Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Reflections

In May I read 51 books.

Board Books, Picture Books, Early Readers:

  1. Hide and Seek Harry Around the House. Kenny Harrison. 2014. Candlewick. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Hide and Seek Harry At the Beach. Kenny Harrison. 2014. Candlewick 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree. Eileen Christelow. 1991/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Go! Go! Go! Stop! Charise Mericle Harper. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Weasels. Elys Dolan. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Mama's Day With Little Gray. Aimee Reid. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Taking Care of Mama Rabbit. Anita Lobel. 2014. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. A Gift for Mama. Linda Ravin Lodding. Illustrated by Alison Jay. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Where's Mommy? Beverly Donofrio. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. The Pigeon Needs A Bath! Mo Willems. 2014. Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boys. Karen Foxlee. 2014. Random House. 240 books. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Teacher's Funeral. Richard Peck. 2004. Penguin. 208 pages. [Source: Library]  
  4. Hero. (Woodcutter Sisters #2). Alethea Kontis. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Searching for Sky. Jillian Cantor. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. Compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. 2012. Candlewick. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. Preacher's Boy. Katherine Paterson. 1999/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. Lizzy Bennet's Diary. Marcia Williams. 2014. Candlewick. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Glass Casket. McCormick Templeman. 2014. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Greetings from Nowhere. Barbara O'Connor. 2008. FSG. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  13. Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
  14. Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie. 1911/2008. Penguin. 207 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  15. The Winter Pony. Ian Lawrence. 2011. Random House. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16. The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  17. Ivy Honeysuckle Discovers the World. Candice F. Ransom. 2012. Disney-Hyperion. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]  
  18. Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match. Candice F. Ransom. Illustrated by Heather Ross. 2013. Disney-Hyperion. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
  19. The Lemonade War. Jacqueline Davies. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
  20. The Lemonade Crime. Jacqueline Davies. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]
Adult Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. Rumpelstiltskin. Jenni James. 2013. Stonehouse Ink. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Dark Eden. Chris Beckett. 2014. Crown Publishing Group. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. The Prime Minister. Anthony Trollope. 1876. 864 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  4. Tudor: The Family Story. Leanda de Lisle. 2013. Public Affairs. 576 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Heavens Are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod. Avrom Bendavid-Val. 2010. Pegasus. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. By My Side. Sue Reid. 2014. Scholastic. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Franchise Affair. Josephine Tey. 1948. 304 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
Christian Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. Stepping Heavenward. Mrs. Elizabeth Prentiss. 1869/1998. Barbour Books. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever. Michael S. Horton. 2014. Crossway. 271 pages.   
  3. The Everlasting Tradition: Jewish Customs, Holidays, and Historical Events That Reveal Biblical Truth. Galen Peterson. 1995. Kregel Publications. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  4. All Loves Excelling (The Saints' Knowledge of Christ's Love) John Bunyan. 1692/1998. Banner of Truth. 144 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. What's Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions. James N. Anderson. 2014. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. The Beloved Disciple: Following John to the Heart of Jesus. Beth Moore. 2003. B&H. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life. Sinclair Ferguson. 2007. 243 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  8. Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith. A.W. Tozer. 2009. Regal. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  9. Fellowship with God (Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John #1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1993. Crossway. 142 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Every Little Thing About You. (Yellow Rose Trilogy, #1) Lori Wick. 1999. Harvest House. 300 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  11. (Puritan Pulpit) Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758. (Containing 16 Sermons Unpublished In Edwards' Lifetime) Compiled and Edited by Dr. Don Kistler. Soli Deo Gloria. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]
  12. Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 2005. Multnomah. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]
  13. The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2007. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  14. Growing in Christ. J.I. Packer. 1977/1994/2007. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in May

New Loot:
  • 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman
  • Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
  • After the End by Amy Plum
  • Huff and Puff by Tish Rabe
  • Olaf's 1-2-3 
  • Huff and Puff and the New Train by Tish Rabe
Leftover Loot:
  • The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton
  • Dualed by Elsie Chapman
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill 
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
 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: May 25-31

The Glass Casket. McCormick Templeman. 2014. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Greetings from Nowhere. Barbara O'Connor. 2008. FSG. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
The Lemonade Crime. Jacqueline Davies. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]
The Heavens Are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod. Avrom Bendavid-Val. 2010. Pegasus. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
By My Side. Sue Reid. 2014. Scholastic. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Franchise Affair. Josephine Tey. 1948. 304 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 1997/2005. Multnomah. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2007. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Growing in Christ. J.I. Packer. 1977/1994/2007. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

It was a hard decision this week. On the one hand, I loved reading McCormick Templeman's The Glass Casket. It had atmosphere, in my opinion, and it was oh-so-compelling. I read it in one sitting. It's not my typical genre. I don't really read horror at all. Not on purpose anyway. So the fact that it grabbed my attention and kept my attention says something. But is it truly-truly my favorite of the week? On the other hand, there is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a fantastic historical novel that I'd heard so much about. I've been meaning to read it for over five years! It has been sitting around my house for that many years! It did not disappoint. It has a definite message: it is a retelling of the book of Hosea. But it is probably NOT what anyone would expect a christian novel to be. It goes to dark, uncomfortable places. The heroine was sold into prostitution as a child. She's spent years of her life as a prostitute, and her journey to grace is not an easy one. If I'm looking just at themes or messages, then the choice would be easy. It would be Redeeming Love. It speaks to my heart. If I'm looking just at suspenseful storytelling or pacing, then the choice would be easy, it would be The Glass Casket. These two are so very different from one another!

The better cover? The Glass Casket. I can't say I'm a big fan of headless women on novels! And the cover of Redeeming Love is probably one of the reasons why it took me so very long to read!

Either book would easily win if reviewed in another week...

My choice is Redeeming Love. One of the reasons why I ended up choosing Redeeming Love is that I thought it had more reread appeal. I am more likely to reread this one than the Glass Casket.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Reread #22 Greetings From Nowhere

Greetings from Nowhere. Barbara O'Connor. 2008. FSG. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

Greetings From Nowhere is a charming book that I just love! It centers around Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Aggie, the owner, is a widow. She is finding it difficult--really difficult--to keep the motel going. Sometimes months go by between guests. And the last time a guest came, it was by chance they stayed even one night. Financially, it makes sense for Aggie to consider selling. It is what she "needs" to do practically. But is her heart ready to let go of her dream? But this isn't Aggie's story. She is not the protagonist. This book has multiple young narrators. All end up at the Sleepy Time Motel. There is Kirby, the "troubled" boy, who is on his way to reform school; Loretta who is traveling in the Smoky Mountains with her parents; and Willow who has come with her Dad to inspect the motel before buying it. None of the guests are particularly happy-happy-cheerful. Not everyone is equally gloomy either. Every single person in the novel has recently undergone change or is about to undergo change.

Loretta, for example, perhaps the most "happy" of the bunch, has learned that her birth mother has died. She received a charm bracelet in the mail. She still knows so very little about her birth mother. Just the mystery of a bracelet, she's trying to puzzle together who her mother was, what she was like, what she liked, what she did, based on these charms. That is what has fueled this family vacation. They are following the trail of her birth mother.

Willow is perhaps the saddest. Her mother left her and her Dad. Nothing has been the same since she left. Her mother's name isn't allowed to be mentioned. There is something broken about her family. The Dad decides the family needs a HUGE change. Willow doesn't want a huge change; she doesn't even want a tiny change.

Kirby is perhaps the angriest or most hurt depending on your perspective. Does Kirby do bad things for attention? Yes. His mother. His father. His stepfather all seem to reject him, to want to be rid of him, to think that he's a big hopeless mess instead of a growing boy.

I liked this community-focused novel. I definitely recommend it!




I first reviewed Greetings From Nowhere in May 2008.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Lemonade Crime (2011)

The Lemonade Crime. Jacqueline Davies. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]

The Lemonade Crime opens with the fourth day of fourth grade for Jessie and Evan Treski. Evan and Jessie are still convinced that Scott Spencer STOLE $208 from Evan's short pockets on the last day of summer. They become even more convinced of his guilt when Scott starts bragging that he has the latest Xbox. And brag he does to anyone and everyone who will listen. And the teacher seems to be fine with this bragging taking up class time. Jessie wants justice. So she serves him with papers. These "fake" legal papers tell him he has to arrive in court on Friday after-school for his trial by his peers. Jessie assigns roles to her classmates. Her brother, Evan, is the plaintiff. She is his lawyer. Scott is the defendant. Megan is Scott's lawyer. Twelve of their classmates become jurors; six boys, six girls, I believe. David a boy that isn't particularly friendly with either Scott or Evan is chosen to be judge. The rest of the class will be the audience. Jessie takes this trial very seriously. If Scott is found guilty, he will "have" to give up his new Xbox. If Scott is found innocent, then Jessie and Evan will have to apologize in front of everyone.

It's obvious that The Lemonade Crime has a theme of justice. Two kids who feel they were wronged want justice, they want a wrong to be righted. They imagine how sweet it will be to prove Scott to be a liar and a thief in front of everyone. Holding onto this anger, however, is changing Jessie and Evan.

There is also a not-so-subtle, but oh-so-pleasant theme of forgiveness in this novel. This is first hinted at when Jessie notes that Saturday will be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Several of Evan's friends are Jewish. Several of his friends come to him privately and ask forgiveness for things they did previously. Evan lets this resonate and he begins to reflect. I really liked this turn of events.

I definitely enjoyed this second book in the series.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Glass Casket (2014)

The Glass Casket. McCormick Templeman. 2014. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Glass Casket has a great opening line,
"One bleak morning in the eye of winter, five horses and five riders thundered into the remote mountain village of Nag's End." 
It caught my interest and kept me reading until the very, very end, without a single break. For the record, I do NOT like horror novels. I do NOT like thrillers. Witches. Monsters. Vampires. Not my thing AT ALL. Yet, for some reason, I found myself unable to walk away from this fantasy novel. In other words, I found myself LOVING it.

After these strange riders fail to return, several men go up into the woods and investigate. What they found shocks them to say the least. One man is bloodied and his eyes and tongue are missing. The remaining four were found NAKED and frozen. One could reason that wolves might have killed one of the five men. BUT what would lead four men to strip off their clothes, fold them up, and allow themselves to freeze to death?! And what was up with the last journal entry found in their belongings that reads: It's starting. Tom Parstle is, I believe, the one who finds that journal entry. And he also removes something else from the scene, something that any fan of Pirates of the Caribbean could warn him against, a coin or medallion. "It was a circle enclosing a smaller circle. They were linked by seven spokes, empty spaces between them. He was leaning in to examine it more closely when he found himself suddenly queasy, as if beset by a noxious force" (19). The men return with some answers but more questions.

Rowan Rose is our heroine. She is Tom's best friend. She's super smart. She doesn't only know how to read and write, she knows how to read and write in several languages. She assists her father in his translating work. In fact, she is BETTER at translating than her father is. She does not want to marry. She wants to be a scholar. She thinks her father is supportive of her plans for the future.

Jude Parstle is Tom's brother. Jude has long been thought to be the lesser of the brothers. No one expects much of him, Tom, well Tom is "the good brother." Jude, well, Jude is allowed to do whatever. Rowan and Jude have a tense relationship: they are ALWAYS bickering. Everyone thinks that Jude hates Rowan, that he perhaps hates her because she's so brainy, though that is more Tom's theory. (Tom thinks his brother is only interested in one thing from a woman.)

Those five riders weren't the ONLY strangers to come to town. There were three other strangers: a glassblower, his wife, and a young woman that is OH-SO-EXTRAORDINARILY-BEAUTIFUL. Her name is Fiona Eira. Not everyone is pleased with these strangers. Rowan's father, Henry, is the most opposed. He insists that Rowan have NOTHING AT ALL to do with Fiona.

So what is Rowan to do when her best friend, Tom, falls madly, deeply in instant-love with Fiona? He HAS to meet her. He just HAS to. He begs and pleads with her to be the go-between, to seek her out, to introduce herself, to speak well of Tom, to arrange a meeting for them the next day. Rowan is creeped out by Tom's obsession in all honesty. But. She dares to disobey her father. She'll do it for her friend. At the very least, her helping Tom may help him calm down a bit.

But this wouldn't be much of a horror novel if Tom and Fiona live happily ever after...

The Glass Casket is definitely packed with action and suspense. There is a big mystery to solve. It is intensely violent. The scenes depicting violence--murder--are very graphic. It is also graphic when it comes to passion. Yet despite the fact that this one is in many ways plot-driven, I feel Templeman did a good job with characterization. I definitely had favorite characters.

Rowan and Obsessed-Tom talking about LOVE:

"Rowan," he said, "do you think it possible to love someone upon first laying eyes on them?"
"Well, the poets certainly thought it so if they're to be believed, a woman's eyes can know a future lover upon seeing him, and if the man sees the fire in those eyes, sees himself there, then he can fall in love before they've even spoken a word."
"But what do you think? Do you think it's possible?"
"I don't know. I suppose I like the idea of some part of our bodies knowing and recognizing our futures even if our minds cannot. That appeals to me. But no, I don't think it possible."
"You don't? Really? If your future husband came riding into the village one day, you don't think you'd recognize him immediately?"
"I don't think that's how it works."
"How does it work, then?"
"I think in order to love someone, you must know their heart. You need to witness their goodness, and you can't know something like that unless you've known someone for a while. I think familiarity breeds love."
"That's not very romantic of you."
"Isn't it?"
"I'm talking about love, grand love--that thing that makes you feel like your knees are about to give way, that certainty that you've seen the essence of your future in a pair of red lips."
"Tom, beauty isn't the same thing as goodness; it isn't the same thing as love." (52, 53)
Rowan on Jude:
Staring at him, she felt rage burning in her chest. How was it that he could make her so angry? How was it that he always seemed to know how she felt without her saying a word? It was unfair. He had no right to her feelings. Her temper getting the better of her, she strode over to him, her hands clenched into fists, and took a single wretched swing at him. The force she'd put behind the blow was intense, but she never connected, for he caught her forearm gently in his hand, and looking deep into her eyes, he held her gaze. (75)
Sample of atmosphere:
The funeral should have been the next day. It ought to have been. The village ought to have gathered in Fiona Eira's home and the elders ought to have performed the rites. She should have been covered in the funerary shroud, hiding the sight of human flesh so as not to offend the Goddess. Her body laid up on Cairn Hill at the Mouth of the Goddess, stones carefully arranged atop her resting spot. These were the things that ought to have been done. But sometimes things don't go as planned. (117)
It was a coffin. A glass coffin, intricately carved, and set out in the yard for all to see. Inside it was the girl, her black hair splayed out around her, her lips like rotting cherries set against a newly ashen complexion. (129)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

By My Side (2014)

By My Side. Sue Reid. 2014. Scholastic. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed reading Sue Reid's novel By My Side. This novel is told entirely through diary entries; it is set in the Netherlands during World War II during Nazi Occupation. The heroine of By My Side, Katrien, falls in love with a Jewish boy, Jan. Katrien, unlike some of her friends, is not boy crazy. She wasn't looking for a boyfriend; she wasn't planning on falling in love. But there was something different about Jan, setting him apart from other boys she knew. He was slightly older, true, but that wasn't really it. One thing she does learn early on, however, is the fact that he's Jewish. That is why he stopped attending school. That is why he's sometimes a bit hesitant to do the things she wants. At the very, very beginning, she does seem a bit oblivious and insensitive. Her intentions were always good, mind you, but she didn't stop to think about how his being Jewish could effect WHAT they do together: going to the park, going to the movies, etc. She'd never had reason really to stop and think about how many restrictions are placed on the Jews and the seriousness of the situation. Of course, after seeing him a few weeks, she's grown up quite a bit. That doesn't mean Katrien is mature and wise, mind you. She decides to keep Jan a complete secret from her parents; he wants her to be honest, he wants to come to her house as her boyfriend. She is reluctant.

I definitely enjoyed this romance. It was a quick read. By the end, it had gotten quite intense as well.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Heavens Are Empty

The Heavens Are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod. Avrom Bendavid-Val. 2010. Pegasus. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

The Heavens Are Empty is a compelling nonfiction read. Avrom Bendavid-Val has approached the subject matter with care and attention. This book is about a town--a village--that existed for a little over hundred years, the Jewish town of Trochenbrod.

Trochenbrod did not vanish slowly but surely over decades, it's death was not natural at all. After sharing his personal story, his behind-the-scenes look at his research process, his motivation for wanting--needing--to know more, he presents his findings in four chapters. The first chapter focuses on "the first hundred years." This is a look, a glimpse, at what life was like in Trochenbrod in the nineteenth century and a little beyond. If this book has a "happy" section, this would be it. The second chapter focuses on the decades between the first world war and the start of the second world war. Again, there are no great indicators of what is to come. The third chapter covers the years 1939-1942, readers see Trochenbrod under Soviet rule and under German rule. The fourth chapter is perhaps the most haunting, the most horrific. The fourth chapter focuses on how an entire village was massacred by the Nazis. This chapter includes three incredible accounts of survivor-witnesses.

The Heavens Are Empty is rich in witness accounts. It's a difficult subject to read about, but important in my opinion.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Franchise Affair (1948)

The Franchise Affair. Josephine Tey. 1948. 304 pages. [Source: Book I bought]

Robert Blair is a lawyer. He lives a boring life; nothing terribly exciting or thrilling ever happens. And. He doesn't seem to mind that his life is mostly predictable. But then one day he receives a call from Marion Sharpe. She is in need of a lawyer; she needs one as soon as possible. Yes, she knows that his firm doesn't specialize in criminal law; yes, she knows he's never handled any case quite like hers before. Yes, she'd be willing to find another lawyer if necessary--if charges are brought against her and if the case were to go to trial. But can he come NOW! He agrees. He rushes to The Francise. He meets Marion and her mother. He meets Inspector Grant. He hears what these two ladies are being accused of. He meets the young woman, Betty Kane, accusing them. He's left a bit speechless. Kane's story: I was waiting for the bus, these two "old" ladies offered me a ride, I accepted, they took me to their home, wouldn't let me leave, locked me in the attic, denied me food unless I worked for them doing some mending, they beat me too! After four weeks I managed to escape! Grant and Blair are speechless as are the women. The story seems weird and unrealistic. Grant's instincts are telling him that the Kane girl is a crazy attention-seeker who is a liar through and through. Blair also thinks the Kane girl is a liar. He also thinks she's immoral. There HAS to be a man involved. Kane had to have met a guy over vacation and run off with him and made up this horrible story when that love affair fell apart. Both Blair and Grant are relying on instincts and making quick judgments. Grant, at the start of the novel, does not want to make a case of this. He does not believe there has been an actual crime.

But. The story will not go away. Kane will tell her story, keep her story alive in the papers. The community will turn against the Sharpe women at the Francise. Things will get uncomfortable and dangerous.

Blair is determined that the best defense is to prove that Betty Kane is a terrible, horrible mess of a girl. She's far from good and honest and respectable. He wants to expose this girl, show her that she can't go around accusing good, honest women like the Sharpes of horrible crimes. She shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Grant, Tey's detective, is barely in this one. He is in a few scenes, but, for the most part this is Robert Blair's story, his chance to have an exciting life, to play hero.

The Franchise Affair is not my favorite Tey novel, but, it was a pleasant read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in May

New Loot:
  • The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton
  • Dualed by Elsie Chapman
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
Leftover Loot:
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, (Charles E. Wilbour trans.)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
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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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Week in Review: May 18-24

Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
Ivy Honeysuckle Discovers the World. Candice F. Ransom. 2012. Disney-Hyperion. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]
Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match. Candice F. Ransom. Illustrated by Heather Ross. 2013. Disney-Hyperion. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Tudor: The Family Story. Leanda de Lisle. 2013. Public Affairs. 576 pages. [Source: Library]
Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie. 1911/2008. Penguin. 207 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Prime Minister. Anthony Trollope. 1876. 864 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Every Little Thing About You. (Yellow Rose Trilogy, #1) Lori Wick. 1999. Harvest House. 300 pages. [Source: Bought]
(Puritan Pulpit) Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758. (Containing 16 Sermons Unpublished In Edwards' Lifetime) Compiled and Edited by Dr. Don Kistler. Soli Deo Gloria. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

This week I choose Because of Winn Dixie as my favorite. I love, love, love this one! It's just a wonderful novel. Love the writing. Love the characters. Love the narration. It's just a book that stays with you.

I will say that I am very pleased to meet Ivy Honeysuckle! I do love reading Candice Ransom when I get the chance!!! 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Peter Pan (1911)

Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie. 1911/2008. Penguin. 207 pages. [Source: Review copy]

All children except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, 'Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!' This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

Peter Pan may be far from perfect when all things are considered, but, it certainly can prove a delightful reread now and then. Though I haven't seen the musical in years, I first became familiar with this story through the musical: the dialogue and the songs. So when I first read it fifteen years ago (or so), it felt familiar from the start. Tinker Bell was fierce, a very jealous and very stubborn fairy. Peter Pan was oh-so-arrogant and a bit obnoxious, quite thoughtless. Wendy and her brothers, well, I had to admit they were a bit thoughtless as well. But there was something touching about Wendy. And then there are all the other inhabitants of Never Never Land: the Lost Boys, the Indians, and the pirates led by Captain Hook, to name just a few.
The book is dated, very dated, and to modern readers it may not hold up well. The place is sculpted, in a way, by the dreams and fantasies of children. Wendy and her two brothers, for example, imagine a lot of things: playing Indians, playing pirates, visiting with mermaids, playing with wolves, etc. It is an island, a land, like no other. All fancy--make believe, if you will. I find it delightful, very delightful at times. It is not my favorite, favorite children's book by ANY stretch of the imagination. But I think it's a fun one to know.

Quotes:
Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbors; so, of course, they had a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. (4)
Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. (6)
Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact; not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night lights. (8)
"Why, what is the matter, father, dear?"
"Matter!" he yelled; he really yelled. "This tie, it will not tie." He became dangerously sarcastic. "Not round my neck! Round the bedpost! Oh yes, twenty times have I made it up round the bedpost, but round my neck, no! Oh dear no! begs to be excused!'
He thought Mrs. Darling was not sufficiently impressed, and he went on sternly, "I warn you of this, mother, that unless this tie is round my neck we don't go out to dinner tonight, and if I don't go out to dinner tonight, I never go to the office again, and if I don't go to the office again, you and I starve, and our children will be flung into the streets."
Even then Mrs. Darling was placid. (17-8)
"That is not Nana's unhappy bark," she said, little guessing what was about to happen; "that is her bark when she smells danger." (24)
It was a girl called Tinker Bell, exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint. (26)
"You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. And so," he went on good naturedly, "there ought to be one fairy for every boy and girl."
"Ought to be? Isn't there?"
"No. You see, children know such a lot now, they soon don't believe in fairies, and every time a child says, "I don't believe in fairies," there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead." (33)
"Second to the right, and straight on till morning." That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head. (45)
Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy. (57)
The lost boys were out looking for Peter, the pirates were out looking for the lost boys, the redskins were out looking for the pirates, and the beasts were out looking for the redskins. They were going round and round the island, but they did not meet because all were going at the same rate. (58)
One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon. (67)
"Aye," the captain answered, "If I was a mother I would pray to have my children born with this instead of that," and he cast a look of pride upon his iron hand and one of scorn upon the other. Then again he frowned.
"Peter flung my arm," he said, wincing, "to a crocodile that happened to be passing by."
"I have often," said Smee, "noticed your strange dread of crocodiles."
"Not of crocodiles," Hook corrected him, "but of that one crocodile." He lowered his voice, "It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me."
"In a way," said Smee, "It's a sort of compliment."
"I want no such compliments," Hook barked petulantly. (68)
There was not a child on board the brig that night who did not already love him. He had said horrid things to them and hit them with the palm of his hand, because he could not hit with his fist; but they had only clung to him the more. Michael had tried on his spectacles. To tell poor Smee that they thought him lovable! Hook itched to do it, but it seemed too brutal. (159)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Reread #21 Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought]

Because of Winn Dixie is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I love, love, love this one! Opal Buloni, our young heroine, has recently moved with her father, a preacher, to a small town in Florida. He is the new preacher at a small church, a church held in an old convenient store building, a church with no pews but lawn chairs. The novel, I believe, is set during the summer. Opal, when the novel opens, is still adjusting. She misses her mother tremendously. Her mother's leaving is not recent, but, as Opal grows up, she is beginning to realize more and more how much she misses her mother. Her curiosity and longing has changed. She feels her father ignores her, not because he doesn't love her, not because he doesn't want her or need her, but simply because he's always busy and quiet. Opal needs friends. Find friends she will and all because of Winn Dixie, the dog she finds at the grocery store. Winn Dixie, the dog with an irresistible smile, needs Opal just as much as she needs him. And with a little love from Opal and her Dad, Winn Dixie sets out to charm EVERYONE in town, even people who don't "like" dogs.

I love, love, love the characters in this one. I love Opal. I do. I love her dad. I love that he listens to his daughter and shares with her ten things about her mother. I love Gloria Dump, Miss Franny, Otis, and Sweetie Pie. And, of course, I love Winn Dixie. I also love Opal coming up with a ten things list for Winn Dixie.

I love the writing. This is one of those novels that is just so easy to quote!!!

Favorite quotes:
“Thinking about her was the same as the hole you keep on feeling with your tongue after you lose a tooth. Time after time, my mind kept going to that empty spot, the spot where I felt like she should be.”
“You can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now.”
“Do you think everybody misses somebody? Like I miss my mama?” “Mmmm-hmmm,” said Gloria. She closed her eyes. “I believe, sometimes, that the whole world has an aching heart.”
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match (2013)

Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match. Candice F. Ransom. Illustrated by Heather Ross. 2013. Disney-Hyperion. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

Sissy One and Sissy Two are brave in Iva Honeysuckle Meets Her Match. These two sisters head to the beach for a week-long vacation with all six children.

Why brave? Well, Iva and Heaven and Lily Pearl and Howard aren't exactly calm, predictable, obedient children. Though in Howard's defense, he is led by Lily Pearl most of the time. In the first chapter book, Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World, Lily Pearl was in a witchy phase. (One of her favorite games was playing Naked Witch which involves running wildly around the house: naked, of course.) Howard was a ghost, I believe, in that game. In the second book, Lily Pearl has moved on to playing BRIDE. And Howard, of course, is her victim-playmate. But as it turns out, all six children take a notion to be disobedient and break all the rules set for them by their moms.

Summer vacation. One week. Plenty of adventures and misadventures. They meet new (and interesting) people. They try to manage their own spending money. They try to problem-solve.

Iva, poor dear, has a time of it during vacation! She sees a SEA MONSTER, takes her mom's camera, DROPS it into the ocean, doesn't confess and lets her mother search for it all week long. She feels bad--really bad--so then she starts trying to SOLVE this problem all on her own, how to make restitution AND how to establish proof of the sea monster.

Plenty of action and fun in this one. And the characters, while far from flawless, continue to be entertaining.

I would definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World (2012)

Ivy Honeysuckle Discovers the World. Candice F. Ransom. 2012. Disney-Hyperion. 160 pages. [Source: Library book]

I definitely enjoyed meeting Iva and Heaven Honeycutt. These two are double first cousins. There is a LOT of tension in their relationship. Their mothers (Aunt Sissy and Aunt Sissy Two) wanted to time their pregnancies so that all their children could be best friends with each other. Arden and Lily Pearl are Iva's sisters. Hunter and Howard are Heaven's sister and brother. Ransom does a great job at bringing ALL six children to life in her book. Both families feel completely believable. I also enjoyed the community that this one is set in. Several neighbors enter into the story in lovely ways.

Iva and Heaven are different. Different from one another, yes, but also different from other children their own age. Neither girl truly excels in making and keeping friends.

Heaven loves going to yard sales. She likes buying things for her hope chest. When she's not looking for embroidered pillow cases and other dainty household items, she might be found praying or assisting with vacation church school.

Iva dreams of being an adventurer, she longs to discover something WONDERFUL in her hometown of Uncertain, Virginia. She has a plan. Once this girl has a plan, she likes to STICK to it. But it isn't always easy to stick to plans when plans don't take into account every little thing!

This is a summer adventure. I would definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Children of the King (2014)

The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Children of the King is set during World War II. And it's set in ENGLAND during World War II. There is every reason in the world, why I should love and adore this one.

Cecily and Jeremy and their mom evacuate to the country; since London is fast becoming much too dangerous, they've evacuated to the family's country estate, Heron Hall. They will live with Uncle Peregrine. On their journey, they see hundreds of other children also evacuating. Unlike Jeremy and Cecily, these kids are going to live with strangers. Cecily resents that they're on the same train. "While she pitied the evacuees, part of her wished they had been on a different train so she wouldn't have had to see them and be weighed down by their plight. She had troubles of her own." (17) But oddly enough--unless you've cheated and read the jacket--Cecily decides by the end of the journey that she just HAS to have ONE of these children. She WANTS to choose herself. She examines the children carefully and slowly. She settles on the one that--by appearances at least--will suit her best. She chooses a girl named May.

May, Cecily, and Jeremy. Three kids that, for the most part, are so different from one another. Sometimes their worlds touch: they interact well with each other and seem to enjoy one another's company. And other times, it's selfishness times three.

Jeremy is fourteen. He is ANGRY and scared and perhaps ashamed that he's scared? He feels he has something to prove. He does NOT want to be in the country. He does not want to be stuck with Cecily and May. They may need the safety and comfort of the country. But not him. He's a man, well, almost. Surely, Jeremy is brave enough and strong enough and stubborn enough to think and act independently.

Cecily. Is she simple or complex? I just can't make up mind. On the one hand, she's selfish and bossy and inconsiderate. On the other hand, what she says may not reflect how she feels. She may be hiding how the war is effecting her. Her fears and doubts might be to blame. I did not really like her very much.

May won't be bossed around for long. Cecily may have picked her out like a pet; Cecily may think she's the boss, but, May is more than capable of standing up for herself and doing exactly what she wants. When Cecily and May accept one another as somewhat equals, there is some peace. But instant friends they are not. Still Cecily and May spend over half the novel in each other's company. It is Cecily and May who spend all their time investigating "Snow Castle;" Cecily and May who discover the two strange boys living in the castle ruins. Cecily and May who keep a secret from all the grown-ups.

I will be honest. I didn't exactly "like" any of the children. I did enjoy, however, Uncle Peregrine! He seems to be just what these three children need. He seems to be the only adult there who understands the children deeply. Peregrine is a storyteller. He tells these three children a story. This story takes weeks to tell. He tells just a little at a time, always leaving them wanting more. He does have a way with words.

For better or worse, the story Peregrine tells is of Richard III and the princes in the tower. He does not call the man in the story, Richard III, he calls him Duke. But to adult readers especially, it is clear how his "story" fits into history. Peregine's story, unfortunately, is ambiguous in all the wrong ways. Richard III is clearly the murderer. (Boo, hiss!) In his ambiguous telling, he offers the possibility that the boys were saved, after all, that they were taken to the country to hide for the rest of their lives. And since these two princes match up oh-so-closely with May and Cecily's strange new friends living in the ruins, readers are led to believe this is where their ghosts dwell after all.

I would have much preferred Hartnett to be ambiguous with the identity of the murderer, to at least consider that others had equally strong motives. If Richard himself had hid the children away in the country, it would have been a more enjoyable ghost story.

I typically like World War II stories. I don't usually like ghost stories. Does the fact that the ghosts are the princes of the tower make me change my mind? I'm still thinking on it.

I do appreciate the juxtaposition of these two stories. How Hartnett trusts readers to reach conclusions and find common themes: how children rarely, if ever, have power or a voice; how sometimes children are caught in situations out of their control, are caught in chaos and uncertainty. That war is war, and war can be cruel and ugly.

So in many ways, I can like this one, at least from a distance, but did I love it? I'm not sure I can stretch it that far.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Tudor (2013)

Tudor: The Family Story. Leanda de Lisle. 2013. Public Affairs. 576 pages. [Source: Library]

Leanda de Lisle's Tudor: The Story of England's Most Notorious Royal Family was a fascinating read. It opens with a queen (Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V) marrying a Welsh squire (Owen Tudor); it ends with James VI of Scotland inheriting the throne of England and becoming James I of England. It covers almost (but not quite) two hundred years of English history. Henry VII. Henry VIII. Edward VI. Jane Grey. Bloody Mary. Queen Elizabeth. James I. Not to mention Mary, Queen of Scots. It focuses on the royals who reigned, but, it also pays a good amount of attention to other royals. The sisters of Henry VII. The sisters of Henry VIII. And their offspring, royal cousins. For example, Margaret Douglas and her children and grandchildren. Also Katherine Grey. It focuses on family AND politics AND religion. Also perhaps power and ambition. It avoids as much as possible drawing moral conclusions or judgments about the actions of the royal family. The book urges readers to consider everything in the context of time and culture. Kings and queens eliminated perceived threats via life imprisonment or execution. Emphasis on perceived. Guilt being a matter of perception, not of hard facts and proof.

Overall, I found this book an enjoyable and informative read. I liked the thoroughness, the evenness of the coverage. The information was concise and the narrative was well written. The pacing was well done. I would definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Prime Minister (1876)

The Prime Minister. Anthony Trollope. 1876. 864 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

The Prime Minister is the fifth book in the Palliser series by Anthony Trollope. Previous titles include Can You Forgive Her?, Phineas Finn, The Eustace Diamonds, and Phineas Redux.

I liked this one. I definitely liked it. The Prime Minister shares some themes with other Trollope novels which I've enjoyed. Trollope often wrote about marriages: happy marriages AND unhappy marriages. While some of Trollope's heroines have had their happily ever after endings, just as many have not.

The Prime Minister introduces the Wharton family into the series. Readers meet Everett and Emily and their father, Mr. Wharton. Everett is chummy with a Mr. Ferdinand Lopez. Emily's aunt also welcomes Mr. Lopez into her home. Emily and Ferdinand have had some meetings which lead him to hope that he has a good chance of marrying her. When he goes to her father, he is rejected. Mr. Wharton is quite upset at the very idea of it. He can't imagine ever saying yes and blessing that union. Emily is a dutiful daughter, but, stubborn and ultimately persuasive. She will not disobey her father, but, she will not move on and forget Mr. Lopez either. Her heart has decided that he is the one. Eventually Mr. Wharton softens his resolve and allows the marriage to take place. He is still not happy about it. He still would have preferred Arthur Fletcher, a man who has been in love with Emily for half his life. But he accepts that his daughter has a right to make her own decisions and be with the man she loves.

Plantagenet Palliser, now the Duke of Omnium, becomes Prime Minister. He sets up his coalition government. His wife, formerly Lady Glencora--now officially a Duchess, is so enthusiastic that she goes above and beyond her duty. She's determined that her husband will be a SUCCESS and that everyone will LOVE and ADORE him. Her hostessing plans are almost endless. She plans and spends, plans and spends. Her husband who has always been more than a little reserved is not happy exactly. He loves, loves, loves his wife. And he doesn't want to hurt her feelings and offend her. But her tastes aren't his. What she thinks is best for him, isn't what is truly best for him. She may be very social and thrive on society, he doesn't. The more she pushes him to be social, the less civil he becomes about it! One of the young men that the Duchess takes an interest in is Mr. Lopez. She'd like to see him elected to parliament. She says she'll help him win a seat in an election. At the very time she's promising him a seat, her husband is emphatically declaring that he will not support or endorse ANY candidate. He does not want there to be even a slight hint that he has an interest in the district. Such things might have been done in the past, might still be done by others in the present, but to him, the election would be tainted if he got involved and told everyone I want you to vote for him.

By this point, readers know and Emily knows that Mr. Lopez is a great disappointment. He is far from the husband of her dreams. It's not that she loses love and respect for him, though she does, she comes to despise him because of the way he treats her, the way he talks to her, the way he manipulates her, the way he controls her and tells her not only what to do but what to think. She realizes too late that Arthur Fletcher is the better man. One of the first things Mr. Lozez does after the wedding is making the attempt to train her. Part of this training involves manipulating money out of her father. She is NOT happy now that she sees Mr. Lopez only wants money, money, and more money.

In terms of plot:
  • Will Palliser's coalition government be a success?
  • Will his wife ever stop throwing parties and spending money?
  • Will Lozez win his election? Or will his rival Arthur Fletcher win?
  • Will Emily find a way to escape her horrid husband?
  • Will Mr. Wharton and Everett reconcile?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Week in Review: May 11-17

The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boys. Karen Foxlee. 2014. Random House. 240 books. [Source: Review copy]
The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. Compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. 2012. Candlewick. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Preacher's Boy. Katherine Paterson. 1999/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Lizzy Bennet's Diary. Marcia Williams. 2014. Candlewick. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life. Sinclair Ferguson. 2007. 243 pages. [Source: Bought]
Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith. A.W. Tozer. 2009. Regal. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
Fellowship with God (Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John #1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1993. Crossway. 142 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

I loved, loved, loved Lindsey Leavitt's The Chapel Wars. I enjoyed many other books this week. Overall, it was a very strong week! But The Chapel Wars is YA romance at its best!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in May

New Loot:
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
  • The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, (Charles E. Wilbour trans.)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings
Leftover Loot:
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
  • Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman 
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
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, May 16, 2014

Reread #20 The Phoenix and the Carpet

The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've read The Phoenix and the Carpet three times now, and, I think I've decided I love it even more than Five Children and It. (It wasn't an easy decision. But. I think I'm ready to admit the truth.) (The first review was June 2010; the second review was August 2011.)

The Phoenix and the Carpet is the sequel to Five Children and It. Readers can continue to read about the adventures and misadventures of five delightful-but-not-always-obedient children: Cyril, Robert, Anthea, Jane, and Lamb. (I like how Anthea is nicknamed "Panther" and how Lamb is always referred to by his nickname, "Lamb" because Baa was his first word. It is little details that charm me best perhaps.)

More wishes. More magic. More mischief. It's everything I loved about the first book, and then some!

So how do they meet the Phoenix? How do they get a magic carpet? Well, it all starts when the children decide that it would be a very good idea, a very fun idea, to try out their fireworks--to make sure they work properly--INSIDE the house, inside the nursery to be precise. And when one of the fireworks seems to not be lighting, one of the children pours paraffin on it while another lights it again. While the results are not horribly tragic, the nursery must be repainted/repaired, and a new carpet is a must. The carpet that replaces the old is magical, of course. And inside this roll of carpet is an egg. But not an ordinary egg. Though of course, they don't know that until it accidentally falls into the fire in their nursery. And the Phoenix emerges....

I loved the adventures. I loved seeing them get in and out of trouble. And most of all I love the writing. I love E. Nesbit. I do!!!

Favorite quotes:
It has been said that all roads lead to Rome; this may be true, but at any rate, in early youth I am quite sure that many roads lead to BED, and stop there — or YOU do.
‘We’re very much luckier than any one else, as it is,’ said Jane. ‘Why, no one else ever found a Psammead. We ought to be grateful.’ ‘Why shouldn’t we GO ON being, though?’ Cyril asked—’lucky, I mean, not grateful. Why’s it all got to stop?’ ‘Perhaps something will happen,’ said Anthea, comfortably. ‘Do you know, sometimes I think we are the sort of people that things DO happen to.’
‘Well,’ said the Phoenix, seeming on the whole rather flattered, ‘to cut about seventy long stories short (though I had to listen to them all — but to be sure in the wilderness there is plenty of time), this prince and princess were so fond of each other that they did not want any one else, and the enchanter — don’t be alarmed, I won’t go into his history — had given them a magic carpet (you’ve heard of a magic carpet?), and they had just sat on it and told it to take them right away from every one — and it had brought them to the wilderness. And as they meant to stay there they had no further use for the carpet, so they gave it to me. That was indeed the chance of a lifetime!’
You can always keep the Lamb good and happy for quite a long time if you play the Noah’s Ark game with him. It is quite simple. He just sits on your lap and tells you what animal he is, and then you say the little poetry piece about whatever animal he chooses to be. Of course, some of the animals, like the zebra and the tiger, haven’t got any poetry, because they are so difficult to rhyme to. The Lamb knows quite well which are the poetry animals. ‘I’m a baby bear!’ said the Lamb, snugging down; and Anthea began: ‘I love my little baby bear, I love his nose and toes and hair; I like to hold him in my arm, And keep him VERY safe and warm.’ And when she said ‘very’, of course there was a real bear’s hug. Then came the eel, and the Lamb was tickled till he wriggled exactly like a real one: ‘I love my little baby eel, He is so squidglety to feel; He’ll be an eel when he is big — But now he’s just — a — tiny SNIG!’ Perhaps you didn’t know that a snig was a baby eel? It is, though, and the Lamb knew it. ‘Hedgehog now-!’ he said; and Anthea went on: ‘My baby hedgehog, how I like ye, Though your back’s so prickly-spiky; Your front is very soft, I’ve found, So I must love you front ways round!’ And then she loved him front ways round, while he squealed with pleasure. It is a very baby game, and, of course, the rhymes are only meant for very, very small people — not for people who are old enough to read books, so I won’t tell you any more of them.
‘If you wanted me you should have recited the ode of invocation; it’s seven thousand lines long, and written in very pure and beautiful Greek.’
‘He says,’ the Phoenix remarked after some time, ‘that they wish to engage your cook permanently.’ ‘Without a character?’ asked Anthea, who had heard her mother speak of such things. ‘They do not wish to engage her as cook, but as queen; and queens need not have characters.’ There was a breathless pause. ‘WELL,’ said Cyril, ‘of all the choices! But there’s no accounting for tastes.’
Mother was really a great dear. She was pretty and she was loving, and most frightfully good when you were ill, and always kind, and almost always just. That is, she was just when she understood things. But of course she did not always understand things. No one understands everything, and mothers are not angels, though a good many of them come pretty near it. The children knew that mother always WANTED to do what was best for them, even if she was not clever enough to know exactly what was the best.
Every one was a little cross — some days are like that, usually Mondays, by the way. And this was a Monday.
‘My hat!’ Cyril remarked. ‘I never thought about its being a PERSIAN carpet.’ Yet it was now plain that it was so, for the beautiful objects which it had brought back were cats — Persian cats, grey Persian cats, and there were, as I have said, 199 of them, and they were sitting on the carpet as close as they could get to each other. But the moment the children entered the room the cats rose and stretched, and spread and overflowed from the carpet to the floor, and in an instant the floor was a sea of moving, mewing pussishness, and the children with one accord climbed to the table, and gathered up their legs, and the people next door knocked on the wall — and, indeed, no wonder, for the mews were Persian and piercing. ‘This is pretty poor sport,’ said Cyril. ‘What’s the matter with the bounders?’ ‘I imagine that they are hungry,’ said the Phoenix. ‘If you were to feed them—’ ‘We haven’t anything to feed them with,’ said Anthea in despair, and she stroked the nearest Persian back. ‘Oh, pussies, do be quiet — we can’t hear ourselves think.’ She had to shout this entreaty, for the mews were growing deafening, ‘and it would take pounds’ and pounds’ worth of cat’s-meat.’ ‘Let’s ask the carpet to take them away,’ said Robert. But the girls said ‘No.’ ‘They are so soft and pussy,’ said Jane. ‘And valuable,’ said Anthea, hastily. ‘We can sell them for lots and lots of money.’ ‘Why not send the carpet to get food for them?’ suggested the Phoenix, and its golden voice came harsh and cracked with the effort it had to be make to be heard above the increasing fierceness of the Persian mews. So it was written that the carpet should bring food for 199 Persian cats, and the paper was pinned to the carpet as before. The carpet seemed to gather itself together, and the cats dropped off it, as raindrops do from your mackintosh when you shake it. And the carpet disappeared. Unless you have had one-hundred and ninety-nine well-grown Persian cats in one small room, all hungry, and all saying so in unmistakable mews, you can form but a poor idea of the noise that now deafened the children and the Phoenix. The cats did not seem to have been at all properly brought up. They seemed to have no idea of its being a mistake in manners to ask for meals in a strange house — let alone to howl for them — and they mewed, and they mewed, and they mewed, and they mewed, till the children poked their fingers into their ears and waited in silent agony, wondering why the whole of Camden Town did not come knocking at the door to ask what was the matter, and only hoping that the food for the cats would come before the neighbours did — and before all the secret of the carpet and the Phoenix had to be given away beyond recall to an indignant neighbourhood. The cats mewed and mewed and twisted their Persian forms in and out and unfolded their Persian tails, and the children and the Phoenix huddled together on the table.
The Lamb was very glad to have his brothers and sisters to play with him. He had not forgotten them a bit, and he made them play all the old exhausting games: ‘Whirling Worlds’, where you swing the baby round and round by his hands; and ‘Leg and Wing’, where you swing him from side to side by one ankle and one wrist. There was also climbing Vesuvius. In this game the baby walks up you, and when he is standing on your shoulders, you shout as loud as you can, which is the rumbling of the burning mountain, and then tumble him gently on to the floor, and roll him there, which is the destruction of Pompeii.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (2014)

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boys. Karen Foxlee. 2014. Random House. 240 books. [Source: Review copy]

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a fantasy novel. The prologue introduces readers to the Marvelous Boy. He has been stripped of his name by the three wizards who sent him to face off with the Snow Queen. In the prologue, the Snow Queen appears to have won. She has convinced the King that the Marvelous Boy should be kept on display as an oddity, a unique possession, but possession all the same. He'll be paraded out once a year, perhaps. The King, if he was ever strong before the Snow Queen arrived, has been weak and pathetic since her arrival in his kingdom. He agrees, of course. The Marvelous Boy enters his prison, and there he remains never aging for THREE HUNDRED YEARS.

The novel opens three hundred years later. Alice and Ophelia are the daughters of a man hired to be the new curator of a unique exhibit that is due to open in just a few days. All three are grieving, but, showing it in different ways. Ophelia is our heroine. In the first chapter, she stumbles across the Marvelous Boy in his prison. He asks her to save the world. She is stunned. She is not hero material. She just isn't. She doesn't even believe in stories like that. How on earth could the Snow Queen be real? He asks her to help him one baby step at a time. He reveals his story bit by bit, never giving her more than she can handle. Slowly, Ophelia begins to believe and by the end, she's frantic to save him and the whole world too.

If the novel has a strength, it is in establishing the creepiness of the setting. The odd rooms, the creepy collection, the secrets and dangers. Ophelia has several tasks before her. Each one gives the author the opportunity to create in detail spooky suspenseful scenes. The one that comes to mind easiest is the room of ghosts that she must pass through. These ghosts are story-hungry, and they want Ophelia to give them lots and lots of personal stories to feed their need.

If the novel has a weakness, it is perhaps in the characterization. I didn't feel this was a character-driven novel. I didn't really feel a connection to Ophelia herself. I was curious about the outcome, of course, and I was interested in details about the Marvelous Boy. But I never found myself falling in love with the book itself.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Chapel Wars (2014)

The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Holly, our heroine, has inherited her grandpa's wedding chappel, Rose of Sharon. This wedding chapel is one of the classiest in Las Vegas, at least that is what Holly and her family would have us to believe. Her grandpa had a certain standard to uphold. No gimmicks. Just real romance. In other words, no preachers in Elvis suits. But poor financial decisions from several years ago has left the chapel in big trouble. Grandpa Jim knew this before he died. He failed to mention it, of course. But he speaks the truth in a letter to his favorite grandchild, Holly. Seventeen IS young to be THE BOSS, but, Holly is super-smart. She is GREAT at numbers. She has vision too. She's going to give it her ALL. She is not afraid to make decisions and stand behind those decisions even when other employees disagree. In other words, hello, Elvis. She knows that she absolutely cannot save the business IF she binds herself to WHAT WOULD GRANDPA DO?

One of the highlights of this novel, and there are many, is the romance. Grandpa left TWO letters behind. One for Holly. One for Dax. Dax is the boy-next-door. The boy-from-the-wedding-chapel-next door. He not only works at the chapel next door, he is the grandson of the owner. These two businesses share a parking lot. Though they've never really spoken before her Grandpa's death, after his death, these two become something...

I loved, loved, loved the developing relationship between Holly and Dax. I loved their conversations. I loved their dates. I loved how everything was far from perfect. I loved the emotion and tension between these two.

I also loved the character development. Many members of Holly's family were developed. And Holly had a circle of friends that were developed too. This made the novel believable. Readers were invited to share a life, a messy life.

This one will most likely be one of my favorite YA books of 2014. I just loved, loved, loved it.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preacher's Boy (1999)

Preacher's Boy. Katherine Paterson. 1999/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Is the end near?! That's the question Robbie Hewitt faces in Katherine Paterson's Preacher's Boy. The year is 1899. The novel follows the troubles of one mischievous boy, our narrator, Robbie. Well, what can one say about him? If you've read Tom Sawyer, you know EXACTLY what kind of boy he is. He's always getting IN and OUT of trouble. Since it seems impossible to stay mad at him, I suppose, you could call him charming too. How much trouble can a boy get into in one year?! Quite a bit.

Robbie likes pranks, and this book tells about several of them. Readers know what to expect from Robbie from the very start:
"On Decoration Day, while everyone else in town was at the cemetery decorating the graves of our Glorious War Dead, Willie Beaner and me, Robert Burns Hewitt, took Mabel Cramm's bloomers and run them up the flagpole in front of the town hall. That was the beginning of all my troubles. It wasn't that we got caught. In fact, I've often thought since that would have been the best thing in the world." 
One of the stories in this novel is that Robbie becomes worried about "the end of the world." He isn't worried about where he'll end up. He's not sure there is a heaven or a hell. But. He is worried about missing out on LIFE. He makes a list of ALL the things he wants to do BEFORE THE END. It's a dreamer's list, in many ways, but that is part of the charm. For example, he knows it would be RIDICULOUS to write down OWN AN AUTOMOBILE. But he can't stop himself from writing down RIDING IN AN AUTOMOBILE.

This one has some interesting characters. I wouldn't ever say this one lacks plot, and by "plot" I mean ACTION. But to me the charm of this one is in the characters themselves. I liked Robbie. I liked seeing Robbie struggle. I liked seeing tension in his relationship with Elliot, his older brother with special needs. Robbie LOVES his brother, but, he doesn't always LIKE him. He struggles with his place in the family. It isn't just that his father is the preacher and EVERYONE in town watches him and judges him. It is that he feels out of sorts in his family. He feels Elliot gets all the attention, all the love and support. I thought most of Robbie's family was well-drawn. I liked getting to know Robbie, his dad, and Elliot. (I can't say that his mother and sisters came into the story much.) Robbie was also challenged a bit when he met a strange-but-bossy girl with problems of her own.

I liked the setting. I liked the writing. I liked the characters. Overall, I'd definitely recommend this historical coming-of-age novel.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Show Me A Story (2012)

Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. Compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. 2012. Candlewick. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Show Me A Story! Why Picture Books Matter is a collection of interviews. Leonard S. Marcus has spent decades interviewing illustrators. In this collection, he shares his interviews with 21 illustrators. Some of the illustrators are also authors. The long list includes: Mitsumasa Anno, Quentin Blake, Ashley Bryan, John Burningham, Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Kevin Henkes, Yumi Heo, Tana Hoban, James Marshall, Robert McCloskey, Helen Oxenbury, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka, Maurice Sendak, Peter Sis, William Steig, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems, Vera B. Williams, and Lisbeth Zwerger. Chances are that if you've read any picture books in the past thirty years, you'll recognize a name or two from the list. I'll be honest, there were a few on the list who were new to me.

It is a book of interviews. Some of the interviews are older interviews. Some are newer, of course. Some interviews cover a greater number of books than others. A few just discuss the latest (at-the-moment) picture book published. Others do a better job of covering an artist's career, of touching on many, many books--often beloved books. In my opinion, the interviews vary in quality. I think some people felt more comfortable than others during the interviews. Some interviewees really gave it their all, and were very open and outgoing. Some interviewees I felt held back and were more reserved. It seemed like he had to really work hard to get answers from some. By far my most favorite, favorite, favorite interview was with James Marshall.

What I appreciated in this book is the discussion, the emphasis on how important picture books are, on how important good, quality art is in picture books.

Favorite quotes:
Picture books tell stories in a visual language that is rich and multi-leveled, sophisticated in its workings despite its often deceptively simple appearance. It is through the book's images that a child first understands the world of the story--where it is set, when it takes place, whether it's familiar or new. They read the characters' emotions and interactions in facial expressions and body language. They may notice secondary pictorial story lines happening alongside the main action, like a secret for them to follow. And nowhere is visual humor explored more fully than in the picture book. ~ David Wiesner
In my books, I don't want to teach. What I have done might better be described as "teaching without teaching"--providing the conditions that allow children to learn for themselves. ~ Mitsumasa Anno
Before I decided to go there [Cambridge], I thought, If I go to an art school I might stop reading, whereas if I go to university I know I won't stop drawing...as an illustrator, reading is an important part of what I do, so I think it turned out to be good training. ~ Quentin Blake
A picture book becomes a whole world if it's done properly. I'm very surprised that sometimes people don't understand this, or realize that the picture book is a true art form. ~ James Marshall
A good ending is inevitable, but it's also a surprise. ~ James Marshall
I'm quite suspicious of books that set out to teach things. A picture book, after all, is primarily a stepping-stone to reading. That is what one hopes will happen in the end. What a book must do is to make a child want to read it, to make him think: "Oh, gosh, now what's going to happen?"--and turn a page. ~ Helen Oxenbury

© 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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