Friday, June 22, 2018

Paris in July 2018

Paris in July
Hosted by Thyme for Tea; sign up 
When: the month of July
Goal: read, watch, listen to French things

I have participated in this for several years. I absolutely LOVE it. In fact, as soon as it's June I begin to plot and plan ahead. Of course, most of my plotting is set aside once it's July. Actually despite my plans I tend to be spontaneous in what I include for my Paris in July experience.

Still. I hope to finish one of these chunksters for the event. I've read Les Miserables at least three or four times. But this is a new-to-me translation. The Three Musketeers would be a reread as well. But it would be my first reread of the novel. I have never read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Never. In fact I find it the most intimidating of the three. It is my scary do-I-dare-to-do-it choice.

What I might do--might--is read one and listen to one. I've newly started listening to audio books.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it's embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton. My husband. My hero. My betrayer.

First sentence from chapter one: I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton., Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot.

Premise/plot: My Dear Hamilton is a novelization of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The climax is not her discovery of his affair with that Reynolds woman nor is it her husband's death at the hands of Aaron Burr. The climax is her confrontation with James Monroe in 1825. He has come in pursuit of reconciliation, of peace. He has come without apology or humility. Will she put aside their differences and let bygones be bygones? This is where the novel opens--the prologue--and where it climaxes near the end. This is the framework of the novel. (Chapter one begins in 1777.)

My thoughts: I would recommend My Dear Hamilton to anyone who a) enjoys historical fiction b) enjoys American history c) has a love/hate relationship with politics d) enjoys spending time with complex characters e) has spent any amount of time listening to Hamilton.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved it so much I'm almost at a loss of words. Almost.

It is well-written. The writing is compelling and beautiful. "The people we love are not entirely knowable. Even to themselves. But we love them anyway. The only other choice is to live without love, alone."

It is well-researched. For example, I love that the authors tried their best to let these historical figures speak for themselves--using letters to craft some of the dialogue. I love that they documented their choices giving readers a real behind-the-scenes glimpse. What was true? What was fiction? Does the novel's timeline differ from history? Why? What did they choose to include? What did they not choose to include? OFTEN I read historical fiction and I have a dozen or so questions for the author. NOT so in this one. They really go above and beyond here.

It is character-driven and stars VERY complex characters. PERSPECTIVE. This novel is all about perspective AND perception. How do we perceive ourselves? How do we perceive others? Can we ever really know someone else? Can we ever really know ourselves? Do we have to love all of a person to love them at all? Can you wholly love someone--love someone unconditionally? And if you do does that make you weak or strong? What does forgiveness look like? Is forgiveness woven into unconditional love?

It's not unusual for novels about Alexander and Eliza to be ALL Alexander all the time even when the book is supposed to be from Eliza's point of view. I like that Eliza is her own person.  The focus of the novel is the inner life of Eliza Schuyler. We see these events through her eyes--with her heart, mind, and soul. Readers do not witness many dramatic scenes; scenes that are central to the musical Hamilton. Her son's duel. Her husband's duel. Just the devastating consequences of those events. But you don't have to witness the action to witness the pain.

Is the book smutty? No. Yes. Maybe. It depends on how strict your definition is. When sex scenes are relatively infrequent and just take up two or three sentences here and there--as opposed to five or six pages of graphic what-goes-where, I don't consider it smut. I don't necessarily stamp a CLEAN label on it. But I don't find it problematic.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Library on Wheels

Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile. 2018. Sharlee Glenn. Abrams. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mary Lemist Titcomb grew up wanting to do things. The problem was, people were always telling her that she couldn't. She couldn't do this, because she was too young. She couldn't do that, because she was a girl, or because her family didn't have enough money, or because it just wasn't practical. But Mary never gave up.

Premise/plot: Library On Wheels is about a pioneer librarian, Mary Lemist Titcomb. Librarianship was a new field when she came of age, and it wasn't an accepted field for women. (Not like teaching or nursing.) But Titcomb was diligent, determined, and ambitious. It wasn't only that librarianship was a brand new field but that public libraries were brand new as well. Titcomb's vision of what could be--what should be--would have a lasting impact.

The library she would have the biggest impact on perhaps was Washington County Free Library. (This wasn't her very first library to work.) The Washington County Free Library was the second county-wide library in the U.S. (I believe this is in 1901).
It had been established for all the residents of Washington County, but over half of them--some 25,000 people--lived far from town, on farms scattered across nearly 500 square miles. How to get the library's books to them?
Miss Titcomb was determined that everyone should have access to the library--not just adults, not just the rich or educated, not just those who lived in town. She was absolutely unwavering in her dedication this vision. First, she opened a children's room in the library--one of the first in the nation. She also made sure that all the outlying village schools had a good rotating supply of books and pictures from the library. Then she started a storytelling hour in remote areas to get the country children excited about books and reading.
Next, she set up book deposit stations throughout the county. These served as small branch libraries where people could check out books, then return the ones they had already read...
But her biggest accomplishment was her vision of having book wagons deliver books to the people.
 "The book goes to the man. We do not wait for the man to come to the book."
The book wagon made its maiden voyage in April 1905. Although Miss Titcomb rode along whenever she could, she still had her duties to fulfill back at the main library, so Mr. Joshua Thomas, the library janitor, was enlisted to be the driver. The wagon was pulled by a pair of dapper horses named Black Beauty and Dandy.
I loved, loved, loved that Mr. Thomas listed his profession as BOOK MISSIONARY in the 1910 census.

The book wagon evolved through the years--especially after a tragic accident with a train. This book tells a remarkable story of that evolution and the extraordinary librarian behind it.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I did. I absolutely loved it. I think it is for all ages. Yes, it's a nonfiction book for middle grade, but, it's so much more than that. I think it is for anyone and everyone who has ever loved a book or loved a library. I found it fascinating. There are so many pictures!!! They just weren't that many awesome nonfiction books when I was a kid.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Currently #25

Something Old
Rachel Ray. Anthony Trollope. 1863. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. 1952. 601 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New
My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie.
2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Daily Chronological Bible: KJV Edition. Holman Bible Publishers. 2014. 1440 pages. [Source: Free giveaway]

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life. J.I. Packer, Michael Lundy, and Richard Baxter. 2018. [July] Crossway books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

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

 


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Victorian Year #24

This week I read in Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray. But. I also watched a new-to-me adaptation of Little Women: a TV miniseries from 1978. I'll start with that!

This adaptation stars dozens of familiar faces. Meredith Baxter (Facts of Life) is Meg March. Susan Dey (Partridge Family) is Jo March. Eve Plumb (Brady Bunch) is Beth. Ann Dusenberry is Amy. (She was the only one I couldn't place clearly.) Dorothy McGuire is Marmee. (She was in Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson to name just two.) Greer Garson is Aunt March. (I know her best from Pride and Prejudice which made the scene where she's nagging Meg about her choice of husband seem very hypocritical). Robert Young was Laurie's grandfather. (Father Knows Best, Marcus Welby, M.D.) Richard Gilliland was Laurie (Theodore Lawrence). I was not familiar with him but he was a busy actor back in the day apparently. Cliff Potts was Mr. John Brooke. (Mom recognized him; I didn't.) William Shatner (Star Trek) as Professor Bhaer. Can't say that he could pull off a German accent. And a beardless Professor for Jo seemed a bit wrong. But he can pull off being a romantic lead...so it wasn't that bad. William Schallert as Mr. March. (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Patty Duke Show, Star Trek's Trouble with Tribbles episode, etc.) Virginia Gregg as Hannah. (Emergency! Dragnet, Perry Mason, My Three Sons, etc.) John de Lancie (Star Trek Next Generation, Q) as Freddy Vaughan. (They list him as Frank Vaughn for some bizarre reason).

I enjoyed this one. I did. It was in two episodes. It stuck fairly closely to the book. Some of the dialogue really did the book justice.

The only issue I had with this adaptation is Amy. Granted Amy isn't my most favorite character to begin with. But in this adaptation she's played by one actress--not two. So instead of a young girl acting--well as Amy does--you have a fully-grown woman acting like an immature, spoiled BRAT. (And getting away with it.) The scenes where she throws fits are RIDICULOUS. Some of what Amy does passes somewhat if you can picture her in the eight-to-twelve age range. But to see a fully grown actress acting that way it was just GRATING on the nerves. This portrayal focuses more on the outward drama of Amy being Amy without the quieter, subtler scenes of her maturing over the course of the years. At least in the book, there's character growth and one sees Amy go from being that bratty-brat to being an older-and-wiser woman.

Turning to Rachel Ray. Luke Rowan goes to Rachel's house and meets her mother, Mrs. Ray. They all have tea. He finds a way to ask permission to call on Rachel and perhaps propose to her if all goes well. As he's leaving, Mrs. Prime is coming by unannounced. She's the sister--if you remember--and she has a HISSY fit. Not in front of Luke though. It's not the only drama going down either. Luke's mother has come to visit and she's heard rumors of this Rachel character. She's decided to loathe Rachel though she's never met her before. She's poor therefore shes' trash. As if that wasn't enough....Luke's business partner truly has a melt-down. It looks like they will have to bring in some lawyers to work everything out. 

Quotes from Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray.
He looked and spoke like a sheep; but then, was it not known to all the world that wolves dressed themselves often in that guise, so that they might carry out their wicked purposes?
On Monday, Mrs. Prime had left the cottage; on Tuesday, Rachel had gone to a ball, expressly to meet the young man! and on Wednesday the young man was drinking tea at Bragg’s End cottage!
“We’re so glad to see you, Dolly,” said Rachel, and in Rachel’s voice there was no tone of shame. It was all just as it should not be!
“But what ails him that he shouldn’t be a very good young man?” says Mrs. Ray. “And if it was so that he was growing fond of Rachel, why shouldn’t he? And if Rachel was to like him, I don’t see why she shouldn’t like somebody some day as well as other girls.”
I believe he’s a very good young man, with nothing bad about him at all, and he is welcome to come here whenever he pleases. And as for Rachel, I believe she knows how to mind herself as well as you did when you were her age; 
And if a young man isn’t to be allowed to ask leave to see a young woman when he thinks he likes her, I for one don’t know how young people are to get married at all.”
She had resolved that Luke Rowan was a black sheep; that he was pitch, not to be touched without defilement;
Luke chose to manage the brewery instead of being managed; and had foolishly fallen in love with Rachel Ray instead of taking Augusta Tappitt to himself as he should have done.
The civility which he wants is the surrender of my rights. I can’t be so civil as that.
I intend to marry neither the mother nor the sister; but Rachel Ray I do intend to marry, — if she will have me.
 I intend that she shall be my equal, — my equal in every respect, if I can make her so. I shall certainly ask her to be my wife; and, mother, as my mind is positively made up on that point, — as nothing on earth will alter me, — I hope you will teach yourself to think kindly of her.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #24

I read two stories this week in the Blue Fairy Book.

The History of Whittington.

First sentence: Dick Whittington was a very little boy when his father and mother died; so little, indeed, that he never knew them, nor the place where he was born.

Premise/plot: This may be the ultimate rags-to-riches story. A poor boy makes his way to London, finds a position as a servant, copes with life's hardships as best he can...and with a little help from his cat...well his luck changes dramatically.

My thoughts: I am very familiar with this one. It is always a joy to revisit it though.

The Wonderful Sheep

First sentence: Once upon a time—in the days when the fairies lived—there was a king who had three daughters, who were all young, and clever, and beautiful; but the youngest of the three, who was called Miranda, was the prettiest and the most beloved.

Premise/plot: Miranda, the youngest princess, angers her father when she reveals her dream. For the record, he asked all his daughters what they dreamed the night before. Her honesty--that she saw the king giving her a cup of water on her sister's wedding day--angers him. Not just a little tantrum, but a gigantic one. He orders her to be killed. Talk about DRAMA.

Here's where the story gets disturbing--near nightmarish. He orders her killer to bring him her heart and tongue. Anyone with any amount of sense knows that the killer will let her go free....so where are the organs to be found.

I could sense trouble coming when the princess brings a black girl, a monkey, and a dog with her. (They do all have names.) This story is crazy-disturbing in that aspect because....it doesn't bode well at all. And it's graphically violent with a dash of racism thrown in. Along with animal cruelty.

So. After all sorts of blood is spilled....Miranda comes across some talking sheep. The leader of the sheep leads her underground into a spooky-crazy, topsy-turvy world where she becomes a queen of sorts. He does tell her of his enchantment....

At the end of all this weirdness....you should know it doesn't even end happily.   

My thoughts: Not a fan. 


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio #23

I listened to three audio books this week.

Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne. 1926. Read by Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Jane Horrocks, Geoffrey Palmer, Finty Williams, Robert Daws, Michael Williams, and Steven Webb. 2009. Listening Library. 2 hours and 5 minutes. [Source: Library]

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.
When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said--"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.
(1-2)

I love, love, love, LOVE the book. With as much passion as I love the book, I hate this audio book adaptation of it. Each character is read by a different actor. The problem is that while I enjoyed some of the readers in their roles, I didn't enjoy everyone. Specifically, the reader reading for Piglet was like nails on a chalkboard with every single syllable. It was pure TORTURE to listen to Piglet. What makes this offense worse in my opinion is that Piglet is my favorite character. That's not the audio books only offense--just its biggest. The audio book also fails in that they don't get the songs right. They just don't. There is ONE way to do the songs--and that's the Jack Gilford way.

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. Read by Scott Brick. 2004. Six hours. [Source: Library]

It was a pleasure to burn.

I like Scott Brick as a narrator. I do. It wasn't that long ago I listened to Ender's Game which also was read--at least in part--by Scott Brick. As for the book itself, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Ray Bradbury's book. It is a book that I love to reread every year or two.

"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)
Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. (58)
Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right right? Haven't you heart it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these. (59)
Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. (65)
"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." (71)
Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe. (73-4)
It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
"You're a hopeless romantic," said Faber. "It would be funny if it were not serious. It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the 'parlor families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. (82)
 Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. the mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. we are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)
Anne of the Island. L.M. Montgomery. 1915. Read by Karen Savage. Librovox. Six hours, forty-five minutes.

"Harvest is ended and summer is gone," quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily.

I continued my journey with Anne this week. It was DELIGHTFUL. I adore Anne; we are kindred spirits. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Great one-liners...

It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.
We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy.
But FEELING is so different from KNOWING. My common sense tells me all you can say, but there are times when common sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possession of my soul.
Exaggeration is merely a flight of poetic fancy. 
Facts are stubborn things, but as some one has wisely said, not half so stubborn as fallacies. 
“All life lessons are not learned at college,” she thought. “Life teaches them everywhere.”
We are never half so interesting when we have learned that language is given us to enable us to conceal our thoughts.
“People who send word they are coming on Saturday shouldn’t come on Friday,” said Aunt Jamesina.
“Words aren’t made — they grow,” said Anne.
“Will you please define what gumption is, Aunt Jimsie?” asked Phil. “No, I won’t, young woman. Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”
Fun with Anne:
Talk of being lonesome! It’s I who should groan. YOU’LL be here with any number of your old friends — AND Fred! While I shall be alone among strangers, not knowing a soul!” “EXCEPT Gilbert — AND Charlie Sloane,” said Diana, imitating Anne’s italics and slyness. “Charlie Sloane will be a great comfort, of course,” agreed Anne sarcastically; whereupon both those irresponsible damsels laughed. Diana knew exactly what Anne thought of Charlie Sloane; but, despite sundry confidential talks, she did not know just what Anne thought of Gilbert Blythe.
“Miss Ada’s cushions are really getting on my nerves,” said Anne. “She finished two new ones last week, stuffed and embroidered within an inch of their lives. There being absolutely no other cushionless place to put them she stood them up against the wall on the stair landing. They topple over half the time and if we come up or down the stairs in the dark we fall over them. Last Sunday, when Dr. Davis prayed for all those exposed to the perils of the sea, I added in thought ‘and for all those who live in houses where cushions are loved not wisely but too well!’ There! we’re ready, and I see the boys coming through Old St. John’s. Do you cast in your lot with us, Phil?”
“You LOVE it,” said Miss Patty with emphasis. “Does that mean that you really LOVE it? Or that you merely like the looks of it? The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.” Anne’s conscience bore her up. “I really do love it,” she said gently. “I’ve loved it ever since I saw it last fall. My two college chums and I want to keep house next year instead of boarding, so we are looking for a little place to rent; and when I saw that this house was to let I was so happy.”
“No, I shall never try to write a story again,” declared Anne, with the hopeless finality of nineteen when a door is shut in its face. “I wouldn’t give up altogether,” said Mr. Harrison reflectively. “I’d write a story once in a while, but I wouldn’t pester editors with it. I’d write of people and places like I knew, and I’d make my characters talk everyday English; and I’d let the sun rise and set in the usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If I had to have villains at all, I’d give them a chance, Anne — I’d give them a chance. There are some terrible bad men in the world, I suppose, but you’d have to go a long piece to find them — though Mrs. Lynde believes we’re all bad. But most of us have got a little decency somewhere in us. Keep on writing, Anne.”
Trotting along behind her, close to her heels, was quite the most forlorn specimen of the cat tribe she had ever beheld. The animal was well past kitten-hood, lank, thin, disreputable looking. Pieces of both ears were lacking, one eye was temporarily out of repair, and one jowl ludicrously swollen. As for color, if a once black cat had been well and thoroughly singed the result would have resembled the hue of this waif’s thin, draggled, unsightly fur. Anne “shooed,” but the cat would not “shoo.” As long as she stood he sat back on his haunches and gazed at her reproachfully out of his one good eye; when she resumed her walk he followed. Anne resigned herself to his company until she reached the gate of Patty’s Place, which she coldly shut in his face, fondly supposing she had seen the last of him. But when, fifteen minutes later, Phil opened the door, there sat the rusty-brown cat on the step. More, he promptly darted in and sprang upon Anne’s lap with a half-pleading, half-triumphant “miaow.” “Anne,” said Stella severely, “do you own that animal?” “No, I do NOT,” protested disgusted Anne. “The creature followed me home from somewhere. I couldn’t get rid of him. Ugh, get down. I like decent cats reasonably well; but I don’t like beasties of your complexion.” Pussy, however, refused to get down. He coolly curled up in Anne’s lap and began to purr. “He has evidently adopted you,” laughed Priscilla. “I won’t BE adopted,” said Anne stubbornly.
“It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana’s being married,” sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana’s room. “I don’t see what’s horrible about it, when she’s doing so well,” said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. “Fred Wright has a fine farm and he is a model young man.” “He certainly isn’t the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana once wanted to marry,” smiled Anne. “Fred is extremely good.” “That’s just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?” “Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he COULD be wicked and WOULDN’T.

Fun with Davy
“When I’m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.” “All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.” 
“But if you DID want to catch a man how would you go about it? I want to know,” persisted Davy, for whom the subject evidently possessed a certain fascination. “You’d better ask Mrs. Boulter,” said Anne thoughtlessly. “I think it’s likely she knows more about the process than I do.” “I will, the next time I see her,” said Davy gravely. “Davy! If you do!” cried Anne, realizing her mistake. “But you just told me to,” protested Davy aggrieved. 
Dear anne, please write and tell marilla not to tie me to the rale of the bridge when I go fishing the boys make fun of me when she does. Its awful lonesome here without you but grate fun in school. Jane andrews is crosser than you. I scared mrs. lynde with a jacky lantern last nite. She was offel mad and she was mad cause I chased her old rooster round the yard till he fell down ded. I didn’t mean to make him fall down ded. What made him die, anne, I want to know. mrs. lynde threw him into the pig pen she mite of sold him to mr. blair. mr. blair is giving 50 sense apeace for good ded roosters now. I herd mrs. lynde asking the minister to pray for her. What did she do that was so bad, anne, I want to know. 
“I — I want to say a bad word, Anne,” blurted out Davy, with a desperate effort. “I heard Mr. Harrison’s hired boy say it one day last week, and ever since I’ve been wanting to say it ALL the time — even when I’m saying my prayers.” “Say it then, Davy.” Davy lifted his flushed face in amazement. “But, Anne, it’s an AWFUL bad word.” “SAY IT!” Davy gave her another incredulous look, then in a low voice he said the dreadful word. The next minute his face was burrowing against her. “Oh, Anne, I’ll never say it again — never. I’ll never WANT to say it again. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t s’pose it was so — so — I didn’t s’pose it was like THAT.” “No, I don’t think you’ll ever want to say it again, Davy — or think it, either. And I wouldn’t go about much with Mr. Harrison’s hired boy if I were you.” “He can make bully war-whoops,” said Davy a little regretfully. “But you don’t want your mind filled with bad words, do you, Davy — words that will poison it and drive out all that is good and manly?” “No,” said Davy, owl-eyed with introspection. “Then don’t go with those people who use them. And now do you feel as if you could say your prayers, Davy?”
“Our new teacher is a man. He does things for jokes. Last week he made all us third-class boys write a composishun on what kind of a wife we’d like to have and the girls on what kind of a husband. He laughed fit to kill when he read them. This was mine. I thought youd like to see it. “‘The kind of a wife I’d like to Have. “‘She must have good manners and get my meals on time and do what I tell her and always be very polite to me. She must be fifteen yers old. She must be good to the poor and keep her house tidy and be good tempered and go to church regularly. She must be very handsome and have curly hair. If I get a wife that is just what I like Ill be an awful good husband to her. I think a woman ought to be awful good to her husband. Some poor women haven’t any husbands. “‘THE END.’”
Mrs. Lynde was awful mad the other day because I asked her if she was alive in Noah’s time. I dident mean to hurt her feelings. I just wanted to know. Was she, Anne?
The new minister was here to tea last night. He took three pieces of pie. If I did that Mrs. Lynde would call me piggy. And he et fast and took big bites and Marilla is always telling me not to do that. Why can ministers do what boys can’t? I want to know.
The mention of age evidently gave a new turn to Davy’s thoughts for after a few moments of reflection, he whispered solemnly: “Anne, I’m going to be married.” “When?” asked Anne with equal solemnity. “Oh, not until I’m grown-up, of course.” “Well, that’s a relief, Davy. Who is the lady?” “Stella Fletcher; she’s in my class at school. And say, Anne, she’s the prettiest girl you ever saw. If I die before I grow up you’ll keep an eye on her, won’t you?” “Davy Keith, do stop talking such nonsense,” said Marilla severely. 

Fun with Mrs. Lynde:
Mrs. Lynde’s letter was full of church news. Having broken up housekeeping, Mrs. Lynde had more time than ever to devote to church affairs and had flung herself into them heart and soul. She was at present much worked up over the poor “supplies” they were having in the vacant Avonlea pulpit. “I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays,” she wrote bitterly. “Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and, what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what! Last Sunday night he announced that next Sunday he’d preach on the axe-head that swam. I think he’d better confine himself to the Bible and leave sensational subjects alone. Things have come to a pretty pass if a minister can’t find enough in Holy Writ to preach about, that’s what.
“Poor Atossa laid in her coffin peaceful enough,” said Mrs. Lynde solemnly. “I never saw her look so pleasant before, that’s what. Well, there weren’t many tears shed over her, poor old soul. The Elisha Wrights are thankful to be rid of her, and I can’t say I blame them a mite.” “It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world and not leave one person behind you who is sorry you are gone,” said Anne, shuddering. “Nobody except her parents ever loved poor Atossa, that’s certain, not even her husband,” averred Mrs. Lynde. “She was his fourth wife. He’d sort of got into the habit of marrying. He only lived a few years after he married her. The doctor said he died of dyspepsia, but I shall always maintain that he died of Atossa’s tongue, that’s what. Poor soul, she always knew everything about her neighbors, but she never was very well acquainted with herself. Well, she’s gone anyhow; and I suppose the next excitement will be Diana’s wedding.” 
 Anne and Gilbert:
“I hope no great sorrow ever will come to you, Anne,” said Gilbert, who could not connect the idea of sorrow with the vivid, joyous creature beside him, unwitting that those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.
“But there must — sometime,” mused Anne. “Life seems like a cup of glory held to my lips just now. But there must be some bitterness in it — there is in every cup. I shall taste mine some day. Well, I hope I shall be strong and brave to meet it. And I hope it won’t be through my own fault that it will come. Do you remember what Dr. Davis said last Sunday evening — that the sorrows God sent us brought comfort and strength with them, while the sorrows we brought on ourselves, through folly or wickedness, were by far the hardest to bear? But we mustn’t talk of sorrow on an afternoon like this.
As a companion, Anne honestly acknowledged nobody could be so satisfactory as Gilbert; she was very glad, so she told herself, that he had evidently dropped all nonsensical ideas — though she spent considerable time secretly wondering why.
But Gilbert’s visits were not what they once were. Anne almost dreaded them. It was very disconcerting to look up in the midst of a sudden silence and find Gilbert’s hazel eyes fixed upon her with a quite unmistakable expression in their grave depths; and it was still more disconcerting to find herself blushing hotly and uncomfortably under his gaze, just as if — just as if — well, it was very embarrassing. Anne wished herself back at Patty’s Place, where there was always somebody else about to take the edge off a delicate situation. At Green Gables Marilla went promptly to Mrs. Lynde’s domain when Gilbert came and insisted on taking the twins with her. The significance of this was unmistakable and Anne was in a helpless fury over it.
“There is something I want to say to you.” “Oh, don’t say it,” cried Anne, pleadingly. “Don’t — PLEASE, Gilbert.” “I must. Things can’t go on like this any longer. Anne, I love you. You know I do. I — I can’t tell you how much. Will you promise me that some day you’ll be my wife?” “I — I can’t,” said Anne miserably. “Oh, Gilbert — you — you’ve spoiled everything.” “Don’t you care for me at all?” Gilbert asked after a very dreadful pause, during which Anne had not dared to look up. “Not — not in that way. I do care a great deal for you as a friend. But I don’t love you, Gilbert.” “But can’t you give me some hope that you will — yet?” “No, I can’t,” exclaimed Anne desperately. “I never, never can love you — in that way — Gilbert. You must never speak of this to me again.” There was another pause — so long and so dreadful that Anne was driven at last to look up. Gilbert’s face was white to the lips. And his eyes — but Anne shuddered and looked away. There was nothing romantic about this. Must proposals be either grotesque or — horrible? Could she ever forget Gilbert’s face? “Is there anybody else?” he asked at last in a low voice. “No — no,” said Anne eagerly. “I don’t care for any one like THAT — and I LIKE you better than anybody else in the world, Gilbert. And we must — we must go on being friends, Gilbert.”
“Do you call it idiotic to refuse to marry a man I don’t love?” said Anne coldly, goaded to reply. “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” “Phil,” pleaded Anne, “please go away and leave me alone for a little while. My world has tumbled into pieces. I want to reconstruct it.” “Without any Gilbert in it?” said Phil, going. A world without any Gilbert in it! Anne repeated the words drearily. Would it not be a very lonely, forlorn place? Well, it was all Gilbert’s fault. He had spoiled their beautiful comradeship. She must just learn to live without it.
Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stuart were nothing to her — absolutely nothing. But Anne had given up trying to analyze the reason of her blushes. As for Roy, of course she was in love with him — madly so. How could she help it? Was he not her ideal? Who could resist those glorious dark eyes, and that pleading voice? Were not half the Redmond girls wildly envious? And what a charming sonnet he had sent her, with a box of violets, on her birthday! Anne knew every word of it by heart. It was very good stuff of its kind, too. Not exactly up to the level of Keats or Shakespeare — even Anne was not so deeply in love as to think that.
Yet just before she left Patty’s Place for Convocation she flung Roy’s violets aside and put Gilbert’s lilies-of-the-valley in their place. She could not have told why she did it. Somehow, old Avonlea days and dreams and friendships seemed very close to her in this attainment of her long-cherished ambitions. She and Gilbert had once picturedout merrily the day on which they should be capped and gowned graduates in Arts. The wonderful day had come and Roy’s violets had no place in it. Only her old friend’s flowers seemed to belong to this fruition of old-blossoming hopes which he had once shared.
The Arts graduates gave a graduation dance that night. When Anne dressed for it she tossed aside the pearl beads she usually wore and took from her trunk the small box that had come to Green Gables on Christmas day. In it was a thread-like gold chain with a tiny pink enamel heart as a pendant. On the accompanying card was written, “With all good wishes from your old chum, Gilbert.” Anne, laughing over the memory the enamel heart conjured up the fatal day when Gilbert had called her “Carrots” and vainly tried to make his peace with a pink candy heart, had written him a nice little note of thanks. But she had never worn the trinket. Tonight she fastened it about her white throat with a dreamy smile.
There is a book of Revelation in every one’s life, as there is in the Bible. Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert — had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her.
And the knowledge had come too late — too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind — so foolish — she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him — he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them — she could not! She cowered down by her window and wished, for the first time in her gay young life, that she could die, too. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that. He did not love Christine Stuart — never had loved Christine Stuart. Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert — to think that the flattered fancy she had felt for Roy Gardner had been love. And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.
He had come quite often to Green Gables after his recovery, and something of their old comradeship had returned. But Anne no longer found it satisfying. The rose of love made the blossom of friendship pale and scentless by contrast. And Anne had again begun to doubt if Gilbert now felt anything for her but friendship. In the common light of common day her radiant certainty of that rapt morning had faded.
“Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. Something in his tone — something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place — made Anne’s heart beat wildly. But she made answer lightly. “Of course. Everybody has. It wouldn’t do for us to have all our dreams fulfilled. We would be as good as dead if we had nothing left to dream about. What a delicious aroma that low-descending sun is extracting from the asters and ferns. I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” Gilbert was not to be thus sidetracked. “I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends — and YOU!”

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 15, 2018

The Summer of Broken Things

The Summer of Broken Things. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 393 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: "We need to talk," Dad says.

Premise/plot: The Summer of Broken Things is set in Spain and stars two very different heroines: Avery and Kayla.

Avery Armisted will--like it or not--be accompanying her father on his extended business trip in Spain. When she's told a friend can come, she assumes--for better or worse--that she'll get to pick the friend. That won't be the case. The 'friend' he has in mind is Kayla Butts. These two played together often when Avery was a toddler, but, Kayla has been out of sight and out of mind for practically forever--to Avery's reckoning!

Kayla Butts is nervously excited about this opportunity. On the one hand: she'll actually be leaving her small hometown and going somewhere--out of the country somewhere: Spain. This is an opportunity that is more likely than not once in a lifetime. On the other hand, she'll be living with strangers. Will they get along? Will she be treated like a friend? or like hired help? Will Avery be nice or mean? You see, Kayla is so far from popular. She's used to being treated as less than by her peers. Her friends tend to be decades older. As in living in nursing homes older. Everything will be new-to-her. She doesn't know yet how well she'll adapt to all the new.

The trip doesn't get off to the best of starts. Problems at the airport--both in the U.S. and Spain--make for a rocky start. And Kayla's worst fears are confirmed: Avery looks down upon her and doesn't hide the fact. Avery is so not subtle with hiding her contempt for Kayla. OR for her father for that matter. Avery is argumentative with her father and incredibly disrespectful. Kayla hasn't seen such a messy family this close-up.

What will the summer bring Kayla and Avery?

My thoughts: The Summer of Broken Things kept me reading. I won't say I 'enjoyed' it because can you really enjoy watching someone else's life crumble into a million pieces? But I can say that I found it compelling and well-written.

Kayla is by far my favorite character. As Kayla's coming-of-age story, the book works really well. The trip changes her...and changes her for the better. She is a stronger, more confident, happier person by the end of the book.

Avery is my least favorite character. She isn't the same Avery at the end of the story. Thank goodness! But she's still Avery. She hasn't transformed overnight into a saint. Nor should she. That wouldn't be believable. Perhaps the difference is that Kayla *is* two years older. Avery is fourteen. I appreciate Kayla's maturity and outlook. Avery has potential--but a long path ahead of her. She'll get there. She will. And perhaps she'll look back and say this trip was the start of it all.

The book is an emotional family drama. There are some intense moments. I was right there feeling them all--connected with the story and the characters.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lighter Than Air

Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot. Matthew Clark Smith. Illustrated by Matt Tavares. 2017. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was November 1783. For months France had buzzed about the brothers Montgolfier and their mad dreams of floating bags in the sky. Now the moment had arrived.

Premise/plot: Lighter Than Air is a picture book biography of Sophie Blanchard. She came of age at a time when hot air balloons were brand new, awe-inspiring, and a true wonder. She wasn't alone in marveling at this new wonder that allowed mankind to take to the air. Everyone was mad for it. But Sophie wasn't content to watch from the ground. NO! She wanted to fly herself. She married a balloonist and was soon joining him on flights. But even that wasn't quite enough. She soon began taking solo flights. Each flight an adventure with some amount of risk and thrill. Some were fascinated by her exploits; others not so much! But whether they were saying nice things or mean things--she was being talked about.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this biography. I'd never heard of Sophie Blanchard before. Though to be honest I'd never heard of ANY hot air balloonists before. I couldn't have told you the first thing about their invention or early pioneers. The book packs a good amount of information in the narrative and even more in their author's note. (Although the author's note adds sadness as well. Looking at it glass half full one could say she died doing what she loved best.)

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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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Vincent Can't Sleep

Vincent Can't Sleep. Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by Mary Grandpre. 2017. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Nonfiction]

First sentence: Vincent can't sleep....so while the sturdy Dutch village of Zundert slumbers, he lies rocking in his wooden cradle, flame-haired, a constellation of freckles sprinkling his cheeks.

Premise/plot: Vincent Can't Sleep is a picture book biography of artist Vincent Van Gogh. It is not a straightforward biography but brief narrative sketches that give readers insight into his life and work. Many--if not all--of the sketches begin with the phrase, "Vincent can't sleep...."

My thoughts: I read a biography of Vincent Van Gogh last year and found it fascinating. It was for young adults/adults. This picture book biography remains true to who he was but is age-appropriate. The narrative is great.
Vincent can't sleep...and won't stop painting! He's found his light! After scattered lessons from proper artists, he takes off, canvas and paints strapped to his back. Flashing brushstrokes capture country cottages at dusk, city cafes at midnight, canvas after canvas like radiant chapters in a book only Vincent can read. He discovers that darkness is not plain black--galaxies of color float on the night air.
I would recommend this one.

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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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Surprise Stories

Surprise Stories. Marjorie Hardy.  Illustrated by Lucille Enders and Matilda Breuer.  1926/1929. Wheeler Publishing Company. 124 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: My name is Puff. I am a little white kitten. I live with a little girl. Her name is Sally. I like to live with Sally. She takes good care of me. She feeds me. Sally knows just what I should eat. She knows just how much I should eat. Sally and I are good friends. I came to live with Sally because I had no home. Do you want to know why I had no home?

Premise/plot: Surprise Stories is vintage early reader from the Child's Own Way series. It was originally published in the 1920s. It is a classroom reader. The stories center around Sally and Billy (sister and brother), Puff and Wag (their pets), and other friends--many of which are animals. The stories flow into one another for the most part.

My thoughts: I love vintage readers. I do. Not that I'm not thankful for modern, contemporary books. I am. Mo Willems shouldn't be worried that children will start preferring Marjorie Hardy's stories to his own. But I like these glimpses into the past.

And I'm happy to say that, for the most part, there is nothing super-atrocious in this one making it inappropriate in terms of being politically correct. I qualify that with the word super.

It is not perfectly perfect. There are a sequence of stories set at the circus. Circus dogs, circus monkeys, and the circus elephant all get a chance to narrate a story. These animals are all pleased to be in captivity and belong to the circus. I imagine that in 1926, it would have been unimaginable that there would come a day when the circus would be no more.   

It was also not perfectly perfect because my copy was missing a page--two pages of text. What happened on page 47 and 48?!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Currently #24

Something Old
Rachel Ray. Anthony Trollope. 1863. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. 1952. 601 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
The Summer of Broken Things. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 393 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
The Traitor's Game. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 388 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Daily Chronological Bible: KJV Edition. Holman Bible Publishers. 2014. 1440 pages. [Source: Free giveaway]
Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship. John Piper. 2018. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in the Bible Leads Us to Christ. Dennis E. Johnson. Abridged by Richard B. Ramsey. 2018. P&R Publishing. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]


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


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Victorian Year #23

I finished Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I posted my review on Thursday. This last chunk was an emotional ride. Beth, well, you know what happens to her. But that is balanced well by AMY and JO. In the movies, the romance between Amy and Laurie is always super-super-super rushed and more awkward than not. In the book, it isn't all that rushed. It covers months, includes plenty of conversations, and is not all that unexpected. I liked the proposal scene more than I thought I would. It was actually very sweet and charming. Jo's courtship with her Professor is also delightful. I LOVED how those two came together!!!
“Rome took all the vanity out of me, for after seeing the wonders there, I felt too insignificant to live and gave up all my foolish hopes in despair.” “Why should you, with so much energy and talent?” “That’s just why, because talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won’t be a common-place dauber, so I don’t intend to try any more.”
“I’m never angry with you. It takes two flints to make a fire. You are as cool and soft as snow.”
The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for Beth, and in it was gathered everything that she most loved, flowers, pictures, her piano, the little worktable, and the beloved pussies. Father’s best books found their way there, Mother’s easy chair, Jo’s desk, Amy’s finest sketches, and every day Meg brought her babies on a loving pilgrimage, to make sunshine for Aunty Beth.
Amy’s lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.
As the word “brotherly” passed through his mind in one of his reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at the picture of Mozart that was before him . . . “Well, he was a great man, and when he couldn’t have one sister he took the other, and was happy.”
“How well we pull together, don’t we?” said Amy, who objected to silence just then. “So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” very tenderly. “Yes, Laurie,” very low. Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added a pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolving views reflected in the lake.
For the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power.
Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral storybook, she ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo wasn’t a heroine, she was only a struggling human girl like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless, or energetic, as the mood suggested. It’s highly virtuous to say we’ll be good, but we can’t do it all at once, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together before some of us even get our feet set in the right way.
“I’ve no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares for my things.” “We do. Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world. Try it, dear. I’m sure it would do you good, and please us very much.”
Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into that story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it, for when her family had laughed and cried over it, her father sent it, much against her will, to one of the popular magazines, and to her utter surprise, it was not only paid for, but others requested.
“I don’t understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like that to make people praise it so?” she said, quite bewildered. “There is truth in it, Jo, that’s the secret. Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with no thoughts of fame and money, and put your heart into it, my daughter. You have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success.”
So taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little stories, and sent them away to make friends for themselves and her, finding it a very charitable world to such humble wanderers, for they were kindly welcomed, and sent home comfortable tokens to their mother, like dutiful children whom good fortune overtakes.
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too often without thanks, the scrapes they have helped you out of, the tips they have given you from their small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you, the steps the willing old feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions that women love to receive as long as they live.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had not learned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew Jo pretty well, and was, therefore, much amazed by the contradictions of voice, face, and manner, which she showed him in rapid succession that day, for she was in half a dozen different moods in the course of half an hour.
“Heart’s dearest, why do you cry?” Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would have said she wasn’t crying, had a cold in her head, or told any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which, that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob, “Because you are going away.” “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?” he added, all in one breath. It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even if he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his knees, on account of the mud.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.
I read a few chapters in Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray. She DID go to the ball. Her sister is as true as her word. Mrs. Prime is out of her mother's home. But will she live on her own or accept Mr. Prong's marriage proposal?! The party wasn't all thrills and no consequences for Rachel. Mrs. Tappitt is definitely unhappy and angry with her. She does not want Rachel to steal the attention that should--in her opinion--be on her daughters. And Luke's interest in Rachel is totally unacceptable. Luke should be for one of her daughters! Not that Rachel. Rachel did get plenty of attention at the party. Some welcome--most not.

Mrs. Cornbury to Rachel:
"Never be made to dance with any man you don’t like; and remember that a young lady should always have her own way in a ball-room."
Mr Prong to Mrs. Prime
If you can bring them back with you from following after the Evil One! But you cannot return to them now, if you are to countenance by your presence dancings and love-makings in the open air,” —

 Other quotes:
The words of men, when taken at the best, how weak they are! They often tell a tale quite different from that which the creature means who uses them.
There is so much of seeming in this deceitful world.
No one can have done with the world as long as there is work in it for him or her to do.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #23

I read one fairy tale this week from the Blue Fairy Book.

The Story of Pretty Goldilocks.
First sentence: Once upon a time there was a princess who was the prettiest creature in the world.
 
Premise/plot: If you're looking for a bear or two, you'll be disappointed. Bears it has none, but there is a Prince Charming. Goldilocks is being pursued by a young KING who is madly in love with her. Though he won't go himself to do his own courting. The first messenger returns disappointed. The next messenger is CHARMING; he is a favorite of the king though he has his own enemies--men who envy him perhaps. Charming sets out to win Goldilocks for his king. On his way he saves three animals: a fish, an owl, a raven. Each is grateful and promises to help him in return one day. Goldilocks is still resistant to the King's offer. She puts Charming through a series of tests. As you might have guessed, Charming has some help and does in fact pass every test. Will Goldilocks marry the King or Charming himself?
 
My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. It was a new-to-me fairy tale though it contained a few familiar elements within it. 


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio #22

Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie. 1937. Dramatised for Radio in 1997 by Michael Bakewell. 5 half hour episodes. Directed by Enyd Williams.  

IT stars John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot, Donald Sinden as Colonel Race, Rosemary Leach as Mrs Allerton, Stratford Johns as Pennington, Elaine Pyke as Linnet Ridgeway, Robert Daws as Simon Doyle, Nicholas Boulton as Tim Allerton, Amanda Barton-Chapple as Jacqueline de Bellefort,  Shirley Dixon as Mrs Otterbourne, Emma Woodvine as Rosalie Otterbourne, Irene Sutcliffe as Miss Van Schuyler, Teresa Gallagher as Cornelia, Robert May as Fanthorp, Ioan Meredith as Richetti, Joanna Monro as Joanna Southwood, Sean Baker as Monsieur Blondin, Colleen Prendergast as Louise, Robert Daws as Simon Doyle, Keith Drinkel as Dr Bessner, Ed Bishop as Rockford, Christopher Scott as the Steward, Timothy Alcock as the Thomas Cook Agent and Chris Pavlo as the Waiter. 
I'll be honest, Death on the Nile is one of my FAVORITE Christie novels. I loved, loved, loved revisiting it this week. It made me want to reread the book again. 

Lady Audley's Secret. Mary Elizabeth Braddon. 1862. Dramatised by Theresa Heskins. Directed by Julie Beckett and Fiona Kelcher. First aired on BBC 4 Radion in 2009

The book confused me greatly. I had some major issues with it. The radio drama is much the same. I was SO confused by what had happened. That's all the author's intent. This is not a mystery that readers will ever be able to solve on their own. And you just have to decide to accept it for what it is. I don't regret listening to it! I'd rather give it about two and half hours of my life than a week or two rereading! 

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Lew Wallace. 1880.  Dramatised in four parts by Catherine Czerkawska. Music by Wilfredo Acosta. Director: Glyn Dearman. First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1995.

Lew Wallace's epic tale stars Jamie Glover as Judah Ben Hur, Samuel West as Messala, Phyllis Calvert as Amrah and Michael Gambon reads from the Bible.

LOVED it. I did. I really did. I had the lowest expectations going into this one. I'd never read the book or saw the movie. It was action-packed, dramatic, and the characterization was very well done. I wasn't expecting the intense emotions and the feels.  

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Bubba and Beau, Best Friends

Bubba and Beau, Best Friends. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2002. Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Meet Bubba. Bubba is the son of Big Bubba and Mama Pearl. Right after Bubba was born, Mama Pearl wrapped him in his soft pink blankie and whispered into both of his soft pink ears, "I love you, Bubba Junior." She sighed. He was the perfect little Bubba.

Premise/plot: Bubba (the baby) and Beau (the puppy) are BEST friends. This picture book is written in small chapters. Each chapter written to perfection to highlight the awesomeness of Bubba, Beau, and their blanket. There are many good and happy days in Bubbaville, but this picture book chooses to include a very SAD day in Bubbaville as well. What will happen when Mama Pearl dares to WASH the blanket?!?!

My thoughts: Bubba and Beau, Best Friends has to be one of my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite picture books. It is perfectly perfect I tell you. I love the setting. (It is set in Texas.) I love the characters. I love the illustrations. (Now when I see Arthur Howard I think Mr. Putter and Tabby.) But most of all I love the words--the narrative flavor and flow.

One of my favorite quotes:
It didn't take long for Bubba and Beau to become best friends. For one thing, they both went around on all fours. They were both keen on chewing. Neither one was house-trained. And they could howl to beat the band. They also had a mutual affection for MUD. And a mutual disdain for soap. Sister, those two got along.
Honestly, I could quote the whole book. That's how much I love it. The best books become part of the fabric of our lives, become a part of ourselves. Even though I was an adult in 2002--in library school to be exact--this book is part of me.

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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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Little Women

Little Women. Louisa May Alcott. 1868. 566 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: “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.

Premise/plot: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are the 'little women' of the March family. The novel opens during the Civil War; their father is away and will be away for the duration. Marmee and Hannah try their best to raise the girls right. Laurie (aka Teddy Laurence) isn't always the best influence!

The first half of the novel is a coming-of-age novel. The young women have a lot of adventures and misadventures and life lessons to learn before they are ready to face the world as women. Each girl has her 'burden' to bear; each burden is unique. Beth's burden, for example, is her intense or profound shyness.

The second half of the novel features the women all grown up--essentially. Meg is married and has twins. Jo has gone off to the big city as a governess/writer. Amy has gone abroad. Beth, well, Beth stays at home and endures her physical suffering like a saint.

My thoughts:  I didn't read Little Women wholly until I was in college. Though I made it through the first half of the novel a handful of times, I never worked up as much interest in the second half. It didn't help that I knew Beth was going to....well...you know....die. Beth and her shyness was the character I identified with most. It didn't seem fair that she didn't get a happily ever after ending like her sisters. (I've made peace with that now.)

I definitely almost love Little Women. I do love it--in a way. But I don't think it stands a chance of ranking in my favorite, favorite, favorite books of all time list or my favorite books to reread list. I appreciate it; I find it charming. I love a good adaptation of it.

I've been sharing my quotes in my Victorian posts. This last selection of quotes come from chapter thirty-nine on to the end.
“Rome took all the vanity out of me, for after seeing the wonders there, I felt too insignificant to live and gave up all my foolish hopes in despair.” “Why should you, with so much energy and talent?” “That’s just why, because talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won’t be a common-place dauber, so I don’t intend to try any more.”
“I’m never angry with you. It takes two flints to make a fire. You are as cool and soft as snow.”
The pleasantest room in the house was set apart for Beth, and in it was gathered everything that she most loved, flowers, pictures, her piano, the little worktable, and the beloved pussies. Father’s best books found their way there, Mother’s easy chair, Jo’s desk, Amy’s finest sketches, and every day Meg brought her babies on a loving pilgrimage, to make sunshine for Aunty Beth.
Amy’s lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.
As the word “brotherly” passed through his mind in one of his reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at the picture of Mozart that was before him . . . “Well, he was a great man, and when he couldn’t have one sister he took the other, and was happy.”
“How well we pull together, don’t we?” said Amy, who objected to silence just then. “So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” very tenderly. “Yes, Laurie,” very low. Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added a pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolving views reflected in the lake.
For the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power.
Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral storybook, she ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo wasn’t a heroine, she was only a struggling human girl like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless, or energetic, as the mood suggested. It’s highly virtuous to say we’ll be good, but we can’t do it all at once, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together before some of us even get our feet set in the right way.
“I’ve no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares for my things.” “We do. Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world. Try it, dear. I’m sure it would do you good, and please us very much.”
Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into that story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it, for when her family had laughed and cried over it, her father sent it, much against her will, to one of the popular magazines, and to her utter surprise, it was not only paid for, but others requested.
“I don’t understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like that to make people praise it so?” she said, quite bewildered. “There is truth in it, Jo, that’s the secret. Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with no thoughts of fame and money, and put your heart into it, my daughter. You have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success.”
So taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little stories, and sent them away to make friends for themselves and her, finding it a very charitable world to such humble wanderers, for they were kindly welcomed, and sent home comfortable tokens to their mother, like dutiful children whom good fortune overtakes.
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too often without thanks, the scrapes they have helped you out of, the tips they have given you from their small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you, the steps the willing old feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little attentions that women love to receive as long as they live.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had not learned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knew Jo pretty well, and was, therefore, much amazed by the contradictions of voice, face, and manner, which she showed him in rapid succession that day, for she was in half a dozen different moods in the course of half an hour.
“Heart’s dearest, why do you cry?” Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she would have said she wasn’t crying, had a cold in her head, or told any other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which, that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob, “Because you are going away.” “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?” he added, all in one breath. It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even if he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his knees, on account of the mud.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.

© 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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