Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Victorian Year #25

I'm currently reading Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. I have finished the first volume of Rachel Ray now. I'm not sure how many volumes it has in total, but I feel like I am making progress.

Luke Rowan, our hero, has fought with his mother and determined to follow his own heart and not his mother's. He is now on his way to declare himself to Rachel Ray. Propose he will despite his mother's very strong objections to the match. Will Rachel Ray say yes?! I think we all know the answer to that.

He is ecstatic at his engagement. His mother is furious. Is she furious enough to team up with her son's enemies--the Tappitts? Yes. What will these two women scheme to do to break up the match?

“I don’t dislike you,” she whispered. “And do you love me?” She slightly bowed her head. “And you will be my wife?” Again she went through the same little piece of acting.
 She could not be quite happy as Luke’s promised bride, if she knew that she would not be welcomed to that place by Luke’s mother.
 But what are looks, my dear? They’re only skin deep; we ought all of us to remember that always, Rachel; they’re only skin deep;
This is Trollope's description of Mrs. Rowan--Luke's mother.
She said very little, but she looked much.
 Mrs. Rowan, Mrs. Tappitt...
They agreed together at that meeting that Rachel Ray was the head and front of the whole offence, the source of all the evil done and to be done, and the one great sinner in the matter.
Their confrontation with Mrs. Ray....
“Truth is truth,” said Mrs. Tappitt; “and deception is not truth.” “I didn’t think it had gone anything so far as that,” said Mrs. Rowan, — who at the moment, perhaps, forgot that deception is not truth;
 “I want you both to understand that this little thing should be allowed to drop. If my boy has done anything foolish I’m here to apologize for him. He isn’t the first that has been foolish, and I’m afraid he won’t be the last.
But it can’t be believed, Mrs. Ray, that marriages should be run up in this thoughtless sort of way. In the first place the young people don’t know anything of each other; absolutely nothing at all.
Only you must be aware of this, Mrs. Ray, that such a marriage as that would be very injurious to a young man like my son Luke.”
“My child wouldn’t wish to injure anybody.” “And therefore, of course, she won’t think any more about it. All I want from you is that you should promise me that.”

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Keep It Short #25

This week I read two tales from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book.

Little Thumb:
First sentence: There was, once upon a time, a man and his wife fagot-makers by trade, who had several children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest only seven.

Premise/plot: The man and his wife decide to lose their seven children in the woods or forest. Lose them in such a way that they cannot find their way back home. But Little Thumb overhears the plotting and has a plan. He first uses pebbles along the path, and later breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs do NOT work so well as pebbles. The children find themselves at the mercy of an ogre and his wife. Will Little Thumb think his way out of danger and save himself and his brothers?

My thoughts: This one was new to me though some of the themes were not.

The Forty Thieves:
First sentence: In a town in Persia there dwelt two brothers, one named Cassim, the other Ali Baba. Cassim was married to a rich wife and lived in plenty, while Ali Baba had to maintain his wife and children by cutting wood in a neighboring forest and selling it in the town. One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, he saw a troop of men on horseback, coming toward him in a cloud of dust. He was afraid they were robbers, and climbed into a tree for safety. When they came up to him and dismounted, he counted forty of them. They unbridled their horses and tied them to trees. The finest man among them, whom Ali Baba took to be their captain, went a little way among some bushes, and said: “Open, Sesame!” so plainly that Ali Baba heard him.

Premise/plot: Knowing the robbers' secret brings DANGER into the lives of Cassim and Ali the danger worth the riches it brings?!

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one! Probably one of my favorites in a while. The book as a whole is mixed. Some stories I LOVE. Others are just okay for me. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Me? Listen to Audio? #24

This week I listened to Anne's House of Dreams. I started a few other things on BBC Radio 4, but nothing hooked me. This happens with books too, but I think it's more frustrating with audio books. Usually it's me--a timing thing.

Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1917. Read by Karen Savage for Librivox. 7 hours and twenty-three minutes.

I love, love, love this novel. It is in the Anne series, of course. It begins with the wedding of Anne and Gilbert and it spans the first few years of their marriage. They are no longer living in Avonlea but have settled near Four Winds Harbor and Glen St. Mary.
Anne's House of Dreams introduces many new characters--some of my favorites I admit--Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia, Leslie Moore, Owen Ford. Marshall Elliot. Susan Baker. Who would ever want to forget their stories?

Favorite quotes:

“Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination,” said Anne.
Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings — which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one.
“I’ve heard you criticise ministers pretty sharply yourself,” teased Anne. “Yes, but I do it reverently,” protested Mrs. Lynde. “You never heard me NICKNAME a minister.” Anne smothered a smile.
Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid. 
“Miss Cornelia Bryant. She’ll likely be over to see you soon, seeing you’re Presbyterians. If you were Methodists she wouldn’t come at all. Cornelia has a holy horror of Methodists.”
“I know we are going to be friends,” said Anne, with the smile that only they of the household of faith ever saw. “Yes, we are, dearie. Thank goodness, we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them. Not that I’ve many — none nearer than second cousins. I’m a kind of lonely soul, Mrs. Blythe.” There was a wistful note in Miss Cornelia’s voice.
“Were you able to eat enough pie to please her?” “I wasn’t. Gilbert won her heart by eating — I won’t tell you how much. She said she never knew a man who didn’t like pie better than his Bible. Do you know, I love Miss Cornelia.”

“Our library isn’t very extensive,” said Anne, “but every book in it is a FRIEND. We’ve picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph.”
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies.
“I wonder why people so commonly suppose that if two individuals are both writers they must therefore be hugely congenial,” said Anne, rather scornfully. “Nobody would expect two blacksmiths to be violently attracted toward each other merely because they were both blacksmiths.”
The p’int of good writing is to know when to stop.
There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that — what it’s right to do.
Logic is a sort of hard, merciless thing, I reckon.
“Since you are determined to be married, Miss Cornelia,” said Gilbert solemnly, “I shall give you the excellent rules for the management of a husband which my grandmother gave my mother when she married my father.” “Well, I reckon I can manage Marshall Elliott,” said Miss Cornelia placidly. “But let us hear your rules.” “The first one is, catch him.” “He’s caught. Go on.” “The second one is, feed him well.” “With enough pie. What next?” “The third and fourth are — keep your eye on him.” “I believe you,” said Miss Cornelia emphatically.
Cats is cats, and take my word for it, they will never be anything else.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, June 22, 2018

Paris in July 2018

Paris in July
Hosted by Thyme for Tea; sign up 
When: the month of July
Goal: read, watch, listen to French things

I have participated in this for several years. I absolutely LOVE it. In fact, as soon as it's June I begin to plot and plan ahead. Of course, most of my plotting is set aside once it's July. Actually despite my plans I tend to be spontaneous in what I include for my Paris in July experience.

Still. I hope to finish one of these chunksters for the event. I've read Les Miserables at least three or four times. But this is a new-to-me translation. The Three Musketeers would be a reread as well. But it would be my first reread of the novel. I have never read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Never. In fact I find it the most intimidating of the three. It is my scary do-I-dare-to-do-it choice.

What I might do--might--is read one and listen to one. I've newly started listening to audio books.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it's embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton. My husband. My hero. My betrayer.

First sentence from chapter one: I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton., Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot.

Premise/plot: My Dear Hamilton is a novelization of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The climax is not her discovery of his affair with that Reynolds woman nor is it her husband's death at the hands of Aaron Burr. The climax is her confrontation with James Monroe in 1825. He has come in pursuit of reconciliation, of peace. He has come without apology or humility. Will she put aside their differences and let bygones be bygones? This is where the novel opens--the prologue--and where it climaxes near the end. This is the framework of the novel. (Chapter one begins in 1777.)

My thoughts: I would recommend My Dear Hamilton to anyone who a) enjoys historical fiction b) enjoys American history c) has a love/hate relationship with politics d) enjoys spending time with complex characters e) has spent any amount of time listening to Hamilton.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved it so much I'm almost at a loss of words. Almost.

It is well-written. The writing is compelling and beautiful. "The people we love are not entirely knowable. Even to themselves. But we love them anyway. The only other choice is to live without love, alone."

It is well-researched. For example, I love that the authors tried their best to let these historical figures speak for themselves--using letters to craft some of the dialogue. I love that they documented their choices giving readers a real behind-the-scenes glimpse. What was true? What was fiction? Does the novel's timeline differ from history? Why? What did they choose to include? What did they not choose to include? OFTEN I read historical fiction and I have a dozen or so questions for the author. NOT so in this one. They really go above and beyond here.

It is character-driven and stars VERY complex characters. PERSPECTIVE. This novel is all about perspective AND perception. How do we perceive ourselves? How do we perceive others? Can we ever really know someone else? Can we ever really know ourselves? Do we have to love all of a person to love them at all? Can you wholly love someone--love someone unconditionally? And if you do does that make you weak or strong? What does forgiveness look like? Is forgiveness woven into unconditional love?

It's not unusual for novels about Alexander and Eliza to be ALL Alexander all the time even when the book is supposed to be from Eliza's point of view. I like that Eliza is her own person.  The focus of the novel is the inner life of Eliza Schuyler. We see these events through her eyes--with her heart, mind, and soul. Readers do not witness many dramatic scenes; scenes that are central to the musical Hamilton. Her son's duel. Her husband's duel. Just the devastating consequences of those events. But you don't have to witness the action to witness the pain.

Is the book smutty? No. Yes. Maybe. It depends on how strict your definition is. When sex scenes are relatively infrequent and just take up two or three sentences here and there--as opposed to five or six pages of graphic what-goes-where, I don't consider it smut. I don't necessarily stamp a CLEAN label on it. But I don't find it problematic.

© 2018 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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