Saturday, January 19, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #3

5 Star Books Reviewed This Week

4 Star Books Reviewed This Week


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Evelina

Evelina. Fanny Burney. 1778. 455 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: CAN any thing, my good Sir, be more painful to a friendly mind, than a necessity of communicating disagreeable intelligence?

Premise/plot: Fanny Burney's Evelina is an epistolary novel that was first published in 1778. Most of the letters are between Evelina and her guardian, Mr. Villars. Though others are included as well.

Evelina has been raised by Reverend Arthur Villars. She has been happy and content with her lot in life--even if she's never known her mother or father. Her life has been a bit sheltered in the past, but now that she's a young woman she's gaining opportunities to go out into the world. The book is a series of letters chronicling this new-and-exciting-adventure of growing up. It begins when Evelina goes to visit a friend of the family, Lady Howard. But that is just the start of her journey...

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. There are EIGHTY-FOUR letters in all. A handful of those are lengthy, but most are not. Most just take a few minutes to read. Because the letters tend to be on the short side, it was easy to get swept up in this one saying just one more, just one more, just one more.

The novel is peopled with CHARACTERS. Some of them are oh-so-easy to love. A few of them fall into the hate-to-love or love-to-hate category. (For example, she meets her maternal grandmother and some of her cousins. They are so UNLIKE anyone she's ever met before.) And then there's Evelina's stalker, Clement Willoughby (boo, hiss). I haven't figured out exactly WHAT is going on in his world--I mean his mind--but I know he's TROUBLE. Evelina is in danger several times in this one. Evelina is a super-super-innocent heroine. The men in her life vary in shades of honor. Lord Orville stands in contrast to the villainy of Willoughby.

Evelina would make for a lovely period drama. Jane Austen was NOT the only woman writer in her day, and others deserve attention as well.

Quotes:
A youthful mind is seldom totally free from ambition; to curb that, is the first step to contentment, since to diminish expectation is to increase enjoyment.
I have just had my hair dressed. You can’t think how oddly my head feels; full of powder and black pins, and a great cushion on the top of it.
I believe you would hardly know me, for my face looks quite different to what it did before my hair was dressed. When I shall be able to make use of a comb for myself I cannot tell; for my hair is so much entangled, frizzled they call it, that I fear it will be very difficult.
Indeed, the more forcibly you are struck with improprieties and misconduct in another, the greater should be your observance and diligence to avoid even the shadow of similar errors.
“Indeed,” cried Sir Clement, “I must own myself no advocate for hats; I am sorry the ladies ever invented or adopted so tantalizing a fashion: for, where there is beauty, they only serve to shade it; and, where there is none, to excite a most unavailing curiosity. I fancy they were originally worn by some young and whimsical coquette.”
The play was Love for Love; and though it is fraught with wit and entertainment I hope I shall never see it represented again; for it is so extremely indelicate-to use the softest word...
“O yes, Sir, yes, very frequently: I have no time to read play-bills; one merely comes to meet one’s friends, and shew that one’s alive.” “Ha, ha, ha!-and so,” cried the Captain, “it costs you five shillings a-night just to shew you’re alive! Well, faith, my friends should all think me dead and underground before I’d be at that expense for ‘em. But, now I think of it, I believe I have a bill in my pocket; O, ay, here it is-Love for Love, ay,-true, ha, ha!-how could I be so stupid!” “O, easily enough, as to that, I warrant you,” said the Captain;
Generosity without delicacy, like wit without judgment, generally gives as much pain as pleasure.
How strange it is, Sir, that this man, not contented with the large share of foppery and nonsense which he has from nature, should think proper to affect yet more!
“So Miss,” said Mr. Branghton, “you’re quite in the fashion, I see-so you like operas? Well, I’m not so polite; I can’t like nonsense, let it be never so much the taste.” 
“There is nothing,” answered he, “which requires more immediate notice than impertinence, for it ever encroaches when it is tolerated.”
Indeed the more I reflect upon it, the more angry I am. I was entirely in his power, and it was cruel in him to cause me so much terror.
I felt myself very uneasy in his presence; for I could not look at him, nor hear him speak, without recollecting the chariot adventure; but, to my great amazement, I observed that he looked at me without the least apparent discomposure, though, certainly, he ought not to think of his behaviour without blushing.
The passion he pretends for you has neither sincerity nor honour; the manner and the opportunities he has chosen to declare it, are bordering upon insult.
 She lost her patience, and I my time.
But alas, my dear child, we are the slaves of custom, the dupes of prejudice, and dare not stem the torrent of an opposing world, even though our judgements condemn our compliance!
Nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman; it is at once the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things. 
 My heart beat with resentment; I pushed him away from me with all my strength, and demanded how he dared treat me with such insolence? “Insolence!” repeated he. “Yes, Sir Clement, insolence; from you, who know me, I had a claim for protection,-not to such treatment as this.”
 “The long alleys!” repeated Mr. Branghton, “and pray, what had you to do in the long alleys? why, to be sure, you must all of you have had a mind to be affronted!”    
 Where any thing is doubtful, the ties of society, and the laws of humanity, claim a favourable interpretation;
“My dear Ma’am, you must be a little patient; I assure you I have no bad designs, I have not upon my word; but, really, there is no resolving upon such a thing as matrimony all at once; what with the loss of one’s liberty, and what with the ridicule of all one’s acquaintance,-I assure you Ma’am you are the first lady who ever made me even demur upon this subject; for, after all, my dear Ma’am, marriage is the devil.”
“Your opinion, Sir,” answered I, “of either the married or the single life, can be of no manner of consequence to me; and therefore I would by no means trouble you to discuss their different merits.” 
   “Why, really, Ma’am, as to your being a little out of sorts, I must own I can’t wonder at it; for, to be sure, marriage is all in all with the ladies; but with us gentlemen it’s quite another thing!
How little has situation to do with happiness!
She is not, indeed, like most modern young ladies, to be known in half an hour: her modest worth, and fearful excellence, require both time and encouragement to show themselves.
She does not, beautiful as she is, seize the soul by surprise, but, with more dangerous fascination, she steals it almost imperceptibly.”
“You are in the right,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “not to watch time, lest you should be betrayed, unawares, into reflecting how you employ it.” “Egad, Ma’am,” cried he, “if Time thought no more of me than I do of Time, I believe I should bid defiance, for one while, to old age and wrinkles; for deuce take me, if ever I think about it at all.”
         

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 18, 2019

4:50 From Paddington

4:50 From Paddington. (Miss Marple #8) Agatha Christie. 1957/2007. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Mrs. McGillicuddy panted along the platform in the wake of the porter carrying her suitcase.

Premise/plot: Poor Mrs. McGillicuddy! She witnesses a crime when she's on a train--the crime takes place on a passing train--and NO ONE believes her. No one but Miss Marple that is! Miss Marple knows her friend did not imagine a man strangling a woman. Since the police aren't going to bother with an investigation, it's up to her and her friends. Miss Marple hires a woman--Lucy Eyelesbarrow--to do the job. Lucy gets hired on at an estate--the nearest estate to where Miss Marple thinks the body might have been thrown off the train--and in her spire time Lucy will hunt for the body. It doesn't take her long--not really, not all things considered. What takes time is identifying the woman. Who was she? What was she doing in England? Is she in any way connected to the family or the estate? Could Lucy be living with a murderer?

My thoughts: I love, love, love this murder mystery. The murder occurs BEFORE Christmas but most of the book occurs in January or thereabouts. Lucy is working for a very eccentric, quirky family. Some of these family members are quite memorable, almost delightful. Miss Marple is staying nearby and posing as Lucy's aunt.

This is a well-written mystery novel that is fun to read and reread. (Though to be honest you should let a few years go by so that the details get a bit fuzzy in between readings.)

Quotes: 
"Well," she said, "it looks as though you were right." She produced her findings and gave the details of their discovery. "Perhaps one ought not to feel so," she said, "but it is rather gratifying to form a theory and get proof that it is correct!" (39)
"At a certain stage one is inclined to think everyone knows a little more than they are willing to tell you." (81)
"If you have not committed a murder, it naturally annoys you if it seems someone thinks that you have," said Inspector Craddock mildly. (129)
"The truth is people are an extraordinary mixture of heroism and cowardice." (144)



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America. Philip Roth. 2004. 391 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews.  

Premise/plot: What if Charles Lindbergh had been elected the President of the United States of America in 1940 instead of FDR? What if America had never joined the Allied Forces and entered the war? What if we were in fact allied--through peace treaties-- with Germany and Japan? What compromises would such peace treaties call for?

The Plot Against America is a FICTIONAL memoir of Philip Roth that imagines such a time. The book chronicles the non-war years of 1940 through 1942. Philip witnesses the adults in his life respond differently to the politics of the day. His father is angry, worried, afraid, outspoken. But his aunt and her soon-to-be-husband get all comfy-cozy with the new President and his wife even dining at the White House. His cousin runs away to Canada and joins the army though so he can fight Hitler. And that's just a few...

The book examines the potential destructiveness of ideas and philosophies...

My thoughts: I found this a mostly compelling read. I would have finished it sooner if the chapters had been shorter. In fact that's probably my biggest complaint against the book. The chapters are so long that it's impossible, in my opinion, to read more than one a day. Perhaps this is intentional. There's no rushing through this one so that the book has more time to resonate with you. And resonate it does.

The book itself is premise-driven. But oh what a premise it has! It had me soon thinking of other what ifs I'd love to have explored in fiction.

I do try to read mainly clean books--books free from profanity and blasphemy. This one has both. But the premise was so strong and my curiosity to know where Roth was going with this one so high that I made an exception. Perhaps with the politics involved it would be impossible to tell this one without such language.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

World at War: Winnie's Great War

Winnie's Great War. Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2018. Little, Brown. 244 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Do you want to hear the story of your Bear?" I asked Cole one night while sitting on his bed.

Premise/plot: Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne was inspired by Christopher Robin Milne's love a real bear, Winnipeg, in the London Zoo. Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut offer readers an imaginative glimpse into Winnipeg's life. Her story begins in a Canadian forest and ends in a London zoo. Along the way she makes many, many friends: some animal friends (squirrels, horses, a rat) and human friends as well (Harry Colebourn and others in the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, zoo keepers and visitors). This one focuses on the war years--1914 to 1918.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this one. It does have a sad chapter when Bear's mother is killed by a trapper. But. It also has plenty of wonderful moments.

I love that is based on a true story. Lindsay Mattick's great-grandfather was Harry Colebourn. He purchased a bear cub for $20 at a railway station in 1914. This bear became a mascot of sorts in his unit. Readers get a glimpse of what life was like for soldiers as they prepare for war. It was Harry's love for Winnipeg that led him to loan/give her to the London Zoo before being shipped overseas to Europe.

This one also celebrates storytelling. The framework is a mother telling her son bedtime stories.

Original audience born circa 2009 to 2012.

© 2019 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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