Friday, January 31, 2020

January Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

1. Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories. Compiled by Martin Edwards. 2018. The British Library/Poisoned Pen Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Genres: Short Stories; Mystery; Classics]
2. Death's Door. (Billy Boyle #7) James R. Benn. 2012. Soho Crime. 358 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical Fiction; Mystery]
3. A Blind Goddess (Billy Boyle #8) James R. Benn. 2013. Soho Crime. 320 pages [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]
4. Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. Gavin Edwards. 2019. Dey Street Books. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Genre: Biography]
5.  Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5) Amy Stewart. 2019. 355 pages. HMH. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical]
6.  The Sobbin' Women. Stephen Vincent Benet. 1937. 26 pages. [Source: Online][Short Story; Comedy]
7. The Rest Is Silence. (Billy Boyle #9) James R. Benn. 2014. Soho Crime. 323 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]
8. The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency. Mandy Morton. 2014/2017. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Animal Fantasy; Mystery]
9. The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Fiction; Dystopia; MG Fiction; Newbery Medal]
10. Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. 1601. 272 pages. [Source: Bought] [Play; Shakespeare; Classic]
11. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. 190 pages. [Source: Library] [Classic; Dystopia; Speculative Fiction]
12. Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865. 847 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classic; Romance; Dysfunctional Families]
13. The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984. Dorian Lynskey. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction; History; Literature]
14. The White Ghost. (Billy Boyle #10). James R. Benn. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical Fiction; Mystery; World War II]
15. Gathering Blue. (The Giver #2) Lois Lowry. 2000. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; children's fiction; mg fiction]
16. Messenger. (Giver #3) Lois Lowry. 2004. 169 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; Fantasy; Children's Book]
17. Son. (The Giver #4) Lois Lowry. 2012. 393 pages. [Source: Library] [dystopia; speculative fiction]
18. On the Horizon. Lois Lowry. Illustrated by Kenard Pak. [April 2020] HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Autobiography; Biography; Children's Nonfiction; World War II; poetry]
19. The Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens. 1837. 801 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classics; Adult fiction; Travel]



Books Reviewed at Young Readers

1. Two for Me, One For You. Jorg Muhle. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book]
2. The Favorite Book. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
3. Sisters First. Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Illustrated by Ramona Kaultizki. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
4. This is Baby. Jimmy Fallon. Illustrated by Miguel Ordonez. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
5. Mary Blair's Unique Flair: The Girl Who Became One of the Disney Legends. Amy Novesky. Illustrated by Brittney Lee. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book Biography; Biography]
6. Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary. Meeg PIncus. Illustrated by Jordi Solano. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book biography; biography]
7. A Trio of Tolerable Tales. Margaret Atwood. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic. 2017. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; children's book; humor]
8. The Return of Thelma the Unicorn. Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Picture book; animal fantasy]
9. Pig the Tourist. (Pig the Pug #7) Aaron Blabey. 2020. [February] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Animal fantasy; picture book]
10. The Bad Guys: The Baddest Day Ever (#10) Aaron Blabey. 2019. [December] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Early chapter book; Graphic Novel; Animal fantasy]
11. Keeper of the Lost Cities. Shannon Messenger. 2012. 496 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction. MG Fantasy. MG Speculative Fiction, J Fantasy, J Speculative Fiction]
12. The Crayons' Christmas. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2019. 52 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book; Christmas; Novelty]
13. Welcome, Baby! Karen Katz. 2019. 14 pages. [Source: Library] [Board book]
14. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Catherynne M. Valente. 2011. 247 pages. [Source: Libary] [J Fantasy; MG Fantasy; J Speculative Fiction; MG Speculative Fiction] 

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible


1. The Twelve Brides of Christmas Collection. Barbour Books. 2015. 544 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical; Romance; Christian Fiction]
2. A Small Book for the Hurting Heart. Paul Tautges. 2020. New Growth Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; Devotional; Christian Living]
3. Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection. Tracie Peterson. Karen Witemeyer. Regina Jennings. Jen Turano. 2019. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian Fiction; Historical; Romance]
4. Holy Land Handbook: History, Geography, Culture, Holy Sites. George W. Knight. 2020. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian Nonfiction; Reference; Travel Guide]
5. Last Words: Seven Sayings from the Heart of Christ on the Cross. Robert J. Nash. 2020. New Growth Press. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian Nonfiction; Theology; Devotional]
6. Words of Jesus: 180 Devotions and Prayers for Kids. Emily Biggers. 2020. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Children's Book; Devotional; Christian Nonfiction]
7. Writing Joy on My Heart: A Bible Memory Devotional. Jean Fischer. 2020. Barbour Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Devotional]
8. Jesus: A Theological Primer (Board book) Devon Provencher. Illustrated by Jessica Provencher. 2020. [February] 22 pages. Crossway. [Source: Review copy] [board book; children's book]
9. Journey in Prayer: 7 Days of Praying with Jesus. John Smed. Justine Hwang. Leah Yin. 2012/2020. [May] Moody Publishers. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy] [prayer; devotional; christian nonfiction]
10. Sanctification: God's Passion for His People. John MacArthur. 80 pages. 2020. Crossway. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian living; christian nonfiction; theology]
11. Growing in Holiness: Understanding God's Role and Yours. R.C. Sproul. 2020. Baker Books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living; theology]
12. The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies About God That Sound Like the Truth. Jared C. Wilson. 2020. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living; Christian nonfiction]

The 5 Star Books
  1. A Blind Goddess (Billy Boyle #8) James R. Benn. 2013. Soho Crime. 320 pages [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]
  2. Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. Gavin Edwards. 2019. Dey Street Books. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Genre: Biography]
  3. Two for Me, One For You. Jorg Muhle. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book]
  4. Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection. Tracie Peterson. Karen Witemeyer. Regina Jennings. Jen Turano. 2019. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian Fiction; Historical; Romance]
  5. The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Fiction; Dystopia; MG Fiction; Newbery Medal]
  6. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. 190 pages. [Source: Library] [Classic; Dystopia; Speculative Fiction]
  7. The White Ghost. (Billy Boyle #10). James R. Benn. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical Fiction; Mystery; World War II]
  8.  Growing in Holiness: Understanding God's Role and Yours. R.C. Sproul. 2020. Baker Books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living; theology]
  9. On the Horizon. Lois Lowry. Illustrated by Kenard Pak. [April 2020] HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Autobiography; Biography; Children's Nonfiction; World War II; poetry]
  10. The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies About God That Sound Like the Truth. Jared C. Wilson. 2020. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living; Christian nonfiction]

January Totals
Pages9905
Books45


2020 Totals
Pages9905
Books45



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

19. The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens. 1837. 801 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classics; Adult fiction; Travel]

First sentence: THE FIRST RAY of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted.

Premise/plot: Samuel Pickwick, Tracy Tupman, Augustus Snodgrass, Nathaniel Winkle are the primary members of the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club. These fellows set off to have grand adventures (and some misadventures) as they travel throughout England; their goal is to be entertaining and share stories. Did they succeed?! Well. It depends on YOUR attention span and what YOU find funny.  (There's definitely some slapstick humor going on which doesn't necessarily translate well into print. But it isn't only of the slapstick sort. Far from it. At least one story has a gothic feel to it. Really there is something for everybody--if you're patient enough to read it all to find those enjoyable bits.)

I think one thing that would be unanimous is that Sam Weller (and his father to some extent) make this novel BETTER. 

There are snippets of plot lines. For example, the plot line of Pickwick getting sued by his (former) landlady. Or the plot line where his buddies go courting. But essentially the plot is very light. There are more characters introduced throughout this chunkster than actual plot lines. Which isn't necessarily a horrible thing--if you're patient and this is the only book within reach. Either/or.

My thoughts: I gave this one four stars the first time I read it. And according to that review, I did enjoy it and find it worth my time. This time around--the second time--I'm going to be generous and give it three stars. Yes, it's "lost" a star. But really considering how many times I was absolutely bored without a grin in sight versus the time I was entertained, three stars is generous. 

I will say this. What I enjoyed, I actually enjoyed. There were scenes that were fantastic. But as for the rest--it was meh at best. I do think the more I've read Dickens, the more I've come to expect from him.

Quotes: 
‘I am ruminating,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘on the strange mutability of human affairs.’
He had judged of his friend’s feelings by his own. 

‘Ah! poetry makes life what light and music do the stage — strip the one of the false embellishments, and the other of its illusions, and what is there real in either to live or care for?’
‘Ah! people need to rise early, to see the sun in all his splendour, for his brightness seldom lasts the day through. The morning of day and the morning of life are but too much alike.’ ‘You speak truly, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
Mr. Pickwick ran to his assistance, but the faster Mr. Pickwick ran forward, the faster the horse ran backward.
‘I, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘am delighted to view any sports which may be safely indulged in, and in which the impotent effects of unskilful people do not endanger human life.’
‘It wasn’t the wine,’ murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. ‘It was the salmon.’ (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)
Every one has experienced that disagreeable state of mind, in which a sensation of bodily weariness in vain contends against an inability to sleep.
‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes. ‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell again. ‘Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people, than to keep one?’ ‘That depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it’s a saving and careful person, sir.’ ‘That’s very true,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell, which may be of material use to me.’ ‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him— ‘I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.’ ‘Dear me, sir,’exclaimed Mrs. Bardell. ‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what do you think?’ ‘Oh, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, ‘you’re very kind, sir.’ ‘It’ll save you a good deal of trouble, won’t it?’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,’ replied Mrs. Bardell; ‘and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.’ ‘I cannot conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick when his friend returned— ‘I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.’   
‘Hush. Don’t ask any questions. It’s always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.’ ‘But suppose there are two mobs?’ suggested Mr. Snodgrass. ‘Shout with the largest,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. Volumes could not have said more.
That statement, Sir, may be true, or it may be false; it may be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true, and if it be credible, I do not hesitate to say, Sir, that our grounds of action, Sir, are strong, and not to be shaken.
Magnus is my name. It’s rather a good name, I think, sir.’ ‘A very good name, indeed,’ said Mr. Pickwick, wholly unable to repress a smile. There — Peter Magnus — sounds well, I think, sir.’ ‘Very,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Curious circumstance about those initials, sir,’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘You will observe — P.M. — post meridian. In hasty notes to intimate acquaintance, I sometimes sign myself “Afternoon.” It amuses my friends very much, Mr. Pickwick.’
The more stairs Mr. Pickwick went down, the more stairs there seemed to be to descend, and again and again, when Mr. Pickwick got into some narrow passage, and began to congratulate himself on having gained the ground-floor, did another flight of stairs appear before his astonished eyes.
 words ran high, and voices higher;
  ‘There is no deception now, Mr. Weller. Tears,’ said Job, with a look of momentary slyness— ‘tears are not the only proofs of distress, nor the best ones.’ ‘No, they ain’t,’ replied Sam expressively. ‘They may be put on, Mr. Weller,’ said Job. ‘I know they may,’ said Sam; ‘some people, indeed, has ‘em always ready laid on, and can pull out the plug wenever they likes.’



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

18. On the Horizon

On the Horizon. Lois Lowry. Illustrated by Kenard Pak. [April 2020] HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Autobiography; Biography; Children's Nonfiction; World War II; poetry]

First sentence: On December 7, 1941, early on a Sunday morning, Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii.

Premise/plot: Lois Lowry has written an autobiography in verse focusing on the second world war. The book focuses primarily on two horizons--the first being PEARL HARBOR and the second being HIROSHIMA. I say focuses primarily on those two huge events--their impact and legacy--but it doesn't do so exclusively. Lowry and her family spent time in Japan--her father was stationed there for the military--after the war. Nor is the book narrated exclusively through her eyes, her perspective. It is told in three parts or sections. The first and third are more her perspective, the second adopts the viewpoint of those who witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved this one so much. Granted I am partial to Lois Lowry. Granted I have a HUGE collection of World War II books. But I loved, loved, loved it. I hope others do as well. I really enjoyed the verse format of this one. Much more than I was expecting to enjoy it!



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

17. Son

Son. (The Giver #4) Lois Lowry. 2012. 393 pages. [Source: Library] [dystopia; speculative fiction]

First sentence: The young girl cringed when they buckled the eyeless leather mask around the upper half of her face and blinded her. It felt grotesque and unnecessary, but she didn’t object. It was the procedure. She knew that.

Premise/plot: Claire is a Vessel, a birthmother, that was her assignment given at the Ceremony of Twelves. At fourteen she gives birth—or should I say delivered of—her Product. There is no he or she, no baby—just a product. They are not mothers but vessels. No maternal feelings or bonds allowed or encouraged. Claire is a misfit indeed since she can’t stop thinking about *her* baby, her son, number 36. Claire shocked the system in that she didn’t give birth naturally, her product had to be cut out of her. Claire is rejected from the program and reassigned to the fish hatchery. She pursues a connection with her son, wanting more, always more. Love may be a strange phenomenon in this cold and cruel community, but Claire is infected all the same. When Jonas takes the baby (toddler really since this is his second December), Claire is overwhelmed with emotion.

Son has three parts. The first and third sections are set in familiar communities. The first is where Jonas and Gabe escaped from. The third is the Village where Jonas lives as Leader—happily married to Kira. The second is a community new to readers. This is where Claire spends five to seven years, preparing herself for her journey to find her son. She will do antibiotics to find him and know he’s okay.

My thoughts: In the Giver, I, as a reader, was so focused on Jonas and his story, on the horror of the releases—new and young—that I didn’t think much about the other assignments, particularly the birthmothers. Son changes that. Claire’s story starts two to three years prior to The Giver.

This is an emotional read!!! I definitely love the series. The Giver remains my absolute favorite. One thing worth noting is that every single book has a different narrator, different style, different message, different tone. No two books are alike. Son unites the series and does a lovely job completing the story. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 27, 2020

16. Messenger

Messenger. (Giver #3) Lois Lowry. 2004. 169 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; Fantasy; Children's Book]

First sentence: Matty was impatient to have the supper preparations over and done with.

Premise/plot: Matty, a character whom we first met in Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue, now lives in the Village, a near perfect utopia—it seems. The Village has a long, long history of welcoming all refugees: the abused, the downhearted, the broken, and imperfect. Matty has been living with The Seer (aka Christopher, Kira’s father). But in the past few months, changes have been happening. People are less welcoming, less kind, less helpful, less compassionate, less empathetic and are becoming increasingly ruder and more selfish and self-absorbed. There is even talk of closing Village to outsiders (refugees) and building a wall. Matty has come of age since Gathering Blue and he is definitely the hero of this one.

The Messenger introduces readers to The Leader of Village. Readers will recognize him and the book where we first met him...

Of the three books in the series, this one is the most supernatural. While technically still post-apocalyptic, it is definitely magical in the supernatural sense.

My thoughts: Lest you conclude that this is a politically driven novel in response to a certain president, it was published in 2004. I had forgotten much of the plot, but I couldn’t help but see how relevant it is to the times.

Perhaps I unintentionally block the plot of this one?! It has a very Giving Tree feel to it. It is decidedly sad.

I do wonder if Matty was intended to be a Christ figure?! This story does not end with resurrection just a substitutionary atonement of sorts. I don’t want to read too much into it, but don’t want to ignore the obvious either. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 24, 2020

15. Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue. (The Giver #2) Lois Lowry. 2000. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; children's fiction; mg fiction]

First sentence: “Mother?”

Premise/plot: Gathering Blue is a coming of age dystopian novel. It isn’t an in your face dystopia. It’s much more subtle, quiet even. Readers know that this community is a remnant of a civilization. There is one remaining building that has survived the centuries since the collapse. The community has a primitive feel to it—for a futuristic dystopia. The men hunt in packs; the women weave. If you cannot work hunting, gathering, planting, weaving, then you are essentially kicked out and left for the beasts. Kira, our heroine, has a twisted leg—she was born ‘a cripple.’ Some wanted her to be sent away, left for the beasts. But her mother and grandfather fiercely fought to keep her. Kira was being trained by her mother to weave, to dye thread, to embroider when her mother died. Now that she’s on her own the fight to kick her out has resurfaced. One woman demands Kira’s land should be hers. Kira’s fate depends on her defense attorney. Will she be saved? Can she take over her mother’s job?

My thoughts: Is it fair to compare this one to Lois Lowry’s The Giver? Probably not. Especially if you’re supposed to be wearing your book reviewer hat. Though this isn’t a review copy, so I suppose I can be as subjective as I please! I love, love, love The Giver and it gives off deliciously creepy vibes from page one. Something is way, way off and you know it. Gathering Blue has a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Civilization has been set back hundreds if not thousands of years because of a catastrophic collapse. The creepiness creeps up on you in this one. I didn’t see the potential evil in their midst—the secrets, the lies, the crimes. I just got the sense the people were ignorant and ‘uncivilized.’

Readers get a glimpse of one place that might be ‘beyond’ the sophisticated though evil civilization presented in The Giver.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

14. The White Ghost

The White Ghost. (Billy Boyle #10). James R. Benn. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical Fiction; Mystery; World War II]

First sentence: I turned away from the hot wind gusting against my face, gave up watching foe incoming aircraft, and went inside. Again.

Premise/plot: Though The White Ghost is the tenth Billy Boyle mystery. Chronologically, it takes place much, much earlier in the series. It is set in August 1943 in the South Pacific. (The past few books have been set in Europe in 1944; Italy, Ireland, England primarily.) Billy Boyle is once again investigating a murder, this time for the Navy. A senator’s son is a suspect, he is the one who found the body on the beach. Boyle has no love for the Kennedy family, but he’s determined to find out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If he clears Jack Kennedy, fine, if he doesn’t that’s fine too. But in solving this one murder, others are committed. Can Boyle and Kaz find the murderer as they also struggle to survive?!

My thoughts: I dare anyone to read this novel and not immediately seek out South Pacific. That being said, I definitely enjoyed this one. I thought it was a suspenseful, action packed read. I didn’t guess the murderer right off, which always makes for a better mystery experience.

I would recommend the series for those that love historical mysteries or war stories.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

13. The Ministry of Truth

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984. Dorian Lynskey. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction; History; Literature]

First sentence: December 1948. A man sits at a typewriter, in bed, on a remote island, fighting to complete the book that means more to him than any other.

Premise/plot: The Ministry of Truth is a biography of a book—George Orwell’s 1984. What does that involve? How does that even work? It is a closer look At Orwell’s life, his beliefs, his career, his works, his relationships. It is a closer look at the evolution of the utopian/dystopian genre. What books came before. What books are its contemporaries. What books came after. (This also means mini biographies of other writers.) It is a closer look at ideas, philosophies, politics. Can man be improved? Is perfection possible? Is progress helping us become better people? Will technology lead us to an ideal paradise? Or is humanity what is wrong with the world? Is technology destroying us? Will it ultimately be our downfall? Primarily there is a lot of discussion on communism, socialism, democratic socialism, totalitarianism, fascism, etc. Apparently there are distinctions between all of them. Orwell’s beliefs—his world view—shifted, changed, evolved, over time. And his beliefs can’t necessarily be divorced from the times, the culture, his life experiences. Learning more about the books he read, the company he kept, what he believed as deduced from what he was writing both publicly and privately, has me asking the question are people interpreting 1984 all wrong? I don’t have an answer to that...

My thoughts: I will be honest—this one was way too detailed for my interest level. I like 1984 okay, but I am not obsessed with it. I don’t have it memorized. It is not “my book.” (Think Fahrenheit 451). I do have an interest in the sub genre of dystopias. I have read Brave New World, We, 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, The Time Machine, The Sleeper Awakes, etc. (And of course Fahrenheit 451 which is one of my favorite, favorite books that I love and adore in a much more obsessive way.) I did find it interesting to learn about other novels that came before that I haven’t read...at least not yet. I didn’t necessarily love all the political and philosophical discourse. In that it’s hard for me to differentiate between all the isms in a meaningful way. I don’t get the hundred shades of socialism—but apparently it isn’t black and white. I get the impression that to read 1984 and conclude that socialism is bad or communism is bad is too simplistic in this scholar’s opinion. Apparently Orwell wasn’t condemning all of any ism. Conservatives see what they want in the novel. Liberals see what they want to see in the novel. No matter your political leanings, your world view, you interpret the book as agreeing with you to some extent at least. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 20, 2020

12. Can You Forgive Her?

Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope. 1865. 847 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classic; Romance; Dysfunctional Families]

First sentence: WHETHER OR NO, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation.


Premise/plot: Can You Forgive Her? is the first in the Palliser series of novels by Anthony Trollope. The series--as a whole--has been adapted for film.

Does it have a main character? Yes. No. Maybe.

Alice Vavasor, the one Trollope asks readers if they can forgive, is unwise in matters of the heart. Perhaps she's been listening to the Hokey Pokey too much. She's taking herself "in" and "out" of love, "in" and "out" of engagements, a little too frequently to be a proper young lady. (That being said, nothing IMproper happens exactly. Just a bit of confusion on her part as to WHO it is she actually wants to marry and spend her life with.)

George Vavasor, a rascally rascal, is Alice's cousin and Kate's brother. He is Alice's "first" love and fiance. He has ambitions but lacks morals and funds. He sees Alice as his way to succeed politically. If not Alice, perhaps, his sister Kate can use her influence to get money out of some of their other relatives whom he has repulsed.

Kate Vavasor, Alice's "dear" friend and cousin, is blinded by sisterly affection. She loves George so much--and Alice so much--that she just HAS to see them come together and marry. Will her brother ever act so abominably that she cuts him off?!

John Grey, a good, wise, prudent, well-respected man, is Alice's second love and fiance. He could have turned away from the whole Vavasor clan when Alice jilted him--but he has faith that Alice will see George for the RASCAL and RAT that he is and come back to him.

Glencora Palliser, Alice's distant "cousin" and "bosom" friend, is a newly wed that is far from wedded bliss. She was madly, deeply, truly in love with another rascal--a gambling addict always low on funds, Burgo Fitzgerald. But she was persuaded by her elders to marry another. Can she make peace with her new life?!

Plantagenet Palliser, Glencora's husband, is a dignified, well-respected, wealthy and wise man--not a young, super-adorable one. How far will he go for love?! Can he persuade Glencora to give their marriage a chance? It is the Pallisers that will become the SUPERSTARS of the series--as a whole. 

Other characters--relations and friends of the above--also people Trollope's world. A tiny handful have been introduced in Trollope's Barchester series.

So the main stories: Will Plantagenet and Glencora fall in love with each other AFTER the fact, after saying I do?! Will Alice Vavasor marry George OR marry John OR stay single? Will Kate or her aunt--a widow woman--marry? There are TWO suitors both "madly" in love with the aunt--or is it her money?! But Kate is young and beautiful and perhaps an excellent second prize for the loser. Meanwhile, will the GRANDFATHER Vavasor ever die? And who will he leave his money and estate to?!

My thoughts: I really do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Trollope. I can't say that this one book is my absolute favorite and best. Though I do LOVE the characters of Glencora and Plantagenet. Alice--while deserving forgiveness--is far from being a heroine that I love and adore. John Grey is a GREAT catch--as is Plantagenet. But GEORGE is TROUBLE, TROUBLE, MORE TROUBLE. And I don't see the appeal of Burgo, for that matter.

I would recommend that readers COMMIT to reading the series at a good pace--keeping momentum high. If you only read ONE chapter per week, it will NOT be an enjoyable read and just be a book that you dread picking up. I read chapters 40 through 80 in about two weeks and these chapters were a thousand times more enjoyable than the first 40 which took me over six months to read!!!

Quotes:
  • Most of us know when we enter a drawing-room whether it is a pretty room or no; but how few of us know how to make a drawing-room pretty!
  • People always do seem to think it so terrible that a girl should have her own way in anything.
  • A man never likes having his tooth pulled out, but all men do have their teeth pulled out, — and they who delay it too long suffer the very mischief.
  • We have grown beyond our sugar-toothed ages, and are now men and women.
  • She certainly did not look forty, and who can expect a woman to proclaim herself to be older than her looks? 
  • With all her absurdities I like her. Her faults are terrible faults, but she has not the fault of hiding them by falsehood.
  • I don’t know that I was at all entitled to your good opinion, but I was not entitled to that special bad opinion.
  • He went on saying a good deal about home matters, and foreign matters, proving that everything was right, just as easily as his enemy had proved that everything was wrong.
  • When you discuss the value of a thing just purchased, you must mention the price before you know whether the purchaser has done well or badly.
  • The schoolboy, when he sits down to make his rhymes, dares not say, even to his sister, that he hopes to rival Milton; but he nurses such a hope. The preacher, when he preaches his sermon, does not whisper, even to his wife, his belief that thousands may perhaps be turned to repentance by the strength of his words; but he thinks that the thousand converts are possible.
  • Grief taken up because grief is supposed to be proper, is only one degree better than pretended grief.
  • A woman may forgive deceit, treachery, desertion, — even the preference given to a rival. She may forgive them and forget them; but I do not think that a woman can forget a blow. And as for forgiveness, — it is not the blow that she cannot forgive, but the meanness of spirit that made it possible.
  • You can’t make yourself unconscious of eyes that are always looking at you.
  • If a cook can’t make soup between two and seven, she can’t make it in a week.
  • I am beginning to know myself by degrees.
  • “I like to have a plan,” said Mr Palliser. “And so do I,” said his wife,— “if only for the sake of not keeping it.”
 
 
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

11. Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. 190 pages. [Source: Library] [Classic; Dystopia; Speculative Fiction]

First sentence: It was a pleasure to burn.

Premise/plot: Guy Montag, a fireman, is challenged in his beliefs after meeting a young neighbor girl, Clarisse, who is seventeen and crazy. Though their meetings are brief--she dies soon after--his life is forever changed by the act of actually thinking, observing, engaging.

Guy Montag has his eyes opened--and once they are open--he's quick to see that his society is in BIG, BIG TROUBLE and that most likely it is DOOMED, heading straight for collapse.

My thoughts: Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books. It's not about censorship--not really. Despite what any back cover says.

There is a line in a song from Beauty and the Beast that tackles what this one is about.

Gaston: Lefou, I'm afraid I've been thinking.
Lefou: A dangerous pastime,
Gaston: I know.

It is a nightmarish look at what happens to an entire civilization/culture that embraces the philosophy that IGNORANCE IS BLISS. That a mindless life is a happy life. It shows us the results of several generations CHOOSING for THEMSELVES not to think--to just be entertained quick and easy, fast and mindless. That's why I said it is NOT about censorship. Except for the occasional "oddball" that hasn't been brainwashed by the education system, the parlor families (aka television), the ads and billboards, the majority are happy and content to be mindless. They're not desperate rebels anxious to pick up a book. They don't need the government, the system, the powers that be forbidding them from picking up books and reading. It's almost a non-issue. It's the oddballs that keep the firemen in business.

Mindless, easy entertainment that never challenges or questions--merely entertains has weakened society. Though most wouldn't ever guess it or observe it on their own. They're doomed and clueless.

In addition to entertainment and education (or lack thereof) this one also has MUCH to say about war.

Favorite quotes:

I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames. (8)
Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. (30)
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)

"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)

Do you see? Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more. (55)

School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored (55)

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (58)

It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today thanks to them you can stay happy all the time. (58)

Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right right? Haven't you heart it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these. (59)

The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle. (60)

Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. (65)

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." (71)

Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe. (73-4)

Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)

It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty’, but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. (82)

It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. (82)

The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. (83)

And what does the word quality mean ? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more literary you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. (83)

We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)

The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. (86)
"Caesarians or not, children are ruinous; you're out of your mind," said Mrs. Phelps.
"I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid." Mrs. Bowles tittered. "They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!" (96)

Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks...if you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. (104)

What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. (107)

Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. (108)



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

10. Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. 1601. 272 pages. [Source: Bought][Shakespeare play; Classic]

First sentence: If music be the food of love, play on;

 Premise/plot: Twins (Sebastian and Viola) are shipwrecked and separated. Adventures and misadventures await the pair in the coming weeks. Viola dresses as a man and takes a job in the service of Duke Orsino. Orsino is truly, madly, deeply in love with a woman, Olivia, who is mourning the death of her brother. Viola becomes his messenger--delivering his unwanted love letters. Olivia thinks that Viola is better than a letter. Sebastian, meanwhile, finds a few buddies to hang out with. As with all Shakespeare plays, this one has a few fools in it--not all fools are foolish though, mind you. Sometimes the fools have more common sense than all the main characters combined. For example,
CLOWN. Good madonna, why mourn'st thou?
OLIVIA. Good fool, for my brother's death.
CLOWN. I think his soul is in hell, madonna.
OLIVIA. I know his soul is in heaven, fool.
CLOWN. The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother's soul being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen.
My thoughts: I always take this play for granted. It doesn't leap out at me as being MY FAVORITE. (The one that does leap out is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.) But Twelfth Night is a pleasant--more than pleasant--diversion for a winter's night. It is a comedy with some GREAT lines. I absolutely LOVE and ADORE the first line, "If music be the food of love, play on." That may just be one of my favorite Shakespeare lines ever.

Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Virtue that transgresses is but patch'd with sin; and sin that amends is but patch'd with virtue.
  • If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief. 
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon'em. 
  • Words are grown so false, I am loth to prove reason with them.
  • Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

9. The Giver

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Fiction; Dystopia; MG Fiction; Newbery Medal]

First sentence: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

Premise/plot: Jonas, a twelve-year-old boy, is chosen to be his community's new Receiver. This assignment is rare; this is truly something that occurs only once per generation--sometimes two or even three. But what is it he is receiving? The Giver--the former Receiver, the old man pictured on the cover--is sharing his memories, but not just HIS memories but many, many, many, many generations of memories. Memories of time before, of history past, of days long before the SAMENESS. These memories will supposedly enable him to see beyond and gain wisdom beyond his years. But can he handle the truth? Once his eyes are opened, can he be content with the way things are?!?! Could you?!?!

My thoughts: The Giver has to be one of my most favorite books of all times. According to my blog, this is my sixth book review of The Giver. According to GoodReads, I've read it ten times now. That sounds about right. I certainly read it before I started blogging. Though I don't think I read it when it came out in 1993.


Favorite quotes:

"We don't dare to let people make choices of their own."
"Not safe?" The Giver suggested.
"Definitely not safe," Jonas said with certainty. "What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong? Or what if," he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, "they chose their own jobs?'
"Frightening, isn't it? The Giver said.
Jonas chuckled. "Very frightening. I can't even imagine it. We really have to protect people from wrong choices."
"It's safer."
"Yes," Jonas agreed. "Much safer." (98-9)
"Do you love me?"
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas, You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"
"What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.
"Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully.
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory.
"And of course our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language. You could ask, 'Do you enjoy me?' The answer is 'Yes,'" his mother said. "Or," his father suggested, "Do you take pride in my accomplishments?' And the answer is wholeheartedly 'Yes.'"
"Do you understand why it's inappropriate to use a word like 'love'?" Mother asked.
Jonas nodded. "Yes, thank you, I do," he replied slowly.
It was his first lie to his parents. (127)


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 13, 2020

8. The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency. Mandy Morton. 2014/2017. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Animal Fantasy; Mystery]

First sentence: Hettie Bagshot sat at her desk and stared at her phone, willing it to spring to life.

Premise/plot: It isn’t at all unusual for cats to star in mysteries, to “help” their humans solve mysteries. But this isn’t your usual mystery with a cat. There are no humans—only cats. Cats that walk, talk, run businesses, drive cars, cook and bake, drink tea, and...murder. Hettie and Tilly are a detective pair new to the field, their first case takes them to a senior living facility where a couple of graves have been robbed. Can these two find the missing bodies before the robber strikes again? Is all as it seems at this nursing home?! Are other cats in danger?!

My thoughts: I have very mixed feelings on this one. I do love mysteries. If this book starred humans as murderers and victims, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to zoom through it without much thought. But since it only stars cats in this alternate reality, I struggled. Why?! Because I love cats. I do. And I try my best to not read SAD books where cats (or dogs or really any pet) die. I wouldn’t describe this book as terribly sad, just terribly weird. Cats should not be plotting murders and killing each other. I did read this one at a quick pace, but I am not sure you could say I enjoyed it.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 10, 2020

7. The Rest is Silence

The Rest Is Silence. (Billy Boyle #9) James R. Benn. 2014. Soho Crime. 323 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]

First sentence: I knew I was in trouble when the coroner wheeled in the body, encased in a rubber sack, on a wobbly gurney with one wheel that wanted to go in any direction but straight.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle stars in his ninth mystery in The Rest is Silence. Boyle is still stationed in England and solving mysteries for his Uncle Ike with the help of his friends. The war is progressing—it is April 1944 now—and plans are in play for a big invasion. Billy isn’t quite in the loop on the details , but he’s working closely with those in the know. In fact, one of the murder mysteries to be solved is of someone in the know—an artist working on maps. Can Boyle solve the mystery and determine a motive for the crime?!

My thoughts: I do love the series overall. I have become super attached to some of the series regulars. These books are dependable and solid. But. I don’t love each book equally. I liked this one. But I didn’t love, love, love it. I think for readers who love mysteries with incredibly dysfunctional families it will prove enjoyable.
 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

6. The Sobbin Women

The Sobbin' Women. Stephen Vincent Benet. 1937. 26 pages. [Source: Online]

First sentence: THEY came over the Pass one day in one big wagon—all ten of them—man and woman and hired girl and seven big boy children, from the nine-year-old who walked by the team to the baby in arms. Or so the story runs—it was in the early days of settlement and the town had never heard of the Sobbin' Women then. But it opened its eyes one day, and there were the Pontipees.

Premise/plot: Seven brothers are in need of seven brides?!

My thoughts: This short story inspired the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In the short story, the brothers are NOT named in alphabetical order. They don't go about singing and dancing. The eldest is named Harry. He marries Milly. Milly suggests to her brothers-in-law that they should go kidnap some women to marry. All ends well, as it does in the movie, with the women falling madly in love with the brothers.

"Hello, girl," he said, in one of those big voices men use when they're pretending not to be embarrassed.

She looked up at him straight. "Hello, backwoodsman!" she said, friendly enough. She didn't look a bit scared of him and that put him off.

"It's a nice morning," said Harry, louder, trying to lead up to his point.

"It is for some," said the girl, perfectly polite but going on feeding the chickens.

Harry swallowed hard at that. "It'd be a nice morning to get married, they tell me," he said, with the perspiration breaking out all over him again. He'd meant to say something else, but when it came to the point, he couldn't.

Well, she didn't say anything to that so he had to start all over again.

"My name's Harry Pontipee," he said. "I've got a good farm up the Valley."

"Have you?" said the girl.

"Yes," he said. "It's a right good farm. And some folks seem to think I'd make a good husband."

"Do they?" said the girl. I guess she was smiling by now but Harry couldn't see it—she had her head turned.

"Yes they do," said Harry, kind of desperate, his voice getting louder and louder. "What do you think about it?"

"I couldn't tell on such short acquaintance," said the girl.

"Will you marry me and find out?" said Harry, in a perfect bellow, shaking all over.

"Yes, I will, if you don't ask me quite so loud," she [Pg 146]said, very prim—and even Harry could see she was smiling now.

Well, they made a queer pair when they went up to the minister—the girl still in her chicken-feed clothes, for she didn't have any others, and Harry in his backwoods finery. He'd had to buy out her time from the innkeeper for twelve beaver pelts and a hunting knife.

But when the wedding service was over, "Well, we're married," said Harry, with great relief. "And now we'll be going home."

"Oh, no we won't," said she. "We're going to the store first and buy me some cloth for a decent dress—for landless I may be and dowryless I may be, but I'm a married woman now, and what's fit for a chicken-girl isn't fit for a married woman."

In a sort of daze, he saw her lay out the price of twelve more beaver pelts in cloth and woman's fixings, and beat down the storekeeper on the price, too.

He only asked her a question about one thing—a little pair of slippers she bought. They were fancy slippers, with embroidery on them. "I thought you had a pair of shoes," he said. She turned to him, with a cocky sort of look on her face. "Silly," she said. "How could anyone tell your wife had pretty feet in the shoes I had?"

Well, he thought that over, and, after a while, something in the way she said it and the cocky look on her face made him feel pleased, and he began to laugh. He wasn't used to laughing in front of a girl, but he could see it might have its points.

Then they rode back to the Valley, her riding pillion, with her bundles in the saddlebags. And all the [Pg 147]way back, she was trying him and testing him and trying to find out, by one little remark or another, just what kind of a man he was. She was a spunky little girl, and she had more education than she let on. And long ago, she'd made up her mind to get out of being a bound girl the first way that offered. But, all the same, marrying Harry Pontipee was a leap in the dark.

But the more she tried and tested Harry, the better bargain she seemed to think she'd made. And that took courage to admit—for the way was a wild one and a lonesome, and, naturally, she'd heard stories of Pontipee Valley. She couldn't quite believe they lived with bears, up there, but she didn't know.

And finally, they came to the house, and there were dark things moving outside it. "Bears!" thought Milly, kind of hopeless, and her heart went into her throat, but she didn't let on.

"W-what's that, Harry dear?" she said, holding on tight.

"Oh, that's just my brothers," said Harry, kind of careless, and with that those six hungry six-footers moved into the light.

"Oh!" said Milly, "you didn't tell me you had six brothers." But her voice wasn't reproachful, just sort of soft and quiet.

"I guess it was the wedding kind of knocked it out of my mind," said Harry. "But, there—you'll see enough of 'em anyhow, because we all live together."

"Oh," said Milly again, kind of soft. "I see."




© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Kopp Sisters on the March

Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5) Amy Stewart. 2019. 355 pages. HMH. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical]

First sentence: Beulah knew it was over when she returned from lunch to find her desk cleared and a little box placed on the seat of her chair like a gift.

Premise/plot: This is the fifth book in the series following the adventures and misadventures of the Kopp sisters. Previous books in the series stuck a little closer to what we know about the actual Kopp sisters. This one takes a few more liberties perhaps but it also features some other real life women whose stories are fascinating. Namely Beulah Binford and Maude Miner.

So what is it about? The Kopp sisters are attending a training camp, a National Service School camp. One that will train or “train” them for serving in France. Norma wants the army to use trained messenger pigeons. (They’re slow to respond to her good suggestions.) But the women will be trained in cooking for large numbers, making bandages, knitting socks, making beds, marching, etc. Some women are there for amusement—perhaps shock value to family. But others mean business and are slightly disappointed that the training isn’t more intense and useful.

The Kopp sisters become acquainted with Beulah (calling herself Roxanne) and Maude Miner...

My thoughts: By this point you are either invested in the series and all in...or you stopped reading a couple of books ago. I am all in. I do truly care about the story, the history behind the story, separating truth from fiction. I think she’s a compelling writer. I thought Beulah’s story completely stole the show for better or worse. Perhaps because we don’t really know what the Kopp sisters were actually doing in 1917 (the pigeon story is pure fiction) but we do know about Beulah. Overall I enjoyed this one.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 06, 2020

4. Kindness and Wonder

Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. Gavin Edwards. 2019. Dey Street Books. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Genre: Biography]

First sentence: It’s not your imagination.

Premise/plot: This is a lovely biography of Mister Rogers. Rogers is not presented as an absolute saint worthy of the highest pedestal but as a complex human being. The first half focuses on his entire life and career. The second half focuses on ten life lessons we can learn from Mister Rogers.


My thoughts: I would say this biography is more for adults than young readers. His show may be family friendly but this biography not so much. I could have gone a lifetime without needing to know some of the dirty practical jokes and pranks that happened off camera that the crew pulled on Mr. Rogers. Let’s just say that the closet where he kept the cardigans offered opportunities that some found irresistible.

I loved the stories of him interacting with neighbors young and old.

There are lots of reasons to cry and they’re all okay. (119)



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 04, 2020

2020 Reading Challenges: Back to the Classics

2020 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge
Host: Books and Chocolate, sign up here 
January - December 2020
# of books: 6 to 12

If you're new to the challenge, here's how it works:
  • Complete six categories, and you'll get one entry in the drawing; 
  • Complete nine categories, and you'll get two entries in the drawing; 
  • Complete all twelve categories, and you'll get three entries in the drawing
THE CATEGORIES: 

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

_ 2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1970. All books in this category must have been published at least 50 years ago. The only exceptions are books that were published posthumously but were written at least 50 years ago. 

_ 3. Classic by a Woman Author.

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

_ 5. Classic by a Person of Color. Any classic work by a non-white author. 

X 6. A Genre Classic. Any classic novel that falls into a genre category -- fantasy, science fiction, Western, romance, crime, horror, etc. 

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953. 190 pages. [Source: Library] [Classic; Dystopia; Speculative Fiction] 

_ 7. Classic with a Person's Name in the Title. First name, last name or both. Examples include Ethan Frome; Emma; Madam Bovary; Anna Karenina; Daniel Deronda; David Copperfield, etc. 

_ 8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Any classic with the proper name of a place (real or fictional) - a country, region, city, town, village, street, building, etc. Examples include Notre Dame de Paris; Mansfield Park; East of Eden; The Canterbury Tales; Death on the Nile; etc.

X 9. Classic with Nature in the Title. A classic with any element of nature in the title (not including animals). Examples include The Magic Mountain; The Grapes of Wrath; The Jungle; A High Wind in Jamaica; Gone With the Wind; Under the Volcano; etc.

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. 1601. 272 pages. [Source: Bought] [Play; Shakespeare; Classic] Assuming that NIGHT is nature enough?!

_ 10. Classic About a Family. This classic should have multiple members of the same family as principal characters, either from the same generation or multiple different generations. Examples include Sense and Sensibility; Wives and Daughters; The Brothers Karamazov; Fathers and Sons; The Good Earth; Howards End; and The Makioka Sisters.

X 11. Abandoned Classic. Choose a classic that you started and just never got around to finishing, whether you didn't like it at or just didn't get around to it. Now is the time to give it another try.

Vanity Fair. William Makepeace Thackery. 1847. 867 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classic]

_ 12. Classic Adaptation. Any classic that's been adapted as a movie or TV series. If you like, you can watch the adaptation and include your thoughts in your book review. It's not required but it's always fun to compare.

THE RULES: 
  • All books must have been written at least 50 years ago to qualify; therefore, books must have been published no later than 1970 for this challenge. The only exceptions to this rule are books which published posthumously but written before 1970. Recent translations of classic novels are acceptable. 
  • All books must be read during read from January 1 through December 31, 2020. Books started before January 1 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by 11:59 p.m. on January 1, 2021. I will post links the first week of January for each category, which will be featured on a sidebar of this blog for convenience through the entire year. (The link for the final wrap-up will be posted towards the end of the year, to avoid confusion). 
  • The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 31, 2020. After that, I'll close the link and you'll have to wait until next year's challenge. Please include a link to your actual sign-up post, not your blog URL/home page. Make sure you sign up in the Linky below, not the comments section. If I do not see your name in the sign-ups, you are not eligible. If you've made a mistake with your link, just add a new one and let me know in the comments. It's no trouble for me to delete an incorrect link. 
  • Books may NOT cross over within this challenge -- that is, you may not count the same book multiple times within this challenge. You MUST read a different book for each category in this challenge, or it doesn't count. 
  • Participants must post a wrap-up and link it to the challenge, and it must include links to all the books they've read for this challenge, specifying which books for each challengeIf I cannot confirm which books you've read for each challenge, I will not enter your name into the drawing. It is fine to rearrange books for the challenge, since many books can fit multiple categories -- just let me know in the final wrap-up! 
  • The wrap-up post MUST include contact information so that I can contact the winner privately before announcing the winner on this blog. If your blog doesn't have a link, or if you have a Goodreads account, let me know in the comments of wrap-up post. If I cannot contact you, I cannot award you the prize!
  • The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January, 2021. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending upon the number of categories they complete as stated above. One winner will be randomly selected from all qualifying entries. I will contact the winner privately and award the prize before posting on the blog. 
The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US) from Amazon.com (US) OR $30 in books from The Book Depository. Winners must live in a country that receives shipment from one of these online retailers.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 03, 2020

3. A Blind Goddess

A Blind Goddess (Billy Boyle #8) James R. Benn. 2013. Soho Crime. 320 pages [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]

First sentence: Tree didn’t speak.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle stars in his eighth historical mystery in A Blind Goddess. In this one he has several seemingly unrelated mysteries to solve. One mystery is unofficial, a favor for a friend. Tree’s friend, Angry, is innocent but charged with murder. Both fear that the color of his skin (Tree and Angry are black and serving with a colored unit. Remember this was during a time of segregation and racism.) Officially, he is investigating the murder of Stuart Neville. Semi-officially he is helping local police looking for missing girls and a kidnapper. This small, quiet town has much going on!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. I love that all my favorite recurring characters make substantial appearances. Diana and Billy have a chance at long last to get some time together. Diana has a month long leave after her ordeal. But she can’t forget the atrocities of the extermination camps. Billy is supportive of her efforts to get the word out. Billy is super, super busy solving mysteries. He’s helped by Kaz (whom I adore) and Big Mike. I loved meeting Tree. I loved Inspector Payne, the local detective. I loved the flashback scenes. I loved how everything comes together.

This is a thought provoking read that tackles subjects that some might find uncomfortable. These issues are still relevant, unfortunately. 


© 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
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