Monday, October 30, 2023

October Reflections

In October, I read forty-one books. 

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

165. Kin: Rooted in Hope. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. 2023. [February] 193 pages. [Source: Library] 

166. Before Your Memory Fades. Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot. 2018/2022. 220 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

167. Something Like Home. Andrea Beatriz Arango. 2023. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [verse novel; middle grade] 

168. Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington. Michael G. Long. Illustrated by Bea Jackson. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [nonfiction picture book; civil rights]

169. Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe. Steven Sheinkin. 2023. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Nonfiction; YA Nonfiction]

170. Farther than the Moon. Lindsay Lackey. 2023. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction, Realistic Fiction] 

171. Anne of the Island. L.M. Montgomery. 1915. 272 pages. [Source: Bought] 

172. Choose Your Own Adventure: Antarctica! Lily Simonson. 2022. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [j fiction; mg fiction] 

173. All That Shines. Ellen Hagan. 2023. [September] 405 pages. [Source: Library] [Verse novel; YA verse novel; YA Realistic fiction; YA romance] 

174. The Queen and the Knave (Dread Penny Society #5) Sarah M. Eden. 2023. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult historical romance] 

175. The Puppets of Spelhorst. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2023. [October 10] 160 pages. [Source: Library]

176. Where Coyotes Howl Sandra Dallas. 2023. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical fiction; adult fiction]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

267. Hopefully the Scarecrow. Michelle Houts. Illustrated by Sara Palacios. 2023. [August] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

268. A Walk in the Woods. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. 2023. [September] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

269. I Love You, Daddy. [Board book] Stephanie Moss. Illustrated by Kathryn Inkson. 2023 (2021). 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

270. The Baddies. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2022/2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

271. Horace and Bunwinkle. PJ Gardner. 2020. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Animal fantasy; early chapter book mystery series]

272. The Words We Share. Jack Wong. 2023. [October 10] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

273. The Yellow Handkerchief. Donna Barba Higuera. Illustrated by Cynthia Alonso. 2023. [March] 40 pages. [Source: Library]

274.  The Umbrella. Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. 2023. [March] 48 pages. [Source: Library]

275. I Am Cat! Peter Bently. Illustrated by Chris Chatterton. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

276. Jack the Library Cat. Marietta Apollonio. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

277. The Digger and the Butterfly. Joseph Kuefler. 2023. [May] 48 pages. [Source: Library]

278. Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals. Linda Ashman. Illustrated by Aparna Varma. 2023. 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Poetry book] 

279. Beulah Has a Hunch! Inside the Colorful Mind of a Master Inventor Beulah Louise Henry. Katie Mazeika. 2023. [October 17] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [2024 Cybils Eligible in Nonfiction Elementary]

280. This Book is Banned: A Delightfully Silly Picture Book from the Author of P is for Pterodactyl. Raj Haldar. Illustrated by Julia Patton. 2023. [September] 40 pages. [Source: Library]

281. Fitz and Cleo Put a Party On It (Fitz and Cleo #3) Jonathan Stutzman. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2023. [August] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

67. A Christian's Guide to Mental Illness: Answers to 30 Common Questions. David Murray and Tom Karel. 2023. [September] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

68. More Than a Healer: Not the Jesus You Want But the Jesus You Need. Costi W. Hinn. 2021. [September] 192 pages. [Source: Library]

69. Bedtime Prayers for Little Ones [Board book] Max and Denalyn Lucado. 2023. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

70. Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Church. Robert Elmer. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

71. I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God. Diane Stortz. 2016. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Bible story book; children's storybook]

72. Broken Crayons Still Color. Toni Collier and Whitney Bak. Illustrated by Natalie Vasilica. 2023. [August] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

73. Knowing the Spirit. Costi W. Hinn. 2023. 315 pages. [Source: Library]

74. The Collected Christian Essentials Catechism. Peter J Leithart (writing about the Ten Commandments), Ben Myers (writing about the Apostles' Creed), and Wesley Hill (writing about the Lord's Prayer). 2023. [November] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

75. O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music. Andrew Gant. 2015. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

76. The World of the End: How Jesus' Prophecy Shapes Our Priorities. 2022. 248 pages. [Source: Library]

77. Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. Mark L. Ward Jr. 2018. 168 pages. [Source: Library]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible 

12. New International Version, 1978 edition. God. 1342 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible]

13. King James Version, Personal Size Sovereign Collection. God. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1696 pages. [Source: Bought]

14. NASB 1995 XL. God. Zondervan. 2021. 1664 pages. [Source: Bought]

 Totals for the Year

Books Read in 2023550
Pages Read in 2023120,043
# of Books50
# of Pages12,848
# of Books72
# of Pages15,241
# of Books55
# of Pages15,216
# of Books55
# of Pages10,876
# of Books52
# of Pages14,695
# of Books46
# of Pages8,196
# of Books72
# of Pages10,400
# of Books51
# of Pages9,868
# of Books56
# of Pages10,259
# of Books41
# of Pages11,107

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 23, 2023

176. Where Coyotes Howl

Where Coyotes Howl Sandra Dallas. 2023. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical fiction; adult fiction]

First sentence: A ragged curtain snapped against the broken glass of the window in the old shack, which had begun to list. Its boards, the paint scraped off by the wind and sand, were a splintery gray. The door sagged open, its white china knob cracked and yellowed.

Premise/plot:  Are you looking for a book completely devoid of hope and joy? Are you looking for a book where women [and children] are oppressed on every single page? Did you find Romeo and Juliet too cheerful? If you want the 'one ring to rule them all' of bleakness, then Where Coyotes Howl might be a good fit for you. 

The premise is simple enough, Ellen Webster, goes to Wyoming as a school teacher in 1916. She meets and falls head over heels in love with a cowboy, Charlie Bacon. They marry. Life goes downhill after the 'I do's.' Not because they stop loving each other madly. No, because of situations and circumstances. Ellen experiences many tough situations, no doubt, but she witnesses a thousand times worse in the community. 

My thoughts: Is this one realistic? Perhaps. Surely you can find difficult, hard, tragic [how in the world do you experience all that and still keep on breathing] rough stories when doing genealogy. Pioneer stories can be ROUGH. It isn't that I went into this one expecting it to be cheery-happy-lovely-cozy-warm-fuzzy. But personally, I think a chain of hope OR a strong resilience [or both] could make a difference in perspective.

The overwhelming message seems to be that without agency, a woman cannot hope to have even a 1% chance at happiness. Men will abuse, misuse, manipulate. Even if you find the one in a million husband that will be tender and loving and supportive, you still can't be happy because you inevitably will suffer. Without birth control, you are doomed to SUFFER. This one seems very, very, very heavy-handedly pro-choice. The message seems to be that women need full and total control over their own bodies and their lives. A secondary message seems to be that it would be better to be a prostitute than a wife. [Some characters, though not Ellen, have been both. Husbands make life HELL on earth 99.2% of the time.] 

Mental health. Every single character needs help or intervention. Of course, there's no help to be had. Again, embracing the abandon all hope philosophy.

This one needs LOTS of trigger warnings. 














Spousal abuse--verbal, physical, mental, sexual. Child abuse. Miscarriages. Murder. Suicide. Death. Death. Death. Death. Death. Death. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

175. The Puppets of Spelhorst

The Puppets of Spelhorst. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2023. [October 10] 160 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: There was once an old sea captain who lived in a small room above a tailor shop. The captain's name was Spelhorst, and he had no wife, no children, no family. He was alone in the world and took his meals at a cafe down the street from the tailor shop. There, the old man would sit at a table and stare past everything and everyone as if he were on the prow of a ship, looking out to sea.

Premise/plot: The Puppets of Spelhorst is an unusual, odd novel for children. [Is it really for children? Or is it for adults who love children's books???] It stars old puppets--a king, a wolf, a boy, a girl, and an owl. These puppets are mostly forgotten and 'unwanted.' An old sea captain buys them all--though he only wants the girl puppet with the violet eyes. The toy shop owner is insistent that the puppets have a great story to tell and must remain together. The captain dies that very night, and the puppets fate remains unknown....and they know it. Eventually the trunk of puppets finds its way into a new home--with children--and one of the girls is desperate to write and perform a play for all the puppets. The sister is less sure. Many misadventures occur that threaten this 'great story' from being performed. But all obstacles eventually are overcome...but is this great play the beginning or end???

My thoughts: This one is decidedly odd or eccentric. I think it is theme-driven perhaps. And since it takes a special kind of child reader to discern wisely what themes are [in the first place] and what the main theme of this one is, I don't know that children will "get" this one. Will adults get it? Probably they have a better chance of putting in the effort to decode the deeper themes and meanings. On the surface, sure, it clearly is celebrating words and stories. But I think it goes beyond that. Yet, for me, it didn't quite work. The characters were eccentric but not deeply or richly fleshed out. The plot seemed intentionally and purposefully random. Misadventures are a good word perhaps. I never settled into the text and felt WOW this is home. Perhaps readers are never meant to. The characters are self-aware to know that they may never fulfill their great destinies and their stories may never be realized or told. One character does have great hope. And perhaps that too plays into the greater theme of this one? 

It isn't action-packed enough to be a classic adventure or quest story. I couldn't personally decipher it as a fable.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 16, 2023

174. The Queen and the Knave

The Queen and the Knave (Dread Penny Society #5) Sarah M. Eden. 2023. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult historical romance]

First sentence: Moirin Donnelly had been called a great many things in her twenty-seven years, but "naive" was not one of them.

Premise/plot: The Queen and the Knave is the final book in the Dread Penny Society clean romance series set in Victorian England. I've read, reviewed, and loved them all. Each novel stars its own heroine (and romantic hero), but characters from ALL the book series are present and part of the continuing story. The novels also include penny dreadful novellas written from the fictional characters. 

This one is all about the SHOW DOWN between the good guys and the bad guys. In many ways, all the books have been leading up to this big show down... This one is more action-based than previous ones. 

My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this one. I have always looked forward to reading the new book in the series each year. I do think the series resolved well. I wish I had time to reread the whole series and revisit all the couples.

I would recommend if you enjoy [clean] historical romance novels with some mystery and suspense.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, October 13, 2023

173. All That Shines

All That Shines. Ellen Hagan. 2023. [September] 405 pages. [Source: Library] [Verse novel; YA verse novel; YA Realistic fiction; YA romance]

First sentence: "Mom, can I borrow your earrings?
The diamonds? I think they'd match,"
I say, twirling, my new dress
swinging just above my knees.
And throwing myself back onto her chaise.

Premise/plot: Chloe Brooks is RICH-rich. But her oh-so-fabulous life among the rich-and-wealthy is about to slip away--and it's a long, hard fall. Her and her mother watch "helplessly" as her father is arrested and charged with crimes. Her old life being forfeit and her friends mostly being brats, the two brainstorm to find a way to start over...together. Fortunately, her mother has a little of her own that was not shared property...and it's an apartment complex on "the wrong side of town." Can Chloe survive her social missteps long enough to find true love and new besties? 

My thoughts: Most of the book is Chloe apologizing for saying the wrong thing in the wrong way to the wrong people and offending just about everybody just by existing. I get that this is supposed to be a feel-good young adult romance, but it has all the makings of a made for TV movie. In my opinion. That could be a good thing for some readers.

 I didn't love this one. I found Chloe insufferable at times. Not because she WAS rich and now isn't. But because she's literally apologizing every other page for saying something "wrong" and "offensive." But what she is saying is what she actually is thinking. I also found it very sitcom-ish in that the resolution happens EXTREMELY quickly and without as much groundwork as would be necessary. In a movie with a montage scene to a great song, it would definitely work better.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

172. Antarctica (Choose Your Own Adventure)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Antarctica! Lily Simonson. 2022. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [j fiction; mg fiction]

First sentence: The wind nearly pushes you over as you heave yourself up into the helicopter. 

Premise/plot: In a choose your own adventure book, obviously, you the reader make almost all of the decisions. Instructions at the bottom of each page show you where to go next. In this one, YOU, a scientist/researcher are stationed in Antarctica. 

My thoughts: I always have a pen and paper in hand so I can track my choices and find all the endings. The cover on goodreads seems to think there are seventeen endings possible. The book in hand say twenty-five possible endings.

Did I enjoy this one? Not really. The endings were either pure calamity--leading to death. OR the endings were didactic hitting you on the head with climate change agenda. The 'happy' 'mildly happy' endings all had a message to preach. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

171. Anne of the Island

Anne of the Island. L.M. Montgomery. 1915. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily. She and Diana Barry had been picking apples in the Green Gables orchard, but were now resting from their labors in a sunny corner, where airy fleets of thistledown drifted by on the wings of a wind that was still summer-sweet with the incense of ferns in the Haunted Wood.

I love Anne of the Island. It isn't my absolute favorite of the series, but, it is oh-so-good. In this one Anne goes away to college, makes new friends, receives a handful of marriage proposals, and corresponds with folks from Avonlea.

Anne does mature, but, in some ways it is slow in coming. Particularly in terms of her seeing the obvious: Gilbert is her soul mate. But perhaps because it is so long in coming, it makes for quite a satisfying conclusion.

The best way to show you how much I adore this one, is perhaps to share my favorite quotes:

Great one-liners...

It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.
We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy.
But FEELING is so different from KNOWING. My common sense tells me all you can say, but there are times when common sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possession of my soul.
Exaggeration is merely a flight of poetic fancy. 
Facts are stubborn things, but as some one has wisely said, not half so stubborn as fallacies. 
“All life lessons are not learned at college,” she thought. “Life teaches them everywhere.”
We are never half so interesting when we have learned that language is given us to enable us to conceal our thoughts.
“People who send word they are coming on Saturday shouldn’t come on Friday,” said Aunt Jamesina.
“Words aren’t made — they grow,” said Anne.
“Will you please define what gumption is, Aunt Jimsie?” asked Phil. “No, I won’t, young woman. Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”
Fun with Anne:
Talk of being lonesome! It’s I who should groan. YOU’LL be here with any number of your old friends — AND Fred! While I shall be alone among strangers, not knowing a soul!” “EXCEPT Gilbert — AND Charlie Sloane,” said Diana, imitating Anne’s italics and slyness. “Charlie Sloane will be a great comfort, of course,” agreed Anne sarcastically; whereupon both those irresponsible damsels laughed. Diana knew exactly what Anne thought of Charlie Sloane; but, despite sundry confidential talks, she did not know just what Anne thought of Gilbert Blythe.
“Miss Ada’s cushions are really getting on my nerves,” said Anne. “She finished two new ones last week, stuffed and embroidered within an inch of their lives. There being absolutely no other cushionless place to put them she stood them up against the wall on the stair landing. They topple over half the time and if we come up or down the stairs in the dark we fall over them. Last Sunday, when Dr. Davis prayed for all those exposed to the perils of the sea, I added in thought ‘and for all those who live in houses where cushions are loved not wisely but too well!’ There! we’re ready, and I see the boys coming through Old St. John’s. Do you cast in your lot with us, Phil?”
“You LOVE it,” said Miss Patty with emphasis. “Does that mean that you really LOVE it? Or that you merely like the looks of it? The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.” Anne’s conscience bore her up. “I really do love it,” she said gently. “I’ve loved it ever since I saw it last fall. My two college chums and I want to keep house next year instead of boarding, so we are looking for a little place to rent; and when I saw that this house was to let I was so happy.”
“No, I shall never try to write a story again,” declared Anne, with the hopeless finality of nineteen when a door is shut in its face. “I wouldn’t give up altogether,” said Mr. Harrison reflectively. “I’d write a story once in a while, but I wouldn’t pester editors with it. I’d write of people and places like I knew, and I’d make my characters talk everyday English; and I’d let the sun rise and set in the usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If I had to have villains at all, I’d give them a chance, Anne — I’d give them a chance. There are some terrible bad men in the world, I suppose, but you’d have to go a long piece to find them — though Mrs. Lynde believes we’re all bad. But most of us have got a little decency somewhere in us. Keep on writing, Anne.”
Trotting along behind her, close to her heels, was quite the most forlorn specimen of the cat tribe she had ever beheld. The animal was well past kitten-hood, lank, thin, disreputable looking. Pieces of both ears were lacking, one eye was temporarily out of repair, and one jowl ludicrously swollen. As for color, if a once black cat had been well and thoroughly singed the result would have resembled the hue of this waif’s thin, draggled, unsightly fur. Anne “shooed,” but the cat would not “shoo.” As long as she stood he sat back on his haunches and gazed at her reproachfully out of his one good eye; when she resumed her walk he followed. Anne resigned herself to his company until she reached the gate of Patty’s Place, which she coldly shut in his face, fondly supposing she had seen the last of him. But when, fifteen minutes later, Phil opened the door, there sat the rusty-brown cat on the step. More, he promptly darted in and sprang upon Anne’s lap with a half-pleading, half-triumphant “miaow.” “Anne,” said Stella severely, “do you own that animal?” “No, I do NOT,” protested disgusted Anne. “The creature followed me home from somewhere. I couldn’t get rid of him. Ugh, get down. I like decent cats reasonably well; but I don’t like beasties of your complexion.” Pussy, however, refused to get down. He coolly curled up in Anne’s lap and began to purr. “He has evidently adopted you,” laughed Priscilla. “I won’t BE adopted,” said Anne stubbornly.
“It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana’s being married,” sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana’s room. “I don’t see what’s horrible about it, when she’s doing so well,” said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. “Fred Wright has a fine farm and he is a model young man.” “He certainly isn’t the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana once wanted to marry,” smiled Anne. “Fred is extremely good.” “That’s just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?” “Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he COULD be wicked and WOULDN’T.

Fun with Davy
“When I’m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.” “All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.” 
“But if you DID want to catch a man how would you go about it? I want to know,” persisted Davy, for whom the subject evidently possessed a certain fascination. “You’d better ask Mrs. Boulter,” said Anne thoughtlessly. “I think it’s likely she knows more about the process than I do.” “I will, the next time I see her,” said Davy gravely. “Davy! If you do!” cried Anne, realizing her mistake. “But you just told me to,” protested Davy aggrieved. 
Dear anne, please write and tell marilla not to tie me to the rale of the bridge when I go fishing the boys make fun of me when she does. Its awful lonesome here without you but grate fun in school. Jane andrews is crosser than you. I scared mrs. lynde with a jacky lantern last nite. She was offel mad and she was mad cause I chased her old rooster round the yard till he fell down ded. I didn’t mean to make him fall down ded. What made him die, anne, I want to know. mrs. lynde threw him into the pig pen she mite of sold him to mr. blair. mr. blair is giving 50 sense apeace for good ded roosters now. I herd mrs. lynde asking the minister to pray for her. What did she do that was so bad, anne, I want to know. 
“I — I want to say a bad word, Anne,” blurted out Davy, with a desperate effort. “I heard Mr. Harrison’s hired boy say it one day last week, and ever since I’ve been wanting to say it ALL the time — even when I’m saying my prayers.” “Say it then, Davy.” Davy lifted his flushed face in amazement. “But, Anne, it’s an AWFUL bad word.” “SAY IT!” Davy gave her another incredulous look, then in a low voice he said the dreadful word. The next minute his face was burrowing against her. “Oh, Anne, I’ll never say it again — never. I’ll never WANT to say it again. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t s’pose it was so — so — I didn’t s’pose it was like THAT.” “No, I don’t think you’ll ever want to say it again, Davy — or think it, either. And I wouldn’t go about much with Mr. Harrison’s hired boy if I were you.” “He can make bully war-whoops,” said Davy a little regretfully. “But you don’t want your mind filled with bad words, do you, Davy — words that will poison it and drive out all that is good and manly?” “No,” said Davy, owl-eyed with introspection. “Then don’t go with those people who use them. And now do you feel as if you could say your prayers, Davy?”
“Our new teacher is a man. He does things for jokes. Last week he made all us third-class boys write a composishun on what kind of a wife we’d like to have and the girls on what kind of a husband. He laughed fit to kill when he read them. This was mine. I thought youd like to see it. “‘The kind of a wife I’d like to Have. “‘She must have good manners and get my meals on time and do what I tell her and always be very polite to me. She must be fifteen yers old. She must be good to the poor and keep her house tidy and be good tempered and go to church regularly. She must be very handsome and have curly hair. If I get a wife that is just what I like Ill be an awful good husband to her. I think a woman ought to be awful good to her husband. Some poor women haven’t any husbands. “‘THE END.’”
Mrs. Lynde was awful mad the other day because I asked her if she was alive in Noah’s time. I dident mean to hurt her feelings. I just wanted to know. Was she, Anne?
The new minister was here to tea last night. He took three pieces of pie. If I did that Mrs. Lynde would call me piggy. And he et fast and took big bites and Marilla is always telling me not to do that. Why can ministers do what boys can’t? I want to know.
The mention of age evidently gave a new turn to Davy’s thoughts for after a few moments of reflection, he whispered solemnly: “Anne, I’m going to be married.” “When?” asked Anne with equal solemnity. “Oh, not until I’m grown-up, of course.” “Well, that’s a relief, Davy. Who is the lady?” “Stella Fletcher; she’s in my class at school. And say, Anne, she’s the prettiest girl you ever saw. If I die before I grow up you’ll keep an eye on her, won’t you?” “Davy Keith, do stop talking such nonsense,” said Marilla severely. 

Fun with Mrs. Lynde:
Mrs. Lynde’s letter was full of church news. Having broken up housekeeping, Mrs. Lynde had more time than ever to devote to church affairs and had flung herself into them heart and soul. She was at present much worked up over the poor “supplies” they were having in the vacant Avonlea pulpit. “I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays,” she wrote bitterly. “Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and, what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what! Last Sunday night he announced that next Sunday he’d preach on the axe-head that swam. I think he’d better confine himself to the Bible and leave sensational subjects alone. Things have come to a pretty pass if a minister can’t find enough in Holy Writ to preach about, that’s what.
“Poor Atossa laid in her coffin peaceful enough,” said Mrs. Lynde solemnly. “I never saw her look so pleasant before, that’s what. Well, there weren’t many tears shed over her, poor old soul. The Elisha Wrights are thankful to be rid of her, and I can’t say I blame them a mite.” “It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world and not leave one person behind you who is sorry you are gone,” said Anne, shuddering. “Nobody except her parents ever loved poor Atossa, that’s certain, not even her husband,” averred Mrs. Lynde. “She was his fourth wife. He’d sort of got into the habit of marrying. He only lived a few years after he married her. The doctor said he died of dyspepsia, but I shall always maintain that he died of Atossa’s tongue, that’s what. Poor soul, she always knew everything about her neighbors, but she never was very well acquainted with herself. Well, she’s gone anyhow; and I suppose the next excitement will be Diana’s wedding.” 
 Anne and Gilbert:
“I hope no great sorrow ever will come to you, Anne,” said Gilbert, who could not connect the idea of sorrow with the vivid, joyous creature beside him, unwitting that those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.
“But there must — sometime,” mused Anne. “Life seems like a cup of glory held to my lips just now. But there must be some bitterness in it — there is in every cup. I shall taste mine some day. Well, I hope I shall be strong and brave to meet it. And I hope it won’t be through my own fault that it will come. Do you remember what Dr. Davis said last Sunday evening — that the sorrows God sent us brought comfort and strength with them, while the sorrows we brought on ourselves, through folly or wickedness, were by far the hardest to bear? But we mustn’t talk of sorrow on an afternoon like this.
As a companion, Anne honestly acknowledged nobody could be so satisfactory as Gilbert; she was very glad, so she told herself, that he had evidently dropped all nonsensical ideas — though she spent considerable time secretly wondering why.
But Gilbert’s visits were not what they once were. Anne almost dreaded them. It was very disconcerting to look up in the midst of a sudden silence and find Gilbert’s hazel eyes fixed upon her with a quite unmistakable expression in their grave depths; and it was still more disconcerting to find herself blushing hotly and uncomfortably under his gaze, just as if — just as if — well, it was very embarrassing. Anne wished herself back at Patty’s Place, where there was always somebody else about to take the edge off a delicate situation. At Green Gables Marilla went promptly to Mrs. Lynde’s domain when Gilbert came and insisted on taking the twins with her. The significance of this was unmistakable and Anne was in a helpless fury over it.
“There is something I want to say to you.” “Oh, don’t say it,” cried Anne, pleadingly. “Don’t — PLEASE, Gilbert.” “I must. Things can’t go on like this any longer. Anne, I love you. You know I do. I — I can’t tell you how much. Will you promise me that some day you’ll be my wife?” “I — I can’t,” said Anne miserably. “Oh, Gilbert — you — you’ve spoiled everything.” “Don’t you care for me at all?” Gilbert asked after a very dreadful pause, during which Anne had not dared to look up. “Not — not in that way. I do care a great deal for you as a friend. But I don’t love you, Gilbert.” “But can’t you give me some hope that you will — yet?” “No, I can’t,” exclaimed Anne desperately. “I never, never can love you — in that way — Gilbert. You must never speak of this to me again.” There was another pause — so long and so dreadful that Anne was driven at last to look up. Gilbert’s face was white to the lips. And his eyes — but Anne shuddered and looked away. There was nothing romantic about this. Must proposals be either grotesque or — horrible? Could she ever forget Gilbert’s face? “Is there anybody else?” he asked at last in a low voice. “No — no,” said Anne eagerly. “I don’t care for any one like THAT — and I LIKE you better than anybody else in the world, Gilbert. And we must — we must go on being friends, Gilbert.”
“Do you call it idiotic to refuse to marry a man I don’t love?” said Anne coldly, goaded to reply. “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” “Phil,” pleaded Anne, “please go away and leave me alone for a little while. My world has tumbled into pieces. I want to reconstruct it.” “Without any Gilbert in it?” said Phil, going. A world without any Gilbert in it! Anne repeated the words drearily. Would it not be a very lonely, forlorn place? Well, it was all Gilbert’s fault. He had spoiled their beautiful comradeship. She must just learn to live without it.
Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stuart were nothing to her — absolutely nothing. But Anne had given up trying to analyze the reason of her blushes. As for Roy, of course she was in love with him — madly so. How could she help it? Was he not her ideal? Who could resist those glorious dark eyes, and that pleading voice? Were not half the Redmond girls wildly envious? And what a charming sonnet he had sent her, with a box of violets, on her birthday! Anne knew every word of it by heart. It was very good stuff of its kind, too. Not exactly up to the level of Keats or Shakespeare — even Anne was not so deeply in love as to think that.
Yet just before she left Patty’s Place for Convocation she flung Roy’s violets aside and put Gilbert’s lilies-of-the-valley in their place. She could not have told why she did it. Somehow, old Avonlea days and dreams and friendships seemed very close to her in this attainment of her long-cherished ambitions. She and Gilbert had once picturedout merrily the day on which they should be capped and gowned graduates in Arts. The wonderful day had come and Roy’s violets had no place in it. Only her old friend’s flowers seemed to belong to this fruition of old-blossoming hopes which he had once shared.
The Arts graduates gave a graduation dance that night. When Anne dressed for it she tossed aside the pearl beads she usually wore and took from her trunk the small box that had come to Green Gables on Christmas day. In it was a thread-like gold chain with a tiny pink enamel heart as a pendant. On the accompanying card was written, “With all good wishes from your old chum, Gilbert.” Anne, laughing over the memory the enamel heart conjured up the fatal day when Gilbert had called her “Carrots” and vainly tried to make his peace with a pink candy heart, had written him a nice little note of thanks. But she had never worn the trinket. Tonight she fastened it about her white throat with a dreamy smile.
There is a book of Revelation in every one’s life, as there is in the Bible. Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert — had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her.
And the knowledge had come too late — too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind — so foolish — she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him — he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them — she could not! She cowered down by her window and wished, for the first time in her gay young life, that she could die, too. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that. He did not love Christine Stuart — never had loved Christine Stuart. Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert — to think that the flattered fancy she had felt for Roy Gardner had been love. And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.
He had come quite often to Green Gables after his recovery, and something of their old comradeship had returned. But Anne no longer found it satisfying. The rose of love made the blossom of friendship pale and scentless by contrast. And Anne had again begun to doubt if Gilbert now felt anything for her but friendship. In the common light of common day her radiant certainty of that rapt morning had faded.
“Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. Something in his tone — something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place — made Anne’s heart beat wildly. But she made answer lightly. “Of course. Everybody has. It wouldn’t do for us to have all our dreams fulfilled. We would be as good as dead if we had nothing left to dream about. What a delicious aroma that low-descending sun is extracting from the asters and ferns. I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” Gilbert was not to be thus sidetracked. “I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends — and YOU!”



© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 09, 2023

170. Farther than the Moon

Farther than the Moon. Lindsay Lackey. 2023. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction, Realistic Fiction]

First sentence: The moon hovered above them, a silver-white orb in the black Colorado sky. Its light illuminated the treetops on the mountainside behind the house and washed the two boys' small faces in a pale glow.

 Premise/plot: Houston Stewart loves, loves, loves, loves his brother, Robbie. The two dream of being astronauts. But as things are, Robbie is unlikely to get to see his dream come true. He has cerebral palsy is wheelchair bound and is nonverbal. Like it or not, there are limitations to what he can physically do. That doesn't stop the boys from dreaming and scheming together. The book follows Houston's adventures and misadventures at JARP, Junior Astronaut Recruitment Program, a camp. His brother, of course, always wanted to go too. But now they'll be separated for weeks--and it will be hard for both. 

My thoughts: This is a coming-of-age novel that celebrates FAMILY and LIFE. It doesn't shy away from harder topics. But it isn't overly melodramatic. I enjoyed getting to know all the characters and spending time with them.  


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

169. Impossible Escape

169. Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe. Steven Sheinkin. 2023. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Nonfiction; YA Nonfiction]

First sentence:  Rudi would find a way to fight Adolf Hitler. It can be said, without risk of exaggeration, that he would go on to be--while still a teenager--one of the great heroes of the entire Second World War. But not in a way he ever could have imagined.

Premise/plot: Nonfiction for middle school and high school. To be fair, nonfiction for everyone. [But I might be biased in thinking everyone needs to read World War II books, in particular books about the Holocaust.] This one tells the story of two teens: Rudolph (Rudi) Vrba and Gerta Sidonová. 

My thoughts: I had read about Rudi Vrba  [Walter Rosenberg] before in an adult book. So I knew what to expect. It didn't make this one less necessary. I think it is important for stories to be told to all audiences, in appropriate ways of course. I found it a quick, absorbing read. I think for those that know less it might be even more so. 

Last October I read Jonathan Freedland's The Escape Artist. It was an AMAZING, amazing read. Difficult topic/subject to be sure. Definitely thought provoking. This one for young adults seems tamer. But I do think it is still a good read.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

168. Unstoppable

Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington. Michael G. Long. Illustrated by Bea Jackson. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [nonfiction picture book; civil rights]

First sentence: Bayard Rustin was a troublemaker. 

Premise/plot: This is a picture book biography for older readers about civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. He dreamed up and planned a march on Washington. Not any march, but what would turn out to be THE march. Not everyone was happy--so the book shares--that he was a leader/planner in the civil rights movement. He was gay, you see. They feared that those on all sides would use that against them all. But he remained a leader and was pivotal to the civil rights movement.

My thoughts: I learned plenty while reading this one. I almost always do learn something when I read nonfiction written for children. I think this one stands out--for many different reasons. But for me, it is the artwork that is most striking. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

167. Something Like Home

Something Like Home. Andrea Beatriz Arango. 2023. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [verse novel; middle grade]

First sentence: The drive to Titi's house takes exactly eighteen minutes.
I know because my current Rubik's Cube solving time
is about two minutes,
and I solve my scratched-up, faded cube
a grand total of nine times.

Premise/plot: Something Like Home is a middle grade 'problem' novel written in verse. Laura Rodríguez Colón, our protagonist, is living with her aunt...temporarily...or not??? So much is up in the air since being separated from her parents. Life wasn't perfectly perfectly perfect living with her parents. But it was in some ways familiar chaos. Now there is SO much change and it's all happening so quickly. She's living in a new (to her) home with an aunt that is practically a stranger. She's going to a new school, has new teachers, new classmates. She has no idea what the future holds....enter a DOG, an adorable dog. Her situation doesn't necessarily change, but, her perspective starts to slowly but surely. 

My thoughts: This isn't really an action-driven, big-things-happening novel. It is all about the main character's growth, her coming of age. There's also a dog, of course. 

I liked this one. However I almost feel like I blinked and missed the ending. It could be ALL on me. Perhaps my brain tuned out the last dozen or so poems and I missed vital changes. But the last few poems seemed to come out of nowhere in terms of character growth. Again, this could be all me. I missed the AHA moment perhaps? I missed the moment where her and her aunt came together and decided to be besties.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

166. Before Your Memory Fades

Before Your Memory Fades. Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot. 2018/2022. 220 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Why are you in Hokkaido?" Kei Tokita's voice sounded tinny coming from the handset.

Premise/plot: Before Your Memory Fades is a book of connected novellas. It is the THIRD book in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series. The premise of the series is that there is a cafe with special, 'magical,' powers. There is one chair that will allow the occupant to travel forward or backward in time. But there are rules, of course there are rules. They have to stay seated, of course. They have to return to the present before the coffee turns cold. They can only meet people who have visited the cafe. Nothing they do in the past (or the future) will effect the present. Each story focuses on a journey (to the past or to the future). The 'main' characters are the staff of the cafe AND cafe regulars. (Think the sitcom Cheers). One of the running elements of this one is that one of the characters is ALWAYS reading a book--it is a book of questions (100, I believe) that pose various questions each with the premise of if the world was ending tomorrow...would you choose answer 1 or 2. 

My thoughts: I picked this one up thinking it was book two. It wasn't. When did I realize this? Not until I was halfway through. Do I think it would have made more sense if I hadn't skipped book two (by accident)? Probably. Maybe. Do I think it would have been less confusing if I jotted down a list of characters? Definitely. Also I think if I had read the books--all three--in order and close together. I just had a hard time keeping track of the characters.

I liked the premise well enough. Though apparently there are two cafes with this magical ability? I had a hard time following some of the plot because the characters kept getting tangled up in my mind. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

165. Kin: Rooted In Hope

Kin: Rooted in Hope. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. 2023. [February] 193 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Before Alex Haley's novel Roots
proved otherwise, few Black people
thought it possible to trace ancestry
beyond the cold heart of enslavement
to the warm sun of Africa.

My thoughts, initial impression: This is one of those books that just give off Important and Significant vibes. It just screams, "I am a serious book about a serious subject--be in awe of me." I have a love-hate relationship with heavy, "serious" books. Part of me feels obligated to keep up and read every Serious book that comes out just in case they end up winning a literary award. That's why I checked it out from the library.

Premise/plot: Kin is written ALL in verse. There is not a single narrator or protagonist. Not every speaker [narrator] is human. Some of the poems are, I believe, written from the point of view or perspective of more abstract speakers. (Places, objects, abstract subjects?) The premise is that she is giving an account of her ancestry or family tree. That's what it's about on the most surface-level. I think it probably has layers to it.

My thoughts: I found it confusing. I am not objectively saying that it IS confusing just that I found it to be so. It's like some readers see a beautiful cross-stitch embroidery, and I'm seeing the back of it. Poetry can be intimidating. Especially when each poem is from a different speaker, different point of view...especially when the reader is the one mostly responsible for piecing together the poems. Is it worth putting in the work? Maybe. Probably. I don't know because I didn't go the extra mile. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews