Friday, May 31, 2013

May Reflections

In May, I read 41 books. It was a lot of fun to discover the Oz books! I plan on reading more in this series! I also read some Victorian novels!

My Top Five:

Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865. 848 pages.
Catherine. April Lindner. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages.
The Daughter of Time. (Inspector Grant #5). Josephine Tey. 1955/1995. Touchstone. 206 pages.
Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I. Sandra Byrd. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages.
 Nicholas Nickleby. Charles Dickens. 1839. 817 pages.

Children's Books:
  1. Penny and Her Marble. Kevin Henkes. 2013. HarperCollins. 48 pages.
Middle Grade and Young Adult:
  1.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1900. 156 pages.
  2. The Marvelous Land of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1904. 192 pages.  
  3. Ozma of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1907. 126 pages
  4. Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages.
  5. Emily Climbs. L.M. Montgomery. 1925. Bantam Books. 325 pages.
  6. Mary Marie. Eleanor H. Porter. 1920. 136 pages.
  7. Destiny, Rewritten. Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2013. HarperCollins. 176 pages.
  8. This is What Happy Looks Like. Jennifer E. Smith. 2013. Little, Brown. 404 pages.
  9. Catherine. April Lindner. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages.
  10. Cross My Heart. Sasha Gould. 2012. Random House. 272 pages.
  11. Hattie Ever After. Kirby Larson. 2013. Random House. 240 pages.   
  12. Shades of Earth. (Across the Universe #3) Beth Revis. 2013. Penguin. 369 pages. 
  13. Miss Billy Married. Eleanor H. Porter. 1914. 240 pages.
  14. The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Catherine Reef. 2012. Clarion. 240 pages. 
Adult Books:
  1.  Nicholas Nickleby. Charles Dickens. 1839. 817 pages.  
  2. Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865. 848 pages. 
  3. The Fallen Leaves. Wilkie Collins. 1879. 344 pages.
  4. Friday's Child. Georgette Heyer. 1944/2008. Sourcebooks. 425 pages.
  5. Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Susan Morgan. 2008. University of California Press. 300 pages.
  6. The League of Frightened Men.  (Nero Wolfe #2) Rex Stout. 1935. Bantam. 320 pages.
  7. The Rubber Band. (Nero Wolfe #3) Rex Stout. 190 pages.
  8. Envious Casca. Georgette Heyer. 1941/2010. Sourcebooks. 396 pages.
  9. Duplicate Death. Georgette Heyer. 1951/2010. Sourcebooks. 352 pages. 
  10. The Daughter of Time. (Inspector Grant #5). Josephine Tey. 1955/1995. Touchstone. 206 pages. 
  11. Kept in the Dark. Anthony Trollope. 1882. 512 pages.
  12. A Dangerous Inheritance. Alison Weir. 2012. Hutchinson. 515 pages.
Christian Books:
  1. Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes. R.W. Glenn. 2013. Shepherd Press. 128 pages.
  2. God's Power For Your Life: How the Holy Spirit Transforms You Through God's Word. A.W. Tozer. Edited by James L. Snyder. 2013. 224 pages. 
  3. The Radical Cross.  A.W. Tozer. Christian Publications. 148 pages.
  4. The Scriptures Testify About Me: Jesus and the Gospel In the Old Testament. Edited by D.A. Carson. Featuring essays by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, James MacDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and D.A. Carson. 2013. Crossway. 188 pages.
  5. In The Steps of St. Paul. H.V. Morton. 1935. 528 pages.
  6. Love's Unending Legacy. Janette Oke. 1984. Bethany House. 239 pages.
  7. The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus: Bowing to the Gracious Despot. Mike Abendroth. 2011. Day One. 240 pages.  
  8. Revelation 14-22 (Thru the Bible Commentary Series) J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 204 pages.
  9. According to the Pattern. Grace Livingston Hill. 1903. 186 pages. 
  10. Words to Winners of Souls. Horatius Bonar. 1877. 72 pages.  
  11. Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. B&H Books. 266 pages.  
  12. Christ the Eternal Son. A.W. Tozer. 175 pages. 
  13. The Bookends of the Christian Life. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages. 
  14. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I. Sandra Byrd. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Mary Marie (1920)

Mary Marie. Eleanor H. Porter. 1920. 136 pages.

Eleanor H. Porter is perhaps best known for her novel Pollyanna. The heroine of Mary Marie is thirteen; the book is her "journal." In this "journal" Mary Marie records the details of her life mainly focusing on her parents' divorce. The chapters are arranged to reflect the six months with her mother and the six months with her father. Her father calls her Mary; her mother calls her Marie. This is an ODD book. Are Mary Marie's reflections to be taken seriously? For in her entries, this young woman is EXCITED and THRILLED that her parents are divorcing and that she'll have two homes, two bedrooms, two schools, etc. She's also extremely eager for her mother to remarry. She notes how she wants her journal to have romance in it; a new love story for her mother OR a new love story for her father. She watches her mother closely looking for anything that may indicate a chance for romance. These observations she later shares with her father. When she's living with her father, she's equally observant and keeping her mother informed about what her father is doing. (Her second visit with her father, she has quite the story to report back to her mother since she thinks her father is in love.) Not everything that happens to Mary Marie is positive; readers may sense the confusion even before the heroine admits it. The interesting story is one readers have to piece together themselves: the true thoughts and emotions of each parent. Like The Parent Trap, Mary Marie has a happy ending with the divorce bringing ultimate happiness as the parents fall back in love with one another. But that is not the end of the story. There is an epilogue, a MESSY epilogue. One of those that makes you question everything that went before.

Before I began considering Mary Marie an unreliable narrator, before I began doubting her mental and emotional well-being, I thought the book was unrealistic, superficial, shallow. If one goes with the theory that there is more to the story, that Mary Marie isn't always a reliable narrator--that she's a young woman with emotional issues--then the novel becomes complexly layered.

There were things about Mary Marie that reminded me of Emily Starr.

Favorite quotes:
If I write the story part, I can't be expected to be bothered with looking up how words are spelt, every five minutes, nor fussing over putting in a whole lot of foolish little dots and dashes. 
The sun was slowly setting in the west, casting golden beams of light into the somber old room. That's the way it ought to begin, I know, and I'd like to do it, but I can't. I'm beginning with my being born, of course, and Nurse Sarah says the sun wasn't shining at all. It was night and the stars were out. She remembers particularly about the stars, for Father was in the observatory, and couldn't be disturbed.
No, I didn't listen. I heard. And that's a very different matter. You listen when you mean to, and that's sneaking. You hear when you can't help yourself, and that you can't be blamed for. Sometimes it's your good luck, and sometimes it's your bad luck--just according to what you hear! 
Stories are just like meals. You have to eat them--I mean tell them--in regular order, and not put the ice-cream in where the soup ought to be.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Duplicate Death (1951)

Duplicate Death. Georgette Heyer. 1951/2010. Sourcebooks. 352 pages.

I didn't enjoy Duplicate Death quite as much as Envious Casca. I thought the description on the back of the book was deceptive and confusing. The back of the book mentions a certain "Timothy Kane" and the book itself is clear throughout that it is Mr. Timothy Harte. Since this character is first introduced in chapter two as YOUNG MR. HARTE, it can be confusing until you realize that the book description is off. (The description also asserts that this character is friends with Inspector Hemingway; I found this not quite true. Inspector Hemingway apparently met this person when he was a teenager--14--and they've not seen each other in over a decade. Not exactly how I'd define a friendship. It is true that Inspector Hemingway is on friendly enough terms with Timothy once they're reacquainted on this case, which is something since Mr. Harte is technically one of a handful of suspects that had the opportunity to murder the victim.) I also didn't enjoy the ODD narration of the first and last chapters. While it isn't exactly an unsatisfactory beginning, it definitely didn't work for me as an ending.

The characters we get to know best are Timothy Harte and his girl, Miss Beulah Birtley. Miss Birtley is employed by the oh-so-disagreeable Mrs. Haddington. It is at one of her bridge parties that the first murder occurs.

There are two murders to be solved in this one; there are also additional crimes to be handled. This was one of the first mysteries I've read that deal with drug dealing and drug addiction. I didn't enjoy the characterization in this one as much as in Envious Casca, and some of the dialogue didn't work for me.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Envious Casca (1941)

Envious Casca. Georgette Heyer. 1941/2010. Sourcebooks. 396 pages.

Envious Casca is locked-room murder mystery set during the Christmas holidays! Joseph Herriard has taken it upon himself to invite the whole family to his brother's house for Christmas. His brother, Nathaniel, is quite upset by the party, even before it gets properly started! And many of his guests are just as unenthusiastic as he is! The guests include Nathaniel's longtime business partner (Edgar Mottisfont), Nathaniel's niece (Paula) and her guest--a playwright (Willoughby), Nathaniel's nephew (Stephen) and his fiancee (Valerie), and a distant family cousin (Mathilda). Joseph and his wife, Maud, already live with Joseph at his estate, Lexham Manor. It soon becomes apparent to the reader that few of the guests can tolerate one another. Oh, some are better at pretending they can, but, the truth is all the guests are disgruntled for various reasons. (Most of the group HATE Stephen's girlfriend. Most of the group have little interest in hearing Willoughby read his new play aloud; and most definitely they have NO interest in giving him money to produce it!) It is several hours after this (unpleasant) reading that Nathaniel's body is discovered behind locked doors.

I definitely enjoyed this mystery. I enjoyed Heyer's writing and characterization. There were many little things that made me love this one! (For example, Maud and her library book!!!) This was my first introduction to Inspector Hemingway, and I enjoyed meeting him very much! I definitely want to read more in this series. And a locked room mystery can be quite enjoyable.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Rubber Band (1936)

The Rubber Band. (Nero Wolfe #3) Rex Stout. 190 pages.

I threw down the magazine section of the Sunday Times and yawned. I looked at Nero Wolfe and yawned again. 

 I was slightly disappointed in my most recent Nero Wolfe read, The League of Frightened Men. But I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED The Rubber Band. It reminded me of why I enjoy the Nero Wolfe stories so much. It had plenty of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin! It also featured plenty of interaction with Inspector Cramer.

Nero Wolfe has plenty of potential clients in this one because several people have come to him with their problems. But which client will he accept, and why?!

This murder mystery has multiple victims. I could try to summarize the mystery, but why spoil the fun?!

Favorite quotes:
There's just as many honest men here as the other side of the mountain. And just as few. I'm one. I'm so damn honest I often double-cross myself. Nero Wolfe is almost as bad. (19)
It is not always practicable to sneer at mud; there's too much of it. (31)
The avoidance of idiocy should be the primary and constant concern of every intelligent person. It is mine. I am sometimes successful. (44)
Okay. I'll gargle my milk. It'll probably be my last chance for that innocent amusement before they toss us in the hoosegow. I remember you told me once that there is no moment in any man's life too empty to be dramatized. (76) 
No guy who knows he's right because he's too conceited to be wrong can be expected to go into conference about it. (167)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Bronte Sisters (2012)

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Catherine Reef. 2012. Clarion. 240 pages.

This is a young adult biography of three Victorian writers: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte. While it is titled Bronte Sisters it is in all honesty a look at the whole Bronte family, plenty of attention is given to their father, aunt, and brother. Beyond giving biographical details, the book focuses on the creative writing and creative world-making of all the Brontes. The author does discuss the works of each sister in some detail. For better or worse, the book discussions involve major spoilers. It was interesting to see how each book was received by the reading public or by the reviewing public! And how perceptions changed with each additional publication! For example, how perceptions of Jane Eyre changed a bit after Wuthering Heights was published!
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, so I just loved reading about its publication and initial impressions.

The book is a personal look into their lives. It also provides some context for readers interested in this time period. I liked this one. I would recommend it for those looking for an introduction to these writers.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Emily Climbs (1925)

Emily Climbs. L.M. Montgomery. 1925. Bantam Books. 325 pages.

Emily Climbs is the sequel to Emily of New Moon. Emily Starr, our heroine, is around fourteen when the novel opens. She is preparing to go to high school in Shrewsbury with her friends Ilse, Teddy, and Perry. (It does take some persuading for Teddy's mother to let him go. And Aunt Elizabeth is perhaps coaxed into it by Emily's other aunts and uncles who want their niece to further her education.) While attending high school, Emily will live with her Aunt Ruth. (And Emily thought Aunt Elizabeth was difficult to get along with, difficult to please!) Emily also struggles with her promise to her aunt: while living with her Aunt Ruth, she will not write fictional stories. She still manages to fit in character sketches of real people, poems, etc.

Emily is growing up; gone are Emily's dear letters to her father. Instead Emily is perfecting her craft, giving all to pursuing her dream of becoming a REAL writer, a professional. Writing is her everything. She's spirited and ambitious.

In some ways, L.M. Montgomery rushed through Anne's life. The first novel, Anne of Green Gables, covers at least five or six years. Time is spent getting to know Anne at the very beginning and at the very end. But the growing years--the high school years, the years at Queens--are missing in a way. Readers learn very little about Anne's daily life for most of those teen years. That is not the case with Emily. In both Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs, readers get to know Emily very well. More time is spent on the little things, the daily things, the ordinary experiences of childhood. More time is given to establishing her characters. I think the differences between the Anne books and the Emily books reflect Montgomery's growth and maturity as a writer.

L.M. Montgomery is one of the best writers. I love, love, love her writing. I love her characterization. She is one of the absolute best writers when it comes to characterization. And she even accomplishes this in her short stories! In just a few short sentences, Montgomery makes her characters come to life. She gives substance! I love her descriptions. I love her storytelling. One of the most delightful sections in Emily Climbs is when Emily learns the story of the woman who spanked the King! This story inspires Emily to write it down, and it is one of her first publications!

Have you read the Emily books? 

Favorite quotes:
Oh, if I could only put things into words as I see them! Mr. Carpenter says, 'Strive--strive--keep on--words are your medium--make them your slaves--until they will say for you what you want them to say.' That is true--and I do try--but it seems to me there is something beyond words--any words--all words--something that always escapes you when you try to grasp it--and yet leaves something in your hand which you wouldn't have had if you hadn't reached for it. (10)
Books are not written about proper children. They would be so dull nobody would read them. (14)
Arminius Scobie is a very mean man and always buys his wife's hats for her, lest she pay too much for them. They know this in the Shrewsbury stores, and laugh at him. One day last week he was in Jones and McCallum's, buying her a hat, and Mr. Jones told him that if he would wear the hat from the store to the station he would let him have it for nothing. Arminius did. It was a quarter of a mile to the station and all the small boys in Shrewsbury ran after him and hooted him. But Arminius didn't care. He had saved three dollars and forty-nine cents. (24-5)
I have been reading three books Dean lent me this week. One was like a rose garden--very pleasant, but just a little too sweet. And one was like a pine wood on a mountain--full of balsam and tang--I loved it, and yet it filled me with a sort of despair. It was written so beautifully--I can never write like that, I feel sure. And one--it was just like a pig-sty. Dean gave me that one by mistake. (29)
"Emily," whispered Teddy, "you're the sweetest girl in the world." The words have been said so often by so many millions of lads to so many millions of lasses, that they ought to be worn to tatters. But when you hear them for the first time, in some magic hour of your teens, they are as new and fresh and wondrous  as if they had just drifted over the hedges of Eden. (54)
Well, it all comes to this, there's no use trying to live in other people's opinions. The only thing to do is to live in your own. (76)
No one can be free who has a thousand ancestors. (84)
"Nothing good about this but it's title. A priggish little yarn. And Hidden Riches is not a story--it's a machine. It creaks. It never made me forget for one instant that it was a story. Hence it isn't a story. (91)
"There isn't any such thing as ordinary life," said Emily. Mr. Carpenter looked at her for a moment. "You're right--there isn't," he said slowly. "But one wonders a little how you know it." (92)
Houses are like people--some you like and some you don't like--and once in a while there is one you love. (101)
"The boys like me as a pal but I don't believe anyone will ever really fall in love with me."
"Nonsense," said Emily reassuringly. "Nine out of ten men will fall in love with you."
"But it will be the tenth I'll want," persisted Ilse gloomily. (176)
Andrew is going to be one of my problems. Dean thinks it's great fun--he knows what is in the wind as well as I do. He is always teasing me about my red-headed young man--my r.h.y.m. for short.
"He's almost a rhyme," said Dean.
"But never a poem," said I. (219)
I read a story tonight. It ended unhappily. I was wretched until I had invented a happy ending for it. I shall always end my stories happily. I don't care whether it's 'true to life' or not. It's true to life as it should be and that's a better truth than the other. (223)
Mr. Carpenter sneered at my 'liking for slops' and told me to go and read the Elsie books! (253) 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week In Review: May 20-25

Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Susan Morgan. 2008. University of California Press. 300 pages.
Destiny, Rewritten. Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2013. HarperCollins. 176 pages.
This is What Happy Looks Like. Jennifer E. Smith. 2013. Little, Brown. 404 pages.
Catherine. April Lindner. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages.
Friday's Child. Georgette Heyer. 1944/2008. Sourcebooks. 425 pages.
Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages.
Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes. R.W. Glenn. 2013. Shepherd Press. 128 pages.
God's Power For Your Life: How the Holy Spirit Transforms You Through God's Word. A.W. Tozer. Edited by James L. Snyder. 2013. 224 pages.
The Scriptures Testify About Me: Jesus and the Gospel In the Old Testament. Edited by D.A. Carson. Featuring essays by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, James MacDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and D.A. Carson. 2013. Crossway. 188 pages.
In The Steps of St. Paul. H.V. Morton. 1935. 528 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 24, 2013

Library Loot: Third Trip in May

New Loot:

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer
Death in the sTocks by Georgette Heyer
In Need of a Good Wife by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Leftover Loot:

The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper
The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey

    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.  

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday's Child (1944)

Friday's Child. Georgette Heyer. 1944/2008. Sourcebooks. 425 pages.

When we first meet Lord Sherington* he is proposing to Miss Isabella Milborne. He marries a few chapters later, but, his wife is NOT Miss Milborne. After a brutal rejection, he decides to marry the first woman he sees. He happens across an old friend from childhood days, a Miss Hero Wantage. She is much younger than he is--just seventeen! But she's willing, more than willing, to be his wife. How did these two happen to meet? Well, she's running away from home! So Sherry and Hero set off together to London to arrange their marriage. He settles her into a hotel room, and, then begins to go about the necessary details of arranging a super-quick wedding!

Sherry wanted to marry so he could inherit now instead of later. At first he thinks his marriage won't really change anything at all in his daily life. But, of course, he was mistaken! Hero is completely clueless about how a proper young wife should behave, what things are socially acceptable and socially encouraged, and what things are NOT to be done. Hero absorbs everything, she's very observant but not exactly discerning. She's impulsive too! So if she wants to try something, she does!

Hero's closest friends are her husband's closest friends: Gil, Ferdy, and George. And they all adore "Kitten." In fact, sometimes they understand her better than her own husband. They are quicker to perceive things! They can "read" her better and sometimes they interfere in the marriage to help things run smoother. They often explain things to Sherry in such a way that he finally gets it. Sherry, however, feels that they interfere too much!

While Hero is aware of her feelings for Sherry, will her husband ever realize how he truly feels about his young wife?!

I enjoyed Friday's Child. It is not my absolute favorite Georgette Heyer regency, but, it is quite enjoyable!!! 

*Throughout the novel, he's simply "Viscount" or "Sherry"  or "Anthony"

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bombay Anna (2008)

Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Susan Morgan. 2008. University of California Press. 300 pages.

A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed The English Governess and the Siamese Court. I found it boring and confusing. This biography of Anna Leonowens seeks to tell the "real story" of the governess of the King of Siam. Why is it necessary for the "real story" to be told? There are two very good reasons: first, Leonowens' own works--her memoirs and travel guides--were fictionalized in varying degrees, and, second, her life was further fictionalized by Margaret Landon in her 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam. These two portraits of Anna are different from one another, and neither are quite true enough, genuine enough. Anna and the King of Siam has inspired several film adaptations (musical and non-musical). There was a real story to be uncovered, a story that was not discovered until several decades after The King and I. Bombay Anna tries to unveil a third portrait of Anna that explains and to a degree justifies the lies.
  • Did you know that Anna was biracial? Her mother and grandmother were Indian or perhaps Indian-Portuguese. 
  • Did you know that Anna was born in India? Despite her created biography, Anna was not born in England or Wales. She had never been to the UK at all when she entered into Siam.
  • Did you know that Anna was raised in a diverse, vibrant multicultural environment? Siam was not Anna's introduction to other cultures or faiths. Christianity was not the only exposure, by any means, she grew up playing with children of other faiths; she respected and admired many faiths. She was definitely opposed to all forms of proselytizing. She felt the last thing Buddhists needed was conversion to Christ. 
  • Did you know that Anna spoke many languages, that she continued to learn many languages throughout her life? Anna was GREAT at learning foreign languages. She excelled in reading, writing, translating, speaking other languages. 
  • Did you know that Anna was well-traveled? The first twenty or twenty-five years of her life were spent in India; but, she later traveled with her husband to Singapore, and, then Australia. She then worked in Siam. After leaving Siam, she finally visited Ireland and England. She spent time in the United States, Canada, and Germany. She also spent months traveling in Russia. 
  • Did you know that she raised many of her grandchildren? 
  • Did you know Anna was a socialist?
  • Did you know that her son Louis died in 1919 during the Great Influenza?
  • Did you know that her great-nephew was Boris Karloff?
 Essentially, once Anna became a widow, she completely reinvented herself, erased her past, and cut off all connections with her family in India. She wanted to be an upper class British woman, and, so she BECAME a "proper" British woman. She sent one daughter to boarding school (in Ireland, I believe) and kept her youngest son with her and took him to Siam. (He returned to Siam as an adult, and spent the majority of his life there. Once his wife died, he brought his children to his mother to raise.) The stories she told her children, her grandchildren was the fictional one of her creation. She wove in her (fictional) history--her life story--into her written works and lectures. It was a complete new life she wanted, and she was successful her whole life through in keeping that story the real story.

Bombay Anna shares details about Anna's family background. Readers learn about her maternal grandparents, her parents, her step-father, her siblings, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, etc. Readers learn about India in the nineteenth century. Several communities or areas are described in great detail. Bombay Anna discusses Anna's new identities and how those identities were purposefully crafted, shaped, and controlled. Time is spent discussing Anna's life before, during, and after her time in Siam. There are chapters about her role as an educator, her role as a popular lecturer and writer, and her role as a parent and grandparent. The most time is spent on her time in India, Siam, and Canada. (She spent decades of her life in Canada).

Susan Morgan's enthusiasm for the subject is evident. She at times praises and justifies Anna Leonowens creative "truth-telling." She acknowledges to a degree that Leonowens lied in her works, that she crafted her facts, that she sometimes completely embellished those facts, yet, she maintains that her works contain important truths. Morgan does spend a good deal of time discussing slavery, imperialism, and women's rights.

Bombay Anna was certainly interesting, and at times quite fascinating. While it didn't answer all my questions, it certainly provided some context! My one question remains why would she personally believe and behave in such a way in real life and then write about her experiences and present them to the world completely differently? The Anna presented in Bombay Anna was caring, compassionate, concerned. She loved the women and children she met; she valued them, respected them, wanted them to have more freedom. Yet the way she chose to write about them in her memoir was very condescending!

Favorite quotes:
Never discovered, never unmasked, Anna went on to perform that new identity for the rest of her life, actually becoming the character she had made. On the basis of her self-invention, Anna led a wildly adventurous and influential life. A world traveler, she became a well-known travel writer and public lecturer at a time when most women stayed home. She remains the one and only foreigner to spend years inside the royal harem of Siam. She crossed all of Russia on her own just before the revolution. She emigrated to the United States, mingling with the rich and famous, the literary, and political abolitionists in the Northeast, and in her seventies settled down to raise eight children. Hers was a vigorous, intense, and inspiring life. (1)
Anna stepped off that boat with a brand-new identity and began a new life. She had chosen her new biography with care. It had to be a story that would account for her having no money, no available family, and no ties to her past, and--at the same time--would render plausible that she was a gentlewoman, entitled by birth to be part of the higher social classes, and also educated enough to qualify for work as a teacher. The story Anna came up with was, in fact, a very clever choice... She was, she said, Mrs. Leonowens, born in Wales and daughter of Captain Crawford, who died heroically in the Sikh rebellion, widow of Major Thomas Leonowens, with two children born in England. She was, regrettably, without family or income. Her grief-stricken mother, widowed in Bombay, had remarried a crude and materialistic man, and brought her teenage daughters out there from England. The crass stepfather disapproved of Anna's marriage choice and all intercourse between them had ceased. Anna's first child had died in Bombay, Anna's mother died virtually the same moment, and a second baby had died in New South Wales after their ship returning to England foundered there. She and her husband, after spending time back in England where they produced two children who lived--bless the English climate!--had returned east when he was reassigned to the Straits Settlements. But all her fortune had been lost in the bank failures after the terrible Indian Mutiny, and her beloved husband was dead, prostrated by heat after a tiger hunt. She found herself, alas, alone, unprotected, with little money, and with two children to raise. But she had come to Singapore full of determination. She was, after all, a British lady, well born and well brought up, well educated and firm of character, quite the right sort of person to earn a genteel living for herself and her dear children by educating the young. And so the new Anna was born. It was an excellent role, suited both to her passionate nature, so nourished by Tom's love, and to her deep intelligence. (70-71)
The beauty of Anna's story, her virtually uncheckable story, was that all it required was that she be able to act the part. Everything depended on how well Anna could play the role, could put across her new identity as a lady. And it is a tribute to her extraordinary intelligence and the extent of her knowledge and skill that Anna was able to play the part. She definitely rose to the occasion. She met the challenge of accent, that immediate giveaway of race and class in India. She was able to speak in the tones of the British upper class and even provided herself and her accent with a little leeway by locating her birthplace in Wales. And she knew how to behave like a lady as well. (72)
Her children never doubted their heritage. The conviction that they were born in England, were British and upper class, significantly shaped both their futures. (79)
Of course there was no romantic interest between Anna and King Mongkut, on either of their parts. He was a monarch utterly engaged in protecting and improving his kingdom, and she was a teacher mourning her beloved husband and struggling to make a professional life for herself and a future for her children. To cast their relationship in the frame of conventional romance is to do an injustice to them both. And it is also to do an injustice to what really is interesting about Anna's life. We tend too often to think, as George Eliot said, that the greatest stories are those of romantic love. But there are other stories, stories of the shaping of a character or a career or a country, that are at least as passionate and as deserving of being told. One such story is that of Anna Leonowens in Siam. (103)
One advantage her background gave her was that Anna never thought it her Christian duty to try to convert her Buddhist students. She was one of those rare Christians in the East in the nineteenth century who knew better than to judge the Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus she was acquainted with as somehow inferior in their beliefs and practices. (125)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Catherine (2013)

Catherine. April Lindner. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages.

I enjoyed April Lindner's retelling of Jane Eyre entitled Jane. But I really, really LOVED her retelling of Wuthering Heights. I was surprised because I really do not like Wuthering Heights. I just do not see it as romantic or giddy-making. I don't see the appeal. But Catherine worked for me. I loved reading the dual narratives. Readers meet Chelsea, the daughter of Catherine, who has run away from her father to go in search of her mother who was listed as a missing person so many years before. She heads to New York City, to The Underground. She finds her mom's ex-boyfriend, Hence, the current owner of The Underground. He allows her to stay and he gives her bits and pieces of information. She also meets Cooper who takes an interest in helping her get the information she needs on her mom. Readers also get Catherine's story as it unfolds in her diary. Chelsea gets to know exactly what her mom was like when she was her age. Chelsea's search isn't easy, and it will be trying in many ways. Catherine's story is intense and passionate and it fits perfectly. Hence is a talented, misunderstood punk rocker who comes to work at the Underground. Catherine's father, the original owner, even lets Hence stay in his basement. Hence and Catherine just belong together, but, both are spirited. Catherine wants to go to college. She cannot content herself to watching Hence perform and following him around making much of him. She loves him, but she needs her dreams too. Hence, well, he's selfish and his ego is getting bigger and as he's getting more successful...

I really LOVED this one. It has mystery, drama, and romance. The storytelling was great!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This is What Happy Looks Like (2013)

This is What Happy Looks Like. Jennifer E. Smith. 2013. Little, Brown. 404 pages.

This is the third novel I've read by Jennifer E. Smith. I've also reviewed The Comeback Season and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I loved them both in very different ways. She is definitely an author I'd recommend to fans of Elizabeth Scott, Sarah Dessen, and Deb Caletti.

It starts when Ellie receives an email from a stranger. It's obviously a case of mistaken identity--this G is asking her to take Wilbur for a walk. Not wanting Wilbur to suffer, she replies back and discovers...that he's a PIG and G is a kindred spirit. A true friendship grows between E and G. They both have secrets they're keeping from one another: Ellie's secret isn't hers exclusively, so it makes sense that she wouldn't share it with just anyone. G's secret is that he is Graham Larkin, movie star. He purposefully suggests Ellie's hometown in Maine as a shooting location for his new movie, he's truly hoping to have a magical summer with the woman he can't stop thinking about. But Ellie has reasons--good reasons--not to want attention from the media.

I LOVED the beginning of this one. The email exchanges were great. I enjoyed the rest of the novel as well. It wasn't quite love, love, love for me. I did enjoy both characters, and I thought there were a few scenes in this one that worked really well. But for me, it didn't have as many magical moments as The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight. It's a good romance. I'm definitely glad I read it!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 20, 2013

Destiny, Rewritten (2013)

Destiny, Rewritten. Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2013. HarperCollins. 176 pages.

I really enjoyed The Year The Swallows Came Early, and I loved, loved, LOVED A Diamond in the Desert. How did I feel about Destiny, Rewritten? I really, really liked it. I appreciated so many things about the heroine, Emily Elizabeth Davis. She's a heroine who needs to believe in happy endings, who writes out her favorite happy endings from books, who checks to see that there is a happy ending before even reading books, who regularly writes Danielle Steel. She's presented as smart and kind, a girl you want for a best friend, a sister, a daughter. But her life isn't perfect. Emily feels some slight pressure from her mom to live up to her destiny. Emily doesn't embrace poetry; she doesn't feel called to BE a poet just because her mom named her after Emily Dickinson. The inspiring story about how her mom found a first edition complete poems of Emily Dickinson just days before she was born? Well, it makes her love and appreciate her mom--the book of poems is updated in the margins with details from her life--but it doesn't make her want to write poetry or even write about poetry.

One day, this treasured book is LOST, donated by accident. Emily and her friends and family come together to search the city for this one-of-a-kind book. Her mom is relaxed, reassuring. If the book is meant to come back to her, then it will. Her mom is all about how destiny can't be forced or rushed, that you just have to accept it, embrace it one day at a time. Emily NEEDS the book, NOW. Why? She's just learned that the name of her father is hidden inside its pages. She never discovered this because she's never read it cover to cover. (Her mom won't tell her who her father is, won't explain why he's not a part of their lives.)

So will Emily get her happy ending?!

I definitely recommend this one! I really love Kathryn Fitzmaurice's writing. One of the reasons I love her writing is the great characterization.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Emily of New Moon (1923)

Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages.

Have you met Emily Starr? Fifteen years after introducing children to the oh-so-lovable Anne Shirley, L.M. Montgomery introduces another young orphan to the world: Emily Starr. While Anne Shirley had no memories of her parents, Emily Starr remembers her father very well. In fact, readers meet him as well. When Emily of New Moon opens, Emily is about to learn the devastating truth: her father has only a few more weeks to live. He is dying; there is no cure, no hope for a cure. After her father dies, the relatives gather together. They hated Emily's father and have had nothing to do with Emily all these years. But now there is one question to be settled: who will get the "privilege"of taking Emily Starr home to raise?! She goes with Aunt Laura and Aunt Elizabeth to Prince Edward Island.

How does Emily Starr compare to Anne Shirley? Well, she's imaginative, spirited, struggles to adapt to school at least at first, loves to write...but in many ways she is quite unique. While she doesn't automatically love Aunt Elizabeth and her new home, she does come to peace with her new life. And there are many things she LOVES. Aunt Laura, Cousin Jimmy, Ilse Burnley, and Teddy Kent come to mind! But Teddy Kent is not the only boy in her life, there is also that Perry Miller and Dean "Jarback" Priest!

I do love Emily of New Moon. I'm not sure I LOVE this book as much as I love the earliest Anne books (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea), but, there are many things I do LOVE about it. It is always great to spend time on Prince Edward Island. And L.M. Montgomery's characters can't help feeling human. She had such a great gift for bringing all of her characters to life!

 Favorite quotes:
“It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside-- but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond-- only a glimpse-- and heard a note of unearthly music.”
“Ten good lines out of four hundred, Emily—comparatively good, that is—and all the rest balderdash—balderdash, Emily."
"I—suppose so," said Emily faintly.
Her eyes brimmed with tears—her lips quivered. She could not help it. Pride was hopelessly submerged in the bitterness of her disappointment. She felt exactly like a candle that somebody had blown out.
"What are you crying for? demanded Mr. Carpenter.
Emily blinked away tears and tried to laugh.
"I—I'm sorry—you think it's no good—" she said.
Mr. Carpenter gave the desk a mighty thump.
"No good! Didn't I tell you there were ten good lines? Jade, for ten righteous men Sodom had been spared."
"Do you mean—that—after all—" The candle was being relighted again.
"Of course, I mean. If at thirteen you can write ten good lines, at twenty you'll write ten times ten—if the gods are kind. Stop messing over months, though—and don't imagine you're a genius, either, if you have written ten decent lines. I think there's something trying to speak through you—but you'll have to make yourself a fit instrument for it. You've got to work hard and sacrifice—by gad, girl, you've chosen a jealous goddess. And she never lets her votaries go—not even when she shuts her ears forever to their plea.” 
“Tell me this--if you knew you would be poor as a church mouse all your life--if you knew you'd never have a line published--would you still go on writing--would you?'
'Of course I would,' said Emily disdainfully. 'Why, I have to write--I can't help it at times--I've just got to.”

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Week In Review: May 12-18

The Marvelous Land of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1904. 192 pages.
Ozma of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1907. 126 pages.
The League of Frightened Men. Rex Stout. 1935. Bantam. 320 pages.
The Daughter of Time. (Inspector Grant #5). Josephine Tey. 1955/1995. Touchstone. 206 pages.
Kept in the Dark. Anthony Trollope. 1882. 512 pages.
Penny and Her Marble. Kevin Henkes. 2013. HarperCollins. 48 pages.
The Radical Cross.  A.W. Tozer. Christian Publications. 148 pages.
The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus: Bowing to the Gracious Despot. Mike Abendroth. 2011. Day One. 240 pages.
Revelation 14-22 (Thru the Bible Commentary Series) J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 204 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 17, 2013

Penny and Her Marble (2013)

Penny and Her Marble. Kevin Henkes. 2013. HarperCollins. 48 pages.

Penny was pushing her doll, Rose, in her stroller. They went back and forth on the front sidewalk. "Only go as far as Mrs. Goodwin's house," called Mama. Penny pretended they were in a big city. "Look at the tall buildings, Rose," said Penny. When they got to Mrs. Goodwin's house, they turned around. Then Penny pretended they were in a forest...

I am really loving Kevin Henkes new series starring Penny and her family. I have loved each of the books in the series so far. Penny is such a fun heroine! The first book was Penny and Her Song; the second book was Penny And Her Doll. In her latest adventure, Penny struggles with her conscience. That day she picked up a marble she found in her neighbor's yard or perhaps on the sidewalk in front of her neighbor's house. She took it without thinking of it being someone else's property. And at first, she takes pure delight in it! Though small, this marble is bringing her nothing but joy. But then she starts thinking that maybe someone is missing it, maybe it wasn't hers to take after all. Penny and Her Marble is a thoughtful book for young readers, and it's a book with a happy ending!
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kept in the Dark (1882)

Kept in the Dark. Anthony Trollope. 1882. 512 pages.

I love, love, love Anthony Trollope. Kept in the Dark is a novel about relationships. Cecilia Holt, our heroine, when we first meet her is engaged to be married to Sir Francis Geraldine. While she was madly in love with him for a few brief weeks, she soon begins to see that he is not the one for her. There is something not quite right about him, something that worries her. So. She tells him that she's changed her mind. She will not be marrying him. His vanity is wounded, so he goes and boasts that he changed HIS mind. She doesn't care that much at the time; after all, the important thing is that the engagement is over. Even Cecilia's three closest friends don't know what to believe in the matter. Cecilia chooses not to gossip, not to add to the rumors. A few months later Cecilia and her mother are traveling around in Europe. She meets a man just a few years younger than Sir Francis. (Sir Francis was quite a bit older than Cecilia). He tells her after a brief acquaintance that he's suffering from a broken heart. A young woman, a beautiful woman, (a SILLY woman) has broken their engagement; she's fallen in love with a younger man, a Captain Geraldine. Cecilia's only known George Western a week! He's opened up his life to her, sharing his thoughts and cares, but how should she respond? She's certainly not brokenhearted herself, and except for the fact that there was not another man, her case superficially resembles his. She did "jilt" an older man. So she remains silent. As time goes by and they meet again and again in their travels, the two fall in love. Cecilia has an idea that she should tell him about her former engagement, but, the time doesn't seem right. To interrupt during the proposal would be awkward at best. She at first plans to tell him before the wedding, but, then her determination weakens. In a matter of months, the two are wed and her husband is still being "kept in the dark."

Most of the novel focuses on her husband's reaction to the news. For those that have read He Knew He Was Right, George Western does not do a Louis Trevelyan. Not quite. He leaves her quite suddenly, and he does insist on a permanent separation. But he offers her the country house, his home, and all the money she wants. She refuses these "kindnesses" which seem so cruel. She returns to her mother's house...but that is not the end of the story!

Unlike previous Trollope novels, readers only meet a few characters. The other two characters we spend time with are Sir Francis Geraldine and Francesca Altifiorla. Miss Altiforla was a "dear friend" to Cecilia Holt at the start of the novel; but she is VICIOUS. We also get a quick glimpse or two of Lady Grant, George's sister. I really loved this minor character!

I enjoyed this one. I really did. 

People are taken and must be taken in the position they frame for themselves. (6)
"Do you measure the one thing by the other," said Lady Grant; "a man's desires by a woman's, a man's sense of honour by what a woman is supposed to feel? Though a man keep such secrets deep in his bosom through long years of married life, the woman is not supposed to be injured. She may know, or may not know, and may hear the tale at any period of her married life, and no harm will follow. But a man expects to see every thought in the breast of the woman to whose love he trusts, as though it were all written there for him in the clear light, but written in letters which no one else shall read." (55)
"Lies are a sort of thing which are very commonly told, and are ordinarily ascribed to the world at large. The world never quarrels with the accusation. The world has told most infernal lies to this man about his wife. (124)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Daughter of Time (1951)

The Daughter of Time. (Inspector Grant #5). Josephine Tey. 1955/1995. Touchstone. 206 pages.

I reread books. I do. I can't help myself. If I truly love a book, then I'll reread it again and again. I've now read Josephine Tey's mystery novel, The Daughter of Time, three times. I've wanted to reread it even more than that. But I've shown some restraint.

The Daughter of Time is an unusual mystery novel for the hero, the detector, Inspector Grant, "solves" the case in a hospital bed. He has visitors bringing him books, bringing him copies of portraits, and he has assigned people to do research on his behalf, seeking answers to his questions. But he never leaves the room. What case is he trying to solve? It's not a current case, a contemporary one. It's historical in nature. He's trying to solve the case of WHO murdered the two princes in the tower during the reign of Richard III.

He starts with simple history textbooks, and moves on to look at other sources. He QUESTIONS the material at hand, always curious as to where they got their information, and IF that information would be admissible in a courtroom. Would there be enough real proof to convict the prime suspect Richard III of the crime. What he reasons is that most of the source material that has been taken for granted--to a degree--was all written decades after the crime, during the reign of Henry VII or even Henry VIII. Tudors have tempers! To upset a Tudor king (or queen) is NOT a good idea. So were these books written to please the crown? Perhaps! The historian Grant questions most is Thomas More. More was just a boy--five years old--when Richard III was struggling to keep his kingdom. He may have talked to many who were still alive, who still remembered, but his facts are uneven in their believability. (You might have to read the book to learn the details!) Grant struggles to find genuine closer-to-primary-documents to recreate the events. He looks at ALL the key players, all the men and women, and traces their steps, their whereabouts. He also examines motives. Who has the most to gain and who has the most to lose? Once Grant has all the information he can, he pieces together a case showing that Richard III should not be the primary suspect after all.

I love the subject of this one! I also love the writing!

Alan Grant on popular fiction authors:
The Sweat and the Furrow was Silas Weekley being earthly and spade-conscious all over seven hundred pages. The situation, to judge from the first paragraph, had not materially changed since Silas's last book: mother lying-in with her eleventh upstairs, father laid-out after his ninth downstairs, eldest son lying to the Government in the cow-shed, eldest daughter lying with her lover in the the hayloft, everyone else lying low in the barn. The rain dripped from the thatch, and the manure steamed in the midden. Silas never omitted the manure. It was not Silas's fault that its steam provided the only uprising element in the picture. If Silas could have discovered a brand of steam that steamed downwards, Silas would have introduced it. (13)
Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about "a new Silas Weekley" or "a new Lavinia Fitch" exactly as they talked about "a new brick" or a "new hairbrush." They never said "a new book by" whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like. (14)
The Rose of Raby proved to be fiction, but at least easier to hold than Tanner's Constitutional History of England. It was, moreover, the almost-respectable form of historical fiction which is merely history-with-conversation, so to speak. An imaginative biography rather than an imagined story. Evelyn Payne-Ellis, whoever she might be, had provided portraits and a family tree, and had made no attempt, it seemed, to what he and his cousin Laura used to call in their childhood "write forsoothly." There were no "by our Ladys," no "nathelesses" or "varlets." It was an honest affair according to its lights. And its lights were more illuminating than Mr. Tanner. Much more illuminating. It was Grant's belief that if you could not find out about a man, the next best way to arrive at an estimate of him was to find out about his mother. (59)
Alan Grant on Sir Thomas More
He came to the surface an hour later, vaguely puzzled and ill at ease. It was not that the matter surprised him, the facts were very much what he had expected them to be. It was that this was not how he had expected Sir Thomas to write. "He took ill rest at nights, lay long waking and musing; sore wearied with care and watch, he slumbered rather than slept. So was his restless heart continually tossed and tumbled with the tedious impression and stormy remembrance of his most abominable deeds." That was all right. But when he added that "this he had from such as were secret with his chamberers" one was suddenly repelled. An aroma of back-stair gossip and servants' spying came off the page. So that one's sympathy tilted before one was aware of it from the smug commentator to the tortured creature sleeping on his bed. The murderer seemed of greater stature than the man who was writing of him. Which was all wrong. Grant was conscious too of the same unease that filled him when he listened to a witness telling a perfect story that he knew to be flawed somewhere... (71)
He was five. When that dramatic council scene had taken place at the Tower, Thomas More had been five years old. He had been only eight when Richard died at Bosworth. Everything in that history had been hearsay. And if there was one word that a policeman loathed more than another it was hearsay. Especially when applied to evidence. He was so disgusted that he flung the precious book on to the floor before he remembered that it was the property of a Public Library and his only by grace and for fourteen days. More had never known Richard III at all. He had indeed grown up under a Tudor administration. That book was the Bible of the whole historical world on the subject of Richard III--and it was from that account that Holinshed had taken his material, and from that Shakespeare had written his--and except that More believed what he wrote to be true it was of no more value than what the soldier said.... Grant had dealt too long with the human intelligence to accept as truth someone's report of someone's report of what that someone remembered to have seen or been told. (81)
Other favorite quotes:
"One would expect boredom to be a great yawning emotion, but it isn't, of course. It's a small niggling thing." (16)
"I'm feeling like a policeman. I'm thinking like a policeman. I'm asking myself the question that every policeman asks in every case of murder: Who benefits? And for the first time it occurs to me that the glib theory that Richard got rid of the boys to make himself safer on the throne is so much nonsense. Supposing that he had got rid of the boys. There were still the boys' five sisters between him and the throne. To say nothing of George's toy: the boy and girl. George's son and daughter were barred by their father's attainder; but I take it that an attainder can be reversed, or annulled, or something. If Richard's claim was shaky, all those lives stood between him and safety."
"And did they all survive him?"
"I don't know. But I shall make it my business to find out. The boys' eldest sister certainly did because she became Queen of England as Henry's wife." (105)
It was brought home to him for the first time not only what a useless thing the murder of the boys would have been, but what a silly thing. And if there was anything that Richard of Gloucester was not, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was silly. (137)
"Of course I'm only a policeman," Grant said. "Perhaps I never moved in the right circles. It may be that I've met only nice people. Where would one have to go to meet a woman who became matey with the murderer of her two boys?"
"Greece, I should think," Marta said. "Ancient Greece."
"I can't remember a sample even there."
"Or a lunatic asylum, perhaps. Was there any sign of idiocy about Elizabeth Woodville?"
"Not that anyone ever noticed. And she was Queen for twenty years or so."
"Yes of course. It's the height of absurdity. It belongs to Ruthless Rhymes, not to sober history. That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history like a peepshow; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background."
"Perhaps when you are grubbing about with tattered records you haven't time to learn about people. I don't mean about the people in the records, but just about People. Flesh and blood. And how they react to circumstances." (151)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The League of Frightened Men (1935)

The League of Frightened Men. Rex Stout. 1935. Bantam. 320 pages.

This is the second novel in Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mystery series. I am not reading the series in order, and I have preferred some of his later books in the series to the first two in the series. In this mystery, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are trying to satisfy a large number of clients, members of the 'league of atonement.' These men were less than saints in college, and one of their pranks went horribly wrong. The victim was crippled, and lives were impacted. So why is this league 'frightened'? Well, it starts with the death of one or two of its members. After the first death, an anonymous letter--a poem, I believe--was sent to the others. It was a poetic, rambling threat. Another member dies unexpectedly, another letter was delivered. This causes alarm. At first Rex Stout did not take the case seriously, this was when one of the members turns up at his house alone and acting very strange. But weeks later when this man has gone missing, well, Stout decides to invite the other members to his house and take on their case. Many fear it is this 'victim' that has turned dangerous, wild, unpredictable. If Wolfe can alleviate their fears, then he'll be paid. 

I found this case to be confusing and a bit strange. But it does star Nero Wolfe and Archie, so even though it was confusing at times, it had its moments of delight. I am so glad I didn't try to read this series in order or I'm not sure I'd have bothered reading on.

I do recommend Rex Stout as a mystery writer. This may not be my favorite Nero Wolfe, but overall his series is great. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ozma of Oz (1907)

Ozma of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1907. 126 pages.

Ozma of Oz is certainly an interesting and enjoyable read! This third novel in the Oz series sees Dorothy returning to a magical land; Oz is not the first destination she reaches, however. Instead of a dog, Dorothy's companion is a chicken. One of the reasons Dorothy knows with certainty that she's landed in another fantastical adventure is that the chicken begins to TALK. This chicken, Billena, comes in quite useful! In fact, Dorothy and her friends would have been doomed without her! Another new character we meet is Tik-Tok. (I really liked this mechanical wind-up man.) The main adventure of this one concerns the Nome King.

I definitely enjoyed this one! I'm not sure which of the Oz books is my favorite so far. I've enjoyed elements from all three! I really enjoy the writing and the dialogue! There are plenty of enjoyable scenes throughout all three books. 

Favorite quotes:
But, bye and bye, when she was almost in despair, the little girl came upon two trees that promised to furnish her with plenty of food.
One was quite full of square paper boxes, which grew in clusters on all the limbs, and upon the biggest and ripest boxes the word "Lunch" could be read, in neat raised letters. This tree seemed to bear all the year around, for there were lunch-box blossoms on some of the branches, and on others tiny little lunch-boxes that were as yet quite green, and evidently not fit to eat until they had grown bigger.
The leaves of this tree were all paper napkins, and it presented a very pleasing appearance to the hungry little girl.
But the tree next to the lunch-box tree was even more wonderful, for it bore quantities of tin dinner-pails, which were so full and heavy that the stout branches bent underneath their weight. Some were small and dark-brown in color; those larger were of a dull tin color; but the really ripe ones were pails of bright tin that shone and glistened beautifully in the rays of sunshine that touched them.
Dorothy was delighted, and even the yellow hen acknowledged that she was surprised.
The little girl stood on tip-toe and picked one of the nicest and biggest lunch-boxes, and then she sat down upon the ground and eagerly opened it. Inside she found, nicely wrapped in white papers, a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple. Each thing had a separate stem, and so had to be picked off the side of the box; but Dorothy found them all to be delicious, and she ate every bit of luncheon in the box before she had finished.
"A lunch isn't zactly breakfast," she said to Billina, who sat beside her curiously watching. "But when one is hungry one can eat even supper in the morning, and not complain."
"I hope your lunch-box was perfectly ripe," observed the yellow hen, in a anxious tone. "So much sickness is caused by eating green things."
"Oh, I'm sure it was ripe," declared Dorothy, "all, that is, 'cept the pickle, and a pickle just HAS to be green, Billina. But everything tasted perfectly splendid, and I'd rather have it than a church picnic. And now I think I'll pick a dinner-pail, to have when I get hungry again, and then we'll start out and 'splore the country, and see where we are."
"Haven't you any idea what country this is?" inquired Billina.
"None at all. But listen: I'm quite sure it's a fairy country, or such things as lunch-boxes and dinner-pails wouldn't be growing upon trees. Besides, Billina, being a hen, you wouldn't be able to talk in any civ'lized country, like Kansas, where no fairies live at all."
A princess cannot be expected to remember today what she did yesterday.
The generals commanded the colonels and the colonels commanded the majors and the majors commanded the captains and the captains commanded the private, who marched with an air of proud importance because it required so many officers to give him his orders.
When the bell rang a second time the King shouted angrily, "Smudge and blazes!" and at a third ring he screamed in a fury, "Hippikaloric!" which must be a dreadful word because we don't know what it means.
"I have no reason to complain of my lot," replied the Scarecrow. "A little fresh straw, now and then, makes me as good as new. But I can never be the polished gentleman that my poor departed friend, the Tin Woodman, was." 
"That is the College of Art and Athletic Perfection," replied Ozma. "I had it built quite recently, and the Woggle-But is its president. It keeps him busy, and the young men who attend the college are no worse off than they were before. You see, in this country are a number of youths who do not like to work, and the college is an excellent place for them."

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)

The Marvelous Land of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1904. 192 pages.

I definitely enjoyed the second book in L. Frank Baum's Oz series. This second book has some old friends--the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman--and some new friends--Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, Sawhorse, and Gump. I suppose the "thoroughly educated wogglebug" might count as a friend, he certainly joins the party at some point.

 In this second adventure, readers meet Tip, a young boy, who is running away from a witch, Mombi. He takes with him, Jack Pumpkinhead, a creation (made from wood and a pumpkin) which he brought to life with magical powder. (He also takes the powder with him, and in fact uses it to bring Sawhorse and later Gump to life.)

At some point Tip and his friends learn of a plot to take over the Emerald City. An all-girl rebellion led by General Jinjur is determined to bring down the Scarecrow and take the city. The Scarecrow and his new friends seek help from the Tin Woodman, and so the adventure gets off to a start...

What I like best about both Oz books is the dialogue. I love seeing the characters interact with each other. The characters often have interesting observations to make!

Favorite quotes:
“For although I feel that I know a tremendous lot, I am not yet aware how much there is in the world to find out about. It will take me a little time to discover whether I am very wise or very foolish."
“Well, I cannot claim any great experience in life,' the Saw-Horse answered for himself; 'but I seem to learn very quickly, and often it occurs to me that I know more than any of those around me.' 'Perhaps you do,' said the Emperor; 'for experience does not always mean wisdom." 
“Everything in life is unusual until you get accustomed to it." 
“I think,' said the little Queen, smiling, 'that your friend must be the richest man in all the world.' 'I am,' returned the Scarecrow; 'but not on account of my money. For I consider brains to be far superior to money, in every way. You may have noticed that if one has money without brains, he cannot use it to advantage; but if one has brains without money, they will enable him to live comfortably to the end of days.' 'At the same time,' declared the Tin Woodman, 'you must acknowledge that a good heart is a thing that brains cannot create, and that money cannot buy. Perhaps, after all it is I who am the richest man in all the world.' 'You are both rich, my friends,' said Ozma gently; 'and your riches are the only riches worth having - the riches of content!'  

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Week in Review: May 5-11

Nicholas Nickleby. Charles Dickens. 1839. 817 pages.
Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865. 848 pages.
The Fallen Leaves. Wilkie Collins. 1879. 344 pages.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum. 1900. 156 pages.
A Dangerous Inheritance. Alison Weir. 2012. Hutchinson. 515 pages.
Cross My Heart. Sasha Gould. 2012. Random House. 272 pages.
According to the Pattern. Grace Livingston Hill. 1903. 186 pages.
Words to Winners of Souls. Horatius Bonar. 1877. 72 pages.
Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. B&H Books. 266 pages.
Christ the Eternal Son. A.W. Tozer. 175 pages.
The Bookends of the Christian Life. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Library Loot: Second Trip in May

New Loot:
  • The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper
  • The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
  • The Foundling by Georgette Heyer
  • Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup
  • Farm by James Brown
  • Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres by Ruth Brandon
  • Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival, 1941-1946 Greg Dawson
Leftover Loot:
  • Because It is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
  • Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
  • Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith
  • A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith
  • The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith
  • Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
  • In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
  • The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz
  • Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer
  • Rose of York: Crown of Destiny by Sandra Worth
  • Rose of York: Fall From Grace by Sandra Worth
    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.  

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fallen Leaves (1879)

The Fallen Leaves. Wilkie Collins. 1879. 344 pages.

I have really enjoyed some of the novels I've read by Wilkie Collins. I loved, loved, loved Armadale and The Woman in White. I really enjoyed Man and Wife and The Moonstone. I liked The Fallen Leaves, but, it is not Collins at his best in my opinion.

Claude Amelius Goldenheart is the hero of The Fallen Leaves. He is returning to England at the start of the novel.  (He was born in England, and grew up in the United States. His growing-up-years were spent in a Christian socialist community. He will soon come into an inheritance, but, he discovers that his inheritance isn't big enough for him to take a place in Society. He's introduced to the Farnaby family early in the novel. Mrs. Farnaby is fascinated by him, in a way, and treats him strangely. She pulls him into her confidence, sharing the most intimate secrets in her past. Her excuse? Well, she had a DREAM that he was "the one" who brought her her heart's desire: her missing daughter. (Mrs. Farnaby had a child before she married. When the baby was just a week or possibly two weeks old, it was kidnapped). Because she wants HIM to find her, she feels very strongly that he shouldn't be settling down anywhere and getting married. He definitely shouldn't marry her niece. He needs to be free and independent so he can travel and socialize. But by the time he's discussing this secret with Mrs. Farnaby, he's already incredibly smitten with the niece, Regina. Her father does not approve because Mr. Goldenheart is "poor" in his estimation. If he can increase his annual income by several thousand in the next few years, then he'll consider it. Our hero who has grown up a socialist can't fathom WHY he needs more money to be happy in his marriage. He disagrees significantly with Mr. Farnaby! And the family is hoping that he outgrows his strangeness. They really don't like it when he gives a lecture to the lower classes on "Christian socialism."

There are two big questions in this one: "Will Amelius find Mrs. Farnaby's lost daughter?" and "Will Amelius make a happy marriage?"

I wasn't bored with The Fallen Leaves. But. It certainly wasn't amazing.

Favorite quotes:
'Ah, dear me! Another of the Fallen Leaves!' I knew what he meant. The people who have drawn blanks in the lottery of life--the people who have toiled hard after happiness, and have gathered nothing but disappointment and sorrow; the friendless and the lonely, the wounded and the lost--these are the people whom our good Elder Brother calls The Fallen Leaves. I like the saying myself; it's a tender way of speaking of our poor fellow creatures who are down in the world.
 It is an afternoon concert; and modern German music was largely represented on the programme. The patient English people sat in closely-packed rows, listening to the pretentious instrumental noises which were impudently offered to them as a substitute for melody. 
My sentiments are not altogether favourable to that art [photography]. I delivered a lecture on photographic portraiture at Coolspring; and I described it briefly as justice without mercy.
In less than half an hour he discovered that Hume could do nothing for him. Wisely inspired, he turned to the truer history next, which mean call fiction.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Nicholas Nickleby (1839)

Nicholas Nickleby. Charles Dickens. 1839. 817 pages.

I definitely enjoyed reading Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Soon after the novel opens, three members of the Nickleby family (Mrs. Nickleby, Nicholas, and Kate) travel to London to visit with Ralph Nickleby (Nicholas and Kate's uncle.) Mr. Nickleby has recently died leaving the family destitute. While they don't demand financial support from the relatively wealthy uncle, they are certainly hopeful that he will at the very least help Nicholas and Kate find positions to earn money.

One thing can be said with certainty: Ralph Nickleby is not a nice man, a kind man, a sociable man. I am not sure he treats anyone with respect or consideration. Emotional support will not be given, nor will direct financial help. He "helps" Nicholas get a job in a family-run school. The owner of the "school" is a scoundrel through and through. He also "helps" Kate get a job as an assistant seamstress. Neither job lasts terribly long. Kate loses her job when the seamstress goes bankrupt; Nicholas runs away from his job--taking along a young man named Smike--after beating up his employer. Any other "help" given to Kate is the opposite of what anyone could ever want. He introduces her to several despicable gentleman-in-name-only men, notably Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Frederick Verisopht. Kate finds their attentions repulsive and threatening, to a degree. Mr. Pluck and Mr Pyke are "friends" who help the two gentleman get in closer with the mother and daughter. The mother. OH WHAT I COULD SAY ABOUT HER!!!! Needless to say, the attentions from these two men cause her to lose a second job, a job I believe she found on her own. And Kate believes the danger to be real, as does Newman Noggs; he takes it upon himself to write Nicholas and alert him to the situation, bringing him back to London and reuniting the family for better or worse. (After Nicholas left his first job, he becomes an actor in a theatrical troupe!!!)

Most of the novel concerns the welfare of the Nickleby family as they try to make a life for themselves. Kate and Nicholas just want opportunities to work, to prove themselves capable workers. Mrs. Nickleby, well, she's just looking for someone--anyone--to talk at. They meet plenty of people--some good, some bad. Dickens novel has an extremely large cast of characters, and, yet the stories come together for the most part and a pleasant end is achieved. Nicholas Nickleby is not a romance like Our Mutual Friend. Other Dickens' novels have more romance (David Copperfield, Our Mutual Friend, Little Dorrit, Bleak House), but it is a thoroughly enjoyable novel. I enjoyed spending time with the characters. Some of my favorite "minor" characters were Charles and Ned Cheeryble, Tim Linkinwater, Miss La Creevy, and Mr. Lillyvick. Little details can bring delight. For example, the talk of the "United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company."

Favorite quotes:
To die is our heavy portion, but, oh, let us die with life about us; when our cold hearts cease to beat, let warm hearts be beating near; let our last look be upon the bounds which God has set to his own bright skies, and not on stone walls and bars of iron! 
'There are shades in all good pictures, but there are lights too, if we choose to contemplate them,' said the gentleman with the merry face. 
'The sun does not shine upon this fair earth to meet frowning eyes, depend upon it.'
'When a man's a bear, he is generally pretty independent.'
'His manner is rough,' said Kate.
'Rough!' cried Miss La Creevy, 'a porcupine's a featherbed to him! I never met with such a cross-grained old savage.'
Spite is a little word; but it represents as strange a jumble of feelings, and compound of discords, as any polysyllable in the language.
 Dreams are the bright creatures of poem and legend, who sport on earth in the night season, and melt away in the first beam of the sun, which lights grim care and stern reality on their daily pilgrimage through the world. 
 The plot was most interesting. It belonged to no particular age, people, or country, and was perhaps the more delightful on that account, as nobody's previous information could afford the remotest glimmering of what would ever come of it.
 Newman stopped; not at all disconcerted.
'I did ring.'
'I knew you did.'
'Then why do you offer to go if you know that?'
'I thought you rang to say you didn't ring,' replied Newman. 'You often do.' 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A Dangerous Inheritance (2012)

A Dangerous Inheritance. Alison Weir. 2012. Hutchinson. 515 pages.

I didn't exactly like Alison Weir's A Dangerous Inheritance. Yet I have to admit that I found it compelling. This is historical fiction. A Dangerous Inheritance tells the story of two young women: Kate Plantagenet, the illegitimate daughter of Richard III, and Katherine Grey, the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. Politics is heavy in the alternating narratives. Both narrators seem doomed or trapped to live unhappy lives because of their families, because of who they are.

Kate's story is set in the 1480s. Her narrative provides some glimpses of Richard III. Mainly readers get plenty of scenes with Kate overhearing gossipy things about her father. Kate doesn't truly believe that her father is capable of murdering his two nephews, though she might be convinced that some of the others are murder: men being accused of betrayal and killed without trial. Towards the end, readers get to see Kate unhappy but passionate love affair. (She is in love with one man and married to another).  Not much is known about Richard III's daughter, and Weir's portrait is completely fictional.

Katherine's story begins in the 1550s, I believe. Her story remains tragic throughout the book. In a way, it is her story that makes this novel compelling. Yet, at the same time her sections could be infuriating because of the way the characters talked about Richard III! One element of her story was her curiosity to discover what happened to the two princes in the tower. The focus was also on romance and politics. If Katherine had been born into another family, perhaps, she could have married and been happy. If Katherine had been born into another family, perhaps, the Queen wouldn't have cared if she married. But Katherine served unto two Queens, Mary and Elizabeth. And Elizabeth did not want Katherine married, forbid her to marry actually. So Katherine's story of defiance is bittersweet.

There were many things I didn't exactly like in this one. Yet there were elements in both stories that I did care about to a degree.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews