Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Reflections

In April I reviewed 61 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers. Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Lee White. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Cat In the Hat Comes Back. Dr. Seuss. 1958. Random House. 63 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1958/2008. Random House. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Prince of a Frog. Jackie Urbanovic. 2015. [May] Scholastic.  32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure. Derek Anderson. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. Alice Dalgliesh. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1952. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

Middle grade:
  1. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Prince Caspian. C.S. Lewis. 1951. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.
  4. The Devil's Arithmetic. Jane Yolen. 1988. Penguin. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Number the Stars. Lois Lowry. 1989. (Won Newbery in 1990) 137 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  6. Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright. 1957. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
  8. Charlotte's Web. E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1952. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison. Lois Lenski. 1941. HarperCollins. 298 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Henry and Beezus. Beverly Cleary. 1952. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11.  Beezus and Ramona. Beverly Cleary. 1955. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Ramona the Pest. Beverly Cleary. 1968. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. Ramona the Brave. Beverly Cleary. 1975. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Ramona and Her Father. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  15. Ramona and Her Mother. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  16. Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Cleary. 1981. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  19. Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library] 
  20. Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky. Sandra Dallas. 2014. Sleeping Bear Press. 216 pages. [Source: Library]
  21. Twice Upon A Time: Rapunzel The One With All The Hair. Wendy Mass. 2006. Scholastic. 205 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  22. A Girl from Yamhill. Beverly Cleary. 1988/1996. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

Young adult:
  1. Seraphina. Rachel Hartman. 2012. Random House. 499 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen. 2012. Walker. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George. 2007. Bloomsbury USA. 324 pages. [Source: Library]  
  4. Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Dragon Spear. Jessica Day George. 2009. Bloomsbury USA. 248 pages. [Source: Library]

Adult fiction:
  1. Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime #1) Jasper Fforde. 2005. 383 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crime #2) Jasper Fforde. 2006.  382 pages. [Source: Library]

Adult nonfiction:
  1. 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Christian fiction:

  1. Creole Princess (Gulf Coast Chronicles #2). Beth White. 2015. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian nonfiction:
  1. Kept for Jesus: What The New Testament Really Teaches About Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security. Sam Storms. 2015. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe. Devin Brown. 2015. Abingdon Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. General Editors: John Piper and David Mathis. 2015. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. It is Finished: 365 Days of Good News. Tullian Tchividjian. 2015. David C. Cook. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Luther on the Christian Life. Carl R. Trueman. 2015. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. John Piper. 2005. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. A Travelogue of the Interior: Finding Your Voice and God's Heart in the Psalms. Karen Dabaghian. 2015. David C. Cook. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Crossway. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Gone-Away Lake (1957)

Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright. 1957. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake. I am so glad to be participating in the Newbery Through the Decades reading project. I've been motivated to read many books that I probably never would have read.

Gone-Away Lake tells the summertime adventure of two cousins: Portia and Julian. Early on in the summer these two stumble upon a muddy, dried-up lake. They discover a "ghost town" of sorts--the remnants of a lake resort community. To their great surprise, they discover that it is not as abandoned as it first appeared. Two people still live there. A brother and sister. (They live in separate houses.) Her name is Mrs. Cheever. His name is Mr. Payton. The four become friends--good friends. There are thousands of stories to be shared. Much to explore. Much to do.

I enjoyed this one very much. It's not an action-packed story (though it does have an intense scene or two--at least relatively speaking). It's definitely driven by the interesting characters. (Something I can definitely appreciate!)

Have you read Gone-Away Lake? What did you think? How do you think it compares to Thimble Summer?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic. Jane Yolen. 1988. Penguin. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Devil's Arithmetic is a captivating book. It is a story within a story. I'm not sure why it works so brilliantly, I just know it does.

The outside frame of the story is set in modern times. Hannah, the heroine, is, along with her family, preparing to celebrate the Passover Seder at another family member's home. To Hannah, this "celebration" or "observance" is a waste of time and energy. She just does not get it at all or understand why it's so important to other members of her family. It's something she has to do that she can't talk her way out of. But something happens to Hannah when she opens the front door to 'welcome Elijah.'

She opens the door to the past and walks right through. She finds herself in a Polish village in 1942! It's not Passover in 1942, but, there is a celebration going on just the same. A wedding in the village! But tragically, this wedding never occurs. The Nazis take everyone away; everyone is relocated. Hannah (Chaya) makes new friends, and fights to survive. It won't be easy. This new life, this 1942 life, becomes oh-so-painfully real to her. She knows what's coming. She knows about the death camps. She knows about how many Jews were killed, how many never came out of the camps, how many families were torn apart. She knows and can do nothing to prevent it from happening. She's powerless, but, her words still have power. Her words can shape stories that give hope and courage and strength to her fellow sufferers.

The story ends beautifully in my opinion. It may be an intense read, but, it's worth it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dragon Spear (2009)

Dragon Spear. Jessica Day George. 2009. Bloomsbury USA. 248 pages. [Source: Library]

Dragon Spear is the last in the series. I struggled with this one the first time I read it. At the time, I blamed it completely on the fact that I hadn't read the other two books recently enough. Surely, if I had remembered the first two books better, this one would be just as wonderful, right?! Did reading all three books within a week help? Yes. That being said, did I love this third book? Not as much as I wanted to love it. I wanted to love it just as much as the first book, so the series would end just as strong and wonderful as it began. What I continued to love, love, love were the characters. What I didn't quite love was all the action. I actually found the action-sequences a bit confusing in this third book. Creel and Luka and their friends are once again in danger--great danger--and war seems inevitable. This time a dragon civil war. It's action-packed with plenty of intensity. (This book has volcanoes.) It had its light moments, as well, which I enjoyed. (Like when Creel's aunt and uncle come to visit the royal family). Overall, I found myself liking it. But when you've LOVED, LOVED, LOVED previous books in the series, "really liking" feels a bit disappointing. (But that's just when you compare all three books to one another. Comparing Dragon Spear to other MG/YA Fantasy books, it's still a very good, very strong read.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand? (April)


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.
Infernal Device and Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus. Michael Kurland. 2001. St. Martin's Press.  528 pages. [Source: Library]

I've read The Infernal Device and The Paradol Parodox (which was just a very short story). There is one more book in the collection, Death by Gaslight. Overall, I'm enjoying this series!

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth. Translated by Maria Tatar. 2015. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am loving this one so far. The book is divided into sections: "Tales of Magic and Romance," "Enchanted Animals," "Otherworldly Creatures," "Legends," "Tall Tales and Anecdotes," and "Tales About Nature." Each story in the collection is short--very concise! It's just fun to sit down and read this one!

Forgotten Sisters. (Princess Academy #3) Shannon Hale. 2015. Bloomsbury. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I recently reread the first two books in this fantasy series in anticipation of finally getting to this one. I've read the first few chapters so far and am enjoying it.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 27, 2015

17 Carnations (2015)

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading 17 Carnations: The Royals, The Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History? Yes and no. I enjoyed reading the first half very much. It was fascinating and informative. I couldn't put it down. The second half, however, felt both rushed and prolonged. Rushed in that the last few years of war were covered quite quickly and with no real detail. Prolonged in that the coverage of the "secret files" recovered seemed to go on forever and ever. And at the expense of covering the lives of the Duke and Duchess after the war.

I definitely am glad to have read it. It was my first book about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). And I felt I learned much from reading it. I just wish it had stayed focused more on him and less on decades of cover-up. Or that it had handled the cover-up aspects a bit differently--in a more engaging way.

So the book isn't quite satisfying as a biography or as a "war book." Though it is almost both. I would say the book is definitely rich in detail and provides a unique perspective of the war and the royal family.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Revisiting Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web. E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1952. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
"Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night."
"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight.

 I love rereading Charlotte's Web. I do. It's not one I reread often, it is a sad book after all. Though bittersweet may be the better word for it. It's a beautifully written book with memorable characters and scenes. I love Wilbur, the runt pig who turns out to be some pig after all. I love Charlotte, the spider who sees Wilbur's loneliness and becomes the best friend a pig could ever have. I love, love, love Charlotte in fact. I love her wisdom and insight; I love her fierce determination. If I didn't love Charlotte so very, very much, the book wouldn't be nearly as touching. I like the other farm creatures as well--even Templeton--though none as much as Charlotte and Wilbur. I also love Fern who faithfully visits the nearby farm every day just to watch Wilbur. She has a 'true' understanding of things.

Quotes:
Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It was a single long piece of heavy rope tied to the beam over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you could swing without being pushed. You climbed a ladder to the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it acted as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then suddenly the rope would begin to catch you, and you would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute, with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair. Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sailing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out, then in; and then you'd jump off and fall down and let somebody else try it. Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman's swing. They feared some child would fall off. But no child ever did. Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will. (68-9)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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April Short Stories

April Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
  • King Diamonds "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens 
  • 2 Diamonds "Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
  • Ace Clubs "Death Ship" by Richard Matheson from The Time Traveler's Almanac
  • Ace Hearts "A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
"The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens
  • I loved reading "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens. Here's how it begins, "Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveller, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got half way through." I thought it was beautiful in its imagery. It is about a "traveler" who first meets a young child, then a boy, then a young man, then a middle-aged gentleman with a family, then an old man. It was an incredible read.
"Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • I persevered through it, and, it could have just been a case of bad timing, but, I couldn't make any sense out of this short story at all. Other than it was set in France. And the narrator was someone--a man? a woman? probably a man? doing genealogical research and hoping to find out how he was related--if he was related--to John Calvin. And half of it was probably a dream of sorts. Probably. It's not that I love first person narrative to begin with, but, in a short story it can be even more disorienting. I wasn't impressed with this one.
"Death Ship" by Richard Matheson (1953)
  • Premise/Plot: "Death Ship" was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1963. The story introduces three astronauts to readers. (Mason, Ross, and Carter). Their mission, I believe, is to scout out other planets to see if they are suitable for colonization. But their mission is fated to fail, in a way. It begins with them exploring a 'flash' or sorts. It ends up they're investigating the crash of what appears to be an earth spaceship very much like their own. What they find inside the ship, well, let's just say that they have a very hard time making sense of it. Will readers do a better job?! Perhaps, especially if they've seen the Twilight Zone episode a few times.
 "A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  •  Premise/Plot: Readers meet Sidney a young woman who has been swept up into a fantasy world of her own creation. She writes a young man all about how wonderful and glorious and full her life is--a real social whirl. In reality, she's a poor, hardworking country girl. When she learns that he's on his way to visit her, she's in for quite a shock. As is he. But it's a pleasant one for the most part. He doesn't mind her lies. He loves her as is.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Revisiting Scarlet (2012)

Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen. 2012. Walker. 292 pages. [Source: Library]

I first read Scarlet last year. I really enjoyed it, but, not as much as I ended up enjoying the second book in the series, Lady Thief.

So. Scarlet is a retelling of Robin Hood. The narrator is "Will Scarlet" a young woman posing as one of Robin's men. All of the gang know her secret, though they didn't all learn at once. But most of the villagers don't. Scarlet is a thief with a past, a past that will catch up with her by the end of the novel. Through Scarlet's perspective, readers get to know Rob (Robin Hood), John Little, Much, and Tuck. Readers also get to know about the dangerous and cruel Guy Gisbourne. He's been hired to find Robin Hood and his gang and kill them...

How did I feel about Scarlet the second time I read it? I enjoyed it so much more! I think one of the reasons I love rereading is because I can relax and enjoy how everything comes together. The first time I was focused on the potential of the premise, on the mystery--who was this Scarlet?--and on the action--will The Hood and his gang be able to save everyone?! The second time I was able to focus on the development of characters and relationships. I already had a connection with the characters, a LOVE for them, so that helped this reading experience tremendously.

I'll be rereading Lady Thief before I read the third in the series, Lion Heart, which releases in May.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in April

New Loot:
  • The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Zaver von Schonwerth
  • The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
  • The Sound Of Music Story by Tom Santopietro
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
  • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
  • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
  • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
  • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves.
  • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
  • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

      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: April 19-25

Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]


This week's recommendation(s):

I loved, loved, LOVED Miss Marjoribanks. I also really enjoyed rereading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Babies and Doggies Book

Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lots of things babies do, doggies do too. Babies and doggies hide and peek. Babies and doggies like to eat.

Premise/plot: Photos and text reveal just how much babies and doggies have in common. The photos are adorable. If you find babies cute and adorable, you'll like the pictures. If you find dogs cute--especially puppies--then you'll like the pictures. If you like puppies and babies, you'll find the book precious.

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. The text was very nice as well. The rhyming worked well and didn't get in the way. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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This Little Piggy (2015)

Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: This little piggy went to the market.

Premise/Plot: A board book adaptation of the traditional nursery rhyme. Though these little piggies won't be eating any roast beef. I don't have a problem with adapting any of the lines. That's part of the fun of playing little piggies.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! I love the sturdiness of the pages. I think the pages will be easy for little hands to turn. All books--even board books--can be "loved" too much and wear out quickly. But this one seems a little better than some I've read and reviewed. I thought the illustrations were nice.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Red light, Green Light

Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Let's take a ride. Here's your seat! We'll drive down this: One way street!

Premise/plot: Red Light, Green Light is a concept board book on driving and road signs. It's a lift-the-flap book. Each sign is a flap that can be lifted to reveal what it means.

My thoughts: It's okay. Not wow-worthy perhaps. It's obviously focusing more on the teaching elements, but, it does have a slight story to it. The family is on the way to the playground. Some of the rhymes work okay for me. Some don't. For example, "Slow down, car, the brakes go pop. Traffic light says red means stop."

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Jampires (2015)

Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "There's no jam!" yelled Sam. "This doughnut's all wrinkly! This doughnut is jamless and dry! Someone got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! Why?"

Premise/plot: Sam, the hero, gets mad when his doughnut is missing jam. He decides to set a trap in his room to catch the jam thieves. What he didn't expect was that the thief was actually thieves. Jampires. Creatures that suck out jam with their fangs. The jampires take Sam on an adventure, they take him home to where they live, a place with plenty of jam to be had every day.

My thoughts: I didn't like this one. Of course, you may feel differently. You may love the play on words--jampires instead of vampires. But I thought the book was bizarre and creepy. Besides the weird story, the text itself seems awkward.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Side by Side (2015)

Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Deep in the heart of Wintermouse Wood, down in the grass where the autumn trees stood, lived all kinds of creatures--some big and some small--some spiky, some furry, some short, and some tall.

Premise/plot: Mousling is the smallest mouse in her family. She's a lonely mouse who longs for a friend. While many answer her call and offer friendship, only one creature--a small black vole--is the exact, perfect forever-and-ever friend. These two make quite a pair.

My thoughts: The story is a good one. Sometimes the text is quite lovely. "And now, side by side, they heard the same tune, so they sang to the stars and they danced to the moon." Overall, I liked this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #17

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
One fish
two fish
red fish
blue fish.
Black fish
blue fish
old fish
new fish.
This one has a little star.
This one has a little car.
Say! What a lot of fish there are.

Premise/Plot: Does this book have a plot? I'm not sure it does! It does have a premise however. "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere" (9). "From near to far from here to there, funny things are everywhere" (55). " Readers find plenty of funny things within the pages of the book. Classical Seuss rhymes make this one lovely.

My thoughts: I like this one very much. Some pages are more memorable to me than others perhaps. For example,
Who am I?
My name is Ned.
I do not like
my little bed.
and
My hat is old.
My teeth are gold.
I have a bird
I like to hold.
Have you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish? Did you like it? Did you love it? I'd love to hear what you thought of it! Both what you liked, and what you didn't like.

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Green Eggs and Ham.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Ramona's World (1999)

Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Ramona's World is the last book in the series. Ramona is in fourth grade now. And she's definitely got a big crush on Yard Ape. (There's been no mention at all of Henry Huggins lately or of Mary Jane for that matter.)

"Ramona Spreads the News" Ramona starts fourth grade. She's anxious to spread the news that she's a big sister. Her baby sister, Roberta, is oh-so-cute and oh-so-little. Ramona meets the new girl, Daisy, and hopes that they can become BEST friends.

"The Role Model" Does Ramona like spelling? Does Ramona like teachers that emphasis how important spelling is? Does she like teachers that pick on and point out all her spelling mistakes word by word in front of the whole class? She does not! She is not liking her new teacher very much. But Roberta can make her day better. Roberta copies Ramona and sticks out her tongue and makes cute faces.

"At Daisy's House" Ramona and Daisy get to know each other better and decide to be best friends.

"The Invitation" Beezus has a new best friend, Abby. Abby is having a boy-girl party and invites Beezus, of course. Beezus is excited and anxious and sneaks out to get her ears pierced.

"The Princess and the Witch" Ramona gets into trouble at Daisy's house, but, it isn't her fault, not really.

"The Party" Beezus attends a party, and Ramona goes with her Dad to drop her off. Her Dad has been teaching Beezus how to dance. Does the party go well?

"The Grown-Up Letter" Ramona sends off a letter when she sees something that bothers her in the paper. She impresses her teacher when she gets a reply.

"Peas" Ramona's picture day

"Ramona Sits" Ramona cat-sits Daisy's cat. It is NOT a fun week. Seven days feels like forever. Especially when her Mom leaves her in charge of Roberta too--for a whole FIFTEEN MINUTES.

"The Valentine Box" Valentine's Day. Will she treasure Yard Ape's valentine?

"Birthday Girl" Ramona turns 10, has a party, shares her cake with boys, and learns something surprising about her old nemesis, Susan.

Part of me was sad to see an end to the series. I have loved visiting with Ramona so very much. The series did a good job at aging up the characters, however. Something that you can really appreciate better if you read the series all at once.

Do you have a favorite book in the series? Mine would probably be Ramona the Pest or Ramona the Brave or Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Ginger Pye (1950)

Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]

Ginger Pye is a book that I never would have read as a child. Why? Well, for the simple reason that there is a dog on the cover. Why risk reading a book if there's a chance that the dog could die? Safer to read other books perhaps. Is it for the better that I didn't read this one until I was an adult? Probably. Though I should add that Ginger Pye, the dog on the cover, does NOT die. The book would have been sad enough for me as a child.

As an adult there were quite a few things about the book that I enjoyed. Not that I loved, loved, loved it. Readers meet Rachel Pye and her brother Jerry. Jerry, we learn, really, really, REALLY wants to buy a puppy. He needs a dollar, and he needs it NOW. There is someone else who wants to buy "his" puppy, and, he'll need to hurry to get his pick. Fortunately, at just the right time, he's offered an opportunity to dust the church. What a relief! Rachel helps him clean, and they get there just in time it seems. They buy the dog, name him Ginger, and all is well...or is it?!

For they are not the only ones who think that Ginger is the best dog ever. Never forget that someone else wanted Ginger. (They do forget.)

The book is a bit of a mystery. They're not very good at detecting, however. Readers may guess a long time before they do. Still, this one has a happy enough ending. I am glad I read it.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bo at Iditarod Creek (2014)

Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

I really did enjoy the first book in the series. And I wanted to love this one just as much. But it was more of an almost book for me.

I still love Bo as a narrator. She still has a very unique voice to her. And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham are oh-so-wonderful which is probably why I like Bo so much.

In this second book in the series, Bo and her new brother, Graf, go with their fathers Jack Jackson and Arvid Ivorsen to a new community: Iditarod Creek. They go where there's work, to keep it simple. So there are new characters to meet, new opportunities and situations. In fact, there might even be a THIRD child added to the family.

The setting is unique, especially for a children's book. Historical fiction set in Alaska in 1929 and 1930. The world Bo is growing up in is probably a strange one to most readers. Bo is a six (or seven) year old girl growing up without many girls her own age, and without many ladies around in general. It's not exactly a "proper" or "traditional" upbringing. But what Bo has in abundance is LOVE and understanding. Both Jack and Arvid take time to talk with Bo, to love her, to teach her.

One word of warning this book has racial slurs, matter-of-fact, this is the way it was language. So if you're reading this aloud to young(er) children, you should know what's coming.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Green for Danger (1944)

Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

Reading Green for Danger was like watching a soap opera--for better or worse. It definitely had its enjoyable moments now and then. But I can't say it was really a great fit for my reading taste. (Not that it was smutty. Just a lot of messy, oh-so-dramatic twists and turns, some of which related to their love lives.)

I wanted to read Green for Danger because it's a vintage mystery published during World War II. It is also set during the war and focused on the war. All of the characters--all of the suspects--work in a hospital. Readers get a behind the scenes look at war-time England. It had the potential to be quite good: fascinating even.

Was I disappointed? Yes and no. I would have liked more depth to the characterization with perhaps a tiny bit less drama. That being said, there was plenty of suspense and mystery. And looking back, there were plenty of clues throughout the book. It wasn't a great read for me, but, it wasn't all that bad either.

I also watched the movie adaptation of Green For Danger (1946). I found myself enjoying it more than the book. The plot is different from the book in some ways, but I thought it worked well. If you like watching mysteries, I'd definitely recommend it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dragon Flight (2008)

Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I've spent the last week rereading Jessica Day George's oh-so-lovely dragon series starring Creel, Prince Luka, and their dragon friends.

One war with the dragons is over and done with, but, a second is about to begin. And this time, it may not be an evil human controlling the dragons through alchemy, but, an evil dragon controlling a human king controlling dragons through alchemy. Not that Creel could guess that before she slips off to her second war as a spy. (She doesn't go into enemy territory alone, she takes some of her dragon friends.)

I liked this one. Did I love, love, love it as much as Dragon Slippers? Probably not. But I still really loved it. I loved meeting Shardas' mate--the queen of dragons. I loved spending time with Creel and her friends, her dragon friends, and her human friends. The book has plenty of action and drama. Quite a showdown! But it isn't done without attention to characters. Overall, I definitely recommend this book and this series.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Hippos Are Huge! (2015)

Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Hippos are huge! Except for elephants, no other land animals are as large as hippopotamuses. They can weigh as much as fifty men!

I really enjoyed reading this nonfiction picture book about hippos. I loved the narrative--the larger font. I loved the additional details and descriptions--the smaller font.

I found the book to be informative and entertaining. (I love it when a book is packed with a I-didn't-know-that facts. True, I didn't know much about hippos before picking this one up. So it was easy to intrigue me, I suppose. But still. I think the book is well-written.)

I really love, love, love the illustrations by Matthew Trueman. I think my favorite illustration was of the baby hippo paddling to the surface and taking a first breath. (Did you know a newborn hippo (a calf) weights 100 pounds?! Did you know in just six months, he'll weigh 500 pounds?!) 

I would definitely recommend this one if you're looking for nonfiction picture books to share with younger children. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Miss Marjoribanks (1866)

Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Miss Marjoribanks lost her mother when she was only fifteen, and when, to add to the misfortune, she was absent at school, and could not have it in her power to soothe her dear mamma's last moments, as she herself said. Words are sometimes very poor exponents of such an event: but it happens now and then, on the other hand, that a plain intimation expresses too much, and suggests emotion and suffering which, in reality, have but little, if any, existence.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks. Within a few chapters, I was going Why did NO ONE tell me how absolutely, wonderful this book is?!  Even before I finished it, I  had decided that I would NEED to read more Oliphant in the future. A lot more. (Which book should I seek out next?!)

Lucilla Marjoribanks is the heroine. She's clever and stubborn, more than a little ambitious, and manipulative but well-intentioned. I also want to add that her manners are phenomenal; she's a proper lady. Readers meet plenty of characters: men and women of all ages, both upper and lower class.

So the novel opens with Lucilla learning of her mother's death. She resolves then and there to be a comfort to her father. Her father wants Lucilla to stay in school, and, later go on a tour of Europe. But when Lucilla is nineteen, it is inevitable that she will return home to Carlingford and start being a comfort to her dear father. He's hesitant at first, as is his cook, but within a day--or two at most--she's got them both. They love and adore her. Her reign has begun without a bit of resistance.

Lucilla has plans. Not just for her father and the household (a new makeover for various rooms). But for Carlingford. She wants to make a great society. She'll host her Thursday Evenings, and the town will be changed for the better, for the most part.

As part of her project, Lucilla "rescues" Barbara Lake from the lower class (she's a drawing master's daughter) to sing duets with her on Thursday evenings. Barbara doesn't exactly like "being a project" of Lucilla's. Part of her hates the idea of a rich woman condescending to her and elevating her position--once a week--for entertainment purposes. On the other hand, she does love to sing. And one of the men who attends is quite swoon-worthy, and he flirts with her. So the evening isn't a complete waste.

The book is essentially two stories in one. The first story occurs when she's nineteen and just getting started with her Carlingford project. She's young, beautiful, smart, ambitious. And most everyone is of the opinion that she will soon marry. Despite her protests that she will not marry for at least ten years so that she can be a comfort to her father. A handful of neighbors introduce various young men to her. One of the eligible suitors is Mr. Cavendish. (Cavendish is the one who can't help flirting with Barbara Lake). The other two "eligible" suitors don't seem all that interested in Miss Marjoribanks. (One (a general) falls in love at first sight with Barbara's sister, Rose, who happens to be visiting Lucilla because she's worried about her sister. The other (Archdeacon Beverley) coincidentally is the first-lost-love of one of Lucilla's friends--another project of sorts, her name is Mrs. Mortimer.) The second story occurs when she's twenty-nine. It mainly centers around Miss Marjoribanks schemes to get Mr. Ashburton elected to parliament.

The book is part romance, part comedy, part drama. I LOVED everything about it. I loved the characterization. I loved the narration. I loved the plot. I loved that it wasn't predictable--at least not to me!

Quotes:
There are people who talk of themselves, and think of themselves, as it were, under protest, and with depreciation, not actually able to convince themselves that anybody cares; but Lucilla, for her part, had the calmest and most profound conviction that, when she discussed her own doings and plans and clevernesses, she was bringing forward the subject most interesting to her audience as well as to herself. Such a conviction is never without its fruits. To be sure, there were always one or two independent spirits who revolted; but for the crowd, it soon became impressed with a profound belief in the creed which Miss Marjoribanks supported so firmly.
At other times she had been a visitor; now she had come into her kingdom, and had no desire to be received like a guest.
But it was only in the morning that Lucilla unfolded her standard. She was down to breakfast, ready to pour out the coffee, before the Doctor had left his room. He found her, to his intense amazement, seated at the foot of the table, in the place which he usually occupied himself, before the urn and the coffee-pot. Dr Marjoribanks hesitated for one momentous instant, stricken dumb by this unparalleled audacity; but so great was the effect of his daughter's courage and steadiness, that after that moment of fate he accepted the seat by the side where everything was arranged for him, and to which Lucilla invited him sweetly, though not without a touch of mental perturbation. The moment he had seated himself, the Doctor's eyes were opened to the importance of the step he had taken. "I am afraid I have taken your seat, papa," said Miss Marjoribanks, with ingenuous sweetness. "But then I should have had to move the urn, and all the things, and I thought you would not mind."
The Doctor's formidable housekeeper conducted her young mistress downstairs afterwards, and showed her everything with the meekness of a saint. Lucilla had won a second victory still more exhilarating and satisfactory than the first; for, to be sure, it is no great credit to a woman of nineteen to make a man of any age throw down his arms; but to conquer a woman is a different matter, and Lucilla was thoroughly sensible of the difference. Now, indeed, she could feel with a sense of reality that her foundations were laid.
Lucilla, who was liberal, as genius ought always to be, was perfectly willing that all the young ladies in Carlingford should sing their little songs while she was entertaining her guests; and then at the right moment, when her ruling mind saw it was necessary, would occur the duet—the one duet which would be the great feature of the evening. Thus it will be seen that another quality of the highest order developed itself during Miss Marjoribanks's deliberations; for, to tell the truth, she set a good deal of store by her voice, and had been used to applause, and had tasted the sweetness of individual success.
There is nothing one cannot manage if one only takes the trouble.
"I am always afraid of a cousin, for my part," said Mrs Chiley; "and talking of that, what do you think of Mr Cavendish, Lucilla? He is very nice in himself, and he has a nice property; and some people say he has a very good chance to be member for Carlingford when there is an election. I think that is just what would suit you."
Thus all the world contemplated with excitement the first Thursday which was to open this enchanted chamber to their admiring eyes. "Don't expect any regular invitation," Miss Marjoribanks said. "I hope you will all come, or as many of you as can. Papa has always some men to dinner with him that day, you know, and it is so dreadfully slow for me with a heap of men. That is why I fixed on Thursday. I want you to come every week, so it would be absurd to send an invitation; and remember it is not a party, only an Evening," said Lucilla.
It was when she was in this unhappy humour that her eye fell upon Mr Cavendish, who was in the act of making the appeal to Lucilla which we have already recorded. Barbara had never as yet had a lover, but she had read an unlimited number of novels, which came to nearly the same thing, and she saw at a glance that this was somebody who resembled the indispensable hero. She looked at him with a certain fierce interest, and remembered at that instant how often in books it is the humble heroine, behind backs, whom all the young ladies snub, who wins the hero at the last. And then Miss Marjoribanks, though she sent him away, smiled benignantly upon him. The colour flushed to Barbara's cheeks, and her eyes, which had grown dull and fixed between fright and spite, took sudden expression under her straight brows. An intention, which was not so much an intention as an instinct, suddenly sprang into life within her, and, without knowing, she drew a long breath of eagerness and impotence. He was standing quite near by this time, doing his duty according to Miss Marjoribanks's orders, and flirting with all his might; and Barbara looked at him as a hungry schoolboy might be supposed to look at a tempting apple just out of his reach. How was she to get at this suitor of Lucilla's?
As for poor Barbara, she is only a little shy, but that will soon wear off. I don't see what need she has to talk—or to move either, for that matter. I thought she did very well indeed for a girl who never goes into society. Was it not clever of me to find her out the very first day I was in Carlingford? It has always been so difficult to find a voice that went perfectly with mine."
"I always make it a point never to shock anybody's prejudices," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I should do just the same with them as with other people; all you have to do is to show from the first that you mean to be good friends with everybody. But then I am so lucky: I can always get on with people," said Lucilla, rising to greet the two unfortunates who had come to Colonel Chiley's to spend a merry Christmas, and who did not know what to do with themselves.
It was rather vexatious, to tell the truth; for to see a man so near the point and not even to have the satisfaction of refusing him, is naturally aggravating to a woman.
If there was one thing in the world more than another which contented Lucilla, it was to be appealed to and called upon for active service. It did her heart good to take the management of incapable people, and arrange all their affairs for them, and solve all their difficulties. Such an office was more in her way than all the Archdeacons in the world.

For even the aid of Miss Marjoribanks was as nothing against dead selfishness and folly, the two most invincible forces in the world.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Dick Whittington and His Cat (1950)

Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Long ago in England there lived a little boy named Dick Whittington. Dick's father and mother died when he was very young, and as he was too small to work, he had a hard time of it.

Premise/plot: Dick Whittington, an orphan, goes to London to seek his fortune--or at least a somewhat better life. It won't be easily come by that's for sure! He eventually finds work in the home of a merchant as a cook's assistant. With his one penny, he happens to buy a cat who is an excellent mouser. The cat will be the key to it all: his eventual success.
Not long after this, Mr. Fitzwarren had a ship ready to sail. He called all his servants into the parlor and asked them what they chose to send to trade. All the servants brought something but poor Dick. Since he had neither money nor goods, he couldn't think of sending anything. "I'll put some money down for him," offered Miss Alice, and she called Dick into the parlor. But the merchant said, "That will not do. It must be something of his own." "I have nothing but a cat," said Dick. "Fetch your cat, boy," said the merchant, "and let her go!" 
My thoughts: Loved the story. Dick Whittington and His Cat received a Caldecott Honor in 1951. I can't say that I particularly "liked" the illustrations. (But I didn't dislike them either.) I enjoyed the story more though.

Have you read Dick Whittington and His Cat? What did you think? Do you have a favorite Caldecott or Caldecott Honor book? 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Completed First Bowl of Alphabet Soup

Host: Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book
Name: Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge (sign-up)
Dates: January - December 2015
# of books: 26

Completed First Bowl of Soup! April 1, 2015!

Titles
A Audacity. Melanie Crowder. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
B Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]
C The Castle Behind Thorns. Merrie Haskell. 2014. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
D Debby. Siddie Joe Johnson. Illustrated by Ninon MacKnight. 1940.  Longmans, Green and Co. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]
E Emil and Karl. Yankev Glatshteyn. Translated from the Yiddish by Jeffrey Shandler. 1940/2006. Roaring Book Press. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
F Farewell to the East End. (Call of the Midwife #3) Jennifer Worth. 2009/2013. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
G The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]
H Hard Times. Charles Dickens. 1854/1992. Everyman's Library. 336 pages.  [Source: Library]
I Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women. Cornelia Meigs. 1933/1995. Little, Brown. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Jezebel's Daughter. Wilkie Collins. 1880. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
K The Killings At Badger's Drift. (Inspector Barnaby #1) Caroline Graham. 1987/2005. Felony & Mayhem. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
The Lilies of the Field. William Edmund Barrett. 1962/1988. Grand Central Publishing. 128 pages. [Source: Gift]
M Medal for Murder. (Kate Shackleton #2) Frances Brody. 2010/2013. Minotaur Books. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
N Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
O On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1937. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
P The Paper Cowboy. Kristin Levine. 2014. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Q The Question of Miracles. Elana K. Arnold. 2015. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
R Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. 1863. 403 pages. [Source: Bought]
S Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
T Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. 1937. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
U The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
V 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]
X Xander's Panda Party. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Y Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. illustrated by William Low. 1932/2008. Square Fish. 302 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Z The Zoo At the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Week in Review: April 12-18

The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. Alice Dalgliesh. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1952. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
Ramona and Her Mother. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Cleary. 1981. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky. Sandra Dallas. 2014. Sleeping Bear Press. 216 pages. [Source: Library]

Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George. 2007. Bloomsbury USA. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]
Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe. Devin Brown. 2015. Abingdon Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. General Editors: John Piper and David Mathis. 2015. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

I loved, loved, LOVED The Family Under the Bridge. It was a complete surprise how much I adored it! I am enjoying reading the Ramona series, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is fantastic! The commentary I read on Isaiah was AMAZING as well.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in April

New Loot:
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
  • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
  • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves. 
  • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
  • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Leftover Loot:
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis
  • Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G.  Hendricks
  • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
  • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith 
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • The Princess Plot by Kirsten Bole, translated by David Henry Wilson
  • Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
  • Back to School with Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
  • Betsy and the Boys by Carolyn Haywood
  • Betsy and Billy by Carolyn Haywood
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
      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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Never Ask A Dinosaur to Dinner (2015)

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Really, never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Because a T. rex is ferocious and his manners are atrocious, and you'll find that if he's able…he will eat the kitchen table. He'll grow fatter while the rest of you grow thinner, so never ask a dinosaur to dinner.

Premise/plot: The narrator shares with readers why they should never ask a dinosaur to dinner, why they should never share a toothbrush with a shark, why they should never let a beaver in the basin, why they should never use a tiger as a towel, why they should never choose a bison for a blanket, and finally why they should never share a bed with an owl. All in rhyme of course. This is a book all about the bedtime routine. It's a silly book, as you can tell.

My thoughts: I liked it well enough, I suppose. I think the rhymes worked for the most part. I can be a bit picky when it comes to judging rhyming books. I can get annoyed quite easily when it doesn't sound right. That being said, I didn't love this one especially. It was nice, but, not an amazing read.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #16

Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say "Happy Birthday to You!"

Premise/Plot: The narrator shares how birthdays are celebrated in Katroo. Every single moment of the day is packed with special fun just for you to celebrate how wonderful and unique you are. It begins with The Great Birthday Bird from the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation coming to your house. But his special birthday greeting is just the start.

My thoughts: Happy Birthday to You is not a book I really enjoyed. Oh, I love Dr. Seuss's silly rhymes in general. But I didn't find this one particularly wonderful. I hope other readers appreciate it more than I did.

Have you read Happy Birthday to You! What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Ramona Forever (1984)

Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

Ramona is growing up quickly--depending on your point of view. If you consider that she was four in 1955, and nine in 1984, then, her childhood is taking forever. But when you're happily rushing through the series, it feels like she's growing up so quickly. Ramona Forever is the seventh book in the series. Ramona is still in third grade, I believe.

"The Rich Uncle" Howie and Willa Jean have a rich uncle coming to stay with them. Will Ramona like Howie's uncle? He doesn't make the best first impression. He teases her about his name. He gives Howie and Willa Jean presents. Not that Ramona wanted a present. But. Since Mrs. Kemp BLAMES Ramona when Willa Jean breaks her present, she wishes that the Uncle had not come at all. Why is it HER FAULT?

"Ramona's Problem" Ramona tells her mother that she doesn't want to go to the Kemps anymore. She HATES going there after school, can't her and Beezus come home instead. They'll be really, really good and responsible...

"Being Good" How well are Ramona and Beezus getting along after school on their own?!

"Picky-Picky" Ramona and Beezus find Picky-Picky dead in the basement. Beezus suspects that their mom might be pregnant, and doesn't want to worry or upset her. They decide to bury the cat in their yard on their own.

"It" Beezus was right. Ramona is going to be a big sister. Their mom is going to have a baby in the summer. Is Ramona excited or not?!

"A Surprise, Sort Of" Aunt Beatrice has a big announcement. And why is she bringing Howie's Uncle to dinner?!

"The Chain of Command" Shopping for wedding clothes. Ramona is a thousand times more excited than Howie. Howie does not want to be a ring bearer.

"The Families Get Together" Wedding planning.

"Ramona Saves the Day" The wedding itself. Ramona, you guessed it, saves the day. This one has a very sitcom feel to it.

"Another Big Event" Is Ramona ready to be a big sister?!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)

Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Cleary. 1981. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I really love the Ramona series, and, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is one of my favorites. Ramona is in third grade in this book. Her father will be working part-time for the market and going to school again so he can be a teacher.

"The First Day of School" Ramona starts third grade, and meets a boy, Danny, she nicknames Yard Ape. Her teacher is Mrs. Whaley, and, like in previous books, it takes Ramona a while to decide if she likes her new teacher, and, if her new teacher actually likes her too. School can be so tricky!

"At Howie's House" Ramona loves Sustained Silent Reading at school, even though she doesn't like calling it D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read). Can she use this trick at the Kemps house after school to avoid playing with Willa Jean? Perhaps. At least some of the time.

"The Hard-Boiled Egg Fad" Ramona regrets following a new fad when her mom grabs an egg from the wrong shelf to send in her lunch. The fad is hard-boiled eggs, and the raw egg makes a horrible mess. Ramona is angry and embarrassed.

"The Quimbys' Quarrel" Ramona and Beezus complain about eating TONGUE. And the parents decide to punish them.

"The Extra-good Sunday" Beezus and Ramona do not get out of their punishment: cooking a meal for the family. What do Ramona and Beezus know how to cook, or to cook well? It will be an experiment for sure.

"Supernuisance" Ramona gets sick at school and throws up in front of the class. She's so embarrassed.

"The Patient" Her mom stays home to take care of her when she's sick. Ramona gets a homework assignment: a book report.

"The Book Report" Ramona has to read The LEFT BEHIND CAT for a book report, but, she doesn't like it. How to make the review entertaining? How about doing her report like a commercial? This is a funny chapter!

"Rainy Sunday" The Quimbys turn a dismal day--everyone's a bit grumpy--around by going to Whopperburger. Ramona orders from the adult menu for the very first time.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ramona and Her Mother (1977)

Ramona and Her Mother. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

Ramona and Her Mother is the fifth book in the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. Ramona and Her Father ends with Christmas, Ramona and Her Mother opens with New Year. It's nice, for a change, to get the opportunity to spend a full year with Ramona and the rest of the Quimby family.

"A Present for Willa Jean" The Quimby family hosts a New Year's Day brunch for the neighborhood. While Beezus gets to help serve and host, Ramona's "job" is to entertain Willa Jean. Is Ramona happy about this? Not really! In case you don't remember, Willa Jean is far from Ramona's favorite person. Don't even dream of bringing up any similarities between Ramona and Willa Jean! In this chapter, Ramona gives Willa Jean a box of Kleenex for a present.

"Slacks for Ella Funt" What's the Quimby household like on a Saturday? Well, on this particular Saturday, it's an interesting one. Ramona wants to have a sewing project like Beezus and her mom. She decides that she will make her elephant a pair of pants. Does it go well? Not really. Could she have successfully made a skirt for her elephant? Most likely without any trouble. But stubborn Ramona wanted PANTS. When it doesn't end well, she gets upset, which leads to her doing something very naughty with a tube of toothpaste!
Nobody had to tell Ramona that life was full of disappointments. She already knew. She was disappointed almost every evening because she had to go to bed at eight-thirty and never got to see the end of the eight o'clock movie on television. She had seen many beginnings but no endings. And even though she had outgrown her tricycle, she was still disappointed because she never could find a tricycle license plate with her name printed on it. (40)
As Ramona sat on the hard edge of the tub, feeling sorry for herself and trying to sort out her thoughts, she noticed a brand-new red-white-and-blue tube of toothpaste lying beside the washbasin. How smooth and shiny it looked with only one little dent where someone had squeezed it once. That tube was as good as new, and it was the large economy size. Ramona was suddenly filled with longing. All her life she had wanted to squeeze toothpaste, really squeeze it, not just a little squirt on her toothbrush but a whole tube, a large economy size tube, all at one time just as she had longed to pull out a whole box of Kleenex. I'll give it one little squeeze, thought Ramona. Just one teeny squeeze to make me feel better. She seized the tube. (43)
"Nobody Likes Ramona" Ramona has a bad day at school, and a very bad day at the Kemps after school. Willa Jean won't let Howie and Ramona play checkers. And when Howie and Ramona try to play something else--a big accident happens.

"The Quarrel" The bad day continues for every single member of the Quimby family. It's a HORRIBLE night at home. Ramona and Beezus witness their parents fighting, and, it upsets both of them.

"The Great Hair Argument" Beezus is the star, of sorts, of this chapter. Beezus is getting to be "that age" and a bit difficult for her parents. In this chapter, Beezus is growing out her hair and refusing to let her mom cut it anymore. She wants a REAL hair cut in a real salon by a real stylist. She says all the girls in her class get real hair cuts. Reluctantly, Mrs. Quimby agrees, but, it will be a student stylist. Will Beezus like her new haircut?! Ramona also gets a new haircut in this one.

"Ramona's New Pajamas" Ramona loves, loves, loves her new pajamas. But is it a good idea to wear pajamas under your clothes and go to school?!

"The Telephone Call" Ramona has a fit--though she refrains from yelling guts, guts, guts--and decides to run away from home. Her mom "helps" her pack. Will Ramona really run away?!

© 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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