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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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1. No Name (1862)

No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.

No Name is my third Wilkie Collins novel to read this year. I've also read A Rogue's Life and The Law and the Lady. I don't know if I'll have time to squeeze in another before the year is over or not. But it's looking like No Name will definitely be my favorite. This novel reminded me of why I enjoy reading Wilkie Collins! And sometimes I do need reminding. I have been disappointed before. But when he's good, he tends to be really, really good. No Name is definitely Collins at his best! I enjoyed No Name best when I stopped trying to categorize it.

Magdalen Vanstone is the heroine of No Name. After her parents die within weeks of each other, she learns some startling news that changes everything for herself and her sister. Her father was not legally married to her mother; that is he was not legally married to her until a few months ago. His honorable intentions, unfortunately, have ruined their lives. For his marriage discredits his previous will. If he had NOT gotten married, then the girls would have been in his will and they would have inherited everything. Now his everything goes to an estranged older brother that is mean and cruel. (Collins would like you to boo, hiss now)

Norah, the good sister, the good older sister, accepts this news with grace and courage. She will follow Miss Garth's advice closely. She will become a governess. She will be far from wealthy, but, she'll hold onto as much dignity as she can cling to under the circumstances.

Magdalen, the younger sister, refuses to accept it at all. And she's just as clever and crafty as she is stubborn. Magdalen teams up with a relation of a relation, a con man named Captain Wragge. Both are clever and willing to be a bit immoral in pursuit of what they want most, of what they feel they deserve. Captain Wragge may sound like a villain, but, there's just something about him that I can't help liking. He certainly makes NO NAME an interesting read!!!

Magdalen has a plan, a scheme, for recovering the money that is rightfully hers. She will stop at nothing to get it. What is her plan? Well, it involves her (mean) uncle, Michael Vanstone, and his heir, Noel.

The scheme does not go unnoticed, however. Mrs. Lecount is a servant in the Vanstone household, and she is very controlling and extremely observant. She is always on the lookout for people who might be tempted to take advantage of the family since they are old and/or weak and/or very stupid!

It is a plot-driven novel with plenty of twists and turns. I enjoyed every single one. The book may be over 700 pages, but it's a quick 700 pages!!! It's a surprisingly quick read. Once you become hooked on the story, on learning what happens next, once you start to CARE about the characters, you just have to read on and on!!!

Will Magdalen's scheme succeed?
Will she get her hands on the money?
Will she share the money with Captain Wragge?
Will he find a way of getting his share? Is he really on her side no matter what? Or will he turn traitor?
Will either sister get married? Will either sister live happily ever after?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Week in Review: September 13-20



The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]
My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier. 1951. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
Wednesdays in the Tower. Jessica Day George. 2013. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
Mythmaker: The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anne E. Neimark. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Own]
The Bible Study Handbook. Lindsay Olesberg. 2012. IVP. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
Edwards on the Christian Life. Dane C. Ortlund. 2014. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Love's Fortune. Laura Frantz. 2014. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's favorite:

How do I choose between The Hobbit and Northanger Abbey? They are completely satisfying reads, but in very different ways! I love Catherine and Henry. The story is funny and sweet and predictable and satisfying. I love Bilbo too. I love him more than Frodo. I love the world-building in The Hobbit. I love the writing too. Especially the dialogue. There are chapters of The Hobbit that I simply adore!!! But the same can also be said of Northanger Abbey. There are scenes--if not whole chapters--that I love so very much. It doesn't help that both books are so very quotable. (Usually, that helps me decide if I'm having a hard time.) Since I can only have one winner, I choose The Hobbit. I can't imagine this list without it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Reread #38 The Hobbit

The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 

I love The Hobbit. I do. This is my fourth time to review it. I first read it in May 2008. I also reviewed it in 2012 and 2013. (The 2013 review being of The Annotated Hobbit!)

The Hobbit is an adventure story starring Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) and thirteen dwarves (led by Thorin). Gandalf introduces the dwarfs to Bilbo, he introduces him as a great burglar. Is he a great burglar? Not really. He's never done anything of the sort before. He's never even thought of doing any such thing. Bilbo have an adventure? Bilbo go on a long journey? The idea that he, a comfort-loving hobbit would leave the safety of his shire to GO and steal from a dragon is ridiculous. Yet. Bilbo finds himself on such a journey. And Bilbo discovers that there is more to him. It's not that he suddenly becomes brave and strong and wise. He doesn't. But he's shaped by the experiences of the journey.

Quotes:
“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” “All of them at once,” said Bilbo.
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”
He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he—as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful—he might have to go without.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!”
He was altogether alone. Soon he thought it was beginning to feel warm. “Is that a kind of a glow I seem to see coming right ahead down there?” he thought. It was. As he went forward it grew and grew, till there was no doubt about it. It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder. Also it was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him. It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.
“You have nice manners for a thief and a liar,” said the dragon. “You seem familiar with my name, but I don’t seem to remember smelling you before. Who are you and where do you come from, may I ask?” “You may indeed! I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen.” “So I can well believe,” said Smaug, “but that is hardly your usual name.” “I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number.” “Lovely titles!” sneered the dragon. “But lucky numbers don’t always come off.” “I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me.” “These don’t sound so creditable,” scoffed Smaug. “I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider,” went on Bilbo beginning to be pleased with his riddling. “That’s better!” said Smaug. “But don’t let your imagination run away with you!”
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. My Cousin Rachel (1951)

My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier. 1951. 374 pages. [Source: Library]

Years ago I read and enjoyed Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I've been meaning to read more of her books ever since. My Cousin Rachel is the second of hers that I've read. I enjoyed it. I'm not sure I enjoyed it more than Rebecca. But I think it is safe to say that if you enjoyed Rebecca you will also (most likely) enjoy My Cousin Rachel.

My Cousin Rachel is narrated by Philip Ashley. He is the heir to his cousin Ambrose's estate. Ambrose took him in and raised him essentially. These two are close as can be. Daphne du Maurier knows how to do foreshadowing. In both Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, she uses it generously giving readers time to prepare for tough times ahead. In this case, the foreshadowing is about Ambrose's trip abroad and his surprise wedding to a young woman, coincidentally a distant cousin, named Rachel. Rachel is a widow he meets in Italy. Instead of returning home to England, these two settle down in Italy--Florence, I believe. Philip is angsty to say the least. How dare my cousin do this to me! How dare he marry someone he barely knows! Philip spends months imagining Rachel's character and personality. She has to have an agenda! She has to be manipulative and scheming. She has to be TROUBLE. Now Philip doesn't voice his concerns to everyone he meets. He is more guarded, almost aware that it's silly of him to have this strong a reaction to someone he's never met. But Ambrose's happily ever after is short-lived. And not just because he dies. Ambrose wrote mysterious letters to Philip over several months. In these letters, Philip sees that all is not well. That there is something to his prejudice against Rachel. It seems that Ambrose has regrets, big regrets, about Rachel. The moodiest of all these letters reaches Philip after Ambrose's death.

So. What will Philip think of Rachel once he actually meets her? What will she think of him? Will they be friends or enemies? Will they trust one another? Should they trust one another? Whose story is based in reality? Is Rachel's accounting of Ambrose's last months true? Or was Ambrose right to mistrust Rachel? Will Philip be wise enough and objective enough to know what is going on?

The author certainly gives readers plenty to think about. Readers get almost all their information filtered through Philip's perspective. But I suppose the dialogue in the book might provide more. If one can trust Philip's recollection of it.

I think My Cousin Rachel is a character-driven horror novel. Though I'm not sure if horror is the right description. It is certainly creepy and weird. Not all horror novels star vampires and werewolves and ghosts and zombies.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Wednesdays in the Tower (2013)

Wednesdays in the Tower. Jessica Day George. 2013. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Even though it has only been two years since I've read Tuesdays at the Castle, I remembered very little about the characters and the plot. So I was hoping that Wednesdays in the Tower would not prove too tricky or challenging. Within pages, I was hooked. I read this one cover to cover without putting it down even once. I do have to say that it has a great opening which worked in its favor: "There are a lot of things that can hatch out of an egg. A chicken, for example. Or a dragon. And when the egg in question is the size of a pumpkin, and almost as orange, not to mention burning hot, you know that you're far more likely to get a dragon than a chicken."

Princess Celie and her family live at Castle Glower. The castle is without a doubt one of the more interesting in literature. This castle has a mind of its own. It does what it wants, when it wants. Usually on Tuesday is when it decides to add rooms, or, perhaps take away rooms. It isn't always adding or subtracting. Sometimes it's rearranging. One thing is for certain, only a handful of people know their way around all the rooms in the Castle. And Princess Celie is trying her best to provide a map or atlas of the ever-changing castle.

As I said, usually the castle is full of surprises on Tuesday. However, it is a Wednesday when Celie discovers a new room, and not just the room, but an egg. The castle leads Celie to this room again and again, but only when she's alone. Anytime she tries to bring someone else, to show them what she's found, it's vanished.

Essentially Wednesdays in the Tower concerns Celie and what hatches from the egg. Also about the magic of the castle as well, trying to understand how the castle works and why it does what it does when it does. In other words, the history of the Castle in general and how it connects with what hatched from the egg.

I found this a quick and enjoyable read. I liked Celie. I liked her siblings and parents. I liked getting to know her friends. I probably would have appreciated them all a bit more if I remembered Tuesdays at the Castle. But. Sometimes it's good to know that a book can be read alone or out of sequence.

The ending. Did it leave me wanting more? Yes. Was that how it should have been? I think so. Not that I'm a fan of cliffhanger endings. But. When the opening of a book and the ending of a book leave you wanting more it can't be a bad thing. Of course, if I'd read this book when it first came out, I might have felt frustrated. But the sequel will be out soon.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Death of a Schoolgirl (2012)

Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]

My expectations were low, so I was quite pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this Jane Eyre mystery was. It may not be perfectly perfect from start to finish. There might be a paragraph or two here and there that bothered me. (For example, I didn't understand why Mrs. Fairfax was pushing Jane Eyre to take the family diamonds with her on her visit to Adele's school. Here she was going to check on the child's welfare, and Mrs. Fairfax is urging her to take jewels so she can dress up for her hosts in London?! I don't know if part of me thought it was foreshadowing--for better or worse--but when she put them in her reticule, I wanted to shout WHY are you traveling with expensive jewelry?!?! Why?! And sure enough--predictably enough--Jane Eyre gets robbed on her way to London. See! I told you not to take the family jewels!) But for the most part, I found the book to be an entertaining read.

Mrs. Rochester (aka Jane Eyre) is a new mother. She loves, loves, loves her new baby boy. But. When she receives a short letter from Adele with a French message included asking--begging--for help, she decides to leave her husband and son behind to check on Adele at her boarding school. If all is well, if it is just Adele being Adele, being childish and wanting her own way, then she may leave her at the school. If the school is less than ideal, if she does not like what she sees--how she sees the children being treated, if she thinks Adele's misery is justifiable, then she may take her out of the school. Because Jane Eyre was beaten up by the thief, because she doesn't particularly look RICH and IMPORTANT, she is initially mistaken as the new German teacher who was supposed to arrive several weeks earlier. That first day Jane Eyre is a bit flabbergasted and too overwhelmed to correct anyone. She has just learned that one of Adele's classmates was murdered. Eventually, one of the teachers convinces Jane that she should continue the deception, that she should resume her teaching duties temporarily and watch over the students herself. She debates what is best. Should she take Adele immediately to safety and let others solve the crime? Or should she become an amateur detective herself and work as a team with others to help solve the case?

Is Jane Eyre the best detective ever? Not really. But to me that almost doesn't matter. I liked spending time in her company. The setting intrigued me. I had never placed Jane Eyre in the Regency time period. But here we have the sequel set during the reign of George IV, and Queen Caroline, the scandalous Queen Caroline has not died yet. This places the book within a specific time frame. The sprinkling of historical details may not speak to all readers. Little details can be easily dismissed or ignored. But to me it's the little things that help ground a book. The book does deal with prejudices and judgments: how the lower classes feel about the upper classes, how the poor feel about the rich, how the rich feel about the poor, do they see them as human, are they compassionate and kind, or, haughty or cruel. One of the characters is VERY prejudiced against French people. Again and again we see characters making judgments or being judged. Sometimes the people that are being judged in certain situations are making judgments about others just a chapter or two later.

There were places I loved this one. There were places I merely liked it. But at times it just felt RIGHT. Maybe it didn't feel RIGHT cover to cover. But I read it quickly and enjoyed it very much.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Mythmaker: Life of J.R.R. Tolkien

Mythmaker: The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anne E. Neimark. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Mythmaker: The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien is a biography ideal for young(er) readers, perhaps readers who have shown an interest in reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. This biography may not satisfy adult readers who want more or need more. (Then again, it may be a good place to start if you just want the basics.) But as a basic biography with a literary focus, it works well.

Readers learn the basics: where he was born, what his childhood was like, the hardships and successes of his growing years, his influences, his school years, his time as a soldier in World War I, etc. Readers learn about how he met his future wife, what their courtship was like, when they got married, how many children they had, where they lived, etc. But most of the focus I would say is on his writing. Readers learn about how he came to create his fantasy world, his own languages, his own mythology. Readers get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his writing of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. And also The Silmarillion. I knew he years writing that one, but, I didn't realize he spent DECADES. He started writing it during World War II and was still working on it in the 1970s! I liked how the focus was on his books, writing and publishing and the fans!
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. My Year with Jane: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. 

I know I say this with every Austen review, but, it's true: I love her novels more each time I read them. Now that I've read Northanger Abbey three or four times, I have to admit that I really do love it. Perhaps not as much as I love, love, love Persuasion. But I really am very fond of it. I am especially fond of Henry Tilney. He may just be my favorite, favorite, favorite Austen hero.

My latest review of the novel is from 2011. I am going to challenge myself to keep the summary as brief as possible:

Catherine Morland, our heroine, loves to read; she especially loves to read gothic novels. When she travels to Bath with her neighbors, she meets a new best friend, Isabella Thorpe, and a potential soul mate, Henry Tilney. While Miss Thorpe ends up disappointing her, Catherine's journey is not in vain for her crush, Henry, has a saint for a sister. When invited to visit the Tilney household, Catherine is beyond excited to accept. Her time at Northanger Abbey, the Tilney's home, proves shocking, but not at all in the way she expected.

I love the newest movie adaptation. I would definitely recommend it.

My favorite quotes:
She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility, without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood; no — not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door — not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children. But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.
The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. There was little leisure for speaking while they danced; but when they were seated at tea, she found him as agreeable as she had already given him credit for being. He talked with fluency and spirit — and there was an archness and pleasantry in his manner which interested, though it was hardly understood by her. After chatting some time on such matters as naturally arose from the objects around them, he suddenly addressed her with — ”I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent — but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly.” “You need not give yourself that trouble, sir.” “No trouble, I assure you, madam.” Then forming his features into a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, “Have you been long in Bath, madam?” “About a week, sir,” replied Catherine, trying not to laugh. “Really!” with affected astonishment. “Why should you be surprised, sir?” “Why, indeed!” said he, in his natural tone. “But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other. Now let us go on. Were you never here before, madam?” “Never, sir.” “Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?” “Yes, sir, I was there last Monday.” “Have you been to the theatre?” “Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday.” “To the concert?” “Yes, sir, on Wednesday.” “And are you altogether pleased with Bath?” “Yes — I like it very well.” “Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. “I see what you think of me,” said he gravely — ”I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”
“My journal!” “Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.” “Indeed I shall say no such thing.” “Shall I tell you what you ought to say?” “If you please.” “I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him — seems a most extraordinary genius — hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.” “But, perhaps, I keep no journal.” “Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenour of your life in Bath without one?
My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies’ ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.”
“What are you thinking of so earnestly?” said he, as they walked back to the ballroom; “not of your partner, I hope, for, by that shake of the head, your meditations are not satisfactory.” Catherine coloured, and said, “I was not thinking of anything.” “That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me.” “Well then, I will not.” “Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much.”
I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong.
I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.” “But they are such very different things!” “ — That you think they cannot be compared together.” “To be sure not. People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. People that dance only stand opposite each other in a long room for half an hour.” “And such is your definition of matrimony and dancing. Taken in that light certainly, their resemblance is not striking; but I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. You will allow all this?” “Yes, to be sure, as you state it, all this sounds very well; but still they are so very different. I cannot look upon them at all in the same light, nor think the same duties belong to them.” “In one respect, there certainly is a difference. In marriage, the man is supposed to provide for the support of the woman, the woman to make the home agreeable to the man; he is to purvey, and she is to smile. But in dancing, their duties are exactly changed; the agreeableness, the compliance are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water. That, I suppose, was the difference of duties which struck you, as rendering the conditions incapable of comparison.”
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time.” “Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.” “Thank you, Eleanor — a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion.”
“I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.” “It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do — for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we proceed to particulars, and engage in the never-ceasing inquiry of ‘Have you read this?’ and ‘Have you read that?’ I shall soon leave you as far behind me as — what shall I say? — I want an appropriate simile. — as far as your friend Emily herself left poor Valancourt when she went with her aunt into Italy. Consider how many years I have had the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home!” “Not very good, I am afraid. But now really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”
The word ‘nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.” “I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?” “Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.” 
It was no effort to Catherine to believe that Henry Tilney could never be wrong. His manner might sometimes surprise, but his meaning must always be just: and what she did not understand, she was almost as ready to admire, as what she did.
The past, present, and future were all equally in gloom.
Wherever you are you should always be contented, but especially at home, because there you must spend the most of your time.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Library Loot: Second Trip in September

New Loot:
  • The Right Fight by Chris Lynch
  • Fair Play by Deeanne Gist
  • The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
  • Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
  • Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas by Melanie Watt
  • Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
  • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
  • The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack
  • Angelina's Christmas by Katharine Holabird
  • Disney Christmas Storybook Collection
  • Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  • The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
  • The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
  • The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara
  • Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off by Herman Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey by Herman Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia's Masterpiece by Herman Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Cat by Herman Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • Teach us, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Baby by Peggy Parish
  • Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm by Herman Parish
  • Giggle, Giggle Quack by Doreen Cronin
  • The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
  • The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
  • The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Leftover Loot:
  • The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre
  • 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake
  • Half A World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Revealed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  •  The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  • Card Games for Children by Len Collis
  • Chambers Card Games by Peter Arnold
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath 
  • The Edge of Terror by Scott Walker
  • Silver Like Dust by Kimi Cunningham Grant
  • Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona
  • The War of Our Childhood reported by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
  •  The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson 
  Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Week in Review: September 7-12

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]
Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library]
I Kill the Mockingbird. Paul Acampora. 2014. Roaring Book Press. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
Everything on a Waffle. Polly Horvath. 2001/2008. Square Fish. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Attenbury Emeralds. Jill Paton Walsh. 2010/2011. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Red Panda's Candy Apples. Ruth Paul. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I'm My Own Dog. David Ezra Stein. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson. Adapted by Elizabeth Schaefer. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Feel Five. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Go To Sleep, Little Farm. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Scarecrows' Wedding. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Loch Mess Monster. Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Bad Bubble. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]       
Poppy the Pirate Dog's New Shipmate. Liz Kessler. Illustrated by Mike Phillips. 2014. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Tony Baloney Buddy Trouble. Pam Munoz Ryan. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Biggety Bat: Hot Diggety, It's Biggety! Ann Ingalls. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cinderella in the City. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Fairy Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Snow White and the Seven Dogs. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2014. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Racing the Waves (Tales of the Time Dragon #2) Robert Neubecker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Steve & Wessley in The Sea Monster. (Level 1) J.E. Morris. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Review copy]        
The Savior of the World. Benjamin B. Warfield. 1991. Banner of Truth. 270 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Early Readers Bible: New Testament. V. Gilbert Beers. Illustrated by Terri Steiger. Zonderkidz. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
The 30 Day Praise Challenge. Becky Harling. 2013. David Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

What a week! I LOVED so many books this week! There were two picture books that I just ADORED. And then there's Unbroken. What a book! It is an incredible nonfiction read. Compelling and emotional. It's a book to be experienced. Easily one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. Yet. It's up against Fahrenheit 451! I've read Ray Bradbury's novel again and again and again. It's powerful and unforgettable and so beautifully written. I marked so many passages! I choose Fahrenheit 451.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Reread #37 Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I've written about Fahrenheit 451 quite a bit. Once in May 2007, which was the first time I read it. Twice in 2010; one was a graphic novel. I've read A Pleasure To Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories, a book of short stories and novellas that show the thematic evolution of Fahrenheit 451. I've reviewed the movie. I reread it in June 2012 and September 2013.

Obviously this is a book that I absolutely love.

Fahrenheit 451 is a novel set in a world where thinking is a crime. I exaggerate perhaps. Thinking deeply is dangerous. Thinking for yourself is dangerous. Thinking superficial thoughts that everyone-else-in-society is thinking--like about what to watch, what to listen to, what to buy, where to go to have a good time--that is okay, more than okay. It is to be encouraged. It is individuality and contemplation and reflection that is dangerous. Every minute of every hour of every day is to be packed full of distractions making it impossible to think, to consider, to reflect, to observe, to question, to feel anything truly and deeply. It's a more, more, faster, faster world. And it's a world that our hero, Guy Montag realizes he loathes. He is a fireman. He burns books, houses, and sometimes people. But Guy Montag is living a secret life: he doesn't like burning books; in fact, he wishes he could save them and read them. He does manage to "save" a handful here and there. But taking them home and hiding them, well, there's a risk involved. He's willing to take it because he's so miserable, and he feels that society is so unreal and pointless. He wants answers, not ads. He wants to learn, to know, to feel.

Quotes:
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)
Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. (58)
Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right right? Haven't you heart it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these. (59)
Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. (65)
"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." (71)
Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe. (73-4)
It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
"You're a hopeless romantic," said Faber. "It would be funny if it were not serious. It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the 'parlor families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. (82)
 Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. the mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. we are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)
"Caesarians or not, children are ruinous; you're out of your mind," said Mrs. Phelps.
"I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid." Mrs. Bowles tittered. "They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!" (96)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. I Kill the Mockingbird (2014)

I Kill the Mockingbird. Paul Acampora. 2014. Roaring Book Press. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

Lucy, Michael, and Elena are best friends. They have almost always been best friends. I Kill The Mockingbird is about a secret summer project these three think up and orchestrate.

It starts with the announcement of Miss Caridas' summer reading list:
  • David Copperfield
  • Ender's Game
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • War Horse
  • War of the Worlds
  • The Giver
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
 Lucy remembers that Miss Caridas was not their only English teacher that year. She replaced another teacher, Mr. "Fat Bob" Nowak, who died of a heart attack in October. He had told the class that he would assign only one book for the summer: To Kill A Mockingbird. Lucy reminds her friends of this, and expresses how she wishes everyone would read it and WANT to read it. The friends think and consider and brainstorm. What if they could manipulate supply and demand and make people really desperate to find a copy and read it?

I Kill the Mockingbird is about that project, about their misshelving books at bookstores and libraries across the state of Connecticut, about their online campaign "I Kill the Mockingbird."

It's a quick read. It has some depth to it. Lucy is worried that her mom's cancer might come back someday. Lucy is still missing the teacher who died. Lucy and her friends are thinking about life and death and legacies. But it is in many ways a light novel about three best friends who love to read and who want others to love to read too. It would almost be impossible for me not to like--really, really like this novel about reading. I still haven't decided if I LOVED it or just really, really, really LIKED it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Everything on a Waffle (2001)

Everything on a Waffle. Polly Horvath. 2001/2008. Square Fish. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

There were things about Polly Horvath's Everything On a Waffle that I liked. I liked the heroine, Primrose Squarp. I liked how unique she was. She had a unique way of seeing the world around her, a unique perspective on just about everyone in town. The novel opens with tragedy, what most people would call tragedy. Primrose loses her mom and dad to a storm. Her dad was out sailing, her mom saw how horrible the storm was, got worried and left in another boat to go find him. Every single person in town, and, most every person from out of town who hears the story, concludes that Primrose's parents are dead. Their bodies have not been recovered, but, they are most certainly dead. Primrose arrives at the opposite conclusion. Her parents are not dead. They are not. They may be marooned on an island. They may be missing for a time. But her parents are most definitely alive. Many well intentioned folks in town encourage Primrose to come to terms with what has happened, to grieve her parents, to react and feel. But instead of Primrose coming to terms with her loss, it is the town who ends up coming to terms with Primrose and her unending optimism. No one is quite sure what to make of Primrose, she's just Primrose.

After a few weeks, Uncle Jack comes to stay with Primrose. Uncle Jack doesn't demand much from Primrose. He doesn't demand that she get in touch with her emotions and talk it all out. He lets Primrose be herself. And he accepts Primrose pretty much as is. And she does the same. Both are flawed beings, if you will. They seem to fit together well enough.

Miss Honeycut watches Primrose closely. She does not think Primrose is doing well at all. She thinks Primrose needs something that Uncle Jack could never give her.

One of the things that sets the book apart are the recipes at the end of every chapter. Also the small town quirky charm. I absolutely loved the idea of THE GIRL IN THE SWING restaurant. I loved the owner. I loved the idea that EVERYTHING on the menu came with waffles. Very unique.

As I said, I liked this one. I didn't love it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. The Attenbury Emeralds

The Attenbury Emeralds. Jill Paton Walsh. 2010/2011. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading The Attenbury Emeralds. I love Lord Peter Wimsey. I do. I love, love, love him. And I like the romance between Harriet and Lord Peter. So it was charming to revisit Lord Peter and Harriet several decades later in 1951. This mystery novel opens with a bit of storytelling. Lord Peter and Bunter team up and take turns telling Harriet about some early detecting concerning the Attenbury family jewels. The first such story begins in 1921. At one point the first mystery was solved, and I was unsure what direction the novel would take. It was only then I realized the story was far from over. For this simple case about the Attenbury emeralds was not as simple as it seemed. It was a mystery with no clear beginning or end in fact! The novel was not merely a sharing of former detecting successes, but, a new opportunity for Lord Peter to solve the case and prove he still has it.

I enjoyed spending time with Lord Peter and Bunter. I love their relationship. I do. I also enjoy seeing Lord Peter and Harriet together. And the brief glimpses we get of their children are nice enough. I really liked knowing that Lord Peter's mother, the Dowager Duchess, was still around! I do find her delightful!!!

For so many reasons this one was just a joy to read. I do recommend it for fans of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Unbroken

Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library]

Unbroken is an incredible read and an emotional one. It is the biography of Louis Zamperini. Readers learn about his family, his growing up years, his training and competitive years. Zamperini competed in track in the 1936 Olympics. He went home knowing that the next Olympics would be his Olympics. He spent years training for an Olympics that was never to be. The arrival of war shifts the focus to Zamperini in the military. Much of the book focuses on the war years. I suppose there are three sections that focus on the war years: his time as a bombardier, his crash and survival in the seas--this section was INTENSE, his "rescue" and time spent as a POW in Japan--and I thought the earlier section was intense! There is so much drama, so much emotion in this one. I don't mean that in a bad way at all. It's not overly dramatic or inappropriately dramatic or manipulative. The book is straightforward in its horrors. But the description of what life was like in the prisoner of war camps is vivid. Same with the descriptions of his survival at sea. For over a month, Zamperini and two others barely survived in two small rafts with essentially little to no food and water. So as I said, this is an emotional and unforgettable story of survival. What I didn't quite expect to be as emotional was the final section which focuses on his return to the States after the war is over. Those months and years where he had to get on with his life, to return to a "normal" life, his mental and emotional struggles. Since he was famous, it was made all the more difficult perhaps? As I said, I wasn't expecting that section to be as emotional as previous sections. There are a couple of scenes in this last section that just get to me.

I would recommend this one.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Nine 2014 Picture Books

Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Hurry, hurry, for the BEST SHOW ON EARTH! Tonight for your entertainment and delight, we proudly present, from all the way behind the curtain, the world's youngest magician. Please put your hands together for... MAX THE MAGNIFICENT. 
DRUMROLL, PLEASE!
Tonight we will see his world-famous and death-defying PUTTING OFF BEDTIME FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE SHOW!
For his first trick...

 Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show is a delightful picture book. The hero, Max, who is not tired and does not want to go to bed--at least not yet--is putting on a show for his family. The show also involves the family dog, Brian. Brian, well, he's not quite as magnificent as Max himself. The text is lively and clever. I love the descriptive language and the playfulness of it. It is a bit over-the-top, but, in a good way. For example,
And now prepare to be SHOCKED and AMAZED. You are about to witness the seldom seen FLOATING PAJAMA TRICK. Max will cause his pajamas to float off the chair and across the room. And, perhaps the most difficult part of all, he'll attempt to put them on. Audience, be warned, this trick can take up to half an hour to perform...though, luckily, not tonight. 
I also love the illustrations. I do. I loved Max's expressions. Overall, this one is oh-so-easy to recommend. (This one was originally published in the UK.)

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

Red Panda's Candy Apples. Ruth Paul. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Red Panda is selling candy apples. He made them himself. They are delicious and very sticky. Rabbit is his first customer. He gives Red Panda some money. Red Panda counts the coins and puts them in a jar. But Red Panda is sad to give Rabbit the candy apple. He is not very good at selling things he would like to eat himself. Lick. Crackle. Crunch.

I love this book. I do. I love the character of Red Panda. I could sympathize with his dilemma. On the one hand, he has made the apples to sell, and he is making money. On the other hand: Lick, crackle, crunch. He has to watch his customers eating "his" candy apples. I loved this one cover to cover. The text has a just-right feel to it. Not too wordy, not too sparse.

I love the illustrations. They are quaint but not cutesy. I love the subdued colors. I definitely recommend this one. I agree that this book may now wow everyone. (It's not a call-attention-to-myself book like, for example, Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show.) But what picture book ever does, really? (This one was originally published in New Zealand.)

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

I'm My Own Dog. David Ezra Stein. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself. I work like a dog all day. When I get home, I fetch my own slippers. I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I'm not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over. And I do.

What a fun book! I'm My Own Dog is a funny, playful book about a dog and his pet human who follows him home one day. The first half of the book establishes his independence, and the second half focuses on his new relationship. The book ends with a sweet confession.

As I said, it's fun, playful, and a good read-aloud choice. Especially for dog-lovers. I found the text to be quite clever.

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

Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson. Adapted by Elizabeth Schaefer. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Mummy Pig is taking Peppa to her first ballet lesson. Madame Gazelle greets them at the door. "You must be young Peppa," she says with a graceful bow.

I love Peppa Pig. I do. That being said, some Peppa Pig books are better than others. Some seem to capture the magic of the show in book-form better than others. I thought the Ballet Lesson worked well. It captures the playfulness of the episode well. I liked all the thumping. I liked how Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig just happen to have been quite good at ballet back in the day.

For fans of the show, this book is a good read aloud choice. It is also an affordable choice.

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

I Feel Five. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

On his fourth birthday, Fritz Newton ate birthday pancakes, got his very own cape, and picked apples for birthday pie. Being four was fun, but tomorrow...Fritz will be five! And he is quite sure that five will feel very different. He'll probably even lose his first tooth.

 Will Fritz wake up FEELING five on his birthday? Will being five really feel differently than being four? Fritz thinks so. At least in the beginning. He has this idea in his mind of what it will be like to be five, what it will feel like. Ultimately, he's disappointed for most of the book. What he does day-to-day at five is essentially the same as what he did day-to-day when he was four. There does come a point in the book where Fritz does start feeling five. This happens when he helps a girl. He helps her by picking an apple for her from the tree. Something he can do--just barely--by jumping in his brand-new shoes.

I Feel Five! is an almost book for me. The premise makes sense, in a way; people of all ages can have high expectations of BIG birthdays and be a little disappointed at the sameness. And it does handle the concept of disappointment relatively well. It is a thoughtful book. But it isn't exactly a happy again-again read-aloud. It's not funny or playful or sweet.

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

Go To Sleep, Little Farm. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose,
because the bee knows day has come to a close.
Somewhere a beaver weaves a bed in a bog. 
Somewhere a bear finds a bed in a log.
Somewhere gray mice hide their bed under roots,
safe from the owl who whoo-whoo-hoots.

Well. It has at least one starred review. (Publishers Weekly) But. This bedtime book didn't quite work for me. Not that it was awful. It wasn't. It leans more towards poetry than most picture books. For better or worse. Some lines, some rhymes seem to work well. Take the opening line, for example, "Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose, because the bee knows day has come to a close." This book is all about imagery and language and the sounds of words--being lulling. If a lulling bedtime book works, works dependably to send little ones to sleep quickly, or, efficiently then that has some value especially to parents.

The reason this one doesn't quite work for me is because some of the imagery is a bit too bizarre or whimsical...for me. It doesn't start out that way. It really doesn't. So the whimsy sneaks up on a reader. Is that good? Is that bad? Who can say! I'll show you what I mean, "Now little fish lie still in a brook. Somewhere a story goes to sleep in a book. Somewhere a worm sleeps in the dirt. Somewhere a pocket sleeps in a skirt."

The illustrations. Well. Some spreads I do love. Others seem--at least at first glance--even more bizarre than the text itself. They do match the whimsical, surreal tone of the text. So if you love one, you'll probably love the other.

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

The Scarecrows' Wedding. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay were scarecrows. (They scared lots of crows every day.) Harry loved Betty, and Betty loved Harry. So Harry said, "Betty, my beauty, let's marry! Let's have a wedding, the best wedding yet. A wedding that no one will ever forget." Betty agreed, so they hugged and they kissed. Then Betty said, "Harry, dear, let's make a list." "Just as you say," answered Harry O'Hay. So they wrote down the Things they would Need on the Day: a dress of white feathers, a necklace of shells, lots of pink flowers, two rings and some bells. Then Harry gave Betty O'Barley his arm and the scarecrows set off on a hunt round the farm.

It's certainly an interesting story with a couple of unique elements. I had no idea what to expect, and, it certainly ended up surprising me here and there. Which I guess is a good thing? The first half of this book is focused on Betty and Harry being together and looking for all the things on their list. The trouble occurs when the two go their separate ways. Just one item remains on their list. Harry wants to get it himself. But. Harry is slow, very, very, very, very slow. So slow in fact that the farmer presumably gets another scarecrow to replace him! His name is Reginald Rake. Almost everything that occurs after his arrival is a bit bizarre. (I wasn't expecting cigars in a picture book! I actually found that plot twist a bit disturbing.) It is still plenty predictable though by the end. I'm not quite sure how this book was both predictable and surprising, but, it was.

(This one was originally published in the UK.)

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

The Loch Mess Monster. Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In faraway Scotland there was a famous lake called Loch Ness. And legend had it that deep in this lake lived a monster. No one had ever seen it. But guess what? The legend was false. In truth, way, way, down at the bottom of Loch Ness there lived not one...but three monsters! there was Nessie, her husband, Fergus, and their wee laddie, Angus.

The Loch Mess Monster has a glossary of Scottish terms (in order of appearance) before the story. It is needed. Trust me. Unless you happen to know that hummie-doddies are mittens or that puggy-nits are peanuts. The story will make more sense if you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary!

The Loch Mess Monster is a book about being messy, too messy. It is a book about how one should clean up after himself, to put things back where they belong. Angus is the mess-maker. His messy room is out of control. Some of his mess belongs in the trash. It's simply disgusting. Some of his mess are his own books and toys. Until he sees for himself the dangers of being TOO messy, the problem just keeps growing worse.

The book is obviously a lesson book. For better or worse. This one is not my favorite on the subject. But it's a nice book. This one will appeal especially to storytellers who like to do accents or try to do accents.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

Big Bad Bubble. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

You may not know this, but when a bubble pops, it doesn't just disappear. It reappears in La La Land...where the monsters live. For some reason, all the big, scary monsters are terrified of bubbles. Froofle, why are you running away? Yerburt, what's the matter? Wumpus, stop crying. (Tell Wumpus to stop crying.)

What you see is what you get. For the most part. In my opinion, if a book is going to be strange and bizarre, it's best to know that from the start, preferably from the cover. Monsters and bubbles. That's what readers are promised. Now. Are the bubbles big and bad?! Well, that's a matter of perspective. Readers expect monsters to be big and bad, but, bubbles?

The premise of this one is silly but simple. Monsters live in La La Land. Monsters are scared of bubbles. Bubbles disappear from here--when they're popped--to La La Land. Therefore monsters spend a lot of their summers terrified by bubbles. The narrator (and the reader) try to talk some sense into the monsters. Bubbles are not scary. Bubbles can be easily popped. Especially by monsters. There is no reason to run away from a bubble. Will the narrator successfully help the monsters?

It's silly. It's weird. It's certainly unique. It probably won't be for everyone. It seems like a book people will either love or hate. It was better than I expected. However, I wasn't expecting much.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Eight 2014 Early Readers

Poppy the Pirate Dog's New Shipmate. Liz Kessler. Illustrated by Mike Phillips. 2014. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Poppy the Pirate Dog was bored. She was home alone. Again. Over the summer, she'd read books about pirates with Tim. She'd found buried treasure with Suzy. She'd worn her skull-and-crossbones scarf and had pirate adventures every day. But now Tim and Suzy had gone back to school and Mom and Dad were at work all day. 

I liked this chapter book for young readers. I enjoyed all five chapters. In the first chapter, Tim and Suzy realize that Poppy is a bit unhappy and very lonely. In the second chapter, the family decides what to do about it, how to cheer Poppy up. They conclude that every pirate needs a shipmate. In the third chapter, Poppy meets her new "shipmate." Her  idea of a shipmate was another dog. The shipmate she gets, however, is a cat, a kitten to be precise! The fourth chapter recalls Poppy and George's first day together. Poppy is NOT happy. The fifth chapter concludes with Poppy and George making peace with one another. In other words, Poppy accepts the family's offering of a new shipmate. She realizes that George belongs.

This is the second book in the Poppy Pirate Dog series. I definitely recommend both books!

Tony Baloney Buddy Trouble. Pam Munoz Ryan. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I liked this chapter book for young readers. (This one has four chapters.) The star of this book is a macaroni penguin named Tony Baloney. In the first chapter, readers learn of an upcoming event. That night is BOOKS AND BUDDIES. Tony Baloney definitely wants to attend! He will bring Dandelion, his stuffed animal. He will hang out with his best friend Bob. Big Sister Baloney also wants to attend. Their mother tells them that they have to clean up if they want to be allowed to go. Tony Baloney is determined. He will clean up. He will get along with his sister. He will. No matter how provoked. No matter how bossy his sister gets. But sometimes determination isn't enough. Enter the spilled glitter!

The second and third chapters introduce the conflict and punishment! In these chapters readers learn that Big Sister Baloney is a meanie! For in her anger, she has STOLEN Dandelion and hid him in the twins' diaper bag!!! Say it isn't so! Tony Baloney is most distraught. As is Dandelion. Let's just say that he's not quite the same! Will these two ever get along?

The fourth and final chapter resolves all of course. Will Dandelion be okay? Will Tony and his Big Sister forgive each other? Will the two be allowed to go to Books and Buddies after all?

I thought this one was very well done. I liked it very much. I especially liked the dialogue between Tony Baloney and Dandelion. It was just cute to see Tony Baloney's imagination in action.

Biggety Bat: Hot Diggety, It's Biggety! Ann Ingalls. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

As the sun went down in the west, a bat named Biggety left his nest. He was looking for a friend. 

This is a simple, repetitive level one early reader. I didn't exactly like it. For young readers who like bats, or, young readers who like the phrase "hot diggety" this one may please.

The plot of this one is simple. A lonely bat is looking for a friend or two. He flies about. He hears various animals. He sees different animal groupings. He remains in search of friends and company. Some of the animals he comes across: snowy egret, gopher tortoise, green tiger beetle, mockingbird, possum, raccoon.

Cinderella in the City. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Fairy Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Early one morning, Cindy got a text from her stepmom, Helen. 
To: Cindy
From: Helen
Get me a double mocha with whipped cream. Pronto!
Cindy got dressed and jumped on her skateboard. 

Scholastic has a new series of early readers called Flash Forward Fairy Tales. The series is about adapting classic stories like Cinderella and Snow White into contemporary times.

Cindy wants to enter a dance contest. The prince is looking for a dance partner. Cindy knows that she's a great dancer, and, that she'd love to go to the Royal Dance Academy. But Fay, May, and Helen do not want Cindy to enter the contest.

I didn't dislike it. But. I wasn't wowed either.

Snow White and the Seven Dogs. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It was Sunday. The mall didn't open until noon. But Snow White and her stepmother were busy getting the shop ready. "Snow!" yelled Evilyn. "Bring those boxes over here! Set out the shoes! Hang up the 'sale' sign!" Even though Evilyn was mean. Snow loved working at the mall.

I think I liked Cinderella in the City better than Snow White and the Seven Dogs. This adaptation did not work for me. Evilyn is Snow's stepmother. They both work at the mall. Instead of the magic mirror, Evilyn relies on a purple-man on the security monitor. When the monitor-man thinks Snow is more beautiful, Evilyn fires Snow. But Snow doesn't seem to mind losing her job all that much. That's not quite true. But her distress lasts a mere minute or two at most. Soon she finds seven dogs that need some grooming. There's nothing surprising or particularly charming about this adaptation. For young readers who love, love, love dogs, then this one may satisfy.

Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2014. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Monkey washed her small, pink ears. Elephant washed his big, floppy ears. Monkey brushed her fur. She smiled. Elephant dusted his hide. He smiled. 
"You look nice," said Elephant.
"You look nice, too," said Monkey.
"We both look very nice," said Elephant. "Too nice to just stay home," said Monkey, twirling around.

I liked this chapter book for young readers. (It has three chapters.) Monkey and Elephant are best friends. One day they decide to go gadding about together. They hope that in their gadding about they come across some fun surprises. The second and third chapters are about their gadding about adventures. They meet Elephant's uncle, Uncle Phump. He surprises them both by giving them hats. They then meet Monkey's cousins. Great fun is had playing with Monkey's cousin MeeMee and her three little ones. But by the end of the day, Monkey and Elephant are quite exhausted and ready to go back home.

Racing the Waves (Tales of the Time Dragon #2) Robert Neubecker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Lilly spotted something new in Mr. Miller's class.
"What is it?" asked Joe.
"A ship in a bottle," said Lilly.
"I know that! What kind of ship?"
Lilly looked closer. "A clipper ship."

Joe and Lilly want to research clipper ships. They use the library computer, the same computer that sent them back in time to meet Red the Time Dragon. The children find themselves in New York City in 1851. They board the clipper ship, "Flying Cloud." They set sail. Their goal? California, of course!!! They meet Perkins and Ellen Creesy, a husband and wife team who set a world's record for sailing speed in 1851.

The trip has certain challenges, of course, but not exactly the same challenges I remember from playing a certain Gold Rush game way back when. 


Steve & Wessley in The Sea Monster. (Level 1) J.E. Morris. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Review copy] 

 Steve and Wessley were walking by the pond. Steve saw something in the water. "Look! A sea monster!"
"That is just a stick floating in the water."
"Are you sure? I think sea monsters can float, too."
"I am sure. I can see leaves on it."

 Did Steve really really see a sea monster? He sure is convinced. But his friend, Wessley, is equally convinced that it is NOT a sea monster. I think Wessley doesn't believe there is such a thing as a sea monster. By the end, one friend will be proved right as readers will see. But will Wessley be right? Or will Steve be right? Can readers follow all the clues? Can they guess which friend is right?



© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Week in Review September 1-6

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]
The Lost. Sarah Beth Durst. 2014. Harlequin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten. Harrison Geillor. 2011. Night Shade Books. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Love by the Morning Star. Laura L. Sullivan. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Get Into Art: Animals. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Get Into Art: People. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 2009. Crossway. 139 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Who Are You To Judge? Learning To Distinguish Between Truths, Half-Truths, and Lies. Erwin W. Lutzer. 2002. Moody Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Light in the Wilderness. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2014. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's favorite:

Blue Plate Special is my choice this week.  I loved it the same way that I love Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.



© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Two Get Into Art Books

Get Into Art: Animals. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 If you were going to draw an animal, what would it be? You have so much choice, it might be hard to decide! Animals are a great subject for artists because there are so many shapes, colors, and characters to choose from...Look at the different ways in which animals have inspired famous artists--and then let them inspire you, too!

What a fun concept book for sharing art with children! Get Into Art Animals shares twelve famous artworks with children. Facts about the artists are given for each work of art. In addition, there is a recommended hands-on art project inspired by each work. A glossary in the back defines art terms. There's also a list of everything you'll need to do all the projects.

The Snail, Henri Matisse, 1953
Suspense, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1861
Crinkly Giraffe, Alexander Calder, 1971
The Bird, Georges Braque, 1949
Peacock and Magpie, Edward Bawden, 1970
Fish (E59), M.C. Escher, 1942
Carnival of Harlequin, Joan Miro, 1924-1925
Totem Poles, Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick 1991 and Ellen Neel 1955
Yellow Cow, Franz Marc, 1911
Dragon Wish, Chinese artist 1600-1635
Portrait of Maurice, Andy Warhol, 1976
Jockeys in the Rain, Edgar Degas, 1883-1886

The project for "Totem Poles" is "Crafty Totem." Making your own totem pole out of a cardboard tube and paper. But my favorite may just be "Colorful Cats" a project inspired by Andy Warhol.
Colorful Cats
Warhol's silk-screen method was complicated, but you can get a similar effect with a simple stencil.
1. On a piece of card stock, draw the outline of an animal and carefully cut it out. You'll end up with two stencils like these. (Cut out the eyes, nose and mouth on the second stencil).
2 Lay stencil 1 on a piece of thick paper and attach it with paper clips. Sponge yellow paint all over it.
3. When the paint is dry, lift the stencil and move it slightly down and to one side. Sponge red paint unevenly over it and then leave it to dry.
4. Now lay stencil 2 on top of the picture and sponge blue paint over the holes. Leave it to dry, and then remove the stencil. Cut out the animal and stick it onto a colorful background. (You can print whiskers by dipping the edge of a strip of card stock in paint.)
Warhol often repeated his prints in different colors. Try making a set like this. (27)
Get Into Art: People. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Can you think of an art subject that's always around? Just look in a mirror for the answer! Artists often base their work on themselves or other people. Some create portraits to remember people by or characters to illustrate a story. Others capture feelings, actions, fashions, or imaginary faces. The great thing is that people are all different, and artists can bring them to life in many ways. See how people have inspired famous artists--then let them inspire you, too!

I have really enjoyed looking at both books in this art-appreciation series. Like the previous book, this one introduces twelve works of art to children. Facts about each artist are shared. Each work is connected to a hands-on art project. A project materials checklist and a glossary are included in the back.

Vertumnus, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, about 1590
Weeping Woman, Pablo Picasso, 1937
David, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1501-1504
The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893
Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1560
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1, Gustav Klimt, 1907
A Sunday Afternoon On the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884
Grotesque Faces, Leonardo da Vinci, 1500s
Egyptian Burial Mask, Ancient Egyptian craftspeople, around 3000 BC to A.D. 1st Century
Girl in Mirror, Roy Lichtenstein, 1964
Lawn Tennis, Eadweard Muybridge, 1887
Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, 1656

There are so many great project ideas in this one! I find myself liking the projects better in Get Into Art People than in Get Into Art Animals. I'm not sure why! I like how the project for "David" is teaching proportion in drawing. It shows step by step how to draw a face (and body) in proper proportion. The Mummy Mask looks like so much fun!!! However, the example I'd like to share with you is inspired by the photograph action sequences of Eadweard Muybridge.
Action Snaps
To photograph your own action sequences you'll need a camera and a friend.
1. Decide what movement you are going to photograph. It's best if it's something that can be done slowly. Get your friend to try moving in slow motion and holding each stage of the pose. When you're ready to start, stand at a good distance from your subject so that he or she fills the camera frame.
2. Keep the same distance between you and your friend as you photograph each stage of the action. If your model moves in one direction, you should move too.
3. If you're photographing something quick, like a somersault, get your friend to repeat the movement and press the shutter button at a different stage each time.
4. Print out your photos and arrange them in sequence--or "stitch" them together on a computer.  (27)
I would recommend both of these books by Susie Brooks. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Love by the Morning Star (2014)

Love by the Morning Star. Laura L. Sullivan. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was disappointed by Laura Sullivan's Love by the Morning Star. I wanted to love it. I did. It is a novel set in English countryside in 1938-1939. It offers an upstairs/downstairs view of life. Or supposedly so. Two young women come to Starkers. One is a gold digger spy. Her father is a Nazi-sympathizer to say the least and his gang (for lack of a better word) wants her in position at this estate. She's told she'll be a maid. The other young woman is a Jewish refugee. She is actually a relation of the family who owns the estate. She's coming to Starkers to stay with her aunt and uncle. One girl is Hannah. The other girl is Anna. One will be treated well. The other won't.

In case you haven't guessed it, mistaken identity is the name of the game. These two women also happen to fall in love with the same man.

Why was I disappointed? Well. I'm not sure if it's because of the setting or the tone. I think I might have tolerated the tone--the silliness, the lightness, the double entendres, etc. if it wasn't set during such a dark time. It's hard to make light of the Nazis gaining power and destroying the lives of the Jewish people. The subject is serious and it deserves better. If it had been set twenty-five or thirty years earlier, then, perhaps it would have worked for me.

The romance. I liked the secret meetings between the hero and the heroine. There were only a handful of these scenes, but, they kept me reading.

I just have to add that I HATED one of the characters. I disliked a few more as well. But there was one that stood out above the rest as being AWFUL.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten

The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten. Harrison Geillor. 2011. Night Shade Books. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Is it a horror novel or comedy? Readers will be the final judge in the end.

I do not like horror novels. There are a few slight exceptions now and then that I've discovered by accident. But. For the most part, I don't seek out horror novels. So, if I don't seek out horror novels, why would I read The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten? For one reason, primarily. The book pokes fun at Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. It asks a big 'what if?' What if the heroine is not good, clumsy, and naive? What if the heroine is evil and manipulative? What if she wears a mask in every relationship? Being who she needs to be--in that moment--to get what she ultimately wants?

Bonnie Grayduck is the heroine who appears to fall madly and deeply in love with Edwin Scullen, a vampire. And she is one of the monsters in this horror novel. The events loosely fit into the Twilight books, so, one could definitely see the book as being a parody. But this parody isn't a ha-ha parody.

Bonnie is a dark person. She doesn't think nice, happy thoughts. She wants what she wants when she wants it. It is all about power and control and desire. And she has adult desires. Don't expect the "innocent" tension or chemistry from Twilight. This book is for more mature readers, I'd say.
So Edwin had taken a sudden trip to Canada. Interesting. It was insane to think he'd left town because of me...but in my experience, most things in the world do seem to resolve around me. And if they don't start out that way, they get there eventually. (50, ARC)
"Ike's great," I said, because if I told her I thought he was podgy and dull she'd get offended, "but I like Edwin."
She looked at me, now. "Really? Scullen? You don't like Ike?"
"I like him, what's not to like, but, not that way."
"I don't understand you," J said, voice heavy with mistrust. "Ike is so sweet and good and kind, and Edwin...he's so cold and condescending and superior."
I gave a great sigh. "I know. I've always been attracted to boys like that." (80, ARC)
I'm not much of a reader, but if I was, apparently I'd have a hard time reading any novel written in the last fifty years that didn't have a brooding sexy conflicted vampire in it--the shelves were just full of the stuff. (91, ARC)
"You are a brave, wonderful, suicidally stupid, diplomatic-incident-causing, amazing woman," Edwin said, kissing my face all over. We were in my bed, two nights after Gretchen's very timely demise. He'd only been back for about ten minutes, and he'd already called me names, clutched me to his bosom, sobbed a bit, brooded a fair amount, and proclaimed his love in a fairly operatic fashion. He'd finally settled down to snuggling me in bed which was rather less exhausting. (196, ARC)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. The Lost (2014)

The Lost. Sarah Beth Durst. 2014. Harlequin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

Running away from possible bad news, Lauren Chase, our heroine, finds herself almost hopelessly lost when a road trip goes wrong. Lauren enters a dust storm on a highway, and, when the dust is cleared she's entering the town LOST. Her first impressions of this town, well, I'm sure we'd share if we were in her place. But Lauren decides that as weird as the town is, it is still better than going back out on the highway this late at night when you have no idea where you are and how to get back to civilization. One of the many weird things about the town is how all the residents act like they know something she doesn't: that she'll not be leaving town anytime soon, that she's just as stuck as they are. Lauren tries to leave town. Most of the day she tries to leave town, to no avail. No one is surprised to see the newbie return to town frustrated and confused. They tell her to find the Missing Man. He might be able to help her find what she's lost and enable her to leave the town of Lost.

The Lost has two symbolic characters, the "Missing Man" and the "Finder." Lauren ends up meeting both men...

In the past, Lauren has evaded her feelings. She's not dealt with everything that has happened in her life. But now, she almost has no choice but to own up to her feelings and reflect on the past and go through her memories one by one. Her focus is on the "possible" bad news. Her mother's latest test results. Is the cancer back? Is it terminal? How long does her mother have left?

Will Lauren find her own way out of Lost? Does she even want to leave Lost?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Reread #36 Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]


I originally reviewed Blue Plate Special in February of 2010. I loved it. I loved it the same way that I love Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Blue Plate Special is a compelling, dramatic story about three daughters. (John Mayer's "Daughters" kept coming to mind. For better or worse. Also Atticus' advice to Scout: "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.") The book is very much character-driven. I don't know that I'd go so far to say that it is one of those "what it means to be human" books, but, if not it comes very close.

All of the characters are flawed; not one person within the pages of this book is perfect or flawless. Relationships in Blue Plate Special are messy. Readers meet three heroines. Madeline (1977-78). Desiree (1993-1994). Ariel (2009). Their stories are told in alternating chapters. I believe all the heroines are around fifteen to sixteen. As you'd expect, in some ways their stories are the same, yet, in other ways all three are different. All, for example, are coming-of-age stories. All focus on first love, or first significant romantic relationships. All are bittersweet, but in different ways. But each heroine is unique. The book is great at complexities. Of seeing the whole person from different angles, which made it easier perhaps to take Atticus' advice. I cared about all three.

I definitely would recommend this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Challenge Updates

For the Victorian Reading Challenge:

  1. The Belton Estate. Anthony Trollope. 1866/1993. Penguin. 432 pages. [Source: Bought] 
For the British History Reading Challenge:
  1. The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side. Damien Lewis. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Library]   
  2. The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court At Kensington Palace. Lucy Worsley. 2010. Walker. 432 pages [Source: Bought] 
  3. The Princess of Celle. Jean Plaidy. 1967/1985. Ballantine. 400 pages. [Source: Bought] 
For the 2014 TBR Pile:
  1. The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court At Kensington Palace. Lucy Worsley. 2010. Walker. 432 pages [Source: Bought] 

For the 2014 Year of Rereading Challenge:
  1. The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  2. Out of the Dust. Karen Hesse. 1997. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Convenient Marriage. By Georgette Heyer. (1934) Read by Richard Armitage. 2010. August 2010. Naxos Audiobooks. 5 hrs. 6 minutes. [Source: Review copy]
For the Vintage Mystery Bingo:
  1. The Red House Mystery. A.A. Milne. 1922. Dover. 156 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
For the 2014 Chunkster Challenge:
  1. Bridge to Haven. Francine Rivers. 2014. Tyndale House. 468 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Library Loot: First Trip in September

New Loot:
  • The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre
  • 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake
  • Alexander, Who's Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever by Judith Viorst
  • Half A World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Revealed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • On Christmas Eve by Margaret Wise Brown 
  • The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton
  • Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
  • Uncle Vova's Tree by Patricia Polacco
  • Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins
  • Card Games for Children by Len Collis
  • Chambers Card Games by Peter Arnold
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath
Leftover Loot:
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson 
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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