Saturday, June 30, 2018

June Reflections

How many books have I read so far for the year? 294

How many board books or picture books have I read? 117

My favorite I read this month was:

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

How many early readers or early chapter books have I read? 53

My favorite I read this month was:
Surprise Stories. Marjorie Hardy.  Illustrated by Lucille Enders and Matilda Breuer.  1926/1929. Wheeler Publishing Company. 124 pages. [Source: Bought] 

How many contemporary books have I read? 22

My favorite I read this month was:
Between the Lines. Nikki Grimes. 2018. 216 pages. [Source: Library]
How many speculative fiction books have I read? 18

My favorite I read this month was:
The Traitor's Game. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 388 pages. [Source: Library]

How many classics have I read? 28

My favorite I read this month was?
Little Women. Louisa May Alcott. 1868. 566 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many historical fiction novels have I read? 29

My favorite I read this month was?
My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

How many mysteries? 20

My favorite I read this month was?
Vintage Murder. Ngaio Marsh. 1937. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 

How many nonfiction? 33

My favorite I read this month was? 
Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile. 2018. Sharlee Glenn. Abrams. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many Christian fiction? 15

My favorite I read this month was? 
Maggie's Dare: The Great Awakening (Sisters in Time #3). Norma Jean Lutz. 2005. Barbour. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many Christian nonfiction? 46

My favorite I read this month was?
Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship. John Piper. 2018. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
How many "new" books for the Good Rule challenge? 175
How many "old" books for the Good Rule challenge? 119
How many pages have I read so far for the year? 44,437

Favorite short story or fairy tale of the month: The Forty Thieves
Favorite audio book of the month:

Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. 1897. Translated by Anthony Burgess. Adapted for BBC 3 Radio Drama. Directed by David Timson. Starring Kenneth Branaugh as Cyrano, Jodhi May as Roxane, Tom Hiddleston as Christian. Two hours and fifteen minutes.

Favorite Victorian quote:
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. ~ Louisa May Alcott

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Second Quarter Check-ins (Or Check-ups)

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

I've read from 1918, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1937, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1956, 1962, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985,  1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1998, 20002002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017,

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

Bowl #1: I need E, Q, X, Y
Bowl #2: I need G, I, N, Q, R, T, Y,
Bowl #3: I need G, I, K, N, P, Y, Z,
Bowl #4: I need A, D, E, G, H, I, K, N, O, Q, U, V, Y, Z

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

I've read three books.

1. Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. 573 pages. [Source: Bought]2. Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]
3.  The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson, by One of the Firm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 254 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

_ classic travel or journey narrative
_ classic with a single-word title
_ classic with a color in the title
 _ 20th century classic

Charity Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January-December 2018
# of books: You decide

I've read nineteen books!

2018 Dread and Read Challenge
Host: Hotchpot Cafe (sign up) Be sure to link to all book reviews.
Dates: January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for 4
 Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 1866. FINISHED!!!!!
Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 1866/2002. 671 pages. [Source: Library]  

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for twelve
I've read nine books so far: 1951, 2009, 2011, 1918, 1931, 1918, 1924, 1978, 1949, 

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January 2018 - December 2018
Inspiration: It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. C.S. Lewis
# of books: readers decide
I've read 175 new books and 119 old books.

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

I've read 39 books.

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

I've read 24 books.

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

 I've read five books and earned 13 points.

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge
Host: Read-at-Home-Mom (sign up)
Check in at the end of each month with a list of what you've read and links to any reviews you have posted. When you post on social media, tag your posts with #OldSchoolKidlit2018
January - December 2018
# of books: 42
I've read 17 books so far.

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

_2. Author beginning with A
_9. Title beginning with E
_11. Title beginning with F
_ 12. Author beginning with F 
_18. Author beginning with I
_20. Author beginning with J
_27. Title beginning with N
_28. Author beginning with N
_30. Author beginning with O
_32. Author beginning with P
_42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
_43. Title beginning with Y
_44. Author beginning with Y
_45. Title or Author beginning with Z
_49. A number word in the title
_50. Concept book of your choice— picture book
_56. holiday of your choice — board book or early reader
_57. holiday of your choice — picture book
_60. new to you illustrator
_61. favorite author
_62. favorite illustrator
_63. free choice
_66. a title with the word “first” in it 
_68. a book set in a place you’d like to visit
_69. a book set in an imaginary place
_75. early reader — nonfiction
_79. oversized book
_92. first book in a series
_99. a book you think should be considered a classic
_100. Out of print
_102. Impulse Pick
_ 104. Picture book published in 2018 

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

I've read twenty books!

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

I've read sixteen books.

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

I've read five books. I'm currently reading two books from the list: East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.

Victorian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Duration: January - December 2018
Goal: Read a minimum of 4 Victorian books

I've read ten books so far.

Vintage Mystery Challenge: Just the Facts, Ma'am
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
January - December 2018
# of books: my goal is CONSTABLE. 6 books -- one from each category.

I've read eight books so far. I need another WHO, another WHEN, another WHERE, another WHY.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Me? Listen to Audio #25

Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. 1897. Translated by Anthony Burgess. Adapted for BBC 3 Radio Drama. Directed by David Timson. Starring Kenneth Branaugh as Cyrano, Jodhi May as Roxane, Tom Hiddleston as Christian. Two hours and fifteen minutes.

I love, love, love, LOVE this play. I do. The radio dramatization was GREAT. I would even dare to say it's one of the BEST dramas I've listened to. That doesn't surprise me, and it shouldn't surprise you either. How could it fail to be great when it stars Kenneth Branaugh and Tom Hiddleston?!?!?!

The story is simple. Cyrano de Bergerac is in love with his cousin, Roxane. The problem? He lacks the courage to tell her so because he feels his nose--his hideous, ugliness--will prevent her from ever loving him in return. Also standing in his way is the fact that Roxane declares herself head over heels in love with oh-so-handsome Christian de Neuvillette. How does Christian feel about Roxane? He loves her of course. Why? Because she's beautiful. (At least Cyrano knows Roxane, and, his love isn't based on her beauty alone.) Roxane asks Cyrano to watch over Christian and be his friend. (Christian has just joined the same regiment.) Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane does love him, but, instead of that being the end of is just the start. For Roxane is determined that the man she loves will be brilliant and exceptionally well-spoken. He must win her heart through his words. The problem? Christian's idea of wooing is to say "I love you" and go in for a kiss. NOT WHAT ROXANE WANTS AT ALL. The solution is for Cyrano to give Christian the words to speak to win her heart for once and all. But is that a real solution?! Is a happily ever after possible in this love triangle?!

Favorite quotes:
Cyrano: I have a different idea of elegance. I don't dress like a fop, it's true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples or an insult that I haven't washed away. I'm always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper than the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs. (40)
Cyrano: Look at me and tell me what hope this protuberance might leave me! I have no illusions. Sometimes, in the blue shadows of evening, I give way to tender feelings. I go into a garden, smelling the fragrance of spring with my poor monstrous nose, and watch a man and a woman strolling together in the moonlight. I think how much I, too, would like to be walking arm in arm with a woman, under the moon. I let myself be carried away, I forget myself--and then I suddenly see the shadow of my profile on the garden wall. (50)
Ragueneau: How can you treat poetry with such disrespect?
Lise: I'll treat poetry however I please!
Ragueneau: I shudder to think of what you might do with prose! (62)
Cyrano: I'll now put down on paper the love letter that I've already written within myself a hundred times. I have only to look into my soul and copy the words inscribed in it. (66)
Cyrano: My poor girl, you're so fond of fine words and gracious wit--what if he should prove to be an uncultured savage?
Roxane: Impossible. He has the hair of one of d'Urfe's heroes!
Cyrano: His speech may be as crude as his hair is elegant.
Roxane: No, there's delicacy in everything he says. I feel it.
Cyrano: Yes, all words are delicate when they come from lips adorned with a shapely mustache...But what if he's a fool?
Roxane: [stamping her foot] Then I'll die! There, are you satisfied? (78)
Cyrano: Shall we complete each other? We'll walk together: you in the light, I in the shadow. I'll make you eloquent, you'll make me handsome. (102)
Roxane: Your words are hesitant tonight. Why?
Cyrano (pretending to be Christian): Because of the darkness, they must grope their way to your ears.
Roxane: My words have no such difficulty.
Cyrano: They go straight to my heart, a goal too large to miss, whereas your ears are small. And your words travel swiftly because they fall, while mine must slowly climb.
Roxane: But they seem to be climbing better now.
Cyrano: They've finally become accustomed to that exercise.
Roxane: It's true that I'm speaking from high above you.
Cyrano: Yes, and it would kill me if you let a harsh word fall on my heart from that height. (126)
Cyrano: After all, what is a kiss? A vow made at closer range, a more precise promise, a confession that contains its own proof, a seal placed on a pact that has already been signed; it's a secret told to the mouth rather than to the ear, a fleeting moment filled with the hush of eternity, a communion that has the fragrance of a flower, a way of living by the beat of another heart, and tasting another soul on one's lips! (133)
Roxane: I've adored you since the evening when under my window, you began to reveal your soul to me in a voice I'd never heard you use before, and when I read your letters it was like hearing that same voice. I could feel its tenderness enveloping me! Finally I had to come to you, no matter what the danger! Penelope wouldn't have calmly stayed home with her weaving if Ulysses had written to her as you've written to me! She would have become as ardent as Helen of Troy, thrown her work aside, and gone off to join him! (184)
Roxane: Ah, how many things have died, and how many have now been born! Why were you silent for fourteen years, knowing that he hadn't written that letter, and that the tears on it were yours?
Cyrano: The blood was his. (218)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 29, 2018

Vintage Murder

Vintage Murder. Ngaio Marsh. 1937. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The clop and roar of the train was an uneasy element somewhere at the back of the tall man's dreams.

Premise/plot: Inspector Alleyn can't escape work on his vacation to New Zealand. He finds himself in company with a company--a touring theatre company. He socializes with them on the train to their shared destination. He keeps on socializing with them once they arrive. A few are aware of who he is--the famous Inspector--but many are not. At a big party after their opening show, a planned surprise turns deadly. Inspector Alleyn witnesses the 'surprise' along with most of the cast, crew, and invited guests. Will he be able to solve the crime and determine the motive?

My thoughts: This mystery novel is set in New Zealand, in a theatre in New Zealand. For mystery lovers looking for a more 'exotic' setting than the English countryside, this one may prove quite satisfying. Its peopled with quirky characters and I must admit it kept me guessing up until the end. I found it a quick and enjoyable read.
"It's human nature," he said. "Wondering! People spend half their time wondering about each other. That's what sells this detective fiction, I reckon." (97)
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Between the Lines

Between the Lines. Nikki Grimes. 2018. 216 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I check out Mr. Ward's classroom early, find dark walls covered with poetry hanging in picture frames bright as jelly beans. Who wrote all these poems? And where exactly does Open Mike Friday take place?

Premise/plot: Nikki Grimes' Between the Lines is a companion novel to the award-winning Bronx Masquerade. It is a new school year and this is a new class. So it isn't exactly a sequel. But if you enjoyed the first one, you'll love the second as well.

This YA novel written in prose and verse celebrates the human spirit. Readers meet a handful of students--young men, young women from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Wild Words by Li Cheng
crack me open.
Only the right ones, of course,
those laced with beauty
or infused with the sweetness
of a ripe peach.
Each word, each lyrical phrase,
often powerful enough
to break, or heal,
the heart.
But you knew this
from the start.
Why else would you
come offering to share
your own wild words
with plain, ordinary me?
Words are clearly
the truest thing
we have in common.
Still, why me?
Never mind.
Your clever lines
have lassoed
my attention.
I'm listening.
My thoughts: Bronx Masquerade and Between the Lines remind me of Glee. In a good way. Both are about high school students finding a safe haven to be themselves and find their voices. Both are about high school students coming together and forming strong bonds of friendship. There are some differences. There is less drama--no melodrama--in these novels. That's a relief. The characters have struggles--internal and external--to deal with on a daily basis. Poetry is how they express themselves and deal with all the pressures and uncertainties of life. Honesty is important, and these poems offer it with amazing vulnerability. The students are brave, in a way, but their trust is not misplaced.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Traitor's Game

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

First sentence: The truth of where I've been for the past three years wasn't what anyone believed.

Premise/plot: The Traitor's Game is Jennifer Nielsen's newest fantasy novel. Kestra, our heroine, has never had an easy life despite what her enemies think. And her enemies are many make no mistake about that. But is Simon, our hero, her enemy? Appearances can be deceiving.

The Traitor's Game has two narrators: Kestra and Simon. Simon is in on the plot to kidnap Kestra, to force her to betray her family by doing their bidding. They are holding her friend, her servant, Darrow, prisoner. He will be killed if she fails at her mission. What is the mission: to find a legendary blade--the Olden Blade--a knife that can supposedly kill Lord Endrick himself. (As it is now with his magic he's virtually immortal and absolutely evil through and through.) Her father, Lord Dallisor, serves Lord Endrick. Kestra's family is on the "wrong" side as far as Simon and his associates are concerned. Simon is NOT working alone; he is not giving orders but taking orders. So is Trina. The difference between the two is that Simon has empathy and Trina not so much.

Kestra does not love her father. They mutually loathe one another. But that doesn't mean she's automatically ready to betray her family, her country, and sever all ties with home. Even if she does think Lord Endrick needs to be stopped by someone somehow someway. She'll cooperate--up to a certain point at least--but trust Trina or Simon enough to join their rebellion?! She's not ready to go there.

The Traitor's Game is an action-packed fantasy with mystery and danger.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I liked both Simon and Kestra. Dual narration doesn't always work for me, but in this case it did. The world-building was good, nothing neat and tidy about it. It never info-dumped in my opinion. In fact it added to the suspense of the novel. The suspense comes from the mystery surrounding the different races/nations. It does not come from the romance--which is as it should be in my opinion. This book did not need the suspense to come from will she or won't she end up kissing Simon.

I will definitely read the next book when it comes out.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals. Nancy Furstinger. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 128 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend]

First sentence: All the animals in this book inspire us with their gumption.

Premise/plot: This nonfiction book is dedicated to some amazing animals and the humans with big hearts and creative minds that have helped them overcome adversities. The focus is, for the most part, on the animals. But would these stories have happy endings if it wasn't for the humans involved? The humans who have opened their hearts, their homes, their minds and welcomed special-needs animals into their lives. The animals may have a resilient attitude and charisma. The animal stories may melt the heart. But I can't help thinking the stories would be tragic if it weren't for the humans. Perhaps it is easy for the animals to steal the show. Perhaps it is right that they should.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Some of the stories are bittersweet. But the bittersweet stories start out bitter--with animals being abused, neglected, having an accident--and end sweet. That is a thousand times better than stories that start out sweet and end bitter.

I would recommend this one. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 25, 2018

Red Again

Red Again. Barbara Lehman. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: Does a book need words to tell a story? Red Again is a companion picture book to Barbara Lehman's The Red Book. Both, I believe, are wordless picture books. I have read Red Again. I have not--so far as I recall--read the Red Book.

In the book, a boy finds a red book in an unexpected place. The book--as it is read--leads him to the unexpected. It leads him to another reader--of the same book. The magic continues as the red book is lost and found yet again.

My thoughts: Typically my answer is "Yes, a book needs words to tell a story." But there are always exceptions to the rule. And to be clear the question does not have a 'right' or 'wrong' answer.

I think Red Again works for me because it is about the wonder and magic of books, of the reading experience. It is all about the act of reading and the delight it can bring you.

Text: 0 out of 0
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 3 out of 5

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Currently #26

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

More Than Meets the Eye. Karen Witemeyer. 2018. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed

Between the Lines. Nikki Grimes. 2018. 216 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life. Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter. Michael S. Lundy, J.I. Packer, Richard Baxter. 2018. Crossway Books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Daily Chronological Bible: KJV Edition. Holman Bible Publishers. 2014. 1440 pages. [Source: Free giveaway]

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Victorian Year #25

I'm currently reading Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. I have finished the first volume of Rachel Ray now. I'm not sure how many volumes it has in total, but I feel like I am making progress.

Luke Rowan, our hero, has fought with his mother and determined to follow his own heart and not his mother's. He is now on his way to declare himself to Rachel Ray. Propose he will despite his mother's very strong objections to the match. Will Rachel Ray say yes?! I think we all know the answer to that.

He is ecstatic at his engagement. His mother is furious. Is she furious enough to team up with her son's enemies--the Tappitts? Yes. What will these two women scheme to do to break up the match?

“I don’t dislike you,” she whispered. “And do you love me?” She slightly bowed her head. “And you will be my wife?” Again she went through the same little piece of acting.
 She could not be quite happy as Luke’s promised bride, if she knew that she would not be welcomed to that place by Luke’s mother.
 But what are looks, my dear? They’re only skin deep; we ought all of us to remember that always, Rachel; they’re only skin deep;
This is Trollope's description of Mrs. Rowan--Luke's mother.
She said very little, but she looked much.
 Mrs. Rowan, Mrs. Tappitt...
They agreed together at that meeting that Rachel Ray was the head and front of the whole offence, the source of all the evil done and to be done, and the one great sinner in the matter.
Their confrontation with Mrs. Ray....
“Truth is truth,” said Mrs. Tappitt; “and deception is not truth.” “I didn’t think it had gone anything so far as that,” said Mrs. Rowan, — who at the moment, perhaps, forgot that deception is not truth;
 “I want you both to understand that this little thing should be allowed to drop. If my boy has done anything foolish I’m here to apologize for him. He isn’t the first that has been foolish, and I’m afraid he won’t be the last.
But it can’t be believed, Mrs. Ray, that marriages should be run up in this thoughtless sort of way. In the first place the young people don’t know anything of each other; absolutely nothing at all.
Only you must be aware of this, Mrs. Ray, that such a marriage as that would be very injurious to a young man like my son Luke.”
“My child wouldn’t wish to injure anybody.” “And therefore, of course, she won’t think any more about it. All I want from you is that you should promise me that.”

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Keep It Short #25

This week I read two tales from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book.

Little Thumb:
First sentence: There was, once upon a time, a man and his wife fagot-makers by trade, who had several children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest only seven.

Premise/plot: The man and his wife decide to lose their seven children in the woods or forest. Lose them in such a way that they cannot find their way back home. But Little Thumb overhears the plotting and has a plan. He first uses pebbles along the path, and later breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs do NOT work so well as pebbles. The children find themselves at the mercy of an ogre and his wife. Will Little Thumb think his way out of danger and save himself and his brothers?

My thoughts: This one was new to me though some of the themes were not.

The Forty Thieves:
First sentence: In a town in Persia there dwelt two brothers, one named Cassim, the other Ali Baba. Cassim was married to a rich wife and lived in plenty, while Ali Baba had to maintain his wife and children by cutting wood in a neighboring forest and selling it in the town. One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, he saw a troop of men on horseback, coming toward him in a cloud of dust. He was afraid they were robbers, and climbed into a tree for safety. When they came up to him and dismounted, he counted forty of them. They unbridled their horses and tied them to trees. The finest man among them, whom Ali Baba took to be their captain, went a little way among some bushes, and said: “Open, Sesame!” so plainly that Ali Baba heard him.

Premise/plot: Knowing the robbers' secret brings DANGER into the lives of Cassim and Ali the danger worth the riches it brings?!

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one! Probably one of my favorites in a while. The book as a whole is mixed. Some stories I LOVE. Others are just okay for me. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Me? Listen to Audio? #24

This week I listened to Anne's House of Dreams. I started a few other things on BBC Radio 4, but nothing hooked me. This happens with books too, but I think it's more frustrating with audio books. Usually it's me--a timing thing.

Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1917. Read by Karen Savage for Librivox. 7 hours and twenty-three minutes.

I love, love, love this novel. It is in the Anne series, of course. It begins with the wedding of Anne and Gilbert and it spans the first few years of their marriage. They are no longer living in Avonlea but have settled near Four Winds Harbor and Glen St. Mary.
Anne's House of Dreams introduces many new characters--some of my favorites I admit--Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia, Leslie Moore, Owen Ford. Marshall Elliot. Susan Baker. Who would ever want to forget their stories?

Favorite quotes:

“Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination,” said Anne.
Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings — which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one.
“I’ve heard you criticise ministers pretty sharply yourself,” teased Anne. “Yes, but I do it reverently,” protested Mrs. Lynde. “You never heard me NICKNAME a minister.” Anne smothered a smile.
Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid. 
“Miss Cornelia Bryant. She’ll likely be over to see you soon, seeing you’re Presbyterians. If you were Methodists she wouldn’t come at all. Cornelia has a holy horror of Methodists.”
“I know we are going to be friends,” said Anne, with the smile that only they of the household of faith ever saw. “Yes, we are, dearie. Thank goodness, we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them. Not that I’ve many — none nearer than second cousins. I’m a kind of lonely soul, Mrs. Blythe.” There was a wistful note in Miss Cornelia’s voice.
“Were you able to eat enough pie to please her?” “I wasn’t. Gilbert won her heart by eating — I won’t tell you how much. She said she never knew a man who didn’t like pie better than his Bible. Do you know, I love Miss Cornelia.”

“Our library isn’t very extensive,” said Anne, “but every book in it is a FRIEND. We’ve picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph.”
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies.
“I wonder why people so commonly suppose that if two individuals are both writers they must therefore be hugely congenial,” said Anne, rather scornfully. “Nobody would expect two blacksmiths to be violently attracted toward each other merely because they were both blacksmiths.”
The p’int of good writing is to know when to stop.
There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that — what it’s right to do.
Logic is a sort of hard, merciless thing, I reckon.
“Since you are determined to be married, Miss Cornelia,” said Gilbert solemnly, “I shall give you the excellent rules for the management of a husband which my grandmother gave my mother when she married my father.” “Well, I reckon I can manage Marshall Elliott,” said Miss Cornelia placidly. “But let us hear your rules.” “The first one is, catch him.” “He’s caught. Go on.” “The second one is, feed him well.” “With enough pie. What next?” “The third and fourth are — keep your eye on him.” “I believe you,” said Miss Cornelia emphatically.
Cats is cats, and take my word for it, they will never be anything else.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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

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

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

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 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]

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

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 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