Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If another princess had not died tragically and young, Victoria never would have been born.

Premise/plot: Catherine Reef has written a lovely biography of Queen Victoria. Readers hoping to learn more about Victoria, her personal and public life--what she was like as a Sovereign, a wife, a mother, a grandmother--will likely not be disappointed. The book isn't exclusively about Queen Victoria; it is also about the times in which she lived: the industrial revolution, the (much-needed) reforms, the wars.

My thoughts: I loved this biography. I just wish that there had been biographies like this one when I was growing up. Not just the subject matter--though that is part of the appeal to me now--but the style and layout. So many illustrations, colored illustrations, even full-page illustrations--this one is packed with appeal.

Victoria is presented as thoroughly human; she's not presented as the world's worst mother nor as a saint. The truth is Victoria was far from perfect--she was not a saintly, well-tempered wife; she was not a sweet, gentle, nurturing mother. Anyone looking for absolute perfection will be disappointed in any honest presentation of Victoria. 

I found the book to be fascinating. It is just the right length--especially for the audience. It isn't too short; it isn't too long. There are biographies that are easily three times as long, more comprehensive and thorough. I appreciate that it covers a little bit about all of her life: not just her difficult childhood, not just her early years as Queen, not just the golden age of a golden age.

I read this one while watching--or "watching"--the season two premiere of Victoria on PBS. I have a love/hate relationship with the show. I really do. But I did not have a love/hate relationship with Reef's biography.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, January 15, 2018

Midnight without a Moon

Midnight Without a Moon. Linda Williams Jackson. 2017. HMH. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Papa used to say I had a memory like an elephant's. According to him, an elephant never forgets. I'm not sure how my self-educated, tenant-farming grandfather knew what an elephant's memory was like, but he sure was right about mine. Most folks didn't believe me, but I could remember all the way back from when I was only a year and a half old, when my brother Fred Lee was born. That was June 1943.

Premise/plot: Midnight Without a Moon is set in the summer/autumn of 1955 in Mississippi. It is narrated by Rose Lee Carter, a thirteen year old being raised by her grandparents. Her mother abandoned Rose and her brother, Fred, when she found a new family: Mr. Pete and his two young children. Rose and Fred became "Aunt" and "Uncle." Soon after the novel opens, she learns that her mother, stepfather, and step-siblings are moving to Chicago. This news comes on a day that was already hard for Rose.

The novel in fact opens with Rose Lee being almost run off the road by a white teenage boy. Her grandmother is more upset by the fact that Rose dropped the eggs she was delivering than by the fact that Rose could have been killed. If she was killed, I get the sense that Ma Pearl would still be more upset at the loss of eggs, and the loss of a field worker than a grandchild.  If grandchildren were ranked, Rose Lee knows she'd be at the bottom. She is almost certain it's because she's the darkest skinned grandchild. Ma Pearl's favorite, Queen, is the lightest skinned. Queen, who is nearly sixteen, does no house work or field work.

If the novel just focused on the troubled home life of Rose Lee, it would be an emotional coming-of-age novel. But it's not. Rose Lee is coming-of-age at a tumultuous time. While Emmett Till's death isn't the only death--murder--that summer, it is the one that hits closest to home since he was so very young, near Rose's own age.

The community is torn apart: not just facing adversaries from without--the whites--but also from within. There are those--like Ma Pearl--that think the NAACP is of the devil. That Negroes that are killed are killed because they're trouble-makers, they're asking for it. Ma Pearl, for example, blames Till's death not on the white men that murdered him for supposedly whistling at a white woman but on Till and his mother. She should never have let him come south. The mother lacked sense; she should have known better.

Ma Pearl's harsh words aren't just for her closest kin; she is cruel to most everybody.

My thoughts: I took my time reading this one. It was a heartbreaking, emotional read. I ached for Rose. To bear witness to the verbal and sometimes physical abuse was difficult to do. It didn't take me long to HATE Ma Pearl. She made me furious. She left me speechless at times. Rose held onto hope, and her courage to keep hoping kept me reading. I loved her relationship--friendship--with the preacher's son, Hallelujah. Some of my favorite scenes are their conversations with each other.

One more thing I'd like to add is that faith is important in this novel. Rose Lee gets saved in the book and receives baptism. Not many books these days deal with faith in a realistic, positive way. 

Maybe Hallelujah was right. Maybe Mississippi itself was hell. No. Mississippi was worse than hell. At least in hell you know who the enemy is. And at least, if you believe the Bible, you know how to keep yourself from going there. But in Mississippi you never knew what little thing could spark a flame and get you killed. (178)
"Stars can't shine without darkness," I said. "What?" "Stars can't shine without darkness." "What's that supposed to mean?" "I have no idea. I don't even know where the words came from....
"Stars can't shine without darkness," Hallelujah repeated. "You've got to have some darkness to know what light is. If every Negro who could leave packed up and left, the struggle wouldn't be the same. Dreams have more meaning when you have to fight for them. (254-5)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently Reading #3

Brief Introduction:

I thought it would be fun to share each week--at the start of the week--what I'm currently reading. It is my goal to always be *currently* reading something old, something new, something borrowed, and something true. Old and new are self-explanatory. Borrowed can mean borrowed from a person or a library. True is nonfiction. As you might notice, some books fit into two--or even three categories.
Something Old
Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]

Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages. [Source: Bought]

Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. 339 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant #1) Josephine Tey. 1929. 255 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New

Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed
Jane Austen at Home. Lucy Worsley. 2017. 387 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]
Something True
Spurgeon On the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) Michael Reeves. 2018. Crossway. 192

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Lois Tverberg. 2018. Baker Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

KJV Reader's Bible. 2016. Holman Bible Publishers. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Week in Review: January 7-13

Favorite Book of the Week:

What I've Read and Reviewed:

Board books and picture books:

4. The New LiBEARian. Alison Donald. Illustrated by Alex Willmore. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5. The Very Fluffy Kitty, Papillon. A.N. Kang. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
6. Papillon Goes to the Vet. A.N. Kang. 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Early readers and chapter books:

2. Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane. (Mr. Putter and Tabby #5) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1997. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
3. Mr. Putter and the Tabby Row the Boat. (Mr. Putter and Tabby #6) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1997. HMH. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

Speculative Fiction:

3. Dream Life for Children. Mattie K. Foster. 1918. 178 pages. [Source: Read online]
4. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel. 1865/1871. 247 pages. [Source: Bought]


2. Dream Life for Children. Mattie K. Foster. 1918. 178 pages. [Source: Read online]
3. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel. 1865/1871. 247 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. My Antonia. Willa Cather. 1918. 336 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]
5.  Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. 573 pages. [Source: Bought]

Historical fiction:

3. The Widow of Windsor. Jean Plaidy. 1974. 318 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. My Antonia. Willa Cather. 1918. 336 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]
5. Where We Belong. Lynn Austin. 2017. Bethany House. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. The Lacemaker. Laura Frantz. 2018. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian Fiction:

2. Where We Belong. Lynn Austin. 2017. Bethany House. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3. The Lacemaker. Laura Frantz. 2018. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian Nonfiction:

4. What Can We Know About God? R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 53 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5. Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur. 2018. Reformation Trust. 148 pages. [Source: Review copy]February

What I've Blogged:
What I've Watched:
  • Monarchy, Complete Series
  • Young Victoria 
  • Knight's Tale
  • The Paradise, episodes 1 and 2
  • Merlin, series 3, episode 8 "The Eye of the Phoenix"
What I've Drank:
  • English Breakfast Tea (7)
  • Green Tea (16) 
  • Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea (3)
  • Earl Grey (3)
  • PG Tips (2)
  • Lady Grey (1)
  • White Tea (1)
  • Orange Spice (1)
  • Candy Cane Lane (2)
  • Rooibos Madagascar Vanilla (5)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, January 13, 2018

My Victorian Year #2

This week I reviewed three Victorian books. I reviewed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I reviewed Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I reviewed The Widow of Windsor by Jean Plaidy.

The next Trollope I'll be reading is Orley Farm. I do have a decided order for approaching Trollope; I am reading chronologically. I believe I've read the first three chapters?! I'm sure we'll be spending quite a few Saturdays talking about the book. It is 825 pages! I'd love to finish it by the end of January, but we'll have to see how it goes!

This is how the novel begins, "It is not true that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. Were it true, I should call this story “The Great Orley Farm Case.” But who would ask for the ninth number of a serial work burthened with so very uncouth an appellation? Thence, and therefore, — Orley Farm."

Two more quotes: 
  • Let one live according to any possible or impossible rule, yet some offence will be given in some quarter.
  • The capital that is really wanting is thought, mind, combination, knowledge.
I have also begun Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton. I have read four chapters so far.

Favorite quote:
Don't think to come over me with th' old tale, that the rich know nothing of the trials of the poor; I say, if they don't know, they ought to know.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Keep it Short #2

This week I read five short stories by L.M. Montgomery. The stories were: "Fair Exchange and No Robbery," "Four Winds," "Marcella's Reward," "Margaret's Patient," and "Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves." 

Fair Exchange and No Robbery

First sentence: Katherine Rangely was packing up. Her chum and roommate, Edith Wilmer, was sitting on the bed watching her in that calm disinterested fashion peculiarly maddening to a bewildered packer.

Premise/plot: Katherine and Edith amicably exchange boyfriends in this short story by L.M. Montgomery. Of course, they don't plan on it. Katherine is going to visit one of her aunt's for a month or two just when her boyfriend, Ned, has come to town. Katherine tells Edith to keep company with Ned and show him around town. Katherine is pleasantly surprised that Edith's boyfriend, Sidney, is staying nearby. They start seeing a lot of each other.

My thoughts: This is a silly, almost amateurish story. I would recommend Montgomery to anyone who's weighed down by a recent Thomas Hardy read. Montgomery is the perfect antidote.

Four Winds

First sentence: Alan Douglas threw down his pen with an impatient exclamation. It was high time his next Sunday's sermon was written, but he could not concentrate his thoughts on his chosen text.

Premise/plot: A preacher (Alan) falls in love with a young woman (Lynde) who has never entered a church in her life.

Alan finds inspiration from his nature walks. One day he takes a new path that leads him to a house that he's never seen before. He sees a beautiful woman. He wants to know who she is and more about her. The gossip he hears is discouraging. She's the daughter of a reclusive sea captain; he's known to be an atheist who yells visiting preachers off his property. But all is not as it seems. He begins to know all three residents. He falls madly in love with Lynde Oliver, the young woman. But will they get their happily ever after?

My thoughts: Four Winds was a much better read. The characters are more developed. The story is definitely more complex as well. But it was the writing that hooked me.
Many of Alan's best sermons were written after he had come home, rapt-eyed, from some long shore tramp where the wilderness had opened its heart to him and the pines had called to him in their soft, sibilant speech.
"I believe no ill of anyone until I have absolute proof of it," said Alan, smiling—he was quite unconscious what a winning smile he had, which was the best of it—"and I never put faith in gossip. Of course you are gossipped about—you know that."
"I think many dogs are much more lovable—and worthy of love—than many people," said Alan, laughing.
"I never talk religion," said Alan emphatically. "I try to live it. I'll not come to your house as a self-appointed missionary, sir, but I shall certainly act and speak at all times as my conscience and my reverence for my vocation demands. If I respect your beliefs, whatever they may be, I shall expect you to respect mine, Captain Oliver."
"Souls should not be rudely handled any more than bodies."
Marcella's Reward

First sentence: Dr. Clark shook his head gravely. "She is not improving as fast as I should like to see," he said. "In fact—er—she seems to have gone backward the past week. You must send her to the country, Miss Langley. The heat here is too trying for her."

Premise/plot: Marcella and Patty live with their Aunt Emma. Patty is ill, perhaps even dying. Marcella is in despair because she doesn't have enough money to care for Patty as the doctor recommends. But she keeps a bright spirit, and endures the drudgery of work patiently, even kindly. Her goodness is noticed and rewarded by a stranger.

My thoughts: There must have been quite a market for feel-good stories. Montgomery certainly wrote a lot of them. Marcella's kind stranger turns out to be her mother's childhood friend. Upon learning who Marcella's mother is, she becomes a fairy godmother of sorts. This story lacks a prince but one isn't really needed. It is quite happy enough as is.

Margaret's Patient
First sentence:  Margaret paused a moment at the gate and looked back at the quaint old house under its snowy firs with a thrill of proprietary affection. It was her home; for the first time in her life she had a real home, and the long, weary years of poorly paid drudgery were all behind her. Before her was a prospect of independence and many of the delights she had always craved; in the immediate future was a trip to Vancouver with Mrs. Boyd.

Premise/plot: Margaret Campbell's goodness is rewarded beyond all expectations in this short story. Dr. Forbes asks Margaret to take in and nurse a patient, Freda Martin. She does, giving up her vacation to do so. Freda's health returns and it turns out that Freda is a cousin. These two lonely souls have found a family to belong to.

My thoughts: There must have been quite a market for feel-good stories. Montgomery certainly wrote a lot of them. Quite a few of them depend completely on happy coincidences. Reading too many in a row can be like eating pixie sticks.

Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves

First sentence: Matthew was having a bad ten minutes of it. He had come into the kitchen, in the twilight of a cold, grey December evening, and had sat down in the wood-box corner to take off his heavy boots, unconscious of the fact that Anne and a bevy of her schoolmates were having a practice of "The Fairy Queen" in the sitting-room. Presently they came trooping through the hall and out into the kitchen, laughing and chattering gaily.

Premise/plot: This short story is really a chapter from Anne of Green Gables.  Essentially, Matthew notices that Anne is not dressed like her classmates. He decides she needs a new dress for Christmas. At first, he thought to buy the dress himself, or the material for the dress. But his awkward encounter with the female clerk at the store is one for the ages. He goes to Mrs. Lynde--after bringing home TWENTY pounds of brown sugar to Marilla--and she saves the day. She'll sew the dress herself. Anne cries tears of joy--and perhaps readers will as well.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this chapter from the novel. Matthew is one of my favorite characters ever. I love him for his shyness, his awkwardness. I love him for his big, big heart. I love him because he's a dear. I love him because he so completely gets Anne. The scene of Matthew in the store is hilarious.
Alas! Matthew did not know that Samuel, in the recent expansion of his business, had set up a lady clerk also; she was a niece of his wife's and a very dashing young person indeed, with a huge, drooping pompadour, big, rolling brown eyes, and a most extensive and bewildering smile. She was dressed with exceeding smartness and wore several bangle bracelets that glittered and rattled and tinkled with every movement of her hands. Matthew was covered with confusion at finding her there at all; and those bangles completely wrecked his wits at one fell swoop.
"What can I do for you this evening. Mr. Cuthbert?" Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.
"Have you any—any—any—well now, say any garden rakes?" stammered Matthew.
Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.
"I believe we have one or two left over," she said, "but they're upstairs in the lumber-room. I'll go and see."
During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another effort.
When Miss Harris returned with the rake and cheerfully inquired: "Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?" Matthew took his courage in both hands and replied: "Well now, since you suggest it, I might as well—take—that is—look at—buy some—some hayseed."
Miss Harris had heard Matthew Cuthbert called odd. She now concluded that he was entirely crazy.
"We only keep hayseed in the spring," she explained loftily. "We've none on hand just now."
"Oh, certainly—certainly—just as you say," stammered unhappy Matthew, seizing the rake and making for the door. At the threshold he recollected that he had not paid for it and he turned miserably back. While Miss Harris was counting out his change he rallied his powers for a final desperate attempt.
"Well now—if it isn't too much trouble—I might as well—that is—I'd like to look at—at—some sugar."
"White or brown?" queried Miss Harris patiently.
"Oh—well now—brown," said Matthew feebly.
"There's a barrel of it over there," said Miss Harris, shaking her bangles at it. "It's the only kind we have."
"I'll—I'll take twenty pounds of it," said Matthew, with beads of perspiration standing on his forehead.
Matthew had driven halfway home before he was his own man again. It had been a gruesome experience, but it served him right, he thought, for committing the heresy of going to a strange store. When he reached home he hid the rake in the tool-house, but the sugar he carried in to Marilla.
"Brown sugar!" exclaimed Marilla. "Whatever possessed you to get so much? You know I never use it except for the hired man's porridge or black fruit-cake. Jerry's gone and I've made my cake long ago. It's not good sugar, either—it's coarse and dark—William Blair doesn't usually keep sugar like that."
"I—I thought it might come in handy sometime," said Matthew, making good his escape.

Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the ploughed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice re-echoed through Green Gables.
"Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn't it a lovely Christmas? I'm so glad it's white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn't seem real, does it? I don't like green Christmases. They're not green—they're just nasty faded browns and greys. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!"
Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.
Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pin-tucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown silk ribbon.
"That's a Christmas present for you, Anne," said Matthew shyly. "Why—why—Anne, don't you like it? Well now—well now."
For Anne's eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
"Like it! Oh, Matthew!" Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. "Matthew, it's perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream."
"Well, well, let us have breakfast," interrupted Marilla. "I must say, Anne, I don't think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There's a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It's brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in."
"I don't see how I'm going to eat breakfast," said Anne rapturously. "Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I'd rather feast my eyes on that dress. I'm so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I'd never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I'd never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon, too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It's at times like this I'm sorry I'm not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it's hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this."
When the commonplace breakfast was over Diana appeared, crossing the white log bridge in the hollow, a gay little figure in her crimson ulster. Anne flew down the slope to meet her.
"Merry Christmas, Diana! And oh, it's a wonderful Christmas. I've something splendid to show you. Matthew has given me the loveliest dress, with such sleeves. I couldn't even imagine any nicer."
"I've got something more for you," said Diana breathlessly. "Here—this box. Aunt Josephine sent us out a big box with ever so many things in it—and this is for you. I'd have brought it over last night, but it didn't come until after dark, and I never feel very comfortable coming through the Haunted Wood in the dark now."
Anne opened the box and peeped in. First a card with "For the Anne-girl and Merry Christmas," written on it; and then, a pair of the daintiest little kid slippers, with beaded toes and satin bows and glistening buckles.
"Oh," said Anne, "Diana, this is too much, I must be dreaming."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Me? Listen to Audio?! #1

I have discovered the joys of listening to BBC radio dramas. This is what I listened to this week:

Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer, dramatised by John Peacock. 1 hr. 30 minutes. 

I have read this one at least twice, but it was such a JOY to listen to it dramatized. Now is Friday's Child my absolute favorite Heyer romance? Not really. But I do enjoy it--especially all the minor characters that seem to steal the show.

Here's what it's about: 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?!

It is available to listen to online for a few more weeks.

How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. Read by Tom Hollander. 2 hrs. 30 minutes.

I also listened to How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. This drama was split into two episodes. I have NOT read the book. But it's in my tbr pile! Typically my rule is never listen to an audio book unless I've already read it. But I couldn't resist, this one sounded so interesting, so full of potential. I'll let you know what I think if/when I get to the book.

Publisher Description: Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher--the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society's watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can't have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

Show Boat. Edna Ferber. Dramatised by Moya O'Shea. 2 hours. 

The novel Show Boat is in my TBR pile. In fact, it is one of my selections for the 2018 Official TBR Pile challenge.

I have not read the novel. But I have seen the non-musical film AND the musical film. I was curious to see if the radio drama would be like or unlike the film in terms of story and characters. Definitely some differences! I am more anxious than ever to read it now.

I thought the drama was very compelling. There are still a few more weeks left to listen to this one if you're interested.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, January 12, 2018

Framley Parsonage

Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. 573 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: When young Mark Robarts was leaving college, his father might well declare that all men began to say all good things to him, and to extol his fortune in that he had a son blessed with so excellent a disposition.

Premise/plot: Framley Parsonage is the fourth novel in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. In my opinion, the women characters are the greatest strength of this novel. Mark's wife, Fanny; Mark's sister, Lucy; Miss Dunstable; Mrs. Crawley; even more difficult to like characters like Mrs. Harold Smith, Mrs. Proudie,  and Lady Lufton.

So what is this one about? Mark Robarts is a vicar at Framley. He is married to a wonderful woman, Fanny, whose true strength and courage is not obvious at first or second glance perhaps. He gets into big, big trouble when he decides to sign his name alongside his new friend's name on a bill. Embarrassed that he could be held responsible for the money if his friend proves to be anything but, he keeps it a secret from almost everyone in his life. That bill--and another that follows it--haunt him throughout the novel until he has his epiphany moment.

At one point, Mark's sister, Lucy, comes to stay at the parsonage. Lord Lufton, Mark's close friend, falls in love with Lucy. But their love seems doomed almost from the start since Lady Lufton (Lord Lufton's (busybody) mother has set ideas about who is and isn't appropriate for her son to marry. She visits Fanny and tells her that Lord Lufton is off limits and that Lucy should make herself scarce. Fanny tells Lucy that she shouldn't fall in love with Lord Lufton, but it's too late.) Will Lord Lufton stand up to his mother? Will Lucy agree to be his wife? Will the novel end with a wedding?

Lady Lufton wants her son to marry Griselda Grantly. She throws them together at multiple social events--both in Barsetshire and in London. But to no avail. Griselda does get some attention from another Lord however.

Miss Dunstable, whom we met before, is still very much single. There are still men in pursuit of her. Mrs. Harold Smith would have her unworthy brother--admittedly unworthy, a scoundrel--Mr. Sowerby marry the incredibly wealthy Miss Dunstable. She even proposes on his behalf. But Miss Dunstable doesn't want that kind of husband. The man she has in mind, well, is more honorable: Dr. Thorne!

Here is part of his letter to her:
We have known each other now somewhat intimately, though indeed not very long, and I have sometimes fancied that you were almost as well pleased to be with me as I have been to be with you. If I have been wrong in this, tell me so simply, and I will endeavour to let our friendship run on as though this letter had not been written. But if I have been right, and if it be possible that you can think that a union between us will make us both happier than we are single, I will plight you a word and troth with good faith, and will do what an old man may do to make the burden of the world lie light on your shoulders.
I do not know that I could add anything to the truth of this, if I were to write three times as much. All that is necessary is, that you should know what I mean. If you do not believe me to be true and honest already, nothing that I can write will make you believe it.
Mr. Sowerby features a lot in this one, for better or worse. But every novel, make that every Victorian novel, needs a character to boo and hiss at when they enter the scene, right?!

My thoughts: This was a reread for me. I think I liked it more the second time. I still struggled to like Mark for most of the novel. I think that is because it was hard for me to respect him. But when Mark comes to his senses, and stands strong and courageous, well, then my opinion began to change.

I really LOVED the characters of Lucy and Fanny and Miss Dunstable. The story line where Mary is trying to play matchmaker with her uncle, Dr. Thorne, and Miss Dunstable were priceless. I adored this couple so much.

Lucy was such a gem of a heroine. She was witty and compassionate. Her observations were great.

I also REALLY loved the fact that so many familiar faces pop up in this one. Even if old friends just show up for a couple of scenes, they're still there, still a reminder that Barchester is a place I'd love to visit.

Quotes: For my favorite quotes from the first half of the novel, see My Victorian Year #1.
  • Is it not a good thing that grapes should become sour which hang out of reach? Is he not wise who can regard all grapes as sour which are manifestly too high for his hand?
  • A man does not wish to marry a statue, let the statue be ever so statuesque. She could not teach her daughter to be impulsive, any more than she could teach her to be six feet high; but might it not be possible to teach her to seem so?
  • That, I believe, is always the first thought in the mind of a good wife when her husband returns home. Has he had his dinner? What can I give him for dinner? Will he like his dinner? Oh dear, oh dear! there is nothing in the house but cold mutton.
  • You are like a great many other people that I know. You want to eat your cake and have it. You have been eating it for the last twenty years, and now you think yourself very ill-used because the duke wants to have his turn.
  • What wretchedness can exceed that of remembering from day to day that the race has been all run, and has been altogether lost; that the last chance has gone, and has gone in vain; that the end has come, and with it disgrace, contempt, and self-scorn — disgrace that never can be redeemed, contempt that never can be removed, and self-scorn that will eat into one’s vitals for ever?
  • You have had your cake, and eaten it — eaten it greedily. Is not that sufficient for you? Would you eat your cake twice? Would you have a succession of cakes? No, my friend; there is no succession of these cakes for those who eat them greedily.
  • But you must detest a man who professes to stand by his party, and then does his best to ruin it.
  • All is fair in love and war, — why not add politics to the list? If we could only agree to do that, it would save us from such a deal of heartburning, and would make none of us a bit the worse.
  • In society Griselda’s toes were more serviceable to her than her tongue, and she was to be won by a rapid twirl much more probably than by a soft word.
  • Lord Lufton had not offered to her, nor given any signs that he intended to do so; and to give Griselda Grantly her due, she was not a girl to make a first overture. Neither had Lord Dumbello offered; but he had given signs, — dumb signs, such as birds give to each other, quite as intelligible as verbal signs to a girl who preferred the use of her toes to that of her tongue.
  • “I wonder whether you will ever be sorry for the cruelty of your doings, or whether these things are really a joke to you.”
  • A man in love seldom loves less because his love becomes difficult. And thus, when those moments were over, he would determine to tell his mother at once, and urge her to signify her consent to Miss Robarts.
  • It would be a terrible curse to have to talk sense always.
  • Any allusion to Mr. Slope acted on Mrs. Proudie as a red cloth is supposed to act on a bull; but when that allusion connected the name of Mr. Slope in a friendly bracket with that of Mrs. Proudie’s future son-in-law it might be certain that the effect would be terrific.
  • Fanny, I shall always call you Don Quixote, and some day or other I will get somebody to write your adventures.
  • They say that prosperity makes a man selfish. I have never tried that, but I am quite sure that adversity does so.
  • Of the faults which a man commits he must bear the punishment.
  • Success does beget pride, as failure begets shame.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, January 11, 2018

My Antonia

My Antonia. Willa Cather. 1918. 336 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]
First sentence: I first heard of Antonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America. I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out ot my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska.

Premise/plot: Jim Burden recollects his youth in Willa Cather's My Antonia. The novel begins with his journey west to Nebraska. On the same train is an immigrant family, the Shimerdas; there is a teen girl, Antonia, who speaks a little English. The two become friends and sometime playmates despite the age difference. (I believe she is five years older.) But while Jim works on the family farm, Antonia WORKS on farm. After her father dies, she takes to the fields full-time even hiring out to other farms as needed. There is no time for education, no time for fun, no time for anything but surviving. Later, Jim's family moves to town. Antonia comes to town as well as a hired girl. But while the future looks bright and practically limitless to Jim, Antonia's future is less certain. The novel concludes with Jim reconnecting with Antonia several decades later.

My thoughts: I liked it. I'm not sure I loved it though. But it's a solid narrative well worth reading. The novel does a good job in contrasting experiences: new world, old world; men, women; country, town. Jim's relationship with Antonia and the other country 'hired' girls (immigrants all) leave an impact long after he moves away to the big city--New York. Though I'm not sure he truly 'gets' it how lucky he is. Perhaps readers are supposed to feel nothing but pity for Antonia and see her life as a complete waste, see her as a poor, unfortunate soul. I didn't. Antonia may not have left the country; she may still be "trapped" on the farm, trapped in poverty. But she is married to a man she loves; she has children that she loves. Moreover, I get the sense that she is LOVED by her family. Big-city-success is not everything; money isn't everything. Others may see her as a failure, but Antonia herself is content with her lot.

Favorite quotes:
I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins; and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. (19-20)
There was a basic harmony between Antonia and her mistress. They had strong, independent natures, both of them. They knew what they liked, and were not always trying to imitate other people. They loved children and animals and music, and rough play and digging in the earth. They liked to prepare rich, hearty food and to see people eat it; to make up soft white beds and to see youngsters asleep in them. They ridiculed conceited people and were quick to help unfortunate ones. Deep down in each of them there was a kind of hearty joviality, a relish of life, not over-delicate, but very invigorating. I never tried to define it, but I was distinctly conscious of it. (135-6)
When boys and girls are growing up, life can't stand still, not even in the quietest of country towns; and they have to grow up, whether they will or no. That is what their elders are always forgetting. (146)
The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don't realize it. You really are a part of me. (237)
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel. 1865/1871. 247 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’

Premise/plot: Alice follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and has several fantastical seemingly impossible adventures before waking.  
First sentence: One thing was certain, that the white kitten had nothing to do with it – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering): so you see that it couldn’t have had any hand in the mischief.

Premise/plot: Alice doesn't follow a rabbit on her second adventure; no, she crawls through the looking glass into the looking glass house. Just as she always imagined, life is very different on the other side of the mirror. (For one thing, the chess pieces are alive.) Readers follow Alice's adventures as a pawn as she journeys towards being queened. Like the first book, this one is full of fantastical impossibilities.

My thoughts: I love, love, LOVE Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've read it in my life. It's a magical read filled with silly characters--quite a few I'd deem unforgettable. What stands out to me--even more than the characters--is the writing. There is just something quotable and ever-relevant about the narrative.

Favorite quotes from Alice in Wonderland:
‘Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?’ and sometimes ‘Do bats eat cats?’, for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and was saying to her, very earnestly, ‘Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?’, when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.’ For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!’
Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is “Who in the world am I?” Ah, that’s the great puzzle!’
‘Perhaps it doesn’t understand English,’ thought Alice. ‘I daresay it’s a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror.’ (For, with all her knowledge of history, Alice had no very clear notion how long ago anything had happened.) So she began again: ‘Où est ma chatte?’, which was the first sentence in her French lesson-book. The Mouse gave a sudden leap out of the water, and seemed to quiver all over with fright. ‘Oh, I beg your pardon!’ cried Alice hastily, afraid that she had hurt the poor animal’s feelings. ‘I quite forgot you didn’t like cats.’
‘It was much pleasanter at home,’ thought poor Alice, ‘when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole – and yet – and yet – it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I’ll write one – but I’m grown up now,’ she added in a sorrowful tone: ‘at least there’s no room to grow up any more here.’
‘It’s really dreadful,’ she muttered to herself, ’the way all the creatures argue. It’s enough to drive one crazy!’
‘I didn’t know that Cheshire-Cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.’
‘They all can,’ said the Duchess; ‘and most of ’em do.’ ‘I don’t know of any that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation. ‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess; ‘and that’s a fact.’
‘If it had grown up,’ she said to herself, ‘it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.’ And she began thinking over other children she knew, who might do very well as pigs, and was just saying to herself ‘if one only knew the right way to change them –’ when she was a little startled by seeing the Cheshire-Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.
 ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where –’ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. ‘– so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation. ‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if only you walk long enough.’
‘In that direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’ ‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. ‘Oh, you ca’n’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice. ‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on. ‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least – at least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing, you know.’ ‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘Why, you might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’
‘You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, which seemed to be talking in its sleep, ‘that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’
Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows: the croquet balls were live hedgehogs, and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.
The players all played at once, without waiting for turns, quarreling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting ‘Off with his head!’ or ‘Off with her head!’ about once in a minute.
“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” ’ ‘I think I should understand that better,’ Alice said very politely, ‘if I had it written down: but I ca’n’t quite follow it as you say it.’ ‘That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose,’ the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
‘I make you a present of everything I’ve said as yet.’
‘A cheap sort of present!’ thought Alice. ‘I’m glad people don’t give birthday-presents like that!’
‘He taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.’ ‘So he did, so he did,’ said the Gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws. ‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject. ‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’ ‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice. ‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’
Favorite quotes from Through the Looking Glass:
‘Kitty, can you play chess? Now, don’t smile, my dear, I’m asking it seriously. Because, when we were playing just now, you watched just as if you understood it: and when I said “Check!” you purred! Well, it was a nice check, Kitty, and really I might have won, if it hadn’t been for that nasty Knight, that came wriggling down among my pieces. Kitty, dear, let’s pretend –’ And here I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.’
Oh, Kitty, how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through—’ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.
She was out of the room in a moment, and ran down stairs – or, at least, it wasn’t exactly running, but a new invention for getting down stairs quickly and easily, as Alice said to herself. She just kept the tips of her fingers on the hand-rail, and floated gently down without even touching the stairs with her feet: then she floated on through the hall, and would have gone straight out at the door in the same way, if she hadn’t caught hold of the door-post. She was getting a little giddy with so much floating in the air, and was rather glad to find herself walking again in the natural way.
‘It’s a great huge game of chess that’s being played – all over the world – if this is the world at all, you know. Oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn’t mind being a Pawn, if only I might join – though of course I should like to be a Queen, best.’
‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.’ ‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’ ‘I’d rather not try, please!’ said Alice.
‘He’s dreaming now,’ said Tweedledee: ‘and what do you think he’s dreaming about?’ Alice said ‘Nobody can guess that.’ ‘Why, about you!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. ‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’ ‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice. ‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’
‘Well, it’s no use your talking about waking him,’ said Tweedledum, ‘when you’re only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you’re not real.’ ‘I am real!’ said Alice, and began to cry. ‘You wo’n’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,’ Tweedledee remarked: ‘there’s nothing to cry about.’ ‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said – half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous – ‘I shouldn’t be able to cry.’ ‘I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?’ Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt. ‘I know they’re talking nonsense,’ Alice thought to herself: ‘and it’s foolish to cry about it.’
‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
‘It must come sometimes to “jam to-day”, ’ Alice objected. ‘No, it ca’n’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.’ ‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’ ‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first –’ ‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’ ‘– but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you’ve come to-day. Consider what o-clock it is. Consider anything, only don’t cry!’
‘Can you keep from crying by considering things?’ she asked. ‘That’s the way it’s done,’ the Queen said with great decision: ‘nobody can do two things at once, you know.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
‘I never ask advice about growing,’ Alice said indignantly. ‘Too proud?’ the other enquired. Alice felt even more indignant at this suggestion. ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘that one ca’n’t help growing older.’ ‘One ca’n’t, perhaps,’ said Humpty Dumpty; ‘but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.’
‘they gave it me – for an un-birthday present.’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ Alice said with a puzzled air. ‘I’m not offended,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I mean, what is an un-birthday present?’ ‘A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.’ Alice considered a little. ‘I like birthday presents best,’ she said at last. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. ‘How many days are there in a year?’ ‘Three hundred and sixty-five,’ said Alice. ‘And how many birthdays have you?’ ‘One.’ ‘And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?’ ‘Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.’
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
‘I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that –’ ‘Oh, it needn’t come to that!’ Alice hastily said, hoping to keep him from beginning.
‘I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice. ‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!’
‘Who did you pass on the road?’ the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay. ‘Nobody,’ said the Messenger. ‘Quite right,’ said the King: ‘this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.’ ‘I do my best,’ the Messenger said in a sullen tone. ‘I’m sure nobody walks much faster than I do!’ ‘He ca’n’t do that,’ said the King, ‘or else he’d have been here first. However, now you’ve got your breath, you may tell us what’s happened in the town.’
‘I was wondering what the mouse-trap was for,’ said Alice. ‘It isn’t very likely there would be any mice on the horse’s back.’ ‘Not very likely, perhaps,’ said the Knight; ‘but, if they do come, I don’t choose to have them running all about.’
‘Always speak the truth – think before you speak – and write it down afterwards.’
 What do you suppose is the use of a child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning – and a child’s more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn’t deny that, even if you tried with both hands.’ ‘I don’t deny things with my hands,’ Alice objected. ‘Nobody said you did,’ said the Red Queen. ‘I said you couldn’t if you tried.’ ‘She’s in that state of mind,’ said the White Queen, ‘that she wants to deny something – only she doesn’t know what to deny!’ ‘A nasty, vicious temper,’ the Red Queen remarked;
‘It’s too late to correct it,’ said the Red Queen: ‘when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.’
 It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that, whatever you say to them, they always purr. ‘If they would only purr for “yes”, and mew for “no”, or any rule of that sort,’ she had said, ‘so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can you talk with a person if they always say the same thing?’

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Widow of Windsor

The Widow of Windsor. Jean Plaidy. 1974. 318 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Mourning hung heavily over Windsor. The Queen was stunned; now and then her tears would cease and she would ask in a bewildered voice: "It's not true? Tell me it's not true. This time last year he was with us. Oh God, how could this be? I always believed we should go together."

Premise/plot: The Widow of Windsor chronicles the last decades of Queen Victoria's life, starting with the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and ending with her own death in 1901. The book does not focus on Queen Victoria alone, but also on her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. A marginal story line, in fact, despite the misleading book jacket, is the Queen's relationship with Mr. John Brown. Politics is never far from center stage either.

My thoughts: This one is well worth reading despite the melodramatic jacket copy. The good news is that The Widow of Windsor is NOT the book described in the jacket copy. I have taken to reading Plaidy's jacket copy in a certain voice in my head, starting with "Jean Plaidy who is also Victoria Holt." In the matter of The Widow of Windsor, it's dreadful: "She was the Queen. She was a widow. But she was also a woman...."  How could you not read that in a melodramatic way?!

I enjoyed reading this one very much. I enjoyed learning more about Bertie (Edward VII) and his wife Alix (Alexandra). Scandal was never far away from the Prince of Wales. The book shows him at his best and worst. Queen Victoria's other children are also very much present in the novel, though not all equally.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, January 08, 2018

Dream Life For Children

Dream Life for Children. Mattie K. Foster. 1918. 178 pages. [Source: Read online]

First sentence: In a great room of a great house in Philadelphia, looking from a great window, out into the great world, stood, one dreary morning, a wee little boy.

Premise/plot: Dream Life for Children is a collection of eight children's stories by Mattie K. Foster. As the title "Dream Life" alludes these stories are fantastical, the work of an imagination.

The eight stories are: "Eliza," "Papagei, The Wonderful Parrot," "Smashemallup's Victory," "The Mermaid's Ball," "The Snail and the Leaf Fairy," "The Fair Leona," "The Famous Oyster," and "A Dream."

In "Eliza," readers meet a "wee little boy" named Charlie and his doll, Eliza. Upset that his cat, Tom, is missing, he follows the advice of his forceful doll and goes upstairs to the garret to see a picture-cat, Elfrieda. But the garret is locked, and, it seems that the only action of the story will be an unwitnessed fit. But this story is about to enter the Twilight Zone, the garret door is unlocked by the cat who has jumped out of the picture on the wall, and ANYTHING is possible now.

In "Papagei, The Wonderful Parrot," readers meet a parrot, of course, who's newly gifted to the royal family. The Prince takes the parrot along with him on his quest for the PERFECT bride.
Be a maiden clever, she will be good; be a maiden good, she will be beautiful; be she all of these, how easy to be rich.
This story is packed with fairy-tale like adventure and is pure delight from start to finish.

"The Mermaid's Ball" is a satisfying story starting Titans, mermaids, a sea monster, and the moon.

The other stories are more of a mixed bag going from odd to quirky to peculiar to STRANGE, STRANGE, VERY STRANGE.

For example, "Smashemallup's Victory" is a quirky story with action and romance. Lady Fay is under the guardianship of Hardknuckle. Once she has learned words--how to talk--she will be given in marriage. She does not like her potential suitor--an ugly dwarf. But there may be a way to defeat him and learn the parts of speech at the same time.

Some of the stories are so strange, so out there that you couldn't possibly believe that any children's story could be THAT over-the-top strange unless you read it yourself.

My thoughts: I liked the story Eliza. It is several chapters long. I enjoyed Charlie and his attachment to his doll, Eliza. I liked that Charlie is so very attached to her that she is REAL to him for better or worse. (Think Velveteen Rabbit.) The story is imaginative and a bit quirky, but it stars a mesmerizing, steal-the-scene cat. Overall, I really enjoyed it. My favorite story, however, was the one about the prince and the parrot. It was one of the longer stories. Out of all the stories in the entire book, this one was the most broadly appealing. I think any reader could enjoy this one.

I am glad I read this one--even the strange stories. This one won't appeal to all readers, of course. But I think it is interesting to see what was being written for children a hundred years ago.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently Reading #2

Brief Introduction:

I thought it would be fun to share each week--at the start of the week--what I'm currently reading. It is my goal to always be *currently* reading something old, something new, something borrowed, and something true. Old and new are self-explanatory. Borrowed can mean borrowed from a person or a library. True is nonfiction. As you might notice, some books fit into two--or even three categories.

Something Old:
The Widow of Windsor. Jean Plaidy. 1974. 318 pages. [Source: Bought]
Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. 339 pages. [Source: Bought]
Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. 573 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New:
Where We Belong. Lynn Austin. 2017. Bethany House. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Midnight Without a Moon. Linda Williams Jackson. 2017. HMH. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed:
My Antonia. Willa Cather. 1918. 336 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]

Jane Austen at Home. Lucy Worsley. 2017. 387 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]

Something True:

Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur. 2018. Reformation Trust. 148 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Lois Tverberg. 2018. Baker Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

KJV Reader's Bible. 2016. Holman Bible Publishers. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, January 07, 2018

Week in Review: January 1-January 7

Favorite Book of the Week:
 What I've Read and Reviewed
Board books and Picture Books:
0. Make It Now: Animals. Geraldine Cosneau. 2018. HMH. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy][Novelty]
0. Make It Now: Princesses. Stephanie Rousseau. 2018. HMH. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Novelty]
1. Lola Gets a Cat. Anna McQuinn. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2017. Charlesbridge. 28 pages. [Source: Library] (2016 in UK)
2. Mr. Pusskins: A Love Story. Sam Lloyd. 2006. 32 pages. [Source: Library] (2006, UK)
3. Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers: Another Love Story. Sam Lloyd. 2008. 32 pages. [Source: Library] (2007, UK)

Early Readers and Chapter Books:
1. The Story of Live Dolls. Josephine Scribner Gates. Illustrated by Mabel Rogers. 1901. 1920. 116 pages. [Source: Read online]

 Speculative Fiction:
1. The Story of Live Dolls. Josephine Scribner Gates. Illustrated by Mabel Rogers. 1901. 1920. 116 pages. [Source: Read online]
2. Reign the Earth. (The Elementae #1) A.C. Gaughen. 2018. Bloomsbury. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Historical Fiction:
1. Murder, Magic, and What We Wore. Kelly Jones. 2017. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
2. The Promise of Dawn. Lauraine Snelling. 2017. Bethany House. 386 pages. [Source: Review copy]

1. Murder, Magic, and What We Wore. Kelly Jones. 2017. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
2. Murder Past Due. Miranda James. 2010. 294 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

1. The Story of Live Dolls. Josephine Scribner Gates. Illustrated by Mabel Rogers. 1901. 1920. 116 pages. [Source: Read online]

1. Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything. Aly Raisman. 2017. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

Christian Fiction
1. The Promise of Dawn. Lauraine Snelling. 2017. Bethany House. 386 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian Nonfiction
1. Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials. Dave Furman. 2018. Crossway. 160 pages. [Review copy]
2. Coming Events and Present Duties. J.C. Ryle. 1879. 150 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. Enjoying God: Finding Hope in the Attributes of God. 1987/2017. 242 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What I've Blogged

What I've Watched
  • Mona Lisa Smile
  • The King and I
  • Ivanhoe
  • Adventures of Robin Hood
  • The Truman Show
  • Call the Midwife season 1, Christmas episode of season 2
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • Memorial Service for R.C. Sproul
  • When Calls the Heart Christmas Special

What I've Drank
  • English Breakfast (7)
  • Green Tea (19)
  • Candy Cane Lane (2)
  • PG Tips (2)
  • Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea
  • Peppermint/White Tea
  • Sweet Dreams/White Tea
  • Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
  • Salted Caramel 
  • Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland
  • Cozy Chamomile/Buttermint
  • Sleepytime Peach (2)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, January 06, 2018

My Victorian Year #1

This week I've been reading Anthony Trollope's Framley Parsonage (1860). It is the fourth novel in the Barsetshire series.


  • It is true that one must put up with wrong, with a great deal of wrong. But no one need put up with wrong that he can remedy.
  • You clergymen like to keep those long subjects for your sermons, when no one can answer you.
  • It is no doubt very wrong to long after a naughty thing. But nevertheless we all do so. One may say that hankering after naughty things is the very essence of the evil into which we have been precipitated by Adam’s fall. When we confess that we are all sinners, we confess that we all long after naughty things.
  • Friends are not to be picked up on the road-side every day; nor are they to be thrown away lightly.
  • When those we love are dead, our friends dread to mention them, though to us who are bereaved no subject would be so pleasant as their names. But we rarely understand how to treat our own sorrow or those of others.
  • A load which would crush a man at first becomes, by habit, not only endurable, but easy and comfortable to the bearer.
  • A man always can do right, even though he has done wrong before. But that previous wrong adds so much difficulty to the path — a difficulty which increases in tremendous ratio, till a man at last is choked in his struggling, and is drowned beneath the waters.
  • Spoken grief relieves itself; and when one can give counsel, one always hopes at least that that counsel will be effective.
  • Let those who know clergymen, and like them, and have lived with them, only fancy it! Clergymen to be paid, not according to the temporalities of any living which they may have acquired, either by merit or favour, but in accordance with the work to be done!
  • If the ears be too delicate to hear the truth, the mind will be too perverse to profit by it.
  • Nobody can count on men from one week to another. The very members who in one month place a minister in power, are the very first to vote against him in the next.
  • It is easy to love one’s enemy when one is making fine speeches; but so difficult to do so in the actual everyday work of life.
  • Ah, you think that anything naked must be indecent; even truth.
  • I think it is more proper-looking, and better suited, too, for the world’s work, when it goes about with some sort of a garment on it. We are so used to a leaven of falsehood in all we hear and say, nowadays, that nothing is more likely to deceive us than the absolute truth.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Keep it Short #1

This week I'll be talking about, rambling, sharing the stories I've read this week.  I read two stories from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book: "The Bronze Ring" and "Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess".

The Bronze Ring
First sentence: Once upon a time in a certain country there lived a king whose palace was surrounded by a spacious garden. But, though the gardeners were many and the soil was good, this garden yielded neither flowers nor fruits, not even grass or shady trees.

Premise/plot: A king goes in search of a gardener never expecting his daughter to fall madly in love with the gardener's son. The gardener's son passes the test that the prime minister's son fails. But not without the help of magic. He wins, then loses, then rewins his happily ever after ending.

My thoughts: I don't regret my time, but I doubt this one will become a favorite. My favorite part of this one was seeing the mice help the hero regain the bronze ring.

Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess
First sentence: Once upon a time there lived a king who was deeply in love with a princess, but she could not marry anyone, because she was under an enchantment. So the King set out to seek a fairy, and asked what he could do to win the Princess's love.

Premise/plot: The king and princess mentioned in the first sentence have a son with a VERY LARGE NOSE. (The king exits the story just as quickly as he enters it. Before he dies, the king learns that his son will "will never be happy until he finds out that his nose is too long".) Prince Hyacinth grows up thinking that large noses are beautiful, and tiny noses are not. He falls in love with a 'dear little princess.' But his happily ever ending is indefinitely postponed when she vanishes--obviously the work of an enchanter or fairy. He searches her out, but he must come to a few realizations about himself before getting his happy ending.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. My favorite part was the conversation between Prince Hyacinth and the Fairy. Their exchange was quite delightful to read.
"I'm very glad I came here. This just shows me how sensible I have been in never listening to flatterers. People of that sort praise us to our faces without shame, and hide our faults or change them into virtues. For my part I never will be taken in by them. I know my own defects, I hope."
I also loved his epiphany.
His joy at seeing the Princess again was extreme, and he set to work with all his might to try to break her prison; but in spite of all his efforts he failed utterly. In despair he thought at least that he would try to get near enough to speak to the Dear Little Princess, who, on her part, stretched out her hand that he might kiss it; but turn which way he might, he never could raise it to his lips, for his long nose always prevented it. For the first time he realized how long it really was, and exclaimed: "Well, it must be admitted that my nose is too long!"
You would never have found out how extraordinary it was if it hadn't hindered you from doing what you wanted to. You see how self-love keeps us from knowing our own defects of mind and body. Our reason tries in vain to show them to us; we refuse to see them till we find them in the way of our interests.
 Of the two stories. I much prefer Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess.

I also read the first seven stories in L.M. Montgomery's Short Stories 1907-1908: "A Millionaire's Proposal," "A Substitute Journalist," "Anna's Love Letters," "Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress," "Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving Dinner," "By Grace of Julius Caesar," and "By the Rule of Contrary."

A Millionaire's Proposal:
First sentence: It is all settled at last, and in another week I shall have left Thrush Hill. I am a little bit sorry and a great bit glad. I am going to Montreal to spend the winter with Alicia. Alicia—it used to be plain Alice when she lived at Thrush Hill and made her own dresses and trimmed her own hats—is my half-sister.

Premise/plot: Will Katherine (Kitty) marry for love or for money? Will she marry her handsome, childhood sweetheart, Jack? Or the ugly but oh-so-wealthy Gus Sinclair?

My thoughts: This short story is typical L.M. Montgomery. I never doubted for a moment whose proposal she'd accept.

A Substitute Journalist:
First sentence: Clifford Baxter came into the sitting-room where Patty was darning stockings and reading a book at the same time. Patty could do things like that. The stockings were well darned too, and Patty understood and remembered what she read.

Premise/plot: Neither sibling (Patty and Clifford) are happy with their current lot in life. Patty longs to be a journalist, but fears that will be impossible since she's a woman. Clifford hates his job as a reporter and wants to be a mechanic. Both get once-in-a-lifetime chances to change their futures..on the same day of course.

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is again typical Montgomery.

Anna's Love Letters
First sentence: "Are you going to answer Gilbert's letter tonight, Anna?" asked Alma Williams, standing in the pantry doorway, tall, fair, and grey-eyed, with the sunset light coming down over the dark firs, through the window behind her, and making a primrose nimbus around her shapely head. Anna, dark, vivid, and slender, was perched on the edge of the table, idly swinging her slippered foot at the cat's head. She smiled wickedly at Alma before replying. "I am not going to answer it tonight or any other night," she said, twisting her full, red lips in a way that Alma had learned to dread. Mischief was ripening in Anna's brain when that twist was out.

Premise/plot: Anna and Alma are sisters. Alma is happy that her good friend, Gilbert, is courting her sister. But with Gilbert out of town, the flighty Anna has soon forgotten him completely. She refuses to answer Gilbert's letter. Not even to let him know that she's moving on. Alma writes instead. She doesn't sign her name Anna or Alma--just the initial A. Their correspondence soon consumes them both. Will Gilbert be shocked when he returns to town?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Cyrano de Bergerac is one of my favorite, favorite stories. But it's so incredibly sad. This one shares a theme, in a way, (a couple falling in love through letters; one person thinking that the letter is from someone else) but it's HAPPY.
Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress
First sentence: Patty came in from her walk to the post office with cheeks finely reddened by the crisp air. Carry surveyed her with pleasure. Of late Patty's cheeks had been entirely too pale to please Carry, and Patty had not had a very good appetite. Once or twice she had even complained of a headache. So Carry had sent her to the office for a walk that night, although the post office trip was usually Carry's own special constitutional, always very welcome to her after a weary day of sewing on other people's pretty dresses.

Premise/plot: Carry is raising her niece, Patty. Both end up invited to a special occasion, but there's only enough material for one party dress. She decides that her niece should get it, but she keeps it a surprise. Patty reminds her that there is always the Aunt Caroline's silk dress that she could remake. Carry has never used it because it is UGLY, fiercely ugly. But within that dress is quite a surprise.

My thoughts: This one is a rags-to-riches feel good story. I liked it well enough.

Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving
First sentence: "Here's Aunt Susanna, girls," said Laura who was sitting by the north window—nothing but north light does for Laura who is the artist of our talented family.

Premise/plot: A family of girls works hard to impress their aunt...in hopes that she will help them out financially.

My thoughts: It was okay.

By Grace of Julius Caesar
First sentence: Melissa sent word on Monday evening that she thought we had better go round with the subscription list for cushioning the church pews on Tuesday. I sent back word that I thought we had better go on Thursday. I had no particular objection to Tuesday, but Melissa is rather fond of settling things without consulting anyone else, and I don't believe in always letting her have her own way.

Premise/plot: Two cousins go out together one Wednesday seeking subscriptions for the church. Their last stop is at Isaac Appleby's place. "It isn't a very pleasant thing to go to a man you have recently refused to marry and ask him for money; and Melissa and I were both in that predicament." What they find at his place and what happens next, well, it's something.

My thoughts: This story is by far my favorite so far. And the reason why is THE NARRATIVE. Anne, one of the cousins, is a HOOT. And it's peopled with eccentric, quirky characters: Melissa, Anne, and Isaac. As for the plot, well, it's not your traditional romance--by a long shot. But this story is anything but forgettable--whether you love it or hate it.

Favorite quotes:
"I am forty-five and something more than plump, so that climbing ladders is not my favorite form of exercise. But I went up that one with the agility and grace of sixteen. Melissa followed me, and we found ourselves on the roof—fortunately it was a flat one—panting and gasping, but safe, unless that diabolical dog could climb a ladder."
"I mean that you two women will stay up on that roof until one of you agrees to marry me," said Isaac solemnly. I gasped. "Isaac Appleby, you can't be in earnest?" I cried incredulously. "You couldn't be so mean?" "He does mean it," I said gloomily. "An Appleby never says anything he doesn't mean. He will keep us here until one of us consents to marry him." "It won't be me, then," said Melissa in a calm sort of rage. "I won't marry him if I have to sit on this roof for the rest of my life. You can take him. It's really you he wants, anyway; he asked you first." I always knew that rankled with Melissa.
 Isaac does send a basket up to the roof.
There was a bottle of milk, some bread and butter, and a pie. Melissa wouldn't take a morsel of the food, but she was so thirsty she had to take a drink of milk. She tried to lift her veil—and something caught; Melissa gave it a savage twitch, and off came veil and hat—and all her front hair! You never saw such a sight. I'd always suspected Melissa wore a false front, but I'd never had any proof before.
And I felt sorry for Isaac when I tried to eat that bread. It was sour and dreadful. As for the pie, it was hopeless. I tasted it, and then threw it down to Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar, not being over particular, ate it up. I thought perhaps it would kill him, for anything might come of eating such a concoction. That pie was a strong argument for Isaac. I thought a man who had to live on such cookery did indeed need a wife and might be pardoned for taking desperate measures to get one. I was dreadfully tired of broiling on the roof anyhow. But it was the thunderstorm that decided me. When I saw it coming up, black and quick, from the northwest, I gave in at once.
By the Rule of Contrary
First sentence: "Look here, Burton," said old John Ellis in an ominous tone of voice, "I want to know if what that old busybody of a Mary Keane came here today gossiping about is true. If it is—well, I've something to say about the matter! Have you been courting that niece of Susan Oliver's all summer on the sly?"

Premise/plot: Two young people are allowed their happy ending despite the contrariness of the young man's father. The girl's aunt knows JUST how to handle him.

My thoughts: This one is typical Montgomery. I liked it fine.

Favorite quote:
"Madge," said Miss Susan solemnly, but with dancing eyes, "do you know how to drive a pig? Just try to make it go in the opposite direction and it will bolt the way you want it. Remember that, my dear."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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