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Mainly reviews of children's and young adult literature. Primarily focuses on new literature, 2004-present, but may feature older titles if they are "favorites" of mine. Feel free to leave comments. I always enjoy reading what others have to say!
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26. Singalong Saturdays (Childhood Favorite)

Today's prompt: Favorites from your childhood

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I bring you today, record crackles and all, WHY COMPLAIN by Evie

and Step Into the Sunshine, complete with LA LA'S.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. Listening to George, part 7

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 1998-1999.

George Strait's eighteenth album starts out with one of my all-time favorite songs: "I Just Want To Dance With You." (How could anyone resist a whistling George?!) It's more than a little obvious what this one is about. What may not be conveyed is how sweet this one actually is.
I caught you looking at me when I looked at you
Yes, I did; ain't that true?
You won't get embarrassed by the things I do
I just want to dance with you
Other singles from this album include "True," and "We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This." "True" is a love song. One of those forever-and-ever love songs.
True, like the sun comin' up each mornin'.
Bright as the light in a baby's smile.
Sure as the mountain river windin'.
Right as the rain fallin' from the sky.
Girl, my love for you
Is true.
"We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This" is obviously about a forbidden 'romance' of sorts. It is super-playful and catchy.
Only an isolated incident, but the acquaintance left me stunned.
The first attraction was the hardest hit I thought I'd ever overcome.
This kinda situation has to pass, this chance encounter has to be the last.
To take it further we would be remiss, we really shouldn't be doing this.
We'd each be hurting somebody else if we don't say our good-byes real fast.
Won't even think about a farewell kiss, we really shouldn't be doing this.
Other songs on the album include "One Step At A Time," a song recording a conversation between two men, he's warning him that angels walk away one step at a time; "Remember the Alamo", a song not about the actual battle of the Alamo but more of a rallying cry to save a relationship (he proposed at the Alamo);  "Maria," a song that may or may not prove offensive to women or Mexicans; "Why Not Now," a laid-back yet flirty song with a great little chorus:
So why not now, why not here?
Darlin' my heart just ain't too clear
Oh what are we waiting for
Cause I've never been so sure
Why not you, why not me
Livin' like we were meant to be
Together, forever
Why not now
"That's The Breaks" is a song about the end of a relationship. (George sings A LOT of those, you'll find). "Neon Row" features another relationship in trouble. This time it is the woman stepping out and not coming home. "You Haven't Left Me Yet" is about a guy struggling to get over the woman who left him.

Always Never the Same is George Strait's nineteenth album. It features the singles "Meanwhile," "Write This Down," and "What Do You Say To That."

 "Meanwhile" is a melancholy almost-love song. He has a new love that he's wooing, yet, meanwhile in his head he's stuck in the past deeply in love with the one that got away. "Write This Down" is a GREAT let's-not-break-up song. He is doing his best to convince her to STAY.
Baby, write this down, take a little note to remind you in case you didn't know,
Tell yourself I love you and I don't want you to go, write this down.
Take my words, read 'em every day, keep 'em close by, don't you let 'em fade away,
So you'll remember what I forgot to say, write this down.
I'll sign it at the bottom of the page, I'll swear under oath
'Cause every single word is true, and I think you need to know,
So use it as a bookmark, stick it on your 'frigerator door,
Hang it in a picture frame up above the mantel where you'll see it for sure.
"What Do You Say to That" is a sweet little love song. 

"That's The Truth" reminds me of Famous Last Words of A Fool--as far as theme goes. "Peace of mind" is an easy-going, happy to be alive song. "That's Where I Want To Take Our Love" is a sweet little love song. It's a very settling-down, let's-raise-a-family type love song. "Always Never The Same" is a fast-and-flirty love song with a LOT of happy-making piano bits! "One of You" is another fast-and-happy love song. (It isn't the only country song with counting in it.)
Last night I had a dream, dreamt I had it all I had it all
I had one truck, one car
One boat, one guitar
But all these things wouldn't get me too far
If I didn't have one of you
I work hard every day to bring home all my pay
I got one house, one yard
One dog who likes to bark
We'd be cold, living the dark if I didn't have one of you
"I Look At You" is another love song. (Some albums lean heavy towards love; some albums lean towards being all sad-and-lonely. This album obviously is very much LOVE.) That being said, 4 Minus 3 Equals Zero is very much a SAD song. Is it the saddest George sings, that's a good question. I think it's in the top three of the saddest-songs. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Poems in the Attic

Poems in the Attic. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. 2015. Lee & Low. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grandma's attic is stacked with secrets.

Premise/plot: Poems in the Attic is a picture book about a seven year old girl who discovers a box of her mother's poems in her grandmother's attic. Her mother started writing poems when she was just seven. Our heroine, the little girl, decides to start writing poems of her own. Readers see these poems--mother and daughter--side by side. The mother's poems are about growing up a 'military brat' moving from place to place every year or so. The daughter's poems are doubly reflective.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked the premise of it especially. A girl coming to appreciate her mother in a new light. A girl learning to express herself through poetry. The book celebrates family, poetry, and a sense of life as one big adventure.

That being said, poetry tends to be hit or miss with me. I sometimes enjoy poetry. Sometimes not so much. I didn't love the short poems in this one as much as I wanted. I liked them okay. I just wasn't WOWED by them. I do like the celebration of family. And the illustrations were great. Eleven places were captured in the mother's poems. And the author's note was interesting. So this one is worth your time.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Listening to George, part 6

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project.

Today, I'm starting with Easy Come, Easy Go, George Strait's fourteenth album.  There were four singles released from this album: "Easy Come, Easy Go," "I'd Like To Have That One Back," "Lovebug," and "The Man In Love With You." I remember when each of these was 'new.' Easy Come, Easy Go is great fun to sing along with. But. The Man In Love With You is probably my favorite from the four singles.
I'm not the hero, who will always save the day
Don't always wear the white hat, won't always know the way
I may not even be the dream, you wanted to come true
But, I'll always be the man in love with you 
Other songs on the album include: "Stay Out of My Arms," "Just Look At Me," "I Wasn't Fooling Around," "Without Me Around," "That's Where My Baby Feels At Home," and "We Must Be Loving Right."

I really LOVE "Stay Out of My Arms" and "Just Look At Me." But for some reason I've really fallen for his "I Wasn't Fooling Around."
I wasn't fooling around, everything's true what I say.
So take me seriously, darlin, please just take me.
I wasn't fooling around.
Laugh if you want to, but I wasn't joking
About this love that's real.
Is it surprising I'm romanticizing about the way I feel.
As I've been listening to George Strait, there are times when I just get the strong impression that Michael Buble should do a George-Strait inspired cover album. I'm not thinking Amarillo by Morning or The Cowboy Rides Away. But I think he could really do a great cover of We Must Be Loving Right.

Lead On is George Strait's fifteenth album. (It was my first George Strait album.) Four singles were released from this album: "The Big One," "You Can't Make A Heart Love Somebody," "Adalida," and "Lead On." Of the singles, if I had to choose just one, I'd go with Lead On. But really, why would I ever have to?!
"Lead On" is one of those songs that get an emotional response from me within seconds of hearing the opening notes. (The Chair is another great example of that.)
She said I don't recall
Seeing you around here
You must be new to this town
Said, I'm just passin through
But, girl from the looks of you I
Could see me settling down
The she smiled and said the invitations open
Cause you look just like what I've been waiting on.
So I said why don't we take
This matter somewhere else
And get to know this feeling that's so strong
Lead on
For those who are NOT familiar with the song, there is a twist revealed as the song goes on. So it's not two complete strangers getting way too friendly, way too fast.

Other songs include "I Met A Friend of Yours Today," "Nobody Has To Get Hurt," "Down Louisiana Way," "What Am I Waiting For," "I'll Always Be Loving You," and "No One But You." Of those, I really LOVE "Nobody Has To Get Hurt."

In between the album Lead On and Blue Clear Sky, he released a four disc box set called Strait Out of the Box. Singles released from this box set include the hits "Check Yes or No" and "I Know She Still Loves Me." In addition to his hits, it also includes rare tracks like some of his recordings from the 1970s before he got signed with a major record label. Songs like I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This. Another track from this album is "Any Old Love Won't Do."

Blue Clear Sky is George Strait's sixteenth album. The four singles from this album include: "Blue Clear Sky," "Carried Away," "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," and "King of the Mountain." I love Blue Clear Sky.
Here she comes a walkin' talkin' true love
Sayin' I been lookin' for you love
Surprise your new love has arrived
Out of the blue clear sky.
Other songs from this album include: "Rockin' in the Arms of Your Memory," "She Knows When You're On My Mind," "I Ain't Never Seen No One Like You," "Do the Right Thing," "I'd Just As Soon Go," and "Need I Say More."

My favorite of those is "I Ain't Never Seen No One Like You." But I also like "I'd Just As Soon Go."

Carrying Your Love With Me is George Strait's seventeenth album. Four songs from this album were released as singles: "One Night At A Time," "Carrying Your Love With Me," "Today My World Slipped Away," and "Round About Way." If you look at it, it's a representative sampling of what you'll find in country music. I do love "Carrying Your Love With Me." That song should probably be my favorite. But if I'm honest, I have to go with "One Night At A Time." Once again, I blame it on the music--both the melody and the instruments.
I'm not yours, and, baby, you're not mine
We've got something and it sure is fine
Let's take our love one night at a time
There's one thing that we both agree
I like you, and, baby, you like me
Let's take our love one night at a time
Other songs on the album include: "She'll Leave You With A Smile," "Won't You Come Home (And Talk to A Stranger)," "I've Got a Funny Feeling," "The Nerve," "That's Me (Every Chance I Get)," and "A Real Good Place to Start." I find it interesting that on this particular album, I really prefer the non-singles to the singles.

I have four favorite songs from this album: "I've Got A Funny Feeling," "That's Me (Every Chance I Get)," "A Real Good Place to Start," and "Won't You Come Home (And Talk to a Stranger)."
Still reelin' from a relationship
That left me torn in two
Tryin' to find that first step
That leads to someone new
Gettin' me back together
Didn't know it could be so hard
But if I'm ever gonna mend this broken heart
You look like a real good place to start
I need a new beginning
And girl you fit right in
Sometimes a new beginning
Is found in an old friend
If I'm ever gonna mend this broken heart
You look like a real good place to start
I've got a funny feeling somebody's stealin' my honey
Lord I love that child, love to see her smile
But these circumstances ain't funny
Where lies a danger, is he a stranger or a pal
I've got a funny feeling somebody's stealing my gal
Wherever he is, well I'm callin' his bluff
I'm gonna start wearin' that good smellin' stuff
And I'll be the lover that I used to be
Whatever she's missin', she'll get it from me
Picture a fellow with his boots shined up
A new coat of clean on his pick-up truck
Ringin' your doorbell thinkin' about love
Hey honey that's me
That's me with a capital M
That's me ten times ten
I ain't worked up my courage yet
But that's me every chance I get
Picture a fellow at a picture show
His arm around you in the very last row
Stealin' a kiss as the credits roll
Yeah honey that's me

I do think it's slightly ironic that "Won't You Come Home (And Talk To A Stranger)" comes right before "Today My World Slipped Away" on the album. As if the guy did not come home and shape up fast enough....leading to a divorce.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Hill of Fire

Hill of Fire. Thomas P. Lewis. Illustrated by Joan Sandin. 1971. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once there was a farmer who lived in Mexico. He lived in a little village, in a house which had only one room.

Premise/plot: Pablo's father, a farmer, is always, always saying nothing EVER happens on their farm, in their village. Every day is the same: dull and predictable. But one day SOMETHING happens, and Pablo witnesses it all. The two are in their field plowing when suddenly a VOLCANO begins to form. What started as crack in the ground soon becomes a big volcano--an erupting volcano. From the moment "it" appears--the crack-soon-to-be-a-volcano--Pablo runs to warn the villagers. It isn't long before the villagers are fleeing the village for safety. Indeed the whole village will have to be relocated and rebuilt.

This is a nonfiction early reader set in Mexico in 1943. A father and son truly witnessed the formation of a new volcano. That is far from an ordinary occurrence. The author's note states that human eyes--so far as we know from records--have only witnessed two such events. (Paricutin in Mexico and Tenerife in the Canary Islands.)

My thoughts: I remembered this book from Reading Rainbow. I'm not sure I ever read it myself until I found it in my local charity shop. Even though it was not in the best shape--a discarded library copy from Connecticut of all places--I knew I had to have it. The story was just as absorbing as I remembered it. Definitely recommended.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. The House on the Strand

The House on the Strand. Daphne du Maurier. 1968. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land. There was no softness anywhere. The distant hills did not blend into the sky but stood out like rocks, so close that I could almost touch them, their proximity giving me that shock of surprise and wonder which a child feels looking for the first time through a telescope.

Premise/plot: Richard Young, the hero of Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand, becomes a guinea pig for his scientist friend, Magnus, while vacationing in Cornwall. Magnus has concocted a hallucinogenic drug that allows the user to time travel, though not physically. While Dick's first 'time-travel' experience has its downsides, he enjoys it just enough to keep taking the drug in different locales. Why different locales? Because location matters. Your body may stay in the present, but, your consciousness is far, far away. And your body-and-mind act together. Your mind sees the world as it was. Your body experiences it as it is. Whatever you're doing in the past, you're doing in the present--sitting, standing, walking, running, etc. Readers DON'T see this, of course, just the results and consequences. You may sit down and take the drug in one place, and come back to reality hours later miles and miles away with no real idea of how you got there.

The past is the fourteenth century. The 1320s through the 1340s. Dick is an invisible presence in the past. He can "spy" on the past and follow people around, seeing and hearing plenty that interests him. He becomes very caught up in the lives of Isolda and Roger. (They are not a couple.) The past is full of soap opera like DRAMA.

The present is the 1960s. Dick is married to a woman, Vita, who has two sons. His wife and two stepsons join him on his vacation. He's not excited about that. Why? He really, really, really, really likes taking this mind-altering drug. And he fears that if he's surrounded by his family he might have to be responsible and stay in the present.

The drama isn't all in the past, a few things happen in the present that are just as exciting. Particularly when Magnus comes to visit his friend...

My thoughts: Dick isn't the smartest hero. Perhaps he trusts his friend a LITTLE too much. Or perhaps the sixties were so truly different that taking mind-altering drugs was something you did without blinking--without giving it a second thought. What am I doing to my mind? what am I doing to my body? Are there any side-effects? Are the side-effects longlasting? Is this a good idea?

The book chronicles Dick's adventures in past and present. And the world-building is strong in both. Characterization. I can't say that the characterization was super strong. This is more premise-driven than character-driven. But there's enough drama and mystery to keep you reading.

Science fiction doesn't come to mind when I think about Daphne du Maurier, but, I must say that you can definitely see her unique style in all of it. Especially the ending.

Did I like it? I didn't LOVE it, but, I definitely am glad I read it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Listening to King George, part 5

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project.

Today, I'll be starting with his tenth album Livin' It Up. I must admit I fell a bit in love with this one. As in I didn't want to let it go when it was time to move on to the next album to listen to. It features ten songs.

It features three hit songs: "I've Come To Expect It From You," "Drinking Champagne," and "Love Without End, Amen."

Of the three hit songs I love "I've Come To Expect It From You" the best. Here's how it begins:

"So upset
Nervous wreck
I can't believe you said goodbye"

And the chorus: How could you do what you've gone and done to me? I wouldn't treat a dog the way you treated me. But that's what I get, I've come to expect it from you.

My favorite line is probably: There won't be no more next time doing me wrong. You'll come back this time to find out that I'm gone.

The seven new-to-me songs include, "Someone Had To Teach You," "Heaven Must Be Wondering Where You Are," "Lonesome Rodeo Cowboy," "When You're A Man On Your Own," "We're Supposed To Do That Now and Then," "She Loves Me (She Don't Love You)" and "Stranger In My Arms."

Of those seven, I really LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Someone Had To Teach You," "We're Supposed To Do That Now and Then," and "She Loves Me (She Don't Love You)."

Someone Had To Teach You:

Yes, I'll take you back again, you knew I would
For I go on lovin' you that's understood
But it's the first time you've come back with tears in your eyes
Lately someone's taught you how to cry
Someone had to teach you I didn't have the heart to
Hurt you just like you've been hurting me
Someone had to teach you things it's time that you knew
Now maybe you'll be satisfied with me

She Loves Me (She Don't Love You):

Well now I can see your dancin' every dance with her
And it seems to me that your dancin' much too close to her
When you sat down at our table
You sat next to her
But I know that it's true
She loves me, She don't love you

The Chill of an Early Fall is George Strait's eleventh album. Four of the ten songs on this album were released as singles: "The Chill of An Early Fall," "If I Know Me, "You Know Me Better Than That," and "Lovesick Blues." I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "You Know Me Better Than That."

Baby, since you left me, there's somebody new
She thinks I'm perfect, I swear
She likes my body, my class and my charm
She says I've got a confident air
She respects my ambition, thinks I'm talented too
But she's in love with an image time is bound to see through
Oh, you know me better than that
You know the me that gets lazy and fat
How moody I can be, all my insecurities
You've seen me lose all my charm
You know I was raised on a farm
Oh, she tells her friends I'm perfect
And that I love her cat
But you know me better than that

I also love If I Know Me.  Here's the official music video from 1991.

The album also includes: "I've Convinced Everybody But Me," "Anything You Can Spare," "Home in San Antone," "Milk Cow Blues," "Her Only Bad Habit Is Me," and "Is It Already Time."

I really fell for "Is It Already Time?"

The years have been so good to you and I my friend
They brought us to the Autumn wind and left the tears behind
And who'd have dreamed that love could grow so endlessly
And you'd have meant so much to me, is it already time?
And I will always love you so
We'll hold each other close until it's time to go
And we believed we had forever on our side
Is it already time?
And I will always love you so
We'll hold each other close until it's time to go
And we believed we had forever on our side
Is it already time?
And we believed we had forever on our side
Is it already time?

I'd listen to that song first, if you've a mind to, and then cheer yourself up with a song like "Home In San Antone."

Holding My Own is the twelfth album. It features the singles: "Gone As A Girl Can Get," and "So Much Like My Dad."

It also features: "You're Right, I'm Wrong," "Holding My Own," "Trains Make Me Lonesome," "All of Me (Loves All of You), "Wonderland of Love," "Faults and All," "It's Alright With Me," and "Here We Go Again."

My favorite song on the album is probably "You're Right, I'm Wrong."  It begins:

You're right, I'm wrong
I'm here, you're gone
Now I'm the one to blame
That our loves at an end
I lied, you cried
I died inside
Now I'll do anything
To get you back again

I also liked "Here We Go Again."

1992 also saw the release of Pure Country. It is his thirteenth album, but, also a soundtrack. It has sold over six million copies (according to wikipedia).

It features these singles: "Heartland," "I Cross My Heart," and "When Did You Stop Loving Me." Another song, "Overnight Male," got a LOT of radio time as well.

Other songs include: "Baby Your Baby," "She Lays It All on the Line," "Last in Love," "Thoughts of a Fool," "The King of Broken Hearts," and "Where The Sidewalk Ends."

There were official music videos for "Heartland" and "I Cross My Heart."

My favorite new-to-me song was probably "Baby Your Baby." But the album as a whole is strong. It has been fun to revisit the early nineties with George Strait. By this time, I was listening to country music on the radio regularly--on the way to and from school in the car.

I leave you with a video:

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. The Grand Mosque of Paris

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust. Karen Gray Ruelle. Illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix. 2009. Holiday House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In 1940 war came to Paris, and life was turned upside down.

Premise/plot: Quite simply this is a picture book for older readers. Dare I say it's even a picture book primarily for adults?! This picture book is definitely text-heavy, and the subject is a heavy one. The book brings to light something you may not know: the North African Muslims of Paris rescued a lot of Jews during World War II. (Others were part of the French Resistance.)

This is not a well-documented, well-known part of history. Rescuing Jews (hiding Jews, creating new identity papers, forging documents, smuggling them out of France) was deadly dangerous. So it makes sense that it was not well-documented, that they did not leave a paper trail to show how many hundreds or thousands they rescued during the war. This is a story of what we do know--a handful of cases, examples, of men, women, and children rescued by Muslims.

My thoughts: This one is packed with information, most of it all new-to-me. Because I am interested in the subject, I found it fascinating. It isn't a storytelling narrative. The text doesn't thrill you with its beauty. But it is dense with information that you probably can't find elsewhere. I can guess why they went with a picture book format. The illustrations are LOVELY and truly complement the text.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. One Dead Spy

One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #1) Nathan Hale. 2012. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Welcome, one and all! I am the hangman. I am here to hang the man!

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale, the spy, narrates this graphic novel, the first in a new series by Nathan Hale. Readers meet him on the day of his hanging. A slight delay in the process gives him just enough time to practice finding the right last words to say. What he comes up with as his 'last words' are so good, that a giant book--a HISTORY BOOK--comes and swallows him whole. When he 'returns' from the book to the present, he knows the future. He further delays his hanging by telling two people--the hangman and a British officer--entertaining stories. He gets them hooked on history, in a way. The stories in this first volume are of the REVOLUTIONARY WAR. (The second book in the series is focused on the CIVIL WAR.)

My thoughts: It's a graphic novel. I am not a big reader of graphic novels--usually. But I always seem to find a handful of exceptions to the rule to read throughout the year. I enjoyed this one so much, I think I'm going to continue on with the series. I believe there are six so far.

I like the fact that they are packed with history, and the focus is on the STORY of history. The characters--minus the narrator, hangman and British officer--seem to be taken from history and stick relatively close to actual history. (Yes, there was a real Nathan Hale who spied for George Washington, was hung when he was caught, remembered for his last words. But this Nathan Hale seems to be cheating his fate and become a famous storyteller who can foresee America's history.)

At the end of the book, Nathan Hale (the author and illustrator) shares with young readers more biographical and historical information. He also introduces his team of baby researchers who vow that each graphic novel is 76% accurate. If anyone finds flaws in the history, they are to write the CORRECTION BABY. It's an odd way to share research details, perhaps, but definitely unique.

This particular book in the series includes a bonus episode--of a few pages--called CRISPUS ATTACKS: FIRST TO DEFY, FIRST TO DIE!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. My thoughts on Cyrano de Bergerac

For Paris in July, I watched Cyrano de Bergerac in French with English subtitles. I cannot gush about it enough. It is all kinds of wonderful. And deserves to be watched and rewatched dozens of times at least.

The film was released in 1990. It stars Gerard Depardieu in the lead role of Cyrano de Bergerac. He is PERFECTLY perfect in this role. Anne Brochet stars as Roxane. Vincent Perez stars as Christian de Neuvillette.

Is it faithful to the play? Yes and no. I would say YES because it is true to the spirit of the play/book. Nothing has been changed about the characters themselves. The script-writing keeps to the integrity of the original. I would say NO because a few things were changed. For example, in the play, Roxane is able to ride through the enemy armies unopposed and unchallenged. If questioned, she just spills her heart and speaks of her desperate need to see her husband. She does arrive the day of the big, decisive battle. In the movie, Christian "saves" her from the enemy army and her arrival is far from unopposed. Christian is given something MANLY to do to prove himself.

I would also say that the movie misses an opportunity when it cuts one of the best, best lines from the play. What is that line? Roxane saying I've loved only one man, and I've lost him twice

Cyrano de Bergerac is a serious, dramatic, ROMANTIC play with some very comic lines. But it isn't a comedy or at least not a ha-ha comedy as my friend would say. This production captures the tone of the play exceedingly well. I did try to watch another production, a filming of a stage production from recent years, and it was over-the-top too-much. Every line (of the first forty or so minutes) acted for a belly laugh. Which is, I suppose, okay for Cyrano de Bergerac's confrontation with the actor and all. But how can you connect with Cyrano and see his soul if you're just laughing AT him?

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the soundtrack to the movie. It is one of my favorite film scores. The music was composed by Jean Claude Petit.

The soundtrack opens with a track called 'Cyrano'

I would definitely recommend this soundtrack. I think it's great music to have on in the background. It is great to read to, for example. It's just hauntingly beautiful.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Listening to King George, part 4

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project.

Today I'll be starting with his eighth album, If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin'. It features ten songs. The songs I knew before include: "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," "Baby Blue," and "Famous Last Words of a Fool." It's practically mandatory to sing along while listening to two of these at least.

Baby Blue opens memorably: She looked so much like a lady, but she was so much like a child. A devil when she held me close, an angel when she smiled. She always held it deep inside, but somehow I always knew. She'd go away when the grass turned green and the sky turned baby blue.

And Famous Last Words of a Fool has a great chorus: Famous last words of a fool, Famous last words of a fool, You won't break my heart, And I don't love you, Famous last words of a fool.

The new-to-me songs from the album include: "Under These Conditions," "Don't Mind If I Do," "Bigger Man Than Me," "It's Too Late Now," "Is It That Time Again," "Let's Get Down To It," and "Back to Bein' Me." My favorite is probably Let's Get Down To It. Though I also like Don't Mind If I Do, It's Too Late Now, and Back To Bein' Me.

Of the ten songs, SIX deal with the end of a relationship. Some he's happy it's over, others not so much. Of the remaining four, three I'd classify as flirtatiously invitational you might say. The title track is just a fun, swingin' dance number. 

Do you have a favorite song from this album?! Overall, I'd probably go with Baby Blue. Here is a video of George Strait singing this hit in 1989.

Beyond the Blue Neon is George Strait's ninth album. It features ten songs. The songs I knew before: "Ace in the Hole," "Baby's Gotten Good At Goodbye," and "What's Going On In Your World."

The opening of Ace in the Hole:

You've got to have an ace in the hole.
A little secret that nobody knows.
Life is a gamble, a game we all play,
But you need to save something for a rainy day.
You've got to learn to play your cards right if you expect to win in life.
Don't put it all on the line for just one roll.
You've got to have an ace in the hole.

The new-to-me songs include: "Beyond the Blue Neon," "Hollywood Squares," "Overnight Success," Leavin's Been Coming for A Long, Long Time," "Angel, Angelina," "Too Much of Too Little," and "Oh Me, Oh My, Sweet Baby."

Of those songs that are new-to-me, I must say that Leavin's Been Comin' For a Long, Long Time has made a good, strong impression.

Hollywood Squares is a song I vaguely remember hearing on the radio now and then. It's fun in a cutesy, novelty way.
I got ex's all across the country
And I owe everybody in town
I got bill collectors callin' me up
And lawyers tryin' to track me down
I'm just one wrong move from the poor house
But I don't belong in there
I got so many ex's and owe so much
I ought to be on Hollywood squares
Yeah, I ought to be on Hollywood squares

George Strait's Oh Me, Oh My Sweet Baby is so very different from the Diamond Rio version which came out in 1992.

Here's the official music video for Baby's Gotten Good At Goodbye.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Listening to George, BONUS

If you want to follow along with all the posts in this project, they're all tagged George Strait Project

I should probably mention that by 1987, he's already released TWO greatest hits albums. The first greatest hits album was released in 1985. It featured ten songs:

Unwound (live)
Down and Out (live)
If You're Thinking You Want A Stranger
Fool Hearted Memory (live)
Marina del Rey (live)
Amarillo by Morning (live)
A Fire I Can't Put Out (live)
You Look So Good In Love
Right or Wrong (live)
Let's Fall To Pieces Together

It's a good thing I don't have to pick a favorite from this greatest hits album, right?! Though I could probably pick a top three: You Look So Good In Love, Amarillo by Morning, and Fool Hearted Memory. (But not in any particular order!)

The second greatest hits album was released in 1987. It features ten songs:

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
The Cowboy Rides Away (live)
The Fireman (live)
The Chair
You're Something Special To Me
Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her
It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You
Ocean Front Property
All My Exes Live in Texas
Am I Blue

From this second album, if I "had" to pick a top three, I'd go with The Chair, The Cowboy Rides Away, and Ocean Front Property.

Of the twenty songs on his first two greatest hits albums, do you have a favorite? or two or three?!
All of these songs charted between 1981 and 1987. Down and Out only got to #16. But the rest of them did very well. I am a little surprised that The Cowboy Rides Away never made it to #1...and neither did Amarillo by Morning. These two come to mind oh-so-easily when I think of George Strait.

Though released in 1991, Ten Strait Hits features ten hit songs from 1988-1990. Songs from the album include:

Famous Last Words of A Fool
Baby Blue
If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')
Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye
What's Going On In Your World
Ace in the Hole
Overnight Success
Love Without End, Amen
Drinking Champagne
I've Come To Expect It From You 

If I had to pick a top three from this album, I'd go with Baby Blue, Ace in the Hole, and...it's just too hard to choose between Famous Last Words of a Fool and Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. Singalong Saturdays: Songs That Make You Cry

Today's prompt: Songs that Move You (Emotionally)

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I have to be in the right mood to want to listen to a song that I know is going to bring me to tears or close to tears. But occasionally, I'm in that place and these are some of my favorites:
So let's start off with Collin Raye's Love Me. There are no words to say really...

This one may be completely unoriginal, at least for those that have listened to country music at any point in the past twenty years, but, it still gets to me.

And last but not least, Mark Wills' Don't Laugh At Me

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Listening to George, part 3

It's not too late to join me in my George Strait project. Today, I'll be starting with his sixth album, oddly enough called #7. There are ten songs.

The ones I knew before: "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her," and "It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You." I really love both of these songs.

The new-to-me songs include: "Deep Water," "Rhythm of the Road," "I'm Never Gonna Let You Go," "You Still Get To Me," "Stranger Things Have Happened," "Why'd You Go and Break My Heart," "My Old Flame Is Burnin' Another Honky Tonk Down," and "Cow Town."

This is a solidly good--if not great--album from first song to last. My least favorite song is probably "Stranger Things Have Happened" but that's not to say I don't like it to some degree. I like this sixth album overall better than any of the previous that I've reviewed. Emphasis on OVERALL. If we're still going song by song by song, then my favorites would be different probably.

Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her, live, 1986
Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her, live, 2014
It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You
I'm Never Gonna Let You Go
Why'd You Go and Break My Heart
Deep Water
Rhythm of the Road
Cow Town

George Strait's seventh album is Ocean Front Property. It is another strong album. I grew quite attached to it, I must admit! What do I mean? It's one thing to be "attached" to one or two songs from an album. The "hits" of the album. It's quite another to grow attached to an album as a whole. To love it for more than being the album that such-and-such is on.

The songs I knew before: "All My Ex's Live In Texas," "Am I Blue," and "Ocean Front Property." Of those three, I really love Ocean Front Property.

The new-to-me songs include: "Someone's Walkin' Around Upstairs," "Hot Burning Flames," "Without You Here," "My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You," "Second Chances," "You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues," and "I'm All Behind You Now."

Of the new-to-me songs, I have two stand-out favorites: "You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues," and "My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You." Both are fast and catchy and just FUN.

From "My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You":

Well honey don't you worry I don't need no bar room queens
Though I'll admit she sure knows how to fill a pair of jeans
And I'll admit now darlin' she's sure showing me her stuff
But honey it ain't nearly enough
'Cause I ain't never seen her
Patch a pair of ragged britches
Stretch a paycheck 'till it reaches
Scratch my back right where it itches
And I ain't never seen that and honey 'till I do
My heart won't wander very far from you

From "You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues":

I'd been workin' at forgettin' since you said goodbye,
Lookin' for some good times, the best money can buy.
But it's a bad investment, there's no long term dividends.
You can't buy happiness or heal a heart that just won't mend.
I never thought that I'd be missin' you this way.
I should've paid you more attention, but now it's too late.
You can buy a night out on the town, you can buy a loveboat cruise,
But you can't buy your way out of the blues.
Ocean Front Property, live, 1987
All My Ex's Live In Texas, live, 1989
Am I Blue, live, 1989

Love to watch George Straight live??? Be sure to watch this 1987 concert footage. Almost an hour's worth of George singing his hits from several albums!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. Listening to George, part 2

Here's the introduction post  for my George Strait project. (If you want to join me, you can.) This post will start with his third album, Right or Wrong. It features ten songs.

The ones I know well: "You Look So Good In Love," "Right or Wrong," and "Let's Fall To Pieces Together."

Of those three, "You Look So Good In Love" is my FAVORITE. (I believe You Look So Good In Love was his first music video. I've tried to track it down on YouTube, but only found a mirrored upload.) Favorite line? Probably: He must have stolen some stars from the sky. And gave them to you to wear in your eyes.

Here's a live version from 1984. And a live version from 2016.  And the only music video I could find.

The album also includes: "A Little Heaven's Rubbing Off On Me," "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper," "Every Time It Rains (Lord Don't It Pour)," "You're The Could I'm On (When I'm High)," "I'm Satisfied With You," "Our Paths May Never Cross," and "Fifteen Years Going Up (And One Night Coming Down)."

Of those new-to-me songs, I can't help but falling for "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper." I can resist loving drinking songs most of the time--but when it's this toe-tapping and outright CATCHY I can't help it.
Give me an eighty-proof bottle of tear-stopper
And I'll start feeling I forgot her
Get a little loose and lose her memory
And I won't think I'm close to dying
Because it dries up all my crying
An eighty-proof bottle of tear-stopper always sets me free

George does this to me sometimes. Even when the lyrics don't particularly thrill me, if he includes enough STEEL GUITAR and FIDDLE, and I go all weak in the knees. Which is why I've been known to say that "bad George Strait" is still better than any other country singer.

And I also really enjoyed Our Paths May Never Cross.

George Strait's fourth album is Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. It has ten songs. It has three of his best known songs on it. "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind," "The Cowboy Rides Away," and "The Fireman."

Those that know me, know that of those three, one is the obvious-obvious choice as my favorite. THE COWBOY RIDES AWAY is one of those that I can't listen to without singing along. And often can't listen to just once. So--at least for this album--it gets the most likely to be put on repeat award.

I knew the stakes were high right from the start
When she dealt the cards I dealt my heart
Now I just found a game that I can't play
And this is where the cowboy rides away 

A live performance, he looks young, but no date is given. A live performance June 2014.

The Fireman? Well, how about the embarrassed I know all the words award?

Other songs include: "Any Old Time," "I Need Someone Like Me," "You're Dancin' This Dance All Wrong," "Honky Tonk Saturday Night," "I Should Have Watched That First Step," "Love Comes From the Other Side of Town," and "What Did You Expect Me To Do."

I like plenty of the songs on this album. "I Need Someone Like Me" and "You're Dancing This Dance All Wrong." Plenty of steel guitar and fiddle to satisfy me!!! George Strait's sound is strongly established by this fourth album.

Something Special To Me is his fifth album. There are, you guessed it, ten songs on the album. The songs I know well include: "You're Something Special To Me," and "The Chair." Almost ten years later, "The Chair" was still getting a LOT of radio play. There is a music video for THE CHAIR. But I warn you. The song is timeless. Trust me. The music video is not timeless. Not even slightly. You may find it worth watching to see a very young George singing and smiling and laughing. You may regret watching it if you can't get those three women out of your head. The fact that there are THREE women instead of just one woman is disturbing.

Want to see George sing live but with fewer risks? Then this 2003 performance is worth your time

Here is George performing live in 1985 promoting this album. I would definitely recommend it!!!!

Other songs on the album include: "Last Time The First Time," "Haven't You Heard," "In Too Deep," "Blue Is Not A Word," "You Sure Got This Ol' Redneck Feelin' Blue," "Dance Time In Texas," "Lefty's Gone," and "I've Seen That Look On Me (A Thousand Times)."

Of the new-to-me songs, I really love Dance Time In Texas. It's a fun SWING number with bonus piano. And "Haven't You Heard" is a haunting little song, the complete opposite of fun. I can just picture a young "Sawyer" from LOST.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. 1601. 220 pages. [Source: Library]

Twelfth Night is not in my top three list of plays by Shakespeare. But I often forget that I do really enjoy it all the same. For one thing, it is a comedy. And I just love how this one opens. I must admit that the line, "If music be the food of love, play on" is a great, great line.

So. Essentially this one is about a shipwreck and the romantic misunderstanding that arise from that shipwreck. Sebastian and Viola are twins. Each think the other perished in the wreck. Viola, with a little help from a sea captain, decides to "become" a man and seek employment with Orsino the Duke of Ilyria. Her new name is Cesario. Sebastian is rescued by a man named Antonio, who also happens to be a sea captain, but not the same that rescued Viola. These two will not realize that the other is alive for most of the play. Olivia is the "love" of Orsino's life. The problem? Olivia is mourning because of her brother's recent death, and, she really can't be bothered with the Duke's attempts of wooing and courtship. Most of the characters in the play are from Olivia's household. (Also the Duke's household.) Feste, a clown, bridges the two together in a way. He's in scenes at both houses. (He may just be my favorite character from this play).

So what is the misunderstanding? Well, Olivia falls madly, deeply in love with Cesario at first sight. Cesario is the Duke's messenger. Viola herself falls head over heels in love with the Duke. It seems love will make a fool of all three since there can be no happy ending as matters stand. There are further misunderstandings, but, this is the big one.

One of the comic elements of this play involves a practical joke of sorts in Olivia's household. Malvolio, her steward, is led to believe that Olivia is madly in love with him. He believes this easily, and, soon becomes a very, big fool all in the name of love.

I think I appreciate this one more having seen it performed when I was in college.

Favorite lines:
Anything that's mended is but patched. Virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue. ~ Feste, Act I, scene V
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon'em. ~ Malvolio reading a letter "from Olivia" Act II, scene V
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better. ~ Olivia to Cesario, Act III, scene I

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Listening to George Chronologically

1981, Strait Country
So this listening to ALL of George Strait's albums in chronological order was not a planned summer project. THOUGH one could argue that I wanted to TIME TRAVEL. And what better way to travel through the decades than in the company of King George?!

First album up is Strait Country. Like many of his albums, it features ten songs. The songs I was already familiar with were: "Unwound," "Blame It On Mexico," "Her Goodbye Hit Me In the Heart," and "If You're Thinking You Want a Stranger." (I knew these from Strait Out of the Box.)

It was my first time to hear the rest of the songs on this album: "Honky Tonk Downstairs," "I Get Along With You," "Down and Out," "Friday Night Fever," "Every Time You Throw Dirt On Her (You Lose a Little Ground)," and "She's Playing Hell Trying to Get Me To Heaven."

Of the new-to-me songs, there are a few that stand out to me: "Down and Out" (which was an official single, just not one often heard on the radio at least not in the past two decades), "Friday Night Fever" (which has a good steady bass beat that might be disco influenced, but not in a bad way), and "Every Time You Throw Dirt On Her (You Lose a Little Ground)" (which may just be my favorite title, at least on this album). 

Here's how Friday Night Fever opens, "Love the sound of a jukebox playing, so I sit here while she's staying home watching Dallas on T.V." That makes me smile because most of my Friday night memories were of DALLAS. (The show ended when I was in sixth grade.) And, the chorus:

Sometimes a man just needs a breather.
She knows I love her and I need her.
And I'm no cheater,
I've just got that Friday Night Fever.

Every Time You Throw Dirt On Her is written from the perspective of a guy (a friend, perhaps) who is biding his time and waiting to make his move.

It's hard to bite my lip
But, I ain't saying a word
I give you all the rope to hang yourself
That you deserve
You might be ahead of me in her heart today
But, that's okay
Every time you throw dirt on her
You lose a little ground
She slips a little farther away
Each time that you put her down
A lady like that can come here and get
Somebody who knows what he's found
Every time you throw dirt on her
You lose a little ground

Second album is Straight from the Heart.  It again has ten songs. The songs I was already familiar with: "Fool Hearted Memory" "Heartbroke," "I Can't See Texas From Here," "Marina del Rey," "Amarillo by Morning," and "A Fire I Can't Put Out." (Again I know them from Strait Out of the Box). I just have to say that Fool Hearted Memory and Amarillo By Morning may tie as my favorite, favorite, favorite songs to sing along with--at least from this album. I LOVE and adore them.

There were plenty of new to me or practically new to me songs. "Honky Tonk Crazy," "The Only Thing I Have Left," "The Steal of the Night," "Lover in Disguise." Of these new-to-me songs, I'd say "Honky Tonk Crazy" is probably my favorite. "Tonight I'll be, honky tonk crazy let the whiskey whisk her out of my mind." "Lover In Disguise," definitely wins the most dated song I've heard so far from either album. The background singers on it, well, they're something.

Amarillo by Morning, live

Foolhearted Memory, live

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. Waiting for the Magic

Waiting for the Magic. Patricia MacLachlan. 2011. 143 pages. [Source: Library]

Can a book about a father abandoning his family actually be good and funny and heartwarming? Apparently it can if it's written by Patricia MacLachlan.

The novel opens with Will, the narrator, discovering that his Dad has left them. He finds a note from his dad for him, and one for his sister. The mom, who is struggling to hold it together, decides to do something that many might consider drastic in its suddenness. The family needs a dog; that very day they will go to a shelter and get one. Will and Elinor can come along to help pick one out. Do they come home with a dog? Yes. They come home with FOUR dogs and ONE cat. The dogs are Bryn, Grace, Neo, and Bitty. The cat is Lula.

The way it's talked about in the novel--the way its perceived--is that 4 dogs and 1 cat can successfully replace the absent Dad. And that's a little true, at least on the surface, the dogs definitely take their minds off the problem, and prove lovable and entertaining as well. They all help take care of the animals. Everyone loves to play with all the dogs. And at night, the dogs are often in their beds. Bryn, I believe, "owns" the Mom, and takes over the bed.

The dogs are very joyful and fun. The novel has some 'magic' in it. The dogs (and cat) TALK. At first, it's just the four year old, Elinor, that hears them. The animals are all, OF COURSE SHE CAN HEAR US, SHE'S FOUR. YOU ALWAYS HEAR WHEN YOU'RE FOUR. But eventually Will hears them too....and he's not the only one.

I don't want to spoil the book. I don't. But the Dad is not out of the picture for good....and the family drama isn't nearly over. But it's drama in the best way under the circumstances. I wasn't expecting the book to be so delightful and heartwarming. I really wasn't.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. Aaron and Alexander

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. Don Brown. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Aaron and Alexander could have been friends. They were alike in many ways. But the ways in which they were different made them the worst of enemies.

Premise/plot: Don Brown compares and contrasts the lives of two men--two patriots--Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The book does a great job in providing context for the now-more-famous-than-ever duel between Burr and Hamilton. The narrative is straight-forward and engaging.

My thoughts: I definitely liked it. I can say I like the narrative more than the illustrations. I thought the narrative was good and age-appropriate.

Is it text-heavy? Not really. I'd say it was very well balanced actually. It is still for older readers. (I don't imagine anyone reading this one out to kindergartners or first graders.) I'd say it's for the 9 to 99 crowd.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Sing Along Saturdays (Celebrating America)

Today's prompt: songs you listen to celebrate Independence Day

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I'm stretching this one quite a bit perhaps. To me it doesn't get more American than COUNTRY. And I do tend to go through my country phase in the summer. I was raised on country music and Christian music simultaneously for the most part.  

So my first choice is Brad Paisley's This is Country Music:

I've got to include some Alabama. Here's If You're Gonna Play In Texas: (It's a song I say AMEN, AMEN to for sure!)

Here's better audio of it.

I can't imagine not including a George Strait. Because to *me* it doesn't get countrier than George Strait.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Audio Book: Cyrano de Bergerac

BBC Radio 3's Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, translated by Anthony Burgess. Adapted for radio by John Tydeman. First aired 2008.

Cyrano... Kenneth Branagh
Christian... Tom Hiddleston
Roxane... Jodhi May
De Guiche... John Shrapnel
Rageuneau... Jimmy Yuill
Le Bret... Gerard Horan
and others....

After watching the movie and reading the play, I was DELIGHTED to find a radio drama of what is fast becoming my favorite play!

Cyrano is played by Kenneth Branagh. He does a great job with the role as he did a great job with Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing!

Christian is played by Tom Hiddleston. I can easily imagine him as a perfect Christian!

All the actors did a GREAT job bringing this drama to life. It's a great production. It's just a little over two hours long.

Premise/plot: Cyrano, our hero, is madly in love with his cousin, Roxane. Judging himself too ugly to stand a chance with her--or with any woman--he is content to love her from afar. Roxane contacts him, through a maid, letting him know that they must meet. For a few hours he dreams that maybe just maybe he has a small chance with her. But she is meeting him to tell him that she is desperately in love with a young cadet (soon to join his regiment) named Christian. Will he befriend Christian and help them to be together?!?! Christian is "in love" with Roxane too. They've never spoken to each other. They've only seen each other a time or two. And yet both know it's LOVE. Cyrano questions her. What if he turns out to be less than her ideal??? She'll DIE she responds.
Cyrano does as she asks...and more. He turns Christian into the man of her dreams...by giving him the words to speak to win her heart.

There is a third man in Roxane's life, Count De Guiche. He loves her, but, is married. He adds drama and conflict to this French romance....

I would definitely recommend giving this one a listen if you can.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. War of Two

War of Two. John Sedgwick. 2015. Berkley. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading John Sedgwick's War of Two: The Dark Mystery of the Duel Between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and Its Legacy for America. I thought it did a good job chronicling the lives of both founding fathers. The attention is rightly divided between the two men. Readers learn not just about politics and war but also more personal affairs such as family and home life.

Part one is titled "The Roots of the Hatred." Part two is titled "The Battle is Joined." Part three is titled "To the Death." Part four is titled "And Then There Was One." Each chapter title seems to be taken from a direct quote from a primary source.

I was familiar with the basics of this story having listened to Hamilton a couple dozen times. I think anyone interested in learning more would profit from reading this one.

From the introduction, "Hamilton came to America alone at sixteen, a penniless immigrant, from the West Indian island of Saint Croix, the only one of the original Founding Fathers not born on the continent" (xxii). And, "As for the illegitimate Hamilton, Adams derided him as "the bastard brat of a Scotch peddler" (xxii). And, "Hamilton could take four hours to say what Burr could say in thirty minutes" (xxii).

From chapter five, John Adams on New Yorkers [like Hamilton], "They talk very loud, very fast, and altogether. If they ask you a question, before you can utter three words of your answer they will break out upon you again and talk away." (38)

From chapter six, "Hamilton was primarily a man of action, driven to achieve; his strongest feelings stemmed from ambition, and indignation when his aspirations were not met." (44)

From chapter eight, "As Hamilton listened to the speakers bellowing into the wind, he found the arguments against the British to be surprisingly feeble, and, unable to wait his turn, he started to speak up, unbidden, from the middle of the crowd, first timidly, unsure, and then proudly, firmly; and finally he could not stop, bringing forth a great tumbling river of argument that washed over the crowd. At nineteen, Hamilton was not the most prepossessing speaker, or the most fully voiced, but he was the most persuasive--forceful, compelling, assured--and somehow all the more so for being so boyishly slender and obviously young." (54-5)

From chapter eleven, "Hamilton, Laurens, Lafayette, all three of them young, brash, brilliant, and glamorously handsome, quickly formed a three-way attachment that was unusual by the standards of a ragtag army." (85)

From chapter thirteen, "Hamilton was a man on the prowl and had been ever since he was a teenager...No wonder Martha Washington named her frisky tomcat Hamilton." (98)

From chapter fifteen, "To Hamilton, Angelica was sunshine itself. The relationship revealed a gushing enthusiasm for a woman that ran the gamut from playfulness to desire and back again. From the first, he was so taken by Angelica, and so bad at concealing it, that many people assumed they were the lovers." (110)

From chapter twenty-four, "And so it began: From that moment forward, as in the army, Washington would depend on Hamilton as he depended on no other. He would never make a significant decision without Hamilton's advice, often doled out in ten-thousand word installments, his quill flying, and he would never question that advice, no matter how it turned out. Washington had plenty of wise men in his circle--Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, all but the last of them in his cabinet, and all of them older, some substantially so--but it was Hamilton he turned to, over and over. He emerged as Washington's alter ego, the first among equals." (176).

There came a point when I stopped flagging all the passages that I liked/loved/found interesting.

The book is compelling and I definitely recommend it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Worst of Friends

Worst of Friends. Suzanne Jurmain. Illustrated by Larry Day. 2011. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends--even though they were completely different. John was fat. Tom was thin. Tom was tall and John was short. Tom was rich and John was not. John was fond of telling jokes. Tom liked to play the violin. And that was only the beginning. Excitable John could talk for five hours straight without stopping. Quiet Tom didn't say "three sentences together" in public.

Premise/plot: Worst of Friends by Suzanne Jurmain chronicles the friendship and feud of two founding fathers--both Presidents--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The first eight pages focuses on their deep friendship. Fifteen pages focus on their very bitter feud. The cause of the feud? POLITICS, of course. The last six pages are perhaps the best of all, showing how the feud ended in 1812. The two remained friends the rest of their lives. They both died July 4, 1826.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the narrative style. It was very conversational and reader-friendly. Not just simple enough for young readers to understand, but it was also actively engaging--lively even.

I also loved the illustrations by Larry Day. They were practically perfect in my opinion!

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Incubation

Incubation. Laura DiSilverio. 2016. 348 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I've never seen a bird, of course. Not a live one. So this discovery washed ashore from who knows where makes my breath catch in my throat.

Premise/plot: Everly Jax is the heroine of Incubation, a young adult dystopian novel by Laura DiSilverio. She is soon to embark on a life-or-death adventure with two of her closest friends as they run away from their (strict) community. Everly is seeking knowledge, the names of her parents. She was an abandoned baby raised in InKubator 9. Halla is pregnant and keeping it as secret as long as possible. If it was made known, her baby would be taken from her at birth to be raised by someone else. Halla doesn't want to be a surrogate, though surrogates are desperately needed in this post-apocalyptic world. She is in love with her boyfriend, a soldier, and wants to write her own future. Wyck is another friend. He wants to write his own future too. He doesn't want anyone forcing him into a specific job. I think he doesn't want to be a guard or soldier? Regardless, these three have made plans to escape into the great unknown.

My thoughts: It is an action-packed read with plenty of mystery surrounding the world in which they live. I found it a compelling enough read. I read it in two days! Not bad for me these days! All three characters come across as flawed, in other words, they come across as human, which is a good thing. Everly is so focused on herself that she doesn't always consider others, for example. Halla seems equally selfish in her own way. Though I suppose you could say that she's trying to think for two. The society--or community--in which they live is very, very flawed. And so it's no surprise there's a resistance movement (or two) in the works....

Overall, I liked this one. I would definitely be interested in reading the sequel.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Lowell Blair. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Stop! You haven't paid your fifteen sols!

Premise/plot: Cyrano de Bergerac is in love with his cousin, Roxane. The problem? He lacks the courage to tell her so because he feels his nose--his hideous, ugliness--will prevent her from ever loving him in return. Also standing in his way is the fact that Roxane declares herself head over heels in love with oh-so-handsome Christian de Neuvillette. How does Christian feel about Roxane? He loves her of course. Why? Because she's beautiful. (At least Cyrano knows Roxane, and, his love isn't based on her beauty alone.) Roxane asks Cyrano to watch over Christian and be his friend. (Christian has just joined the same regiment.) Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane does love him, but, instead of that being the end of it...it is just the start. For Roxane is determined that the man she loves will be brilliant and exceptionally well-spoken. He must win her heart through his words. The problem? Christian's idea of wooing is to say "I love you" and go in for a kiss. NOT WHAT ROXANE WANTS AT ALL. The solution is for Cyrano to give Christian the words to speak to win her heart for once and all. But is that a real solution?! Is a happily ever after possible in this love triangle?!

Cyrano de Bergerac is a five act (French) play by Edmond Rostand written/performed in 1897. It is set in seventeenth century France around the same time as The Three Musketeers. And like The Three Musketeers, it has sword fighting. Lots and lots of sword fighting.

My thoughts: I LOVE it. I really, really, really love it. I think I first saw the 1990 French film with English subtitles. I found it swoon-worthy then. I am not sure when I first read it, probably in high school or college. I don't think I read it more than once, however, so it was like rediscovering a forgotten friend to reread it after all these years.

I do think (like most plays) it is best read in one sitting if at all possible. (I do allow for intermissions! After all, if you were to see it performed live, they'd certainly be at least one break!)

Act five is certainly the most dramatic perhaps, but, it is also for me a wonderfully bittersweet way to end the play. THAT ENDING gets me every time.

I think this play is beautifully written. I adore the character of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love his integrity, his wit, his passion, his dashing courage.

Have you read Cyrano de Bergerac? What did you think?

Favorite quotes:
Cyrano: I have a different idea of elegance. I don't dress like a fop, it's true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples or an insult that I haven't washed away. I'm always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper than the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs. (40)
Cyrano: Look at me and tell me what hope this protuberance might leave me! I have no illusions. Sometimes, in the blue shadows of evening, I give way to tender feelings. I go into a garden, smelling the fragrance of spring with my poor monstrous nose, and watch a man and a woman strolling together in the moonlight. I think how much I, too, would like to be walking arm in arm with a woman, under the moon. I let myself be carried away, I forget myself--and then I suddenly see the shadow of my profile on the garden wall. (50)
Ragueneau: How can you treat poetry with such disrespect?
Lise: I'll treat poetry however I please!
Ragueneau: I shudder to think of what you might do with prose! (62)
Cyrano: I'll now put down on paper the love letter that I've already written within myself a hundred times. I have only to look into my soul and copy the words inscribed in it. (66)
Cyrano: My poor girl, you're so fond of fine words and gracious wit--what if he should prove to be an uncultured savage?
Roxane: Impossible. He has the hair of one of d'Urfe's heroes!
Cyrano: His speech may be as crude as his hair is elegant.
Roxane: No, there's delicacy in everything he says. I feel it.
Cyrano: Yes, all words are delicate when they come from lips adorned with a shapely mustache...But what if he's a fool?
Roxane: [stamping her foot] Then I'll die! There, are you satisfied? (78)
Cyrano: Shall we complete each other? We'll walk together: you in the light, I in the shadow. I'll make you eloquent, you'll make me handsome. (102)
Roxane: Your words are hesitant tonight. Why?
Cyrano (pretending to be Christian): Because of the darkness, they must grope their way to your ears.
Roxane: My words have no such difficulty.
Cyrano: They go straight to my heart, a goal too large to miss, whereas your ears are small. And your words travel swiftly because they fall, while mine must slowly climb.
Roxane: But they seem to be climbing better now.
Cyrano: They've finally become accustomed to that exercise.
Roxane: It's true that I'm speaking from high above you.
Cyrano: Yes, and it would kill me if you let a harsh word fall on my heart from that height. (126)
Cyrano: After all, what is a kiss? A vow made at closer range, a more precise promise, a confession that contains its own proof, a seal placed on a pact that has already been signed; it's a secret told to the mouth rather than to the ear, a fleeting moment filled with the hush of eternity, a communion that has the fragrance of a flower, a way of living by the beat of another heart, and tasting another soul on one's lips! (133)
Roxane: I've adored you since the evening when under my window, you began to reveal your soul to me in a voice I'd never heard you use before, and when I read your letters it was like hearing that same voice. I could feel its tenderness enveloping me! Finally I had to come to you, no matter what the danger! Penelope wouldn't have calmly stayed home with her weaving if Ulysses had written to her as you've written to me! She would have become as ardent as Helen of Troy, thrown her work aside, and gone off to join him! (184)
Roxane: Ah, how many things have died, and how many have now been born! Why were you silent for fourteen years, knowing that he hadn't written that letter, and that the tears on it were yours?
Cyrano: The blood was his. (218)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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