Sunday, December 09, 2018

2019 Reading Challenges: Back to the Classics

2019 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge
Host: Books and Chocolate, sign up 
January - December 2019
# of books: 9 to 12.

_ 1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899.

_ 2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969. All books in this category must have been published at least 50 years ago. The only exceptions are books that were published posthumously but were written at least 50 years ago. 

_ 3. Classic by a Female Author.

_ 4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. You may read the book in your native language, or its original language (or a third language for all you polyglots!) Modern translations are acceptable, as long as the book was originally published at least 50 years ago. Books in translation are acceptable in all other categories as well.

_ 5. Classic Comedy. Any comedy or humorous work. Humor is very subjective, so if you think Crime and Punishment is hilarious, go ahead and use it, but if it's a work that's traditionally not considered humorous, please tell us why in your post. 

_ 6. Classic Tragedy. Tragedies traditionally have a sad ending, but just like the comedies, this is up for the reader to interpret. 

_ 7. Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes. Omnibus editions of multiple works do not count. Since page counts can vary depending on the edition, average the page count of various editions to determine the length.

_ 8. Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages. 

_ 9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). Includes classic set in either continent or the Caribbean, or by an author originally from one of those countries. Examples include Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (United States); Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Jamaica); or One Hundred Years of Solitude (Columbia/South America). 

_ 10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). Any classic set in one of those contents or islands, or by an author from these countries. Examples include Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt); The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japan); On the Beach by Nevile Shute (Australia); Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria). 

_ 11. Classic From a Place You've Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state or country in which you've lived. Choices for me include Giant by Edna Ferber (Texas); Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (Chicago); and Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (Germany). 

_ 12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago. Plays are eligible for this category only.

Feel free to copy/paste this. You can replace the _ with an X or a ✔ (copy/paste it) when you finish reading a book. If you list the books you read, that may help other people decide what to read.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, December 07, 2018

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

Premise/plot:  Who isn't familiar with the story of Scrooge?! Still, I suppose *something* must be said. Scrooge HATES Christmas. Hate is too soft a word really for the rage he feels when he thinks about the holiday. For Scrooge hating comes as naturally as breathing. He loves no one or no thing--nothing except money and making a profit. But what is driving his obsession with money? what is driving him to live as he does--to make the choices he does? Could there be a secret or two in his past that holds the answers to these questions? Can Scrooge be saved from his own worst enemy--himself?

If Scrooge is to be saved--can he be saved?!--it will take some supernatural intervention. For Scrooge won't be saving himself. For one thing, Scrooge does not see his own need to be saved. Saved from what exactly?!?! Saved from success?! As far as Scrooge is concerned, everything in his life is just as it should be. He in need of help? he in need of saving? Don't be ridiculous.

He will be visited by four ghosts--the first ghost being Marley, his dead business partner of old. The other three ghosts being Christmas spirits past, present, and future. Can these spirits open Scrooge's eyes? Will he start to see--will he start to judge--life differently?

My thoughts: I've read this one quite a few times. I've reviewed it a few times too. My favorite review of it can be found at Operation Actually Read Bible. In that review, I share my spiritual assessment of this Christmas story.

  • The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavored not to think, the more he thought.
  • Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. (The Chronicles of Narnia #1) C.S. Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. 1950. 186 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: ONCE THERE WERE FOUR CHILDREN whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.

Premise/plot: During the second world war, the Pevensie children are evacuated to the country. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy accidentally discover a magical country--Narnia--within a wardrobe in a spare room. Lucy discovers Narnia first and meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus. Next to enter is the turkish-delight-loving Edmund. He meets the Queen--or the White Witch. But it isn't long before all four children enter Narnia and change the course of its history--not to mention their own lives--forever.

My thoughts: I love, love, love The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I had forgotten how SHORT a read it really is. Perhaps because the movie adds so much drama and action. If I had to guess, I'd say that it would take a person longer to watch the movie than to actually read the book. At least if you're a somewhat fast reader like I am. 

I love that the book doesn't focus on battles and blood. Yes, readers know that there is a fierce battle taking place, but Lewis' focus is elsewhere. While the battle rages on, readers are with Lucy, Susan, and Aslan. We are eye-witnesses not to the battle but to Aslan's resurrecting power as he reawakens the statues and assembles his liberated 'army' to join in the battle.

No matter what the movie may be, the book is not action-driven. It is character-driven. It is focused on relationships and feelings. I loved that as a child and I love that now. That being said, the movie is very good.

  • Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?
  • And really it was a wonderful tea. There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake.
  • And the tune he played made Lucy want to cry and laugh and dance and go to sleep all at the same time.
  • “It’s—it’s a magic wardrobe. There’s a wood inside it, and it’s snowing, and there’s a Faun and a Witch and it’s called Narnia; come and see.
  • “I see you are an idiot, whatever else you may be,” said the Queen. “Answer me, once and for all, or I shall lose my patience. Are you human?
  • “A door. A door from the world of men! I have heard of such things. This may wreck all. But he is only one, and he is easily dealt with.
  • The more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive.     
  • “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.
  • “But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds—all over the place, just round the corner—like that?
  • “I don’t want to go a step further and I wish we’d never come. But I think we must try to do something for Mr. Whatever-his-name-is—I mean the Faun.
  • “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.” And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.
  • At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.
  • “Who is Aslan?” asked Susan. “Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand.
  • “Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her.
  • “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion. 
  • “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.
  • “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.
  • “I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.
  • “Didn’t I tell you,” answered Mr. Beaver, “that she’d made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn’t I tell you? Well, just come and see!
  • He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.
  • He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
  • People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.
  • “Please—Aslan,” said Lucy, “can anything be done to save Edmund?” “All shall be done,” said Aslan. “But it may be harder than you think.
  • “Here is your brother,” he said, “and—there is no need to talk to him about what is past.” Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, “I’m sorry,” and everyone said, “That’s all right.
  • “Oh, you’re real, you’re real! Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses. 
  • “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time.
  • But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.
  • She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.
  • “Does he know,” whispered Lucy to Susan, “what Aslan did for him? Does he know what the arrangement with the Witch really was?
  • “Oughtn’t he to be told?” said Lucy. “Oh, surely not,” said Susan. “It would be too awful for him. Think how you’d feel if you were he.
  • “All the same I think he ought to know,” said Lucy. But at that moment they were interrupted.
  • But if the Professor was right it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Me? Listen to Audio?! #43

The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. Dramatised by Michael Simmons Roberts. Directed by Gary Brown. Aired on BBC Radio. Starring Scarlett Alice Johnson as Lily Dale and Samuel Barnett as Johnny Eames. 3 one hour episodes.

I really enjoyed this one. It is an adaptation. And I am fairly sure they didn’t stick too closely to the actual book when it comes to minor characters and minor plot points. But it was a FUN listen. It is always a treat to revisit this series. I’ve now listened to The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, and Framley Parsonage.

The Opera Companion. Bryony Lavery. Originally aired 2004 on BBC Radio. 45 minutes.

Stars Derek Jacobi as Albie and Nichola McAuliffe as Marguerite.

Will two shy opera-lovers bond over opera? Is this the beginning of a fine romance? Or is their “love” doomed from the start since these two will be battling it out over an arm rest.

I accidentally listened to this one. It automatically started playing after The Small House At Allington. It was a happy accident. It was a hoot. Well, it was a hoot until it wasn’t. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, December 03, 2018

The Light Between Worlds

The Light Between Worlds. Laura E. Weymouth. 2018. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: We're burying Old Nick in the back garden. It's just Jamie and me, and it's raining, and I know he's worried because of the way he stands, head bowed, shoulders tense.

Premise/plot: During the war--the second world war--three British children are transported magically to another world--the Woodlands. Philippa, Evelyn, and Jamie react to this adventure in very different ways. Philippa is uncomfortable, out of sorts. She'd go home instantly if she could. Jamie is up for an adventure, but once he's had it he'll happily return to reality. Evelyn is all in from the start. The Woodlands are HER FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER home. She never wants to go back. This instant bond is unsettling for her brother and sister. Sooner or later, the three will return--return to the exact moment they left, return to being in a London bomb shelter, return to their parents.

The book is set six years AFTER this adventure takes place. Evelyn has had six years to adjust to being back, six long years to reconnect with her life. But she hasn't. She still persists that this world, this reality, is not her home, is not where she belongs. Evelyn is desperate to return to the Woodlands--and she'll never give up trying to get back no matter what this means to her family and friends.

The first half is told from Evelyn's point of view. The second half is told from Philippa's point of view.

My thoughts: I wanted to love The Light Between Worlds. I honestly did. I wanted to be swept up in the fantasy adventure and fall in love with The Woodlands--fall just as hard as Evelyn. I wanted to understand WHY the Woodlands had such a huge hold over her. But I didn't. Perhaps because the Woodlands scenes are a series of flashbacks. Perhaps because instead of experiencing the Woodlands, it's brief flashes of telling--not showing. Perhaps because none of the Woodlands characters are ever really fleshed out. Perhaps because in comparison between this world and that--all of the characterization is spent on this world. Imagining the awesomeness of The Woodlands has been left completely up to the reader--in my opinion. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself build The Woodlands into this awesome, wonderful, inspiring place.

I thought the book was sad. Evelyn was severely depressed, suicidal even. Her depression seemed to follow seasons. Were readers supposed to conclude that all of Evelyn's mental health issues were really not mental health issues just her heart longing to return to the place she called home? Were we supposed to be at peace with Evelyn's self-abuse and melancholy? I know that Philippa was worried--concerned--that her sister might be placed in a mental institution if anyone knew her true state of mind. And since the book was set then--and not now--that would have been its own tragedy of sorts. Either ending--Evelyn staying or Evelyn going--would be tragic and devastating.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently #48

Something Old

Ivanhoe. Walter Scott. 1819. 544 pages. [Source: Bought]

Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1853. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]

Can You Forgive Her? (Palliser #1) Anthony Trollope. 1865. 847 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

Christy. Catherine Marshall. 1967. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Something New
The Bride of Ivy Green. Julie Klassen. 2018. Bethany House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. Jeff Guinn. 2017. 454 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed
Dry. Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 390 pages. [Source: Library]

Dork Diaries #1: Tales From A Not-so-fabulous Life. Rachel Renee Russell. 2009. 282 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) Mary Robinette Kowal. 2018. 371 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible. 2017. Crossway. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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