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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. Eat Fat, Get Thin

Eat Fat, Get Thin. Why The Fat We Eat Is the Key to Sustained Weight Loss and Vibrant Health. Mark Hyman. Little, Brown. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

I almost wish that Eat Fat, Get Thin had been divided into two books. One book presenting the historical overview, the scientific research, and the essential philosophy behind the concept of eating fat to lose weight. The other book presenting his 21 day weight-loss plan. The first book which I imagine consisting of Part I and Part II (How Did We Get Into This Big, Fat Mess? and Separating Fat From Fiction), I would have given three stars. The second book which I imagine consisting of Part III and Part IV (The Eat Fat, Get Thin Plan and Eat Fat, Get Thin Cooking and Recipes), I would have given one star--or perhaps two--if I'm generous.

The premise of this one is simple. Fat has been demonized. It has been made the 'bad guy' by scientists, doctors, nutritionists, the government, the media, the food industry. But, Hyman argues, fat isn't all bad. Not all "fat" is created equal. Good fat far from being the 'bad guy' is the hero. Good fat is the hero we need as a country to rescue us from the obesity crisis. (So what is good fat? Think avocados, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, coconut oil, flax and chia seeds, olives, grass-fed beef, etc.) Diets high in good fat will help you lose weight, but, there is a catch. You have to give up eating a diet high in carbs and sugars. And you can never go back. Of course, I can't imagine *wanting* to go back. But still. That's one of those things you should know before spending time with this book.

The opening chapters are very readable. I think his writing becomes more complicated and complex in the second part. He returns to being readable in the third part, but, unfortunately he's switched from being an authentic-sounding doctor, to being an infomercial salesman.

I felt each page was saturated in a sales pitch. And also that there was a lot of 'product placement' going on as well. With every turn of the page, I heard a loud ka-ching, ka-ching. For example, buy this $70 spoonk acupressure mat; buy these $200 sheets that "ground" you to the earth's energy; buy these $50 light bulbs, etc. And that's not even mentioning the hundreds of dollars per month you'd be spending to buy all his "must-have" supplements. (Only PGX Fiber will do.) And then there's the cost of food. If he got paid a penny for every time he tells you to only buy organic, he'd be very, very rich. And he urges you to only buy organic, grass-fed, free-range, super-special meat. (You know, the stuff that costs you--at the very, very least $7 a pound but closer to $10 a pound.) Since his "diet" has you eliminating all beans and legumes--a cheaper source of protein to be sure--your only other option is organic, free-range, omega-enriched eggs. And these aren't as "cheap" as regular eggs.

I agree that it is best for your health, for your weight to give up refined/processed foods high in carbs, high in sugar, high in preservatives and additives. I agree that good fat is great for you. And if you can afford to strictly follow his plan down to every, single little detail, then perhaps you really will lose weight--a good amount of weight even...


But the book is new. Even if his 1000 participant trial run was on his plan a year ago, I don't think there's enough "evidence" that his plan is guaranteed to lead to "sustained weight loss." It simply hasn't been long enough to see if anyone who uses his 21-day plan is able to keep the weight off for five years or more! (Which is what 'sustained' weight loss is all about. 95% of the weight lost on "diets" and "plans" is not sustainable.) It would be interesting to see how 'successful' the plan is five years from now. (Though I have a small feeling that if participants gained the weight back, it would be seen as being their own fault for not following the plan 'well' enough.)

So what else should you know?

  • That the 21 day plan is the minimum, that, "the plan" is for however long it takes you to lose the weight you want to lose, need to lose. So your "21-day plan" might last a year or more.
  • While on the 21 day plan, the restricted food list is very, very, very long.
  • No processed food, no exceptions.
  • No dairy.
  • No alcohol.
  • Maximum of 2 cups per day--tea or coffee--unsweetened. He recommends adding coconut oil to coffee for your breakfast.
  • No (refined) vegetable oils. (Think: canola, corn, soy, sunflower, etc.)
  • No grains, no exceptions. (I could totally see why giving up gluten would be advisable. But this includes healthy grains like quinoa, steel-cut oats, brown rice.)
  • No beans, no exceptions.
  • Nothing sweet (not just sugar, not just high fructose corn syrup, but all artificial sweeteners (including stevia) and all natural sweeteners (agave, honey, maple syrup).
  • Also you're only allowed small allotments of fruit (half a cup per day). But *only* lemons, limes, kiwi, and watermelon. I may have forgotten the whole list. But it did not include peaches, pears, apples, grapes, strawberries, bananas, oranges, cherries, plums, pineapples, you know, the things you think of when you think FRUIT.
  • Small portions of "starchy" veggies (1/2 cup to 1 cup at a time, but, only 4 times a week) This includes beets, celeriac, parsnips, pumpkin, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash.
  • When you're ready to go off 'the diet plan' he has you transition to a "Pegan" diet that is a combination Paleo and Vegan. Some things are permanently gone forever and ever from your diet. Other things get added back into your diet in small increments, small portions, occasionally. You can add some dairy back in, for example, "locally sourced cheese from grass-fed, heirloom cows."
Quotes:
  • Dietary fat speeds up your metabolism, reduces your hunger, and stimulates fat burning. (16)
  • Dietary fat helps you reduce your overall calorie intake, not increase it. (17)
  • Dietary fat, and saturated fat specifically, does not cause heart disease. (17)
  • Dietary saturated fat raises the good kind of LDL and raises HDL (the "good cholesterol"). (17)
  • Dietary fat improves brain function and mood and helps prevent dementia. (17)
  • Food is not just a source of energy or calories. Food is information. It contains instructions that affect every biological function of your body. It is the stuff that controls everything. Food affects the expression of your genes and influences your hormones, brain chemistry, immune system, gut flora, and metabolism at every level. It works fast, in real time with every bite. This is the groundbreaking science of nutrigenomics. (56)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. A Bargain for Frances

A Bargain for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1970/1992. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a fine summer day, and after breakfast Frances said, "I am going to play with Thelma." "Be careful," said Mother. "Why do I have to be careful?" said Frances.
"Remember the last time?" said Mother. "Which time was that?" said Frances. "That was the time you played catch with Thelma's new boomerang," said Mother. "Thelma did all the throwing, and you came home with lumps on your head." "I remember that time now," said Frances. "And do you remember the other time last winter?" said Mother. "I remember that time too," said Frances. "That was the first time there was ice on the pond. Thelma wanted to go skating, and she told me to try the ice first." "Who came home wet?" said Mother. "You or Thelma?" "I came home wet," said Frances.
"Yes," said Mother. "That is why I say be careful. Because when you play with Thelma you always get the worst of it."

Premise/plot: Poor Frances! Her mother was right. Again. Thelma had ulterior motives with wanting to play tea party with her friend, Frances. And Frances got tricked! Tricked into trading her money for Thelma's old tea set. Her ugly old plastic tea set. (A set so ugly that even Gloria sees it as junk.) Thelma then uses the money to buy a new tea set--the exact tea set that Frances had been saving for for months and months. Will Frances get even with Thelma? Can she outwit this trickster? Can this friendship be saved?!

My thoughts: I have enjoyed rereading the Frances books. Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite? I think each book is made stronger by the fact that it is a series. That each book stars characters that you already know and love. Frances is a gem of a character. I love her VERY much. I love her songs. I love her imagination.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Best Friends for Frances

Best Friends for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1969/1994. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a fine summer morning, so Frances took out her bat and ball. "Will you play ball with me?" said her little sister, Gloria. "No," said Frances. "You are too little." Gloria sat down and cried. Frances walked over to her friend Albert's house, singing a song: Sisters that are much too small To throw or catch or bat a ball Are really not much good at all, Except for crying.

Premise/plot: It was easy for Frances to dismiss Gloria as an unworthy playmate, but when Albert (and later Harold) dismiss Frances, well, Frances learns that sometimes a sister can be a friend--a best friend. It's summer and Frances loves to play with her friends. One day Albert rejects Frances because it's his "wandering" day. And the next day, Albert and Harold reject Frances because she's a girl, and girls can't play baseball as well as boys. But Frances is not to be stopped. Even if it means playing with her little sister, she'll show Albert what is what! If Albert wants a no-girls-allowed club, then she'll start a no-boys-allowed club.
"Do you want to play ball?"
"All right," said Gloria.
"If any boys come, they can't play," said Frances, "and I think I will be your friend now."
"How can a sister be a friend?" said Gloria.
"You'll see," said Frances.
"For frogs and ball and dolls?"
"Yes," said Frances.
"And will you show me how to print my name?" said Gloria.
"Yes," said Frances.
"Then you will be my best friend," said Gloria. "Will it just be today, or longer?"
"Longer," said Frances. (20-21)
My thoughts: I do like this one. But Frances isn't always nice in this one. Then again neither is Albert. Or Harold. The only one that is nice all the time is Gloria.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Murder in the Museum

Murder in the Museum. John Rowland. 1938. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really loved reading John Rowland's Murder in the Museum. It was a quick, entertaining read with filled with characters that you can't help wanting to spend time with.

The book opens with Henry Fairhurst happening upon a dead body at the British Museum--in the reading room. He speaks, of course, to the police inspectors--Inspector Shelley and (Constable) Cunningham--and they let slip that it was murder--poison, cyanide. While a bit shocked, perhaps, by the discovery, he's a bit thrilled underneath it all. Nothing like this has ever happened to him before--and the excitement of it, well, he doesn't want to let it go. He wants to help solve the case. They don't agree to this, not right away, of course. But as his volunteered tips prove useful on more than one occasion, soon, he's unofficially taking part.

The victim is a professor of Elizabethan literature, named Julius Arnell. His love of almonds--sugared almonds, I believe--did him in. That is where the poison was.

As I said I loved this one. I loved the mystery of it, the unfolding of clues and suspects. It was also a tension-filled read in many ways. There is more than one crime, for one thing, and readers see one crime in progress. It's a suspenseful read to be sure!!!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Secrets from the Eating Lab

Secrets from the Eating Lab. Traci Mann. 2015. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

Traci Mann's Secrets From The Eating Lab is divided into four parts: "Why Diets Fail You," "Why You Are Better Off Without the Battle," "How To Reach your Leanest Livable Weight," and "Your Weight is Really Not the Point." In the book, Mann argues three things: diets do not work, dieting is bad for your health, being obese does not shorten your life.

The first subject she tackles is that diets do not work. Essentially, she argues that "there are two problems with saying these diets work: people don't lose enough weight, and they don't keep it off" (4). She argues that there is a huge discrepancy between how any (sane) person would define success, and, how the diet industry defines success. Sure, diets work if you lower the standards and measures of success enough. For example, a diet is "successful" if the dieter loses 5% of their body weight (their starting weight) and keeps it off three to six months. Does that sound like success to you? Say you weigh 250 pounds. Would losing 12 pounds and keeping it off three to six months...before gaining ten to fifteen pounds back...be your idea of success?

She spends some time discussing dieters expectations, how dieters themselves define success. She presents research from a study--not her own--that look at various weight goals: "Ideal weight," "dream weight," "goal weight," "acceptable weight," and "disappointed weight." Ideal weight is a now out-dated concept of a chart at the doctor's office telling you what you should weigh based on your gender, your height, your frame. Dream weight is self explanatory, I think! "Acceptable weight" is not their goal weight, where they really want to weigh at the end of their diet, but, it's a weight they could come to terms with being. "Disappointed weight" was defined as being less than their starting point, but, not enough to view as successful in any way. The study reveals that 47% fail to reach their disappointed weight. 20% reach their disappointed weight. 24% reach their acceptable weight. 9% reach their goal weight. I think you'll agree that there is a big discrepancy in how people selling diets define success and how people buying diets define success.

She spends equal amount of time talking about regaining weight lost during dieting. She writes, "the fact that diets don't lead to long-term weight loss isn't new to diet researchers. In 1991 researchers stated that "it is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regain that appears open to debate" (15).

One of her chapters focus on WHY diets don't work. She discusses our almost inescapable environment, our biology, and our psychology. One thing she mentions is that while you know you are on a diet, and, there is a purpose to your actions, your body itself doesn't. It thinks you are starving and goes into survival mode, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight and oh-so-easy to gain weight. But. It isn't just a matter of "survival." She talks genes. She writes that 70% of our weight is determined by our genes. There is nothing we can do with that 70% we've inherited. We may have some say on the remaining 30% of variables. You cannot make yourself fatter than your genes think you should be--and sustain it--and you cannot make yourself thinner than your genes think you should be--and sustain it. Every person has a set range--of about thirty or perhaps forty pounds--of what they can weigh naturally, comfortably without effort or stress.

In addition to going into survival mode, our body can turn our hormones--did you know that fat cells play a large role in producing the body's hormones?--against us.

And then there's metabolism. She writes, "When you lose weight, even if starvation has no effect on your metabolism, your body will still burn fewer calories, simply because it is now a smaller body to run. This means that the number of calories you ate to lose weight eventually become too many calories to eat if you want to keep losing weight." (23) Essentially, "A person who loses weight to reach 150 pounds, for example, is not the same physiologically, as a person who normally weighs 150 pounds. To maintain 150 pounds after dieting down to that weight, dieters must eat fewer calories per day than people who were 150 pounds all along (not to mention fewer calories per day than they ate to get to that weight) or else they will gain weight" (24).

She also looks at stress. That shouldn't come as a surprise--that stress makes you gain weight, and, that all diets involve a good amount of unavoidable stress.

She next turns to self-control or will power. And debunking the myth that the way to best control weight is to use will power.

In the second part of her book, Mann focuses on several things. First, that diets are in fact bad for your overall physical health. They leave you in worse shape than you were originally--in terms of health, not exactly appearances. Second, that one's health is not a matter of how much or how little one weighs. There are a lot of factors and variables in being healthy. One's weight is just a small factor, and, not the most important factor. She acknowledges--at some point--that unless you're in the 6% that qualify as Obese Class III--you are not at any more risk for a shortened lifespan than a normal weight person. Being stressed is bad for your health. Smoking is bad for your health. Being inactive is bad for your health. You can be healthy and overweight. If you're active and overweight. If you're an active, nonsmoker who is overweight. Third, diets aren't just bad for you physically. Diets are also bad for your mental and emotional health. Perhaps IF and only IF diets were successful--you could lose the weight AND keep it off forever, it would be "worth" doing for your health. But since 95% of diets end in you weighing more (and more and more and more and more) than when you first went on the diet, you'd be better off not dieting. (Consider how many people have dieted by the time they're in high school. People spend decades of their life dieting. Each diet that fails ends up harming your body, your health.)

The third part of the book focuses on smart regulation principles for helping readers reach their own leanest livable weight. There are twelve strategies in all shared through five chapters. I'll share just a few to give you an idea of what to expect:
  • Encounter Less Temptation By Creating Obstacles
  • Make Healthy Foods More Accessible and Noticeable
  • Be Alone With A Vegetable
  • Eat with Healthy Eaters
  • Don't Eat Healthy Food Because It's "Healthy"
  • Turn Healthy Choices Into Habits
  • Don't Eat Unhealthy Food For Comfort
The fourth and final part of this one focuses on being okay with your body AND striving to be healthy with the body you have. Part of being healthy is to be as active as possible, to make exercise a part of your daily routine. Her message is not exercise to lose weight and lose weight so you become model-thin. Her message is that exercise is good for your health: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and, PHYSICALLY. Even if you don't lose a pound, exercise is worth doing. Don't equate exercise with reaching your dream weight or goal weight. Focus on health for health's sake. She shares three reasons why everyone--no matter their weight or shape--should exercise. She writes, "Exercise prevents death. Not forever, of course, but it does increase your life span" (170).

I personally would have loved it if Mann's book had included research on gut flora--or microbiomes--as to how it relates to health and weight. I do believe--strongly believe--that a happy gut is the key to health and happiness. And when your bad "buggies" outnumber your "good buggies" then your weight is definitely effected! The gut rules your brain, essentially--in terms of *what* you eat and *how* you feel. I'd love to read a book--or article--discussing what this might mean--or does mean--in terms of sustainability. If your body no longer "craves" and feels "hungry" are you more likely to keep the weight off? You might not ever be model-thin. But could a healthy gut keep you from regaining the weight you lost?


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Owl Diaries #4 Eva and the New Owl

Eva and the New Owl. Rebecca Elliott. 2016. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Eva and the New Owl is the fourth book in Rebecca Elliott's Owl Diaries series. If you've read any of the previous books in the series, you know what to expect from this one. If you're unfamiliar with the previous books, you could probably pick up any book in the series and catch up. Eva, the heroine, is an owl who keeps a diary. She has strong opinions, and, is thoroughly likable. Puns abound as do illustrations. The illustrations and puns may both be on the cutesy style. But there is something about the series that I think will appeal to young girls--think ages five to eight. Each book focuses on school life and home life with relationships between friends and family being very important.

There are two main stories in this one. First, Eva's class has started a newspaper. Eva is a reporter. Other classmates have other jobs for the paper. Second, Eva's class will be welcoming a new owl, Hailey. Eva really, really, really, really wants Hailey to be her friend. In her mind, the two are already close friends. Eva makes her a welcome necklace and a special drawing--a map. But when her plan to change seats so that Hailey can sit by her backfires--Hailey chooses to sit in Eva's old seat, the one by Lucy, Eva's best-best friend, Eva is left confused and frustrated. No matter how hard she tries, Hailey is not becoming her best friend. And Lucy and Hailey are becoming closer and closer and closer. Eva finds herself alone...

Can Eva learn an important lesson about friendship?

I think the theme of this one is true to the age of the audience. I think young girls understand all too well about the ups and downs and ins and outs of friendship. Friendship can be confusing and frustrating!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. My Thoughts on Young Victoria

The Young Victoria (2009)
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Score Composer: Ilan Eshkeri
Stars: Emily Blunt as Queen, Victoria, Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne, Jim Broadbent as King William

If I had to pick just one period drama to recommend, it might just be this one. That is how much I love, love, love, LOVE, and adore this one. Of course, as my best-good friend says, WHY would you ever have to choose?! And she does make a good point. I'll never have to choose just one of anything.

I love it from start to finish. There is plenty of tension and drama and ROMANCE. Is any of it embellished? Perhaps. Probably. Maybe. But I think there is plenty of reality to keep this romance grounded. 

Do I love the soundtrack? No, I love, love, LOVE the soundtrack. I may have even listened to the soundtrack more than I've rewatched the movie. Simply because it's great for having on in the background while I write reviews! Favorite song: Marriage Proposal

Do I love the costumes? Yes.

Do I love the story and the characters? Yes. This one is giddy-making and magical.

Is it clean--in terms of content? Relatively-mostly clean. Not "G" by any means. But the sensuality is relatively mild in terms of movie-making, and, it all occurs after marriage. For those who insist on squeaky clean, it's nothing that can't be fast-forwarded through painlessly. I'd say for those used to watching PG movies, this one wouldn't be anything objectionable.

Favorite quotes:

The opening voiceover:
Some people are born more fortunate than others. Such was the case with me. But as a child I was convinced of quite the opposite. What little girl does not dream of growing up as a princess? But some palaces are not at all what you would think. Even a palace can be a prison. Mama never explained why she would have someone taste my food, why I couldn't attend school with other children or read popular books. When my father died, Mama and her advisor, Sir John Conroy, created rules. He said they were for my protection, and he called it The Kensington System. I could not sleep in a room without Mama, or even walk downstairs without holding the hand of an adult. I learned the reason for all this when I was eleven: my Uncle William was the King of England, yet he and his three brothers could boast only one living child. And that was me. Sir John's dream was that the King would die and there would be a regency where my mother would rule England and he would rule my mother. So I began to dream of the day when my life would change and I might be free. And I prayed for the strength to meet my destiny.
Soon after this first meeting of cousins:
Princess Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will.
Prince Albert: Do you?
Princess Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Prince Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Princess Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I'm sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Prince Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.
Princess Victoria: You don't recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Prince Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.
The oh-so-giddy-making proposal:
Prince Albert: I just got your note. I was riding.
Queen Victoria: Sit, please.
Prince Albert: The park is marvelous.
Queen Victoria: I'm so pleased you like it. I do want you to feel quite at home... I'm sure you're aware why I wished you to come here. Because it would make me happier than anything, too happy really, if you would agree to what I wish.
Prince Albert: And stay with you?
Queen Victoria: And stay with me.
Prince Albert: And marry you?
Queen Victoria: And marry me!
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Churchill: The Power of Words

Churchill: The Power of Words. Winston S. Churchill. Edited by Martin Gilbert. Da Capo Press. 536 pages. [Source: Library]

Churchill: The Power of Words is a compelling read for anyone interested in history, British history in particular. It isn't a biography exactly. Instead it's a chronological arrangement of (select) quotes taken from his writings and speeches that give you a sense of who he was. Each quote is introduced by Martin Gilbert. On the top left-hand corner, readers find the year, and, on the top right-hand corner, readers find Churchill's age. I found this layout to be wonderful. There are no chapters, no natural stopping places. I tried to use years as goal-setters. But once World War II started, I found it too compelling to read it just a year at a time. I read greedily.

I found it fascinating and thought-provoking.

Favorite quotes:
One must never forget when misfortunes come that it is quite possible they are saving one from something much worse; or that when you make some great mistake, it may very easily serve you better than the best-advised decision. (1896) p. 14
As I think Ruskin once said, 'It matters very little whether your judgments of people are true or untrue, and very much whether they are kind or unkind,'... (1899) p. 29
What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? (1908) p. 63
We did not enter upon the war with the hope of easy victory; we did not enter upon it in any desire to extend our territory, or to advance and increase our position in the world; or in any romantic desire to shed our blood and spend our money in Continental quarrels. We entered upon this war reluctantly after we had made every effort compatible with honour to avoid being drawn in, and we entered upon it with a full realization of the sufferings, losses, disappointments, vexations, and anxieties, and of the appalling and sustaining exertions which would be entailed upon us by our action. The war will be long and sombre. It will have many reverses of fortune and many hopes falsified by subsequent events, and we must derive from our cause and from the strength that is in us, and from the traditions and history of our race, and from the support and aid of our Empire all over the world the means to make this country overcome obstacles of all kinds and continue to the end of the furrow, whatever the toil and suffering may be. (1914) p. 88.
To fail is to be enslaved, or, at the very best, to be destroyed. Not to win decisively is to have all this misery over again after an uneasy truce, and to fight it over again, probably under less favourable circumstances, and perhaps alone. (1915) p. 108
Before a war begins one should always say, 'I am strong, but so is the enemy.' When a war is being fought one should say, 'I am exhausted, but the enemy is quite tired too.' It is almost impossible to say either of these two things at the time they matter. (1918) p. 138
'What shall I do with all my books?' was the question; and the answer, 'Read them,' sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition. It is a mistake to read too many good books when quite young. A man once told me that he had read all the books that mattered. Cross-questioned, he appeared to have read a great many, but they seemed to have made only a slight impression. How many had he understood? How many had entered his mental composition? How many had been hammered on the anvils of his mind and afterwards ranged in an armoury of bright weapons ready to hand? Choose well, choose wisely, and choose one. Concentrate upon that one. Do not be content until you find yourself reading in it with real enjoyment. (1925) p. 178-9.
We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi Power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted. (1938) p. 202
You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi Power, that Power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That Power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy. (1938) p. 203
Whenever we speak of 'bloodless war' it must not be supposed that it is not attended in every country in this anxious, melancholy time by strain, by loss, and, in some countries, by a very severe degree of privation and suffering among the mass of the population. Moreover, the bloodless war is becoming intensified. There is hardly a day when the papers do not show it is becoming intensified. The strains resulting from it will in this year, still more if it is prolonged, test not only the financial and economic strength of nations but the health of their institutions and the social structure of their civilization. (1939) p. 211-2
We must not underrate the gravity of the task which lies before us or the temerity of the ordeal, to which we shall not be found unequal. We must expect many disappointments, and many unpleasant surprises, but we may be sure that the task which we have freely accepted is one not beyond the compass and the strength of the British Empire and the French Republic... It is a war, viewed in its inherent quality, to establish, on impregnable rocks, the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man. (1939) p. 224
Of all the wars that men have fought in their hard pilgrimage, none was more noble than the great Civil War in America nearly eighty years ago. Both sides fought with high conviction, and the war was long and hard. All the heroism of the South could not redeem their cause from the stain of slavery, just as all the courage and skill which the Germans always show in war will not free them from the reproach of Naziism, with its intolerance and its brutality. (1940) p. 233-4
Very few wars have been won by mere numbers alone. Quality, will-power, geographical advantages, natural and financial resources, the command of the sea, and, above all, a cause which rouses the spontaneous surgings of the human spirit in millions of hearts--these have proved to be the decisive factors in the human story. (1940) p. 236
You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. (1940) p. 243
We are moving through a period of extreme danger and of splendid hope, when every virtue of our race will be tested, and all that we have and are will be freely staked. This is no time for doubt or weakness. It is the supreme hour to which we have been called. (1940) p. 259
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. (1940) p. 264
We have but one aim and one single, irrevocable purpose. We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us--nothing. (1941) p. 285
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Today is the Readathon

I will be updating one post for the Readathon instead of having dozens of posts. I may or may not be "good" at keeping this post updated. My approach to the readathon is super-casual. My goal: to read three or four hours, to review books and catch up online for three or four hours. That's it.

Top 5 Childhood Moments with People and Books

1) Mom read a lot of books aloud. Umbrella by Taro Yashima probably being my favorite and best. Though I also loved, loved, loved Little Critter. She also read aloud chapter books like Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and Little House in the Big Woods.
2) Dad really only ever read aloud an abridged copy of Robinson Crusoe. It was a book he'd read as a child, or had read to him as a child, and it was special to have him reading to me and my sister.
3) My aunt--for many Christmases in a row--gave $5 gift certificates to the bookstore. Back in the day, $5 could either buy one "bigger" paperback or two "smaller" paperback books. Sometimes there was even enough leftover for a new bookmark. I bought a lot of Sunfire romance "name" books (published by Scholastic).
4) In fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Watts, read aloud The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
5) One of my favorite series to read was the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery

Opening Meme1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Texas
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Doesn't really apply to me! But probably a cup of tea.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I never seem to be at a loss for words until given the prompt, "Tell us a little something about yourself!" Then I freeze up.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I am much more relaxed than I used to be about the readathon--for better or worse. I may read less books overall, but, it isn't as difficult to recover from either.
 


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Body of Truth

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight--and What We Can Do About It. Harriet Brown. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I found Harriet Brown's Body of Truth to be a thought-provoking read. Did I agree 100% with everything she said on every page? Probably not. But did she give me something to think about, something to consider, something to take away from reading the book? Definitely.

True or false: Our society is obsessed with weight, and, has been obsessed with weight for decades. This obsession has its dangers no matter your size at the moment.

True or false: Health is important, without a doubt, we should all strive to be healthy--healthier. But is it right--is it accurate--to say that your health is completely determined by a number on the scale or by your BMI?

I think every person--every woman especially--could probably relate to this book. Whether you end up agreeing with it or not, I think it's worth reading. Harriet Brown is one more voice in the conversation about obesity. And some readers will no doubt disagree with her conclusions.

She challenges readers to consider the fact that the number on the scale--the size clothes you wear--may not be "the determining factor" in your overall health, in predicting how long your life will be. Thin does not automatically mean healthy. Fat does not automatically mean unhealthy.

She also challenges readers to consider a few things.

She has PLENTY to say about diets and dieting. Diets don't work most of the time. If by "most of the time" you mean keeping the weight off your body for longer than a few months. Every time you "diet" you end up weighing more than you started. As frustrating as that is, she insists that diets damage your health, the way your body is able to function. She suggests that maybe just maybe "fat people" tend to be unhealthy because they've spent so many years dieting. Of course, that's just one theory. She's not saying she has ultimate proof of this.

95% of people gain back every pound they lose on a diet. Most gain a few extra pounds. Each time you start out to diet, your body has a harder time of getting it off, and a harder time of keeping it off. 5% of people are able to keep the weight off for three to five years. But most do not. I consider these fighting words! (I will be in the 5%. I will do whatever it takes to be in the 5%.)

Stressing about weight could also be a contributing factor to poor health, she argues. Stress is not good for you. We know that. People who spend decades obsessing about their weight, dieting on and off, never happy, always hating their bodies, are decidedly more stressed than people who aren't this occupied, this obsessed with their weight.

Being active is good. People who feel good about their bodies, and "accept themselves" as they are, are more likely to be active, to exercise. If you spend a lot of time beating yourself up about how you look, how "big" you are, hating yourself for eating, hating yourself for gaining weight, hating yourself for failing, then, she argues that you are less likely to be active, to exercise, to make an effort. Is this the kind of statement that IS true or does it just sound true? One point she makes in the book is that you can be classified as overweight and obese on the BMI chart and STILL be active and fit.

People come in all shapes and sizes. A healthy "right" weight for one person may not be a healthy, "right" weight for another person. We do not all have to weigh the same--around the same--to be healthy. For example, 160 may be "just right" for one person, one person's best effort at "thin and healthy." It is difficult to judge health by appearances. One should never assume that a thin person has healthy eating habits and a fat person doesn't. You cannot tell WHO is a vegetable-eater based on appearances alone.

By all means, strive for health in your life. But don't stress with numbers, with comparing yourself with others, with this racing after ultimate perfection. Be you. Be a healthy-you. But don't try to be someone else's idea of healthy.

Some people read the book, I believe, and see the premise: She's telling me I never have to diet again and that I'm healthier if I don't diet. Oh happy day, let's go to the all-you-can-eat buffet.

I don't see it in those terms exactly. I see instead: health is hard to define, and, it isn't so black-and-white as your BMI, or, your number on a scale. How do you feel? How active are you? Is your weight holding you back from living life? Or is your obsession with weight holding you back from living life? What can you let go of? What should your focus be on instead?

I agree that guilt and shame and name-calling are not good motivators to lose weight and keep it off. I know that the only true-and-right motivation has to come from within. And without that inner motivation, it's a waste of time, effort, energy. And without that inner motivation, without that true deep-down commitment you probably are just making yourself unhealthier in the long run by dieting.

Am I pro-dieting? Am I anti-dieting? That's oh-so-tricky.

I personally define diet differently than most, and a lot differently from the author. I see diet not as "what I eat in order to lose weight, or, what I restrict myself from eating in order to lose weight" but as "the food I regularly eat." My advice is simple: NEVER GO ON A "DIET" THAT YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO BE ON FOR LIFE. You could easily eliminate a lot of diets that way. It isn't just losing the weight. It is maintaining and keeping the weight off. (And as one contributor said, maintenance takes up a lot of mental real estate.) If you eat "diet food" the moment you start eating "real food" or "normal food" again, the weight comes back on. You don't need to diet. You need to commit to changing the way you eat not for weeks, not for months, not for years, but for life.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Quotes:
We're in the midst of an epidemic, one that's destroying both the quality and the longevity of our lives. It affects not just us but our children, and likely their children, too. And while this epidemic has been around a while, it's growing at an alarming rate, not just here but around the world. You'd be hard-pressed to find a twenty-first century culture that didn't struggle with it. I'm not talking about overweight or obesity. I'm talking about our obsession with weight, our never-ending quest for thinness, our relentless angst about our bodies. Even the most self-assured of us get caught up in body anxiety: 97% of young women surveyed by Glamour magazine in 2011 said they felt hatred toward their bodies at least once a day and often much more.
We're so used to that constant inner judgment, we don't even think to question it.
Many of us spend a lot of our waking hours on a hamster wheel of self-loathing. We're screwed up about food, too; one recent survey found 75% of American women report disordered eating behaviors.
Each of us thinks our obsession with weight and body image is ours alone.
As health--or at least the perception of health--has become a social and moral imperative, judging other people's health status has become not just accepted by expected.
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it--not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four, or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule your proximity to food, and your feelings. ~ Ellyn Satter
If each of us is willing to just consider the possibility that what we think we know about weight and health isn't as simplistic and clear-cut as we believe, we'd have the beginning of a truly constructive conversation.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Death in the Tunnel

Death in the Tunnel. Miles Burton. 1936/2016. Poisoned Pen Press. 232 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Though I may not have loved, loved, loved Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton, I did find it a thoroughly enjoyable read. The murder in this murder mystery happens early on--in the first few page. And this murder occurs on a train--in a train tunnel. Two men set about solving this mystery, Desmond Merrion (who has his own series, this is #13) and Inspector Arnold (from Scotland Yard). The victim is a businessman, Sir Wilfred Saxonby. The murder was made to look like a suicide--a gun with the victim's initials are found in his compartment. Nothing was stolen from his body, from his wallet. His compartment was locked. But there are several reasons why this suicide theory doesn't sit right with Merrion and Arnold. Can they sift through the dozens of clues to find the murderer? Can they agree upon a believable motive for the crime?

Death in the Tunnel is certainly not a character-driven novel. I would say that character development is kept to a bare minimum. But the abundance of clues and the way that they are shared with readers, keeps one reading to see who did it.

The novel was first published in 1936. It has recently been republished. I am glad to see more golden-age mystery novels being brought back into print. This is one of my favorite genres.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. A Birthday for Frances

A Birthday for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1968/1995. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was the day before Frances's little sister Gloria's birthday.

Premise/plot: It is Gloria's birthday. And Frances decides--a bit reluctantly--that she should buy something for her baby sister with her allowance. She decides on one Chompo bar (chocolate bar) and four gumballs. But it isn't easy for Frances to keep her mind made up. The more she thinks about it, the more she thinks that she should keep the Chompo bar for herself. The gumballs, well, they already met their fate. By accident, Frances claims. Will Gloria receive a Chompo bar for her birthday? Or will Frances be selfish and eat it herself?!

My thoughts: I just LOVE and ADORE A Birthday for Frances. It is so quotable.
Mother and Gloria were sitting at the kitchen table, making place cards for the party. Frances was in the broom closet singing: Happy Thursday to you, Happy Thursday to you, Happy Thursday, dear Alice, Happy Thursday to you. "Who is Alice?" asked Mother. "Alice is somebody that nobody can see," said Frances. "And that is why she does not have a birthday. So I am singing Happy Thursday to her." "Today it is Friday," said Mother. "It is Thursday for Alice," said Frances. "Alice will not have h-r-n-d, and she will not have g-k-l-s. But we are singing together." "What are h-r-n-d and g-k-l-s?" asked Mother. "Cake and candy. I thought you could spell," said Frances. "I am sure that Alice will have cake and candy on her birthday," said Mother. "But Alice does not have a birthday," said Frances. "Yes, she does," said Mother. "Even if nobody can see her, Alice has one birthday every year, and so do you. Your birthday is two months from now. Then you will be the birthday girl. But tomorrow is Gloria's birthday, and she will be the birthday girl." "That is how it is, Alice," said Frances. "Your birthday is always the one that is not now."
This book has the delightful Chompo Bar song in it:
Chompo Bars are nice to get.
Chompo Bars taste better yet
When they're someone else's.
I would definitely recommend this one. Do you have a favorite Frances book?

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Bread and Jam for Frances

Bread and Jam for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1964/1992. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was breakfast time, and everyone was at the table. Father was eating his egg. Mother was eating her egg. Gloria was sitting in a high chair and eating her egg too. Frances was eating bread and jam.

Premise/plot: Is Frances an adventurous eater or a picky one?!

My thoughts: Frances just LOVES, LOVES, LOVES bread and jam. She wants to eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. She doesn't want to try new foods. She doesn't want to eat anything BUT bread and jam. Other people in her life--like her good friend, Albert, may have more interesting lunches, but is anything as good as her favorite comfort food?! Will Frances, the badger, ever tire of bread and jam?! Read and see in one of my favorite, favorite picture books! Frances makes up so many lovely songs in this one! And readers get to meet Albert--I've always liked Albert very much!

Here's one of the songs she makes up in the book. I'll also give a little context:
"What a lovely egg!" said Father.
"If there is one thing I am fond of for breakfast, it is a soft-boiled egg."
"Yes," said Mother, spooning up egg for the baby, "it is just the thing to start the day off right."
"Ah!" said Gloria, and ate up her egg.
Frances did not eat her egg. She sang a little song to it. She sang the song very softly:
I do not like the way you slide,
I do not like your soft inside,
I do not like you lots of ways,
And could do for many days
Without eggs.
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago. Boris Pasternak. Translated by John Bayley. 1957. 592 pages. [Source: Library]

Doctor Zhivago is one of those books that I've "been meaning to read" for years now. Once I decided to actually read it, it took me just five days. "Actually" is a great little word, I've found.

So is the book like the movie? Or. Is the movie like the book? The book is a lot more complex than the movie, in my opinion. The movie seems to make everything about Dr. Zhivago and Lara, and the depths of their oh-so-amazing love. That is not the case in the book. (That's not to say that Lara isn't one of the major characters in the book, but, the book doesn't revolve around her.)

So essentially, the novel covers a little over three decades of Russian history. And those three decades are turbulent, bloody, terrifying, cruel. Probably three-quarters of the novel is set between the years 1910-1920.

If you come to the novel expecting a ROMANCE, then, chances are you'll be bored. It is "about" so much more than how a man feels about a woman.

Featured prominently in the novel: war, politics, revolution, religion, philosophy, economics, ethics, friendship, and, perhaps then love, romance, marriage, and family.

The main character is Doctor Zhivago (Yurii Andreievich Zhivago; aka Yura). Readers are first introduced to him at his mother's funeral. They learn that his father abandoned him and his mother. He'll be looked after by an uncle (Uncle Kolia). (This definitely varies from the movie.) As a teen, he and a friend (Misha Gordon) live with the Gromekos family. Yura later marries into this family, marries Tonia Gromeko. The start of World War I in 1914 disrupts his happy home.

Lara (Larisa Feodorovna Guishar) is another main character. While in the movie she is without a doubt the one and only love of Dr. Zhivago's life, in the book she plays a subtler role perhaps. Readers do spend some time with her through the decades. But then again readers spend a good amount of time with Tonia as well.

There is a third woman in Dr. Zhivago's life. A woman that the movie fails to portray at all. His "third wife" Marina (Marinka). He spends the most time (day-to-day, routine) with this 'third' family. They have two children together, and, he's there for the raising of them for the most part.

Some of his friendships are stabler than his love life. Though to be honest, this isn't completely his fault! Like when he's compelled (kidnapped) into the army during the Revolution. He was forcibly separated from his family, from returning to his family. (Part of me does wonder, if he hadn't been on the road--returning from the town to his country farm, returning from seeing Lara-- would he have been kidnapped? Would they have sought him anywhere he happened to be, since they knew there was a doctor in the region?) After he escapes, and the escape isn't quick in happening, he learns that his family has been deported to France. He's not exactly able to join them, and, yet, one wonders once again...IF he could join them, if he was granted permission from the country and allowed to leave Russia, and if he had the money to do so...would he? Or would he choose to remain in Russia and start a new life with Lara.

The story and the drama are certainly complex enough. At times I felt the characters were complex as well. At other times, I thought they were a bit flat and idealistic. I never really felt like I could "understand" the characters--understand their thought processes, motivations, and such.

I'm not sure I "liked" any of the characters in the traditional sense. But at the same time, I felt the story compelling enough. Especially if you go into it not expecting a romance. Plenty of tragedy, I suppose, if you want to look at it like that.

I don't think Dr. Zhivago's life turned out like he planned or hoped or dreamed. His life was interrupted and disrupted by outside forces, perhaps. In some ways, Doctor Zhivago reminded me of Gone With The Wind.

I am glad I read it. Have you read it? What did you think?
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. My Thoughts on Ever After

I had forgotten how much I adored Ever After until I recently rewatched it. I've been meaning to rewatch it since watching the newest Cinderella. I couldn't quite make up my mind which might be my favorite Cinderella retelling. I'm not sure I've made up my mind completely, but, I think I'm leaning towards Ever After.

Danielle is the heroine of Ever After. This Cinderella retelling is set around the time of Leonardo da Vinci--he is actually a character in the film--which would mean the movie is apparently set in either the late 15th century or the early 16th century. But this is not meant to be a historically accurate film necessarily. Don't expect the 'royal' family depicted in the movie to match up with any actual royal family from Europe!!!

I loved Danielle. I did. I loved the way she spoke, the way she carried herself, the way she laughed and smiled. She loved to read. And she was a thoughtful, considerate, compassionate person. I enjoyed her friendship with Gustave and Leonardo da Vinci. And, of course, I loved to see the developing relationship between her and Prince Henry. Overall,  I thought she was a lovely Cinderella.

Marguerite and Jacqueline were the stepsisters of Danielle. Marguerite is decidedly a wicked stepsister! Her cruelty and selfishness make her so. She was not particularly an 'ugly' stepsister--on the outside--but her vanity and selfishness make for an ugly character all the same. Jacqueline is a character that I quite enjoyed, her "wickedness" does not come as naturally perhaps. She has to be coached and reminded to be cruel and rude to Danielle. And her reformation was a delight.

Rodmilla was the stepmother's name. (She was played by Anjelica Huston.) She was appropriately wicked and heartless. Perhaps even more so than the animated 'Wicked Stepmother' of Disney fame. I'm thinking in particular of what happens after the big reveal at the ball. And how she got all the 'nice things' back in her home so she could make a good impression on the Prince. Was enough justice done in the end? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Prince Henry. I adored him. Of course it's not hard to like him say more than the animated Prince Charming who has no lines of dialogue. Still, I decidedly liked him...for the most part. Most of his scenes with Danielle were just wonderful--very cute, sweet, charming, romantic. Not all of his scenes, perhaps, because he could be a bit stubborn and foolish and blind. I am thinking of his reaction to the 'big reveal.' But he made me smile and laugh most of the time. The scene, for example, where he's at the altar with the Spanish bride and she's sobbing and hysterical. Overall, he is a big reason why this is such a giddy-making film.

The writing and the story. I thought it was very quotable.

Their first meeting in a field:
Danielle: Forgive me, Your Highness, I did not see you.
Henry: Your aim would suggest otherwise.
When he's showing her a library:
Danielle: It is not fair, sire. You have found my weakness, but I have yet to learn yours.
Henry: But I should think it was quite obvious.
The near-ending:
Henry: Hello.
Danielle: Hello.
[pause]
Danielle: What are you doing here?
Henry: [sheepishly] I uh... I came to... rescue you.
Danielle: Rescue me? A commoner?
[starts to walk away]
Henry: [going after her] Actually, I came to beg your forgiveness. I offered you the world and at the first test of honor, I betrayed your trust. Please, Danielle...
Danielle: [stops, turns around] Say it again.
Henry: I'm sorry.
Danielle: No.
[smiles]
Danielle: The part where you said my name.
Henry: [smiling] Danielle.
The ending:
My great-great-grandmother's portrait hung in the university up until the Revolution. By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple fairy tale. And, while Cinderella and her prince *did* live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. My Thoughts on Lark Rise, Season 3

My thoughts on season one and two. I think in some ways, season three may just be my favorite season. I haven't rewatched season four, so I suppose I might always change my mind. But. I love, love, love this third season. Fewer 'new' characters are introduced, and more time is spent on characters in both Lark Rise and Candleford.

The one 'new' character introduced is Laura's new love interest, a journalist named Daniel. None of Laura's love-interests have been perfect or perfect for her, in my opinion. And Daniel doesn't make the best first impression. In fact, he HURTS so many people...and yet...he sticks around to try to make things right and reconcile relationships.

One of the main characters of the show becomes Alf Arless. That is probably one of the main reasons that this third season seems so very right. For me, the biggest highlight of the season is the developing romance between Alf and Minnie :) I adore them together. I really do.

Ruby and Pearl. A lot of season three focuses in on these sisters. Ruby has begun corresponding with a man in Pontefract...falling in love with a stranger....and her sister is struggling with bills and bill collectors. A lot of drama and tension and stress...and the sisters really show a lot of vulnerability and complexity. Friendships are strengthened as weaknesses and secrets come to light...

One "cute" thing is that Ruby gets Minnie addicted to sensational serial dramas.

Lady Adelaide returns for the seventh episode. No, Sir Timothy, unfortunately. But the "St. George" play is surprisingly fun...

The final three episodes are a bit messy--dramatically speaking--as Laura "wrestles" with her heart as to which man she belongs with--Fisher or Daniel, Daniel or Fisher. But there's also some drama about the future of the post office....

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. My Thoughts on Lark Rise to Candleford Series 2

Lark Rise to Candleford Season 2

Here is my review of season one. To recap: So. The show centers around the post office of Candleford essentially. The heroines are Laura Timmins, a new, oh-so-young apprentice, and the older-and-mostly-wiser postmistress Dorcas Lane. Laura comes from the (rural) community of Lark Rise, and she finds quite a bit of difference between the two communities or villages--between those living (and working) in Lark Rise to those in Candleford.

Season two introduces new characters to the show. (In no particular order....)
  • James Dowland, a love interest for Dorcas Lane, with a public past and a not-so-public past. His public past is that he was an orphan taken in by Queenie and Twister. He has returned--apparently wealthy--to open a hotel in Candleford. He is a man of strong opinions, and, few words. How can this be?! Well, he's not good at expressing how he feels and what he wants. He can talk business and politics, but, not of private matters. 
  • Minnie Mude, an oh-so-young maid hired to replace Zillah. She is without a doubt one of my favorite, favorite, favorite characters of the show. 
  • Fisher Bloom, a young, oh-so-attractive love interest for Laura Timmins. He is a clock-maker hired by James Dowland. He never stays in one place for long...
  • Sydney Dowland is perhaps Dorcas Lane's one true weakness. James Dowland is 'surprised' with a son. The greater surprise may be that Dorcas Lane becomes his full-time guardian.  
The season has two weddings...though neither of the 'main heroines' is the bride.

The season begins with a Christmas episode that would be nearly perfect if it wasn't so ghostly. On the one hand, there are some very quotable lines in this one. Scenes that are just right. On the other hand, all the ghost business is just weird and unsettling.
Pearl: Ruby, you are beyond felicity.
Ruby: Pearl, you speak like a baboon who swallowed a dictionary.
Episodes two and three focus on two newcomers: James Dowland and Minnie Mude. James Dowland never really captured my interest, though Dorcas may have developed feelings for him, I never shared them. But Minnie, well, Minnie she's a favorite.

Episode four focuses on the romance of Thomas Brown and "Miss Ellison." Her father dies, and, he decides the time has come to propose marriage. Unfortunately, the arrival of an estranged brother, confuses Miss Ellison so much she's oblivious to nearly everything else including Thomas.

Episode five, six, and seven: These episodes focus in on Laura and Fisher Bloom. We also learn more about Minnie. Some time is also spent focusing in on Robert and Emma, Laura's parents.

Episode eight: James Dowland finally declares his feelings for Dorcas--undeniably. Unfortunately, a business partner and former/current lover arrive in town and lets Dorcas know in plenty of detail that James is not as 'free' as he proclaims.

Episode nine: The focus is on Lark Rise, mainly, as Alf falls in love with a girl from a neighboring village. Also Thomas and Miss Ellison struggle to agree on when to get married! He wants to wait and save up money. She wants to be married in October!

Episode ten: This episode is just weird and surprising! Constable Patterson--a married man--falls for Pearl Pratt when he sees her kill a mouse. He attempts to woo her with vegetables from his garden...and somehow...it works?! This "romance" is short-lived when the wife finds out...but still....

Episode eleven-and-twelve: These episodes are good. Dorcas discovers that James Dowland has a son, a son that he never knew about. He is all for keeping his son at boarding school and never meeting him. She'll have none of that. She creatively finds out more about the school Sydney is at and convinces him to do something for his son: bring him home now. She does end up taking care of Sydney full-time, but, this is a good thing. The wedding day has been set for Thomas and Margaret...but will things go smoothly?! These episodes have some funny and charming moments.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing. William Shakespeare. 1599/2004. SparkNotes. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

Much Ado About Nothing is without a doubt my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE, FAVORITE William Shakespeare play. To put it into perspective, I enjoy a handful of his comedies, and, even now and then a tragedy--though not Romeo and Juliet.

So what do I love about Much Ado About Nothing?

I love the movie. Even if you have no intention of ever reading the play, you SHOULD see the movie adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.

I love the soundtrack, the score, by Patrick Doyle. It is probably one of my favorite scores ever. (Perhaps I should do a top ten list sometime!)

I love the characters of Benedick and Beatrice. I do. I love, love, love them both as individuals and as a couple.

I love the humor and the romance.

I love how quotable it is. Down below, I'll be sharing my top ten quotes from the play!

Now, I don't necessarily, love, love, love the "romance" between Hero and Claudio. Hero is perfectly fine as a character--not fiery, not memorable, not delightful--but fine. Claudio, on the other hand, deserves to be yelled at more than a couple of times.

My top ten quotes from Much Ado About Nothing. The first three are my favorites. The rest are in the order of the play itself.


***

BENEDICK

[Coming forward] This can be no trick: the
conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of
this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady: it
seems her affections have their full bent. Love me!
why, it must be requited. I hear how I am censured:
they say I will bear myself proudly, if I perceive
the love come from her; they say too that she will
rather die than give any sign of affection. I did
never think to marry: I must not seem proud: happy
are they that hear their detractions and can put
them to mending. They say the lady is fair; 'tis a
truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; 'tis
so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving
me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor
no great argument of her folly, for I will be
horribly in love with her. I may chance have some
odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me,
because I have railed so long against marriage: but
doth not the appetite alter? a man loves the meat
in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I
were married. Here comes Beatrice. By this day!
she's a fair lady: I do spy some marks of love in
her.

***
BEATRICE

[Coming forward]
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn'd for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand:
If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
To bind our loves up in a holy band;
For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly.

***

BALTHASAR (singing)

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leafy:
Then sigh not so, & c.

***

BENEDICK
That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she
brought me up, I likewise give her most humble
thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick,
all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do
them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the
right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which
I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.

***
CLAUDIO
Thus answer I in the name of Benedick,
But hear these ill news with the ears of Claudio.
'Tis certain so; the prince wooes for himself.
Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore, all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
This is an accident of hourly proof,
Which I mistrusted not. Farewell, therefore, Hero!

***
DON PEDRO

Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of
Signior Benedick.

BEATRICE

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his single one:
marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

DON PEDRO

You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.

***

BEATRICE

Speak, count, 'tis your cue.

CLAUDIO

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were
but little happy, if I could say how much. Lady, as
you are mine, I am yours: I give away myself for
you and dote upon the exchange.

BEATRICE

Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth
with a kiss, and let not him speak neither.

DON PEDRO

In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.

BEATRICE

Yea, my lord; I thank it, poor fool, it keeps on
the windy side of care. My cousin tells him in his
ear that he is in her heart.

CLAUDIO

And so she doth, cousin.

BEATRICE

Good Lord, for alliance! Thus goes every one to the
world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a
corner and cry heigh-ho for a husband!

DON PEDRO

Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

BEATRICE

I would rather have one of your father's getting.
Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? Your
father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.

DON PEDRO

Will you have me, lady?

BEATRICE

No, my lord, unless I might have another for
working-days: your grace is too costly to wear
every day. But, I beseech your grace, pardon me: I
was born to speak all mirth and no matter.

DON PEDRO

Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best
becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in
a merry hour.

BEATRICE

No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there
was a star danced, and under that was I born.
Cousins, God give you joy!

***

DON PEDRO

By my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady.

LEONATO

There's little of the melancholy element in her, my
lord: she is never sad but when she sleeps, and
not ever sad then; for I have heard my daughter say,
she hath often dreamed of unhappiness and waked
herself with laughing.

DON PEDRO

She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband.

LEONATO

O, by no means: she mocks all her wooers out of suit.

DON PEDRO

She were an excellent wife for Benedict.

LEONATO

O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married,
they would talk themselves mad.

***
BENEDICK

Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?

BEATRICE

Yea, and I will weep a while longer.

BENEDICK

I will not desire that.

BEATRICE

You have no reason; I do it freely.

BENEDICK

Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.

BEATRICE

Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!

BENEDICK

Is there any way to show such friendship?

BEATRICE

A very even way, but no such friend.

BENEDICK

May a man do it?

BEATRICE

It is a man's office, but not yours.

BENEDICK

I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is
not that strange?

BEATRICE

As strange as the thing I know not. It were as
possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as
you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I
confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.

BENEDICK

By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.

BEATRICE

Do not swear, and eat it.

BENEDICK

I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make
him eat it that says I love not you.

BEATRICE

Will you not eat your word?

BENEDICK

With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest
I love thee.

BEATRICE

Why, then, God forgive me!

BENEDICK

What offence, sweet Beatrice?

BEATRICE

You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to
protest I loved you.

BENEDICK

And do it with all thy heart.

BEATRICE

I love you with so much of my heart that none is
left to protest.

BENEDICK

Come, bid me do any thing for thee.

BEATRICE

Kill Claudio.

BENEDICK

Ha! not for the wide world.

BEATRICE

You kill me to deny it. Farewell.

BENEDICK

Tarry, sweet Beatrice.

BEATRICE

I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in
you: nay, I pray you, let me go.

BENEDICK

Beatrice,--

BEATRICE

In faith, I will go.

BENEDICK

We'll be friends first.

BEATRICE

You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.

BENEDICK

Is Claudio thine enemy?

BEATRICE

Is he not approved in the height a villain, that
hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O
that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
--O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the market-place.

BENEDICK

Hear me, Beatrice,--

BEATRICE

Talk with a man out at a window! A proper saying!

BENEDICK

Nay, but, Beatrice,--

BEATRICE

Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.

BENEDICK

Beat--

BEATRICE

Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony,
a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,
surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I
had any friend would be a man for my sake! But
manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and
trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a
man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.

BENEDICK

Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.

BEATRICE

Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.

BENEDICK

Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?

BEATRICE

Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.

BENEDICK

Enough, I am engaged; I will challenge him. I will
kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand,
Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you
hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort your
cousin: I must say she is dead: and so, farewell.


***

BENEDICK

Do not you love me?

BEATRICE

Why, no; no more than reason.

BENEDICK

Why, then your uncle and the prince and Claudio
Have been deceived; they swore you did.

BEATRICE

Do not you love me?

BENEDICK

Troth, no; no more than reason.

BEATRICE

Why, then my cousin Margaret and Ursula
Are much deceived; for they did swear you did.

BENEDICK

They swore that you were almost sick for me.

BEATRICE

They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me.

BENEDICK

'Tis no such matter. Then you do not love me?

BEATRICE

No, truly, but in friendly recompense.

LEONATO

Come, cousin, I am sure you love the gentleman.

CLAUDIO

And I'll be sworn upon't that he loves her;
For here's a paper written in his hand,
A halting sonnet of his own pure brain,
Fashion'd to Beatrice.

HERO

And here's another
Writ in my cousin's hand, stolen from her pocket,
Containing her affection unto Benedick.

BENEDICK

A miracle! here's our own hands against our hearts.
Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take
thee for pity.

BEATRICE

I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield
upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life,
for I was told you were in a consumption.

BENEDICK

Peace! I will stop your mouth.

Kissing her

DON PEDRO

How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. I Am Malala

I Am Malala. Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. 2014. Little Brown. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

I wish I had known there were essentially two different books called 'I Am Malala.' I read, by mistake, the one adapted for young readers. I would have preferred to read the one written for adults. Not because I have a huge problem with adult nonfiction books being adapted for younger readers, I've never really given it any thought before. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other. But because I'm probably only going to read one, and, I'd want as full a story as possible. Now, I'm curious: how are the two different, and, what was left out of the younger reader's edition. But am I curious enough to seek out the other book and read the same story twice?! See. I'm torn now. I don't think I will...at least not now. But perhaps in a year or two, we'll see. (Has this ever happened to you, what did you decide?!)

So. This one is a biography of Malala Yousafzai. She is a believer in education for girls and women. Her outspokenness, her bravery angered the Taliban in Pakistan. Threats were made on her life, on her father's life. Eventually she was shot in the face on the school bus one afternoon. The book covers several years before the incident. One gets a sense of what life was like in Pakistan at that time--around 2008 or 2009, I believe, is when it opens. One especially gets a sense of what life was like in her household. Her father started several schools for girls; and he believed his daughter should have every opportunity to learn, to study, to be free to be herself. He supported--if not encouraged--her daughter to find her voice, and, to speak up for what she felt was right. Together they decided that it was worth the risk to their own lives.

Education is important. Girls need the chance, the opportunity for education just as much as boys do. An eleven or twelve year old girl should have the opportunity to go to school instead of being married off if her family arranges it. There should be more than one way to raise a girl, more than one option of how her life could go.

Malala is an advocate for education, for girls' education. Her message to the world did not stop after the Taliban shot her. In fact, if anything it magnified--amplified it. Her international audience grew much, much larger. Now everyone knew her, knew her story, knew what she stood for. There would be no stopping her now.

What I enjoyed about this book was how real it was. It could have easily been an issue book from start to finish. A book so passionately driven by one cause--one message--that it almost drowns in it. But that wasn't the case with this one. The way her story was told was very grounded in reality, very humble. This is one girl's story. And, yes, in some ways she is extraordinary. But in other ways she's ordinary too. The way that she describes her family life, the way that she describes having friends, it just felt very down-to-earth and genuine.

I would recommend this one. But as I said I wish I had known that there were two books to choose from. If you've read the adult one and the young adult one, did you notice any differences? Were the differences big?

My favorite quote:
My school was a heaven. Because inside the Khushal School, we flew on wings of knowledge. In a country where women aren't allowed out in public without a man, we girls traveled far and wide inside the pages of our books. In a land where many women can't read the prices in the markets, we did multiplication. In a place where, as soon as we were teenagers, we'd have to cover our heads and hide ourselves from the boys who'd been our childhood playmates, we ran as free as the wind. We didn't know where our education would take us. All we wanted was a chance to learn in peace. (34)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Persuasion (1818)

Persuasion. Jane Austen 1818/1992. Knopf Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]

Persuasion by Jane Austen is without a doubt one of my favorite books. Persuasion, Jane Eyre, and North and South are my top three classics, top three romances. As to which of the three I like best, well, do I really have to choose between them?! I've read these three again and again and again and again. I do feel sorry for people who don't make rereading a priority in their lives!

Anne Elliot is the heroine of Persuasion. She has a father, who in turns neglects and insults her, and two sisters. Her oldest sister, when she thinks of her at all, does so in a condescending manner. Her younger sister, well, she thinks of her more often, but mainly in a way that takes advantage of her! Anne is both patient and frustrated. She's made peace with how things are, accepts that this is how things will likely remain. True, she sometimes finds herself dreaming of HIM. The man she loved passionately way back when, and, still loves to this day. The man that her family disapproved of. The man that she ultimately broke up with because she was a dutiful daughter. Captain Wentworth. Yes, sometimes she does think of him....

So when the family's financial difficulties leads the family to move to Bath and rent out their estate to a naval officer, that, is when Anne gets a second chance at life, love, and happiness. Of course, no one knew it would be to her advantage! Anne meets Captain Wentworth again. The meeting isn't without its awkwardness. And Captain Wentworth seems EAGER to marry now that he's established himself and is quite wealthy. But he's eager to marry any woman that is not Anne....

There are dozens of characters to meet in this one. Austen, like always, does a great job in creating a world we carry about, and characters we can react to! This is Captain Wentworth and Anne's story....but.... it's much more than that.

I would definitely recommend this one. And. If you get the chance to read it before Pride and Prejudice that might be even better. I think when people become so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice it can be hard for them to like Austen's other heroines. But I much prefer Persuasion to Pride and Prejudice.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Bedtime for Frances

Bedtime for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1960/1996. HarperCollins. 32 pages.

First sentence: The big hand of the clock is at 12. The little hand is at 7. It is seven o'clock. It is bedtime for Frances. Mother said, "It is time for bed." Father said, "It is time for bed." Frances said, "I want a glass of milk." "All right," said Father. "All right," said Mother. "You may have a glass of milk." Frances drank the milk.

Premise/plot: Bedtime for Frances is a classic picture book, a bedtime book too. It is the first book in a series starring Frances. Will she have an easy time going to bed?!

My thoughts: I love, love, love Bedtime for Frances. Frances is a badger that is finding it very difficult to sleep. She's had her glass of water. She's been kissed and hugged. She's got her teddy bear and her doll. But Frances imagination is too active to allow her to fall asleep quickly. She thinks there is a tiger in her room. No, a giant in her room. Oh no! There's a crack in the ceiling. What if something scary were to crawl out?! And what is that tapping on her window?! Her parents are kind and gentle--at least at first. But when these interruptions persist, well, her father gets a little grumpy. Frances finally embraces her father's message: every one has a job. It may be the wind's job to make noise; it may be the moth's job to bump into things; but her job is to sleep.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Top Ten Ramona Moments

To celebrate Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday, I thought I would share my top ten Ramona moments.

10. "Ramona Sits" from Ramona's World
Ramona cat-sits Daisy's cat. It is NOT a fun week. Seven days feels like forever. Especially when her Mom leaves her in charge of Roberta too--for a whole FIFTEEN MINUTES.
9. "Ramona's New Pajamas" from Ramona and Her Mother 
Ramona loves, loves, loves her new pajamas. But is it a good idea to wear pajamas under your clothes and go to school?! 
8. "Owl Trouble" and "Parents' Night" from Ramona the Brave
Poor Ramona! Susan and Ramona have ISSUES over their owls at art time. I feel for Ramona in this situation. The owl-drama continues. And Ramona writes the sweetest heart-felt note to her mom. COME HERE MOTHER. COME HERE TO ME. This chapter is just one reason why I love, love, love Cleary's writing. She KNOWS what it feels like to be a kid.
7. "The Quimbys' Quarrel" and "The Extra-good Sunday" from Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Ramona and Beezus complain about eating TONGUE. And the parents decide to punish them. Beezus and Ramona do not get out of their punishment: cooking a meal for the family. What do Ramona and Beezus know how to cook, or to cook well? It will be an experiment for sure.

6. "Ramona's Great Day" from Ramona the Pest
Ramona's first day of morning kindergarten. Her teacher is Miss Binney. The days has its ups and downs. But Ramona by the end of the day feels good about this thing called school. But will it last?! This is the chapter where Ramona asks Miss Binney HOW DID MIKE MULLIGAN GO TO THE BATHROOM?! 
6. "Supernuisance" "The Patient" and "The Book Report" from Ramona Quimby Age 8
Ramona gets sick at school and throws up in front of the class. She's so embarrassed. Her mom stays home to take care of her when she's sick. Ramona gets a homework assignment: a book report. Ramona has to read The LEFT BEHIND CAT for a book report, but, she doesn't like it. How to make the review entertaining? How about doing her report like a commercial? This is a funny chapter!
5.  "Beezus and Her Little Sister." from Beezus and Ramona
Ramona LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to have The Littlest Steam Shovel read to her. Her parents are unwilling to read it to her--they have come to have no tolerance for it. But Beezus, well, she'll read it to Ramona, not that she likes it, but, she'll give in now and then. She gets the idea to take Ramona to the library to get a brand new book--for two weeks. Ramona picks a new book, but, it is still about steam shovels. She likes it so much, that she does something NAUGHTY so she can keep it for always. What will Beezus do since it was checked out on her card? Just how sympathetic will the librarian be?
4. "Slacks for Ella Funt" from Ramona and Her Mother
What's the Quimby household like on a Saturday? Well, on this particular Saturday, it's an interesting one. Ramona wants to have a sewing project like Beezus and her mom. She decides that she will make her elephant a pair of pants. Does it go well? Not really. Could she have successfully made a skirt for her elephant? Most likely without any trouble. But stubborn Ramona wanted PANTS. When it doesn't end well, she gets upset, which leads to her doing something very naughty with a tube of toothpaste!
3. "The Sheep Suit" and "Ramona and the Three Wise Persons" from Ramona and Her Father
Christmas is a coming. Ramona wants to be a sheep. She volunteers her mom to make her a costume. (At least she didn't volunteer her mom to make all three costumes! So it could always be worse!) But will her mom have time to make the costume?! It doesn't look like it! Will Ramona get to be a sheep?
Pageant night! Ramona may not be wearing a satisfactory costume, but, will she go on and participate anyway? Three older girls filling in for the wise men may help her out! The book which has had its serious moments ends on a joyful tone.

2. "Ramona Says A Bad Word" from Ramona the Brave
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this chapter. I do. Ramona's had a horrible time of it throughout the whole book, and, she's had enough of it. She breaks down. She lets loose. GUTS. GUTS. GUTS. GUTS. But why is everyone laughing at her?! She wasn't trying to be funny! She was doing some serious venting!!!
1. "Ramona's Engagement" Ring from Ramona the Pest 
 This chapter is probably one of my FAVORITE chapters from the whole series. In this chapter, Ramona has issues with her boots. She doesn't want hand-me-down brown "boy" boots. She wants pretty RED boots that are obvious girl boots. She does get them eventually. But can she use them responsibly?! This is the chapter where Henry Huggins becomes Ramona's hero...much to Davy's relief. It has Ramona joyfully shouting that she WILL MARRY HENRY HUGGINS. She has a worm engagement ring and everything.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Frog and Toad Are Friends

Frog and Toad Are Friends. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1970. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

Frog ran up the path to Toad's house. He knocked on the front door. There was no answer, "Toad, Toad," shouted Frog, "wake up. It is spring!" "Blah," said a voice from inside the house. "Toad! Toad!" cried Frog. "The sun is shining! The snow is melting. Wake up!" "I am not here," said the voice. 

I love Frog and Toad. I do. I just love them. While this isn't my favorite-or-best Frog and Toad book, it is still worth reading. It contains five stories: Spring, The Story, A Lost Button, A Swim, and The Letter.

My favorites from the collection include "Spring" in which Frog tricks his friend into getting out of bed by changing his calendar and "The Letter" in which Frog cheers up his friend by sending him a letter in the mail.

All the stories highlight this special friendship--highlights each character's strengths and weaknesses. I would definitely recommend any Frog and Toad book!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. A Baby Sister for Frances

A Baby Sister for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1964/1992. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was a quiet evening. Father was reading his newspaper. Mother was feeding Gloria, the new baby. Frances was sitting under the kitchen sink. She was singing a little song: Plinketty, plinketty, plinketty, plink, Here is the dishrag that's under the sink. Here are the buckets and brushes and me, Plinketty, plinketty, plinketty, plee. She stopped the song and listened. Nobody said anything.

Premise/plot: Frances is having a hard time adjusting to her new baby sister, Gloria. She's still Frances, an imaginative badger that loves to make up her own songs, but she's finding it harder and harder to be noticed by her busy parents. And her parents don't have as much time to devote to keeping things in the house flowing smoothly. Frances decides it may be best to run away.
After dinner that evening Frances packed her little knapsack very carefully. She put in her tiny special blanket and her alligator doll. She took all of the nickels and pennies out of her bank, for travel money, and she took her good luck coin for good luck. Then she took a box of prunes from the kitchen and five chocolate sandwich cookies.
"Well," said Frances, "it is time to say goodbye. I am on my way. Good bye."
"Where are you running away to?" said Father.
"I think that under the dining-room table is the best place," said Frances. "It's cozy and the kitchen is near if I run out of cookies."
"That is a good place to run away to," said Mother, "but I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too," said Father.
"Well, said Frances, "good-bye," and she ran away. (12-13)
My thoughts: Essentially this one is like Noisy Nora, but, I think I like this one better because I like Frances so much. I enjoy this one. It's not my favorite Frances story--in fact, it's probably my least favorite--but that has more to do with the others being so great, so memorable.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. A Big Fat Crisis

A Big Fat Crisis by Deborah Cohen. 2013. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I found Deborah A. Cohen's A Big Fat Crisis to be a compelling read. Did I agree with the book? Well, that's another story. First, I want to say that her approach is different from those I've read before, read recently I mean. Her approach is more psychological perhaps.

Cohen basically tries to persuade readers of two things: 1) that people who are obese are victims and they cannot possibly be held responsible for what they consume or how much they consume 2) that people who are obese are obese because of their surrounding environments and that if the environments changed, then, their behavior would most likely change as well as they adapt to a new normal.

Let's look at these individually first.

People are obese because they naturally lack the will power to say no to food that is easily, consistently available; people are obese because of an inability to think things through and make good-for-them-in-the-long-run decisions. Her argument is essentially that people fall victim to their environment, and, they physically--psychologically--can't help succumbing to cues from their environment. People aren't smart enough to 'see through' or 'see beyond' the obvious tricks of the food industry. They are fooled one hundred percent of the time, at least, that is what Cohen argues. She dismisses the third of Americans that are not overweight or obese as almost abnormal, inexplicable phenomenons. (Because their existence disturbs her findings about what is natural for humans, they're largely ignored or dismissed. What could she possibly learn from people who have self-control, when, clearly she argues for hundreds of pages that self-control isn't natural and can't be taught?!)

Let's slow it down. Is this true? Do we want this to be true really? Do we really want to argue that no one is ever responsible for their behavior, and, that they are just following the cues of their environment, and they don't have any other choice but to do what they're led to do? Think about what this argument means for all areas of life where decision making is involved--which is essentially everything.

I don't think this is true. This "excuse" may temporarily give you a "feel good" feeling if you're overweight or obese, but, isn't it also slightly insulting and condescending. At least one or the other. You can't change. You can't do it. You're not capable. It's beyond your ability or capacity. The only way you could ever change is if a lot of other people come together and act on your behalf by changing "the environment" so that you stand a chance. Isn't it better to be honest and say, "You know I understand exactly how difficult and tough it is. BUT. You can do it. It may be hard. It may mean always choosing the more difficult path before you. But you know what, you can do it. Some days will be easier than others. There will be moments of doubt and despair. But it is doable. You'll have to change how you think, how you react, how you cope. You'll have to rewire your brain and change your lifestyle. But it isn't as impossible as it sounds."

What do you think? If you struggle with weight would you rather be told that you're a victim and that it is actually impossible for you to do anything to "fix" the situation yourself OR would you rather be told that you can do something, that you can start taking steps right here, right now to be healthier?! I do want your opinions!

The second half of her argument is that the environment must be changed on behalf of the overweight/obese in society. The environment should be changed through both regulations (I'm assuming legislation?) and voluntary submission to new health guidelines. She's talking about making-over a country so that workplaces, restaurants, supermarkets, and stores of all sorts will no longer prove "a threat" to the nation's health.

Let's look at some of her ideas for restaurants. Standardized/regulated portion sizes across the nation. Most entrees--if not all--should be 700 calories or less. So that no one "accidentally" eats more than a third of their daily calories. Require 10% of a restaurant's menu to be healthy, following current government approved nutrition tips. Train waiters on health and nutrition, so they can warn customers about the risks and dangers of ordering certain things off the menu.

Let's look at some of her ideas for supermarkets. Smaller supermarkets, for one. Fewer choices overall, perhaps. All unhealthy food will be available, but, put in places where you really have to search it out to find it. Stores arranged by meal: a breakfast area, a lunch area, a supper area. If "fruits and vegetables" end up being in two or three places, all the better, in her opinion. Stores should have cooking demonstrations, lots of free samples, give out recipe books, and teach about meal planning.

Essentially, her idea is that if you happen to change the environment so that it is easier to eat healthy and more difficult to eat unhealthy, then health will probably most likely improve because people will always do what is easiest and takes the least amount of thought. Though she admits that she has no idea if changing the environment would actually work and solve the nation's obesity crisis because no one has attempted it yet, not even in a few small, "trial" areas.

Do I agree with the second half of her argument? That's a tough one. Do I think it's a good idea for waiters to start lecturing customers on what they're ordering and telling them that they shouldn't eat that because it will make them fatter?! Of course, that's an exaggeration. Cohen is not arguing for rude behavior. But still.

I do think this half of the argument isn't quite as flawed. I do wish that every restaurant had actually healthy options. Not pretend-healthy options that are slightly healthier by comparison. I do wish that restaurants were perfectly straightforward about what is in each dish and how it's prepared. I do think it's a good idea to portion things better. For example, instead of over-portioning you on carb-heavy items like rice and pasta, they'd give you exactly a serving size: half a cup. Of course, carbs aren't the only things that need to be portioned. (For example, I know a restaurant where the chicken-fried steak meal is TWO battered-and-fried steaks topped with gravy. Two is *the* portion. You have to ask for the "child's plate" or the "senior" plate to receive just ONE steak.) I would REALLY, REALLY love to see vegetable options in restaurants that aren't fried, creamed, covered in gravy, or buttered-to-death. And I would really, really, really love to see fresh fruit as an option in restaurants. I agree with her that I think it is really difficult to stay out of restaurants all together. She mentions work-related and family-related gatherings at restaurants, and, it can be tough to find that "one" healthy option at a restaurant that is doable some of the time.

As for grocery stores, they are in the promoting-and-selling business. And I'm not sure that "free samples" of vegetables are going to sell more vegetables. Though I do believe that vegetables *can* be prepared in yummy, yummy ways. I eat a LOT of vegetables myself. I don't think it's a lost cause, and, that vegetables and fruits should be neglected so scientists can work on futuristic foods that are "healthy and taste good too." (Can you tell I'm still annoyed by reading Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat?!)

One thing that she doesn't really mention needing to change is television. She does mention the Food Network, saying that if grocery stores offered cooking demonstrations and cooking classes then people would benefit after all they love to watch the Food Network. The Food Network is not in the business of creating/teaching healthy recipes designed to help people watch what they eat, to lose weight, to prevent chronic diseases. You hardly ever--if at all--see them caution you against using too much salt, too much cream, too much butter, too much sugar, too much white flour, etc.

Some ideas seemed potentially good--ideal. But I'm not sure all of them are. And even the good ideas seem like it would be an uphill battle to achieve implementation. Not that that reason alone is worth giving the matter all up. But it is asking us to potentially place a lot of trust and power/authority into the government.

Am I convinced that all of society needs to be rebuilt/redesigned with the overweight/obese victim in mind? I found it an engaging read. But it read more like a dystopia to me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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