Friday, January 31, 2014

January Reflections

In January, I read 45 books.

Eight books were rereads: Good Morning, Miss Dove; Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus; The Time Machine; Doomsday Book; Story of the Treasure Seekers; Sense and Sensibility; The Merchant's Daughter; A Woman's Place.

Without really planning it, I read SIX time travel books in January! Seven Stories Up, The First Dragon, Risked, Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, The Time Machine, and Doomsday Book.

Board Books, Picture Books, Early Readers:

  1. Patti Cake And Her New Doll. Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2014. (Jan) Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. The Runaway Hug. Nick Bland. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. 2013 (Dec). Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. A Book of Babies. Il Sung Na. 2014. (Jan). Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  4. Little Frog's Tadpole Trouble. Tatyana Feeney. 2014. (Jan) Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Small Bunny's Blue Blanket. Tatyana Feeney. 2014. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. All Fall Down. Mary Brigid Barrett. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Candlewick Press. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Pat-a-Cake. Mary Brigid Barrett. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Candlewick Press. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Ten Tiny Toes. Caroline Jayne Church. 2014. Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]    

Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. The Real Boy. Anne Ursu. 2013. HarperCollins. 341 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Seven Stories Up. Laurel Snyder. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The First Dragon. The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica #7 James Owen. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Risked (The Missing #6). Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. The Apprentices. Maile Meloy. Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr. 2013. Penguin. 432 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  6. The Story of the Treasure Seekers. E. Nesbit. 1899. Puffin. 250 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. The 100. Kass Morgan. 2013. Little, Brown. 277 pages. [Source: Library]   
  8. The Living. Matt de la Pena. 2013. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. A Corner of White. Jaclyn Moriarty. 2013. Scholastic. 375 pages. [Source: Library]  
  10. Aquifer. Jonathan Friesen. 2013. Blink. 303 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  2. Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Orson Scott Card. 1996. Tor.  351 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  3. Lady of the English. Elizabeth Chadwick. 2011. Sourcebooks. 544 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. And Be A Villain. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1948. 256 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  5. 1066 And All That. W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman. 1931/1993. Barnes & Noble. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Duchess of Drury Lane. Freda Lightfoot. 2013. Severn House. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  8. Royal Affair: George III And His Scandalous Siblings. 2006. Random House. 384 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. The Revolt of the Eaglets. Jean Plaidy. 1977. 320 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  10. Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.  [Source: Book I Bought]
  11. The Road to Yesterday. L.M. Montgomery 1974. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. 252 pages.
  12. The Courts of Love. Jean Plaidy. 1987. Broadway Books. 576 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  13. The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Alexander the Conqueror: The Epic Story of the Warrior King. Laura Foreman. 2004. Da Capo Press. 211 pages. [Source: Library] 
  15. Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 352 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
Christian Fiction and Nonfiction: 
  1. Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  2. A Woman's Place. Lynn Austin. 2006. Bethany House. 450 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  3. With Autumn's Return. Amanda Cabot. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Dancing Master. Julie Klassen. 2014. Bethany House. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Dare to Love Again. Julie Lessman. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Every Waking Moment. Chris Fabry. 2013. Tyndale. 400 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  8. How To Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. Michael James Williams. 2012. Zondervan. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  9. Crazy Busy. Kevin DeYoung. 2013. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  10. Bruce and Stan's Pocket Guide To Studying Your Bible: A User-Friendly Approach. Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. 2001. Harvest House. 112 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  11. The Captive Maiden. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages. 
  12. Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible In A Year. Diane Stortz. 2013. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Reread #5 A Woman's Place

A Woman's Place. Lynn Austin. 2006. Bethany House. 450 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I first read and reviewed A Woman's Place in August 2007. I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. And why wouldn't I?! After all, it's a book set during one of my favorite historical periods: World War II. The focus is on women on the American homefront: how the war effected women's lives in and out of the home. This book seems to be a written-just-for-me book. So, of course, I adored it.

Four women. Four very different, unique women come together as a team at Stockton Shipyards. With proper training, these four women will be helping build ships, ships that will help the Allied Forces win the war. An end to war is all these women want. Well, they'd also like a little respect and some justice.

From the original review:

Ginny, or "Virginia" as her husband insists on calling her, is a housewife in her thirties who feels underappreciated and unloved.

Helen is a woman in her fifties who is wealthy and bitter and angry.

Rosa is a young newlywed from Brooklyn. She met a young man in the Navy and suddenly finds herself living with her inlaws while the war is on.

And Jean is fresh out of high school--fresh from the farm, one of eighteen children. She has six brothers enlisted in various branches of the service.

Each woman finds herself employed at Stockton Shipyards. Each has felt called to serve her nation. Each one is there for their own personal reasons as well. Ginny is lacking self confidence, but seems to bloom under the circumstances of hard work and friendship. Rosa is a bit unwieldy at times but in need of love and guidance and wisdom from older women. Helen is there trying to escape the bitter aloneness she feels in her large home--one she inherited from a father that she hated. And Jean, well, Jean is trying to figure out what she wants for herself. Her boyfriend back home doesn't see any reason for her to go to college, to get an education. He doesn't see much point in her working so far away from home either--all the way from Indiana to Michigan. But Jean, Jean is finding herself, finding her independence.

Each character was well-developed. Each character was complex. Each circumstance was complex. Very different women, very different backgrounds. But one common goal. I loved how this novel came together--pieced together. How four women's lives were able to touch and connect and encourage and build up one another. Each woman's life was changed because of the others. Each one learned how important, how significant, how loved they really and truly were.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The First Dragon (2013)

The First Dragon. The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica #7 James Owen. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

If only I'd had time to reread each and every book in the series before starting this last book, I think it would have made me love it and appreciate it even more. That being said, though it took a few chapters to refresh my memory, I ended up loving this conclusion to the series. I would love to do a reread at some point! I think it would help clarify some things for me, to connect all the little things together.

The book begins with the caretakers in quite a mess. The destruction of the keep has changed everything, threatened everything, and much is lost seemingly forever. The number one priority is recovering three people who have been lost somewhere in time: Charles, Rose, Edmund. But though that is the number one priority for all, it's not easy to agree how to go about a rescue, or even to conclusively say that rescue is possible. At the start of the novel, they have no way at all to travel through time. A few caretakers have ideas, but, essentially if a rescue is to come it will be through experimentation.

A rescue operation might have to be a "secret" operation.

I really enjoyed spending time with these characters again. This one had so many twists and turns, though twists and turns have always, always been a part of this series. It was a very enjoyable read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Seven Stories Up (2014)

Seven Stories Up. Laurel Snyder. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

You're supposed to cry when your grandma is dying. You're supposed to be really sad. But as Mom and I sped through the dark streets of Baltimore, I couldn't stop bouncing in my seat.  

I absolutely loved this historical fantasy novel. I loved, loved, loved it!!! Annie Jaffin, the heroine, has never met her grandmother. Her mother almost always changes the subject. Annie knows that her mother doesn't exactly get along well with her mother. But she doesn't know why exactly, she doesn't have the details. And some would probably say that she doesn't need to know the details, that she doesn't need the burden and baggage of all the family troubles. But it still makes for an awkward first meeting. To meet someone who will die within a day or two at most. To have your only impression of your grandmother be her at her physical worst. Annie's grandmother seems desperate with Annie, wanting to express a decade's worth of love all in three minutes. But Annie finds it a bit overwhelming as well.

Seven Stories Up is historical fantasy. Annie wakes up to find herself in 1937, she meets a young girl around her own age: Molly. A girl she realizes relatively quickly is her grandmother. Annie and Molly--what a pair, what a fantastic pair of friends. Molly, who has asthma, has always been kept separate from the world; she's rarely let out of her rooms; she rarely meets anyone; she definitely never gets the opportunity to act her age, to play, to go to a fair or carnival, to go shopping, to go anywhere. The whole world almost has been off limits, and her family rarely takes the time to connect with her. Her father, well, for better or worse, is absent though he's only a few stories down. He's the owner/manager of the hotel. Her mother and her sisters are vacationing this summer. Molly, before Annie's arrival, was friendless and hateful.

I absolutely loved this one. I loved how Annie and Molly are good for one another. I loved how their relationship develops. And I love, love, love the time travel aspect of it.

Will knowing Annie in the past, change Molly's life forever?!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Duchess of Drury Lane (2013)

Duchess of Drury Lane. Freda Lightfoot. 2013. Severn House. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading The Duchess of Drury Lane. I liked that it was written in first person. This doesn't always work for me, but, in this case it did. Readers meet a young woman who becomes a famous actress on the stage. She was known by several different names in her life, and, I believe at least two or three different stage names. (The book jacket calls her 'Dorothy Jordan' but usually in the text she's Dora.) The first third of the book focuses on her life before discovery. To help her family earn enough money, she became an actress on the stage like her mother before her. She found she could do comedy quite well, and, her singing voice could charm audiences. Unfortunately, unwanted attention from her employer led to pregnancy. When her mother learned the truth, they fled the scene and started new lives elsewhere. Her debts to her old boss were eventually paid, however, by a new employer. The rest of the novel focuses on her successes mostly on stage and her perhaps regrettable choices off stage. She fell for a man who promised marriage but didn't deliver, even after she gave birth to his two children. Eventually, that relationship soured and she was persuaded to become the mistress of the Duke of Clarence. In all fairness, her relationship with William (William IV in later years) could not end with marriage. George III made it almost impossible for his brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to marry. The two lived as if they were married (without official sanction, of course) for almost two decades, I believe. She continued on stage for most of her life. Her income was too necessary for her family, for William and their children, for her children from previous relationships, for her own siblings. This book should prove interesting to anyone with an interest in the theatre during the Georgian era.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 27, 2014

1066 And All That (1931)

1066 And All That. W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman. 1931/1993. Barnes & Noble. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]

What an odd little book. An odd little book that purposefully messes around with historical facts and figures just trying to make readers of all ages laugh. I'll try to give you several examples of what makes this book unique. I think that is probably the only way to do this book justice. It will either be a book that appeals to your sense of humor, or, not.
The Ancient Britons were by no means savages before the Conquest, and had already made great strides in civilization, e.g. they buried each other in long round wheelbarrows (agriculture) and burnt each other alive (religion) under the guidance of even older Britons called Druids or Eisteddfods, who worshipped the Middletoe in the famous Druidical churchyard at Stoke Penge. (3)
The conversion of Britain was followed by a Wave of Danes, accompanied by their sisters or Sagas, and led by such memorable warriors as Harold Falsetooth and Magnus the Great, who, landing correctly in Thanet, overran the country from right to left, with fire. After this the Danes invented a law called the Danelaw, which easily proved that since there was nobody else left alive there, all the right-hand part of England belonged to them. The Danish Conquest, was, however undoubtedly a Good Thing, because although it made the Danes top nation for a time it was the cause of Alfred the Cake (and in any case they were beaten utterly in the end by Nelson). (8)
King Arthur invented Conferences because he was secretly a Weak King and liked to know what his memorable thousand and one Knights wanted to do next. (10)
Alfred had a very interesting wife called Lady Windermere (The Lady of the Lake), who was always clothed in the same white frock, and used to go bathing with Sir Launcelot (also of the Lake) and was thus a Bad Queen. (11)
With Edward the Confessor perished the last English King (viz. Edward the Confessor), since he was succeeded by Waves of Norman Kings (French), Tudors (Welsh), Stuarts (Scottish), and Hanoverians (German), not to mention the memorable Dutch King Williamanmary. (15)
The Norman Conquest was a Good Thing, as from this time onwards England stopped being conquered and thus was able to become top nation. (17)
The chapters between William I (1066) and the Tudors (Henry VIII, etc.) are always called the Middle Ages, on account of their coming at the beginning. (22)
About this time the memorable hero Robin Hood flourished in a romantic manner. Having been unjustly accused by two policemen in Richmond Park, he was condemned to be an outdoor and went and lived with a maid who was called Marion, and a band of Merrie Men, in Greenwood Forest, near Sherborne. Amongst his Merrie Men were Will Scarlet (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Black Beauty, White Melville, Little Red Riding Hood (probably an outdaughter of his) and the famous Friar Puck who used to sit in a cowslip and suck bees, thus becoming so fat that he declared he could put his girdle round the Earth. (27)
Richard II was only a boy at his accession; one day, however, suspecting that he was now twenty-one, he asked his uncle and, on learning that he was, mounted the throne himself and tried first being a Good King and then being a Bad King, without enjoying either very much; then, being told that he was unbalanced, he got off the throne again in despair, exclaiming gloomily, "For God's sake let me sit on the ground and tell bad stories about cabbages and things." Whereupon his cousin Lancaster (spelt Bolingbroke) quickly mounted the throne and said he was Henry IV, Part I. (43)
During this reign the Hundred Years War was brought to an end by Joan of Ark, a French descendant of Noah who after hearing Angel voices singing Do Re Mi became inspired, thus unfairly defeating the English in several battles. (47)
I thought it was an interesting read, definitely unique. But I can't say that I loved it or anything.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

And Be A Villain (1948)

And Be A Villain. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1948. 256 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

And Be A Villain is the first, but probably not the last, Nero Wolfe mystery I'll be reading this year. Rex Stout has created two very enjoyable, very unforgettable characters in Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. In this mystery, they are almost actually working with the police to solve a high profile murder. Wolfe has been hired by a radio personality. One of her guests was murdered--poisoned--while on her show. Awkward indeed. The radio show is sponsored by a beverage company, and the guest's drink was poisoned. There are only a handful of people in the room, at the station, that would have had access to the drink and/or the glasses. It is up to Goodwin and Wolfe, of course, to figure out which one of these unlikely suspects is a murderer; and these suspects have been questioned again and again and again by the police. But this detective team is the best, and they spot clues missed by the police...but will it be enough? Will the answer come too late?

I enjoyed And Be A Villain. Do you have a favorite Nero Wolfe mystery? Have you seen the television adaptations?


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in January

New Loot:
  • Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck
  • The River Between Us by Richard Peck
  • A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
  • Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken
Free Loot:
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke 
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
  • The Rats of Hamelin by Adam McCune & Keith McCune 
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: January 19-25

Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Orson Scott Card. 1996. Tor.  351 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Lady of the English. Elizabeth Chadwick. 2011. Sourcebooks. 544 pages. [Source: Library]
A Corner of White. Jaclyn Moriarty. 2013. Scholastic. 375 pages. [Source: Library]
Aquifer. Jonathan Friesen. 2013. Blink. 303 pages. [Source: Library]
Alexander the Conqueror: The Epic Story of the Warrior King. Laura Foreman. 2004. Da Capo Press. 211 pages. [Source: Library]
Dare to Love Again. Julie Lessman. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's favorite:

Good Morning, Miss Dove was easily my favorite book this week. I've read the book; I've watched the movie. I will say the movie has a definite not ambiguous ending; the book, perhaps, less so. But I want to believe that the book is just as optimistic about Miss Dove's chances for recovery as the movie. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Reread #4 Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Orson Scott Card. 1996. Tor.  351 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I first reviewed Pastwatch for the blog in November 2007, but that was certainly not my first time to read it. I discovered Orson Scott Card's work in a library science class in the fall of 2000. I read everything I could find of his over the next year. It was my first venture into science fiction. It was LOVE.

Semi-Apocalyptic fiction. Alternate histories. Time Travel. Need I say more?! For anyone who enjoys dystopias or apocalyptic fiction, I'd say that Pastwatch was a must read! The same is true for anyone who loves reading time travel stories. The premise and plot is enough to keep one reading. But the characterization is wonderfully done as well.

In the world of Pastwatch, history can be viewed on the big screen. In the early stages, this technology could only watch vast regions--note climate changes and social changes--the building of communities and sometimes their collapses. But as this technology is developed further, it becomes possible to watch history in greater detail, minute detail. Scientists, historians, researchers (whatever you want to call them) can do studies on communities, societies, or individuals. What's the point of watching the past? To learn. To understand. To answer impossible questions. But a few historians hope for more. What if watching the past could change the past? Each historian researcher has his/her own speciality. Sometimes they work on something personally, other times they come together into various teams. Readers meet a handful of researchers--probably six or seven and learn of their lives, of their studies.

How is Christopher Columbus involved? Well, he's one of our narrators for one thing. But secondly, he becomes the subject of interest for most of our other narrators. It is HIS life that is being dissected and held up for study. What our researchers learn is that at some point in time, future scientists, interfered or manipulated the past that turned Christopher Columbus' interest to sailing west. Their quest to figure out how and why of this manipulation will lead them on a journey with massive consequences. For they're debating whether or not they should do something along the same lines...

It is a science fiction novel. And like many science fiction novels, it deals with aspects of playing God. One of the thought-provoking subjects in Pastwatch is suffering. The historian-researchers perhaps feel they can do a better job at writing or rewriting history. That they can do a better job at alleviating suffering and establishing peace and goodwill across the globe. The future-historians take on the role of God, manipulating people in the past making them believe that they are God or God's messengers. Pain and suffering was also a big, big subject in the Worthing Saga, another Card novel.

Quotes:
Though Tagiri did not put her own body back in time, it is still true to say that she was the one who stranded Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola and changed the face of history forever. Though she was born seven centuries after Columbus's voyage and never left her birth continent of Africa, she found a way to reach back and sabotage the European conquest of America. It was not an act of malice. Some said that it was correcting a painful hernia in a brain damaged child: In the end, the child would still be severely limited, but it would not suffer as much along the way. But Tagiri saw it differently.
"History is not prelude," she said once. "We don't justify the suffering of people in the past because everything turned out well enough by the time we came along. Their suffering counts just as much as our peace and happiness. We look out of our golden windows and feel pity for the scenes of blood and blades, of plagues and famines that are played out in the surrounding country. When we believed that we could not go back in time and make changes, then we could be excused for shedding a tear for them and then going on about our happy lives. But once we know that it is in our power to help them, then, if we turn away and let their suffering go on, it is no golden age we live in, and we poison our own happiness. Good people do not let others suffer needlessly." What she asked was a hard thing, but some agreed with her. Not all, but in the end, enough. (25-6)
Till now, all the story-seekers in Pastwatch had devoted their careers to recording the stories of great, or at least influential men and women of the past. But Tagiri would study the slaves, not the owners; she would search throughout history, not to record the choices of the powerful, but to find the stories of those who had lost all choice. To remember the forgotten people, the ones whose dreams were murdered and whose bodies were stolen from themselves, so that they were not even featured players in their own autobiographies. The ones whose faces showed that they never forgot for one instant that they did not belong to themselves, and that there was no lasting joy possible in life because of that. (35)
 "It can be done," she said, blurting it out at once. "We can change it. We can stop--something. Something terrible, we can make it go away. We can reach back and make it better."
He said nothing. He waited.
"I know what you're thinking, Hassan. We might also make it worse."
"Do you think I haven't been going through this in my mind tonight?" said Hassan. "Over and over. Look at the world around us, Tagiri. Humanity is finally at peace. There are no plagues. No children die hungry or live untaught. The world is healing. That was not inevitable. It might have ended up far worse. What change could we possibly make in the past that would be worth the risk of creating a history without this resurrection of the world?"
"I'll tell you what change would be worth it," she said. "The world would not have needed resurrecting if it had never been killed."
"What, do you imagine that there's some change we could make that would improve human nature? Undo the rivalry of nations? Teach people that sharing is better than greed?"
"Has human nature changed even now?" asked Tagiri. "I think not. We still have as much greed, as much power-lust, as much pride and anger as we ever had. The only difference now is that we know the consequences and we fear them. We control ourselves. We have become, at long last, civilized."
"So you think that we can civilize our ancestors?"
"I think," said Tagiri, "that if we can find some way to do it, some sure way to stop the world from tearing itself to pieces as it did, then we must do it. To reach into the past and prevent the disease is better than to take the patient at the point of death and slowly, slowly bring her back to health. To create a world in which the destroyers did not triumph."
"If I know you at all, Tagiri," said Hassan, "you would not have come here tonight if you didn't know already what the change must be."
"Columbus," she said."
"One sailor? Caused the destruction of the world?" (50-1)
"I'm finding the place where the smallest, simplest change would save the world from the most suffering. That would cause the fewest cultures to be lost, the fewest people to be enslaved, the fewest species to fall extinct, the fewest resources to be exhausted. It comes together at the point where Columbus returns to Europe with his tales of gold and slaves and nations to be converted into Christian subjects of the king and queen." (52)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Aquifer (2013)

Aquifer. Jonathan Friesen. 2013. Blink. 303 pages. [Source: Library]

I really wanted to love Aquifer. I thought the book started off promising. It had an intriguing start. I was curious about the narrator, Luca. I was interested in learning more about Luca's father, and how these two fit into their society, their community. The unveiling of this world was certainly mysterious enough to keep me reading in the beginning. The part that hooked me, I admit, was Luca going with his friend to the cave and finding the long-thought-lost, definitely-forbidden books. Such a good start led me to hope. Unfortunately, the second half of the novel did not work for me. Luca's quest or Luca's journey (I'm not sure it qualifies as a quest exactly), was troublesome for me in that the further he went, the more confused I became. The plot went from being easy to comprehend to super confusing. If I'd read the book over a series of days or even weeks, I would blame that completely on me, on my attention as a reader. But when you read a book in one sitting?! I don't know that it was completely my fault for not following every twist and turn of the plot. I kept reading because I wanted to see how it ended. And I was able to hold onto threads of the plot enough to make some sense of it. But was it satisfying? Only in part.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Corner of White (2013)

A Corner of White. Jaclyn Moriarty. 2013. Scholastic. 375 pages. [Source: Library]

I have mixed feelings on A Corner of White. There were certain things that I just loved about it, mainly the fantasy world, if I'm honest, and there were other things that were just okay for me, some of the characters. It was a book that definitely required patience, always patience. For there would be chapters that were enjoyable enough, and then sections that would drag.

Corner of White is set in two worlds. The "real world" sections focus on Madeleine and her homeschool friends. (It's a bit more complicated than that, and there is romance potential with one of her friends). The fantasy world sections take place in the Kingdom of Cello. These sections, in my opinion, were almost always more entertaining even though they were more confusing at times. Elliot is the hero of these bits. There is a "crack" between these two worlds. Elliot and Madeleine find themselves exchanging letters. Elliot knows the "real world" exists, that the two worlds used to be in communication with one another, that these cracks are not only possible but definitely illegal. Madeleine is condescending in 99% of her letters to Elliot because she assumes his letters are full of lies. She is not a believer in anything fantastical.

It isn't so much that these two are able to "help" one another directly with anything going on in their lives. Madeleine doesn't believe anything he says, and she laughs at his problems, his world. Her letters are her ramblings, not meant to do more than ramble really. Of course, it turns out that her rambles inspire him--literally--in his greatest moment of need. But that wasn't intentional on Madeleine's part. She wasn't being brave and wise on purpose. If his letters help her at all, perhaps they serve as needed reminders that she is not the only person in the world with problems, and that the world does not revolve around her, and that she should, you know, actually think things through and not be so horrible to others.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lady of the English (2011)

Lady of the English. Elizabeth Chadwick. 2011. Sourcebooks. 544 pages. [Source: Library]

Lady of the English is set during the dispute between Empress Matilda (Henry I's daughter) and King Stephen (Henry I's nephew). These two cousins (through their armies) fought bitterly for the throne of England starting in 1135. Last year, I read one adaptation of that conflict--though it was a bit ridiculous, Passionate Enemies by Jean Plaidy. Lady of the English is told mainly through two perspectives: Empress Matilda (the mother of Henry II) and Queen Adeliza (the widow of Henry I, Matilda's stepmother). Half the book is focused on Matilda's struggle with Stephen, her complicated relationship with her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, her trying (but not too hard) to balance being a mother with being a strong political/military force to be reckoned with. Readers do spend time with her son, Henry, who would in good time become the next King. The other half of the book is focused on Adeliza's second marriage with William d'Aubigny. Adeliza was a supporter of Matilda; her husband a supporter of King Stephen. But these two were devoted to one another and had quite a large family, especially considering that she was the "barren" wife of Henry I. If Lady of the English is considered a "romance" novel, it would be because of this match.

The battle between Stephen and Matilda is not resolved in this novel. The novel just seems to stop suddenly in the middle of the story. I'd love the chance to read the rest of the story through Matilda's perspective!

I enjoyed this one for the most part. Lady of the English is not a "clean" read, however, there is so much history, so much historical detail, that it is easy to overlook the small percentage of smut when all is considered.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Alexander the Conqueror (2004)

Alexander the Conqueror: The Epic Story of the Warrior King. Laura Foreman. 2004. Da Capo Press. 211 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading this biography of Alexander the Great. Though the size of this one was a bit bulky at times, the use of so many photographs made this one less intimidating. Readers are provided with background into his country, his culture, his family. Plenty of time is spent on his father, Philip II, and Alexander's upbringing. Half of the book focuses on his rise and fall, what happens when his father dies and he comes into power and begins his conquest.

I liked the writing style. I found it reader-friendly and at times quite conversational. It had just enough detail to be interesting as an introduction to the subject. Too much detail might prove overwhelming or intimidating. This was the first biography I'd read, and I found it just right for the most part.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good Morning, Miss Dove

Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Liberty Hill was a small freshwater town--not a hill, really, but just a modest rise in the land--where the streets were named for trees and heroes, and a sense of life's continuity ran in the air. It was like a hundred American towns, smug and cozy, and it put its special stamp upon its own. People born and raised there--high and low, rich and poor--were neighbors in an irrevocable way, because their imaginations had been nursed on the same sights and sounds and legends and early ordeals. (1)

I love, love, love Good Morning, Miss Dove. I've been wanting to read this one for years and years. I saw the movie decades ago and absolutely loved it. I knew that I wanted to read the book it was based on. I was not disappointed.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is a treat of a book. I absolutely loved it. I thought the use of flashbacks worked surprisingly well. I loved seeing Miss Dove's life story come together piece by piece by piece. I also loved the sense of community, of getting glimpses into ordinary and not-so-ordinary lives.

Miss Dove teaches geography in the local elementary school: first grade through sixth grade. She has done so for many, many years. She's taught the parents of her current students. Miss Dove is a force, a force for good, perhaps, but she's described as "the terrible Miss Dove" by young and old. One school day the unexpected happens: Miss Dove is teaching when she's overcome by a sudden, sharp, painful spasm in her back. Within minutes she's lost sensation in her right leg. She's calm, collected, but insistent. She'll send a student for help, for her doctor. The doctor that arrives, however, is not HER doctor, but a former student. She receives help from two of her former students: a minister (Alexander) and a doctor (Thomas). She's admitted to the hospital. The nurse, you guessed it, a former student as well (Billie Jean). As she's in the hospital, she reflects on her life. Readers are treated to dozens of flashbacks shedding light on Miss Dove's life and the lives of those in the community. Readers get to know plenty of former students, and see the effect that the "terrible Miss Dove" had on their lives. 

I would recommend Good Morning, Miss Dove to those who love good, satisfying, comforting feel-good reads. I would recommend it to those who love It's A Wonderful Life and/or Mr. Holland's Opus.

 Favorite quotes:
For Miss Dove had no moods. Miss Dove was a certainty. She would be today what she had been yesterday and would be tomorrow. And so, within limits, would they. Single file they would enter her room. Each child would pause on the threshold as its mother and father had paused, more than likely, and would say--just as the policeman had said--in distinct, formal accents: "Good morning, Miss Dove." And Miss Dove would look directly at each of them, fixing her eyes directly upon theirs, and replay: "Good morning, Jessamine," or "Margaret," or "Samuel." (Never "Sam," never "Peggy," never "Jess." She eschewed familiarity as she wished others to eschew it.) They would go to their appointed desks. Miss Dove would ascend to hers. The lesson would begin.
There was no need to waste time in preliminary admonitions. Miss Dove's rules were as fixed as the signs of the zodiac. And they were known. (8-9)
And on that unassaulted field--in that room where no leeway was given to the personality, where a thing was black or white, right or wrong, polite or rude, simply because Miss Dove said it was, there was a curiously soothing quality. The children left it refreshed and restored, ready for fray or frolic. For within its walls they enjoyed what was allowed them nowhere else--a complete suspension of will. (11-2)
"Is that the same map? Jincey asked. She pointed to the large map of the world that hung, rolled up for the summer, above the blackboard behind Miss Dove. "Is China still orange?"
"It is a new map," Miss Dove said. "China is purple."
"I liked the old map," Jincey said. "I liked the old world."
"Cartography is a fluid art," said Miss Dove.
With the flat of her hand Jincey pushed her hair back from her forehead. She had done that in moments of perplexity long ago. "Oh, Miss Dove," she said, and her voice shook, "tell me what to do!"
Miss Dove was not at a loss. She told Jincey in three short words. "Do your duty," she said.
Jincey's eyes filled with tears. "But what is your duty when your world has ended?"
"You are nineteen, I believe," said Miss Dove. Her statement was devoid of sarcasm. Miss Dove had been nineteen when her own world had ended and begun. And now she could remember without pain or longing for the old last world. It was a charming memory, like a fairy tale read to a sleepy child. But the new world was real. Whether she was happy in it she did not ask herself. She was strong. She was useful. She was Miss Dove." (74-5)
The room into which Miss Dove was wheeled was a small, blue room. Its window, giving upon budding treetops and gabled roofs, was like a big framed picture that dwarfed the wall.
"Now we'll take off our clothes and then we'll feel more comfy," said Billie Jean. She spoke in a humoring tone with steel behind it. It was clear that she intended to assume command.
"The pronoun "we" is misleading," said Miss Dove. "Unless you propose to take your clothes off." Billie Jean tittered nervously, but refused to be intimidated. (95)
Anything could be taught, of course--fine points of deportment as well as the names of the tributaries of the Nile. By six years of drill and example--forty-five minutes a day, Monday through Friday, September through May--Miss Dove had brought many a child to conform to a code that ran counter to his inclinations. But now and then--oh, a dozen times, perhaps, in the course of her teaching career--she had met a child in whom the ethical instinct, microscopic but fully-formed, was as innate as original sin. It was an almost mystical thing, that gift for goodness-and rarer than mathematical genius or perfect pitch. Hardened as she was to surprises, Miss Dove never recognized it without a sudden leap of the pulse. She had recognized it in William. (99)
 Miss Dove had been reading aloud from a book the dietary habits of undomesticated animals. "Bears like honey," she read. "They are also fond of red ants which have a flavor similar to that of pickles."
Angela had waved her hand. "How does he know, Miss Dove?" she had demanded. "How does the author know what ants taste like?"
The thirty-nine other children in the room had fixed their trusting eyes upon Miss Dove, waiting for her answer. Then Angela, herself, saved the day. Brash with the imminence of victory, she had pushed her advantage too far.
"Did he eat an ant to see?" she asked sarcastically. "Or did a bear tell him?" (115)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Week in Review: January 12-18

Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.  [Source: Book I Bought]
The Road to Yesterday. L.M. Montgomery 1974. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. 252 pages.
Risked (The Missing #6). Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
The Courts of Love. Jean Plaidy. 1987. Broadway Books. 576 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 352 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages. [Source: Library]
Every Waking Moment. Chris Fabry. 2013. Tyndale. 400 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
How To Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. Michael James Williams. 2012. Zondervan. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

This week's favorite:

This week it was much harder to choose a favorite. Should I choose a reread that I absolutely love, love, love? Three of the books I read this week were rereads: Sense and Sensibility, Doomsday Book, and The Merchant's Daughter. I can honestly say that I love, love, love all three. The Boys in the Boat is nonfiction. And it was LOVELY. I was absolutely captivated by the story. It was everything a book should be. But do I love it more than Doomsday Book?! And can it compete with Austen?! 

I chose The Boys in the Boat. People need to be reminded that nonfiction can be unforgettable and compelling and WOW-worthy!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in January

New Loot:
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  • The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck
  • The River Between Us by Richard Peck
  • Fair Weather by Richard Peck
  • A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry 
  • George Knightley, Esquire: Charity Envieth Not by Barbara Cornthwaite
  • George Knightley, Esquire: Lend Me Leave by Barbara Cornthwaite
  • Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
  • Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Reread #3 Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.  [Source: Book I Bought]

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
"Am I too late?" he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.
"Shut the door," she said. "I can't hear you over the sound of those ghastly carols."
Dunworthy closed the door, but it didn't completely shut out the sound of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" wafting in from the quad. "Am I too late?" he said again. 

I first read and reviewed Doomsday Book in October 2010. I reread it in December of 2011. Yes, this is my third time to read Connie Willis' award-winning novel, Doomsday Book. (It won the Hugo and Nebula!) Quite simply Doomsday Book is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. It combines my love of history (the measly middle ages!) and my love of science fiction (time travel!!!). It is set--in the future and the past--during the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season.

Kivrin has a dream. She'll be the first time traveler historian to go to the fourteenth century. If all goes well, and why wouldn't it boasts Gilchrist, then she'll spend two or three weeks in 1320 before returning. But Mr. Dunworthy (and subsequently Badri, the tech guy) aren't as confident that things will go smoothly. Dunworthy is sure that something will go wrong. Even if something doesn't go wrong with the time travel aspect (she lands in the right time, the right place), he's worried that something will happen to her in the past (she'll get beaten up, she'll get raped,  she'll be mistaken for a witch, she'll get sick, she'll die).

From the start, there is something wrong with the drop. It starts with the technician, Badri, becoming ill. Soon the whole area is quarantined. Cases start coming in--and soon medical staff are overwhelmed. What is this disease--this illness? How is it spread? Where did it come from? Is it fatal? Is there a cure? Did he have a chance to pass this on to Kivrin before she went through the Net? What was Badri trying to communicate to Dunworthy at the last minute?

Willis does a great job building the past--the fourteenth century--and the "present" which is a time-traveling future. (The story alternates between past and present.) She blends mystery, science fiction, and historical fiction--and blends them well! Readers meet dozens of characters in both centuries as this mystery unfolds. And while it is serious--dramatic--and emotional--people will die--it's not without its lighter moments of wit. There are personalities. The characters are oh-so-human.


Favorite quotes:

"I've just thought who you remind me of," Mary said, setting down her plate and a napkin. "William Gaddson's mother."
That was a truly unfair remark. William Gaddson was one of his first-year students. His mother had been up six times this term, the first time to bring William a pair of earmuffs. (23)
"Your tech seems to have done a passable job," Gilchrist said, turning to Dunworthy. "Medieval would like to arrange to borrow him on our next drop. We'll be sending Ms. Engle to 1355 to observe the effects of the Black Death. Contemporary accounts are completely unreliable, particularly in the area of mortality rates. The accepted figure of fifty million deaths is clearly inaccurate, and estimates that it killed one third to one half of Europe are obvious exaggerations. I'm eager to have Ms. Engle make trained observations."
"Aren't you being rather premature?" Dunworthy said. "Perhaps you should wait to see if Kivrin manages to survive this drop or at the very least gets through to 1320 safely."
Gilchrist's face took on its pinched look. "It strikes me as somewhat unjust that you constantly assume Medieval is incapable of carrying out a successful drop," he said. "I assure you we have carefully thought out its every aspect. The method of Kivrin's arrival has been researched in every detail. Probability puts the frequency of travelers on the Oxford-Bath road as one every 1.6 hours, and it indicates a 92 percent chance of her story of an assault being believed, due to the frequency of such assaults. A wayfarer in Oxfordshire had a 42.5 percent chance of being robbed in winter, 58.6 percent in summer. That's an average of course. The chances were greatly increased in parts of Otmoor and the Wychwood and on the smaller roads."
Dunworthy wondered how on earth Probability had arrived at those figures. The Domesday Book didn't list thieves, with the possible exception of the king's census takers, who sometimes took more than the census, and the cutthroats of the time surely hadn't kept records of whom they had robbed and murdered, the locations marked neatly on a map. Proofs of deaths away from home had been entirely de facto: the person had failed to come back. And how many bodies had lain in the woods, undiscovered and unmarked by anyone? (29)
"Mr. Dunworthy, I've been looking for you everywhere," Finch said. "The most dreadful thing's happened."
"What is it?" Dunworthy said. He glanced at his digital. It was ten o'clock. Too early for someone to have come down with the virus if the incubation period was twelve hours. "Is someone ill?"
"No sir. It's worse than that. It's Mrs. Gaddson. She's in Oxford. She got through the quarantine perimeter somehow."
"I know. The last train. She made them hold the doors."
"Yes, well, she called from hospital. She insists on staying at Balliol..."
"Tell her we haven't any room. Tell her the dormitories are being sterilized."
"I did, sir, but she said in that case she would room with William. I don't like to do that to him, sir."
"No," Dunworthy said. "There are some things one shouldn't have to endure, even in an epidemic." (117)
"I thought there'd be more going on," Colin said, sounding disappointed. "Sirens and all that."
"And dead-carts going through the streets, calling 'Bring out your dead'?" Dunworthy said. "You should have gone with Kivrin. Quarantines in the Middle Ages were far more exciting than this one's likely to be...(191)
19 December 1320 (Old Style). I'm feeling better. I can go three or four careful breaths at a time without coughing, and I was actually hungry this morning, though not for the greasy porridge Maisry brought me. I would kill for a plate of bacon and eggs. And a bath. I am absolutely filthy. Nothing's been washed since I got here except my forehead, and the last two days Lady Imeyne has glued poultices made of strips of linen covered with a disgusting-smelling paste to my chest. Between that, the intermittent sweats that I'm still having, and the bed (which hasn't been changed since the 1200s), I positively reek, and my hair, short as it is, is crawling. I'm the cleanest person here. (200)
Finch went to the door and then turned back. "About Mrs. Gaddson, sir. She's behaving dreadfully, criticizing the college and demanding that she be moved in with her son. She's completely undermining morale."
"I'll say," Colin said dumping the muffins on the table. "The Gallstone told me hot breads were bad for my immune system."
"Isn't there some sort of volunteer work she could do at Infirmary or something?" Finch asked. "To keep her out of college?"
"We can hardly inflict her on poor helpless flu victims. It might kill them. What about asking the vicar? He was looking for volunteers to run errands."
"The vicar?" Colin said. "Have a heart, Mr. Dunworthy. I'm working for the vicar."
"The priest from Holy Re-Formed then," Dunworthy said. "He's fond of reciting the Mass in Time of Pestilence for morale. They should get along swimmingly. (264)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Road To Yesterday (1974)

The Road to Yesterday. L.M. Montgomery 1974. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. 252 pages.

The Road To Yesterday is a collection of short stories by L.M. Montgomery set on Prince Edward Island. All of the stories mention the Blythes. The stories cover several decades. In one story, for example, Jem and Walter might be described as young boys. In another story, you might read of Rilla's loving Ken Ford. By the end of the collection, however, World War II has begun or nearly begun. So, yes, this one covers a wide span of years. One hears in passing, almost by chance, of news of the Blythe family, of Susan Baker. But the stories have their own main characters.

The stories include:
An Afternoon with Mr. Jenkins
Retribution
The Twins Pretend
Fancy's Fool
A Dream Come True
Penelope Struts Her Theories
The Reconciliation
The Cheated Child
Fool's Errand
The Pot and the Kettle
Here Comes the Bride
Brother Beware
The Road to Yesterday
A Commonplace Woman

Some stories can be sweet and predictable with a cozy, just-right feel. Other stories are darker and perhaps creepier. And a few are just FUNNY. I love, for example, Penelope Struts Her Theories. A "child expert" who has studied and written books on how to raise children finally gets a chance to put her theories into practice when she decides to adopt a child. Needless to say, she learns a thing or two!

I definitely recommend this one. All of these stories are included in The Blythes Are Quoted. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Risked (2013)

Risked (The Missing #6). Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I am still enjoying this series. I don't love all books in this series equally. And I must admit I read these more for plot than character (so unusual for me). But the premise still works for me. Jonah is one of those kids, and readers still don't learn HIS past identity. But Jonah and his non-adopted sister (not a historical kidnap victim) travel to the past once more. This time with Chip and two new kids; kids whom they recognize almost instantly as being Romanovs: Alexei and Anastasia. Yes, this book takes readers to the Russian Revolution, to the very house where the family were murdered... Plot twists, as always, abound. It's a complicated mess that always means increased danger to Jonah and Katherine. But there is something about this series that I can't help loving despite the fact that the books are a bit messy.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Courts of Love (1987)

The Courts of Love. Jean Plaidy. 1987. Broadway Books. 576 pages. [Source: Bought]

When I look back over my long and tempestuous life, I can see that much of what happened to me--my triumphs and most of my misfortunes--was due to my passionate relationships with men. I was a woman who considered herself their equal--and in many ways their superior--but it seemed that I depended on them, while seeking to be the dominant partner--an attitude which could hardly be expected to bring about a harmonious existence. 

The Courts of Love is told in first person; it is told exclusively, I believe, through the eyes of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Courts of Love has such a different feel from the other Plaidy novels I've read lately. It seems more sophisticated, more tasteful, more literary than the three books in the Norman series. And I must admit that The Courts of Love, which stars Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, was more interesting than Caroline the Queen. Though in some ways it feels "classier" that does not mean it's not sensual, it just refrains some of the ridiculousness. (Plaidy is NOT graphic in details; she's very matter-of-fact and succinct.)

Eleanor is an interesting narrator. The novel begins with her life in the court of her grandfather, I believe. It follows her life through her marriages; her first marriage to the king of France and her second marriage to Henry II. (He was not king quite yet. The battle between Stephen and Matilda was still ongoing.) Readers also get to see Eleanor in the role of mother. While she did not have a place in her life for her two children with the King of France, she had plenty of children with Henry. It felt like she was ever-pregnant for almost half of the novel! The last third of the novel focuses on King Richard and King John.

Eleanor was definitely not presented as a saint. (I found the bit with her uncle to be quite disturbing.) Henry II was definitely not a saint either. Even before he "unintentionally" suggested that Thomas Becket should be taken care of permanently. Henry II and Eleanor had a strange relationship. There was passion in abundance, but horribly bitter bickering. The two would eventually separate, but not in the way you might expect. She was a prisoner of her husband for over a decade! Henry II, meanwhile, presided at court with his favorite mistresses nearby.

I am glad I read this one! Have you read any Jean Plaidy novels? Do you have a favorite? Which would you recommend? 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 13, 2014

The Boys in the Boat (2013)

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

Wow! What a book! I knew that I would probably end up loving this one despite my complete lack of interest in sports simply because of the dynamic storytelling. The Boys in the Boat focuses on personalities. It is powerful examination of human resiliency. Readers learn of the nine men on the Olympic team; readers learn of the coaches whose hard work and discipline and instinct, perhaps, led them there; readers learn of the man who made the rowing shells--not just for this one team, but, for so MANY in the rowing program. It's a story spanning a decade or two. Not every team member gets the full treatment, but, what we do learn is so emotionally compelling. It won't come as a big surprise, perhaps, to learn how much I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED learning Joe Rantz's story. But really, the whole book is so good, so worth reading...

Boys in the Boat is nonfiction at its best!!!


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Year With Jane: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. 352 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Some Jane Austen novels, in my opinion, have to be read multiple times in order to fully love and appreciate them. I think that is the case with Sense and Sensibility. At least, I have found it to be so. I think I have "loved" it more each time I've read it. And, I believe, this is the third time I've read it. I do know it is the third time I'll be reviewing it for the blog.

Review #1 from 2008
Review #2 from 2011

Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen's first published novel. The original readers would not have had Pride and Prejudice to compare it with, which may work in the books favor. They wouldn't have known Jane and Elizabeth, so there wouldn't be the temptation to compare these two sisters (Marianne and Elinor) with the angelic Jane and feisty Elizabeth. And I think there is the temptation to compare. I found myself constantly looking for traces and hints of Jane and Elizabeth. Is Elinor more like Jane or Elizabeth? Is Marianne more like Elizabeth or Lydia or a bit of both? And it isn't just the sisters. Lucy Steele versus Caroline Bingley. Wickham versus Willoughby. (Amanda Grange has written Wickham's Diary, but will she ever write Willoughby's diary?! I'd love to read it!!!)

I do love Jane Austen. I love spending time in her character-rich novels. I love getting to know her characters. Not just her main characters. But the minor ones as well. So many memorable characters. Even if they're memorable only because they're despicable. I love the pacing. I love the dialogue. I love how each rereading shows me something different about a character. Little things that just take a little time perhaps to fully realize a character. When you're reading for plot and plot alone, little things pass you by.

Favorite quotes:
She [Elinor] believed the regard to be mutual; but she required greater certainty of it to make Marianne’s conviction of their attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next — that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. She tried to explain the real state of the case to her sister.
Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich.
Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne’s heart, for with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond every thing else. His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.
When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing he did, was right. Every thing he said, was clever. If their evenings at the park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to any body else. Such conduct made them of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.
“Brandon is just the kind of man,” said Willoughby one day, when they were talking of him together, “whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.”
“Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against a second attachment? or is it equally criminal in every body? Are those who have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from the inconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances, to be equally indifferent during the rest of their lives?” “Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiæ of her principles. I only know that I never yet heard her admit any instance of a second attachment’s being pardonable.”
“You are mistaken, Elinor,” said she warmly, “in supposing I know very little of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am much better acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in the world, except yourself and mama. It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. I should hold myself guilty of greater impropriety in accepting a horse from my brother, than from Willoughby. Of John I know very little, though we have lived together for years; but of Willoughby my judgment has long been formed.”
Elinor then heard Willoughby say, in a low voice to Marianne, “There are some people who cannot bear a party of pleasure. Brandon is one of them. He was afraid of catching cold I dare say, and invented this trick for getting out of it. I would lay fifty guineas the letter was of his own writing.” “I have no doubt of it,” replied Marianne.
“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.”
Oh, Elinor, how incomprehensible are your feelings! You had rather take evil upon credit than good. You had rather look out for misery for Marianne, and guilt for poor Willoughby, than an apology for the latter. You are resolved to think him blamable, because he took leave of us with less affection than his usual behaviour has shown. And is no allowance to be made for inadvertence, or for spirits depressed by recent disappointment? Are no probabilities to be accepted, merely because they are not certainties? Is nothing due to the man whom we have all such reason to love, and no reason in the world to think ill of? — to the possibility of motives unanswerable in themselves, though unavoidably secret for a while? And, after all, what is it you suspect him of?”
Secrecy may be advisable; but still I cannot help wondering at its being practiced by him. 
“I have not wanted syllables where actions have spoken so plainly. Has not his behaviour to Marianne and to all of us, for at least the last fortnight, declared that he loved and considered her as his future wife, and that he felt for us the attachment of the nearest relation? Have we not perfectly understood each other? Has not my consent been daily asked by his looks, his manner, his attentive and affectionate respect? My Elinor, is it possible to doubt their engagement? How could such a thought occur to you? How is it to be supposed that Willoughby, persuaded as he must be of your sister’s love, should leave her, and leave her perhaps for months, without telling her of his affection, — that they should part without a mutual exchange of confidence?”
“You have no ambition, I well know. Your wishes are all moderate.” “As moderate as those of the rest of the world, I believe. I wish as well as every body else to be perfectly happy; but, like every body else it must be in my own way. Greatness will not make me so.” “Strange that it would!” cried Marianne. “What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?” “Grandeur has but little,” said Elinor, “but wealth has much to do with it.” “Elinor, for shame!” said Marianne, “money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.” “Perhaps,” said Elinor, smiling, “we may come to the same point. Your competence and my wealth are very much alike, I dare say; and without them, as the world goes now, we shall both agree that every kind of external comfort must be wanting. Your ideas are only more noble than mine. Come, what is your competence?” “About eighteen hundred or two thousand a year; not more than that.” Elinor laughed. “Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end.”
“I should hardly call her a lively girl — she is very earnest, very eager in all she does — sometimes talks a great deal and always with animation — but she is not often really merry.”
“I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes,” said Elinor, “in a total misapprehension of character in some point or other: fancying people so much more gay or grave, or ingenious or stupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what the deception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge.”
“Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”
“But you would still be reserved,” said Marianne, “and that is worse.” Edward started. “Reserved! Am I reserved, Marianne?” “Yes, very.” “I do not understand you,” replied he, colouring. “Reserved! — how, in what manner? What am I to tell you? What can you suppose?” Elinor looked surprised at his emotion; but trying to laugh off the subject, she said to him, “Do not you know my sister well enough to understand what she means? Do not you know she calls every one reserved who does not talk as fast, and admire what she admires as rapturously as herself?”
“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”
This was quite a new idea to Mrs. Dashwood; she had never been used to find wit in the inattention of any one, and could not help looking with surprise at them both.
But to appear happy when I am so miserable — Oh! who can require it?
“The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to find friendship any where.”
Marianne’s lips quivered, and she repeated the word “Selfish?” in a tone that implied, “do you really think him selfish?” “The whole of his behaviour,” replied Elinor, “from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle.” “It is very true. My happiness never was his object.” “At present,” continued Elinor, “he regrets what he has done. And why does he regret it? — Because he finds it has not answered towards himself. It has not made him happy. But does it follow that had he married you, he would have been happy? — The inconveniences would have been different. He would then have suffered under the pecuniary distresses which, because they are removed, he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife of whose temper he could make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous — always poor; and probably would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts of a clear estate and good income as of far more importance, even to domestic happiness, than the mere temper of a wife.”
I will be calm, I will be mistress of myself.
Mrs. Jennings’s prophecies, though rather jumbled together, were chiefly fulfilled; for she was able to visit Edward and his wife in their Parsonage by Michaelmas, and she found in Elinor and her husband, as she really believed, one of the happiest couples in the world. They had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and rather better pasturage for their cows.
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another! — and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married, — and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat! But so it was.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week in Review: January 5-11

The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
The 100. Kass Morgan. 2013. Little, Brown. 277 pages. [Source: Library] 
The Living. Matt de la Pena. 2013. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Royal Affair: George III And His Scandalous Siblings. 2006. Random House. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
The Revolt of the Eaglets. Jean Plaidy. 1977. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
Patti Cake And Her New Doll. Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2014. (Jan) Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Runaway Hug. Nick Bland. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. 2013 (Dec). Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Book of Babies. Il Sung Na. 2014. (Jan). Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Little Frog's Tadpole Trouble. Tatyana Feeney. 2014. (Jan) Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Small Bunny's Blue Blanket. Tatyana Feeney. 2014. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
All Fall Down. Mary Brigid Barrett. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Candlewick Press. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Pat-a-Cake. Mary Brigid Barrett. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Candlewick Press. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ten Tiny Toes. Caroline Jayne Church. 2014. Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Crazy Busy. Kevin DeYoung. 2013. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bruce and Stan's Pocket Guide To Studying Your Bible: A User-Friendly Approach. Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. 2001. Harvest House. 112 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

This week's favorite:

It was oh-so-easy to choose Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. A contemporary retelling of Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Need I say more?! For those that love that funny and charming romance originally published in 1912, this one is a must! It may also be a must for those who love, love, love classic romances. Samantha Moore, the heroine, LOVES to read. (You've probably guessed that Jane Austen is among her favorites!) It's a very satisfying read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Second Trip in January

New Loot:
  • The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck
  • Bubble World by Carol Snow
  • The River Between Us by Richard Peck
  • Fair Weather by Richard Peck
  • A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
Leftover Loot:
  • George Knightley, Esquire: Charity Envieth Not by Barbara Cornthwaite
  • George Knightley, Esquire: Lend Me Leave by Barbara Cornthwaite
  • Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
  • Robert the Bruce by Jack Whyte 
  • Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken
  • Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight
  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron 

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Reread #2 The Time Machine

The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I first read and reviewed The Time Machine in June 2007. I really loved it. It was my introduction to H.G. Wells, and, to classic science fiction. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it then.

I decided to reread The Time Machine for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience this January. It was very fun to revisit this one. I still enjoy time travel novels very much. I may not be quite as passionate about the novel upon second reading; however, I am still glad I took the time to read it again. And I would definitely still recommend it!

The plot: A group of men are gathered together to discuss life. One of them, the one called "The Time Traveller" reveals to his friends and/or associates that he is working on an invention--a time machine. He intends to prove that it is possible to travel back and forth in the fourth dimension--time. A week later, at another party or gathering, he is then able to tell his tale. He tells of his travels to the year 802,701. The good. The bad. The ugly. Life on earth has changed quite a bit, as the Time Traveller witnesses. And as he journeys even to the very end of time, he learns some important truths about mankind past, present, and future. The storytelling element of the story is great.

Favorite quotes:
I think that at that time none of us quite believed in the Time Machine. The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness.
I will,' he went on, 'tell you the story of what has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from interruptions. I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound like lying. So be it! It's true—every word of it, all the same. I was in my laboratory at four o'clock, and since then … I've lived eight days … such days as no human being ever lived before! I'm nearly worn out, but I shan't sleep till I've told this thing over to you. Then I shall go to bed. But no interruptions! And with that the Time Traveller began his story as I have set it forth. He sat back in his chair at first, and spoke like a weary man. Afterwards he got more animated. In writing it down I feel with only too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink—and, above all, my own inadequacy—to express its quality. You read, I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot see the speaker's white, sincere face in the bright circle of the little lamp, nor hear the intonation of his voice. You cannot know how his expression followed the turns of his story! Most of us hearers were in shadow, for the candles in the smoking-room had not been lighted, and only the face of the Journalist and the legs of the Silent Man from the knees downward were illuminated.
The two species that had resulted from the evolution of man were sliding down towards, or had already arrived at, an altogether new relationship. The Eloi, like the Carolingian kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful futility. They still possessed the earth on sufferance: since the Morlocks, subterranean for innumerable generations, had come at last to find the daylit surface intolerable. And the Morlocks made their garments, I inferred, and maintained them in their habitual needs, perhaps through the survival of an old habit of service. They did it as a standing horse paws with his foot, or as a man enjoys killing animals in sport: because ancient and departed necessities had impressed it on the organism. But, clearly, the old order was already in part reversed. The Nemesis of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. Ages ago, thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back changed! Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew. They were becoming reacquainted with Fear. And suddenly there came into my head the memory of the meat I had seen in the Under-world. It seemed odd how it floated into my mind: not stirred up as it were by the current of my meditations, but coming in almost like a question from outside. I tried to recall the form of it. I had a vague sense of something familiar, but I could not tell what it was at the time.
I understood now what all the beauty of the Over-world people covered. Very pleasant was their day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And their end was the same. 'I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes—to come to this at last. Once, life and property must have reached almost absolute safety. The rich had been assured of his wealth and comfort, the toiler assured of his life and work. No doubt in that perfect world there had been no unemployed problem, no social question left unsolved. And a great quiet had followed. 'It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers. 'So, as I see it, the Upper-world man had drifted towards his feeble prettiness, and the Under-world to mere mechanical industry. But that perfect state had lacked one thing even for mechanical perfection—absolute permanency.

© 2014 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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