Saturday, September 26, 2020

115. Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte. 1847. 532 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Premise/plot: Jane Eyre, our heroine, is an orphan who never in her wildest dreams imagines living happily ever after. Raised by a cruel aunt and taunted by mean-spirited and selfish cousins, she only hopes to escape misery and find contentment--albeit humble. Her adventure--or misadventure--begins after graduating Loward School as she takes the position of governess at Thornfield Hall. There she meets her charming and precocious pupil, Adele, and the brooding Mr. Rochester. The two enjoy each other's company--perhaps because no one else quite understands them. But the two aren't courting--at least not at first. Jane falls for him. But is he falling for her? Could he fall for her? Does she want him to reciprocate her feelings? Could the master of the house and a governess ever marry and live happily ever after?! But it isn't just social class dividing these two--Mr. Rochester has a dark secret from his past that might prove a dangerous obstacle for our loving couple.

My thoughts: I love this book. I do. I absolutely love it. It is one of my favorite books to reread every other year or so.


How all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought!

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies;

A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play;

“Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it now.” “Yes, sir, yes; and my arm.”

“Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home—my only home.”

“I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”

“My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?”

Human beings never enjoy complete happiness in this world. I was not born for a different destiny to the rest of my species: to imagine such a lot befalling me is a fairy tale—a day-dream.

Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.

Reader, I married him.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, September 21, 2020

114. Beauty Among Ruins

Beauty Among Ruins. J'nell Ciesielski. 2021. [January] 368 pages. Thomas Nelson. [Source: Review copy]


First sentence: CREEPING THROUGH THE BACK DOOR, LILY DURHAM slipped across the black-and-white tiled kitchen and checked the hallway before scurrying up the stairs to the main floor.

Premise/plot: Lily Durham, our heroine, finds herself a nursing aid during the first world war after her parents ship her off to England for her 'rebellious' suitor-repelling attitude. Lily and her cousin Bertie are nurses--or a nurse and a nurses aide--at a convalescent home in Scotland. There are many, many, many rules for them to live by--for all the nursing staff--but one is not to enter the private quarters of the family. How many guess that Lily will 'accidentally' break that rule a few times!

Alec MacGregor, our hero, is struggling...with many things. The future of his estate is in doubt for the debts are monstrous. And he's being haggled--pestered--by a no good reporter with a grudge against his family. His mother has disconnected from life; his sister is so ill she hasn't left her room in years. The last thing he's looking for is a beautiful young woman taking an interest in his well his family's well being.

My thoughts: This one definitely has vibes of Beauty and the Beast. I haven't decided if this was intentional or not. (Not that Lily is Belle with her head stuck in a book. Perhaps just the setting of a crumbling castle with a super-cranky-grumpy master. Perhaps the thawing or breaking down of wall...) I loved the setting. I loved the Scottish hero. (You pretty much have me at hello anytime there's a Scottish hero!) I loved the setting of World War I.

 There were many things I enjoyed about this one. I loved the characterization of Lily and Alec. But the characterization of most if not all the other characters is on the weaker side. In particular, her parents are particularly one dimensional and just plain old MEAN without any real reason. They're just stereotypically opposed to anything that might bring their daughter happiness. I couldn't understand her all. The plot could also get a bit melodramatic in places. I could have used a little less drama. Sometimes I feel romance novels over-push it in the drama department when it comes to inventing obstacles to make it difficult to get to a happy ending. I think the war offered enough natural obstacles without so much more going on in the background.

Still all that being said, I definitely enjoyed it more than not. I really liked the romance. 



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, September 14, 2020

113. Like You Love Me

Like You Love Me. Adriana Locke. 2021. [February] 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "You're late." The accusation is tossed my way before the door closes behind me.

Premise/plot: Sophie and Holden star in new romance novel by Adriana Locke. Holden spent summers with his grandpa, his Pap, which brought him in and out of Sophie's life quite a bit in their growing up years. But now both are fully grown up and experienced. Both have failed relationships behind them, but do they have a happily ever after before them?

Holden wants to get his dream job--in Florida--but his would-be-boss is looking for a family man with a loving, supportive wife. (And to be fair, at the time he first applied, he was technically engaged to be married). Sophie needs money to pay property taxes on her bed-and-breakfast. (It was her grandmother's bed and breakfast.) The two "need" something from the other that a marriage of convenience would provide. But is playing with happily ever after too much of a risk for their hearts? Can they learn to live without each other once more?

My thoughts: I never know whether to start with what I did like or what I didn't like. About the star rating (if you're reading this at GoodReads and can see my rating), I'd rate it two and a half stars if possible--for the completely and totally neutral rating.

What I Didn't Like:

  • I didn't like the cussing/profanity. This is 100% subjective.
  • I didn't like the graphic-ness of the smut. It was a little too what-goes-where for me. Again this is 100% subjective. Another person might find it steamy and marvelous. (Not me.)

What I Did Like:

  • I liked the small town setting and getting to know a few of the town residents. (Her brother and sister. His grandfather. His receptionist. A few others? like the woman who is famous for her pies?)
  • I liked them as a couple. I wanted them to make it work.
  • I liked having both perspectives. The narrative is told in alternating chapters.
  • I liked that once the initial encounter was graphically portrayed all future encounters were non-graphic and occurred off-page. (This isn't always the case.)

What I found humorous:

Granted this is a netgalley review title, but when she's talking about thread count on the sheets--she's sheet shopping--there's a typo: 

"And guests will pay premium dollar for the little touches like homecooked meals, nice soaps, and threat counts." 

I am guessing people won't pay more to stay at a place where their lives are threatened!!!



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

112. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. Heather B. Moore. 2020. Shadow Mountain. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Donaldina Cameron leaned her head against the cool glass of the window as the train slowed to a stop, its whistle mimicking the call of a mournful dove—deep and melancholy—a fitting echo of her life over the past few years. With no husband, no employment, and no parents to watch over, she felt as stagnant as a warm pond on a lazy summer day.

Premise/plot: Based on a true story, The Paper Daughters of Chinatown is a must read. I'm not one to throw around the word must lightly or thoughtlessly. Nor am I one to toss around five star ratings. (Especially this year I've tried to be more mindful.) But this has to be one of the best books I've ever least in the "based on a true story" category or sub-genre.

The book opens in 1895 and spans several decades as it follows the ministry of Donaldina Cameron as she serves as a teacher, rescuer, and guardian in San Francisco's Chinatown. She is trained to rescue young girls and young women--Chinese--that have been sold and trafficked. The Presbyterian Mission Home in which she serves faces much opposition. But their work changes lives.

“Rescued?” Dolly had questioned. “Yes,” Mrs. Browne said, lowering her voice, although only the birds and sunshine were within earshot, “from the brothels of Chinatown.” “Women and girls,” Mrs. Browne corrected. “Some of the girls are as young as eight or nine. They’re brought over from China by highbinders, promised a good life and marriage in America, yet the promises are lies. These young girls are sold as domestic slaves or forced into prostitution.”

Why the name Paper Daughters???
“The girls take on new identities in America, and their lives are controlled in every way. They’ve been reduced to what we call paper daughters. Without a home. Without care or love.” “Paper daughters,” Dolly whispered. These girls had become no more than documents with false names; they had given up not only their identities but their dignity.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this one. It is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It is both sobering and inspiring. It is incredibly sad that humanity is so depraved that the selling of little girls is a recorded fact. But it is also incredibly uplifting that there are those willing to give their all to fight, fight, fight these wrongs. Dolly's life story is incredibly inspiring and beautiful. Her crown in heaven must be beautiful.

I know my review doesn't do the book justice. The book goes into incredible detail about the mission home, about the lives of those rescued, about the personal lives of the staff, etc. I just can't regurgitate that in my review. (That wouldn't be doing a service either.) Just know this is a beautifully compelling work.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


111. Poison in the Colony

Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622. Elisa Carbone. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am different. That is what Samuel says, and I believe he is right.

Premise/plot: Poison in the Colony is a companion book to Blood on the River. This book features Samuel, the main character in Blood on the River, but it is narrated by Virginia Laydon. Carbone has fictionalized the people of Jamestown and crafted a compelling historical coming of age novel.

Virginia Laydon was the first white child born in Virginia. Very little is actually actually known about her life and her personality. Carbone has given her Virginia the gift of "knowing" or second sight. She uses this ability carefully and wisely to help keep her family safe without raising suspicions from her neighbors. (Not always successfully.) She lives at a time when it took very, very little to be accused of witchcraft and killed.

The book focuses on Virginia's life and community. There is a time of peace with the native tribes--but will it last??? Can either really truly come to trust the other?

My thoughts: I enjoyed Blood on the River. I enjoyed this one too. As I mentioned though she uses real names from the records and other primary sources, all the characters have been fictionalized.

I would recommend to those that enjoy--adore--historical fiction. I would not necessarily place this one in the hands of reluctant readers or history haters.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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