Monday, March 31, 2008

March Firsts

Here are just a few of the first sentences I enjoyed this month.

Well. This is harder than I thought it would be.

"And finally," Jamie said as he pushed the door open, "we come to the main event. Your room."

The old stories tell that when the first person woke up on the first morning in the world where this tale takes place, he yawned, stretched, and said to the first thing he saw, "Well, here we are." The man's name was Dwayne and the first thing he saw was a rock. Next to the rock, though, was a woman named Gladys, whom he would learn to get along with very well. In the many ages that followed, that first sentence was taught to children and their children's children and their children's parents' cousins and so on until, quite by accident, all speaking creatures referred to the world around them as Aerwiar.

On the sixth of April, in the year of 1812--precisely two days before her sixteenth birthday--Penelope Featherington fell in love. It was, in a word, thrilling. The world shook. Her heart leaped. The moment was breathtaking. And, she was able to tell herself with some satisfaction, the man in question--one Colin Bridgerton--felt the same way. Oh, not the love part. He certainly didn't fall in love with her in 1812, (and not in 1813, 1814, 1815, or--oh, blast, not in all the years 1816-1822, either, and certainly not in 1823, when he was out of the country the whole time anyway). But his earth shook, his heart leaped, and Penelope knew without a shadow of a doubt that his breath was taken away as well. For a good ten seconds. Falling off a horse tended to do that to a man.

There are three truths I have come to learn in the year since the Dragon War. The first is that both humans and dragons have the capacity to be good or evil.

This is a story about darkness and light, about sorrow and joy, about something lost and something found. This is a story about Love.

Nonfiction Monday: One Tiny Turtle

Loggerhead turtle, here is your life! Perhaps I've been watching my Sesame Street Old School too much. But that is the image that came to mind when I read Nicola Davies' picture book One Tiny Turtle.

Originally published in 2001, it has recently been republished and repackaged. It now includes a read along CD with music and facts.

One Tiny Turtle is a simple (yet fact-filled) story of the life cycle of a loggerhead turtle, just one of seven species of sea turtles. The text is by Nicola Davies. The illustrations are by Jane Chapman. The text begins simply but eloquently, "Far, far out to sea, land is only a memory, and empty sky touches the water. Just beneath the surface is a tangle of weed and driftwood where tiny creatures cling. This is the nursery of a sea turtle."

The book is beautiful and fact-filled. I'm not an expert on turtles by any means, but the reviews of this one seem good.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Young Readers Challenge Completed

Young Readers Challenge completed!

1. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.
2. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
3. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
4. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
5. Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
6. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brian
7. Matilda by Roald Dahl
8. B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
9. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
10. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
11. Brendan Buckley's Universe And Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier
12 Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Young Adult Challenge Completed

Dingo by Charles de Lint
Love and Other Uses for Duct Tape by Carrie Jones
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Leftovers by Laura Wiess
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Fold by An Na
Saga by Conor Kostick

The challenge was hosted by Thoughts of Joy.

First in a Series Challenge

I'm committed to reading 12 First In A Series Books for the 2008 year.

1. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
2. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
3. Sword in the Stone by David Gemmell
4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
5. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
6. All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
7. The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
8. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
9. Kristy's Great Idea by Ann Martin
10. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
11. The 13th Reality by James Dashner
12. Jack Russell: Dog Detective: Dog Den Mystery by Darrel & Sally Odgers


de Lint, Charles. 2008. Dingo.

No one likes to think it of their father, but there are days when I can't help but feel that somehow I got stuck with the biggest loser of all loser dads. It's mostly on days like this when he's off on a house call to buy new stock and I'm stuck minding the store.

Miguel's father has a store--Mike's Used Comics & Records. And it is while Miguel is tending his father's store that he meet the girl. Or perhaps it should be The Girl. Everything had been going along, business as usual, until the moment he sees her through the window. "Ever have one of those moments when everything just kind of stops and it feels as though the whole universe is focused on this one thing that's got your attention? That's what it's like when I see her go by the window, hesitate at the door to look behind her, and then come in. It's gray and dismal outside, but she's got the sun in her hair--long, red-gold tangles that are frizzing because of the damp and give her a halo." (5) This mystery girl, Lainey, and her dog, Em, are from Australia. Everything about them fascinates this young teenage boy. Everything. She is a complete mystery, but one that he's happy to want to solve. He even dreams about her. That might not be completely unusual--boys dreaming about girls--but this dream is highly unusual. But I'll let you see that for yourself!

I'm NOT going to say one word more about the novel. Okay, that's a lie. But I'm not going to talk about the plot in any case. Everything about this novel--the characters, the plot, the language--is well done. I can't think of a single flaw. I can't really get into what I liked most about the characters, but I can say this. They were complex. Definitely interesting to read about, to care about.

Highly recommended to fantasy fans.

This was my first Charles de Lint novel, but it won't be my last.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Must Haves for Cinderella fans of all ages

Rodger & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957) starring Julie Andrews. What could be more magical than Julie Andrews playing Cinderella??? And once you've seen the movie, how could you not want to have the soundtrack??? Other Rodgers & Hammerstein editions include the 1997 one starring Brandy. (Among many many many stars) I only wish they'd made a soundtrack to go with it. Seriously. What were they thinking? There is also the 1965 edition starring Lesley Ann Warren. They do have the soundtrack for that one oddly enough.

Ever After is oh-so-magical. Could the Prince be more swoon-worthy??? I think not. And I love the score to this movie. George Fenton is wonderful.

Of course a few might argue that Walt Disney's Cinderella would be a must-have. And I'm not denying that it's nice. Dad has been the somewhat proud and happy recipient of that one both on VHS and DVD. It isn't my fault Disney has a wicked sense of humor and always releases it the first week of October!!! To his credit (for having received it so many times) he does think it is the only proper Cinderella. He won't sit through the Rodgers & Hammerstein. He keeps saying, "Where are the singing mice???"

And although not strictly Cinderella-related, it doesn't get better than 2007's Enchanted. It is so wonderfully perfectly magical.

And talk about perfect timing. Let's transition to books. Do yourself a favor, make haste to Amazon and order Walt Disney's Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Mary Blair. You can thank me later. It is the BEST BEST BEST book ever. And at the moment it appears to be bargain priced, in hardcover, for only $6.99!!!!!!

That one is a true must read. Not only is the text brilliant--above and beyond anything Disney ever thought of doing--the illustrations are outstanding. Mary Blair did the concept art for the Disney film.

Tips on Challenges

My name is Becky. I'm a challenge-addict. Chances are good that you may be one too. (Though not all my readers are challenge buddies!) So far for the 2008 year, I've signed up for 50 challenges. I'm letting that soak in for a minute or two. 50 Challenges. I comfort myself with this--eight are already completed. Still, I admit it's a lot. Okay 'a lot' is still an understatement. Bordering on completely insane or illogical is closer to the truth. But when it comes to challenges, I'm just a girl who can't say no. (Not completely true, I'm saying, no, to this one and this one and this one so far. But I'm not safe yet. Until the challenges expire or new participants are banned, there's always a chance I'll be pulled in.)

So since I can't say no, I've learned a few tricks on how-to-stay-sane. I thought I'd share just in case some of my buddies are feeling overwhelmed and despairing of their inabilities to say no. At the very least, you can join together and say at least I'm not her.

1) create your own "scary-but-true" list where you keep track of how many challenges you have going.

name of challenge:
books required:

2) Have at least one place where you have all the links to your challenges bookmarked. This might be in the file above. Or it could be in a browser bookmark folder. Or it could be on your blog's sidebar in a special link section. I feel it essential to keep these links segregated from just your regular blogroll.

3) Consider having a special page (if you've got wordpress) or an additional blog (like if you have blogger) to keep track just of your challenges. I normally blog in blogger. But I started a wordpress blog just to keep track of my challenges because I liked the format and the options available there. I think this is important because you can then have one place where all your lists are collected together. You can also use the search option to find certain books. I didn't originate this idea of having a separate blog just for challenge lists. I copied many others. But it works really well. :)

4) Use tags when writing posts. If a book counts towards a challenge, I will use the name of that challenge as a tag. If a book counts towards five challenges, then list all five. For example, "Once Upon A Time Challenge II" and "Spring Reading Thing" and "A to Z Challenge."

5) This is perhaps the MOST important thing I've learned in the past three months. And again, it's not completely original. But here is my big trick. For each challenge, start a post and title it Whatever-the-challenge-is Completed. If the challenge ends in October, use your "post options" feature to date that entry for October 31. As each book you read for that challenge is completed, then open up that post and create a link to your review. (But remember to save as draft instead of publishing!) That way, you keep track of how many books you've read. When it comes time for the challenge to end, there is no fuss about it. No scrambling at the last minute to tie all those posts together. No rush to count up to see if you've read enough books.

6) Depending on your challenges, you might consider doing daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance. Checking your lists to see what you've read, and what you still need to read. If you've got a list organized in chronological order. The sooner the challenge ends, the higher priority it may receive when it comes time to choosing your next book.

7) To stay sane, remember not to force it. If you really really really don't want to read something, then don't. It doesn't matter how many challenges a book is good towards if reading it is going to drive you crazy. That book might suit you better a month or two from now. Or you might end up substituting (if possible) another book in its place altogether. But always remember you can STILL exercise the Readers Bill of Rights even if you're a challenge-addict.

Readers' Bill of Rights (Daniel Pennac)

1. The Right to Not Read
2. The Right to Skip Pages
3. The Right to Not Finish
4. The Right to Reread
5. The Right To Read Anything
6. The Right to Escapism
7. The Right to Read Anywhere
8. The Right to Browse
9. The Right to Read Out Loud
10. The Right to Not Defend Your Tastes
8) Be forgiving and generous towards yourself. Perhaps this is more of an attitude than a tip. I sometimes hear that people dislike challenges because they don't like the idea of not having the freedom to read what they want when they want to read it. Being challenge-addicted doesn't have to be stressful. I think sometimes folks come to it with the mindset that it's like a diet instead of a lifestyle. (You must do this, this, and this. You must do it now. You must not do this or that. And above all else, this is off limits.) But if you approach it with a que sera sera attitude, nothing can tie you down.

9) Remember it's all about pleasure. Reading is fun. Reading is pleasurable. Blogging is pleasurable. Making new friends, keeping old ones. Finding new books for the TBR pile. All very good things. There is nothing about challenge work that should be UNpleasant. It's an experience. It's a lifestyle. It's a journey you take with friends new and old.

10) Know yourself. Trust yourself. If a particular challenge gets to be too tough, don't be afraid to back out. But don't be too eager either. :) The world doesn't end if you don't finish a challenge. Nothing bad will happen if you don't reach your listed goal. You might surprise yourself along the way.

Bonus: Overlap as much as possible. Have a book count for more than one challenge. In some cases, you might have a book count in five or six. :)

Announcing the Initials Reading Challenge

Initials Reading Challenge
April 1, 2008 - November 30, 2008
Read five to eight books by authors who publish under their initials.
Examples would be: C.S. Lewis. A.A. Milne. J.R.R. Tolkien. L.M. Montgomery. E.M. Forster. T.H. White. J.K. Rowling. R.L. Stine. e.e. cummings. D.H. Lawrence. J.D. Salinger. H.G. Wells. E. Nesbit. T.S. Eliot. E.B. White. P.G. Wodehouse. J.M. Barrie. W.B. Yeats. V.C. Andrews. G.K. Chesterton. T.E. Lawrence. O. Henry. H.A. Rey. Etc.
You don't have to choose an author from the above list. But those are the ones I was able to think of at the time of the posting!

Note: there are three other banner options for you posted on the official challenge blog.

No lists are necessary.
Sign up at any time between now and November 1, 2008.
Read as many books as you like, as long as you meet the minimum requirement of five books.
Your books can count towards other challenges you're participating in.
A blog is not required. See the Initials Reading Challenge Review blog for details on how you can still participate fully!

Sign up by leaving a comment here on this post, or on this post.

Post your reviews to the Mr. Linky on the Reviews site.

Nymeth's Book Giveaway

Nymeth is giving away five books on her blog in celebration of her one year blogiversary and Buy A Friend A Book week. Go and enter! You know you want to!

Speculative Fiction Challenge Wrapup

Speculative Fiction Challenge was hosted by The Book Ninja. The challenge runs from October through April 1, 2008. The Speculative Fiction Challenge, here's what I read!!!

Isaac Asimov:
Prelude to Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation
Foundation's Edge
Foundation and Earth

Joe Haldeman:
The Accidental Time Machine
Old Twentieth

Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead and Gone

C.S. Lewis:
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair

Brandon Mull:
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague

N.D. Wilson:
100 Cupboards

Libba Bray:
Sweet Far Thing

Orson Scott Card:
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Cornelia Funke:

Ray Bradbury:
Martian Chronicles
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Conor Kostick:

Michael Simmons:
Alien Feast

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Julie Andrews on libraries...

Zora Neale Hurston Mini-Challenge Completed

The challenge doesn't technically end until March 31rst. But I'm finished with the challenge. If you read any of Zora Neale Hurston's books between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2008 and would like credit for completion or to be included in the roundup, leave a comment. I'd be happy to add you in.

Juliette's thoughts on Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Mandy's thoughts on three ZNH books

Becky's thoughts on Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Chris' thoughts on Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Love (and other uses for duct tape)

Jones, Carrie. 2008. Love (and other uses for duct tape.)

Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) is the sequel to last year's Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend.

You think you know people and then it turns out you don't.
You think you learn this and then it turns out you didn't.
People keep changing who they are and defining themselves by their own choices, and that's cool most of the time, but not all the time. No, it's not cool all the time.

My favorite list-making heroine is back. Belle. When the novel opens, Belle is facing The Problem. What is her problem this time, you wonder, well, in a way it's both simple and complex. The problem of the moment is that Belle wants to be having sex with Tom. But Tom is happy taking things nice and slow. She's weirded out by the fact that her boyfriend isn't wanting to "do it" and also slightly perplexed as to why he hasn't used the L-word yet. Why hasn't Tom--this wonderfully nice guy--told her he loves her? His actions all show that he does. But he hasn't said it. This problem is viewed alongside the fact that her best friend, Em, and her boyfriend, Shawn are going strong. Not to mention the fact that even her mother has a steady boyfriend. It seems like everyone is having sex but her. That's the simple side of things.

Belle, lovable heroine that she is, is still having some problems that even she's not fully aware of. Things that make her who she is in part. But things that tend to annoy her friends and family.

If you're expecting Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) to be strictly romance, then you might be disappointed. This novel isn't all about the love and lust of Belle and Tom. It is a novel beyond labels and easy definitions. It's a novel about life, about love, about friendships, about knowing and loving yourself, about accepting others. It's about friends. It's about family. And it's about love. The love between friends especially.

This novel explores relationships of all sorts and varieties.

Little Willow's review.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

My review of C.S. Lewis' classic children's book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is going to be chatty--quite chatty--and there's nothing I can do about it. I first encountered the magic of Narnia in fourth grade when my teacher read it aloud to us. My teacher, Mrs. Watts, was known for many things. She inspired much fear and trembling. Like Aslan, she was not tame, but good. While, other students may remember the discipline or the hard work...I'll always remember my magical introduction to Narnia. Soon after, I added book by book the series to my collection. Most of my copies were used. Most were ugly. But I devoured each one. I seem to remember my sister reading a few of the series at least.

But unlike Little House and Ramona and Anne, this series was more me and less her. Narnia belonged to me--the magic, the wonder, the glory of it all. I remember the pure pleasure I experienced each and every time I opened up a book. I remember the book covers, yes. And I definitely have strong opinions on which book covers through the years are 'the best' of the bunch. But more precisely, I fell in love with the proper order of the series. Few things irritate me more than someone who insists on that new-fangled order. Which is why, if you could see me, you'd know how frustrating it is to read my 7-in-1 novel. But some things must be preserved at all costs.

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. (p. 111 in the 7-in-1 edition)

The adventures in and out of the wardrobe that these four experience during the course of the novel are oh-so-magical. The characters--both major and minor--so memorable. The story, familiar yet resilient, even after having read it a dozen times. So many wonderful scenes. Scenes that resonate. In case you haven't read it, let me give you a teaser. Lucy, the youngest of the children, accidentally discovers a magical land of ice and snow while hiding in a wardrobe in the Professor's house. Her three siblings--Peter, Susan, and Edmund--at first don't believe her. They take her tale as a wild, silly, foolish story of a girl whose homesick and wanting attention. Edmund, the brother closest to her in age and thus her biggest tormentor, also wanders into Narnia unexpectedly. But who he meets there, will perhaps undo them all. Narnia is not a land at peace. Not at all. For the land is under a spell--an enchantment--the White Witch--the supposed Queen of the land--has made it always winter and never Christmas. And the lives of the children--all four children--are in grave danger when they're in Narnia. For there is a prophecy that four humans--two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve--will come to rule the land as Kings and Queens and restore peace and order to the kingdom.

The heart and soul of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the revelation of Aslan, the King of the land, a lion.

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning--either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. (141 of 7-in-1 edition)

The children's journey to Narnia, their quest to meet Aslan at the Stone Table, and their battle to save Narnia and their brother from the grasp of the evil and wicked witch....are unforgettable adventures that deserve to be experienced again and again by readers of all ages. You're never too old to experience the magic of Narnia.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Here's the super-trailer for the movie:

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow (MG/YA)

George, Jessica Day. 2008. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. Bloomsbury.

Long ago and far away in the land of ice and snow, there came a time when it seemed that winter would never end.

Our heroine is the ninth child and the fourth daughter. Her mother was so angry when she was born that she refuses to bless her with a name. She's called "pika" which means girl. For most of the story, however, we know her as Lass. This child is a blessing--a great blessing--to her oldest brother, Hans Peter. The two are special buddies. He teaches her something that will prove very useful: the written language--the carvings--of the trolls.

Our story really begins when she agrees to go with the white bear. The white bear is isbjorn, enchanted, and he has agreed to give her family riches and riches and riches galore if she will go away with him to live in his castle for one full year. The family is so poor, that it would be unforgivable (at least in her mother's eyes) for her to refuse his request.

Her time with the bear will not be easy. Everything is so strange, so odd, so obviously enchanted and magical. She's accompanied by her wolf, Rollo. I seem to have forgotten to mention that she's able to communicate with animals. (Another long story on how she got her wolf, and how she got blessed with the power to understand and communicate with animals, and how she got a secret name.)

This review isn't going like I had planned. For a novel that was written so beautifully, so smoothly, this review isn't doing it justice. You're just going to have to trust me that the novel is worth reading. Our heroine is brave and strong and full of heart.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is a novelization of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. (At least in part. It's also similar to the myth of Cupid and Psyche and the tale of Beauty and the Beast.)


Another review: here, here, here, and here.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Treading on Sacred Ground

Yesterday I posted about the book covers of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And I was surprised at how many people have an opinion (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) on which ones are 'the best.' While I'll always have my own favorites when it comes to comparing covers for all seven books, I'm not that passionately opinionated on the subject. What I am passionate about is the order of the books. I hate what I refer to as the 'new-fangled' order of the series. According to Wikipedia, this new-fangled order came about in 1994. I hated it then, and I hate it now. Though perhaps a whole generation has discovered the series since '94 and would argue that this 'new' order is the best way to read the series. (They'll never convince me.)

I could go on. But I'll try to refrain at the moment. What are your thoughts on the matter....assuming you have an opinion :)

Publication order compared with Chronological order
Publication order Chronological order
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe The Magician's Nephew
Prince Caspian The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Horse and His Boy
The Silver Chair Prince Caspian
The Horse and His Boy The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Magician's Nephew The Silver Chair
The Last Battle The Last Battle

Poetry Friday: America At War

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, compiler. 2008. America at War. Simon & Schuster. (Published March 2008)

War is not a cheery subject to read about. Obviously. And while the poems in America at War are anything but happy and enjoyable and pleasant, the poems do resonate with power and truth and authenticity. The book is arranged into sections. Every war that America has fought in from the American Revolution to the present day war in Iraq is covered in these 84 pages. The poems vary in length and in intensity. The illustrations are by Stephen Alcorn, and in my opinion they're quite good. This would be a good resource for history and drama teachers not to mention literature teachers. Roundup this week is at Cuentecitos.

A Soldier's Letter To A Newborn Daughter
by Joan Bransfield Graham

How I wanted to be
to hear your
first cry--
they say you have your
mother's eyes.
I've looked
at your picture
a thousand times--
made my buddies
look, too--I'm
proud of you.
I long to hold you,
kiss your head,
rock you to sleep,
but for now
I can only
keep you in a
close to my heart.
You're finally
HERE--I'm so glad!
I'm coming home
to my girls...

With all my love,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Enchanted (The Book)

Jones, Jasmine. 2007. Enchanted. Based on the screen play by Bill Kelly.

If you've read my blog in the last week, you couldn't have failed to notice my current obsession with all things Enchanted. The movie and the soundtrack are wonderful. I just love them. So the review of the book, Enchanted, is not going to reflect on my feelings of those items--both must haves in my opinion.

What can I say about this junior novel? Well, when the author isn't even mentioned on the book cover or the spine, it might be telling you something. This novelization based on the movie is probably not better or worse than any other movie novelization you might have encountered in the past.

What is good about the book? It has most (if not all) of your favorite lines from the movie. It is based on the script after all. There are a *few* differences. For example, the scene where Nancy first meets the towel-cladded Giselle is abbreviated. The argument between Nancy and Robert (about grown-up girl bonding time and crowd control) perhaps not being considered appropriate enough or important enough for this target-age group. But it works both ways. The book has a snippet of dialogue that I can't remember from the movie (I've seen it about five times now). When the two have made plans to go to the King and Queen's ball. Edward asks what he is to do in the meantime--while she's getting ready, going shopping, etc. She tells him to go and try something magical--a shower.

But if I'm being honest, the book is almost by default going to be lacking the charm and magic and grace of the movie. Yes, the movie has great lines--snippets of dialogue--the story itself is great. But the real charm and beauty comes from the music and the imagery. Reading the descriptions of the imagery is fine, but actually seeing and hearing it is always going to be better.

That being said, it isn't an expensive book. And if I was in the target age-range, I'd probably be loving it. I doubt that this book is going to disappoint young readers in the 7 to 9 age range. But adult readers (if there are any besides myself) might be wishing it had a bit something more to take you above and beyond the movie. Something to take you inside the heads and hearts of these characters.

And here's something to think about. The book did release several months prior to the release of Enchanted in theatres. So there very well could have been some (who can guess how many???) readers who encountered Giselle and Robert and Edward and Pip through the book first while counting down the days until the movie opened.

BTT: Judging a Book By Its Cover

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

Which one would you want to read? If you were going to Narnia for the first time that is...

Various covers I've "discovered" via google mostly. As you can see, they range in quality. Some quite appealing. Others not so much. Some are very dated. Others timeless. Some choose to focus on one aspect of the novel. Some go for a general mood. Some depict certain scenes. Others don't. Starting at the top, what I like about Wiesner's is that it shows the girls' (Susan and Lucy) devotion to Aslan. I believe that this is the 'resurrection' scene. They have just discovered that he isn't dead--he's alive. And so they are weeping with joy. The next one shows that Aslan is not a TAME lion at all. Very fierce. The third, it is really hard. I'm assuming that that it is the witch in the background. It looks like she is holding a knife in one hand. So that cover is focusing on the sacrifice scene. The fourth is focusing on the witch and her wolves. The fifth which is my favorite, quite honestly, is focusing on Mr. Tumnus and the wintry scene in which he and Lucy meet. Notice the packages. I love that scene in the movie by the way. The next focuses on the evil witch. The harshness of the environment. The cruelty of the battle between good and evil. The next is an "abridged" version. I've never seen it, but the cover doesn't thrill me. It's just a tame, easy-going, nonviolent, nonthreatening cover. What it does have going for it is that it shows all the main characters: Aslan, witch, Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter. The next is a cover of a play. This is another post-resurrection cover. This is when the two girls are riding on Aslan to join the others in battle. The next is a UK version, I believe. This one shows the three children (Peter, Susan, Lucy) with Aslan. Edmund is missing as he is with the queen. The children are showing off their presents from Father Christmas. The next is a movie tie-in version for the BBC production. The next is another adaptation. I really don't have much to say about that lion's appearance. The next is the version I remember from childhood. We bought our copies used. Ugly it may be, but it does show the children--all four children--entering in the wardrobe drawers--though I doubt they'd be that yellow--and finding a strange winter forest. The next is the 'original' cover by Baynes. This would be another post-resurrection scene. Lucy and Susan are dancing round Aslan and it's spring. I don't love it or hate it in particular. I just don't think it's that captivating. The last one is one I hadn't seen before. It depicts three children. So it would be before Edmund's redemption. Aslan is looking pretty fierce despite the geekiness of the children. Notice how everyone's hair looks bad.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. What can I say? I didn't love it like I loved (or loved, loved, loved) Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice. It was so different to Northanger Abbey in a way which makes it more difficult to compare. But in its favor, I didn't dislike it like I disliked Mansfeld Park or Emma. (A word on Emma's behalf. Emma, the character, annoys me. I know she's supposed to be annoying because she represents the young and foolish and rich and selfish and spoiled stereotype. But still. It's hard to like someone like that. It would be like reading a book told from Lydia's perspective. I wonder if anyone has done that???)

Sense and Sensibility is the story of the Dashwood family. The mother has recently been widowed. She's got a step-son who's inherited everything, and her own three daughters. She's also got a daughter-in-law from hell. Really. This woman would make even a saint think that. The two are somewhat indirectly pushed out the door by the couple--Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood. They're insufferable to live with. And they're rude and pushy. Contemptible really. The only good thing that happens is that Elinor meets a young man, Edward Ferrars, and falls in love. Though nothing is promised or exchanged between them.

The Dashwoods (mother and three daughters: Elinor, Marianne, Margaret) move to a cottage quite a distance away. (Barton I believe is the place where they're staying.) While there, Marianne 'makes' two men fall in love with her. Colonel Brandon, a respectable but older gentleman, and the young and dashing and ever-so-handsome Mr. Willoughby. Marianne sees only Willoughby. Brandon doesn't stand a chance. They also meet many people in the neighborhood--Mrs. Jennings, the Middletons, the Palmers, the Steeles, etc.

The story centers around the love lives of the two older sisters Elinor and Marianne. Often the two are down on their luck. Money plays a big role in the novel. But Jane Austen loved happy endings so never fear. It may take a good many pages, but Marianne and Elinor are assured of finding men that suit them perfectly one way or another.

368 pages.
Originally published in 1811.
First sentence: The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Alien Feast

Simmons, Michael. 2008. Alien Feast.

On the twenty-ninth of September, in the year 2017, William Aitkin's so-called stepparents were eaten by aliens, which he didn't particularly mind, seeing as they had never been very nice to him.

Alien Feast is a fun little adventure novel starring a young boy, William, the girl next door, Sophie, and his uncle, Maynard. They live in the town of Willoughby. As was hinted in the opening sentence, earth has been invaded by aliens. And these aliens are in the habit of eating whomever they want. But there are several things going for the people of earth, the aliens do show signs of laziness. They don't want to work that hard for their meals. But there is something even greater working in the humans favor: the aliens are susceptible--very susceptible--to human diseases. Chicken pox proves to be a mighty weapon against the aliens. However, while many of the aliens are among the dearly departed (or in this case the not-so-dearly departed), there are still aliens that have proved strong enough to survive so far at least. The humans do have one place left that the aliens haven't conquered; unfortunately, Willoughby isn't in it. Willoughby is in alien territory and thus proves the challenge for our heroes and heroine. They're on a rescue mission. First step, save Sophie's parents--both physicians--from the alien prison. They're being held captive until they find a way to cure, to treat aliens. Second step, save the world.

The book is one big adventure. It is funny yet it isn't without its serious overtones. (I certainly wasn't expecting one of the twists in the ending.) Alien Feast isn't quite like any of the books I've read. Books it might compare to in one way or another (although not always for the same age group) are War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and The True Meaning of Smek Day by Adam Rex. If you've enjoyed any of those in the past, then Alien Feast might be one to consider for your tbr stack. If you haven't read any of those, but you loved Alien Feast, you might consider reading some of the others as well. They're definitely worth the time.

I did read the ARC. So it's always possible that the first sentence changed. Just so you know.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Household Tales, Part One

I will be trying to read all 200 of the stories gathered by the Grimm brothers this years. I'll be doing multiple stories all in one post. In case you're curious, the picture is "The Fairy Tale" by James Sant.

Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Translated by Margaret Hunt

The Frog King or Iron Henry

This is the first tale in Household Tales. It is the story of a princess (a beautiful princess) who promises to be a frog's sweetheart if he will retrieve her golden ball from the well. She promises lightly never thinking that the frog will expect her to keep her word. To let him dine with her--share her food, eat from her plate, drink from her glass--and sleep with her, share her bed and pillow. She refuses once the ball is safe, but her father makes her keep her promises and she hesitantly complies. To her surprise, the frog then transforms into a handsome prince. The two are wed and return to his kingdom. He's met by a faithful friend and servant, Henry, who to show his grief wrapped his heart in three iron bands. I don't get that part. I don't think I'll ever get that part. But aside from that, it's a nice story.

Cat and Mouse in Partnership

This is the second tale in Household Tales. It is the story of an unusual friendship of a cat and mouse. While The Frog King might have had a moral--it's good to keep your promises--this one is perhaps less subtle but harder to put into words. The cat is a cat is a cat. And a mouse should NEVER forget that a cat is a cat is a cat. It's not eloquent but it's true. Anyway, the cat and mouse live together. They buy a pot of fat to store for the winter, they keep it in a church under the altar for safekeeping. The cat, on three separate occasions, sneaks away under the guise of attending a christening and becoming a god-mother to a new kitten. She's actually feasting on the fat. She tells her friend Mouse that the kitten's names are "Top Off" "Half Done" and "All Gone." The mouse is suspicious at times, but doesn't pester the cat for more details. When winter is come, the two go. The mouse then discovers the cat's business and gets angry and mouthy. The cat gobbles the mouse down and that is that. So I suppose the moral of the story is to be careful who you trust, be careful who you're friends with. Or perhaps the message is that nature always wins in the end--selfishness and (sometimes) greed are just part of human nature. That these vices are just "the way of the world."

Our Lady's Child

I can honestly say I've never read this one before. Our Lady's Child is the story of a poor-but-beautiful girl who is taken from the forest to live in heaven with the Virgin Mary. One day when she is a teen--fourteen--Mary leaves her with the thirteen keys to the thirteen doors of heaven. She's told by Mary that she may open twelve of the doors, but forbids her to open the thirteenth. She shows her which key/door is forbidden. While Mary is away, the girl opens the twelve doors. But unsatisfied with just that, she opens the thirteenth as well. When Mary returns, though it is obvious the forbidden door has been opened and the forbidden room entered, the child denies it three times. She refuses to acknowledge her disobedience. She's sent in disgrace--and without a voice--back to the forest where it's a struggle to just survive day by day. Some time later, she's discovered by a king (or perhaps a prince). She's taken to his castle and marries him. She still can't speak, but he loves her very much. She has one child. The Virgin Mary comes to her in the night and says that if she will admit that she opened the forbidden door that her voice will return and all will be well. But if she denies it, then she will take her newborn child with her. She won't do it. Stubborn. Stubborn. Stubborn. This happens again and even once more. Two more children. She's now lost three children because of her lies and still won't repent. It is only when she's being punished (burned alive) for supposed cannibalism (eating her own children) that she repents. The Virgin Mary restores her children to her and restores her voice. The moral of this one is oh-so-obvious. Don't tell lies. Be honest. Repent of your disobedience. Or else very bad things will happen to you.

The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

This fourth adventure is also new to me. It is the story of a stupid young man who doesn't know what it is to "shudder." Several people try to put a sense of fear, of dread into him. One man, a sexton, tries to spook him by pretending to be a ghost. Another man tries to spook him by having him sleep underneath a tree with seven hanging bodies. But no matter what anyone does to tries to do, this man is fearless and stupid. The king promises that he can marry his daughter if he can survive three nights in a haunted castle. Each night something weird and supernatural and spooky happens, but each morning he continues to tell the king that he still doesn't know what it is to shudder. He does marry the princess. It is his wife who teaches him how to shudder. Though I won't tell you how or why! Just in case you want to read this one yourself!

The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids

This story is one of my favorites. "Show me your paws" being a favorite catch phrase at chez Laney. It is the story of a mother goat and her seven kids. She warns them not to let anyone in the house while she is gone. She warns them that the wolf may try to trick them. And for the most part, they do follow her rules. The wolf does everything to disguise himself. And they do fall for it. Six of the seven do get eaten--swallowed whole. But one clever little kid hides in the clock-case. The one remaining kid and the mother goat must go on a rescue mission to see if the rest can be saved and to have their vengeance on the wolf. This story is truly enjoyable.

Faithful John

This one falls into the new-to-me category. And I think there is probably a good reason for that. This isn't one I'd imagine inspiring anyone to publish as a picture book. The story focuses on the loyalty of a faithful servant, John. At the old king's death bed, John promises to help and protect his son, the new king. And he's true to his word. The new king is young. When he sees a portrait of a beautiful maiden, he falls madly in love. Faithful John helps him win his love's heart--they kidnap her but then explain how it was for a good cause. He's a handsome and wealthy king after all. Then she seems to be fine with it. On the way back home--they're traveling via ship--John overhears three ravens predicting doom and gloom for the newlyweds. Each prediction comes with a stern warning. If it is told to another, the teller shall be turned to stone. Therefore if John were to try to warn the king and queen of any danger, or if he were to warn other servants or soldiers then he'd be turned to stone instantly. Therefore it falls to him to counter the three predictions and save the day. The problem? Well, in fulfilling the third, the king orders his death. I don't imagine many husbands let alone kings would like to walk in on the scene of him sucking three drops of blood from his wife's right breast. The fact that doing so saved her life didn't seem to occur to him at the time. His final words before he was to be hanged (or executed--I don't exactly remember the method--were of the raven's warnings. His life still isn't saved. He's stone now. But the king and queen are mournful. The years pass and it would almost seem that faithful john has been forgotten, but he hasn't. This is where it turns weird and violent and not what you might expect. But I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.

Life As We Knew It Schedule

Becky's Online Reading Group will be reading Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer in the month of May. Reading schedule is below! I hope you'll join me--join us--as we read this wonderful, wonderful book.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Friday, May 9th, 2008; Ch. 1-3; May 7th through May 19th
Monday, May 12, 2008; Ch. 4-6; May 20th through June 25th
Wednesday, May 14th, 2008; Ch. 7-8; July 2 through August 4th
Friday, May 16th, 2008; Ch. 9-11; August 6th through September 5th
Monday, May 19th, 2008; Ch. 12-14; September 6th through October 24th
Wednesday, May 21rst, 2008; Ch. 15- 17; October 26th through December 21rst
Friday, May 23rd, 2008; Ch 18-19; December 24th through February 7th
Monday, May 26th; Ch. 20-21; February 9th through March 20th

Tales From the Brothers Grimm & The Sisters Weird

Tales From the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by Vivian Vande Velde is simply too much fun to resist. Vivian Vande Velde re-envisions thirteen familiar fairy tales and adds sparkle, wit, humor, and irony. I enjoyed each and every story in the collection. I can't really do the book much justice by my review, but I thought I'd share some first lines from the stories. If they don't convince you to pick up the book, nothing will.

Once upon a time, in the days before Social Security or insurance companies, there lived a miller and his daughter, Della, who were fairly well-off and reasonably happy until the day their mill burned down.

Once upon a time when princes still set out to seek their fortunes and when cranky old women still sometimes turned out to be witches, a prince named Sidney came to a well where an old woman asked him for help in getting water.

Once upon a time in a land and time when animals could speak and people could understand them, there lived an old woman whose best friend was a wolf.

Once upon a time, after the invention of teenagers but before there were shopping malls for teenagers to hang around in, there lived a young man named Jack.

Once upon a time before there were toll bridges, there were troll bridges.

Once upon a time, before the invention of water-beds or air mattresses or Craftmatic adjustable beds, there lived a prince named Royal.

Once upon a time, before Medicare or golden-age retirement communities, there lived a beautiful young girl named Isabella, who stayed at home to take care of her parents.

Once upon a time, in a land where even parents had magic, a mother got so upset with her son's bad temper, sloppy clothes, messy room, and disgusting table manners that she said: "If you're going to act like a beast, you might as well look like one, too."

In addition to these stories (from the thirteen) are some fairy-tale themed poems. These are wonderful as well. (I plan to devote at least one or two Poetry Friday posts to these delightful little poems.)

I definitely recommend this one.

Now is the time....April Reading Schedules Revisited

I thought I would mention this again now that it is almost time.
If you are planning on participating in the group discussions, please comment. It's not required. I won't turn you away next week if you haven't 'signed' up here. But I'm just curious (anxious) to see what the turn out will be. (Sign up for Speak, sign up for Looking for Alaska, or sign up for both books.)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wednesday, April 2nd; First Marking Period; Roughly 3-46
Monday, April 7th; Second Marking Period; Roughly 49-92
Friday, April 11th; Third Marking Period; Roughly 95-137
Wednesday, April 16th; Fourth Marking Period; Roughly 141-198

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Monday, April 21rst one hundred and thirty-six days before - one hundred and nine days before (roughly 3-50)
Friday, April 25th one hundred and one days before - the last day (roughly 51-133)
Wednesday, April 30th; the day after - twenty-seven days after (roughly 137-182
Friday, May 2nd; twenty-eight days later - end (roughly 182 - 221 unless you read the author’s note in which case it would be 182-225)

Becky's Online Reading Group:

Sense & Sensibility Completed

Monday March 3rd: Chapters 1-7

Wednesday March 5th: Chapters 8-13

Friday March 7th: Chapters 14-18

Monday March 10th: Chapters 19-22

Wednesday March 12: Chapters 23- 27

Friday March 14: Chapters 28-30

Monday March 17th: Chapters 31-34

Wednesday March 19th: Chapters 35-37

Friday March 21rst: Chapters 38-41

Monday March 24th: Chapters 42-44

Wednesday March 26th: Chapters 45-47

Friday March 28th: Chapters 48-50

The Masterpiece Theatre production will air Sunday March 30th and Sunday April 6th.