Friday, August 31, 2012

August Reflections-

In August, I read 40 books!

My favorite picture book:  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. William Joyce.
My favorite early reader:  Cookies: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker.
My favorite board book:  My Race Car. Ace Landers.
My favorite children's book:  Kindred Souls. Patricia MacLachlan.
My favorite YA: Lucid. Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass.
My favorite YA Historical:  Code Name Verity. Elizabeth Wein.
My favorite short story collection:  The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury.
My favorite Austen sequel: The Unexpected Miss Bennet. Patrice Sarath.
Favorite biography:  The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Maria Augusta Trapp.
Favorite Christian contemporary:  Almost Amish. Kathryn Cushman.
Favorite Christian historicalTo Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. Sandra Byrd.

Board Books, Picture Books, Early Readers:
  1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. William Joyce. Illustrated by Joe Bluhm. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 56 pages.
  2. Camping: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker. Green Light Readers: Level 2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002/2012. 24 pages.
  3. Cookies: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker. Green Light Readers: Level 2. 2002/2012. 24 pages.
  4. My Turtle and Me. Owen Berstein. Illustrated by Carol Thompson. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.
  5. Let's Get Dressed. Caroline Jayne Church. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.
  6. Dinosaurs: A Prehistoric Touch-and-feel adventure! Jeffrey Burton. Illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello. 2012. Scholastic. 12 pages.
  7. Jangles. David Shannon. 2012. Scholastic. (October) 32 pages.
  8. Bailey at the Museum. Harry Bliss. 2012. Scholastic. (September) 32 pages.
  9. It's Duffy Time. Audrey and Don Wood. 2012. Scholastic. (October) 40 pages.
  10. Tabby McTat: The Musical Cat. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2012. Scholastic. December. 32 pages.
  11. 1, 2, 3 in the Sea (With Big Flaps). Sue DiCicco. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.
  12. 1, 2 at the Zoo (With Big Flaps). Sue DiCicco. 2012 Scholastic. 10 pages.
  13. Go! Go! Go! Nicola Bird. Illustrated by Fiona Land. 2012 Scholastic. 10 pages.
  14. My Race Car. Ace Landers. Illustrated by David A. White. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.

Middle Grade and Young Adult Books:
  1. Kindred Souls. Patricia MacLachlan. 2012. HarperCollins. 119 pages.
  2. Sadie and Ratz. Sonya Hartnett. Illustrated by Ann James. 2012. Candlewick Press. 64 pages.
  3. Lucid. Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass. 2012. Penguin. 288 pages.
  4. Code Name Verity. Elizabeth Wein. 2012. Hyperion. 352 pages.
  5. Once (Eve #2) Anna Carey. 2012. HarperCollins. 368 pages.  
  6. The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. Tara Altebrando. 2012. Penguin. 304 pages.
  7. Gilt. Katherine Longshore. 2012. Penguin. 416 pages. 
  8. Mothership: Book One of the Ever-Expanding Universe. Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages.
  9. The Forsaken. Lisa M. Stasse. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 375 pages.
  10. For Darkness Shows the Stars. Diana Peterfreund. 2012. HarperCollins. 416 pages.

Adult Books:
  1. The Unexpected Miss Bennet. Patrice Sarath. 2011. Penguin. 304 pages.
  2. Mansfield Park Revisited. Joan Aiken. 1985/2005. Sourcebooks. 201 pages.
  3. Captain Wentworth's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2007. Penguin. 304 pages.
  4. Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt. Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb. 2012. Sourcebooks. 320 pages.
  5. Edmund Bertram's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2007/2008. Penguin. 304 pages. 
  6. The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. 1980/2010. Everyman's Library. 1063 pages. 
  7. Jane Vows Vengeance. Michael Thomas Ford. 2012. Random House. 288 pages.  
  8. Lady Susan. Jane Austen 1794?/1871. 64 pages.
Christian Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. For Such a Time As This. Ginny Aiken. 2012. FaithWords. 384 pages.
  2. To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. Sandra Byrd. 2011. Howard Books. 332 pages.
  3. Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace. Michael Horton. 1994/2011. Baker Books. 272 pages.
  4. God is Good...All the Time. Dr. Margi McCombs. Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. 2012. Scholastic. 20 pages.
  5. Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace. Michael S. Beates. 2012. Crossway. 192 pages.
  6. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Maria Augusta Trapp. 1949/2001. HarperCollins. 320 pages.
  7. Almost Amish. Kathryn Cushman. 2012. Bethany House. 336 pages.
  8. Story: Our Journey of Heartache and Grace fro Eden to Evermore by Steven James. 2006/2012. Revell. 208 pages.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Almost Amish

Almost Amish. Kathryn Cushman. 2012. Bethany House. 336 pages.

"We're going live in five, four, three, two, one." As the countdown culminated, the audience did as they were instructed and began to clap wildly, as if this moment was the greatest in their lives.

Almost Amish chronicles the lives of two families trying to simplify their lives over the summer. Two families sharing a house in front of cameras and a camera crew. Susan, the perfectionist, is supposed to be the star of a new show. And if all goes well, she could end up with a book deal and more TV opportunities. A dream come true...for Susan. She has brought her teen daughter, Angie, her sister-in-law, Julie, her teen niece, Whitney, and her nephew, Brian. They will be living in a house that has definitely seen better days. And they'll be trying to mimic the Amish lifestyle--to a certain degree. All under the direction and guidance of Kendra, a woman with a cruel streak perhaps! Each week this family will face a particular "challenge" for the show.

Julie believes that it is all about simplifying, prioritizing, making time for family, cherishing family, making each moment count. Susan, on the other hand, thinks it is about being perfect 24/7 forever and ever without stopping to relax. Cleaning, cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, cooking, and let us not forget pressuring others to meet our standards! It's not enough for Susan to be Susan. She wants to remake everyone regardless of how they feel about it. Poor Angie! Poor Julie! Poor Whitney! Susan is never satisfied.

Surrounded by Susan's negativity and perhaps her own husband's negativity as well since he shares some of the views of his sister, Julie always, always feels inadequate. She doesn't think she's good at anything. She doesn't think she has any gifts or talents. Sure people always tell her she's nice, but, she doesn't think that should count.

Readers get to know Susan, Julie, Angie, and to a lesser degree Whitney and Brian. And then there's the "handy man" Gary who is also part of the show. It will definitely be an unforgettable experience. But who will learn the most? And who will be a hit with viewers?

I really liked this one! I definitely preferred Julie to Susan! And I loved the chapters with quilting lessons! This one was definitely more focused on family relationships than romance. I thought it was a great story with a great message.

Read Almost Amish
  • If you're looking for contemporary Christian fiction (not that you'd have to be Christian, if you like clean fiction this one may be something you're interested in)
  • If you're looking for family drama; this one focuses on a family learning to resolve conflicts
  • If you enjoy reality TV

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sadie and Ratz

Sadie and Ratz. Sonya Hartnett. Illustrated by Ann James. 2012. Candlewick Press. 64 pages.

I am Hannah. These are my hands. Their names are Sadie and Ratz. We live in a house with my mom and dad and my stick insect, Pin.

Hannah is a little girl with a big imagination and two naughty hands. One of her hands is named Sadie, the other hand is Ratz. When they are on the rampage, look out! For her hands behave as wild beasts. And these beasts like to declare war on her four year old brother. Of course, Sadie and Ratz are forever getting in trouble for picking on her brother, for hurting him, etc. But how can Hannah live at peace with her horrible baby brother? The relationship between the two remains TENSE, TENSE, TENSE as Baby Brother starts blaming Sadie and Ratz for things that he himself did. It's one thing for Hannah to get in trouble when she's actually naughty and deserves it, quite another to get in trouble for stuff her brother did and blamed on her. So she decides that if Sadie and Ratz GO ON VACATION they won't be near the scene of any crimes...

This is a relatively dark early reader about sibling rivalry. I say dark because most early readers don't have any hint or shadow of darkness in tone or theme--at all. It does examine the emotion of anger and temper tantrums. The illustrations are great at capturing the darker emotions.

While this one isn't exactly a new favorite, I definitely liked it well enough to recommend it.

Sadie and Ratz aren't animals. "But they behave like wild beasts," says Dad. (1-2)
Sadie is the boss. She is the same size as Ratz, but she is meaner (7).
When Sadie and Ratz are on the rampage, look out! (9)

Read Sadie and Ratz
  • If you're looking for an early chapter book to share with children
  • If you are looking for a book about naughty hands children

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. William Joyce. Illustrated by Joe Bluhm. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 56 pages.

Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for. But every story has its upsets. One day the sky darkened. The winds blew and blew...till everything Morris knew was scattered--even the words of his book.

Can a book be lovely and strange? There were many, many things I loved about The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. I loved the subject--books and reading. I loved the message: words, stories, books can help heal; books are "good" for you. I love the imaginative fantasy world. The illustrations of the flying books--the flying woman with the flying books. The illustrations are just AMAZING. I loved the writing. Joyce has a way with words, "Morris tried to keep the books in some sort of order, but they always mixed themselves up. The tragedies needed cheering up and would visit with the comedies." It's a book with a lot of heart: "'Everyone's story matters,' said Morris. And all the books agreed." But the book is strange--not your typical picture book that you'd share with your preschooler. The book DOES have an audience! But I think it's a story for older readers, for adults even.

Read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • If you are looking for a GREAT picture book
  • If you like reading books about books
  • If you like books that celebrate reading and libraries
  • If you are drawn to beautiful pictures and imaginative stories 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventures

Camping: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker. Green Light Readers: Level 2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002/2012. 24 pages. 

It was Saturday morning. It was sunny, and it was hot. "Let's go camping," said Mrs. Green. Mr. Green had never been camping. He was excited. Life with Mrs. Green was full of adventure.

I really, really enjoyed this Mr. and Mrs. Green adventure. The two are preparing for a camping trip. They have a long, long list of things that they "need" to take. Both are excited--very excited to have an adventure. But as the adventure gets started, Mr. Green shows some signs of uneasiness. He doesn't want to camp too far away from home, it seems. Mrs. Green has just the thing!

Cookies: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker. Green Light Readers: Level 2. 2002/2012. 24 pages.

Mr. Green woke up from his nap. He smelled cookies, freshly baked cookies. He followed his nose. (He had a big nose--it was easy to follow.)

I just loved, loved, loved Keith Baker's Cookies starring Mr. and Mrs. Green. One day when Mrs. Green is out shopping, Mr. Green discovers a note and some cookies. The note reads, "These are terri-ble! Do not eat." The cookies look good. The cookies smell good. And Mrs. Green always, always makes delicious cookies, so why are these cookies so terri-ble. He decides to eat them one by one by one by one to see if he can find out why. The cookies ARE great. He LOVES the cookies--they're absolutely perfect. Mrs. Green arrives at home to explain the mix-up! He only read half the note!!!

This is a super-fun book that I just loved and adored!

These two Mr. and Mrs. Green early readers were published in early August 2012. Two more early reader adventures will be published in October 2012! The Talent Show: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure and Fishing: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure.

Read Mr. and Mrs. Green
  • If you enjoy funny early readers (like Frog & Toad and Elephant and Piggie)
  • If you like alligators!
  • If you like cookies OR camping 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life (YA)

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. Tara Altebrando. 2012. Penguin. 304 pages.

It was exactly one forty-five when we pulled into The Pines--the old tree-dotted parking lot behind the football field. The was a sort of extreme blue that seemed just right. 

In The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life, Mary, Patrick, Dez, and Winter team up to participate in one of the final events of Senior Week. The event is an all-afternoon-all-night scavenger hunt, and readers will see teams in fierce competition with one another to win the coveted Yeti and the honor of masterminding next year's scavenger hunt. Mary is fierce, determined, and taking it a bit too seriously, in my opinion. Winning the scavenger hunt means a little something different for every team member. For Mary and in a way for the other members, it means that they are not losers, that they are not "also ran." It means being remembered, it means making memories worth remembering. It means finding your voice just in time to say goodbye to high school. So Mary does make a big symbol out of it, it is more than just a scavenger hunt to her.

So is it just about a scavenger hunt? Yes and no. I mean it's about relationships and feelings. It's about facing up to the truth and having tough conversations. For example, *something* happened between Patrick and Mary at prom that Mary does NOT want to talk about. And *something* happened between Carson and Winter at prom that Winter, at least, does NOT want to come out. (Could be because he has a girl friend, Jill, who is supposed to be part of their circle of friends. And "the truth" will not just hurt Jill, but Mary as well, since she's loved and adored Carson since he moved to town and joined their class.) But it isn't just romantic relationships at stake in Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. Friendships are tested as well as family relationships. Mary's sister, Grace, for example makes an appearance. (I almost wish we had more on Mary and her family.) So on the one hand, this book is seemingly about nothing: a harmless-or-not-so-harmless night of teens behaving wildly, collecting objects great and small. And their race for silly, novel items seems to me at least a bit silly and pointless and so what. (Then again, I've never gotten the "school spirit" or "team spirit" thing.) But on the other hand, there is a make-every-moment-count-because-this-night-will-never-come-around-again feel to it.

While I didn't love, love, love The Best Night Of Your (Pathetic) Life, I liked many things about it. I liked that it covers just one day. I liked that it didn't rush a romance or rush a relationship. There were a couple of directions this one could have gone in the hands of another writer. Mary could have been rushed into a relationship with the best friend after realizing that her crush was a jerk. Mary could have fallen for Lucas, a guy we learn is a student at the college Mary's going to in the Fall. (They do have a tiny bit of a connection, in my opinion). Mary could have tried to flirt her way into an oh-so-short-summer-fling with her crush. (He did seem to flirt with her a bit, but then again, I think he was flirting with a handful of girls.) But no, Mary is allowed to just be Mary, to take this time to grow a little herself. I like that Mary is almost forced into reflecting. Mary wants to avoid some things, but her friends push her to be honest and present, which Mary may not have wanted but I think she needed. I liked Patrick the best of all, I think. I am not sure that I liked Mary. And I didn't really feel a connection with Winter. And I felt we barely got to know Dez at all in any depth. I mean we see that he is someone his friends really care about, for the most part, though even they can be insensitive and blind. And Carson, well, Mary tries to make excuses for Carson as to why he's oh-so-wonderful, but actions do speak louder than words, perhaps. So in the end, I'm not sure I "liked" the characters as much as I'd have liked. But. I though this one did a nice job with complex relationships.

Read The Best Night Of Your (Pathetic) Life:
  • If you like YA Fiction, particularly YA Realistic Fiction
  • If you like the idea of the scavenger hunt 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Library Loot: Fifth Trip in August

New Loot:
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange
  • Other Worlds Than These edited by Joseph Adams
  • Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel
  • The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards
  • Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
  • Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! by Barbara Park
 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 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

I love watching musicals, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of my favorites. It's not that I love each and every song, there are only a few musicals that I can say I love EVERY song. But I love so many things about it. To me it's a fun, feel-good film. I love how Millie teaches the remaining single brothers how to court a woman, how to make conversation, how to dance, etc. I love the barn-raising scene. That section is one of my favorites!!! I love the singing and dancing. I also love the song the women sing as the snow falls and the seasons change. That whole sequence has always been a favorite of mine. And there are plenty of scenes that make me smile every time! While I don't necessarily like the attitude of all of the characters, all of the time, there is just enough about the film for me to love. It is also interesting to me that my "favorite brother" continually changes.

Do you have a favorite musical?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 24, 2012

Once (YA)

Once (Eve #2) Anna Carey. 2012. HarperCollins. 368 pages. 

I started over the rocks, clutching a knife in one hand. The beach was strewn with sun-battered boats, long since wrecked on shore.

Once is the sequel to Anna Carey's dystopian novel, Eve. It has been a month or two--at least--since Caleb left Eve in Califia--a safe refuge solely for women. But Eve, our heroine, has not forgotten Caleb, her feelings for him have not gone away, and she's beginning to realize that they may never go away, that time will not make it easier. Califia may be an amazing place for some women, but not for her.

Once, for the most part, is about what happens to Eve after she leaves Califia. It is about her time spent in the City of Sands--the newly rebuilt Las Vegas. It is about what happens AFTER she is found by the King's soldiers.

Once is a suspenseful fast-paced dystopian novel. It definitely surprised me in several crucial places, which was great. The romance didn't thrill me exactly. It may just be the weakest element in Once. I seemed to like Caleb's character more in the first novel. I'm also not sure how I feel about Eve. She reminded me of Princess Buttercup, in a way. But it was an intense read for many reasons--the politics, the secrets, the lies, the big reveals, etc. So even though I didn't "love" every little thing in this one, I just couldn't put it down!

Read for Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August.  

Read Once
  • If you've read and enjoyed Eve by Anna Carey
  • If you enjoy dystopian series
  • If you don't mind reading series books with unsatisfying endings...
  • If you like a little romance with your science fiction 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Code Name Verity (YA/Adult)

Code Name Verity. Elizabeth Wein. 2012. Hyperion. 352 pages.

I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending. I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers--and even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. 

So many people have gushed about reviewed Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. And so many have just LOVED it and found it amazing. I have been meaning to read this one for a few months now, but, I personally found the novel difficult to get into. It just wasn't working for all. I found the framework of the story to be frustrating and confusing. The jumping back and forth between first person and third person, etc. And the main character, the narrator, I found her difficult to connect with. But I really didn't want to return this one to the library unread...again. So I decided to read it no matter what. And after two hundred pages, this one finally started working for me. And by the end, it definitely worked for me. By the end, I could see why people did love it. But it took reading the whole novel--seeing the big picture--for me to be able to appreciate it.

Code Name Verity is about two women serving their country during World War II. One woman is a spy; the other woman is a pilot. One fateful night, the two are together in a plane over France. One woman is captured several days later, and interrogated. This novel is her "cooperation" with the enemy. Through this written account--an account where she both speaks directly to her captors and relates events of the past (these are written in third person omniscient), readers come to know both women...

Read Code Name Verity
  • If you are interested in World War II, 
  • If you are interested in pilots and spies and secret operations
  • If you are interested in reading about strong, brave women
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Maria Augusta Trapp. 1949/2001. HarperCollins. 320 pages.

Somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up from the workbooks of my fifth graders, which I was just correcting, into the lined, old face of a little lay sister, every wrinkle radiating kindness. "Reverend Mother Abbess expects you in her private parlor," she whispered. Before I could close my mouth, which had opened in astonishment, the door shut behind the small figure. Lay sisters were not supposed to converse with candidates for the novitiate.

This is the true story that "inspired" my favorite musical The Sound of Music. For the most part, the book is fascinating--especially the first half of the book. Readers meet the young woman sent to be governess to a retired sea captain with many children. In the book, she's to be governess only to one of his daughters, the rest either have nursemaids, attend schools, or have their own tutors. There are definitely some big differences between the book and the movie--between truth and fiction. (For example, the names of the children are different, as is the chronology of the story. The couple married years before Hitler came to power; they married in 1927!) They began singing together as a family out of love for music, yes, but also out of financial necessity.

The book chronicles:

Maria's first eight or nine months as a governess, particular attention is paid to their first Christmas
Maria's new role as wife and mother
Austria's changing economy and politics in the 1930s
The family's flight from Austria and immigration to the United States
The family's first experiences in America as they go on tour and learn English
The family's (forced) return to Europe--fortunately, only for a few months.
The family's return to the United States, their continuing tours
The family's settling down in America (a bit more about their tours, building of their house, building of their music camp)
The private life of the family (recollections of holidays, feast days, birthdays, Christmases, vacations, etc.)

The book is great on capturing the family's dependence on God, their reliance on God to deliver them and provide for them no matter the circumstance. The book is also great at capturing a specific time, place, and culture. For anyone curious about what it was like to be living in Austria in the 1920s and 1930s, this is a must read. For those interested in the immigrant experience during this time period, it is just a fascinating account! To see American culture--and language--from this outside perspective. The book was published in 1949, but it was up to date--so readers do get perspective on World War II from their perspective, also what the family tried to do to help Austria after the war was over.

I really LOVED this one!!!

Favorite quotes:
One of the greatest things in human life is the ability to make plans. Even if they never come true--the joy of anticipation is irrevocably yours. That way one can live many more than just one life. (214)
One night I tenderly consulted by private calendar, "time eaters" we had called them at school, and it showed only thirteen more days in exile. The next morning I started spring cleaning. Under my direction the maids were taking down the curtains and proceeding to brush the walls, when I saw the three youngest children knock on the door of the study. It didn't take long and out they came again. Running over to me as I stood on a ladder washing a big crystal chandelier, they yelled from afar: "Father says he doesn't know whether you like him at all!" "Why, of course, I like him," I answered, somewhat absentmindedly, because I had never washed a chandelier before. I noticed only vaguely that the children disappeared behind the study door again. That same night I was arranging flowers in several big, beautiful oriental vases. This was the last touch, and then the spring cleaning was over, and it had been really successful. When I had arrived at the last vase, the Captain came in. Stepping over to me, he stood and silently watched what I was doing with the peonies. Suddenly he said, "That was really awfully nice of you." An altogether new tone in his voice, like the deep, rich quality of a low bell, made me look up, and I met his eyes, looking at me with such warmth that I lowered mine immediately again, bewildered. Automatically I asked what was so nice of me, as I only remembered that awful letter. "Why," he said, astonished, "didn't you send word to me through the children that you accepted the offer, I mean, that you want to marry me?" Scissors and peonies fell to the floor. "That I want to--marry you?" "Well, yes. The children came to me this morning and said they had had a council among themselves, and the only way to keep you with us would be that I marry you. I said to them that I would love to, but I didn't think you liked me. They ran over to you and came back in a flash, crying that you had said, 'yes I do.' Aren't we engaged now?" Now I was out of gear. I absolutely did not know what to say or what to do; not at all. The air was full of an expectant silence, and all I knew was that in a few days I would be received into my convent, and there stood a real, live man who wanted to marry me. (57-58)
Read The Story of the Trapp Family Singers
  • If you enjoy biography and memoirs
  • If you love The Sound of Music
  • If you want to learn more about Austria/Europe in the 1920s, 1930s
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Unexpected Miss Bennet

The Unexpected Miss Bennet. Patrice Sarath. 2011. Penguin. 304 pages.

It is a comforting belief among much of society, that a plain girl with a small fortune must have no more interest in matrimony than matrimony has in her. 

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. Set several years perhaps after the events of Pride and Prejudice, this novel shows the transformation of Mary Bennet. And the transformation is both believable and giddy-making. 

One day at a Lucas party, Mary is playing the piano. A young gentleman asks her to dance with him, before she can even start a reply someone cuts in and tells him that she is just Mary, she just plays the piano so others can dance, she isn't there to dance. Mary is puzzled at how this makes her feel. The fact that a man noticed her and wanted to dance with her, the fact that everyone assumed that Mary wouldn't want his attention or to dance, the fact that he took this answer and left to dance with someone else. Mary realizes that everyone has an idea of WHO Mary is and WHAT Mary does, and the ideas are very fixed. Mary wants to change that--one of the first things she does is to give up playing or practicing the piano. She starts taking more walks, she starts reflecting more on who she is and what she wants.

Around this same time, Jane starts worrying about her younger sister, Mary. She's already invited Kitty to spend some time with her and Bingley, so while she's not able to entertain her sister at this time, she's hoping that Elizabeth will be able to invite Mary to Pemberley.

At first, Mary accepts the invitation because she thinks Elizabeth is homesick and in need of one of her sisters, and she's happy to do her duty. But it doesn't take long for Mary to realize that Elizabeth is very happy indeed. For the first time, Mary sees what it would be like to live away from Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. For the first time, Mary reads a novel--or two or three. For the first time, Mary is happy. So when she gets a second opportunity with a certain gentleman who just happens to be an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy, she knows she'll dance. Of course, that's only a hint of what this one is about...

I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed what Sarath did with all the characters! Including Mr. and Mrs. Collins, Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter, Anne, etc. I definitely liked Mr. Aikens, the love interest of Mary, and I thought their courtship was just about right.

Read The Unexpected Miss Bennet
  • If you enjoy Jane Austen
  • If you love Pride and Prejudice
  • If you want Mary Bennet to have a happily ever after
  • If you like clean, historical romance 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mothership (YA)

Mothership: Book One of the Ever-Expanding Universe. Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages.

As far as scientists have been able to determine, the primary function of the human coccyx, or tailbone, is to remind us that once upon a time we were all monkeys or something. But I happen to know that it can still serve a useful purpose. Say, for example, that a pregnant teenager three weeks from her due date, who weighs, oh, approximately 145 pounds (lay off, all right? The baby loves ice cream), were shoved down forcefully on a Treadtrack in gym class by a bitchy cheerleader. 

 Our heroine, Elvie Nara, is one of many students attending a special high school for pregnant teens. The school is in space--a space cruiser in Earth's orbit. When her father enrolled her, she had no idea that Britta McVicker would also be there. The hate is mutual. Their due dates are only weeks apart--and for better or worse--their babies will be siblings. Of course, Elvie isn't sure if Britta is aware of that little fact. The thought repulses Elvie actually. Despite the opening paragraph, Elvie rarely thinks in terms of carrying 'a baby.' An "it" or "goober" at best. Elvie definitely has no intention at all of ever, ever, ever feeling maternal.

On the day of the incident when Elvie is alone and eating ice cream, the ship--cruiser--is attacked by another ship. And thus the scare begins, Elvie racing to join the other girls--hoping to stay ahead of the mysterious gunned invaders. She meets a few other girls on the way, and convinces them to join her in her flight. But what she witnesses's almost unbelievable. For she witnesses her teachers drowning her classmates. And then one of the invaders tells her that her teachers were in fact evil aliens. And he should know, because, he is an alien too....

Is there any part of Mothership that isn't over-the-top? I'm not sure that there is. I would say that this one should please fans of Bumped and/or Beauty Queens. The narrator, Elvie, is full of snark. (For those that require clean reads--look elsewhere.) And the book is about as believable as Earth Girls Are Easy. The novel is set in the future--2074.

The story is revealed in alternating chapters--jumping between the present (on board the spaceship) and the past (in the months and weeks leading up to her pregnancy). Ducky, her best, best friend is a big part of these flashbacks.

Read for Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August.  

Read Mothership
  • If you like silly, over-the-top, funny adventures that require a suspension of disbelief
  • If you like snarky narrators
  • If you're looking for aliens in your YA

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in August

New Loot:
  • Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Leftover Loot:
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  • Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
  • The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side by Agatha Christie 
  • The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
 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 King's Speech and Wallis and Edward

Wallis & Edward is a mostly sympathetic portrayal of the relationship between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.  The film stars Joely Richardson and Stephen Campbell Moore. (I really, really loved him in the role of Hugh Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right.) The film follows their courtship leading up to his abdication of the throne so he could be with the woman he loved. This portrayal shows an incredibly vulnerable Wallis Simpson being pursued by the King, highlighting her reluctance to take this relationship seriously. (She was married at the time.)

While I enjoyed Wallis & Edward, it wasn't a movie I could love.

The King's Speech, on the other hand, was an incredible movie that I just LOVED. The film stars Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. This was a movie that I loved almost from the start. I loved so many things about it! I loved the relationship between husband and wife. And I loved seeing him as a father with his two little girls. Loved seeing the juxtaposition of the king's private and public lives. The scenes between the king and his therapist were so wonderful, so compelling.  And this wasn't just the king's story either. We also caught glimpses of Lionel Logue's private life, his time with his wife and children. (Loved all the Shakespeare references, for example!!!) There were so many things that I absolutely loved about this movie.This film, of course, covers the same span as Wallis & Edward, but the portrayal is very different. And there are scenes between the two brothers that are difficult to watch.

I am planning on watching Bertie & Elizabeth when the library gets a copy.

Watch these two:
  • If you are interested in the royal family
  • If you enjoy the 1930s

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 17, 2012

To Die For

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. Sandra Byrd. 2011. Howard Books. 332 pages.

There are many ways to arrive at the Tower of London, though there are few ways out. 

Sandra Byrd's To Die For is an excellent historical romance novel. The narrator is Meg Wyatt, sister to Thomas Wyatt; she is best friends with Anne Boleyn. While I've read plenty of historical fiction set during this time period, it's rare for Anne Boleyn to be presented so sympathetically. I really came to care for both Meg and Anne. The novel begins in 1518 and ends soon after Anne's death. While the focus is definitely on life in the court of Henry VIII, one can also see it as a novel about the English Reformation. It highlights that while for some the Reformation was a convenient way for the King to get his own way all the time, that there were many, many people in England who were true Reformers, and genuinely believed in the Reformation and were eager to get their hands on an English Bible and read the Scriptures for themselves.

In addition to the "romance" between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII (he is not presented sympathetically), the novel tells Meg's story. Her life being as good an example as any as to what a woman might expect from life at this time.

This historical romance was very enjoyable. Loved the writing, loved the characterization, loved the setting. It felt very personal, in a way, getting a glimpse of the close friendship between two women. For example, Meg being there for her during the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth, and for her two miscarriages. This was a very emotional novel for me, and I definitely wasn't expecting to feel such a strong connection with the heroines.

Read To Die For
  • If you are interested in the Tudors; in Henry VIII and his six wives
  • If you enjoy historical fiction/historical romance
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Four More 2012 Board Books

My Turtle and Me. Owen Berstein. Illustrated by Carol Thompson. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.

My turtle goes everywhere with me. And I go everywhere with my turtle. My turtle lights up when we're together! My turtle goes down the slide with me. And he's right by my side when I play in the sandbox. My turtle shines when we play! 

A book written to be companion to a popular toy nightlight. Cloud b is the maker/creator of a constellation nightlight--originally available as a turtle, I believe it now comes as a ladybug too. Both according to product descriptions, shine the constellations onto a child's ceiling. This little boy seems to enjoy his turtle-nightlight-toy all throughout the day.

As a book, this one didn't wow me. The text doesn't seem to me to have rhythm or natural flow. The sentences also don't seem to work together as one narrative. For readers who have turtles of their own, this one may prove satisfying.

Let's Get Dressed. Caroline Jayne Church. 2012. Scholastic. 10 pages.

First we need a brand-new pair of super-duper underwear. 
For our top, what will work? Head and arms through our best shirt!
Our silly legs love to dance in our comfy dancing pants!

This little one is becoming more independent. Learning to get dressed! The illustrations are super-cute, and the text is short and simple.

Dinosaurs: A Prehistoric Touch-and-feel adventure! Jeffrey Burton. Illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello. 2012. Scholastic. 12 pages.

Long neck...stretches! Strong legs stomp,
Short arms wave, but sharp teeth chomp!

Fuzzy fur, bumpy scales,

feathery wings, and spiky tails!

For little dinosaur lovers this board book may charm. The text rhymes, for the most part, and the book incorporates several interactive elements. Many of the dinosaurs have textured skin to feel, for example.

God is Good...All the Time. Dr. Margi McCombs. Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. 2012. Scholastic. 20 pages.

God makes flowers in pink and blue to show his love from me to you.
God is good...all the time!
God sees the kitten way up high and sends some friends who hear her cry.
God is good...all the time!
God gives us friends to have some fun--to show his love to everyone.
God is good...all the time!

I am always, always looking for Christian books to recommend to families, and I'm happy to have found God Is Good All The Time. The book is simple, sweet, and lovely. I just love the refrain! The rhyming text improves, I feel, as the book goes on. (I admit that the first sentence isn't amazing and wonderful.) By the end, it was definitely working for me!

This one is also available in Spanish.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gilt (YA)

Gilt. Katherine Longshore. 2012. Penguin. 416 pages.

"You're not going to steal anything." I left the question--Are you?--off the end of the sentence. But Cat heard it anyway. 

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book cover. Would you be able to tell from the cover that this is historical fiction? That this book is in fact about Catherine Howard, one of the doomed wives of Henry VIII?

Gilt is told from the perspective of one of Catherine's companions, Kitty Tylney. (Catherine is "Cat", she is "Kitty.") Their relationship--friendship--isn't quite one-sided, but, Cat definitely is the boss, and there is some manipulation going on, I believe. It's a toxic friendship, in a way. It isn't exactly in Kitty's best interest to be best, best, best friends with Catherine Howard. Sure, it means that when Catherine Howard marries the King of England, that there is an invitation to go to court and be one of her maids, but she's not a lady, and her tasks are servants' tasks, in a way. And even before Cat married the Henry VIII, she wasn't easy to counsel, if Cat wants something, she wants it, won't be talked out of it. As you might have guessed, I had a hard time liking Catherine Howard. At least as she is portrayed in this novel! How did I feel about Kitty? Well, I pitied her to a certain degree. Kitty isn't always the wisest person in the world, but, she was truly in a horrible place. On the one hand, Kitty knows Cat is stupid and making HUGE mistakes with her life. Kitty is being asked to cover up her friend's mistakes, and, that makes Kitty very unhappy. She knows that if she talks, Cat, will die. That if the truth is uncovered, no matter who uncovers it, Cat will die. She may feel used, in a way, by her friend, but, she doesn't wish her friend harm. What Kitty learns is that court life isn't all that glamorous and charming. That many unpleasant things go on at court, that wearing fancy clothes may not be worth the emotional stress of court life.

Did I love it? Probably not. Did I like it? Yes, I liked it well enough. I have read a handful of books set during this time period, quite a few focusing on Catherine Howard. It isn't my new favorite, but, it's an interesting book.

Read Gilt
  • If you're a fan of historical fiction 
  • If you like a little political intrigue, a little romance with your historical fiction
  • If you are interested in Henry VIII and his wives

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Forsaken

The Forsaken. Lisa M. Stasse. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 375 pages.

At first I think the hammering sound is the noise of waves crashing down on white sand.

Alenna has "failed" her GPPT (Government Personality Profile Test) and has been sent to Prison Island Alpha. She's heard about the island, obviously, in the past few years, everyone has. She's even seen some of the violence from the island on screen, with the image of one boy, in particular, staying with her in the day or so leading up to her own "test." She never thought she'd be one to fail the test, she never thought she'd test positive for being violent, out of control, a potential danger to others. But she woke up on the island, and though she knows it has to be a mistake, how, do you survive long enough to prove that?

Soon after she wakes up on the island, she meets David, another "mistake" of sorts. He seems so very sane! The two work together--especially at first--trying to survive their first day or two. But they're just beginning to trust one another when they are claimed by different factions on the island. David is taken by the Drones on the "Monk" side of the island, Alenna is taken by the other side. She's given a truth serum, and trained to be a warrior. She makes a couple of friends and finds her place. Liam and Gadya are perhaps the two closest to her.

The book is obviously a thriller with plenty of secrets, secrets, and more secrets.

I enjoyed this one. Is it the best dystopian ever? No. But for those wanting another series like James Dashner's Maze Runner, for those that don't mind more-of-the-same from their dystopias, then this one could satisfy. The world-building isn't amazing. The characters aren't that well-developed. The relationships between the characters aren't fully explored. Is there a love triangle? I don't think so. Not really. True, the main character TALKS to two guys. (She talks to more than two guys.) But the fact that she talks to David and tries to listen and understand him does not mean that she sees him in that way, and there is not proof that he has those kinds of feelings for her either. 

Read for Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August.  

Read The Forsaken
  • If you're in the mood for a YA dystopia
  • If you don't mind a familiar feel to your dystopia
  • If you are looking for something fast-paced and action-driven

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Captain Wentworth's Diary

Captain Wentworth's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2007. Penguin. 304 pages.

Thursday 5 June
At last I am on my way to Somerset!

I do like Amanda Grange's series, and, sometimes I really LOVE her books. But I didn't quite love Captain Wentworth's Diary. Persuasion is one of my favorite books, and definitely my favorite Jane Austen novel. I think I prefer the story from Anne's perspective.

Captain Wentworth's diary begins before he first meets Anne Elliot. The book portrays the courtship of the two, the sweet proposal, the bitter disappointment after she changes her mind. The novel then jumps ahead to Wentworth's successful return. Readers then see the events and scenes of Persuasion through Wentworth's eyes, for the most part. Though it's just a fraction of the story.

I liked this one. I felt Grange got the characters right, for the most part. And it was interesting to see their first meeting. Their first conversation was something. But. It just wasn't as amazing as Austen's original.

Read Captain Wentworth's Diary
  • If you're a fan of Amanda Grange 
  • If you're a fan of Jane Austen
  • If you like historical romances told in diary format 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 13, 2012

Library Loot: Third Trip in August

New Loot:
  • Valley of Dreams by Lauraine Snelling
  • This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
Leftover Loot:
  • The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse  
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • The Clocks by Agatha Christie
    Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
    The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side by Agatha Christie 
  • The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
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

Four 2012 Picture Books

Jangles. David Shannon. 2012. Scholastic. (October) 32 pages.

When the sun goes down and the weather's just right, Big Lake gets smooth as glass and a thin mist whispers across it. That's when you might catch a glimpse of Jangles. My father told me lots of stories, but my favorite was about a giant trout he saw when he was a kid. I still remember sitting with him in front of the big stone fireplace at the cabin. He pulled out a dirty green tackle box and shook it a couple times so it rattled. Then he told me this story....

My review: I found this one dark and creepy. The author probably wasn't going for scary-creepy-dark-and-disturbing, I think I brought that along with me. But there *was* something disturbing about the art to me. I can't help that. The text of the story itself is fantastical. It is a celebration of storytelling, perhaps. Not that I exactly appreciated the subject of the storytelling: the big fish that always, always gets away. I can see this one appealing to fish enthusiasts. For boys who love going fishing with their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, etc. But for me, it didn't appeal at all.

Read Jangles
    •    If you love fishing
    •    If you love tall tales
    •    If you love books that celebrate fathers telling stories to their sons

Bailey at the Museum. Harry Bliss. 2012. Scholastic. (September) 32 pages.

Today is the school trip. Bailey is excited.

My review:  I believe this is not the first picture book starring Bailey. Anyway, Bailey is a dog in Mrs. Smith's class. (His classmates are all human.) He is very, very, very excited to be going to the museum. As are most of the other students. But Bailey has a way of getting into trouble--more trouble--than the other members of the class. He gets into so much trouble that he has to have a new partner for the day, a guard.

Read Bailey at the Museum
    •    If you like silly picture books starring trouble-making dogs.
    •    If you like picture books about field trips and museums.

It's Duffy Time. Audrey and Don Wood. 2012. Scholastic. (October) 40 pages.

Oh no!
Duffy overslept!
The air smells like breakfast.
Duffy races into the kitchen and asks for a bite to eat.
"Not yet," his mistress says.
"It's time to go out and potty."
So Duffy does.
Waiting at the door in the warm sunshine makes Duffy sleepy, so he takes his before breakfast nap.

My review: This one was very, very cute. I think for dog-lovers especially, it will be a must read. This book celebrates dogs and their doggy habits. What does Duffy love? Well, Duffy does love playing. And he does love eating. But most of all Duffy loves to take naps. He takes before breakfast naps, after breakfast naps, midmorning naps, early afternoon naps, etc. The text is just fun. And I'd definitely recommend it for those that love dogs.

Read It's Duffy Time
    •    If you love dogs
    •    If you love naps
    •    If you love Audrey and Don Wood

Tabby McTat: The Musical Cat. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2012. Scholastic. December. 32 pages.

Tabby McTat was a busker's cat with a meow that was loud and strong. The two of them sang of this and that, and people threw coins in the old checked hat, and this was their favorite song: "Me, you, and the old guitar, how perfectly, perfectly happy we are. Meee-ew and the old guitar, how purrrr-fectly happy we are."

My review: I do love cats. And I do love music. But oddly enough this picture book about a musical cat just didn't work for me. It was definitely an almost book for me. Tabby McTat becomes distracted one day by an oh-so-lovely cat with green eyes. He becomes so distracted that he doesn't notice that Fred, the busker, has been robbed and in the process of chasing the thief, he breaks a leg and has to go to the hospital. Later when he is somewhat less distracted and ready to return to his work, Fred is gone. He thinks Fred has left him, abandoned him. So he finds a new home  (with his lady friend) and in due time three kittens are born. Meanwhile, part of him still misses Fred. And this missing-Fred grows and grows until he decides one day to leave his new family and go in search of his old. He does find Fred, but, he also finds that the musical life is no longer for him. However, one of his kittens, seems to be a perfect match for Fred.  This one was so odd! And slightly disturbing in some ways!

Read Tabby McTat

    •    If you like/love cats
    •    If you like/love music, traveling musicians

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Mini Movie Recommendations

Watch The Egg and I
  • If you like Claudette Colbert
  • If you like Fred MacMurray
  • If you like black-and-white romantic comedies
  • If you like funny movies about city people trying their hand at farming; in this case raising chickens
  • If you want to meet Ma and Pa Kettle
Watch High Society
  • If you like Bing Crosby
  • If you like Frank Sinatra
  • If you like Grace Kelly
  • If you like Louis Armstrong
  • If you like musicals (this one is Cole Porter)
  • If you like jazz and jazz festivals
  • If you like The Philadelphia Story
  • If you like romance
  • If you like classic movies
  • If you like movies that explore human frailty; this movie has some great characters, great scenes.

 Watch Puss in Boots
  • If you love the character Puss in Boots from the Shrek movies
  • If you are interested in the character's back story
  • If you love twists on fairy tales
  • If you love cats 
  • If you have a high tolerance level for Humpty Dumpty

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 11, 2012

These Books Came Home With Me

Well, today was the Friend of the Library book sale, and this is what came home with me! Mostly hardbacks this time. I think it was $11 well spent!!!
  1. The Star Trek Reader by James Blish
  2. The Star Trek Reader II by James Blish
  3. The Star Trek Reader III by James Blish
  4. The Star Trek Reader IV by James Blish
  5. Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozois
  6. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
  7. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
  8. Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Other Stories by James Hilton
  9. The Parson's Daughter by Catherine Cookson
  10. Came a Cavalier by Frances Parkinson Keyes 
  11. Lady Catherine's Necklace by Joan Aiken
  12. Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead by Emily Brightwell
  13. Every Little Thing About You by Lori Wick
  14. A Texas Sky by Lori Wick
  15. City Girl by Lori Wick
  16. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (Oxford World's Classic, PB)
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Pride and Pyramids

Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt. Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb. 2012. Sourcebooks. 320 pages.

Elizabeth Bennet ran down the stairs of the Darcys' London home with a lightness that belied her thirty-five years. 

You may enjoy Pride & Pyramids more than I did. (I was a bit disappointed in the end.) In this Austen-and-Egypt inspired novel, Mr. Edward Fitzwilliam's enthusiasm for a trip to Egypt inspires the whole Darcy family to join in the fun, excitement, and danger of the adventure. Not just Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, but all of their children--and they have oh-so-many children. Also along for the trip is Sophie Lucas, Charlotte's younger sister who is recovering from a broken heart. The family has also hired Mr. Inkworthy, an artist, to paint, sketch, and draw for the trip.

The book has an interesting premise. What if the Darcy family became interested in Egyptology, what if they were adventurous to want to go to an archaeological dig themselves, what if they were in search of a previously-undiscovered tomb full of treasure, etc. But for me this remained an almost book. It had some potential, but it never wowed.

Read Pride & Pyramids
  • If you are a fan of Amanda Grange and/or Jacqueline Webb
  • If you are interested in Egypt and archaeology of the nineteenth century 
  • If you like Pride and Prejudice and can't get enough of adaptations, retellings, sequels, etc. This one is unique. 
  • If you want a little supernatural mixed in  

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 10, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars (MG/YA)

For Darkness Shows the Stars. Diana Peterfreund. 2012. HarperCollins. 416 pages.

Elliot North raced across the pasture, leaving a scar of green in the silver, dew-encrusted grass. Jef followed, tripping a bit as his feet slid inside his too-big shoes. 

I really enjoyed Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars. Did I enjoy it because it was a futuristic dystopia, OR, because it was a retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion? A bit of both. For those expecting Captain Malakai Wentforth to be as swoon-worthy as Captain Wentworth, well, you might be disappointed. Might. For Kai's romance with Elliot North doesn't exactly mirror that of Wentworth and Anne Elliot. Peterfreund has definitely made this story her own.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is definitely a novel about social class or status. There are three "types" of people in this futuristic world: the Luddites, those with the highest status and wealth, the elite, those that have estates and titles, those that MATTER; the Reduced, those with slave status, essentially, they are thought to be mindless sub-humans, incapable of thought and feelings, definitely thought to be genetically inferior; the POST-Reductionists, the children of the Reduced who happen to be smart enough to function with more independence in the world, they have skills and abilities that make them worth something, they are not thought to be mindless and incapable, but, they're "socially" inferior to the Luddites. No matter how smart or brilliant a POST is, no matter how much money they acquire, they will never be on equal status with the Luddites.

Kai and Elliot grew up together; they share a birthday in fact. (Actually, there are three that share an exact birthday: Kai (Post), Elliot (Luddite), and Ro (Reduced).) But their friendship always had to be a secret, for if Elliot's father or older sister, Tatiana, found out, then everyone would get in trouble. Elliot enjoyed Kai's company, enjoyed spending time with him in the barn, enjoyed watching him fix things--he's a mechanic, the son of a mechanic. But when Elliot chose not to run away with Kai when they were fourteen (or possibly fifteen?), the friendship was broken. He chose to leave the estate, to risk everything in hopes of finding a better future. Elliot hasn't heard from him since the day he left, and he still matters to her. She chose to stay not because she didn't love him, but, because she needed to be responsible, because she was the ONLY one capable of being responsible on the estate, the only one who cared for the welfare of the Reduced, and also respected the Posts.

Meanwhile, Elliot's life has been as unpleasant as ever. Her father and sister are heartless and selfish and at times cruel. The novel opens with her father destroying his daughter's wheat field--weeks before harvest. That wheat could have helped feed the Reduced, it could have been sold for a profit, as well, to help the estate. But her father's "need" for a race track was more important. He's unwilling to see that the estate is struggling financially that they have a responsibility to the Reduced and the Posts that work their land/manage the estate. Elliot doesn't even bother protesting; true, the damage is already done and nothing can bring her wheat back, but, she also has a secret of her own. That wheat was her wheat--her special experimental seed. And Luddites do NOT under any circumstances experiment.

So in an effort to help finances, Elliot decides to rent out the estate to Cloud Fleet....and one of the guests is Captain Malakai Wentforth. Of course, there are plenty of other guests as well.

I enjoyed meeting the different characters in For Darkness Shows the Stars. Since this is a retelling, there is always a chance that the characters could have been weak, shallow copies of the original. For the most part, that was not the case.

I also enjoyed the story; there were just enough twists in the story that it really worked as an original story. The dystopian setting was interesting to me. I didn't have all my questions answered--at least not right away--and this futuristic society definitely added something to the story. 

Read for Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August

Read For Darkness Shows the Stars
  • If you enjoy science fiction, dystopias, post-apocalyptic fiction
  • If you enjoy futuristic stories 
  • If you are interested in a new retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion
  • If you enjoy a little romance in your science fiction

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Edmund Bertram's Diary

Edmund Bertram's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2007/2008. Penguin. 304 pages.

Tuesday 8 July
Tom was eager to try out his new horse's paces and so we rode out together this morning, jumping walls and hedges, until he was satisfied he had made a good bargain.

I enjoyed Amanda Grange's retelling of Mansfield Park through the diary of Edmund Bertram. Edmund Bertram isn't always the wisest or brightest hero, but, his genuine friendship for Fanny Price is clear throughout the novel. The romance between Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram has always bothered me slightly. At least in Austen's novel, perhaps because Edmund Bertram's reformation or change of heart was so rushed, the "romance" being almost an afterthought thrown into the last few pages of the novel.

I thought Amanda Grange did a good job with in in this adaptation. For readers see that the love and affection is genuine, sincere. That Edmund does truly care for Fanny Price in that way, and that she feels exactly the same way about him. That he isn't marrying her out of duty or desperation, that Fanny is the one for him, and that he should have been miserable without her by his side.

Grange also did a good job with the other characters, particularly with Mary Crawford and Fanny Price. It would have perhaps been difficult to create a sympathetic Henry Crawford within this novel or adaptation. Though I would LOVE to see her try in another book--diary or not.

I love Amanda Grange's novels. I love her adaptations. While I've loved others a bit more, I still really enjoyed this one and would recommend it.

Read Edmund Bertram's Diary
  • If you liked Mansfield Park by Jane Austen OR even if you didn't particularly "like" it (the change of perspective might make it easier for you to enjoy)
  • If you are a fan of Jane Austen and/or Amanda Grange
  • If you like novels in diary format
  • If you like historical romance

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Stories of Ray Bradbury

The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. 1980/2010. Everyman's Library. 1063 pages.

It would be difficult to try to review a collection of one-hundred short stories by Ray Bradbury. My thoughts on these stories are scattered over two years. (To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve, next-to-last twenty-two, final fifteen.) The collection is very diverse: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realistic fiction. There are stories celebrating friendship, love, marriage, and family. And stories depicting the break down of human relationships. Some of the stories are extremely dark and disturbing, others very light and humorous.

Here are my thoughts on the MOST memorable:

The Coffin

There was any amount of banging and hammering for a number of days; deliveries of metal parts and oddments which Mr. Charles Braling took into his little workshop with a feverish anxiety.
"The Coffin" is just creepy. Readers meet two brothers--Charles and Richard. One brother dies soon after completing his "custom" coffin. He boasts to his brother about how revolutionary this coffin is--how it is a complete all-in-one funeral experience. "Simply place body in coffin--and music will start." His brother is curious. Perhaps a little too curious?!

There Was an Old Woman

"No, there's no lief arguin'. I got my mind fixed. Run along with your silly wicker basket. Land, where you ever get notions like that? You just skit out of here; don't bother me, I got my tattin' and knittin' to do, and no never minds about tall, dark gentlemen with fangled ideas."
"There Was An Old Woman" shows just how stubborn one woman is to conquer death. She refuses--I mean REFUSES to believe in death. So what happens when she dies and her body is taken away? You might just be surprised.

The Scythe

Quite suddenly there was no more road.
"The Scythe" is also quite interesting! It is about a desperate man with a family who suddenly finds himself in a new situation. Finds himself in plenty for once. But there is a price to pay for having everything so perfect. Is he willing to pay that price? He may have no choice!

There Will Come Soft Rains

In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.  
 "There Will Come Soft Rains" is a very, very, very lonely story where we get a glimpse--just a small glimpse perhaps--of the desolation and destruction of life as we know it in at least one human city. We see the ending of an era, perhaps. There are no human characters in this one.

The Murderer

Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: "The Merry Widow Waltz." Another door: Afternoon of a Faun. A third: "Kiss Me Again." He turned into a cross corridor: "The Sword Dance" buried him in cymbals, drums, pots, pans, knives, forks, thunder, and tin lightning. All washed away as he hurried through an anteroom where a secretary sat nicely stunned by Beethoven's Fifth. He moved himself before her eyes like a hand; she didn't see him.
Have you read it? You should! It was written in 1953. Albert Brock's first victim? The telephone? His second victim? The television. Our hero in this short story has had it with technology. Has had enough of being connected--always connected--with everybody, with everything.  He's on a mission to deliver man from modern 'conveniences'. 

The Fire Balloons

Fire exploded over summer night lawns.
In it two priests go to Mars as missionaries. One at least was expecting, was hoping, to meet Martians, to actually BE a missionary TO Martians, to an alien species. So when given the opportunity of going out into the hills and trying to communicate with blue balloon-like hovering creatures OR ministering to humans who have migrated to Mars, the answer is clear to Father Peregrine. But do the Martians need his church? This story has one of my favorite quotes:

"Father Peregrine, won't you ever be serious?"
"Not until the good Lord is. Oh, don't look so terribly shocked, please. The Lord is not serious. In fact, it is a little hard to know just what else He is except loving. And love has to do with humor, doesn't it? For you cannot love someone unless you put up with him, can you? And you cannot put up with someone constantly unless you can laugh at him. Isn't that true? And certainly we are ridiculous little animals wallowing in the fudge bowl, and God must love us all the more because we appeal to His humor."


She came out of the bathroom putting iodine on her finger where she had almost lopped it off cutting herself a chunk of coconut cake.
My thoughts: I believe this one is supposed to be a comedy! I certainly read it that way. A rivalry gone wrong between two women who want to be president of the same club. One woman, the narrator, is the clumsiest woman in town. She's accusing her neighbor and fellow club-member of being a witch and using witchcraft to keep her from winning the election. (She always has only one vote--her own.) She also writes out a list of every "accident" and illness she's had in the past year. (She totals it all up and says that this other woman is responsible for $98 worth of medicine.) No one is taking her seriously, which, is a good thing I suppose. It ends in laughter and tears.

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

It was summer twilight in the city, and out front of the quiet-clicking pool hall three young Mexican-American men breathed the warm air and looked around at the world. 
This story, on the other hand, I remember quite well! I just loved it, found it very fun, rather light-hearted, charming in tone and not too dark. It is a story about a group of friends who came together, in a way, because they are all the same size. Because they are the same size, they can share this one wonderful, marvelous suit. A suit that none of the men could have dreamed of buying on their own. But they take turns wearing it, and have the time of their lives.

Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

The rocket metal cooled in the meadow winds. 
Another short story that I just LOVED AND ADORED. This one is science fiction, it is set on Mars. It's the story of human settlers on Mars...and that's all I'm going to say about that. But it was FABULOUS. This one was not from Martian Chronicles, but, it was included in S is for Space.

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.
I also enjoyed: "I Sing the Body Electric," "A Medicine for Melancholy," "A Scent of Sarsaparilla," "The Great World Over There," and "The Black Ferris." Several of these were in Martian Chronicles, and were very enjoyable, but, since I've already talked about them in that post/review, I didn't necessarily feel I had to cover them in this one. 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Kindred Souls

Kindred Souls. Patricia MacLachlan. 2012. HarperCollins. 119 pages.

My grandfather, Billy, hears the talk of birds. He leans out the open bedroom window with his head tilted to listen in the warm prairie morning.

Kindred Souls is the kind of children's book I have come to appreciate as an adult, but, the kind of book that I would NEVER have wanted to read as a child. In other words, it's one of those books. You know, the kind, the kind that introduces you to a wonderful old man AND a dog. And you have every right to be suspicious that the end will destroy your emotional well-being.

Jake, our narrator, is ten and confident; confident that everything will stay the same, confident that life is good and will stay that way. Sure, his grandfather, Billy, is eighty-eight, sure he's moved in with them. But he will live FOREVER. Don't ask him how he knows, it's enough that he believes. The novel begins with the two going on their usual walk. Billy is talking--again--about the sod house where he was born. He is wishing--again--that it hadn't fallen into such horrible condition. He is telling Jake--again--about the old days. This time Billy seems extra-sad, so Jake asks him a simple question: "How hard is it to cut a brick of sod?" And so the idea is born that a new sod house will be built...

And then there is the arrival of Lucy, a stray dog, that seems to be the perfect companion for Billy. Billy and Lucy seem to be best, best, best friends from the very first moment they meet.

This book is about an unforgettable summer.

Read Kindred Souls
  • If you like bittersweet children's books
  • If you like emotional family stories
  • If you are a fan of Patricia MacLachlan
  • If you like dog stories
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews