Saturday, February 28, 2009

February in Review

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in February 2009.

"Boys," said Sam, "you've been bamboozled."

"There was a moment not long ago when I thought, "This is it. I'm dead."

'Dunderhead!' 'Clodpole!' 'Ninnyhammer!' 'Booby!' 'Nitwit!'

"Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother's milk."

February's Top Five:

1. The Year The Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.
2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
3. All God's Critters by Bill Staines. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
4. A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom.
5. The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket.

Number of Picture Books = 20

  1. All God's Critters by Bill Staines. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon & Schuster. 2009.
  2. My People by Langston Hughes. Photographs by Charles R. Smith, Jr. Simon & Schuster. 2009.
  3. What a Good Big Brother by Diane Wright Landolf. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Random House. 2009.
  4. Cat by Matthew Van Fleet. Photographs by Brian Stanton. 2009. (February 2009). Simon & Schuster.
  5. Jazz On a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon. 2007. Blue Sky Press.
  6. This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt. 2006. Harcourt.
  7. A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom. 2009. (March 2009). Boyds Mills Press.
  8. Lovey and Dovey by Ellevan Lieshout and Erik van Os. 2009. Boyds Mills Press.
  9. Wee Little Lamb by Lauren Thompson. 2009. Simon & Schuster.
  10. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2005. Dial Books.
  11. Rent Party Jazz by William Miller. 2001. Lee & Low Books.
  12. Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2005. Knopf
  13. Mama Don't Allow by Thacher Hurd. 1984. HarperCollins
  14. Punk Farm On Tour by Jarret J. Krosoczka. 2007. Knopf
  15. Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes. 2003.
  16. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. 1969. Random House.
  17. Love That Puppy! by Jeff Jarka. 2009. (May publication) Henry Holt.
  18. Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke. 2008. Walker Books.
  19. I Got Two Dogs by John Lithgow. 2008. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Simon & Schuster.
  20. Old MacNoah Had An Ark by Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2008. Harper Blessings.

Number of board books = 3

Beautiful Babies by Karma Wilson. 2009. Simon & Schuster.
Shake It Up, Baby by Karen Katz. 2009. Simon & Schuster.
My Dance Recital by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. 2009. Random House.

Number of children's books (under age 8) = 5
A Horn for Louis by Eric Kimmel. 2005.
Sword of the Ramurai. by Becky Ances. Illustrated by Ryan Wilson. 2008. 70 pages
Everyday Prayers edited by Jennifer Frantz. 2008. Early Reader. (Harper Blessings) 24 pages
Bedtime Prayers edited by Jennifer Frantz. 2008. Early Reader (Harper Blessings) 24 pages
The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket. HarperCollins. 2009.

Number of Christian books = 5

The Desires of Her Heart. Lyn Cote. Avon Inspire. 2009. 306 pages.
The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2008. 314 pages.
Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff. 2009. 427 pages. Thomas Nelson.
Heart Of A Lion by Gilbert Morris. 2002. Bethany House. 344 pages.
Wycliffe New Testament. 1388/2002. British Library. 528 pages

Number of adult books = 6
Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen. By Sybil G. Brinton. 1914/2008. Sourcebooks. 377 pages.
Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. By Sharon Lathan. Sourcebooks. 2009. (March Pub). 309 pages.
The Banishment by Marion Chesney.
Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt. 1949/2008. Sourcebooks. 376 pages.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. 1605/1615. (1998 Modern Library Edition) 1240 pages.
Silas Marner. by George Eliot. 1861. 186 pages. Bantam Classics.

Number of YA books = 9

Beneath My Mother's Feet. Amjed Qamar. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 198 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve. 2006. HarperCollins. 559 pages. (YA Science Fiction/YA Adventure)
Winnie's War by Jenny Moss. 2009. Walker Books. (YA Historical Fiction)
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. 2009. Bloomsbury (YA Fantasy/YA Romance) 276 pages.
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. 2009. Scholastic (YA Adventure/YA Thriller/YA Mystery) 185 pages.
Mothstorm by Philip Reeve. 2008. Bloomsbury. (YA Adventure/YA Fantasy/YA Science Fiction)
The Year The Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2009. HarperCollins. 273 pages. (J Realistic Fiction)
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King. 2009. Flux. 330 pages. (YA Adventure/YA Fantasy)
Just Another Girl by Melody Carlson. 2009. Revell. 221 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction/YA Romance)

Number of verse novels: 0

Number of graphic novels = 0

Number of nonfiction = 7

Duke Ellington His Life In Jazz by Stephanie Stein Grease. Chicago Review Press. 148 pages. (Nonfiction/YA Nonfiction)2009.
The Louis Armstrong You Never Knew by James Lincoln Collier. Scholastic. 2004. 80 pages.
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra by Anita Ganeri. Harcourt. 1996. 56 pages
Duke Ellington by Andrea Pinkney. 1998. (Picture Book Biography)
Ella Fitzgerald by Andrea Pinkney. 2002. (Picture Book Biography)
Dizzy by Jonah Winter. 2006. Scholastic. (Picture Book Biography)
Piano Starts Here. Robert Andrew Parker. 2008. Random House. (Picture Book Biography)

Number of short story collections/anthologies/poetry books = 2

Jazz ABZ by Wynton Marsalis. 2005. (Poetry)
Jazz by Walter Dean Myers. 2006. (Poetry)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Is it okay to hate a book...ever?

Discussion time! I have a few questions for you. Answer if you will...

When is it okay to hate a book? And what does saying that mean really? Do you need permission to hate a book? Do you have the right to hate a book? Why do other people get upset when you hate a book that they love? Do you get upset when a book you love is hated by someone else? Do you expect everyone to agree with you all the time when it comes to books? To love what you love, to hate what you hate, to be bored when you're bored? Is it more acceptable to talk about a book you love, than a book you hated? Aren't both love and hate just opinions--subjective opinions? Does a reader saying that he/she hates a book reflect more on them--their response, their opinion, their experience--or on the book itself? Does one person hating a book mean its a bad book? What if there are twenty thousand people that hate a book? Is it bad then? What if more people love a book than hate it, is it a good book? What makes a bad book, bad? What makes a good book, good? If every "good" book has been hated by some reader, somewhere, does that make it any less "good"?

Okay, that was more than a few questions for you. I admit.

Reading is subjective. Rule number one. Consider it the prime directive. It will always be subjective. This is more good news than bad news. That means that while not every book will be unanimously beloved, adored, and praised, it means the opposite is true as well. It would be rare--but not impossible I suppose--for one book to be unanimously hated, abhorred, trashed and attacked. Every single book that has ever been published--will ever be published--will meet with a variety of responses: some will love it (some might even love, love, love it), some will like it, some will just give it a quick shrug of the shoulders, some will dislike it, some will hate it, some will get angry about it. That's a fact of life. I sincerely believe that every book out there has within it the opportunity to become someone's favorite book. That would be my rule number two. Every single book (or 98% of them at least) has this potential to become "the book" that one amazing life-changing book that flips a switch--if you will--and makes a person love reading. Every book has the potential to wow a reader. But it's also true that a person could read hundreds of books but still have only a fraction of them register as "favorites" or "must-reads."

What do I think it means to hate a book? Keeping in mind that reading is subjective, it means simply this: this particular book at this particular time is not for me. It doesn't mean that I think that a particular book couldn't be, wouldn't be, shouldn't be right for someone else. It doesn't even mean that the book couldn't work for me at another time. I could call to mind at least half a dozen books that I "hated" at one time just to do a complete turnaround and love at another point in time. Octavian Nothing, volume one. Frankenstein. Jane Eyre. The True Meaning of Smek Day. Silas Marner. Just to name a few. I'm sure I could think of more if I sat down long enough. The point is this, opinions change. Let's make that rule number three. A book you once hated could at some point along the way become a book you love. And a book you once loved, you could end up at some point not loving. I don't know if you could ever truly hate a book you once loved. But your opinions can definitely change over time. You can fall out of love with a book. A book that satisfied your needs as an 8 year old may not be as satisfying when you're 40.

Each experience reading a book is different. You cannot make someone have the exact same experience, same reaction, same response, same feeling as you did. No matter how much you want to believe that every single person should feel the exact same way about a book, it just isn't so. There are many people out there. In the blogging community, it's typical to find some that agree with you on some books--but never on every single book you've ever read. There are bound to be differences show up sooner or later. And the sooner you realize that it's okay--more than okay--to have different opinions on such matters, the happier you'll be.

Every opinion of a book is valid. It may not be an opinion you share, that you endorse. You may see things completely differently. But it's an opinion all the same.

Book discussions are great. And a large part of the reason book discussions are great is because of the diversity of opinions expressed. How boring life would be if every single person shared the exact same thoughts all the time. Discussing books with others is fun because you can see things from multiple perspectives. You can see how and why the other person feels the way he/she does. They might bring up a few good points in their discussion. You might come to an understanding and appreciation of your differences. It's good to feel heard, to feel validated. You may never see the book exactly the same. But that's okay.

I'm a big believer in the Readers Bill of Rights...the only thing which I wish it mentioned--and I think it's certainly implied--is the right to have your own opinion on a book. (Likewise, your opinion is never the "only" opinion of a book. But it is the only one you have to live by. So if you've discovered you don't like an author, you shouldn't keep forcing yourself to try over and over again (Dickens for me, cough cough) That doesn't mean you shouldn't ever try again. But be reasonable about it! If you didn't like it last week, chances are you won't like it this week. But give it a year and who knows?) You don't have to like a book because you're told it's good. No one can make you like a book. They can try. But it will only make you hate it more. You can make a person read--in a way--but you can't make them enjoy it.No one should be told how to feel about a book.

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

That being said, I think I'm about to abandon Dune because it is just not working for me at all.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Sci-Fi Experience Completed

1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (dystopia)
2. Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
3. Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan
4. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
5. Predator's Gold by Philip Reeve
6. Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve
7. Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Mark Kneece
8. Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street by Mark Kneece
9. A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve
10. Mothstorm by Philip Reeve
11. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

I'd hoped to finish Dune, but I struggled with it too much. Oh well.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Composer is Dead

Snicket, Lemony. 2009. (March 3rd Publication)The Composer Is Dead. Illustrations by Carson Ellis. Music by Nathaniel Stookey. (The book comes with a CD lasting just almost 58 minutes. The story itself comprises about thirty minutes of the CD.)

From the publisher:
The Composer Is Dead is a collaborative effort by the San Francisco Symphony, Stookey and Mr. Snicket, also allegedly known as Daniel Handler. The goal of The Composer Is Dead commission, book, and CD is to build upon the wild popularity of Mr. Snicket’s inventive humor and Stookey’s new score to introduce the orchestra to young listeners in an original and entertaining way. The Composer Is Dead engages listeners with a gripping plot—in this case, a whodunit murder mystery—while the music and Snicket’s narration work together to provide an entertaining introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, in the vein of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

My thoughts: Wow. Maybe even super-wow. This may be the best "music-appreciation" book I've ever come across.

What is the story? An investigator (the narrator) is trying to solve a murder mystery. He is trying to figure out WHO killed the composer. Each of the instruments from the orchestra is being interrogated.

"I will begin by interviewing all the usual suspects," the Inspector said. "Like all people in his line of work, this Composer had many enemies lurking in the orchestra. They can lurk all they like, but I will find them wherever they are lurking.
I will find them if they are lurking in the strings.
I will find them if they are lurking in the brass.
I will find them if they are lurking in the woodwinds.
I will find them if they are lurking in the percussion section.
I will find them wherever--wherever they are lurking,
I will find them!"

Each instrument is giving its time in the hot seat, and in the process readers can learn a bit about each--their sound, their purpose within the orchestra at large, etc.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the violas.
"Well, I guess that takes care of the strings," the Inspector said, "Oh--the Violas! I forgot all about you."
"Everyone forgets about us," said the Violas bitterly.
"We play the notes in the chords that nobody cares about. We play crucial countermelodies nobody hears. We often have to stay late after performances and stack up all the chairs. We spent last night feeling sorry for ourselves as usual."
This one is definitely recommended.

I've listened to this at least half-a-dozen times already, and I just *can't* get enough. Seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if I have this one memorized by the end of the week.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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If you enjoyed my posts earlier this week on The Year The Swallows Came Early....please vote for me here. There's a poll on the sidebar.

In other slightly-off-topic business, the wonderfully fantastic Amanda is having a picture book giveaway on her site, A Patchwork of Books. Visit her site for details on how to enter!!!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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1% Well Read Challenge (Again-Again!)

3M (Michelle) is hosting the 1% Well Read Challenge again for 2009. There are three options offered--to accommodate the changes made to the list recently. I'm choosing option 3, Read 13 TITLES FROM THE COMBINED LIST OF ALMOST 1300 TITLES FROM MARCH 1, 2009 THROUGH MARCH 31, 2010.

1. She by H. Rider Haggard (old)
2. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (old)
3. He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope (old)
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (old and new)
5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (old and new)
6. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (old and new???)
7. Adam Bede by George Eliot (old and new)
8. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (old and new)
9. The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (new)
10. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox (old and new)
11. Roxana by Daniel Defoe (old)
12. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (old and new)
13. The Monk by M.G. Lewis (old and new)

1. Cecilia by Fanny Burney (old)
2. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (new and old)?
3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (old and new)
4. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe(old and new)
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (new and old)
6. Evelina by Fanny Burney (old and new)
7. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster (new and old)
8. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (old and new)
9. Howard's End by E.M. Forster (new and old)
10. Pamela by Samuel Richardson (old and new)
11. Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding (old and new)
12. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (old)
13. MiddleMarch by George Eliot (old and new)

More alternates:

1. Vilette by Charlotte Bronte (old)
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (old)
3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (new and old)
4. Tess of the D'ubervilles by Thomas Hardy (old and new)
5. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (old and new??)
6. Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope (old and new???)
7. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (old and new???)
8. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (old and new)
9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (old and new)
10. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (old and new)
11. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (old and new)
12. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (old and new)
13. Possession by A.S. Byatt (old)

Even More Alternates:

The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe (new, old)
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe (new, old)
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin (new, old)
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (old)
2666 by Roberto Bolano (new)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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1% Well Read Challenge Completed


1) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
2) Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
3) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
5) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
6) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
7) Emma by Jane Austen
8)Fanny Hill by John Cleland
9) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
10) Silas Marner by George Eliot

This one was close. If you'd asked me on Sunday if I thought I was going to make it...with two books left to go...I'd have laughed. I knew it meant about five or six hundred pages of Don Quixote and another book as well. But I really really wanted to finish. So I just set down and read.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Silas Marner

Eliot, George. 1861. Silas Marner. Bantam Classics. (My edition was mid 1980s) 186 pages.

In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses--and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak--there might be seen, in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race.

Shocker of all shockers: I liked this one. Quite a lot, in fact. Why is that shocking? When I read this little volume--and no, it's not the same copy--in tenth grade I absolutely hated it. Hate is really too kind a word for what I felt. Needless to say, it held the title of most-hated-book until my college days when Jude the Obscure took its place. (It still holds the honor, in case you're curious.) Which just goes to show you that almost without a doubt classics--at least some classics--fail to be appreciated by high schoolers. Maybe that's inaccurate. I'll rephrase, anytime a person--especially a teen person--is required to read a book, no matter how good or great that book is (sometimes they're really bad, I'm not saying all are good) then it's an uphill battle to have him/her have a positive response to it. It just goes against human nature to like something we're forced against our will to read. And its understandable to me. What could a fifteen year old have in common with Silas Marner, a middle-aged weaver obsessed with gold? He's old (relatively speaking at least!). He's strange. No one likes him in his village of Raveloe. He's an outsider, it's true, a loner. And arguably some teens could see themselves in that way. But is that enough?

Silas Marner, in case you've never been subjected to it, is the story of a man, a weaver, who takes refuge in Raveloe after escaping his unfortunate past. He is living only for himself. The money he makes from his trade, he hoards. He loves his gold. Treasures it. He's not the only one keeping secrets in the village. There's a man, Godfrey Cass, who has quite a secret. Something in his past that he's willing to do just about anything, pay just about anything to prevent from coming to light. His brother, Dunstan Cass, is blackmailing him. He'll tell all to their father--Squire Cass--if Godfrey doesn't do things his way. Why does Godfrey care? really really care? He wants to marry Nancy Lammeter. The secret? He already has a wife, a wife his father would never approve of, a wife he's ashamed of, a woman he'd never claim in a hundred million years. Dunstan (and Godfrey) are in need of money, Silas Marner has plenty. Put the two together and you've got a robbery destined to happen. But things don't always go according to plan, Dunstan disappears the same night as Silas' gold. But that's just the beginning. Silas doesn't know it then, but things are about to start looking up! His life is about to change for the better! Why? His "gold" will be returned to him--providentially according to Silas and his friends--in the form of a golden-haired baby girl whom he names Hepzibah (Eppie) whom he adopts and raises to the satisfaction of all but one....Godfrey Cass.

This one had themes that I couldn't even begin to grasp as a sophomore. And the language? the style? I didn't appreciate the little things. The phrases. But here's the thing. I can now. Everything that I missed then, I can appreciate now. Here is one of my favorite passages:

I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbors with our words is, that our goodwill gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism; but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to the complimentary and hypocritical. (77)

I liked the characters--some more eccentric than others--too. I came to appreciate the flavor of this one.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Don Quixote

de Cervantes, Miguel. 1605, 1615. (Modern Library Edition, 1998). Don Quixote. Translated by Samuel Putnam. 1240 pages.

"In a village of La Mancha the name of which I have no desire to recall, there lived not so long ago one of those gentlemen who always have a lance in the rack, an ancient buckler, a skinny nag, and a grey-hound for the chase."

Why should you? Why did I? I've wanted to read Don Quixote since taking a World Literature class my sophomore year in college. My professor had us read several excerpts from the novel, and he also showed clips from the musical film, Man A La Mancha. Perhaps in part won over by "The Impossible Dream," this one made my wish list then and there. But despite one or two failed attempts, it wasn't until this year--around the first of January--that I picked it up in earnest. The book, to put it concisely, is about the wondering of a madman--some whom consider him to be charmingly so--and a poor peasant who leaves his home (including his wife and children) to follow him, to be his squire. Don Quixote, the mad knight-errant, is fixed on one purpose: he wants to change the world, right all the wrongs, protect the weak, serve those who need him most. Sancho Panzo, his squire, is one of the most interesting characters I've ever met; one never quite knowing who is more foolish. Is Panzo aware of how foolish and crazy Quixote is? If he is, why does he follow him? If he's not, wouldn't that make him the greater fool of the two? At times Panzo seems to be in touch with reality, at other times not so much. But there is half the fun, the reader can and must decide for himself/herself what this all means. I loved Panzo because he's always good for a laugh.

Did it live up to my expectations? Was it everything I wanted it to be? Yes. And then some. I expected it to be a bit on the absurd side, a bit over the top. A book that explores the fine line--and not so fine lines at times--between sanity and insanity, wisdom and folly. But what I didn't expect was the humor. I didn't expect the book to be as entertaining as it was. Yes, it was long. Yes, it was winding, The narrative--the plot was not straightforward, it did not seek to go from point A to point B via the quickest route. It wasn't the destination, it was the journey itself. It was the characters that Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza, met along the way. The men and women along the way --both friend and foe--who contribute to this masterpiece. The men who seek to fight him, the damsels-in-distress who seek his help. The men and women--rich and poor--who seek to make a fool of him in one way or another. Who make him the butt of all their jokes.

The cast of Don Quixote is large and quite diverse. There are not a mere dozen of players; no, there are hundreds of characters introduced and explored within its pages. You might think that this would weigh the book down. But, and this is just my opinion, it is quite the opposite. These stories, these asides, these novellas add depth and substance. If you look at the novel as a canvas upon which Miguel De Cervantes explored humanity--its strengths, its weaknesses, its folly, its wisdom. There is much about living, of life, of love and jealousy. I must have marked a hundred or so passages in the book.

I am amazed quite honestly at the genius of his storytelling. Don Quixote may be seeking adventures and glory and honor. Sancho Panzo may be seeking authority and power--his desire to be made governor of an island or two, but what they find more often than not are stories.

Life on the road with Quixote and Panzo may not be easy--full of bumps, bruises, close calls, and above all hunger--but it's never boring!

Why should you read it? I won't be so foolish as to argue that every "you" should. One book can't be for everyone after all. But I'll tell you what this book has going for it...remarkable characterizations--some truly complex characters come to life in its pages; great dialogue, some of the exchanges especially those between Quixote and Panza are great fun; good storytelling, interesting and unique adventures; it explores humanity--the good, the bad, the ugly, the greatest joys and sorrows; humor, humor, and more humor! Some of these episodes are laugh-out-loud funny.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Troubles? Yes? No?

I am experiencing "403 Forbidden" troubles when trying to view my own blogs. I don't know if this is a me-problem, just my computer, or if it is a widespread trouble--no one can view my blog. I also don't know if the feed is still working...or not. If the feed isn't working, and no one can view my blog...this message won't stand a chance. Anyway, I'm trying to figure out the problem.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Carnival of Children's Literature....

The Carnival of Children's Literature is up now! It is being hosted at Imaginary Blog.

And just so you know....the Share a Story, Shape a Future blog tour is coming soon....March 9th through 13th.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Make haste....

To Christopher Barzak's site...he's giving away copies to the first few folks that email him! Nymeth reviewed his latest today, so you know it's already going to be on your wishlist!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Vote for My Next Book

Which book should I read next.....let your voice be heard....leave a comment...

A. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
B. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
C. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
D. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

First Sentences:

A) Dear Julia, Get this, I'm supposed to be starting a journal about "my journey." Please. I can see it now...
B) Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect.
C) "Marcelo, are you ready?" I lift up my thumb. It means that I am ready. "Okay, I'm going to wheel you in."
D) So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunk in her coffee. She tells me in four sentences. No, five. I can't let me hear this, but it's too late. The facts sneak in and stab me. When she gets to the worst part...body found in a motel room, walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I'm listening, like we're communicating, and she never knows the difference. It's not nice when girls die.

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Travel the World: England: Pemberley Shades

Bonavia-Hunt, D.A. 1949/2008. Pemberley Shades: Pride and Prejudice Continues: A Lightly Gothic Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Sourcebooks. 376 pages.

"When old Dr. Robinson, who had been Rector of Pemberley in Derbyshire for over fifty years, died one night in his sleep at the age of eighty-seven, a long life of little eventfulness and placid prosperity came to a not untimely end....Who could have foretold that Dr. Robinson, who had done nothing of note in all his lifetime should, by the common and natural act of dying, set in motion a train of events so strange, so startling, so far removed from probability, as to emulate the rioutous fancies of a disordered mind?" (1, 2)

You can read the first chapter online here. What can I say about this one? Me, the skeptic who remains ever-doubtful that the perfect sequel exists? I loved this one! I did! Last week, I talked about what I expected out of an Austen sequel..."I don't expect the writer to be Jane Austen. I don't expect her to try to channel Austen when she's writing. I don't expect her to match Austen's literary style or her wit. Just a teeny tiny smidgen of it is good. If she can capture just a small trace of the charm or humor (or both) then that's enough. What makes Austen likeable? Is it her focus on love and romance? Is it her focus on women's lives? Is it her focus on society? Is it her focus on class? Is it her focus on these often comical eccentrics? (Like Mr. Collins or Mrs. Jennings or Mrs. Bennet) Is it the fact that she was good at taking snapshots of her world? Of describing life as it was? Is it the fact that she develops so many characters all at once? Her books are never the story of one man and one woman falling in love. They are always so much more than that. There will never be a sequel that can capture anything and everything Austen a writer. But I think the best of the lot will try to be multidimensional. Maybe not as widely as Austen herself was. But more than just one-dimensional."

This one delivers and then some. We've got a nice balance of Austen characters--Elizabeth, Darcy, Georgiana, Kitty, Lady Catherine, Anne, etc.--with new characters: Mr. Mortimer, Miss Robinson, Miss Sophia, Major Wakeford, Stephen Acworth, etc. This blending is so natural, so seamless that it just works. The story is simple: a new rector must be found to fill the parish/living. Mr. Darcy is looking for candidates--good candidates--to interview. The only thing he knows for certain--and Elizabeth agrees--is that it cannot, must not be filled by Mr. Collins! (He does apply for the job!) Temporarily, Mr. Mortimer is filling in as substitute preacher. But while Mr. Darcy feels he is good enough for that, the idea of him becoming the new rector is unlikely. But who will he find? One candidate after another fails to meet Mr. Darcy's standards. But then an old friend contacts him. This old friend has a brother, a younger brother, a young widower. A scholarly man who would be "perfect" for the job. A Mr. Stephen Acworth. Darcy sets off to interview him. And happens to come back with not one but two house guests: Stephen Acworth and Major Wakeford, a soldier who had at one time been quite chummy with him. But though this probation period--of six weeks--has been set in place, been promised, something about Stephen Acworth bothers Darcy. Is this his old sense of prejudice resurfacing? Or is Darcy onto something?

The story is of course more complex than that. It is filled with characters--all well-developed, all flawed, all human, some quite comical or eccentric--all have their own story to tell. There are visits, walks, parties, balls, declarations of love both proper and improper, and much much more. I don't want to say much more, but I don't want to say too little either. I highly recommend this one to skeptics everywhere. Who will like this book best? Those that love Jane Austen and who typically find modern sequels to be sickening. Who find that modern writers just don't get what Elizabeth and Darcy are about. Who will not like this book? If you're all about contemporary sequels that offer sex, sex, sex, and more sex...then this one will disappoint.

One other note: THIS IS NOT A GOTHIC BOOK. Despite the fact that it says "lightly" gothic. The point of the book is that it is an entertaining, sometimes comical, lightly romantic, moderately mysterious sequel.

Other reviews: Austenprose, Austenblog (who didn't like it at all), Curled Up,

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So Off-Topic: Two Header Possibilities...

Option A: The 'Reading' Ladies

Option B: The Cross-Stitch Header

Edited to Add...Option B got a slight a new font...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs

King, A.S. 2009. The Dust of 100 Dogs. Flux. 330 pages.

Intriguing cover. Intriguing premise. Here's whats promised,
"In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body--with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica."
Isn't that a great premise? Doesn't that make you at least a wee bit curious about this book? If that premise doesn't get you, maybe the first sentence of the first chapter will:
"Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother's milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts, something I never inherited. When I was born into a typical family in Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1972, my life was finally mine again."

Here's what you'll find in The Dust of 100 Dogs. Narrative set in the seventeenth century, narrative set in the twentieth century, and narrative revealing what she's learned during her hundred lives as a dog. These three are woven together throughout the book. Both Emer (the seventeenth century pirate) and Saffron (the contemporary reincarnation) make interesting and compelling narrators. I'm sure it's purely subjective which one you'd prefer. As a lover of historical fiction, I was a bit partial to Emer's story. I found it more interesting than the contemporary one.

But there were a few things that I didn't care for in The Dust of 100 Dogs. Things that made me unhappy. One was the introduction of a new narrator, Fred Livingstone, about 130 pages in. Fred is a despicable character. A villain if ever there was one. He's a cold-hearted man, one prone to abusing his dog, Rusty. "Fred would always get a kick or slap in somehow. Soon it would be Rusty's fifth birthday, and as far as he could remember, every day for five years Fred Livingstone had beaten him." (135) Fred's sense of reality is lacking and he's mentally, emotionally, and psychologically unstable, unbalanced. (He is always daydreaming about women, imagining conversations with them, even in his daydreams he can't get a woman the right way, so these daydreams often turn dark and violent.) He would be an interesting character to analyze because he's definitely in need of help! And in a way this all makes sense there towards the end. But the animal abuse introduced into the book by the presence of Fred in addition to the foul and abusive language (a bit stronger than I personally like) make these passages unpleasant....for me.

Not every reader will find issues with those two things. And I can see how the character of Fred adds tension and complexity to the contemporary story--along with Junior, Saffron's brother who is quite the villain himself--a drug addict, a thief, an arsonist. I would imagine that you would enjoy this one more than I did. I liked parts of it a lot. But not so much on other parts.

I do think this would make a great movie.

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Interview with Kathryn Fitzmaurice

I am happy to have had the opportunity to interview Kathryn Fitzmaurice, author of The Year The Swallows Came Early. You can visit her on the web here.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: When I was thirteen years old, I went to visit my grandmother in New York over the summer. She was a science fiction author, and so I was introduced to the world of writing. She helped me to write my first short story that summer. She typed the whole thing up so I would have a real book like she had. I still have it. When she passed away, she left me all of her unfinished manuscripts and short stories. I went through them and thought what an inspiration it was to have them. I doubt I would have wanted to write someday had it not been for her encouragement over the years. For most of my birthdays and holidays, she gave me books, and then, of course, books about how to write.

What inspired you to write The Year the Swallows Came Early?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I knew I wanted to write about the swallows returning each year because their annual migration and return reminds me of a promise that can never be broken, but I also wanted to write about my grandmother, so I decided to use those two ideas, and make them into a story.
Were there any surprises along the way on your journey to publication? What do you know now that you wish you had known then? (if anything)

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: There was one fun surprise. When my agent submitted my book for a possible sale, it had a different title; Foodology. The editor who bought the book, Brenda Bowen, asked if I wouldn’t mind if she changed the title to The Year the Swallows Came Early. I had to tell her that that exact title was the one I used while writing the book!

As far as knowing more now, I’d have to say that I’m still learning a lot of things. Maybe I’ll be better able to answer that in ten years!
Were any of the characters inspired by real people?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: The great-grandmother in the story was, of course, inspired by my own grandmother. I even used her real name. I decided it would be a way to honor her and everything she did to help me along my way to becoming a writer.

Do you share Groovy’s interest in food, in cooking?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Absolutely not. Not only do I not enjoy cooking, I hate to go to the grocery store. I have always said that I’d rather break my arm and get a cast put on it than have to make out a grocery list and go to the market. My husband does most of the shopping in our family, he is a true foodie.

I love the idea of foodology. Do you have any of your own you’d like to share with us?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Thank you. I am like my main character in that certain foods remind me of things. For example, crème brulee would equal Christmas, lentil soup equals the first big rain each winter, and grilled cheese sandwiches equal someone being sick and home from school

What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I love the fact that an entire day can go by and I haven’t noticed it because I was writing. For me, the easiest part of writing is the first and last paragraph of each story. The hardest part is the stuff in between.

What was your first impression of the cover art for The Year the Swallows Came Early?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: My first impression was… Wow, Raul Colon really captured Groovy/Eleanor’s happiness that she feels at the end of the story. I could see it in her face and the way her arms were spread wide open.

How do you find the time—do you find the time—to keep reading? Do you have any recent favorites?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I read a lot. Not only do I read many middle grade novels, but I also try to read the classic novels my sons are assigned in school. I usually read at night when the kids are doing their homework, and then at lunch time when I eat, and then right before bed. Sometimes, I just read the first and last chapters if I don’t have time for the whole book, so I can at least some sense of it. I just finished Lucky Breaks, by Susan Patron, and Black Boy, by Richard Wright, which was assigned to my 15 year old. I can find something brilliant in every book I read. I adored Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate.

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I would have lunch with my grandmother. I would ask her what she thought of my book, and was my opening paragraph a good enough hook for her, and were my characters developed enough. I would cherish her every word, and ask her sign the novels she left to me when she passed away.

Other stops on the tour:

A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Hyperbole,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maw Books Blog, Never Jam Today, Novel Teen, Reading is My Superpower

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, February 23, 2009

Banned Books Challenge

The Pelham Library is once again hosting its annual Banned Books Challenge for 2009. February 22, 2009 THROUGH June 30, 2009

My goal is to read two books. Fortunately, Don Quixote is on the list. So I just need to choose one more...and Of Mice and Men is on list. As is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes


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Classics Challenge 2009

Hosted by Trish of Trish's Reading Nook. The challenge has its own blog--the Classics 2009 Challenge blog. The challenge is from April 1 through October 31, 2009.

I'm going with option three--Classics Feast--Read six classics. (Plus one, bonus book if desired that is a "new" classic; so a total of seven books possibly).


I've got so many classics that I want to read this year. Books by Daniel Defoe, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, just to name a few. And then there are individual titles I'd like to include...

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The Year The Swallows Came Early

Fitzmaurice, Kathryn. 2009. The Year The Swallows Came Early. HarperCollins. 273 pages.

We lived in a perfect stucco house, just off the sparkly Pacific, with a lime tree in the backyard and pink and yellow roses gone wild around a picket fence. But that wasn't enough to keep my daddy from going to jail the year I turned eleven. I told my best friend, Frankie, that it was hard to tell what something was like on the inside just by looking at it on the outside. And that our house was like one of those See's candies with beautiful swirled chocolate on the outside, but sometimes hiding coconut flakes on the inside, all gritty and hard, like undercooked white rice. Things that look just right come undone quicker than the last day of summer.

I love this book. I do. I love the narrator, Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson. I love that she loves to cook. That she is passionate about something and knows what she wants. That she has a way about her--a special way of seeing the world and making those connections that others might miss out on. Her "foodology" for example. I love her vulnerability too. How she has--or had--a simple and idealistic way of seeing the world, but this innocence, this naivety is challenged during the course of the book. Life becomes more complicated for Groovy, that's for sure. But though she may struggle with big issues: anger, disappointment, depression, bitterness--there is always something more for her to hold onto: hope, faith, love, and joy.

Other stops on the blog tour:
A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Hyperbole,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maw Books Blog, Never Jam Today, Novel Teen, Reading is My Superpower

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Semi-off-topic: Vote if you like...

Final edit: So, I think I'm done with the redesign. I'd been wanting to change templates since November. But as I mentioned below I was a scaredy-cat. And I thought while I was at it--this whole change thing--I might as well change the background. I don't know if you like it, I do hope you don't out and out hate it. I chose the background because something about it was calm and soothing. It just seemed warm and vibrant and cozy. I also *hope* it is relatively gender-neutral.

Edited to add: This is off-topic again, and I'm sorry for that. Especially for those that subscribe to my feed. It's probably posts like these that make you unsubscribe. But I wanted to apologize to anyone who may have tried to post a comment between 6PM and 7:30PM (Central time). When I was uploading the new template, my comments were down because this new template doesn't recognize embedded comments. So I had to switch over to pop-up comments. I know a few of you will be happy that I said goodbye to embedded comments! The only thing that got lost in the switching of the templates was the ongoing poll I had. Oh well. I can always create a new one!

Furthermore...I am so so so so happy that this little article was telling the truth! It works! It really does. I've been afraid to change templates for fear of losing my widgets. But reading that article inspired me to be brave and go for it!

When browsing through backgrounds I kept a few things in mind. I wanted it to work with my current header. Because I don't want the trouble of creating a new one based around a new background that I would most likely want to be changing again in four to six months. So that was my first and only rule really. All of these work with the current header. Some maybe a tad bit better than others.

Black/White/Red Flower--Option A
Tan/Red and Black Leaves/Red Flowers -- Option B

Tan/Red -- Option C

Cheery Chat_3 column

Cheery Chat/ Current Template --Option D

Cross-stich tree -- Option EBlossom--Pink Flowers -- Option F

Do you have any that you absolutely positively hate? Do you have a top two?

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Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #8

Happy Sunday! I hope you had a good week. Or a goodish week at least. Anything make you happy last week? Any good news to share? Anything you're thankful for? I'm thankful for my friends--new and old. I know it's silly to say "words can't express" but, you know, sometimes it's true. I really am so thankful to have found such wonderfully supportive and amazing friends! You know who you are! I've not had the best week--though in the scheme of things, I've always got so much to be thankful for--but having good friends really made all the difference in the world!

I'm *thinking* of changing looks again. I hope you didn't just groan. Anyway, it's still tentative at this point. I'm playing around with various templates and designs. I'm not playing around here at this blog--but on another one of my blogs. The YA Romance Challenge blog has temporarily been kidnapped. (Granted, no one has posted a review there since January, so I don't know anyone would notice unless I advertised it!) What does this kidnapping mean? Well, I'm trying out a new header there that says "Becky's Book Reviews." There's a different background/color scheme going on. It would really change things up. But these changes--if they come--won't be for a while. I don't know how long blogger will act up. (Is anyone else noticing this? Blogger doesn't want anyone to edit their template this weekend! I first noticed this on Friday--maybe Thursday?--I changed the YA Romance template on Monday or Tuesday so it was working at some point.) Anyway, until I can edit...everything will stay exactly as it is. I won't promise to take your advice--I can't promise that to everyone after all--but I can be open to hearing your opinions. For me it's like comparing apples and oranges. I look at both side by side and I like both of them well enough. The header is one that I modified from this site. And the background is one I got from Aqua Poppy. The template is one I got from Our Blog Templates. Also BigHugeLab's palette generator has been my friend--on this and almost every occasion where I've played around with colors.

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

Mothstorm by Philip Reeve. 2008. Bloomsbury. 387 pages. (YA Science Fiction/YA Adventure)
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. 2009. 185 pages. Scholastic. (YA Adventure/YA Thriller)
Dizzy by Jonah Winter. 2006. Scholastic. (Picture Book Biography)
Piano Starts Here. Robert Andrew Parker. 2008. Random House. (Picture Book Biography)

What I read this past week and reviewed:

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. By Sharon Lathan. Sourcebooks. 309 pages. (Adult/Romance)
Christianity in Crisis: 21rst Century by Hank Hanegraaff. Thomas Nelson. (Nonfiction Adult)
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. 1969. Random House. (Picture Book)
Love That Puppy! by Jeff Jarka. 2009. (May publication) Henry Holt. (Picture Book)
Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke. 2008. Walker Books. (Picture Book)
I Got Two Dogs by John Lithgow. 2008. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Simon & Schuster. (Picture Book)
Shake It Up, Baby by Karen Katz. 2009. Simon & Schuster. (Board Book/Novelty Book)
My Dance Recital by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. 2009. Random House. (Board Book/Novelty Book)
The Banishment by Marion Chesney. (Adult/Romance/Historical Fiction)

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

Heart Of A Lion by Gilbert Morris (Adult/Christian Fiction)
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (YA Fantasy/YA Realistic Fiction)
Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt (Adult/Romance)

What I've read and really really need to review:

The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2009. 273 pages. HarperCollins. (J Fiction/J Realistic Fiction)
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle. 2009. Henry Holt. 198 pages. (YA Historical Fiction/Verse Novel)

What I'm currently reading:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Dune by Frank Herbert
Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just perfect!!!

So I was reading on my blogroll, and I noticed that one of my favorite bloggers had done a meme. I click through--like I do anyway. The title of a post could be "sorting socks" or "shelling peas" and I'd still click through. Anyway, I will try to stay on target. Anyway, I was reading the meme and thinking how fun it was and how I was going to have to do it. And I look down and noticed that I'm tagged. :) I just love it when that happens.

1. Friends.
2. Happy casseroles. What makes a casserole happy? A layer or two of cheese.
3. Listening to music. Right now I'm being mesmerized--almost hypnotized, in a good way--to Sweet Baby's Beatle Lullabies. It's Beatles done music-box style. It is almost mind-boggling to think that the plinka-plinka-rinka-tink of music box notes could make you happy. (It does have other instruments as well.) But it does. It really does.
4. Blogging.
5. Reading
6. Book deliveries

The rules: Link to the person who tagged you. Post six things that make you happy along with these rules. Then tag six others (letting them know, of course). Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.

I tag: Smiling Sally, Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading (she has a fabulous contest going on for a Slanket), Chris, Natasha, Corinne, Melissa.

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The Banishment

Chesney, Marion. 1996. The Banishment.

The Banishment is a Regency romance novel--smut-free--that is delightful in an unpretentious way. Perhaps not the best book in the world--Chesney is no Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer--but it is a fun, light read. If it has a flaw it is that it tells more than shows. The heroine of The Banishment is Isabella Beverley. She is the oldest daughter; she's been raised with wealth and prestige. But--and there are always buts in books--all that changes when her father gambles away the family home, Mannerling, and the family is humbled and humiliated. What's a girl to do? If her parents have any sway over their daughter, they'll try to arrange it that she marries the new owner, a Mr. Judd. No matter how untasteful, no matter how insane. But is that what she wants? Or is she maybe starting to realize just how wonderful Lord Fitzpatrick, an Irish viscount, really is?
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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Ganeri, Anita. 1996. The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

Inspired by Benjamin Britten's piece, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which was composed in 1945 as an introduction to orchestral music, Anita Ganeri has written this informative yet fascinating guide to the orchestra. The accompanying CD is narrated by Ben Kingsley. He "gives listeners a lively guided tour of Britten's music, describing the sounds made by each instrument." The book is full of information, but it is accessible. It is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be! If you'd asked me beforehand, I would have bet it would be boring and dry. But it's far from that. The CD and book complement one another well. It is not a recording of the book itself. It stands alone--could stand alone--from the book. And the book could be read and appreciated apart from the CD. However, it only makes sense to give both a try! You might find yourself preferring one over the other. After all, we all learn differently.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Storage

btt button

This week’s question is suggested by Kat:

I recently got new bookshelves for my room, and I’m just loving them. Spent the afternoon putting up my books and sharing it on my blog . One of my friends asked a question and I thought it would be a great BTT question. So from Tina & myself, we’d like to know “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”

Shelves? You think I have shelves for my books? Ha! Double ha! I don't suggest you have as many books as I do. And it's not like I'm particularly proud of my cardboard chaos. I do have a semi-system in place. I separate into many categories: 2009 novels, 2009 picture books, picture books (previous years), novels (YA and middle, previous years), christian books, adult books, and one-and-a-half boxes of early readers. Oh, and board books. I've got two or three boxes of board books. Every book that I receive for review is entered into a database and then enters one of my boxes; each side of the room has different categorized-boxes. So I generally know which section is which, but the location of exact titles can be tricky. It's a system that is reliant partly on memory and partly on luck.

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I'll be off reading...

Due to several ongoing chunksters*, a migraine**, and all the content-thieving, I've not got any books to review. Shocking, isn't it! I'm a bit shocked myself. Anyway, I'll be spending some days reading. And I'll be back to reviewing as soon as I get a few read. I've got plenty of reviews up of picture books on my other site, Young Readers.

*Blame Don Quixote, if you must!
**A series of small migraines over a period of days. Still a bother. But I've not been dreadfully sick or anything. It could be a lot worse.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Explanation for feed readers

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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I apologize for my loyal readers who happen to read my blog by rss feed. Due to my posts being stolen, I have decided--at least temporarily--to make my feed be 'brief' instead of full. I realize this is inconvenient for you in some ways. Though I don't usually read blogs by feed readers myself, I do sympathize and understand that many people do. But it is also making it inconvenient for content thieves. So please understand my decision. If the site is shut down, if proper action is taken, then I'll be happy to reconsider this at a later date.

Thank you, and please do keep reading!

Random Question

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I don't know why I've suddenly gotten curious, but I am. So I'll ask....

What time of day do you read blogs? I read blogs all day. I obsess. But that's who I am. But it made me curious. Do you look for 'new' posts in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Or do you play catch up and read several days worth of posts all at once. Is there a 'better' time of day for you? Or does it matter. I know technically it doesn't matter--a new post is a new post is a new post no matter what time the blogger hits publish. But I tend to think...oh I've got to rush to get this out before ten or eleven in the morning or people will be disappointed. I don't know why my mind thinks that way.

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Travel the World: England: Mothstorm

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reeve, Philip. 2008. Mothstorm: The Horror from Beyond Uranus Georgium Sidus. Or A Tale of Two Shapers. A Rattling Yarn of Danger, Dastardy and Derring-Do upon the Far Frontiers of British Space. With illustrations by David Wyatt. Bloomsbury.

First paragraph:
Yes, 'twas the season of Peace and Goodwill at Larklight, and my sister Myrtle and I, snug in our fleece-lined, winter-weight spacesuits, were out upon the front porch, decorating our Christmas Tree. Christmas Trees are a German notion and quite the latest thing, but I doubt whether Prince Albert, who is responsible for introducing this charming festive fad, has ever tried to erect such a tree outside a house like Larklight, which floats about in an eccentric orbit far beyond the Moon.

I admit the above might come off as rather strange unless you're familiar with the world of Larklight. Mothstorm is the third in the series. The first is Larklight: Or the Revenge of the White Spiders!: Or To Saturn’s Rings and Back!: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Furthest Reaches of Space. The second is Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel, and Curious Hats.

Philip Reeve has created a fantastical world set during Queen Victoria's reign, but most of the action takes place in space. (Yes, space) In fact a good many of our heroes are space pirates. Art Mumby is our young narrator. Myrtle Mumby, his sister, also takes a few turns narrating the action. Where will this third adventure take the Mumby family? Are they destined for Uranus? I mean, Georgium Sidus? Off to rescue a British missionary and his daughter that have gone missing? Will Myrtle get her man, the leader of the space pirates, Jack Havock? Will Jack forget his dislike for the British government long enough to save the world from its biggest danger yet?

I love these books because they're so outrageously over-the-top fantastical. Quirky through and through. Funny. You never know quite what to expect. And that's a good thing. Because my imagination can never match Philip Reeve's that's for sure!!! I love how zany these books are. Just read the first chapter about when their Pudding goes rogue!

The adventures are fun. No doubt. But what keeps me a fan is Philip Reeve. I just love his sense of humor. I love his style. He has a way with words. He's just a great storyteller.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Discuss Amongst Yourselves...

As I mentioned in my previous post, a certain website (you'll never find me linking to it!) has been taking liberties and stealing my posts. Natasha was kind enough to send me this link, How To Defend Your Blogs Copyright. I thank her. I wanted to share it with you in a post just in case you're ever in a position where you need it! Because apparently--and everyone may already know this--it's not all that unusual. I think there are people who really and truly just sit around and steal. Steal from other blogs. Sometimes one or two blogs. Sometimes a wide range of blogs are targeted. In almost all these cases, the people in question are blogs that are using ads--programs like Googe's Adsense or Adwords (and the like)--as a way to try to make money. The more posts one has, the better the potential for making money I suppose. (I'll try to make this post 95% general; 5% personal. I don't want to give the impression I'm whining. I'm not. But if I can help even one person prevent this from happening or... discourage even one person from doing this...then it will be worthwhile.)

Which leads me to a discussion topic. What are the rights and wrongs of copying? Are there certain things it's okay to take, to copy? Are there certain things that are off limits? How can you tell the difference? Suppose you're a new blogger and you're clueless. What are the rules here?

That's what I'm asking YOU.

I'll also be sharing my thoughts. I think as bloggers, most people follow certain rules.

Memes. Anyone and everyone can copy memes. I mean the whole idea of a meme is to spread it around. True, you should be providing your own answers, playing along with whatever the meme is--whether it is answering questions, creating lists, creaking lists of links, posting pictures, etc. There is a LARGE community of meme events--Weekly Geeks, Booking Through Thursday, Waiting on Wednesday, Mailbox Monday, Bad Bloggers, Library Loot, Tuesday Thingers, etc. These events have everyone doing the same thing, but they showcase differences. Everyone may be copying the question or activity--it may appear on hundreds or thousands of blogs--but each answer will be different.

Challenges. When a challenge hosts writes a post, it's not really a big surprise to see large portions of it (or it in its entirety) being posted at challenge participant sites. I think this is understandable--it is always more convenient to have a list of the rules on your own site than just a link that is easily misplaced. Again, it's also a way of spreading the word about the challenge. As long as a link to the challenge host/challenge blog/challenge sign up post is provided, I think this is fine.

Opinion Posts/Articles. If I read an article somewhere online--a blog, a newspaper, a magazine--I usually provide a link. But I may quote two or three sentences for reference. To orient readers with what I'm responding to. Is this okay? Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Are we starting to cross a line? Does it depend on if I'm just mentioning it or if I'm contemplating it? Really pulling in my own thoughts and opinions?

Links. I'm going to assume--presume--that linking to an article/post/blog will always be an okay thing. If I say, Read this post about the Cybils winners that can only be a good thing, right? No complaints that I'm spreading the word, right? If I'm reviewing a book and feel inclined to link to other reviews of the book...or to link to the author's can only be a good thing, right? You're spreading the love. Saying go forth to these other sites. They're good. They're great. You might want to read them, follow them.

Press Releases. I don't always do many press release type posts but occasionally I get emails from people--publishers, authors, bookstores, publicists, media people--that are press releases. That are asking me to spread the word about this, that, and the other. I'm assuming--presuming again--that since it's for release everywhere, (and sometimes they say for immediate release) and since the primary purpose is to spread the word, and since I'm being encouraged to post about it...that it would be okay then to copy whatever it is.

Quotes. When is it okay to quote something? If you're reviewing a book, should you quote? how much can you quote? how much should you quote? Is the author/publisher going to get angry with you for quoting from the book? It's just my humble guess that it's good to quote in book reviews. You're showing your readers why they would want to read the book. You're giving examples and supporting your review. That being said, I think you could go overboard. I don't think it would be right to quote an entire chapter or entire picture book unless you had the permission of the author/publisher. But a paragraph here and there from a novel? I don't see that they'd be anything wrong with that. I do try to always mention if I'm reviewing from the ARC. It doesn't stop me from quoting a few sentences if they're good. But I always say that it's from the ARC so it may not match what is in the 'real' book. I've never had anyone complain about anything I've done. I'm assuming if an author or publisher was unhappy they'd let me know.

What if your entire blog consisted of links to other posts? Is there such a thing as too much linking? How much of a post needs to your own? Your own content? Your own thoughts?

Entire Posts. Here is where there is really no excuse. It is never okay to just cut and paste an entire blog post into your own blog. It's not good web etiquette to go to someone's site, copy an entire post, and cut and paste it into your own blog, publish, and call it done. That's not blogging. That's stealing. And it's wrong. I have come across--and I can't remember whose blog it was--maybe if they read my blog they can jog my memory, but it is someone whose blog I follow and have been following for months now--a situation where someone's post was copied to another site--I think it was about Twilight or Stephenie Meyer--and when the original author posted about how she didn't like her post being copied and posted on another site--that she didn't have permission to do so. The person was like, "you should be flattered. I gave you credit. There's your name. There's your blog name. I did nothing wrong." Even taking and copying an entire post and then linking to the original is unethical in my book. There is only one legitimate excuse, one situation where that is okay. If you have the permission of the author--the blogger--and you obtain permission beforehand.

Is it flattering to be linked to? Yes. Is it flattering to be quoted--in brief at least? Yes. I wouldn't have a problem with someone saying, "Becky reviewed this book. And here is what she had to say, 'One or two sentences quote.' Read the rest of the review here." But that's a whole other story. It's not flattering to have your posts stolen. Repeatedly. It's offensive.

And I also want to thank everyone in the Kidlitosphere yahoo group for being so wonderful, so supportive, and so smart! They've given me a handful of suggestions. And I'll be acting on some of those in the next day or so. I have contacted the person who has registered the domain name, and I hope that he/she will see about stopping this. I do think it's ironic that even the post on their theft was stolen. I don't know if you can see that in the screen shot or not.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews