Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Reflections

February# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews6545
Young Readers800
Operation Actually Read Bible3301


Totals10646

February# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews24
Young Readers19
Operation Actually Read Bible15


Totals58


Totals So Far

Books Read
132
Pages Read
25217

New to me highlights

Re-reads highlights
  •  The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]
  • Three Men in a Boat. Jerome K. Jerome. 1889. 174 pages. [Source: Bought]
  • Hattie Big Sky. Kirby Larson. 2006. 289 pages. [Source: Library]
  • Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages. [Source: Gift]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Three Men in A Boat

Three Men in a Boat. Jerome K. Jerome. 1889. 174 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: There were four of us—George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. 
 
 Premise/plot: Three men and a DOG set sail on a boating holiday. Hilarity follows--or in other words nothing goes as planned and nature--both nature nature and human nature gets the last laugh.

My thoughts: I love this one. I can't believe I've only read and reviewed it once--and that back in 2009. One of the things I love about the book is the narrator, J. He had me at hello.
It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch—hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into—some fearful, devastating scourge, I know—and, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.
I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever—read the symptoms—discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it—wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance—found, as I expected, that I had that too,—began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically—read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.
I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.
I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.
Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.
I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.
I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I’m ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. “What a doctor wants,” I said, “is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each.” So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:
“Well, what’s the matter with you?”
I said:
“I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got housemaid’s knee. Why I have not got housemaid’s knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything else, however, I have got.”
And I told him how I came to discover it all.
Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and then he hit me over the chest when I wasn’t expecting it—a cowardly thing to do, I call it—and immediately afterwards butted me with the side of his head. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.
and

In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being “a general disinclination to work of any kind.”
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell.  From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it.  As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day.  They did not know, then, that it was my liver.  Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
“Why, you skulking little devil, you,” they would say, “get up and do something for your living, can’t you?”—not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn’t give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head.  And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me—for the time being.  I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.
You know, it often is so—those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes more efficacious than all the dispensary stuff.
Other favorite quotes:

Why a boat trip...

Harris said he didn’t think George ought to do anything that would have a tendency to make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous.  He said he didn’t very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day, summer and winter alike; but thought that if he did sleep any more, he might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.
 J on packing:
We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.
J turns philosophical:
Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.
J on stinky cheese:
Cheese, like oil, makes too much of itself. It wants the whole boat to itself. It goes through the hamper, and gives a cheesy flavour to everything else there. You can't tell whether you are eating apple-pie or German sausage, or strawberries and cream. It all seems cheese. There is too much odour about cheese.
I remember a friend of mine, buying a couple of cheeses at Liverpool. Splendid cheeses they were, ripe and mellow, and with a two hundred horse-power scent about them that might have been warranted to carry three miles, and knock a man over at two hundred yards. I was in Liverpool at the time, and my friend said that if I didn't mind he would get me to take them back with me to London, as he should not be coming up for a day or two himself, and he did not think the cheeses ought to be kept much longer.
"Oh, with pleasure, dear boy," I replied, "with pleasure."
I called for the cheeses, and took them away in a cab. It was a ramshackle affair, dragged along by a knock-kneed, broken-winded somnambulist, which his owner, in a moment of enthusiasm, during conversation, referred to as a horse. I put the cheeses on the top, and we started off at a shamble that would have done credit to the swiftest steam-roller ever built, and all went merry as a funeral bell, until we turned the corner. There, the wind carried a whiff from the cheeses full on to our steed. It woke him up, and, with a snort of terror, he dashed off at three miles an hour. The wind still blew in his direction, and before we reached the end of the street he was laying himself out at the rate of nearly four miles an hour, leaving the cripples and stout old ladies simply nowhere.
It took two porters as well as the driver to hold him in at the station; and I do not think they would have done it, even then, had not one of the men had the presence of mind to put a handkerchief over his nose, and to light a bit of brown paper.
I took my ticket, and marched proudly up the platform, with my cheeses, the people falling back respectfully on either side. The train was crowded, and I had to get into a carriage where there were already seven other people. One crusty old gentleman objected, but I got in, notwithstanding; and, putting my cheeses upon the rack, squeezed down with a pleasant smile, and said it was a warm day.
A few moments passed, and then the old gentleman began to fidget.
"Very close in here," he said.
"Quite oppressive," said the man next him.
And then they both began sniffing, and, at the third sniff, they caught it right on the chest, and rose up without another word and went out. And then a stout lady got up, and said it was disgraceful that a respectable married woman should be harried about in this way, and gathered up a bag and eight parcels and went. The remaining four passengers sat on for a while, until a solemn-looking man in the corner, who, from his dress and general appearance, seemed to belong to the undertaker class, said it put him in mind of dead baby; and the other three passengers tried to get out of the door at the same time, and hurt themselves.
I smiled at the black gentleman, and said I thought we were going to have the carriage to ourselves; and he laughed pleasantly, and said that some people made such a fuss over a little thing. But even he grew strangely depressed after we had started, and so, when we reached Crewe, I asked him to come and have a drink. He accepted, and we forced our way into the buffet, where we yelled, and stamped, and waved our umbrellas for a quarter of an hour; and then a young lady came, and asked us if we wanted anything.
"What's yours?" I said, turning to my friend.
"I'll have half-a-crown's worth of brandy, neat, if you please, miss," he responded.
And he went off quietly after he had drunk it and got into another carriage, which I thought mean.
From Crewe I had the compartment to myself, though the train was crowded. As we drew up at the different stations, the people, seeing my empty carriage, would rush for it. "Here y' are, Maria; come along, plenty of room." "All right, Tom; we'll get in here," they would shout. And they would run along, carrying heavy bags, and fight round the door to get in first. And one would open the door and mount the steps, and stagger back into the arms of the man behind him; and they would all come and have a sniff, and then droop off and squeeze into other carriages, or pay the difference and go first.
From Euston, I took the cheeses down to my friend's house. When his wife came into the room she smelt round for an instant. Then she said:
"What is it? Tell me the worst."
I said:
"It's cheeses. Tom bought them in Liverpool, and asked me to bring them up with me."
And I added that I hoped she understood that it had nothing to do with me; and she said that she was sure of that, but that she would speak to Tom about it when he came back.
My friend was detained in Liverpool longer than he expected; and, three days later, as he hadn't returned home, his wife called on me. She said:
"What did Tom say about those cheeses?"
I replied that he had directed they were to be kept in a moist place, and that nobody was to touch them.
She said:
"Nobody's likely to touch them. Had he smelt them?"
I thought he had, and added that he seemed greatly attached to them.
"You think he would be upset," she queried, "if I gave a man a sovereign to take them away and bury them?"
I answered that I thought he would never smile again.
An idea struck her. She said:
"Do you mind keeping them for him? Let me send them round to you."
"Madam," I replied, "for myself I like the smell of cheese, and the journey the other day with them from Liverpool I shall ever look back upon as a happy ending to a pleasant holiday. But, in this world, we must consider others. The lady under whose roof I have the honour of residing is a widow, and, for all I know, possibly an orphan too. She has a strong, I may say an eloquent, objection to being what she terms 'put upon.' The presence of your husband's cheeses in her house she would, I instinctively feel, regard as a 'put upon'; and it shall never be said that I put upon the widow and the orphan."
"Very well, then," said my friend's wife, rising, "all I have to say is, that I shall take the children and go to an hotel until those cheeses are eaten. I decline to live any longer in the same house with them."
She kept her word, leaving the place in charge of the charwoman, who, when asked if she could stand the smell, replied, "What smell?" and who, when taken close to the cheeses and told to sniff hard, said she could detect a faint odour of melons. It was argued from this that little injury could result to the woman from the atmosphere, and she was left.
The hotel bill came to fifteen guineas; and my friend, after reckoning everything up, found that the cheeses had cost him eight-and-sixpence a pound. He said he dearly loved a bit of cheese, but it was beyond his means; so he determined to get rid of them. He threw them into the canal; but had to fish them out again, as the bargemen complained. They said it made them feel quite faint. And, after that, he took them one dark night and left them in the parish mortuary. But the coroner discovered them, and made a fearful fuss.
He said it was a plot to deprive him of his living by waking up the corpses.
My friend got rid of them, at last, by taking them down to a sea-side town, and burying them on the beach. It gained the place quite a reputation. Visitors said they had never noticed before how strong the air was, and weak-chested and consumptive people used to throng there for years afterwards.
J on his toothbrush:
My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I’m travelling, and makes my life a misery.  I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it.  Of course, I found George’s and Harris’s eighteen times over, but I couldn’t find my own.  I put the things back one by one, and held everything up and shook it. 

J on weather forecasts:
I do think that, of all the silly, irritating tomfoolishness by which we are plagued, this “weather-forecast” fraud is about the most aggravating.  It “forecasts” precisely what happened yesterday or a the day before, and precisely the opposite of what is going to happen to-day. But who wants to be foretold the weather?  It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.  For the man that prophesies us bad weather, on the contrary, we entertain only bitter and revengeful thoughts.
J philosophizes again:
It seems to be the rule of this world.  Each person has what he doesn’t want, and other people have what he does want. 
J on Harris' singing:
It is one of Harris’s fixed ideas that he can sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harris’s friends who have heard him try, is that he can’t...Harris never sees what an ass he is making of himself, and how he is annoying a lot of people who never did him any harm. 
J on tea kettles:
That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river.  If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing.  You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all.  It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea, and are not going to have any. 
You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out, “I don’t want any tea; do you, George?” to which George shouts back, “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead—tea’s so indigestible.”  Upon which the kettle boils over, and puts the stove out.
 J on stomachs:
How good one feels when one is full—how satisfied with ourselves and with the world!  People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained.  We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so.  It dictates to us our emotions, our passions.  We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach.  Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment.  
J on peeling potatoes:
I should never have thought that peeling potatoes was such an undertaking. The more we peeled, the more peel there seemed to be left on; by the time we had got all the peel off and all the eyes out, there was no potato left—at least none worth speaking of.  George came and had a look at it—it was about the size of a peanut. He said: “Oh, that won’t do!  You’re wasting them.  You must scrape them.” So we scraped them, and that was harder work than peeling.  They are such an extraordinary shape, potatoes—all bumps and warts and hollows.    
J on musical instruments:
It must be disheartening work learning a musical instrument.  You would think that Society, for its own sake, would do all it could to assist a man to acquire the art of playing a musical instrument.  But it doesn’t!
There is, it must be confessed, something very sad about the early efforts of an amateur in bagpipes.  
J on work:
It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do.  It is not that I object to the work, mind you;
I like work: it fascinates me.  I can sit and look at it for hours.  I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.
You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more.  I shall have to throw out a wing soon. And I am careful of my work, too.  Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on.
 No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do. But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair.  I do not ask for more than my proper share.
J on heroines:
The heroine of a modern novel is always “divinely tall,” and she is ever “drawing herself up to her full height.” 
J on sleeping while camping:
It is surprising how early one can get up, when camping out.  One does not yearn for “just another five minutes” nearly so much.
Their final toast:
Here’s to Three Men well out of a Boat!”

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

World at War: Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky. Kirby Larson. 2006. 289 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
December 19, 1917
Arlington, Iowa

Dear Charlie,
Miss Simpson starts every day with a reminder to pray for you--and all the other boys who enlisted. Well, I say we should pray for the Kaiser--he's going to need those prayers once he meets you!
Premise/plot: Hattie Brooks, our heroine, has recently inherited her uncle's claim in Montana. She'll have a little under a year to finish proving her claim. It will require much of her--mentally, physically, emotionally. She's just sixteen--there are grown men, rugged men, who end up failing. Farming isn't ever easy. But some of the biggest challenges she'll face aren't from the land or the country itself. The people. America is at war and the people at home are feeling it. Hattie's closest neighbors--closest friends--are Germans. The community--with a few exceptions--has turned against them and against those that show their support. But Hattie isn't one to abandon her friends. Hattie proves herself to be an incredible woman even if not an incredible farmer.

My thoughts: I first read this one in February 2007. I loved it then. I loved it now. I think I may have loved it even more the second time. It is a compelling, heart-felt story.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The First Woman Doctor

The First Woman Doctor: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. Rachel Baker. 1944/1972. Scholastic. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Three little girls in long, gray Quaker-like gowns, and white dimity bonnets, were walking with their governess and talking quite seriously.

Premise/plot: The First Woman Doctor is a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. Over half of the book focuses on her struggle to get higher education. At the time no college or university were accepting women into their programs. A woman doctor?! a woman surgeon?! The idea was laughable, right?! Sure women can be nurses--but nursing isn't a skilled profession! Blackwell is confident, bold, determined, stubborn, diligent. She will be a doctor. She will get an education. Some way, some how she will prove herself. The other half of the book focuses on her life as a doctor. She was determined to help other women become doctors and nurses. She was also determined to help those in the poorest community, the ones who needed medical care the most and were unable to get it.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one for the most part. The last few chapters were VERY rushed. Most of the biography focuses on four or five years of her life. But the last few chapters speeds through DECADES at a pace that is dizzying and slightly confusing. One gets a good idea of who she was as a person. I do wish that some of the relationships were better explored. This one does a LOT of name-dropping but no 'characterization.'

This biography was originally written in 1944. I wonder if any young girls read this and were inspired to become doctors? It would be nice to think so. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Venetia

Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages. [Source: Gift]

First sentence: "A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer," remarked Miss Lanyon. "A great-grandmother, too! You'd think he would be ashamed!" Receiving no answer, she continued in an altered voice: "Indeed, you would! It is a great deal too bad. What is to be done?"

Premise/plot: Venetia is a woman (25) living with her younger brother, Aubrey (17), and being courted by two equally unsatisfying gentlemen of the neighborhood, Edward Yardley and Oswald Denny. The Lanyon siblings do have an older brother, Conway. But he is in the army, and he hasn't been at Undershaw in years. Venetia and Aubrey do not miss him at all. Life is fairly routine for the two. Until. Lord Damerel ("The Wicked Baron") returns to his estate.

The two meet when she is trespassing on his land. He has no idea who she is. But she has a fairly good idea who he is. Especially after he kisses her! Yes, he kisses her.

"Who are you?" he demanded abruptly. "I took you for a village maiden--probably one of my tenants."
"Did you indeed? Well, if that is the way you mean to conduct yourself amongst the village maidens you won't win much liking here!"
"No, no, the danger is that I might win too much!" he retorted. "Who are you? Or should I first present myself to you? I'm Damerel, you know."
"Yes, so I supposed, at the outset of our delightful acquaintance. Later, of course, I was sure of it."
"Oh, oh--! My reputation, Iago, my reputation!" he exclaimed laughing again. "Fair Fatality, you are the most unusual female I have encountered in all my thirty-eight years!"
"You can't think how deeply flattered I am!" she assured him. "I daresay my head would be quite turned if I didn't suspect that amongst so many a dozen or so may have slipped from your memory."
"More like a hundred! Am I never to learn your name? I shall, you know, whether you tell me or no!" (33)
He intends to know her better while he's in the neighborhood. Venetia doesn't need a Lady Denny to tell her that would be unwise. But. When her brother, Aubrey, has a riding accident and is saved by none other than Damerel...well, she can't help getting to know him much, much better. And soon they become great friends. Of course, it's a friendship with always a hint of something more...

Lord Damerel isn't the only newcomer to the neighborhood. Soon Venetia and Aubrey welcome TWO very unexpected house guests. Conway has gotten married--her name is Charlotte. And Charlotte and her mother have come to stay at Undershaw. And the mother is quite the character. How long can Venetia stand to share a home with such a woman? Venetia begins to think about her options...and wishing it was more socially acceptable for her to set up her own home.

My thoughts: I love, love, LOVE Venetia. It is without a doubt my favorite Georgette Heyer novel--at least until I read my next. There are a handful that I do love and adore. But I can never quite forget how magical Venetia is. I love all the characters in this one--the major characters (Lord Damerel, Venetia), the minor characters (Aubrey, Edward Yardley, Oswald Denny, Charlotte, Mrs. Scorrier, etc.) I love the dialogue. I love the story. Venetia IS not your typical heroine--is not Heyer's typical heroine. Lord Damerel may be a somewhat typical rake in the romance genre BUT Venetia keeps him on his toes. They are well paired, well matched. 

He laughed out at that, flinging back his head in wholehearted enjoyment, gasping, "why, oh why did I never know you until now?"
"It does seem a pity," she agreed. "I have been thinking so myself, for I always wished for a friend to laugh with."
"To laugh with!" he repeated slowly.
"Perhaps you have friends already who laugh when you do," she said diffidently. "I haven't, and it's important, I think--more important than sympathy in affliction, which you might easily find in someone you positively disliked."
"But to share a sense of the ridiculous prohibits dislike--yes, that's true. And rare! My God, how rare! Do they stare at you, our worthy neighbors, when you laugh?"
"Yes! Or ask me what I mean when I'm joking!" She glanced at the clock above the empty fireplace. "I must go." (64)
"Oh, no, nothing of that nature!" she replied, getting up.
"I allow you all the vices you choose to claim--indeed, I know you for a gamester, and a shocking rake, and a man of sadly unsteady character!--but I'm not so green that I don't recognize in you one virtue at least, and one quality."
"What is that all? How disappointing! What are they?"
"A well-informed mind, and a great deal of kindness," she said, laying her hand on his arm, and beginning to stroll with him back to the house. (99)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #8

5 Stars
  • Healing Hearts. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  • Arrr, Mustache Baby! Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Joy Ang. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

February Share-a-Tea Check-In

Emile Eisman-Semenowsky, Tea Time
What are you currently reading for the challenge?
Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
Want to share any favorite quotes from a past or current read?
What teas have you enjoyed this month?

---My answers

I am currently reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I am also reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

Yes. I've finished several books this month for this challenge.

20. What is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Jill Calder. 2019. Candlewick Press. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
21. Ballet Shoes. (Shoes #1) Noel Streatfeild. 1936/2018. Random House. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
22. Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot. 1956/1996. Tyndale. 219 pages. [Source: Bought]
23. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. J.I. Packer. 1961/1991. IVP. 126 pages. [Source: Bought]
24. The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne Frank (The Definitive Edition). Edited by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler. Translated by Susan Massotty. 1947/1996. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
25. Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life. Lucy Worsley. 2019. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
26. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World. John F. MacArthur Jr. 1993/2001. Crossway. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
27. Cotillion. Georgette Heyer. 1953/2007. Sourcebooks. 355 pages. [Source: Review copy]
28.  The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]
29. The Princess Bride. William Goldman. 1973/2003. 398 pages. [Source: Bought]
30. Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend. Karen Blumenthal. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
31. Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Her Writings, and World with 21 Activities. Nancy I. Sanders. 2019. Chicago Review Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm looking forward to reading more books....always. I would love to finish Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen and Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.

Quotes:

I always used to bemoan the fact that I couldn't draw, but now I'm overjoyed that at least I can write. And if I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine having to live like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? (Anne Frank, 251)

Teas

  • Honey Vanilla Camomile
  • Candy Cane Lane
  • I Love Lemon
  • Wild Raspberry Hibiscus
  • PG Tips
  • Salted Caramel
  • White Tea
  • Black Cherry Berry
  • Peppermint
  • Earl Grey

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Goody Two Shoes

Goody Two Shoes. Anonymous. 1765. John Newbery. 17 pages. [Source: Online]

First sentence: It will be readily understood by our young readers, that the real name of the little girl who is the heroine of this story was not Goody Two Shoes, but Margery Meanwell.

Premise/plot: Margery Meanwell and her brother, Tommy, are ophans. These two are pitied by a rich friend passing through town. Tommy he will take to make a sailor of him. And he will give new shoes--and perhaps new clothes--to Margery. She's so thrilled to have shoes that she goes about the village announcing the fact that she has one, two GOOD shoes. Over the course of her childhood, she learns to read and write and then she teaches anyone and everyone how to do the same. Even some animals. Not everyone loves Goody Two Shoes or Mrs. Margery as she comes to be called when she receives a teaching position of her very own. But plenty do--including a rich widower, Sir Charles Jones who actually proposes to her. Of course this happily ever after morality tale wouldn't be complete without her grown-up-and-now-successful brother returning just in time to see her wed.

My thoughts: I was happily going along with this one until all the animals started entering in. She teaches two birds to spell using wooden alphabet blocks. Another pet bird "awakens" her pupils in the morning. Another pet, a lamb, "teaches" her pupils when to go to bed. Another pet, a dog, acts as guard or porter. He "saves" the children--and their teacher--by dragging them out of the building minutes before the roof collapses. These animals are her companions.
Mrs. Margery, who was always doing good, contrived an instrument to tell when the weather was to continue favourable or unfavourable; by which means she told the farmers when to mow the arrass and gather in the hay with safety. Several persons, who suffered in their crops by not consulting Margery, were so angry at their losses, that they accused her of being a witch and sent Gaffer Goosecap, a silly old meddling fool, to obtain evidence against her.
This old fellow entered the school as Margery was walking about, having the raven on one shoulder, the pigeon on the other, the lark on her hand, and the lamb and dog at her side, and he was so frightened, that he cried. "A witch! a witch!"
Margery exclaimed, smiling, "A conjurer! a conjurer!" and he ran off; but soon after a warrant was issued against her, and she was carried before a meeting of the justices, followed by all the neighbours.
 Was it necessary to introduce this dramatic accusation of witchcraft into the story? I vote no. I mean this morality tale was doing just fine and dandy on its own. But I suppose if it wasn't there would Charles Jones have been compelled to stand up and defend her? Still there's a silliness to this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Jane Austen for Kids

Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Her Writings, and World with 21 Activities. Nancy I. Sanders. 2019. Chicago Review Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen's beginnings seemed simple enough. She was born in England on December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children.

Premise/plot: This is a nonfiction book--or guide--to the life, times, and work--of Jane Austen for older children or even young adults. At its simplest the book provides a biographical sketch of Jane Austen along with summaries of each of her novels. But it offers much more than that. One really gets immersed into her time--the Georgian period--as well. For anyone who loves history and/or literature this one is well worth seeking out.

The twenty-one activities. There are indeed twenty-one activities incorporated into this nonfiction guide. They range from easy to super difficult. I'd be surprised if anyone found it easy to do all twenty-one.
  • Host a Regency Tea
  • Design a Coat of Arms
  • Learn Social Etiquette Among the Gentry
  • Play with Puns
  • Plant an English Kitchen Garden
  • Master the Rules of Cricket
  • Craft a Christmas Kissing Bough
  • Learn an English Country Dance
  • Decorate a Candle
  • Perform a Theatrical
  • Create a Regency Style Turban
  • Make a Top Hat
  • Navigate with a Sextant
  • Say It With Satire
  • Dance the Boulanger
  • Sew a Reticule
  • Curl Your Hair
  • Wear Regency Style Side Whiskers
  • Enjoy a Game of Whist
  • Write a Comedy
  • Self Publish a Book
My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this one. (I've read others in this series as well.) I found it to be an engaging read overall. I love, love, love Jane Austen and it was a treat to revisit her life in a kid-friendly format.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend

Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend. Karen Blumenthal. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: Bonnie and Clyde. For decades, they've been as famous as any pair of outlaws could be. They're the ones who adored fast cars and faster living. The dangerous young couple with undying love for each other.

First sentence from chapter one: In truth, Bonnie Parker was just messing around the day her most famous photo was taken.

Premise/plot: Karen Blumenthal has written a biography of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow for teens. She explores how two poverty-stricken teens became hardened criminals and ultimately the stuff of legends. Her narrative does not glorify or romanticize their crimes. Blumenthal dedicates a sidebar for each and every person murdered by the Barrow gang. Reading about the men killed--who they were, how old they were, what they did for a living and why, who they left behind--kept things in perspective. These were not victimless crimes.

My thoughts: My interest in Bonnie and Clyde started a year or two ago. If the local community theatre had not performed the Bonnie and Clyde musical, then I never would have started reading books about this pair. I ended up LOVING the musical. It was an incredible performance. The actors did a fabulous job--in particular the actor playing BUCK. So when I saw there was a "new" teen biography about Bonnie and Clyde I knew I needed to read it.

I definitely thought Blumenthal did a good job. I would recommend this one over some of the longer books I've read--simply because it kept things moving.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Healing Hearts

Healing Hearts. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Miriam Bricks sat in the cramped and rancid interior of a rickety stagecoach and contemplated for the hundredth time how fortunate she was to be there.

Premise/plot: The hero of Healing Hearts, Dr. Gideon MacNamara needs a wife and a nurse. Neither are easy to come by in Savage Wells, Wyoming. He's sent away--mail order--for a woman who's willing to be both. Miriam Bricks is a qualified, experienced nurse. She's more than willing to be his nurse--even to cook his meals--but she's not prepared to marry him--or anyone. Will Dr. MacNamara make the best of a bad situation? YES, yes he will. What he learns about Miriam is that she's a FANTASTIC nurse. She's just as skilled treating patients as she evading questions about her past. What is she hiding from him? from everyone? Will her past come back to threaten her?

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It is set in Wyoming in 1876. It definitely has an Old West vibe to it--which I adored. I loved the getting-to-know-one-another aspect of their relationship. As much fun as it would be to have a marriage of convenience turn into the real deal story...this one was oh-so-satisfying. This pacing makes complete sense for Miriam. And it just felt completely right. I also enjoyed meeting the other residents of Savage Wells. And some of the visitors as well!  (I know this is book two in a series, but I never once felt lost.)

I would definitely recommend this one. I was thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for this one!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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World at War: I Survived The Nazi Invasion 1944

I Survived The Nazi Invasion, 1944. Lauren Tarshis. 2014. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: All across Europe, Jewish people were being hunted. Millions were already dead. But eleven year old Max Rosen was determined to stay alive.

Premise/plot: Can Max and his sister, Zena, survive the Holocaust? Can they avoid being shot by Nazis? rounded up by Nazis? blown up by Nazis? bombed out by Nazis? Is hiding out in the forests of Poland the best plan? How about joining the Resistance fighters?

My thoughts: I did like this "I Survived..." title better than the one I read earlier in the year. I did like Max and his sister, Zena. I was relieved they survived. But I'm also a little surprised that their father, their Papa, managed to escape a train bound for a concentration camp...and make his way to his kids hiding out in the Forest. I haven't really heard any stories of people who successfully escaped off the train and actually made it to safety. When the novel opens, he's been gone a little over a month--a month since his arrest. It just seems a bit too convenient that this happy reunion happened. Not that I wanted this book to be tragic.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cate of the Lost Colony

Cate of the Lost Colony. Lisa M. Klein. 2010. Bloomsbury. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: At a young age I learned how quickly one's fortune's can change, a truth that never betrayed me. One day I was the beloved daughter of a Hampshire gentleman who had been chosen to serve the queen. The next, he was killed fighting in the Netherlands, and I was an orphan.

Premise/plot: Catherine Archer  becomes a maid in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. She even earns enough favor to receive a nickname--"Cat." But the Queen's favor is a fickle, fickle thing. And when the Queen discovers that Cate is in love with Sir Walter Raleigh, well it's not quite OFF WITH HER HEAD (think Alice in Wonderland) but close enough: TO THE TOWER. But her wrath subsides a tiny bit and she relents that instead of imprisonment in the tower perhaps banishment to the New World might be fitting. Raleigh (spelled Ralegh throughout the novel) has been trying to get permission for exploring and colonizing Virginia for years--this ship ends up landing/settling at Roanoke. If you are at all familiar with history--you can guess that much DANGER lies ahead.

This book has THREE narrators...Kate Archer, Walter Ralegh, and Manteo.

My thoughts: I do love reading historical fiction. I'm not entirely sure how accurate this one is or even tries to be. I'm not sure how I feel about that--do I want a historical novel to be super-accurate or do I want a somewhat happy ending?! (As happy as you can be when treating the subject.)

A few of the characters are historical figures but filtered through the author's imagination. A few characters--like Cate--are completely fictional. In this novel, Ralegh himself joins the "rescue/provision" ships bound for Roanoke.

This one spans several years and speaks of several attempts of exploration and settling in the colony of Virginia. Some of my ancestors were early Virginia colonists--though NOT this early, fortunately.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Ruled Britannia

Ruled Brittania. Harry Turtledove. 2002. 576 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Two Spanish soldiers swaggered up Tower Street toward William Shakespeare. Their boots squelched in the mud. One wore a rusty corselet with his high-crowned morion, the other a similar helmet with a jacket of quilted cotton. Rapiers swung at their hips.

Premise/plot: What if the English navy had not defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588? What if instead of Queen Elizabeth reigning in the year 1597 she was instead locked away in the Tower? Turtledove gives us alternate history in his novel Ruled Britannia. It is told primarily from two perspectives: William Shakespeare and Lope de Vega.

Shakespeare has a choice to make. Should he commit treason against Spain and write a play that could potentially help overthrow Spain's rule and restore Elizabeth to the throne? Or should he play it safe and write a play memorializing King Philip II of Spain? Perhaps he'll be crafty and do both....but which one will get performed upon the King's death?!

Lope de Vega is in awe of William Shakespeare. He can nearly always be found watching his plays, watching the actors on and off stage, hanging around and conversing. He's a soldier on a mission: be on the lookout for any treason, any subversive meanings in the plays he watches. Some higher ups are suspicious of Shakespeare--but not de Vega, not really. Shakespeare doesn't care who rules so long as he can write, right?!

My thoughts: I imagine that Ruled Brittania was an absolute joy to write. Turtledove claims--and I have no reason to doubt--that he repurposed many, many lines from actual Shakespeare plays into "new" Shakespeare plays in this alternate history. In addition to Shakespeare, he used other contemporary playwrights from the time to craft his new plays and dramas. He obviously felt it was important to bring Shakespeare to life--and so he relied on Shakespeare's own words to flesh out his character and his dialogue. Like William Shakespeare, Lope de Vega is a real historical figure--a Spanish playwright from this time period who--at least according to the author's note--sailed on the Spanish Armada and returned to Spain to have a successful career.

Did I enjoy reading it as much as Turtledove enjoyed writing it? Probably not. In fact, I found it MUCH too long--tedious even. I was interested in the bare bones of this one. I wanted to know WHAT happened overall--would Shakespeare's play about Boudica (alternate spellings Boudicca, Boadicea, Boudicea) rebelling against the Roman Empire happen? Would it be successful? Would Elizabeth reign once more?

There were dozens of characters that peopled this novel that I just did not care about at all--not even slightly. I imagine that some--perhaps many--were actual historical figures. I just didn't care. Perhaps if the author's note was placed FIRST, I might have tried to care harder. Perhaps if there was a list of characters--noting which were historical and which were fictional. Perhaps if there were footnotes indicating which lines came from which actual Shakespeare plays or noting the other sources used?

One thing I know without a doubt...the chapters were unreasonably LONG...insufferably long. "Short" chapters were around thirty-five pages long. WHY TORTURE READERS?! You take a perfectly good premise--an entertaining one--and practically do everything possible to drain all the enjoyment of actually reading it?!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #7

5 Star Books

4 Star Books
  • Cotillion. Georgette Heyer. 1953/2007. Sourcebooks. 355 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Georgian Check-In Post #1

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
My answers...

What books have I read and reviewed for this challenge?

1. A Bound Heart. Laura Frantz. 2019. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2. Ivanhoe. Walter Scott. 1819. 544 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. The Black Moth. Georgette Heyer. 1921/2009. Sourcebooks. 355 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
4. Evelina. Fanny Burney. 1778. 455 pages. [Source: Bought]
5. Cotillion. Georgette Heyer. 1953/2007. Sourcebooks. 355 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What am I currently reading?

Venetia by Georgette Heyer
and
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Quotes:
She is not, indeed, like most modern young ladies, to be known in half an hour: her modest worth, and fearful excellence, require both time and encouragement to show themselves. She does not, beautiful as she is, seize the soul by surprise, but, with more dangerous fascination, she steals it almost imperceptibly. ~ Fanny Burney
“You are in the right,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “not to watch time, lest you should be betrayed, unawares, into reflecting how you employ it.” “Egad, Ma’am,” cried he, “if Time thought no more of me than I do of Time, I believe I should bid defiance, for one while, to old age and wrinkles; for deuce take me, if ever I think about it at all.” ~ Fanny Burney
Recommendations...
I have enjoyed every book I've read so far. Some are more quotable than others. But all have been solidly good.

Favorite book I've read so far...
Probably Bound Heart by Laura Frantz.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 15, 2019

The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children. Gertrude Chandler Warner. 1942. 160 pages.

First sentence: One warm night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from. The baker's wife saw them first, as they stood looking in at the window of her store. The little boy was looking at the cakes, the big boy was looking at the loaves of bread, and the two girls were looking at the cookies. 

Premise/plot: Four orphan children are on the run in Gertrude Chandler Warner's classic children's novel. The children are aware that they have a grandfather; they even know the town where he lives. But...the children fear this man they've never met. They'd rather struggle to survive than risk falling into his hands. (What if he's mean? cruel? what if he doesn't want them? what if he does? what if he separates them?) The four children--Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny--begin their new life living in an abandoned boxcar on an abandoned track. Henry is old enough to walk into nearby towns and work for food. The others mostly scrounge around and find useful junk that they can re-purpose into a few necessities. All seems to be going well...until one of the children gets really sick....

My thoughts: I liked  The Boxcar Children. I did. I had read it more than a few times growing up, but it had been at least fifteen or twenty years since I'd last read it. It was such a treat to read it again. It's a simple book, in many ways, yet it's got its charms. I liked how these children do make a home for themselves. How they work together as a family. While I wouldn't say that I ever loved this one as much as Mandy or Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden, I have definitely always liked it.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride. William Goldman. 1973/2003. 398 pages. [Source: Bought] 

First sentence: THE YEAR that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.
 
 Premise/plot: William Goldman sets out to abridge S. Morgenstern's classic novel The Princess Bride. (Or so he'd have you believe.) One narrative throughout is William Goldman speaking directly to the reader about the reading, writing, editing, abridging, publishing process. He also slips in some family stories. The other narrative--perhaps the better narrative--is the novel itself starring Buttercup, Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik. Goldman promises readers the "good bits" version, and he delivers. This fantasy novel has action, adventure, drama, and romance. 

My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this one. Though I'd started this one a few times in the past, this was my first time to complete it. I have of course seen the movie dozens of times. I think the two are equally satisfying.  

Quotes:
The horse’s name was “Horse” (Buttercup was never long on imagination) and it came when she called it, went where she steered it, did what she told it.
 The farm boy did what she told him too. “Farm Boy, fetch me this”; “Get me that, Farm Boy—quickly, lazy thing, trot now or I’ll tell Father.” “As you wish.” That was all he ever answered. “As you wish.” Fetch that, Farm Boy. “As you wish.”
 Buttercup’s mother hesitated, then put her stew spoon down. (This was after stew, but so is everything. When the first man first clambered from the slime and made his first home on land, what he had for supper that first night was stew.)
“Did you forget to pay your taxes?” (This was after taxes. But everything is after taxes. Taxes were here even before stew.)

 Clearly, the magic is in Westley’s feeding. Show me how you do it, would you, Westley?” “Feed the cows for you, Countess?” “Bright lad.” “When?” “Now will be soon enough,” and she held out her arm to him. “Lead me, Westley.” Westley had no choice but to take her arm.
“Strange things are happening,” Buttercup’s parents said, and off they went too, bringing up the rear of the cow-feeding trip, watching the Count, who was watching their daughter, who was watching the Countess. Who was watching Westley.
“Terrible things can happen when you’re overtired. I was overtired the night your father proposed.”
The girls in the village followed the farm boy around a lot, whenever he was making deliveries, but they were idiots, they followed anything.
I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then.
Every time you said ‘Farm Boy do this’ you thought I was answering ‘As you wish’ but that’s only because you were hearing wrong. ‘I love you’ was what it was, but you never heard, and you never heard.”
“I hear you now, and I promise you this: I will never love anyone else. Only Westley. Until I die.” 
THERE HAVE BEEN five great kisses since 1642 B.C., when Saul and Delilah Korn’s inadvertent discovery swept across Western civilization. (Before then couples hooked thumbs.)
 But from a narrative point of view, in 105 pages nothing happens. Except this: ‘What with one thing and another, three years passed.’
“People are always thinking I’m so stupid because I’m big and strong and sometimes drool a little when I get excited.”
 “The reason people think you’re so stupid,” the Sicilian said, “is because you are so stupid. It has nothing to do with your drooling.”
 “He’ll never catch up!” the Sicilian cried. “Inconceivable!” “You keep using that word!” the Spaniard snapped. “I don’t think it means what you think it does.”
Love is many things, none of them logical.
“Life is pain,” his mother said. “Anybody that says different is selling something.”
“Why do you wear a mask and hood?” Fezzik asked. “I think everybody will in the near future” was the man in black’s reply. “They’re terribly comfortable.”
“Guess?” Vizzini cried. “I don’t guess. I think. I ponder. I deduce. Then I decide. But I never guess.”
The past has a way of being past.
“Then let’s look on the bright side: we’re having an adventure, Fezzik, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are.”
“I’m retired,” Max said, “anyway, you wouldn’t want someone the King got rid of, would you? I might kill whoever you want me to miracle.”  “He’s already dead,” the skinny guy said. “He is, huh?” Max said, a little interest in his voice now. He opened the door a peek’s worth again. “I’m good at dead.”
“You see,” Max explained as he pumped, “there’s different kinds of dead: there’s sort of dead, mostly dead, and all dead. 
 “WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT? WHAT’S HERE WORTH COMING BACK FOR? WHAT YOU GOT WAITING FOR YOU?”
'True love,’ he said,” Inigo cried. “You heard him—true love is what he wants to come back for. That’s certainly worthwhile.”
"True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. Everybody knows that.”
 “Hello,” he said. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
 
 
 
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

World at War: Book Thief

The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try. HERE IS A SMALL FACT You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me. REACTION TO THE AFOREMENTIONED FACT Does this worry you? I urge you—don’t be afraid. I’m nothing if not fair. —Of course, an introduction. A beginning. Where are my manners? I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I’ll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps. The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying? Personally, I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see—the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax. 

Premise/plot: The narrator of Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief is Death. He is telling the story of one of the humans that haunts him--the book thief, Liesel Meminger. When readers first meet her she is on the way to her new home--a foster home. Her and her brother were supposed to go together, but he died on the way--on the train. That is where Death first meets her and first sees her steal a book.




It is set in Germany during the Second World War. It is a true must-read.

My thoughts: I've read this one at least five times now. It is SO good. Everyone should read this at some point.
 
 Favorite quotes:

Yes, often, I am reminded of her, and in one of my vast array of pockets, I have kept her story to retell. It is one of the small legion I carry, each one extraordinary in its own right. Each one an attempt—an immense leap of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it. Here it is. One of a handful. The Book Thief. If you feel like it, come with me. I will tell you a story. I’ll show you something.
Yes, an illustrious career. I should hasten to admit, however, that there was a considerable hiatus between the first stolen book and the second. Another noteworthy point is that the first was stolen from snow and the second from fire. Not to omit that others were also given to her. All told, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon.
When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything. Was it when she first set eyes on the room with shelves and shelves of them? Or when Max Vandenburg arrived on Himmel Street carrying handfuls of suffering and Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Was it reading in the shelters? The last parade to Dachau? Was it The Word Shaker? Perhaps there would never be a precise answer as to when and where it occurred. In any case, that’s getting ahead of myself. Before we make it to any of that, we first need to tour Liesel Meminger’s beginnings on Himmel Street...
To most people, Hans Hubermann was barely visible. An un-special person. Certainly, his painting skills were excellent. His musical ability was better than average. Somehow, though, and I’m sure you’ve met people like this, he was able to appear as merely part of the background, even if he was standing at the front of a line. He was always just there. Not noticeable. Not important or particularly valuable. The frustration of that appearance, as you can imagine, was its complete misleadence, let’s say. There most definitely was value in him, and it did not go unnoticed by Liesel Meminger. (The human child—so much cannier at times than the stupefyingly ponderous adult.)
A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children
Insane or not, Rudy was always destined to be Liesel’s best friend. A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.
I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.
A SMALL BUT NOTE WORTHY NOTE I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They’re running at me.
On the ration cards of Nazi Germany, there was no listing for punishment, but everyone had to take their turn. For some it was death in a foreign country during the war. For others it was poverty and guilt when the war was over, when six million discoveries were made throughout Europe.
For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it’s so they can die being right.

© 2019 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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2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
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Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
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Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
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2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
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2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
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2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
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Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
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Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

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100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

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