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Becky's Book Reviews

Updated: 2018-03-23T12:38:09.365-05:00


Annie Patches: My New Forever Home


Annie Patches: My New Forever Home. Marty Koblish. Photographs by Jessica Charous. 2015. 34 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: My mommy lived on the streets.

Premise/plot: This picture book tells the story of a foster kitty who found her furr-ever home. Her mom was a pregnant stray cat taken in by a foster family. Annie Patches was adopted a few months later and placed in a new home--a forever home. The book uses photographs to tell her story. Well, to show off her cuteness mainly. 

My thoughts: I bought this one at a local charity shop because of the photographs. To say I love cats would be a bit of an understatement. I just couldn't resist this one. Sadly, I lost a few pages just with the first read. The story is heartwarming and the photographs are ADORABLE.

 Text: 3 out of 5
Photographs: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews



Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) Neal Shusterman. 2018. 5014 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Peach velvet with embroidered baby-blue trim. Honorable Scythe Braums loved his robe. True, the velvet became uncomfortably hot in the summer months, but it was something he had grown accustomed to in his sixty-three years as a scythe.

Premise/plot: Thunderhead is the sequel to Scythe. If you haven't read Scythe yet, you should. What should you know about the series?'s set in the future. Many advancements have been made. Immortality is the norm--for most. Gone are the days where you could die of disease or old age. Most people who die can be revived. Dead has become deadish. But a small percentage of the population is gleaned each year. That is the role of the Scythes. Readers meet many scythes in the first novel in the series. Two of the main characters in the first book were Rowan and Citra. Both characters are back in the sequel. Rowan has adopted the name "Scythe Lucifer" and is on a mission of his own. Citra has adopted the name "Scythe Anastasia." Two main characters that take prominence in Thunderhead are the THUNDERHEAD and Greyson Tolliver.

The Scythes are finding themselves divided into two factions: the 'old' guard that believe that the role of scythe is honorable but heavy with responsibility and the 'new order' which believe that killing is an exhilarating joy. They don't work with heavy hearts and solemnity. No, they approach the job as a pleasure. Scythe Anastasia and Scythe Curie are of the old guard faction.

There are some truly EVIL characters in Thunderhead.

My thoughts: I'm not sure I have words. The ending left me crushed and broken. (I can only compare it perhaps to listening to the whole Hamilton soundtrack.) I think the book is well written and well plotted. It almost goes without saying that it is incredibly compelling--intense and dramatic.

I do recommend the series. Read them back to back if you can. I did not reread the first book. If there is a third book, I will try to make a point to reread all the books.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

No Nap! Yes Nap!


No Nap! Yes Nap! Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2014. Little, Brown for Young Readers. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mama says, Nap. Baby says, NO NAP! Nap, yes, says Mama. Yes yes yes! Nap, no! No no no!

Premise/plot: Will Baby take a nap? How long will it take to get Baby to nap? Will Mama need a nap too?!

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I think the enjoyment--in part--comes from not overthinking it. How can you overthink a picture book? By worrying about the dangers of baby talk. By seeing the short, simple incomplete sentences as a threat to your child's language acquisition. By judging the mom for everything she does or doesn't do right. By seeing the BABY not as humorous or realistic but as a super-dangerous role model, a threat or danger to your own child. Read what you want to read to your child, with your child. Be as scrupulous as you want. But here's the my personal aren't taught to misbehave or be naughty through books. Naughtiness comes naturally. Even if you never pick up No Nap! Yes Nap! chances are that a power struggle over nap time will occur at your house if you have a little one.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Shaking Things Up


Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Susan Hood. Illustrated by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet. 2018. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: Shaking Things Up is a nonfiction (biographical) poetry book celebrating remarkable women past and present. The fourteen women included are Molly Williams (first known female firefighter in the U.S.), Mary Anning (paleontologist), Nellie Bly (journalist), Annette Kellerman (athlete and designer/inventor of the modern swimsuit), Pura Belpre (Latina author/librarian), Frida Kahlo (artist), Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne (secret agents), Frances Moore Lappe (anti-hunger activist/author), Ruby Bridges (civil rights pioneer), Mae Jemison (first African American astronaut), Maya Lin (architect and sculptor), Angela Zhang (scientist and cancer researcher), Malala Yousafzai (youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize).

Each spread includes a biographical poem and is illustrated by a different artist. Just as there is variety in the women highlighted in the book, the poems are written in a variety of styles or forms.

My favorite poem:
There once was a mermaid queen,
lovely and lithesome and lean,
who swam afternoons
without pantaloons--
her swimsuit was deemed obscene!
The lady was quickly arrested.
Unafraid, she calmly protested:
Who can swim fifty laps
wearing corsets and caps?
Her statement could not be contested.
She streamlined the suit of the day
and invented our water ballet.
By changing the fashions
she fueled swimming passions
as women made waves in the spray. (15)
My thoughts: I really loved this one overall! Some of the women were completely new to me. I was glad that the back matter included a suggested reading list for each woman. I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys nonfiction OR poetry OR inspirational reads in general.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Currently Reading #12


Something OldOrley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought] Something NewThunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) Neal Shusterman. 2018. 5014 pages. [Source: Library] Something BorrowedCrime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 671 pages. [Source: Library]Something TrueNASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]Following Christ. R.C. Sproul. 1991. 392 pages. [Source: Bought] Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages. © 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

Me Listen to Audio?! #10


This week I've continued to listen to Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. I've listened to episodes five through ten so far. I've reached the part of the story where it's completely new to me. I'd attempted the novel a few years ago. It is holding my interest. Some story lines more than others. There are a few characters--okay ONE character in particular--that I just can't help boo-hissing every time he enters a scene. I have come to loathe his voice simply because I hate the character so much. I believe there are twenty-five episodes in all. What keeps it perhaps from becoming overwhelming is the fact that each episode is less than fifteen minutes long!

I also listened to "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace."  There is just one more episodes of The Inimitable Jeeves left. It has been so much fun to revisit these stories. I definitely enjoy it more than The Old Curiosity Shop!!!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Keep it Short #11


This week I read three short stories by L.M. Montgomery.JessamineFirst sentence: When the vegetable-man knocked, Jessamine went to the door wearily. She felt quite well acquainted with him. He had been coming all the spring, and his cheery greeting always left a pleasant afterglow behind him.Premise/plot: Jessamine never expected to fall in love with anyone, but love knocks at her door one day. He's the nephew of her regular vegetable-man, Mr. Bell. My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! Jessamine, our heroine, lives with her brother and his snooty wife. But she longs for the country life she was forced to leave. I am so glad she got her happily ever after ending!Miss Sally's LetterFirst sentence: Miss Sally peered sharply at Willard Stanley, first through her gold-rimmed glasses and then over them.Premise/plot: Willard Stanley is madly in love with Miss Sally's niece, Joyce. But Miss Sally has sworn that she would never, ever, ever give her consent for Joyce to marry anyone. Miss Sally's heart was crushed and broken once--men are not to be trusted. Willard Stanley is determined and clever. He seeks Miss Sally's help in decorating his new house. He acts as if he'll be bringing home a bride soon. And Miss Sally assumes that it is someone besides Joyce. He lets her believe this. Now Miss Sally loves, loves, loves, loves to fix up old houses. If they'd had HGTV back in the day, she'd have had her own show. Will Miss Sally get to know and trust Willard doing this home renovation project? Will Joyce and Willard get their happily ever after?My thoughts: I really loved this one!Quotes: "But I think it will do," mused Miss Sally. "We'll make it do. There's such satisfaction getting as much as you possibly can out of a dollar, and twice as much as anybody else would get. I enjoy that sort of thing. This will be a game, and we'll play it with a right good will. But I do wish you would give the place a sensible name." "It will be Eden for me when she comes." "I suppose you tell her all that and she believes it," said Miss Sally sarcastically. "You'll both find out that there is a good deal more prose than poetry in life." Prose, rightly written and read, is sometimes as beautiful as poetry. My Lady JaneFirst sentence: The boat got into Broughton half an hour after the train had gone. We had been delayed by some small accident to the machinery; hence that lost half-hour, which meant a night's sojourn for me in Broughton. I am ashamed of the things I thought and said. When I think that fate might have taken me at my word and raised up a special train, or some such miracle, by which I might have got away from Broughton that night, I experience a cold chill. Out of gratitude I have never sworn over missing connections since.Premise/plot: A man is given a second chance at love. This story is completely silly but has a charm about it as well. Clark Oliver and Elliott Cameron are cousins who could be identical twins. They hate each other. They LOATHE each other. Elliott had no intention of seeking out his cousin's company, but, he missed his train. Delayed for a day, he sees his cousin and ends up agreeing to do him a favor. He will pretend to be Clark for the evening and attend a social dinner. At the dinner he sees an old girlfriend that had broken his heart. In the role of Clark, the two talk and chat...will he get a second chance?!My thoughts: This one is essentially a short story version of George Strait's LEAD ON. I liked it very much. © 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

My Victorian Year #11


This week I continued reading Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm. I also made a strong effort in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. The premise of Crime and Punishment is a dark one. The narrator, our "hero," is a bit mad. He's got a notion in his head of committing murder and seeing if he can get away with it. The crime has been committed now, and I'm just awaiting whatever "punishment" may be coming next. Assuming that the title tells all!Quotes from Crime and Punishment:One death to a hundred lives--I mean, there's arithmetic for you! And anyway, what does the life of that horrible, stupid, consumptive old woman count for when weighed in the common balance? No more than the life of a louse, a cockroach, and it's not even worth that, because the old woman is harmful. (80)To be quite honest, if one goes into all the ins and outs of everyone, are there really going to be all that many good people left? (162)One can always forgive a man for telling lies; lying's a harmless activity, because it leads to the truth. (163) "We've got facts," they say. But facts aren't everything: at least half the battle consists in how one makes use of them! (164) Quotes from Orley Farm:Mr. Furnival might feel himself sufficient to secure the acquittal of an innocent person, or even of a guilty person, under ordinary circumstances; but if any man in England could secure the acquittal of a guilty person under extraordinary circumstances, it would be Mr. Chaffanbrass. Why should I not? Such had been the question which Sir Peregrine Orme had asked himself over and over again, in these latter days, since Lady Mason had been staying at his house; and the purport of the question was this: — Why should he not make Lady Mason his wife? I and my readers can probably see very many reasons why he should not do so; but then we are not in love with Lady Mason. Her charms and her sorrows, — her soft, sad smile and her more lovely tears have not operated upon us. Lady Mason was rich with female charms, and she used them partly with the innocence of the dove, but partly also with the wisdom of the serpent. “You have every right. You shall have every right if you will accept it. Lady Mason, I am an old man, — some would say a very old man. But I am not too old to love you. Can, you accept the love of an old man like me?” “It shall not be withdrawn. Do not let that feeling actuate you. Answer me out of your heart, and however your heart may answer, remember this, that my friendship and support shall be the same. If you will take me for your husband, as your husband will I stand by you. If you cannot, — then I will stand by you as your father.”© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

With My Hands


With My Hands: Poems About Making Things. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am a maker.

Premise/plot: With My Hands is a themed collection of poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. The theme of the collection is "making things." What kinds of things? All sorts. Not just artsy things like drawings, paintings, cards, and collages. But all sorts. For example, I wasn't expecting a poem about soap carving or making shadow puppets on the wall! I think there is enough variety to inspire and encourage every young reader to say I want to try that!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this collection very much. It celebrates creativity in all its forms. And it captures the joy of play and creation. I had a few favorite poems in this one. I thought "Card" was a sweet poem celebrating a child's love for his/her dad. (The poem is written in first person. The speaker could be a girl or a boy. But the illustration is of a boy.) But my favorite poem is "Mess."

Yes. It's a mess.
Do not let it distress you.
I'm making a project
that might just impress you.
Projects are messy--
all makers agree.
And the messiest maker
of projects

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that poem because it is so me.

I think this book would pair well with Peter Reynold's Happy Dreamer.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Magician's Hat


The Magician's Hat. Malcolm Mitchell. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Family Fun Day at the library was filled with exciting events. Book scavenger hunts. Storytelling. Reading rallies. Today, for the first time, a magician arrived with a bag of tricks and a BIG hat.

Premise/plot: Do libraries need visiting magicians to be magical places? NO! But in this picture book, a magician who loves books happens to be visiting. He tells the children that books are magic, that books can take you to places you've only dreamed about. The book does seem to be occupied chiefly with associating books with occupations. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "I've got a book for that in my hat!" (The quotes are NOT from the book, just my summing up of the book's plot.)

My thoughts: I love books. I love reading. I love the message that books can be magical. But. I didn't quite love this one. Books aren't only for figuring out what you want to do in life. That is such a narrow, narrow focus of what books have to offer readers. There are hundreds of reasons why kids might pick up a book. There are hundreds--if not thousands--of reasons why adults might continue to read books.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Journey of Little Charlie


The Journey of Little Charlie. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'd seent plenty of animals by the time I was old 'nough to start talking, but only one kind worked me up so much that it pult the first real word I said out my mouth.

Premise/plot: Charlie Bobo is anything but little, he's enormous for his age. After his father's tragic death, this twelve-year-old is forced to grow up super-fast. "Captain" Buck appears on the scene, threatening him and his mother, and, well he won't take no for an answer. Charlie will join him on a journey north to recover stolen goods--or else.

The journey is a physical one, of course, but it's also symbolic. Charlie is journeying from being a boy to being a young man and determining who he is and who he wants to be. One thing he knows from the start, he does NOT want to follow in the footsteps of Cap'n Buck. He does not want to learn what the old man is teaching.

My thoughts: The Journey of Little Charlie surprised me. Charlie is poor; he's white; and he's fallen into the hands of a slave-catcher. Charlie has never really thought much about darkies or slaves. He's never considered their plight or fate. He's always been too concerned with his own. He comes from a family of sharecroppers. If they've managed to have a few pieces of furniture in their shack and some food on the table, well, it's a blessing to be thankful for and not anything to be taken for granted. Captain Buck does not realize that Charlie is a thoughtful, reflective young man and not a thug. He's counting on Charlie to be impressionable and obedient--to be the bully, brute force when needed since he's so big.

I do wish the author's note had been at the BEGINNING of the novel. I think it would have helped me appreciate the novel sooner. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

How To Stop Time


How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]First sentence: I am old. That is the main thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong. I am old –old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old. To give you an idea: I was born well over four hundred years ago on the third of March 1581, in my parents’ room, on the third floor of a small French château that used to be my home. Premise/plot: Tom Hazard has had to live with regrets for a long time--a very long time. His biggest regret is leaving his daughter, Marion, behind all those centuries ago. At the time, he didn't know she'd inherited his gift, his curse. He left for her good--their good. His wife, Rose, and his daughter are in danger so long as he's near. Tainted by his "witchcraft" and "sorcery" by never aging. He doesn't want their fate to be like that of his mother.The narrative is ever-shifting in time. In the present, Tom is a teacher, a history teacher, in London. He's falling for another teacher, Camille, who teaches French. He hates being part of the Albatross Society, but he fears the only way he'll ever find his daughter is with their help. These sections of the book provide some thriller action. Most of the book, however, is flashes of his past.My thoughts: I enjoyed How To Stop Time. It was an odd book. A fast-slow book. Fast in that it provides action, suspense, and mystery. There is a showdown coming. Readers can feel it coming closer and closer. But also it is a slow novel in that it philosophizes a good deal. Much of the book is spent inside Tom's mind. And it's a reflective, inspective novel.It would be interesting to see this as a film; interesting to see how this strange balance could come across.What I enjoyed most was the writing:History isn’t something you need to bring to life. History already is alive. We are history. History isn’t politicians or kings and queens. History is everyone. It is everything. Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?  All we can ever be is faithful to our memories of reality, rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related but never precisely the same thing. That, I suppose, is a price we pay for love: the absorbing of another’s pain as if our own.  I have long convinced myself that the piano is like a drug, seductive and strong, and it can mess you up, it can awaken dead emotions, it can drown you in your lost selves. It is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. I realise there is a reason I am doing this. Why I want to become a history teacher. I need to tame the past. That is what history is, the teaching and telling of it. It is a way to control it and order it. To turn it into a pet. But history you have lived is different to history you read in a book or on a screen. And some things in the past can’t be tamed.  The key to happiness wasn’t being yourself, because what did that even mean? Everyone had many selves. No. The key to happiness is finding the lie that suits you best. All you can do with the past is carry it around, feeling its weight slowly increase, praying it never crushes you completely.Change is just what life is. It is the only constant I know.  Truth is a straight line you sometimes need to curve, you should know that by now. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth [...]

Currently Reading #11


Something OldOrley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]Something NewHow To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]Something BorrowedThe Journey of Little Charlie. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library]Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David McDuff. 671 pages. [Source: Library] Something TrueNASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]Following Christ. R.C. Sproul. 1991. 392 pages. [Source: Bought] Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.  © 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

Me? Listen to Audio?! #9


This week I've listened to an assortment of things. I've started listening to Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. I'm not sure how many episodes per week BBC Radio 4 will be airing. If it's one or two a week, it may take quite a while to listen to this one. And I'm not sure--at this early stage--if it will hold my interest. I believe there are 25 episodes in the series! This week I listened to episodes one through four.

I am also still listening to the Inimitable Jeeves. I've listened to The Purity of the Turf and The Metropolitan Touch.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

My Victorian Year #10


This week I read often in Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm. I also began Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment was the classic spins winner.From Orley Farm:The body dries up and withers away, and the bones grow old; the brain, too, becomes decrepit, as do the sight, the hearing, and the soul. But the heart that is tender once remains tender to the last.“But, mamma, would you let a man die because it would cost a few pounds to cure him?” “My dear, we all hope that Mr. Graham won’t die — at any rate not at present. If there be any danger you may be sure that your papa will send for the best advice.”But Madeline was by no means satisfied. She could not understand economy in a matter of life and death.“He’s all right; only he’ll be as fretful as a porcupine, shut up there. At least I should be. Are there lots of novels in the house? Mind you send for a batch to-morrow. Novels are the only chance a man has when he’s laid up like that.” She would have thought, had she brought herself absolutely to think upon it, that all speech of love should be very delicate; that love should grow slowly, and then be whispered softly, doubtingly, and with infinite care.“And when a man knows he’s right, he has a deal of inward satisfaction in the feeling.”You can put two and two together as well as I can, Mr. Mason. I find they make four. I don’t know whether your calculation will be the same. My belief is, that these people are determined to save that woman.In speaking of the character and antecedents of Felix Graham I have said that he was moulding a wife for himself. The idea of a wife thus moulded to fit a man’s own grooves, and educated to suit matrimonial purposes according to the exact views of the future husband was by no means original with him.It is open, in the first place, to this objection, — that the moulder does not generally conceive such idea very early in life, and the idea when conceived must necessarily be carried out on a young subject. Such a plan is the result of much deliberate thought, and has generally arisen from long observation, on the part of the thinker, of the unhappiness arising from marriages in which there has been no moulding. Such a frame of mind comes upon a bachelor, perhaps about his thirty-fifth year, and then he goes to work with a girl of fourteen. On the whole I think that the ordinary plan is the better, and even the safer. Dance with a girl three times, and if you like the light of her eye and the tone of voice with which she, breathless, answers your little questions about horseflesh and music — about affairs masculine and feminine, — then take the leap in the dark. There is danger, no doubt; but the moulded wife is, I think, more dangerous.From Crime and Punishment On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, toward K. bridge.It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of.But I am talking too much. It’s because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing.  © 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

Keep It Short #10


This week I read several stories in the L.M. Montgomery collection this week.Christmas at Red ButteFirst sentence: "Of course Santa Claus will come," said Jimmy Martin confidently. Jimmy was ten, and at ten it is easy to be confident.Premise/plot: Will Santa Claus come visit the poor family in this story? Someone comes to visit. And there are gifts. But technically it is not Santa Claus.My thoughts: This is a generic Christmas story. In December, I think it would be a pleasant enough read, but maybe not so much in March.How We Went to the Wedding: "If it were to clear up I wouldn't know how to behave, it would seem so unnatural," said Kate. "Do you, by any chance, remember what the sun looks like, Phil?" "Does the sun ever shine in Saskatchewan anyhow?" I asked with assumed sarcasm, just to make Kate's big, bonny black eyes flash.Premise/plot: Kate and Phil have quite the adventure in traveling to a friend's wedding.My thoughts: I've never really thought of Montgomery writing stories starring Native Americans felt like an odd story. Yet the twist about the ham made up for it a bit. The sergeant gave us the tent and stove, and sent a man down to the Reserve for Peter Crow. Moreover, he vindicated his title of friend by making us take a dozen prairie chickens and a large ham—besides any quantity of advice. We didn't want the advice but we hugely welcomed the ham. Presently our guide appeared—quite a spruce old Indian, as Indians go. I had never been able to shake off my childhood conviction that an Indian was a fearsome creature, hopelessly addicted to scalping knives and tomahawks, and I secretly felt quite horrified at the idea of two defenceless females starting out on a lonely prairie trail with an Indian for guide. Kate, however, was as blithe and buoyant as usual. She knew no fear, being one of those enviable folk who can because they think they can. "I don't believe Peter Crow could be so dishonest," said Kate rather shortly. "His wife has worked for us for years, and she's as honest as the sunlight." "Honesty isn't catching," I remarked, but I said nothing more just then, for Kate's black eyes were snapping. "Anyway, we can't have ham for breakfast," she said, twitching out the frying pan rather viciously. She'll never know he isn't with us till the trip is over, so that is all right. We're going to have a glorious day. But, oh, for our lost ham! 'The Ham That Was Never Eaten.' There's a subject for a poem, Phil. You write one when we get back to civilization. Methinks I can sniff the savoury odour of that lost ham on all the prairie breezes." My very thoughts are tired. I can't even think anything funny about the ham. "Mary," said Kate in a tragic whisper, "have—you—any—ham—in—the—house?"© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

Too Many Lollipops


Too Many Lollipops. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1975. 32 pages. [Source: Book from my childhood]

First sentence:  One sweltering Sunday Henry the duch had a headache. So he called his doctor. The doctor told him to wear a woolen bonnet, and rest...and EAT A LOT OF LOLLIPOPS. Out shopping on muggy Monday Henry the duck was caught in a flash storm and got a sore throat. The doctor told him to wrap a scarf around it, and rest...AND EAT A LOT OF LOLLIPOPS.

Premise/plot: Will Henry the duck need a new doctor, a better doctor by the end of the week?!?!

My thoughts: Too Many Lollipops is one of my favorite books from childhood. It is definitely one of the more memorable. It has lollipop end papers. The repetitive text which just keeps building and building and it is just DELIGHTFUL. I love the illustrations as well.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Brightly Burning


Brightly Burning. Alexa Donne. 2018. HMH. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: The gravity stabilizers were failing again.

Premise/plot: Love Jane Eyre? Love science fiction? Now you don't have to choose between reading your favorites. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne is inspired by the classic novel Jane Eyre. It is set several hundred years--at least--in the future. Earth is uninhabitable, and humanity resides in fleets of star ships or space ships. Stella Ainsley, our heroine, has lived on several. She lived on Empire--one of the finest--until she was orphaned. When the novel opens, she's living on Stalwart and working as an engineer and part-time teacher. She wants to transfer OFF the Stalwart and find a teaching position. But teaching positions are hard to come by for the most part. But one position does become available, a position aboard the Rochester as a private governess for a little girl, Stella is super-excited about the opportunity. She doesn't know it, but her life will never be the same again...

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! I began reading it the day I received it. I was really intrigued by the idea of Rochester in space. I appreciated the fact that the names and situations have changed. It is inspired by a classic, but it doesn't stick to all the same particulars. Hugo, our hero, is just a few years older than Stella. And it is his sister--not his foster daughter--that needs a governess. The book offers plenty of drama and addition to some romance. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Ashes on the Moor


Ashes on the Moor. Sarah M. Eden. 2018. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Through a thick fog of grief, Evangeline Blake suffered the blow of each clang of the distant funeral bells.

Premise/plot: When the novel opens, Evangeline Blake, our heroine, has lost everything--almost. She has lost a father, a mother, and two brothers. Lucy, her younger sister, is her sole immediate family. That day Evangeline makes a promise that they'll be together--stay together--no matter what. But within a day or two, at most, that promise proves empty. Lucy, so she's told, is to live with her grandfather. Evangeline, however, is to become a teacher in a mill town. It is what is best for everyone. Oh, and Evangeline is not to tell anyone about how she's related to them or her grandfather.

Evangeline finds herself in a desperate situation for sure. She's young, unskilled and untrained in teaching, same goes in housekeeping and cooking. She's HUNGRY and cold. She finds herself in need of so much, and she finds so much of what she needs in her neighbor, Dermot McCormick. He's relatively new to town; he's Irish; he's a single father raising an autistic son; he's compassionate. Did I mention this is set in Yorkshire in Victorian times?!

My thoughts: I loved this one. I LOVED IT from the first page to the last. It was a satisfying historical romance. I loved the teaching aspect of it. How she is changed just as much by her students as they are changed by her. I loved the focus on the Yorkshire language, and how she tried to write down stories for them in their own language so that they could learn to read in a natural environment. I loved how she is transformed by her new home, new surroundings, new situations. In some ways, this one reminds me of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

What Does Bunny See?


What Does Bunny See? A Book of Colors and Flowers. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Maggie Smith. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In a cottage garden flowers in their beds Bunny hopping down the path what she sees is--red! Blushing scarlet poppies bloom just above her head. In a cottage garden past the pussy willow Bunny nibbles tender shoots what she sees is--

Premise/plot: This picture book newly reprinted in paperback format is a concept book teaching colors and flowers. It is also a fun way to celebrate spring with little ones.

My thoughts: When I received this one in the mail, I was skeptical. I knew Linda Sue Park was a good author. I've read a few of her novels. But every year there are paperback books published celebrating spring or Easter or the like with text that is mostly, always forgettable. But I ended up LOVING this one. Yes, I used the word love.

I enjoyed the illustrations most of all. I absolutely LOVE the illustrations by Maggie Smith. The text itself is pleasant and enjoyable. It's a rhyming book, a predictable book, a repetitive book. Except for the last spread, each one begins "In a cottage garden...."

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Classics Club Spin #17


I think this is my third spin to participate in since joining the Classics Club. Here are my list of twenty books. The date the number is announced is March 9. The book "must" be finished by April 30, 2018. The number was THREE.
  1. Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887.
  2. The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer. 1931. 
  3. Crime and Punishment. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 1866.
  4. Dear and Glorious Physician. Taylor Caldwell. 1958. 
  5. Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes. 1605.
  6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)
  7. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1921)
  8. Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell (1936) 
  9. Hester by Margaret Oliphant (1883)
  10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  11. Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1909-1922
  12. North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-55
  13. Old Paths by J.C. Ryle 
  14. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1963)
  15. Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope (1862)
  16. Raintree County by Ross Lockridge Jr. (1948)
  17. Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall (1955)   
  18. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte (1849)
  19. Show Boat by Edna Ferber (1926)
  20. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1610) 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Daughter of Time


The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]First sentence: Grant lay on his high white cot and stared at the ceiling. Stared at it with loathing. He knew by heart every last minute crack on its nice clean surface. He had made maps of the ceiling and gone exploring on them; rivers, islands, and continents. He had made guessing games of it and discovered hidden objects; faces, birds, and fishes. He had made mathematical calculations of it and rediscovered his childhood; theorems, angles, and triangles. There was practically nothing else he could do but look at it.Premise/plot: What is a police inspector to do when he's stuck in a hospital bed with a broken leg? Uninterested in solving any recent cold cases, he turns to the past for inspiration. He sets out to solve the mystery of who killed the two princes in the tower. He begins his investigation by looking at the so-called prime suspect: King Richard III. But he's troubled by what he's discovered. All the evidence "against" Richard is faulty, weak, unsubstantiated; in short in a modern case, everything would be inadmissible. The evidence feels contrived--pieced together decades after the boys disappeared. More importantly, it feels politically motivated all being written during the Tudor dynasty--in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. But if Alan Grant has pardoned Richard III--eliminated him as a suspect--who does he think committed the crime? And did the crime occur when everyone thinks it did? Could the boys have been alive when Henry VII defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field?!My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this mystery novel by Josephine Tey. It was the first mystery novel that I LOVED. (My very first mystery novel was also by Tey. But I didn't "love" it.) I found the writing to be enjoyable and quite quotable!!! That is rarely the case in a mystery novel where it is all about who did it.Alan Grant on popular fiction authors:The Sweat and the Furrow was Silas Weekley being earthly and spade-conscious all over seven hundred pages. The situation, to judge from the first paragraph, had not materially changed since Silas's last book: mother lying-in with her eleventh upstairs, father laid-out after his ninth downstairs, eldest son lying to the Government in the cow-shed, eldest daughter lying with her lover in the the hayloft, everyone else lying low in the barn. The rain dripped from the thatch, and the manure steamed in the midden. Silas never omitted the manure. It was not Silas's fault that its steam provided the only uprising element in the picture. If Silas could have discovered a brand of steam that steamed downwards, Silas would have introduced it. (13)Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about "a new Silas Weekley" or "a new Lavinia Fitch" exactly as they talked about "a new brick" or a "new hairbrush." They never said "a new book by" whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like. (14)The Rose of Raby proved to be fiction, but at least easier to hold than Tanner's Constitutional History of England. It was, moreover, the almost-respectable form of historical fiction which is merely history-with-conversation, so to speak. An imaginative biography rathe[...]

Currently Reading #10


Something OldOrley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]Something NewAshes on the Moor. Sarah M. Eden. 2018. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]Brightly Burning. Alexa Donne. 2018. HMH. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] Something BorrowedThe Journey of Little Charlie. Christopher Paul Curtis. 2018. 256 pages. [Source: Library] Something TrueOld Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.  NASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought] © 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book ReviewsIf you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.[...]

My Victorian Year #9


This week I finished Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. This one was a reread for me. I liked it so much more the second time. Sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for a book. And sometimes an author has to grow on you. I read Mary Barton before I discovered I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Elizabeth Gaskell. Our Lord Jesus was not above letting folk minister to Him, for He knew how happy it makes one to do aught for another. It's the happiest work on earth.The firm faith which her mind had no longer power to grasp, had left its trail of glory; for by no other word can I call the bright happy look which illumined the old earth-worn face. Her talk, it is true, bore no more that constant earnest reference to God and His holy Word which it had done in health, and there were no deathbed words of exhortation from the lips of one so habitually pious.And death came to her as a welcome blessing, like as evening comes to the weary child. Her work here was finished, and faithfully done.If they've been worthy to be heartily loved while alive, they'll not be forgotten when dead; it's against nature. And we need no more be upbraiding ourselves for letting in God's rays of light upon our sorrow, and no more be fearful of forgetting them, because their memory is not always haunting and taking up our minds, than you need to trouble yourself about remembering your grandfather's face, or what the stars were like—you can't forget if you would, what it's such a pleasure to think about."Let my trespasses be unforgiven, so that I may have vengeance for my son's murder." There are blasphemous actions as well as blasphemous words: all unloving, cruel deeds, are acted blasphemy.He fell to the narrative now afresh, with all the interest of a little child. He began at the beginning, and read on almost greedily, understanding for the first time the full meaning of the story. He came to the end; the awful End. And there were the haunting words of pleading. He shut the book, and thought deeply. All night long, the Archangel combated with the Demon. "God be merciful to us sinners.—Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us!" And when the words were said, John Barton lay a corpse in Mr. Carson's arms.Well! God does not judge as hardly as man, that's one comfort for all of us!But still, you see, one's often blind to many a thing that lies right under one's nose, till it's pointed out.You can never work facts as you would fixed quantities, and say, given two facts, and the product is so and so. God has given men feelings and passions which cannot be worked into the problem, because they are for ever changing and uncertain.If fellow-creatures can give nought but tears and brave words, we take our trials straight from God, and we know enough of His love to put ourselves blind into His hands. You say our talk has done no good. I say it has.I see the view you take of things from the place where you stand. I can remember that, when the time comes for judging you; I shan't think any longer, does he act right on my views of a thing, but does he act right on his own.There are stages in the contemplation and endurance of great sorrow, which endow men with the same earnestness and clearness of thought that in some of old took the form of Prophecy.To those who have large capability of loving and suffering, united with great power of firm endurance, there comes a time in their[...]

Keep It Short #9


This week I read two lovely stories by L.M. Montgomery. This may be the BEST collection of short stories I've read so far.Bessie's DollFirst sentence: Tommy Puffer, sauntering up the street, stopped to look at Miss Octavia's geraniums. Tommy never could help stopping to look at Miss Octavia's flowers, much as he hated Miss Octavia.Premise/plot: Tommy Puffer is a young boy who is sadly misjudged by Miss Octavia to be a troublemaker. She judges him because he's dreadfully poor AND a boy. He likes her flowers--loves her flowers--but he's not so fond of her. There is someone he loves dearly--a little girl named Bessie. When the story opens, he is walking by a store thinking of her. He sees a doll. She would love that doll, he thinks, so he brings her to look at it. Neither could ever hope to afford such a doll, such an extravagance of any kind. When the doll is sold, Bessie falls into a deep depression. What is he to do?! And will Miss Octavia prove his savior in the end?!My thoughts: I liked this one. I did.Charlotte's LadiesFirst sentence: Just as soon as dinner was over at the asylum, Charlotte sped away to the gap in the fence—the northwest corner gap. There was a gap in the southeast corner, too—the asylum fence was in a rather poor condition—but the southeast gap was interesting only after tea, and it was never at any time quite as interesting as the northwest gap.Premise/plot: Charlotte is an orphan girl with a secret. The winter storms have left a gap in the asylum fence. She can now see out and watch the world beyond. And she likes what she sees. She likes a TALL LADY and a PRETTY LADY. One of the ladies--I don't remember wish--has a HANDSOME CAT. Will Charlotte ever find a forever home?My thoughts: I really LOVED this story. I like the story because it reminds me of one of my favorite, favorite, favorite children's books, Mandy by Julie Edwards (aka Julie Andrews). Charlotte doesn't leave the asylum and create a happy cottage to play in. But she does enjoy her time outside, and she does make new friends. There's something lovely about this one.Quotes: Charlotte felt a wild impulse to slip out and run fast and far down that lovely, sunny, tempting, fenceless road. But that would have been wrong, for it was against the asylum rules, and Charlotte, though she hated most of the asylum rules with all her heart, never disobeyed or broke them. So she subdued the vagrant longing with a sigh and sat down among the daffodils to peer wistfully out of the gap and feast her eyes on this glimpse of a world where there were no brick walls and prim walks and never-varying rules. Charlotte looked at the cat with all her might and main. She loved cats, but cats were not allowed in an orphan asylum, although Charlotte sometimes wondered if there were no orphan kittens in the world which would be appropriate for such an institution. Charlotte sighed. "Nobody will ever want to adopt me, because I've mousy hair and freckles," she said. "But somebody may want you some day, Maggie. You have such lovely black hair." "But it isn't curly," said Maggie forlornly. "And the matron won't let me put it up in curl papers at night. I just wish I was Lizzie." Charlotte shook her head. "I don't. I'd love to be adopted, but I wouldn't really like to be anybody but myself, even if I am homely. It's better to be yourself with mousy hair and freckles than somebo[...]