Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April Reflections

April # of Books
Becky's Book Reviews22
Young Readers23
Operation Actually Read Bible18


# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews6388
Young Readers717
Operation Actually Read Bible3990


# of Books# of Pages

Totals So Far

Books Read
Pages Read

New-to-Me Highlights:
  • Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  • Aunt Dimity's Death. (Aunt Dimity Mystery #1) Nancy Atherton. 1992. 244 pages. [Source: Library]   
  • Dealing with Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1) Patricia C. Wrede. 1990/2015. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  • Song for the Stars. Ilima Todd. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  • Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 276 pages. [Source: Bought]
  •  The Book Hog. Greg Pizzoli. 2019. Disney-Hyperion. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  • Carter Reads the Newspaper. Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Don Tate. 2019. Peachtree. 36 pages. [Source: Library]  
  • I Love Science. Allison Wortche. Illustrated by Steve Mack. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Re-Read Highlights

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 29, 2019

Eyes Like Stars

Eyes Like Stars. Theatre Illuminata #1) Lisa Mantchev. 2009. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, busy assessing her reflection in the looking glass and thinking perhaps she shouldn't have dyed her hair blue on this particular morning, turned to glare at them when they rocketed past the end of her nose for the third time in as many minutes.

Premise/plot: Beatrice Shakespeare Smith has no memories prior to her arrival at the Theatre Illuminata--a place that she knows as HOME. Her bedroom is on stage; her friends are the players. Who are some of her friends? Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. (They are from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.) Then there's Nate. He's a pirate from The Little Mermaid. If only he'd hang around MORE. (He only shows up when his name is posted on the Call Board.)  Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest is a rule-breaker. She's been warned time and time and time again NOT to hang around Ariel. But. There's something about him that makes her lose her common sense. Is he friend or foe?

When the novel opens, Beatrice (aka "Bertie") is facing a crisis. The theatre manager is threatening to KICK HER OUT of the only home she's ever known. She begs for a little time to make herself useful. Surely if she becomes a DIRECTOR and stages a successful play then she'll be allowed to stay. It will require a sold out performance and a standing ovation. She thinks that restaging HAMLET but set in Egypt instead of Denmark will be just the thing. But is it as easy as that? HARDLY.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, CRAZY LOVE this one. I love it just as much upon rereading.  (I first read it in 2009.) I love the characterization. I love the humor. I love the romance. I love the mystery and suspense. Who is Bertie? How did she arrive at the theatre? Who are her parents? Why was she abandoned? Why is the Theatre Manager afraid of her? It's just a giddy-making read.

The majority of the Players drifted in and out of existence according to the summonses pinned to the Call Board, but the more flamboyant, dashing, or mad the character, the more freedom they had to move about the Theatre. The fairies dogged Bertie's every step, whereas Nate was one for protocol. (5)
The more time the Players spend with you, the more they transform, the more they exceed the limitations of their written parts. Your closest friends come and go as they please with no thought as to the consequences. (111)
"You're a bit young to be so very cynical," Mr. Hastings observed.
"Mrs. Edith said the same thing to me yesterday," Bertie said with a lopsized shrug. "But I'm older than Juliet, and she was plenty cynical by the end of that mess."
Mr. Hastings winced. "Touche." He pushed a teacup at her. "Drink up. It won't restore your soul, but it might settle your thoughts."
"Can you put some pirate rum in it?"
"I find myself fresh out," he said. "But would you care for a bit of unsolicited advice instead?"
She sighed and wrinkled her nose. "That depends. Is it the kind of advice that has me pulling myself up by the bootstraps and slogging my way to school barefoot in the snow, uphill, both ways?" (172)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Hebrew Melodies

Hebrew Melodies. George Gordon, Lord Byron. 1815/1824. 70 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: She walks in beauty like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies,/ And all that's best of dark and bright/ Meet in her aspect and her eyes;/ Thus mellowed to the tender light/ Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Premise/plot: Hebrew Melodies is a collection of poetry by Lord Byron first published in 1815. The poems were written to be set to music composed by Isaac Nathan. The first poem is perhaps one of Byron's best known poems, "She Walks In Beauty."

It seems some versions of Hebrew Melodies have twenty-eight poems, and other versions have thirty poems. The edition published in 1815 certainly did not have twenty-eight or thirty.  

My thoughts: Don't expect all the poems in Hebrew Melodies to be as wonderful as She Walks In Beauty. If you do, chances are you'll be disappointed with what you actually get.

Many of the poems have a melancholic almost fatalistic theme.

Did I "like" this collection? I am a more reluctant poetry enthusiast. I struggle with poetry. There are some poems that I do love, love, love. It is discovering poems that I do love that keeps me reading poetry instead of avoiding it. But I didn't really love this collection.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April Share-a-Tea Check-In

Arturo Ricci Nachmittagstee

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?

What I'm currently reading....
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

What I've finished since last time....
45. ESV Story of Redemption Bible. Crossway. 2018. 1920 pages. [Source: Gift]
46.    The Innocents Abroad. Mark Twain. 1869. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]
47. Invisible Heroes of World War II: True Stories That Should Never Be Forgotten. Jerry Borrowman. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
48. Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2003. Harlequin. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]
49. Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]
50.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Bought]
51.  Song for the Stars. Ilima Todd. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
52. Dealing with Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1) Patricia C. Wrede. 1990/2015. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
53. They Found Him Dead. Georgette Heyer. 1937/2019. Sourcebooks. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
54. Searching for Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #2) Patricia C. Wrede. 1991/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 239 pages. [Source: Review copy]
55. Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 409 pages. [Source: Bought]
56. Sister of the Bride. Beverly Cleary. 1963. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
57.  Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]
58. Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. E. Nesbit. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. 1918. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
59. Duplicate Death. (Inspectors Hannasyde and Hemingway #7) Georgette Heyer. 1951/2019. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Is there a book I'm looking forward to starting...
So many! I would love to read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and/or Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Favorite quotes:

  • Wouldn't it be nice if people purred as charmingly as cats when they are hungry? Half the quarrels in the world would never take place. (Beverly Cleary, Sister of the Bride)
  • “It is not every one,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.” “No; my feelings are not often shared, not often understood. But sometimes they are.” (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility)
Teas I've Enjoyed
  • PG Tips (Black)
  • Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin
  • Earl Grey Jasmine
  • Black Cherry Berry
  • Constant Comment Black
  • Constant Comment Green
  • Perfect Peach
  • Steep Bigelow Pomegranate Green
  • Camomile

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Stars Upon Thars #17

5 Stars
Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 The Book Hog. Greg Pizzoli. 2019. Disney-Hyperion. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars
Sister of the Bride. Beverly Cleary. 1963. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
 The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon. Matthew Burgess. Illustrated by Fiona Woodcock. 2019. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Animals: Early Learning at the Museum. British Museum. 2019. Candlewick Press. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First Words: Early Learning at the Museum. The British Museum. 2019. Candlewick Press. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, April 26, 2019

Duplicate Death

Duplicate Death. (Inspectors Hannasyde and Hemingway #7) Georgette Heyer. 1951/2019. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There were several promising-looking letters in the pile laid on Mrs. James Kane's virgin breakfast-plate on Monday morning, but, having sorted all the envelopes with the air of one expectant of discovering treasure-trove, she extracted two addressed to her in hands indicative either of illiteracy or of extreme youth.

Premise/plot: Duplicate Death should never, ever, ever be read before They Found Him Dead. Trust me--please. The novel opens and closes with the stars of They Found Him Dead now happily married and the parents of four children. (Patricia Allison and James "Jim" Kane). Why the novel opens and closes with them remains a mystery to me.

Timothy HARTE is madly in love with a young woman, Miss Beulah Birtley. Miss Birtley is working for a difficult woman, Mrs. Haddington; Mrs. Haddington has a beautiful daughter, Cynthia. If it was up to Mrs. Haddington--which it isn't--Cynthia and Timothy would make a match of it. Both young people are at a bridge party at the Haddington house--though I don't quite remember if Miss Birtley is a "guest" or "staff" at the time--when a murder occurs. The investigators from the case are Hannasyde and Hemingway. Both remember Timothy Harte from their previous acquaintance. Both are listed among the suspects, though neither tops the list of SUSPECTS. A second murder throws the investigation off--for a while.

My thoughts: It annoys me that the jacket copy is INACCURATE for this one. Is it really so terribly hard to get a name right? Timothy KANE is not a character in the book. He doesn't exist. Not existing, he doesn't have a fiancee who's a prime suspect. However, Timothy HARTE does exist and does have a fiancee, though she's not really a prime suspect. Also the book stresses the friendship between Timothy KANE and the inspectors; I would say that is misleading as well. Fourteen years--give or take--have gone by without them speaking to each other or "hanging out." I doubt that the Inspectors were thinking of or missing Timothy in all those years. And probably the same could be said for Timothy. They were acquaintances that were on friendly terms--nothing more, nothing less.

All that being said, I liked this one well enough.

'Look here, I--the thing is--there are things in my life you don't know anything about!'
'Good God, I should hope there were!' retorted Timothy. "I've only known you a month!'
'And some of them you wouldn't like!'
'I daresay. Come to think of it, I can tell you of one thing in your young life I don't like right now, and that's Mr. Daniel Seaton-Carew.'

'I have no wish to appear boastful,' returned young Mr. Harte, 'but from my earliest days it has been said of me by all who know me best that I talk enough for two, or even more.'

'Seaton-Carew is considered to be rather an attractive type.'
'What does he attract? Pond-life?'

'Wireless programmes are neither primarily or secondarily intended for cultured persons,' replied Timothy, quite unruffled. 'Too often they appear to be intended either for the entirely witless, or for those desirous of acquiring without effort a little easy knowledge. I remember that someone once gave a fifteen minute talk on the Battle of Waterloo. A sobering thought.'

The Chief Inspector groaned. 'Any line on it at all?'
'Might be, might not. Doesn't sound like a cinch, from the first report. There were forty-nine people in the house at the time--'
'Fifty-five, counting the servants,' said the Superintendent.

'What you [Pershore] want to do is to hire a hall, and give a series of lectures on police work,' interposed Hemingway. 'You'll probably make a lot of money: people will pay to listen to anything! I wouldn't, of course, but that's because I have to listen to you, and even the Department wouldn't expect me to pay for doing what I can't help. Now you stop trying to annoy me, and tell me what's been happening here without any trimmings!'

'Good God!' said Mr. Harte, staring at him between narrowed eyelids. 'You're the Sergeant!'
'Well, I was once, but I've been promoted,' he replied. 'Did you happen to know me when I was a Sergeant, sir?'
'Of course I did!' said Timothy, rising, and going towards him, with his hand held out. 'You probably don't remember me, but don't you remember the Kane case?'

'Perhaps you are confusing popularity with usefulness. Unattached men, Chief Inspector, are greatly in demand amongst hostesses.'

If you were to have given Mr. Godfrey Poulton the choice between having a sewer-rat loose in his house or the late Seaton-Carew, it's my belief he'd have chosen the rat.

The only thing that would surprise me about his case would be if I was able to get a real lead.

Ever add two and two together and get five for an answer? No, you wouldn't because you've got no imagination, but it's what I can see myself doing. All the same, taking your bit of dirt with what I gathered from Lady Nest's way of carrying on, I think this'll bear looking into.

'Look here, I don't mind you making two and two five, but when you start making it six, your'e going too far, Sandy!' expostulated Hemingway.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. E. Nesbit. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. 1918. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was evening. The fire burned brightly in the inn parlour. We had been that day to see Shakespeare's house, and I had told the children all that I could about him and his work. Now they were sitting by the table, poring over a big volume of the Master's plays, lent them by the landlord. And I, with eyes fixed on the fire, was wandering happily in the immortal dreamland peopled by Rosaline and Imogen, Lear and Hamlet. A small sigh roused me-- 
"I can't understand a word of it," said Iris.
"And you said it was so beautiful," Rosamund added, reproachfully. "What does it all mean?"

Premise/plot: E. Nesbit has adapted fifteen of Shakespeare's plays into short stories for children. The plays she's chosen to adapt are as follows: "The Tempest," "Romeo and Juliet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," "As You Like It," "King Lear," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Cymbeline," "Twelfth Night," "The Winter's Tale," "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," "The Comedy of Errors," "Macbeth," "Othello," and "The Merchant of Venice." Nesbit chose to adapt a few of his comedies and a few of his tragedies but none of his history plays. 

The Tempest
Prospero, the Duke of Milan, was a learned and studious man, who lived among his books, leaving the management of his dukedom to his brother Antonio, in whom indeed he had complete trust. But that trust was ill-rewarded, for Antonio wanted to wear the Duke's crown himself, and, to gain his ends, would have killed his brother but for the love the people bore him. However, with the help of Prospero's great enemy, Alonso, King of Naples, he managed to get into his hands the dukedom with all its honour, power, and riches. For they took Prospero to sea, and when they were far away from land, forced him into a little boat with no tackle, mast, or sail. In their cruelty and hatred they put his little daughter, Miranda (not yet three years old), into the boat with him, and sailed away, leaving them to their fate.
Romeo and Juliet
Once upon a time there lived in Verona two great families named Montague and Capulet. They were both rich, and I suppose they were as sensible, in most things, as other rich people. But in one thing they were extremely silly. There was an old, old quarrel between the two families, and instead of making it up like reasonable folks, they made a sort of pet of their quarrel, and would not let it die out. 
My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I was familiar with about half of these stories. There are still some of Shakespeare's plays I haven't read yet.

I'm not convinced that Shakespeare's plays make for the best stories for children. His plays usually have quite adult content. But these stories, of course, do not.

Reading these stories back to back one sees how similar Shakespeare's plays can be to one another.

I do wish she'd chosen to adapt some of the history plays. I would LOVE to find a collection that does include the history plays adapted for a younger audience.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

World at War: Resistance

Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Two minutes. That's how long I had to get past this Nazi.

Premise/plot: Resistance is set in Poland during the Second World War. Our heroine, Chaya Lindner, is a courier for the resistance. She's Jewish, but she's able to pass as Polish. She slips in and out of Jewish ghettos thanks to her forged papers, appearance, and COURAGE. She is able to smuggle in food, weapons, forged papers, information, and other black market items. She is able to smuggle out children. It's dangerous work. She's known that from day one. But she's fully committed to the cause--saving lives, resisting Nazis, killing Nazis. She is not alone.

When Chaya first meets Esther, she has doubts--BIG DOUBTS. Esther doesn't look like she's capable of helping the cause--far from it. Chaya is convinced that working with Esther will put them--the resistance cell--all in danger. People could die because of Esther. But is Chaya wrong about Esther? Only time will tell.

My thoughts: What a book! Those three words don't say nearly enough. Yet I always hesitate to say that I love, love, love a book that is so dark and intense. Though these characters are fictional, the story of resistance is not. There were real men, women, children who were part of the Jewish/Polish resistance. Many--though not all--died. To resist could lead to death. To not resist would lead to death. There were no easy, safe choices. This is an emotional read starring two very different heroines.

"I wonder if this will ever end."
"The war?"
"The hatred. I remember my father saying that he'd finally come to believe the world had moved past its hatred of Jews, and then this happened."
"Maybe when the world opens its eyes to what has been done to us, they will realize how destructive hate can be."
Esther shrugged again. "Maybe. But they'll forget again, in time. And when they forget, this will all start once more."
I put an arm around her and used it to straighten her posture, "Enough of us must survive the war to tell our stories, and every story will matter. When they remember our stories, they will forget their hatred." (160)

"Why do the Nazis feel they can commit such violence against us? How do they justify it?"
I shrugged. "Because they believe we are less than human. Like animals."
"Exactly! They herd us into train cars like cattle, give our rabbis and scholars the work of oxen, feed us less than what is given to their dogs. And they kill us with no more regard than they'd give to slaughtering a farm animal. But there is something a human can do that an animal never can."
"Create art." I considered that for a moment. "So you sing because--"
"It's proof of my humanity. It allows me, just for the length of that song, to remember who I really am, no matter what surrounds me." (272)

"I loved my father, Chaya. I still do. But being in the Judenrat was an impossible situation. I remember at the beginning, he thought he could help the people here, and he did a lot of good. But very soon, the choices weren't between good and bad, they were between bad and awful."
"A choiceless choice," I mumbled. "There is no winning, only a decision as to how we will lose." (296)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sister of the Bride

Sister of the Bride. Beverly Cleary. 1963. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I guess this is just one of those days, thought Barbara MacLane on her way home from school one bright afternoon late in April. She was not alone. She was walking beside a boy, a very tall boy, but their thoughts were like those famous parallel lines that lie in the same plane but never meet.

Premise/plot: Barbara, a junior in high school, is always playing catch up with her older sister, Rosemary, who is a freshman in college. One day Barbara gets a phone call from her sister. Can she keep a secret?!?! She's coming home that weekend--PLEASE TELL MOM NOT TO SERVE MEAT LOAF--and by the way, I'M GETTING MARRIED. Barbara has to keep the secret a day or two. It won't be easy.

It doesn't take Barbara long to get swept up, up, and away in a daydreaming frenzy. She's thinking about Rosemary's wedding--the dress, the flowers, the reception, the cake, the attendants. Will Rosemary's dress one day be her own?! Will she get to help choose her sister's dress? Will she be the maid of honor or a bridesmaid? What will her dress look like? Will the reception be at their house or at a club? Will her sister wear a dress with a long veil and a cathedral train?

But she's also thinking about her own wedding. If she does everything two years--roughly--behind Rosemary, should she focus on picking out her would-be-groom this year? When does she need to start going steady with a guy if she wants a year-long engagement? How many weeks does she have to meet her one true love? She is certain that she'll fall in love by her sister's wedding.

Will she fall in love with the nice boy with a horrible, horrible nickname of TOOTIE. Or will she fall in love with the boy who gives her rides home from school that expects COOKIES and MILK in return? (His name is Bill). One boy keeps asking her out, the other is content to hang out with her after school. She thinks she knows how she feels about both boys, but does she really?

Gordy, their brother, is NOT daydreaming about the wedding. He has dreams that he's focused on--just not romantic ones. He and two of his friends are going to be the NEXT BIG THING. A trio of folk-singers. He's a bit disappointed that his sister's wedding will not be a gig.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. For modern readers it might seem an equal blend of SWEET and SILLY. But I enjoyed both elements. The book can serve as a time capsule of sorts for the time in which it was written. In much the same way as FATHER OF THE BRIDE does--both movie versions. (For example, the price of groceries: eight cans of pork and beans for a dollar.)

One of the things I loved most were the family scenes. I loved spending time with this family: the father, mother, Rosemary, Barbara, and Gordy. It felt like a real family--for better or worse. I loved the give and take of it. There's also a mischievous cat that plays an integral role in the novel!

The narrative was also well done.

Greg made the mistake of mentioning the poet E.E. Cummings, who did not use capital letters or punctuation and often ran words together for effect. Of course this provoked an argument from Mr. MacLane. What if every author took it in his head to throw away the rules? What kind of books would we have then? Books that no one would read, that's what we would have. Greg felt that the printer's job was to print the text, not criticize the author's art. (18)
Wouldn't it be nice if people purred as charmingly as cats when they are hungry? Half the quarrels in the world would never take place. (22)
"I would hate to see any daughter of mine throw herself away on someone who approved of writers who did not use punctuation or capitals. This fellow Greg probably likes archy and mehitabel, too." "So do I, Dad," said Barbara. "And the reason there aren't any capitals in archy and mehitabel is that it was supposed to be typed by a cockroach, who couldn't jump on the capital key and a letter key at the same time. The author wasn't just being lazy. He had a good reason." Mr. MacLane chuckled. "A book written by a cockroach is just about what I would expect this fellow to like." (29)
 "And can he afford to pay the orthodontist twenty-five dollars a month?" Mr. MacLane demanded. "Have you thought of that little expense?" "No...I haven't." Crestfallen, Rosemary faltered. How awful thought Barbara as she poured out the dishwater. To want to get married when you are still having your teeth straightened. It must be humiliating to have part of your childhood left over. (43)
Two short years were not much over seven hundred days. Thinking in terms of days instead of years made Barbara feel as if she had not much time left. If she was going to get married in seven hundred days she should think about falling in love, and the sooner the better. Right now. Today. Until this minute she had thought of falling in love as something else that would happen a long time from now. (55)
Barbara watched the umbrella disappear around a bend in the road and, still smiling, she turned and walked into the house. Bill Cunningham. The last boy she had ever expected to notice her. She liked him. She really did. She liked him the way she liked the fizz in ginger ale and the cherry on the sundae. (64)
"It seems to me," said Mr. MacLane, "that ever since Rosemary has been going to the University she has been talking like someone who has read a book on psychology." "I don't know why," puzzled Mrs. MacLane. "She isn't even taking psychology." Barbara had the explanation. "But her roommate is. Millie is majoring in psychology. Rosemary learns a lot from her." "How nice," said Mrs. MacLane dryly. "I am so glad we are to share the benefits of Millie's college education." (69)
Mr. MacLane exhaled a large blue cloud of smoke. "Well, let me tell you something. Someday some mother is going to rebel against her children, and when she does, I will be the first to contribute to a statue in her honor, to be placed downtown in the center of the plaza. A bronze statue. And each year on Mother's Day I shall personally lay a wreat at her feet." (69)
"Millions of footnotes, when all I want to do is think about Greg." (91)
"Your grandfather always liked a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, reminisced Gramma. "He said it stuck to his ribs." Rosemary looked doubtful. "I don't know whether Greg likes oatmeal or not, but I'm sure I could learn to cook it." Barbara admired her sister for tactfully not telling her grandmother she herself detested oatmeal. Or maybe it wasn't tact at all. Maybe it was love. Maybe Rosemary really would learn to cook oatmeal if Greg wanted it. Rosemary, cooking oatmeal of all things, and early in the morning, too. Rosemary, who always had such a hard time waking up. Barbara smiled to herself. She wondered if Rosemary would learn to eat oatmeal to keep Greg company. That would be the test of love, Rosemary eating oatmeal. (96)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 22, 2019

Miss Buncle Married

Miss Buncle Married. (Miss Buncle #2) D.E. Stevenson. 1936. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "We had better move," said Mr. Abbott casually.

Premise/plot: If you haven't read Miss Buncle's Book, then you should--you really should. This is the second book in the series. Miss Buncle has given up writing--or has she?--and she's settled down with her publisher, Arthur Abbott. The two are newlyweds looking for their dream home. Well, she is the one mostly doing all the hard work. He's left it up to her--mostly. And does she find her dream home? YES. Though it doesn't appear perfectly dreamy and wonderful at first or second glance. Far from it. They are settling in the village of Wandlebury.

Most of the book is about them settling down into the neighborhood and making friends. Sam, Mr. Abbot's nephew, visits a great deal. Could he be falling madly in love with one of the country girls?! Could Miss Buncle be playing matchmaker?!

At one point, Miss Buncle does write again....but will there be a third book published?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED the first book. I really liked the second book. I found the first book to be more entertaining. Miss Buncle had written one book and had it published and was in the process of writing a second book. The village was REACTING to the first book. And it provided hilariously entertaining moments. All of this is missing in the second book. Miss Buncle is still Miss Buncle. But it's mainly just the two meeting their neighbors, socializing, trying to get out of socializing, enjoying cozy evenings together. Sam and Jerry's courtship provides most of the action and even then it isn't a thrilling read. But do books have to be thrilling to be enjoyable? I don't think they do.

  • She might or might not have "an imagination" (Arthur could not be sure of that), but she certainly had an extraordinary power of getting underneath people's skins. Without being conscious of it herself she was able to sum up a person or situation in a few minutes. People's very bones were bare to her--and she had no idea of it. (75)
  • In a new friend we start life anew, for we create a new edition of ourselves and so become, for the time being, a new creature. (152)
  • An author does not consciously create his characters, they come to him readymade with all their characteristics firmly fixed, and the author can do nothing with his character but accept or reject him. He cannot change or modify the personality that has arisen without making him unreal. (236)


Some reviewers seem to be quite disappointed that Miss Buncle is no longer writing. They are upset that she's "given up her career" now that she's married. I am not one of them. I think Barbara writes when she's inspired. I think if she gets inspired, she'll write. But the joy comes for her not in the publication but in the act of writing. She doesn't care if John Smith has another bestseller. She has witnessed the harm that the blunt truth can do to a community. She has no desire to move every single time she publishes a new book. She has found a place to belong, to call home, a place she wants to LIVE. She didn't have that before. But now she has. She doesn't want to disrupt things. She's choosing her personal happiness over "fame" for John Smith. Here's the thing...John Smith isn't real. He was necessary for a time. But now he's not.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #16

5 Stars
Aunt Dimity's Death. (Aunt Dimity Mystery #1) Nancy Atherton. 1992. 244 pages. [Source: Library]
Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 409 pages. [Source: Bought]
Carter Reads the Newspaper. Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Don Tate. 2019. Peachtree. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought] 

4 Stars
A Child's Garden of Verses. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1885. 67 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, April 19, 2019

Aunt Dimity's Death

Aunt Dimity's Death. (Aunt Dimity Mystery #1) Nancy Atherton. 1992. 244 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When I learned of Aunt Dimity's death, I was stunned. Not because she was dead, but because I had never known she'd been alive. Maybe I should explain.

Premise/plot: Lori Shepherd is down on her luck. Within a (relatively) short amount of time, she's gotten divorced, lost her job, and her mother has died. But when a letter finally catches up with her, her life is potentially changed forever: a lawyer has contacted her. It seems that she's mentioned in Aunt Dimity's will.

Lori grew up hearing her mother tell Aunt Dimity stories; they were bedtime stories. Lori thought that Aunt Dimity was a fictional creation of her mother's making. But Dimity was a real person--a person that her mother met and befriended in England during the second world war. The two had kept in touch--corresponded after the war.

Aunt Dimity wants Lori to go to England, stay in her cottage, and sort through that correspondence. Ultimately Lori will need to write an introduction to a collection of stories--Aunt Dimity stories. But she won't be going alone. The lawyer's son, Bill, will go with her and help her.  That is what her lawyer is expecting her to do...but a letter from her mother adds to her mission.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED this one. I'm a little mad at my library that the next book in the series which they have is #8. (Then another big jump to either #12 or #13). If you love cozy mysteries, I think you will love this one just as much as I did. But even if you don't love, love, love mysteries...if you love romance then there's still a good chance that you'll still end up loving it. It has a very 90s rom-com feel to it. In a good way. In a satisfying way. If this was ever adapted into a movie or television series, I'd want to watch it again-again.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Dune. Frank Herbert. 1965. 687 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.

Premise/plot: Dune is a science fiction classic originally published in 1965. At the center of this one is a young man, Paul Atreides. His father is Duke Leto; his mother is Jessica, a Bene Gesserit. Is Paul the one? Will he fulfill ancient prophecy? Perhaps. Perhaps. All in good time. The novel opens with the family preparing to move planets. Duke Leto has been given the desert planet, Arrakis, aka "Dune." But though this is technically a "gift"--one that he couldn't refuse--it's more of a gift horse. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that once the family arrives their lives will become even more endangered. The powers that be--multiple powers--have decided that Duke Leto should die; all the pieces--the pawns--are in place. It's just a matter of time before the House of Atreides is wiped out completely. His father's fate seems set in stone, however, there is hope for the boy and his mother. If there wasn't hope then this would be a much, much shorter novel. Most of the action occurs AFTER the murder of the Duke as Paul and Jessica flee for their lives and take refuge with the planet natives, the Fremen. Their safety among the natives depend on Paul fulfilling ancient prophecy.

As Paul matures his supernatural abilities deepen. One of his powers seems to be seeing all the possibilities of the future at once. He sees how every decision influences those futures: new futures open up; others disappear. Will Paul be wise enough to use his power for good? What does he have in mind for his followers? his planet? the galaxy?

My thoughts: I have given up on Dune several times in the past. My first introduction to the story was through a miniseries. So I had a vague-fuzzy recollection of what Dune was about. But I was DETERMINED to get through this classic this time: no excuses allowed. I "forced" myself to read in Dune at least four or five times a week. And indeed this seemed to make a big difference. Even if I was just moving that bookmark two or three chapters a day, slowly but surely progress was being made on this intimidating book.

The plot basics of the story weren't all that bad, all that intimidating.The writing, however, was. Intentionally so, I believe. The narrative is awkward: strange names, strange words, strange cultures, but above all else strange sentence construction. For example, "She felt that she was a conscious mote, smaller than any subatomic particle, yet capable of motion and of sensing her surroundings. Like an abrupt revelation--the curtains whipped away--she realized she had become aware of a psychokinesthetic extension of herself. She was the mote, yet not the mote...She focused on the psychokinesthetic extension of herself, looking within, and was confronted immediately with a cellular core, a pit of blackness from which she recoiled..." I believe this is intention other-worldliness, aka WORLD BUILDING.

Did I enjoy this one? A little bit. It was tough going, for the most part, but the last hundred pages or so were action-packed. All the not-so-subtle hinting came to fruition. I don't know that I'll ever feel compelled to read the rest of the series. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

World at War: Courage to Be Counted

Courage to Be Counted. (A Clubmobile Girls Novel) Eleri Grace. 2019. Bugle Call Books. 350 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dressed in men's flight coveralls and books, Vivian crouched beside her friend, Zanna and squinted at the distant flight line.

Premise/plot: Vivian Lambert is an ambitious young woman who wants to do her part to help the Allies win the war. Her service is through the Red Cross, and her main job will be feeding donuts and coffee to pilots. At least two of her assigned posts has her as a Clubmobile Girl. But there is more to life than making donuts and coffee...what would life be without love. But loving a pilot isn't easy. Jack Nielsen is the young, dashing pilot that Vivian is head over heels in love with. War has a way of changing a man. Will their love survive?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It was an entertaining read set in England and France, for the most part, during the war 1942-1945. It was at times serious and intense, but at other times more of your standard/typical romance. More than anything else it is a romance.

It is told from both the male and female point of view. Readers get behind-the-scene glimpse of Jack's flying missions. He experiences close calls and REALLY close calls. Every single flight is dangerous; the numbers don't lie. Her perspective mainly focuses on her anxiety and concern for him. Both perspectives have a lot of lusting. The book definitely includes scenes that are graphic. The book also includes a great deal of cursing. I don't include these warnings to keep anyone from picking up the book and reading it. I don't. I know that warnings can be misunderstood as judgments. It is better to know than not know--in my opinion--so that you can decide for yourself if a book is right for you.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 409 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.

Premise/plot: When Mr. Dashwood dies his second family is left wanting--not from lack of love on his part, but lack of compassion and honesty on the part of his eldest son, Mr. John Dashwood. Though I suppose one could argue that it wasn't lack of compassion and honesty but lack of backbone. Mr. John Dashwood does not 'wear the pants' in his household. His wife, Fanny, is a fierce force. She despises her step-mother-in-law and her sisters-in-law. She treats them with the thinnest layer of civility, but make no mistake she hates them. It not being enough for her to hate alone, she makes sure that her husband does as well.

The heroines of Sense and Sensibility are two of the three Dashwood sisters: Elinor and Marianne. (The youngest daughter is Margaret.)

Can these two beat the odds and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of their happily ever afters? Elinor loves--prudently and with discretion--Mr. Edward Ferrars. Edward is the brother of Mrs. Fanny Dashwood. Edward is 'defying' his sister in the fact that he actually likes Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters. He enjoys their company; perhaps he even loves their company. Marianne loves--wholeheartedly and without discretion--a Mr. John Willoughby. On the surface these two make an excellent match. They like and dislike the exact same things with the exact same intensity. (Is this a coincidence?) But Marianne is not his first woman to pursue, to woo. And his past may just come back to torment him....

Meanwhile, there is Colonel Brandon with a wisdom to match his years that quietly, persistently loves from afar. But who is it that he loves?! Mr. John Dashwood imagines that it is Elinor. And he's not alone, Mrs. Jennings inexplicably reaches this conclusion late in the novel. (And she should definitely know better!) Though to be fair, Mrs. Jennings is not overly discerning and John so rarely thinks about anyone besides himself that that isn't a big surprise that he'd be confused.

In some ways--many ways--the novel provides a contrast of wisdom and folly.

My thoughts: In the hands of an author like Jane Austen, Marianne and Elinor are safe. If Thomas Hardy had been writing Sense and Sensibility, I imagine that Marianne would have borne a child out of wedlock, brought shame and scandal to her family, and ultimately died for her foolish, ill-placed love. Because goodness knows if a woman loves foolishly, there are no second chances--she must be made an example of.

Would Hardy have allowed Elinor a happy ending? I'm not as certain that he wouldn't. After all, Lucy Steele would probably still be a gold-digger and switch her love and devotion to the other brother, Robert. Edward would still be free to return to
Elinor. Edward would probably not cast blame on Elinor for her sister's indiscretions. So Elinor and Edward would probably be allowed a relatively happy ending--unless Hardy added a postscript where one or the other died. 

I think Trollope would have been more forgiving than Hardy; more forgiving in the sense of being sympathetic. The Small House at Allington is so very, very similar to Sense and Sensibility, one could easily imagine Marianne's fate to be the same as Lily. Lily never 'got over' or 'moved on' from her first love. She would remain a 'spinster' living with her mother for the rest of her life. No matter how worthy John Eames was, he didn't stand a chance. (I still want a happy ending for these two. Why couldn't John and Lily get together?!?!?!)

Austen, however, has just the right touch. I love Jane Austen. I do.

Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment...She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn; and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught. 
Marianne was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent.
I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. ~ Marianne
She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next — that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.
A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. The gentleman offered his services; and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill.
His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story;
Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant, and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded.
Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich.
Lady Middleton was more agreeable than her mother only in being more silent.
It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.
“It is not every one,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.” “No; my feelings are not often shared, not often understood. But sometimes they are.”
I wish as well as every body else to be perfectly happy; but, like every body else it must be in my own way.
Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge. I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural awkwardness.
How few people know what comfort is!
Lady Middleton resigned herself to the idea of it, with all the philosophy of a well-bred woman, contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject five or six times every day.
Marianne was silent; it was impossible for her to say what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion; and upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it, always fell.
Lady Middleton looked as if she thanked heaven that she had never made so rude a speech.
It was every day implied, but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it had been — but it never was.
Her kindness is not sympathy; her good-nature is not tenderness. All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.
Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family in general, soon procured herself a book.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Mark Haddon. 2003/2004. 226 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 

First sentence: It was 7 minutes after midnight.

Premise/plot: Christopher Boone, our (relatively) young hero, discovers a dead dog in his neighbor's yard. He is determined to figure out WHO killed the dog (and possibly WHY). This also involves another new endeavor--besides 'becoming' a detective--that of becoming a writer. He is going to write a true story--he does not understand lies or fiction--of what happens. His journey soon expands beyond the one mystery to one of far greater importance.

My thoughts: How could I have not known that this one involved a dead dog?!?! I partially blame myself for not taking care of myself and "guarding" my emotions. The dog is violently, senselessly murdered...and this is what drives the story for the first few chapters. This is a book that made me lose my temper; I was this close to screaming at the book in frustration and anger. Not just for the injustice towards the dog--but for injustice in general for how Christopher is treated. 

The writing is excellent, for the most part; but the story is depressing.

Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them. (12)
A lie is when you say something happened which didn't happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn't happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn't happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn't happen. For example, this morning for breakfast I had Ready Brek and some hot raspberry milk shake. But if I say that I actually had Shreddies and a mug of tea I start thinking about Coco Pops and lemonade and porridge and Dr. Pepper and how I wasn't eating my breakfast in Egypt and there wasn't a rhinoceros in the room and Father wasn't wearing a diving suit and so on and even writing this makes me feel shaky and scared...(19)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Classics Club Spin #20 (My List)

It's time for a Classics Club Spin. The number--for better or worse--will be announced April 22nd. I will update this post and share the number that was chosen. The selected book should be completed by May 31, 2019. The number was 19

1. The Sunne in Splendour. Sharon Kay Penman. 1982.
2. The Innocence of Father Brown. G.K. Chesterton. 1911.
3. Belinda. Maria Edgeworth. 1801.
4. Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell (1936)
5. Poor Folk. Fyodor Dostoyevsky
6. The Fortune of the Rougons (La Fortune des Rougon). Emile Zola
7. He That Will Not When He May. Margaret Oliphant.
8. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008.
9. Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall (1955) 
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943.
11. Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer. 1932
12. Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865.
13. Bostonians. Henry James. 1886.
14. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
15. Katherine. Anya Seton. 1954. 
16. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. 1937.
17. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe (1719)
18. Domestic Manners of the Americans. Frances Trollope. 1832. 
19. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1610)
20.  The Master of Ballantrae. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1889.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #15

5 Stars
Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 276 pages. [Source: Bought]
They Found Him Dead. Georgette Heyer. 1937/2019. Sourcebooks. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
Death at Hungerford Stairs. (Charles Dickens & Superintendent Sam Jones #2) J.C. Briggs. 2018. Sapere Books.  290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Searching for Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #2) Patricia C. Wrede. 1991/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 239 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Is That Your Dad? (A Changing Faces Book) Carles Ballesteros. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mine! Sue Heap. 2014. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, April 12, 2019


Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 276 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house.

Premise/plot: When David Balfour's father dies, he sets out on a journey to meet the uncle he never even knew he had. There had been--he reasons, and rightly so--a falling out between the two brothers. But with his father's letter to his brother intact, he sets out with few expectations. Will his uncle welcome him with open arms? Will his uncle invite him to live with him? Will his uncle assist him in getting established in a profession? Will his uncle send him on his way?

Soon after he arrives in the village/town where his father lives, he begins to ask for directions. Every person that he meets gives him a) either a strange look b) strange warning or c) both of the above. It seems this uncle is little respected, much feared. Though he's been warned NOT to make his uncle's acquaintance, he reasons, well, I've come this far already it would be just silly not to go through with my plans.

Can you guess how the meeting goes?

My thoughts: If Kidnapped was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the version I'd read would be very short! If given the option of choosing to meet the uncle or not meet the uncle, then I'd have him go back to his own neighborhood and trust in the friends he knows versus the family he doesn't.

Though David Balfour's choices would not be my own, I have to say this one is PACKED, absolutely packed, with action and adventure and twists and turns and DRAMA. And I suppose I should have mentioned before now that this one is set in Scotland where feudal disputes and violence abound...

I found this a compelling read. It was INTENSE and enjoyable. Alan Breck and David Balfours certainly know how to keep you turning pages....

"Captain," says Alan, "I doubt your word is a breakable. Last night ye haggled and arglebargled like an apple wife; and then passed me your word, and gave me your hand to back it; and ye ken very well what was the upshot. Be damned to your word!" says he. (86)
Charles the Second declared a man could stay outdoors more days in the year in the climate of England than in any other. This was very like a king, with a palace at his back and changes of dry clothes. (113)
I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe they both get paid in the end, but the fools first. (118)
At first I proposed I should give him for a signal the "Bonnie House of Airlie," which was a favorite of mine; but he objected that as the piece was very commonly known, any ploughman might whistle it by accident; and taught me instead a little fragment of a Highland air, which has run in my head from that day to this, and will likely run in my head when I lie dying. (239)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Death at Hungerford Stairs

Death at Hungerford Stairs. (Charles Dickens & Superintendent Sam Jones #2) J.C. Briggs. 2018. Sapere Books.  290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Charles Dickens remembered the rats.

Premise/plot: Death at Hungerford Stairs is the second novel in J.C. Briggs' mystery series starring Charles Dickens. Dickens is an amateur detective (of sorts) assisting the police--namely Superintendent Sam Jones. Dickens and Jones are on the hunt for a serial killer--someone is targeting young boys. Can these two figure out WHO and WHY? How many boys will have to die as they piece together all the clues and track down suspects?

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the first book in the series The Murder of Patience Brooke. I loved the characterization and the writing. Did I love, love, love Death at Hungerford Stairs? Yes and no. No, I didn't love, love, love to the same degree. Yes, I still loved the characters and the writing. This one is "packed" with murders, but dare I say it's not an action-driven mystery novel?! I think this one is--for better or worse--a character-driven mystery novel. To me the mysteries are definitely secondary to the characters themselves. Because I have grown attached the characters--and many of the characters introduced in the first book are still around--I am attached to the book. I have to keep reading this series. I have to stay in touch with these characters. I want more, more, more.

Murder was composed of secrets just as any three volume novel. Secrets were the staple of the novelist; they provided the mystery, suspense, and tension. In murder, the identity of the protagonist was secret, the characters in the story--for murder was itself a terrible story--possessed secrets, sometimes harmless ones, sometimes ones that were the key to the mystery, and it was the investigators who must uncover those secrets, and, this was dreadful, too; they must lay bare the lives of all enmeshed in the net of the murderer's making.
Speculation is the thief of time as much as procrastination so let's collar them both.
The omniscient narrator could place his characters where he would. The murderer would be caught, the criminal brought to justice. He had put Fagin in the condemned cell in Newgate; Sikes in a terrible irony had been hanged by his own rope as he attempted to escape. The missing would be found, restitution made and lovers could be united. But life, ah, life.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

World at War: Courageous

Courageous. Yona Zeldis McDonough. 2018. [Nov] Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Aiden looks up. The sky that had been blue and cloudless only minutes ago is now dark and menacing.

Premise/plot: Courageous is a historical middle grade novel set in Britain focusing on Operation Dynamo (aka Dunkirk). Aiden has been scared of the sea ever since his older brother, Trevor, died during the war. This is a slight problem since his family's line of business is a sea one--fishing. When the call comes for every little boat to do her part--for the civilians to take action and help rescue the troops trapped in France, Aiden's parents say NO, NO WAY, NEVER, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Which is upsetting news for Aiden because his sole surviving brother, George, is one of the men needing rescuing. Their last letter from George--conveniently received earlier that day--places him right there at Dunkirk. Aiden sneaks out of the house and attends a village meeting. A few want to join in the effort--but just as many it seems wants to stay at home and not risk it. Aiden decides that he can play the stubborn game too. He will take his family's boat on his own--nearly on his own, with the help of his best friend, Sally--and go to France. It won't be easy--his parents lock him in his room. But stubborn is stubborn even if stubborn is not necessarily smart. (Too bad he's not smart enough to take food or extra patrol.) 

Will Aiden and Sally be able to save George and other soldiers? Or will Aiden and Sally give up their lives in a heroic effort to do so?

My thoughts: I wish this one was not written in third person PRESENT tense. That's the first thought that comes to mind. The second is: how old is Aiden supposed to be?!

I am glad that civilians risked their lives and their livelihoods to come to the aid of the troops. It was a risky affair. If I come across as slightly cranky/skeptical it has more to do with this fictional story than the historical account.

I found this story full of conveniences--a few too many for my liking.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Searching for Dragons

Searching for Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #2) Patricia C. Wrede. 1991/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 239 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The King of the Enchanted Forest was twenty years old and lived in a rambling, scrambling, mixed-up castle somewhere near the center of his domain.

Premise/plot: Mendanbar is the King of the Enchanted Forest. The Enchanted Forest is experiencing some difficulties--but is it due to wizards or dragons? Mendanbar sets out to investigate the situation which leads him to meeting some of the characters first introduced in Dealing with Dragons--Morwen, the witch, and Cimorene, the dragon's princess. Though Mendanbar had sworn that he would never, ever, ever, ever fall in love with a princess--not really, but close--he can't help being wowed by Cimorene, and not just by her beauty. The two set out on quite an adventure to right some wrongs. They make new friends along the way, of course, including a dwarf named Herman and a magician named Telemain.

My thoughts: If you enjoyed the first adventure, then the second adventure will not disappoint. I will say this--it does not feature dragons as much as the first book. So if love of dragons was your one and only reason for loving the first book, then perhaps this one will not be quite as enjoyable. But there are so many new characters introduced that are just FUN and CLEVER. Plus Cimorene's story advances. She may not be the main character, but without her the story would be going nowhere.

I love the story. I love the characters. I love the writing.

"Ordinary" was not the right word for anyone who lived in the Enchanted Forest, not if they managed to stay alive and in more or less their proper shape. (23)
He had never thought of himself as one of the hazards of the Enchanted Forest that someone might wish to be prepared for, and he did not like the idea much, now that it had been pointed out to him. (30)
As Mendanbar drew nearer, he saw a tarnished brass handle sticking out of a small hole beside the cave. The handle was level with his waist, and next to it was a sign that read: "WELCOME TO THE CAVE OF THE DRAGON KING. Pull handle to ring bell." On the line below, someone had added in neat letters printed in bright red paint, "ABSOLUTELY NO wizards, salespeople, or rescuers. This means YOU."
Mendanbar stared at the sign for a minute and began to smile. No wonder Zemenar didn't like Kazul's princess. Well, he wasn't a wizard, he wasn't selling anything, and he certainly didn't want to rescue anybody. He gave the handle a pull. (59)
"I think I'm beginning to get the idea," Cimorene said. "It's not just spinning straw into gold that's a family tradition, is it? It's the whole scheme." The dwarf nodded sadly. "Right the first time. Only I can never make it work properly. I can find plenty of girls who're supposed to spin straw into gold, and most of them suggest the guessing game, but I've never had even one who managed to guess my name. "Oh, dear," said Cimorene. "I even changed my name legally, so it would be easier," the dwarf said sadly. "Herman isn't a difficult name to remember, is it? But no, the silly chits can't do it. So I end up with the baby as well as the gold, and babies eat and cry and need clothes and the gold runs out, and I have to find another girl to spin gold for, and it happens all over again, and I end up with another baby. It isn't fair!" (117)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 08, 2019

They Found Him Dead

They Found Him Dead. Georgette Heyer. 1937/2019. Sourcebooks. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Miss Allison thought that Silas Kane’s sixtieth-birthday party was going off rather better than anyone had imagined it would.

Premise/plot: If you're looking for a mystery novel with QUIRKY characters and multiple murders to solve, then They Found Him Dead should be your next read.

This mystery novel is vibrant and busy! Silas Kane died on his sixtieth birthday party--a tragic accident, so everyone believes except for the exuberant Timothy! He sees MYSTERY and CRIME everywhere he looks. But when Silas Kane's heir, Clement, is murdered just a short time later, others join Timothy in thinking that there is a killer in their midst! Jim Kane is the next heir, and Timothy and Miss Allison are worried that he'll be the next victim. And it appears the danger is very real as several attempts are made on his life...

Can Inspector Hannasyde and Inspector Hemingway solve the case in time? Will Timothy be a big help or a hindrance?

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED this one. It may just be my favorite mystery novel by Georgette Heyer. And while it won't be replacing Daughter in Time by Josephine Tey as my all-time favorite-and-best mystery novel, it is certainly making the list of my favorite mystery novels. I think I can say that I love this one more than most Agatha Christie novels--though I'd have to reread them to see if any can top it.

What did I love about They Found Him Dead? The characterization!!! If you want to win my heart--authors pay attention--it's through characterization. I am all about the characters. This one offers characters to love and characters to love to hate. (For the record, I love, love, love Patricia Allison, Jim Kane, and Timothy Harte. I do not love the attention-seeking Rosemary--Clement Kane's cheating wife.)

It's been just enough time since I first read They Found Him Dead (2013) that I could not remember exactly WHO did it--which was an ideal way to reread it. It was an intense read for me. I kept muttering please don't let it be...please don't let it be... This is something I usually never do since I don't get super-attached to characters most of the time.


Rosemary talking to Clement:
It’s almost as though there’s a providence that steps in when one’s almost desperate. Like that thing Mummy took up last year. Right Thought, or something, where you simply fix your mind on what you want, and utterly believe it’ll come to you, and it does, as long as you don’t do anything about it.’ Clement felt doubtful whether the exponents of whatever this odd creed might be would relish Rosemary’s description of it. Nor did he feel that fixing one’s mind upon the death of a relative could really be called Right Thought. He ventured to say so, but quite mildly, and added that, though he quite understood what Rosemary meant, he thought she should be careful of what she said. One would not like to seem callous.
Timothy on the investigation:
Timothy snorted. ‘I don’t call it making proper inquiries just to ask people where they were, and not to try to prove they weren’t there at all. Why, they didn’t even ask Jim, and he was at the party.’
‘Leave the boy alone,’ said Emily. ‘He’s entitled to his opinion as much as you are to yours. So my son was murdered, was he, Timothy?’ ‘Well, I don’t absolutely know he was,’ replied Timothy with a touch of caution, ‘but I do think it looks jolly suspicious. What’s more, I’m pretty sure Mr Roberts thinks so too.’
‘Who was it who said all along it was murder? You know jolly well it was me! I bet some people are feeling pretty silly now, that’s all!’

Allison on Rosemary:
What sympathy she felt was for Clement and for Trevor Dermott, both helpless in the snare of Rosemary’s beauty, but her pity for them was charged with contempt. She thought them fools to be slaves to Rosemary.
Miss Allison fixed her gaze upon the prospect outside, and thought of all the painful ways there might be of killing Mrs Clement Kane.
 Rosemary talking to Allison:
She sighed. ‘I suppose you want to go to bed. I don’t a bit. I feel as though every nerve in my body was stretched taut. Do you ever get like that?’ ‘Often,’ said Miss Allison.
General quotes:
‘Any ideas on the subject?’ he said. ‘That’s a large question, Mr Kane. Guess we can all of us have ideas, but believe you me, there’s more harm done spreading them about than by keeping them to yourself.’
‘There are two kinds of witnesses I’ve got it in for. There’s the one that says too little, and the one that says too much. You don’t get any forrader with the first, and you get too far with the second.’ ‘Then you won’t like this case,’ said Hannasyde. ‘We’ve got both.’ He smiled a little. ‘The old lady says she supposes I don’t need her to help me solve the problem.’
‘To my way of thinking, a nice young fellow like James Kane doesn’t waltz about murdering his relations.’ ‘I agree; but there’s also the question of motive to be taken into account. He had more than anyone else.’ ‘Too much,’ said the Sergeant briskly. ‘He’s what I might call dripping with motive. I’ve a strong idea, myself, that what we want to look for is something a bit more recherché.
‘A proper mess, that’s what this case is. We don’t know where it started, and if Terrible Timothy’s right, we don’t know where it’s going to end. You don’t know where to take hold of it, that’s what I complain of. It’s more like my missus’s skein of knitting wool, after one of the kittens has had it, than a decent murder case. I mean, you get hold of one end and start following it up, and all it leads to is a damned knot worked so tight you can’t do a thing with it. Then you grab hold of the other end, and start on that, and what you find is that it’s a bit the kitten chewed through that just comes away in your hand, with the rest of the wool in as bad a muddle as ever. 
‘Not prejudiced,’ said the Sergeant firmly. ‘I never let myself get prejudiced. All I say is, that he’s a nasty, slimy, double-faced tick who’d murder his own grandmother if he saw a bit of money to be got out of it.’ ‘Very moderate,’ said Hannasyde, smiling.
‘I do wish you’d try to get it out of your head that I suspect Jim Kane any more than I suspect any of the others. I don’t. I suspect him a good deal less than I suspect some, but I try to be impartial. Have a shot at it yourself.’
Timothy and the detective(s):
‘There’s a lot in it,’ replied the Sergeant gravely. ‘But it’s got a weak spot. That’s what you must learn to do if you’re going to be a detective: find the weak spots in your own theories.’
‘Well, I’m not going to be a detective. My mother wants me to be an explorer. Actually, I expect I shall be a barrister, because if you’re an explorer you seem to me to go to the most lousy places, and muck about with camels and things. I like cars. Oh, I say, what is the weak spot in my theory?’

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews