Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Reflections

How many books have I read so far for the year? 57
How many board books or picture books have I read? 14
My favorite I read this month was:
Mr. Pusskins: A Love Story. Sam Lloyd. 2006. 32 pages. [Source: Library] (2006, UK)
How many early readers or early chapter books have I read? 12
My favorite I read this month was:
Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot The Horn. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #7) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1998. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
How many contemporary books have I read? 0
My favorite I read this month was: n/a
How many speculative fiction books have I read? 5
My favorite I read this month was:
Reign the Earth. (The Elementae #1) A.C. Gaughen. 2018. Bloomsbury. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How many classics have I read? 8
My favorite I read this month was?
Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. 573 pages. [Source: Bought]
How many historical fiction novels have I read? 9
My favorite I read this month was?
The Lacemaker. Laura Frantz. 2018. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How many mysteries? 3
My favorite I read this month was?
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore. Kelly Jones. 2017. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
How many nonfiction? 3
My favorite I read this month was? 
Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How many Christian fiction? 4
My favorite I read this month was?
The Promise of Dawn. Lauraine Snelling. 2017. Bethany House. 386 pages. [Source: Review copy] How many Christian nonfiction? 11
My favorite I read this month was?
Spurgeon On the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) Michael Reeves. 2018. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How many "new" books for the Good Rule challenge? 32
How many "old" books for the Good Rule challenge? 25
How many pages have I read so far for the year? 9, 124
Favorite short story or fairy tale of the month: "By Grace of Julius Caesar" by L.M. Montgomery
Favorite audio book of the month: Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer
Favorite Victorian quote: 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. ~ Anthony Trollope
Favorite tea: Madagascar Vanilla

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories 1907-1908

Short Stories 1907-1908. L.M. Montgomery. 248 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is a collection of short stories by L.M. Montgomery originally published in various magazines in 1907 and 1908. They vary in genre, style, and quality. But there are some great stories.

My thoughts on the first seven stories in the collection can be found in Keep It Short #1Keep it Short #2 features the next five stories. Keep It Short #4 features the next five stories. The remaining short stories are reviewed below.

The Girl who Drove the Cows

First sentence: "I wonder who that pleasant-looking girl who drives cows down the beech lane every morning and evening is," said Pauline Palmer, at the tea table of the country farmhouse where she and her aunt were spending the summer.

Premise/plot: This one is about snobbery. Aunt Olivia is a BIG snob, and she "despises" the beautiful girl who drives the cows. Pauline, the niece, likes her and is in fact inspired by her. She takes her photograph for her artist collection, and it wins first prize. The photograph gains attention and it is revealed who the girl really is....

My thoughts: I liked it okay.

The Growing Up of Cornelia

First sentence:  Aunt Jemima gave me this diary for a Christmas present. It's just the sort of gift a person named Jemima would be likely to make.

 Premise/plot: A shy girl gets some romance and a happy ending.... Cornelia is anxious that Sidney Elliot's return to town will mean the end to her adventures roaming his property--his woods/gardens. That proves not to be the case. Has she found a kindred spirit?

My thoughts: I enjoyed the narration of this one. This one may just be one of my favorites.
  • People might talk about my not being brought out, but they will talk far more about the blunders I shall make.
  • The doleful fact is, I'm too wretchedly shy and awkward to live. It fills my soul with terror to think of donning long dresses and putting my hair up and going into society.
  • I can't talk and men frighten me to death. I fall over things as it is, and what will it be with long dresses? As far back as I can remember it has been my one aim and object in life to escape company. Oh, if only one need never grow up! If I could only go back four years and stay there!
  • It is rather good to have a diary to pour out your woes in when you feel awfully bad and have no one to sympathize with you. I've been used to shutting them all up in my soul and then they sometimes fermented and made trouble.
  • I've found out what diaries are for ... to work off blue moods in, moods that come on without any reason whatever and therefore can't be confided to any fellow creature. You scribble away for a while ... and then it's all gone ... and your soul feels clear as crystal once more.
 The Old Fellow's Letter.

First sentence: Ruggles and I were down on the Old Fellow. It doesn't matter why and, since in a story of this kind we must tell the truth no matter what happens—or else where is the use of writing a story at all?—I'll have to confess that we had deserved all we got and that the Old Fellow did no more than his duty by us.
 
Premise/plot: A letter written in jest--as a prank by college students--ends up leading to a happily ever ending for one of their professors.
 
My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one! It is very silly and definitely old-fashioned.
 
The Parting of Ways
First sentence: Mrs. Longworth crossed the hotel piazza, descended the steps, and walked out of sight down the shore road with all the grace of motion that lent distinction to her slightest movement.
 
Premise/plot: A woman reconsiders leaving her husband and running away with another man after a heart-felt conversation with an artist-friend who idealizes her.

My thoughts: It was okay.

The Promissory Note

First sentence: Ernest Duncan swung himself off the platform of David White's store and walked whistling up the street. Life seemed good to Ernest just then. Mr. White had given him a rise in salary that day, and had told him that he was satisfied with him. Mr. White was not easy to please in the matter of clerks, and it had been with fear and trembling that Ernest had gone into his store six months before. He had thought himself fortunate to secure such a chance. His father had died the preceding year, leaving nothing in the way of worldly goods except the house he had lived in. For several years before his death he had been unable to do much work, and the finances of the little family had dwindled steadily. After his father's death Ernest, who had been going to school and expecting to go to college, found that he must go to work at once instead to support himself and his mother.

Premise/plot: A son with great integrity is put to the test--put through the fire, if you will--before his great reward.

My thoughts: I liked this one. Not all of Montgomery's stories are silly romances.

The Revolt of Mary Isabel 

First sentence: "For a woman of forty, Mary Isabel, you have the least sense of any person I have ever known," said Louisa Irving.Louisa had said something similar in spirit to Mary Isabel almost every day of her life. Mary Isabel had never resented it, even when it hurt her bitterly. Everybody in Latimer knew that Louisa Irving ruled her meek little sister with a rod of iron and wondered why Mary Isabel never rebelled. It simply never occurred to Mary Isabel to do so; all her life she had given in to Louisa and the thought of refusing obedience to her sister's Mede-and-Persian decrees never crossed her mind. Mary Isabel had only one secret from Louisa and she lived in daily dread that Louisa would discover it. It was a very harmless little secret, but Mary Isabel felt rightly sure that Louisa would not tolerate it for a moment.

Premise/plot: Mary Isabel DOES rebel and all is well in the end.

My thoughts: I liked Mary Isabel. I was cheering for her from the start.

The Twins and a Wedding

First sentence: Sometimes Johnny and I wonder what would really have happened if we had never started for Cousin Pamelia's wedding. I think that Ted would have come back some time; but Johnny says he doesn't believe he ever would, and Johnny ought to know, because Johnny's a boy. Anyhow, he couldn't have come back for four years. However, we did start for the wedding and so things came out all right, and Ted said we were a pair of twin special Providences.

Premise/plot: Twins run away from home to see a wedding--they'd been invited, but the parents decided to leave them at home. They get off at the wrong train station, and are bitterly disappointed that they won't see a wedding after all. Or will they? They interrupt an arguing couple...and....well the rest is classic Montgomery.

My thoughts: Definitely an enjoyable read. I'm glad the collection ended with such a fun story. It is a good reminder that sometimes it's not the premise so much as the characters.

 Overall, I'd rank my top five stories as:
  • By Grace of Julius Caesar
  • Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves
  • The Growing Up of Cornelia
  • Four Winds
  • Anna's Love Letters


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Currently Reading #5

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]
A Tender Victory. Taylor Caldwell. 1956. 374 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New

How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Something Borrowed
Jane Austen at Home. Lucy Worsley. 2017. 387 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]

Something True 

Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Week in Review: January 21-27

Favorite Book of the Week:
What I've Read and Reviewed

Board books and picture books:

10. Dear Girl. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal. Illustrated by Holly Hatam. 2017. [December 2017] HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
11. Board book: Portly Pig. Axel Scheffler. 2018. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
12. Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. 2018. Bloomsbury. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
13.Snow. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Lauren Stringer. 2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
14. I Don't Draw, I Color! Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Felicita Sala. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
Early readers and chapter books:

7. The Diary of a Killer Cat. Anne Fine. Illustrated by Steve Cox. 1994. FSG. 64 pages.
8. Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch. (Mr. Putter and Tabby #9) Cynthia Rylant. 2000. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
9. Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish (Mr. Putter and Tabby #10) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2001. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
10. Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold. (Mr. Putter and Tabby #11) Cynthia Rylant. Arthur Howard, illustrator. 2002. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

Classics:

7. Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

Historical Fiction:

8. Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
9. The Chapel Car Bride. Judith Miller. 2017. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian Fiction:

4. The Chapel Car Bride. Judith Miller. 2017. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian Nonfiction:

9. Five English Reformers. J.C. Ryle. 1890. 150 pages. [Source: Bought]
10. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2016. Banner of Truth. 296 pages. [Source: Library]

What I've Blogged

My Victorian Year #4 (Becky's Book Reviews)
My Victorian Year #4 (Operation Actually Read Bible)
Keep It Short #4
Me? Listen to Audio #3
Currently Reading #4
True or False with the Victorians #1

What I've Watched
  • History of Britain, disc 2
  • Call the Midwife, Christmas special and the first half of series 3
  • Victoria and Abdul (2x)  
  • Mrs. Brown
What I've Drank 
  • English Breakfast (7)
  • Green tea (15)
  • Fusion Green and White Tea (4)
  • Madagascar Vanilla (3)
  • Candy Cane Lane (2)
  • PG Tips (2) 
  • Cozy Chamomile (2)
  • White Tea
  • Earl Grey 
  • Orange Spice


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Victorian Year #4

This week I continued reading in two Victorian novels: Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm and Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton.

From Orley Farm:
  • Twenty years does not go by without leaving its marks.
  • Civilization, as I take it, consists in efforts made not for oneself but for others.
  • If you have anything to say, we are ready to hear it. If you have anything to show, we are ready to look at it. If you have nothing to say, and nothing to show—” “Ah, but I have; only—” “Only you want us to make it worth your while. We might as well have the truth at once. Is not that about it?
  • “Look here, Mr. Crabwitz; if you think my service is too hard upon you, you had better leave it. But if you take upon yourself to tell me so again, you must leave it. Remember that.”
  • Men will not be talked out of the convictions of their lives. No living orator would convince a grocer that coffee should be sold without chicory; and no amount of eloquence will make an English lawyer think that loyalty to truth should come before loyalty to his client.
  • A man who strives honestly to do good will generally do good, though seldom perhaps as much as he has himself anticipated. 
  • “I wonder why matutinal labour should always be considered as so meritorious. Merely, I take it, because it is disagreeable.” “It proves that the man can make an effort.”
  • Good laws won’t make people honest, nor bad laws dishonest.
 From Mary Barton:
  • Her love for him was a bubble, blown out of vanity; but it looked very real and very bright.
  • "But it's so hard to be patient," pleaded Mary. "Ay, dear; being patient is the hardest work we, any of us, have to do through life, I take it. Waiting is far more difficult than doing. I've known that about my sight, and many a one has known it in watching the sick; but it's one of God's lessons we all must learn, one way or another."
  • I sometimes think I am a child, whom the Lord is hushabying to my long sleep. For when I were a nurse-girl, my missis always telled me to speak very soft and low, and to darken the room that her little one might go to sleep; and now all noises are hushed and still to me, and the bonny earth seems dim and dark, and I know it's my Father lulling me away to my long sleep. I'm very well content; and yo mustn't fret for me.
  • John Barton's overpowering thought, which was to work out his fate on earth, was rich and poor; why are they so separate, so distinct, when God has made them all? It is not His will that their interests are so far apart. Whose doing is it? 
  • The actions of the uneducated seem to me typified in those of Frankenstein, that monster of many human qualities, ungifted with a soul, a knowledge of the difference between good and evil. The people rise up to life; they irritate us, they terrify us, and we become their enemies. Then, in the sorrowful moment of our triumphant power, their eyes gaze on us with mute reproach. Why have we made them what they are; a powerful monster, yet without the inner means for peace and happiness?




© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #4

I read five short stories by L.M. Montgomery.

Missy's Room
First sentence: Mrs. Falconer and Miss Bailey walked home together through the fine blue summer afternoon from the Ladies' Aid meeting at Mrs. Robinson's. They were talking earnestly; that is to say, Miss Bailey was talking earnestly and volubly, and Mrs. Falconer was listening. Mrs. Falconer had reduced the practice of listening to a fine art.

Premise/plot: Camilla Clark is in need of a home; Mrs. Falconer has a spare room--if she can stand the idea of someone using her Missy's room. She finally decides it's the right thing to do and in doing so makes way for her own happy ending.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. 

Ted's Afternoon Off
First sentence: Ted was up at five that morning, as usual. He always had to rise early to kindle the fire and go for the cows, but on this particular morning there was no "had to" about it. He had awakened at four o'clock and had sprung eagerly to the little garret window facing the east, to see what sort of a day was being born.

Premise/plot: Ted's day off is potentially spoiled when he has to sacrifice it to spend time with an invalid named Jimmy. But Ted entertains Jimmy with his fiddle, and his music is overheard--of course it is!--by a famous musician who wants to adopt Ted then and there and make him a somebody.

My thoughts: Montgomery knows how to write a good, old-fashioned predictable story. These types of stories aren't necessarily being written today. And for better or worse, readers today might be suspicious of a stranger appearing out of the blue and offering to take in children and young adults to give them a better life.
"Ted, would you like to come away with me—live with me—be my boy and have your gift for music thoroughly cultivated?" "What do you mean, sir?" said Ted tremblingly. "I mean that I want you—that I must have you, Ted. I've talked to Mr. Jackson, and he has consented to let you come. You shall be educated, you shall have the best masters in your art that the world affords, you shall have the career I once dreamed of. Will you come, Ted?" Ted drew a long breath. "Yes, sir," he said. "But it isn't so much because of the music—it's because I love you, Mr. Milford, and I'm so glad I'm to be always with you."
The Doctor's Sweetheart
First sentence: Just because I am an old woman outwardly it doesn't follow that I am one inwardly. Hearts don't grow old—or shouldn't. Mine hasn't, I am thankful to say. It bounded like a girl's with delight when I saw Doctor John and Marcella Barry drive past this afternoon.

Premise/plot: An old woman narrates this tale of young--or not so young--lovers. The lovers are Marcella and Doctor John Haven. There's a twenty-two year age difference between the two. He knew he loved loved her "as a woman" when she was fifteen. When he asked permission from her guardian, he was denied--and she was "whisked" away--far, far away. It's been five years, she's of age now, will she come back to him?!

My thoughts: I LOVE the narrator of this story.

The End of the Young Family Feud
First sentence: A week before Christmas, Aunt Jean wrote to Elizabeth, inviting her and Alberta and me to eat our Christmas dinner at Monkshead. We accepted with delight. Aunt Jean and Uncle Norman were delightful people, and we knew we should have a jolly time at their house.

Premise/plot: A family has feuded for decades, will a mix up at the train station lead to a reconciliation?! He directs the three young women to the WRONG house in town.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. It's a fun holiday story.

The Genesis of the Doughnut Club
First sentence: When John Henry died there seemed to be nothing for me to do but pack up and go back east.

Premise/plot: Will Aunt Patty find a way to stay in the (Western) town she loves so much? Or will this old maid be forced to live with relatives who see her as a waste?

My thoughts: It's a good thing Patty is a GREAT cook.




© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #3

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

Frankenstein. By Mary Shelley. Dramatised by Nick Stafford. 2 hours. (2 one hour episodes.) 

I've read Frankenstein many, many times. I definitely considered it one of my favorite, favorite books at one point in my life. I consider it to be one of those what-does-it-mean-to-be-human books. So I was quite excited to listen to a radio drama of it. I learn something new practically every time I read it...would that hold true for listening to it?

Listening to Frankenstein one definitely gets the danger and horror of it. My imagination fails me. I read sympathetically in my head, and don't hear the monster's voice as super creepy, spooky, or otherworldly. I also don't imagine him looking like a monster. In part because I really don't imagine what any character looks like in any book--whether the book be Frankenstein or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So the gothic-ness is strong and undeniable in this audio adaptation.

In Search of Mary Shelley. Fiona Sampson. Read by Stella Gonet. 1 hour, 10 minutes

I have not read the book. I did read this review of it. In college I took a course in the Romantics. Dr. Palmer had us study the lives and works of Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Keats. I loved that the focus was this broad. Connecting their works with their lives--and in some cases with each other--has essentially made a lasting impact on me. It was impossible NOT to have opinions and ideas.

Doctor Finlay: Adventures of a Black Bag. A.J. Cronin. Dramatised by Sue Rodwell. Three hours. Six thirty-minute episodes.

The Resolution That Went Wrong. Who Laughs Last. The Day Dandini Came To Town. Wee Robertson. The Wife of a Hero. The Sisters Scobie.

What a treat! I almost didn't discover this one in time. When I began listening to this series, there were just a few days left to listen on the player. (I believe each broadcast is available 28 days or so from when it originally aired.) So I did find myself rushing through the episodes, one after the other. For better or worse. Oh, the accents! I was in HEAVEN listening to this one. And the stories are quaint and often quite humorous. Especially "Who Laughs Last."

Each episode can stand alone, if you want to give this one a listen while you still can. The last episode has eleven days left on it as of today, January 27th. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 26, 2018

I Don't Draw, I Color!

I Don't Draw, I Color! Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Felicita Sala. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Some people are really good at drawing. But my puppies look like mush. My cars look like lumps...or like boxes...or this. Do these look like people to you? I didn't think so. So, I don't draw. I color.

Premise/plot: The star of this charming picture book doesn't draw--he colors. This book celebrates art and individuality.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. Adam Lehrhaupt was one of my favorite discoveries of 2017. I love the joy of this one.

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


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Snow

Snow. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Lauren Stringer. 2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The best snow is the snow that comes softly in the night, like a shy friend afraid to knock, so she thinks she'll just wait in the yard until you see her. This is the snow that brings you peace.

Premise/plot: In Rylant's poetic picture book, snow--in all its varieties--is celebrated.
Children love snow better than anyone does, and they never complain as they pull on their red boots and mittens and make plans to catch wet flakes on their tongues and roll their small bodies to the bottom of a hill. The snow loves them back. It gives them angels and new friends.
My thoughts: I wasn't expecting to love this one, but I did. I loved the writing. I found it lyrical, descriptive, beautiful. One of my favorite sentences is, "And the snow, while it is here, reminds us of this: that nothing lasts forever except memories." I also loved the illustrations. I found them beautiful, enchanting. In many spreads, readers see a young girl and her grandmother. The text tells us nothing about them personally, but the illustrations communicate so much. (The illustrations also reveal they have a cat.)

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


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Be a King

Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. 2018. Bloomsbury. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can be a King. Marvel at creation. Keep the faith of your ancestors. You can be a King. Know that bigotry hurts. Remember how you felt when treated unfairly.

Premise/plot: Be a King is an inspirational picture book for readers of all ages. Each spread begins with the sentence: You can be a King. The book shows there are many ways that you can live out Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream right here, right now. His legacy can and will continue.

My thoughts: I definitely loved this one. I would recommend reading it at least twice, and at least one of those times should be slowly and thoughtfully--taking the time to consider how everything fits together. The illustrations show various scenes from his life, but also show school children learning about him. The past can impact the future.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Emily of New Moon

Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery. 1923. Bantam. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The house in the hollow was “a mile from anywhere” — so Maywood people said. It was situated in a grassy little dale, looking as if it had never been built like other houses but had grown up there like a big, brown mushroom. It was reached by a long, green lane and almost hidden from view by an encircling growth of young birches. No other house could be seen from it although the village was just over the hill.

Premise/plot: When Emily Starr's father dies, she goes to live with Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy at New Moon on Prince Edward Island. She makes friends (Ilse, Teddy, and Perry) and pursues writing as she faces the ordinary and sometimes not-so-ordinary challenges of growing up.

My thoughts: I do love Emily of New Moon. This Montgomery novel has so many cats and kittens! Another plus, in my opinion, is Emily's pursuit of writing. Writing is part of who she is. She can't quite decide if she wants to write poetry, to write novels, or to write both. But one thing is certain: she will write no matter the cost. 

How does Emily's personality compare to Anne Shirley's? Both have a fierceness to them. Anne is definitely more prone to making mistakes and getting into TROUBLE. Emily actually reminded me more of one of Anne's daughters than Anne herself. Though I can't remember which one at the moment. (I'm thinking of a moment in Anne of Ingleside or maybe Rainbow Valley?)

There's something cozy about reading this one even if there's some sadness to it. In addition to the sadness, there's also a touch of creepiness. Though I wonder if Dean Priest came across as super-creepy to the original readers in the 1920s.

Favorite quotes:
“A living present is so nice,” she told Ellen, “because it keeps on getting nicer all the time.”
But Emily had inherited certain things from her fine old ancestors — the power to fight — to suffer, — to pity — to love very deeply — to rejoice — to endure. These things were all in her and looked out at you through her purplish-grey eyes.
“I wish people could remember from the very moment they’re born,” said Emily. “It would be so very interesting.” “I dare say we’d have a lot of uncomfortable memories,” said her father, laughing a little.
Death isn’t terrible. The universe is full of love — and spring comes everywhere — and in death you open and shut a door. There are beautiful things on the other side of the door. I’ll find your mother there — I’ve doubted many things, but I’ve never doubted that.
“She will love deeply — she will suffer terribly — she will have glorious moments to compensate — as I have had. As her mother’s people deal with her, so may God deal with them,” he murmured brokenly.
“I don’t want to learn sense and be done a world of good to,” cried Emily with a quivering lip. “I — I want somebody to love me.”
“I don’t want any of your pertness, miss. You are not to kiss cats at all.” “But Aunt Elizabeth, I didn’t kiss her on her mouth, of course. I just kissed her between her ears. It’s nice — won’t you just try it for once and see for yourself?”
I read the story of Red Riding Hood to-day. I think the wolf was the most interesting character in it. Red Riding Hood was a stupid little thing so easily fooled.
I like Perry but in a different way from Teddy. Isn’t it funny, dear Father, how many kinds of ways of liking there are?
“I see you have a cat.” “Wrong.” Father Cassidy shook his head and groaned dismally. “A cat has me.”
“Keep on — keep on writing poetry.” “You mean — ?” Emily was breathless. “I mean you’ll be able to do something by and by. Something — I don’t know how much — but keep on — keep on.”
I think maybe I’ll write novels when I grow up as well as poetry. But Aunt Elizabeth won’t let me read any novels so how can I find out how to write them? Another thing that worries me, if I do grow up and write a wonderful poem, perhaps people won’t see how wonderful it is.
Things that were inside of you were not to be read about.
I can read all the books in Aunt Nancy’s bookcase except the row on the top shelf. I wonder why I can’t read them. Aunt Nancy said they were French novels but I just peeped into one and it was English. I wonder if Aunt Nancy tells lies.
To love is easy and therefore common — but to understand — how rare it is!
“I’ve had only books for companions most of my life,” he said. “Is it any wonder I talk like them?”
“The happiest countries, like the happiest women, have no history,” said Dean. “I hope I’ll have a history,” cried Emily. “I want a thrilling career.”
“Kittens don’t want to be worshipped,” she said. “They just want to be cuddled.”
“I wouldn’t want to be anybody but myself even if I am plain. Besides,” she added impressively as she turned to go out of the room, “though I may not be very good-looking now, when I go to heaven I believe I’ll be very beautiful.”
Outgrowing things we love is never a pleasant process.
“For heaven’s sake, girl, don’t write what you can’t understand yourself. And this — To Life—’Life, as thy gift I ask no rainbow joy’ — is that sincere? Is it, girl? Stop and think. Do you ask ‘no rainbow joy’ of life?” “No — o,” she answered reluctantly, “I do want rainbow joy — lots of it.” “Of course you do. We all do. We don’t get it — you won’t get it — but don’t be hypocrite enough to pretend you don’t want it, even in a sonnet.
“Why, I have to write — I can’t help it at times — I’ve just got to.”
There are those who must lift their eyes to the hills — they can’t breathe properly in the valleys. God help them if there’s some weakness in them that prevents their climbing.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Dear Girl,

Dear Girl. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal. Illustrated by Holly Hatam. 2017. [December 2017] HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Girl, Keep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!

Premise/plot: Each spread in this picture book is a short message, a letter, if you will addressed to Dear Girl.
Dear Girl, Find people like you. Find people unlike you. 
Dear Girl, You won't be invited to every single party on the planet. (Which is really okay--can you imagine how exhausting that would be?)
Dear Girl, Sometimes you've just gotta stop...and DANCE! 
My thoughts:  This picture book is for readers of all ages. The messages are geared towards girls, but most of the advice is relevant to everyone. It would be fun to extend the experience by writing and illustrating letters of your own.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently Reading #4

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]

Something New
How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Chapel Car Bride. Judith Miller. 2017. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed
Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2016. Banner of Truth. 296 pages. [Source: Library]

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

Something True


Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Week in Review: January 14-20

Favorite Book of the Week: 

What I've Read and Reviewed 

Board books and picture books:

7. That Is My Dream! Langston Hughes. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. Inspector Brunswick: Case of the Missing Eyebrow. Angela Keoghan. Illustrated by Chris Sam Lam. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
9. Board book: Gobbly Goat. Axel Scheffler. 2018. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Early readers and chapter books:

4. Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot The Horn. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #7) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1998. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
5. Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #8) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1998. HMH. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
6. McBroom's Ghost. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Robert Frankenberg. 1971. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

Speculative Fiction:

5. The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof. Annie M G Schmidt. Translated by David Colmer. 1970/2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

Classics:

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

Historical fiction:

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

Mysteries:

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

Nonfiction:

2. Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3. Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. Catherine Reef. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Christian Nonfiction:
6. Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions #2) R.C. Sproul. 2009. Reformation Trust. 65 pages. [Source: Free download]
7. Spurgeon On the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) Michael Reeves. 2018. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Lois Tverberg. 2018. Baker Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]


What I've Blogged
What I've Watched
  • The Paradise, the rest of series 1
  • Call the Midwife, series 2
  • Forrest Gump
  • Captain Blood
What I've Drank:
  • English Breakfast (7)
  • Green Tea (17)
  • Rooibos Madagascar Vanilla  (5)
  • Candy Cane Lane (3)
  • PG Tips (2)
  • Sweet Harvest Pumpkin (1)
  • Earl Grey (1)
  • Peppermint (1)
  • Salted Caramel (1)
  • Buttermint/Cozy Chamomile (2)


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

My Victorian Year #3

This week I reviewed two biographies of prominent Victorians: Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale. Both were by Catherine Reef.

I continued on in two Victorian novels. I am currently reading Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm and Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton.

From Orley Farm:
  • He did not easily believe a fellow-creature to be a liar, but a liar to him once was a liar always. (Sir Peregrine)
  • “No, not wrong; I cannot say that you have done wrong. It may be a question whether you have done wisely.”
  • It is all very well for the world to say that a girl should be happy without reference to her clothes.
  • A clever counsel can turn a witness pretty nearly any way he likes, but he can’t do that with little facts.
  • “You shouldn’t insult the gentleman because he has his own ideas,” said Johnson.
  • Small attacks of words there had been many, but hitherto the courage to speak out her griefs openly had been wanting to her. 
  • “The world is becoming a great deal too fond of what you call excitement and success. Of course it is a good thing for a man to make money by his profession, and a very hard thing when he can’t do it,” added Mrs. Furnival, thinking of the olden days. “But if success in life means rampaging about, and never knowing what it is to sit quiet over his own fireside, I for one would as soon manage to do without it.” 
  • But I do say that life should be lived at home. That is the best part of it. What is the meaning of home if it isn’t that?
 From Mary Barton:
  • It is so pleasant to have a friend who possesses the power of setting a difficult question in a clear light; whose judgment can tell what is best to be done; and who is so convinced of what is "wisest, best," that in consideration of the end, all difficulties in the way diminish.
  • People admire talent, and talk about their admiration. But they value common sense without talking about it, and often without knowing it. 
  • 'Well, dear, you must mind this, when you're going to fret and be low about anything—An anxious mind is never a holy mind.'
  • The vices of the poor sometimes astound us HERE; but when the secrets of all hearts shall be made known, their virtues will astound us in far greater degree. Of this I am certain.
  • Errands of mercy—errands of sin—did you ever think where all the thousands of people you daily meet are bound?
  • Such is the contrariness of the human heart, from Eve downwards, that we all, in our old Adam state, fancy things forbidden sweetest.
  • This disparity between the amount of the earnings of the working classes and the price of their food, occasioned, in more cases than could well be imagined, disease and death. Whole families went through a gradual starvation. They only wanted a Dante to record their sufferings. And yet even his words would fall short of the awful truth;
 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep it Short #3

This week I'll be sharing my thoughts on three fairy tales from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book: "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," "The Yellow Dwarf," and "Little Red Riding Hood."

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

First sentence: Once upon a time there was a poor husbandman who had many children and little to give them in the way either of food or clothing. They were all pretty, but the prettiest of all was the youngest daughter, who was so beautiful that there were no bounds to her beauty.


Premise/plot: The youngest daughter marries a White Bear. All goes remarkably well...until curiosity gets the best of her and she takes her mother's advice. But she does truly love her husband, and she's really to do anything--no matter how hard--for a chance to get him back. Will true love prevail?

My thoughts: This is one of my favorite fairy tales. There are different variations, of course. And it has been adapted quite a few times as a novel.

The Yellow Dwarf

First sentence: Once upon a time there lived a queen who had been the mother of a great many children, and of them all only one daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a thousand.
Her mother, who, since the death of the King, her father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much as this little Princess, was so terribly afraid of losing her that she quite spoiled her, and never tried to correct any of her faults. The consequence was that this little person, who was as pretty as possible, and was one day to wear a crown, grew up so proud and so much in love with her own beauty that she despised everyone else in the world. 

Premise/plot: Bellissima is a princess who seems destined to love no one but herself for eternity. Her mother, in a despair of sorts, seeks the advice of the Fairy of the Desert. Things don't go as planned. (Do they ever in a fairy tale?! If only people knew when they were in a fairy tale, then they wouldn't make plans, or as many plans.) To get to the Fairy of the Desert, she has to get past the lions, to get past the lions, she needs a certain cake, when that certain cake goes missing...well, enter the YELLOW DWARF. To save herself from being eaten, she promises that Bellissima will marry HIM. (In retrospect, I wonder if she regrets NOT being eaten?) She returns to her daughter more depressed than ever. Her daughter seeks the advice of the FAIRY OF THE DESERT on how to cheer her mother up. (Second verse, same as the first.) This time to avoid being eaten by the lions, she promises to marry the Yellow Dwarf.) Neither the Queen or Princess want to follow through with this, and, suddenly when faced with the idea of marriage to a Yellow Dwarf, the other candidates start looking amazing. She falls deeply in love....but will their marriage take place?! Not if the Yellow Dwarf has his way. And readers do finally meet the much mentioned Fairy of the Desert.

My thoughts: This story was completely new to me. And I could see why no one would go out of their way to introduce it to me as a child. It is a MESSY story that ends, well, as a tragedy. What I wasn't expecting was the sudden appearance of a mermaid....

 Little Red Riding Hood

First sentence: Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had made for her a little red riding-hood; which became the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding-Hood. One day her mother, having made some custards, said to her: “Go, my dear, and see how thy grandmamma does, for I hear she has been very ill; carry her a custard, and this little pot of butter.”

Premise/plot: A little girl, while on an errand for her mother, meets a wolf in the woods and the results are predictable.

My thoughts: Who doesn't know the story of Little Red Riding Hood? There are many, many variations of details for this one. So what struck me as I was reading this version were the differences. Like the custard and the pot of butter. I also was NOT expecting Little Red Riding Hood to get naked. She arrives at her grandmother's house, gets naked, hops into bed with her "granny" and then the questions begin.
“Grandmamma, what great arms you have got!”
“That is the better to hug thee, my dear.”
“Grandmamma, what great legs you have got!”
“That is to run the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great ears you have got!”
“That is to hear the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great eyes you have got!”
“It is to see the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great teeth you have got!”
“That is to eat thee up.”
And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding-Hood, and ate her all up.
There is no heroic rescue for Little Red Riding Hood OR her grandmother. This is THE END.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #2

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

Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell. 2 hours. Dramatised by Jonathan Holloway. (Two one hour episodes.) 

I read 1984 last year. There were things I definitely liked about it, and quite a few things I didn't like about it. One of the things I didn't love about the book was the adult content, the "smut." That is difficult--if not impossible to ignore--in a RADIO drama. One can easily skim, breeze over, that kind of content in a book. One can't really say the same of an "assault" on the ears. But sexual restrictions or sexual freedoms weren't the main point of the book or the drama. I didn't mean to imply they were. It was also difficult to listen to the second episode because that is where all the physical and mental torture happens. The drama was great at capturing the action, suspense, and drama of the story. It wasn't as great at capturing the ideas, concepts, and philosophies. The novel itself is reflective in many, many places. Readers are alone with Winston in his mind as he writes in his forbidden journal, as he's thinking throughout the day. And it is his thoughts and ideas that interested me most as I read the book. The radio drama was well-paced, never a dull moment.

The Pale Horse. Agatha Christie. Dramatised by Joy Wilkinson. 90 minutes. (Three, thirty minute episodes).

I have not read Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse. I can't say if it does the book justice. That might work out for the best. I really LOVED listening to this drama. It is a murder mystery. That essentially guarantees drama and suspense. But would it be easy to follow the clues in an audio book?! I must admit that I couldn't stand the suspense at one point, and I searched for a summary of the book to see how it ended! I've been known to do the same with an actual book. Maybe not for every mystery. But for quite a few. What did surprise me is how I really came to like a few of the characters: Mark and Ginger. I was not expecting...well...I would hate to spoil it for anyone. But Christie doesn't always offer more than just a mystery.

I have also listened to the first half of Frankenstein, but I'll talk about that drama next week--after I listen to the second half--which airs tomorrow.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Cat Who Came In Off The Roof

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof. Annie M G Schmidt. Translated by David Colmer. 1970/2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Tibble! Where's Tibble? Has anyone seen Tibble? The boss wants to talk to him. Where's he got to? Tibble!"

Premise/plot: Don't mistake Tibble for a cat; he's a very human reporter for a newspaper. If he can keep his job that is. Tibble's news stories don't qualify as "news" according to his boss. But his reporting takes a turn for the better after he befriends a young woman, Miss Minou. He first sees her up a tree. Up a tree?! Yes, she'd been chased there by a mad dog. And that isn't the only odd thing about Minou. She also likes to climb in and out of windows, hang out with cats on the roof, and sleep curled up in a box. The premise of this one: Minou used to be a cat; now she's a human. She can still communicate with cats--hence why Tibble is suddenly good at his job. All the cats in town are talking to Minou about their humans, what they see and hear.

My thoughts: The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof is newly translated into English; it was originally published in Dutch in 1970. This is an odd little fantasy for children. But overall I liked it.

Tibbles meets Minou when she "came in off the roof" and into his window. If Minou were still a cat, it wouldn't be odd that he takes in a stray. He keeps her because she's super useful to him. Not that knowing her is without risk: Minou doesn't make a good impression on most people. For one thing, she rubs herself against people--literally. Tibbles keeps trying to train her to be more human and less cattish.

I think this would make a lovely cartoon special. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. Catherine Reef. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Things happening at night had the look of old paintings.

Premise/plot: Catherine Reef has written a biography of Florence Nightingale. I would recommend it to those interested in Florence Nightingale (obviously), the Victorian period in general, the Crimean War specifically, and last but not least those interested in women's roles and rights in the nineteenth century. Readers learn about Florence Nightingale's struggle to follow God's call on her life: to be a nurse.

At the time she was growing up, nurses were held in little respect. Nurses were held to have few morals--be drunkards and prostitutes. Nurses also did not have to be trained professionals. So to say her parents were shocked or disappointed or frustrated with their daughter would be on target. Florence didn't want what other young women wanted; her interests were her own. Though her parents didn't always accept her, there were other adults in her life who did; there were those who encouraged her and enabled her, in fact, to pursue a career in nursing. (She received training in a nursing school in Germany).

One relationship that stayed rocky for decades was her relationship with her sister. Those two did not get along, and her sister really did not understand why her sister had to be so weird. There were times these two seemed allergic to one another's company.

There was a LOT of name dropping in this one. Even before she became THE FAMOUS FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE of Crimean war fame, she met some famous or would-be-famous Victorians. And Victorians being Victorians, there are diaries and letters about such meetings and impressions.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love it. Perhaps I'm just more interested in Queen Victoria? Perhaps it was just bad timing on my part. I am glad I read it. I don't regret my time. It just didn't captivate or fascinate me.

If Catherine Reef would like to write more books about Victorians, I can think of a few suggestions: George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Ada Lovelace, to name a few. 

OR possibly Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, or Mary Shelley if you opened up the field.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2018

This week's topic is bookish resolutions for 2018. The host is That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. C.S. Lewis This quote was the inspiration for my new reading challenge. It is my approach for reading in 2018. So far, so good. I am LOVING keeping track on GoodReads. At a glance, I can tell that as of today--I've read 20 new books and 11 old ones.

2. To always be reading something old, something new, something borrowed, something true. That will keep me balanced not just new and old--see above--but balanced between reading my own books and library books, and nonfiction and fiction.

3. To go outside my comfort zone and read more short stories and listen to more books on audio.

4. To read the 2018 books as I receive them, not letting them pile up and get to be super over-whelming.

5. To keep up with my reading challenges and not play favorites. Not only keep up by reading the books, but also *reviewing* the books, and adding links to the challenge post.

6. To reread at least 24 of my favorite, favorite, favorite books.

7. To read new-to-me authors.

8. To be intentional about scheduling posts ahead. In a perfect, perfect scenario, I would LOVE to save two or three reviews each month and schedule them to post in December. So that December could be less stressful in terms of blogging.

9. To share more quotes in my reviews when I really love a book.

10. To read more classics.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Man in the Queue

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

First sentence: IT was between seven and eight o'clock on a March evening, and all over London the bars were being drawn back from pit and gallery doors. Bang, thud, and clank. Grim sounds to preface an evening's amusement.

Premise/plot: Some murder mysteries make you wait for the murder to occur. That is not the case with Josephine Tey's The Man in the Queue. In the first chapter, the body is discovered. As the line--the queue--moves forward, a man collapses to the ground: he's dead. He was murdered--stabbed--while in line. Inspector Grant faces days of frustration before a few clues come to light. How could a man be murdered in public--with dozens of possible witnesses--and no one notice a thing?!

This mystery introduces the detective Inspector Alan Grant.

My thoughts: The Man in the Queue was the very first mystery novel I ever read. I enjoyed it well enough to become enthusiastic about a new-to-me genre. I have since read all the Inspector Grant books in the series. The Daughter of Time is my favorite and best. Not just my favorite and best Grant novel, but my favorite mystery of all time. (Those that have read it may question the appeal since this mystery takes place while Grant is in the hospital, and the mystery is centuries old. But I stand by my choice.) I would recommend The Man in the Queue.

Favorite quotes:
"Are you hurt?" Grant asked.
"Only my ribs," said Struwwelpeter. "The abnormal excitation of the intercostal muscles has nearly broken them." He struggled to his feet.
"Well, that's twenty minutes wasted," said Grant, "but I had to satisfy myself." He followed the hobbling artist through the dark passage again.
"No time is wasted that earns such a wealth of gratitude as I feel for you," said Struwwelpeter. "I was in the depths when you arrived. I can never paint on Monday mornings. There should be no such thing. Monday mornings should be burnt out of the calendar with prussic acid. And you have made a Monday morning actually memorable! It is a great achievement. Sometime when you are not too busy breaking the law, come back, and I'll paint your portrait. You have a charming head."
A thought occurred to Grant. "I suppose you couldn't draw Sorrell from memory?"
His heart did not jump—that would be doing him an injustice; C.I.D. hearts are guaranteed not to jump, tremble, or otherwise misbehave even when the owner is looking down the uncompromising opening of a gun-barrel—but it certainly was guilty of unauthorized movement. It may have been resentment at his own weakness in being taken aback by a photograph, but Grant's eyes were very hard as he looked at the smiling face—that famous, indeterminate smile. And though his mouth may have curved, he was not smiling as he read the many captions: "Miss Ray Marcable, a studio photograph"; "Miss Marcable as Dodo in Didn't You Know?"; "Miss Marcable in the Row"; and lastly, occupying half the centre page, "Miss Marcable departs from Waterloo en route for Southampton"; and there was Ray, one dainty foot on the step of the Pullman, and her arms full of flowers.
 "Well, Inspector," he said, "how are you getting on? Do you know, you and dentists must be the most unhappy people in the world. No one sees you without remembering unpleasant things."
"Tut, tut, Grant, you've been at the Yard for I don't know how many years, and you're looking at this late stage for reasonable murders. 
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Victoria

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

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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. 

Quotes:
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

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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

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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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