Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Reflections

How many books have I read so far for the year? 150

How many board books or picture books have I read? 50
My favorite I read this month was:
Let the Children March. Monica Clark-Robinson. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many early readers or early chapter books have I read? 37
My favorite I read this month was:
Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #23). Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

How many contemporary books have I read? 9
My favorite I read this month was:
How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many speculative fiction books have I read? 10
My favorite I read this month was:
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) Neal Shusterman. 2018. 5014 pages. [Source: Library]

How many classics have I read? 14
My favorite I read this month was?
Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many historical fiction novels have I read? 15
My favorite I read this month was?
Ashes on the Moor. Sarah M. Eden. 2018. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many mysteries? 7
My favorite I read this month was?
The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many nonfiction? 15
My favorite I read this month was?
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Susan Hood. Illustrated by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet. 2018. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

How many Christian fiction? 1
My favorite I read this month was?
Phoebe's Light. (Nantucket Legacy #1) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2018. Revell. 345 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many Christian nonfiction? 25
My favorite I read this month was?
The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many "new" books for the Good Rule challenge? 90
How many "old" books for the Good Rule challenge? 60

How many pages have I read so far for the year? 23, 321

Favorite short story or fairy tale of the month: There were so many I enjoyed this month. I loved "Charlotte's Ladies." But I think I loved, loved, loved "The Garden of Spices."

Favorite audio book of the month: The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Favorite Victorian quote:
It's impossible to leap over nature solely by means of logic! Fyodor Dostoyevsky

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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First Quarter Challenge Check-ins (Or Check-ups!)


A Century of Books
Host: Stuck in a Book and The Captive Reader  About the challenge
Dates: They're aiming for a year; I'm aiming for a year plus a little wiggle room; let's say 18 mos.
My century: 1918-2017

I've read 1918, 1923, 1924, 1929, 1931, 1951, 1956, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1991, 2010


Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge (2018)
Host: Escape with Dollycas (sign up here)
January 2018 - December 2018
# of books: 26+ I am going to try for 4 bowls of soup

Bowl #1 I need these letters: E, F, H, J, K, Q, R, U, X, and Y. (Board books and picture books)
Bowl #2 I need G, I, N, O, P, R, T, U, W, X, Y, and Z. (Children's and MG)
Bowl #3 I need B, E, G, I, K, N, O, P, Q, T, U, V, X, Y, and Z. (YA and Adult)
Bowl #4 I need A, B, C, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, N, O, P, Q, U, V, W, Y, and Z. (Christian Authors)


Author Love Challenge
Because Reading (sign up)
January - December 2018
My goal to read Anthony Trollope chronologically. I started this project in 2017.

I've read exactly one book. I feel like I've been reading Orley Farm FOREVER.

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

Back to the Classics 2018
Host: Books and Chocolate (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: 6 - 12

I need:
_ 20th century classic
_ classic travel or journey narrative
_ classic with a single-word title
_ classic with a color in the title
_ a classic that scares you

Charity Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January-December 2018
# of books: You decide
I've read NINE books so far. Not bad.

2018 Dread and Read Challenge
Host: Hotchpot Cafe (sign up) Be sure to link to all book reviews.
Dates: January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for 4

I'm listening to Old Curiosity Shop.
I am reading Crime and Punishment.

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for twelve

I've read 7 books so far! 1951, 2009, 2011, 1918, 1931, 1918, 1924.


Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January 2018 - December 2018
Inspiration: 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
# of books: readers decide

I've read 150 books in all. 90 new books. 60 old books. I would call this a GOOD BALANCE. 



Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2018
Goal: To read books with CATS
# of books: minimum of 3

I've read  30 books!!!!!

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January - December 2018
# of books: minimum of 6

I've only read 12 books.

Newbery Reading Challenge 2018
Host: Smiling Shelves (sign-up)
January - December 2018
# of Books: I'm aiming for Spinelli. 30-44 points. 3 pts for each Newbery Medal; 2 pts for each Newbery Honor; 1 pt for Caldecott Medal or Honor.
 I've read three books and earned 7 points.

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge
Host: Read-at-Home-Mom (sign up)
Check in at the end of each month with a list of what you've read and links to any reviews you have posted. When you post on social media, tag your posts with #OldSchoolKidlit2018
January - December 2018
# of books: 42
I've read 9 books so far.

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January - December 2018
Goal: To have adults read more picture books. To celebrate the fact that picture books are for everyone! Families are, of course, welcome to join in!
# of books: minimum of 6
I'm signing up for Option 3.


I still need:
_2. Author beginning with A
_ 4. Author beginning with B
_5. Title beginning with C
_9. Title beginning with E
_11. Title beginning with F
_12. Author beginning with F
_14. Author beginning with G
_15. Title beginning with H
_18. Author beginning with I
_19. Title beginning with J
_20. Author beginning with J
_21. Title beginning with K
_24. Author beginning with L
_26. Author beginning with M
_27. Title beginning with N
_28. Author beginning with N
_30. Author beginning with O
_32. Author beginning with P
_34. Title beginning with R
_35. Author beginning with R
_37. Author beginning with S
_39. Author beginning with T
_40. Title or Author beginning with U
_42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
_43. Title beginning with Y
_44. Author beginning with Y
_45. Title or Author beginning with Z
_46. An alphabet book
_47. A counting book
_49. A number word in the title
_50. Concept book of your choice— picture book
_51. Concept book of your choice — board book
_52. bedtime book —board book
_53. bedtime book — picture book
_56. holiday of your choice — board book or early reader
_57. holiday of your choice — picture book
_58. wordless picture book
_59. new to you author
_60. new to you illustrator
_61. favorite author
_62. favorite illustrator
_63. free choice
_64. fairy or folk tale adaptation
_65. fairy or folk tale traditional
_66. a title with the word “first” in it
_67. a book set in the state you live
_68. a book set in a place you’d like to visit
_69. a book set in an imaginary place
_71. a book set in the present
_75. early reader — nonfiction
_79. oversized book
_80. tiny book
_82. a book about school
 _89. a book with animals (nonfiction)
_90. a book about books or reading
_91. a book celebrating family
_92. first book in a series
_93. any book in a series
_98. a classic published before 1968
_99. a book you think should be considered a classic
_100. Out of print
_101. Library book
_102. Impulse Pick
_ 103. Board book published in 2018
_ 104. Picture book published in 2018


Read It Again, Sam
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
Dates: January - December 2018
# of books: A Trip Down Memory Lane: Reread 12 books

I've read  NINE books


Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2018
# of books: minimum of 2

I've read NINE books.

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge
Host: Adam (Roof Beam Reader) sign up here
Dates: January 2018 - December 2018
# of Books: 12 (+2 alternates)

I've read two books. I'm currently reading two more books on the list. Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope and Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1909-1922.

Victorian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Duration: January - December 2018
Goal: Read a minimum of 4 Victorian books
I've read six books so far.

Vintage Mystery Challenge: Just the Facts, Ma'am
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
January - December 2018
# of books: my goal is CONSTABLE. 6 books -- one from each category.
 I've read THREE books so far. I need a WHO, a WHEN, a WHERE, and a WHY.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Victorian Year #13

Still reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope.

Quotes from Orley Farm
There are men of this sort, men slow in their thoughts but very keen in their memories; men who will look for the glance of a certain bright eye from a window-pane, though years have rolled on since last they saw it, — since last they passed that window. Such men will bethink themselves, after an interval of weeks, how they might have brought up wit to their use and improved an occasion which chance had given them.
Her mind was one that dwelt on the present, not on the past. She was unhappy about her furniture, unhappy about the frocks of those four younger children, unhappy that the loaves of bread went faster and faster every day, very unhappy now at the savageness with which her husband prosecuted his anger against Lady Mason. But it did not occur to her to be unhappy because she had not become Mrs. Kenneby.
All this was understood by Mrs. Moulder, who knew that it only signified that her husband was half tipsy, and that in all probability he would be whole tipsy before long. There was no help for it.
He grunted out some half-pronounced threat as they moved him; but he did not stir, and his wife knew that she was again mistress of the room for the next two hours. It was true that he snored horribly, but then she was used to that.
There are periods in the lives of some of us — I trust but of few — when, with the silent inner voice of suffering, we call on the mountains to fall and crush us, and on the earth to gape open and take us in.
Her teeth were shaking in her head, but any suffering was better than the suffering of being seen.
“Oh, that I could die!” said the poor wretch, expressing in words that terrible wish that the mountains might fall upon her and crush her. “You must not say that. That would be wicked, you know. He can comfort you. Do you not know that He will comfort you, if you are sorry for your sins and go to Him?”
All sin is selfish.
What are love and friendship worth if they cannot stand against such trials as these?
 Quotes from Crime and Punishment:
Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms. It's by talking nonsense that one gets to the truth! I talk nonsense, therefore I'm human. Not one single truth has ever been arrived at without people having talked a dozen reams of nonsense, even ten dozen reams of it, and that's an honorable thing in its own way; well, but we can't even talk nonsense with our own brains! Talk nonsense to me, by all means, but do it with your own brain, and I shall love you for it. To talk nonsense in one's own way is almost better than to talk a truth that's someone else's; in the first instance you behave like a human being, while in the second you are merely being a parrot. (242)
We've got accustomed to making do with other people's intelligence--we're soaked in it! (242)
The harmonious individual, it needs to be said, hardly exists at all. (270)
The living soul demands to live. (305)
It's impossible to leap over nature solely by means of logic! (305)
Pain and suffering are inevitable for persons of broad awareness and depth of heart. The truly great are, in my view, always bound to feel a great sense of sadness during their time upon earth. (315)


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #13

This week I read two L.M. Montgomery short stories.

The Garden of Spices
First sentence: Jims tried the door of the blue room. Yes, it was locked. He had hoped Aunt Augusta might have forgotten to lock it; but when did Aunt Augusta forget anything?

Premise/plot: Jims (James Brander Churchill) is being raised by his Uncle Walter and his Half-Aunt Augusta. (Augusta is Walter's half-sister). He's having a rough time of it. Aunt Augusta doesn't understand little boys and their ways. Uncle Walter is too busy doctoring to notice that Jims isn't happy. He's punished by being locked in the blue room. But one day, tempted by a Very Handsome Cat, Jims trys the window and escapes. He makes a friend--the cat and its owner, Miss Avery. Jims loves, loves, loves his new friends--though they remain a secret for a while. Will he get his happily ever after ending?

My thoughts: WHAT A GREAT STORY. I enjoyed it very much.
  • Whole aunts probably had more convenient memories.
  • Jims hated being shut up alone—especially in the blue room. Its bigness and dimness and silence filled his sensitive little soul with vague horror. Sometimes he became almost sick with fear in it. To do Aunt Augusta justice, she never suspected this. If she had she would not have decreed this particular punishment, because she knew Jims was delicate and must not be subjected to any great physical or mental strain. That was why she shut him up instead of whipping him. But how was she to know it? Aunt Augusta was one of those people who never know anything unless it is told them in plain language and then hammered into their heads.
  • Jims did not feel quite so frightened as usual because he was very angry. As he put it, he was very mad at Aunt Augusta. He hadn't meant to spill his pudding over the floor and the tablecloth and his clothes; and how such a little bit of pudding—Aunt Augusta was mean with desserts—could ever have spread itself over so much territory Jims could not understand.
  • The cat, having lured Jims to where he wanted him, sat down and began to lick his paws. He was quite willing to be caught now; but Jims had no longer any idea of catching him. He stood very still, looking at the lady. She did not see him then and Jims could only see her profile, which he thought very beautiful. She had wonderful ropes of blue-black hair wound around her head. She looked so sweet that Jims' heart beat.
  • "I like cats," explained Jims, "and I have nothing but a gobbler. This is such a Very Handsome Cat. What is his name, please?" "Black Prince. He loves me," said the lady. "He always comes to my bed in the morning and wakes me by patting my face with his paw. He doesn't mind my being ugly."
  • "But you are not ugly," he said. "Oh, I am ugly—I am ugly," she cried. "Just look at me—right at me. Doesn't it hurt you to look at me?" Jims looked at her gravely and dispassionately. "No, it doesn't," he said. "Not a bit," he added, after some further exploration of his consciousness.
  • "We'll just be chums, Jims," she said. "That's really better than being relations, after all. Come and have tea."
  • There was such a lot of good things on the table and nobody to say "You have had enough, James." James ate until he thought he had enough.
  • Jims, two hours ago I didn't know there was such a person in the world as you—and now I love you—I love you."
  • Jims' heart filled with a great warm gush of gladness. He had always wanted to be loved. And no living creature, he felt sure, loved him, except his gobbler—and a gobbler's love is not very satisfying, though it is better than nothing. 
  • How they loved each other, those two! And how they understood each other!
  • To love is easy, and therefore common; but to understand—how rare that is!
 The Girl and the Photograph
First sentence: When I heard that Peter Austin was in Vancouver I hunted him up. I had met Peter ten years before when I had gone east to visit my father's people and had spent a few weeks with an uncle in Croyden.

Premise/plot: A young man falls in love in this L.M. Montgomery story. Readers learn about his early visit and how he met a mystery woman in the woods. He fell in LOVE with her at first sight. But he never spoke with her, never learned her name. It's like she's a figment of his imagination. It's been years later--perhaps a decade--and now he's back visiting. Can he find her again? Does he want to? Or is there perhaps someone else for him to fall in love with. Perhaps the girl in the photograph that is in his friend's room?

My thoughts:  The man takes a photograph, tries to find out who the girl is, obtains permission to write her, and after a long correspondence decides to propose. But who IS the girl in the photograph?

This story is VERY silly. But it's pleasant enough.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #12

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers. Adapted for radio in six (thirty minute) episodes by Chris Miller. Produced by Simon Brett. First broadcast in 1975. Starring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey.

I do love, love, love Peter Wimsey. And I will say this, I think I enjoyed listening to this one more than reading it. It really was a good listen. It reaffirmed this whole idea of listening to books as I'm working on the computer. I think what I found disturbing about the book--and the radio adaptation--is the ending. How everyone in the book applauds the 'justice' of it all.

Semi

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

The guilty person--I won't say if it was a man or a woman, or if the person is young or old--takes his/her own life instead of being arrested and standing trial. This idea of suicide being poetic justice sits wrong with me. The fact that the 'good guys' of the book know what is going to occur, and in fact support and applaud it, just is all types of wrong. How much do they support and applaud it? Well, one leaves a gun in the room, tells him where it is, then excuses himself to go for a jolly old walk. A gun shot is heard. And we hear him talk about how wonderful everything has turned out in the end.

Changing subjects....

I am also continuing to listen to Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. I have only listened to three or four episodes. I'm caught up listening. I've finished the first twenty episodes--all that are available up to this point. This one has so many NASTY, unpleasant characters. And the "good" characters are always in peril. I guess that is how papers kept selling--back in the day--but it's not enjoyable.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Angus and the Cat

Angus and the Cat. Marjorie Flack. 1931. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Each day as Angus grew older he grew longer but not much higher. Scottie dogs grow that way. Now as Angus grew older and longer he learned MANY THINGS.

Premise/plot: After a few pages sharing what Angus has learned, readers learn that there was one thing Angus was very curious about but had never learned about: CATS. He will have plenty of opportunity to do so when his owner (whom we never see) adopts a cat. Will Angus and the new cat get along?! How much will life change for Angus?!

My thoughts: This is a great little story! I was not familiar with this classic. I discovered it at a local charity bookstore earlier this month. It was instant love on my part!!! I adore the illustrations. And the story is super-sweet!

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Eggscapade

The Super-Duper Duo: Easter Eggscapade. Henri Meunier. Illustrated by Nathalie Choux. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Look, Sheldon! I found another egg.

Premise/plot: Sheldon and Rory are on an egg hunt when they discover a crime has been committed--actually SEVERAL crimes. Someone is taking REAL eggs from bird nests. Can the two transform into a super-duo and solve the mystery? WHO is stealing eggs--and why?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. I do like mysteries. I do. But I wasn't sure how 'dinky' an Easter-themed mystery might be. Usually holiday-themed stories aren't all that special. But the fact that they were looking for REAL eggs helps a great deal! I also really enjoyed the true fact included at the end of this one!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Misunderstood Shark

Misunderstood Shark. Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Scott Magoon. 2018. Scholastic. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Hello, people! Today on Underwater World with Bob, Fun Facts about--" SHARK!

Premise/plot: Bob, the narrator--both of this book and of Underwater World--shares a LOT of facts about sharks in this new picture book. Will readers believe Bob's facts and intuition OR shark's own spin of what is really happening?!?!
"Shark! The people are watching! Don't eat that fish in front of the people!"
"The PEOPLE can see me?"
"You misunderstood!! I wasn't going to eat him. I was just...showing him my new tooth!"
"Fun fact about that! Sharks can grow and lose 30,000 teeth in their lifetime."
This picture book goes on to show that ANYTHING can happen on live TV.

My thoughts: Misunderstood Shark is a great book. I loved the illustrations. (I also loved the design and layout. So clever!) I loved the narrative. What a great way to introduce the concept of an unreliable narrator! There's also the fun way it incorporates facts into the narrative.

This one might pair well with Jonathan Fenske's Barnacle is Bored or Plankton is Pushy. Or even Mo Willems That Is Not A Good Idea! Misunderstood Shark uses the live TV angle and That Is Not a Good Idea seems inspired by silent movies. Both are predictably tricksy.

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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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The City of Ember

The City of Ember. Jeanne DuPrau. 2003. 270 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark.

Premise/plot: The City of Ember is one of my all-time favorite books. Ember was built by the BUILDERS to protect humanity from its biggest threat in dark, dark days. Hundreds of years have passed, the inhabits of Ember know nothing of the world outside. They know nothing of blue skies and yellow sun. In part, the builders wanted it that way--to protect the people from knowledge of the past. But the time has come--has almost come and gone, in fact--for the people to leave Ember behind and rejoin the world above. The problem? The instructions have been lost. And only one person even knows that something important--something vital--has been lost and is worth searching for. And few take her words seriously because she's "senile" and "not herself." Lina Mayfleet, our heroine, stumbles upon these instructions quite by accident, and really all in thanks to her baby sister, Poppy. Will she be able to decode the instructions--what remain of them after Poppy's little snack--and solve the mystery? It is too big to solve on her own. But Lina has a few good friends that she thinks are trustworthy--and clever. The one who becomes her best friend is Doon Harrow. These two grow close as they work on solving the problems that threaten life as they know it.

My thoughts: I love this book. I do. I can't believe--in a way--that it was the author's first book. It is just MARVELOUS. I love the world-building. I love how thought-provoking it is. And I love the characterization. It is one of those rare books that defies expectations. It is premise-driven, plot-driven, and character-driven.

One of my favorite quotes:
The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren't the master of yourself anymore. Anger is. (89)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Why I Read "Old" Books

I saw this wonderful post at Read-at-Home Mom on why she reads "old, smelly" books. I rarely read smelly books--if I can at all help it! But I do LOVE reading old books. I realized that I had more thoughts on the subject than a comment would allow.

Reason 1: Books are books are books no matter when they were originally published. I'm just as susceptible to wanting to read old books as I am to new ones!

Reason 2: I like the novelty of it. First, I like finding books that I've never heard of by authors I've never heard of. Not that all my vintage reads are by new-to-me authors. I like the thrill of discovery. Will it be good? will it be bad? Second, I like that it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find that book. I do all of my shopping in person--browsing--at a local charity book shop. You never know visit to visit what they'll have, and what you may find. You can leave a book behind if you're on the fence, but there's no telling if it will still be there later. There's this whole it's 'now or never' drama going on. Third, I think there is something special about reviewing books on a blog that are so long out of print and mostly out of memory.

Reason 3: I can't resist a bargain. A books appeal gets higher and higher the cheaper a book is. I may not be willing to spend five dollars on a book that I've heard of. But if it is a quarter or fifty cents and it looks like it might provide some amusement or enjoyment, it feels RIGHT to take it home.

Reason 4: I can't resist vintage illustrations. With children's books, I'm often drawn to vintage illustrations--either black and white or colored. Even if the book is not a part of my past--a logical reason for nostalgia--it often makes me happy to look at old illustrations. 

Reason 5: Books provide a snapshot into the past. For better or worse. Not every old book is suitable to read and share with this generation of children. And by suitable I mean both appropriate in terms of content but also in terms of value--is it worth your time to read this book when you could be reading that book instead. But I think that for adults there is plenty of benefits to read widely or broadly. I think old books can provide context--sometimes much needed context.

Reason 6: Fear of missing out. Fear of missing out on a really GREAT book that I might potentially LOVE, LOVE, LOVE just because it is out of print and 'forgotten.'

Reason 7: As a blogger, it is easy--if you allow it--to become so caught up in today's trends that you lose sight and focus of the bigger picture. But trends don't last--and sometimes the very fact that a book is super-super trendy makes it less appealing. The very fact that there are thousands of people desperate to read that one book, that that is the one book every single person is talking about. I think it's interesting to see which trends come and go in any given decade. And to look at possible reasons WHY trends happen when they do.

An observation: Just because a book isn't a good fit to take up space on a public or school library shelf, doesn't mean it's not a good fit--a great fit even--to take up space in a home library. The needs of the public at large--your town or city --are not your needs. Books are books are books. You are just as likely to find a book to love, love, love in the past as in the present.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently Reading #13

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

Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New

A Breath of Hope. Lauraine Snelling. 2018. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Something Borrowed
Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 671 pages. [Source: Library]

The Conquering Family. Thomas B. Costain. 1949. 291 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. Jason Meyer. 2018. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.

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


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Victorian Year #12

I'm still slaving away happily reading pressing ahead in Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm. I have only one question: WHAT KIND OF BOOK HAS EIGHTY CHAPTERS?!?!

Every time I think I'm making some kind of progress, I get discouraged. I believe I've read forty-two or forty-three chapters. (Most books these days don't even have forty-three chapters!)

I am also reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. I will say this so far: it is more compelling than Orley Farm. (Also darker. Also a LOT more confusing. Characters are so much harder to keep track of when they are Russian and have a couple nicknames per character.)

Quotes from Crime and Punishment:
Efficiency's acquired with some effort, it doesn't just fall from the skies. (179)
'Where was it,' thought Raskolnikov, as he walked onward, 'where was it I read about a man who's been sentenced to die, saying or thinking, the hour before his death, that even if he had to live somewhere high up on a rock, and in such a tiny area that he could just stand on it, with all around precipices, an ocean, endless murk, endless solitude and endless storms--and had to stand there, on those two feet of space, all his life, for a thousand years, eternity--that it would be better to live like that, than to die so very soon! If only he could live, live and live! Never mind what life was like! As long as he could live!...What truth there is in that! Lord, what truth! Man is a villain. And whoever calls him a villain because of it is one himself!' he added a moment later. (191)
Quotes from Orley Farm:
Men will not labour who have gotten all that they require without work.
Why strive to deserve any woman, when women are plenty who do not care to be deserved? That plan of picking up the fallen apples is so much the easier.
Mrs. Furnival had made up her mind that war was expedient, — nay, absolutely necessary. She had an idea, formed no doubt from the reading of history, that some allies require a smart brush now and again to blow away the clouds of distrust which become engendered by time between them; and that they may become better allies than ever afterwards.
At last the battle began. He was not looking, but he heard her first movement as she prepared herself. “Tom!” she said, and then the voice of the war goddess was again silent. He did not choose to answer her at the instant, and then the war goddess rose from her seat and again spoke. “Tom!” she said, standing over him and looking at him.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #12

This week I read three L.M. Montgomery stories.

Robert Turner's Revenge
First sentence: When Robert Turner came to the green, ferny triangle where the station road forked to the right and left under the birches, he hesitated as to which direction he would take.

Premise/plot: Robert Turner has waited his whole life to get revenge on a childhood enemy. Will he changes his mind when he realizes that the person he'll be hurting most is his former sweetheart?

My thoughts: It was just okay for me.

The Fillmore Elderberries:
 First sentence: "I expected as much," said Timothy Robinson. His tone brought the blood into Ellis Duncan's face. The lad opened his lips quickly, as if for an angry retort, but as quickly closed them again with a set firmness oddly like Timothy Robinson's own.

Premise/plot: Ellis Duncan's father has died. Ellis finds it a real struggle to get work since he's a boy--not a "man" and since his father was known for his laziness. Fair or not, Ellis is going to have to prove himself to his community if he is to make it. And prove himself he does when he tackles a difficult job--clearing a pasture of elderberries/elders.

My thoughts: I liked this one so much better than Robert Turner's Revenge.

The Finished Story
First story: She always sat in a corner of the west veranda at the hotel, knitting something white and fluffy, or pink and fluffy, or pale blue and fluffy—always fluffy, at least, and always dainty. Shawls and scarfs and hoods the things were, I believe. When she finished one she gave it to some girl and began another. Every girl at Harbour Light that summer wore some distracting thing that had been fashioned by Miss Sylvia's slim, tireless, white fingers.



Premise/plot: Miss Sylvia stars in this short story. She is a magnet for young people. And young people love to tell her stories. One young man is a writer who shares a story he's hoping to have published. In the story, a young man goes away from his lover without declaring his love for her. He thinks it's nobler that way since they can never be together. Miss Sylvia is opinionated. Can she change his mind?

My thoughts: This one is definitely my favorite of the three.
But one evening, when I had known her a month, as time is reckoned, and long years as affection and understanding are computed, she told me her story—at least, what there was to tell of it. The last chapter was missing.
I was reading one of my stories to Miss Sylvia. In my own excuse I must allege that she tempted me to do it. I did not go around with manuscripts under my arm, inflicting them on defenceless females. But Miss Sylvia had discovered that I was a magazine scribbler, and moreover, that I had shut myself up in my room that very morning and perpetrated a short story. Nothing would do but that I read it to her.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #11

 This week I've kept up with Charles Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop. I've listened to episodes eleven through fifteen this week.

I've also finished The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. The last episode was "Bingo and the Little Woman." There were eight thirty minute episodes. And they were all DELIGHTFUL. It was dramatized by Chris Miller.

I am super-super-super excited to begin The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. It is a mystery starring Lord Peter Wimsey whom I ADORE. Granted that it isn't my favorite Wimsey mystery. It was also adapted for radio by Chris Miller. "Ian Carmichael appeared as Lord Peter Wimsey for BBC Radio from 1973 to 1983, in addition to the BBC TV adaptations that were broadcast between 1972 and 1975."



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Annie Patches: My New Forever Home

Annie Patches: My New Forever Home. Marty Koblish. Photographs by Jessica Charous. 2015. 34 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: My mommy lived on the streets.

Premise/plot: This picture book tells the story of a foster kitty who found her furr-ever home. Her mom was a pregnant stray cat taken in by a foster family. Annie Patches was adopted a few months later and placed in a new home--a forever home. The book uses photographs to tell her story. Well, to show off her cuteness mainly. 

My thoughts: I bought this one at a local charity shop because of the photographs. To say I love cats would be a bit of an understatement. I just couldn't resist this one. Sadly, I lost a few pages just with the first read. The story is heartwarming and the photographs are ADORABLE.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thunderhead

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) Neal Shusterman. 2018. 5014 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Peach velvet with embroidered baby-blue trim. Honorable Scythe Braums loved his robe. True, the velvet became uncomfortably hot in the summer months, but it was something he had grown accustomed to in his sixty-three years as a scythe.

Premise/plot: Thunderhead is the sequel to Scythe. If you haven't read Scythe yet, you should. What should you know about the series? Well...it's set in the future. Many advancements have been made. Immortality is the norm--for most. Gone are the days where you could die of disease or old age. Most people who die can be revived. Dead has become deadish. But a small percentage of the population is gleaned each year. That is the role of the Scythes. Readers meet many scythes in the first novel in the series. Two of the main characters in the first book were Rowan and Citra. Both characters are back in the sequel. Rowan has adopted the name "Scythe Lucifer" and is on a mission of his own. Citra has adopted the name "Scythe Anastasia." Two main characters that take prominence in Thunderhead are the THUNDERHEAD and Greyson Tolliver.

The Scythes are finding themselves divided into two factions: the 'old' guard that believe that the role of scythe is honorable but heavy with responsibility and the 'new order' which believe that killing is an exhilarating joy. They don't work with heavy hearts and solemnity. No, they approach the job as a pleasure. Scythe Anastasia and Scythe Curie are of the old guard faction.

There are some truly EVIL characters in Thunderhead.

My thoughts: I'm not sure I have words. The ending left me crushed and broken. (I can only compare it perhaps to listening to the whole Hamilton soundtrack.) I think the book is well written and well plotted. It almost goes without saying that it is incredibly compelling--intense and dramatic.

I do recommend the series. Read them back to back if you can. I did not reread the first book. If there is a third book, I will try to make a point to reread all the books.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

No Nap! Yes Nap!

No Nap! Yes Nap! Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2014. Little, Brown for Young Readers. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mama says, Nap. Baby says, NO NAP! Nap, yes, says Mama. Yes yes yes! Nap, no! No no no!

Premise/plot: Will Baby take a nap? How long will it take to get Baby to nap? Will Mama need a nap too?!

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I think the enjoyment--in part--comes from not overthinking it. How can you overthink a picture book? By worrying about the dangers of baby talk. By seeing the short, simple incomplete sentences as a threat to your child's language acquisition. By judging the mom for everything she does or doesn't do right. By seeing the BABY not as humorous or realistic but as a super-dangerous role model, a threat or danger to your own child. Read what you want to read to your child, with your child. Be as scrupulous as you want. But here's the thing...in my personal opinion...kids aren't taught to misbehave or be naughty through books. Naughtiness comes naturally. Even if you never pick up No Nap! Yes Nap! chances are that a power struggle over nap time will occur at your house if you have a little one.

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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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shaking Things Up

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Susan Hood. Illustrated by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet. 2018. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: Shaking Things Up is a nonfiction (biographical) poetry book celebrating remarkable women past and present. The fourteen women included are Molly Williams (first known female firefighter in the U.S.), Mary Anning (paleontologist), Nellie Bly (journalist), Annette Kellerman (athlete and designer/inventor of the modern swimsuit), Pura Belpre (Latina author/librarian), Frida Kahlo (artist), Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne (secret agents), Frances Moore Lappe (anti-hunger activist/author), Ruby Bridges (civil rights pioneer), Mae Jemison (first African American astronaut), Maya Lin (architect and sculptor), Angela Zhang (scientist and cancer researcher), Malala Yousafzai (youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize).

Each spread includes a biographical poem and is illustrated by a different artist. Just as there is variety in the women highlighted in the book, the poems are written in a variety of styles or forms.

My favorite poem:
TURNING THE TIDE
There once was a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons--
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!
The lady was quickly arrested.
Unafraid, she calmly protested:
Who can swim fifty laps
wearing corsets and caps?
Her statement could not be contested.
She streamlined the suit of the day
and invented our water ballet.
By changing the fashions
she fueled swimming passions
as women made waves in the spray. (15)
My thoughts: I really loved this one overall! Some of the women were completely new to me. I was glad that the back matter included a suggested reading list for each woman. I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys nonfiction OR poetry OR inspirational reads in general.

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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Monday, March 19, 2018

Currently Reading #12

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

Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) Neal Shusterman. 2018. 5014 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 671 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True


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

Following Christ. R.C. Sproul. 1991. 392 pages. [Source: Bought]

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.



© 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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