Friday, June 22, 2018

Paris in July 2018

Paris in July
Hosted by Thyme for Tea; sign up 
When: the month of July
Goal: read, watch, listen to French things

I have participated in this for several years. I absolutely LOVE it. In fact, as soon as it's June I begin to plot and plan ahead. Of course, most of my plotting is set aside once it's July. Actually despite my plans I tend to be spontaneous in what I include for my Paris in July experience.

Still. I hope to finish one of these chunksters for the event. I've read Les Miserables at least three or four times. But this is a new-to-me translation. The Three Musketeers would be a reread as well. But it would be my first reread of the novel. I have never read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Never. In fact I find it the most intimidating of the three. It is my scary do-I-dare-to-do-it choice.

What I might do--might--is read one and listen to one. I've newly started listening to audio books.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. 2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it's embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton. My husband. My hero. My betrayer.

First sentence from chapter one: I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton., Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot.

Premise/plot: My Dear Hamilton is a novelization of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The climax is not her discovery of his affair with that Reynolds woman nor is it her husband's death at the hands of Aaron Burr. The climax is her confrontation with James Monroe in 1825. He has come in pursuit of reconciliation, of peace. He has come without apology or humility. Will she put aside their differences and let bygones be bygones? This is where the novel opens--the prologue--and where it climaxes near the end. This is the framework of the novel. (Chapter one begins in 1777.)

My thoughts: I would recommend My Dear Hamilton to anyone who a) enjoys historical fiction b) enjoys American history c) has a love/hate relationship with politics d) enjoys spending time with complex characters e) has spent any amount of time listening to Hamilton.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved it so much I'm almost at a loss of words. Almost.

It is well-written. The writing is compelling and beautiful. "The people we love are not entirely knowable. Even to themselves. But we love them anyway. The only other choice is to live without love, alone."

It is well-researched. For example, I love that the authors tried their best to let these historical figures speak for themselves--using letters to craft some of the dialogue. I love that they documented their choices giving readers a real behind-the-scenes glimpse. What was true? What was fiction? Does the novel's timeline differ from history? Why? What did they choose to include? What did they not choose to include? OFTEN I read historical fiction and I have a dozen or so questions for the author. NOT so in this one. They really go above and beyond here.

It is character-driven and stars VERY complex characters. PERSPECTIVE. This novel is all about perspective AND perception. How do we perceive ourselves? How do we perceive others? Can we ever really know someone else? Can we ever really know ourselves? Do we have to love all of a person to love them at all? Can you wholly love someone--love someone unconditionally? And if you do does that make you weak or strong? What does forgiveness look like? Is forgiveness woven into unconditional love?

It's not unusual for novels about Alexander and Eliza to be ALL Alexander all the time even when the book is supposed to be from Eliza's point of view. I like that Eliza is her own person.  The focus of the novel is the inner life of Eliza Schuyler. We see these events through her eyes--with her heart, mind, and soul. Readers do not witness many dramatic scenes; scenes that are central to the musical Hamilton. Her son's duel. Her husband's duel. Just the devastating consequences of those events. But you don't have to witness the action to witness the pain.

Is the book smutty? No. Yes. Maybe. It depends on how strict your definition is. When sex scenes are relatively infrequent and just take up two or three sentences here and there--as opposed to five or six pages of graphic what-goes-where, I don't consider it smut. I don't necessarily stamp a CLEAN label on it. But I don't find it problematic.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Library on Wheels

Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile. 2018. Sharlee Glenn. Abrams. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mary Lemist Titcomb grew up wanting to do things. The problem was, people were always telling her that she couldn't. She couldn't do this, because she was too young. She couldn't do that, because she was a girl, or because her family didn't have enough money, or because it just wasn't practical. But Mary never gave up.

Premise/plot: Library On Wheels is about a pioneer librarian, Mary Lemist Titcomb. Librarianship was a new field when she came of age, and it wasn't an accepted field for women. (Not like teaching or nursing.) But Titcomb was diligent, determined, and ambitious. It wasn't only that librarianship was a brand new field but that public libraries were brand new as well. Titcomb's vision of what could be--what should be--would have a lasting impact.

The library she would have the biggest impact on perhaps was Washington County Free Library. (This wasn't her very first library to work.) The Washington County Free Library was the second county-wide library in the U.S. (I believe this is in 1901).
It had been established for all the residents of Washington County, but over half of them--some 25,000 people--lived far from town, on farms scattered across nearly 500 square miles. How to get the library's books to them?
Miss Titcomb was determined that everyone should have access to the library--not just adults, not just the rich or educated, not just those who lived in town. She was absolutely unwavering in her dedication this vision. First, she opened a children's room in the library--one of the first in the nation. She also made sure that all the outlying village schools had a good rotating supply of books and pictures from the library. Then she started a storytelling hour in remote areas to get the country children excited about books and reading.
Next, she set up book deposit stations throughout the county. These served as small branch libraries where people could check out books, then return the ones they had already read...
But her biggest accomplishment was her vision of having book wagons deliver books to the people.
 "The book goes to the man. We do not wait for the man to come to the book."
The book wagon made its maiden voyage in April 1905. Although Miss Titcomb rode along whenever she could, she still had her duties to fulfill back at the main library, so Mr. Joshua Thomas, the library janitor, was enlisted to be the driver. The wagon was pulled by a pair of dapper horses named Black Beauty and Dandy.
I loved, loved, loved that Mr. Thomas listed his profession as BOOK MISSIONARY in the 1910 census.

The book wagon evolved through the years--especially after a tragic accident with a train. This book tells a remarkable story of that evolution and the extraordinary librarian behind it.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I did. I absolutely loved it. I think it is for all ages. Yes, it's a nonfiction book for middle grade, but, it's so much more than that. I think it is for anyone and everyone who has ever loved a book or loved a library. I found it fascinating. There are so many pictures!!! They just weren't that many awesome nonfiction books when I was a kid.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, June 18, 2018

Currently #25

Something Old
Rachel Ray. Anthony Trollope. 1863. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. 1952. 601 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New
My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Hamilton. Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie.
2018. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Daily Chronological Bible: KJV Edition. Holman Bible Publishers. 2014. 1440 pages. [Source: Free giveaway]

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life. J.I. Packer, Michael Lundy, and Richard Baxter. 2018. [July] Crossway books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Victorian Year #24

This week I read in Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray. But. I also watched a new-to-me adaptation of Little Women: a TV miniseries from 1978. I'll start with that!

This adaptation stars dozens of familiar faces. Meredith Baxter (Facts of Life) is Meg March. Susan Dey (Partridge Family) is Jo March. Eve Plumb (Brady Bunch) is Beth. Ann Dusenberry is Amy. (She was the only one I couldn't place clearly.) Dorothy McGuire is Marmee. (She was in Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson to name just two.) Greer Garson is Aunt March. (I know her best from Pride and Prejudice which made the scene where she's nagging Meg about her choice of husband seem very hypocritical). Robert Young was Laurie's grandfather. (Father Knows Best, Marcus Welby, M.D.) Richard Gilliland was Laurie (Theodore Lawrence). I was not familiar with him but he was a busy actor back in the day apparently. Cliff Potts was Mr. John Brooke. (Mom recognized him; I didn't.) William Shatner (Star Trek) as Professor Bhaer. Can't say that he could pull off a German accent. And a beardless Professor for Jo seemed a bit wrong. But he can pull off being a romantic it wasn't that bad. William Schallert as Mr. March. (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Patty Duke Show, Star Trek's Trouble with Tribbles episode, etc.) Virginia Gregg as Hannah. (Emergency! Dragnet, Perry Mason, My Three Sons, etc.) John de Lancie (Star Trek Next Generation, Q) as Freddy Vaughan. (They list him as Frank Vaughn for some bizarre reason).

I enjoyed this one. I did. It was in two episodes. It stuck fairly closely to the book. Some of the dialogue really did the book justice.

The only issue I had with this adaptation is Amy. Granted Amy isn't my most favorite character to begin with. But in this adaptation she's played by one actress--not two. So instead of a young girl acting--well as Amy does--you have a fully-grown woman acting like an immature, spoiled BRAT. (And getting away with it.) The scenes where she throws fits are RIDICULOUS. Some of what Amy does passes somewhat if you can picture her in the eight-to-twelve age range. But to see a fully grown actress acting that way it was just GRATING on the nerves. This portrayal focuses more on the outward drama of Amy being Amy without the quieter, subtler scenes of her maturing over the course of the years. At least in the book, there's character growth and one sees Amy go from being that bratty-brat to being an older-and-wiser woman.

Turning to Rachel Ray. Luke Rowan goes to Rachel's house and meets her mother, Mrs. Ray. They all have tea. He finds a way to ask permission to call on Rachel and perhaps propose to her if all goes well. As he's leaving, Mrs. Prime is coming by unannounced. She's the sister--if you remember--and she has a HISSY fit. Not in front of Luke though. It's not the only drama going down either. Luke's mother has come to visit and she's heard rumors of this Rachel character. She's decided to loathe Rachel though she's never met her before. She's poor therefore shes' trash. As if that wasn't enough....Luke's business partner truly has a melt-down. It looks like they will have to bring in some lawyers to work everything out. 

Quotes from Anthony Trollope's Rachel Ray.
He looked and spoke like a sheep; but then, was it not known to all the world that wolves dressed themselves often in that guise, so that they might carry out their wicked purposes?
On Monday, Mrs. Prime had left the cottage; on Tuesday, Rachel had gone to a ball, expressly to meet the young man! and on Wednesday the young man was drinking tea at Bragg’s End cottage!
“We’re so glad to see you, Dolly,” said Rachel, and in Rachel’s voice there was no tone of shame. It was all just as it should not be!
“But what ails him that he shouldn’t be a very good young man?” says Mrs. Ray. “And if it was so that he was growing fond of Rachel, why shouldn’t he? And if Rachel was to like him, I don’t see why she shouldn’t like somebody some day as well as other girls.”
I believe he’s a very good young man, with nothing bad about him at all, and he is welcome to come here whenever he pleases. And as for Rachel, I believe she knows how to mind herself as well as you did when you were her age; 
And if a young man isn’t to be allowed to ask leave to see a young woman when he thinks he likes her, I for one don’t know how young people are to get married at all.”
She had resolved that Luke Rowan was a black sheep; that he was pitch, not to be touched without defilement;
Luke chose to manage the brewery instead of being managed; and had foolishly fallen in love with Rachel Ray instead of taking Augusta Tappitt to himself as he should have done.
The civility which he wants is the surrender of my rights. I can’t be so civil as that.
I intend to marry neither the mother nor the sister; but Rachel Ray I do intend to marry, — if she will have me.
 I intend that she shall be my equal, — my equal in every respect, if I can make her so. I shall certainly ask her to be my wife; and, mother, as my mind is positively made up on that point, — as nothing on earth will alter me, — I hope you will teach yourself to think kindly of her.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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