Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Firsts

"Emmy was a good girl. At least she tried very hard to be good."

"The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song. You know, the song. I'm sure you've heard it. Maybe you danced to it at prom or sang it in your car on a Friday night when you were driving and feeling like you must be inhuman to be this happy, the windows down and nothing but air around you."

"Looking back, I would say everything in my life changed the summer I turned thirteen and my father turned into Elvis."

"This is a story of what happened to Wombat on Tuesday. I could tell you about Monday, but nothing happened on Monday. So Tuesday it is."

"The two people Ellie McKelvey hated most were Adolf Hitler and Victoria Gandeck. Hitler lived in Germany, but Victoria was just across the alley. And right now, Ellie hated Victoria more."

"Finally. He finally found the word he had been looking for. Camazotz."

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Sunday Salon: Classics

Okay, I found a site that almost made me giddy. It sounds silly to get this excited about something so quickly, after all, there's no guarantee that this will be life-changing or anything. But still. Do you know about girlebooks? Here is their description from their own "about us" page: "we publish free ebooks by the gals. But much more than a simple free ebook resource, Girlebooks aims to make classic and lesser-known works by female writers available to a large audience through the ebook medium." Some are titles you'd expect--Little Women, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre. But others have the new-to-me status, I'm curious to read The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox and The Lamplighter by Maria S. Cummins. Here's a description of that book: "Second only in sales to Uncle Tom's Cabin during the nineteenth century, The Lamplighter is almost completely unknown today, its very popularity having been used to condemn it in literary critical circles. It tells the story of the development of a young, orphaned girl into a resilient, capable young woman who gets her man." Does that little tidbit not make you a wee bit curious. Of course, after I downloaded it (for free of course) I noticed it was over 700 pages. Still, if I persevere, I'll have to let you know how that one works out. You should definitely give this one some of your time to explore. They've got several different formats including: adobe pdf, eReader PDB, Microsoft Reader LIT, plain text, and Kindle.

Speaking of e-books, Judy has started the Electronic Book Challenge. I haven't joined, not just yet anyway, but I'm pondering doing so. I'm not really a fan of reading electronic books or online books--though I am subscribed to a dozen through daily lit. But sometimes finding a site like girlebooks or Project Gutenberg makes me wish I were. (Also check out the Australian Guternberg site. It has a few titles that the American one doesn't have. Well worth checking out.)

I've mentioned this before, but it always bears repeating (in my opinion) but you might want to consider adding The Classics Tale Podcast to your life. The show is over a year old now, I started subscribing last fall--maybe Septemberish. I don't have all the shows, but I have most of them. And if you subscribe to the podcast, then the shows are free. When you subscribe, you get a handful of back shows free. (I honestly can't remember if it's three or four--but somewhere around there). Unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be depending on your financial status, past shows are available to download at The prices for each show vary. You can see a complete listing of shows/episodes here.

In other related news, in September and October my google group, Reading with Becky, will be reading The Count of the Monte Cristo. I'm a laidback person, so I'm allowing participants to decide for themselves if they want to go abridged or unabridged. As for me, I'm going to *try* to go unabridged.

And also coming soon, Leila from Bookshelves of Doom will be having her BIG READ III. The book this time is A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens. The schedule is supposed to be up soon. I believe she wants to start this Wednesday. (By the time this post goes live, it might already be up.) The original announcement is here.

In completely unrelated news, I can't let today's post close without mentioning the wonderful new project Natasha at Maw Books is putting together for the whole month of September. Read about it here. Here is what she has to say: "during the entire month of September I will be reading and blogging in an effort to create awareness and raise funds for the people of Darfur." She lists six different ways you can get involved in her project. I hope you take a look. I'll be doing option 1 (writing and linking about the project in a post and sidebar) 2 (commit to visiting and commenting on her blog during the month of September), and I'm thinking about 3 as well. I'll just have to see what my local library has and if it is on the shelves.

Also going on in September, is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Nominations for blogs ends today, August 31rst. So see this post, and email your nominations.

Reviewer X is currently having a great contest--a chance to win $10 to the online retailer of your choice.

Deena at A Peek AT My Bookshelf is also having a great contest--the whole month of September--read the official rules here.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher

Ellwand, David and Ruth. 2008. The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher.

At just a little over a hundred pages, The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher is a perfect way to begin Carl's R.I.P. Challenge. The book evokes all these deliciously dark and creepy vibes. It's a mood piece, really, when I come to think of it. First, it's a work of fiction. I state this clearly because it is one of those works that presents itself like a journal. In this case, it would be a journal within a journal. On the one hand, it is the story of a man, a photographer, who happens to discover a mystery chest one day. On the other hand, it is the story of a man--a photographer--who is exploring and documenting these same woods, this same locale. Did I mention that this inner story is set within the 1880s? Both narrators--present and past--have a curiosity, a fascination, with all things faery, with these "superstitions" found in folklore. Both love cameras and photographs. Second, the book is illustrated. I would say the photographs do most of the work actually. And if the book succeeds in evoking the look and feel intended, it will be because the reader has a deep appreciation for the artistic merit of the illustrations, of the photographs.

I read this book and immediately thought of Carl. Not that I know him extremely well. But I just have this gut feeling that he'd really like this one. Maybe Chris as well. But definitely Carl.

Here's the book trailer:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Weekly Geeks 15: Matching Fun

Dewey has a fun suggestion for this week's weekly geek. I'm going to change it up a teeny tiny bit, however. Her suggestion is to take close-up pictures of book covers and try to stump readers--to have them guess the title (and author?) of the books. I'm going to change that up, as I said, to be a matching game. I'll share photos of inside-illustrations of picture books, and I'll give you a list of possibilities. Then you'll pair them up to see how many you got right. I can't offer any prizes, but I can share some link love if you participate in the matching game.

No That's Wrong by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu
Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
On the Farm by David Elliott. Illustrated by Holly Meade.
Big Plans by Bob Shea. Illustrated by Lane Smith
The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Bruce Ingman
Pirates Don't Change Diapers by Melinda Long. Illustrated by David Shannon
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard
Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin.
Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist by Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Thor Wickstrom
No The Doghouse by Jan Thomas
Born to Read by Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Marc Brown

P.S. Clicking on the picture will enlarge it quite a bit. So this *may* help you out.
P.S. 2 7 of the 12 I've reviewed at Young Readers this summer.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Summer Reading Challenge Completed (Rock Creek Rumblings)

It's time for The Summer Reading Challenge is completed. This iswas hosted by Rock Creek Rumblings. That link is here. I believe the challenge was from June 1, 2008 to August 31, 2008. (I think.)

Here is was my list:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
Peeled by Joan Bauer.
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor
March Through Thunder by Joseph Bruchac
A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs.
Take Me There by Susane Colasanti
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper
The Lost Queen by Frewin Jones
The Sorcerer King by Frewin Jones
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Jessie's Mountain by Kerry Madden
Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus.
Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock
Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
Blue Like Friday by Siobhan Parkinson
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
Steams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci
Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel, and Curious Hats. by Philip Reeve
Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Secrets of the Cirque Medrano by Elaine Scott
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

The Stand by Stephen King

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Beowulf by Seamus Heaney
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Savannah by Eugenia Price
To See Your Face Again by Eugenia Price
Before the Darkness Falls by Eugenia Price
Stranger in Savannah by Eugenia Price

As you can see, I didn't get to everything. (If it is NOT bolded, then I didn't finish it). Sometimes that was my fault. Sometimes it wasn't. It's not my fault some of books were never at the library. My list was a bit too ambitious. But still, I read plenty this summer. For those that only read the blog when I write challenge wrap-ups, I often read more non-challenge reads than challenge reads. So I was busy. Trust me.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 29, 2008

Poetry Friday: Borrowing from the Rat

Yesterday, I reviewed Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell. One of the characters, Rat, is fond of singing, and he's got two moments to "shine" as a singing star in the novel. I'll only be sharing one of them, however.

(A rat's take on America the Beautiful)

Oh, pitiful, the pellets dry
And the wood shavings damp
Rats running round in metal wheels
Until their hind legs cramp...
But captive rats can boldly dream
Till prisoned rats are free
Till, as they should, in rodenthood
They squeak in liberty!

Oh, beautiful, for freedom sweet
For cages open wide,
For furry rodents' scampering feet
Throughout the countryside...
Oh rodent cities, rodent fields
Oh rodent country grand
May noble rodents ever fill
This happy, ratty land!

Found on p. 344 of the ARC of Emmy And the Incredible Shrinking Rat.

Roundup is at Charlotte's Library.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

I'm Two!

So Becky's Book Reviews turns two today. Which is exciting and a bit daunting all at the same time. Daunting only because it makes me contemplative--thinking back on what my expectations and hopes were when I started. Why I started this blog. What I hoped to gain from it. What I needed to put into it. To be honest, on that very first day, in my wildest dreams my audience might have one day--if I was lucky--consisted of a dozen people. And as far as the rest, I just wanted to put my heart and soul into it. Me being me chatting casually but thoughtfully about books.

Of course, as I realized (with some amount of shock) that my blog had an audience...I began to post about myself and my goals. I wrote my review policy. I wrote my post on why I blog. I wrote my 5 W's. And just a few months ago, I updated both with my reflections on blogging. And I'm rather fond of this little post about why I read.

I also began to post more and more (and more). In 2006, I had 130 posts. In 2007, I had 818. And so far this year in 2008, I've got 760. It doesn't really *feel* like I post that often. But I suppose, blogger couldn't lie about that. But if it helps, I do *try* to post only the good stuff, the important stuff. (Of course those terms could be too subjective.)

How much do numbers mean to me? Am I doing a little happy dance when I notice I've had over 175,000 visitors since March 2007? A little. And yes. I'm not a slave to Technorati. I don't get my self-worth from that little authority number. I like knowing that I've got an audience out there somewhere in the world. And truth be told interacting with those readers through comments is one of my favorite things to do. I love comments. I encourage comments. But my reviews are pretty much the same as they've always been. My goals are the same as they've always been. And my habits are pretty similar as well. Mostly. I spend just as much time reading other people's blogs and participating in yahoo groups and such as I do on my own. I love the community aspect of blogging. Blogging does in a way interfere slightly (at times) with the amount of books I can read in a day. But still, I don't think many people would argue that I read too little.

I'm writing about this because I do want to mark the occasion. But I don't want to be too rambling either. This blog isn't me blogging about me, me, me. Really. It isn't. It's about the books most of the time. And that's the important part. The books. The authors. The challenges.

I'd like to thank the readers--especially those that comment--if you've been lurking, I thank you too....but I'd like to encourage you to start chatting :) I'd definitely like to thank the authors and publishers who have been awesome enough to keep me supplied with books this past year. (My floor thanks you too!) And I am also a big fan of the whole challenge community. It's a mutual enabling society for the insane. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some of the highlights

Year One, Month One:
My first review is New Moon by Stephenie Meyer.
Year One, Month Two:
I introduce the concept of the worst-best book/best-worst book with my review of Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Year One, Month Three:
I review my first Barry Lyga (his first novel) The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. I remember feeling so wonderfully happy when he emailed me soon after!!! My first (I think so anyway) author email.
Year One, Month Four:
My review of Life As We Knew It. I know it's wrong to have favorites probably. But I just love this review. I know it's stupid. But anyway, this is one of my favorite, favorite novels. And I'm so *thrilled* that I've encouraged other bloggers to pick this one up this past year.
Year One, Month Five:
My review of Rash. I know I can't *force* people to read books. But I wish people would trust me on this one and read it. I know so many people who would love it if only they'd give it a go. They don't know what they're missing.
Year One, Month Six:
Favorite book of the month? Simple. Shug.
Year One, Month Seven:
This was a great month. Seriously. But my pick is Home And Other Big Fat Lies. I need to keep this one in mind for the next Wicked Cool Overlooked Books feature.
Year One, Month Eight:
This month it seemed to be all about series. I was introduced to the Sisters Grimm series. And the Bartimaeus trilogy.
Year One, Month Nine:
While maybe not my favorite, favorite read of that month. In Search of Mockingbird is important because it was the first book I'd received from an author for review.
Year One, Month Ten:
This was a giddy-making month. I read many great YA romances including Elizabeth Scott's Bloom which I just adored.
Year One, Month Eleven:
My favorite book this month was without a doubt Miss Spitfire. Little did I know then how awesome Sarah Miller really is. :)
Year One, Month Twelve:
I loved one of my first baby reviewing posts, Peek-a-Zoo. I still see SugarCookie now and then, but he's much too old (almost two) to have sit still (on a lap) and entertain with a book when there is the option of run, go, play. I think it's a different story when it's Grandma (Grandma Pooh) or his mom reading to him.
Year Two, Month One:
This one is fun and very different from my usual. Gallery of Regrettable Food.
Year Two, Month Two:
Dracula was an unexpected wow book for me.
Year Two, Month Three:
A Crooked Kind of Perfect. The only book (in my memory) that I had to reread right then and there because it was just so wonderfully perfect.
Year Two, Month Four:
This walk down memory lane is about more than picking favorite books. I'm choosing this one because it's a lesson in humility. Mostly. How I could go from hating a book to loving a book just like that. True Meaning of Smek Day.
Year Two, Month Five:
This one is for taking chances and being more than pleasantly surprised. Christmas On Deery Street.
Year Two, Month Six:
Because sometimes you just have to do what your mother tells you. Swiss Family Robinson. I'm actually really surprised at how often this one is visited. Oddly enough, in this I'll-read-your-favorite if you'll-read-mine exchange with my mom, she still hasn't read my favorite book, Frankenstein. Just saying :)
Year Two, Month Seven:
The rather controversial Little House on the Prairie review. The controversy isn't necessarily in my review, but in my comments.
Year Two, Month Eight:
Blogging is about the community, and reading books you might not have read otherwise. I, Claudius.
Year Two, Month Nine:
The Three Musketeers. Giving in and rereading favorite books.
Year Two, Month Ten:
Don't Know Where, Don't Know When. About not judging a book by its cover.
Year Two, Month Eleven:
The Underneath. About going to uncomfortable places and learning it's okay.
Year Two, Month Twelve:
Starcross. About not judging series books by the first book alone.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Emmy and The Incredible Shrinking Rat

Jonell, Lynne. 2007. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. Art by Jonathan Bean.

"Emmy was a good girl. At least she tried very hard to be good."

It continues, "She did her homework without being told. She ate all her vegetables, even the slimy ones. And she never talked back to her nanny, Miss Barmy, although it was almost impossible to keep quiet, some days. Of course no one can keep this kind of thing up forever. But Miss Barmy had told Emmy that if she were a good girl, her parents would probably want to see her more often: so Emmy kept on bravely trying. So far it hadn't helped." (1)

This might have been a very dull story. Really. If Emmy had kept on being good. Kept on trying. Kept on striving. Fortunately, for the reader. Emmy chose to listen to a Rat. Not just any rat, mind you, though appearances can be deceiving. She met The Rat in school; he was the class pet. One day he tells her, "Try being bad for once. You might like it." (4) (Yes, he tells her. A talking rat. That shouldn't really surprise anyone, right?)

This book is most unusual. But it's fun. It's smart. It's funny. It's magical. This is just a fun little fantasy for anyone and everyone who's a kid at heart. And there's a sequel. I'll be getting to that one soon I hope!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nominate a Blog today!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming soon--September 15-19th 2008--and My Friend Amy wants YOUR nominations in these categories:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site
Most Altruistic Blog
Funniest/Most Humorous Blog
Best Sci-fi/fantasy/horror/spec-fic blog
Best Commenter/commentator

How do you nominate a blog? Email BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. Nominate up to two per category.

P.S. It would *really* make my day if someone wanted to nominate my blog. But that being said, nominate whoever you really and truly think deserves some blogger love. :)
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Writing, Reading, Reviewing...

Occasionally, I stumble across something that *might* be of interest to a few of my readers. This isn't necessarily related to reading books, so it is in a way off-topic. But this may be of interest to bloggers who love to write about themselves, their lives, and their experiences in a fun and creative way. Creative nonfiction, true-life stories. FieldReport is a site that "is a contest, big enough to get a lot of people involved. On the inside it's a community of writers and readers dedicated to great storytelling and to breaking down walls of human isolation." You can write "FieldReports" on just about anything, and be entered to win in monthly and yearly contests. There are--from what I can tell--twenty-one categories of contests. You can read more about the contests and the site here.

Even if you don't have dreams of your writing winning the big prize, or of even participating in the writing aspect at all--you might find it fun to be a reviewer for the site and rank the FieldReports others write. Especially if you have that social aspect or curiosity that makes sites like YouTube and Yahoo Answers "fun" for you. (For that matter, I bet some of these reports read like blog entries. And reading blogs surely is addictive.)

Reading. Writing. Reviewing. Could be quite a match.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Travel the World: Contest Winners Announced!!!

Asia Boxed Set

Award-Winning Children's Books from Asia:

From India: Kali and the Rat Snake

From Japan: The Story of Cherry the Pig

From South Korea: While We Were Out

From Japan: Singing Shijimi Clams

Winner: Elizabeth (The Elizabeth who said, "As a kid, I loved reading the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren, as well as Anne of Green Gables."

Discover the World

From Ghana: Sosu's Call

From India: Kali and the Rat Snake

From the Netherlands: Little Fish

From South Korea: New Clothes for New Years Day

Winner: Serena

Explore the World

From South Korea: Yellow Umbrella

From Greece: Unique Monique

From Australia: Are We There Yet?

From Spain: Sebastian's Roller Skates

Winner: Laura (the one who said, "I want to go to Madagascar! Or the Galapagos.")

Travel the World

From Germany: What Eddie Can Do

From Mexico: Half of and Elephant

From France: My Father's Shop

From Australia: Bobbie Dazzler

Winner: Cynda

I've emailed all the winners to let them know! Congrats to all! I selected the winners using

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Jane Eyre's Daughter

Newark, Elizabeth. 2008. Jane Eyre's Daughter.

The oak pulpit rises high above the congregation.

I had *every* intention of rereading Jane Eyre before tackling this literary spin-off, Jane Eyre's Daughter. I've only read Eyre once, and that was way back in the fall of 2001. [You know, the semester that was difficult both personally (grandfather's death) and nationally (9/11).] And I still *plan* on rereading it if there's time this fall. It made it to several challenge lists including Carl's R.I.P. III. But when I got the email from the publisher saying that I should post my review as soon as possible, I decided that it was not the time to go traipsing down memory lane just because I'm a perfectionist.

What can I say about Jane Eyre's Daughter. The style. One of the reasons I'd hoped to reread the original was so that I could compare the two styles. To see if this one attempted to echo the original in literary style. I can't be the judge of that (at least not yet.) But I can talk about it all on its own. I found the style to be purposefully put-offish. Let me rephrase that if I can. The narrator has a definite attitude, a definite flair that could be put-offish if you were to meet her in real life. She's definitely not meek or weak or waiting for Prince Charming. So that's what I meant, the narrative reflects the narrator. The style seems to be a distancing one. It's written in first person past tense, and that in and of itself creates distance between the reader and the characters or the reader and the action. As such the action isn't immediate either. What we're "reading" is a reflective narrative. We're being fed a story. Perhaps passively aggressively.

The characters. I liked elements of Janet's character. Was put off by some other elements. Found the family scenario to be odd if I'm quite honest. Which might be expected. Jane Eyre definitely was surrounded by dysfunction. And Mr. Rochester was definitely one odd guy--with good reason. So perhaps it's only natural that instead of a normal, loving family we've got one that has some flaws.


This is just a minor spoiler, so maybe you're brave enough to keep reading. One of the major "ick" factors in this book is Freudian in nature. Janet Rochester seems to be--and conscious of it too--in love with her father. She sees him as the perfect, perfect man. She imagines what it would be like to be in bed with her father, to be held in his arms. In other words, she wishes she was her mother. The man she ultimately falls for in fact is a man who looks to be an exact copy of her dear old dad. So much is this resemblance that she thinks for a good many chapters that he might be her half-brother. Still she loves him anyway. The scenes where she gushes about her father in a very romantic, almost sensual way were very squirmily icky.

End of Minor Spoiler.

Her relationship with her mother. Jane Eyre is shown to be a loving mother...except when it comes to her daughter. She loves her son, adores her son. He's her constant companion. But Jane Eyre just can't seem to like her daughter. Can't seem to love her daughter. As her daughter matures, she senses that she has a would-be rival for her husband's affections. She's jealous of any time they spend together. So she's very uptight and distant (read that *bitchy*) with her daughter, and a bit doting and overprotective of her son. His name is Oliver by the way.

But her parents are really very minor characters. Almost immediately, the whole Rochester family--minus the daughter--is tossed out of the book and sent on an extended round-the-world vacation. They essentially pack up everything, lease Thornfield, and tell their daughter..."we'll be back in three or four years. Don't get married until you're twenty-one." She's fifteen (maybe sixteen) when they leave. She's first sent to boarding school. Then sent to live with Colonel Dent after she graduates from finishing school.

The tone of Jane Eyre's Daughter is sufficiently gothic. There are secrets, lies, mysteries, romance, and a general uncomfortableness that feels appropriate for this Bronte spin-off. The mystery isn't as spectacularly shocking as the big reveal in Jane Eyre--crazy woman in attic--but the well-intentioned echo (this time in Colonel Dent's home) is intriguing in its own way.

I won't go into all the details, but it was a semi-satisfying read. I think it was well written, but for me, I didn't like some of the places this novel went. I think other readers might enjoy it more. Especially for fans of gothic romance with spooky settings and creepy tones. (Though I must applaud the fact that at least it wasn't sexually graphic. It could have been much much worse.) It was better than I expected.

Other reviews: Book-a-rama. Bronte blog.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Winner of Farworld

Serena has won the ARC of Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage.

The Travel the World contest is only open one more day.

Remember, you've still got time to enter my anniversary givewaway. Enter here for a chance to win one of four boxed sets published by Kane/Miller. The drawing will be on August 27th. (Full rules are on the initial post.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

My Last Best Friend

Bowe, Julie. 2007. My Last Best Friend.

I enjoyed My Last Best Friend right from the start:

"I'm Ida May, and there's one thing I know. Fourth grade isn't fourth at all. Fourth means you've done something at least three times before. But fourth grade is nothing like third grade. Or second grade. Or first grade.
In fourth grade there is no more printing There is only cursive. I hate cursive.
In fourth grade you are not allowed to add and subtract. You are only allowed to multiply and divide.
In fourth grade you're a baby if you still want to play with Barbies. Or if the Tooth Fairy still comes to your house. Or if you want your mother to walk you to the bus stop. Third grade is the last grade you can get by with any of that. Trust me." (1)

Our narrator, Ida May, is great. I found her voice to be believable. And I cared for her almost immediately. Ida May's "problems" are authentic ones. Her best friend has moved away. She's starting a new school year, and she doesn't have--make that doesn't want--another best friend. She's a bit intimidated by some of the other kids in her class. Especially by the mean, bully Jenna Drews. And she just wishes it would all go away. Her parents just don't understand. (As an adult, I can see that they just want their child to be "happy." And sometimes to get to that happy place later--further on in the future--you've got to be pushed into doing some things you just don't like in the here and now.) But Ida May feels her parents are always pushing and prodding and picking on her when it comes to the "friends" issue. (They want her to have friends and to be popular and part of the crowd instead of isolated on her own.)

What she finds is a friend through a pen pal. Stacey Merriweather is the new girl. On the surface, she's best pals with the "evil" Jenna Drews. But Ida May feels that maybe just maybe Stacey isn't what she seems. That beneath the surface, there's someone there that would be her friend. Ida knows Stacey is a liar. That she's not telling the truth. That she's keeping secrets. And before Ida risks revealing herself, she wants a few reassurances, promises. Thus a correspondence begins between Anastasia (Stacey) and Cordelia (Ida). She's able to be herself, her true self, on paper and really begins to open up again to the possibility of friendship and happiness.

Life. School. Friendship. Bullies. Family.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Lady of Cleves

Barnes, Margaret Campbell. 1946. (Reprinted in 2008) My Lady of Cleves.

My Lady of Cleves is a "novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves." One of the luckier wives if you ask my opinion. What can I say? If you're interested in Henry VIII and his wives and his children and the politics of the day, then this may be of interest to you. It's a straightforward account told mainly from Anne's perspective with hints of Henry's as well. I honestly don't know how much is fact and how much is fiction. It portrays an Anne in love with her painter, Hans Holbein, and he with her. Though there love was never consummated.

I found it interesting that it is a reprint of a novel first published in the 1940s. Perhaps that accounts for some of the 'mistakes' about the Tudors. Maybe. There were a few details that didn't line up with what I've read in other accounts--both fiction and nonfiction when it comes to his wives and children.

As Anne is portrayed in this novel, she is a lovely soul. A gem of a woman. Compassionate. Sympathetic. Forgiving. Full of grace. Intelligent. Really extraordinary. I enjoyed this novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


It's that time of year again!!! Time for the R.I.P. Challenge. Readers Imbibing Peril. Our host is the wonderfully fabulous Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

1. R.I.P. III runs from September 1st through October 31st, 2008. But I’m no stickler, start reading now if you feel so inclined.

Dark Fantasy.

2. Choose one of more of the perils listed below:

Peril the First:

Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the Second:

Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the First:

Read One book of any length from one of the subgenres listed above.

This peril is for those who want to participate but don’t want to get bogged down in a long list of books. It is also for those who feel this type of reading is not their proverbial cup of tea but are willing to challenge themselves by giving just one book a try.

The reviews will be shared through Mr. Linky here.

Becky's list. (Peril the Third)

Classics I may or may not be likely to read: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, The Italian by Ann Radcliffe.

YA books: Vampirates: Blood Captain by Justin Somper, Zombie Blondes by Brian James, Darkside by Tom Becker, Lifeblood by Tom Becker, Evernight by Claudia Gray, Poison Ink by Christopher Golden, Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez, Oddest of All by Bruce Coville, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Triskellion by Will Peterson, 666 Number of the Beast short stories by various authors, Thirsty by M.T. Anderson, The Ghosts of Kerfol Deborah Noyes, Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley, Heck: Where All the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye, The Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher by David Ellwand, Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln, Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, What the Dickens by Gregory Maguire.

Other adult books: Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt, Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 24, 2008

TSS: Looking Ahead

So, where to begin this Sunday?

I've got several books going at the moment--Jane Eyre's Daughter, My Lady of Cleves, and Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. I've got a bagful of Georgette Heyer books that are due back at the library this week. (Crossing fingers that I can renew!)

I've got two contests that are ending this week. One is for an ARC of Farworld: Water Keep. (Winner announced on August 26th). And the other is to win one of four boxed sets by Kane/Miller. (Enter here for a chance to win one of four boxed sets published by Kane/Miller. The drawing will be on August 27th. (Full rules are on the initial post.)

My two year blogiversary is this Friday! (The 29th of August). I know I should have something planned and written up already, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Details about this years Cybils are unfolding. I think a few big announcements are on their way. And they've got a new logo which is quite impressive.

August is finally coming to an end. My mom is recuperating from her second surgery (it was last Monday). And my sister is preparing for her year--she teaches first grade. So I've been busy playing nurse, and will continue in that role for a while yet.

I am thankful for a couple days worth of rain. The heat is still overwhelming, but for a few days or a few hours each day it seemed almost bearable.

It's just been one of those weeks where it's difficult just to exist. August is one of my most difficult months (along with April) for migraines. So migraines, allergies, neck injuries, AND taking care of mom, it can be challenging to be alive and pleasant. Alive and cranky I can manage). That being said, I'm glad to be here. I just wish for a nice long (and uninterrupted) sleep in a cool dark room.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Olympic Reading Challenge Completed

List of books completed (aka gold medals won) for the Olympic Reading Challenge:

1. Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee
2. Mary Ingalls On Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard
3. The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi
4. Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi
5. Ruby's Imagine by Kim Antieau
6. Don't Talk To Me About the War by David Adler.
7. Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis
8.High Dive by Tammar Stein.
9.Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.
10. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
11. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
12. More Than Friends: Poems From Him and Her by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf.
13.Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot.
14. Memories of Babi by Aranka Siegal.
15. Jimmy's Stars by Mary Ann Rodman
16. La Petite Four by Regina Scott
17. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
18. Found: The Missing Book 1 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
19. All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
20. Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones
21. Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds
22. Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Audrey, Wait

Benway, Robin. 2008. Audrey, Wait.
"The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song. You know, the song. I'm sure you've heard it. Maybe you danced to it at prom or sang it in your car on a Friday night when you were driving and feeling like you must be inhuman to be this happy, the windows down and nothing but air around you. Your mom has probably hummed it while cleaning the dryer's lint trap, and your grandpa has most likely whistled a couple bars. If he's the whistling type.
According to the poll on the front page of USA Today, sixty-three percent of Americans blame me for the breakup, so let me clear the air right now: they're right. Sixty-three percent of Americans are no fools when it comes to knowing about my love life, which is really creepy and isn't helping me sleep well. But it's true: I broke up with Evan, and eight hours later, he had a song in his head, and a guitar in his hand and it snowballed from there." (1)*
This one had me at hello. Talk about a good hook. This beginning is as catchy as the fictional "Audrey, Wait" song is reported to be. Our heroine, Audrey Cuttler was a typical teen girl. A junior in high school. An employee of the Scooper Dooper icecream shoppe in the mall. The third wheel to her best friends Victoria and Jonah, the "perfect" couple. That was before.

Since her ex-boyfriend wrote a song about her, about their break up, Audrey's life hasn't been the same. Not all the changes are bad, but most--if not all--take some getting used to. Instant fame--especially unwanted instant fame--isn't what Audrey ever wanted. She doesn't want to be the new "IT" girl. Now Audrey's life is turned upside down and inside out. Nothing makes sense--not school, not work, not her family at home, and especially not her social life.

This book is fun. Really fun. And it's a quick read.

Other reviews: Interactive Reader, Teen Book Review, Rocket Girls, Hope's Bookshelf, The YA YA YAs, A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Kinsmen of the Shelf, Reviewer X, KarinLibrarian, Like OMG Teens Read, The Book Reader, Book Candy, Jen Robinson, Liv's Book Reviews, The Inkblotter, The Compulsive Reader, Meg Cabot, Patchwork of Books.

*Quote taken from ARC, so it may not match the final published edition of the novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 22, 2008

Impulse and Initiative

Reynolds, Abigail. 2008. Impulse and Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation.

This book sets out to answer these questions, "What if...instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet's life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if...Lizzy as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if...madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding?"

I have mixed feelings on this one. I do. Pride and Prejudice is one of those books that is practically perfect in every way. One of those happy-making books that you enjoy reading with a big smile on your face. Mr. Darcy is just so perfect, just the way he is. So I've never thought about him needing improvement. Never imagined him courting Elizabeth any other way. Never thought their relationship lacked sizzle.

And this book sets out to re-imagine those beloved characters. It is a variation in tone, in character, and in plot. Mr. Darcy is madly in love with Elizabeth. But she's hesitant about his wooing. For Darcy, as Reynolds envisions him, this means that he needs to turn up the heat. If she won't respond to his true-heart-revelations, perhaps she'll respond to his touch, his kiss, his embrace. If he can make her melt, drive her wild with passion, then surely she'll consent to become Mrs. Darcy. Right?

The problem with this is that to win her that way, he has to resort to becoming everything he despises. Darcy is fundamentally a gentleman at heart. A Mr. Darcy without morals, without propriety, without thought or concern for a lady's reputation--his lady's reputation--is almost unimaginable until now. Darcy borrowing from Wickham? Really?! An Elizabeth whose reputation is in tatters, who has become the disappointment of her father, who has adopted Lydia's it-feels-so-good-it-can't-be-wrong philosophy?!

The writing. Reynolds' writing is not fundamentally bad. It's not that she doesn't know how to write, how to turn a phrase, how to write scenes that work. Stylistically, on the surface, everything about this one works. The characters. The scenes. All good--maybe not brilliantly, great (award-winning great) but not bad. Certainly entertaining. Certainly on the level of other romance novelists. But it's the fact that it's Mr. Darcy. It's Elizabeth. Their love isn't supposed to be smutty. Respect. Purity. Both qualities that they'd expect to find in the other, and hold themselves to as well.

There were enjoyable aspects of this novel. I must say that I smiled when it was Elizabeth who came home and announced that she'd married first. You know those smug scenes between Lydia and her mother and sisters. The ones where she's bragging that she got married first. That she got her man. That married life was so wonderful. Now it's Elizabeth's turn to boast.
And there are a few other enjoyable scenes as well. I like, in a way, the conversations between Darcy and Elizabeth trying to prove to themselves (reassure themselves) why it was right for them to have sex, but wrong for Wickham and Lydia. I suppose they rationalize it all by intentions. Wickham is a jerk, a lusty jerk that is selfish and only looking out for himself. And Darcy, well his intentions are honorable even if his actions aren't. And while one might think Elizabeth's own tainted (impure) experience might give her sympathy or understanding for her sister and her sister's giving into'd be wrong. Elizabeth still feels a bit superior to her sister. Still judges her for the foolish idiot she is.

If you're looking for Pride and Prejudice with smut inserted, then this one is for you.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Poetry Friday: Adam Rex

Rex, Adam. 2008. Frankenstein Takes the Cake Which Is Full of Of Funny Stuff Like Rotting Heads and Giant Gorillas and Zombies Dressed As Little Girls and Edgar Allan Poe. The Book We Mean--Not The Cake.

This book, Frankenstein Takes the Cake, is the follow up to Adam Rex's Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. (A book which sadly I haven't read yet though I have heard wonderful stuff about it.) The book is a collection of semi-related poems--funny poems about the lighter side of the dark and spooky. The illustrations are perfectly paired with the text.

Here's one of my favorites:

New Glasses
In her classes, without glasses,
she could barely see the board.
With her specs she checks the teachers,
sees their frightened, frozen features--

Oh so that's why,
when she raised her hand,
Medusa was ignored.

My other favorite from the book was "E.T. Mail."

We assumed it was the case
that in a place as big as space
we'd find some trace of other races
with our scientific bases.

When a signal was detected,
it was not what we expected.
In the subject line it pleaded,
Please reply--
Assistance needed
We gasped--a message from the stars!
And then another came from Mars:
We were noticing a pattern,
when a bunch arrived from Saturn:
we disabled our detector.
Then we emptied out the cache
and dragged the letters to the trash.
So that's the fact we had to face:
There's no intelligence in space.
But that's okay--for what it's worth,
there isn't much of it on Earth.

Anyway, this was a fun book. A really fun book. I can't really compare it to the first book (better, worse, bout the same) but I can say that I enjoyed it all on its own.

Roundup is at Read. Imagine. Talk.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Girl, Hero

Jones, Carrie. 2008. Girl, Hero.

I don't know why I was surprised by Girl, Hero being so wonderfully fantastic. I enjoyed both of Carrie Jones' previous novels: Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and Other Uses For Duct Tape). Perhaps it was the John Wayne factor. You see, the novel, Girl, Hero, consists of letters from our heroine, Liliana Faltin, to the legendary (but deceased) John Wayne. I was skeptical at first. But it worked. It really worked. Here's our introduction:
Dear Mr. Wayne,

My mother's got a man coming to see her. She's all excited, running around, getting ready, making me clean up the whole house. She thinks this man might be the one, you know, the big enchilada, her soul's mate, her life's light, and stuff. She's always thinking that.
She's had men before, since my stepfather died. But this guy's going to stay with us in our house, for a while. Not too long, she tells me. Just until he's back on his feet. This one's moving back east from Oregon and needs a place to sleep while he looks for work.
I think, that's what hotels are for, but she's so happy, humming all the time, singing Celine Dion songs, that I don't say anything that I'm thinking in my head.
She's made up the guest bedroom. I don't think he'll stay there. I don't know who she thinks she's fooling. Not me.
He's a tall man, Mr. Wayne, like you. She knew him a long time ago, back when she was married to my father. On the phone his voice sounds Western, or Texan, like he has traces of sand and grit stuck in it that float out with his words when he talks. He sounds like he's been in the desert a long, damn while and hasn't had any water to drink and has a mighty thirst.
He doesn't sound like he's from Maine, but she says he was born and raised here.
I didn't know that people could move and have their accents change, that all their baby years and teenage years of talking could just get erased.
My mother blows air out her nose when I say this to her, and she taps her fingernails on the kitchen counter, crosses her legs and gets out a cigarette.
People adapt, Liliana, she says, and the whole sentence is just one long exasperated sigh.
It's kind of cool in a way, the adapting thing. I mean, depending on how bad high school goes, I might want to erase all of it and pretend I'm someone else when I go to college--if I get into college.
My mom thinks this man will be like you: a hero kind of man with a clean face and soul. She thinks that about every man she sees. But they never are. There's only one you. (1-2)
Jones' writing speaks for itself. She is an authentic writer, her characters have heart and soul--meaning depth and layers. And her stories have spirit or staying power. There's something about her books that just work.
"Sometimes I think friends are a necessary evil, say like McDonald's burgers. You need to have them, you want to have them, but sometimes they make your stomach ache." (6)
"Dear Mr. Wayne

Before you were a movie star, did you have to do homework? I should get a biography about you so that I can know these things, but I'm afraid to. What if I open up the book and start reading and find out you aren't who I think you are? I want people to be who they're supposed to be, but nobody ever seems to want to. I'll give it to you firsthand, Mr. Wayne: nobody in this world seems to be who they are. And my guess is that most people don't even know who they are supposed to be. Which sucks. I'm not supposed to use that word. My mother acts like it's worse than the f-word or something. You would probably say the same thing." (24)

"Sometimes I get so scared, Mr. Wayne. Sometimes I am so far from being the cowboy with the hat and the horse and my gun drawn and ready. Sometimes I'm so far away from anything I want to be and it's like that sunset you're always riding to but you never quite reach." (104)

"Sometimes I think hugs are like helmets. Sometimes I wish I could walk around with someone hugging me the whole time. You could probably make a lot of money doing that, being a professional hugger." (262)
I just fell in love with this book. With the characters. With their stories. With the language itself. With the cover itself. Everything about this book is just right, it's practically perfect right.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews