Monday, April 30, 2018

April Reflections

How many books have I read so far for the year? 195

How many board books or picture books have I read? 64

My favorite I read this month was:

Kat Writes a Song. Greg Foley. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many early readers or early chapter books have I read? 49

My favorite I read this month was:

Poppleton. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 1997. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

How many contemporary books have I read? 13

My favorite I read this month was:

Wonder. R. J. Palacio. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
How many speculative fiction books have I read? 13

My favorite I read this month was:

 Dory Fantasmagory #4: Head in the Clouds. Abby Hanlon. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

How many classics have I read? 18

My favorite I read this month was?

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

How many historical fiction novels have I read? 22

My favorite I read this month was?

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 

How many mysteries? 15

My favorite I read this month was?

Uneasy Terms. (Slim Callaghan #7) Peter Cheyney. 1947. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many nonfiction? 18

My favorite I read this month was?

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. Joseph Loconte. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 

How many Christian fiction? 10

My favorite I read this month was?

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

How many Christian nonfiction? 33

My favorite I read this month was?

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

How many "new" books for the Good Rule challenge? 110

How many "old" books for the Good Rule challenge? 85

How many pages have I read so far for the year? 29,403

Favorite short story or fairy tale of the month: "The Gossip of Valley View"

Favorite audio book of the month: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Favorite Victorian quote:

But what I say is this: you should never give up as long as you live. There’s a sort of feeling about it which I can’t explain. One should always say to oneself, No surrender. ~ Anthony Trollope
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently Reading #18

Something Old

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

A Wreath for Rivera (Roderick Alleyn #15) Ngaio Marsh. 1949. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

A New Graft on the Family Tree. Isabella Alden. 1890. 287 pages. [Source: Bought] 

Something New

The Orphan Band of Springdale. Anne Nesbet. 2018. Candlewick. 448 pages. [Source: Library.]

More Than Meets the Eye. Karen Witemeyer. 2018. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us To Reflect His Character. Jen Wilkin. 2018. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Something Borrowed
The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets #2). Thomas B. Costain. 1951. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
The Pendericks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy. Jeanne Birdsall. 2005. 262 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True 
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need To Know. R.C. Sproul. 1973/1998. 218 pages. [Source; Bought]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Me? Listen to Audio? #16

This week I listened to TWO very different audio dramas. One was a comedy; the other a tragedy.

The Idiot. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Adapted by Melissa Murray for BBC Radio 4 in 2002. 4 one hour episodes.

Starring Paul Rhys as Prince Myshkin, Alex Jennings ad Ganya, Roger Allam as Rogazhin, Lia Williams as Natasya, David Swift as General Yepanchin and Paula Jacobs as Mrs. Yepanchin.

I found THE IDIOT to be a compelling drama. Especially at the beginning. I soon found myself hooked. It became increasingly melodramatic and dark. The radio drama probably reduces the number of 'main' characters. Probably. I didn't find it difficult to follow along with at all. Which may or may not be surprising. (I have never finished the book. I did start the book last year, but turned it back into the library.) I now have it checked back out.

What should you expect????? AN UNHAPPY ENDING.

The Warden. Anthony Trollope. Dramatised by Michael Symmons Roberts. 1 hr. 28 minutes.

Mrs Baxter .... Maggie Steed
Mr Harding .... Tim Pigott-Smith
Bishop Grantly .... Andrew Sachs
Eleanor .... Claire Price
John Bold .... Bryan Dick
Archdeacon Grantly .... Malcolm Sinclair
Susan Grantly .... Charlotte Emmerson
Mary Bold .... Georgie Fuller
Bunce .... Sean Murray
Abel Handy .... Nick Brimble
Tom Towers .... David Seddon
Directed by Susan Roberts
Produced by Charlotte Riches

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I really do love Trollope. I was expecting this to be good--great even. I wasn't expecting it to be oh-so-magical. 

Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. Dramatised by Nick Warburton. Three one hour episodes.

Mrs BaxterMaggie Steed
Mr HardingTim Pigott-Smith
Eleanor BoldClaire Price
Archdeacon GrantlyMalcolm Sinclair
Obidiah SlopeRichard Lumsden
Bishop ProudieJames Lailey
Mrs ProudieJoanna Monro
Madeline NeroniKatherine Parkinson
BertieJoel MacCormack
1st ClergymanJoel MacCormack
Mrs QuiverfulCarolyn Pickles
Dr StanhopeJohn Norton
DirectorMarion Nancarrow
AdaptorNick Warburton
AuthorAnthony Trollope

 I definitely enjoyed listening to this drama based on the second book in the Barchester series. The drama captured some of my all-time favorite scenes!!! It wasn't as enjoyable listening to it as WATCHING the film adaptation. But it was great fun all the same.

What you should expect:  A HAPPY-HAPPY ENDING.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Victorian Year #17

This week I continued reading Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

From Orley Farm:
It is easy to talk of repentance, but repentance will not come with a word.
The attorneys, as a rule, regarded her as guilty. To the policeman’s mind every man not a policeman is a guilty being, and the attorneys perhaps share something of this feeling.
Great was their faith in Mr. Furnival; great their faith in Solomon Aram; but greater than in all was their faith in Mr. Chaffanbrass.
“They’re paid for it; it’s their duties; just as it’s my duty to sell Hubbles and Grease’s sugar. It’s not for me to say the sugar’s bad, or the samples not equal to the last. My duty is to sell, and I sell; — and it’s their duty to get a verdict.”
If I were asked what point I’d best like to have in my favour I’d say, a deaf judge. Or if not that, one regularly tired out. I’ve sometimes thought I’d like to be a judge myself, merely to have the last word.
It would be wrong to say that she was in any degree a hypocrite. A man is no more a hypocrite because his manner and gait when he is alone are different from those which he assumes in company, than he is for wearing a dressing-gown in the morning, whereas he puts on a black coat in the evening.
Lady Mason in the present crisis of her life endeavoured to be true in all her dealings with Mrs. Orme; but nevertheless Mrs. Orme had not yet read her character.
Men have sinned deep as she had sinned, and, lepers though they have been, they have afterwards been clean. But that task of cleansing oneself is not an easy one; — the waters of that Jordan in which it is needful to wash are scalding hot. The cool neighbouring streams of life’s pleasant valleys will by no means suffice.
 From Little Women:
Then she remembered her mother’s promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey.
“Mother wants us to read and love and mind these books, and we must begin at once. We used to be faithful about it, but since Father went away and all this war trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as you please, but I shall keep my book on the table here and read a little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know it will do me good and help me through the day.”
“Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?”
“That’s loving our neighbor better than ourselves, and I like it,” said Meg, as they set out their presents while their mother was upstairs collecting clothes for the poor Hummels.
Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.
“I know I shall forget. If you see me doing anything wrong, just remind me by a wink, will you?” returned Jo, giving her collar a twitch and her head a hasty brush. “No, winking isn’t ladylike. I’ll lift my eyebrows if any thing is wrong, and nod if you are all right.
“How is your cat, Miss March?” asked the boy, trying to look sober while his black eyes shone with fun. “Nicely, thank you, Mr. Laurence. But I am not Miss March, I’m only Jo,” returned the young lady. “I’m not Mr. Laurence, I’m only Laurie.” “Laurie Laurence, what an odd name.”“My first name is Theodore, but I don’t like it, for the fellows called me Dora, so I made them say Laurie instead.” “I hate my name, too, so sentimental! I wish every one would say Jo instead of Josephine. How did you make the boys stop calling you Dora?”“I thrashed ’em.” “I can’t thrash Aunt March, so I suppose I shall have to bear it.” And Jo resigned herself with a sigh.
“Never mind that. I’ll tell you how we can manage. There’s a long hall out there, and we can dance grandly, and no one will see us. Please come.” The hall was empty, and they had a grand polka, for Laurie danced well, and taught her the German step, which delighted Jo, being full of swing and spring.
“I don’t believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit more than we do, in spite of our burned hair, old gowns, one glove apiece and tight slippers that sprain our ankles when we are silly enough to wear them.” And I think Jo was quite right.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep it Short #17

I finished L.M. Montgomery's Short Stories 1909-1922. I was able to read one fairy tale from The Blue Fairy Book. I read "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp."

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

First sentence: There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son called Aladdin, a careless, idle boy who would do nothing but play ball all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself.

Premise/plot: A young Aladdin is fooled by a wicked African magician masquerading as his long-lost uncle. His "uncle" needs him to get his hands on special treasure. He is seeking a lamp. Of course, his plans are ultimately foiled. Aladdin ends up with a magical ring and a magical lamp. Through these magical items his life is forever changed. And for a time his happiness seems perfectly secured and unchallenged. Until the magician figures out that Aladdin is alive and using the lamp. Aladdin will have to fight for his happy ending after all...

My thoughts: The original fairy tale barely resembles the Disney plot. In fact, the only things the story has in common with the Disney story is the name Aladdin, and the fact that the lamp has a genie. (The genie doesn't have a limit on how many wishes it can grant.)

 I liked this story.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 27, 2018

The Pet War

Pet War. Allan Woodrow. 2013. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: I stood at the bottom of the driveway in my pajamas with a serious case of bed head.

Premise/plot: Otto and Lexi are siblings. Otto wants a dog. Lexi wants a cat. Mom's verdict: whoever can earn (at least) five hundred dollars in one month can choose what pet the family gets. Lexi is twelve; Otto is eleven. Neither has really gone about earning money in a serious way before. Who will win this pet war?!

My thoughts: I liked this one okay. I do not want my time back! And it is always a relief to have a book with a dog on the cover that is SAFE to read. No pets die in this book!!!! 

Otto is the narrator of this one. He really LOVES dogs and hates cat. As a cat lover, I really didn't enjoy all the dog talk and the disparaging talk against cats. Personally, I wouldn't have minded a story from LEXI'S perspective. But my job is to review the book that is--the book I actually read and not the book I might have wanted to read instead.

Otto is an amusing narrator. He pokes a lot of fun at himself. He's not the brightest or best...especially when it comes to math, economics, and soccer. He does have a super-patient best friend, Malcolm. Without Malcolm, I'm guessing Otto would have made no money at all. Otto has plenty of misadventures when his money-making schemes go awry. I could easily see this book being adapted as a children's comedy movie.

Otto has a lot to learn--not just about math. He is more often than not very rude and demanding. He lacks respect and courtesy. It bothered me to see him treat others so thoughtlessly. In particular, I didn't like the way he treated his dad. He only sees his dad some of the time, and when he does see him. He's all give me money, give me money, give me money, I want money. And when his dad asks him to do something he's like HOW MUCH MONEY do I get. If his dad says he's not going to pay him, he doesn't do it. And this attitude isn't just with his dad--or his mom--it's with everyone. Otto's attitude actually reminded me of my least favorite character in the movie Sing--MIKE.

Lexi seemed a lot more likeable. Not perfect. Not nearly as goody-two-shoes as Otto imagines her to be. But authentically nice.

Kids may enjoy this one more than adults.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Shropshire, England
July 1183
He was ten years old and an alien in an unfriendly land, made an unwilling exile by his mother's marriage to a Marcher border lord. His new stepfather seemed a kindly man, but he was not of Llewelyn's blood, not one of the Cymry, and each dawning day in Shropshire only intensified Llewelyn's heartsick longing for his homeland. 
Premise/plot: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman is a historical romance novel set in thirteenth century England starring King John's illegitimate (but claimed) daughter Joanna. When she's still practically a child--fourteen, I believe--her father arranges her marriage to a Welsh prince--the strongest political/military leader in Wales. His name is Llewelyn. Will it be a love match? Yes.

But being together--staying together--will bring challenges. One of the biggest threats to their marriage? The fact that her father is King John. Llewelyn and John's "alliance" doesn't last long. These two will wage war upon one another relentlessly. Joanna often feels forced to choose between her husband and children and her father.

King John is....well, most people in the novel don't have a hard time describing him as despicable, wicked, cruel. Joanna, well, she has seen another side of him. And she wants there to be some good within him. But is there?

Another huge challenge to overcome is Llewelyn's (illegitimate but) firstborn son, Gruffydd. Joanna tries really hard--especially when Gruffydd is a young child--to get along with her stepson. But he is angry all the time, resentful of her presence.

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this one! Is it historical fiction or historical romance? It offers more than just romance. It follows politics and warfare in England and Wales during this time.

The book also examines the rights or lack of rights of women. Welsh women had more rights than Norman women, for example.

Marriages were arranged, for the most part, and brides were sometimes super-young. As in married at ten, twelve, or fourteen. (In the case of the ten year old, I believe readers are assured that the marriage was not consummated until she was fourteen or fifteen.) John's bride, Isabella, was thirteen or fourteen. He did not wait for her to grow up any which makes for some awkward seduction scenes early in the novel.

But it is clearly also a romance. The 'romance' between Llewelyn and Joanna is the main story line. Of course, it's not a traditional romance novel in that all of the romance occurs after the wedding. These two didn't meet, I believe, until their wedding. Is it smutty? Yes. To a certain degree. A few scenes here and there. But in a novel this large, the percentage of smut is small and not overwhelming.

There is an author's note to clarify for readers which characters are real (real historical figures) and which are fictional. All of the main characters and many of the minor ones were real.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Short Stories from 1909-1922

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


This book contains twenty-seven short stories by L.M. Montgomery. They were originally published from 1909-1922. The stories vary in length and quality but also in type. What they all have in common, perhaps, is a satisfying happily ever after ending. There are stories of romance, of friendship, of families coming together again, of young people finding their place in the world.

I have already reviewed twenty-five of short stories in my weekly 'Keep It Short' series.

The two stories I haven't reviewed yet are "Uncle Richard's New Year's Dinner" and "White Magic."

Uncle Richard's New Year Dinner.
First sentence: Prissy Baker was in Oscar Miller's store New Year's morning, buying matches—for New Year's was not kept as a business holiday in Quincy—when her uncle, Richard Baker, came in. He did not look at Prissy, nor did she wish him a happy New Year; she would not have dared. Uncle Richard had not been on speaking terms with her or her father, his only brother, for eight years.

Premise/plot: A family feud is mended when Prissy Baker sets out to secretly prepare a New Year's dinner for her uncle. She overhears that he will be away on business and will be returning to an empty house. (His housekeeper having the holiday off.) She doesn't think anyone--even someone as mean as Uncle Richard--should have to eat a cold dinner on New Year's Day. That's no way to start the New Year off! She plans to be gone by the time he returns, but, as chance would have it. He "catches" her and is DELIGHTED with her consideration. He's ready to mend things at last.

My thoughts: It was okay. I didn't dislike it. And I suppose the world needs stories set at New Year's just like it needs Christmas stories.

White Magic.
First sentence: One September afternoon in the year of grace 1840 Avery and Janet Sparhallow were picking apples in their Uncle Daniel Sparhallow's big orchard.

Premise/plot:  Janet cannot understand why Avery isn't super-excited about her upcoming wedding to Randall Burnley. Who wouldn't want to marry Randall?!?! But Avery decidedly is NOT in love. She's marrying because she's twenty-two and afraid of being an old maid. As for why Randall, the Burnleys are the only local family "good enough" for the Sparhallows.

Janet does something DARING. She goes to the "local witch" and gets a love potion. Randall, in her opinion, deserves a wife who adores him. If she can make Avery fall in love with Randall, all will be well. She tries to follow the instructions, but, fate intervenes. The first person Avery sees is NOT Randall. Janet is the one who will have to confess to Randall that Avery is going to jilt him and marry someone else. How will he take the news?

My thoughts: I LOVE this story. I do. Janet and Randall were obviously meant to be. Readers can spot where this one is heading from the start. Janet LOVES Randall but isn't quite aware that she's in love with him. And even if she has her suspicions, her doubts, she's convinced that Randall could never, ever, ever, ever love her like that. After all, he's been "courting" her sister, Avery for years now. True Janet and Randall spend a great deal of time together talking and laughing. But it's Avery he's attached to, right?!
Randall could never fancy her—a little plain, brown thing, only half grown. Nobody could think of her beside beautiful, rose-faced Avery. Janet accepted this fact unquestioningly. She had never been jealous. She only felt that she wanted Randall to have everything he wanted—to be perfectly happy.
"Now I can tell you, Janet, how much I love you." "Me? Me!" choked Janet. "You. Why, you're in the very core of my heart, girl. Don't tell me you can't love me—you can—you must—why, Janet," for his eyes had caught and locked with hers for a minute, "you do!"
Three years ago you were a child. I did not think about you. I wanted a wife—and Avery was pretty. I thought I was in love with her. Then you grew up all at once—and we were such good friends—I never could talk to Avery—she wasn't interested in anything I said—and you have eyes that catch a man—I've always thought of your eyes.
Looking back at all the short stories in this one, here are my top eight.

Abel and His Great Adventure (read online)
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."
Aunt Philippa and the Men (read online)
"So you want to get married?" she said. "You'd better wait till you're grown up." "How old must a person be before she is grown up?" I asked gravely. "Humph! That depends. Some are grown up when they're born, and others ain't grown up when they're eighty."
Charlotte's Ladies (read online)
I wouldn't really like to be anybody but myself, even if I am homely. It's better to be yourself with mousy hair and freckles than somebody else who is ever so beautiful.
How We Went to the Wedding (read online)
The sergeant gave us the tent and stove, and sent a man down to the Reserve for Peter Crow. Moreover, he vindicated his title of friend by making us take a dozen prairie chickens and a large ham—besides any quantity of advice. We didn't want the advice but we hugely welcomed the ham.
Miss Sally's Letter (read online)
Prose, rightly written and read, is sometimes as beautiful as poetry.
The Garden of Spices (read online)
To love is easy, and therefore common; but to understand—how rare that is!
The Gossip of Valley View (read online)
Young Thomas looked rather serious, however, when the minister and his wife called that evening and referred to the report. Young Thomas gravely said that it was unfounded. The minister looked graver still and said he was sorry—he had hoped it was true. His wife glanced significantly about Young Thomas's big, untidy sitting-room, where there were cobwebs on the ceiling and fluff in the corners and dust on the mop-board, and said nothing, but looked volumes.
The Letters (read online)
The pain and suffering of the world never dies, and while it lives there will be work for such as you to do, and in the doing of it you will find comfort and strength and the highest joy of living. I believe in you. I believe you will make of your life a beautiful and worthy thing. I give you Godspeed for the years to come. Out of my own loneliness I, an unknown friend, who has never clasped your hand, send this message to you. I understand—I have always understood—and I say to you: "Be of good cheer."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory Head in the Clouds

Dory Fantasmagory #4: Head in the Clouds. Abby Hanlon. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory, but most people call me Rascal. I have an enemy named Mrs. Gobble Gracker--you might have heard of her. She has been trying to catch me and bring me to her cave. But today I have a problem that's even bigger than Mrs. Gobble Gracker. It's this coat.

Premise/plot: In this fourth book in the series, Dory gets her first loose tooth. What kinds of things will she imagine about the tooth fairy? And where will her imagination lead her?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this imaginative chapter book. My favorite part of the series remains the illustrations. They are super fun. For example, the book opens with a map of Dory Land that is partially inspired (perhaps) by the Candy Land game board.

The first two chapters of this one are about a BUNCHY COAT and how it is the coat's fault that she lies again and again and again to her teacher. (Her parents don't buy that excuse, but they give the coat away anyway). The remaining chapters focus on a LOOSE TOOTH and Dory's speculations on the tooth fairy. Her siblings have her convinced that the Tooth Fairy is like Santa Claus, she only leaves money to GOOD children. She leaves EGGS or OMELETS for BAD children. And wouldn't you know Dory HATES eggs. Can she get on the good side of the tooth fairy? Perhaps she'll have the chance to explain when she "meets" the tooth fairy at the local grocery store.

There's never a dull moment if it's spent in Dory's company.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep

Dory Dory Black Sheep (Dory Fantasmagory #3) Abby Hanlon. 2016. 156 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory but everyone calls me Rascal. I am six. I have a lot of freckles. My hair is just messy. This is my nightgown that I try to wear as much as I can. But the most important thing about me is that I have two worlds. One is real and one is imaginary.

Premise/plot: Is Dory the black sheep of her family? Perhaps if you accept the lighthearted definition provided for readers at the beginning of the book: "a member of a family or group who does things a little differently." Dory does things differently. Ask her mom...or teacher...or her older brother, Luke, or her older sister, Violet. (Though her siblings' opinions might be biased!)

Dory does indeed live in two worlds: one real and one imaginary. But she doesn't give equal time and attention to both. In fact, 90% of the time she's in her own world and completely out-of-touch with reality. To use the world miracle lightly and perhaps inappropriately, it's a miracle if Dory stays on task and answers questions when asked.

Because Dory rarely--if ever--stays on task she's having difficulty learning to read. Her reading instruction time at school seems to be completely independent and without much guidance or instruction. Essentially the teacher saying: hey kid, read this book. Dory is paired with a partner, but the partner hasn't any more clue of how to read than Dory does. The teacher doesn't seem concerned with teaching them how to read--the skills and techniques they need to know to progress. Perhaps she just hasn't gotten around to working with their group yet.

Dory doesn't like being in the lowest reading group and being given a basket of "baby books" to read. But when she opens up the book and begins reading the illustrations, well, she supplies a story of her own imagination. A story peopled with her own imaginary friends and characters, and the black sheep of the farm story, well he leaps out of the book and becomes part of Dory's day-in, day-out imagination. Can she get the black sheep back in the book? Does she want to?

Her friends soon get swept up, up, and away with this new story. Even her friend who is able to read LONG chapter books all on her own. Dory's story is more exciting perhaps. 

This is Dory's third adventure. (I reviewed the first chapter book in the series in 2015. And here's my review of the second book in the series.)

My thoughts: One thing is delightful for sure: the illustrations. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the illustrations.

 I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't quite. Perhaps because I had a hard time NOT taking it seriously. Instead of getting swept up, up, and away by Dory's overactive imagination and delighting in her creative, free spirit, I kept thinking that her mom and her teacher weren't really giving Dory the attention she needed.

Learning to read is important, significant, life-changing. It isn't a cookie cutter process. And every child has his or her own timeframe for learning to read or becoming a fluent reader. There isn't one perfectly-perfect right way to teach reading. But I do think it is something that requires instruction. You just can't leave a child with a basket of books and hope for the best.
We pretend we are reading until she leaves. "If I was the farmer, I would just eat all the animals," whispers George. "If I was the farmer, I would move to the city and get an apartment with an elevator, I say. "If I was the farmer, I would run around naked and put mud all over my body and then stick things to it," says George. "But you would do that anyway," I say. "Yeah..." he says. 
"This little black sheep is kind of cute." I show George the picture. "And he's looking at you," George says. "What do you mean?" I say, and hold the book up closer. "I think his name is Goblin," I say. "Does it say that?" George asks. "I don't know," I say. "I can't read." "Raise your hand if you hate reading!" says George. And we both raise our hands high in the air.
Parenting Dory would be DIFFICULT to say the least. I don't envy her mom the task. But I get the idea that reading aloud to Dory wasn't ever a high priority to her. Perhaps Dory protested every time she tried. Perhaps the struggle wasn't worth it. Perhaps she was busy helping the older children with their homework. Perhaps Dory was so amazing at entertaining herself that she didn't want to interrupt her play, her free time. Perhaps she thinks teaching reading is the teacher's responsibility alone.

But Dory's homework of reading for a certain amount each day is completely independent. Her mom doesn't sit down with her, doesn't listen to her daughter read aloud, doesn't ask her questions about her reading, doesn't witness if her daughter is reading or not. So essentially there are no adults in her life that know Dory is struggling with reading. Dory seems to be all on her own, expected to make progress without any help, encouragement, or instruction.

Does Dory want to learn to read? Yes. Does she stay on task when left on her own to practice? Not really.

The book is cheerful. Dory, for the most part, is happy, happy, happy nearly all the time. She has her real friends and her imaginary friends to keep her company 24/7. Her imagination is over-the-top delightful. And I think Dory is content to make up her own stories instead of reading stories from a book. Her stories seem to be packed more with adventure and excitement.

Dory is a fictional character. I need to keep this in mind. Dory's over-the-top IMAGINATION has the potential to enchant young readers, to make them really excited about reading. Engaging real readers--real children--is more important than a technical behind-the-scenes guide for adults in how to teach children how to read. 

The writing is fun.

Quotes:
But before I get dressed, I have to wake up Mary. Lately, I've had to wake her up with a pan in my hand so she knows I really mean it. She's gotten super lazy now that she stays home when I'm at school. 
Rosabelle has a big thick chapter book in her lap. She looks up and sees me running toward her. We take turns picking each other up. It's like hugging, but more dangerous. 



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently Reading #17

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 Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. Joseph Loconte. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

Pet War. Allan Woodrow. 2013. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets #2). Thomas B. Costain. 1951. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed]


The Pendericks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy. Jeanne Birdsall. 2005. 262 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need To Know. R.C. Sproul. 1973/1998. 218 pages. [Source; Bought]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

My Victorian Year #16

Good news! I finished Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I wish I could say that I also finished Orley Farm as well. It feels like I've been reading it for three or four months! As of last night, I have exactly twenty chapters to go! (Unless my maths failed me. Entirely possible.)

I have also begun a reread of Little Women.

Quotes from Orley Farm
“I cannot understand Madeline,” Lady Staveley went on, not caring overmuch about Felix Graham’s acquirements.“Well, my dear, I think the key to her choice is this, that she has judged not with her eyes, but with her ears, or rather with her understanding. “But I must acknowledge that I cannot feel angry with Madeline.” “Angry! no, not angry. Who would be angry with the poor child?” “Indeed, I am somewhat proud of her. It seems to me that she prefers mind to matter, which is a great deal to say for a young lady.”
“Wit and intellect and power of expression have gone further with her than good looks and rank and worldly prosperity. If that be so, and I believe it is, I cannot but love her the better for it.”
Half-hours between young ladies and young gentlemen before breakfast are very serious things.
I believe that schoolmasters often tell fibs to schoolboys, although it would be so easy for them to tell the truth. But how difficult it is for the schoolboy always to tell the truth to his master!
But I believe that people can never really love each other merely because they are told to do so.
Friendship between true friends must extend to all the affairs of life.
Unhappiness and a melancholy mood suited him perhaps better than the world’s ordinary good-humour. He was a man who looked his best when under a cloud, and shone the brightest when everything about him was dark.
And Sophia also was not unequal to the occasion. There was, however, this difference between them. Lucius was quite honest in all that he said and did upon the occasion; whereas Miss Furnival was only half honest. Perhaps she was not capable of a higher pitch of honesty than that.
I cannot understand how any gentleman can be willing to use his intellect for the propagation of untruth, and to be paid for so using it.
“Yes, he is clever enough,” repeated the judge, “clever enough; and of high principles and an honest purpose. The fault which people find with him is this, — that he is not practical. He won’t take the world as he finds it. If he can mend it, well and good; we all ought to do something to mend it; but while we are mending it we must live in it.”
High position and a plentiful income are great blessings in this world, so that they be achieved without a stain. But even in this world they are not the greatest blessings. There are things much sweeter than them.
“Money and rank are only good, if every step by which they are gained be good also. I should never blush to see my girl the wife of a poor man whom she loved; but I should be stricken to the core of my heart if I knew that she had become the wife of a rich man whom she did not love.”
But what I say is this: you should never give up as long as you live. There’s a sort of feeling about it which I can’t explain. One should always say to oneself, No surrender.
“Nobody should ever knock under of his own accord.”
Quotes from Little Women
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
He will stay and do his work faithfully as long as he can, and we won’t ask for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and hear the letter.
 I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.
Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City.
Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but in earnest, and see how far on you can get before Father comes home.” “Really, Mother? Where are our bundles?” asked Amy, who was a very literal young lady. “Each of you told what your burden was just now, except Beth. I rather think she hasn’t got any,” said her mother.  “Yes, I have. Mine is dishes and dusters, and envying girls with nice pianos, and being afraid of people.” Beth’s bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted to laugh, but nobody did, for it would have hurt her feelings very much.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #16

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

The Romance of Jedediah.

First sentence: Jedediah was not a name that savoured of romance. His last name was Crane, which is little better. And it would be no use to call this story "Mattie Adams's Romance" because Mattie Adams is not a romantic name either.

Premise/plot: Jedediah is a tin peddler. He's new to the job. He decides to pay a call at the home of his old sweetheart never dreaming that she'd still be living there after all those years. She invites him in. He accepts. The neighbors begin to talk--as neighbors do in Montgomery's stories. Will their romance be rekindled?

My thoughts: I definitely liked this one!

Quotes:
Romance cares not for appearances and apparently delights in contradictions. The homely shambling man you pass unnoticed on the street may have, tucked away in his past, a story more exciting and thrilling than anything you have ever read in fiction.
"What a fool you are, Jed Crane," he told himself. "You used to be a young fool, and now you're an old one. Sad, that! Get up, my nag, get up. It's a poor lookout for a man of your years, Jed. Don't get excited. It ain't the least likely that Mattie Adams is here yet. She's married and gone years ago, no doubt. It's probable there's no Adamses here at all now. But it's romantic, yes, it's romantic. It's splendid. Get up, my nag, get up."
When Selena had come over Mattie had not the slightest idea of resuming her former relationship with the romantic Jedediah. She had merely shown him kindness for old friendship's sake. But so well did the unconscious Selena work in Jed's behalf that when she flounced off home in a pet Mattie was resolved that she would take Jed back if he wanted to come. She wasn't going to put up with Selena's everlasting interference. She would show her that she was independent.
"Well, this is romance. What else would you call it now? Me, poor, scared to speak—and Mattie ups and does it for me, bless her. Yes, I've been longing for romance all my life, and I've got it at last. None of your commonplace courtships for me, I always said. Them was my very words. And I guess this has been a little uncommon—I guess it has. Anyhow, I'm uncommon happy. I never felt so romantic before. Get up, my nag, get up."
The Tryst of the White Lady
 
First sentence: "I wisht ye'd git married, Roger," said Catherine Ames.



Premise/plot: Does Roger fall in love with a ghost? A beautiful, impossible to obtain phantom? An old family haunt? Roger definitely is in love--or at the very least in love with love--by the end of the story. But who is the mystery girl?

My thoughts:  This is a strange story. But at least the girl is real enough.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio #15

Crime and Punishment: A BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatisation.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Adapted by Mike Walker. 3 hrs.

This one was available through my local library. 

I began reading Crime and Punishment because it was my Classics Spin winner. I believe I started reading the book in March. I finished it this week. (Hurray!!!) I celebrated by listening to an abridged audio book of it. I often award myself by either watching a film adaptation or listening to an audio adaptation. This one was a treat!

Crime and Punishment definitely comes across as a psychological drama--or thriller. I'm not sure "thriller" is the right word. But I'm not positive it's the wrong word either. DRAMA is the perfect word however.

The book keeps you very much inside the head of the narrator--Raskolnikov. That is not unusual in and of itself. But Raskolnikov is a tortured soul. And his inner voice comes across as quite mad or tortured throughout the production. In some ways I think the audio DRAMA does a better job of conveying this even more so than the book itself. (Though it is abridged.)

My review of the book.

I also listened to ORSON WELLES "War of the Worlds" Radio Broadcast. October 30, 1938. Mercury Theatre on the Air. 1 hour.

War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. It was directed by Orson Welles; it also starred Orson Welles. Did listeners really hear the radio broadcast and panic? Maybe. Maybe not. I am slightly skeptical that anyone could hear it and be fooled...for long. For one thing, I believe it says at least two to three times that it is a radio drama. Second, you'd have to REALLY suspend your disbelief to think that all of the action and drama was happening in real time. It spans WEEKS. I think the panic element of it has become a dramatic legend that is part of our culture. True or not, people may enjoy believing it. Sensational drama sells. And the idea of "the public" "the masses" going crazy is certainly sensational. I'm not convinced either way in terms of if the panic was "real" or a fabrication that grows larger and larger as the story is told and retold.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Missing May

Missing May. Cynthia Rylant. 1992. Scholastic. 89 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When May died, Ob came back to the trailer, got out of his good suit and into his regular clothes, then went and sat in the Chevy for the rest of the night.

Premise/plot: Missing May won the Newbery Medal in 1993. This novel for young readers explores grief. Summer and Ob are the central characters; they are the ones most 'missing' May. All the happiness Summer has known has been in the home of her aunt and uncle. May and Ob took her in and adopted her; times were good, love abounded. But May died in her garden, and life hasn't been the same since she's left.

Ob wants more than anything to make contact with May's spirit. Summer isn't sure that that is even possible, but she hopes it is for Ob's sake. Cletus is relatively new friend of the family. He's around Summer's age. But he has a way--a knack--with Ob that is healing and comforting. Together these three set out on a road trip. The destination? A spiritualist church that Cletus read about with a medium as a pastor. Will May reach out from beyond the grave with a message for Ob? for May?

My thoughts: Did I like it? No. Yes. No. Maybe. I'll start with what I did like. Rylant is a strong writer. She did a great job with the setting. It's set in West Virginia a place where she herself grew up. She captures a specific place--if not a specific time. Which brings me to her characterization. Her characters were human--there's a rawness to them, a take-me-like-I-am rawness. I think Cletus may just be my favorite among them. Her writing was GREAT.

Here is one of her descriptions of May:
She understood people and she let them be whatever way they needed to be. She had faith in every single person she ever met, and this never failed her, for nobody ever disappointed May. Seems people knew she saw the very best of them, and they'd turn that side to her to give her a better look. (15-16)
And one of Cletus:
Cletus had some gifts--I was learning this bit by bit--and knowing when to talk and when not to was turning out to be one of them. (37)
I can certainly see why it was honored with the Newbery award.

So what didn't I like? I didn't like the content, the story. Specifically, I did not like the ongoing quest to make contact with the dead--either through Cletus (that attempt failed) or through a professional medium (that one failed as well). In a way, it is thought-provoking. When someone you love dies--where is your hope? Is your hope in making contact with them again in the here and now? Is your hope in finding messages in feelings, signs, visions, dreams? Is your hope in mediums and psychics?

Or is your hope found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Is your hope in heaven? That you will spend eternity with them in heaven because you both believed that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life--the only way to the Father? Is your comfort found in the Word of God? Can you find peace and comfort through the Spirit and the fellowship of believers?

Summer and Ob are both searching for peace and comfort. Specifically Summer wants Ob to come to a place of peace so that he will start living again. She fears that he has lost all the will to live. And if he's lost the will to live, then who will take care of her? who will love her?

As a Christian, I saw the lost-ness, the despair of Summer and Ob. Ob is in need of answers, in need of peace, in need of comfort. But he's seeking in the wrong places in the wrong ways. Summer is young and confused. She doesn't believe strongly--one way or the other--about the after life. I pitied them both. I'm not sure readers are supposed to pity them. I'm not sure readers are not supposed to pity them either.

Grief wears many faces. There isn't one right way to grieve. Each person is different. Christian or not--every person grieves in his or her unique way. And it's not like anyone--insider or outsider--can say a handful of phrases to 'snap someone out of their grief' to 'fix them' or 'heal them.' There are plenty of WRONG things to say that hurt instead of help. I think everyone could learn from Cletus--a bit--in just BEING there and listening. (But to be fair, Cletus is far from perfect, it is Cletus who suggests going to a professional medium.)

Would I have liked Missing May as a child? I probably would not have read it. a) I was still AVOIDING all books that had the potential for sadness. b) I was certainly reading in 1992/1993, but probably not books for this age group. c) I attended a Christian school with a small library budget and high standards of what was appropriate and inappropriate. I don't think a book with talk of mediums and contacting the dead would have made the cut. But I could be wrong. It DID win the Newbery. And I honestly can't say if the librarian was reading every book before it was ordered and placed within the collection.

Christian families shouldn't necessarily avoid the book at all costs. But if you do read it, you may want to read it together and use it as a discussion opportunity. As I said, it is thought-provoking.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 1866/2002. 671 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: At the beginning of July, during a spell of exceptionally hot weather, towards evening, a certain young man came down on to the street from the little room he rented from some tenants in S--- Lane and slowly, almost hesitantly, set off towards K---n Bridge.

Premise/plot: Rodion Raskolnikov, the "hero" of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, has major issues. He's become convinced, mostly, that murder is justifiable if it's for the 'greater good' of mankind. He has thought a lot about this--even written an article about it. His abstract theory becomes his one consuming obsession.

Does he have what it takes to kill someone? More importantly perhaps, does he have what it takes to kill someone and get away it. In his mental state, he does not believe that the crime IS a crime. His "victim" (he doesn't see her as a victim) is a pawnbroker who "takes advantage" of the poor. The world would be a better place without her, wouldn't it? If it would be--and he is convinced it would be--it's the right thing to eliminate her. He plans everything out--to the best of his ability--but things don't go according to plan. He didn't plan on the victim's sister returning to their home mid-crime; he didn't plan on a second victim; he didn't plan on nearly being caught by young men who'd come to pawn their goods. He also didn't plan on his physical health coming unhinged just as his mental and emotional health was breaking down. Is his madness caused by illness? Is his illness caused by madness? Is his illness real or in his head? Is there a cure for what ails him?

His family--his mother and sister--come to St. Petersburg. His sister is newly engaged to a young man, a man Rodion disapproves of and despises. (It is mutual.) His mother is perhaps rightly worried about her son's well being. Fortunately one of Rodion's friends, Razumikhin, is there to provide comfort, support, and encouragement. 

Another family is central to the novel as well. Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov is an out-of-luck drunk whom Rodion meets early in the novel. This drunk tells the tragic story of his tragic family to anyone and everyone who will listen; he tells it with drink in hand of course. Rodion witnesses his new friend's death and makes sure that he's taken to his own home to die. He meets the soon-to-be widow, Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova, and more importantly one of his daughters, Sonya. (She's been "forced" into prostitution in an effort to keep her family alive. Her father is an incompetent drunk and her mother is dying of consumption. She has, I believe, three younger siblings.) Rodion gives the family money for the funeral. He's not trying to cause a scandal; he's moved with compassion--pity--for their plight. Sonya becomes one of the main characters of the book. She is also the first person to whom he confesses his crime. (At this point he still doesn't see it as a crime.)

Most of the novel is about the cat-and-mouse game being played by Rodion Raskolnikov and the detective Porfiry Petrovich. Rodion becomes suspicious that the detective suspects him and is trying to trap him. So he tries to stay a couple of steps ahead of him. Likewise, Porfiry KNOWS that Rodion suspects that he's suspected. He knows that Rodion is trying to stay a few steps ahead. He also knows that ultimately Rodion will fail and that justice will be done. It doesn't matter to him if the case is resolved today or next week or next month.

My thoughts: Are ideas dangerous? Can a germ--a seed--of an idea become dangerous and deadly? Do ideas have consequences? What if theories and ideas and philosophies are carried out in day to day life and bear fruit?

I don't always "like" unreliable narrators. I haven't decided if the category applies here or not. Is he mentally ill? Is he mad? Did he know right from wrong when he committed the crime? If he was insane--was the insanity long-lasting? or was it temporary? When did his madness start? And what caused it? Was the idea fermenting in his mind the root cause? Is there a cure for his madness? Even if he's punished by the state, will he ever admit moral responsibility? That is will he ever come to see his crime as a CRIME. Will he come to see that his idea of justifiable murder is reprehensible? Or will he continue to think that the only crime--the crime he's being punished for--is the crime of getting caught, the crime of being incompetent, the crime of being weak?

According to Wikipedia, Dostoyevsky was inspired by a French murderer, Pierre Francois Lacenaire.

I have shared quotes from the novel in my weekly 'My Victorian Year' posts. 

Here are my quotes from the last part of the book.
Power is given only to those who dare to lower themselves and pick it up. Only one thing matters, one thing: to be able to dare! (499)
All human beings need air, air, air...That above all else! (525)
There is nothing in the world more difficult than plain speaking, and nothing easier than flattery. If when a man is trying to speak plainly one-hundredth part of a false note creeps into what he is saying, the result is an instant dissonance, and following it--a scandal. In the case of flattery, however, even if everything in it, right down to the very last note, is false, it sounds agreeable and is received not without pleasure; even though it's a crude sort of pleasure, it's pleasure nevertheless. And no matter how crude the flattery may be, at least half of it always seems genuine. (568)
Everyone must look out for himself, and the best time is had by those who're best able to deceive themselves. (574)
But those people had the courage of their convictions, and so they were right, while I didn't, and consequently had no right to take the step I did. (649)

And here are my overall favorite quotes:
One can always forgive a man for telling lies; lying's a harmless activity, because it leads to the truth. (163)
"We've got facts," they say. But facts aren't everything: at least half the battle consists in how one makes use of them! (164)
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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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mama Seeton's Whistle

Mama Seeton's Whistle. Jerry Spinelli. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The first whistle happened one day when Skippy Seeton was two years old. Mama Seeton came to the back door to call him in for dinner. He wasn't there. Mama Seeton was puzzled. From the kitchen window, she had been watching him play.

Premise/plot: Mama Seeton's whistle, which is described as "not a loud whistle. Or a fancy whistle. Just a simple, two-note whistle," is magical. When she whistles her children come home. Her whistle travels far and wide; her whistle proves irresistible.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It spans several decades. When the picture book opens, Mama Seeton is a young mother with one child: a son named Skippy. By the end, she has MANY children and MANY grandchildren.
Every day from then on, Skippy Seeton came to dinner when he heard his mother's whistle. And that's how it was when little brother Sheldon came along. And brother Stewart. And finally a sister--Sophie.
Time went by, as time does. And now the Seeton children have children of their own. And when they call them in for dinner, they do it with a whistle. It is not loud. It is not fancy. Just two simple notes that fly through the talk of people and the noise of cars and buses...until they find...every one...of Mama Seeton's grandchildren.
The story is sweet and compelling. It packs a LOT of emotion into its pages.

The illustrations are AMAZING. LeUyen Pham is without a doubt my favorite, favorite illustrator. Read the details of the illustrations. And do read the illustrator's note.

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, April 17, 2018

A Busy Creature's Day Eating!

A Busy Creature's Day Eating! Mo Willems. 2018. Disney-Hyperion. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
A Apples!
B Berries!
C Cereal!
D Doughnuts
E Eggs
? !
F Furniture
Premise/plot: The 'creature' that stars in Mo Willem's newest book EATS just about anything and everything--whether it's good for him or not. Will there be consequences for his LARGE and CRAZY appetite?

My thoughts: This book is definitely over-the-top silly and designed to make children of a certain age giggle. For example, he is beginning to regret his life around the letter O. And P is for POTTY. I'll leave it to your imagination what V is for.

I would say there's a practical lesson in here somewhere, BUT, in all honesty the last thing you need to put on a queasy stomach is RICE, SALTINES, and TEA. Those foods are for after you've emptied out, not before.

Also, I have to wonder where his parents were while he was eating. Surely a parent should have stepped in and stopped him from eating a HUGE HOT-SAUCE HALIBUT HOAGIE.

I did not care for the illustrations--for the style of the illustrations. But I must admit the creature himself was drawn expressively.

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


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 16, 2018

The Conquering Family

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

From the introduction: It must be said at the outset that there is no need for another history of England unless it can be given popular appeal. History, on which people depended once for enlightenment and entertainment in reading, is now little read except in classrooms, and this is due to the stern limits which historians have set for themselves.

From chapter one: It was late in September, the year was 1066, and that section of the great north highway which crosses the Aire and the Wharfe and rolls on to the city of York was black with marching soldiers.

Premise/plot: Thomas Costain wrote four (nonfiction) books on the Plantagenets. This is the first in that series. It begins with William the Conqueror and ends with the death of King John. It is packed with drama and adventure. It is an entertaining read. Plenty of familiar details--of course--but I learned many things as well.

From chapter two: The strongest of the three men had won. Never in history, perhaps, have the qualities which make a successful dictator been combined more perfectly and completely in one vigorous frame and one keen brain. William was a great warrior as well as an astute general. (13)

From chapter three: There is only one good thing to be said about the reign of William II, called Rufus or the Red. It was brief. (30)

From chapter four: Good news travels fast, even in a land where most of the roads are no better than cow trails. The word which swept over England immediately after the accession to the throne of the youngest son of William the Conqueror was so good that it set the whole countryside ablaze with joyful expectations. Henry wanted to take a Saxon princess as his bride. (43)

From chapter five: Henry I was not a great man, but was in many respects a great king. (62)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one very much! I would recommend it to anglophiles everywhere! I enjoyed the narrative style. I enjoyed the stories. It is written to be entertaining to the masses, if you will.

The overall 'so what' of the book is that Costain believes that England was ultimately better off because of the Norman invasion led by William the Conqueror. That it was the blending of Anglo-Saxons and Normans that made the English people GREAT. Yes, these turbulent years might have been bloody at times, unfair to some perhaps--but the ends justify the means.
 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently Reading #16

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
Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God. (Theologians on the Christian Life). Joe Rigney. Edited by Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor. 2018. Crossway. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

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

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Something True 
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need To Know. R.C. Sproul. 1973/1998. 218 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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