Wednesday, May 25, 2022

64. My Own Lightning


My Own Lightning. (Wolf Hollow #2) Lauren Wolk. 2022. [March] 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I didn't know there was a storm coming. Had I known I might have done things differently.

Premise/plot: My Own Lightning is the sequel to Wolf Hollow (2016). It is a historical novel set in 1943 during the Second World War. Annabelle, our heroine, continues to come of age. Soon after the novel opens, Annabelle is struck by lightning. Miraculously, she survives...with a little help from an anonymous person... but the experience changes her. She finds herself more in tune to understand/relate/communicate with animals.

My thoughts: I didn't love, love, love Wolf Hollow when I read it. It was getting a LOT of buzz when it released. Everyone was talking about how awesome it was. Because it was historical middle grade set during one of my favorite time periods to when about, I wanted to love it. I just didn't. I thought at the time--and I do still think this to some extent--that it was just a difference of expectations. It was too buzzed about. 

I hadn't thought about Wolf Hollow in years. This wouldn't be a book I thought "needed" a sequel. 

I liked this one okay. Probably more than the first book. (Though I think it would have been much appreciated to better sum up the events of book one. Whether you are a first time reader who hasn't read Wolf Hollow OR a reader who read Wolf Hollow years ago (2016 feels like ages ago), there are some gaps. Names are dropped--Betty, Toby--but with NO context really. I was hoping that things would come together. I'd have some memory of the first book. But nope. Plenty of readers, I imagine, would be picking this one up without any previous knowledge of the first book. A little context would make a world of difference. Since this book explores the relationship between Andy and Annabelle. 

There were things I liked about this one. 

Quote:

"Just because he..." My mother let out a little gasp. "Annabelle, there is no just about that." My grandmother looked at me, her face lovely and sad. "But there is forgiveness my girl. A good deed doesn't erase a bad one, but it's worth a lot. And I happen to think it's worth, even more considering...well, considering it's Andy we're talking about."

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 23, 2022

63. One Good Deed



One Good Deed. (Archer #1) David Baldacci. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
 

First sentence: It was a good day to be free of prison.

Premise/plot: Aloysius Archer is out on parole; he’s been resettled in the small, rural town of Poca City. The community is small enough that everyone know everybody’s business. Ex-cons tend to stick out, but Archer isn’t like other ex-cons. He was innocent of the crime he was convicted of. He is determined to stay out of trouble that might lead him back to prison. In addition to being fresh out of prison, Archer is a war veteran. The novel is set in 1949. America—Archer included—is still very much impacted by the war. One doesn’t simply forget the war and jump back effortlessly into “normal“ life.

So on his first day in town he picks up an unusual job. He is collect the collateral of a debt. Both men—the one who made the loan and the one who took out the loan—are unsavory chaps. Neither man seems “good”. Both seem super dangerous and unreasonable. But he is desperate for a job and this one pays $100. Will accepting this job be the biggest mistake of his life? Will he escape with his life?

My thoughts: I love, love, love historical fiction. I love, love, love mystery novels. When an amateur detective happens to love reading detective novels...I find it giddy making. So much of this one was just happy making. It was a compelling and suspenseful read. But it wasn’t so much about the destination—at least for me. It was every step of the journey. I hope this is the start of a new series. I want to spend more time with Archer!

 ETA: I reread One Good Deed. It has been almost three years since I first read it. I still loved it. I think my favorite thing about it remains the narrative voice. I just LOVED spending time with Archer and seeing the world through his eyes. I thought the pacing was great.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 22, 2022

62. Meet the Malones


Meet the Malones. (Beany Malone #1) Lenora Mattingly Weber. 1943. 282 pages. [Source: Borrowed from a friend]

First sentence: MARY FRED MALONE had just bought a horse. He was black and his name was Mr. Chips and Mary Fred was riding him home.

Premise/plot: Meet the Malones is the first in a series of books that chronicles the [fictional] Malone family. Elizabeth, Mary Fred, Johnny, and Beany. The book is set during the Second World War in Colorado. Elizabeth's husband, Don, is overseas fighting. Their father, a journalist, has gone to Hawaii. The family is mostly on their own--except for when they aren't. Nonna, the grandmother, is a FIERCE force to be reckoned with when she does arrive. She does change the family dynamics quite a bit. 

The point of view in this one is all Mary Fred. She has her first misadventure with "love" in this one. As this "mop-squeezer" is swept off her feet by the super-popular football player who typically dates "queens." Elizabeth returns home with a newborn son to care for! The whole family helps out...not just with Elizabeth but with other children in need. There is a real spirit of hospitality and compassion in this one. (Though that may not extend all the way to the neighbor's dog.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one very much! I enjoyed getting to know the family. At times I was left wanting more--which overall I think is better than reverse. Each chapter is a "snapshot." Some focus more on family life at home, their relationships with each other. Others focus more on school OR the community. You do get a sense of how life on the home front is during the war. The war is never far from their minds, they are always thinking of ways they can help out the war effort and encourage/support those serving. 

Quotes:

  • The young Malones made their own decisions about lamb chops and life.  He was the delight of his English Lit teacher, gray-haired, gray-eyed, gray-garbed Miss Hewlitt.
  • ‘The highest price you can pay for a thing is to get it for nothing.’ That’s the trouble with this generation; they want everything—” 
  • Mary Fred said softly, “I read some place where courage is fear that has said its prayers.” 
  • “Rabbits,” groaned Beany. “Why do people always poke rabbits at children when they’re too young to defend themselves?” “They’re beautiful blankets,” Elizabeth insisted. 
  • Shame was different from grief or anxiety. You could share those with the ones you loved.
  • Elizabeth said earnestly, “I don’t think they ought to end stories like that for children. It gives them the wrong idea. There’s happiness in love—oh, happiness that shakes you and enriches you, but love and marriage isn’t a happy-ever-after thing. Love and marriage has so much ache and emptiness and hurt with the happiness.” 
  • Elizabeth detained them for one last word of admonition. “Now listen, gals, be sure you go out there to this soldiers’ dance with only one idea—not to have a good time yourselves but to give them one. Because you’ve got other good times ahead of you. But these kids—we don’t know what’s ahead for them.”
  • “I didn’t bring you here to gloat over you,” he said quietly, as he swerved the car around and started home. “I wanted you to see for yourself. You’re always talking about Nonna and her being like a fairy godmother. I’m not up on my fairy tales but it seems to me I read about some old woman who fed a girl a poisoned apple and it stuck in her throat and she lay in a coma until something jolted her and it fell out. I wanted to jolt you.”
 
 
 
 
 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 20, 2022

61. Rivals (American Royals #3)


Rivals (American Royals #3) Katharine McGee. 2022. [May] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Beatrice pulled her arms overhead in a stretch. 

Rivals is the third novel in the American Royals series. For those not familiar with the series, the premise is that George Washington became King instead of President. The Washington family has been reigning since the Revolution. There are three Washington siblings: Beatrice, Samantha, and Jefferson. America is not the only nation that has been re-imagined with a royal family. I would say almost all nations/countries have a reigning royal family. Not that McGee spends the majority of her text filling in and filling up her world. The series specializes in the adventures/misadventures of the love lives of the three Washington siblings. Not surprisingly, the book is told with alternating narrators. Surprisingly, Jefferson is not one of the narrators. Instead of Jefferson's voice, readers are "treated" to two potential love interests Nina and Daphne. 

To "refresh" your memory, at the start of this novel:

  • Beatrice is NOT married to Teddy (though she spent all of book two engaged and planning a wedding). But the two are still together.
  • Samantha (a twin) is head over heels with Marshall (a man that she fell for while pretending to date). The two have some conflict because it is an interracial relationship.
  • Jefferson is "on" with Daphne. But his friendship with Nina is "on" as well. The previous two books has been very messy with these three. HOWEVER, in the first two books, it was not a triangle but a rectangle. Ethan was always on stand by to switch out with Jeff. Whichever girl wasn't currently with Jeff was secretly (or not so secretly) with Ethan. 

So what does the third book offer readers?

[sound of silence]

Honestly, I feel this third book is a huge step backwards from the first two books. Turns out, I must have a secret (or not so secret) liking for Ethan. I don't know if it is Ethan himself, or, the fact that he offers some tell-it-like-it-is chaos. I honestly don't know if that's the best description. But there is no pretense, not really, with Ethan. 

Beatrice. It's not that I hate Beatrice, I don't. I think it's just that the author seems BORED of this character and like her chapters are a chore to write. There seems to be a disconnect with the way this character is written and how the others are written. I don't know that it's fair to say that Beatrice is playing at being a grown up in this one. But I just found her scenes where she is being a FIERCE Queen a bit ridiculous. (There's one laughable scene, not meant as a joke, where she stands up and make a speech ... and I won't continue with spoilers, but seriously. Just no.) Still, I didn't like how this one ended for Beatrice. It was just like the author was like DONE.

Sam. I think Sam is by far a more interesting character. She's had a handful of interesting love interests. Her scenes can have some drama that feels a little CW, but, her chapters move quickly. I do like her relationship with Marshall. But at the same time, these serious "notes" seem a little disconnected with the series as a whole. I have a LOT of questions about this alternate American history. And how this alternate series of events--a royal family instead of elected Presidents (and elected Congress) usually from two differing political parties--would impact EVERYTHING in society/culture. I could think of dozens of questions. I'll narrow it down to two or three--WAS there a civil war? WHEN did slavery get abolished? WAS there a civil rights movement? I could go on and on. Not just about race. But about EVERYTHING. The changes seem to be so small and insignificant they are barely noticeable. 

Nina. I do like Nina. She may be even more of a favorite than Sam. But I don't always like how she's "stuck" just being a love interest for Jeff and a sidekick for Sam (when Sam wants one). I get that these three grew up inseparable and that before the series open, there are literally twelve to sixteen (ish) years of back story for these three being TIGHT. But I almost like Nina better when she's not in the shadow of the royal family.

Daphne. Would there be any action in any of the books without Daphne moving the plot forward???? She is the chaos that initiates anything and everything. Mostly. That being said, my FAVORITE FAVORITE part of this book was the new-found friendship between her and Nina. I never in a million years thought I'd be cheering for these two to be best friends. But for a couple of chapters, there was this excitement of what it could mean. What if both girls decided that there was more to life than hanging all over Jeff??? But I was unsatisfied with how these stories played out. 

 Would I like Jeff MORE if he narrated his love life??????? He just seems SO VERY VERY VERY empty. Like as full of life as Disney's Prince Charming (animated original)--in other words not at all. 

I was disappointed with this third book. I had extremely low expectations, mind you, I wasn't expecting sudden genius. But I wanted more entertainment--even if that is twists and turns throughout. 

This series is MOST irritating if you in any way like history. The more history you've read in your life, the more irritating the series will be. Same with if you are a genealogist. The idea that there could even be a Washington family to reign and rule for two centuries is absurd. But the wider you expand this fictional world, the more questions you have. Like with genetics. HOW do you get past all the genetic problems from ruling royals. So this book may be above my maturity in some aspects.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

60. American Shoes: A Refugee's Story


American Shoes: A Refugee's Story. Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke and Garrett L. Turke. 2022. [February] 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was raised with the belief that life gives us a blank canvas on which to paint our lives.

Premise/plot: American Shoes is based on the author's own memories. Rosemarie (aka Rosel) was born in the United States of America to German parents. A family trip to Germany to visit grandparents--an ailing grandfather--has unintended consequences. This trip happened when Rosel was a young girl--four? five? six?--the family found themselves unable to leave the country. Though not Jewish, the family clearly faces some hardship in Nazi Germany. 

This story is not told in a linear manner. The framework of the story is Rosel as a teen girl--15, I believe--leaving Germany on her own. Her parents (and younger sister) having German citizenship and not American citizenship--are unable to get permission to re-enter the United States of America. As an American, Rosel has the ability to leave the country and return to her place of birth. She'll be one of many refugees on their way to the U.S.A. 

The "chapters" of the book chronicle her time on the ship AND include her flashbacks (often tied to specific nightmares). Her past is slowly revealed, perhaps unevenly revealed. Much of the book focuses on her mingling with other refugees and her experiences of preparing to begin a new life. Rightly so, she--and just about every single person she is meeting and talking with--are dealing with a LOT of baggage from the war. (PTSD) 

My thoughts: The book is based on the author's memories. I'm honestly not sure if this book is categorized as fiction (but based on a true story) or a memoir (straight up nonfiction). She is recounting memories from when she was very young. These are strong impressions she is sharing. It seems completely inappropriate to nitpick literary style or narrative because of the subject matter.

History matters. Voices matter. Her story is worth reading--especially if you read books set during this time period. Not every reader seeks out books about World War II. It can be a sensitive subject, a triggering subject. 

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

59. Queen of The Tiles


Queen of the Tiles. Hanna Alkaf. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When Trina Low walks by, the world holds its breath.

Premise/plot: Najwa Bakri, our heroine, is returning to the world of competitive scrabble a year after the death of her best friend (and social media star) Trina Low. It's been one year since her friend literally dropped dead mid-game in competition. The experience was so traumatic that Najwa still can't remember exactly what happened that day; she's blocked it out. But when her dead friend's Instagram account starts posting again the weekend of competition, well, it's spooky and weird. Najwa and her frenemies (and a few legitimate friends) work together--or seemingly so--to solve the mystery of Trina's death. Is there a killer among them? Or was her death an accident?

My thoughts: Queen of the Tiles is a YA mystery. The list of suspects is long. I think the quicker a reader can speed through this one, the better it will be to become immersed in the story and go with the flow. Some characters blend together; others stand out. But beware red herrings!

There is a LOT of Scrabble talk--playing, planning, strategizing, etc. Each chapter starts with an [obscure] word and its [possible] points when played. 

I can see this appealing to some readers, but not all readers.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

58. Inheritance (American Royals 0.5)


Inheritance: American Royals Prequel. Katharine McGee. May 2022. 84 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Royals: they're just like us. You don't actually believe such an absurdity do you? It's just a myth that tabloids use to sell magazines--accompanied by photos of the Washington twins shooting pool at a dive bar, or of Princess Louise of France blowing on the polish of her fresh manicure. Surely you realize that those photos are staged.


Inheritance is a prequel novella. It covers the events of ONE night. This one significant, life-altering night has been referred to in countless flashbacks in the first two books. Beatrice, the heir apparent, is at a royal function. Sam(antha) and her twin brother, Jeff, are "home alone" (aka without their parents) celebrating their high school graduation. Of course, they are anything but home alone. They are hosting a huge party where a lot of drama happens. Daphne. Nina. Ethan. Liam. Sam. Jeff. These are among the guests that night. Beatrice is the odd one out--as she so often is--and she's entangled (a bit) with a guard, Connor.

Is it worth reading? Yes or no.

Yes, if you are looking to refresh your memory before the third book releases later this year. You can in a relative short number of pages be reminded of the main characters--their names, their motives, some of their drama. 

Yes, if you can get it from the library. 

No, if you have to spend your own money to buy it. There is nothing new (really) revealed in this prequel that hasn't been touched on or hinted at in the flashbacks. A few details of the greater, wider world might be presented. Then again, it could just be that those details were of so little importance, so insignificant that they were easily forgotten in flashbacks. But my guess is some of the world's details are being slightly fleshed out in this prequel. These details are being placed because they will be of importance in the third book.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

57. Death on a Deadline


Death on a Deadline (Homefront News #2) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [November] 304 pages (guess). [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Clark Gable is coming to Progress and will be appearing at our war bond drive," Ava Dempsey said. "I have it on good authority."

Premise/plot: Irene Ingram is back for a second adventure in Death on a Deadline. In this murder mystery, the town is getting ready to have a fair, and not just any fair, a fair combined with a war bond drive. Several "stars" from Hollywood will be coming for the multi-day event. But not all the stars will be leaving town with a pulse. Is the murderer one of the town's own??? Or is it one of the other Hollywood stars? (Or "stars" as the case may be.) Irene finds herself right in the middle of another mystery... working side by side with her future father-in-law the chief of police.

My thoughts: I really LOVED both books. I love the small town setting. I love getting to know all the residents of the town. I love the sense of community, sense of place, and sense of time. Both books are set in 1942. This second book being set in June/July of 1942. I would recommend the series if you enjoy war fiction, cozy mysteries, historical fiction, or books with strong character development.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

56. Front Page Murder


Front Page Murder. (A Homefront News Mystery #1) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pop taught me a lot about the newspaper business. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell me the sentence I'd hear most often was That's not how your father would do it.

Premise/plot: Irene Ingram has taken over her father's newspaper business, the Progress Herald. It's a small town; the news is usually equally small. But a series of small-time crimes lead to the ultimate crime...one of the paper's own is murdered while working on a lead to a story. While the Chief of Police initially rules the death accidental, Irene becomes suspicious when she discovers a note on his desk. She decides--for better or worse--to work on the case (and the story) herself until she has enough proof to take it to the police. What she discovers is that not everyone in town is flag-waving, or, as the case may be waving the American flag...

My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this one. I did. I loved the setting--small town America during the second world war. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I love that we get a feel for her life--not just as a detective on one specific case, but her actual life. It makes the story feel more genuine to know that she has grown up in this community, that she has friends, that she has a family that she loves dearly.

I liked that this one is well-peopled; there are plenty of suspects and plenty of clues. Perhaps here and there I got a wee bit confused keeping all the details straight. But I think that is more my fault than the author's fault. Perhaps if I'd read it in one sitting instead of three, I'd have had no trouble keeping track of all the town's residents. 

Would recommend to fans of mysteries AND fans of war fiction.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 02, 2022

55. The Forsyte Saga


The Forsyte Saga. (The Forsyte Chronicles #1-3). John Galsworthy. 1922. 872 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight--an upper middle-class family in full plumage. 

First impressions: I have had The Forsyte Saga on my to-read list for almost twenty years. I saw bits and pieces (at least) of the 2002/2003 adaptation. It made me curious to read the book...at some point....though I bought a physical copy of the book around that time. It had the actors on the cover.

This review will have varying degrees of spoilers throughout. But it's a classic. I don't *think* they are the kind of spoilers that would keep you from reading this one on your own if you want.

Premise/plot: This classic novel chronicles the adventures (and misadventures) of the Forsyte family. It spans three or so generations, give or take. Though chiefly--in all honesty--it really only covers two. But before I begin summarizing--or attempting to summarize--I should probably mention this is three novels published as an omnibus. The three novels are The Man of Property, In Chancery, To Let.

Long story short, Soames Forsyte is married to the beautiful but aloof Irene. The marriage is not a happy one. Tolstoy wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." From her perspective, she despises/hates her husband. It is like she cringes every single time they are in the same room. She finds herself cringing a lot. The idea of speaking with him, being intimate with him in any way--physical, mental, emotional--disgusts her. Not annoys, disgusts. From his perspective, his wife is mysteriously aloof. Perhaps because she is so aloof, he's always trying hard to change things. It's like he's a begging, pleading dog. Please love me, please love me, please love me, why don't you love me. I'm not sure it's her he loves--maybe it is--but he loves the idea of her. He finds her fascinating, mesmerizing, bewitching. It's like he loses all reason when he thinks of her. But he doesn't know her--not really, not as a person, a human being. From his perspective, she's being unreasonable and irrational. WHY does this WOMAN behave in such a way??? From her perspective, he's a monster. Here's the thing, she acts like he's a monster way, way, way, way before he starts doing monstrous things. Like, I get that he does do monstrous things--eventually. But it's like she decides after the honeymoon, NOPE, don't like him, never will. EWWWWW gross. Don't touch me ever again. I'll never open my heart or mind up to you ever. Don't even bother trying because I'm checked out. 

So feeling 100% justified because she finds her husband ewww gross, Irene has an affair with a young architect, Philip Bosinney. An architect who happens to be ENGAGED to marry Soames' cousin, June Forsyte. Also keep in mind that Irene is supposedly good friends with June. But after these two meet one another, well, June and Soames don't stand a chance. (Not that Soames ever stood a chance. Seriously. Irene hates his guts.) But June, well, it's just a matter of time before the lusty affair destroys her chance for wedded bliss. To be fair, is he worth having if he dumps you after getting a good look at your friend???? But what kind of friend--a married friend at that--has an affair with her friend's fiance??? This affair is doomed...and, well, Philip Bosinney doesn't have a happily ever after with anyone...he ends up dead.   

Now, it will be pointed out that when Soames finds out about this humiliation, this affair, this transgression against him and their marriage, well, let's just say that he does act monstrous. There's no justification for his violent "passion." It would make sense if her hatred of Soames started AFTER this assault. But she hated him years before. 

So the two separate--but do not divorce.

Fast forward a decade. Soames wants an heir. He has a spare woman he could marry if he wants to divorce Irene. But if there's a chance that a decade of not seeing him might have dulled her animosity towards him, well, he's willing to extend the hand of friendship. Nope. Still hates him. Perhaps even more now that he's come crawling back asking to see if she'll take him back. Irene takes comfort in another Forsyte--a cousin named Jolyon. These two marry and have a son, Jon. Meanwhile, Soames remarries, a younger woman. They have a daughter, Fleur. Fast forward twenty years this time...and Fleur and Jon meet. Fleur becomes fascinated and mesmerized by Jon. And he's besotted as well. 

Will Fleur and Jon marry??? Or will their families put a great big stop to this relationship.

 My thoughts: I have thoughts and opinions on this one. I don't think I'm the average reader. I think the reader is supposed to sympathize with Irene. Poor, poor Irene. It's not that I sympathize with Soames. I don't. Not really. It's just that I don't think Irene is justified in her affair. To be fair, I'm not saying she needed a scarlet "A" for her chest. But still, the book presents her as if she's an angelic saint, perfectly innocent and pure and just an absolute darling. Soames, well, he's a fool undoubtedly. There are so many things that go right over his head--like the meaning of life. If there is something positive to say about him, however, he is a constant presence in his daughter's life. He loves, loves, loves, loves her. Like undoubtedly he loves her. To be fair, he might be a little too indulgent by not disciplining her. Her character, well, let's just say she's narcissistic, manipulative, a taker. What she wants, she WANTS. She reminds me a bit of Scarlett O'Hara actually. 

I think my favorite characters were Jon (Jolyon III), June (in the few scenes we get), Holly (in the few scenes we get). Now that I think about it, all three of my favorite characters are half-siblings. 

I don't regret my time reading this one. But this was not a novel where I found myself liking the characters. I kept reading because a) I wanted to know what happened next (would these two end up together???) b) I am STUBBORN if nothing else. 

 

Quotes: 

Love is no hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. A wild plant that, when it blooms by chance within the hedge of our gardens, we call a flower; and when it blooms outside we call a weed; but, flower or weed, whose scent and colour are always, wild!

"Love has no age, no limit, and no death."

Marriage without a decent chance of relief is only a sort of slave-owning; people oughtn't to own each other. Everybody sees that now.

"You may think you're very old," he said; "but you strike me as extremely young. To rattle ahead of everything is not a proof of maturity."

"Don't be angry, Jon dear. We can't all see people in the same light, can we? You know, I believe each of us only has about one or two people who can see the best that's in us, and bring it out. For you I think it's your mother. I once saw her looking at a letter of yours; it was wonderful to see her face. I think she's the most beautiful woman I ever saw—Age doesn't seem to touch her."

Monstrous trick, that Fate had played him! Nemesis! That old unhappy marriage! And in God's name-why? How was he to know, when he wanted Irene so violently, and she consented to be his, that she would never love him? Fleur smiled bitterly. "Tell me, didn't she spoil your life too?" June looked up. "Nobody can spoil a life, my dear. That's nonsense. Things happen, but we bob up."

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

54. This is Not the Real World


This is Not the Real World. (This is Not the Jess Show #2). Anna Carey. 2022. [May] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The gondola glided between buildings, and that same song filtered in right as we slipped under the third arched bridge.

First impressions: I fell hard for the premise of the first book, This is Not the Jess Show. That first book did not disappoint. I thought it was a fabulous premise-driven YA novel that was just fun. I was so excited to see the sequel is being published this May. I would love for it to be just as great as the first book.

Premise/plot: Jess Flynn has escaped the lie. But life is far from ideal in the real world especially when your boyfriend, Kipps, is still seventeen and under contract with Like-Life Productions. The two along with some friends (who helped them in the previous book) are hiding out...but the fact that they haven't been caught yet...perhaps leads to some mistakes in judgment. 

After a very special celebration--the worst happens (relatively speaking). Will Jess sacrifice her own freedom in the real world to return to the lie she escaped? Will she return to her 90's obsessed television show? 

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Did I enjoy it as much as book one? Probably not. Not that I didn't enjoy it at all. But it's hard for a premise-driven book to still carry that some momentum with a second book. I still cared about the characters, still had questions about the world--on and off of the set. This one had some twists and turns, but obviously not as many as the first book.

Definitely recommend for those that enjoyed the first book. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, April 29, 2022

April Reflections


In April, I read twenty-five books. Though this wasn't my highest book total, it was the highest page total so far!

Books read for Becky's Book Reviews

41. Yours Cheerfully. (The Emmy Lake Chronicles #2) A.J. Pearce. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Remember Me Gone. Stacy Stokes. 2022. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
43. The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. Jennifer Ryan. 2022. [May] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
44. Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis. Susan Hood. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
45. Louisa June and the Nazis in the Waves. L.M. Elliott. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
46. A Night to Remember. Walter Lord. 1955. 182 pages. [Source: Library]
47. Katherine. Anya Seton. 1954. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
48. Goblin Market. Diane Zahler. 2022. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
49. Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
50. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Alfred Lansing. 1959/2015. 357 pages. [Source: Library]
51. When the Sky Falls. Phil Earle. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
52. Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F Guillemard. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
53. Sense and Second Degree Murder. Tirzah Price. 2022. [April] 416 pages. [Source: Library]

Books read for Young Readers

44. The City of Ember. Jeanne DuPrau. 2003. 270 pages. [Source: Bought]
45. The Cats and the Cake. Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. Illustrated by Steve Henry. 2022. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
46. Bathe the Cat. Alice B. McGinty. Illustrated by David Roberts. 2022. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
47. Wondrous Rex. Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Emilia Dziubak. 2020. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
48. The Poet's Dog. Patricia MacLachlan. 2016. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
49. Smitten with Kittens. Florence Minor. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. 2022. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
50. Dear Mr. Dickens. Nancy Churnin. Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe. 2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Books read for Operation Actually Read Bible

16. The Great Passion. James Runcie. 2022. [March] 272 pages. [Source: Library]
17. The Lady's Mine. Francine Rivers. 2022. 450 pages. [Source: Library]
18. Come Down Somewhere. Jennifer L. Wright. 2022. [September] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles read for Operation Actually Read Bible

5. Holy Bible, NASB 2020. Lockman Foundation. 2020. 4068 pages. [Source: Bought]
6. Schuyler Credo Quentel. New American Standard Bible 1995. God. 2021. 1833 pages. [Source: Gift]

April Totals

April reads
# of books25
# of pages11,979

 

2022 Yearly Totals

2022 Totals
# of books127
# of pages39,984

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

53. Sense and Second-Degree Murder


Sense and Second Degree Murder. Tirzah Price. 2022. [April] 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the day that her life was to change forever, Elinor Dashwood awoke late with a wild hope fluttering in her rib cage. But, being the sensible sort, she kept it hidden as she rose, dressed, and joined her family for breakfast, stifling a yawn as she sat down at the table. It was a sunlit, cheerful morning, but her mind was still tucked between the pages of the book she'd stayed up far too late reading, so she didn't notice her younger sister's arched brow.

Premise/plot: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood team up to solve their father's murder in Tirzah Price's Sense and Second-Degree Murder. Their father has a detective company, Norland and Company, but all (house, business, estate) is left to their older (half) brother and his narcissistic wife by an outdated will. (Though the house, I believe, was entailed. But he could have left them money and the business). Their lives are turned topsy-turvy; they are snubbed by former friends now that they are down on their luck. But all the young women care about are solving the case of WHO murdered their father...and if they happen to solve a few of his open cases at the same time...so be it. 

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it like the first book in the series. I don't know that I really felt Elinor and Marianne resembled--in any way--the Austen characters. The book also felt slightly rushed and under-developed. Perhaps because I feel it took a few shortcuts along the way both with plot and characters. Granted the original novel might drag here and there perhaps. I'm not one to judge readers who might wish to rush things along with the original. (I don't. I like the journey just as much if not more than the final destination.) 

Elinor's "big" thing (if you will) is science and in particular chemistry. Since I love the Flavia De Luce novels, I thought I'd probably enjoy this one too. Marianne's "big" thing is detecting. But I don't think she's suited for it because she has some major blind spots and prejudices, if you will. (Like determining if a person is a potential suspect based on attractiveness. If she likes-likes a guy, well, then obviously he has to be innocent. If she finds a guy a bore and not worth her time, well, then obviously he could be a murderer.) Margaret, the younger sister, has some potential but isn't given enough time.

I do think it is interesting that the focus is on laudanum and opium and drug abuse...this was very much an issue in the nineteenth century.  

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 25, 2022

52. Cyrano de Bergerac


Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F Guillemard. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Hollo! You there! Your money!

Premise/plot: Cyrano de Bergerac is in love with his cousin, Roxane. The problem? He lacks the courage to tell her so because he feels his (large) nose will prevent her from ever loving him in return. To be fair, readers can't be sure either. For the most part, he is content loving her from afar. To be in her orbit at all--as a cousin, as a memory from the past, a friend--is enough for him. But when he receives a message from her asking for a private meeting, well, he lets his imagination run away with him--briefly. His heart is uplifted and hope begins to blossom. But when he realizes his mistake the next day, well, once again he puts her needs ahead of his (silly, foolish) hopes and dreams. Of course, Roxane has fallen head over heels with someone she's NEVER spoken to. Of course, Roxane is dreaming of a happily ever after with a super dreamy oh-so-handsome soldier. His name is Christian de Neuvillette. And she has a favor to ask of him--do everything in his power to befriend and protect Christian. And, oh, by the way can you tell him I love and adore him. 


Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane does love him, but, instead of that being the end of it...it is just the start. For Roxane is determined that the man she loves will be brilliant and exceptionally well-spoken. He must win her heart through his words. The problem? Christian's idea of wooing is to say "I love you" and go in for a kiss. NOT WHAT ROXANE WANTS AT ALL. The solution is for Cyrano to give Christian the words to speak to win her heart for once and all. But is that a real solution?! Is a happily ever after possible in this love triangle?!

Cyrano de Bergerac is a five act (French) play by Edmond Rostand written/performed in 1897. It is set in seventeenth century France around the same time as The Three Musketeers. And like The Three Musketeers, it has sword fighting. Lots and lots of sword fighting. The musketeers make a few appearances throughout the play--look for them in the background. It's like playing Where's Waldo.

 My thoughts: I love, love, love Cyrano de Bergerac. I'm not sure I equally adore Roxane. Cyrano is already madly in love with her before Act I. His love for her is never in question, and never in doubt. To him, she is absolute perfection. His longed-for ideal. But is he seeing only what he wants to see? How well does he know the real her? Does he love her because she is beautiful? Does he love her because she is so out of reach and unattainable? Does his love of her have roots from their shared childhood? 

Roxane may or may not be everything Cyrano believes her to be. That's the truth. Christian and Cyrano both think the world of her. As does the MARRIED Duke de Guiche. So maybe there's good reason--besides her outside beauty--for attracting all the guys. Maybe. But maybe not. Again, what do readers know besides the fact that she is a) BEAUTIFUL b) believes in love at first sight c) has preconceived notions of what LOVE is all about d) knows exactly what she wants and doesn't want in a romantic partner. I get the impression that she has mapped out her happily ever after in her imagination and nothing less than perfect will do. (At least at the start.) 


Roxane doesn't see the real worth of Cyrano until it is too late. She has known him most of her life and never actually seen him.  That is incredibly sad. I'm just trying to guess if she really was all that he imagined her to be. Was his love a 'storybook love'-- and the stuff of daydreams only. Surely Roxane had flaws! Who doesn't have flaws?! Surely Roxane would have proved disappointing or irritating at times if they'd lived together closely. 

Christian. How do I feel about him?! I think Cyrano and Christian are using each other--taking advantage of one another. This agreed upon dishonesty isn't all that healthy when all is said and done. Christian realizes--on a fateful day--that he needs more, deserves more. He doesn't want to be loved for his 'fairness' his fineness. He wants to be loved heart and soul for himself. He doesn't want to be an object of lust. Does Christian love Roxane for more than her looks? her body? Does he love her truly heart, soul, mind, body. I'm not sure. Perhaps the play--when scrutinized--reveals how silly "true love" is and how deceptive the human heart can be. Roxane didn't have a clue who Christian was--not really. She never saw him for who he really was. And if Christian had lived instead of died, chances are Roxane would have broken his heart.

Quotes:

A description of Roxane

When one looks at her one thinks of a peach smiling at a strawberry!
Cyrano to Christian
None is a fool who knows himself a fool. And you did not attack me like a fool.
Cyrano to Christian
Will you complete me, and let me complete you? Let me be wit for you, be you my beauty! 
Christian speaks for himself....
CHRISTIAN (sits by her on the bench. A silence): Oh! I love you!
ROXANE (shutting her eyes): Ay, speak to me of love.
CHRISTIAN: I love thee! 
ROXANE: That's The theme! But vary it. 
CHRISTIAN: I. . . 
ROXANE: Vary it!  
CHRISTIAN: I love you so! 
ROXANE: Oh! without doubt!--and then?. . . 
CHRISTIAN: And then--I should be--oh!--so glad--so glad If you would love me!--Roxane, tell me so!  
ROXANE (with a little grimace): I hoped for cream,--you give me gruel! Say How love possesses you? 
CHRISTIAN: Oh utterly! 
ROXANE: Come, come!. . .unknot those tangled sentiments! 
CHRISTIAN: I am grown stupid! 
ROXANE (dryly): And that displeases me, almost as much As 'twould displease me if you grew ill-favored.  
ROXANE: Yes, you love me, that I know. Adieu. (She goes toward her house.) CHRISTIAN: Oh, go not yet! I'd tell you-- 
ROXANE (opening the door): You adore me? I've heard it very oft. No!--Go away!
  Cyrano "saves" the night by speaking for Christian in shadows...
ROXANE: To-day. . . Your words are hesitating.
CYRANO (imitating Christian--in a whisper): Night has come. . . In the dusk they grope their way to find your ear.  
ROXANE: Meseems that your last words have learned to climb. 
CYRANO: With practice such gymnastic grows less hard! 
CYRANO (more and more moved): Stay awhile! 'Tis sweet,. . . The rare occasion, when our hearts can speak Our selves unseen, unseeing! Your eyes Have beams that turn men dizzy!--But to-night Methinks I shall find speech for the first time!
ROXANE: Ay! I am trembling, weeping!--I am thine! Thou hast conquered all of me!
CYRANO: Then let death come! 'Tis I, 'tis I myself, who conquered thee! One thing, but one, I dare to ask--
CHRISTIAN (under the balcony): A kiss
Cyrano on kisses...
A kiss, when all is said,--what is it? An oath that's ratified,--a sealed promise, A heart's avowal claiming confirmation,--A rose-dot on the 'i' of 'adoration,'-- A secret that to mouth, not ear, is whispered,-- Brush of a bee's wing, that makes time eternal,--Communion perfumed like the spring's wild flowers,-- The heart's relieving in the heart's outbreathing, When to the lips the soul's flood rises, brimming!
Cyrano before the last battle
CYRANO: Poets, at last,--by dint of counterfeiting-- Take counterfeit for true--that is the charm! This farewell letter,--it was passing sad, I wept myself in writing it!
CHRISTIAN: Wept? why?
CYRANO: Oh!. . .death itself is hardly terrible,. . . --But, ne'er to see her more! That is death's sting! --For. . .I shall never. . .
Cyrano confesses to Christian
CYRANO: You have. . .written to her oftener than you think. . .
CHRISTIAN: How so?
CYRANO: Thus, 'faith! I had taken it in hand to express your flame for you!.  
CHRISTIAN: But how did you contrive, since we have been cut off, thus. . .to?. . . CYRANO: . . .Oh! before dawn. . .I was able to get through. . . 
CHRISTIAN (folding his arms): That was simple, too? And how oft, pray you, have I written?. . .Twice in the week?. . .Three times?. . .Four?. . . 
 CYRANO: More often still. 
CHRISTIAN: What! Every day? 
CYRANO: Yes, every day,--twice.
Roxane says a little too much...(abbreviated)
ROXANE: 'Tis your fault if I ran risks! Your letters turned my head! Ah! all this month, How many!--and the last one ever bettered The one that went before! Ah! you cannot conceive it! Ever since That night, when, in a voice all new to me, Under my window you revealed your soul-- Ah! ever since I have adored you! Now Your letters all this whole month long!--meseemed As if I heard that voice so tender, true, Sheltering, close! ROXANE: I read, read again--grew faint for love; I was thine utterly. Each separate page Was like a fluttering flower-petal, loosed From your own soul, and wafted thus to mine. Imprinted in each burning word was love Sincere, all-powerful. . . 
CHRISTIAN: At first I loved you only for your face! 
CHRISTIAN (horror-stricken): Roxane! 
ROXANE: And later, love--less frivolous-- Like a bird that spreads its wings, but can not fly-- Arrested by your beauty, by your soul Drawn close--I loved for both at once!
CHRISTIAN: I do not ask such love as that! I would be loved more simply; for..  ROXANE: Ah! how you err! 'Tis now that I love best--love well! 'Tis that Which is thy true self, see!--that I adore! Were your brilliance dimmed. 
ROXANE: I should love still! Ay, if your beauty should to-day depart. . . CHRISTIAN: Say not so!
ROXANE: Ay, I say it!  CHRISTIAN: Ugly? How?

Christian speaks his mind...
CHRISTIAN: I will be loved myself--or not at all! --I'll go see what they do--there, at the end Of the post: speak to her, and then let her choose One of us two!
Cyrano's aside...
CYRANO (aside--drawing his sword): Ay, and let me die to-day, Since, all unconscious, she mourns me--in him!
Cyrano reveals all to Roxane...
CYRANO: His letter! Ah! you promised me one day That I should read it.
ROXANE: What would you?--His letter?
CYRANO: Yes, I would fain,--to-day.  
CYRANO (reading): 'Roxane, adieu! I soon must die! This very night, beloved; and I Feel my soul heavy with love untold. I die! No more, as in days of old, My loving, longing eyes will feast On your least gesture--ay, the least! I mind me the way you touch your cheek With your finger, softly, as you speak! Ah me! I know that gesture well! My heart cries out!--I cry "Farewell"!'  
ROXANE: You read in such a voice--so strange--and yet-- It is not the first time I hear that voice!  
CYRANO: 'Here, dying, and there, in the land on high, I am he who loved, who loves you,--I. . .' 
ROXANE: How can you read? It is too dark to see!  
CYRANO: Roxane! 
ROXANE: 'Twas you! 
CYRANO: No, never; Roxane, no! 
 ROXANE: I see through all the generous counterfeit-- The letters--you! 
CYRANO: No. 
ROXANE: The sweet, mad love-words! You! 
CYRANO: No!  
ROXANE: The voice that thrilled the night--you, you! 
CYRANO: I swear you err. 
ROXANE: The soul--it was your soul!  
CYRANO: I loved you not. 
ROXANE: You loved me not? 
CYRANO: 'Twas he! 
ROXANE: You loved me! 
ROXANE: --Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years, When, on this letter, which he never wrote, The tears were your tears? 
CYRANO (holding out the letter to her): The bloodstains were his.
 Roxane...
I loved but once, yet twice I lose my love!
Cyrano gets the last word in...
I would not bid you mourn less faithfully That good, brave Christian: I would only ask That when my body shall be cold in clay You wear those sable mourning weeds for two, And mourn awhile for me, in mourning him.

 

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

51. When the Sky Falls


When the Sky Falls. Phil Earle. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The platform was a battlefield: seventy yards of carnage transplated straight from the coasts of northern France. Smoke billowed; people clung to each other. 

First impressions: I knew going into this one that it had the potential for sadness. Not necessarily *only* because it had an animal on the cover. That in and of itself wouldn't mean it has to be sad (on principle). Once I knew that this was historical fiction set in England during the Second World War, I knew this one might be a heart-breaker. Again, war books don't always, always have to be sad tearjerkers. But the potential is almost always there. I wanted with all my heart for this NOT to be a sad book. I was okay with the potential for sadness, holding onto hope that even in wartime good things can happen...

Premise/plot: Joseph, our protagonist, is sent to London in 1940. He'll be living with "Mrs. F." a no-nonsense lady zookeeper. The zoo has closed officially--a result of the war. Many animals have been sent other places for safety and well-being...but not Adonis, a silverback gorilla. At first Joseph is scared (and rightly so) of Adonis. He wants absolutely nothing to do with taking care of Adonis... But as Joseph settles into his new life at his new home and at his new school, well, things change. Friends come in all shapes and sizes. 

Joseph is a vulnerable kid. And there are absolutely no bows tied at the end of this one. If anything his life may be even more unsettled. The difference being he has found a "found family." A found family being a family that you may not have any biological ties but they are your family nonetheless--your people, your tribe, those who have your back and love you unconditionally. Joseph *needs* his new family. But that doesn't mean that all is well and good.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed spending time with the characters in this one. The story itself, well, the plot was hard-to-take at times. I'll try to explain. Hard on the heart. 

Joseph is dyslexic and at a time when little is known or understood about the learning disability (or learning difference). He is literally beaten (caned) by the powers that be (principal? school master?) for it. His teacher while not that cruel doesn't quite get it either. Of course, the rock and hard place being if Joseph literally says nothing about not being able to read and why he is not able to read--then he's not believed, he's a liar; if Joseph pretends to be able to read then he's lazy and a goof off and just not trying academically. This could definitely trigger some readers--especially teachers and perhaps parents. It is just all kinds of wrong to see how Joseph is treated in a school environment.

It is also hard on the heart as an animal story. I definitely needed a freezer for this one. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, April 23, 2022

50. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage


Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Alfred Lansing. 1959/2015. 357 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of preface: The story that follows is true. Every effort has been made to portray the events exactly as they occurred, and to record as accurately as possible the reactions of the men who lived them.

 First sentence of chapter one: The order to abandon ship was given at 5 P.M.

Narrative nonfiction at its best. I suppose "best" is a relative term. But still. This book is an incredibly compelling, near-haunting read. This one was first published in 1959. Lansing traveled to England to do his research. He interviewed survivors--many survivors. He read diaries and journals. This book is the result of his immersion into his research. The first chapter opens with the call to abandon ship--the Endurance--but for the most part it is a chronological account from when they set sail to go exploring to the day that ultimate rescue comes. The book is divided into parts. And these divisions make perfect sense--even adding a bit of suspense. There are twenty-eight men. Twenty-seven officially chosen as crew, with one stowaway (who didn't have the best of luck picking ships to stowaway on). This is their story--collectively. Some men readers get a better grasp of than others--but I would say there's fair representation of all. Enough to say this is THEIR story, not just the story of a single man, an incredible leader (Shackleton). The book does not build him up as a saint; he is presented as a great--but human--leader with flaws. 

The story is a fascinating one. I'd probably recommend it for reading in any season except winter. I jest. Mostly. It is honestly one of the best nonfiction books I've read as an adult. That being said, it is not--I repeat NOT--a book for every reader. This book could easily trigger those who are easily triggered when it comes to dogs. For the pack dogs on board the Endurance, well, let's just say the story does not in any way end decently. It was ROUGH reading, to be sure. Same could be said with those with a soft spot for penguins and seals.

 This book does not conclude with an epilogue of what happened to the twenty-eight men after they were rescued. I've read other books about the Endurance that do. (It was not all happily ever after.) But excepting that fact, this is by far the best of the three or four books I've read on the subject. And according to the book's introduction, this is the "definitive" must read on the subject.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

49. Mio, My Son

2015 cover

Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Did you listen to the radio on October 15th last year? Did you hear the news about a boy who disappeared? This is what it said: "Police in Stockholm are searching for a nine-year-old boy missing from his home, at 13 North Street, since 6.P.M. two days ago. Karl Anders Nilsson has light hair and blue eyes. At the time of his disappearance he was wearing brown shorts, a gray sweater, and a small red cap. Anyone with more information on his whereabouts should contact the police."

Premise/plot: Mio, My Son is a children's fantasy novel. The protagonist, "Andy" (aka Karl Anders Nilsson) is in reality Prince Mio, the son of the King of Farawayland. He is the narrator of his own adventures...

1956, first English translation cover
My thoughts: The narrative voice is quite strong, in my opinion.

Now, I will warn readers that sometimes Mio repeats himself. For example, "I must go there to fight Sir Kato, though I was so scared, so scared." Some readers might find this an unforgivable sin. I don't. Not in this case at least. I didn't find it as annoying as a written stutter, for example. Perhaps because it mainly occurs when Mio is thinking about or talking about Sir Kato. It doesn't occur on every page.

So essentially, the book is Mio's adventures in Farawayland. The first half of the book is mostly light and joyous. Nothing heavy or dark. The second half of the book, however, is much more dramatic and dark. THINK Lord of the Rings only for a much younger audience. Mio has a mission to accomplish, something that only HE, as a royal son, can do. And it is seemingly impossible and very daunting. Mio must make up his mind to be brave and determined and risk everything for his mission.

Mio is not alone. He has a best friend, Pompoo, and a horse, Miramis. And, there is, of course, his father THE KING, who I personally LOVED.

So did I like this one? Did I love it? Did I love, love, LOVE it? I think I definitely loved it. I loved it for the narrative, for the descriptive language, for the imagery. I really loved the imagery of the Bread That Satisfies Hunger and the Well That Quenches Thirst. Also I really liked the Well That Whispers at Night. The first two images reminded me of Scripture. (John 4:13-14; John 6:35) The sacrificial nature of the mission also reminded me of Scripture. I'm not convinced it can only, always be read as an "allegory" (think The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). But as a Christian reader, I saw how it could be interpreted that way.

I think anyone can appreciate the imagery of the Well That Whispers At Night:

A whisper began deep, deep down in the well. It was such a strange voice, unlike any other voice. It whispered fairy tales. They weren't like any other fairy tales, and they were the most beautiful stories in the whole world. There was almost nothing that I loved more than listening to fairy tales, so I lay down flat on my stomach, leaning over the edge of the well to hear more and more of the voice that whispered. Sometimes it sang too, the strangest and most beautiful songs.
"What strange kind of well is this?" I said to Totty.
"A well full of fairy tales and songs. That's all I know," said Totty. "A well full of old stories and songs that have existed in the world for a long time, but that people forgot a long time ago. It is only the Well That Whispers at Night that remembers them all."
Here's another favorite passage:
I understood then for the first time that I never needed to be afraid of my father the King, that whatever I did he would always look at me kindly, like he was doing now as he stood there with his hand on the Master Rose Gardener's shoulder and with all the white birds flying around him. And when I understood him, I was happier than I'd ever been before in my life. I was so glad that I laughed quite hard.

And yet another favorite passage:

High over our heads, high above on the steep cliff stood Sir Kato's castle. We were on his shore now. We were close to him as never before, and this night was the night of our battle. I wondered if they knew, all those who had waited for thousands and thousands of years. I wondered if they knew that this was the night of the battle, and if they thought about me. Was my father the King thinking of me? I hoped that he was, I knew that he was. I knew that he was sitting alone somewhere far away and thinking of me and was sad and whispering to himself, "Mio, my son!"

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews