat. Not every animal on the farm gets to be IN the Purim play. Quack is always Esther, the heroine. Cluck isn't bitter--far from it. She practices and practices clucking LOUDER and LOUDER so that everyone knows how wicked and evil Haman really is. But when the day comes, the star of the show is missing. Cluck knows what she has to do--be brave and determined just like Queen Esther--to save her friend.

My thoughts: I didn't think I'd like this one very much when it began. It's very "the cow goes moo, the sheep goes baa, the horse goes neigh." But this story has some heart to it that isn't completely lost by the bad puns. (I really, really could have done without the puns. Like the cow shares "bad moos" instead of "bad news.") Cluck is a GREAT heroine. And I loved how brave she became and how she faced her fears and saved the day.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (January)


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.

New English Bible. 1970/1990. Illustrated by Horace Knowles. 973 pages. [Source: Bought]

So I'm reading the New English Bible according to this plan. But instead of 52 weeks, I'm doing 2 "weeks" per day. So I'll essentially be reading the whole Bible semi-chronologically in a little under a month.


The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]

I've been reading this one almost a week now, and I am LOVING it. It is going so much faster than I ever dreamed it would.

The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card. 1992. 463 pages. [Source: Bought[

I've reread this one several times. It is one of my favorite books.

Foundations of Grace. Steven J. Lawson. 2006. Reformation Trust. 577 pages. [Source: Bought]

I'm not loving it as much as I hoped I would. But. My expectations were really, really, high. I still love the premise behind this book.

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. 1990. 787 pages. [Source: Library]

This chunkster is set in Victorian England.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wrath of the Storm

Wrath of the Storm. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2017. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If I was lucky, I still had another hour to live. Of course, if luck had ever played a role in my life, I wouldn't have been here in the first place.

Premise/plot: Wrath of the Storm is the third book in the Mark of the Thief trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I'd recommend reading the books in order, and, since I love, love, love, love, love Nielsen's books, I'd definitely recommend you read them sooner rather than later! The series is middle grade fantasy set in ancient Rome. Nicolas Calva may have started out his life a slave, a nobody, but he's not a nobody now. He's got all sorts of attention. And he hates it. Mainly because everyone he loves is in constant danger.

In this one, the big question is WILL NIC MAKE A JUPITER STONE? Is it his DESTINY as everyone says it is? Will he survive the making of it? Will he ever be free to be with Aurelia? How can he best protect his grandfather, his mother, his sister, his best friend, and the love of his life? Will making the Jupiter stone or attempting to make the Jupiter stone lead to their best chance at happiness? And what about the voice in his head? Should he listen to it?!

My thoughts: I really have enjoyed this series. Nic and Aurelia are an interesting pair. At times I wanted to yell at both of them. I think they infuriate one another now and then. They definitely fight--a lot. But they're a great match too. They really love one another, and they want what is best for each other. For Nic, that means he wants her to be SAFE even if that means she leaves the Roman empire. For Aurelia, that means she wants him ALIVE, and if staying in Rome fighting by his side gives him any help at all, she'll do it no matter what he says.

The series is action driven and character driven. Essentially it's an intense way to spend your time. But the characters are memorable for the most part!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Victoria

Victoria. Daisy Goodwin. 2016. 404 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: A shaft of dawn light fell on the crack in the corner of the ceiling.

Premise/plot: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin fictionally chronicles the early years of Victoria's reign. The book's prologue sets the stage for booing and hissing of Sir John Conroy and the Duchess. The final chapter has Victoria proposing marriage to the visiting Prince Albert. In between expect a lot of drama and flirtation.

The book was written around the same time as the author was writing the television series.

On the one hand, if the actor who plays with Lord M (Melbourne) or Tsar Alexander II were let's say persuasive and super charming in their roles then the silly let's make the Queen fall in love with everyone but Albert scheme might work.

My thoughts: Right now I have three things to compare it with. First the wonderful and amazing Young Victoria with the magical soundtrack. The romance between Victoria and Albert was giddy making and probably enhanced in places. Albert was swoon worthy and perhaps a little too good to be true. Victoria probably had some of her less pleasing qualities toned down as well. The film start to finish is romance. Second the earlier film Victoria and Albert. This one covers decades not years. And Albert is far from ideal. He does not love Victoria when they are engaged, when they marry, when they start having child after child after child. That movie has Albert only realizing he loves her twenty years after she falls in love with him. For her it was love at first sight. Both are human displaying a lot of not so nice behaviors. What I appreciate about that one is the real-ness of it. Third are the nonfiction books I've read through the years. Those establish that movies are movies and they give viewers what they want or what they think viewers want most. Some Victoria biographers have an anti-Albert bias, some don't. Few praise excessively and exclusively. Facts can shape the story but can creatively do so. Whether or not the medium is film or book, writers pick and choose what "facts" to dress their stories around. They can play with the how and the why and sometimes even the when.

This book makes Lord M EVERYTHING to the Queen. She is madly madly in love with him and always will be. Since Albert isn't introduced until the last hundred pages of the book, one can't really be on his team. I wasn't necessarily on Team Melbourne (or team William Lamb) but I didn't necessarily hate him either. It helped that I've seen Young Victoria dozens of times and could shout hold out for Albert as their theme song played in my head. I do want to see this. I think it will either be something I love like crazy or something that will want to unsee.

I read the book in two days to give you an indication of my interest in it!


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller Jr. 1959. 335 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.

Premise/plot: Canticle for Leibowitz is divided into three parts: "Fiat Homo," "Fiat Lux" and "Fiat Voluntas Tua." Centuries pass between each part, I believe. Essentially what you need to know is that it's post-apocalyptic. The novel opens several centuries (at the very least) after nuclear disaster has wiped out society--at least as we know it. Knowledge is feared and simplicity embraced. A group of monks in the desert cling to what remains of book-knowledge. They memorize. They copy. They wait. They wait knowing that humanity may never be ready for their wisdom. Readers get to know a few monks in each part. The book is not bleak from cover to cover, however, by the end the message is that humanity is incapable of learning from their past mistakes and no matter how many centuries pass, humanity is always its own biggest threat.

My thoughts: This is the first time I ever-ever wished I'd paid more attention in Latin class. Just as Jane Eyre is sprinkled with French, this one is sprinkled with Latin. My general thoughts are that once is not enough to really get everything there is to get. I was reading for big-picture ideas, and not really savoring the details and looking for all possible meanings. My first impression is that it's good, but, depressing. Also thought-provoking.


Favorite quotes:
  • "How can a great and wise civilization have destroyed itself so completely?" "Perhaps," said Apollo, "by being materially great and materially wise, and nothing else." (119)
  • If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it. (208)
  • It never was any better, it never will be any better. It will only be richer or poorer, sadder but not wiser, until the very last day. (216)
  • The freedom to speculate is essential...(216)
  • Men must fumble awhile with error to separate it from truth, I think--as long as they don't seize the error hungrily because it has a pleasanter taste. (218)
  • If we're born mad, where's the hope of Heaven?" (240)
  • When mass murder's been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there's no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is the bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil.(259)
  • Too much hope for Earth had led men to try to make it Eden, and of that they might well despair until the time toward the consumption of the world.(264)
  • It is the soul's endurance in faith and hope and love in spite of bodily afflictions that pleases Heaven. (292)
  • The trouble with the world is me. (305)


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Yellow Umbrella

Yellow Umbrella. Jae-Soo Liu. Music composed by Dong II Sheen. 2002. Kane/Miller. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Yellow Umbrella is a wordless picture book by Jae-Soo Liu that was first published in Korea. One umbrella becomes many, many umbrellas on a rainy day.

The message of the book, according to the author, is "whether they were boys or girls, fat or skinny, short or tall...under their colorful umbrellas, all those physical differences disappeared...It seemed to me that these children were claiming that they were all equal in spite of their physical differences." Readers can find their own meanings in this wordless book, however.

For me, when I "read" this one, what I get is a sense of JOY. The book seems to capture the love of life, the love of play.

The book includes a CD filled with music. The first track is seven minutes, and this is the intended soundtrack for the book. Track two, "Underneath the Sky," is the only music piece with lyrics included.
Everyone hold up your umbrella
Standing underneath the sky
Everyone -- with your umbrella
Listen to the rain
Tracks three through fifteen are expanded versions of the themes or segments from the main track.

If you enjoy piano music, art, or rainy days, this one is too fun to miss.

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



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Mountain Chef

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service. Annette Bay Pimentel. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tie Sing was a frontier baby, born high in the mountains in Virginia City, Nevada. Growing up, he breathed crisp Sierra air and scuffed through sagebrush. He learned to write in both English and Chinese.

Premise/plot: A picture book biography of Tie Sing. Who was Tie Sing? The chef hired by Stephen Mather, a millionaire with a big plan for America, a plan to create a National Park system and preserve some of America's greatest treasures. The book quotes Mather saying, "Give a man a poor breakfast after he has had a bad night's sleep, and he will not care how fine your scenery is." Mather was leading thirty men on a ten-day camping trip. And he wanted--no needed--Tie Sing as his trail cook; he had a reputation for being the BEST.

The book is about the ten-day camping trip--this was in 1915.

My thoughts: This one was so beautifully written. The narration is great.
With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads. In his sheet-metal oven, he baked sourdough rolls as light as the clouds drifting above the peaks. (5)
This one is easy to recommend.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Abel's Island

Abel's Island. William Steig. 1976. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Early in August 1907, the first year of their marriage, Abel and Amanda went to picnic in the woods some distance from the town where they lived.

Premise/plot: Abel is separated from Amanda as a result of a sudden storm. Both seek shelter, of course, but Abel finds himself situated far from home (from a mouse's perspective) and on an island. Cut off by nature from the home he loves, Abel's challenged in more ways than one. He has to learn how to physically survive in a strange-to-him environment. He also has to deal with the emotional and mental stress caused by loneliness and depression. Will he ever see Amanda again? Will he ever get off the island? What does his future hold for him?

My thoughts: I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this! There is very little that is cutesy about this animal fantasy. Abel is thrust into a harsh environment and there are no easy happily-ever-after answers. It's not a matter of persevere or get creative. Abel's stuck, stuck, stuck, STUCK on that island. And he has to reevaluate everything he thought he knew about himself and life.

This is a contemplative animal fantasy. It has a tiny bit of adventure thrown in now and then. But it is certainly no thriller.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thunder Boy Jr.

Thunder Boy Jr. Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. 2016. Little, Brown. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hello, my name is Thunder Boy. Thunder Boy Smith. That's my real name.

Premise/plot: Thunder Boy does not like his name. He doesn't like that it's not a good, normal name. He doesn't like sharing the exact same name as his father. He wants his own name. A name that he can pick himself. A name that suits him and no one else. Will he ever get a new name?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the text of this one. I think it works very well. It is both emotional and funny. (Hard to be both, in my opinion!) I didn't love, love, love the illustrations, however. (Illustrations are so very, very subjective. Even more subjective, in my opinion, than the text ever is.)

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Roderick Hudson

Roderick Hudson. Henry James. 1875. 398 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Rowland Mallet had made his arrangements to sail for Europe on the first of September, and having in the interval a fortnight to spare, he determined to spend it with his cousin Cecilia, the widow of a nephew of his father. He was urged by the reflection that an affectionate farewell might help to exonerate him from the charge of neglect frequently preferred by this lady.

Premise/plot: Rowland Mallet is introduced to Roderick Hudson by his cousin Cecelia. Hudson is a sculptor from small town America. He doesn't have big dreams of being a GENIUS, he's just your ordinary guy who sculpts now and then. Mallet sees one of his pieces, and he gets super-super excited. Mallet believes--and backs up his belief with cash and the promise of more cash and even more cash--that Roderick Hudson should go to Rome, to Europe, and be SOMEBODY. Mallet meets Roderick's mother and the young woman who is her companion, Mary Garland. The two women have their doubts. Is this really what is best for Roderick? By the time the two (Roderick and Rowland) are ready to leave for Rome, Rowland is in love with Mary. The problem? Roderick announces that the two are ENGAGED essentially around the same time that Rowland realizes that he is in love with her. To be fair, Roderick has known Mary Garland for quite a while, and, Rowland has just met her. But still.

Most of the book concerns Rowland and Roderick's adventures in Europe. How does the trip change Roderick? Are the changes for the better? Does Rowland ever have any regrets or doubts? What is European society like? Can two people--reliant on one another, in obligation to one another--really be friends?

Two women feature largely into this one. Mary Garland, whom we first meet in Massachusetts, and Christina Light, whom we first meet in Italy. Though engaged to Mary, Roderick is constant...never. Christina Light is Roderick's "love" interest. And Christina Light is something special. Miss Light has essentially spent her whole life being trained--groomed--to make a wealthy match of it. She's valuable because she's beautiful. There are moments of sincere conversation when she confesses she hates the way things are, she wishes that she had the ability to choose her own path, follow her heart. Readers rarely catch exchanges of Roderick and Christina in conversation, but there are many heart-to-heart encounters with Rowland. Readers get to know Christina because of Rowland's dealings with her, her mother, etc.

My thoughts: Is Roderick capable of LOVE? That's a simple enough question, I suppose. I think the answer is no. He loves himself much too much. His EGO is extraordinary and much larger than his talent, in my opinion. His monologues are ridiculous!!!

Is Roderick mentally ill? That's a more complex question, I know. I am tempted to say DEFINITELY. Does being mentally ill excuse him in any way for his behavior--for the way he treats people, for his inability to love, to be kind, to be polite? Roderick in conversation could be so INFURIATING. I mean he was a jerk essentially. I don't think you can just blame mental illness and say you're not responsible...at all...for what you say or do. (You can perhaps have more compassion and concern for those who hurt you.)

Was the ending inevitable? I definitely saw it coming. I didn't know which country perhaps, but, I knew that Roderick would...well...exit dramatically.

I definitely found this an engaging and compelling read. I didn't necessarily LOVE all the characters, obviously. Rowland was a bit blind at times...in regards to his relationships with other characters. I don't know why he loved Roderick so unconditionally. I didn't get the idea that Rowland LIKED Roderick personally--I mean as a person. But he LOVED Roderick's artistic genius. I think Rowland also loved the idea of being the one who discovered him. I think every time Roderick's work was praised, he could go, I discovered him! I brought him to Rome! I liked Rowland best when he was talking with Christina Light and with Mary Garland. So between Rowland and Roderick, I preferred Rowland. It would be tougher to have a favorite between the two women. I really liked both. Christina is perhaps the more developed character. Mary Garland is Rowland's ideal, and, as such, I'm not sure we're seeing all there is to see. Whereas with Christina, she's presented as very, very human.

Favorite quotes:
True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one’s self; but the point is not only to get out — you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand.
It's rather a hard fate, to live like a saint and to pass for a sinner!
There are worse fates in the world than being loved too well.
I have an indigestion of impressions; I must work them off before I go in for any more.
Success is only passionate effort.
The curious thing is that the more the mind takes in, the more it has space for, and that all one’s ideas are like the Irish people at home who live in the different corners of a room, and take boarders. 
I fancy it is our peculiar good luck that we don’t see the limits of our minds,” said Rowland.
It was the artist’s opinion that there is no essential difference between beauty and ugliness; that they overlap and intermingle in a quite inextricable manner; that there is no saying where one begins and the other ends; that hideousness grimaces at you suddenly from out of the very bosom of loveliness, and beauty blooms before your eyes in the lap of vileness; that it is a waste of wit to nurse metaphysical distinctions, and a sadly meagre entertainment to caress imaginary lines; that the thing to aim at is the expressive, and the way to reach it is by ingenuity; that for this purpose everything may serve, and that a consummate work is a sort of hotch-potch of the pure and the impure, the graceful and the grotesque.
There is nothing like matrimony for curing old-maidishness.
There are two kinds of women — you ought to know it by this time — the safe and the unsafe. Miss Light, if I am not mistaken, is one of the unsafe.
One is never so good, I suppose, but that one can improve a little. 
I am tired to death of myself; I would give all I possess to get out of myself; but somehow, at the end, I find myself so vastly more interesting than nine tenths of the people I meet. If a person wished to do me a favor I would say to him, ‘I beg you, with tears in my eyes, to interest me. Be strong, be positive, be imperious, if you will; only be something, — something that, in looking at, I can forget my detestable self!’ Perhaps that is nonsense too. If it is, I can’t help it. I can only apologize for the nonsense I know to be such and that I talk — oh, for more reasons than I can tell you! I wonder whether, if I were to try, you would understand me.
But if you suffer them to live, let them live on their own terms and according to their own inexorable needs!
Rowland listened to this outbreak, as he often had occasion to listen to Roderick’s heated monologues, with a number of mental restrictions. Both in gravity and in gaiety he said more than he meant, and you did him simple justice if you privately concluded that neither the glow of purpose nor the chill of despair was of so intense a character as his florid diction implied.
The moods of an artist, his exaltations and depressions, Rowland had often said to himself, were like the pen-flourishes a writing-master makes in the air when he begins to set his copy. He may bespatter you with ink, he may hit you in the eye, but he writes a magnificent hand.
There are such things as necessary follies. 
Don’t mind the pain, and it will cease to trouble you. Enjoy, enjoy; it is your duty.
One is in for it in one way or another, and one might as well do it with a good grace as with a bad! Since one can’t escape life, it is better to take it by the hand.
We are made, I suppose, both to suffer and to enjoy. As you say, it's a mixture. Just now and here, it seems a peculiarly strange one. But we must take things in turn.
For one hour of what I have been, I would give up anything I may be!
Never mind what you have been; be something better!
One man puts his selfishness into one thing, and one into another.
When one is looking for symptoms one easily finds them.
“All that ‘s very easy to say,” Roderick went on; “but you must remember that there are such things as nerves, and senses, and imagination, and a restless demon within that may sleep sometimes for a day, or for six months, but that sooner or later wakes up and thumps at your ribs till you listen to him! If you can’t understand it, take it on trust, and let a poor imaginative devil live his life as he can!”
“I believe there is such a thing as being too reasonable. But when once the habit is formed, what is one to do?” 


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. Jean Lee Latham. 1955. 251 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Nat lay very still in the dark, trying to stay awake until his big brother, Hab, went to sleep.

Premise/plot: Based on history, Latham chronicles the coming of age of Nat Bowditch. The book opens during the Revolutionary war and is set in Salem. His childhood was not easy. With the economy being what it was, with risks high, no matter how hard the family worked, the odds were against their success. One by one the boys had to drop out of school to work with their father in a struggle to survive. Nat takes this the hardest. He being a genius and having a passion for book knowledge. He's encouraged by plenty that he is destined for Harvard. But instead he becomes indentured for nine years. When he's free he'll be too old to go back to school. But he is determined--persistent. He will teach himself. Latin. French. Algebra. Trigonometry. Astronomy. Navigation. Surveying. If there is a book he can borrow he will read it, take notes, and absorb the information. Not all of his learning comes from books. There are people in his life whom he cultivates relationships with learning all he can through conversations. When he is free, he becomes a sailor--a clerk or super cargo. The learning continues. He learns about sailing, about guns, and how to get along with all sorts of people. (He also learns Spanish). He begins teaching the crew--anyone and everyone--about navigation, specifically about taking lunars--using the moon, the stars to figure out longitude. After finding hundreds if not thousands of mistakes in a navigation guide--in the tables--he thinks about writing his own book one day.

My thoughts: I probably would not have found this one interesting as a child, but the adult me found it engaging. Society is so quick to label children, I wonder what they would have made of Bowditch. He loved math because math is logical and predictable. He wasn't as fond of people finding them impossible to predict and understand. He was amazingly gifted and he learned how to teach others in a way they could understand. Loved the fact that he recognized that education empowers and gives people choices that they never would have had before. He wasn't naturally patient--who is?--but he worked hard at his people skills.

I also loved, loved, loved that he learned new languages using the New Testament. The first verse of John is quoted several times!

Favorite quotes:
We can't have freedom unless we have freedom. And that means freedom to speak our minds (91).

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hippopotamister

Hippopotamister. John Patrick Green. 2016. 84 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The old City Zoo was falling apart. No one was buying tickets. No one was managing the office. The habitats needed repair. The monkeys had no energy. The lion's man wasn't very regal. The walrus's smile wasn't very bright. And in the center of it all lived Red Panda and Hippopotamus.

Premise/plot: Red Panda decides to leave the City Zoo and get a job in the outside world. He comes back every few months to tell Hippo how wonderful the outside world really is. One day, Hippo tells Red Panda that he has decided to leave the zoo too. Can Red Panda help him find a job too?!

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I thought Red Panda was great fun. But I really LOVED Hippo. Seeing the two friends try dozens of jobs--with varying degrees of success--was fun. (It was a lot more fun than I expected it to be!) I really loved the ending as well. The illustrations reveal that Hippo is great at many, many things. He can wear MANY different kinds of hats well. But Red Panda has his role to play as well!

Loved the text. Loved the illustrations. I believe the target audience is the same as a more traditional early chapter book. But this one is a graphic novel or comic book.

If you love the illustrations, he shows how to DRAW both characters at the end of the book.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Utopia Drive

Utopia Drive. Erik Reece. 2016. FSG. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The corner of Fifth and Elm Streets in Cincinnati, Ohio, has held a certain significance for me since the day I stood there with my parents, as an eight-year-old in 1976, and watched the Cincinnati Reds return to the city after their seven-game victory over the Boston Red Sox in what was, as my father told me then and as I still believe, the greatest World Series ever.

Premise/plot: Erik Reece chronicles his ROAD TRIP through the Eastern United States. This isn't just any road trip. He's unpacking the IDEAS behind a handful of America's historical (for the most part) Utopian communities. (I believe only one or possibly two of the communities he visited were founded in the twentieth century and still active as utopian communities.) He includes biographical sketches of some really, really free or radical outside-the-box thinkers. There's some philosophy, politics, and economics as well. (And plenty of talk about nature and preserving nature and the environment.)

The first and last chapters essentially serve as an introduction and conclusion to the road trip. The remaining chapters chronicle the trip. He visited Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, Bardstown Kentucky, New Harmony, Indiana, Cincinnati, Ohio, Utopia, Ohio, Louisa, Virginia, Queens, New York, Long Island, New York, Concord, Massachusetts, Oneida, New York and Niagara Falls, Canada.

My thoughts: It was interesting. No doubt about that. Did I agree with any of the founders of various Utopian communities? I'm not sure I did. I'm okay with that. Some communities were most interested in transforming religion and spirituality. Others seemed to be more concerned with economics and social class. A few really seemed focus on turning upside down social structures like marriage and parenting. (One, for example, banned sex completely. Men and women lived completely separate lives and rarely conversed. Another, for example, promoted sex and was all about free love and "complex marriage." Both communities, however, agreed that parents should not raise their own children. That children should be raised by the community and belong to no one in particular but to everybody to a certain extent.) I did not always agree with Reece's conclusions. Reece, in my reckoning, tried to find at least one or two positive things about every utopian community. And while he discussed how they "failed," or why they "failed," he was not quick to dismiss any of the ideas as actually being impossible.

Favorite quotes:
Americans live in a world we are too ready to accept. We acquiesce too easily to the inevitability of the way things are. indeed, many of us think of our consumer culture as its own version of utopia, where we are absolved of the responsibility to question where our food, our clothes, our cellular devices, our energy come from. (Erik Reece, 5) 
Erik Reece quoting Milton Friedman, "Only a crisis--actual or perceived--produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." (6) 
Utopia, by definition, is a product of the imagination, and therein lies its power: it imagines something better, then calls on us to enact that vision. (Erik Reece, 10)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Kite Is Stuck

My Kite Is Stuck and Other Stories. Salina Yoon. 2017. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Oh no! My kite is stuck in the tree!

Premise/plot: My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories is the sequel to Duck! Duck! Porcupine! by Salina Yoon. This one offers young readers three new stories. The stories are "My Kite Is Stuck," "A New Friend," and "Best Lemonade Stand." In the first story, the three friends get a LOT of toys stuck in a tree. What will they do next?! In the second story, there is some disagreement on over who can and cannot be a friend. In the third story, Big Duck decides to open a lemonade stand. She thinks she has EVERYTHING she needs. Good thing Little Duck is there to help her out!!!

My thoughts: I really love these characters. I wouldn't mind a very LONG series. After all, I need a book series to cheer me up after the news that there will be no more Elephant and Piggie books. So please, Ms. Yoon, a VERY LONG SERIES! My favorite character is Little Duck. I really loved him in the first and third stories. He's so clever and so CUTE. My kind of fellow!

NOTE: THIS ONE IS 2017 CYBILS ELIGIBLE.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 16, 2017

The Kellys and the O'Kellys

The Kellys and the O'Kellys. Anthony Trollope. 1848. 537 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: During the first two months of the year 1844, the greatest possible excitement existed in Dublin respecting the State Trials, in which Mr O’Connell, his son, the Editors of three different repeal newspapers, Tom Steele, the Rev. Mr Tierney — a priest who had taken a somewhat prominent part in the Repeal Movement — and Mr Ray, the Secretary to the Repeal Association, were indicted for conspiracy.

Premise/plot: Anthony Trollope's second novel, The Kellys and the O'Kellys, chronicles the romances of two men, a Mr. Martin Kelly, and Frank O'Kelly (aka Lord Ballindine). Like Trollope's first novel, it is set in Ireland. Though from different social classes, there is a friendship, of sorts, between the two men. At various times, for various reasons, they seek out one another's company.

In fact, the novel opens with Mr. Martin Kelly going to Lord Ballindine for advice. He wants to marry Anty Lynch. He thinks she's say yes. But there's an obstacle: her brother, Barry. Neither thinks Barry will consent to the marriage. Martin doesn't know if he should try to get her to elope with him and deal with the brother after the fact, or, if he should try to get the brother's consent and risk losing Anty. One thing is clear, he doesn't want anyone thinking that he's trying to take advantage of Anty and manipulate her into marriage. Why? Because she is richer than him, she's recently benefited from her father's will. Barry has issues. Issues is an understatement. He's bitter, angry, and drunk ninety percent of the time. Angry and bitter that their father's will provided for Anty; angry and bitter that he didn't get it all. In truth, he begrudges Anty the air she breathes.

Barry finds out that Anty and Mr. Martin might marry, that there is some talk of a marriage between the two. Barry decides to beat up his sister--remember he has two states 'drunk' and 'asleep.' She's savagely attacked by him, and threatened. He'd rather see her dead than married. A brave servant girl slips out of the house the next morning to go and tell Mrs. Kelly--Martin's mother--what's happened. Mrs. Kelly comes and fetches the girl--while Barry's asleep--to her own home. Martin's mother and sisters will care for her and protect her--as best they can--from Barry. Mrs. Kelly is an awesome defender who can hold her own.

Martin Kelly returns from his visit to see Lord Ballandine and learns all that is happened.

Meanwhile, Lord Ballindine is entertaining the idea of marriage himself. He's in fact engaged to marry a Miss Fanny Wyndham. Soon after the novel opens, he hears from an acquaintance, that HIS match has been broken off. The marriage isn't to be after all. He rushes to Grey Abbey--where she is staying with her aunt and uncle, her guardians--and is confronted with all kinds of unpleasantness. Lord Cashel, the uncle, has changed his mind entirely, and, has persuaded Fanny that it's in her best interest to call off the engagement. The truth is UGLY. Fanny's brother has died; Fanny went from being moderately wealthy to ridiculously wealthy. Lord Cashel wants his own son, Lord Kilcullen, to marry Fanny. He needs Ballindine out of the way. Lord Cashel won't let him see her, and forbids him to come to the house or write.

Lord Ballandine loves Fanny and is determined to marry her. He won't be easily dissuaded.

The book alternates back and forth between these two dramatic love stories.

My thoughts: This one is DRAMATIC but good. Trollope created some memorable characters in this one. I really loved getting to spend time with Fanny especially! I liked Anty well enough, I suppose, but she spent a lot of time in bed almost dying. Anty is one of those good--practically saintly--characters. Imagine someone apologizing for still breathing, and you've got the right idea. Anty's biggest flaw is that she wants every single person to be happy and get what they want. And that's just not possible. Fanny was a strong character, for the most part. Yes, she was persuaded--for a day, maybe two, to follow her uncle's advice, but she remains true to her heart, and VOCAL about what she wants. Martin Kelly and Lord Ballandine (Frank) were GREAT heroes. I really enjoyed spending time with these two. I didn't prefer one story to the other really. Both were compelling.

I really enjoyed Trollope's writing. He sketches scenes and characters very well! Here's a description of Sally, one of Mrs. Kelly's servants.
Mrs. Kelly kept two ordinary in-door servants to assist in the work of the house; one, an antiquated female named Sally, who was more devoted to her tea-pot than ever was any bacchanalian to his glass. Were there four different teas in the inn in one evening, she would have drained the pot after each, though she burst in the effort. Sally was, in all, an honest woman, and certainly a religious one; — she never neglected her devotional duties, confessed with most scrupulous accuracy the various peccadillos of which she might consider herself guilty; and it was thought, with reason, by those who knew her best, that all the extra prayers she said, — and they were very many, — were in atonement for commissions of continual petty larceny with regard to sugar.
On this subject did her old mistress quarrel with her, her young mistress ridicule her; of this sin did her fellow-servant accuse her; and, doubtless, for this sin did her Priest continually reprove her; but in vain. Though she would not own it, there was always sugar in her pocket, and though she declared that she usually drank her tea unsweetened, those who had come upon her unawares had seen her extracting the pinches of moist brown saccharine from the huge slit in her petticoat, and could not believe her.
Favorite quotes:
Time and the hour run through the longest day.
It’s difficult to make an Irishman handy, but it’s the very devil to make him quiet.
“But the great trial in this world is to behave well and becomingly in spite of oppressive thoughts: and it always takes a struggle to do that, and that struggle you’ve made. I hope it may lead you to feel that you may be contented and in comfort without having everything which you think necessary to your happiness. I’m sure I looked forward to this week as one of unmixed trouble and torment; but I was very wrong to do so. It has given me a great deal of unmixed satisfaction.”
I tell you plainly, Selina, I will not forget myself, nor will I be forgotten. Nor will I submit to whatever fate cold, unfeeling people may doom me, merely because I am a woman and alone. I will not give up Lord Ballindine, if I have to walk to his door and tell him so. And were I to do so, I should never think that I had forgotten myself.” “Listen to me, Fanny,” said Selina. “Wait a moment,” continued Fanny, “I have listened enough: it is my turn to speak now. For one thing I have to thank you: you have dispelled the idea that I could look for help to anyone in this family.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn. Jacqueline Woodson. 2016. 177 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: For a long time, my mother wasn't dead yet.

Premise/plot: August, the heroine of the novel, reflects soulfully about growing up in the seventies in Brooklyn. Much of the plot revolves around her friendship with three other girls: Sylvia, Gigi, and Angela. Her father and younger brother are Muslim, but, August, well, her beliefs tend to float where the wind takes her. And her faith isn't the only thing a bit on the fluid side.

My thoughts: Dare I say this one is an odd book? What I mean is that it isn't necessarily a straight-forward book with a reliable narrator. The narrator seems to have the reliability of a dream. Just when things seem to be taking shape and going somewhere--things shift and change and you'll find yourself having to start again with the whole making sense of the world. Is August lost or found? When will August come to terms and make peace with who she is and what she wants and what she needs?

Personally, I did not care for this one as much as I'd hoped. I don't blame the book. Not really. I keep wanting YA books to be clean enough for me to read and actually enjoy. This one was just a bit too graphic for me. I'm not saying it's too graphic for other readers--for teen readers or adults--just for myself.

What kept me reading was the fact that it was at times quite lovely.
"That year, every song was telling some part of our story." (69)
"Where would we be now if we had known there was a melody to our madness? Because even though Sylvia, Angela, Gigi and I came together like a jazz improv--half notes tentatively moving toward one another until the ensemble found its footing and the music felt like it had always been playing--we didn't have jazz to know this was who we were. We had the Top 40 music of the 1970s trying to tell our story. It never quite figured us out." (2) 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Time Machine

The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses.

Premise/plot: The (nameless) narrator shares with readers his encounters with 'The Time Traveler.' He's a guest in his home--a dinner guest. There are at least two visits recounted. The first focuses on the theories of time travel, reveals the existence of a time machine, and includes a lot of small talk. The second is very different! At that second dinner party, the Time Traveler does most of the talking--if not all the talking. He's back--recently back--from his time traveling. And it's a theory no more. He has STORIES, and what stories they are, to share with his guests.

My thoughts: This is a fun classic. This was the third time I've read it. Part of me wishes that more characters had names. But overall, I liked it very much indeed.

Favorite quotes:
There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it. 
'if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?' 'My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.
'You can show black is white by argument,' said Filby, 'but you will never convince me.'
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the Time Machine. The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness.

'I will,' he went on, 'tell you the story of what has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from interruptions. I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound like lying. So be it! It's true—every word of it, all the same. I was in my laboratory at four o'clock, and since then … I've lived eight days … such days as no human being ever lived before! I'm nearly worn out, but I shan't sleep till I've told this thing over to you. Then I shall go to bed. But no interruptions!
At once a quaintly pretty little figure in chequered purple and white followed my gesture, and then astonished me by imitating the sound of thunder. 'For a moment I was staggered, though the import of his gesture was plain enough. The question had come into my mind abruptly: were these creatures fools? You may hardly understand how it took me. You see I had always anticipated that the people of the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in front of us in knowledge, art, everything. Then one of them suddenly asked me a question that showed him to be on the intellectual level of one of our five-year-old children—asked me, in fact, if I had come from the sun in a thunderstorm! It let loose the judgment I had suspended upon their clothes, their frail light limbs, and fragile features. A flow of disappointment rushed across my mind. For a moment I felt that I had built the Time Machine in vain.
The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind. For the first time I began to realize an odd consequence of the social effort in which we are at present engaged. And yet, come to think, it is a logical consequence enough. Strength is the outcome of need; security sets a premium on feebleness. The work of ameliorating the conditions of life—the true civilizing process that makes life more and more secure—had gone steadily on to a climax. One triumph of a united humanity over Nature had followed another. Things that are now mere dreams had become projects deliberately put in hand and carried forward. And the harvest was what I saw!
Our agriculture and horticulture destroy a weed just here and there and cultivate perhaps a score or so of wholesome plants, leaving the greater number to fight out a balance as they can. We improve our favourite plants and animals—and how few they are—gradually by selective breeding; now a new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter and larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle. We improve them gradually, because our ideals are vague and tentative, and our knowledge is very limited; because Nature, too, is shy and slow in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will be better organized, and still better. That is the drift of the current in spite of the eddies. The whole world will be intelligent, educated, and co-operating; things will move faster and faster towards the subjugation of Nature. In the end, wisely and carefully we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit our human needs. 'But with this change in condition comes inevitably adaptations to the change. What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall; conditions that put a premium upon the loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint, patience, and decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring, parental self-devotion, all found their justification and support in the imminent dangers of the young.
'Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness.
Very simple was my explanation, and plausible enough—as most wrong theories are!
Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all. 
The creature's friendliness affected me exactly as a child's might have done. We passed each other flowers, and she kissed my hands. I did the same to hers. Then I tried talk, and found that her name was Weena, which, though I don't know what it meant, somehow seemed appropriate enough. That was the beginning of a queer friendship which lasted a week, and ended—as I will tell you! 'She was exactly like a child. She wanted to be with me always. She tried to follow me everywhere, and on my next journey out and about it went to my heart to tire her down, and leave her at last, exhausted and calling after me rather plaintively. But the problems of the world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come into the future to carry on a miniature flirtation. Yet her distress when I left her was very great, her expostulations at the parting were sometimes frantic, and I think, altogether, I had as much trouble as comfort from her devotion. Nevertheless she was, somehow, a very great comfort. I thought it was mere childish affection that made her cling to me. Until it was too late, I did not clearly know what I had inflicted upon her when I left her. Nor until it was too late did I clearly understand what she was to me.
Darkness to her was the one thing dreadful. It was a singularly passionate emotion, and it set me thinking and observing. I discovered then, among other things, that these little people gathered into the great houses after dark, and slept in droves. To enter upon them without a light was to put them into a tumult of apprehension. I never found one out of doors, or one sleeping alone within doors, after dark. Yet I was still such a blockhead that I missed the lesson of that fear, and in spite of Weena's distress I insisted upon sleeping away from these slumbering multitudes.
But, gradually, the truth dawned on me: that Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful children of the Upper-world were not the sole descendants of our generation, but that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was also heir to all the ages.
The too-perfect security of the Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of degeneration, to a general dwindling in size, strength, and intelligence. That I could see clearly enough already. What had happened to the Under-grounders I did not yet suspect; but from what I had seen of the Morlocks—that, by the by, was the name by which these creatures were called—I could imagine that the modification of the human type was even far more profound than among the "Eloi," the beautiful race that I already knew. 'Then came troublesome doubts.

The two species that had resulted from the evolution of man were sliding down towards, or had already arrived at, an altogether new relationship. The Eloi, like the Carolingian kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful futility. They still possessed the earth on sufferance: since the Morlocks, subterranean for innumerable generations, had come at last to find the daylit surface intolerable. And the Morlocks made their garments, I inferred, and maintained them in their habitual needs, perhaps through the survival of an old habit of service. They did it as a standing horse paws with his foot, or as a man enjoys killing animals in sport: because ancient and departed necessities had impressed it on the organism. But, clearly, the old order was already in part reversed. The Nemesis of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. Ages ago, thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back changed! Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew. They were becoming reacquainted with Fear.

'I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes—to come to this at last. Once, life and property must have reached almost absolute safety. The rich had been assured of his wealth and comfort, the toiler assured of his life and work. No doubt in that perfect world there had been no unemployed problem, no social question left unsolved. And a great quiet had followed. 'It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.
He looked at the Medical Man. 'No. I cannot expect you to believe it. Take it as a lie—or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking it as a story, what do you think of it?'
© 2017 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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