Friday, May 31, 2019

May Reflections

May# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews24
Young Readers27
Operation Actually Read Bible11


# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews6590
Young Readers1294
Operation Actually Read Bible4048


# of Books# of Pages

Totals So Far

Books Read
Pages Read

New to Me Highlights

Reread Highlights:

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Stars Upon Thars #22

5 Stars
Chicks and Salsa. Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Paulette Bogan. 2005. Bloomsbury. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934. 322 pages. [Source: Bought]

4 Stars
Mercy Watson Goes For A Ride. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. 2006. Candlewick Press. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
The Good Land. Loula Grace Erdman. 1959/2007. Bethlehem Books. 185 pages. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Girl in Red

The Girl in Red. Christina Henry. 2019. Penguin Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The fellow across the fire gave Red the once-over, from the wild corkscrews of her hair peeking out from under her red hood to the small hand axe that rested on the ground beside her.

Premise/plot: The Girl in Red is a postapocalyptic retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Our heroine, Red, may wear a red hood and be going to Grandma's house, BUT, she also bears a striking resemblance to the woodcutter/hunter. I would recommend this to those that enjoy sci-fi thrillers.

Life as she knew it has come to an end...and it all starts with a cough. Its a highly contagious, near-always fatal disease. Though some seem to be immune to it. The few that are left have seemed to lost their minds...gone savage or lawless.

When we first meet Red, she is on her own. Readers learn slowly about her family and how she came to be alone. As for Red, she has taken to the woods for her own safety. She hopes to make her way to Grandma's house--since apparently her Grandma lives in a secluded, off-grid place. But it won't be an easy journey. Every day will be a struggle.

My thoughts: I found The Girl in Red to be a mostly compelling read. The first half definitely packs in a LOT of suspense and mystery. Chapters alternate between present and past, before and after.

Red, our heroine, is a complex character: biracial, bisexual, college student, book-loving, movie-loving, an amputee. She's smart. She's skeptical. She's opinionated. When people first start getting sick and dying, she knows--because of her book-reading and movie-watching that sooner or later--the family will need to flee their home on foot. She starts preparing mentally, physically, emotionally for that inevitable time.

Her brother, Adam, thinks his sister is being ridiculous and overly dramatic. Why not trust the quarantine camps set up by the government? If they can't stay in their own house, why can't they drive to Grandma's house? If they have to go on foot and rough it, why can't they travel by road? I think Adam exists just to disagree with Red.

Her parents agree with her--to a point. They agree that they'd end up walking at some point. (The highways would end up congested, they'd run out of gas, the car may break down.) But they are not ready to drop everything and head off into the woods. They want to wait until the last possible minute. They want to go to town and buy supplies. They want to take their time and pack. Red disagrees. Better to go unprepared than to go prepared but EXPOSED TO A DEADLY DISEASE.

The Girl in Red is definitely heavy on the THRILLER. It's a gory read, purposefully so. This isn't an intellectually-driven plot with well-drawn characters and complex relationships. It's all about the fight-for-survival. It's all about the shock factor.

The Girl in Red was working for me for most of the novel. But at some point it began to fall apart for me.




It wasn't enough that there was a highly-contagious thought-to-be-air-borne disease that was wiping out whole towns, cities, states, nations, etc. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that this led to no electricity, no radio, no tv, no cell phones, no internet, no technology. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that survivors turned lawless, starting looting and killing, and forming their own militias. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that some militias were white supremacists, or, that others were out to kidnap women and children but slaughter all the men. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA.

What if, on top of that there was a government-experiment-gone awry? What if people were "birthing" parasitic flesh-eating monsters? Wouldn't it be all kinds of awesome if in the middle of this novel, Red stumbled across classified information that the government was trying to hide?!?! Surely this makes perfect sense. Some people legitimately had the COUGH and died from that disease while others had a cough, died, and then the parasitic monster would EAT ITS WAY OUT OF THE HOST AND ATTACK OTHERS. That isn't pushing it a little too far at all. In fact, the other novel would hardly be worth reading, right?

The other thing that bothered me was THE ENDING. I got to about twenty pages from the end and I knew there was absolutely no way in the world this was going to be wrapped up in any kind of way. Sure enough, near the very last page we find a convenient sentence...."25 days later...."

Are you serious?!?!?! You're just going to stop mid-action, give me a 25 DAYS LATER... and then cut to a scene where she's about to knock on Grandma's door?!?!?! And then not bother to linger long enough with Red to see if anyone at all answers the door?!?! So all that and STILL NO RESOLUTION. EITHER GRANDMA IS ALIVE OR DEAD. It doesn't matter to me which--not really. But is it really better for readers to forever be left guessing. Perhaps it is.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

World at War: The Girl With the White Flag

The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the introduction: On June 25, 1945, on the war-ravaged island of Okinawa, a young American army signal corps photographer took a remarkable photograph. It showed a little barefoot girl in tattered clothes waving a piece of white cloth tied to a crooked stick.

First sentence: I was born in Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, which is now part of the city of Naha.

The Girl with the White Flag is the story of the author's childhood in war-time Japan. It begins by giving the reader ample background into the time and culture and place. We meet our heroine, a young girl who throughout the book spans the ages of five through seven. One of the first events she shares with readers is the death of her mother. She then relates what life was like with her father, two older sisters, and her older brother. This portion is hard to navigate. I think in some ways it is just as hard for modern readers to understand the family life--the harshness, the strictness, the discipline, as it is to understand the monstrosities of war and soldiers and starvation. (Or maybe that's just my take on it.)

About halfway through the narrative, the father disappears. He was on his somewhat routine mission of delivering food to the Japanese soldiers, but on this occasion he never returned home. The four children are left to fend for themselves. The American soldiers have just begun their invasion, their battle to capture this island. The children become refugees and the fight to survive has begun. The children ranged in age from 17 to 6. Somewhere along the way, however, two things happen--big things--that make this event even scarier: 1) Their brother dies one night from a stray bullet. 2) Within a few days of burying their brother, our narrator--the six/seven year old girl becomes lost--separated--from her sister.

The book recounts what it was like to be seven and alone and wandering in and out of danger. There was no safe place. Not really. Japanese soldiers weren't "safe." In fact, in her brief encounters with them she was almost killed. No, being near soldiers wasn't safe. The only "safe" soldier was a dead soldier. She did in fact scavenge around the dead soldiers looking for food.

Her will to survive was strong. Her stamina incredible in my opinion. The sights. The sounds. The smells. All surrounded her. Could have potentially traumatized her and paralyzed her into inaction.

If there is power in the Girl with The White Flag it is in its rawness, its simplicity, its boldness when it comes to being straightforward and honest. The story is incredible is powerful because it's true. Here is an eyewitness account of what it means to be seven and a refugee in a war zone. It can be brutal. It can be intense. But there is more to it than that.

I found The Girl with The White Flag to be an incredibly compelling read, a must-read for adults. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Good Land

The Good Land. Loula Grace Erdman. 1959/2007. Bethlehem Books. 185 pages.

First sentence: Carolyn Pierce, pulling the white linen cloth straight on the long dining-room table, thought that perhaps the worst problem a girl could have was for people to think she didn't have any at all. 

Premise/plot: Carolyn Pierce is the "baby" of her family. She is the youngest of three sisters. Her older sisters are Melinda and Katie. Melinda has happily been married for at least five or six years to a doctor--Dennis Kennedy. They have a little girl, Kathleen. Katie has returned from her schooling back East. If things go Katie's way, she'll soon be MRS. Bryan Cartwright. (But will they?)

Carolyn will not go back East for high school, BUT, she will be going to Amarillo for high school. She'll live with her sister and brother-in-law. The thought both thrills and scares her. There is only one person that she knows that has gone to high school in Amarillo, a certain Jim Foster who is a few years older.

The Good Land is mainly about Carolyn's quest to make and keep friends. It is set in the Texas Panhandle at the turn of the twentieth century. (I'm guessing sometime between 1904 and 1910).

My thoughts: I have enjoyed rereading all three books in this historical series written for children. It is a frustrating love for me, however, because it leaves me ever wanting more, more, more. Each book is set when the heroine is fifteen. Each book covers just a few months of time. We get such short snapshots of this family's life.

I would have loved to see Carolyn settled in Amarillo. I would have loved to go with her to high school. To see what that experience was like. I would have loved to see her relationships with her sister, Melinda, and her niece, Kathleen. Instead, readers spend a few weeks with Carolyn as she prepares to leave her family. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Convenient Marriage

The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934. 322 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies.

Premise/plot: Lord Rule has offered for the eldest Winwood daughter little knowing that Elizabeth's heart belongs to a soldier. Elizabeth Winwood being a dutiful daughter has determined to break off the love match and please her mother. After all the Winwoods desperately needs Rule's money in order to satisfy their brother's debts. Horatia, the youngest, won't have it. Everyone knows she's fierce and a bit reckless. But no one suspects that she--accompanied by a maid--will go to Rule's house, request to see him, and bluntly tell him to marry HER and NOT ELIZABETH. This makes for the BEST SECOND CHAPTER IN A BOOK OF ALL TIME. He agrees despite her stammer and eyebrows or perhaps because of them. There is something fiery and unique about Horry. Readers can tell that this will be everything but a marriage of convenience.

My thoughts: Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage is a historical romance novel that I love and adore. It may just be my all-time favorite Heyer romance. It is without a doubt in my top two. I love everything about it and would change nothing.

I love the setting. It is set in the GEORGIAN period. The American Revolution is going on in the background. Elizabeth's soldier has been to America and back--he was injured in the fighting. The main character, Horatia, is named after her godfather, Horatio (Horace) Walpole. The book immerses you in the times--fashion and etiquette for men and women.

I love the humor and wit. It isn't just that there's great chemistry in the dialogue of Horry and Marcus (Lord Rule). That I would expect from any and every romance novel--especially those of Heyer. No, it seems the dialogue sparkles for ALL the characters. In particular I love, love, love Horry's brother, whom we mostly see as VISCOUNT or PEL.

 I love the characterization. Usually romance novels have two well-developed characters--the hero and the heroine. The whole point of the novel usually building up their relationship and leading to a happily ever after. Horry and Marcus enter the novel fully developed. They had me at hello--nearly. Again, a great second chapter that HOOKS you. But The Convenient Marriage is peopled with characters that I either love, love, love or love to hate. (Caroline Massey, Crosby Drelincourt and Robert Lethbridge).

I love the pacing. This story never once drags. There is not even one unnecessary scene. Everything is building to a GIDDY-MAKING conclusion. The journey is just as enjoyable as that ultimately satisfying conclusion you know is coming.

I love the action. Now, the action isn't the first thing that comes to mind. It does require a bit of imagination. But this one has sword-fighting and duels. It has highway men. I think it would make an absolutely thrilling film. Everything about this romance novel begs for a film adaptation. It is funny. It is romantic. It is dashing.

I also love the action you don't see--this is clean romance.  I wish clean romances were more common.

I mentioned this already but the writing is wonderful. All these quotes come from the second chapter.
‘Are you L-Lord Rule?’ demanded the lady. He was amused. ‘I have always believed so,’ he replied. ‘Why, I th-thought you were quite old!’ she informed him ingenuously. Did you come to see me in order to–er–satisfy yourself as to my appearance?’ She blushed fierily. ‘P-please forgive m-me!’ she begged, stammering dreadfully. ‘It w-was very r-rude of m-me, only you s-see I was surprised just for the m-moment.’‘If you were surprised, ma’am, what can I be but deeply flattered?’ said the Earl. ‘But if you did not come to look me over, do you think you could tell me what it is I am to have the honour of doing for you?’
‘It is because of L-Lizzie–my sister. You have offered for her, haven’t you?’
Slightly taken aback, the Earl bowed. Horatia said in a rush: ‘C-could you–would you m-mind very much–having m-me instead?’
‘Of c-course I know it ought to be Charlotte, for she is the elder, but she said nothing would induce her to m-marry you.’
His lips quivered. ‘In that case,’ he said, ‘it is fortunate that I did not solicit the honour of Miss Charlotte’s hand in marriage.’  
 ‘But may I know whether I appear to all the members of your family in this disagreeable light?’ ‘Oh no!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘M-mama is excessively pleased with you, and I myself d-don’t find you disagreeable in the least. And if only you would be so v-very obliging as to offer for m-me instead of Lizzie I should like you very well.’ ‘But why,’ asked Rule, ‘do you want me to offer for you?’
 Horatia said eagerly: ‘Oh, you will take m-me instead?’ ‘No,’ said Rule, with a faint smile. ‘I won’t do that. But I will engage not to marry your sister. It’s not necessary to offer me an exchange, my poor child.’
‘B-but it is!’ said Horatia vigorously. ‘One of us m-must marry you!’ The Earl looked at her for a moment.
‘I think you must explain it all to me,’ he said. ‘I seem to be more than ordinarily dull this morning.’
Horatia knit her brows. ‘Well, I’ll t-try,’ she said. ‘You see, we’re so shockingly poor. Charlotte says it is all P-Pelham’s fault, and I dare say it may be, but it is no use blaming him, b-because he cannot help it. G-gambling, you know. Do you gamble?’
‘Sometimes,’ answered his lordship. The grey eyes sparkled. ‘So do I,’ declared Horatia unexpectedly. ‘N-not really, of course, but with Pelham. He taught me.
‘It’s v-vulgar to care about Settlements, but you are very rich, are you not?’ ‘Very,’ said his lordship, preserving his calm.  
Horatia seemed determined to make a clean breast of her blemishes.
‘And p-perhaps you could become used to my eyebrows?’ The smile lurked at the back of Rule’s eyes. ‘I think, quite easily.’
She said sadly: ‘They won’t arch, you know. And I ought to t-tell you that we have quite given up hope of my g-growing any taller.’ ‘It would certainly be a pity if you did,’ said his lordship.
‘You m-may have n-noticed that I have a–a stammer.’ ‘Yes, I had noticed,’ the Earl answered gently.
‘If you f-feel you c-can’t bear it, sir, I shall quite understand,’ Horatia said in a small, anxious voice. ‘I like it,’ said the Earl.
‘It is very odd of you,’ marvelled Horatia. ‘But p-perhaps you said that to p-put me at my ease?’ ‘No,’ said the Earl. ‘I said it because it was true. Will you tell me how old you are?’
‘D-does it matter?’ Horatia inquired forebodingly. ‘Yes, I think it does,’ said his lordship. ‘I was afraid it m-might,’ she said. ‘I am t-turned seventeen.’
‘Turned seventeen!’ repeated his lordship. ‘My dear, I couldn’t do it.’ ‘I’m too young?’ ‘Much too young, child.’
Horatia swallowed valiantly. ‘I shall grow older,’ she ventured. ‘I d-don’t want to p-press you, but I am thought to be quite sensible.’
‘But I think that thirty-five makes a poor husband for seventeen.’ ‘P-pray do not give that a thought, sir!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘I assure you, for my p-part I do not regard it at all.
In f-fact, I think I should quite like to marry you.’ ‘Would you?’ he said. ‘You do me great honour, ma’am.’ He came towards her, and she got up.  
Other favorite quotes:
‘Well, to tell you the truth, Lizzie, I would like to m-marry him. But I c-can’t help wondering whether you are quite sure you d-don’t want to?’ 
‘I thought of that myself,’ admitted Horatia. ‘He s-says he thinks he will grow used to my horrid eyebrows quite easily. And I will t-tell you something, Charlotte! He said it would be a p-pity if I became any taller.’ 
‘My lord, let my treasured child answer you with her own lips. Horatia love, Lord Rule has done you the honour to request your hand in marriage.’
‘I t-told you he was going to, M-mama!’ said Horatia incorrigibly. ‘Horatia–I beg of you!’ implored the long-suffering lady. ‘Your curtsy, my love!’ Horatia sank obediently into a curtsy.
Mr Walpole’s face wore an approving smile, though he regretted that his god-daughter should be marrying a Tory. But then Mr Walpole was so very earnest a Whig, and even he seemed to think that Lady Winwood was right to disregard Rule’s political opinions.
The Macaroni, Mr Crosby Drelincourt, mechanically straightened the preposterous bow he wore in place of a cravat.
You do not look at all the thing, my dear fellow. In fact, I should almost feel inclined to recommend another hairpowder than this blue you affect. A charming tint, Crosby: you must not think I don’t admire it, but its reflected pallor upon your countenance.
But how in the world came they to put “Horatia” for “Elizabeth”?’ ‘You see,’ said Rule apologetically, ‘Arnold sent the advertisement to the Gazette.’
‘Well, I never would have believed Mr Gisborne to be so big a fool!’ declared her ladyship. ‘But perhaps I ought to explain, my dear Louisa, that he had my authority,’ said Rule still more apologetically.
‘Lord, Rule, what can you possibly mean?’ she demanded. ‘You’re not going to marry Horatia Winwood!’ ‘But I am,’ said his lordship calmly.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, and how you can mean to marry Horatia, who must be still in the schoolroom, for I’m sure I have never clapped eyes on her–in place of that divinely beautiful Elizabeth–’
‘Ah, but I am going to grow used to the eyebrows,’ interrupted Rule. ‘And she has the Nose.’
‘When did you have this notion of marrying her?’ she asked. ‘Oh, I didn’t,’ replied the Earl. ‘It was not my notion at all.’ ‘Whose, then?’
‘Horatia’s, my dear. I thought I had explained.’ ‘Do you tell me, Marcus, the girl asked you to marry her?’ said Lady Louisa sarcastically.
‘Marcus, is the girl a minx?’ she asked. ‘No,’ he answered. ‘She is not, Louisa. I am not at all sure that she is not a heroine.’
The Earl’s eyes gleamed. ‘Well, I am rather old, you know, though no one would think it to look at me. But she assures me she would quite like to marry me. If my memory serves me, she prophesied that we should deal famously together.’  
 ‘But for all that you are at my feet, Marcus, you have offered for another woman.’
‘Marriage,’ said his lordship pensively, ‘is such a very dull affair, you know.’ ‘Is it, my lord? Even marriage with the noble Earl of Rule?’
‘Even with me,’ agreed Rule. He looked down at her, a curious expression that was not quite a smile in his eyes. ‘You see, my dear, to use your own words, you would have to love me–only me.’
‘That would certainly be very dull,’ she said. She glanced sideways at him. ‘Are you perhaps jealous, my lord?’ ‘Not in the least,’ said the Earl placidly.
 ‘Not that I’m in the habit of borrowing from my friends, y’know, but I count you one of the family, Rule.’ ‘And admit me to its privileges,’ said the Earl gravely. ‘Admit me still further and let me have a list of your debts.’
The Viscount was momentarily startled. ‘Hey? What, all of ’em?’ He shook his head. ‘Devilish handsome of you, Rule, but can’t be done.’ ‘You alarm me,’ said Rule. ‘Are they beyond my resources?’ ‘The trouble is,’ said the Viscount confidentially, ‘I don’t know what they are.’
‘My resources, or your debts?’  
‘I wanted her to lead you a dance,’ she [Louisa] said candidly. ‘I thought it would be very good for you. But I never dreamed she would make herself the talk of the town while you stood by and watched.’
‘You see, I hardly ever dance,’ Rule excused himself.
‘C-Crosby, your wig is l-like the last verse of the song. You know, it runs like this: Five pounds of hair they wear behind, the ladies to delight, O!–only it doesn’t delight us at all.’
‘Oh, and you c-carry a fan! Lady Amelia, only see! Mr Drelincourt has a fan m-much prettier than mine!’
‘Do you find me a sore trial, Arnold? I am sure you must. It is time I made amends.’ ‘Does that mean you will look over the accounts, sir?’ asked Mr Gisborne hopefully.
‘No, my dear boy, it does not. But you may–ah–use your own discretion in the matter of Mr Drelincourt’s embarrassments.’
Mr Gisborne gave a short laugh. ‘If I were to use my own discretion, sir, Mr Drelincourt’s ceaseless demands on your generosity would find their way into the fire!’ he said roundly. ‘Precisely,’ nodded the Earl, and went on up the stairs.  
Attracted by Lethbridge she might be, but there was a very cogent reason why she should not be in the least in love with him. The reason stood well over six foot in height, and was going to be shown, in vulgar parlance, that what was sauce for the goose could be sauce for the gander as well.
Glamour might still have clung to a rakehell who abducted noble damsels, but no glamour remained about a man who had been pushed into a pond in full ball-dress. 
‘If a man gives a party, he ought to know what kind of party it is,’ argued the Viscount. ‘If you don’t know, how are we to know? It might be a damned soirée, in which case we wouldn’t have come. Let’s go home, Pom.’
‘Rid yourself of the notion that any of you are here by my invitation,’ said Lethbridge unpleasantly, and moved across to the table.
‘If your object was to drag my name in the mud, why, certainly!’ said Rule. ‘My wife remains my wife. Presently you shall tell me by what means you forced her to enter your house.’
Lethbridge raised his brows. ‘And what makes you so sure that I had any need to employ force, my lord?’
‘Merely my knowledge of her,’ replied the Earl. ‘You have a vast deal of explaining to do, you see.’  
  ‘Oh, make no mistake! I am all the villain you think me. She saved herself.’
 ‘When I married you there was another woman in my life. She is not there now, my darling, and in my heart she never had a place.’
‘Oh, M-Marcus, put m-me there!’ Horatia said on a sob. ‘You are there,’ he answered, and caught her up in his arms and kissed her, not gently at all, but ruthlessly, crushing all the breath out of her body. ‘Oh!’ gasped Horatia. ‘Oh, I n-never knew you could k-kiss like that!’
‘But I can, you see,’ said his lordship. ‘And–I am sorry if you do not like it, Horry–I am going to do it again.’
‘But I d-do like it!’ said Horatia. ‘I l-like it very m-much!’  
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #21

5 Stars
  • The Gown. Jennifer Robson. 2018. 371 pages. [Source: Library]
  • Ten Cents A Dance. Christine Fletcher. 2008. Bloomsbury. 356 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  • The Wide Horizon. Loula Grace Erdman. 1956/2007. Bethlehem Books. 279 pages. [Source: Library]
  • Harold & Hog Pretend for Real. Dan Santat. 2019. Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  • Chicken in Charge. Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Shahar Kober. 2019. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

May Share-a-Tea Check-In Post

Albert Anker, Grandmother
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?

Currently reading....

Bibles mostly

Books I've finished recently:

60. My Creative Bible KJV (Pink Hardcover) Illustrated by Brad Miedema and Allison Sowers. 1611/2016. Christian Art Publishers. 1410 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by KJV]
61.  Howl's Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones. 1986/2001. 329 pages. [Source: Bought]
62. On Earth As It Is In Heaven: How the Lord's Prayer Teaches Us To Pray Effectively. Warren Wiersbe. 2010. 156 pages. [Source: Bought]
63. Mimi's Adventures in Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies. Alyssa Gangeri. Illustrated by Chiara Civati. 2015. 38 pages. [Source: Library]
64. Mimi's Adventures in Baking Gingerbread Men. Alyssa Gangeri. Illustrated by Chiara Civati. 2015. 38 pages. [Source: Library]
65. Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008. Modern Library. 1330 pages. [Source: Bought]
66.  The Refuge. Ann H. Gabhart. 2019. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Book I'm looking forward to starting....

So many. I really need to find a way to balance reading the Bible during tea time and reading other books. Recently, I've been reading heavy bibles that require sitting up and reading other books in bed. It all gets read--it is just a matter of where.


I actually took the time to TYPE UP almost all the sentences I underlined in Les Miserables.

  • Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin
  • Constant Comment Black
  • Earl Grey Jasmine
  • Constant Comment Green
  • PG Tips
  • Candy Cane Lane
  • Meyer Lemon
  • Citrus Green Tea

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Gown

The Gown. Jennifer Robson. 2018. 371 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  It was dark when Ann left work at a quarter to six, and darker still when she reached home.

Premise/plot: The Gown is a historical novel (mainly) told in three voices. Ann and Miriam are our narrators from the past--1947. Both young women are embroiderers for Norman Hartnell, one of the dress designers used by the royal family. The third narrator, Heather, is the granddaughter of Ann. Her story takes place in 2016. Her grandmother, Nan, has just died and she's left Heather a few mementos. Heather is just beginning to discover that her grandmother kept a LOT of secrets from the family.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I both loved and hated the alternating narrators. Whatever chapter I was reading, I wanted to continue on with that story, that narrator. I didn't want to have to wait around for it to be her turn again. The good news was that I liked/loved all three narrators. (Though to be honest, I'd have been just fine with The Gown focusing exclusively on Ann and Miriam.)

Miriam and Ann work on Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown and/or train. But this isn't the dream come true that you might imagine it to be. It is tiring, exhausting work, true--it's tedious work no matter whose gown it is. But because of whose gown it is--there is a lot of demand for details coming from the press. Everyone WANTS to know what the gown will look like. And that is another kind of exhausting.

It is set in England and Canada.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Footsteps in the Dark

Footsteps in the Dark. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2019. Sourcebooks. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: "And I suppose this is the approach-course," said Charles Malcolm. "Full of natural hazards." His wife, Celia, replied with dignity: "That is the tennis-court.' Charles made a derisive noise. "All it needs," she said, eyeing him, "is a little leveling." "All it needs," said Charles rudely, "is a hay-cutter and a steam-roller. And this is the place you wouldn't sell!"

Premise/plot: Is the house haunted or not--that is the question driving Georgette Heyer's Footsteps in the Dark. Local legend has it that the place is haunted by THE MONK. But is it? Or is there a human element to the mischievous happenings?

This mystery stars four main characters. Charles and Celia Malcolm are the married couple. Celia has a brother, Peter, and a sister, Margaret Fortescue. (There's also an aunt.) They work together to try to solve the mystery. Secret passages, tunnels, doors. Weird/spooky howls. And always, always mysterious footsteps in the dark. The men definitely think there's someone in the community with ulterior motives--someone who wants them to sell the property. But who?

My thoughts: Footsteps in the Dark is not Georgette Heyer's finest mystery novel. It's a bit scattered. It can be hilarious--in a dry, witty way--at times. But for the most part, it isn't quite a page-turner. At least not until the very, very end. The last third of the novel ZOOMS. I ultimately found it worth it--but for those with little patience, I'd recommend her other mystery novels.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

World at War: Ten Cents A Dance

Ten Cents A Dance. Christine Fletcher. 2008. Bloomsbury. 356 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: We heard the music even before we got to Union Hall.

Premise/plot: The year is 1941, the place Chicago. Ruby Jacinski hates her job--bottling pig feet. Though just sixteen she is the family's sole source of income. (Her mother can no longer work at the packinghouse, and she's in no condition physically to find a job elsewhere.) What does Ruby love? She loves to DANCE. So when someone--a cute, dashing older boy--mentions that she could get a job as a taxi dancer and potentially make $50 a week...well, she's intrigued.

What does a taxi dancer do? She dances or socializes with the customers. A ticket costs ten cents. It's a ticket a dance/song. Five cents is for the dance hall (Starlight in this case). Five cents is hers to keep. Any tip is hers to keep. The customer is nearly, always right. She's to make herself agreeable--to a certain degree. If she goes too far at the dance hall, she's in danger of losing her job. A customer can clock a girl out early with enough money and take her someplace else--another club, a restaurant, etc. Ruby learns that this is even better than dancing.

She has to look her best to appeal to customers. This costs money, of course, for dresses, stockings, shoes, jewelry, accessories, makeup, perfume. But even with these added costs, she is now able to pay the back rent on their place, pay off their debts with the shops, and keep food--even meat--on the table. But she learns there is a secret cost to pay, one that she never considered: the secrets and lies.

Ruby cannot tell her mother the truth about where she works and how she gets the money. She invents a job--telephone operator--a salary--$18 a week--and coworkers. At first the lies come relatively easy to her, but there comes a point in time where it is much too much to juggle.

And then there's that cute, dashing older boy, the one who told her about the job to begin with. His name is Paulie. And he's got a well-earned bad reputation. Some might even call him a mad dog. He's got plans of his own for Ruby, and though adult readers may see where this 'relationship' is going...Ruby's just naive enough to think differently.

How will the war change her future?

My thoughts: This is my third time to read Ten Cents a Dance. I first read it in 2008, and then again in 2014. I really do think this would make an excellent movie. I think the characterization is excellent. It's a compelling read.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Voices from the Underground Railroad

Voices from the Underground Railroad. Kay Winters. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2018. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tonight's the night.

Premise/plot: Jeb and Mattie are two slaves that have decided to run away. Their stories are told in verse. The perspectives alternate between the two. Occasionally readers hear other voices as well from men and women working on the underground railroad.

My thoughts: I would definitely recommend this picture book for older readers. It is a compelling story told completely in verse. The back matter includes an author's note and extensive bibliography. The illustrations are lovely.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Wide Horizon

The Wide Horizon. Loula Grace Erdman. 1956/2007. Bethlehem Books. 279 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Katie Pierce was sure she must be the luckiest girl in the whole Panhandle of Texas. Luckier even than her older sister Melinda who, after five years of waiting, was going to marry Dennis Kennedy in June and go with him to live in Amarillo. Dennis was a real doctor now, driving around the town and the surrounding country, looking after sick folks.

Premise/plot: The Wide Horizon is the middle book in a series. The first book is The Wind Blows Free and the last book is The Good Land. Each Pierce sister has their own novel. Melinda's story was The Wind Blows Free. Caroline's story will be The Good Land. Katie's story is The Wide Horizon.

Katie is the middle sister. Her older sister, Melinda, is literally about to get married when the novel opens. She'll be moving to Amarillo with her husband. This will make Katie the oldest sister still at home. (The twins Bert and Dick are still older. They're seventeen, I believe.) She'll be the one called Miss Pierce. She's soon to go away to school back in East Texas. But life has a way of reshuffling plans. When their grandmother falls and breaks a bone, it is their mother--not Katie--that heads East. Katie will be the woman of the house. The cooking, cleaning, sewing, tending will fall to her. She has watched her mother and Melinda for years--but those chores haven't really been hers. Is she ready to be a woman?

My thoughts:  I love, love, love, love, love, love this one. It is a favorite from my childhood. I did not grow up reading The Wind Blows Free or The Good Land. But The Wide Horizon was a book I owned and reread countless times. I loved spending time with Katie both at home and at school. (At home, she's learning to cook and bake. At school, she's given the responsibility of teaching art.) I also love how Melinda's friend, Annie Foster, is sticking around in this second book. Her love story happens in this one!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Georgian Check-In #3

  •    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...

These are the books I've reviewed since last time:

13. Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 276 pages. [Source: Bought]
14. Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 409 pages. [Source: Bought]
15. Hebrew Melodies. George Gordon, Lord Byron. 1815/1824. 70 pages. [Source: Bought]
16. Daisies and Devotion (Mayfield Family #2) Josi S. Kilpack. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Currently reading:

Cecilia by Fanny Burney

Quotes from Kidnapped:

"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)
I enjoyed all the books I've read so far.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Stars Upon Thars #20

5 Stars
Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008. Modern Library. 1330 pages. [Source: Bought]
Daisies and Devotion (Mayfield Family #2) Josi S. Kilpack. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

4 Stars
Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. Gabrielle Moss. 2018. Quirk Books. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
 Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009. FSG. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
Louise Loves Bake Sales (Louise Readers #1) Laura Driscoll. Illustrated by Kelly Light. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
A Good Team (Unicorn and Yeti #2) Heather Ayris Burnell. Illustrated by Hazel Quintanilla. 2019. Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 17, 2019

Did You Hear What I Heard?

Did You Hear What I Heard? Kay Winters. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Breakfast is a flurry. Eggs in a hurry. People pop up like the toast.

Premise/plot: Kay Winters has written a collection of school-themed poems. This collection covers the whole school year--beginning to end. You'll find poems appropriate to share with students any time of year.

My thoughts: I liked this one. Poetry collections are interesting to review. Usually you find poems that you love and poems that are more meh. I definitely would say I found poems I enjoyed in this picture book. I didn't love each and every poem. But that's not really to be expected.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Les Miserables

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008. Modern Library. 1330 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In 1815, Monsieur Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne. He was an elderly man of about seventy-five and he had occupied the seat of Digne since 1806.

Note: This will be my fourth review of Les Miserables for the blog. (It was my fifth time to read the novel.) My 2013 review. My 2014 review. My 2017 review.

I will probably end up cutting and pasting summary bits from other reviews because the plot hasn't changed.

From my 2017 review,
Premise/plot: An ex-convict does his best to live life according to his conscience. Will it ever be enough?

From my 2013 review,

Premise/plot: Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who seeks shelter from Bishop Myriel one night. Though he's been treated only with kindness, Valjean in his bitterness (he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread), he steals the bishop's silver. When the theft is discovered, the bishop is all compassion telling the officials that there has been a misunderstanding. Valjean did not steal the silver; it was given as a gift. In fact, he's happy to give Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. Valjean is shocked and overwhelmed. The meeting turns out to be quite life-changing.

When readers next meet Valjean, he has a new name and life. Monsieur Madeleine is a successful business man. He has a BIG heart. He's always giving. He's always thinking of others. He's always doing what he can, when he can to make a difference when and where it matters most. One woman he is determined to help is a young, single mother, Fantine. Circumstances have separated Fantine from her child, Cosette, but, Valjean is determined to correct as many wrongs as he can in this situation. He will see to it personally.

Unfortunately, his past catches up with him. He learns that a man has been arrested; "Jean Valjean" has been caught. Of course, Madeleine knows this is nonsense. Can he let another take his place in prison? If he tells the truth then he can no longer help the poor, but if he doesn't tell the truth, how could he live with himself? He does the honorable thing--though it is one of the greatest challenges he's faced so far.

But that means, for the moment, that Cosette is left in unpleasant circumstances...

There comes a time, an opportunity for Valjean to escape. What he does with his freedom--this time he's assumed drowned, I believe--is go and find Cosette. The two become everything to one another. Cosette is the family he's never had, never even knew he needed or wanted... the two end up in Paris.

Almost half of the novel follows the love story between Marius and Cosette. But it isn't only a love story. Marius is a poor man in conflict with his rich grandfather. The two disagree about many things. But their main source of disagreement is politics. At first, Marius is swept up in his father's politics, with a new awareness of who his father was as a soldier, as a man, as a possible hero. But later, Marius begins to think for himself, to contemplate political and philosophical things for himself. He becomes friendly with a political group at this time. But his love of politics dims when he falls in love with Cosette...and she becomes his whole reason for being. For the longest time these two don't even know each other's names! This romance isn't without challenges...

My thoughts: I love, love, love this novel. I do. I love to love it. I love to reread it every other year or so. I've come to know the characters well. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that these characters are memorable and worth knowing and mostly loving. Bad in that it's hard for me to watch film adaptations of Les Miserables without cringing. When writers rewrite Hugo's characters, I have little tolerance. I have some tolerance for condensing or leaving bits out altogether. After all, I don't expect a movie to go scene by scene through the novel. Much is introspective after all. One can film a man "thinking" perhaps but not capture on film his thoughts.

  • True or false, what is said about people often has as much bearing on their lives and especially on their destinies as what they do. (3)
  • Monsieur Myriel had to endure the fate of every newcomer in a small town, where there are always plenty of mouths blathering and not many brains working. He had to endure it even though he was the bishop, and because he was the bishop. (4)
  • We are not saying that the portrait of the man we offer here is accurate, we will restrict ourselves to the claim that it is a passing likeness. (9)
  • The guillotine is the ultimate embodiment of the Law; its name is Retribution. It is not neutral and doesn't allow you to remain neutral either. Whoever sees it quakes in their boots with the most mysterious of terrors. (15)
  • "My dear mayor," said the bishop, "isn't that the point? I'm not in this world to take care of my life. I'm here to take care of souls." (24)
  • Never be afraid of thieves and murderers. They represent the dangers without, which are not worth worrying about. Be afraid of ourselves. Prejudices are the real thieves, vices are the murderers. The greatest dangers are within us. Who cares who threatens our heads or our purses! Let's think only of what threatens our souls. (25)
  • Should the sheep's mange cause the shepherd to recoil? No. (32)
  • Giving up the ghost is a simple business. You don't need the morning for that. So be it. I'll die by starlight. (33)
  • Human thought knows no bounds. At its own peril, it analyzes and explores its own dazzlement. (49)
  • This humble soul was filled with love, that's all. More than likely he inflated his praying into a superhuman longing; but you can't pray too much any more than you can love too much. (49)
  • He gravitated toward those in pain and those who wished for atonement. The world seemed to him like one massive disease; he could feel fever everywhere; everywhere he heard the rattle and wheeze of suffering in people's chests with his special stethoscope and, without seeking to solve the enigma, he tried to stanch the wound. (49)
  • Pain everywhere was an occasion for goodness always. Love one another. He declared this to be complete, desired nothing more; it was the sum total of his doctrine. (49)
  • "You knocked," she asked, "on every door?" "Yes." "Did you knock on that one?" "No." "Knock there." (60)
  • "You didn't have to tell me who you were. This is not my house, it's the house of Jesus Christ. That door does not ask who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has any pain. You are suffering, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And don't thank me, don't tell me I'm taking you into my home. No one is at home here except the man who is in need of a refuge. I'm telling you, who are passing through, you are more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is at your disposal. What do I need to know your name for? Besides, before you told me your name, you had one I knew." The man opened his eyes in amazement. "True? You knew what I was called?" "Yes," replied the bishop. "You are called my brother." (66)
  • "Yes," the bishop said, "you have come from a place of sadness. Listen. There will be more joy in heaven over the tearful face of a repentant sinner than over the white robes of a hundred righteous men. If you come out of such a painful place full of hate and rage against men, you are worthy of pity; if you come out full of goodwill, gentleness, and peace, you are worth more than any of us." (67)
  • Isn't there, my good madame, something truly evangelical in the sort of delicacy that abstains from sermons, moral lessons, allusions, and isn't the highest form of pity, when a man has a sore spot, not to touch it at all? It seemed to me that this might well have been what my brother was thinking in his heart of hearts. In any case, what I can say is that, if he did have all these ideas, he didn't let on for a moment, not even to me. From start to finish, he was the same as he always is, every night, and he dined with this Jean Valjean the same way and acted just the same as if he were dining with Monsieur Gedeon Le Prevost or with the parish priest. (69)
  • Can man, created good by God, be made wicked by man? Can the soul be entirely remade by destiny and become bad if that destiny is bad?... Isn't there in every human soul, wasn't there in the soul of Jean Valjean, in particular, an initial spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, immortal in the next, that good can bring out, prime, ignite, set on fire and cause to blaze splendidly, and that evil can never entirely extinguish? (77)
  • Release is not the same as liberation. You get out of jail, all right, but you never stop being condemned. (83)
  • No one could have said what was happening inside him, not even himself. To try to grasp it, we need to imagine the most violent of men in the presence of the most gentle. (87)
  • "My dear friend," said the bishop, "before you go, here are your candlesticks. Take them." He went to the mantelpiece, swept up the two silver candlesticks, and handed them over to Jean Valjean. The two women watched the bishop without a word, without a movement, without a glance that might upset him. (90)
  • "Don't forget, don't ever forget, that you promised me to use this silver to make an honest man of yourself...Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you; I am taking it away from black thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I am giving it to God." (90)
  • He felt indistinctly that the old priest's forgiveness was the greatest assault and the most deadly attack he had ever been rocked by; that if he could resist such clemency his heart would be hardened once and for all; that if he gave in to it, he would have to give up the hate that the actions of other men had filled his heart with for so many years and which he relished; that this time, he had to conquer or be conquered and that the struggle, a colossal and decisive struggle, was now on between his own rottenness and the goodness of that man. (94-5)
  • He looked at his life and it looked horrible to him; at his soul and it looked revolting. And yet, a new day was dawning and its soft light was settling over his life and over his soul. He felt like he was seeing Satan in the light of paradise. How many hours did he spend crying his heart out? What did he do when he stopped crying? Where did he go? (97)
  • There are no little facts in the human realm, any more than there are little leaves in the realm of vegetation. The face of the century is made up of the lines of the years. (102)
  • Poverty and coquetry are two deadly counselors; one upbraids, the other flatters, and the beautiful daughters of the working class have both of them whispering in their ears, each with its own agenda. (103)
  • She worked in order to live, then, also in order to live, she loved, for the heart has its own hunger. She loved Tholomyes. (104)
  • The two most important civil servants are the nurse and the schoolteacher. (136)
  • He always ate alone, with a book open in front of him, reading. He had a small but well-stocked library. He loved books; books are remote but reliable friends. (138)
  • "My friends remember this: There is no such thing as a weed and no such thing as a bad man. There are only bad cultivators." (139)
  • The ultimate happiness in life is the conviction that one is loved; loved for oneself--better still, loved in spite of oneself. (141)
  • Javert was like an eye forever fixed on Monsieur Madeleine. An eye full of suspicion and conjecture. (145)
  • The following morning, the old man found a thousand franc note on the night table by his bed, with these words written in father Madeleine's hand: "I'm buying your horse and cart." The cart was smashed and the horse was dead. (148)
  • What is this story of Fantine all about? It is about society buying itself a slave. Who from? From destitution. From hunger, from cold, from loneliness, from abandonment, from dire poverty. A painful bargain. A soul for a bit of bread. Destitution makes an offer society gives the nod. The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it has not yet managed to permeate it. They say slavery has vanished from European civilization. That is wrong. It still exists, but it now preys only on women, and it goes by the name of prostitution. (158)
  • It is a mistake to imagine that you can exhaust fate or that you ever hit rock bottom--in anything. (158)
  • There is a spectacle greater than the sea, and that is the sky; there is a spectacle greater than the sky, and that is the human soul. (184)
  • You can't stop your mind returning to an idea any more than you can stop the sea returning to shore. For the sailor, it is known as the tide; for the person with a guilty conscience, it is known as remorse. God lifts the soul as well as the ocean. (189)
  • The realities of the soul are no less real for not being visible and tangible. (189)
  • The first sacred duty is to think of one's neighbor. Let's see, let's have a closer look. Myself excepted, myself eliminated, myself left out of the picture...(193)
  • Diamonds are found only in the bowels of the earth; truths are found only in the depths of reflection. it seemed to him that having descended into those depths, after groping in the blackness of the shadows for so long, he had finally found one of those diamonds, one of those truths, and that he held it in his hand; and it blinded him to look at it. (194)
  • Javert was the genuine article. He never allowed a wrinkle to ruffle his duty or his uniform; methodical with crooks, rigid with the buttons of his coat. (242)
  • Death is entry into the light everlasting. (246)
  • Hope in a child who has never known anything but despair is a sweet and sublime thing. (345)
  • Children accept joy and happiness instantly and intimately, being themselves, by nature, all happiness and joy. (362)
  • When these two souls saw each other, they knew that each was what the other needed and they hugged each other tight. (364)
  • She called him father, knew him by no other name. (365)
  • To make atonement is a process in which the whole soul is absorbed. (402)
  • This book is a tragedy in which infinity plays the lead. Man plays a supporting role. (422)
  • The Unknown is an ocean. What is conscience? It is the compass of the Unknown. Thought, meditation, prayer. These are great radiant mysteries. Let's respect them. Where do these majestic rays of the soul go? Into the shadows; that is, into the light. (428)
  • Man lives on affirmation even more than on bread. (429)
  • We are living in times of terrible confusion. People don't know what they should know and know things they should not. People are crass and ungodly. (446)
  • The strides of the lame are like the winks of the one-eyed; they don't go straight to the point. (449)
  • Everyone knows how cats like to stop and dawdle wherever a door is half open. Who has not said to a cat: "Well, come in, then!" There are men who, when faced with an opportunity cracking open in front of them, also have a tendency to waver between two different solutions, at the risk of being crushed by fate's suddenly closing the door again. (453)
  • Paris has a boy and the forest has a bird; the bird is called a sparrow and the boy is called a ragamuffin imp, a street urchin: le gamin. (477)
  • He does sometimes have a place to stay, and he loves it, for that is where he finds his mother, but he prefers the street, for that is where he finds his freedom. (478)
  • The peculiar thing about prudery is that, the less the fortress is under threat, the more it puts sentries around. (501)
  • Peace is happiness digesting. (552)
  • Silence always acts a bit like assent--or backing someone into a corner. (556)
  • Life, adversity, loneliness, abandonment, poverty are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious ones. (560)
  • Misery is like anything else. It reaches the point where it is bearable. It ends up taking shape and assuming a form. (562)
  • A clock doesn't suddenly stand still the exact moment you lose the key that winds it. (570)
  • To read out loud is to assure yourself of what you are reading. There are those who read very loudly as though they are giving themselves their word of honor  about what they are reading. (570)
  • All passions, other than those of the heart, are dissipated by daydreaming. (571)
  • Our fantasies are what most closely resemble us. Each of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible according to his nature. (572)
  • Humanity is identity. All men are made of the same clay...But when ignorance is mixed with human dough, it blackens it. (595)
  • Anyone who has seen the misery of men only, has seen nothing, you have to see the misery of women; anyone who has seen the misery of women only, has seen nothing, you have to see the misery of a child. (611)
  • Is there a straw we won't clutch at when we feel ourselves drowning? (627)
  •  God delivers his will as visible in events, an obscure text written in a mysterious tongue. People toss off instant translations of it, hasty translations that are incorrect, full of faults, omissions, and misreadings. Very few minds understand the divine tongue. The wisest, the calmest, the deepest, set about slowly deciphering it, and when they finally turn up with their text, the job has been done; there are already twenty translations in the marketplace. From each translation a party is born, and from each misreading a faction; and each party believes it has the only true text, and each faction believes it holds the light. (688)
  • The glance has been so abused in love stories that we have ended up discounting it. Hardly anyone ever dares now say that two beings fell in love because their eyes met. And yet that is the way you fall in love and it is the only way you fall in love. The rest is simply the rest and comes after. Nothing is more real than those great seismic shocks that two souls give each other in exchanging that spark. (736)
  • Laziness, pleasure--what bottomless pits! To do nothing is a woeful choice to make, don't you know? (757)
  • Loving is the only thing that can occupy and fill eternity. The infinite requires the inexhaustible. (767)
  • Nothing is enough for love. We have happiness, we want paradise; we have paradise, we want heaven. (768)
  • What a great thing to be loved! What an even greater thing, to love! (769)
  • If there wasn't someone who loved, the sun would go out. (769)
  • The true division of humanity is this: those filled with light and those filled with darkness. To reduce the number of those filled with darkness, to increase the number of those filled with light, that is the goal. That is why we cry: education! knowledge! science! To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles. (810)
  • When you learn finally to know and when you learn finally to love, you will suffer still. The day begins in tears. Those filled with light weep, if only over those filled with darkness. (810)
  • Ideas can't flow backward any more than rivers can. But let those who don't want anything to do with the future think carefully. By saying no to progress, it is not the future they condemn, it is themselves. They give themselves a fatal disease when they inoculate themselves with the past. There is only one way to reject Tomorrow and that is to die. (822)
  • Love has no middle ground, either it destroys or it saves. (825)
  • Of all the things that God has made, the human heart is the one that shines brightest--and blackest, alas! (826)
  • They lived in that ravishing state that we might describe as the bedazzlement of one soul by another soul. (826)
  • Loving almost takes the place of thinking. Love is an ardent forgetting of the rest. (830)
  • What make a riot? Nothing and everything. (861)
  • "What's wrong with your hand?" he said. "It's been ripped open." "Ripped open!" "Yes." "What by?" "A bullet." "How?" "Didn't you see a gun that was aimed at you?" "Yes, and a hand that blocked it." "That was my hand." (937)
  • "And then you see, Monsieur Marius, I think I was a little bit in love with you." She tried to smile again and died. (939)
  • "Who is that man?" asked Bossuet. "A man," replied Combeferre, "who saves others." Marius added in a grave voice: "I know him." (976)
  • The right to the alphabet--that's where we have to start. Primary school imposed on everyone, secondary school offered to everyone--that's the rule. From the school that is identical springs the equal society. Yes, education! Light! Light! Everything comes from light and everything comes down to it. (978)
  • It was in the Paris sewer that Jean Valjean found himself. (1045)
  • To love or to have loved is enough. Don't ask for anything more. There is no other pearl to be found in the shadowy folds of life. To love is an achievement. (1129)
  • "I told the truth," answered Jean Valjean. "No," Marius retorted, "the truth is the whole truth and that you did not tell. You were Monsieur Madeleine. Why didn't you say so? You saved Javert, why didn't you say so? I owe my life to you, why didn't you say so?" (1188)
  • You are part of us. You are her father and mine. You're not spending another day in this hellhole of a place. Don't imagine that you'll still be here tomorrow." (1188)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

World at War: Crossing Stones

Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009. FSG. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You'd better straighten out your mind, Young Lady.

Premise/plot: Crossing Stones is a historical verse novel set during World War I in a small community. Two families are super-super close: the Jorgensens and the Normans. Everyone expects Muriel Jorgensen to one day marry Frank Norman. Ollie Jorgensen is definitely hoping to one day marry Emma Norman. But plans and expectations have little place in a world turned upside down by war.

Frank isn't at home. He's a soldier getting ready to be shipped overseas when the novel opens. Ollie is a few years younger but his mind is filled with the war too. He wants to be a part of it with Frank. Where Frank goes he wants to follow. That's the familiar way of things.

Muriel wants nothing to do with the war and not because she's like Scarlett O'Hara. Muriel is an opinionated young woman not at all convinced of the merits of this war--or any war. She has little interest in becoming a wife and mother. She may follow in the footsteps of her suffragette aunt.

As for Emma...she's got a brother and an almost sweetheart in the war.

My thoughts: I first read Crossing Stones in October 2009. At the time I loved it. Did I love it just as much the second time around? Not really. Oh, I still liked it. I enjoyed spending time with the characters. My favorite characters are by far Emma and Ollie. I need them to get a happily ever after. Or at least a semi-realistic version of that. After all, if these two do marry they'd likely have children just the right age for being drafted into the second world war. And then there's the Depression to consider. There lives wouldn't be challenge-free by any extent. But. I think Ollie and Emma could handle what life gives them and find a way together.

 But I didn't like Muriel nearly so much this time around. I found her opinionated voice to be pessimistic and at times unfeeling. Muriel is well on her way to an unconventional life. Perhaps she'll become a 'wild' girl in the big city.

War disrupts lives, changing everything. This is very much an anti-war novel. I don't have a problem with the message in general. It just left me sadder this time around.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Daisies and Devotion

Daisies and Devotion (Mayfield Family #2) Josi S. Kilpack. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: After two minutes of sitting, Timothy was on his feet, walking the perimeter of the drawing room and looking over each of the excellent paintings on the wall. He'd never been one to sit still very long.

Premise/plot: Timothy Mayfield fears that circumstances will force him to marry an heiress or not at all. He admits his such to Miss Maryann Morrington when she asks if he's courting her because of her money. His honesty is refreshing--except for when it isn't.

Miss Morrington fears that every single suitor is after her money. Before it became known that she was an heiress, she had few--if any. She's a little too old to be having her first season in London. If she doesn't receive a proposal this year--will she ever?

When Timothy's circumstances change--thanks to his uncle's promise--will he keep Maryann in mind now that he's looking for someone tall, blonde, thin, graceful, musical, fluent in two or three languages, etc.? (His exact list is too long to quote!)

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED this one. I think I loved this one even more than the first book in the series, Promises and Primroses. (I honestly didn't think that was possible since I absolutely loved it.) If you like your romances to be giddy-making, I'd definitely recommend this one. I love the characters, the dialogue, the relationships, the pacing, the setting. (I love Regency romances). There isn't anything I didn't love about this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 13, 2019

Paperback Crush

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. Gabrielle Moss. 2018. Quirk Books. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the introduction: Are you an adult with a full-time job who still dreams of switching places with your (nonexistent) identical twin?
First sentence from chapter one: Where there are teens, there are love stories.

Premise/plot: Paperback Crush is a book about books, or, if you prefer a book about reading books. Specifically it is about (paperback) book series published in the 80s and 90s that were geared towards tweens and teens. Moss examines trends and quirks and presents her findings with a little perspective that only time can provide. She addresses books categorically. Chapter one focuses on LOVE. Chapter two focuses on FRIENDS. Chapter three focuses on FAMILY. Chapter four focuses on SCHOOL. Chapter five focuses on JOBS. Chapter six focuses on DANGER. Chapter seven focuses on TERROR.

Each chapter begins with the roots of the genre or sub-genre. Is this a topic or subject that has a long past? (For example, books focusing on family and friends and school). Is this a new topic or subject that has not been openly talked about before? (divorce, abortion, drugs, alcohol, rape, stalking, etc.) How diverse are the books being published? What was the appeal then? Does it still hold appeal now?  How long did the series last? Were there copycat series? Did the series have one author or many contributing authors? Each chapter includes many examples--dozens--of books. You can expect to find book covers, synopses, the occasional excerpt, and critique. The critique often addresses issues of realism and sensitivity. Moss never expects series to be realistic exactly. But some are more over-the-top than others! Another fun aspect of critique is when Moss talks book covers!

You might be thinking what are the differences between DANGER and TERROR. In the 'danger' chapter, the focus is on problem/issue novels. Sexual abuse and assault, kidnapping, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual orientation and/or coming out, teen pregnancy, abortion, terminal illness, death. In the 'terror' chapter, think werewolves, vampires, ghosts, suspense, thrillers, murder mysteries, etc. Stalking, I believe, may be mentioned in both chapters.

There are a handful of interviews sprinkled throughout the book.

 My thoughts: You could read this book in one of two ways. I could definitely see someone reading it cover to cover. (That's what I did.) But I could also see someone skipping around and reading the chapters out of order. It doesn't lose anything, in my opinion, if you approach it in this way.

The book title suggests the focus is TEENS, but I didn't find that to be totally accurate. A good many of the books were geared towards a younger audience (upper elementary). Still over half the books are geared towards teens.

There were three series that I read growing up: The Gymnasts, The Babysitters Club, and the Sunfire Romance "Name" books. I don't necessarily regret selling the Babysitters Club books. But I very much regret selling The Gymnast series. I would never, ever, ever sell my Sunfire books.

I liked the narrative approach. This one is very visual. So many book covers. It was a treat to read.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews