Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Ladies' Paradise

The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola. 1883/2012. Oxford University Press. 438 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Denise had come on foot from the Gare Saint-Lazare. She and her two brothers had arrived on a train from Cherbourg and had spent the night on the hard bench of a third-class carriage. She was holding Pepe by the hand, and Jean was walking behind her, all three exhausted from the journey, frightened, and lost in the midst of the vast city of Paris.

Premise/plot: Denise Baudu and her two brothers have come from the country to the big city believing that their uncle will make room in his heart and his home for them. That is not the case. But Denise is able to be hired on as a sales girl at the Ladies Paradise, a one-stop-shopping-palace that is bedazzling. At first she struggles enormously. The others hate her, tease her, torment her. Because of how her fellow sales girls treat her, she barely makes any commissions and doesn't receive a salary. She is working to support herself and her two brothers. And one of her brothers is selfish and greedy and a PEST. Denise's boss is Octave Mouret; he is the charismatic "genius" behind the Ladies' Paradise. His presence gets Denise a bit flustered--first from severe shyness and embarrassment, then from attraction. The attraction is mutual, though not from the start. Mouret is not used to being flustered himself. It doesn't take much chasing, much effort, on his part to get what he wants: until Denise.

My thoughts: I LOVED this one. I did. It is different from the recent BBC adaptation. It is set in Paris, not London, and the mentalities and moralities reflect that difference. That is not to say that The Ladies Paradise is a smutty, sensual read. It isn't. Anything that occurs of that nature happens off the page or behind the scenes.

Other than Denise and Mouret, there are very few characters in common. Mouret does have a wealthy love interest in the book. But she is a widow who has for years had various lovers come and go. Mouret is one of those lovers, but he's never seen as a suitor. And the idea of marriage hasn't occurred to either.

Another difference is Denise's uncle. In the adaptation, he is sweet, gentle, and stubborn bachelor. He's even given a love story of his own. In the book, he's married with a wife and daughter. He is even MORE stubborn than in the show. And he's selfish and thoughtless. He's so focused in on "saving" his business that he doesn't care about his family. His daughter has spent most of her life engaged to a storekeeper, an apprentice of her father, this of her father's doing. He keeps the two from wedding, and the guy falls madly, deeply, passionately in love with a hussy salesgirl from across the street. This does NOT end well.

Is it a romance? I would say yes. It is perhaps a slow-moving romance. But once the romance starts, it really gets started. If I'd read this as a young teen, I'm sure I would have read my copy until it was battered and falling apart.

Quotes:

Mouret describes himself:

'What! Do I enjoy myself! What's this nonsense you're saying? You're in a sorry state! Of course I enjoy myself, even when things go wrong, because then I'm furious at seeing them go wrong. I'm a passionate fellow; I don't take life calmly, and perhaps that's just why I'm interested in it.' (67)
Mouret's potential investor makes an observation about the Paradise:

'You sell cheaply in order to sell a lot and you sell a lot in order to sell cheaply....But you must sell, and I repeat my question: whom will you sell to? How do you hope to keep up such colossal sales? (74)
Mouret on selling:
"You can sell as much as you like when you know how to sell! There lies our success." (75) 
If he could have found a way of making the street run right through his shop, he would have done so. (236)
One of the customers:
You're right, there's no system in this shop. You lose your way, and do all sorts of silly things. (260)
Mouret on life and love:
'Of course, I've never lived so intensely...Ah! Don't laugh, old man, the moments when you seem to die of suffering are the briefest of all!' (322)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America

Alexander Hamilton:The Hero Who Helped Shape America. 2017. Harry Abrams. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  On a mild summer morning just after dawn, two men met on the dueling grounds in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Premise/plot: Teri Kanefield has written a biography of Alexander Hamilton for children. (I'd say the intended audience was the eight to twelve age group.) In a way, the book is both a biography of a man, Alexander Hamilton, and a nation, the newly formed United States of America. How did Alexander Hamilton help shape America? What legacy did he leave behind him? Are his ideas still impacting and influencing our nation and our politics today?

My thoughts: I love HAMILTON. I would recommend this one to any fan of the musical. It is well-written and researched, and the pacing is great. It's a quick read. Books like this one give nonfiction a good reputation. Where were books like this when I was a kid?!?!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Currently Reading #8


Something Old
Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

Long Way Down. Jason Reynolds. 2017. [October 24] 320 pages. [Source: Library]
 Something Borrowed

The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola. 1883/2012. Oxford University Press. 438 pages. [Source: Library]
When Tides Turn. (Waves of Freedom #3) Sarah Sundin. 2017. Revell. 285 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True 

NASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Soul's Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself By Faith. Richard Sibbes. 328 pages. [Source: Bought]

Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. Nick Roark and Robert Cline. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Week in Review: February 11-17

Favorite book of the week:

Book Reviews:
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Buster and the Baby. Amy Hest. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. 2017. [October 24, 2017] Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Gorilla Did It. Barbara Shook Hazen. Illustrated by Ray Cruz. 1974. 32 pages. [Source: Childhood copy]
Shake the Tree. Chiara Vignocchi. Paolo Chiarinotti. Silvia Borando. 2018. Candlewick Press. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Make and Play Easter. Joey Chou. Nosy Crow. 2018. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Jane Austen at Home. Lucy Worsley. 2017. 387 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]So Big. Edna Ferber. 1924/2005. Kessinger Publishing. 376 pages. [Source: Library] 
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Derrick Barnes. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Kings and Queens of Britain: A Victorian Mneumonic or Learning Verse. New lines by Frances Barnes-Murphy. Illustrated by Rowan Barnes-Murphy. 1996. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]
John Bunyan's A Pilgrim's Progress. Geraldine McCaughrean. Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft. 1999/2005. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
The Sea Before Us. (Sunrise at Normandy #1) Sarah Sundin. 2018. Revell. 375 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Moment of Truth. Steven J. Lawson. 2018. Reformation Trust. 238 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Features:
My Victorian Year #7 (Becky's Book Reviews)
Keep It Short #7
Me? Listen to Audio?! #6
Currently #7
My Victorian Year #7 (Operation Actually Read Bible)
True or False with Steven Lawson

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

My Victorian Year #7

I'm continuing to make some progress in each of my three Victorian novels.

The one I must finish first is The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola. I had not realized the due date for this inter-library loan was so soon! I have now read over half the book. Most of that being read in one day. Having something that good to read helped me get over my increasing frustration at the lack of figure skating coverage at the Olympics.

I have two quotes to share with you. In the first, Mouret describes himself:
'What! Do I enjoy myself! What's this nonsense you're saying? You're in a sorry state! Of course I enjoy myself, even when things go wrong, because then I'm furious at seeing them go wrong. I'm a passionate fellow; I don't take life calmly, and perhaps that's just why I'm interested in it.' (67)
In the second, Mouret's potential investor makes an observation about the Paradise:
'You sell cheaply in order to sell a lot and you sell a lot in order to sell cheaply....But you must sell, and I repeat my question: whom will you sell to? How do you hope to keep up such colossal sales? (74)
Mouret's answer, of course, is to sell to WOMEN. "You can sell as much as you like when you know how to sell! There lies our success." (75)

Mary Barton. I've read a few chapters this week. I would love to finish it this month as well.
It is the woes that cannot in any earthly way be escaped that admit least earthly comforting. Of all trite, worn-out, hollow mockeries of comfort that were ever uttered by people who will not take the trouble of sympathising with others, the one I dislike the most is the exhortation not to grieve over an event, "for it cannot be helped."
I mourn because what has occurred cannot be helped. The reason you give me for not grieving, is the very sole reason of my grief.
Oh! surest way of conversion to our faith, whatever it may be— regarding either small things, or great—when it is beheld as the actuating principle, from which we never swerve! When it is seen that, instead of overmuch profession, it is worked into the life, and moves every action!
Oh! how often I've been hurt, by being coldly told by persons not to trouble myself about their care, or sorrow, when I saw them in great grief, and wanted to be of comfort.
Our Lord Jesus was not above letting folk minister to Him, for He knew how happy it makes one to do aught for another. It's the happiest work on earth.
 Orley Farm. Oops! I didn't read a single chapter in that book this week. Oh well.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #7

I have read two L.M. Montgomery short stories this week. Both were good. One was fantastic.

A Soul That Was Not At Home

First sentence: There was a very fine sunset on the night Paul and Miss Trevor first met, and she had lingered on the headland beyond Noel's Cove to delight in it.

Premise/plot: Miss Trevor meets a young imaginative boy, Paul, who is being raised near the shore by his single father. His best company is his father and the ROCK PEOPLE he meets daily--or near daily. Miss Trevor is charmed and wants to adopt him, but, can Paul leave the shore behind him? Or would Nora and the other rock people miss him too much. (His 'father' is not his biological father, more of a foster father.)

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this first glimpse of Paul. He is not quite the same Paul Irving we later meet in Anne of Avonlea or the same Paul that would come back to visit in Anne's House of Dreams. But you can recognize this story as being the birth of him. Miss Trevor is not of any great importance. She is no Anne Shirley or Miss Lavendar.

Abel and His Great Adventure

First sentence: "Come out of doors, master—come out of doors. I can't talk or think right with walls around me—never could. Let's go out to the garden." These were almost the first words I ever heard Abel Armstrong say. He was a member of the board of school trustees in Stillwater, and I had not met him before this late May evening, when I had gone down to confer with him upon some small matter of business. For I was "the new schoolmaster" in Stillwater, having taken the school for the summer term.

Premise/plot: A young school master learns life-lessons from an old soul, Abel Armstrong. The two meet together often in his garden.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. Abel Armstrong relates most clearly and strongly to Captain Jim from Anne's House of Dreams. 

Quotes:
This man had given up much and felt it deeply; but he had outlived the pain and the blessing of sacrifice had come to him.
"Now, you needn't talk if you don't want to," he said. "And I won't. We'll just sit here, sociable like, and if we think of anything worth while to say we'll say it. Otherwise, not. If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and feel comfortable, you and that person can be friends. If you can't, friends you'll never be, and you needn't waste time in trying."
"Great place for dreaming," said Abel complacently. "Being young, no doubt, you dream a-plenty." I answered hotly and bitterly that I had done with dreams. "No, you haven't," said Abel meditatively. "You may think you have. What then? First thing you know you'll be dreaming again—thank the Lord for it. I ain't going to ask you what's soured you on dreaming just now. After awhile you'll begin again, especially if you come to this garden as much as I hope you will. It's chockful of dreams—any kind of dreams. You take your choice. Now, I favour dreams of adventures, if you'll believe it. I'm sixty-one and I never do anything rasher than go out cod-fishing on a fine day, but I still lust after adventures. Then I dream I'm an awful fellow—blood-thirsty."
Abel shook his head. "I had a dog once. I cared so much for him that when he died I couldn't bear the thought of ever getting another in his place. He was a friend—you understand? The Captain's only a pal. I'm fond of the Captain—all the fonder because of the spice of deviltry there is in all cats. But I loved my dog. There isn't any devil in a good dog. That's why they're more lovable than cats—but I'm darned if they're as interesting."
Do you think any man could keep mad if he sat and looked into the heart of a pansy for ten minutes? When you feel like talking, I'll talk, and when you feel like thinking, I'll let you. I'm a great hand to leave folks alone.
You're young and I'm old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon, and we'll find lots to say to each other.
Pain should not depress us unduly, nor pleasure lure us into forgetfulness and sloth.
Abel used to say. "My father held that we should never talk of things we couldn't understand. But, lord, master, if we didn't the subjects for conversation would be mighty few."
Life may be a vale of tears, all right, master, but there are some folks who enjoy weeping, I reckon.
But when I reached the arbour I saw that he was not asleep. There was a strange, wise little smile on his lips as if he had attained to the ultimate wisdom and were laughing in no unkindly fashion at our old blind suppositions and perplexities. Abel had gone on his Great Adventure.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio? #6

Here's what I listened to this week.

Moll Flanders. Daniel Defoe. Adapted by Nick Perry. Starring Ben Miles as Daniel Defoe and Jessica Hynes as Moll Flanders.Two episodes, an hour each.

I read Moll Flanders in college during my undergraduate years. I enjoyed it then, perhaps because it was the exact opposite of the types of classics I'd been assigned to read in high school--in particular, Robinson Crusoe. I have no doubt it would fail to meet my standards today in terms of content. Moll Flanders is the story of a fallen woman. She was abandoned by her mother, raised in poverty, manages somehow, someway to get into service, is seduced by her master's son, marries the other master's son....long story short. It's a tangled tale. Perhaps the low point is when Moll realizes she's married to her brother and has had several of his children. Perhaps. There are actually many low points. This adaptation portrays Daniel Defoe having writer's block. He's stumped for what to write and publish next after the success of Robinson Crusoe. He meets a prostitute, gets inspired, and uses her as his muse for his next book. If I wouldn't read it again--because of smut levels--why would I listen to it? Well. I blame it solely on Ben Miles. I adore him.

Brothers Karamazov. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dramatized by Melissa Murray. Directed by Marc Beeby and Colin Guthrie. Starring Roy Marsden as Fyodor Karamazov. Five one hour episodes.

I listened to the first episode this week. I haven't gotten to the other episodes yet. But I need to do better about listening because I am running out of time!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Derrick Barnes. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When it's your turn in the chair, you stand at attention and forget about who you were when you walked through that door. You came in as a lump of clay, a blank canvas, a slab of marble. But when my man is done with you, they'll want to post you up in a museum! 

Premise/plot: A young boy--a man in the making--talks about the pride and happiness he feels every time he walks into and out of a barber shop. 

My thoughts: This past Monday, Crown got a lot of love on awards day. How much love? A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. A Coretta Scott King Author Honor. A Caldecott Honor. A Newbery Honor. I had actually noticed this one at the library on display, picked it up and turned a few pages, and put it back down a few days before. So I can't boast that I knew about the book before it won all the glory.

My recommendation: Before you read a single word of this one, read the author's note. But if you can't help reading it cover-to-cover, at the very least don't skip the author's note. I had never really thought of the picture book format as being a place for a coming-of-age story, but after reading this one, I see that it can be.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

So Big

So Big. Edna Ferber. 1924/2005. Kessinger Publishing. 376 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Until he was almost ten the name stuck to him.

Premise/plot: So Big won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924. After her father's death, Selina Peake, the novel's heroine, becomes a school teacher in the High Prairie of Illinois. The settlement is mostly--if not exclusively--Dutch Reformed. That first winter she begins teaching a young farmer, Pervus DeJong, in the evenings. They fall in love and marry. A year later they have a son, Dirk, who is nicknamed "So Big" when he's a toddler. Most of the novel focuses on what happens to this mother and son after Pervus dies. Selina has grit, determination, and smarts. But will it be enough to thrive in the world? Selina's driving ambition: make it possible for Dirk to have a better life than hers with more opportunities for success and happiness.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one in parts and pieces. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the book actually had an ending. Whether or not the ending was happy or sad, I need books to have a proper ending...and not just end with a character taking a nap, or trying to take a nap.

As for the writing, it was okay for me. I didn't find it "rollicking" or "stunning" or "brilliant" or "unforgettable." Perhaps there should be a law that I never read back covers.

Quotes:
Except you stop living you can't run away from life. (77)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Kings & Queens of Britain

Kings and Queens of Britain: A Victorian Mneumonic or Learning Verse. New lines by Frances Barnes-Murphy. Illustrated by Rowan Barnes-Murphy. 1996. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: William the Conqueror long did reign/ William Rufus by an arrow was slain/ Henry I was a scholar bright/ Stephen was king without any right/

Premise/plot: This is a picture book adaptation of a Victorian mneumonic verse that has been updated by Frances Barnes-Murphy. The purpose of the original--and of the update--is to aid in the memorization of the kings and queens. Each monarch has his or her own page. The line of the poem about that monarch is on the top of the page. Facts--or opinions--about each monarch further litter the heavily illustrated pages. I could find no original author or source. I believe there are variations. I've included the original below, but NOT the updated text which is new.
William the Conqueror long did reign,
William, his son, by an arrow was slain;
Henry the First was a scholar bright;
Stephen was king without any right.
Henry the Second, Plantagenet's scion;
Richard the First was as brave as a lion;
John, though a tyrant, the Charter signed;
Henry the Third had a weakly mind.
Edward the First conquered Cambria dales;
Edward the Second was born Prince of Wales;
Edward the Third humbled France in its pride;
Richard the Second in prison died.
Henry the Fourth for himself took the crown;
Henry the Fifth pulled the French king down;
Henry the Sixth lost his father's gains.
Edward of York laid hold of the reins;
Edward the Fifth was killed with his brother;
Richard the Third soon made way for another.
Henry the Seventh was frugal of means;
Henry the Eighth had a great many queens.
Edward the Sixth reformation began;
Cruel Queen Mary prevented the plan.
Wise and profound were Elizabeth's aims.
England and Scotland were joined by King James.
Charles found the people a cruel corrector;
Oliver Cromwell was called Lord Protector;
Charles the Second was hid in an oak,
James the Second took Popery's yoke.
William and Mary were offered the throne,
Anne succeeded and reigned alone.
George the First from Hanover came;
George the Second kept up the name;
George the Third was loved in the land,
George the Fourth was pompous and grand,
William the Fourth had no heir of his own,
So Queen Victoria ascended the throne.
My thoughts: I'll be honest. I am fairly confident I know my Kings and Queens in order. I'd much rather be quizzed on that than on the order of American presidents. More honesty for you: I'm glad the days of pop quizzes are over for me.

I wanted to really love this one. I did. But. The illustrations are HORRIBLE. And not in a horrible history way. Someone should have told the author/illustrator/publisher that more isn't always better. In fact, sometimes it's much, much worse. The problem for me is the layout is so cluttered, so busy. The font choice is difficult to read. The font is printed often in curves and waves instead of a straight line. Sometimes the font is printed in the wrong direction altogether.

The text itself was enjoyable. Just not the layout or design.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jane Austen at Home

Jane Austen at Home. Lucy Worsley. 2017. 387 pages. [Source: LIBRARY]
First sentence: The world of Jane Austen's novels, seen in countless feature films, is domestic, well-ordered and snug. Her characters inhabit neat, genteel cottages, gentleman-like country mansions, and elegant townhouses in London or Bath. And her life is often seen through the same lens.

Premise/plot: Lucy Worsley examines Jane Austen's life through the lens of the homes she lived and the domestic circles she was a part of. Worsley writes, "For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe? A home of her own must have seemed to Jane to be always just out of reach. With only a tiny stash of capital hard earned by her writing, the death of her father forced her into a makeshift life in rented lodgings, or else shunted between the relations who used her as cheap childcare. It's not surprising, then, that the search for a home is an idea that's central to Jane's fiction."

The book focuses on her Austen's personal and professional life. She pays careful attention to both, taking careful consideration of the details and what they might show us today about her life. While the main focus is on Austen, some attention is also given to her fictional creations and the homes they lived in.

My thoughts: I would describe this one as personal but not presumptuous. I think it makes for compelling reading. I appreciated the amount of detail included. These are things that most biographies would spend very little--if any--time discussing and considering.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Currently reading #7

Something Old
Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New

The Sea Before Us. (Sunrise at Normandy #1) Sarah Sundin. 2018. Revell. 375 pages. [Source: Review copy]

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

Something Borrowed
The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola. 1883/2012. Oxford University Press. 438 pages. [Source: Library]
So Big. Edna Ferber. 1924/2005. Kessinger Publishing. 376 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True

NASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Moment of Truth. Steven J. Lawson. 2018. Reformation Trust. 238 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Week in Review: February 4-10

Favorite book of the week: 

At Becky's Book Reviews:
Just Dance. Patricia MacLachlan. 2017. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
A Tender Victory. Taylor Caldwell. 1956. 374 pages. [Source: Bought]
Check Me Out. Becca Wilhite. 2018. Shadow Mountain. [Source: Review copy]
World History Time Lines (Brain Power) Penny Clarke. 2006. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Currently #6
Me? Listen to Audio?! #5
My Victorian Year #6
 Keep it Short #6

At Young Readers:
My Friends Make Me Happy. Jan Thomas. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
My Toothbrush is Missing. (The Giggle Gang #4) Jan Thomas. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Amazing Animals: A Spin and Spot Book. Liza Charlesworth. Illustrated by Brandon Reese. 2017. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bobo and the New Baby. Rebecca Huang. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
McBroom's Zoo. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Kurt Werth. 1972. 40 pages. [Source: Bought] 

At Operation Actually Read Bible:
 My Victorian Year #6
True or False with Tozer 
Discipleship: What It Truly Means to Be A Christian. A.W. Tozer. 2018. [May] Moody Publishers. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Moses and the Burning Bush. R.C. Sproul. 2018. Reformation Trust. 103 pages. [Source: Review copy]


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Me? Listen to Audio #5

This week I finished listening to Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time. It was a wonderful experience overall. I would have it on in the background as I wrote reviews, checked email and facebook, worked on my family tree. Because of the way I was listening to it, there were some episodes I listened to more than once. In fact, there were a few episodes in the middle that I listened to a couple of times because I kept getting interrupted. The book is wonderful. The audio production reminded me of that, which is good. But it's also bad in that now I want to drop all my current reads and focus on my Richard books. I'm not allowing myself! At least not yet.

There are several possibilities as to what I *might* listen to next.

The Brothers Karamazov (five episodes)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (five episodes)
The American Senator (three episodes)
The Inimitable Jeeves (eight episodes)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Victorian Year #6

This week I've read in three Victorian novels: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope and The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola.

Mary Barton is getting to the "good part." I don't know that that is fair to say really. But the book is part murder-mystery, and the murder has finally happened. It is a bit unusual in that most mysteries the murder occurs sooner rather than later. I have about eighteen or nineteen chapters left of this one. I'm hoping to finish it this month. 

Quotes from Mary Barton:
As the man who has had his taste educated to love reading, falls devouringly upon books after a long abstinence, so these poor fellows, whose tastes had been left to educate themselves into a liking for tobacco, beer, and similar gratifications, gleamed up at the proposal of the London delegate. Tobacco and drink deaden the pangs of hunger, and make one forget the miserable home, the desolate future.
"Oh! much what all doctors say: he puts a fence on this side, and a fence on that, for fear he should be caught tripping in his judgment.

Orley Farm. I am enjoying it. But it is like a soap opera. There are at least a dozen characters--if not twice that--and there are four or five "main" stories all going at once. I enjoy it for the journey; I haven't decided where the actual destination is.


Quotes from Orley Farm:
We can do nothing by interference. Remember the old saying, You cannot touch pitch without being defiled.
When yet has there been no crisis present to a man who has wanted an excuse?—
It could not be expected that she should sympathise with generalities for ever.
The Ladies' Paradise. Emile Zola. I have this on inter-library loan. I wanted to read it because I really enjoyed watching the first season of the BBC adaptation. I am saving the second season until I've read the book. Plus it helps that the Olympics have started. There are definite differences of course. The original was set in Paris and not London. I'm three or four chapters into this one. It is told through multiple points of view, which is nice for a change. 



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep it Short #6

I have begun reading Lucy Maud Montgomery's Short Stories 1909-1922. I have read two short stories so far. In my excitement to start a new feature, I may have been rushing through the short stories. I may take a slower approach with this next collection of stories.

A Golden Wedding

First sentence:  The land dropped abruptly down from the gate, and a thick, shrubby growth of young apple orchard almost hid the little weather-grey house from the road.

Premise/plot: Lovell has returned to visit his Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally. He's been out west, striking it rich, as they say. He's got plans to open a store out west and he wants "one last visit" before he gets tied down to one place. What he finds haunts him. The old place is seemingly abandoned. He seeks out neighbors and an explanation. His relations--the one who so kindly took him and raised him--they're in the poor house. Will Lovell change his plans and save the day?!

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. It is a good, comfortable, cozy, feel-good read.

A Redeeming Sacrifice

First sentence: The dance at Byron Lyall's was in full swing. Toff Leclerc, the best fiddler in three counties, was enthroned on the kitchen table and from the glossy brown violin, which his grandfather brought from Grand Pré, was conjuring music which made even stiff old Aunt Phemy want to show her steps.

Premise/plot: This one opens at a dance. Paul King has a wicked reputation; he's "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," I suppose you could say. But Joan Shelley, the local beauty, can't get enough of him. She LOVES him much to the town's disgust--and pity. He seems to be smitten with her--but the town has judged him as being beyond redemption, beyond hope. But is he?!

The story is about what happens when Paul King overhears a conversation about the two. Will he take their words to heart and set Joan free to love another? Or will he be selfish and marry her?
A bad egg was Paul King, with a bad past and a bad future. He was shiftless and drunken; ugly tales were told of him. Not a man in Lyall's house that night but grudged him the privilege of standing up with Joan Shelley.
How mightily he loved her—he, Paul King, who had made a mock of so many women and had never loved before! Ah, and she loved him. She had never said so in words, but eyes and tones had said it—she, Joan Shelley, the pick and pride of the Harbour girls, whom so many men had wooed, winning their trouble for their pains. He had won her; she was his and his only, for the asking.
My thoughts: I enjoyed this one as well. This one has more substance than some of Montgomery's earlier stories. Really her stories are a bit uneven in quality. You have stories that are all kinds of wonderful: be they funny or sad or dramatic. But you also have the very predictable, slightly boring ones that are bland-safe fare for one and all. You definitely see that writing is a process and great progress is made over a writer's career.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 09, 2018

World History Time Lines

World History Time Lines (Brain Power) Penny Clarke. 2006. 64 pages. [Source: Library]'

First sentence: Can you imagine living without time? Living without not knowing what day it is or what month or year?

Premise/plot: This is an over-sized, heavily illustrated "picture book" for older readers. Each two-page spread covers a different period of world history. Included with each spread is an introduction, a timeline, and a feature starring famous figures related either to the topic, the time period, or both. For example, Cleopatra is mentioned in the spread on "First Civilizations" which technically covers 6000 to 3000 BC when she didn't live until 48-30 BC.

The topics include: "The First Civilizations," "Chariots and Wars," "Long Live the Pharaoh," "The Birth of Democracy," "Empires Rise and Fall," "The Power of Rome," "Powers in Decline," "The End of an Empire," "Land and Sea Raiders," "Raiders to Rulers," "Wars of Religion," "Warfare and Rights," "Palaces and Plague," "An Age of Exploration," "Nationalism vs. Religion," "Exploring the New Worlds," "Tax and a Tea Party," "Revolution!," "Revolutionary Wars," "Crossing Continents," "Icebergs and Ice Caps," "War--and Peace?," "Peace for Our Time?," "A Second World War," "The Race to the Moon," "Changing Regimes," "The End of Communism," "A Future in Space?".

My thoughts: I liked it okay. It is very at-a-glance. This book was made for skimming. There is not a thing wrong with that. Not every book has to be read cover-to-cover, word-by-word. Reference books are important too. That being said, is this the perfect reference book? Maybe for children--the intended audience. Events get a one-sentence mention. That's it. No details. No context. No explanation. Famous Figures may get a couple sentences instead of just one. But everything is kept basic and on the surface. The book is a fairly good reminder that no one can know--can remember--everything. 

I really disliked the illustrations.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Just Dance

Just Dance. Patricia MacLachlan. 2017. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I grew up on a farm, and I'm ten, so I don't know much about love. I know about cattle, chickens, two goats, sheep, and how to ride a horse. But I know love when I see it.

Premise/plot: Sylvie Bloom is an observant young girl who loves to write. She's given a unique opportunity to write for the local newspaper over the summer. Her columns are written in poetry and are inspired by local events. Her spin on country life is refreshing to readers. But as much as she observes, she lacks in understanding. Her big question of the summer: why did her mother stop being a famous opera singer to settle down in the country? How is family enough for her when she's so brilliant?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Confession: I have a weakness for Patricia MacLachlan. I've enjoyed most everything of what I've read by her--whether it's contemporary like Just Dance or historical like Sarah, Plain and Tall. I do question the cover, however. I think her mom appears in a prairie-like dress to remind readers, hey, this is by the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall. It just doesn't seem to say contemporary mom who works on a farm.




Do you have a favorite MacLachlan book?

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Blog Tour: Check Me Out

Check Me Out. Becca Wilhite. 2018. Shadow Mountain. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You know that quote people attribute to Confucius? The one that says, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"? I know that quote. I've had paper copies of it stuck to various household mirrors. I believe in it. I love it.

Premise/plot: Greta, our heroine, is a young librarian who shared a wish with her best friend, Will. Her wish? To find the perfect guy. He delivers; in fact he sends the guy, his cousin Mac, to the library, to the poetry section. Her reaction is total swoon. But what she doesn't know--but readers do--is she's fallen into an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

The guy she's falling head over heels for--is being told exactly what to say by Will. When they bump into each other impromptu, he stumbles and goofs. On their dates, he's always glued to his phone. But he gives the most awesome compliments--via text and sometimes in person.

The other drama of Check Me Out is Greta's fight to save her small town library. If a bond passes, I believe, then there will be a new library. If it doesn't, well, the current library closes its doors forever.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I usually don't read contemporary romances because I don't read smut. (To clarify, I don't judge those who do. I just personally choose to keep my romances clean.) I trust Shadow Mountain's Proper Romance line though. So as soon as I heard that this one was a loose adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, I said YES, please!

Cyrano de Bergerac is told from Cyrano's perspective. Obviously, this one is from the female perspective. Greta--like Roxane--is at first concerned SOLELY with appearances. Greta finds Mac to be swoon-worthy. And she can't stop talking about his perfect hair, his perfect body, his perfect smile, his perfect eyes, etc. She melts at the touch of his hand on hers. She's smitten thoroughly. I am often annoyed with Roxane's character--her blindness to what is right in front of her, her shallowness, her silliness. That holds true, in part, with Greta.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Tender Victory

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

First sentence: When matters, events, or people bored or exhausted or troubled Dr. Francis Stevens, he would retire mentally to a pleasant place where he could reflect on the fact that he so closely resembled Francis Cardinal Spellman that it had become an affectionate joke between him and his friend.

Premise/plot: Johnny Fletcher, the hero, is a young military chaplain returning to the States from Europe. He's bringing with him five orphaned children. His friend, Dr. Stevens, has arranged a job for him. He'll be a minister in a small mining town, Barryfield. But adjusting to a "normal" life after the war is tougher than he ever imagined. Both for him and his children. In part because he is determined to raise two of his children as Catholics, two as Protestants, and one Jewish. Fortunately, Barryfield has a Catholic church, a synagogue, and his own Protestant church where he'll be ministering. Unfortunately, Barryfield's residents--except for three or four people--have a mob mentality and are easily upset and ready to explode in outright violence at the drop of a hat. They also are a strong hold of Communists.

My thoughts: Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, "The pen is mightier than the sword." The pen--or more likely typewriter--becomes a machine gun in the hands of Taylor Caldwell. Books should never be this poorly written.


Literary issues. The book is not character-driven. It is not plot-driven. It is not even premise-driven. It is driven by ideas or anti-ideas. The book is just as much about what it is FOR as what it is AGAINST. The characters do not exist in their own right but exist merely for being the voices of various ideological ideas or positions. Which leads to the problem I have with the dialogue. I feel like the dialogue is essentially a tool, a hammer. Every single page, the dialogue is hammering something.  Every single time a character opens his or her mouth, it's to hammer down an idea for the readers. The dialogue doesn't come across as natural because every word is an opportunity to preach a message.

Content issues. This book about a minister has a lot of curse words, which may or may not be offensive to the average reader. (Depending on the word and how often it is used--that is my standard.) This one has blasphemy. If the characters weren't supposed to be Christian, if so much of this one didn't take place in the church or in the church parsonage, if this was your typical, modern book--I wouldn't be surprised or taken aback by that.

Theological issues. So the main point of this book seems to be singing the praises of tolerance. All religions lead to the same God; there are many roads, many paths, many ways to finding God. No matter what name you call him, God is God. The content of what you believe doesn't matter so long as you're sincere. One religion is not "better" than the other. One is not "more true" or "less true." Even when the religions disagree with each other unmistakably--they all lead to God in the end, and all is well. It's best to let people come to their own knowledge and understand of who God is. He's there to inspire love and kindness here on earth. If John Lennon's Imagine had been a single, I bet Johnny Fletcher would have gone around singing it day and night, night day.

The extremes irritated me. It seemed there were only two options of thinking in the novel. If you don't agree with Fletcher on whatever issue has come up, then you are the ENEMY with rocks ready to throw, knives ready to stab, matches ready to burn. And there are many issues in this one. For example, the environment, unions, communism, nuclear programs, education, religion, politics, etc.

The low point of this one--and I mention it on purpose--is when the parsonage is BURNED DOWN on Christmas Eve with everyone still inside. It's one thing for the presents to go up in flames and be lost. It's quite another to introduce a new puppy for the children a chapter before and kill off the dog. Oh. His dying from congenital heart problems daughter also dies within a day or two because of the shock and trauma of the fire.
There are moments when Fletcher says something I agree with. A broken clock, a stopped clock, is right at least twice a day.

Quotes:
I can't be minister to people who want their religion comfortable, a kind of dessert at the end of a week's pleasant dinner. You know, I've always been sorry for the Pharisees--they're such cowards. And I can't condone cowardice, and pretend with any congregation that religion's a soothing thing. It isn't. It's a call to the spirit to struggle against the flesh, and against all evil. (50)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 05, 2018

Currently Reading #6

Something Old

Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
Check Me Out. Becca Wilhite. 2018. Shadow Mountain. [Source: Review copy]

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
NASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]



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

© 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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