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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. Pretty Minnie in Hollywood

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Minnie is a white, long-haired, teacup-size Chihuahua.

Premise/plot: Minnie and her owner live in Paris, France. Francoise (the child owner) and Minnie travel with the Mom to Hollywood to hand deliver a beautiful, glamorous dress to an actress for a movie. Most of the 'plot' of this one focuses on the trip there and back. While in Hollywood, Minnie gets her big break and stars in a movie of her own.

My thoughts: Could the cover of this book possibly have even more glitter? I didn't think so. The plot is what it is. It isn't horribly creative or clever or new or unique or compelling. More frivolous and predictable and obnoxious in a cutie-sweetie-pie way. Now, if the book had been a super-sweet story about a cat instead of a dog, would I feel differently? Maybe. But I don't see a cat dressing up and following directions. That would have been a whole different story. Several pages might have even been spent on trying to get the cat into traveling bag.

I was unimpressed with the writing of this one. But what slightly saves it are the illustrations.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Diamond Mystery

Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The streets were empty in the little town of Pleasant Valley.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are classmates and friends who have opened a detective agency out of Maya's basement. They live in the small, quaint town of Pleasant Valley. The book opens with Mohammed Caret hiring these two child detectives to find out who is stealing diamonds from his shop. Their cover will be that he has hired these two children to do some light cleaning and run a few errands for him. They meet the three employees that work for him. And after a day of close observation, they are ready to solve the case.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. It's an early chapter book. I'd say just about right for second graders. It's the first in a mystery series for children. It has been translated into English from the Swedish.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Listening to George, part 10

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2009-2015.

Twang is George Strait's twenty-sixth album. It features thirteen songs. Four songs from the album were released as singles: "Living for the Night," "Twang," "I Gotta Get To You," "The Breath You Take."

The other songs on the album include: "Where Have I Been All My Life," "Easy As You Go," "Same Kind of Crazy," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," "Arkansas Dave," "He's Got That Something Special," "Hot Grease and Zydeco," "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," and "El Rey."

George Strait has some writing credits on this album. Three of the songs he cowrote with his son: "Living for the Night," Out of Sight, Out of Mind," and "He's Got That Something Special." One song was written by his son, "Arkansas Dave."

"Where Have I Been All My Life"

First stanza:
Been down the road to work and back
Been in what I thought was love a few times
But every once in a while I stop and ask
Where have I been all my life 
Premise/plot: The singer is reflecting on his life, and questioning, perhaps, why it took him so long to realize some important, essential things in life. He's grown up, in other words, and seeing life a whole lot differently than he used to.

Favorite lines:
These days broccoli don't taste so bad
And neither does swallowing my pride
And I'm agreeing more and more with my old man
Where have I been all my life
Been learning that forgiveness is as much for myself
As it is for the other guy
And I read the good book these days and believe it
Where have I been all my life
My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. I can relate to it in many ways.

Favorite songs: I really enjoy all the songs on the album. But I really want to highlight "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," "Easy As You Go," and "Hot Grease and Zydeco."

Here For A Good Time is George Strait's twenty-seventh album. It features eleven songs. George Strait and his son wrote or cowrote seven out of the eleven songs on the album. Three of the songs were released as singles: "Here For A Good Time," Love's Gonna Make It Alright," and "Drinkin' Man."

Other songs on the album include: "Shame On Me," "Poison," "House Across the Bay," "Lone Star Blues," "A Showman's Life," "Three Nails and A Cross," "Blue Marlin Blues," and "I'll Always Remember You."

"I'll Always Remember You" is co-written by George Strait, and, it is written for his fans--about his fans.

"Three Nails and A Cross" is without a doubt one of my favorites on this album.

The song I'd like to pay special attention to is "Drinkin' Man."

First two stanzas:
I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God
I'd never, ever take another drink again
I fought it like the devil, but you know that you're in trouble
When you're fourteen and drunk by ten a.m.
Tried to hide it from my mom and dad, all my friends said, straighten up
I just laughed, said, you don't understand
That's a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin' man
Premise/plot: An honest look at the ugly truths of alcoholism. Country music often--but not always--glamorizes drinking, drinking a lot, getting drunk, being stupid while drunk. But not all country songs treat it that lightly. The song ends exactly the same way it begins, repeating: "I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God I'd never, ever take another drink again."

My thoughts: I think this song would pair well with "Where Have I Been All My Life," and "Three Nails and A Cross." I think you could imagine one person progressing from one to the other. The key perhaps being, "Three Nails and A Cross," as the middle song.

This song is the COMPLETE and TOTAL opposite of Toby Keith's Red Solo Cup.

Love is Everything is George Strait's twenty-eighth album. It features thirteen songs. Four of the songs were written or cowritten by George Strait. Three of the songs from the album were released as singles, "Give It All We Got Tonight," "I Believe," and "I Got a Car."

Other songs on the album include: "Blue Melodies," "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This," "I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing," "That's What Breaking Hearts Do," "When Love Comes Around Again," "The Night is Young," "Sitting on the Fence," "Love Is Everything," "You Don't Know What You're Missing," and "When The Credits Roll."

My favorite is probably "I Got A Car." It's a fun, little story song.

"I Believe" was written in honor of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cold Beer Conversation is George Strait's twenty-ninth album. It features thirteen songs. Three of the songs are written--or co-written by George and his son. Two singles were released from this album, "Cold Beer Conversation" and "Let It Go."

Other songs on the album include: "It Was Love," "Goin' Goin' Gone," "Something Going Down," "Take Me To Texas," "It Takes All Kinds," "Stop and Drink," "Everything I See," "Rock Paper Scissors," "Wish You Well," "Cheaper Than A Shrink," and "Even When I Can't Feel It."

I do like the two songs that were released as singles. But I am clueless as to why they didn't release IT WAS LOVE as a single. It is a GREAT song. And I just think it has HIT written all over it!

I really like Take Me To Texas. George loves to sing about Texas!
Take me to Texas, on the open range
The Rio Grande is in my veins
It’s heaven there and so my prayer
Is that you’ll take me anywhere in Texas
The only home I know
I’m a child of the Alamo and the Yellow Rose
So when I go
If you were ever curious what it would be like if Dr. Seuss wrote a country song, then give a good long listen to "It Takes All Kinds." This one is just catchy and FUN.

"Everything I See" is another must. A son is singing a song about his father who recently died. This one would also make a great single, I think.

This was the album that "inspired" the project in the first place.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Library Loot: July

So where have I been? Despite my lack of 'library loot' posts, I've actually been averaging about three to four trips to the library per week. There is the difficulty. If you know you're going to the library "tomorrow," it's hard to get down to writing a library loot post "today." But since it's been almost a month since my last post...here I go:

New Loot:
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas, fils
  • Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
  • Double Fudge by Judy Blume
  • Golf Without Tears by P.G. Wodehouse
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
  • Waylon: One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn
  • Man in White by Johnny Cash
  • Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
  • Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  •  Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham
  • All-Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Leftover Loot:
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  • A Royal Experiment by Janice Hadlow
  • Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick

  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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. My Thoughts on Downton Abbey, season 1

Downton Abbey, season 1
7 episodes

Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham = Hugh Bonneville
Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham = Elizabeth McGovern
Lady Mary Crawley = Michelle Dockery
Lady Edith Crawley = Laura Carmichael
Lady Sybil Crawley = Jessica Brown Findlay
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham = Maggie Smith

Mr. (Charles) Carson = Jim Carter
Mrs. Hughes = Phyllis Logan
Mr. (John) Bates = Brendan Coyle
Anna = Joanne Froggatt
Gwen = Rose Leslie
Thomas Barrow = Rob James-Collier
Miss (Sarah) O'Brien = Siobhan Finneran
Mrs. Patmore = Lesley Nicol
Daisy = Sophie McShera
William Mason = Thomas Howes
Tom Branson = Allen Leech

Other Households
Isobel Crawley = Penelope Wilton
Matthew Crawley = Dan Stevens
Josephy Molesley = Kevin Doyle
Mrs. Bird = Christine Lohr

So, in the spring I was quite happy with the final season of Downton Abbey. I have never rewatched this series, so I thought this summer might be a good time. (Especially now that I've rewatched all of Call the Midwife, and there is a void in shows to binge-watch).

So, this is a rewatch. I am assuming that most people who have any interest in this one, have already seen this season, at least once. I will not purposefully come out and spoil things unnecessarily. But. I will talk freely about this season.

Equal time is spent between the upstairs and the downstairs.

People I loved downstairs = Mr. Bates, Anna, Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Carson. Now by the end of the sixth season, I can easily say that I've come to love more characters.

People I liked downstairs = William, Tom, Gwen, Daisy, Miss Patmore.

People I really DISLIKE downstairs = O'Brien and Thomas. I really LOATHE both characters. Now, O'Brien never, ever, ever redeems herself in my opinion. Thomas, on the other hand, as the series progresses, there are moments where I actually don't hate him.

People I loved upstairs: Dowager Countess and Sybil. I love the Dowager Countess!!!! Of the three sisters, Sybil is the one you'd actually want to know in real life and be friends with.

People I liked upstairs: Lady Cora, Robert Crawley, Lady Edith. Of those three, Lady Edith may be the most controversial for 'liking.' I do like Edith, however. I think Lady Mary has spent years and years and years tormenting her, without her parents ever correcting Lady Mary's behavior. I think she has dealt with a lot, not just from Mary, but from her own parents. There is a conversation in which it is revealed that neither parent thinks that anyone will ever, ever, ever want to marry Edith. Both parents assume that Edith with be the one daughter whom no one marries because no one wants, she will be the one to 'nurse' them in their old age, and, then they joke about how awful that will be to still have her around. I just CRINGED. Still, I think Robert and Cora have their redeemable moments.

People I really DISLIKE upstairs: Lady Mary. Mr. Carson may be the only person in the entire world that Mary is ever kind and respectful to. In every battle with Edith, Lady Mary seems to be the instigator. She also seems to be the one to keep adding fuel to the fire. Lady Mary is rude, hateful, spiteful, inconsiderate. Not just in private, when the two are alone, but in front of the entire family--why does her family think her rudeness is acceptable????--and as if that wasn't bad enough, in front of dinner guests as well. Lady Mary seems to exist to humiliate Lady Edith whenever, wherever possible. Now, that being said, Lady Edith, does not stand back and let Lady Mary say and do whatever without reacting and responding. I think Lady Edith was PROVOKED into doing what she did. I don't think it was inevitable. I think Mary's own actions--in more than one way--led to the gossip that 'ruined' her.

Other characters I loved: Matthew Crawley and his mother, Isobel. I honestly don't know why Matthew falls for Mary. I don't know what he sees in her, and continues to see in her, that keeps him coming around?! Mary's natural inclinations are to hurt and inflict pain at her whim. That being said, do I like Matthew in spite of his liking or loving Mary. Yes, for the most part. I do think Matthew is unnecessarily RUDE at times. For example, even though he's not interested--in that way--in Edith. He didn't have to rebuff her when she was making small talk. It wasn't as if she was saying, MATTHEW, I LOVE YOU TRULY, MADLY; FORGET ABOUT MARY, LET'S RUN AWAY THE TWO OF US, AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. She was just trying to avoid an awkward situation and make the best of it. And he would have none of her small talk. Now, Edith is used to people treating her rudely, as if she is "less than." After all, her own flesh and blood treat her that way day in and day out. I think Matthew's standout moment comes when he rescues Lady Sybil, takes her to his own home, has his mother nurse her, sends for Mary, etc. When Mary seems Matthew as a HERO, that's when Mary decides that she likes Matthew after all. More than a "toy" an actual human being. Now that I think about, Lady Mary reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara.

Isobel. I really love to see her interact with the Dowager Countess. And also with Dr. Carson. She is a genuine person, and one you can't help loving.

Season 1 Highlights:
  • The family learns about the sinking of the Titanic, learns about the two next-in-line heirs being killed.
  • Lady Mary is upset not that her 'future husband' is killed but that she might lose what she's come to think of as her rightful inheritance.
  • Lady Mary invites someone to ride/hunt at Downton Abbey, and, then ignores the guest she invited to flirt with the guest her guest invited.
  • Lady Mary is NOT responsible for Mr. Kemal Pamuk coming into her bedroom--that would be Thomas who led him to her door and left him, knowing Mr. Pamuk's intentions--but she is at least partially responsible for not doing everything in her power to stop him. She was not exactly forced. She protested at first. Which makes me think that she's only partially responsible. He clearly was not a 'no' means 'no' guy. But she stopped protesting and became welcoming. To her credit, she never claims she was unwilling. Though she very well could have told her mother that he showed up in her room uninvited, and forced his attentions. Her mother might have been more sympathetic. 
  • Lady Mary's secret is voluntarily kept by Anna and her mother. It is held as ammunition by Thomas and O'Brien. Daisy also witnesses something of the aftermath.
  • The family accepts Matthew as the next heir, but, Mary is contrary and hates him except when she's flirting with him. But she only flirts with him a third of the time. The other times she leaves him confused and hurt.
  • Miss Patmore has a health crisis.
  • Daisy has an attack of conscience. And changes her mind about which footman is for her.
  • Thomas and O'Brien are set on destroying Bates. In many, many episodes, they plot and scheme. Carson seems to stay a step or two ahead of them.
  • Anna and Mr. Bates fall for each other, though, he likes to keep a little distance between them because his past is problematic.
  • Tom starts falling in love with Sybil....but she is so busy helping out Gwen that I don't think she's really noticed the swoon-worthiness of Tom just yet.
  • O'Brien reveals her evilness. And a family mourns as a result. 
  • The family learns that war has been declared.  (World War I)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Announcing a "new" blog: NOW AND THEN

This July, I've started a new blog projects of sorts called Now and Then: A consistently inconsistent blog 'celebrating' the past and present. I've got some quotes up from old favorites. But mainly this week I've focused on two things I love MUSIC and iceskating. 

This week's posts:

Posts that NEED you (yes, you) to vote on something:

Country "Mexico" Songs, Now and Then #1
Country "Drinking" Songs, Now and Then #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #2 

Which song do you like better? Blame It On Mexico or Mexicoma? Margaritaville or Red Solo Cup? The idea of these 'battle' posts is that I'll be sharing TWO songs, and you'll help decide which of the two is your favorite.

Figure skating posts:

Evgeni Plushenko, Now and Then #1
Russian Pairs skating, Now and Then #1 

I do hope you'll visit my other blog and leave a comment or two if you're so inclined!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. My Thoughts On Call the Midwife, Series 2

Call the Midwife, series 2
1 Christmas special + 8 episodes

Jenny Lee = Jessica Raine
Trixie Franklin = Helen George
Cynthia Miller = Bryony Hannah
Chummy (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne) = Miranda Hart
Sister Julienne = Jenny Agutter
Sister Monica Joan = Judy Parfitt
Sister Evangelina = Pam Ferris
Sister Bernadette (aka Shelagh) = Laura Main
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Jane Sutton = Dorothy Atkinson
Alec Jesmond = Leo Staar
Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell

I LOVE and ADORE this show so much. This second series is great fun. The whole reason I'm rewatching the show in the first place, is while I had no trouble at all checking out the first two discs of season five from the library, there was a longer hold for the third disc. So I decided, well, why not use this "waiting time" to rewatch series two through four!

What you should know--there is no going slowly with Call the Midwife. I have found this is one to binge-watch.

The Christmas Special. It is Jenny's first Christmas at Nonnatus House. The episode focuses on the community and upcoming Christmas preparations--specifically a nativity play. The pregnant mother in this one is a teenager keeping her pregnancy secret from everyone....

Episode 1. Is the show issue-driven or character-driven? I think the answer is a bit of both. Both stories in this episode have their tragic side. In one story, we've got a girl literally brought up captive on her father's cargo ship--she being brought up to "service" all the men on board, including dear old dad. Trixie and Sister Evangelina are called to respond to this emergency call. This is one of the stories from the Call the Midwife memoir. In the other story, we've got spousal abuse. A pregnant mother (she's pregnant with her second child) is being abused by a horrid husband, and, Jenny can do little about it....

Episode 2. More than two stories in this one! Several stories last multiple episodes. So the show is becoming more like a soap opera. Only an actually good one. Cynthia (I was almost tempted to call her SISTER) has a rough time in this episode. Jenny thinks she's falling in love with Jimmy...only to find out that one of her new patients knows Jimmy much TOO WELL. Chummy decides to fulfill her dream to be a missionary in Africa with Peter's full support.

Episode 3. Jenny takes some time off from midwifery, conveniently just in time to save Jimmy's life. Jane comes to Nonnatus House. I really, truly LOVE Jane even though she doesn't stick around for the whole series. I can relate to her completely. And the fact that in the memoir she gets a good, happy ending makes me very pleased indeed. This episode also briefly introduces us to Nurse Mount. I thought nothing of it the first time around, it was only in rewatching I was like HEY, I DIDN'T KNOW SHE SHOWED UP IN THIS SEASON. The pregnancy case in this episode is STRANGE.

Episode 4. This episode mainly focuses on JANE and introduces the character of Reverend Applebee-Thornton. I LOVE LOVE LOVE parts of this one. A baby with special needs is born, and, the mother has a hard time accepting that her baby is not perfect. Can Jenny help? And how much help is too much help? I really love the husband/father in this one.

Episode 5. This episode is PAINFUL. Not because it's bad, but, because it is so very INTENSE. A woman is DETERMINED to end her pregnancy no matter what. And Jenny knows the woman is upset, but, can't really interfere and fix anything. Trixie gets in and out of a predicament when she starts dating a celebrity of sorts. Also SISTER BERNADETTE starts to show she has FEELINGS for Dr. Turner...and viewers see that he returns them!

Episode 6. Oh this episode gets to me. We're introduced to a single, pregnant woman estranged from her father. The woman is trying to keep her pregnancy secret from everyone--but Jenny knows what she knows. The woman is nine months along, and there's no fooling Jenny! The dying father is played by an actor I failed to recognize before...a familiar face from LARK RISE to CANDLEFORD. (He's not the only familiar face from that show we'll end up seeing....) Dr. Turner is able to get an X-Ray programme to come to Poplar, and Sister Bernadette is tested to show a little girl how easy and safe it is. SISTER MONICA JOAN has a fit in this one, if I remember rightly. And it's Fred to the rescue!

Episode 7. Chummy and Peter return from Africa!!! And their family is about to grow! Sister Bernadette is in a sanatorium undergoing treatment. Her crisis isn't just physical, but, spiritual as well. There are several cases in this one...but my interest was all on Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette.

Episode 8. Jimmy introduces Jenny to his friend, Alec. Chummy has her baby, and, it's OH-SO-DRAMATIC. Fred gets a lot of attention in this one. His pregnant daughter visits, and, when her pregnancy becomes a bit complicated, it is up to Fred to babysit his grandson. Fred also gives Chummy some much-needed cheering up. Sister Bernadette makes a life-changing decision, and, reveals her name: SHELAGH. I love, love, love, love how Dr. Turner and Shelagh meet one another. Swoon!!!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Singalong Saturdays (Drinking Songs)

Today's prompt: Favorite Drinking Songs

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I thought I would connect this post in with my current George Strait Project. For those that haven't noticed, I am listening to George Strait's albums chronologically this July. I only have four albums left, which will either be one long post, or two smaller posts.

I thought I would choose one 'drinking song' from his first album, Strait Country (1981), and one 'drinking song' from his last album, Cold Beer Conversation (2015).

I could go with "Unwound" or "Blame It On Mexico." But I think I will go with the much lesser known gem of Friday Night Fever.

I have several options from Cold Beer Conversation: "Cold Beer Conversation," "Stop and Drink," "Wish You Well," or "Cheaper Than A Shrink." But I think I'll go with Goin' Goin' Gone.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Paris in July Playlist

Maurice Jarre
I have definitely enjoyed participating in the Paris in July blog event. Today, I thought I would share my top three French composers.

3. Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) was a composer who did a LOT of movie scores. Most likely, you are familiar with his scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Ghost. Also he did Passage to India, Is Paris Burning?, The Man Who Would Be King, Jesus of Nazareth, and A Walk in the Clouds.

His biggest hit, of course, was "Lara's Theme."

2. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is a popular choice for figure skaters. I'll be honest. That's how I came to know his music.

I'm sharing with you today:
Danse Macabre
Carnival of Animals
From the Carnival, but for the impatient sort, The Swan
Samson and Delilah, and, for the impatient sort, Bacchanale
Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor

1.  Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is definitely my FAVORITE, FAVORITE French composer. He is perhaps best known for Carmen, the opera. And I do love that. Though I prefer instrumental versions for easy-listening. But I really ADORE L'Arlésienne.

I'm curious if anyone will see the connection between these pieces of music and a certain children's television program. Bizet must be a big favorite of the LITTLE EINSTEIN folks.

Carmen Suite #1 and #2 Playlist

L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 & Suite No. 2

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness. 2008. Candlewick. 479 pages. [Source: Library]

I have been meaning to reread Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go for a couple of years now. It is the first book in the Chaos Walking series. I really did EXPERIENCE the next two books in the trilogy. (I was going to say enjoy, but, can you ENJOY a book that is so dark and suspenseful and emotional.)

Here are a few things you should know before picking it up.

1) It is science fiction. It is set on another planet, aka "New World." The planet has a handful of small settlements, including Prentisstown, the hometown of our narrator/hero. The planet's biggest settlement is Haven.

2) Todd is our narrator. He is a few weeks away from his thirteenth birthday. He "becomes a Man" on his thirteenth birthday. He is an orphan being raised by two men, Cillian and Ben.

3) There are NO WOMEN in Prentisstown. Todd has been taught all his life that there was a plague or virus that killed all the women of the settlement.

4) A virus (perhaps the same virus that allegedly killed all the women?) has made it so that all the men can hear one another's thoughts all the time. This is called NOISE. It isn't just men, though, they can hear thoughts of animals too. Manchee is Todd's dog. And he's a bit too forthright to say the least!

5) The book is thriller-esque. It's essentially one big action-sequence from cover to cover. Well, perhaps it takes three or four chapters to get him on his way. But once he gets started...he stays going. It's an intense, action-packed book.

6) He doesn't go alone. Manchee, his faithful dog that he once didn't even want, is with him....but more importantly he meets Viola.

7) Viola basically "dropped from the sky" and right into his path. Viola is the sole survivor of the settler's scout ship. Her parents died in the crash. The ships with thousands of more settlers is about seven or so months behind the scout ship. Todd cannot hear Viola's noise. Viola is the first female he can remember seeing--apart from reading the memories of the men in his settlement--which is not the same thing I think you'll agree.

8) Both Viola and Todd are in GREAT DANGER. Why?????? Well, it has to do with SECRETS and SCHEMES and PLOTS. The mayor of Prentisstown is ambitious and manipulative....to pick two of his tamer qualities.

9) Todd has some internal conflict going on inside....he cannot bring himself to kill. So while I might have spent a good deal of time emphasizing the ACTION, ACTION, ACTION aspect of this one, that doesn't mean it is without characterization and complexity.

10) Be warned it doesn't really have an ending.

11) It has profanity. A good deal of profanity. For some people it may be off-putting enough to pass on the book. For others that might be a big non-issue.

12) Poor grammar is part of the world-building. This may or may not bother readers!
Men lie, and they lie to theirselves worst of all. (22)
But a knife ain't just a thing, is it? It's a choice, it's something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don't. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again. (84)
The knife is alive. As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me to tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it to as well, my will has to join with its will. I'm the one who allows it and I'm the one responsible. But the knife wanting it makes it easier. If it comes to it, will I fail? (341)
"War is a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters too." (392)
I can read her. Cuz she's thinking about her own parents also came here with hope like my ma. She's wondering if the hope at the end of our road is just as false as the one that was at the end of my ma's. And she's talking the words of my ma and putting them into the mouths of her own ma and pa and hearing them say that they love her and they miss her and they wish her the world. And she's taking the song of my ma and she's weaving it into everything else till it becomes a sad thing all her own. And it hurts her, but it's an okay hurt, but it hurts still, but it's good, but it hurts. She hurts. I know all this. I know it's true. Cuz I can read her. I can read her Noise even tho she ain't got none. I know who she is. I know Viola Eade. I raise my hands to the side of my head to hold it all in. "Viola," I whisper, my voice shaking. "I know," she says quietly, pulling her arms tight around her, still facing away from me. And I look at her sitting there and she looks across the river and we wait as the dawn fully arrives, each of us knowing. Each of us knowing the other. (420)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Listening to George, part 9

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2003-2008.

Honkytonkville is George Strait's twenty-second album. From that album, three singles were released: "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa," "Cowboys Like Us," and "Desperately."

The other songs on the album include: "She Used To Say That To Me, " "Honkytonkville," "Look Who's Back From Town," "As Far As It Goes," "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor," "Honk if You Honky Tonk," "Heaven is Missing an Angel," "Four Down and Twelve Across," and "My Infinite Love."

I would not rate the three singles as being the best songs on the album. In fact, I much prefer some of the other songs on the album. I really, really LOVE some of these songs. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Honk If You Honky Tonk." And I LOVE "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor," and "She Used To Say That To Me," and "Look Who's Back From Town."
Well, I got a bumper sticker
On the back of my truck
There ain't another like it
'Cause I had it made up
I can tell who's behind me
They give themselves away
Lay on their horn when they read this phrase
Honk if you honky tonk
Don't if you don't
But, if you do
Don't you love to
Honk if you honky tonk 
In 2004, George Strait released 50 Number Ones, an album featuring 51 songs. It included one new song in addition to all his number one singles. The new song was "I Hate Everything," and it became his fifty-first number one hit. 

Somewhere Down in Texas is George Strait's twenty-third album; it was released in 2005. Three singles were released from this album, "You'll Be There," "She Let Herself Go," and "The Seashores of Old Mexico."

Other songs from the album include: "If The Whole World was a Honky Tonk," "Somewhere Down in Texas," "High Tone Woman," "Good News, Bad News," "Oh, What a Perfect Day," "Texas," "Ready for the End of the World," and "By the Light of a Burning Bridge."

My favorites from this album include: "If the World Was a Honky Tonk." "Somewhere Down in Texas," "Texas," "Oh, What A Perfect Day." One song that grew on me was "Ready for The End of the World."
If the whole world was a honky-tonk,
And it revolved around an old jukebox,
We'd tell our troubles to the Bar,
Over cryin' steel guitars,
And soon, they'd all be gone.
Yeah, if you asked me what I thought,
I'd say: "We'd be better off,
"If the whole world was a honky-tonk."
An' oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
When you're in my arms, I've got sunshine,
An' the sky's always blue.
Couldn't ask for better weather,
To do what I do:
Oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
I know the end is near
I've seen the warning signs
Been preparin' myself
Layin' in supplies
I bought a case of Jack
A boxed-set of Merle
I'm gettin' ready
Ready for the end of the world
I'm gettin' ready for the end to come
That final hour it all comes undone
An' she drops the bomb
An' says he ain't my girl

George Strait's twenty-fourth album, It Just Comes Natural, was released in 2006. From this album, four singles were released: "Give It Away," "It Just Comes Natural," "Wrapped," and "How 'bout Them Cowgirls." There are fifteen songs in all.

Other songs on the album include: "She Told Me So," "That's My Kind of Woman," "He Must Have Really Hurt You Bad," "A Heart Like Hers," "Why Can't I Leave Her Alone," "One Foot In Front of the Other," "I Ain't Her Cowboy Anymore," "Texas Cookin'" "A Better Rain," "What Say," and "Come On Joe."

It is harder to find favorites on this album perhaps. It is not my favorite or best. It is a good thing this one has fifteen songs, that's the only way I was able to find ten songs that I'd want to listen to over and over again.

My favorites include: "A Heart Like Hers," "How 'bout Them Cowgirls," and "Texas Cookin'". 

In 2007, George Strait released the album 22 More Hits. These are the hit songs that didn't quite make it to #1. But so many of these songs are iconic and essential. Songs that come instantly to mind when you think 'George Strait.' Songs like "Amarillo by Morning" and "The Cowboy Rides Away." It featured no new songs.

George Strait's twenty-fifth album, Troubadour, was released in 2008. From this album, three singles were released: "Troubadour," "River of Love," and I Saw God Today."

Other songs on this album include: "It Was Me," "Brothers of the Highway," "House of Cash," "Give Me More Time," "When You're In Love," "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song," "West Texas Town," "House with No Doors," and "If Heartaches Were Horses."

From this album, I really love "It Was Me," "Troubadour," "I Saw God Today,"  "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song," and "Give Me More Time."
The first time I met her
She walked right up to me and said you're who I've wanted to find.
There was a man she had seen in her dreams and it was me.
She said I can't believe it cause I've never been in here
And I've passed this so many times.
It was her night to find destiny and it was Me
And we danced every song that they played, and talked until closing time
The closer I held her, the more I knew her destiny wasn't that far from mine.
Then I saw a reflection of someone unfamiliar looking back when I looked in her eyes
The happiest man I'd ever seen and it was me
I was a young troubadour,
When I rode in on a song
And I'll be an old troubadour,
When I'm gone 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. White Fur Flying

White Fur Flying. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 116 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed Patricia MacLachlan's White Fur Flying. I loved Zoe and her family. Her mom rescues dogs--Great Pyrenees--fostering them until they can find forever homes. Her dad is a veterinarian, I believe. He brings home a parrot one day that is in need of a home. The parrot was--and this is very surprising to me--one of the highlights of the book. In fact, without the parrot, I don't think this novel would work as well, be as emotionally moving. She has a sister, Alice, who is always talking, telling stories, writing poems and stories, etc. Zoe's own character is revealed slowly throughout the book. Kodi, the other "family member" is a dog--Great Pyrenees, of course. He likes having other dogs around, and doesn't mind them coming and going.

So. The novel opens with the family watching the new neighbors move in. They haven't officially--or even unofficially--met the new family yet. And so some are quite busy making up stories about who they are, and why they're moving. Phillip is a boy around 9 or 10 that is moving in next door. He's the quiet type. The really-super-quiet and choosing-not-to-talk-at-all type. But that doesn't keep Kody and Alice and the other dogs from wanting to make friends with him....

Why is Phillip so silent? Will befriending dogs "save" him and help him reconnect with the world again?

This one is predictable enough--if you're an adult reader especially. I can't say honestly whether or not I would have found it predictable enough as a child. For one thing, if a book had a dog on the cover, I wouldn't read it because I was afraid the dog might die. Even though it might be on the slightly-predictable side. I found it very high on the feel-good side. I liked the way the book made me feel, especially at the end when Alice shares her poem. I think that is worth noting. Predictable does not always equal "bad."

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. The Hamilton Affair

The Hamilton Affair. Elizabeth Cobbs. 2016. Arcade. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The boy frowned, pressed a folded handkerchief to his nose, and scanned the crowd for the third time.

Premise/plot: The Hamilton Affair is historical fiction starring Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza. The novel has alternating narrators; readers get to spend time with both Alexander and Eliza. The book leans more towards romance than political drama. I think that's something readers should know from the start. Readers expecting the book to perfectly complement the Broadway musical may be a bit disappointed. Angelica is essentially absent from the book. (She's mentioned now and then, mainly because Alexander borrows money from her husband. Her husband seems more developed as a character than Angelica.) This should not be seen as a novelization of the musical--far from it. With the right expectations, readers can delight in it, I'm sure!

My thoughts: The Hamilton Affair was an almost for me. I wanted to love it so much, yet, in the end it wasn't love for me. Reading is subjective, I remember that always and so should you. But for me it felt both slow and rushed. Not an easy combination perhaps, but, in this case I think that's my honest assessment. The parts I wanted to take time in and explore and really just enjoy the moment felt rushed or passed over altogether. And then there were times it felt sluggish and like there was nothing at all happening to move the plot forward.

I also expected Alexander Hamilton to have more charisma on the page. I wanted to feel what Eliza felt--I wanted to feel helpless. I didn't quite get that. It felt more removed than that. Still, I am glad I read it. And some chapters I really did enjoy.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. The Heir

The Heir. (Selection #4) Kiera Cass. 2015. HarperCollins. 346 pages. [Source: Library]

I have very mixed feelings on The Heir by Kiera Cass. That isn't a huge surprise. I had mixed feelings about the first three books as well. The first three books in the series focused on Princess Eadlyn's parents--America and Maxon. I found the books both silly and irresistible at the same time. If I found the books on the silly, ridiculous, predictable side, why did I care so much about what happened and who ended up together?! That was the question then, and, to some extent that remains the question. The difference being I am less attached to Princess Eadlyn than I was to her father, Prince (now King) Maxon.

So. America and Maxon have four children together: twins Eadlyn and Ahren, and two younger boys that barely enter into the story, or, perhaps are completely forgettable no matter how many times their names are dropped. Eadlyn being born seven minutes before her brother is the heir to the crown. She's about eighteen or so when the story opens. And readers are led to believe that she may become Queen much sooner than anyone thinks. Conveniently perhaps America and Maxon have not aged well it seems. Though young when they married, and though their oldest is just eighteen, they are talked about as if they're closer to sixty or sixty-five than forty! Granted, we don't know for sure how long they waited after marrying to have children, but, even if it was five or six years--they still shouldn't be over forty-five! The fact that they are presented as so decrepit and ancient--their health so fragile--frustrated me. And I did not like the ending at all. Trust me on that.

So is Princess Eadlyn likable? I don't think she's meant to be. I think we're supposed to struggle with liking her perhaps? She struggles with being an actual human being.

So "to save the monarchy" the parents are strongly-strongly encouraging their daughter to hold a Selection and get married. Thirty-five young men will be coming to the palace just for her. One of the selected is not a stranger at all, but, someone she's a little too familiar with on the surface, someone who has grown up in the palace, someone who's always been friendlier with her brother than herself. His name is Kile. And he gets the first kiss, though it is staged. Other men of note, Henri (Swedish cook who needs an interpreter) Eric (the interpreter and not really an option for the selection, at least not officially), and Hale (he doesn't seem as obvious a choice as the others, but, he isn't as forgettable or as obnoxious as the others, so, I wouldn't be surprised if he makes it to the top six or seven at least). Since Eadlyn struggles with, you know, actually being human herself, it's hard for her to talk with others and be herself. I don't know that I have a favorite-favorite, but I'm leaning towards Henri.

The world Cass has created still doesn't seem fully fleshed out and lived in, like it makes sense logically. And the political, social, cultural side of it still seems a bit flimsy, but this book like the other is just oddly readable and entertaining.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Interrupting Chicken

Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was bedtime for the little red chicken.

Premise/plot: Little Red Chicken wants her Papa to read her a bedtime story. She promises to not interrupt. She promises to be good. But. Little Red Chicken can't help getting involved in the stories and interrupting. The stories she interrupts? Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little. After three attempts at a bedtime story, she's still not asleep. What are they to do?!

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. I do. I love seeing Little Red Chicken interrupt the stories. I love the story that Little Red Chicken writes to "read" to her Papa. I love the last few pages of this one especially. I think the illustrations are great fun.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Big Bad Ironclad

Big Bad Ironclad (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #2) Nathan Hale. 2012. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: If you've got a story, you'd better tell it, Nathan Hale. This is a hanging, not a children's story hour.

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale, the spy, continues to outwit the British in this second graphic novel. (The first book in the series is ONE DEAD SPY.) Though he's due to be hanged any minute, his tales from the future (all taken from American History) are so entertaining that the British officer and hangman are delaying a bit. In his conversational style, the focus shifts from the current war (Revolutionary) to the Civil War. These stories concern the NAVY and the Civil War sea battles. Specifically, the race to build the best ironclad ships and create an indestructible navy. The South had the U.S.S. Merrimack. The North had The MONITOR. Of course, it isn't just the two ships that are the subject of this one. So many people are introduced, some of them quite fascinating and 'new to me' at that.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one even more than the first book in the series. I really found this to be a quick, absorbing read. I may have thought it pushed a little too far to the absurd side when Gustavus Fox was illustrated as a fox to satisfy the whim of the hangman, but, I overlooked that in the end!

Even if you don't "love" graphic novels, if you love history you should give one of the books in the series a try.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Cyrano

Cyrano. Geraldine McCaughrean. 2006. HMH. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The curtain goes up. Silence falls. A painted moon wavers on a painted backdrop. The audience shivers with delight. For what could be better than an evening at a Paris theatre? Who more famous than the evening's glittering star? Enter the magnificent Montfleury, stage right!

Premise/plot: A prose adaptation--for teens--of the French play Cyrano de Bergerac written by British author Geraldine McCaughrean. Now, I do love the play. And I'd probably recommend the play over this adaptation--at least for adults. Especially since I believe it is now out of print. It is sad, right, that by the time I got to this review copy it was already out of print?!

Here's the basic story for those who don't know it: Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxane. He finds her to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Roxane is in love with a young soldier (cadet) named Christian. She thinks he is the most handsome man in the world. Christian loves Roxane, but, he lacks the skill to woo her the way she wants to be wooed. She's not interested so much in his kisses as his passionate words of longing. Cyrano who is just as skilled in wordplay as in swordplay steps in to help where he can. He'll give Christian the words to speak to win her heart. When both men go off to war it is Cyrano who risks his life--twice daily--to send letters to her so she won't worry that Christian has been killed. Those letters bring her great joy and drive her mad with wanting him....so much so that she goes into a war zone to find her man. When the two meet she declares, IT IS YOUR SOUL I LOVE, YOU COULD BE THE UGLIEST MAN ALIVE AND I WOULD LOVE YOU STILL, PERHAPS EVEN MORE. Now Christian begs her, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LOVE ME BECAUSE I'M BEAUTIFUL AND HANDSOME AND SWOON-WORTHY. THAT'S THE WAY I WANT TO BE WANTED. She's confused. But reader's aren't. Christian knows that it is Cyrano whom she truly loves because Cyrano is "his soul." What's to be done?!?!

My thoughts: For readers who are really intimidated by reading plays, then this one is worth seeking out. I do think it serves as a good first introduction to the story. I would hope that readers would grow into the original and seek to experience the story again and again.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Listening to George, part 8

If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2000-2001.

In 2000, he released two albums. A greatest hits album called Latest, Greatest, Straitest Hits. It featured two new songs: "The Best Day," which became a #1, and, a duet with Alan Jackson called "Murder on Music Row."

"The Best Day" is a great little song about a father and son. The son is telling his dad--once in each of the verses--that this day was the BEST day of his life. The first 'best day' is a camping trip, the second 'best day' is receiving a classic car to restore with his dad, the third 'best day' is the son's wedding day.

"Murder on Music Row"  is a song not without some controversy. I think it's an interesting story for a song.

First sentence: Nobody saw him running from sixteenth avenue.

Premise/plot:  A murder has been committed. The victim? country music. The evidence is put forth in the chorus:
For the steel guitars no longer cry and fiddles barely play,
But drums and rock 'n roll guitars are mixed up in your face.
Old Hank wouldn't have a chance on today's radio
Since they committed murder down on music row.
Essentially the message is that 'real' country music--the traditional stuff--has been replaced ON THE RADIO with something calling itself country, but, not really quite country. You can imagine why this might be controversial!!!

The song begs the question: what IS country music? And who decides what is country and what isn't?

My thoughts: I really like this one. I think if you stay focused on the fact that it is talking about the RADIO--what gets played, what gets air time, what becomes popular--then it works as a fair criticism showing that radios do tend to play a narrow selection of artists and songs. Of course, traditional radio isn't the only way to enjoy music. And with 'new' technology like Pandora and YouTube and the like, you can find plenty of country music with steel guitars and fiddles!

George Strait and Alan Jackson weren't the ones to first record the song. Here are the original singers performing it live. And yet another version.

The second album George Strait released in 2000 was his twentieth, it's self-titled: GEORGE STRAIT. It includes three songs that would become hit singles: "Go On," "Don't Make Me Come Over There and Love You," and "If You Can Do Anything Else."

It also includes: "Looking Out My Window Through the Pain," "If It's Going To Rain," "Home Improvement," "The Night's Just Right for Love," "You're Stronger Than Me," "Which Side of the Glass," and "She Took The Wind from His Sails."

"Go On" is a GREAT conversation song. Another Strait song that captures half a conversation is The Chair. The 'premise' of this one is that two people are connecting over the fact that they've both been hurt and wronged in love.
Our conversation won't change nothing,
But it's sure nice to talk
With somebody whose been cut of
The same old cloth
You know how you said happiness can't be found looking back
If you don't mind maybe we can talk a little more about that.
"Don't Make Me Come Over There and Love You" is a fast and flirty number that I think is very irresistible.
My hearts been on a long vacation
And now its beating like a Cha-Cha-Cha
Don't make me come over there and love you
'Cause I will right now
This album has a couple of sad songs on it: "Looking Out My Window Through the Pain," "If It's Gonna Rain," "Which Side of the Glass," "She Took the Wind From His Sails," and "You're Stronger Than Me." That is actually MORE than a couple, isn't it?! If you want proof that 'traditional' country music was still very much alive even if not getting radio time, give "You're Stronger Than Me," a listen.

I really LOVE the song "The Night's Just Right For Love."
I don't mind the thought of growing old
But I don't Want to lose my sense of humor
I'm okay as long as I can laugh
I don't care if everything goes wrong
Even if it's only for awhile
I'm alright if I can see you smile
You're an old-fashioned girl at home in the modern world
The night's just right for love
The Road Less Traveled is George Strait's twenty-first album. The album has ten songs. It features three hit singles: "Run," "Living and Living Well," "She'll Leave You With A Smile."

Other songs on the album include: "Stars on the Water," "The Real Thing," "Don't Tell Me You're Not In Love," "The Road Less Traveled," "The Middle of Nowhere," "Good Time Charley's," and "My Life's Been Grand."

I really do not care for "Stars on the Water." George Strait--whether recording songs that are fast or slow--seems to pick songs that are either a) great to dance to b) great to sing along with or c) both! "The Road Less Traveled" definitely breaks with what I consider to be George Strait's strengths.

"Good Time Charley's" is a great little dance-party number. Only in a country song, could you sing directions and have it work.
Two miles from town 'cross the railroad track
Turn right at the light and park in the back
You're always welcome, don't forget to drop in
Old Good Time Charley's, any time you can
But without a doubt my FAVORITE, FAVORITE, FAVORITE track from this album is "Don't Tell Me You're Not In Love." I don't know WHY this song was not a single!!! I love this one so much. I love the melody. I love the lyrics. It's just so perfectly-perfect.
I know you're ready, you show all the signs
Your eyes sparkle oh how they shine
But you keep saying
You can't take another heartache
The way you hold me, the way that you move
Your feelings keep showing through
You can't hide it
It's written all over your face
Don't tell me you're not in love
When your heart beats like it does
Your trembling body tells on you
Each time we touch
You can tell me you're afraid
I am too and that's okay
I got eyes, I can see
Baby don't tell me you're not in love
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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