Thursday, December 01, 2022

165. A Darcy Christmas

A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen. Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, Carolyn Eberhart. 2010. 290 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence(s):

From Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol by Carolyn Eberhart: Old Mr. Darcy was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. The clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner had all signed the register of his burial. His son signed it. And Fitzwilliam Darcy's name was as good as his father's before him. Old Mr. Darcy was as dead as a doornail.

From Christmas Present by Amanda Grange: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of an heir, and Mr. Darcy of Pemberley was just such a man. Moreover, he was soon to have that want satisfied, for his wife, Elizabeth, was expecting their first child.

From A Darcy Christmas by Sharon Lathan: He set the painting onto the sofa, assuring it was well supported before stepping away. He gazed at the canvas, a smile spreading as he looked upon his family. His family. The family created by him and his wife, just as he had dreamt for so many lonely years. They stood on the portico of Pemberley flanked by their precious children on the steps. All of them were smiling at the artist. A sentimental man by nature, he silently examined the newest portrait of his family and lost himself in happy memories.

 Premise/plot: A Darcy Christmas is a collection of three novellas. Each novella is a holiday-themed retelling/adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. 

My thoughts: "Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol" was surprisingly fun. I had my doubts--as you might have your doubts about weaving these two stories together--but I thought it worked. It does a slight variation on the original. What if Jane and Charles Bingley got their happily ever after--after Lydia was "rescued" by Mr. Darcy's intervention--but Mr. Darcy's pride was still in the way of his declaring his love (the second time). This is what that first Christmas might have been like. If he'd been visited by the spirits of Christmas past, present, future.

"Christmas Present" was a great novella by Amanda Grange. I've enjoyed many of her Austen adaptations in the past. This one did not disappoint. She got the characters just right. It felt authentic like what a Darcy Christmas might have *really* been like. Elizabeth and Darcy are expecting their first child, and Charles and Jane just had their first child. So the families are coming together--the extended families--to celebrate. I really enjoyed this one!

"A Darcy Christmas" is a collection of holiday short stories following the Darcy family through twenty or so years of marriage. (I believe we see their twenty-third Christmas as a couple? Although I might have lost track of the last few stories.) Since we only catch glimpses of the family--on Christmas Eve/Christmas--it's hard to precisely follow these stories. We do know that (almost) every Christmas sees Elizabeth either with a new baby or pregnant. (Perhaps these stories do connect to Lathan's previous novels about Elizabeth and Darcy. If that is the case, then the stories might make more sense when it comes to keeping up with their family, friends, etc. Especially in the case of her children's love interests.)

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

164. Don Quixote

Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Translated by Edith Grossman. 1605. 940 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.

Premise/plot: Don Quixote has an impossible dream. [That would be a short and sweet summary, though not particularly accurate.] In a world of his own making, Don Quixote IS a knight; a real-life, honest-to-goodness knight like those in his favorite books. Every day offers an opportunity for thrilling quests. The world may think him mad, foolish, insane, delusional, out of his wits. But to Don Quixote, he thinks the world is under an enchantment. They cannot see the truth. They are the fools for being blind to 'the truth' not he. 

Sancho Panza is Don Quixote's squire. Is he more or less foolish than his master? His dream is different than Quixote's dream. He isn't brave, dashing, daring, adventurous. In some ways, he's the exact opposite of Quixote in every way. But Quixote has promised that he'll give Sancho an insula to govern if he goes with him as a squire. And, I suppose, this hope of future power is his dream. Maybe. Mostly, I think Sancho Panzo dreams of a comfortable life--food to eat, soft bed to rest, and NO brutal beatings. 

These two are out on the road [except for when they are not]. Ever-restless [except for when they are not.] 

 My thoughts: The book is in two volumes. The first was published in 1605. The second was published in 1615. There are highs and lows in each volume. When it is good, it is very good. When it is dull, it is very dull, incredibly dull. 

There are dozens--if not hundreds--of asides. The narrative branches out into little side stories. These stories have very little if anything to do with the main narrative. Don Quixote keeps running into people who like to tell random stories. Sometimes not even their own stories. The main narrative is a platform of sorts for other stories the author wanted to tell/publish. 

At times this is a story easy to love. At other times, it's really not.


In short, our gentleman became so caught up in reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk till dawn and his days reading from sunrise to sunset, and so with too little sleep and too much reading his brains dried up, causing him to lose his mind.

The truth is that when his mind was completely gone, he had the strangest thought any lunatic in the world ever had, which was that it seemed reasonable and necessary to him, both for the sake of his honor and as a service to the nation, to become a knight errant and travel the world with his armor and his horse to seek adventures and engage in everything he had read that knights errant engaged in, righting all manner of wrongs and, by seizing the opportunity and placing himself in danger and ending those wrongs, winning eternal renown and everlasting fame.

“Oh, Señor!” said the niece. “Your grace should send them to be burned, just like all the rest, because it’s very likely that my dear uncle, having been cured of the chivalric disease, will read these and want to become a shepherd and wander through the woods and meadows singing and playing, and, what would be even worse, become a poet, and that, they say, is an incurable and contagious disease.”
According to what I have heard, true love is not divided and must be voluntary, not forced. If this is true, as I believe it is, why do you want to force me to surrender my will, obliged to do so simply because you say you love me?
“Even so, I want you to know, brother Sancho,” replied Don Quixote, “that there is no memory that time does not erase, no pain not ended by death.”
“Have I acted so badly with you, Sancho,” Don Quixote responded, “that you wish to see me dead so soon?” “That’s not the reason,” Sancho replied, “but I don’t like keeping secrets, and I wouldn’t want them to spoil because I kept them too long.”
“It is your fear, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “that keeps you from seeing or hearing properly, because one of the effects of fear is to cloud the senses and make things appear other than they are; if you are so frightened, withdraw somewhere and leave me alone; alone I suffice to give victory to the army to whom I shall proffer my assistance.”
“Your grace, come back, Señor Don Quixote, I swear to God you’re charging sheep! Come back, by the wretched father who sired me! What madness is this? Look and see that there are no giants or knights, no cats or armor or shields either parted or whole, no blue vairs or bedeviled ones, either. Poor sinner that I am in the sight of God, what are you doing?”
Sancho came so close that his eyes were almost in his master’s mouth; by this time the balm had taken effect in Don Quixote’s stomach, and just as Sancho looked into his mouth, he threw up, more vigorously than if he were firing a musket, everything he had inside, and all of it hit the compassionate squire in the face.

You should know, Sancho, that a man is not worth more than any other if he does not do more than any other.

“I don’t know how you can speak of righting wrongs,” said the bachelor, “for you have certainly wronged me and broken my leg, which won’t ever be right again; and in rectifying my injuries, you have injured me so much that I’ll go on being injured for the rest of my life; it was a great misadventure for me to run across a man who is seeking adventures.”
“There’s no reason to waste time and money making that face,” said Sancho. “What your grace should do instead is uncover yours and show it to those who are looking at you, and right away, without any images or shields, they’ll call you The Knight of the Sorrowful Face; believe me, I’m telling you the truth, because I promise your grace, Señor, and I’m only joking, that hunger and your missing teeth give you such a sorry-looking face that, as I’ve said, you can easily do without the sorrowful picture.”
“Fate has willed that I cannot help listening to you, and so continue.”
If your misfortune were one that had all doors closed to any sort of consolation, I intended to help you weep and lament to the best of my ability, for it is still a consolation in affliction to find someone who mourns with you.
The Knight of the Forest, who heard the Knight of the Sorrowful Face speak in this way, did nothing but look at him, and look at him again, and look at him one more time, from head to toe;
A knight errant deserves neither glory nor thanks if he goes mad for a reason.       
The great achievement is to lose one’s reason for no reason, and to let my lady know that if I can do this without cause, what should I not do if there were cause?
“Do not waste your time, Señora, in offering anything to this woman, since it is her custom never to give thanks for anything that is done for her, and do not encourage her to respond, unless you wish to hear her tell a lie.”
The poet can recount or sing about things not as they were, but as they should have been, and the historian must write about them not as they should have been, but as they were, without adding or subtracting anything from the truth.
 “Trust in God, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “that everything will turn out well and perhaps even better than you expect; not a leaf quivers on a tree unless God wills it.”
Historians who make use of lies ought to be burned.

History is like a sacred thing; it must be truthful, and wherever truth is, there God is; but despite this, there are some who write and toss off books as if they were fritters.

“There is no book so bad,” said the bachelor, “that it does not have something good in it.”

The best sauce in the world is hunger, and since poor people have plenty of that, they always eat with great pleasure.

“Once or twice,” responded Sancho, “if I remember correctly, I’ve asked your grace not to correct my words if you understand what I mean by them, and when you don’t understand, to say: ‘Sancho, you devil, I don’t understand you,’ and if I can’t explain, then you can correct me; I’m so plaint. . . .” “I do not understand you, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “because I do not know what I am so plaint means.” “So plaint means,” responded Sancho, “That’s just the way I am.”

We must slay pride by slaying giants; slay envy with generosity and a good heart; anger with serene bearing and tranquility of spirit; gluttony and sleep by eating little and watching always; lust and lasciviousness by maintaining our fealty toward those whom we have made mistresses of our thoughts; sloth by wandering everywhere in the world, seeking those occasions when we may become famous knights as well as Christians.

 “Oh, well, if none of you understand me,” responded Sancho, “it’s no wonder my sayings are taken for nonsense. But it doesn’t matter: I understand what I’m saying, and I know there’s not much foolishness in what I said, but your grace is always sentencing what I say, and even what I do.” “Censuring is what you should say,” said Don Quixote, “and not sentencing, you corrupter of good language, may God confound you!”

“Is that the kind of talk appropriate to this place?” “Señor,” responded Sancho, “each person must talk of what he needs no matter where he is; here I remembered about my donkey, and here I talked about him; if I remembered about him in the stable, I’d talk about him there.”

“You cite so many witnesses, Sancho, and so many particulars, that I cannot help but say that you must be telling the truth. But proceed, and shorten the story, because you are on the way to not concluding for another two days.” “You’re on the way to not finishing your story until you’re in the next world.” “I’ll stop when I’m less than halfway there, God willing,”

Be a father to virtues and a stepfather to vices. Do not always be severe, or always mild, but choose the middle way between those two extremes; this is the object of wisdom. Visit the prisons, the slaughterhouses, and the market squares, for the presence of the governor in these places is of great importance: it consoles the prisoners, who can hope for a quick release; it frightens the butchers, who then make their weights honest; it terrifies the market women, and for the same reason.    

 And this doctor says about himself that he doesn’t cure diseases when they’ve arrived but prevents them so they won’t come, and the medicines he uses are diet and more diet until the person’s nothing but skin and bones, as if being skinny weren’t a worse ailment than having a fever.
“What did you get from your governorship?” asked Ricote. “I got,” responded Sancho, “the lesson that I’m not good for governing unless it’s a herd of livestock, and that the riches you can gain in governorships come at the cost of your rest and your sleep and even your food, because on ínsulas the governors have to eat very little, especially if they have doctors who are looking out for their health.”
Trying to restrain the tongues of slanderers is the same as trying to put doors in a field.
“You should know, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “that love shows no restraint, and does not keep within the bounds of reason as it proceeds, and has the same character as death: it attacks the noble palaces of kings as well as the poor huts of shepherds, and when it takes full possession of a heart, the first thing it does is to take away fear and shame; lacking them, Altisidora declared her desires, which gave rise in my bosom to more confusion than compassion.”
I often stop to look at your grace from the tips of your toes to the last hair on your head, and I see more things to drive her away than to make her fall in love; I’ve also heard that beauty is the first and principal quality that makes people love, and since your grace doesn’t have any, I don’t know what the poor maiden fell in love with.”  

“Look, Sancho,” responded Don Quixote, “I say proverbs when they are appropriate, and when I say them they fit like the rings on your fingers, but you drag them in by the hair, and pull them along, and do not guide them, and if I remember correctly, I have already told you that proverbs are brief maxims derived from the experience and speculation of wise men in the past, and if the proverb is not to the point, it is not a maxim, it is nonsense.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

November Reflections

In November, I read fifty-four books.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

140. Station Eternity. Mur Lafferty. 2022. [October] 457 pages. [Source: Library]

141. The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz To Warn the World. Jonathan Freedland. 2022. [October] 400 pages. [Source: Library]
142. Marmee. Sarah Miller. 2022. [October] 432 pages. [Source: Library]
143. Flying Fillies: The Sky's The Limit. Christy Hui. 2022. [July] 202 pages. [Source: Library]
144. The Girl in the Castle. James Patterson and Emily Raymond. 2022. [September] 368 pages. [Source: Library]
145. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) Rick Riordan. 2016. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
146. The Door of No Return. Kwame Alexander. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
147. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 54 pages. [Source: Bought]
148. Making Bombs for Hitler. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2012/2017. 191 pages. [Source: Review copy]
149. Five Decembers. James Kestrel. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
150. The Twelve Topsy-Turvy, Very Messy Days of Christmas. James Patterson and Tad Safran. 2022. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
151. Murder at Mallowan Hall. Colleen Cambridge. 2021. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
152. The Picture Bride. Lee Geum-yi. Translated by An Seonjae. 2020/2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
153. Hanged! Mary Surratt and the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln. 2022. [November] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
154. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs. Harris Goes to New York. 1958/1959. Omnibus edition 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
155. Emily of Deep Valley. Maud Hart Lovelace. 1950. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
156. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) Rick Riordan. 2017. 414 pages. [Source: Library]
157. Switchboard Soldiers. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2022. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
158. Great or Nothing. Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood. 2022. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
159. Winterkill. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2022. [September] 288 pages. [Source: Library]
160. A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews. 2018. 175 pages. [Source: Bought]
161. Cinderella's Dress. Shonna Slayton. 2014. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
162. The Christmas Clash. Suzanne Park. 2022. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
163. Talk Santa to Me. Linda Urban. 2022. 280 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

177. The Not So Stinky Skunk (Lily to the Rescue #3) W. Bruce Cameron. 2020. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
178. Thanks for Nothing. Ryan T. Higgins. 2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
179. Farmhouse. Sophie Blackall. 2022. [September] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
180. Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us. Lauren Castillo. 2020. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
181. Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place to Call Home. Lauren Castillo. 2022. [October 18] 80 pages. [Source: Library]
182. Hairy, Hairy Poodle. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Abigail Tompkins. 2022. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
183. Click, Clack Rainy Day. Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. 2022. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
184. Esme's Birthday Conga Line. Lourdes Heuer. Illustrated by Marissa Valdez. 2022. [May] 76 pages. [Source: Library]
185. Away with Words! Wise and Witty Poems for Language Lovers. Mary Ann Hoberman. 2022. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
186. Under the Christmas Tree. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
187. The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi. Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. Illustrated by Chiara Fedele. 2022. [November] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
188. The Good Guys Agency #1: Kind Like Fred. 2022. [July] 96 pages. [Source: Library]
189. Walter Had a Best Friend. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Sergia Ruzzier. 2022. [October 18] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
190. The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer. (Legendary Alston Boys #1) Lamar Giles. 2019. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
191. Autumnblings. Douglas Florian. 2003. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
192. Thanks a Million. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. 2006. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
193. Bravo, Bucket Head! Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2022. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
194. Pete the Cat Plays Hide and Seek. James and Kimberly Dean. 2022. [September] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
195. Creepy Carrots! Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
196. Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf: A Counting Story. Davide Calì. Illustrated by Marianna Balducci. 2022. [September] 36 pages. [Source: Library]
The Wondrous Wonders by Camille Jourdy. 2019/2022. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
198. Loud Mouse: How A Little Mouse Found Her Big Voice. Cara Mentzel and Idina Menzel. Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett. 2022. [September] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
199. Busy Betty. Reese Witherspoon. Illustrated by Xindi Yan. 2022. [October 4] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
200. Green is for Christmas. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2022. [October 18] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
201. If You Believe In Me. Rosemary Wells. 2022. 28 pages. [Source: Library]
202. Waffles and Pancake #2: Flight or Fright. Drew Brockington. 2022. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

40. A Short Guide to Reading the Bible Better. George H. Guthrie. 2022. [November] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
41. A Model of Devotion (The Lumber Baron's Daughters #3) Mary Connealy. 2022. 299 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

17. Holman Rainbow Study Bible: NIV Edition. New, Improved User-Friendly Design. Purple Leathertouch Indexed. B&H. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]
18. Darby Bible. God. 1890. 2304 pages. [Source: Bought]


November Totals

November reads

# of books54
# of pages14061

2022 Totals

2022 Totals
# of books423
# of pages123,190

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

163. Talk Santa to Me

Talk Santa to Me. Linda Urban. 2022. 280 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was born in a stable. A deluxe model, indoor-outdoor stable, with a light-up roof star and grass-mat flooring (discontinued item). My mom had been carrying a three-foot shepherd from the stockroom when the first serious labor pain hit. I've always been impulsive, Mom says, and once I got the notion that I had outgrown my current quarters, boom. She knew I was moving out.

Premise/plot: Our heroine Francie (full name Frankincense) works at her family's Christmas-themed shop. Her grandfather was a GREAT Santa. Absolutely all kinds of amazing. He even started a Santa school to train others how to be Santa. But since he died, well, things aren't quite the same in the family or the family business. Francie's dad is doing his best to continue the legacy, but, his sister has her own ideas of how to maintain the business (and being loyal to tradition and the argument that's the way we've always done it fall on deaf ears). Francie impulsively jumps in during an emergency and finds herself taking on the job as Santa's Intern on a local cable broadcast. The video goes viral--at least locally--and soon Francie finds herself answering thousands of letters to Santa. It's all SO MUCH. But the family's business/reputation may just depend on her PR work as Santa's Intern. 

Meanwhile, Francie is falling head over heels in love with Hector a classmate who just happens to work at the neighboring tree lot. As these two [relatively] shy teens get to know one another, a little Christmas magic happens. 

My thoughts: I thought this one was the perfect blend of super-sweet and funny. I loved seeing all the letters to Santa. We get plenty of those letters and her responses. I enjoyed seeing all the Christmas-y elements included in this one. Plenty of scenes take place during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It felt--to me at least--properly Christmas-y. I loved that Francie deep down cared about her family and was processing her grief. It added a level of depth. All of them were experiencing grief differently and they weren't always incredibly kind and thoughtful with each other. But you do get the sense that they do care about one another. Even "mean" Aunt Carol wasn't a one-dimensional villain (like she'd likely be in a holiday movie). The romance wasn't perfectly perfect--but it was so sweet and light and good. I could see how someone wanting something steamier might find this one to be too "young." But to me, it was perfect.

The back story of Francie trying to redeem her "first kiss" experience was definitely a back story. I'm glad it wasn't the sole plot point. This one so easily could have gone down a couple super-predictable paths. a) She could have had a fake boyfriend whom she would end up actually falling in love with. b) She could have had an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance with the boy that gossiped about her way back when. I'm so glad we didn't get either of those stories. 

I do think this would make a fun movie.


Dear Santa’s Intern:
I hear you know Santa really well. Could you tell him not to bring me any pants this year? Two times already this year I asked for a paintball gun and two times I didn’t get one, but I did get pants. Pants are not a good gift. Except for one time during recess, I have been pretty good this year and I already said sorry and Henry said okay.
Your friend,

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

162. The Christmas Clash

The Christmas Clash. Suzanne Park. 2022. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The projectile pacifier grazed my left ear. "I'm so sorry, would you mind grabbing his binky off the floor? Little Timmy's got quite a temper when he's hungry." Important note: Timmy was not in fact very little. I suspected he was five, maybe six.

Premise/plot: Chloe Kwon, our heroine, works as a photographer at the Santa Land feature at her local mall [Riverwood]. Her parents have a restaurant in the mall as well. Peter Li, our hero, works at the virtual reality North Pole experience at the mall. His parents have a restaurant in the mall too. The Kwons hate the Lis; the Lis hate the Kwons. But Chloe and Peter have found out something shocking: they do not in fact hate each other. Rather, Chloe might just like-like Peter, and it's mutual. But this isn't solely a "forbidden" romance with warring families. Riverwood Mall is very likely to be demolished to make way for condos. It isn't just their seasonal side jobs at risk but their whole families livelihood. Can Peter and Chloe by working together form a resistance with other mall tenants and find a way to save the mall????

My thoughts: This would make a PERFECT holiday movie. Everything about this one screams out for a film adaptation. So good news if you like holiday movies, you'll fall for this novel as well. And perhaps it's nice to get it in book-form for a change. 

Was it a perfect read? No. I'm not going to lie and say it was perfectly perfect in regards to storytelling, characterization, plotting, etc. But I could visualize much of this one. And it felt like a movie that I'd watch through beginning to end. It might sell better as a movie.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews