Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Reflections

In July, I read 42 books!

My favorite picture book: Z is for Moose. Kelly Bingham.
My favorite concept book:  Baby Bear Sees Blue. Ashley Wolff
My favorite verse novel:  The One and Only Ivan. Katherine Applegate.
My favorite children's book:  Love From Your Friend, Hannah. Mindy Warshaw Skolsky.
My favorite children's classic:  Black Beauty. Anna Sewell.
My favorite YA:   Grave Mercy. Robin LaFevers.
My favorite adult novel:  Earth Unaware. Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.'
My favorite short story collection:  The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories. Edited by Michael Sims. 
My favorite nonfiction:  A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times. Benson Bobrick.
My favorite Christian book: Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. J.C. Ryle.

Board Books, Picture Books, Early Readers:
  1. Maudie and Bear. Jan Ormerod. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. 2012. Penguin. 48 pages.
  2. Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. Susanna Reich. Illustrated by Amy Bates. 2012. Abrams. 40 pages.
  3. Just Because You're Mine. Sally Lloyd Jones. Illustrated by Frank Endersby. 2012. HarperCollins. 32 pages. 
  4. Z is for Moose. Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksy. 2012. HarperCollins. 32 pages.  
  5. And Then It's Spring. Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. 2012. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages.
  6. Baby Bear Sees Blue. Ashley Wolff. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.
  7. My Dad is the Best Playground. Luciana Navarro Powell. 2012. Random House. 26 pages. [Board Book]
  8. Higher! Higher! Leslie Patricelli. 2010. Candlewick Press. 30 pages. [Board Book] 
  9. Faster! Faster! Leslie Patricelli. 2012. Candlewick Press. [Picture Book]
Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels:
  1. The One and Only Ivan. Katherine Applegate. 2012. HarperCollins. 301 pages.
  2. Gods and Warriors. Michelle Paver. 2012. Penguin. 320 pages.
  3. Black Beauty. Anna Sewell. 1877. 245 pages.
  4. The Gathering Storm. Robin Bridges. 2012. Random House. 386 pages.
  5. Raider's Ransom. Emily Diamand. 2009. Scholastic. 368 pages.
  6. Loss. (Riders of the Apocalypse #3) Jackie Morse Kessler. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages.
  7. Love From Your Friend, Hannah. Mindy Warshaw Skolsky. 1998. DK. 246 pages.
  8. The Princess and Curdie. George MacDonald. 1883. 272 pages. 
  9. The Wicked and The Just. J. Anderson Coats. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. 
  10.  Grave Mercy. Robin LaFevers. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 560 pages.

Adult Books:
  1. Earth Unaware. Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. The First Formic War. 2012. Tor. 368 pages.
  2. The Age of Miracles. Karen Thompson Walker. 2012. Random House. 288 pages.
  3. The Far Side of the Sky. Daniel Kalla. 2012. Tom Doherty Associates. 464 pages.
  4. Poirot Investigates. Agatha Christie. 1924/2011. HarperCollins. 256 pages.
  5. After Dark. Wilkie Collins. 1856. 404 pages.
  6. Lady Audley's Secret. Mary Elizabeth Braddon. 1862/1998. Oxford World's Classic. 496 pages.
  7. Lorna Doone. R.D. Blackmore. 1869. 658 pages.
  8. Clocks. Jerome K. Jerome. 1891. 10 pages.
  9. The Yard. Alex Grecian. 2012. Penguin. 432 pages.
  10. The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories. Edited by Michael Sims. 2011. Walker & Company. (Late December 2011). 608 pages.
  11. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. Jerome K. Jerome. 1889. 112 pages.
Nonfiction Books:
  1. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of A Victorian Lady. Kate Summerscale. 2012. Bloomsbury. 304 pages. 
  2. Wild Romance: The True Story of a Victorian Scandal. Chloe Schama. 2010. Walker & Company. 249 pages. 
  3. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. Kate Summerscale. 2008. Walker. 360 pages.
  4. A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times. Benson Bobrick. 2012. Random House. 160 pages.
Christian Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. J.C. Ryle. (1816-1900). 280 pages.
  2. Finding God When You Need Him Most. Chip Ingram. 2002/2007. Baker Books. 209 pages.
  3. The Kingdom. Bryan Litfin. 2012. Crossway. 448 pages.
  4. Then Sings My Soul. Robert J. Morgan. 2010. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. 
  5. Charity and Its Fruits: Living In the Light of God's Love. Jonathan Edwards. Edited by Kyle Strobel. 2012. Crossway. 350 pages.
  6. When You Need A Miracle: How To Ask God for The Impossible. Linda Evans Shepherd. 2012. Revell. 207 pages.
  7. The Last Hunger Season. Roger Thurow. 2012. PublicAffairs. 304 pages.
  8. Joy in Christ's Presence. Charles Spurgeon. Whitaker House. 208 pages.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Short Stories Read in July

I made it a personal goal to try to read ONE HUNDRED short stories in the month of July. I'll italicize my favorites.

From Agatha Christie's Poirot Investigates
  1. The Adventure of the Western Star
  2. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
  3. The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
  4. The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
  5. The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
  6. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
  7. The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
  8. The Kidnapped Prime Minister
  9. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim
  10. The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
  11. The Case of the Missing Will
  12. The Veiled Lady
  13. The Lost Mine
  14. The Chocolate Box
 From The Dead Witness
  1. The Secret Cell by William E. Burton
  2. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
  3. On Duty With Inspector Field by Charles Dickens
  4. The Diary of Anne Rodway by Wilkie Collins
  5. You Are Not Human, Monsieur d'Artagnan by Alexandre Dumas, pere
  6. Arrested on Suspicion by Andrew Forrester Jr.
  7. The Dead Witness, or, The Bush Waterhole by W.W. (Mary Fortune)
  8. The Mysterious Human Leg by James McGovan (William Crawford Honeyman)
  9. The Little Old Man of Batignolles by Emile Gaboriau
  10. The Science of Deduction by Arthur Conan Doyle
  11. The Whitechapel Mystery by Anonymous
  12. The Assassin's Natal Autograph by Mark Twain
  13. The Murder at Troyte's Hill by C.L. Pirkis
  14. The Haverstock Hill Murder by George R. Sims
  15. The Stolen Cigar-Case by Bret Harte
  16. The Absent-Minded Coterie by Robert Barr
  17. The Hammer of God by G.K. Chesterton
  18. The Angel of the Lord by Melville Davisson Post
  19. The Crime at Big Tree Portage by Ernest Bramah
  20. The Case of Padages Palmer by Harvey O'Higgins
  21. An Intangible Clue by Anna Katherine Greene
From After Dark by Wilkie Collins
  1. The Traveller's Story of a Terribly Strange Bed (1852)
  2. The Lawyer's Story of a Stolen Letter (1854)
  3. The French Governess's Story of Sister Rose (1855)
  4. The Angler's Story of The Lady of Glenwith Grange (new for After Dark)
  5. The Nun's Story of Gabriel's Marriage (1853)
  6. The Professor's Story of the Yellow Mask (1855)
From The End of the World: Stories of the Apocalypse
  1. The Hum by Rick Hautala
  2. We Can Get Them For You Wholesale by Neil Gaiman
  3. The Big Flash by Norman Spinrad
  4. Kindness by Lester Del Rey
From The Stories of Ray Bradbury
  1. The Man Upstairs
  2. Touched With Fire
  3. The Emissary
  4. The Jar
  5. The Small Assassin
  6. The Next in Line
  7. Jack-in-the-Box
  8. The Leave-Taking
  9. Exorcism
  10. The Happiness Machine
  11. Calling Mexico
  12. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit
  13. Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed
  14. The Strawberry Window
  15. A Scent of Sarsaparilla
  16. The Picasso Summer
  17. The Day It Rained Forever
  18. A Medicine for Melancholy
  19. The Shoreline at Sunset
  20. Fever Dream
  21. The Town Where No One Got Off
  22. All Summer in a Day 
  23. Frost and Fire
  24. The Anthem Sprinters
  25. And So Died Riabouchinska
  26. Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms In Your Cellar!
  27. The Vacation
  28. The Illustrated Woman
  29. Some Live Like Lazarus
  30. The Best of All Possible Worlds
  31. The One Who Waits
  32. Tyrannosaurus Rex
  33. The Screaming Woman
  34. The Terrible Conflagration Up At the Place
  35. Night Call, Collect
  36. The Tombling Day
  37. The Haunting of the New
  38. Tomorrow's Child
  39. I Sing the Body Electric
  40. The Women
  41. The Inspired Chicken Motel
  42. Yes, We'll Gather At the River
  43. Have I Got a Chocolate Bar For You!
  44. A Story of Love  
  45. The Parrot Who Met Papa
  46. The October Game
  47. Punishment without Crime
  48. A Piece of Wood
  49. The Blue Bottle
  50. Long After Midnight
  51. The Utterly Perfect Murder
  52. The Better Part of Wisdom
  53. Interval in Sunlight
  54. The Black Ferris
  55. Farewell Summer
  56. McGillahee's Brat
  57. The Aqueduct
  58. Gotcha!
  59. The End of the Beginning 
From The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
  1. The Tuesday Night Club
  2. The Idol House of Astarte
  3. Ingots of Gold
  4. The Blood-Stained Pavement
  5. Motive v. Opportunity
  6. The Thumb Mark of St. Peter
  7. The Blue Geranium
  8. The Companion
  9. The Four Suspects
  10. A Christmas Tragedy
  11. The Herb of Death
  12. The Affair at the Bungalow
  13. Death by Drowning

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2012 Challenge Completed: Victorian Celebration

A Literary Odyssey hosted this two-month celebration of all things Victorian!

1. Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch. Kate Williams.
2. The Princess and the Goblin. George MacDonald. 1872. 259 pages.
3. The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.
4. Cousin Henry. Anthony Trollope. 1879. 336 pages.
5. Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death that Changed the British Monarchy. Helen Rappaport. 2012. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages.
6. Dombey and Son. Charles Dickens. 1846-1848. 880 pages.
7. Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome
8. A Book of Cheerful Cats and Other Animated Animals
9. Murder in the First Class Carriage by Kate Colquhoun
10. Lin McLean by Owen Wister
11. The Yard by Alex Grecian
12. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
13. Wild Romance by Chloe Schama
14. Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
15. Idle Thoughts for an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome
16. The Princess and the Curdie by George MacDonald
17. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of A Victorian Lady. Kate Summerscale.
18. Lorna Doone. R.D. Blackmore.
19. Lady Audley's Secret. Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
20. Clocks. Jerome K. Jerome.
21. Black Beauty. Anna Sewell.
22. After Dark. Wilkie Collins.
23. The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories. Edited by Michael Sims

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Passion for Victory

A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times. Benson Bobrick. 2012. Random House. 160 pages.

I definitely enjoyed reading Benson Bobrick's A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times. In this nonfiction book for children and teens, Bobrick chronicles the Olympic games.

In the first two chapters, Bobrick focuses on the Olympic Games in Greek and Roman times. He gives just enough detail to be fascinating. The games were definitely quite different than modern games! Including the fact that the boxing, I believe, could prove to be to the death.

Chapter three focuses on the movement in the nineteenth century to bring back the Olympic games. Chapter four focuses on the first few Olympic games of modern times: 1896 (Greece), 1900 (Paris), 1904 (St. Louis, Missouri). The 1900 and 1904 games were not ideal because of their combination with World Fairs. For example, the book points out that they spread out the events over five and half months. No opening or closing ceremonies. Not that the games were all bad, by any means. This was the first Olympics offering women's events (tennis, croquet). And archery, diving, and rowing made their debut. In fact, it seems like almost every Olympics held offered new sports, new events. (Similarly, some might disappear.) The 1904 games only had participants from twelve countries, but, most of the athletes were American, which could be why America won over 200 medals that year. If the 1900 games were too long--five months--the 1904 games might arguably have been too short--just six days! The chapter also focuses on prejudices and such bringing up the World's Fair and the exhibitions.

The marathon also included the first black South Africans (two Tswana tribesmen) to compete in the Olympics--though they weren't supposed to be in the race at all. They were part of the Boer War exhibit but had joined the race for fun. Even so, one finished ninth, and the other came in twelfth. The first to arrive at the finish line was Frederick Lorz, who had actually dropped out. (After the first nine miles, he had flagged down his manager, who gave him a lift for the rest of the way in his car.) But when he crossed the finish line on foot, he was hailed as the winner. He was soon found out, of course, but the real winner, Thomas Hicks, (a Briton running for the United States), deserved the prize even less. He had been doped up by his trainers, who gave him a near-fatal dose of strychnine sulfate mixed with egg yolk and brandy. Unable to cross the line on his own, he had to be supported in the last stretch and was rushed to a hospital, where he spent several days in intensive care. (65)

The fifth chapter chronicles the Olympic Games of 1908 through 1932. It also highlights the 1906 Intercalated Olympic Games. This one-time event gave the games new life. It was here that the opening ceremony and closing ceremonies made their debut. Several paragraphs--or several pages--are dedicated to each Olympics. All fascinating stuff! I couldn't hope to cover it all! Readers learn how each Olympics helped contribute to the Olympics we have today. For example, the 1920 Olympics set in place many lasting traditions including the Parade of Nations in the opening ceremonies and the medal ceremonies with the raising of the flags for the three winners and the National Anthem for the gold medal winner. Of course, some attention is paid to the athletes and winners. The star of this chapter, in my opinion, is Jim Thorpe.

The sixth chapter focuses on the 1936 games in Berlin, and the star, as you might have guessed, is Jesse Owens. This chapter, of course, deals with world politics and racism, etc.

The Epilogue focuses, for the most part, on the war years. But, it also highlights the film Olympia which was innovative and creative. The book discusses how this inspired the way the games was captured and shared. On a much sadder note, it mentions just a handful of Olympians whose lives were lost in the Holocaust.

Overall, this is one fascinating book! It has dozens--if not hundreds--of I didn't know that facts for readers to discover. So many intriguing stories, so many incredible details. I would definitely recommend this one!!!

I just loved it!!! I did NOT want it to end. I wanted more, needed more. I would have loved to learn about the games from 1948 to present day. But. This book is great at what it promises readers. 

Read A Passion for Victory
  • If you're a fan of the Olympics
  • If you're a fan of sports and/or history and/or politics
  • If you're interested in how sports have been celebrated and recorded in ancient and modern history

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Final Fifteen: Ray Bradbury Stories

To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve, next-to-last twenty-two.

The Parrot Who Met Papa
The kidnapping was reported all around the world, of course. 
A story about an oh-so-talkative parrot who knew Ernest Hemingway and possibly knew Hemingway's secrets.

The October Game
He put the gun back into the bureau drawer and shut the drawer.
A despicable horror story. Okay, the main character is the one who is despicable. But still.

Punishment without Crime
"You wish to kill your wife?" said the dark man at the desk.
A futuristic story where a man kills a robot-version of his wife and pays the consequences for it--even though no human life is lost.

A Piece of Wood
"Sit down, young man," said the Official.
A disturbed young man...with an unique gift of sorts...is on a mission for world peace.

The Blue Bottle
The Sundials were tumbled into white pebbles.
Short story set on Mars.

Long After Midnight
The police ambulance went up into the palisades at the wrong hour.
A short story about a tragic suicide.

The Utterly Perfect Murder
It was such an utterly perfect, such an incredibly delightful idea for murder, that I was half out of my mind all across America.
A man decides almost thirty years after the teasing and bullying to get back at his "friend" from childhood days.

The Better Part of Wisdom
The room was like a great warm hearth, lit by an unseen fire, gone comfortable. 
A grandfather visits his son, Tom, and meets Tom's friend, Frank. The grandfather has decided to go and visit all his family in his last days--instead of waiting and hoping that they will come to him. He has quite a long chat with his grandson.

Interval in Sunlight
They moved into the Hotel de Las Flores on a hot green afternoon in late October.
A short story about a toxic marriage.

The Black Ferris
The carnival had come to town like an October wind, like a dark bat flying over the cold lake, bones rattling in the night, mourning, sighing, whispering up the tents in the dark rain.
A short story with a very similar feel to Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Farewell Summer
Farewell Summer.
Grandma looked it.
Grandpa said it.
Douglas felt it.
Farewell summer.
A short story about a bad dream...

McGillahee's Brat
In 1953 I had spent six months in Dublin, writing a screenplay. I had not been back since.
Yet another short story set in Dublin.

The Aqueduct
It leapt over the country in great stone arches.
A horror story, of sorts.

They were incredibly in love. They said it. They knew it. They lived it. When they weren't staring at each other they were hugging. When they weren't hugging they were kissing.
A relationship begins to decline after the woman SCARES the guy horribly and traumatically. 

The End of the Beginning
He stopped the lawn mower in the middle of the yard, because he felt that the sun at just that moment had gone down and the stars come out.
A story about the start of a space program.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday Salon: Watching Lorna Doone

I recently watched the 2000 adaptation of Lorna Doone starring Richard Coyle as John Ridd and Amelia Warner as Lorna Doone. (Also notable, Martin Clunes as Jeremy Stickles, and Aidan Gillen as Carver Doone). This historical romance was quite lovely! I do love period dramas! And I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who loves period dramas and historical romance--even if you've never read the book or plan on reading the book.

It is quite fast-paced, especially when compared with the novel! It is romantic and exciting and oh-so-intense. Especially the ending.
I just LOVED Richard Coyle as John Ridd. Then again, I tend to LOVE Richard Coyle. And Aidan Gillen made a dramatic, oh-so-dangerous villain. He made Carver Doone so much more interesting, I thought. A truly memorable villain!

I thought this film did a great job with the characters, the characterization!!! And the romance was lovely. 

Have you seen this one, what did you think?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Library Loot: Fifth Trip in July

New Loot:
  • Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During England's Tumultuous Civil War by Helen Castor
  • A Finders-Keepers Place by Ann Haywood Leal
  • Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  • The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  • Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
  • The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side by Agatha Christie

Leftover Loot:
  • Freddy and the Dragon by Walter Brooks
  • Freddy and Mr. Camphor by Walter R. Brooks
  • The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  • Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey
  • The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  •  The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds
  • The Stories of Ray Bradbury  
  • The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
  • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.    

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Kingdom

The Kingdom. Bryan Litfin. 2012. Crossway. 448 pages.

From the prologue: The rulers of the earth took counsel together, and the Pact they made defined the centuries to come. 

The Kingdom concludes the Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin. The first two novels in the series are The Sword and The Gift. The trilogy has an interesting premise. It explores a post-apocalyptic Europe beginning several centuries after "the end of the world as we know it." In this world, Christianity has both fallen into decay (just naturally--slowly but surely--been forgotten with the passing of each generation) and been outlawed. In the first novel, Ana and Teo discovered--by chance--a copy of the Old Testament. This presumably being the only known copy in existence. The two learn that it is only the first half of the Sacred Writings. And, of course, they WANT to find the second half, the second testament. But they hardly know where to begin. But just because their knowledge is incomplete, doesn't mean that they aren't eager--very, very eager--to share what they do know. For this is the first they've heard of a Creator God--Deu or Deus, as they call Him. And they're drawn to Him, trusting in Him, in His goodness, in his justice, in his righteousness. Teo in addition to being an incredibly brave, strong, oh-so-handsome soldier, is, of course an extremely brilliant scholar who speaks two or three languages, at least--including some of the ancient languages. Chiveis is the country (nation) where they both live. But it is immoral and corrupt. And the 'state religion' is idolatrous. The High Priestess, let's say, LOVES power, and loves the control she has over others. She's definitely into cruelty and torture. So when Teo and Ana begin spreading the good news--what they know of it--she is most displeased. The two end up being exiled. The second novel follows the two after their exile. Their true mission (which they sometimes forget about) is to find the New Testament, the Second Testament. This second novel introduces readers to two or three other countries or regions. It introduces at least one or two new villains to the general story, and, essentially has hundreds of pages worth of torture for the reader to endure alongside the characters. The bad news? They find the New Testament only to lose it to their enemy. The good news? The message and content of the New Testament is NOT lost after all. The book concludes with Teo hard at work translating this one into several different languages so they can spread the good news to all countries and nations. Which brings us to the third novel....

...Ana and Teo have finally, finally admitted they have feelings for one another. And they've finally found a community of believers who are eager to share in their work in evangelism. Actually, Ana and Teo fit into their already-present community. Teo may have many qualities to be a leader--of sorts--in the Christian community, since he's so brilliant and can translate the New Testament in just a few short months into several different languages, but he's not trying to take the role of the Papa in Roma. This novel begins with the couple preparing to be separated for many months--Teo seeking to travel to another country in search of Knights of the Cross, to see if they still remember what "the cross" means, to see if they are still loyal to the Papa. What Teo learns in his journeys--and what Ana learns as well--is that WAR is coming, that there are powers that be coming together united in hatred for the Christian faith.

How do I feel about The Kingdom? How do I feel about the trilogy? Well, I'm not sure there's an easy answer. It does have an interesting premise, in a way. And the books do give me something to think about. But. The characters annoy me just as often as they satisfy me. And essentially all three books are high on torture and "intense" situations that seem like desperate this-is-it close calls. Perhaps because of the high-frequency of these dramatic moments, perhaps because the characters always seem to come away safe, I never truly worried. I was also annoyed with the "romance" in this one. I felt Ana's love for Teo strained her common sense at times, and the same with Teo. Because Teo was so in love with Ana, he had his stupid moments.

Read The Sword, The Gift, The Kingdom
  • If you're a Christian looking to read post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction
  • If you're a Christian looking to read a "what if" novel, the what if being WHAT IF the Scriptures were lost, WHAT IF the Scriptures were newly discovered, etc., 
  • If you like premise-driven fiction, without a doubt, the trilogy offers readers a chance to think, to contemplate.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Twenty-Two Stories of Ray Bradbury

It is my goal to finish The Stories of Ray Bradbury by the end of July. I started this project, initially, in 2010, and after a two year pause picked it up again this summer. To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve.

Frost and Fire
During the night, Sim was born. He lay wailing upon the cold cave stones. His blood beat through him a thousand pulses each minute. He grew, steadily.
This (long) short story certainly grew on me as I read it. The first few pages I was skeptical, but, once I began to realize what was going on, I was hooked! This science fiction story is narrated by a boy named Sim. In the opening pages, he's a newborn. And we're seeing the world through his eyes--as he tries to make sense of the world around him. The environment is just as strange and foreign to readers almost. But. It is set on another planet, and the expedition was a total disaster. The humans live twenty-two hours a day in a cave--only braving the environment one hour at dawn, one hour at twilight. But even living in the caves is not protection enough--the environment is too damaging; it is changing human growth rate and effecting the life span. When Sim is born--the human life span in his particular cave is just eight days. In those days, he'll grow into a man, perhaps have a child of his own, before dying of old age. Sim is not accepting that fate--and he's determined to do something about it.

The Anthem Sprinters
"There's no doubt of it, Doone's the best." 
Not science fiction. Not horror. Not twilight-zone-ish. It is about a group of Irishmen, I believe, who take bets on who can run out of the theatre the fastest after the credits of the movie and before the start of the anthem.

And So Died Riabouchinska
The cellar was cold cement and the dead man was cold stone and the air was filled with an invisible fall of rain, while the people gathered to look at the body as if it had been washed in on an empty shore at morning.
This one feels more like proper Ray Bradbury. It is very creepy--and involves a ventriloquist and his dummy.

 Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!
Hugh Fortnum woke to Saturday's commotions and lay, eyes shut, savoring each in its turn. 
A good conspiracy story--are aliens masterminding plans to take over the Earth through encouraging young people to grow mushrooms in their cellars and basements?

The Vacation
It was a day as fresh as grass growing up and the clouds going over and butterflies coming down can make it.
A man and wife make a wish one day that everyone else in the world--except for their family--would vanish overnight. The wish comes true. For better or worse.

The Illustrated Woman
When a new patient wanders into the office and stretches out to stutter forth a compendious ticker tape of free association, it is up to the psychiatrist immediately beyond, behind and above to decide at just which points of the anatomy the client is in touch with the couch. In other words, where does the patient make contact with reality?
A very strange story about one particular woman (and her husband) who visit a psychiatrist.

Some Live Like Lazarus
You won't believe it when I tell you I waited more than sixty years for a murder, hoped as only a woman can hope that it might happen, and didn't move a finger to stop it when it finally drew near. Anna Marie, I thought, you can't stand guard forever. Murder, when ten thousand days have passed, is more than a surprise, it is a miracle.
A story about waiting. A boy and girl meet during the summer and fall for each other. He has a controlling mother. She wants to get married, settle down, etc. He wants to wait for his mother to die first. How long will a woman wait before moving on?

The Best of All Worlds
The two men sat swaying side by side, unspeaking for the long while it took for the train to move through cold December twilight, pausing at one country station after another.
A short story about two marriages.

The One Who Waits
I live in a well. I live like smoke in a well.
A short story set on Mars.
Tyrannosaurus Rex
He opened a door on darkness.
A short story about the movie business.

The Screaming Woman
My name is Margaret Leary and I'm ten years old and in the fifth grade at Central School.
Definitely a horror story!

The Terrible Conflagration Up at The Place
The men had been hiding down by the gatekeeper's lodge for half an hour or so, passing a bottle of the best between, and then, the gatekeeper having been carried off to bed, they dodged up the path at six in the evening and looked at the great house with the warm lights lit in each window.
Didn't like this one very much.

Night Call, Collect
What made the old poem run in his he could not guess, but run it did.
A short story set on Mars.

The Tombling Day
It was the Tombling day, and all the people had walked up the summer road, including Grandma Loblilly, and they stood now in the green day and the high sky country of Missouri, and there was a smell of the seasons changing and the grass breaking out in flowers.
A story set in a cemetery.

The Haunting of the New
I hadn't been in Dublin for years. 
A short story about Charles and Nora...a strange friendship...and a very strange house.

Tomorrow's Child
He did not want to be the father of a small Blue Pyramid.
What would you do if your child was born in another dimension?

I Sing the Body Electric
I remember her birth.
A story about a family who buys a Grandma.

The Women
It was as if a light came on in a green room.
A couple at the beach, I believe. The woman has a premonition that he should not go into the water, that if he does, he'll die. So she tries everything to distract him, to get him away from danger, but will she succeed?

The Inspired Chicken Motel
It was in the Depression, deep down in the empty soul of the Depression in 1932, when we were heading west by 1928 Buick, that my mother, father, my brother Skip, and I came upon what we ever after called the Inspired Chicken Motel.
A strange story set during the Depression.

Yes, We'll Gather at the River
At one minute to nine he should have rolled the wooden Indian back into warm tobacco darkness and turned the key in the lock.

A short story about the "dying" of a town.

Have I Got A Chocolate Bar For You!
It all began with the smell of chocolate.
A non-catholic, overweight man begins confessing to a local priest about his need to consume several pounds of chocolate daily. The priest isn't sure how he can help, and, in fact, there are months that go by when he doesn't hear from this man in the confessional. When he does--he learns that the man has given up chocolate and his life has turned around...and he's very thankful to the priest...

A Story of Love
That was the week Ann Taylor came to teach summer school at Green Town Central. It was the summer of her twenty-fourth birthday, and it was the summer when Bob Spaulding was just fourteen.
A student falls for his teacher...

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Age of Miracles (YA/Adult)

The Age of Miracles. Karen Thompson Walker. 2012. Random House. 288 pages. 

We didn't notice right away. We couldn't feel it. We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.

The Age of Miracles is a thoughtful coming-of-age story narrated by Julia, age 11. When the "big event" happens, or the big announcement about the big event is made, Julia is entering sixth grade. What's the big announcement? Well, the earth has changed its rotation, the days (and subsequently) the nights are getting longer and longer. The earth no longer revolves around the sun in twenty-four hours. Within a week or two (or maybe three?), days are closer to forty hours than twenty. And the days (and nights) are just going to keep getting longer and longer and longer.

The terror of the situation is felt almost immediately by some, but for others it takes a while. Julia's mother was already prone to anxiety even before the announcement, but since the news came she's more hysterical than ever. And she's not alone.

The Age of Miracles captures what it is like for "life as we know it" to fall apart gradually, piece by piece, layer by layer. Specifically it captures what it is like to be eleven in a strange new world. Julia's world is just as much impacted by her new school year, her school worries about friendships and crushes, as it is the global catastrophe. Julia's home life mirrors the greater falling-apart of the world. As her mother is weighed down with sickness and anxiety, as her father escapes his burdens by taking comfort in a neighbor woman, as the three continue to live disconnected from one another.

Perhaps it is only natural for Julia's concerns to be about whether or not she'll ever see her best friend again (her best friend is moving away), or if the boy she likes will ever talk to her or like her back, to wonder if she'll ever get breasts, or to wonder if her parents will get a divorce, to wonder if her mom knows about the affair, to be worried about her grandfather's mysterious disappearance, than to be concerned about food and water supply, to be concerned about if the planet is still capable of supporting life. If the complete cycle of a day becomes several months long, for example, that means weeks of direct sunlight--too much sun, too much radiation, too much heat; but it also means months of complete darkness--not enough sun, too dark, too cold. What kind of crops can grow in conditions like this? Can greenhouses even begin to support enough food for an entire planet? No, there are enough people worrying about the tomorrows, let Julia remain in the worries of today.

Personally, I found the novel compelling. It was an easy, quick read. Is the absolute best post-apocalyptic book? Probably not. It's not Alas, Babylon or The Earth Abides. But it was a good read. I liked its thoughtfulness, its reflective nature. The narrator is reflecting back on the early days of the crisis, she's remembering what it was like at the beginning. I'm not sure if readers ever learn how many years have passed since the novel began, but, we do know that "the end" wasn't imminent or immediate. That people have had plenty of time to accept the slow passage into the end of times--at least the end of times as they know it, as they can imagine it.

The Age of Miracles reminded me, in a way, of "The Inner Light." (For those unfamiliar with that title, well, it's only the BEST, BEST, BEST Star Trek episode ever, Star Trek Next Generation to be precise.) It also reminded me--not in its exact details, but in its feel--of the Twilight Zone episode, "The Midnight Sun." However, I am NOT saying that the book is as good as either episode. I don't want to raise expectations that high. The book is what it is. Don't expect it to be THE BEST BOOK EVER. OR expect it to be the worst book ever. I happened to like it more than I disliked it. But that's me. I saw it as having strengths and weaknesses.

The Age of Miracles did not feel like science fiction. Or at least not obvious science fiction. It feels more like a traditional coming-of-age novel. True, Julia is growing up at a difficult time in history, a time when time itself is losing its identity. But Age of Miracles is grounded in the small details of life, life as seen through the eyes of a child. Nothing seems dependable, nothing seems certain; everything is changing, all the rules are changing, even the rules of science. 

This was middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove. Our first flaws were emerging, but they were being corrected. Blurry vision could be fixed invisibly with the magic of the contact lens. Crooked teeth were pulled straight with braces. Spotty skin could be chemically cleared. Some girls were turning beautiful. A few boys were growing tall. I knew I still looked like a child. (43)
We were, on that day, no different from the ancients, terrified of our own big sky. (52)
It's hard to believe that there was a time in this country--not so long ago--when thick almanacs were printed every year and listed, among other facts, the precise clock time of every single sunrise and every single sunset a year in advance. I think we lost something else when we lost that crisp rhythm, some general shared belief that we could count on certain things. (96)
Read The Age of Miracles
  • If you like coming-of-age stories
  • If you like apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels that are more quiet and subtle and reflective than action-drama oriented. 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Far Side of the Sky

The Far Side of the Sky. Daniel Kalla. 2012. Tom Doherty Associates. 464 pages.

The shadow still swayed over the pavement. Franz Adler tried to blink away the memory of his brother's dangling corpse and the silhouette it cast across the sidewalk, but the image looped over and over in his head.

The Far Side of the Sky provides a unique look at World War II. Franz Adler is able to flee Vienna, Austria, after Kristallnacht with his young daughter, Hannah, and his sister-in-law, Esther. Also accompanying them is an artist Ernst Muhler who fears persecution as well. (He joins them at the very last minute when his boyfriend decides to join the Nazis.) Their destination is Shanghai, one of the few places welcoming Jewish refugees.

The Far Side of the Sky is about the Jewish refugee community in Shanghai. Readers get glimpses of refugee life in 1938-9, 1940, 1941, 1942. (For example, the narrative might cover one or two months in a given year, and then jump to the next year.)

The main characters are:

Franz Adler, a Jewish doctor who divides his time between two hospitals in Shanghai, one of the hospitals is for Jewish refugees.

Soon Yi Mah (Sunny) a biracial (American/Chinese) nurse who divides her time between two hospitals. Her father was a doctor, and, she too has a gift for doctoring. But Dr. Reuben, one of the surgeons at the other hospital absolutely hates her and feels she doesn't know her place. She's intelligent, resourceful, courageous.

Of course there are dozens and dozens of minor characters of many ethnicities. 

The story was very fascinating. The author note reveals that much is based on fact, that he spent a great deal of time researching the Jewish refugee experience in Shanghai. And since this was the first I've heard of it, it was definitely fascinating to me. However. I was disappointed in the distant characters. Though readers follow the stories of these characters, I personally never felt connected with them. I knew enough about them to care about their fates, what happened next, etc. But I never felt like I knew them.

I'm not sure this book did a good job with relationships between characters either. For example, readers know that Franz is a father, but, except for two or three scenes, we don't really see Hannah interacting with Franz. We know that Hannah provides motivation for Franz--that his concern for Hannah moves the plot forward, but as for knowing Hannah, that just doesn't happen. We don't get the details of his personal life outside the hospital very often. Again, we know that Franz is taking care of Esther, his sister-in-law, but as for his sister-in-law having any character of her own, I just don't see it. There are a handful of scenes now and then. But even in those scenes she seems one-dimensional and just there. So many of the characters seem one-dimensional. The story itself is fascinating enough--the action, the danger, the uncertainty--but the characters just don't seem to match that.

The setting is unique and interesting. The story is fascinating and compelling. The characters, well, they disappointed me. But. I think there is enough to enjoy this one that I'd definitely still recommend it.

Read The Far Side of the Sky
  • If you are interested in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly the war years
  • If you are interested in reading books set in Shanghai, in China
  • If you are interested in reading a Jewish refugee book in a very different setting
  • If you are interested in doctors, nurses, surgeons, hospitals, etc. 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Four 2012 Picture Books

Maudie and Bear. Jan Ormerod. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. 2012. Penguin. 48 pages.

"I need some exercise," said Maudie.
"Fresh air would be nice," said Bear.
"How about a bike ride?" said Maudie. 
"Let's go," said Bear. 
"One moment," said Maudie. "I need my sunglasses."
Soon Maudie came back with her sunglasses.
"Ready?" asked Bear.
"One moment," said Maudie. "I'll fetch our hats."
"Ready?" asked Bear.
"One moment," said Maudie. "I need my scarf."

 Maudie and Bear is a picture book with five individual stories starring Maudie and Bear. The first story, "The Bike Ride" is about the two getting some "exercise" in on a nice day. Readers will probably notice that it's Bear doing the exercise and Maudie having all the fun. The second story, "Home Sweet Home," has a moody Maudie taking on the role of Goldilocks. It is an odd story, in my opinion, and I'm not quite sure what to make of Maudie's moodiness at the end of the story. (Has she learned anything or not?) "The Snack" stars a demanding Maudie and an ever-patient Bear. Her contribution to the big snack is gathering dandelions. Bear's is to prepare all the food. But not just prepare any food. Certain foods in certain ways. And the table has to be just so, etc. This story probably is my least favorite. It's one thing to ask for a snack or meal--it's another to be so perfectionist about it. What really bothers me is that after all this work, SHE DOESN'T EVEN EAT IT. "Making Up" stars a sensitive and moody Maudie. When Maudie is dancing, Bear got the giggles. Bear does apologize for laughing, but Maudie stomps off mad anyway. How long will she stay mad? And what will Bear have to do to make it up to her? The fifth and final story is "Telling Stories." In this one, Maudie gets upset with Bear for falling asleep when she is telling a story. This one may just be my favorite of the five.
"Bear," said Maudie, "let's both sit in your big chair while you tell me a story."
"Certainly," said Bear.
So Bear told Maudie a story.
"That was a good story," said Maudie. "Now I will tell you a story. Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away..."
Bear closed his eyes.
"Bear!" said Maudie. "Do not go to sleep while I am telling you a story."
"I am not asleep," said Bear. "I am listening with my eyes shut."
I enjoyed some of the stories in this picture book, but not all five. Maudie can be a brat, at times, highlighting how children can be self-centered or self-absorbed. But I saw something more than that in Maudie too. Is this truly a book about friendship? Or is it a book about the parent-child relationship?

This one was originally published in Australia.

Read Maudie and Bear
  • If you're looking for books about family or friends
  • If you're looking for picture books with multiple stories
  • If you're looking for books that highlight the different emotions kids experience 
  • If you're looking for international picture books

Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. Susanna Reich. Illustrated by Amy Bates. 2012. Abrams. 40 pages.

Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was a very lucky cat, perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris. Day and night she could hear the bells of Sainte-Clotilde tolling the hour. And day and night she could smell the delicious smells of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese souffles, and duck pates wafting from the pots and pans of her owner, Julia Child. But life had not always been like this for Minette. Oh no, not at all.

I really enjoyed Minette's Feast. This picture book shares with readers the story of Julia Child's time in Paris through the eyes of a cat. A cat who mostly preferred mouse or bird--but could sometimes be tempted by the treats of her owner, Julia Child. While Bon Appetit! spans Julia's whole life, this one is more focused on a specific time and place. I love the glimpse of French culture--the sprinkling of French words. I do enjoy the cat's perspective, for the most part. Though this cat is a little too obsessed with mice! I really enjoyed the illustrations as well. I thought she did a great job of capturing Julia and Paul, and, of course the many many moods of the cat.

Read Minette's Feast
  • If you love cats
  • If you love Julia Child and/or cooking
  • If you are looking for picture books highlighting French culture

Just Because You're Mine. Sally Lloyd Jones. Illustrated by Frank Endersby. 2012. HarperCollins. 32 pages. 

Little Red Squirrel and his daddy were playing in the big wood. "Daddy!" shouted Little Red Squirrel. "Look at me!" And he scampered off. First Little Red Squirrel showed his dad his Super Fast Running. He  ran between the two elm trees, racing as fast as he could, faster than the wind. "Little Red Squirrel," his daddy called after him. "Did I tell you today that I love you?" 
"Because why?" asked Little Red Squirrel. (He was spinning now, faster and faster, round and round in circles. "Daddy," said the spinning Little Red Squirrel. "Do you love me because I'm fast?" (Then he fell over, of course, because he was so dizzy.)

While I have seen people comparing this one to the Love You Forever, I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. To me, it feels more like Guess How Much I Love You. Will it please every reader? Of course not. Some people do not like their picture books so sweet and sugary. (It does remind me of the Mr. Rogers' song "It's You I Like.") But I did enjoy certain aspects of it. I did like the message that a parent's love is unconditional. It's NOT based on performance. It's not based on beauty or talent or skill. I do think this one would be a great one for Christian families illustrating the Father's love for his children--the spiritual concept of adoption or even election.

Read Just Because You're Mine
  • If you like super-sweet, affectionate books about the parent-child relationship
  • If you are looking for picture books with the theme of unconditional love

Z is for Moose. Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksy. 2012. HarperCollins. 32 pages. 

A is for Apple
B is for Ball
C is for Cat
D is for Moose
Moose? No. 
Moose does not start with D. You are on the wrong page. 

Z is for Moose may just be my favorite of the picture books I'm reviewing today. It is fun and playful and would be great to read aloud! It is one of the best alphabet books I've read in years!!! In this one, Zebra is the boss of the alphabet book. Zebra has a clipboard and knows exactly how things should go. But Moose, well, Moose has ideas too. And he doesn't want to wait around for the letter M. Beginning with the letter D, Moose is pretty insistent that he be a part of every page of this one!!! Not everyone is happy about this, of course, the Queen looks quite startled!!! Will Moose get a proper turn?

I just loved, loved, loved Z is for Moose!!! I would definitely recommend it!

Read Z is for Moose
  • If you want to laugh!
  • If you enjoy funny alphabet books!
  • If you're looking for a Moose to love!

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

What's On Your Nightstand (July)

July has been a very good reading month for me. I still have a few books I'd like to finish before the end of the month.

Stories of Ray Bradbury.

Originally published in 1980 and newly republished in 2010, this collection features 100 stories by Ray Bradbury. I read the first forty-one stories in 2010. I've since read thirty-six more. I've got twenty-three more to go, I really hope I can do it by the end of the month!!!

The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie.

A collection of short stories originally published in 1932 starring Miss Marple and friends. I really love Miss Marple.

The Queen of Hearts by Wilkie Collins

A collection of ten short stories by Wilkie Collins originally published in 1859. The framework of this one is fun.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of A Victorian Lady. Kate Summerscale. 2012. Bloomsbury. 304 pages.

In the evening of 15 November 1850, a mild Friday night, Isabella Robinson set out for a party near her house in Edinburgh.

Did I enjoy this one as much as Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher? No. Not even close. But that doesn't mean it wasn't interesting and at times thought-provoking. Mainly it made me very thankful to be living in this century. So what is Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace about? A little bit of everything:

science, evolution, "modern" medicine, mental illness and insanity, phrenology, homeopathic medical treatments, marriage, divorce, adultery, double standards, court systems, scandals, conformity and nonconformity, women's roles and women's rights, diaries and journals, creative act of writing, famous authors, famous books, etc.

Mrs. Robinson kept a diary. In her diary she wrote about the men--married and single, young and old--whom she fancied. She was a married woman, a mother of three. And it might not have been exactly mature to write about each man she had a crush on--some of them were her son's tutors--and to record each interaction--mainly conversations in a group setting, perhaps a walk or outside excursion--again in a group setting often with the children or others. What she wrote about one married man, a Dr. Edward Lane, went beyond that. She was seeking treatment at Moor Park, a health resort where Lane practiced his methods. She wrote of a handful of private walks where they kissed and confessed longings. She wrote of an interlude in his study and another in a carriage. Several years later, her husband read his wife's diary and discovered that his wife hated him--completely and absolutely--and lusted after all these other men. He sought a divorce with his wife's stolen diary as the only proof or witness to adultery. But was the diary enough proof to condemn his wife and grant him the divorce?

The first half of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is a reconstruction of events leading to the diary's discovery. Readers learn very briefly about Isabella's childhood and upbringing, about her first marriage and first son. Then readers learn of her marriage to Mr. Robinson and the birth of their two sons. They learn of her disgust and hatred of her husband. They learn of her delight in seeking out the company of handsome, intelligent, often-younger, sometimes-married men. They read of her interest in science and medicine and literature; Also of her complete rejection of God and Christianity. She's encouraged, for example, by George Combe and phrenology. His reading of her skull confirms--in her mind--her particular weaknesses. Though later he goes a long way in distancing himself from her and seems repulsed and worried when he learns that she has written about him quite a lot in her diary. Readers learn about Mrs. Robinson's "uterine disease." Turns out that "uterine disease" is code for a woman being insane.

The second half of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is a reconstruction of the divorce trial in the courts. Readers learn about the three (or so) lawyers involved in the case. Those representing Mr. Robinson, Mrs. Robinson, and Mr. Lane. Particular attention is paid to the defense of Mrs. Robinson. In addition, it chronicles what the press said about the case, etc. It concludes with the verdict and the aftermath of the case.

One thing I liked about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is that readers do get to decide on their own how they feel about it. She presents the facts, but lets readers make up their minds as to what those facts mean. Was she insane? Was she telling the truth? Was she embellishing and exaggerating things for her diary? Did she know if she was? Did she see the diary as being truth or fiction or a blend of the two? Was Mr. Lane lying? Was he trying to cover up his indiscretions and protect his family and reputation? Or was he a victim of one woman's obsession?

Read Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace
  • If you want to be equally disturbed and fascinated 
  • If you have a wide interest in all things Victorian; Summerscale does ramble and introduce many off topic subjects. 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone. R.D. Blackmore. 1869. 658 pages.

If anybody cares to read a simple tale told simply, I, John Ridd of the parish of Oare, in the county of Somerset, yeoman and churchwarden, have seen and had a share in some doings of this neighborhood, which I will try to set down in order, God sparing my life and memory. 

Lorna Doone was a classic that I almost almost loved. However, while I didn't "love" it, I certainly liked it. What I liked best about Lorna Doone was the romance. There were a few love scenes in this one--scenes where John Ridd is wooing Lorna Doone and professing his unending love for her. And those scenes work the best of any in the novel. But those scenes make up just a fraction of the novel, and to be honest I found most of this one to be boring. Now, I enjoy a rambling novel, I do. I love Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins. I don't mind an author that takes his time telling a story--so long as the asides are written in a charming, entertaining way. But I didn't feel that was the case in Lorna Doone.

This historical romance is set in Exmoor (Devon and Somerset England) in the 17th Century) during the reigns of King Charles II and James II. John Ridd falls in love with Lorna Doone, but there are a few big obstacles standing in the way of their true love. First, she is a Doone. The Doone clan murdered John's father. John himself forgives this flaw easily since Lorna is so incredibly beautiful. The rest of his family may not be eager to welcome a woman from the outlaw clan. And the Doone clan, well, they are definitely not wanting to lose "their" Lorna to John Ridd. Second, Lorna's mysterious past. She doesn't remember a time before the Doones, but, that doesn't mean there wasn't one. And this big reveal causes some to believe that John Ridd isn't good enough--worthy enough-- for her. I will not say more than that. Third, the general times in which they lived: the political mess of the battle for the kingdom between James II and the Duke of Monmouth. John is mistakenly taken for a soldier on Monmouth's side--that is not the case, but it does pose some problems. Fourth, the pure evil that is Carver Doone.

Favorite scenes:
I would have leaped into the valley of the shadow of death (as described by the late John Bunyan), only to hear her call me "John"; though Apollyon were lurking there, and Despair should lock me in.
She stole across the silent grass; but I strode hotly after her; fear was all beyond me now, except the fear of losing her. I could not but behold her manner, as she went before me, all her grace, and lovely sweetness, and her sense of what she was.
She led me to her own rich bower, which I told of once before; and if in spring it were a sight, what was it in summer glory? But although my mind had notice of its fairness and its wonder, not a heed my heart took of it, neither dwelt it in my presence more than flowing water. All that in my presence dwelt, all that in my heart was felt, was the maiden moving gently, and afraid to look at me.
For now the power of my love was abiding on her, new to her, unknown to her; not a thing to speak about, nor even to think clearly; only just to feel and wonder, with a pain of sweetness. She could look at me no more, neither could she look away, with a studied manner—only to let fall her eyes, and blush, and be put out with me, and still more with herself.
I left her quite alone; though close, though tingling to have hold of her. Even her right hand was dropped and lay among the mosses. Neither did I try to steal one glimpse below her eyelids. Life and death to me were hanging on the first glance I should win; yet I let it be so.
After long or short—I know not, yet ere I was weary, ere I yet began to think or wish for any answer—Lorna slowly raised her eyelids, with a gleam of dew below them, and looked at me doubtfully. Any look with so much in it never met my gaze before.
"Darling, do you love me?" was all that I could say to her.
"Yes, I like you very much," she answered, with her eyes gone from me, and her dark hair falling over, so as not to show me things.
"But do you love me, Lorna, Lorna; do you love me more than all the world?"
"No, to be sure not. Now why should I?"
"In truth, I know not why you should. Only I hoped that you did, Lorna. Either love me not at all, or as I love you for ever."
"John I love you very much; and I would not grieve you. You are the bravest, and the kindest, and the simplest of all men—I mean of all people—I like you very much, Master Ridd, and I think of you almost every day."
"That will not do for me, Lorna. Not almost every day I think, but every instant of my life, of you. For you I would give up my home, my love of all the world beside, my duty to my dearest ones, for you I would give up my life, and hope of life beyond it. Do you love me so?"
"Not by any means," said Lorna; "no, I like you very much, when you do not talk so wildly; and I like to see you come as if you would fill our valley up, and I like to think that even Carver would be nothing in your hands—but as to liking you like that, what should make it likely? (214-5)
She made for awhile as if she dreamed not of the meaning of my gaze, but tried to speak of other things, faltering now and then, and mantling with a richer damask below her long eyelashes.
"This is not what I came to know," I whispered very softly, "you know what I am come to ask."
"If you are come on purpose to ask anything, why do you delay so?" She turned away very bravely, but I saw that her lips were trembling.
"I delay so long, because I fear; because my whole life hangs in balance on a single word; because what I have near me now may never more be near me after, though more than all the world, or than a thousand worlds, to me." As I spoke these words of passion in a low soft voice, Lorna trembled more and more; but she made no answer, neither yet looked up at me.
"I have loved you long and long," I pursued, being reckless now, "when you were a little child, as a boy I worshipped you: then when I saw you a comely girl, as a stripling I adored you: now that you are a full-grown maiden all the rest I do, and more—I love you more than tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence. I have waited long and long; and though I am so far below you I can wait no longer; but must have my answer."
"You have been very faithful, John," she murmured to the fern and moss; "I suppose I must reward you."
"That will not do for me," I said; "I will not have reluctant liking, nor assent for pity's sake; which only means endurance. I must have all love, or none, I must have your heart of hearts; even as you have mine, Lorna."
While I spoke, she glanced up shyly through her fluttering lashes, to prolong my doubt one moment, for her own delicious pride. Then she opened wide upon me all the glorious depth and softness of her loving eyes, and flung both arms around my neck, and answered with her heart on mine,—
"Darling, you have won it all. I shall never be my own again. I am yours, my own one, for ever and for ever."
I am sure I know not what I did, or what I said thereafter, being overcome with transport by her words and at her gaze. Only one thing I remember, when she raised her bright lips to me, like a child, for me to kiss, such a smile of sweet temptation met me through her flowing hair, that I almost forgot my manners, giving her no time to breathe.
"That will do," said Lorna gently, but violently blushing; "for the present that will do, John. And now remember one thing, dear. All the kindness is to be on my side; and you are to be very distant, as behoves to a young maiden; except when I invite you. But you may kiss my hand, John; oh, yes, you may kiss my hand, you know. Ah to be sure! I had forgotten; how very stupid of me!"
For by this time I had taken one sweet hand and gazed on it, with the pride of all the world to think that such a lovely thing was mine; and then I slipped my little ring upon the wedding finger; and this time Lorna kept it, and looked with fondness on its beauty, and clung to me with a flood of tears.
"Every time you cry," said I, drawing her closer to me "I shall consider it an invitation not to be too distant. There now, none shall make you weep. Darling, you shall sigh no more, but live in peace and happiness, with me to guard and cherish you: and who shall dare to vex you?" But she drew a long sad sigh, and looked at the ground with the great tears rolling, and pressed one hand upon the trouble of her pure young breast.
"It can never, never be," she murmured to herself alone: "Who am I, to dream of it? Something in my heart tells me it can be so never, never." (261-2)
Isn't the "I love you more than tongue can tell, or heart can hold in silence" lovely?

Lorna Doone isn't just a romance, however; John Ridd has a few adventures all his own, including more than a few fight/battle scenes.

Read Lorna Doone
  • If you like classics
  • If you like historical romances

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Loss (YA)

Loss. (Riders of the Apocalypse #3) Jackie Morse Kessler. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages.

The day before Death came for Billy Ballard...
...Billy was on the ground, getting the snot pounded out of him. Again. No special reason this time; maybe it was because it was Tuesday, or because Eddie Glass didn't like Billy's hair.

This is the third novel in Jackie Morse Kessler's Riders of the Apocalypse series. The first two books are Hunger and Rage. Hunger was a novel about a young teen girl with an eating disorder becoming Famine; Rage was a novel about a trouble teen girl, a girl who cuts herself, becoming War. The third novel is about a GUY who has spent years of his life being bullied becoming Pestilence. (For the record, the books do stand alone; you don't need to read them in a certain order; each book is about a different Rider of the Apocalypse.)

The hero of Loss is Billy Ballard. And he's going to have to become confident in the role of hero fast if he's going to stand a chance at saving the world from self-destruction, at stopping the end of the world. He's going to have to face what is troubling him--everything that is troubling him. At home, he's having to deal with a grandfather with Alzheimer's disease. Every room, every window, must be locked. And the front door itself must be "hidden" so that the grandfather can't escape and get lost and cause problems. Soon after the novel opens, readers see what happens when the Mom is careless when she comes in from work. The two are soon rushing through the streets, yelling as they search, needing to find him before something horrible happens. And that something horrible does almost happen--but Billy is there just in time. It was the closest of close calls. And it makes Billy "a hero" in the eyes of his best friend, a girl Billy wishes was his actual girlfriend. But. Billy feels silly thinking himself a hero when he's too scared to go to school, too afraid to go to his classes, his gym class, his locker room. He spends his life dreading every moment he's out of the house; considering what his home life is like--taking care of a grumpy, sometimes-violent grandfather who does not remember him, does not love him, does not want him around--that is saying a lot. But everything changes, everything goes topsy-turvy, everything becomes surreal when Billy is greeted by Death and given the Bow of the Conqueror, of Pestilence. Billy has a chance to wield power, destructive power. But he doesn't necessarily have to do it recklessly or irresponsibly.

Loss will best work for readers who don't require their fiction to make sense 100% of the time. In other words, for those that can accept a certain flowing ever-changing magic-realism, poetical, fantastical dream-state. While Billy does interact in the real world after assuming his bow and the 'office' of Pestilence, most of it does occur in Billy's mind. The imagery and allusions are powerful, in a way, and are incredibly creative. But. At the same time, it didn't quite work...for this reader. It was not quite my personal style.

Though the author uses some biblical imagery in these novels, the whole concept of the (four) riders of the Apocalypse, I can't say that the books are ever faith-friendly. In particular, this book has bothered me more than the others. True, it has been a few years since I've read them, and true, it's possible that I didn't just mention it in my reviews. In general, my philosophy is that I don't expect books to "be biblical" or to meet certain moral standards if they're obviously secular or mainstream. (If, like in Irises, they have characters that profess faith, then, that's somewhat different.) Loss is definitely, definitely a secular book. Yes, it may be using imagery from Revelation, but not in a biblical way. The viewpoint is not biblical. I found it disturbing--actually extremely offensive--when the author has "the Conqueror" say twice:
"Death is in all things," the Conqueror continued, babbling now, his words like wasps in Billy's ears. "He is the alpha and the omega, and we exist only on his whim. And he is done with whimsy!" (229, 243)
At one point Death says, "I'm not a god. Those come and go. I'm more like a permanent fixture." (48)

The novel also holds an unbiblical view of good and evil. In Kessler's novel, for example, and it won't be the first or last time this is done, I know, but good and evil are presented as equal, equal in terms of strength and power and forces and influences. Both good and evil being in eternal opposition forever and ever and ever without end. Neither good nor evil being able to overcome the other. The war between the two resulting not in their losses exactly, but in human losses.

Personally, I liked the first two books better than this one. I think this one is the weirdest one; I think it requires the biggest stretch to suspend your disbelief. I think it takes the most work to understand the surreal storyline which occurs mainly in a weird dream-memory-mind state.

Read Loss
  • If you're a fan of the series
  • If you enjoy magic realism and fantasy
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in July

New Loot:
  • The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Colleen Coble
  • The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla
  • Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale
  • Freddy and the Dragon by Walter Brooks
  • Freddy and Mr. Camphor by Walter R. Brooks
  • The Bad Apple by T.R. Burns
  • Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge
  • The Little Bride by Anna Solomon
  • Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod
  • Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
  • Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich
  • Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • Summer at Forsaken Lake by Michael D. Beil

Leftover Loot:
  • The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  • Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey
  • The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  • Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff  
  • The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds
  • Good night, Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas
  • The Stories of Ray Bradbury  
  • The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
  • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.   

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday Salon: Watching Lady Audley's Secret

I recently watched an "adaptation" of Lady Audley's Secret. How much does the movie have in common with the book? Well, I could be generous and say ten percent--maybe even fifteen percent, but, essentially NOTHING. True, the movie shares a title with the book. True, the movie features characters called: Michael Audley, Alicia Audley, Lady Audley (Lucy Graham), Robert Audley,  George Talboys, and Phoebe and Luke Marks. As does the book. True, Lady Audley has a secret or two. But that is where the similarities end. For the most part.

Perhaps the BIGGEST difference between the movie and the book is in the character of Robert Audley. Other than his first name being Robert, and his last name being Audley, you can just assume that the movie version is completely different--and by different I mean OPPOSITE. Well, technically I guess both Robert Audleys are nephew to Michael Audley. But as far as character, personality, morals, motivations, intentions, and actions go, they are about as opposed as they can be.

If I had to describe the Robert Audley from the movie, I'd say he was lusty, vengeful, and a complete jerk. He LUSTS after his uncle's wife, Lady Audley, something so far removed from the book it is almost impossible to believe that the people responsible for this movie even read the book--did they even own a copy? He doesn't just lust from afar, he goes about grabbing her and kissing her. And then there's the whole sneaking up and watching her in a state of undress through a slightly-open-but-mostly-closed door, her private room. A place he had no business lingering in the first place. Never mind him just happening to find the door that way. And then the way he turns around and kisses Alicia when she discovers him---DISGUSTING. In the book, Robert was equally indifferent to Alicia, who did want him to propose one day, and to Lady Audley. He definitely wasn't chasing after Lady Audley trying to convince her to run away with him! And while it is true that Lady Audley tells her husband that she thought it was unwise to have Robert around just because he might accidentally fall in love with her instead of Alicia, it was a tactic on her part. She wanted him out of the house, she wanted him out of the neighborhood. This Robert--the movie Robert--is not exactly indifferent to Alicia, he leads her to believe that they will be married. You can't mistake words like "will you marry me?" So Robert just appears to be a JERK (to put it very nicely) to Alicia.

George Talboys. Poor George. So little screen time, and what time you were on screen, well, Robert your dear friend, was more interested in Lady Audley. How were viewers to ever guess that your relationship with Robert actually mattered? That your friendship with Robert actually was the motivation behind almost all of the novel after your mysterious disappearance?! No, poor George, you didn't enter into Robert's thoughts at all, hardly. It would have helped things, perhaps, if the movie-Robert had bothered to track down your family, to share his convictions, to meet your father and sister. It would have perhaps shown that Robert just wasn't OBSESSED with Lady Audley instead of Lady Audley's "secrets."

Does motivation matter? Is it so very, very, very important that Robert investigate the disappearance of his friend George because he loved George, that he wanted justice for his friend, that he sincerely thought something horrible had happened and he needed answers? I think so. When you make Robert's sole motivation lust, anger, and vengeance--if Lady Audley won't give herself to me, if she won't betray her husband for a passionate affair with me--then I'll go about ruining her life, I'll piece together clues to make sure she never has a happy day in her life--then Robert is a VILLAIN. He's a guy you want to boo, hiss. Who could ever LIKE this Robert Audley? Who would ever see him as a hero?

Would this movie be more satisfying if it wasn't trying to be an adaptation from a book? I'm not sure. Maybe.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews