Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July Reflections

How many books have I read so far for the year? 342

How many board books or picture books have I read? 139
My favorite I read this month was:
The Great Big Book of Friends. Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Ros Asquith. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

How many early readers or early chapter books have I read? 62
My favorite I read this month was:
The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate. (Princess in Black #5) Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2017. Candlewick Press. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many contemporary books have I read? 27
My favorite I read this month was:
Road Trip with Max and His Mom. Linda Urban. Illustrated by Katie Kath. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many speculative fiction books have I read? 24
My favorite I read this month was:
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. Graham Annable. 2018. First Second. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many classics have I read? 33
My favorite I read this month was?
Barracoon: The story of the Last Black Cargo. Zora Neale Hurston. 1931/2018. HarperCollins. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

How many historical fiction novels have I read? 32
My favorite I read this month was?
Rudi and the Distelfink. F.N. Monjo. Illustrated by George Kraus. 1972. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many mysteries? 24
My favorite I read this month was?
Singing in the Shrouds. Ngaio Marsh. 1958. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

How many nonfiction? 42
My favorite I read this month was?
The Storm of the Century. Al Roker. 2015. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

How many Christian fiction? 17
My favorite I read this month was?
More Than Meets the Eye. Karen Witemeyer. 2018. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

How many Christian nonfiction? 52
My favorite I read this month was?
The Preacher's Catechism. Lewis Allen. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
How many "new" books for the Good Rule challenge? 212
How many "old" books for the Good Rule challenge? 130
How many pages have I read so far for the year? 51,363
Favorite short story or fairy tale of the month: Three Thanksgivings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Favorite audio book of the month: Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope
Favorite Victorian quote:

Don Quixote took windmills for giants and sheep for armies; d'Artagnan took every smile for an insult and every glance for a provocation. (Dumas, Three Musketeers, 8) 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Bob The Railway Dog

Bob The Railway Dog: The True Story of An Adventurous Dog. Corinne Fenton. Illustrated by Andrew McLean. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In those hushed moments before sunset, a train crept, hissing and sighing, into Carrieton Station, South Australia. It was September 1884.

Premise/plot: Set in nineteenth-century Australia, this picture book tells the story of an adventure-loving dog named Bob who rode the trains and explored a country. Guard Ferry, his "owner," adopts him as a pup. Soon Bob is riding the trains with him. But Bob longs for more adventure, more trains, more people to love. The picture book is based on a true story.

My thoughts: I liked this one. If you enjoy nonfiction, history, dogs, or trains there is a good chance you'll enjoy this one too. I appreciated that it wasn't too text-heavy. This is still very much a story picture book.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Tudors

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes, and Ferrets! Marcia Williams. 2016. 48 pages. Candlewick Press.  [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: For thirty years, a great civil war raged across England. I was not alive to witness it, but it is still spoken of with awe.

Premise/plot: This nonfiction picture book was "written" by Arthur Inkblott and his ferret, Smudge. Its packed with information about Tudor England: the kings, the queens, famous folk, and common folk too. The subjects covered include:
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • The Battle of Bosworth Field
  • Who was Henry Tudor?
  • Henry VII rewrites History
  • A Royal Wedding
  • Money
  • Power
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Henry VII's Family
  • The Spare Prince
  • Henry VIII: The Headstrong
  • Palaces and Potties
  • The Field of the Cloth of Gold
  • Henry's Great Matter
  • Henry's Six Wives
  • The Death of Bluff King Hal
  • The Short Reign of Edward VI
  • Queen Mary I
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • The Spanish Armada
  • Sir Francis Drake
  • Sir Walter Raleigh
  • William Shakespeare
  • The End of the Tudor Dynasty 
My thoughts: This one may be above my maturity level. In other words, Marcia Williams' biases are evident and they don't align with my biases. Perhaps many readers won't come to the book with opinions on these monarchs and the truth of their reigns. But I do. The Tudors are not my favorite. And Richard III has been WRONGED by Williams' text. That's all I have to say about that.

The font of this one is super-super tiny. And everything is very busy--the text is crammed as are the illustrations.

But it is mildly entertaining. I think my favorite bits focused on the commoners. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently #30

Something Old

The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas. Translated by Richard Pevear. 1844/2006. 704 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 695 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New
The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Hazel Wood. Melissa Albert. 2018. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Something Borrowed
Isaac's Storm. Erik Larson. 1999. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Living Insights Study Bible. 1996. 1606 pages. [Source: Bought]
Heaven. Randy Alcorn. 2004. Tyndale. 533 pages. [Source: Gift]

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]

What If Jesus Had Never Been Born. D. James Kennedy. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Hand of God. Alistair Begg. 1999/2018. 204 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Victorian Year #29

I've read two chapters in Anthony Trollope's The Small House at Allington. But Trollope has barely even started character descriptions at this point--not a bit of plot. It is a reread so I vaguely remember that it is a romance focusing on two sisters and their suitors....but not much of anything to share this week.

I am reading Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers. It is SO enjoyable, so delightful, so fun.

"Whoever says Richelieu says Satan." "Be quiet, Madame, be quiet, you might be heard!" "Yes, you're right, and I'd be ashamed for you in your cowardice." (191)
"We've sworn blind trust and unfailing devotion to each other once and for all." (203)


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #29

This week I read a handful of short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

"The Unexpected" (1890)

First sentence: "It is the unexpected which happens," says the French proverb. I like the proverb, because it is true--and because it is French.

Premise/proverb: A young artist finds the unexpected happening in his love life.

My thoughts: I liked this one for the most part. The narrator is a snobbish young man who loves all things French. He also loves DRAMA. And this story has plenty of drama. But the drama blends seamlessly into a comedy. Or somewhat seamlessly anyway!

"My Poor Aunt" (1891)

First sentence: "Belle," said my mother, in tones bordering on despair, "what shall I do with you?"

Premise/plot: Belle/Kate is on her way to becoming this generation's black sheep of the family. It is a good thing her 'poor Aunt' (the black sheep of her generation) shows up just in time to offer her refuge. Belle has never been so delighted to be herself and live life on her own terms.

My thoughts: I'm not sure the daughter's rebellion is all that rebellious. By modern terms she is just practicing common sense. Her mother is desperate for her to marry and she's picked out the somebody. The daughter doesn't want to marry someone she doesn't love, like, or even know. Is it such an odd idea that a woman could look out for herself and be independent?

This story is slightly confusing. The first sentence the daughter's name is implied to be Belle. Yet a few pages later she's called Kate. And at one point the text states that Aunt Kate has come to help her namesake niece. So if that's the case, why does the first sentence call her Belle?!

"The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892)

First sentence: It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.

Premise/plot: A new mother takes a 'relaxing' vacation with her family. But the room where she's staying has unsettling YELLOW wallpaper. Did she arrive at the rented house mentally disturbed? Or did her illness come on slowly and surely over the course of weeks as she stays in this room?

My thoughts: "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a story I've encountered many times in my past in various college courses. It holds up well with my memory of it. It's a masterfully disturbing story. In just a few pages, Gilman creates an unforgettable narrator and some haunting scenes.

"Three Thanksgivings" (1909)

First sentence: Andrew's letter and Jean's letter were in Mrs. Morrison's lap. She had read them both, and sat looking at them with a varying sort of smile, now motherly and now unmotherly.

Premise/plot: A mother resists giving up her home and going to live with one of her children. Can she find a way to stay financially independent and in her own home? Can she prove to her children--and to her would-be suitor--that she is just fine on her own. Just how creative and resourceful can one determined woman be?!

My thoughts: Of the stories I've read so far this might be the most satisfying. It perhaps isn't as masterful or as memorable as 'The Yellow Wallpaper' but it is emotionally satisfying in a way the other is not because the woman IS a success. 

"Her Housekeeper" (1910)
First sentence: On the top floor of a New York boarding-house lived a particularly attractive woman who was an actress.

Premise/plot: Mrs. Leland has determined to never, ever, ever, ever marry again. She has her reasons. But one persistent wooer is willing to go above and beyond to prove that he loves her just as she is. Will she marry him?

My thoughts: I found this story to be entertaining. Mrs. Leland has her quirks particularly considering her times. In 1910, Mrs. Leland would have been a nonconformist at best and an immoral or loose woman at worst. She was all about her freedom and independence. And she loved to have many, many lovers. I'm not sure if lovers means sexual partners or just flattering suitors who lavished her with attention. Regardless of what Gilman meant, it would have been outside the image of propriety

"When I Was A Witch" (1910)
First sentence: If I had understood the terms of that one-sided contract with Satan, the Time of Witching would have lasted longer--you may be sure of that.

Premise/plot: This one is written in the first person. A woman has a really HORRIBLE day and starts making wishes that more resemble curses--if wishes had any power. She comes to find out that suddenly her cherished grudges--her wishes--do. But will this power last?

My thoughts: This comedy has plenty of drama...but even more so it has OPINIONS. Opinions on what is right and wrong with the world.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #29

This week I listened to a BBC Radio Drama adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Dr Thorne.

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. Adapted by Michael Symmons Roberts. Produced by Charlotte Riches. Directed by Susan Roberts. Three one hour episodes. First broadcast 2014?

Episode one, two, three

Doctor Thorne is one of my favorites in Anthony Trollope's Barchester series. Doctor Thorne is raising his niece, Mary, and she's being pursued by Frank Gresham. But his parents--in particular his mother--disapprove. Mrs. Gresham feels that if her son were to marry Mary Thorne then the world would end--might as well end. She makes it her number one priority to keep these two apart. It will take a lot of work on her part--feelings will be hurt. But should a mother be that interfering?! Frank doesn't think so. He'd rather be with Mary than with any other woman. And he's willing to fight to keep her in his life...

I would definitely recommend this!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Classic Club Spin #18

The number will be posted on August 1, 2018. Here are my twenty. THE NUMBER WAS NINE.

1. Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell 1853.
2.  Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008.
3. The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas. Richard Pevear, translator. 1844/2006.
4. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)
5. Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell (1936)
6 To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960.
7. The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864.
8. Raintree County by Ross Lockridge Jr. (1948)
9. The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer. 1931.
10. Show Boat by Edna Ferber (1926)
11. The Sword of the Wicked. Richard Sibbes.
12. Domestic Manners of the Americans. Frances Trollope. 1832. 
13. Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes. 1605.
14. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1921)
15. Dear and Glorious Physician. Taylor Caldwell. 1958.
16. Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe. 1719.
17. The Idiot. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 1869.
18. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1610)
19. Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall (1955) 
20. Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Storm of the Century

The Storm of the Century. Al Roker. 2015. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: A man pinned under the water struggles to free himself. Fifteen feet below the water's surface and the air he needs so badly, his thrashing body begins to weaken.

Premise/plot: The Storm of the Century is a nonfiction book about the hurricane of 1900 that devastated Galveston, Texas.

The prologue, "Underwater,"throws you into the action and introduces readers to one of the main characters, Isaac Cline, one of the best weatherman in America.

Part One, "They All Had Plans" consists of five chapters. Readers get the opportunity to learn about meteorology--the history and science of it as well as the leading men in the field; some basic Texas history--an overview; the history of Galveston, Texas--the island, the people, the geography, the businesses, the culture and society; hurricanes in general; AND this specific hurricane--its start in Africa, the path it followed, the mentions of it by ship captains and meteorologists, the super-complicated relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. This part introduces readers to the men, women, and children whose stories we will be following closely throughout the book.

Did you know that local weathermen weren't allowed to issue warnings about local weather? All local forecasts came from the national weather service in Washington, D.C.

Did you know that Cuba had some of the best meteorologists in the world at this time? There were men in Cuba that made it their life's work to study--to know--all about tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes. The goal. of course, being to be able to better predict or forecast them.

Furthermore, did you know that the head of the U.S. weather bureau, Willis Moore, did not credit Cuba's meteorologists. It wasn't that Cuba had a history of poor forecasts--inaccurate forecasts--Moore just didn't believe that hurricanes could be predicted or forecast. Long story short, Cuban meteorologists were not allowed--were forbidden--from sending telegraphs about the weather to any weather station in the United States--to any meteorologist--except Washington, D.C. And since Moore didn't like, didn't trust, didn't credit Cuba's reports, he could choose to ignore them or respin the information as he saw fit.

Cuban meteorologists knew that Galveston, Texas was in for a monstrous, devastating, life-threatening storm, but could do nothing to warn Texas. They could--they did--warn Washington, D.C. Moore knew there was a storm but he predicted it would turn course and head for Florida. Who got issued the storm warnings? Florida and the East Coast. It wasn't until that predicted storm never arrived that people started questioning--maybe the storm went somewhere else?!

To his credit, Isaac Cline DID disobey protocol and issue local warnings about the impending storm--but it wasn't much notice--just half a day. If things had gone differently, the island could have--would have--had several days notice to prepare, to evacuate, to choose to act. Granted that would not have been enough time to build a sea wall--something the city desperately needed but naively didn't want to have to need. But the island could have been evacuated. Those that stayed--and probably there would have been people who chose to stay--would have been there by choice not lack of choice.

Part Two, "Maelstrom" consists of five chapters. This part chronicles life in Galveston from Thursday, September 6, 1900 to Saturday, September 8, 1900. Here readers spend time with the people first introduced in part one. Notably Isaac Cline and his brother Joseph--both weathermen. But also other men, women, and even children. What was it like to experience the storm's approach and the storm itself? What was happening on the island? Where were the people going? How were they handling it? What were they doing?

These chapters are incredibly intense and dramatic. We've got almost hour-by-hour chronicling from multiple perspectives.

Part Three, "The White City on the Beach" consists of five chapters. This part chronicles life after the storm: those first few days, weeks, months, etc. It focuses on the survivors. How the island residents came together immediately to handle the devastation. It focuses on those coming from the outside to help: from the state of Texas, from the national government, volunteers from all over the United States. It tells of the newspaper journalist, Winifred Blake, and also of Clara Barton and the Red Cross organization. What did Galveston look like now? How bad were the losses? How many people died? Was anything left at all? What were they going to do about the dead? about preventing illness? about treating the injured? How were they going to clean up the wreckage, the carnage? How were they to go about rebuilding the community? What changes would need to be made on the island?

This chapter was perhaps slightly less intense but perhaps slightly more graphic. The sights--the smells--horrific and traumatic to all who witnessed it. The rebuilding effort gets a little attention--that process was interesting. The narrative is still focused on the personal.

My thoughts: I really found this a captivating, fascinating, compelling read. It was intense; it was scary. It was packed with facts I didn't know or perhaps hadn't considered. I felt like I learned a lot by reading it. For that reason this one is easy to recommend.

In 1900, it was the poor who lived on the beaches, near the beaches. The wealthier you were--the more status you had--the further away you lived from the beach itself. And Galveston, in 1900, was a place with many millionaires. But whether you were rich or poor, white or black--the storm was coming and would hit every community equally hard. Being rich didn't mean you were safer or more secure. The wind, the waves, the floodwater, the wreckage--devastated everything and would ultimate change everything. 


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Road Trip With Max and His Mom

Road Trip with Max and His Mom. Linda Urban. Illustrated by Katie Kath. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On Monday morning after breakfast, Mom made an announcement. "We are going on an adventure. Max was surprised. Mom was not the sort of mom who made announcements about adventures. She was the sort of mom who made announcements about the laundry needing to be put away, or how proud she was of Max's report card, or that Max's hair was getting long and it was time for a trim.

Premise/plot: Road Trip with Max and His Mom is a sequel to Linda Urban's Weekends with Max and His Dad. In the first book, readers met Max and his dad. Max is adjusting to his parents recent divorce. In the second book, Max is skipping one of his weekends with his dad to go with his mom on a trip. Great-Great-Aunt Victory is turning 100 and having a family-reunion-birthday-party at an amusement park. It sounds like an adventure just right for an explorer like Max.

My thoughts: I love, love, love Max. I came to love him in the first book. That's the wonderful thing about series. If you get attached to the characters in the first book, you can just pick up future books with the love already there. Max is over being a spy these days, and now he is all about exploring. He has been LOVING reading biographies about famous and should-be-famous explorers. And I just have to say that having a narrator who gets so excited about books, about reading, about learning is just delightful.

I would definitely recommend both books.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Singing in the Shrouds

Singing in the Shrouds. Ngaio Marsh. 1958. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the Pool of London and farther east all through the dockyards the fog lay heavy. Lights swam like moons in their own halos. Insignificant buildings, being simplified, became dramatic.

Premise/plot: Singing in the Shrouds is the twentieth novel in Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn mystery series. Cape Farewell is about to steam out to sea when a body is discovered near the docks. It is believed that the murderer is a passenger on the ship. Inspector Alleyn joins the ship--in disguise--the next day. He not only wants to find the murderer--who has already struck three times--but to prevent another murder from occurring. This serial killer is striking every ten days. And the voyage is much longer than ten days! Can Alleyn discover the murderer among the passengers without being discovered himself?

My thoughts: I am loving Ngaio Marsh. I am. I can't believe it's taken me so long to get to her mystery novels. I enjoyed getting to know the passengers. There were some interesting characters among them--some prove Alleyn's great allies. One of the passengers was a 1950s version of Jerry Springer--a television personality of a reality talk show where guests bring him their personal troubles. 
When it comes to separating the easygoing from the exacting passenger, stewards are not easily deceived. But Dennis had been taken in by Mr. Merryman. The spectacles, the rumpled hair and cherubic countenance had led him to diagnose absence of mind, benevolence and timidity. He was bitterly disappointed when Mr. Merryman now gave unmistakable signs of being a Holy Terror. (24)
It's the greatest mistake to think that jealousy is necessarily a fault. On the contrary, it may very well sharpen the perception. (54)
'Alibis,' Mr. Merryman said grandly, 'are in the same category as statistics: in the last analysis they prove nothing.' (85)
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Herland

Herland. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 1915/1979. 147 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would be a very different story.

Premise/plot: Vandyck Jennings is a sociologist traveling or exploring with Terry O. Nicholson and Jeff Margrave. On one of their trips they hear rumors of a 'strange and terrible Woman land...this strange country where no men lived--only women and girl children.' They don't have time on this first trip to seek it out, but, they become determined to return on their own and find it next year. Return they do, and they think they've packed, planned, and prepared all they need. But they could not begin to imagine the reality of Herland.

Herland is a utopian adventure story. Van, Jeff, and Terry venture into Herland, are 'captured' by the women, educated by the women, and eventually given some freedom. Perhaps not all the men were worthy of that freedom.

The education of the men gives Gilman an opportunity to info dump about the world she has created. (Though we learn little of their native language--perhaps Gilman was no Tolkien.) Readers learn alongside of Van, Jeff, and Terry two thousand years of history. How did Herland come into existence? Where there ever men? How do the women reproduce without men? How are children raised? What is society like? How has their society evolved through the centuries?

Info dump isn't quite the right word. It also gives Gilman an opportunity to explore the ideas and philosophies of this 'utopian' world and to a certain extent the real world as well. Gender roles being a subject that is front and center of the whole novel. What does it mean to be feminine? to be womanly? What is natural? Are the stereotypical notions of femininity just a reflection or reaction to masculinity. Without the masculine how would the feminine have developed or evolved?

She spends one whole chapter on the religion/faith of Herland and how it compares to Van's Christianity. In Herland, there is no sin, no punishment, no crime, no criminals, no need for a Savior, no need for a sacrifice, no need for heaven or hell, no need for laws or rules. Society has almost agreed upon a list of ideals and lumped them together into the notion of God and decided to live as if God were real and express in their lives those same ideals.

The concept of 'home' does not exist. Babies and children are raised collectively, taught collectively, work collectively. You might give birth to a baby but not be active in raising it. The most qualified do the raising. All generations belong to one another--there are no individual families or homes. No child belongs more to one person than another. Pride is felt collectively.

Just as the most qualified do the raising, only the 'most qualified' the 'best sorts' of women are allowed to have children--to will them into existence by their deep longing for Motherhood. Other women are discouraged from longing and are directed to focus their thoughts, their energies elsewhere. By not allowing everyone to have children, they ensure that only the best qualities are passed on from generation to generation.

My thoughts: I found Herland to be a quick read. I read it in one evening. Every time I thought about putting down the book, I decided I just had to read one more chapter. So without a doubt I found it an engaging read.

I was thankful there were three male characters. Jeff adapted the easiest to the new country. It didn't take him long at all to decide that he had come home at last and this is where he wanted to live the rest of his life. Herland was his paradise.

Van was open-minded. He was always ready and willing to discuss any and all aspects of the culture and compare them to the outside world, to America in particular. He was respectful and genuine. I think Van represented hope for the world, that men could be taught to accept women as equals if not superior at times.

Terry was close-minded. There was no changing his mind. He had a one track mind; women were objects to be TAKEN, to be owned, to be mastered, to be ruled, to be possessed. Terry didn't care about ideas and thoughts and feelings. Some form of justice was carried out against Terry. 

I'm not sure what I think of the world Gilman created. I certainly disagreed with some of her ideas or notions. Her utopia is not every woman's utopia. And her notion of Utopia was created in 1915 is in some ways dated and problematic. Some aspects were just disturbing.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently #30

Something Old
The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas. Translated by Richard Pevear. 1844/2006. 704 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Something Borrowed
The Hazel Wood. Melissa Albert. 2018. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Something True
Living Insights Study Bible. 1996. 1606 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good. R.C. Sproul. 1996. 220 pages. [Source: Bought]

Heaven. Randy Alcorn. 2004. Tyndale. 533 pages. [Source: Gift]

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Keep It Short #28

I read two stories in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book: Prince Darling and Blue Beard. I can't imagine two stories being more different from one another!

Prince Darling

First sentence:
ONCE upon a time there lived a king who was so just and kind that his subjects called him “the Good King.” It happened one day, when he was out hunting, that a little white rabbit, which his dogs were chasing, sprang into his arms for shelter. The King stroked it gently, and said to it:
“Well, bunny, as you have come to me for protection I will see that nobody hurts you.”
And he took it home to his palace and had it put in a pretty little house, with all sorts of nice things to eat.

Premise/plot: The good King has a not-so-good son whose worth will have to be tested before he can have his happily ever after. The 'bunny' his father saved was the fairy TRUTH. And TRUTH will do her best to guide the new king--the prince--when the time comes for him to reign. But will he be guided by the truth and rule wisely? OR will he become a selfish, cruel king who needs to be taught a lesson or two?

My thoughts: I really liked this one. It's for stories like this one that I keep reading.

Blue Beard
First sentence:
There was a man who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.
One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. They would neither of them have him, and sent him backward and forward from one another, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard, and what besides gave them disgust and aversion was his having already been married to several wives, and nobody ever knew what became of them.
Blue Beard, to engage their affection, took them, with the lady their mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood, to one of his country seats, where they stayed a whole week.

Premise/plot: Blue Beard may be ugly but this is no Beauty and the Beast or East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

My thoughts: This may be one of the most disturbing stories I've read so far. I don't particularly like horror stories--and this is a horror story. Would this latest wife of Bluebeard gotten a happily ever after with Bluebeard if she hadn't been so curious and disobeyed her husband? I doubt it. Obviously Bluebeard is a dark, twisted, violent soul. It would have just been a matter of time, in my opinion. Having the knowledge even just for a short time of who her husband really was probably gave her just enough time to contact her brothers and gotten HELP to get out.

 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Rachel Ray (My Victorian Year #28)

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

First sentence: There are women who cannot grow alone as standard trees; — for whom the support and warmth of some wall, some paling, some post, is absolutely necessary;

Premise/plot: Rachel Ray would be wooed by Luke Rowan--if only her mother and older sister would allow it. But will they?

Rachel's older sister, Dorothea, aka MRS. Prime, is a busy-body, aka "charitable church woman" whose number one business seems to be making sure that her sister says single and under her management. Is that a fair assessment? Perhaps not. It isn't Rachel she wants to control her so much as everyone within her power--notably her mother. If Rachel won't be bossed by her--dictated to by her--then she'll try applying pressure to their mother. Rachel is the type of daughter who would never, ever, ever, ever disobey her mother.

Is Mrs. Ray easy to manipulate? Yes. No. Usually. Sometimes. Mrs. Ray is equally impressed by whomever she's talking to. So for Mrs. Prime to have an influence on her, she has to stick to her constantly and not let anyone else get a word in. That proves impossible--so Mrs. Ray gains some freedom and independence from her daughter. But will it be enough?

It seems to be once Luke meets Mrs. Ray and the two begin to be friendly with one another. But that's not taking into account his family. And his family seems to be just as dysfunctional as hers.

Will these two ever come together long enough to make a match of it? Probably--it is Trollope and not Hardy. But it will literally take the whole village to sort it out.

My thoughts: I'm so glad that Trollope is Trollope and not Hardy. If Thomas Hardy had written Rachel Ray then Dorothea would have been proven right. Luke Rowan likely would have been a smooth talker who seduced a young naive girl, Rachel Ray, and left her with promises of a ring but no actual intentions. Rachel Ray would have ended up pregnant and the shame of the village--if she didn't kill herself before the town knew she was with child. Luke's rumored debts would not have been rumors but the truth. Mrs. Ray would have probably cried equal amounts in both versions because some things are just unavoidable.

Rachel Ray--the character--is not a feisty heroine. She's not a rule-breaker or a rebel. If her mother says don't write this fellow, she's not going to write him. If her mother says the engagement is off, then Rachel is going to accept it as fact even if it breaks her heart. Does she take the 'honoring her parents' thing a little too much to heart? Perhaps for the modern reader's taste. To submit to the authority of one's parents--especially in love--seems to make you weak and stupid...according to the world today. But what makes Rachel weak by today's standards make her morally good by older standards.

Rachel reminds me a bit of Jane Bennet.

Descriptions of Mrs. Prime:
Her fault was this; that she had taught herself to believe that cheerfulness was a sin, and that the more she became morose, the nearer would she be to the fruition of those hopes of future happiness on which her heart was set.
Such a one as Mrs. Prime is often necessary. But we all have our own pet temptations, and I think that Mrs. Prime’s temptation was a love of power.

Her sister was, in truth, only seven years her senior, but in all the facts and ways of life, she seemed to be the elder by at least half a century.
"Flirting" in Rachel Ray:
“I never knew anybody before called Rachel,” said he. “And I never knew anybody called Luke.” “That’s a coincidence, is it not? — a coincidence that ought to make us friends.
 “one word, and then I will let you go.” “What word?” “Say to me, ‘Dear Luke, I will be your wife.’“
“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.
“Call me Luke,” he said. “Call me by my own name.”
 
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #28

Uglies. Scott Westerfeld. Read by Carine Montbertrand. 2006. Recorded Books. 12 hrs and 22 minutes.

I'm stubborn. I am. If I wasn't so stubborn I wouldn't stick with good books with bad narrators.

I have very good memories--happy, happy--memories of first reading Scott Westerfeld's Uglies. When Rose Brock tells you that you should read a book, you should read it. It will be fabulous.

My memories of the audio book won't be so happy. I didn't mind her Tally voice. But almost every other single voice she does is incredibly annoying, obnoxious, irritating. Her Shay voice is the absolute worst character voice I've ever heard for any audio book.

I believe the book has been done with other narrators. That would be a GREAT thing. Every book deserves a good audio book adaptation.

My original original review:

Set three to four hundred years in the future, Uglies, a dystopia, focuses on a global community of pretty people. Tally Youngblood introduces readers to this picture-perfect community where appearances are not a matter of one's genes but a matter of extensive plastic surgeries planned by the Community of Morphological Standards. Tally and Shay are best friends awaiting their sixteenth birthdays and their surgeries after which they'll leave Uglyville behind and join the New Pretties. But Shay doubts that the "Pretty Committee" is as concerned with equality and justice as it appears, suspecting that ulterior motives may lay behind the surface. Days before her sixteenth birthday, Shay runs away leaving a cryptic message for her friend to find the way to Smoke, the rebel community of "ugly" outsiders. When the authorities discover Shay's disappearance, Tally is asked to make the hardest decision of her life: betray Shay and the rebel community to the authorities or face living life ugly.

Uglies is a fast-paced novel taking a typical YA topic--self esteem, conformity, and the perception of beauty--and treating it in a new and ultimately satisfying way by speculating about where current values of beauty and perfection might lead us as a society if taken to the extreme. By setting Uglies in the future instead of a contemporary high school, Westerfeld is able to provide reflection and commentary on a serious topic in a new and original way.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Ruthless Tide

Ruthless Tide: The Tragic Epic of the Johnstown Flood. Al Roker. 2018. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Johnny, who made the world?" The Sunday School teacher asked. That was easy. "The Cambria Iron Company!" the boy replied. That's the story they like to tell, anyway, in and around Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Little Gertrude Quinn was only six that year, and even she, like the fictitious Johnny, knew how important iron and steel and the Cambria Works were to the life that she, her family, and everybody they knew were living here in the deep valley of the Conemaugh River under the abrupt rise of the Allegheny Mountains.

Premise/plot: Ruthless Tide is a new nonfiction book about the Johnstown Flood. The first third is about what led to the disaster. The iron and steel industry. The erosion of the land. The building of the dam and lake. The selfishness then negligence of the sports club. This section includes mini-biographies of men like Andrew Carnegie, Daniel J. Morrell, Benjamin Ruff, Henry Clay Frick, etc. The second third is about the disaster itself: first the flood, then the dam breaking, and finally the fires that burned as a result of the destruction. This section introduces or in some cases reintroduces readers to the men, women, and children of the town(s) in the path of the monster. It is a limited account, but, better to follow a few accounts that are based on published accounts than to follow hundreds of fictional accounts. The last third is devoted to the aftermath of the disaster. It's titled" Justice and Charity." Here readers see the Red Cross stepping into the scene of a disaster and gaining attention and respect for their relief response. Also readers read not of the justice of the legal system but the injustice of it.

My thoughts: I read this in one evening. I found it an interesting read. I've read reviews criticizing the writing, but for me I wasn't paying attention to the writing but to the content.

Do I ever read a book and count the words in a sentence? Do I ever consider the length of the sentences in any given paragraph? Am I hyper-critical of any writer? Oh, that sentence would have sounded better if it had had seven words instead of five.

Perhaps just perhaps people are super-critical of the "writing" because of the author being a celebrity, Al Roker. 



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Unicorn Magic

Unicorn Magic. Sabina Gibson. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Periwinkle lived in the Forever Forest with her unicorn friends. Every unicorn in the land was born with a magical power.

Premise/plot: Periwinkle, the blue unicorn, is sad, sad, super-sad because she doesn't think she has any magical powers. Her friend, Birdie, cheers her up by telling her to 'believe in magic and follow your heart.' Periwinkle is thankful for the friendship--and the advice--it's advice she passes on to all of her friends who just so happened to be facing their own discouragements that morning. Will her words be taken to heart?

My thoughts: Unicorn Magic may be an absolute must for little unicorn lovers. I would recommend it to unicorn-lovers for the illustrations alone. There is something mesmerizing about them. But does it have a wider appeal? I'm not sure. I'm not. Reading picture books is super-subjective after all.

For me I found the message to be predictable and generic. I'm just thankful it didn't include a SONG to sing the message at me with the turn of every page. Do we really need to hammer in the message that all of life's problems can be solved by 'following one's heart'? OR that all the magic you need to succeed comes from deep within?

I liked one theme in this one--friends encourage one another. But the other themes not so much.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Roller Skates

Roller Skates. Ruth Sawyer. 1936. 186 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Spring has come; windows are open.

Premise/plot: Roller Skates is set in New York City in the 1890s. Lucinda Wyman, our roller-skating heroine, will be staying with the Misses Peters (Miss Peters, Miss Nettie) while her parents go abroad for a year. She'll still have to visit her prim and proper relatives once a week, but, most of her time is her own...and she'll use it to make friends with anyone and everyone regardless of their age, gender, and/or social class.

My thoughts: If I'd read this book in one or two days instead of three or four weeks, would I have liked it better? Probably. Reading one or two chapters per week killed the enjoyment I might have gotten from the story.

To be honest the introduction also unsettled me a bit. Who is narrating the introduction? Who is the unnamed old friend Lucinda is visiting? How many years have passed? Were they children together? Or is the unnamed old friend one of the adult friends she made? Is the unnamed friend a man or a woman? Why did Lucinda give this person her diary? And why didn't the book END with her giving someone her diary? Why did the end absolutely not tie back to the introduction at all?

I will need to reread this at some point to give it a better chance to charm me.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

East of Eden

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. 1952. 601 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. 

Premise/plot: East of Eden is near-impossible to summarize in a few sentences. Other than the human condition--the human character itself--I'm not sure it is technically about anything. It examines why we are the way we are, how we justify the choices we make, how easy it is to deceive ourselves and others. Can you ever really know another person and love them unconditionally? Is every person a broken mess? Are some people better at hiding their brokenness?

Cyrus Trask has two sons--each by a different woman. Adam is his first born. Cyrus has IDEAS, fixed ideas about who Adam should be, what Adam should do. Charles is his second son. And Cyrus isn't any better at seeing the real Charles than he is the real Adam. The difference is that Cyrus doesn't even try the tiniest bit to love Charles. Charles from an early age knows that his father doesn't love him the same--treat him the same. And his deep hurt causes him to be mean. Self-control isn't his best quality--especially as a growing boy.

Adam and Charles do come to terms with each other--after their father's death. The two even become surprisingly close considering how volatile the relationship was when they were growing up. But someone does come between them again--a woman.

Cathy. Is Cathy the serpent in the garden of Eden? Perhaps. She's dangerous and manipulative, selfish and controlling. And she becomes the mother of Adam's twin sons: Caleb and Aron.

Caleb and Aron might have easily been orphans or near-orphans. Cathy's flight was interrupted by an extremely shocked Adam. She shot him when he got between her and the door, her and FREEDOM. After he was shot by his wife, he lost the will to live if by living you mean functioning in any normal, healthy way. For the first year--maybe even a little longer--the two boys didn't even have names.

But friends can take the place of family. Enter Samuel Hamilton and Lee. Lee is a "Chinaman" who worked for Adam since he moved to California. (Lee never really liked Cathy, found her unreadable, almost soulless. Samuel, a neighbor, also got a very vibe when around her.) Lee raised the boys, loved them like they were his own flesh and blood. Both Samuel and Lee were able to speak truth--the hard, cold, brutal TRUTH that he desperately needed to hear to wake him up and give him reason to live.

Many years pass in the novel. In fact, most of the novel takes place when Cal and Aron are near-grown sons, in their final years of high school. Readers see that Adam is blind to the fact that he's repeating the exact same mistakes his father made with him and Charles. Oh, he thinks he sees the situation clearly enough NOT to be making those same mistakes. Aron can do no wrong and Adam doesn't see any reason why Aron won't fulfill all his hopes and dreams. Cal's mistakes and brokenness are quite obvious to one and all. He's honest to everyone about his shortcomings. Surprisingly so in many ways. Cal seems all too self-aware; Aron, well, he lives in a dream world of his own making.

A large part of Aron's dream world is ABRA. The two met as children. It didn't take long for Aron to know that she was the one, that she was his storybook love, that their happily ever afters were tied to one another. But this fantasy story isn't enough for Abra. Not when she feels misunderstood and ignored. Aron, she thinks, has no interest in seeing the real her, the flesh-and-blood her, the her that is all-too-human. A future with Aron would mean being or becoming HIS version of Abra. She doesn't want that--but she's not quite sure how to break into Aron's dream world and introduce reality.

Cal accepts reality as is. Oh he has hopes and dreams. One hope is that his father might one day love him as he loves Aron. But he knows that may never happen. Fortunately, Cal has LEE and ABRA to keep him grounded.

Aron's dream world is destined to crash and crumble, and unfortunately Cal is responsible for throwing Aron into the deep end of reality leaving him to sink or swim. He feels that responsibility. One could argue that someone should have taken that responsibility much, much, much earlier. That the secret should never have been a secret that long. Still, it was not done from a place of loving concern but of misdirected anger.

Can Cal ever forgive himself? Can others forgive him too?

My thoughts: I found it a difficult read to get into at first. But by the end I was fully engaged. It is a well-written, thought-provoking read. It touches on the nature versus nurture argument. But what I enjoyed most were the themes of friendship and family.

Quotes:
It doesn't matter that Cathy was what I have called a monster. Perhaps we can't understand Cathy, but on the other hand we are capable of many things in all directions, of great virtues and great sins. And who in his mind has not probed the black water?
Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them. (447)
There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension. (482)
"The ways of sin are curious," Samuel observed. "I guess if a man had to shuck off everything he had, inside and out, he'd manage to hide a few little sins somewhere for his own discomfort. They're the last things we'll give up." (484)
When a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he can think of nothing else. (586)
Whenever a human has a nickname it is a proof that the name given him was wrong. (588)
"No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us." (594)
"IF a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule--a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting--only the deeply personal and familiar." (596)
In the dawn Dessie was awakened by the chill of pain that came to her at intervals. It was a rustle and a threat of pain; it scampered up from her side and across her abdomen, a nibbling pinch and then a little grab and then a hard catch and finally a fierce grip as though a huge hand had wrenched her. When that relaxed she felt a soreness like a bruise. It didn't last very long, but while it went on the outside world was blotted out, and she seemed to be listening to the struggle in her body. (730)
Nearly everyone has his box of secret pain, shared with no one. (815)
Try to believe that things are neither so good nor so bad as they seem to you now. (829)
Laughter at yourself comes last of all in a mad race with death, and sometimes it isn't in time. (835)
Nobody has the right to remove any single experience from another. Life and death are promised. We have a right to pain. (937)



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Currently #29

Something Old
The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas. Translated by Richard Pevear. 1844/2006. 704 pages. [Source: Bought]
Rachel Ray. Anthony Trollope. 1863. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
More Than Meets the Eye. Karen Witemeyer. 2018. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Something Borrowed
The Year We Sailed the Sun. 2015. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
Something True 
Daily Chronological Bible: KJV Edition. Holman Bible Publishers. 2014. 1440 pages. [Source: Free giveaway]

Heaven. Randy Alcorn. 2004. Tyndale. 533 pages. [Source: Gift]

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Victorian Year #27

I'm currently reading Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray. I'm really enjoying both books. Though one is packed with more adventure than the other.

I'll start with The Three Musketeers.
"And now, gentlemen," said d'Artagnan, without bothering to explain his conduct to Porthos, "all for one and one for all--that's our motto, isn't it?"
"But still..." said Porthos.
"Hold out your hand and swear!" Athos and Aramis cried at once. Defeated by example, grumbling quietly, Porthos held out his hand and the four friends repeated with one voice the formula dictated by d'Artagnan: "All for one and one for all." (105)
 "Young man," he said to d'Artagnan, "a piece of advice."
"What?"
"You could be bothered because of what has just happened."
"You think so?"
"Yes. Do you have a friends whose watch runs slow?"
"Eh?"
"Go to see him, so that he can testify that you were with him at half-past nine. In legal circles, that is known as an alibi." (114)
"If you could see into my open heart," said d'Artagnan, "you would read so much curiosity in it that you would have pity on me, and so much love that you would satisfy my curiosity that same instant. There is nothing to fear from those who love you."
"You are rather quick to speak of love, Monsieur!" said the young woman shaking her head.
"That is because love has come to me quickly and for the first time, and I am not yet twenty years old. (126)
Rachel Ray. Mr. Comfort's advice has been sought and he's changed sides. He now says that Mrs. Ray should not encourage Rachel and Luke's relationship. That Rachel should reply to his letter--but only to end things. Rachel does so, but in obeying her mother--who's obeying a minister--she's breaking her heart. A broken, sad Rachel is not a happy companion she finds. Mrs. Ray does have a chance encounter with Luke Rowan, however, when she goes into the city on business.
Of the truth, or want of truth in every word spoken to us, we judge, in great part, by the face of the speaker. By the face of every man and woman seen by us, whether they speak or are silent, we form a judgment, — and in nine cases out of ten our judgment is true.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep It Short #27

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

The Goose Girl

First sentence: Once upon a time an old queen, whose husband had been dead for many years, had a beautiful daughter. When she grew up she was betrothed to a prince who lived a great way off. Now, when the time drew near for her to be married and to depart into a foreign kingdom, her old mother gave her much costly baggage, and many ornaments, gold and silver, trinkets and knicknacks, and, in fact, everything that belonged to a royal trousseau, for she loved her daughter very dearly. She gave her a waiting-maid also, who was to ride with her and hand her over to the bridegroom, and she provided each of them with a horse for the journey. Now the Princess’s horse was called Falada, and could speak.
When the hour for departure drew near the old mother went to her bedroom, and taking a small knife she cut her fingers till they bled; then she held a white rag under them, and letting three drops of blood fall into it, she gave it to her daughter, and said: “Dear child, take great care of this rag: it may be of use to you on the journey.”


Premise/plot: A princess' happily ever after is put on hold when a maid revolts and demands to swap places with her. The princess--now dressed as a maid and in fear of her life--becomes a goose girl. the maid--now dressed as a princess and feeling quite smug--becomes a bride. But justice does prevail in the end. Even if things do NOT turn out well for the horse.

 My thoughts: I became familiar with this story because of Shannon Hale's novel adaptation of it.

Toads and Diamonds

First sentence: THERE was once upon a time a widow who had two daughters. The eldest was so much like her in the face and humor that whoever looked upon the daughter saw the mother. They were both so disagreeable and so proud that there was no living with them.
The youngest, who was the very picture of her father for courtesy and sweetness of temper, was withal one of the most beautiful girls ever seen. As people naturally love their own likeness, this mother even doted on her eldest daughter and at the same time had a horrible aversion for the youngest—she made her eat in the kitchen and work continually.


Premise/plot: You reap what you sow. The lovely younger daughter is rewarded for her kindness by a fairy. Every time she speaks diamonds, pearls, jewels come out. The older daughter with the rotten character is also rewarded by a fairy--for her attitude. Every time she speaks toads and snakes come out. There's no hiding her ugliness now.

My thoughts: I think I have read this one several times before. Though I didn't grow up with it, I think it's one of my new favorites.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #27

Celebrated Crimes, Volume III: Mary Stuart. Alexandre Dumas. Translated by George Burnham Ives. Before 1870. Read by John Van Stan for Librivox. 6 hours and 25 minutes.

This week I listened to volume three of Alexandre Dumas' Celebrated Crimes. (For the record, I have not read or listened to volumes one or two). The subject of the volume is Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

First sentence: Some royal names are predestined to misfortune: in France, there is the name "Henry". Henry I was poisoned, Henry II was killed in a tournament, Henry III and Henry IV were assassinated. As to Henry V, for whom the past is so fatal already, God alone knows what the future has in store for him.

In Scotland, the unlucky name is "Stuart". Robert I, founder of the race, died at twenty-eight of a lingering illness. Robert II, the most fortunate of the family, was obliged to pass a part of his life, not merely in retirement, but also in the dark, on account of inflammation of the eyes, which made them blood-red. Robert III succumbed to grief, the death of one son and the captivity of other. James I was stabbed by Graham in the abbey of the Black Monks of Perth. James II was killed at the siege of Roxburgh, by a splinter from a burst cannon. James III was assassinated by an unknown hand in a mill, where he had taken refuge during the battle of Sauchie. James IV, wounded by two arrows and a blow from a halberd, fell amidst his nobles on the battlefield of Flodden. James V died of grief at the loss of his two sons, and of remorse for the execution of Hamilton. James VI, destined to unite on his head the two crowns of Scotland and England, son of a father who had been assassinated, led a melancholy and timorous existence, between the scaffold of his mother, Mary Stuart, and that of his son, Charles I. Charles II spent a portion of his life in exile. James II died in it. The Chevalier Saint-George, after having been proclaimed King of Scotland as James VIII, and of England and Ireland as James III, was forced to flee, without having been able to give his arms even the lustre of a defeat. His son, Charles Edward, after the skirmish at Derby and the battle of Culloden, hunted from mountain to mountain, pursued from rock to rock, swimming from shore to shore, picked up half naked by a French vessel, betook himself to Florence to die there, without the European courts having ever consented to recognise him as a sovereign. Finally, his brother, Henry Benedict, the last heir of the Stuarts, having lived on a pension of three thousand pounds sterling, granted him by George III, died completely forgotten, bequeathing to the House of Hanover all the crown jewels which James II had carried off when he passed over to the Continent in 1688—a tardy but complete recognition of the legitimacy of the family which had succeeded his. In the midst of this unlucky race, Mary Stuart was the favourite of misfortune.
The introduction reminded me of the lovely Horrible Histories songs about the Stuarts, "The Blue Blooded Blues."

I found this a difficult one to listen to. I like history. I like biography. I like to think of myself of having a good attention span when it comes to both. It may not be Dumas' fault. It may be the reader of the audio book, John Van Stan, or this reader.

I may still be willing to read the book at some point.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown: A Peanuts Collection. Scharles M Schulz. 2018. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
This graphic novel is a blend of new stories starring the Peanuts cast and classic Peanuts strips by Charles M Schulz.

The new stories are "Charlie Brown's Star" by Jeff Dyer, "Public Speaking" by Bob Scott, "Snowball's Chance" by Justin Thompson, "She Love Me, She Loves Me Not," by Jeff Dyer, "Dear Pen Pal" by Vicki Scott, "Blind as a Bat" by Jeff Dyer, "Football Basics" by Vicki Scott, "Fight for Flight" by Shane Houghton, "Spring Training" by Shane Houghton.

Longer stories by Schulz include: "The Carousel," "Poor Chuck," and "Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown."

 My favorite story in this new collection is "Dear Pen Pal." In this one, Sally takes over writing a letter for her big brother. He is writing a pen pal. Sally is quite proud of herself for having learned to write in cursive the letters A through N. But Sally's idea of what should go into a letter is quite different from Charlie Brown's idea. Will this letter ever get written?
Charlie Brown: If you can't write 'Dear Pen Pal,' what can you write?
Sally: "Thank you for the cookies!"
Charlie Brown: But he didn't send me cookies.
Sally: He didn't send you cookies?? Then why in the world are you writing to this kid?! The only reason to write a letter is to thank someone for sending a gift! And the only reason to thank someone for a gift is so they send another one! Until this kid sends you cookies, I don't see any reason I should learn to write the letter "P"!!
I enjoyed the book. Perhaps I'd have loved it even more with less sports. But this one still had some great moments.


© 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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