Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Reflections

In July, I read 59 books.

My top five six:

William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Ian Doescher.
Wool (Omnibus Edition, Wool 1-5). Hugh Howey.
Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 
Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie.
The Magic Pudding. Norman Lindsay. 
All The Truth That's In Me. Julie Berry.

Children's Books:  

  1. Not That Tutu! Michelle Sinclair Colman. 2013. Random House. 20 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  2. My Pretty Princess Dress: A Fancy Color Book. Ilanit Oliver. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  3. Shoe-La-La. Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011/2013. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  4. A Kiss for You! Joan Holub. Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. 14 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  5. I Love You! A Cloth Book with Mirror. Caroline Jayne Church. 2012. Scholastic. 6 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  6. Horsey Up and Down: A Book of Opposites. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Baby and Me. Emma Dodd. 2013. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  8. Giggle! Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  9. Kiss, Kiss Good Night. Kenn Nesbitt. Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. Whose Toes are Those. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt. 2012. Candlewick. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  11. Away We Go! A Shape and Seek Book. Chieu Anh Urban. 2013. Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  12. Rain, Rain Go Away. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  13. Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Tanya Lee Stone. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. 2013. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  14. Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women. Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. 2013. Walker Books. 48 pages. [Source: Library]   
  15. Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Raul Colon. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  16. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909. Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. 2013. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. A Big Guy Took My Ball. Mo Willems. 2013. Hyperion. 58 pages. [Source: Library]
   
Middle Grade and Young Adult:
  1. The Shade of the Moon. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  2. The Magic Pudding. Norman Lindsay. 1918. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2013. HarperCollins. 226 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Half Magic. Edward Eager. 1954. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Year of the Book. Andrea Cheng. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Second Fiddle. Roseanne Parry. 2011. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  7. The Water Castle. Megan Frazer Blakemore. 2013. Walker. 352 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  8. Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Chris Grabenstein. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  10. Ladies in Waiting. Laura L. Sullivan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  11. All The Truth That's In Me. Julie Berry. 2013. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  12. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The Story Behind An American Friendship. Russell Freedman. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 128 pages. [Source: Review Copy]  
  13. I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book. Iona and Peter Opie. Illustrations by Maurice Sendak. 1947/2012. Candlewick Press. 160 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  14. Three Rivers Rising. Jame Richards. 2010. Random House. 304 pages.
Adult Books:
  1. William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Ian Doescher. 2013. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review Copy]  
  2. Wool (Omnibus Edition, Wool 1-5). Hugh Howey. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 508 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The White Princess. Philippa Gregory. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 544 pages. [Source: Review Copy]  
  4. The Cherry Cola Book Club. Ashton Lee. 2013. Kensington. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Death in the Clouds (Death in the Air). Agatha Christie. 1935. 253 pages [Source: Library]
  6.  The Case of the Cautious Coquette (Perry Mason #34). Erle Stanley Gardner. 1949. 230 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Paris. Edward Rutherfurd. 2013. 832 pages. 
  9. A Tangled Web. L.M. Montgomery. 1931. 257 pages.  
  10. Earth Afire. Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. (The First Formic War) 2013. Tor. 400 pages.  
  11. Zoo Station. David Downing. 2007. Soho Press. 304 pages.  
  12. The Grand Sophy. Georgette Heyer. 1950/2009. Sourcebooks. 372 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Christian Books:
  1.  A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller. 2012. Revell. 332 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. The Measure of Katie Calloway. Serena B. Miller. 2011. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Sunroom. Beverly Lewis. 1998. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. By Grace Alone. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2010. Reformation Trust. 123 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend] 
  5. The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1937/1959/1995. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend.]  
  6. Chosen by God. R.C. Sproul. 1986/1994/2011. Tyndale. 216 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. A Big Year for Lily. Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  8. Fatherless. James C. Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2013. FaithWords. 448 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. Heaven: Priceless Encouragements on the Way to Our Eternal Home. J.C. Ryle. 92 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  10. Love Takes Wing. Janette Oke. 1988. Bethany House. 240 pages. [Source: Own]. 
  11. Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. J.D. Greear. 2013. B&H. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why It Matters. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. 2007. Baker Books. 256 pages.
  13. Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer. 2013. Bethany House. 352 pages.
  14. Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life. Stephen J. Nichols. 2013. Crossway. 208 pages.
  15. Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We Made Up. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. 2011. David C. Cook. 208 pages. 
  16. Anomaly. Krista McGee. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 2013. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Challenge Completed: Paris in July

Paris in July 2013
Host: Bookbath; Sign-up post
# of Books: at least one
All of July

What I read OR watched:

1. Paris. Edward Rutherfurd. 2013. 832 pages. [Source: Library]
2. Second Fiddle. Roseanne Parry. 2011. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
3. Death in the Clouds (Death in the Air). Agatha Christie. 1935. 253 pages [Source: Library]
4. Watching Les Miserables 



© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Shade of the Moon (2013)

The Shade of the Moon. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

The Shade of the Moon is the fourth 'moon book' by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It is narrated by Miranda's younger brother, Jon, who is now 16. When the book opens, it has been around four years since the moon incident and around two years since Jon, Gabe, and Lisa made it into the Sexton enclave. The events of this novel cover late April through mid-August.

Jon hasn't been a character I've ever really thought about. He's his mother's greatest hope in some ways. In Life As We Knew It, the mom makes clear to Miranda and Matt that Jon is to have every consideration in the world, that he is the chosen one who must survive. In This World We Live In, we see a fourteen year old Jon have a little crush on Julie, I suppose. But honestly Jon has always been uninteresting to me.

Jon is not a nice person. The sad thing? In the enclave, he's still one of the "good guys." The standards have lowered so much that even though Jon is a complete jerk in some ways, in comparison with the other teen boys we see, he's a "nice" guy. Jon has an excuse for why he HAS to act the way he does. He is doing it so he fits in, he's doing it so the family can remain in good standing. (Lisa is coming up for review. If she passes, they'll be guaranteed a spot in the enclave for another three years. If not, well, they'll all be forced to leave unless Lisa allows Gabe to be adopted by an eager childless couple.) Jon thinks he has no choice, that he's not at fault, that this is just how things are.

Sarah Goldman is a new girl in Jon's class. Sarah is instantly drawn to Jon (it seems) and Jon is falling for Sarah just as quickly. Sarah is off-limits according to Jon's "best friends." They want Jon to choose between staying with them, or choosing the different-outsider-girl. He chooses his friends, of course, this is Jon we're talking about! But Jon still is hoping that Sarah will wait for him.

Pfeffer explores the haves and have-nots of the new world; the "grubbers" those who live outside the enclave (the laborers, the domestics, the miners) and the "clavers" those fortunate few who live inside the enclave (the thinkers, the leaders, etc.). The clavers have been taught by their teachers, their parents, their neighbors, their friends that they are THE BEST. They get the best because they deserve the best. They have been equally taught that the grubbers are the worst. The grubbers are a necessary evil. They're necessary because someone has to do the actual work, the dirty work. But to think of the grubbers as more than mere animals is ridiculous.

How does Jon feel about this? You'd think since his own mom, his own sister, his own brother-in-law were grubbers that he would actually KNOW this is complete nonsense. That he would be one of the few clavers with common decency. But Jon tends to think that his family is the exception to the rule. Jon doesn't really like grubbers, he sees them as completely beneath him. He thinks the distinctions are justified in a way.

Does Jon change? Is the Jon we meet in the first chapter the same Jon we say goodbye to in the last chapter? That is the most important thing...

I did not care for Jon, not in the same way I've cared for Alex or Miranda in the past. But his coming-of-age story is interesting in many ways. I found it an absorbing read--difficult to put down. I enjoyed learning more about how the world had changed.

I liked this one better than This World We Live In.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wool Omnibus Edition (2013)

Wool (Omnibus Edition, Wool 1-5). Hugh Howey. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 508 pages. [Source: Library]

The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. While they thundered about frantically above, Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around and around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads. 

After seeing Seth's review of Wool, I knew I HAD to read this book. It had me at hello. The first story "Wool" had me hooked. It was so very, very good! So incredibly compelling! And the other sections kept me hooked, kept me reading. It was so hard to put this one down. I just loved spending time with it. It was uncomfortable in places because the action was intense and one didn't know what the outcome would be, but that is a good thing. It showed I CARED about the characters.

The world-building in this novel is amazing. So well-done, so well-crafted. It felt genuine too; readers are shown what life is like in the silo; sometimes in dystopian novels, the emphasis is on the telling.

In the first story, "Wool," readers meet Sheriff Holston and learn of his wife, Allison. A few years before the novel begins, Allison learned something: something big, something secret. She thought she had all the answers. This knowledge made her appear quite mad to most. It led her to do something illegal: ask to go outside the silo. To ask such a thing clearly shows your insane. The only fit punishment is to send the person outside--in a well-protected environmental suit. The punishment also includes CLEANING the lenses; after a cleaning, those who want can look outside at the barren world...if they're willing to climb all those stairs! Most born in the lower levels (there are 149 levels, I believe) don't ever go journeying that far. After two years of mourning his wife, he thinks he has learned his wife's secret knowledge. He's prepared to follow her now...

In the four subsequent sections, readers meet several key characters. The deputy that served under Holston, the mayor of the Silo, the head of the IT department, etc. Most importantly they meet Juliette, a young mechanic working and living on one of the lowest levels. She has zero interest in being sheriff. But those in power (well, excepting Bernard from IT) have confidence that she'll do a fine job. (Bernard wants his own pick to get the job.) Juliette accepts the job, but it soon proves extremely challenging and very dangerous! It doesn't take readers long to see the power is corrupted. Readers meet a handful of characters from various levels, and the story as a whole is very compelling.

The writing, the characterizations, the way relationships were handled, everything felt just right about this science fiction novel. If you enjoy dystopian novels, post-apocalyptic novels, OR mystery novels, then this one is a must! 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 29, 2013

High Summer Readathon Completed


High Summer Read-a-thon
Host: Seasons of Reading (wrap-up post)
Dates: July 22-July 28
# of Books:19


1) The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
2) Written in Stone by Rosanne Parry
3) Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
4) The Boy On the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
5) The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
6) Solstice by P.J. Hoover
7) The Year of the Baby by Andrea Cheng
8) Every Day After by Laura Golden
9) Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
10) The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller
11) Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky
12) Outcasts United by Warren St. John
13) Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
14) Anomaly by Krista McGee
15) Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
16) No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
17) A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs 
18) Shift by Hugh Howey
19) April Lady by Georgette Heyer

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Grand Sophy (1950)

The Grand Sophy. Georgette Heyer. 1950/2009. Sourcebooks. 372 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

The first time I read it, I found Sophy Stanton-Lucy to be a delightful, sometimes mischievous, matchmaker. I was not as delighted the second time around. I still think The Grand Sophy is a fun book, however. It's just that I've read better Heyer novels perhaps.

Sophy Stanton-Lucy is going to stay with her aunt, uncle, and cousins while her father travels. She is a young woman of marriageable age. She's just the right age to be a companion to her cousin, Cecelia Rivenhall. Almost everyone from the family loves and adores her. She has a way of livening things up, bringing joy with her wherever she goes. She's hardly predictable! There are a few people, however, who have reservations about her. One is her cousin, Charles Rivenhall. He isn't quite sure that Sophy is a good influence on her cousins. Why would any proper young lady bring a pet monkey with her? She's just so different from all the society ladies. Charles' fiancee Eugenia Wraxton is another who has doubts. The difference between the two is this: Charles is won over, quite won over by his cousin, and Eugenia, well, let's just say that the more the novel goes on, the more she comes to hate or disapprove of Sophy. Charles comes to see Eugenia in a new light. She can lecture on and on and be quite interfering. He also sees that his own family does not quite "like" to spend time in Eugenia's company. The contrast between Eugenia and Sophy is oh-so-evident.

Most of The Grand Sophy focuses on the adventures and misadventures of Sophy and her cousins. Cecelia's love life, for example, leads to many of these adventures. There are quite a few men interested in courting her. And Sophy is often around for these encounters. She is very observant, a bit wiser than Cecelia perhaps, and she has plans and designs on how to help her favorite (Lord Charlbury) win Cecelia's heart in the end.

It was a fun, light novel, a good historical romance. It might not be my absolute favorite Georgette Heyer novel, but, it was a good read all the same. Do you have a favorite Heyer novel?

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading The Magic Pudding (1918)

The Magic Pudding. Norman Lindsay. 1918. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is a frontways view of Bunyip Bluegum and his Uncle Wattleberry. At a glance you can see what a fine, round, splendid fellow Bunyip Bluegum is, without me telling you. At a second glance you can see that the Uncle is more square than round, and that his face has whiskers on it. Looked at sideways you can still see what a splendid fellow Bunyip is, though you can only see one of his Uncle's whiskers. Observed from behind, however, you completely lose sight of the whiskers, and so fail to realize how immensely important they are. In fact, these very whiskers were the chief cause of Bunyip's leaving home to see the world, for as he often said to himself--
'Whiskers alone are bad enough
Attached to faces coarse and rough;
But how much greater their offence is
When stuck on Uncles' countenances.'

Thus begins the ever-delightful fantasy, The Magic Pudding. It is very important to read The Magic Pudding WITH illustrations. Without the illustrations, the book wouldn't be as charming, as perfect.

Bunyip Bluegum, our hero, is a koala who's about to have a great adventure. Soon after leaving home, he meets Bill Barnacle (a sailor) and Sam Sawnoff (a penguin). He also meets (and eats) Albert, a pudding--THE MAGIC PUDDING of the title. This is a fortunate meeting because he had forgotten to pack any food for his journey.
'Dear me,' he said, 'I feel quite faint. I had no idea that one's stomach was so important. I have everything that I require, except food; but without food everything is rather less than nothing.
I've got a stick to walk with.
I've got a mind to think with.
I've got a voice to talk with.
I've got an eye to wink with.
I've lots of teeth to eat with,
A brand new hat to bow with,
A pair of fists to beat with,
A rage to have a row with.
No joy it brings
To have indeed
A lot of things
One does not need.
Observe my doleful plight.
For here I am without a crumb
To satisfy a raging tum--
O what an oversight!' 
It is the Pudding who invites Bunyip to lunch.
'There you are,' said Bill. 'There's nothing this Puddin' enjoys more than offering slices of himself to strangers.'
'How very polite of him,' said Bunyip, but the Puddin' replied loudly--
'Politeness be sugared, politeness be hanged,
Politeness be jumbled and tumbled and banged.
It's simply a matter of putting on pace,
Politeness has nothing to do with the case.' 
It is during their meal that he learns of the pudding's magic: it is a "cut-an'-come-again Puddin'"

In this adventure, it's a fierce battle between the three professional puddin' owners and the two professional puddin' thieves. In all four slices, Bill, Sam, and Bunyip face off against the horrid thieves--a Wombat and a Possum. It's a delightful blend of prose and poetry.

I definitely recommend this Australian classic.

The Puddin' Owners' Anthem:
The solemn word is plighted,
The solemn tale is told,
We swear to stand united,
Three puddin'-owners bold.
When we with rage assemble,
Let puddin'-snatches groan;
Let puddin'-burglars tremble,
They'll never our puddin' own.
Hurrah for puddin-owning,
Hurrah for Friendship's hand,
The pudding'-thieves are groaning
To see our noble band.
Hurrah, we'll stick together,
And always bear in mind
To eat our puddin' gallantly,
Whenever we're inclined.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Week in Review: July 21-27

William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Ian Doescher. 2013. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Ladies in Waiting. Laura L. Sullivan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
The Cherry Cola Book Club. Ashton Lee. 2013. Kensington. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Chris Grabenstein. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Not That Tutu! Michelle Sinclair Colman. 2013. Random House. 20 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
My Pretty Princess Dress: A Fancy Color Book. Ilanit Oliver. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Shoe-La-La. Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011/2013. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
A Kiss for You! Joan Holub. Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. 14 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
I Love You! A Cloth Book with Mirror. Caroline Jayne Church. 2012. Scholastic. 6 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Horsey Up and Down: A Book of Opposites. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Baby and Me. Emma Dodd. 2013. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Giggle! Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Kiss, Kiss Good Night. Kenn Nesbitt. Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Whose Toes are Those. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt. 2012. Candlewick. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Away We Go! A Shape and Seek Book. Chieu Anh Urban. 2013. Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Rain, Rain Go Away. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy]     
The White Princess. Philippa Gregory. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 544 pages. [Source: Review Copy]  
The Water Castle. Megan Frazer Blakemore. 2013. Walker. 352 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller. 2012. Revell. 332 pages. [Source: Library]
The Measure of Katie Calloway. Serena B. Miller. 2011. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
The Sunroom. Beverly Lewis. 1998. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in July

New Loot:
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones
  • The Queen's Man by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
  • April Lady by Georgette Heyer
  • Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
  • Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
  • Forged in Fire by Ann Turnbull
  • No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
  • Pantomime by Laura Lam
  • 45 Pounds by K.A. Barson
  • Anomaly by Krista McGee
  • The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt 
Leftover Loot:
  • Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers
  • Mary Poppins In the Park by P.L. Travers
  • The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne 
  • A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
  • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
  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

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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Cherry Cola Book Club (2013)

The Cherry Cola Book Club. Ashton Lee. 2013. Kensington. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

If you like your books cute and quirky, then The Cherry Cola Book Club might work for you. It has a cute premise. A young librarian, Maura Beth Mayhew, learns that her job is in danger. The city council want to close down the library because there are only a small handful of people using it. (Probably less than ten people a week.) So Maura Beth Mayhew decides to do something to turn the situation around. She's been given six months or so to make a difference with her library. Fortunately, there's a new comer in town who offers a suggestion and the necessary funds to make that suggestion a reality. She used to be part of a book club. She'd be willing to help start one here. She'd be willing to buy what it takes to make the club meetings a success. Between the two of them, they find five or six people to join the reading club. The book focuses on their first two meetings. The first in which they 'discuss' Gone With The Wind, and the second in which they 'discuss' To Kill A Mockingbird.

Readers meet plenty of quirky small town characters. Do they truly get to know them beyond the surface? I'm not sure they do. The characters all felt as substantive as the cardboard cutouts of the movie stars they buy to decorate for club meetings. What we do see of the characters is interesting enough I suppose. It's just there isn't enough to make the book feel genuinely satisfying. (The dialogue didn't feel quite right, quite natural.) The story is predictable and pleasant. Readers know just what to expect from the start: a cozy, quirky, cutesy read about small-town Southern life. 

I was not wowed by this one. It's a pleasant enough read, however.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ladies in Waiting (2013)

Ladies in Waiting. Laura L. Sullivan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Ladies in Waiting is set during the reign of Charles II, the 1660s. (Be sure to watch the video!) The book is not a romance. The book is about the choices or lack of choices women had during this time period. (Did women have any power over their lives? Were women merely the property of their fathers or husbands?) We see this depicted in the lives of three very different women all named Elizabeth.

Eliza Parsloe does not want to get married. She thinks she has a better chance of manipulating her father than any future husband. She is a thinker. She loves to write. She'd love, love, love to write plays and have them produced. The bawdier the play, the better!

Beth Foljambe will fulfill all her mother's plans...or else. Oh, Beth's mother is creepy and strict and cruel. Beth is at court to get a husband, not of her own choosing, of course, that would be ridiculous. But her mother is determined to protect her daughter's virtue until she can find the right husband for her. Beth secretly and perhaps foolishly is thinking of a childhood friend, a boy, that she hasn't seen in ages. When she sees him again, it's TRUE LOVE, or is it?!

Zabby Wodewose is an intellectual woman interested in science, nature, and medicine. Raised in Barbados, she is traveling to England for the first time. She happens upon Charles II at a very vulnerable time. He is very ill, and she nurses him back to health. He swears her to secrecy, and the whole world perhaps with the exception of Eliza and Beth thinks that Zabby is one of the King's (many) mistresses. As a result of her being in such close contact with him, she becomes obsessed with how in love she is with him.

These three become close to one another since they all serve the same Queen (Catherine of Braganza). All three women have secrets, of course: some they share with the others; some they don't. All three women have strengths and all three women have weaknesses. None of the heroines are perfect. I didn't exactly "love" (if love goes along with the idea of unconditional approval) any of the heroines. However, I found their stories fascinating or entertaining.

The book is full of sexual innuendos and jesting which completely suits the time period.

You might be interested in: Catherine of Braganza, Charles II, Thomas Killigrew, Barbara Palmer, Nell Gwyn, Duke of Buckingham, Samuel Pepys.



© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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William Shakespeare's Star Wars (2013)

William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Ian Doescher. 2013. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I really LOVED this adaptation of Star Wars A New Hope. It is somewhat faithful to the movie and somewhat faithful to Shakespeare. I appreciated the movie being broken down into five acts and many scenes.

Strengths:

  • Loved the reflectiveness of the characters
  • R2-D2 had some great soliloquies
  • Appreciated many of the asides and many of the soliloquies
  • Loved finding my favorite lines and seeing how they were changed or transformed
  • Some of the scenes were just giddy-making
  • The illustrations!!! Oh some of these were just WONDERFUL. 
Weaknesses:
  • The use of the chorus was annoying at times (sometimes worked, sometimes didn't)
  • The ending was weaker than the beginning (the last few scenes were more tedious to read)
  • Would be best if reader was familiar with all the films and had read/seen Shakespeare previously
 Favorite quotes:

Luke: -- I wonder who she is.
Whoever she may be, whatever is
Her cause, I shall unto her pleas respond.
Not e'en were she my sister could I know
A duty of more weight than I feel now.
It seemeth she some dreadful trouble hath--
Mayhap I should replay the message whole. (33-4)

Obi-Wan: ... In his beginning I shall find my end;
This business shall reveal my final stage.
Yet in my closing scenes perhaps I'll write
A worthy ending to my mortal days: (47)

Luke: ... Adventure have I ask'd for in this life,
And now have I too much of my desire.
My soul within me weeps; my mind, it runs
Unto a thousand thousand varied paths.
My uncle Owen and my aunt Beru,
Have they been cruelly kill'd for what I want?
So shall I never want again if in
The wanting all I love shall be destroy'd.
O fie! Thou knave adventure! Evil trick
Of boyhood's mind that ever should one seek
To have adventure when one hath a home--
A family so kind and full of love,
Good, steady work, and vast, abundant crops--
Why would one give up all this gentle life
For that one beastly word: adventure? Fie!
But soft, my soul, be patient and be wise.
The sands of time ne'ever turned backward yet,
And forward marches Fate, not the reverse.
So while I cannot wish for them to live,
I can my life commit unto their peace.
Thus shall I undertake to do them proud
And take whate'er adventure comes my way.
'Tis now my burden, so I'll wear it well,
And to the great Rebellion give my life.
A Jedi shall I be, in all things brave--
And thus shall they be honor'd in their grave. (64-5)

Han:...I either shall destroy her, or, perhaps,
I may in time begin to like the wench! (117)

Luke: Peace, 3PO! Lend ears and not thy voice! (122)


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (2013)

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Chris Grabenstein. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library has a great premise. If you love games (board games, word games, puzzles, etc.) OR if you love libraries (books, reading), then you're in for quite a treat. Mr. Lemoncello is a famous game maker. He makes board games and video games. His games are the best in the world. His hometown has not had a library in twelve years; the old library had burned down. So the new spectacular library needs a grand opening like no other. Twelve lucky children (all age twelve, of course) will get to spend the night locked in the library! But that's just the start of this fantastical book. For in reality, the children will have to "escape" from the library--it's a contest of wits. There are games to be played, risks to be taken, teams to be formed. It will take brains to solve the ultimate game. They only know they cannot use the door they came through or they will be disqualified!

Readers meet all twelve children, but not all children get equal time and attention. This book is fun not because of the characters, but because of the engaging puzzle and the cleverness of the text. This text might appeal more to adult readers, especially librarians who know their children's literature, than to children. But it was fun. I really enjoyed it!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Twelve (newish) Board Books

Not That Tutu! Michelle Sinclair Colman. 2013. Random House. 20 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Taylor loved her tutu.
She wore it everywhere.
She wore her tutu to school. 
"Not again," her mother sighed.
 She wore her tutu in the pool.
"Not again," her father moaned.

Not That Tutu is a cute story (maybe even a cute, cute story) about a little girl named Taylor and the family who loves her. (Attention being paid to mother, father, brother, grandmother, and a grandfather!) Taylor loves, loves, loves her pink tutu. She will never give up wearing it...or will she? What will her NEXT favorite clothing item be?!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

My Pretty Princess Dress: A Fancy Color Book. Ilanit Oliver. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I'm going to a fancy party! Can you help me find my perfect party dress? My dress has puffy sleeves like this red one. But this is not my dress.
This orange dress sparkles like mine! But this is not my dress.

Little ones can dress up this pretty princess by turning the pages. Each dress is a different color. There are six dresses in all. Which dress will be HER favorite? The red one? The orange one? The yellow one? The green one? The blue one? The pink one? I liked the premise and design of this one!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

Shoe-La-La. Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011/2013. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Scholastic has released a board book version of Shoe-La-La. This was a picture book that I loved a few years ago!

Party dresses, party hair...
Need new party shoes to wear.
Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Claire! 
Let's go find the perfect pair!
Shoe-la-la!
They're everywhere.
Rows and rows!
These or those?
Up, up, on our tippy toes.
Can't wait to choose new shoes. 
Here goes!

Could I really be liking a book with SO MUCH glitter on the cover? I'm not a glitter-loving girl after all. But. I was pleasantly surprised by Karen Beaumont's Shoe-la-la! I found this book about four friends to be so much fun! The rhythm-and-rhyme of it worked for me. (I can be a bit picky, I know!) And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham, well, they were fantastic!!! I just love, love, love her work so very much!!! I don't know that I've ever read a book she's illustrated (or written) that I didn't end up loving!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

A Kiss for You! Joan Holub. Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. 14 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

A little hand can wave hello. And pat a puppy softly. A little hand can high-five.

How much can a little hand do? Quite a lot in this interactive novelty board book. The die-cut (magnetic) hand on the cover can interact with each spread of the book. My favorite? Probably the peek-a-boo or perhaps the blowing of a kiss.

It is a cute book though perhaps not the most exciting.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

I Love You! A Cloth Book with Mirror. Caroline Jayne Church. 2012. Scholastic. 6 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I love my eyes.
I love my nose. 
I love my fingers.
I love my toes.
I love my arms and belly, too.
But most of all...

There's a small window of opportunity for cloth books and babies. But cloth books can be the perfect choice at times! So soft, so easy to chew, with easy pages to hold. This one would make a sweet choice perhaps for a baby shower or welcoming home gift! (It is never too early to start reading aloud!!!)

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

Horsey Up and Down: A Book of Opposites. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Horsey up.
Horsey down.
Horsey jumping all around.
Horsey white. 
Horsey black.
Horsey rolling on the track.

Opposites are explored in this rhyming board book. Horses are the subject: toy horses and real horses. Opposites explored: up/down, white/black, big/small. It may not be the best concept book available. But. For little ones showing an interest in horses, well, it may satisfy. A few of the pages interact. I like the up/down action on the cover for the merry-go-round horse. But the horse-jumping wheel was very tricky. I don't know if little hands could manage it.

Cute but not perfect.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Baby and Me. Emma Dodd. 2013. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 

This is me. And this...is my baby doll. Isn't she pretty? And I change her diaper. I play with her in the bath. Then I wrap her in a cozy towel and give her a big hug. 

I love this one. I do. It is cute. It is precious. It is sweet. It is recommended by the publisher for 3 years and up. This little girl (love her pigtails!) loves playing mommy with her doll. The book is very interactive. The reader can help rock the baby's cradle, change the baby's diaper, wrap the baby in a towel, etc. Each spread reveals a new aspect of the baby routine. The last spread holds a surprise: she's just as eager to "help" her mom take care of her new baby brother or sister. (The text doesn't tell us).

Love the illustrations in the details and the interactive features are just so precious!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

Giggle! Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Laugh out loud or just giggle!
Feel a tickle in your middle!
Roll around and touch your toes!
Give a grin! Wiggle your nose!

Will the sound of giggling be contagious? Some board books or novelty books have sound. This one has a giggle. At the press of a button, little ones and parents can hear a baby in giggly glee. The text, well, it rhymes and it's cutesy. (Caroline Jayne Church also wrote Potty Time, a board book with a flushing sound.)

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Kiss, Kiss Good Night. Kenn Nesbitt. Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

When baby bunnies go to bed,
their mothers kiss them on the head.
Inside their burrows, warm and deep,
they close their eyes and fall asleep.
When little kittens need to nap,
they snuggle in their mother's lap.
And, bundled up in fluffy fur,
they shut their eyes and start to purr.

Love baby animals? Love bedtime books? Love sweet rhymes? There's plenty to satisfy in this gentle, soothing board book by Ken Nesbitt. I really enjoyed this one!
The bunnies, the kittens, the lambs, the bear cub, and the baby chicks, they are all super-sweet.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


Whose Toes are Those. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt. 2012. Candlewick. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Whose tail?
Whose toes?
Whose twitchy nose?
Mouse!
Whose tail?
Whose toes?
Whose cold, wet nose?
Dog!

Can your little one solve the mystery and guess the right answer to these questions? It's fun, cute, playful. The flaps reveal the right answers. I like the repetition and predictability of it.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Away We Go! A Shape and Seek Book. Chieu Anh Urban. 2013. Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Away We Go is a celebration of transportation, shapes, bold colors and designs. It uses die-cuts on every page. New pictures are constructed in a very creative way. Every spread is very bold, bright, colorful. The shapes explored are: squares, triangles, hearts, circles, stars, diamonds, octagons, rectangles, and ovals. Some of the vehicles: a truck, a train, an ice cream truck, a sailboat, a spaceship, etc.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Rain, Rain Go Away. Caroline Jayne Church. 2013. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Rain, rain go away.
Come again another day.
The little children want to play,
so rain, rain -- 
Please go away!

Caroline Jayne Church has illustrated a handful of songs now. Other board book titles include: This Little Light of Mine, You Are My Sunshine, and The More We Get Together. The illustrations are in her usual style: very cute and adorable in a sweet and precious kind of way. If you love Church's illustrations, then this one might be worth picking up. The text itself is not surprising.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand? July

Hosted by 5 Minutes for Books

Currently reading:


Shift by Hugh Howey. 2013. CreateSpace. 608 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]





Solstice by P.J. Hoover. 2013. Tor. 384 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

What I'll Be Reviewing Soon:




William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Ian Doescher. 2013. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review Copy]




The Shade of the Moon. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy]


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The White Princess (2013)

The White Princess. Philippa Gregory. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 544 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I have enjoyed each book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series. I think I have enjoyed each book a little bit more as the series has progressed. The first book being my least favorite--from this series--and the last book probably being my most favorite. The series consists of:  The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory,  The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, and The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory. The White Princess tells the story of Elizabeth York; she is the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville; the sister of the two princes in the tower; the niece of Richard III; the wife of Henry VII; the daughter-in-law of Margaret Beaufort; the mother of Henry VIII. To say her life was messy and complicated, well, that wouldn't even begin to explain it all. But Philippa Gregory gives her a voice, fictional though it may be. And her story is something.

When readers first meet Elizabeth, she is mourning the death of Richard III. The novel taking the position that Elizabeth and Richard were in love with each other, and would have in fact married if the battle had gone a different way. Elizabeth knows that her marriage with Henry VII makes sense politically for both families. The York family being popular and beloved, and, the Tudor family being 'merely' conquerors--outsiders. But the thought of love is far from her mind. And Henry VII isn't exactly wooing her well. The book is fictional, and I'm curious if there is any basis in reality for this depiction? (And it's on the advice of his mother!) The two marry, of course, and children quickly follow. The main focus of the novel is on her private life, her role as a wife, mother, queen in a very uncertain court. Henry VII is depicted as being anxious and a bit obsessed. His concern that he'll be defeated in battle. That the York family will in some way or other will dethrone him, win back control, etc. His obsession with "the boy" that may or may not be Richard, duke of York.

The novel spans over a decade: 1485-1499. And it does address in some ways, the fate of the boys in the tower.

I definitely loved this one. I found it very compelling! It is such a fascinating period in history!

Favorite quotes:
"What I don't have I will write myself. I will write this boy's parentage into his story, I will create it: common people, nasty people. The father a bit of a drunk, the mother a bit of a foot, the boy a bit of a runaway, a wastrel, a good-for-nothing. D'you think I can't write this and get someone--a drunk married to a fool--to swear to it? Do you think I can't set up as historian? As storyteller? D'you think I can't write a history which years from now, everyone will believe as the truth? I am the king. Who shall write the record of my reign if not me?" (329)
"It doesn't matter who Henry is facing. Whether it is my mother's favorite boy or another mother's son. What matters is that you have not made your boy the beloved of England. You should have made him beloved and you have not done so. His only safety lies in the love of his people, and you have not secured that for him." (403)



© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 22, 2013

The Water Castle (2013)

The Water Castle. Megan Frazer Blakemore. 2013. Walker. 352 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

There were things I really liked about The Water Castle, and there were things I really did not like about it. My favorite part of The Water Castle was the unfolding historical story of Nora Darling; this story was set around 1909. My least favorite part was all the "science."

The Appledore family is returning to the town of Crystal Springs. The father has suffered a damaging stroke. The mother is doing the best she can to help him receive the best medical care or treatment. The three children (Price, Ephraim, and Brynn) are settling in to a new school and new town. Ephraim is struggling more than the others. The Water Castle is his coming-of-age tale. It is a busy tale with themes of friendship, family, exploration, and immortality. A lot of questing going on! 

I did like the focus on friendship. Ephraim does not make friends easily. Neither does Mallory Green. And Will Wylie, well, he almost chooses to be disagreeable. These three kids are very unlikely friends, and yet, they come together supposedly to work on a history report on Arctic exploration, but it is so much more than that. They are fascinated with the legendary stories of The Water Castle and the supposed quest for the fountain of youth.

I would have preferred a magical or fantastical explanation for the "fountain of youth" story instead of the "science" one. There were elements in this one that I just did not connect with at all.

It is a slow-and-steady story of friendship and perseverance. You might like it more than I did.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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High Summer Readathon


High Summer Read-a-thon
Host: Seasons of Reading (sign-up post)
Dates: July 22-July 28
# of Books: I hope to read a lot!!!

Monday's Books:

1) The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
2) Written in Stone by Rosanne Parry
3) Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
4) The Boy On the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

Tuesday's Books:

5) The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
6) Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Wednesday's Books:

7) The Year of the Baby by Andrea Cheng
8) Every Day After by Laura Golden
9) Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan

Thursday's Books:

10) The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller
11) Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky

Friday's Books:

12) Outcasts United by Warren St. John
13) Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
14) Anomaly by Krista McGee

Saturday's Books:

15) Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Sunday's Books:

16) No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
17) A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs 
18) Shift by Hugh Howey
19) April Lady by Georgette Heyer

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Mary Poppins (1934)

Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and then he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: "First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you're there. Good-morning." 

I've read Mary Poppins three times now. I think I love it more each time. I find it funnier. There are twelve chapters; each chapter is a story or episode: "East Wind," "The Day Out," "Laughing Gas," "Miss Lark's Andrew," "The Dancing Cow," "Bad Tuesday," "The Bird Woman," "Mrs. Corry," "John and Barbara's Story," "Full Moon," "Christmas Shopping," and "West Wind." These stories tell of Mary Poppins and the four children in her charge: Jane, Michael, and the twins Barbara and John. My least favorite story is probably "The Bird Woman." My most favorite story is probably "John and Barbara's Story."

Favorite quotes:
Mary Poppins took out a large bottle labelled "One Tea-Spoon to be Taken at Bed-Time."
A spoon was attached to the neck of the bottle, and into this Mary Poppins poured a dark crimson fluid. "Is that your medicine?" enquired Michael, looking very interested.
"No, yours," said Mary Poppins, holding out the spoon to him. Michael stared. He wrinkled up his nose. He began to protest.
"I don't want it. I don't need it. I won't!"
But Mary Poppins's eyes were fixed upon him, and Michael suddenly discovered that you could not look at Mary Poppins and disobey her. There was something strange and extraordinary about her--something that was frightening and at the same time most exciting. The spoon came nearer. He held his breath, shut his eyes and gulped. A delicious taste ran round his mouth. He turned his tongue in it. He swallowed, and a happy smile ran round his face.
"Strawberry ice," he said ecstatically. "More, more, more!" (10)
So Mary Poppins put on her white gloves and tucked her umbrella under her arm--not because it was raining but because it had such a beautiful handle that she couldn't possibly leave it at home. How could you leave your umbrella behind if it had a parrot's head for a handle? Besides, Mary Poppins was very vain and liked to look her best. Indeed, she was quite sure that she never looked anything else. (13)
"Where have you been?" they asked her.
"In Fairyland," said Mary Poppins.
"Did you see Cinderella?" said Jane.
"Huh, Cinderella? Not me," said Mary Poppins contemptuously. "Cinderella, indeed!"
"Or Robinson Crusoe?" asked Michael.
"Robinson Crusoe--pooh!" said Mary Poppins rudely.
"Then how could you have been there? It couldn't have been our Fairyland!"
Mary Poppins gave a superior sniff.
"Don't you know," she said pityingly, "that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?" (21) 
"Are you quite sure he will be at home?" said Jane, as they got off the Bus, she and Michael and Mary Poppins.
"Would my Uncle ask me to bring you to tea if he intended to go out, I'd like to know?" said Mary Poppins, who was evidently very offended by the question. She was wearing her blue coat with the silver buttons and the blue hat to match, and on the days when she wore these it was the easiest thing in the world to offend her. (22)
Upstairs in the Nursery Mary Poppins was airing the clothes by the fire, and the sunlight poured in at the window, flickering on the white walls, dancing over the cots where the babies were lying.
"I say, move over! You're right in my eyes," said John in a loud voice.
"Sorry!" said the sunlight. "But I can't help it. I've got to get across this room somehow. Orders is orders. I must move from East to West in a day and my way lies through this Nursery. Sorry! Shut your eyes and you won't notice me."
The gold shaft of sunlight lengthened across the room. It was obviously moving as quickly as it could in order to oblige John.
"How soft, how sweet you are! I love you," said Barbara, holding out her hands to its shining warmth.
"Good girl," said the sunlight approvingly and moved up over her cheeks and into her hair with a light, caressing movement. "Do you like the feel of me?" it said, as though it loved being praised.
"Dee-licious!" said Barbara, with a happy sigh. (93)
The room was very quiet.
John, drowsing in the sunlight, put the toes of his right foot into his mouth and ran them along the place where his teeth were just beginning to come through.
"Why do you bother to do that?" said Barbara, in her soft, amused voice that seemed always to be full of laughter. "There's nobody to see you."
"I know," said John, playing a tune on his toes. "But I like to keep in practice. It does so amuse the Grown-ups. Did you notice that Aunt Flossie nearly went mad with delight when I did it yesterday? 'The Darling, the Clever, the Marvel, the Creature!' -- didn't you hear her saying all that?" And John threw his foot from him and roared with laughter as he thought of Aunt Flossie.
"She liked my trick, too," said Barbara complacently. "I took off both my socks and she said I was so sweet she would like to eat me. Isn't it funny--when I say I'd like to eat something I really mean it...But Grown-ups never mean what they say, it seems to me. She couldn't have really wanted to eat me, could she?" (95)
"That will do nicely for Daddy," said Michael, selecting a clockwork train with special signals. "I will take care of it for him when he goes to the City."
"I think I will get this for Mother," said Jane, pushing a small doll's perambulator which, she felt sure, her Mother had always wanted. "Perhaps she will lend it to me sometimes."
After that, Michael chose a packet of hairpins for each of the Twins and a Meccano set for his Mother, a mechanical beetle for Robertson Ay, a pair of spectacles for Ellen whose eyesight was perfectly good, and some bootlaces for Mrs. Brill who always wore slippers.
Jane, after some hesitation, eventually decided that a white dickey would be just the thing for Mr. Banks, and she bought Robinson Crusoe for the Twins to read when they grew up.
"Until they are old enough, I can read it myself," she said. "I am sure they will lend it to me." (124)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Library Loot: Third Trip in July

New Loot:
  • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
  • Ship Out of Luck by Neal Shusterman 
Library Loot:
  • The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers
  • Mary Poppins In the Park by P.L. Travers
  • The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne  
  • Here's a Penny by Carolyn Haywood
  • Two and Two are Four by Carolyn Haywood
  • Penny and Peter by Carolyn Haywood
  • The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller
  • A Promise to Love by Serena B. Miller
  • A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
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

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Week in Review: July 14-20

All The Truth That's In Me. Julie Berry. 2013. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Death in the Clouds (Death in the Air). Agatha Christie. 1935. 253 pages [Source: Library]
Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2013. HarperCollins. 226 pages. [Source: Library]
Second Fiddle. Roseanne Parry. 2011. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Tanya Lee Stone. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. 2013. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women. Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. 2013. Walker Books. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Raul Colon. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909. Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. 2013. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Half Magic. Edward Eager. 1954. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
By Grace Alone. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2010. Reformation Trust. 123 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend]
The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1937/1959/1995. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend.]
Chosen by God. R.C. Sproul. 1986/1994/2011. Tyndale. 216 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Big Year for Lily. Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 19, 2013

All The Truth That's In Me (2013)

All The Truth That's In Me. Julie Berry. 2013. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Love historical mysteries? Consider reading Julie Berry's latest YA novel. All The Truth That's In Me has a very colonial feel to it. Told in the first person, it tells a bittersweet story of a young woman, Judith Finch, who has endured much in her teen years. Though not as much as is at first feared. Days after a young girl's disappearance, Judith herself goes missing. One body is found, naked, in the river. The other remains a mystery--at least for two years. A tongueless Judith wanders back into the community after being gone for two years. She can't tell her story--or won't tell her story. So people make up their own stories about her. You might think Judith would be welcomed back, pitied; but the opposite is true. She's an outcast. No one knows for sure how tainted she may be from her experiences. But who would want to marry her now, not knowing? Who would want her to be friends with their daughters?
No one calls me by my name. No one calls me anything, save Darrel, who calls me Worm. Mother never really tried to stop him. When she calls me, it's "You, shuck these," "You, card that sack," "You grease this down," "You, watch the tallow pot." "You keep still." The warmth I remember in her eyes is gone, replaced with iron. Father is long-since dead, and the daughter she remembers is dead to her. She buries the name with the memory. No one calls me by my name. Younger children do not know it. I remind myself each day at sunrise, lest one day I forget. Judith is my name. (24-5)
Her story is revealed, slowly. And it is told so beautifully, so compellingly. All The Truth That's In Me is a great mystery, a great coming-of-age story, a great story of friendship. I loved seeing Judith find her voice and tell her story. From start to finish, Judith's story is full of Lucas, the boy she's spent her whole life loving. In fact, the whole story belongs to him, in a way; he is the "you" she's addressing.
She told no one of my return for days, bound even Darrel to secrecy. When at last the secret could no more be hidden, she led me to the shed and said, "You've come back maimed. I leave it to God to judge what brought this upon you. But the village will fear you. They'll call you cursed. Some men may try to take advantage of you. I know my duty to my own flesh and blood, and I will protect you. But you'll mind me and behave as a maiden should. Utter one sound to our shame and you'll sleep here among the rakes and shovels." (48)
Then you appear, through the trees, guiding your mule as he pulls a tree limb. Like a soldier back from battle you fill my vision. You're a flood, a baptism I'd forgotten, and the force of you leaves me breathless. (120)
I loved this one. I thought the narrative was beautiful, haunting, memorable. The book was not what I expected at all, based on the cover. It was so much better. This book deserves a cover that matches its genre.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Death in the Clouds (1935)

Death in the Clouds (Death in the Air). Agatha Christie. 1935. 253 pages [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed this Hercule Poirot novel. In this mystery, Poirot is traveling from France to England via airplane. On his trip, one of the passengers dies. For a few seconds at least, it is suspected that a wasp sting is to blame for Madame Giselle's death. But only for a few seconds. A dart is found, a poisoned dart, no doubt. The question is which passenger is a murderer? Poirot has quite a mystery to solve. 

I definitely enjoyed this one! Readers get to know many of the passengers. In particular readers get to know a certain young lady, a hair dresser named Jane Grey. This mystery will take Poirot (and others) back and forth between the two countries. Some clues can only be found in France, for example. Can Poirot solve the crime before the police?

The more I read of Hercule Poirot, the more forgiving I am of his arrogance. Poirot can brag and boast; I'm not sure there is any of his mysteries where he doesn't have a big ego. But Poirot is impressive, and his reputation is well-earned.

Do you have a favorite Hercule Poirot novel? 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked (2013)

Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2013. HarperCollins. 226 pages. [Source: Library]

I absolutely LOVE AND ADORE Jarret J. Krosoczka's new novel, Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. It was love from the very start!

"This is the city, Kalamazoo City. Population: 75,000. By day, it's a bright, vibrant metropolis, the kind of city where dreams come true... Those who don't live here dream of making it here. And those who do, well, they know that there's just no city like it."

It goes on, "On one particular evening, a rather dapper-looking frog stood looking very much out of place among the rifraff who nightly roamed the docks. He was dressed like a teacher. In fact, he was a teacher. Professor Hopkins."

It just doesn't get better than that! Who would not want to read this book? That is, if you like or love detective stories!!! This book has atmosphere and attitude and is practically perfect in every way. The stars of this book are Rick Zengo (a rookie) and his partner Corey O'Malley. They are essentially trying to solve a few mysteries: 1) where did Professor Hopkins go? He hasn't been seen in a few days and I believe his jacket was found in suspicious circumstances along with a few tire tracks. Is he dead or alive? Has this frog croaked? 2) who is responsible for bringing in illegal fish and selling it at the school and school sponsored events? Illegal fish is dangerous, don't you know?!

Loved it from cover to cover! Highly recommend.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Second Fiddle (2011)

Second Fiddle. Roseanne Parry. 2011. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I enjoyed reading Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry. Jody Field is finding life bittersweet. She's spent a few years now in Berlin, and she's got two fantastic friends: Giselle and Vivian. All three take music lessons from Herr Muller. They are a string trio preparing to play Canon in D for an international music competition in Paris. It will be--most likely--the last time they ever play music together again.

Early in the novel, the girls are disappointed to learn that the trip is off. Their teacher who was to chaperon them on the trip is very ill--he'll be in the hospital. Before they can deliver the bad news to their parents, however, they witness something extraordinary: the near-murder of a man, a soldier, a Soviet soldier. His own army has turned against him. They witness the beating. They witness his being thrown over the bridge and into the river. So what do they do? What can they do? And will this change everything?

Second Fiddle is a very thoughtful novel. The three girls are very independent, resourceful, even courageous. Are they mature enough to handle the real world? Especially when that real world involves espionage?! Probably not. But determined they are!

Second Fiddle was a fascinating novel set in Berlin and Paris in 1990.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Four Nonfiction Biographies (2013)

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Tanya Lee Stone. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. 2013. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

I'll bet you've met plenty of doctors in your life. And I'll bet lots of them were women. Well, you might find this hard to believe, but there once was a time when girls weren't allowed to become doctors. Back int he 1830s, there were lots of things girls couldn't be. Girls were only supposed to become wives and mothers. Or maybe teachers, or seamstresses. Being a doctor was definitely not an option. What do you think changed all that? Or should I say....WHO?

I love this picture book biography of Elizabeth Blackwell. I love the narrative! It isn't just sharing simple information with readers; it is telling a vibrant, exciting story. Elizabeth Blackwell has PERSONALITY in this one. And that is what I love most in this one. History comes alive in this one! The illustrations by Marjorie Priceman are just perfect: so bold, so colorful, so expressive! (Especially the illustration showing Elizabeth Blackwell with her acceptance letter.)

This picture book biography would make a great read aloud.

Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women. Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. 2013. Walker Books. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

For older readers, Louisa May's Battle is an interesting biographical story starring Louisa May Alcott. (The book is not a complete biography; it focuses specifically on Louisa May Alcott's life in the 1860s as she first becomes a nurse during the Civil War, and then becomes an author first publishing Hospital Sketches and later Little Women.)

Before the Civil War, there weren't many women nurses. But the war gave women the opportunity to fill an urgent need, and also the opportunity to prove themselves capable and skilled. For women who met these qualifications: at least thirty, very plain, unmarried, strong, and two reference letters proving their moral quality, there was an opportunity to serve their country well during a time of great need. Louisa May Alcott was one woman who answered the call.

After several months nursing, Louisa May Alcott became very ill. She was unable to keep nursing; it took her months in bed to recover her health. After she recovered, she wrote Hospital Sketches. This was her first publication. This book was very significant. And its success in part led her to write another book: Little Women.

I enjoyed Kathleen Krull's newest biography.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Raul Colon. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Night after night, Henrietta sat on her front porch, gazing up at the stars. How high? How high is the sky? She wanted to know everything about the wonderful bigness of all she saw. The more she looked up, the bigger the sky seemed to get. It seemed endless!

Look up! is a picture book biography of the astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. The story is of a little girl who loved the night sky, who loved the stars, who followed her dream and persevered academically in a man's field. Most astronomers, at the time, being men, of course. But she knew what she wanted, and she knew she could do it. Henrietta's job--she got paid thirty cents an hour--was not to gaze through the telescope. Her job was to examine, to study, the photographs taken by others. She was good at her job, and through her measuring, through her detailed study, she made an important discovery, a discovery having to do with measuring distances and the vastness of galaxies.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909. Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. 2013. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

A steamship pulls into the harbor, carrying hundreds of immigrants--and a surprise for New York City. The surprise is dirt poor, just five feet tall, and hardly speaks a word of English. Her name is Clara Lemlich. This girl's got grit, and she's going to prove it. Look out, New York!

Brave Girl is a picture book biography of Clara Lemlich, a young woman who led women factory workers to strike. This picture book focuses on the social injustices of the times, and how important it was for workers to be able to form unions, and make a stand together for what they believed to be right and fair. Clara's story is inspiring. Her determination and strength seem incredible. "She wants to read, she wants to learn! At the end of her shift, though her eyes hurt from straining in the gaslight and her back hurts from hunching over the sewing machine, she walks to the library. She fills her empty stomach with a single glass of milk and goes to school at night. When she gets home in the late evening, she sleeps only a few hours before rising again."

Definitely recommended.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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