Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Reflections

In January I reviewed 64 books.

Board Books:
  1. Curious George's Crane. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Curious George's Train. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture Books:
  1. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups. Stephanie Clarkson. Illustrated by Brigette Barrager. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] (Nonfiction)
  3. Glamourpuss. Sarah Weeks. Illustrated by David Small. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. 1928. Penguin. 40 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Dr. Seuss. 1937/1964. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Library] 
  6. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. 1938/1965. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. The King's Stilts. Dr. Seuss. 1939/1967. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Horton Hatches An Egg. Dr. Seuss. 1940/1968. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. Xander's Panda Party. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]  
  11. Please, Mr. Panda. Steve Antony. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early Readers/Early Chapter Books:
  1. Rescue on the Oregon Trail. (Ranger in Time #1) Kate Messner. 2015. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Eva's Treetop Festival (Owl Diaries #1) Rebecca Elliott. 2015. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Big Bad Detective Agency. Bruce Hale. 2015. Scholastic. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Dory Fantasmagory. Abby Hanlon. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library] 
Middle Grade:
  1. El Deafo. Cece Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams. 233 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Operation Bunny. Sally Gardner. Illustrated by David Roberts. 2014. Henry Holt. 192 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. The War That Saved My Life. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2015. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Red Pencil. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane Evans. 2014. Little, Brown. [Source: Library] 
  5. The Question of Miracles. Elana K. Arnold. 2015. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. Katherine Rundell. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. [Source: Library] Mild spoilers.  
  7. The Perfect Place. Teresa E. Harris. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Windy Hill. Cornelia Meigs. 1921. 210 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Michele Wood. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  11. The Paper Cowboy. Kristin Levine. 2014. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]  
  12. The Castle Behind Thorns. Merrie Haskell. 2014. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Young Adult:
  1. Audacity. Melanie Crowder. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. This Side of Home. Renee Watson. 2015. Bloomsbury USA. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. It's The End of the World As We Know It. Saci Lloyd. 2015. Hachette Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Adult Fiction:
  1. Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. The Worthing Saga. Orson Scott Card. 1990. Tor. 465 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  5. To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
  6. Twelve Drummers Drumming. Father Christmas Mystery #1. C.C. Benison. 2011. Doubleday. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Eleven Piper Piping. Father Christmas Mystery #2. C.C. Benison. 2012. Delacorte. 474 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Ten Lords A-Leaping. Father Christmas #3. C.C. Benison. 2013. Delacorte. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. 1937. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]   
  10. Jezebel's Daughter. Wilkie Collins. 1880. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
  11. Trifles. A Play in One Act. Susan Glaspell. 1916. 20 pages. [Source: Read online
  12. Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906. Dodo Press. 260 pages. [Source: Bought]
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. Hampton Sides. 2014. 454 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian Fiction:
  1. Like a Flower in Bloom. Siri Mitchell. 2015. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Remember the Lilies. (Women of Courage #3) Liz Tolsma. 2015. [February] Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Love Gently Falling. Melody Carlson. 2015. Center Street. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Lizzy & Jane. Katherine Reay. 2014. 339 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. The Bracelet. Dorothy Love. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy
Christian Nonfiction: 
  1. Living As A Christian: Teachings from First Peter. A.W. Tozer. 2010. Regal. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Weighed and Wanting Addresses on the Ten Commandments. D.L. Moody. 1898. The Bible Institute. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Russ Ramsey. 2015. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Exalting Jesus in Matthew. (Christ Centered Exposition) David Platt. 2013. B&H. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. Living by the Book. Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks. 1991. Moody. 350 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  6. Last Words of Jesus. Stu Epperson. 2015. Worthy Inspired. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Don't Give Up, Don't Give In. Lessons From An Extraordinary Life. Louis Zamperini and David Rensin. 2014. 272 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive. Thom S. Rainer. 2014. B&H. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Meeting God in Mark. Rowan Williams. 2015. Westminster John Knox. 108 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. How To Worship Jesus Christ. Joseph S. Carroll. Foreword by John F. MacArthur, Jr. 1984/1991. Moody Publishers. 90 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in January

New Loot:
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
  • Historical Romances: The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • The Painted Bridges by Wendy Wallace
  • Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan
  • Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas 
Leftover Loot:
  • A Great and Glorious Adventure by Gordon Corrigan
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
  • On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
  • A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
  • Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
  • The Foundry's Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
  • Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas
  • Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys
  • Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini

     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.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week In Review: January 25-31

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Worthing Saga. Orson Scott Card. 1990. Tor. 465 pages. [Source: Bought]
To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906. Dodo Press. 260 pages. [Source: Bought]
Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Board Book: Curious George's Crane. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Curious George's Train. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Russ Ramsey. 2015. Crossway. 240 pages.
Last Words of Jesus. Stu Epperson. 2015. Worthy Inspired. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Exalting Jesus in Matthew. (Christ Centered Exposition) David Platt. 2013. B&H. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Living by the Book. Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks. 1991. Moody. 350 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

This week's recommendation(s):
Plenty of genre fiction reviewed this week.

For science fiction lovers, I recommend Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I did enjoy it very much. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it. Only time will prove that one way or the other. I personally still love Worthing Saga more. But that could be because I've reread it four or five times!

Brave New World was a good read. I didn't "love" it. But I'm so glad I read it. If you enjoyed Fahrenheit 451 or The Giver, you should definitely seek this one out.

I would definitely recommend Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Velvet Claws. This is the first Perry Mason mystery. It was just a fun read from start to finish.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #5

McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence:
"Young man," laughed the farmer, "You're sort of a fool! You'll never catch fish in McElligot's Pool!"
Premise/Plot. Marco, the young boy in the story, is fishing at McElligot's Pool. Though the farmer warns him that the pool is just where people throw junk, the young boy claims he's not foolish or wasting his time fishing there. He tells how the pool could be--might be--connected to the sea itself. And how right this minute even all sorts of fish might be making their way to the pool for him to catch. He describes hundreds of fish, giving his imagination room to shine. But is the farmer convinced? Are readers?

My thoughts: It is nice to see Marco again. (I'm assuming that this Marco is the Marco of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, which was published ten years previously.) Marco's imagination is going strong.

Even though I don't like fishing. I liked this book about fishing. I liked it more than I thought I would.
I might catch a thin fish,
I might catch a stout fish.
I might catch a short
or a long, long, drawn-out fish.
Any kind! Any shape! Any color or size!
I might catch some fish that would open your eyes!
and
Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
This one won a Caldecott Honor. Half the illustrations are in black and white. Half the illustrations are in color.

Have you read McElligot's Pool? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I would love to hear what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Little Red's Riding 'Hood (2015)

Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Peter Stein. Illustrated by Chris Gall. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Here and there, up and down, in and out, Little Red loved riding around his 'hood. One day, Big Blue Mama gave Little Red an important job. "Poor Granny Putt Putt is feeling run-down," she said. "Her oil is muddy, her exhaust pipe's exhausted, and her wiper fluid is wiped out. Please take her this basket of goodies right away."

Well. I almost don't know what to say about it. It's unusual and original all in one, I suppose. I'd never have thought about retelling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in this way. The book is set in Vroomville, and all the characters are machines. Little Red is a scooter; Granny Put-Put is a golf cart; and the Big Bad Wolf, well, he's a very mean monster truck. The story is familiar enough, I suppose, in the end, yet it has an original feel to it. That doesn't mean that I personally love it.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Curious George's Train (2014)

Board Book: Curious George's Train. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Choo-choo! Choo-choo! The engine's pulling in. George is so excited for the train ride to begin!

Premise/Plot: George and one of his friends--a boy, not the man in the yellow hat--are going for a train ride. George is excited, of course. Don't expect this curious little monkey to get into trouble during the ride. It doesn't happen. He stays in his seat like a good little monkey. The text is simple; it rhymes. It's okay. Nothing special.

My thoughts: This was an okay book for me. I liked that this book is in the style of the original Curious George. And I do think that there's always, always a demand for more train books. This one works well enough for that need at least. The wheels on the front cover do spin a little. This book like Curious George's Crane features press-out pieces for children to play with.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Curious George's Crane (2014)

Board Book: Curious George's Crane. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day out his window George looks and sees a bright shiny crane as high as the trees!

Premise/plot: The book is one of four in the "mini-movers-shaped" board book series starring Curious George. There's also a train, a firetruck, and a dump truck.  The arm of the crane is movable. But the wheels are not. The text is simple, as you'd expect, and features George investigating a construction site. What are they building? A playground!

My thoughts: Not particularly thrilling for adults to read. But for a construction-obsessed toddler, this one probably has some appeal. The book also has press-out pieces so kids can play construction on their own. I'm not sure if these pieces would really work and stand up to repeated use. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Challenge Completed: Sci-Fi Experience

Host: Stainless Steel Droppings
Name: 2015 Sci-Fi Experience (sign up) (share reviews)
Dates: December 1, 2014 - January 31, 2015
# of books: It's not a challenge, so 1 or more books counts as a success

My thoughts:
I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED watching Babylon 5! I suppose I should say rewatching Babylon 5! My favorite new-to-me book would be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Brave New World was interesting, however. But interesting doesn't always equal love. My favorite re-read would probably be The Worthing Saga. 

What I Read:
1) The 5th Wave. Rick Yancey. 2013. Penguin. 457 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2) It's The End of the World As We Know It. Saci Lloyd. 2015. Hachette Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3) To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
4) The Worthing Saga. Orson Scott Card. 1990. Tor. 465 pages. [Source: Bought]
5) The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
6) Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
7) Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]

What I Viewed:
1) Babylon 5, disc one
2) Babylon 5, disc two
3) Babylon 5, disc three 
4) Babylon 5, disc four and five 
5) Babylon 5, disc six 
6) Babylon 5, season two, discs one and two 
7) Inception
8) Star Wars, Episode 2

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Brave New World (1932)

Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. 

Did I love Brave New World? Not exactly. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Brave New World is a classic dystopian novel. The first half of the book seems more focused on world-building, on providing the reader with all the little details that make this future world so horrific. Not much happens but world-building. Readers meet a character or two, sure, but mostly description and information. The second half of the book, in my opinion, is where the characters become more developed. The basic premise: children are no longer born. No more mothers and fathers. No parenting. Children are "hatched." Sometimes several thousand at a time--all identical, I believe. Conditioning begins early in an artificial womb of sorts. Every single little thing is planned and accounted for. Nothing really left to chance. The conditioning continues through childhood. Even at night. Different classes are conditioned differently, of course.

In the second half, Bernard and Lenina go on vacation together to a reservation in New Mexico. They'll get a chance to see savages first hand. They meet two savages that interest them very much. For one is a woman who grew up civilized. (Her name is Linda). She was on vacation when something happened--she became separated from the group and was left behind. She's gone native--forced to go native. She's even had to--shudder--become a mother and raise her own child. His name is John. Though, for most of the book he is simply Savage. They tell their story to Lenina and Bernard. Bernard seeks permission to bring the two back with him. All four head back to civilization--back to London. But how well will John cope with civilization?

Brave New World is both strange and thought-provoking. Also depressing. The world-building was nicely done, I believe, but I would probably need to reread it a time or two to "catch" everything and fully appreciate it. There is plenty to 'shock' that's for sure. Some scenes are just disturbing--and are meant to be disturbing or disorienting at the very least.

I did like the second half more than the first half. It's not that the second half was less disturbing--it wasn't--but the fact that the focus was more on the characters. I can't say that I "liked" or "loved" any of the characters. I pitied John the most because he felt so out of place on the reservation and so out of place in civilization. John wasn't the only memorable character either.

I can see how Brave New World inspired other writers through the decades. Anyone who reads modern dystopian novels--there are so many I could list--should consider reading this one.

Quotes:
"I don't understand anything," she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. "Nothing. Least of all," she continued in another tone, "why you don't take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You'd forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you'd be so jolly. So jolly," she repeated and smiled..."
The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Station Eleven (2014)

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. 

Did I love Station Eleven? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I'm almost sure of it. Only rereading it a year or so from now will answer that question definitively. But regardless of if it was love or LOVE, Station Eleven is a fascinating, absorbing read. It isn't exactly chronological in its storytelling, yet, I found it easy enough to follow. Its storytelling--the form of it, almost reminds me of LOST. It tells both the story of civilization's collapse and civilization's rebuilding. Readers meet a handful of characters then and now.

The "then" sections perhaps center around the character of Arthur Leander, an actor, a celebrity. Chapters focus in on significant, dramatic moments of his life. Not necessarily in chronological order. And not always from his point of view. Readers meet two of his three ex-wives, his son, his (former) best friend, his lawyer, etc. The novel actually opens with Arthur's death on stage. One young witness to his death is a young girl, Kirsten. Another is a former paparazzi turned paramedic.

The "now" sections center on the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten is one of the actors/performers in The Traveling Symphony. The group travels--horses pulling trucks, I believe--from place to place (town to town) performing. They perform music. They perform Shakespeare.

As I said, the focus is on the collapse of society and civilization. What life might be like if 98% of the population died from a terrible plague/disease within a few weeks. In this book, it's the "Georgian flu." What would life be like without modern conveniences--gas and fuel, electricity, telephones, television, internet, etc.

The book is beautifully written. I liked the world-building. I especially liked Miranda's creation of the graphic novels Station Eleven. I liked what little description we get of Dr. Eleven and his situation. I wouldn't have minded more. It actually would be a graphic novel that I'd want to read if it existed. I liked what the two graphic novels meant to Kirsten.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Case of the Velvet Claws (1933)

The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

AUTUMN SUN BEAT AGAINST THE WINDOW. Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first book in the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner. Though it is unlikely that contemporary readers will be unfamiliar with Perry Mason, Paul Drake, and Della Street, this would have been their introduction to the world. There are plenty of establishing details and descriptions about these characters. Especially Perry Mason.

The book opens with a mystery woman seeking Perry Mason's help. She's married, and she was out on the town with another guy. This 'other guy,' whom she claims is just a friend, is a politician, a Congressman, I believe. They were together--at a club, at a restaurant?--when a crime was committed. Neither wants to be known as being there, being a witness, both are seeking to avoid all attention. But she fears that blackmail is certain, almost inevitable. She wants Perry Mason to handle it for her, for them both. The blackmail will come/does come from a tabloid-ish publication with a mystery-secret-owner. It is only after Perry Mason involves himself thus far, that he realizes that this owner is the husband of his client. Murder is inevitable. It is a Perry Mason book, after all. Who will be the victim? Who will be accused? How messy will it get?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It has a very different feel to it in a way. Most of the Perry Mason novels I've read were published a decade or two later. And, of course, I'm most familiar with the television show.

Quotes:
Perry Mason continued to speak, slowly and forcefully, yet without raising his voice. “All right,” he said, “I’m different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients. People that come to me don’t come to me because they like the looks of my eyes, or the way my office is furnished, or because they’ve known me at a club. They come to me because they need me. They come to me because they want to hire me for what I can do.”
Perry Mason made a gesture with his shoulders. “Why should I care if she makes it easy for me?” he asked. “She’s the one that’s paying for my time. Time is all I’m investing.” Della Street said, slowly: “Are you sure that time is all you’re investing?” “Why not?” “I don’t know,” she said, “the woman’s dangerous. She is just the kind of a little minx who would get you into some sort of a jam and leave you to take it, right on the button.” His face didn’t change expression, but his eyes glinted. “That’s one of the chances I have to take,” he told her. “I can’t expect my clients to be loyal to me. They pay me money. That’s all.” She stared at him with a speculative look that held something of a wistful tenderness. “But you insist on being loyal to your clients, no matter how rotten they are.” “Of course,” he told her. “That’s my duty.”
“To your profession?” “No,” he said slowly, “to myself. I’m a paid gladiator. I fight for my clients. Most clients aren’t square shooters. That’s why they’re clients. They’ve got themselves into trouble. It’s up to me to get them out. I have to shoot square with them. I can’t always expect them to shoot square with me.” “It isn’t fair!” she blazed. “Of course not,” he smiled. “It’s business.”
“When you’re representing clients, Della,” he said, “you can’t pick and choose them. You’ve got to take them as they come. There’s only one rule in this game, and that is that when you do take them, you’ve got to give them all you’ve got.”

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's On Your Nightstand (January)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Currently Reading:

The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross
I'm halfway through this one. It is completely absorbing, but, I am trying to take my time and read it a chapter or two at a time. I'm hoping it will "stick" with me more if I read slowly. 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.
I'm NOT halfway through this one. But. I only started it this week! I'm eight or nine chapters in. And I'm enjoying it so much MORE than I did during my first attempt decades ago.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
I've really enjoyed the first few chapters. I hope to finish this one soon!

Ayala's Angel by Anthony Trollope
I know, I know it's a bit silly to have two big books going at the same time, but, it's TROLLOPE. I also don't think I'll confuse the characters of this one with those in War and Peace.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Infinite Sea (2014)

The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.

First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.

Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.

Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!

Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.

The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.

Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.

Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.

Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!

Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.

Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.

Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!

Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?

Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Art of the English Murder (2014)

The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely' liked. But overall, I found the book to be worth reading and informative. Plenty of "I didn't know that?!?!" facts were included. I always enjoying learning as I read. I believe this is the book companion to a BBC documentary A VERY BRITISH MURDER. I'm curious how the two compare. If it's better to read or watch.

So the premise of this one is simple: how did the British become so interested, so entertained, so fascinated by murder: murder in real life and murder in fiction. It even looks at how real life crimes influences/inspires fictional crimes. (Think Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to name just two.) So on the one hand, it looks at real cases that got plenty of press, and stayed in the news, cases that became, in a way, part of the culture (think Jack the Ripper), and, on the other hand, it looks at fictional cases. (Think Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) The last few chapters focus on the "Golden Age" of mystery writers. And the very final chapter, I believe, focuses on Alfred Hitchcock.

As I said, this book has plenty of details. For example, it talks of how puppet shows--for the most part traveling puppet shows--were for adults. Puppet shows often depicted famous murders. So there would be puppets depicting murderers and their victims. And the audience would watch the crime unfold in front of them. The book notes that at times, the murder would be (could be) encored several times. So it does go into 'melodrama' and the theatre. I found the chapter on the stage version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fascinating!

This book is oh-so-easy to recommend!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Revisiting Worthing Saga

The Worthing Saga. Orson Scott Card. 1990. Tor. 465 pages. [Source: Bought]

In many places in the Peopled Worlds, the pain came suddenly in the midst of the day's labor. It was as if an ancient and comfortable presence left them, one that they had never noticed until it was gone, and no one knew what to make of it at first, though all knew at once that something had changed deep at the heart of the world.  

This will be my third blog review for Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga. I reviewed this one in 2007 and 2012. It is one of my favorite, favorite books. And my FAVORITE Card novel. (Though I love Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.)

I love the world-building. I find the three settings within the book to be fascinating. (There is Lared's home planet which is the present-day setting; there is Capital, the planet from Jason Worthing's memory and stories, Capital becomes "real" to Lared as he experiences Worthing's memories through dreams; there is Worthing, the planet that Jason colonized with a handful of colonists thousands of years before the novel opens, again this planet becomes "real" to Lared as he experiences other people's memories through Justice, Jason's descendent.) Readers get a taste of all these societies and communities. Capital is decadent and immoral and corrupt. It is obsessed with the notion of eternity--of living forever. It "lives forever" by drug use. Somec. You might be under Somec--asleep--for anywhere from one year to ten years, and then awake for anywhere from one day (like the Empress) to three years. But somec disrupts EVERYTHING good and natural about life. An example of the decadence and immorality can be seen in the "lifeloops." People filming/recording their "real" lives for everyone to watch. Most--if not all lifeloops--are graphic in nature. It's hard not to be disgusted by the depiction. (For example, one actress complaining to her agent that he better not hire any seven year old boys for her next film.) Closely connected to the world-building, is the mythology of it. How Abner Doon's name lives on. He IS the devil. How Jason Worthing's name lives on. How people see him as being GOD. Both men are very much human, having strengths and weaknesses, being oh-so-fallible. But they have become collectively so much more than that. They've lost their humanity. Truth has been shaped and reshaped too many times to allow for them to be just human.

I love the characterization. I love getting to know Lared, Sala, Jason, and Justice. Not to mention all the men and women from the memories and stories. (I have a soft spot for Hoom.) I love the storytelling. I love the dialogue. I love how everything is layered together. How the story all comes together. How Lared slowly but surely pieces things together and comes to understand--if understand is the right word--the world. Card's characters are so very human, so vulnerable, so fallible. Readers see humans at their best and at their absolute worst within The Worthing Saga. Moments of compassion and redemption make it so worth while.

I love the ideas. I love the depth and substance. That is not to say that I agree absolutely with every single philosophical idea within the book. But it goes places most fiction doesn't. It asks real questions, tough questions. It explores ideas. One also sees the consequences (or possible consequences) of ideas. But it encourages you to think about deep things, to explore questions like why is there pain? why is there suffering? would the world be a better place without pain, without suffering? Is pain a necessary evil? Do we only feel joy and happiness because we know about pain and sorrow? what makes life beautiful? do we become better people through our struggles with life?


I do enjoy the framework. The Worthing Chronicle (1982) makes up half of The Worthing Saga. This is THE story with Lared being visited by Jason and Justice shortly after the day of pain disrupts his community. (It really is a haunting opening.) The second half of the book consists of short stories. Most of these short stories were written years before The Worthing Chronicle and were previously published. Tales of Capitol (1979): "Skipping Stones," "Second Chance," "Lifeloop," "Breaking the Game," "Killing Children," and "What Will We Do Tomorrow." Tales from the Forest of Waters (1990, 1980): "Worthing Farm," "Worthing Inn," and "The Tinker." Of these stories, I find Skipping Stones, Second Chance, and Breaking the Game to be most memorable. After you've read these stories, you almost need to go back and reread the first section. I'm not sure you can fully appreciate the book without rereading it a few times and absorbing it. Most of the stories--but certainly not all of them--are emotional. I love that the book is a book to be EXPERIENCED.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Revisiting To Dream in the City of Sorrows

To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
"What are we to do with him her?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him her from old. He She is now possessed. He She has got a new craze, and it always takes him her that way, in its first stage. He'll She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him her. ~ Adapted from Wind of the Willows
Me obsessed with Babylon 5?! Really?! Perhaps. 

I've read To Dream in the City of Sorrows three times now. I reviewed it in 2011 and 2012. I think it is a must read for fans of Babylon 5. In the introduction, J. Michael Straczynski writes, "What you hold in your hand is an official, authorized chapter in the Babylon 5 story line. This is the definitive answer to the Sinclair question, and should be considered as authentic as any episode in the regular series."

But where to place it?! That is the question. It's tempting to read it in between season one and season two. After all, most of the book's events are parallel to season two. Readers get a chance to read what Sinclair is doing in the meantime. But not all the events, and that is where it gets tricky. Reading To Dream In the City of Sorrows before viewing season three would spoil things for you. So reading it after you've seen the third season may prove best. Since I've seen most all the seasons multiple times, I read it when I like! [For the record, this time around, I've seen all of season one, and the first eight episodes of season two.]    

So the framework of To Dream In The City of Sorrows--the prologue and epilogue--take place shortly after season three's "Grey 17 is Missing," and are narrated by Marcus Cole. (I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marcus Cole!) But most of the book focuses on what was happening with Jeffrey Sinclair after he left Babylon 5. (The gap between the last episode of season one, "Chrysalis," and the incredibly intense two-part episode "War Without End" of season three.)

Read To Dream in the City of Sorrows

  • If you want to know what Sinclair was doing in season two and three
  • If you want to know what became of Catherine Sakai, to learn if these two were able to make their troubled relationship work...with the added drama of Shadows and Rangers
  • If you want to know more even more about the Shadows' movements during this time
  • If you want to learn about how Sinclair became Ranger One and re-energized the Rangers (first started by Valen)
  • If you want to learn more about Minbari prophecies (also their culture and caste system)
  • If you want to learn more about the Vorlons; in particular readers are introduced to Ulkesh. (Loved Sinclair's first impression of him! And his insights about the Vorlons in general. How Kosh may not be the most representative of his race.)
  • If you want to learn more about Marcus. Readers meet William Cole AND Marcus Cole. Two brothers with an imperfect relationship. William is an eager ranger-in-training trying to get Marcus to join him, but, things don't always go as planned.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in January

New Loot:
  • Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham
  • Storm by Donna Jo Napoli
  • The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
  • Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini with David Rensin
Leftover Loot:
  • Almost Super by Marion Jensen
  • Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
  • On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
  •  Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson
  • Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham
  • The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman
  • The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
  • The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  •  Quinny & Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen 
  • Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
  •  A Great and Glorious Adventure by Gordon Corrigan
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
  • The Foundry's Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
  • Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas
  • Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas
  • Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
  • The Barefoot Queen Ildefondo de Sierra Falcones
  • Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  • All Hail the Queen by Erica David
  • Memory and Magic by Erica David
    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.   


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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January Short Stories

January's Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
  • 6 Spades "The Spot of Art" by P.G. Wodehouse from Very Good, Jeeves 
  • Queen Clubs "Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler from Alien Contact 
  • Queen Diamonds "Mr. Lismore and the Widow" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
  • 4 Hearts "Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906

"Spot of Art" by P.G. Wodehouse (1929, from Very Good, Jeeves 1930)
  • Premise/Plot:  Bertram Wooster cancels his scheduled yachting trip with Aunt Dahlia so that he can stay close-to-home and woo the oh-so-lovely Gwladys who is an artist. Aunt Dahlia predicts that by the time the trip occurs, Bertie will have lost his lady love, and be more than ready to vacation. Was Aunt Dahlia's prediction spot on?! Yes and no! Does he lose Gwladys?! Yes. To his rival, another artist. But not just ANY artist. Gwladys invited Mr. Pim to view the portrait of Wooster which she'd just finished. (Jeeves HATES the "spot of art" hanging on the wall). But on his way to the flat, Mr. Pim gets run over. But not just run over by anyone, but by Gwladys herself. Mr. Pim will spend WEEKS living at Wooster's flat while he recuperates. Mr. Pim not wanting his own family to know that Gwladys, the woman he's in love with, is the one who run him down, tells his family that Bertie did it! Mr. Pim's brother-in-law, who owns a soup shop, comes to beat him up and/or sue him. But during their confrontation, he slips on a golf ball. So now Bertie has TWO unwanted invalid guests. He flees to the continent--to Paris--with strict instructions to Jeeves. When he returns weeks later--before he even sees Jeeves or learns the latest--he sees his face, his portrait, ADVERTISING SOUP. This poster is EVERYWHERE. He then learns that Gwladys is engaged to Mr. Pim, and that the copyright to the portrait has been given to this soup-shop-owner to appease him. Wooster is horribly upset!!! And he needs a vacation!!! Turns out, the yachting trip is JUST what he needs...and it's been conveniently postponed because of illness. So Aunt Dahlia was right, for the most part!!!
"Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler from Alien Contact
  • Premise/Plot: Taki and Hesper are a xenologist and a poet on an alien planet studying the menes. Hesper is not coping well to say the least. Though she wanted to go with him at first, though she was at first eager to learn firsthand about the menes, she is now miserable and depressed. She's lost herself... Taki has never really understood Hesper. He's wanted to. He's tried. He's hoped. Hoped that Hesper at one time really did love him. Hoped that Hesper would love him again. But. He's clueless in many ways. Taki is unable to communicate effectively with Hesper and the menes. There is a strangeness to this story. I'm not sure I "liked" it overall. But it is very science fiction-y. 

"Mr. Lismore and the Widow" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
  •  Premise/Plot: Mr. Lismore is struggling financially. He is facing ruin in a month or two if his ship doesn't come in. An elderly widow whom he rescued from a fire a handful of years before wants to help him out. If his ship doesn't come in before his debts are due, the two will marry. She is quite rich. He is hesitant but willing. The two will leave England after the marriage and live abroad. She wants him to be completely honest with her and let her know if he should find himself falling in love with another woman. He tells her one day that there was a beautiful young woman at an art gallery that caught his eye. She makes him promise to bring her home the next time he sees her. She wants to meet her, talk with her. He is puzzled but agrees... I won't spoil the twist. This is an unusual story, but, then again it is Wilkie Collins!
"Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  • Premise/Plot Aunt Susanna is chatting with someone--Nora May. The story uses "you" throughout, so it is easy to feel that Aunt Susanna is talking directly to you. She's got a story to tell you about Anne Douglas, a teacher, and her lover, Gilbert Martin. Anne and Gilbert were "both pretty proud and sperrited and high-strung." The two quarreled and put off their marriage. Both left town. Anne still loves Gilbert. Gilbert still loves Anne. Both confide in Susannah. The letters arrive on her birthday--or near her birthday--and she's inspired to meddle. She sends Gilbert's letter to Anne. It's a letter confessing how much he still loves Anne. And she sends Anne's letter to Gilbert. Again, it's a letter professing how much she still loves Gilbert. The two are reunited and very grateful for "Aunt Susannah." It concludes:
Those two young creatures have learned their lesson. You'd better take it to heart too, Nora May. It's less trouble to learn it at second hand. Don't you ever quarrel with your real beau--it don't matter about the sham ones, of course. Don't take offence at trifles or listen to what other people tell you about him--outsiders, that is, that want to make mischief. What you think about him is of more importance than what they do. To be sure, you're too young yet to be thinking of such things at all. But just mind what old Aunt Susanna told you when your time comes.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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L.M Montgomery Short Stories 1905-1906

Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906. Dodo Press. 260 pages. [Source: Bought]

There are thirty-one short stories in this L.M. Montgomery collection. There are some great stories within this collection. There are some not-so-great stories within this collection. The quality definitely varies story to story. But if you already love L.M. Montgomery, it's well worth reading. If you're never read her, however, this may not be the best introduction. True, you'd probably find something to like, to enjoy, maybe even love. But would it persuade you to seek out EVERYTHING she's ever written because she's oh-so-amazing?! Probably not. It's good to keep in mind that these short stories were published several years before her novels. (Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908).

There are two stories that are tied for being my favorite-favorite in this collection: "Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" and "The Understanding of Sister Sara." Both stories are about lovers' quarrels being resolved with a little outside help.

Previous short story collections I've reviewed:
  1. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1896-1901. L.M. Montgomery. 142 pages.
  2. Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1902-1903. L.M. Montgomery. 216 pages.
  3. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1904. L.M. Montgomery. Dodo Press. 144 pages.
These stories are included in Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906
  • A Correspondence and a Climax
  • An Adventure On Island Rock
  • At Five O'Clock in the Morning
  • Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration
  • Bertie's New Year
  • Between the Hill and the Valley
  • Clorinda's Gifts
  • Cyrilla's Inspiration
  • Dorinda's Desperate Deed
  • Her Own People
  • Ida's New Year Cake
  • In the Old Valley
  • Jane Lavinia
  • Mackereling Out in the Gulf
  • Millicent's Double
  • The Blue North Room
  • The Christmas Surprise at Enderly Road
  • The Dissipation of Miss Ponsonby
  • The Falsoms' Christmas Dinner
  • The Fraser Scholarship
  • The Girl at the Gate
  • The Light on the Big Dipper
  • The Prodigal Brother
  • The Redemption of John Churchill
  • The Schoolmaster's Letters
  • The Understanding of Sister Sara
  • The Unforgotten One
  • The Wooing of Bessy
  • Their Girl Josie
  • When Jack and Jill Took a Hand 
If you're looking for a good short story to perhaps read on its own, I'd recommend:
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Week in Review: January 18-24

The Red Pencil. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane Evans. 2014. Little, Brown. [Source: Library]
The War That Saved My Life. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2015. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Operation Bunny. Sally Gardner. Illustrated by David Roberts. 2014. Henry Holt. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Dory Fantasmagory. Abby Hanlon. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
Horton Hatches An Egg. Dr. Seuss. 1940/1968. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Michele Wood. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Windy Hill. Cornelia Meigs. 1921. 210 pages. [Source: Bought]
Trifles. A Play in One Act. Susan Glaspell. 1916. 20 pages. [Source: Read online]
Jezebel's Daughter. Wilkie Collins. 1880. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
Remember the Lilies. (Women of Courage #3) Liz Tolsma. 2015. [February] Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Love Gently Falling. Melody Carlson. 2015. Center Street. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Living As A Christian: Teachings from First Peter. A.W. Tozer. 2010. Regal. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s): It *might* be easier to list what books I'm not particularly recommending. But. That wouldn't be fair. So I'll try to pick and choose my absolute favorites even though I feel like recommending almost all of them!

I'm recommending Dory Fantasmagory because it's hilarious. Dory is priceless. She is. So very, very imaginative. From start to finish, this one just ENTERTAINS. All the little details combine to create this wonderful picture of a 6 year old girl. Operation Bunny is also hilarious.

Red Pencil is easy to recommend because of the richness of the narrative. This is a verse novel. I don't typically "like" verse  novels. But this one worked for me. The narrator is a young girl who wants more than anything to learn how to read and write.

The War That Saved My Life. I'm recommending this one not because I think it is the most flawless children's book I've ever read, but, because I love books set during World War II. I know I'm not alone in that. (I think you either really, really do--or you don't at all.) This one reminded me of Goodnight Mr. Tom.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #4

Horton Hatches An Egg. Dr. Seuss. 1940/1968. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg:
"I'm tired and I'm bored
And I've kinks in my leg
From sitting, just sitting here day after day.
It's work! How I hate it!
I'd much rather play!
I'd take a vacation, fly off for a rest
If I could find someone to stay on my nest!
If I could find someone, I'd fly away--free..."
Plot/Premise: Mayzie does not want to hatch her own egg. So Horton, the elephant, steps in and does the job for her. It isn't that he loves the work either. But..."an elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!" He said that he'd take care of the egg, and he will. Because he always means what he says and says what he means. He's faithful through and through. What will happen when the egg hatches? Will Horton's steadfastness be rewarded?

My thoughts: I love this one. I do. I have loved this one since childhood. I'm not sure I could choose which Horton book I like best: Horton Hatches an Egg or Horton Hears a Who. Both illustrate great lessons. I don't mind the lessons so much in either one of these!

His previous book, The King's Stilts, was about balancing work and play. And again, we see those themes at work in Horton Hatches An Egg. Mayzie is an incredibly selfish and lazy bird. She tricks the good-hearted Horton into sitting on her nest and hatching her egg. She lies to him as well, promising that she'll only be gone for a short amount of time, she has every intention of coming back soon. Horton is a great contrast. He endures much, suffers much. But he's calm and steadfast. He's diligent and faithful--disciplined.

I love the surprise ending. Do you?

Have you read Horton Hatches An Egg? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Do you prefer it to Horton Hears A Who? Or do you--like me--love both books almost equally? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is McElligot's Pool. 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Case for Loving (2015)

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Donald, Peggy, and Sidney had two parents who loved them, and who loved each other. In fact, from almost the moment Richard Loving met Mildred Jeter they wanted to get married and have a family. But for them, it wasn't that simple, and here's why: Richard was white: a fair-skinned boy who got quickly sunburned in July. Mildred was what they called "colored" in those days: her skin a creamy caramel. In 1958, they lived in the small town of Central Point, Virginia, where people every shade from the color of chamomile tea to summer midnight made their homes.

A nonfiction picture book about the legal case Loving vs. Virginia which went to the Supreme Court. The book tells the story of how interracial marriage used to be illegal in Virginia and other states. (I'm not sure if the 16 states included Virginia or if there were 16 states in addition to Virginia where interracial marriage was illegal.) Richard Loving wanted to marry the love of his life, Mildred, but was unable to do so in their hometown, in their state. So the couple married in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, as they discovered, the two could not live together as husband and wife in Virginia. They had no choice but to move. Almost a decade later, the two decided something needed to be done, that they needed to be a part of the fight, the change. Interracial marriage should NOT be illegal. The book follows the family's journey during this troubling time.

It is a compelling read. It was informative but still at its heart a story not a lesson. This one will be for older readers (as opposed to other picture books with the usual preschool audience). Definitely recommended.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Dory Fantasmagory (2014)

Dory Fantasmagory. Abby Hanlon. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First, a definition:
Fantasmagory: a dream-like state where real life and imagination are blurred together. 

From chapter one:
My name is Dory, but everyone calls me Rascal. This is my family. I am the little kid. My sister's name is Violet and my brother's name is Luke. Violet is the oldest. Violet and Luke never want to play with me. They say I'm a baby.
"Mom! Rascal is bothering us!"
"What is she doing?" calls my mother.
"She's looking at us!"
"She's breathing." (1-2)

I loved, loved, LOVED Abby Hanlon's Dory Fantasmagory. I guess I'm not the only one. This one received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. I've just read it, and already I can't wait for the next book in the series: Dory and the Real True Friend. (July).

Dory is six. But. She still likes to stay in her nightgown instead of getting dressed. Even winter nightgowns, inside out and backwards in the summer. She has an imaginary friend, Mary, that is her best, best friend. Would Dory play with Luke and Violet if they let her? Sure!!! She'd love to play with either one or both. But. Since they don't want her near them, well, Mary is good and reliable to have around.

There are a few things you should know about Dory. One, Dory has a BIG imagination. She tends to live in a world all her own, a blurred reality, of sorts. Two, Dory's nickname I admit is a good one. Throughout the book she does indeed act like a Rascal. I could see how Dory's behavior could prove problematic for her parents. (Readers do see them getting upset with her, acting frustrated, etc.)

So. One day Luke and Violet decide to "scare" Dory. They tell her about Mrs. Gobble Gracker.... It doesn't take either one long to regret their brief venture into fantasy. They can't win against the force that is their younger sister. Soon Mrs. Gobble Gracker is ALL Dory is talking about. All of her play centers on this imaginary villain.

How far will she take it? You may or may not be surprised! This is one you're going to want to read for yourself.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Windy Hill (1921)

The Windy Hill. Cornelia Meigs. 1921. 210 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs is a 1922 Newbery Honor book. She received two more Newbery Honors for Clearing Weather and Swift Rivers. Her Invincible Louisa won the Newbery in 1934. (I plan on reading Invincible Louisa in February.)

Oliver and Janet are staying with their cousin Jasper. In the past, they've loved spending time with him. He's a real favorite. But. This visit there is something a bit off. Jasper isn't acting like himself at all. They're worried about him, and rightly so it turns out.

The book opens with Oliver escaping or running away. Jasper has arranged for them both (Oliver and Janet) to meet someone--a cousin their own age, a girl. It's the last bit that decides it for Oliver. So off he goes in bit of a mood. But he meets someone very interesting. Two people actually. A man he calls Beeman, and a girl around his own age. And the 'Beeman' is quite a storyteller. They become friends, and, he brings Janet to meet them both. They eventually confide in him their worries about Jasper...

Did I enjoy The Windy Hill? For the most part, yes. I liked the Beeman's stories best of all. These stories are adventure-packed. They also turn out to be true family stories. The book itself has some excitement--or action. The characters do more than sit around listening to stories. It concerns a flood. So plenty of drama is to be had. 

Windy Hill was a quick read. It was enjoyable enough. Perhaps not a 'must' read, but nice all the same.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Red Pencil (2014)

The Red Pencil. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane Evans. 2014. Little, Brown. [Source: Library]

I found The Red Pencil to be a mostly fascinating read, even if it was written in verse. (Do remember that I've said many times that verse novels aren't exactly the best match for me personally). In fact, I found the verse to be strong: that is very well-written. The book itself, though perhaps a tiny bit slow in the first dozen pages or so, was emotional and compelling and hard to put down. The strength of the poetry actually helped me connect with Amira, the twelve-year-old narrator of The Red Pencil. What I didn't enjoy quite as much, perhaps, are the illustrations. Part of me knows that to the character, Amira, drawing is essential. She expresses herself through drawing: she draws with a stick in the sand/on the ground. Throughout the book, this is just an important part of who she is, how she sees her world, how she copes. So I could see why the book is illustrated. But even so, I personally didn't "love" the illustrations.

So. What you should know. The Red Pencil is set in South Darfur, Africa, in 2003/2004. Readers meet Amira, her mom and dad, her sister (Leila), her best friend, her neighbors. (Particularly Old Anwar and Gamal.) One gets a sense of place and community. Readers come to know that what Amira wants, really wants, is an education. To learn to read. To learn to write. Readers also know that her mom is very opposed to the idea. (Her father is not opposed.)

Life does not stay the same for Amira and her family. Upheaval is coming. Her life will be disrupted. Things will be forever changed with the war--the unrest--the coming of the Janjaweed. Soon Amira finds herself a refugee living in a refugee camp....

The Red Pencil is a book to be experienced. I found it to be well-written. Is it as informative and as thorough as a nonfiction book would be on the subject? Probably not. The book focuses on an emotional connection, which I believe is just as important. It gives one a reason to care, a reason to look for more information, seek out more stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The War That Saved My Life (2015)

The War That Saved My Life. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2015. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

"Ada! Get back from that window!" Mam's voice, shouting. Mam's arm, grabbing mine, yanking me so I toppled off my chair and fell hard to the floor.

It should come as no surprise that I loved, loved, loved Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life. It's my kind of book. It's set in Britain during World War II. (To be honest, it could be set practically anywhere during World War II, and I'd want to read it.) It reminded me of Good Night, Mr. Tom which is a very good thing since I loved that one so very much!

Ada's existence before the war was bleak. Because of her club foot, Ada is verbally and psychically abused by her mother. She's restricted to staying in the family's one room apartment, and she's discouraged from even looking out the window. She hasn't been outside ever as far as she knows--can remember. Her younger brother, Jamie, may not be as abused as his older sister. But neglected and malnourished? Definitely. He at least gets to leave the house to go to school, even if he isn't leaving the house clean.

When London's children begin to be evacuated days before war is declared, their mother agrees to send Jamie off to the country. She has no plans of sending Ada, however, telling her that no one in the world would want her--would put up with her. Ada, who has secretly been teaching herself to stand and even to walk, sneaks away with her younger brother. The two of them need to be together.

Susan reluctantly takes the two children into her home. It's not anything against Jamie and Ada, she says, it's just that she doesn't feel adequate enough to take care of anyone else. If truth be told, she sometimes struggles to take care of herself. Since Becky died, she's been isolating herself, often depressed. But Susan finds herself caring for these two children very much. Could it be she's found her family at last?

Ada and Jamie are difficult, no question. Ada is not used to being treated decently let alone kindly. She doesn't know how to respond and react to love and tenderness and respect. And the fact that Ada knows that it's temporary isn't helping. But Ada will slowly but surely be transformed by the war. One thing that helps Ada tremendously is Butter, a pony. (Butter belonged to Becky, a woman readers never actually meet, but, Susan talks about her often with much love and affection.) Ada teaches herself to ride, and her confidence increases almost daily. 

Ada, Jamie, and Susan are all well-developed characters. I cared about all of them. Readers also meet plenty of other villagers. The story has plenty of drama!

© 2015 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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