Sunday, January 21, 2018

Week in Review: January 14-20

Favorite Book of the Week: 

What I've Read and Reviewed 

Board books and picture books:

7. That Is My Dream! Langston Hughes. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. Inspector Brunswick: Case of the Missing Eyebrow. Angela Keoghan. Illustrated by Chris Sam Lam. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
9. Board book: Gobbly Goat. Axel Scheffler. 2018. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Early readers and chapter books:

4. Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot The Horn. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #7) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1998. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
5. Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #8) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1998. HMH. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
6. McBroom's Ghost. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Robert Frankenberg. 1971. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

Speculative Fiction:

5. The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof. Annie M G Schmidt. Translated by David Colmer. 1970/2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

Classics:

6. The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant #1) Josephine Tey. 1929. 255 pages. [Source: Bought] 

Historical fiction:

7. Midnight Without a Moon. Linda Williams Jackson. 2017. HMH. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Mysteries:

3. The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant #1) Josephine Tey. 1929. 255 pages. [Source: Bought]

Nonfiction:

2. Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3. Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. Catherine Reef. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Christian Nonfiction:
6. Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions #2) R.C. Sproul. 2009. Reformation Trust. 65 pages. [Source: Free download]
7. Spurgeon On the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) Michael Reeves. 2018. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Lois Tverberg. 2018. Baker Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]


What I've Blogged
What I've Watched
  • The Paradise, the rest of series 1
  • Call the Midwife, series 2
  • Forrest Gump
  • Captain Blood
What I've Drank:
  • English Breakfast (7)
  • Green Tea (17)
  • Rooibos Madagascar Vanilla  (5)
  • Candy Cane Lane (3)
  • PG Tips (2)
  • Sweet Harvest Pumpkin (1)
  • Earl Grey (1)
  • Peppermint (1)
  • Salted Caramel (1)
  • Buttermint/Cozy Chamomile (2)


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

My Victorian Year #3

This week I reviewed two biographies of prominent Victorians: Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale. Both were by Catherine Reef.

I continued on in two Victorian novels. I am currently reading Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm and Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton.

From Orley Farm:
  • He did not easily believe a fellow-creature to be a liar, but a liar to him once was a liar always. (Sir Peregrine)
  • “No, not wrong; I cannot say that you have done wrong. It may be a question whether you have done wisely.”
  • It is all very well for the world to say that a girl should be happy without reference to her clothes.
  • A clever counsel can turn a witness pretty nearly any way he likes, but he can’t do that with little facts.
  • “You shouldn’t insult the gentleman because he has his own ideas,” said Johnson.
  • Small attacks of words there had been many, but hitherto the courage to speak out her griefs openly had been wanting to her. 
  • “The world is becoming a great deal too fond of what you call excitement and success. Of course it is a good thing for a man to make money by his profession, and a very hard thing when he can’t do it,” added Mrs. Furnival, thinking of the olden days. “But if success in life means rampaging about, and never knowing what it is to sit quiet over his own fireside, I for one would as soon manage to do without it.” 
  • But I do say that life should be lived at home. That is the best part of it. What is the meaning of home if it isn’t that?
 From Mary Barton:
  • It is so pleasant to have a friend who possesses the power of setting a difficult question in a clear light; whose judgment can tell what is best to be done; and who is so convinced of what is "wisest, best," that in consideration of the end, all difficulties in the way diminish.
  • People admire talent, and talk about their admiration. But they value common sense without talking about it, and often without knowing it. 
  • 'Well, dear, you must mind this, when you're going to fret and be low about anything—An anxious mind is never a holy mind.'
  • The vices of the poor sometimes astound us HERE; but when the secrets of all hearts shall be made known, their virtues will astound us in far greater degree. Of this I am certain.
  • Errands of mercy—errands of sin—did you ever think where all the thousands of people you daily meet are bound?
  • Such is the contrariness of the human heart, from Eve downwards, that we all, in our old Adam state, fancy things forbidden sweetest.
  • This disparity between the amount of the earnings of the working classes and the price of their food, occasioned, in more cases than could well be imagined, disease and death. Whole families went through a gradual starvation. They only wanted a Dante to record their sufferings. And yet even his words would fall short of the awful truth;
 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Keep it Short #3

This week I'll be sharing my thoughts on three fairy tales from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book: "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," "The Yellow Dwarf," and "Little Red Riding Hood."

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

First sentence: Once upon a time there was a poor husbandman who had many children and little to give them in the way either of food or clothing. They were all pretty, but the prettiest of all was the youngest daughter, who was so beautiful that there were no bounds to her beauty.


Premise/plot: The youngest daughter marries a White Bear. All goes remarkably well...until curiosity gets the best of her and she takes her mother's advice. But she does truly love her husband, and she's really to do anything--no matter how hard--for a chance to get him back. Will true love prevail?

My thoughts: This is one of my favorite fairy tales. There are different variations, of course. And it has been adapted quite a few times as a novel.

The Yellow Dwarf

First sentence: Once upon a time there lived a queen who had been the mother of a great many children, and of them all only one daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a thousand.
Her mother, who, since the death of the King, her father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much as this little Princess, was so terribly afraid of losing her that she quite spoiled her, and never tried to correct any of her faults. The consequence was that this little person, who was as pretty as possible, and was one day to wear a crown, grew up so proud and so much in love with her own beauty that she despised everyone else in the world. 

Premise/plot: Bellissima is a princess who seems destined to love no one but herself for eternity. Her mother, in a despair of sorts, seeks the advice of the Fairy of the Desert. Things don't go as planned. (Do they ever in a fairy tale?! If only people knew when they were in a fairy tale, then they wouldn't make plans, or as many plans.) To get to the Fairy of the Desert, she has to get past the lions, to get past the lions, she needs a certain cake, when that certain cake goes missing...well, enter the YELLOW DWARF. To save herself from being eaten, she promises that Bellissima will marry HIM. (In retrospect, I wonder if she regrets NOT being eaten?) She returns to her daughter more depressed than ever. Her daughter seeks the advice of the FAIRY OF THE DESERT on how to cheer her mother up. (Second verse, same as the first.) This time to avoid being eaten by the lions, she promises to marry the Yellow Dwarf.) Neither the Queen or Princess want to follow through with this, and, suddenly when faced with the idea of marriage to a Yellow Dwarf, the other candidates start looking amazing. She falls deeply in love....but will their marriage take place?! Not if the Yellow Dwarf has his way. And readers do finally meet the much mentioned Fairy of the Desert.

My thoughts: This story was completely new to me. And I could see why no one would go out of their way to introduce it to me as a child. It is a MESSY story that ends, well, as a tragedy. What I wasn't expecting was the sudden appearance of a mermaid....

 Little Red Riding Hood

First sentence: Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had made for her a little red riding-hood; which became the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding-Hood. One day her mother, having made some custards, said to her: “Go, my dear, and see how thy grandmamma does, for I hear she has been very ill; carry her a custard, and this little pot of butter.”

Premise/plot: A little girl, while on an errand for her mother, meets a wolf in the woods and the results are predictable.

My thoughts: Who doesn't know the story of Little Red Riding Hood? There are many, many variations of details for this one. So what struck me as I was reading this version were the differences. Like the custard and the pot of butter. I also was NOT expecting Little Red Riding Hood to get naked. She arrives at her grandmother's house, gets naked, hops into bed with her "granny" and then the questions begin.
“Grandmamma, what great arms you have got!”
“That is the better to hug thee, my dear.”
“Grandmamma, what great legs you have got!”
“That is to run the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great ears you have got!”
“That is to hear the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great eyes you have got!”
“It is to see the better, my child.”
“Grandmamma, what great teeth you have got!”
“That is to eat thee up.”
And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding-Hood, and ate her all up.
There is no heroic rescue for Little Red Riding Hood OR her grandmother. This is THE END.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #2

I have discovered the joys of listening to BBC radio dramas. This is what I listened to this week:

Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell. 2 hours. Dramatised by Jonathan Holloway. (Two one hour episodes.) 

I read 1984 last year. There were things I definitely liked about it, and quite a few things I didn't like about it. One of the things I didn't love about the book was the adult content, the "smut." That is difficult--if not impossible to ignore--in a RADIO drama. One can easily skim, breeze over, that kind of content in a book. One can't really say the same of an "assault" on the ears. But sexual restrictions or sexual freedoms weren't the main point of the book or the drama. I didn't mean to imply they were. It was also difficult to listen to the second episode because that is where all the physical and mental torture happens. The drama was great at capturing the action, suspense, and drama of the story. It wasn't as great at capturing the ideas, concepts, and philosophies. The novel itself is reflective in many, many places. Readers are alone with Winston in his mind as he writes in his forbidden journal, as he's thinking throughout the day. And it is his thoughts and ideas that interested me most as I read the book. The radio drama was well-paced, never a dull moment.

The Pale Horse. Agatha Christie. Dramatised by Joy Wilkinson. 90 minutes. (Three, thirty minute episodes).

I have not read Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse. I can't say if it does the book justice. That might work out for the best. I really LOVED listening to this drama. It is a murder mystery. That essentially guarantees drama and suspense. But would it be easy to follow the clues in an audio book?! I must admit that I couldn't stand the suspense at one point, and I searched for a summary of the book to see how it ended! I've been known to do the same with an actual book. Maybe not for every mystery. But for quite a few. What did surprise me is how I really came to like a few of the characters: Mark and Ginger. I was not expecting...well...I would hate to spoil it for anyone. But Christie doesn't always offer more than just a mystery.

I have also listened to the first half of Frankenstein, but I'll talk about that drama next week--after I listen to the second half--which airs tomorrow.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Cat Who Came In Off The Roof

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof. Annie M G Schmidt. Translated by David Colmer. 1970/2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Tibble! Where's Tibble? Has anyone seen Tibble? The boss wants to talk to him. Where's he got to? Tibble!"

Premise/plot: Don't mistake Tibble for a cat; he's a very human reporter for a newspaper. If he can keep his job that is. Tibble's news stories don't qualify as "news" according to his boss. But his reporting takes a turn for the better after he befriends a young woman, Miss Minou. He first sees her up a tree. Up a tree?! Yes, she'd been chased there by a mad dog. And that isn't the only odd thing about Minou. She also likes to climb in and out of windows, hang out with cats on the roof, and sleep curled up in a box. The premise of this one: Minou used to be a cat; now she's a human. She can still communicate with cats--hence why Tibble is suddenly good at his job. All the cats in town are talking to Minou about their humans, what they see and hear.

My thoughts: The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof is newly translated into English; it was originally published in Dutch in 1970. This is an odd little fantasy for children. But overall I liked it.

Tibbles meets Minou when she "came in off the roof" and into his window. If Minou were still a cat, it wouldn't be odd that he takes in a stray. He keeps her because she's super useful to him. Not that knowing her is without risk: Minou doesn't make a good impression on most people. For one thing, she rubs herself against people--literally. Tibbles keeps trying to train her to be more human and less cattish.

I think this would make a lovely cartoon special. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

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

I also review adult books.

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

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

I am especially fond of:

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

I am not a fan of:

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

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

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

You should know several things before you contact me:

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

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

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