Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bobbs-Merrill Third Reader

Bobbs Merril Third Reader. Edited by Clara Belle Baker and Edna Dean Baker. 1924/30/39. 293 pages. [Source: Bought]

Premise/plot:This one is a reading/literature textbook from the 1930s. It contains stories and poems mainly. The book is divided into four sections: "Merry Animal Tales," "Folk Fairy Tales and Poems," "Stories of Many Lands," and "Playtime Stories."

My thoughts: My favorite selection from "Merry Animal Tales" was "The Frogs' Travels a Japanese folk tale. There are two frogs: one from a pond near Osaka, the other from a stream in Kioto. Both frogs decide to go traveling. They each reach the top of a mountain. They decide to help each other decide if it's worth continuing the journey on.
"Oh," said the Kioto frog, "we can stand on our hind legs and hold on to each other. Then each can look at the town where he is going."
The foolish frogs forgot that their eyes were in the back of their heads. Though their noses pointed to the places toward which they wanted to go, their eyes beheld the places from which they had come.
My favorite section of the book was "Folk Fairy Tales and Poems." I really loved quite a few of these including: "The Good Husband," "The Glass Hill," "Nail Soup," and "The Twelve Months." This section also includes a version of Hansel and Gretel adapted from the opera.

My favorite selection from "Stories of Many Lands," was "The Goose Boy." This one stars a king--the king of Bavaria--and a goose boy. So one day, a king loses a book beneath a tree. Not wanting to exert himself, he tries to hire a goose boy to go and fetch it for him. The goose boy is skeptical that he can earn a gold piece merely by running a mile to fetch a book! And if he did go, who would watch his geese?! The king says he'd be happy to watch the geese while the boy does his errand. But is the king up to such a task?!?! The boy returns with the book to find his geese gone and the king apologetic. The king helps the boy round up the geese again, and, he reveals that he is in fact the king. The boy, still skeptical, says he doesn't know if that is true enough...but he should definitely not be a gooseherd!

My favorite selection from "Playtime Stories," is Moufflou. This one is about a peasant family with a very well-trained dog that may or may not be the making of their fortune. It's a very charming story set in Italy. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Victorian Quarterly Check-In

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
My answers:

✔ 1. A book under 200 pages
The Europeans. Henry James. 1878. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 2. A book over 400 pages
The Adolescent. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
✔ 4. A book you REALLY want to reread
Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. 1857. 418 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 5. A new-to-you book by a FAVORITE author
La Vendee. Anthony Trollope. 1850. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 7. A book that was originally published serially
The American. Henry James. 1877. 400 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 8. A book published between 1837-1849
The Macdermots of Ballycloran. Anthony Trollope. 1847. 636 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 11. A book published between 1871-1880
Confidence. Henry James. 1879. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 14. A book published between 1902-1999 with a Victorian setting
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. 1990. 787 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 21. A book by a new-to-you male author
Watch and Ward. Henry James. 1871. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 23. A book translated into English
The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 24. A fiction or nonfiction book about Queen Victoria
Victoria. Daisy Goodwin. 2016. 404 pages. [Source: Library] 
✔ 25. A book that has been filmed as movie, miniseries, or television show
The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 26. A play OR a collection of short stories OR a collection of poems
The Best Short Stories. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David Magarshack. 2001. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 28. Genre or Subgenre of your choice (mystery, suspense, romance, gothic, adventure, western, science fiction, fantasy)
The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Bought] 
✔ 29. Book with a name as the title
Roderick Hudson. Henry James. 1875. 398 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 30. Book You've Started but Never Finished
The Kellys and the O'Kellys. Anthony Trollope. 1848. 537 pages. [Source: Bought]

 Currently reading:

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

Quotes to Share:
  • “If pride is a source of information, you must be a prodigy of knowledge!”  Henry James
  • What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee? Anthony Trollope
  • "There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily." Anthony Trollope
  • "There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel." Anthony Trollope
  • "Let us suppose, gentlemen, that man is not stupid. But if he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "A great thought is most often a feeling that sometimes goes without a definition for too long." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "There are a thousand different ways of being good company." Henry James
  • "She got tired of thinking aright; but there was no serious harm in it, as she got equally tired of thinking wrong." Henry James
  • "You will experience much grief, and in grief you will find happiness. Here is my commandment to you: seek happiness in grief." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "I think that everyone should, above all else on this earth, love life." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "The curious thing is that the more the mind takes in, the more it has space for, and that all one’s ideas are like the Irish people at home who live in the different corners of a room, and take boarders." Henry James
  • “But the great trial in this world is to behave well and becomingly in spite of oppressive thoughts: and it always takes a struggle to do that, and that struggle you’ve made. I hope it may lead you to feel that you may be contented and in comfort without having everything which you think necessary to your happiness. I’m sure I looked forward to this week as one of unmixed trouble and torment; but I was very wrong to do so. It has given me a great deal of unmixed satisfaction.” Anthony Trollope
  • "Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all. " H.G. Wells
  • "When I read a novel my imagination starts off at a gallop and leaves the narrator hidden in a cloud of dust; I have to come jogging twenty miles back to the denouement." Henry James
  • "When once the gate is opened to self-torture, the whole army of fiends files in." Henry James
  • “Nonsense, man; — how can you say you are not going to lie, when you know you’ve a lie in your mouth at the moment.”  Anthony Trollope
  •  “Nobody and everybody are always very kind, but unfortunately are generally very wrong.” Anthony Trollope
  • The public is defrauded when it is purposely misled. Poor public! how often is it misled! against what a world of fraud has it to contend! Anthony Trollope

I am really enjoying alternating Anthony Trollope and Henry James. Anthony Trollope has long been a favorite. Henry James is a new-to-me this year author. I haven't loved all of James' novels equally.
But I generally only read British classics. So it's been very interesting to read an American author too.

Another new-to-me author is Fyodor Dostoevsky. I've read three books so far!!!

 Favorite book I've read so far...

New to me:
The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]

Favorite reread:
Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. 1857. 418 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wolf's Story

Wolf's Story. Toby Forward. Illustrated by Izhar Cohen. 2005. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: No, please. Look at me. Would I lie to you? It was the old woman who started it. I did nothing wrong. Would I? We hit it off from the beginning. Not everyone likes a wolf, do they? Look at you. You're not certain. Would you like to come and sit a little closer while I tell you about the kid? I don't bite. No? Sure? Okay. Up to you.

Premise/plot: The wolf from Little Red Riding Hood is sharing HIS side of the story with you, the reader. Will you believe his story? Is it convincing? Or is there still reasonable doubt?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure if it's "really really liked" or "loved." But I though the narrative was strong. I loved the wolf's voice. His perspective was fun to see. We get this perspective both from the art--the illustrations--and the text itself. I loved how conversational it was. The Wolf was trying his best to charm the reader. Now, is this charming story the whole truth, the real story? Or is he trying to con readers for his own purposes? That's up to the reader to decide HOW close they want to get to the wolf as he tells his story.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, March 24, 2017

Diary of a Beautiful Disaster

Diary of a Beautiful Disaster. Kristin Bartzokis. 2017. KiCam Projects. 162 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  My name is Kristin. Some people call me Kris, KB, Bart, or the girl who can do no-handed cartwheels. After all, I was a champion gymnast. Unfortunately, I was born with a facial deformity, a problem that seems to define the person I am no matter what else I might accomplish in life.

Premise/plot: The book is a memoir. From the preface, "These pages tell the story of my life, the life of a woman in her early thirties who is afflicted with an unusual facial anomaly known as Treacher Collins syndrome." There are two narrative styles--techniques--in this one. Some chapters read like journal entries. These chapters are dated and focus on specific surgeries. They're meant to be give an intimate behind-the-scenes look at what it's like--for parent and child--to be hospitalized and endure such physical and emotional pain. (Physical and perhaps emotional for Kristin, and emotional for the parents.) Other chapters cover more time, and are more general while still being reflective.

My thoughts: It was a compelling, engaging read. If there's a lesson to be learned, it is never make assumptions. For example, never assume that because a person looks different that they are "special needs" or "disabled" or "mentally challenged." Don't assume that because a person looks different that they are friendless loners in need of pity and a reassuring "Jesus Loves You." Bartzokis writes from the heart in this one.

Each person has their story to tell. And each person who looks "different" has their own story to tell. It is a balancing act in this one. Tension between making it very personal, this is what it was like for me, and speaking up as a representative of the syndrome, giving voice to others. Too much on one side or the other could weaken the narrative perhaps. 

  • My flaws make me noticeable, but my strength makes me memorable. (5)
  • One day in middle school, I sat at the mall food court with a friend. A woman came up to us as we ate our Chinese food, looked me straight in the eyes, and proclaimed, "Jesus loves you." Then she disappeared as quickly as she came. She never acknowledged my friend, never said, "Hello" or "Have a nice day." She simply ruined my meal with a solitary phrase. Apparently she felt I needed to know that the Lord still loved me even with my imperfections, which gave me no comfort at all. Let me say this to anyone who agrees with this woman's actions: Singling someone out because of her uniqueness, even if doing so is well intended, is not an appropriate act. It does not promote self-love and acceptance; instead, it fosters feelings of self-doubt and isolation. Having a stranger single me out in a crowded establishment made me even more aware of my flaws. It was like tunnel vision. When she spoke, it was only she and I in the moment. The world around me had faded to black, and her eyes bore into me. That occurrence, that single phrase, scarred me. It serves as a reminder that some people will always see me as flawed or damaged. Or perhaps, it's something deeper. Maybe it's a reminder that I will always see myself as flawed or damaged. (21)
  • But what others need to understand is that for people like me, pain, whether physical or emotional, is a way of life. It is an everyday, every-hour, every-minute occurrence. If I let every instance of pain get to me, I'd be in tears all day long...So the way I deal with pain is to make it my enemy, to fight it, to not let it rule my life. (31)
  • Over the years, especially when I was younger, I received many inquisitions of, "What happened to your face?" (93)
  • My story might be unique to me, but my struggle with confidence is universal. (142)
  • It is time for me to recognize that I am more than just a beautiful disaster. I am beautiful. (162)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trumpet of the Swan

Trumpet of the Swan. E.B. White. Illustrated by Fred Marcellino. 1970. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Walking back to camp through the swamp, Sam wondered whether to tell his father what he had seen.

Premise/plot: Louis is a trumpeter swan who can't trumpet. But with the help of his human friend, Sam, and his father (a cob) who steals a trumpet from a music store, his handicap is overcome. Sam helps him by taking him to school, to his public school and enrolling him in first grade. He learns to read and write. When he returns to his family it is with slate and slate pencil. His father thinking of his future happiness--how can he woo a mate without a voice of his own--steals a trumpet. Louis practices on his own before turning to Sam for advice and help. At this time Sam teaches him about money and working to earn it. Louis feels guilty that his trumpet is stolen and not paid for. Until this wrong has been righted, Louis is very active with the human world around him. He becomes a musician with an agent taking jobs in Boston and Philadelphia. But it is freedom and love he longs for most. Will Serena ever be his?!

My thoughts: I first read this one the summer before sixth grade. It was a great read. I don't know why it's taken me so long to reread it. Loved Sam and Louis. Louis's father was very amusing in his pontificating.

Curiosity is celebrated throughout the book. Sam is a curious person. Because of this quality he becomes a good friend and even at times a hero. He discovers his life's calling as well. Life is wonder-filled to him. He treasures what he sees and hears. His observations are kept in a daily journal. Seeing the world through the eyes of both Sam and Louis is a treat.

  • The world is full of talkers, but it is rare to find anyone who listens. (50)
  • "Great Caesar's ghost!" cried the teacher. "Look at those wings! Well, his name is Louis--that's for sure. All right, Louis, you may join the class. Stand right here by the blackboard. And don't mess up the room, either! If you need to go outdoors for any reason, raise one wing." (71)
  • "Sam, if a man can walk three miles in one hour, how many miles can he walk in four hours?" "It would depend on how tired he got after the first hour," replied Sam. (76)
  • Everyone is entitled to his likes and dislikes and to his prejudices. Come to think of it, I don't care for pistachio ice cream. I don't know why I don't like it, but I don't. (114) 

© 2017 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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