Wednesday, July 15, 2020

95. Before The Crown

Before the Crown. Flora Harding. 2020. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adult historical fiction]

First sentence: He’s not there. Elizabeth has her eye pressed to the chink in the curtains.

Premise/plot: Before the Crown by Flora Harding is for any and every fan of Netflix's The Crown. It opens in 1943 and concludes with the wedding of Elizabeth and Philip. The book chronicles their relationship and is told by both the Princess and Prince. It includes some flashback scenes, especially when Philip is narrating that fills in some of his background.

My thoughts: For the most part, I love, love, love, love, love the Crown. Especially the first season of the Crown. I don't love, love, love everything about it. (Some of the scenes are a bit too graphic now and then. And I don't think nudity is really ever necessary to the plot.) But the stories and drama, well, that I love to watch. I was so happy to read and review Before the Crown. I would recommend it to viewers who love the show, to readers who love historical fiction, to readers who love all things royal.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

94. Running with The Wind

Running With The Wind. Dionne Haynes. 2019. 344 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adult historical fiction]

First sentence: Soldiers pressed towards the harbour, forcing their way through the crowd. Jed turned his back towards them and came face-to-face with a young man, their noses so close they were almost touching. ‘Who are you? Haven’t seen you before.’ The young man’s tone was abrasive. ‘I can’t believe Master Jones let you board an overcrowded ship. What’s so special about you?’ Jed shook his head. ‘There’s nothing special about me.’ Passengers crammed onto the deck. Every man, woman and child jostled for an unobstructed view of those gathered to wave goodbye. Jed pressed his palms against the smooth wood of the gunwale behind him and pushed his body forward to avoid being crushed.

Premise/plot: Jedediah Trelawney is the protagonist of Dionne Haynes' new historical novel chronicling the voyage of The Mayflower in 1620. He is a young man with a secret that may or may not come back to haunt him. It seems SOMEONE on board knows the secret he is running from. But he doesn't know who or what they intend. He works for his keep on board and eventually becomes assistant to the doctor and the barber/surgeon on board. He plans to continue his 'apprenticeship' of sorts when they land. The book covers almost all aspects of life on board. And there is nothing glamorous and charming about it. It gets gritty and gross at times. (For example, when he's popping boils on personal locations of others.)

My thoughts: I liked this one well enough. It was a big graphic medically. There was one sexual fantasy/dream that was a bit graphic. But it was clear that it was his fantasy and not actually happening. Since it was such a small snippet of the book, that I can overlook. But some of the gritty perhaps all too realistic scenes of medical treatments turned my stomach a bit. Boil popping should not be the stuff of fiction!!!! 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 09, 2020

93. Madeleine

Madeleine. Elvi Rhodes. 1989/2011. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Walking along the narrow street, her hand resting lightly in the crook of George Carter’s arm, Madeleine was filled to the brim with rebellious thoughts. They coursed through her body and tingled in her fingertips until she felt sure that they must be conveyed to the man beside her. The sensation was so physical that she found herself compressing her lips into a tight line as if to prevent her feelings spilling out into words; words which she knew would surprise, even shock, George, coming from someone on her way home from chapel. But then he was easily shocked, wasn’t he? He was so good, so upright. She doubted if he had ever had a rebellious thought in his life. And since he continued to walk along without so much as turning to look at her she doubted that he had the slightest inkling of how she was feeling at this moment.

Premise/plot: Madeleine is a historical romance novel set in the 1850s in Yorkshire. Madeleine, our heroine, is a servant for the Parkinson family. Readers are told that this is the wealthiest family in the small town of Helsdon. But they only ever mention two possibly three servants: a cook, Mrs. Thomas, and Madeleine. (If there's a butler or stable boy, he's never named. I wouldn't be surprised if there was one or the other or both. But maybe because they don't figure into the story they're not named or mentioned. I have a hard time believing that an actually wealthy family at that time would only have two to four servants.) Madeleine is first and foremost rebellious and angry. She's rebelling against her father who is religious and attends chapel whenever its doors are open. She's rebelling against the Parkinsons though really her conflict is just with the so-called spoiled daughter, Sophia, with whom she clashes upon occasion. Sophia our antagonist, if you will, is actually spoiled. (But I couldn't help feeling that I liked her better for the first half of the book. Because I'd take flighty and vain over rebellious, brooding anger and resentment any day.) Mr. Parkinson, a mill owner, brings home a french man, Leon Bonneau, who is in a similar line of work in France. Sophia falls head over heels in love--think Scarlett's obsession with Ashley. Madeleine waits upon Mr. Bonneau while he is staying there and the two become slightly slightly friendly. (Though neither is exactly swooning for the other....yet). But after a trip abroad goes WRONG, Madeleine finds herself quitting that job and taking up work as a weaver at a mill (you know, as you do). Will Madeleine be happier as a mill worker? Will Leon and Sophie marry? Will the Parkinsons continue to be "wealthy"?

My thoughts: I liked this one well enough to keep reading. At no point did I say enough is enough is enough I can't stand the characters anymore. But I did have a few thoughts. First, I think the author must really love Gone With The Wind. The dialogue seems a bit modeled after Scarlett O'Hara. Along with one or two elements. Second, there is a LOT of cocoa drinking going on. You would think that they'd be more tea drinking! Third, do romance writers purposely make their characters dim-witted so that obstacles loom larger and seem impossible?! I mean that would be one explanation why things with obvious and mostly easy solutions would seem IMPOSSIBLE AND AGONIZING. I'd rather believe the characters are silly and dim then the author is unaware. Fourth--and finally--Madeleine seems to be a relatively contemporary woman (perhaps born circa 1950 or 1960) than one born in the 1830s. She just seems a bit off. The other characters--perhaps because we don't live inside their minds--seem to be a slightly better fit with the 1850s.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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92. Arsenic with Austen

Arsenic with Austen. Katherine Bolger Hyde. 2016. 312 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: A gentle late-spring breeze ruffled the tender leaves of the maple and cherry trees on Reed College's front lawn, flirted with the skirts of the graduates' robes and tugged at the edges of their mortarboards, then swirled up three stories to tease Emily's upswept hair as she stood at her open office window.

Premise/plot: Emily Cavanaugh, our heroine, inherits a LARGE fortune and estate from her great-aunt Beatrice. (It includes a large house, a HUGE book collection, and many, many, many properties about town.) She takes up residence in Stony Beach, Oregon, and begins her new life by embarking to solve a few mysteries. Did Beatrice die of natural causes? Could she have been poisoned? Who would want her dead? Why is the town so divided on what is in its best interest moving forward?

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I loved it in spite of its almost obnoxious first sentence. Fortunately, the writing doesn't really keep on like that!!! I read this one quickly and found it a satisfying book. There's quite a few mysteries to solve, and a side dish of romance with an old summer love. I appreciated the fact that our heroine isn't all that young--in her mid to late fifties. It's not all that common to have romances starring an older couple. It was nice.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

91. The Virginian

The Virginian. Owen Wister. 1902. Penguin Classics. 370 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and women, to the window; and therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was. I saw near the track an enclosure, and round it some laughing men, and inside it some whirling dust, and amid the dust some horses, plunging, huddling, and dodging.

Premise/plot: The Virginian is a collection of interconnected stories. Some are more "connected" than others. Some of the stories are told through a first person account, a first person narrator, whom we come to know simply as Tenderfoot or The Tenderfoot. He's an Eastern man that has come west to Wyoming territory. And The Virginian, our real hero, is his protector as this newbie is learning his way. But other stories are told in third person. Through a series of adventures, we get to know The Virginian; we get to know the people close to The Virginian. The men he works with and respects. The men he works with and doesn't respect. His friends. His enemies. My favorite of these may just be the woman, the "school teacher spinster" whom he falls in love with, Miss Molly Wood. 


My thoughts: It was dramatic. It was suspenseful. It was humorous. It was emotional. It was romantic--in places. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones between The Virginian and Miss Molly Wood. I loved their courtship. How steady he was, how stubborn she was. How he took the time to read *most* of the books she loaned him. How he was fond of a good book--Shakespeare especially. But how he really didn't get why she loved Jane Austen so much! I liked their conversations on the books he read. I liked his conversations with her in general.

But The Virginian isn't just a romance. I mean there is a happily ever after at the end. But in between all the courting scenes--and there are really only a handful--The Virginian is busy working and riding and managing the Judge's ranch--he's foreman--and generally seeing that justice is done. (Because there are cattle thieves about!) So there is plenty of action and adventure and humor. There's plenty of good fun in this one. But it's not without its darker moments, its life-and-death moments.

Quotes:
We cannot see ourselves as other see us, or I should know what appearance I cut at hearing this from the tall man. I said nothing, feeling uncertain. "I reckon I am looking for you, seh," he repeated politely. "I am looking for Judge Henry," I now replied. He walked toward me, and I saw that in inches he was not a giant. He was not more than six feet. It was Uncle Hughey that had made him seem to tower. But in his eye, in his face, in his step, in the whole man, there dominated a something potent to be felt, I should think, by man or woman.
  "It's two hundred and sixty-three miles," said the Virginian...Yes, I was dazed. How did they count distance in this country? You spoke in a neighborly fashion about driving over to town, and it meant—I did not know yet how many days. And what would be meant by the term "dropping in," I wondered. And how many miles would be considered really far?
By reason of something,—my clothes, my hat, my pronunciation, whatever it might be, I possessed the secret of estranging people at sight.
Upon the grocery side there stood a cheese too large and strong to sleep near comfortably, and I therefore chose the dry-goods side. Here thick quilts were unrolled for me, to make it soft; and no condition was placed upon me, further than that I should remove my boots, because the quilts were new, and clean, and for sale.
 Sardines were called for, and potted chicken, and devilled ham: a sophisticated nourishment, at first sight, for these sons of the sage-brush. But portable ready-made food plays of necessity a great part in the opening of a new country. These picnic pots and cans were the first of her trophies that Civilization dropped upon Wyoming's virgin soil.
I was soon at the wash trough. It was only half-past six, but many had been before me,—one glance at the roller-towel told me that. I was afraid to ask the landlady for a clean one, and so I found a fresh handkerchief, and accomplished a sparing toilet. In the midst of this the drummers joined me, one by one, and they used the degraded towel without hesitation. In a way they had the best of me; filth was nothing to them.
Thieves are presumed innocent until proved guilty, but a starched collar is condemned at once.
 "I reckon," said he, "you're feelin' about halfway between 'Oh, Lord!' and 'Thank God!'"
 "We are taking steps," said Mr. Taylor. "Bear Creek ain't going to be hasty about a schoolmarm." "Sure," assented the Virginian. "The children wouldn't want yu' to hurry."
 Has any botanist set down what the seed of love is? Has it anywhere been set down in how many ways this seed may be sown? In what various vessels of gossamer it can float across wide spaces? Or upon what different soils it can fall, and live unknown, and bide its time for blooming?
 I was not called by my name after the first feeble etiquette due to a stranger in his first few hours had died away. I was known simply as "the tenderfoot." I was introduced to the neighborhood (a circle of eighty miles) as "the tenderfoot."
 "I fear she has not," said I. "Mighty hon'ble intentions," he observed. "If she can't make out to lay anything, she wants to hatch somethin', and be a mother anyways." "I wonder what relation the law considers that a hen is to the chicken she hatched but did not lay?" I inquired.
Em'ly scratched and clucked, and the puppies ran to her, pawed her with their fat limp little legs, and retreated beneath her feathers in their games of hide and seek. Conceive, if you can, what confusion must have reigned in their infant minds as to who the setter was!
 There always have been such people, I suppose, because the world must always have a rubbish heap.
 Molly Wood was regarding him saucily. "I don't think I like you," said she. "That's all square enough. You're goin' to love me before we get through. I wish yu'd come a-ridin, ma'am."
For this journey she had provided him with Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth. Shakespeare he had returned to her. He had bought Shakespeare for himself. "As soon as I got used to readin' it," he had told her, "I knowed for certain that I liked readin' for enjoyment."
 There can be no doubt of this:— All America is divided into two classes,—the quality and the equality. The latter will always recognize the former when mistaken for it. Both will be with us until our women bear nothing but kings.
"It's mighty hard to do what your neighbors ain't doin'," pursued the Virginian. 
 "Do you think there ought to be fifteen varieties of good people?" His voice, while it now had an edge that could cut anything it came against, was still not raised. "There ain't fifteen. There ain't two.
There's one kind. And when I meet it, I respect it. It is not praying nor preaching that has ever caught me and made me ashamed of myself, but one or two people I have knowed that never said a superior word to me. They thought more o' me than I deserved, and that made me behave better than I naturally wanted to.
But I'll tell yu' this: a middlin' doctor is a pore thing, and a middlin' lawyer is a pore thing; but keep me from a middlin' man of God."
 If words were meant to conceal our thoughts, melody is perhaps a still thicker veil for them.
"Oh, no! The wild man you're taming brought you Kenilworth safe back." She was smooth. "Oh, as for taming him! But don't you find him intelligent?" Suddenly I somehow knew that she didn't want to tame him. But what did she want to do? The thought of her had made him blush this afternoon. No thought of him made her blush this evening.
 "Science! He doesn't know what Christianity is yet. I've entertained many guests, but none—The whole secret," broke off Judge Henry, "lies in the way you treat people. As soon as you treat men as your brothers, they are ready to acknowledge you—if you deserve it—as their superior. That's the whole bottom of Christianity, and that's what our missionary will never know."
One can look respectfully at a preacher and be internally breaking all the commandments.
We all know what birds of a feather do. And it may be safely surmised that if a bird of any particular feather has been for a long while unable to see other birds of its kind, it will flock with them all the more assiduously when they happen to alight in its vicinity.
"When a man ain't got no ideas of his own," said Scipio, "he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'em from." 
But his first message to his lady was scarcely written with ease. It must be classed, I think, among those productions which are styled literary efforts. It was completed in pencil before it was copied in ink; and that first draft of it in pencil was well-nigh illegible with erasures and amendments.
I have read that play Othello. No man should write down such a thing. Do you know if it is true? I have seen one worse affair down in Arizona. He killed his little child as well as his wife but such things should not be put down in fine language for the public. I have read Romeo and Juliet. That is beautiful language but Romeo is no man. I like his friend Mercutio that gets killed. He is a man. If he had got Juliet there would have been no foolishness and trouble.
"if yu' could read me something that was ABOUT something, I—I'd be liable to keep awake." And he smiled with a certain shyness. "Something about something?" queried Molly, at a loss.
 Staring ain't courage; it's trashy curiosity.
 "I expect in many growed-up men you'd call sensible there's a little boy sleepin'—the little kid they onced was—that still keeps his fear of the dark. You mentioned the dark yourself yesterday. Well, this experience has woke up that kid in me, and blamed if I can coax the little cuss to go to sleep again! I keep a-telling him daylight will sure come, but he keeps a-crying and holding on to me."
 I cannot say that I believe in doing evil that good may come. I do not. I think that any man who honestly justifies such course deceives himself. But this I can say: to call any act evil, instantly begs the question. Many an act that man does is right or wrong according to the time and place which form, so to speak, its context; strip it of its surrounding circumstances, and you tear away its meaning.
 
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

90. Unwind

Unwind. Neal Shusterman. 2007. 337 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The Second Civil War, also known as "The Heartland War," was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as "The Bill of Life" was passed. It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child...on the condition that the child's life doesn't technically end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding." Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society.

First sentence: "There are places you can go," Ariana tells him, "and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen." Connor isn't so sure, but looking into Ariana's eyes makes his doubts go away, if only for a moment.

Premise/plot: Imagine living in a world where—if you're a teenager—your life is constantly in danger. If you anger your parents just one time too many, you could be on the next bus out of town heading to a Harvest camp or the "chop shop" as it's called in slang. Your organs—every single part of you (except maybe your appendix), stripped away and 'donated' to make someone else's life better. This scenario is about to become terrifyingly real to three teenagers.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are three of many Unwinds on the run and trying to survive. All are under the age of eighteen. Connor's parents have decided to Unwind him, perhaps because of his attitude. Risa, well, Risa's a ward of a state home and they must make room for new children. She's reached her full potential of life--according to the powers that be. Lev, well, Lev's case is different as well. He's a tithe. His family knew from the moment he was conceived that they would unwind him when he turned thirteen so that he could offer up his service to God. Other teens are introduced as well throughout the book, but the narrators are Connor, Risa, and Lev.

My thoughts: Told through many narrators, Unwind is a suspenseful, fast-paced read. While the premise is fascinating in and of itself, Shusterman manages to make this story resonate with strong characters. The world he creates is haunting yet not completely without hope and redemption as people—teens and adults—team up to change the world one step at a time.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is dystopia at its best.

Quotes:

"Funny but when he was little Connor was terrified of the boogeyman. He would have to sleep with the lights on, he would have his parents check his closet every night. They told him that the boogeyman wasn't real, but they lied. The Bill of Life made the boogeyman real, and he didn't need the closet; he came walking right in through the front door." (4)

"What does it take to unwind the unwanted? It takes twelve surgeons, in teams of two, rotating in and out as their medical specialty is needed. It takes nine surgical assistants and four nurses. It takes three hours." 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 29, 2020

June Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews
77. The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope. C.W. Grafton. 1943/2020. Poisoned Pen Press. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
78. Jeannie's Demise: Abortion on Trial in Victorian Ontario. Ian Radforth. 2020. [October] 258 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult nonfiction; history]
79. Better Off Read. (Bookmobile Mystery #1) Nora Page. 2018. 325 pages. [Source: Library]
80. The Places We Sleep. Caroline Brooks DuBois. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [verse novel; coming of age; 9/11]
81. Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2020. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical fiction]
82. The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Suzanne Evans. 2020. Between the Lines. 306 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; World War II; mental illness]
83. The Huntress. Kate Quinn. 2019. 560 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II]
84. Dragonfly. Leila Meacham. 2019. 563 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II]
85. The Downstairs Girl. Stacey Lee. 2019. 374 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical fiction; YA Fiction]
86. The Beauty Chorus. Kate Lord Brown. 2020. (2011) 434 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical romance; World War II]
87.  The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne. William Makepeace Thackery. 1852. 528 pages. [Source: Bought] [dull books; classic; Victorian literature]
88. Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card. 1985. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
89. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury. 1962. 293 pages. [Source: Library]
Books Reviewed at Young Readers
65. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. Jonathan Auxier. 2018. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
66. Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian Left Behind. Cynthia Grady. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
67. The Willoughbys Return. Lois Lowry. 2020. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [January] Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [poetry]
69. Just Beyond the Very Very Far North. Dan Bar-el. Illustrated by Kelly Pousette. 2020. [October] 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy; animal fantasy; friendship]
70. Mr. Mensch and His Magical Meshugenahmobile: Stranger Danger. David Michael Slater. Illustrated by Michelle Simpson. 2020. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]
71. The Wednesday Wars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2007. 264 pages. [Source: Library]
72. Silent Journey. Carl Watson. Illustrated by Andrew Bosley. 2020. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
44. If I Were You. Lynn Austin. 2020. Tyndale. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Women's Fiction. World War II. Friendship. Christian Fiction]
45. You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God's Presence and Power. Max Lucado. September 2020. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Devotional. Christian Living]
46. Reading Romans with Luther. R.J. Grunewald. 2017. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; devotional]
47. It's All About Jesus: A Treasury of Insights on Our Savior, Lord, and Friend. Randy Alcorn. 2020. Harvest House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; devotional]
48. Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens Through Anxiety and Depression. David P. Murray. 2020. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy] [parenting; christian nonfiction]
49. Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen's Guide to Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. David P. Murray. 2020. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] [teens; YA; self-help; christian nonfiction]
50. Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation. Mark Vroegop. Foreword by Thabiti M. Anyabwile. 2020. Crossway. [Source: Review copy]
51. Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters. Erwin Lutzer. 2020. Moody publishers. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
5. MEV Personal Size Large Print. Passio. 2015. 1952 pages. [Source: Bought]
5 Star Reads
The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope. C.W. Grafton. 1943/2020. Poisoned Pen Press. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian Left Behind. Cynthia Grady. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  The Willoughbys Return. Lois Lowry. 2020. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 If I Were You. Lynn Austin. 2020. Tyndale. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Women's Fiction. World War II. Friendship. Christian Fiction]
 Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2020. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical fiction]
 The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Suzanne Evans. 2020. Between the Lines. 306 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; World War II; mental illness]
 Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [January] Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [poetry]
 It's All About Jesus: A Treasury of Insights on Our Savior, Lord, and Friend. Randy Alcorn. 2020. Harvest House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; devotional]
 Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen's Guide to Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. David P. Murray. 2020. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] [teens; YA; self-help; christian nonfiction]
 The Downstairs Girl. Stacey Lee. 2019. 374 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical fiction; YA Fiction]
 The Beauty Chorus. Kate Lord Brown. 2020. (2011) 434 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical romance; World War II]
  The Wednesday Wars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2007. 264 pages. [Source: Library]

June Totals
June Totals
Pages9909
Books29
Yearly Totals
2020 Totals
Pages60484
Books212



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

89. Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury. 1962. 293 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.

Premise/plot: Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are best, best, best, best friends. One born a minute before midnight on October 30; one born a minute after midnight on October 31. They've lived side by side and done practically everything together. Still there's a wild recklessness that beckons to Jim now and again. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, a carnival comes to town bringing strange, strange, strange people and mysterious dangers. There is something alluring and tempting about the carnival, but also unsettling and disturbing. The boys have free tickets to ride...but will they risk their souls for fun?

The carnival poses some risk to the whole town, for it's not just kids or the young at heart with a sense of adventure and longing hearts. But for Jim and Will it poses extra danger because of their snooping.

My thoughts: I would recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes to those that love atmospheric reads with thrills and spooks.

It is well written. I didn't love, love, love, love it. But I definitely liked it.
The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world. (40)
A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half an hour before, you spent just tent minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know, is bad, or amoral at least. You can't act if you don't know. Acting without knowing takes you right off the cliff. (198)
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
So vague, yet so immense. He did not want to live with it. Yet he knew that, during this night, unless he lived with it very well, he might have to live with it all the rest of his life. (186)

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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88. Ender's Game

Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card. 1985. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."

Premise/plot: Andrew Wiggin, aka "Ender," is six years old and potentially the earth's savior. Two wars have been fought and barely won against the aliens known to readers as Buggers. The third war will take much preparation--decades worth of the International Fleet training up children to be commanders and soldiers.

Ender is one such student or trainee. His older brother, Peter, and older sister, Valentine, didn't make it so far as Battle School in space. Ender's life is wearisome and burdensome. He doesn't make friends easily and his biggest fear is being just as violent and out of control as his brother, Peter. He is prone to self-reflection and self-loathing. But in terms of military genius, strategizing, leadership...he excels.

When the time comes to fight the war, will he be ready?

My thoughts: For a decade I would have considered this one of my favorite, favorite books. Now that it's been almost twenty years or so since I first read it--well, my thoughts and impressions have changed some. I love the last fourth of the novel. That hasn't changed. But the first fourth of the novel, well, it's DISTURBING, uncomfortable, awkward, a bit off. I did NOT remember the use of the n word. I did not remember the jokesy approach to different races (or ethnicities). I did not remember the chokehold scene where Peter is trying to kill his brother. I did not remember some of the crudeness.

One thing that bothers me is Peter. Peter is a psychopath in my opinion. He is cruel to his brother and sister. He is cruel to small animals. He is a bully. He is manipulative. He is egocentric and a narcissist. He dreams of world domination. He is just a sick, sick, sick individual. And I think what readers are outright told about him is just the tip of the iceberg. If Valentine is to be believed about the files and records she's been keeping of her brother. Chances are he might have done even more than she knew about. There was one line that disturbed me where she is telling Ender that you don't know what I had to do to keep Peter from hurting you. Of course, we don't know--she doesn't say. But Card later seems to redeem the character of Peter and seeks to make him sympathetic.

Card does do flawed humans well. I will give him that. Are any of the characters in this one not flawed?!?! I think the most likable characters may be Bean and Petra.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

87. The History of Henry Esmond, Esq

The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne. William Makepeace Thackery. 1852. 528 pages. [Source: Bought] [dull books; classic; Victorian literature]

First sentence: When Francis, fourth Viscount Castlewood, came to his title, and presently after to take possession of his house of Castlewood, county Hants, in the year 1691, almost the only tenant of the place besides the domestics was a lad of twelve years of age, of whom no one seemed to take any note until my Lady Viscountess lighted upon him, going over the house with the housekeeper on the day of her arrival.


Premise/plot: Henry Esmond is an orphan being raised by his distant cousins, Francis and Rachel Esmond. He is brought up with their two children Beatrix and Frank. He is in that awkward space between servant and adopted son. The moods of this couple vary greatly. He is either greatly beloved or scorned and rejected. For example, when the plague comes--I believe it is the plague--he is REJECTED because he's blamed for the family's exposure to it. The couple's relationship is never quite the same after that--the plague--and the happy marriage becomes miserable. Of course, Henry is to blame. But the two are determined to see him educated--and at Cambridge University. While their moods are completely volatile and unreliable, Henry feels only love, loyalty, and gratitude. Perhaps to the point of being ridiculous?

(Henry comes from a long line of Stuart-supporters and Stuart-defenders. In fact, I believe, his father and grandfather both died in battle because of their allegiance.) 

So when Henry isn't being a soldier--he's a Colonel by the end of the book--he's madly, truly, deeply in love with the unattainable, cold-hearted Beatrix. That is until he isn't. Who's the love of his life? Well, in a surprise twist that comes on the last page or second to last page, it's revealed he marries his FOSTER MOTHER. (Never mind that he's spent probably ten to twelve years at least thinking of her as HIS MOTHER.)

My thoughts: I don't know what's worse being bored to death with all the war talk (though, the fact that he had encounters with famous men of the time like Richard Steele and Jonathan Swift, and others, etc. was slightly interesting) OR being grossed out by the fact that he falls in love with his mother. Yes, she's not technically his mother--biologically. But she is his foster mother, adopted mother, recognized guardian.

Quotes:
  • 'Tis not the dying for a faith that's so hard, Master Harry—every man of every nation has done that—'tis the living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost," he added with a sigh.
  • To see a young couple loving each other is no wonder; but to see an old couple loving each other is the best sight of all.
  • 'Tis a hard task for women in life, that mask which the world bids them wear. But there is no greater crime than for a woman who is ill used and unhappy to show that she is so.
  • "I never had a mother, but I love this lady as one. I worship her as a devotee worships a saint. To hear her name spoken lightly seems blasphemy to me. Would you dare think of your own mother so, or suffer any one so to speak of her? It is a horror to me to fancy that any man should think of her impurely. I implore you, I beseech you, to leave her. Danger will come out of it."
  •  "Yes, I did, Harry," said she; "I thought of it; and think of it. I would sooner call you my son than the greatest prince in Europe—yes, than the greatest prince. For who is there so good and so brave, and who would love her as you would? But there are reasons a mother can't tell."
  • "I am your mother, you are my son, and I love you always," she said, holding her hands over him: and he went away comforted and humbled in mind, as he thought of that amazing and constant love and tenderness with which this sweet lady ever blessed and pursued him.
  • I suppose a man's vanity is stronger than any other passion in him;
  • Parting and forgetting! What faithful heart can do these? Our great thoughts, our great affections, the Truths of our life, never leave us.
     

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

86. The Beauty Chorus

The Beauty Chorus. Kate Lord Brown. 2020. (2011) 434 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical romance; World War II]

First sentence: I have four and a half hours to live. I am leaning against the wing of the yellow-bellied Airspeed Oxford, smoking contentedly while the ground crew chaps run their final checks. The freezing rain hisses as it hits the glowing coal of my cigarette, drums softly on the tin roof of the hangar. Call me Johnnie, by the way. Everyone does.

Premise/plot: The Beauty Chorus tells the story of Evie Chase, Stella Grainger, and Megan Jones three (fictional) pilots who ferried planes for the ATA. (Air Transport Auxiliary) The three join up at the same time and live together in a small cottage.

The book focuses more on their personal lives and off hours--recreational hours--than their time in the skies. Though much of their dialogue is talking about how much they love, love, love flying and how happy they are to serve Britain. For those that love historical ROMANCE with highlights of war drama, this is a satisfying read cover to cover. For those that are looking for WAR DRAMA with little tolerance for romance, may find it disappointing.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I love books with a World War II setting. I enjoy books set in Britain. I enjoy romance novels. There were so many reasons that this would be a perfect perfect fit for me. And it was. It isn't a squeaky clean read. But the characterization so strong and the actual graphic bits so small a percentage--that I didn't mind it at all. I could feel giddy without guilt. I am speaking of my own personal preferences. I know that every single reader is different and has different likes, dislikes, expectations, and standards. My tastes are my tastes.  

 
She raised her cup of tea. ‘Well, here’s to the ATA and here’s to us.’ ‘The Always Terrified Airwomen?’ Evie said drolly. ‘I think I prefer “the beauty chorus”.’ ‘Rather that than “Ancient and Tattered”.’ Stella held Evie’s gaze as Megan enthusiastically tucked into her roast beef. ‘Do you think we’ll cope?’
 Shackleton talked of his fourth man. TS Eliot wrote of the other who walks beside you. We who have gone before are with you when you need us most. We are there holding our dying sons on the battlefields and beaches as they drown in their own blood. These women are my daughters, my sisters, and I shall be ‘the other’ flying with them, until this is over and we have won our peace.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 15, 2020

85. The Downstairs Girl

The Downstairs Girl. Stacey Lee. 2019. 374 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical fiction; YA Fiction]

First sentence: Being nice is like leaving your door wide open. Eventually, someone's going to mosey in and steal your best hat. Me, I have only one hat and it is uglier than a smashed crow, so if someone stole it, the joke would be on their head, literally. Still, boundaries must be set. Especially boundaries over one's worth.

Premise/plot: Jo Kuan is the heroine of The Downstairs Girl a historical novel set in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1890s. When the novel opens, Jo is employed in a millinery shop as an assistant. But she won't keep her job long--much to her regret. Soon she's forced to work as a lady's maid--something she finds unpleasant to say the least. Caroline Payne is a PAIN. But when she's not busy keeping silent in her service--or trying to, or "trying" to--she's busy working as MISS SWEETIE an "agony aunt" or advice columnist for a local newspaper. Her views are more often than not non-traditional and counter to convention. For example, why shouldn't women be suffragists and campaign to get the vote?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this historical romance. The romance is subtle-not-subtle. There's a slight romance element to it overall, but it's never front and center. It is never the point. Jo Kuan isn't about trying to get a man, or looking for love, or looking for THE ONE. Jo is trying to balance blending in and hanging on the fringes of society and speaking her mind and getting noticed. Sometimes to stand up for what is right, one has to call attention to one's self.

Much of the novel is about her treatment in the South and in America. She's Asian/half-Asian. I am not convinced that she would have faced less prejudice in other places. But perhaps other states--Western states--there would have been more like her for her to socialize with and be a part of a social group/class. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 12, 2020

84. Dragonfly

Dragonfly. Leila Meacham. 2019. 563 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II]

First sentence: The man in the brown suit snapped shut the book he'd been reading and looked up with a stare of disbelief.

Premise/plot: Dragonfly is a historical novel largely set in France during the Second World War. The framework of the story is an approaching twenty year anniversary meeting. Five spies agreed at the start that they would meet on September 26 twenty years from 1942. Samuel Barton (Lodestar, Stephane Beaulieu), Bridgette Loring (Labrador, Bernadette Dufor), Chris Brandt (Lapwing, Claus Bauer), Brad Hudson (Limpet, Barnard Wagner), Victoria Grayson (Liverwort, Victoria Colbert). These five strangers have been chosen for their skills and eagerness. They know one another only by their code names (Lodestar, Labrador, Lapwing, Limpet, and Liverwort). To know more could endanger them all if any one is captured and interrogated. They are dropped into France in 1942...but not all make it out of the country...or do they?!

My thoughts: I found Dragonfly to be a compelling read. It is told in alternating voices. Readers get to know the five spies quite well and even to some extent the man in charge of the project, the man in the brown suit, Alistair Renault. I thought the characterization and plotting were well done.

I would definitely recommend this one.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

83. The Huntress

The Huntress. Kate Quinn. 2019. 560 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II]

First sentence: She was not used to being hunted.

Premise/plot: Set mostly in 1950 with many, many flashbacks to the war years, The Huntress is about a team of Nazi hunters pursuing an elusive target: a mistress-turned-murderer. They've nicknamed her "The Huntress."

It is told from three perspectives: Ian Graham, Nina Markova (his wife and the only known eye-witness/survivor who can identify her), and Jordan McBride (a young woman recently graduated from high school).

Jordan McBride is skeptical about her father's new girlfriend. She's super-secretive and refuses to talk about her past. On their wedding day, Jordan discovers an Iron Cross hidden within her bouquet. That raises her skepticism to HIGH levels of concern. Is her new stepmother a Nazi?

Ian, Tony, and Nina, meanwhile, are hunting Europe looking for clues no matter how small that might lead them to where The Huntress is now. One lead takes them to America, to Boston.

My thoughts: My expectations were high. I was hoping for an intense thriller-ish read with well-developed characters and plenty of action and suspense. I was disappointed. Perhaps because of the choice of narrators the Huntress' identity seemed super-super-super-super obvious. And the only "mystery" was how long it would take the characters to piece together the clues. But my biggest issue was my complete almost total disconnect from the characters. The only characters I remotely cared about weren't narrators (Tony and Ruth). I just didn't care, end of story. It was a dull story that promised much and didn't deliver.

I do try to keep my reads somewhat on the cleaner side. This one had a LOT of language in it, and the writing just didn't compensate enough for that to make it worth it for me. If the story had been more compelling, the characters more developed, with more tension and intensity...then perhaps I wouldn't have bothered much with all the cursing. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

82. The Taste of Longing

The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Suzanne Evans. 2020. Between the Lines. 306 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; World War II; mental illness]

First sentence: Ethel pulled on the lumpy blue coat she’d been given by the Red Cross and glanced in the mirror before heading out to the printer’s. There was nothing she could do about the coat’s ugliness, but the garment was hers and not much else in the world was. Just over a year before, on an unforgettable September day in 1945 at the end of the war, she had been carried out of a Singapore prison camp on a stretcher. This five-foot-seven-inch woman had been unable to tip the scales past eighty-five pounds then, but now she was on her way back to her old size, if not her old self.

Premise/plot: The Taste of Longing is a biography of Ethel Mulvany. It covers Mulvany's life from 1933 until her death. In 1933, Mulvany met and married her husband--an English doctor then living in India. In the late 1930s, the two are working and serving in Singapore. Which is where these two are when war finds them. Soon they are separated and imprisoned. Mulvany has a unique story to tell of her time in captivity. She oversaw several projects 'for the Red Cross'.

But what this book mainly focuses on is the cookbook she created on two ledgers--provided by the Japanese--which she and the other women of the camp contributed to as they daydreamed about their favorite foods. Each chapter opens with a recipe giving the woman who contributed it to the cookbook when possible. The book concludes with impressions of the recipes. Each recipe had a taster, a man or woman who followed the recipe and tasted it.

But the book isn't only about the cook book or its publication--her determination to publish it and use all the profits to send care packages to recovering Prisoners of War. It is also about her life and her mental illness.

My thoughts: It would be wrong to say it is ever easy to suffer from mental illness. But there are times which it would be worse to live and try to get help and treatment. Mulvany suffered from mental illness at a time when it was misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mistreated. First do no harm really wasn't the approach. I'd heard about electric shock therapy before, but I'd never heard about "treating" mental illnesses with insulin shots inducing comas! It sounds absolutely APPALLING and all kinds of wrong. Mulvany experienced these two treatments...in addition to others.

The book was fascinating in a bittersweet way. Evans shares the sources of her biography, and that really sheds a light on how mental illness was--and in some cases still is--perceived. Her fellow prisoners--most of them, though not all--really shunned and rejected her because of her mental health or lack thereof. She had supporters who loved her and loved seeing her frantic involvement to improve prison life. And she had enemies who really thought she was trouble with a capital T. But what I really found bittersweet was how her husband reacted to his wife's mental health. For better or worse wasn't the case.

I found it a compelling read yet profoundly sad in a way. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 09, 2020

81. Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters

Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2020. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical fiction]

First sentence: A whimsical breeze rustled the paper beneath Elizabeth’s pen as she wrote in the garden, but she held the sheet firmly against the table with her left hand and it was not carried aloft. She lifted her pen and waited for the gust to subside rather than risk smearing the ink, and in that momentary pause a light shower of blossoms from the plum tree fell upon her, the table, and the head of her sixteen-year-old grandson Lewis, sprawled in a chaise lounge nearby, so thoroughly engrossed in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days that he did not notice the petals newly adorning his light brown hair. She smiled, tempted to rise and brush the blossoms softly to the ground with her fingertips, but he looked so charming that she decided to leave them be.

Premise/plot: Elizabeth. Frances. Ann. Emilie. These are some of the narrators of Jennifer Chiaverini's newest historical novel. The novel is told in alternating voices--each chapter narrated by one of Mary Todd Lincoln's sisters--and alternating times. The book alternates between the present--1875 moving forward--and the past--starting in 1825. The book centers on Mary Todd (Lincoln) and her mental health and capabilities.

Mary has always, always, always been Mary. Strong-willed. Easily offended. Bearer of grudges. Irresponsible with money. But now that the court has ruled her insane, the sisters each have their own reaction and response. What is best for Mary? Will they help Mary's situation or make it worse if they try to mend bridges and repair relationships now?

My thoughts: I found this a fascinating read. I love, love, love historical fiction. I haven't read much about the Lincolns. Though I do seem to remember having read a young adult novel starring Mary Todd--remember vaguely at least. I don't recall ever having read about her later years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. So fascinating is about as good a word as any.

I am usually not a big fan of books with multiple narrators--but in this case I didn't mind. Each sister had her own relationship with Mary; each sister had a unique perspective. To only have the perspective of one sister would have been incomplete and inconclusive.

I usually prefer books with a clear chronological narrative--very straightforward. But again in this case I didn't mind. Readers are able to trace the story and arrive at their own conclusions about Mary.

I loved the focus on family and on sisters in particular. Elizabeth, the oldest sister, really went above and beyond to nurture her younger sisters and support them to the best of her ability. I liked all the sisters.

I would definitely recommend this one!


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 05, 2020

80. The Places We Sleep

The Places We Sleep. Caroline Brooks DuBois. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [verse novel; coming of age; 9/11]

First sentence: It arrives like a punch to the gut like a shove in the girls’ room like a name I won’t repeat. It arrives like nobody’s business, staring and glaring me down, singling me out in the un-singular mob that ebbs and flows and swells and grows in the freshly painted, de-roached hallways of Henley Middle.

Premise/plot: The Places We Sleep is a coming-of-age novel set during the school year 2011/2012 starring a young girl named Abbey. The novel opens with a few surprises--she gets her first period AND the terrorists attack the Twin Towers in New York City. Her mom rushes away to be with her family. Abbey's Aunt Rose works at the World Trade Center, she has two kids and a husband. They will need all the support they can get as the search begins...and ends...BUT Abbey needs her mom too. The novel is told in VERSE and it covers September through May as the nation--and Abbey--undergo some big changes.

My thoughts: Every one has a story of where they were when they first heard the news, this is Abbey's story. (It is fictional). It chronicles Abbey's life as she processes and absorbs this new world all while balancing the typical changes that come from growing up. It tackles friends, bullies, school, home, discovering yourself, etc.

I was not in middle school when 9/11 happened. I was in college, but I very much remember how shocking and disturbing the news was. Also how it continued to impact lives even months, years later. I would recommend this one.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 04, 2020

79. Better Off Read

Better Off Read. (Bookmobile Mystery #1) Nora Page. 2018. 325 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In all her seventy-five years, Cleo Watkins had never harmed another human being.

Premise/plot: Cleo Watkins is a librarian without a working library--since the big storm. But while she may lack a traditional library, she does have a bookmobile. She is determined to keep the folks in her town supplied with the books they want and need. Even if she doesn't exactly understand their preferences! Such is the case with one of her cranky patrons who is very obsessed with true crime and books about murder!

The book is set in a small (probably fictional) town in Georgia. It is peopled with all the types you'd expect...including some lovely pets. This cozy mystery has a lovely charm to it.

My thoughts: I definitely liked this one!!! I don't know that I love, love, love it. I would definitely pick up other books in the series if I was at the library--if the library was open. I could easily see myself spending more time with these characters...at some point. But I haven't quite become hooked enough to proclaim it LOVE. It is the first in a cozy mystery series.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

78. Jeannie's Demise: Abortion on Trial in Victorian Ontario

Jeannie's Demise: Abortion on Trial in Victorian Ontario. Ian Radforth. 2020. [October] 258 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult nonfiction; history]

First sentence: Growing impatient, Lovell took an axe and broke open the box. Inside he found some straw, a white chemise, and the naked body of a young woman. A few hours later, Coroner E.C. Fisher held an inquest nearby at Mrs. Mantle’s Robin Hood Hotel on Dundas Street. Two physicians, who had already performed a post-mortem examination of the body, reported that the deceased was an otherwise robust and healthy woman whose death was caused by a violent abortion. The jury at the inquest concluded that there had been a wilful murder of “an unknown woman” by some “person or persons unknown.”

Premise/plot: Jeannie's Demise is an up-close-and-personal, behind-the-scenes glimpse at abortion on trial in Ontario Canada in 1875. In the summer of that year, Jeannie Gilmour got an abortion and died as a result of complications. That fall and winter her two abortionists--husband and wife--went on trial. This news story was covered widely and broadly. (Though for the record, the two were on trial for murdering Jeannie and not for murdering the unborn child.) The book chronicles the case in great depth giving background and context.

My thoughts: I love a good true crime book occasionally. This one fits into that category nicely enough. It is a detailed accounting of three trials: the first trial being that of the two accused abortionists (abortion was illegal in 1875), the second trial being that of the accused seducer, the third being that of a man accused of helping dispose of the body via a coffin in a wagon. Readers get a glimpse of how the police department worked the case, how the prosecution and defense handled the case, the evidence, the testimonies and witnesses. One also definitely got a glimpse of how the media reacted to the case AND influenced the case. One also saw some statistics.

If the book had kept this a book about the past, it perhaps would have set better with me. One could read about the facts of the case--in the past--without trying to moralize, preach, or reveal a modern AGENDA to the case.
It wasn't until the last page or possibly two that the pro-choice cause is championed and glorified. He leaves readers with a warning that there are some in the United States that want to rob women of their oh-so-human right to have access to abortions.

I think both pro-life and pro-choice readers can agree that illegal abortions can be dangerous and risky to women. But to be fair, in 1875 legal or illegal abortion would have been risky. As was childbirth itself it 1875. There was so much about germs and bacteria and care that doctors, midwives, nurses, the general public did not know that lives were put at risk. Medicine has come a long way since the nineteenth century. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 01, 2020

77. The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope

The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope. C.W. Grafton. 2020. Poisoned Pen Press. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My secretary said that there was a Miss Ruth McClure to see me and I said that she could come on in. The girl who stood in the doorway a moment later was small and lovely but she was obviously very unhappy and looked as if she were not sure she wanted to come in after all.

Premise/plot: As adults we don't really have D.E.A.R scheduled into our days, well, most don't. D.E.A.R. if you don't know means Drop Everything And Read. But this vintage mystery should be a must-must-must read for all mystery lovers.

Originally published in 1943, it stars an amateur detective, Gilmore "Gil" Henry, a lawyer. A young woman, Ruth McClure, comes to him--as a lawyer--seeking his services. She has a couple of questions about some stock she has inherited after her father's death. Henry takes the case, and, well a lot more comes with that--than he was expecting! His close encounters with death start piling up!!!! Somebody does not want him helping out Miss McClure. But why?!?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED this vintage mystery. It perhaps isn't perfectly perfect. It is very much a product of its time. It was written and published during the second world war. But for adult readers with an appreciation for context that don't find offense at the drop of a hat, I think it would prove a delightful escape.

I love the narrative! I love Gil Henry. It's not often you get pudgy, chubby detectives that are way out of their element but super stubborn. I love the description as well.

As I reached the city limits I turned on the radio and caught a hot swing band with one of these women crooners who sounds as if she has gallstones. It was starting to rain a little and the black-top road was shiny like seals in the circus.


I was about halfway down the steep hill when there was a sharp explosion and the car jumped and twisted under me like a hula dancer. I went down that hill in a wild zigzag, keeping to the road for fifty or seventy-five yards by pressing my hundred and eighty pounds against the wheel and trying to anticipate each move. Then I went into a spin and the last thing I heard was the high whine of the tires skidding sidewise. I ought to be dead. How many times the car turned over I don’t know but when I came to, I was hanging halfway out of the door by the driver’s seat and the car was upright some thirty feet off the road down a slight incline.


I began to get a pretty good idea of what Tim McClure might look like when I tried to put on the suit I found on the bed. It may not have been a zoot suit6 but the way I wore it, it certainly had a drape shape. I rolled up probably eight inches around my ankles and the overlap at my waistline was something to look at. The shoulders of the coat hung down almost to my elbows and, of course, my hands were clear out of sight up the sleeves. No wonder Miss Ruth McClure laughed when she saw me. I was a dead ringer for the smallest of the seven dwarfs and sure enough she called me Dopey.


Every person has some cross to bear. Mine is that I am not shaped like people who are intended to get their clothes in ready-to-wear shops. If clothes are to fit me in the middle, they have to be too long at the ends and if they are to fit me at the ends, they hurt me in the middle.


I didn’t want to take the time to wait while alterations were made so I took a suit which hurt when I buttoned it at the waist. Mr. Silverstein had on a black skull cap and a measuring tape hung around his neck. He patted and smoothed and pulled at things to make them hang right and appeared to approve in every particular although he finally said that maybe it was a little snug. I thought snug was hardly the appropriate word since my belt was almost out of sight and I could tell that I would not want to sit down very often.


I regretted my decision when I crawled in under the wheel of the car. They say when you cut earthworms in two, the halves go about their own business and supply whatever it takes to carry on, but I am no earthworm and I had no faith in my ability to do the same.


I wondered if there was any way to grow a new tooth, remove bruises, reduce thirty pounds or grow eight inches taller in a few minutes, but decided there wasn’t. I thought about buying a new suit and incidentally giving my tortured stomach a rest, but with the other details so accurately reported, I thought it would be a waste of time and money. There wasn’t any water at the newsstand so I took two tablets out of the box and munched them disagreeably as I walked down the street wondering how long it would be before I was on the inside looking out.


People who fix things to eat like to see other people eat them, especially when they are hungry and say so, and I was so hungry it must have been shining out of my eyes for anybody to see.


Well, you can’t stand in one spot forever. Acorns do it and get to be oak trees and leaves grow all over them and by and by they can’t move at all.



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

May Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews
62. Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. 1958/2006 edition. 268 pages. [Source: Library] [science fiction; short stories; classic]
63. Anna Komnene and the Alexiad: The Byzantine Princess and the First Crusade. 2020. [July] Pen and Sword. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction]
64. The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories that Carried Them Through a War. Delphine Minoui. Translated by Lara Vergnaud. 2020. [October] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; books about books; war stories]
65. The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. 2003. 302 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; dysfunctional families; adult novels with young protagonists]
66. The Highlander's English Bride. (Clan Kendrick #3) Vanessa Kelly. 2020. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult* romance]
67. Misleading a Duke (The Wallflowers of West Lane #2) A.S. Fenichel. 2020. [September] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. The Art of Saving the World. Corinne Duyvis. 2020. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
69. Hunting November. (Killing November #2) Adriana Mather. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
70. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Winifred Watson. 1938. 234 pages. [Source: Library]
71. Goldilocks. Laura Lam. 2020. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Science fiction; dystopia; feminist]
72. Miss Mackenzie. Anthony Trollope. 1865. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]
73. The Tale of a Niggun. Elie Wiesel. Illustrated by Mark Podwal. 2020. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; Holocaust; Poetry]
74. Majesty (American Royals #2) Katharine McGee. 2020. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. Who's That Earl (Love and Let Spy #1) Susanna Craig. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
76. The Pull of the Stars. Emma Donoghue. 2020. [July] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Books Reviewed at Young Readers
56. Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
57. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]
58. Family Reminders. Julie Danneberg. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2009. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical fiction]
59. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic] 
60. A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical] 
61. The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy]
62. No Ordinary Boy (Tales from the Round Table). Adapted by Tracey Mayhew. 2020. [September] Sweet Cherry. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; j fantasy; chapter books]
63. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
64. The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
37. The Complete Guide to the Names of God. George W. Knight. 2020. Barbour Books. [August 2020 this edition] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Reference; Dictionary]
38. Is God Speaking to Me? How To Discern His Voice and Direction. Lysa TerKeurst. 2020. [September] 64 pages. Harvest House. [Source: Review copy] [Christian Nonfiction]
39. Arlo and the Great Big Cover-Up. Betsy Childs Howard. Illustrated by Samara Hardy. 2020. [June] Crossway. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] [picture book; children]
40. The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Entire Bible. Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid. Foreword by J Gary Millar. 2020. [March] Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology]
41. Saints & Scoundrels In the Story of Jesus. Nancy Guthrie. 2020. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Sixty Days with John Owen in Hebrews. John Owen. Edited by Daniel Szczesniak. 2011. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]
43. Epic. Tim Challies. 2020. Zondervan. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
4. The NKJV Woman's Study Bible: Receiving God's Truth for Balance, Hope, and Transformation. Thomas Nelson. 2017. 2112 pages. [Source: Bought]
 
The 5-Star Books
Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. 1958/2006 edition. 268 pages. [Source: Library] [science fiction; short stories; classic]
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic] 
A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical] 
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories that Carried Them Through a War. Delphine Minoui. Translated by Lara Vergnaud. 2020. [October] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; books about books; war stories]
 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Winifred Watson. 1938. 234 pages. [Source: Library]
Miss Mackenzie. Anthony Trollope. 1865. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]  
The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy] 
 Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library] 
Sixty Days with John Owen in Hebrews. John Owen. Edited by Daniel Szczesniak. 2011. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
 
May Totals
May Totals
Pages9257
Books30

2020 Totals
Pages50575
Books183



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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Good Rules Cheat List

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

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