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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. July Reflections

In July, I reviewed 60 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Board book: Little Blue Truck's Beep-Along Book. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Board book: Carry and Learn Numbers. Illustrated by Sarah Ward. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Gingerbread for Liberty: How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Funny Face, Sunny Face. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Big Princess. Taro Miura. 2015. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]  
  12. Out and About: A First Book of Poems. Shirley Hughes. 1988/2015. Candlewick Press. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Edited by Elizabeth Hammill. 2015. Candlewick. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Middle grade:
  1. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Cinderella Smith. Stephanie Barden. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 2011. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Close to the Wind. Jon Walter. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. First Flight Around The World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won The Race. Tim Grove. 2015. Abrams. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Polar Bear Scientists. Peter Lourie. 2012/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. 2015. Penguin. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Messengers. Edward Hogan. 2015. Candlewick Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Apple and Rain. Sarah Crossan. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Adult fiction:
  1. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Ross Poldark. (Poldark #1) Winston Graham. 1945/2015. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Innocent. Ann H. Gabhart. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2.  Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1973/1993. Intervarsity Press. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Pass It On. Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee. David C. Cook. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  5. Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The End of Me. Kyle Idleman. 2015. David C. Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  8. Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  9. Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  10. Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible. Brian Cosby. 2015. David C. Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat

Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

One night Henry and Henry's father and Henry's big dog Mudge were watching TV.

I enjoyed reading Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. I don't remember ever having read any titles in the Henry and Mudge series. So this was my first. My first impressions of the series are good, I think.

Henry's family takes in a stray cat; this stray cat is unique looking: it looks like mashed prunes. The family is happy to take the cat in--for a few days, a few weeks. But because having Mudge is like having five dogs--that they can't take the cat into their home permanently.

The first chapter is about taking the stray cat into their home. The second chapter is about how happy the cat is in her new home, and, how much Mudge loves being mothered by the cat. Essentially the family does come to like the cat. The third chapter is "bittersweet" I suppose. The cat's original owner is found, and the two are reunited. But Henry's family misses the cat.
In one week the shabby cat had become Mudge's mother. It washed Mudge all the time. It washed Mudge's ears. It washed Mudge's eyes. It even washed Mudge's dirty feet.
Have you read the Henry and Mudge series? Do you have a favorite title?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Five Little Monkeys

Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Five Little monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said...No more moneys jumping on the bed!

Premise/plot: A board book adaptation of the classic nursery rhyme "Five Little Monkeys."

My thoughts: The pages are easy to turn, which is a good thing, always. The illustrations are nice enough, I suppose. The text itself isn't surprising or extra-wonderful. The book includes "helpful" illustrations for parents who are clueless on the motions of the song/rhyme. (Are they necessary?)

The traditional rhyme is fun. As is the song. Here's one of my favorite adaptations:


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. On My Honor

On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]



The good news is that the jacket copy of this book is so straight forward I would have known to avoid this one as a kid. (Sad books and I did not get along.)

What is the book about? Joel and Tony are close friends, perhaps even best, best friends. But Joel isn't honest with Tony. And Tony isn't honest with Joel. If either boy had been honest, then the book wouldn't exist essentially. The truth is, Joel doesn't want to go with Tony to Starved Rock state park to climb the bluffs. And Tony doesn't want to go swimming at the city pool with Joel. Joel's last hope is that his Dad will say no to the boys biking over to the state park. Is Joel honest with his Dad? Of course not! Don't be silly. His Dad thinks his son wants to go biking with his friend. And though he knows it may be beyond his child's ability to bike eight or nine miles each way, he says yes. Perhaps he wants his son to like him and think he's cool? Joel tries to hide his disappointment that his Dad failed him by setting up good boundaries, and reluctantly Joel sets off on a very long journey. (In the Dad's defense, Joel and Tony are not honest about what they're going to do once they get to the state park.)

At some point, perhaps halfway, perhaps not. The boys take a break on the bridge. Tony decides to change plans. Now Joel had promised his Dad that they wouldn't change plans, that they would go where they were supposed to go, and do what they were supposed to do, but, does Joel have the integrity, the "honor," to stand his ground? Of course not! Not in this book! Tony decides to go swimming in the river, the river that both boys had been warned was dangerous dozens and dozens of times. Tony talks his friend into going swimming in a dangerous river. Joel knew he was making a bad decision, a "wrong" decision, a breaking-all-rules, and going-against-my-parents-decision, but he goes along with Tony anyway. Into the water they go. But Tony has a big secret: he can't swim. And, as you can imagine, swimming in a dangerous river with strong currents and whirlpools is not the best idea if you can't swim. So Tony drowns.

What little regard I have for Joel is completely lost in the next half of this oh-so-short novel. (I was so thankful this one is short!!!) Is Joel honest with anyone after the accident? Does he tell the police? Does he tell Tony's mom? Does he tell his Dad? It's not that he doesn't tell anyone--he tells a stranger, someone near the scene that he gets to look for Tony in the river--but when this stranger wants to do the right thing, the only necessary thing, Joel makes promises he has no intention of keeping. The lying begins. He has no idea what happened to Tony. He left Tony on the road, on his way to the state park. Tony was alive and biking the last time he saw him. He has no idea why he isn't back home yet.

The truth does come out, of course, but not in a way that puts Joel in a good light, an honorable position. The book ends with Joel and his Dad having a heartfelt conversation. But that conversation didn't sit right with me. Joel wants assurance that there is a heaven and that his friend, Tony, is there. And his Dad tells him that no one can be sure that there even is a heaven. But if there is a heaven, then he's sure Tony is there. I'm not sure which annoys me more. The emphasis that "no one can be sure" there is a heaven, or, the assumption that anyone who dies automatically goes to heaven. I'm not suggesting that the book should end with a discussion that heaven is a real place and hell is a real place, and unless you're trusting in Christ as your Savior, you're destined for hell. That's an unlikely book ending for sure.

Who's responsible? Who's to be held accountable? Who's to blame? The book spends some time devoted to this, mostly through showing and not telling. (Though that last conversation with his Dad does bring this up.) The book certainly can bring a reaction out of the reader.

On My Honor was a Newbery Honor book in 1987.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. An Impartial Witness

An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

An Impartial Witness is the second book in the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. I love that the series is set during World War I; An Impartial Witness is set in 1917. Bess Crawford is a nurse, and, she's nursing wounded soldiers both abroad and at home. (Bess spends a good amount of time in this novel in France, very close to the front.)

The book opens with Bess arriving in London on leave for thirty-six hours. She's just spent time on a convoy with a wounded soldier--a pilot with severe burns. He keeps holding on because he loves his wife. Her photograph is something he always has close by. She would recognize his wife anywhere she's seen it so often the past few days. But she didn't really expect to see her--this wife--at the train station seeing another soldier off. The scene was VERY emotional, and quite inappropriate if she's the wife of another man. The scene haunts her.

And with good reason, it turns out! For she soon learns that this woman--this wife--is found murdered that evening. She tells what she saw at the train station--several hours before the crime. She describes the man--the soldier--with her. That might have been all...except that she can't stop thinking of the case, of the tragedy of it, and she keeps talking with Scotland Yard about what she learns...

A man is arrested. But is he guilty? She doesn't think so. She really, really doesn't think so. For could she be falling in love with him?! Michael Hart isn't capable of murdering the woman he was supposedly in love with for years, is he?

Can Bess find the real murderer?!

I love, love, love this series. I love the characterization. I love the historical setting. I love the mystery itself. It's just a fabulous read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. What's On Your Nightstand (July)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. Jonathan Dodson. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Dodson writes of a culture and society that doesn't believe the gospel, a culture where the gospel is so strange and foreign that it is unbelievable. He encourages readers to rethink how they evangelize. And he does so in a way that does not compromise the truth and the exclusivity of the faith. He is honest in his assessment that people struggle with how to communicate the gospel and face challenges that seem impossible. I'm almost halfway through with this one--and so far I am liking it. It's a very thought-provoking read.

Wouldn't It Be Deadly: An Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery. D.E. Ireland. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

The first in a new mystery series. I've been reading this one off-and-on for a few weeks now. I never seem to be motivated to read more than a chapter or two at a time. But it has potential. It is Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins after all. So I'll keep reading.

Murder on the Bride's Side (Elizabeth Parker #2). Tracy Kiely. 2010. St. Martin's Press. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I'll be reviewing the first book in the series soon. The heroine, Elizabeth Parker, is an Austen lover. She's attending the wedding of a best friend, and her best friend's family is quite dysfunctional. The wedding will be melodramatic--but will it prove deadly? I am liking but not loving this series. But it's a light read that is amusing enough.

Dissonance. Erica O'Rourke. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy]

YA speculative fiction. The heroine "walks" between alternate/parallel universes. I'm enjoying it so far.

Bitter Truth. (Bess Crawford #3) 2012. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I am loving this mystery series. Bess Crawford is a World War I nurse. The books have depth to them that many mysteries don't manage to have.

A Little In Love. Susan Fletcher. 2015. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Reading this because I am a big Les Miserables fan. This is a novelization of Eponine's story.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. The Book of Lost Tales, Part One

The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading The Book of Lost Tales, Part One? Yes and no. I'll try my best to explain why. First, The Book of Lost Tales traces Tolkien's writings about Middle Earth from the very beginnings. Many of these stories and poems (yes, poems) date from around the first World War. Tolkien sets up a framework for his fantasy stories. A man, Eriol, stumbles across The Cottage of Lost Play, and, meets a bunch of storytellers essentially. Tolkien's mythology is at its earliest and in some ways its weakest. It was interesting to read these early pieces, in a way, to see the origins of what would become a great fantasy. And a handful of these stories can be seen--to a certain degree--in what would be published as The Silmarillion. I'll be honest though, I preferred the more-polished stories of The Silmarillion. One does learn that Tolkien kept working and working and working and working on some of these stories. That this mythology was always a work in progress. From the first version of the story to the latest version of the story, they'd be BIG changes. Other stories he edited or rewrote perhaps only two or three times, and then almost sort of forgot about. Some stories he never finished at all. I believe there is at least one unfinished story in The Book of Lost Tales. Since I've started reading the introduction to the Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, I might be slightly confused. But. Generally speaking, what readers are being "treated" to is fragments, captured moments of his early writings.

In addition to reading Tolkien's own work, one also is privileged to read Christopher Tolkien's commentaries on the stories included. At first I had my doubts that commentaries would be interesting. But I can say that without the commentaries, the stories themselves wouldn't make much cohesive sense. So I was quickly proven wrong!

But as interesting as I found it. (And I didn't mind the poetry, by the way) I can't say that I "loved" it or found it wonderful or thrilling. I'm undecided on if I'll continue on with Book of Lost Tales Part Two.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. The Armstrong Girl (2015)

The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 I loved, loved, loved Cathy Le Feuvre's The Armstrong Girl. I think you might love it too.

Do you enjoy reading nonfiction? Do you enjoy biographies?
Do you enjoy reading about the Victorians--fiction or nonfiction?
Do you love history books RICH in primary sources?
Do you like to read about law cases and the legal system?
Looking for a good--true--story about women's rights?
Have an interest in journalism, reporting, and publishing?
Have an interest in learning more about the history and/or origins of The Salvation Army?
Do you enjoy compelling narratives? How about complex ethical dilemmas?

The Armstrong Girl is set in England around 1885. One man--with a good amount of help--sets out to right some wrongs. He is upset--and rightly so--that young girls--young virgins--are being sold into prostitution and sometimes even trafficked out of the country into foreign brothels. He wants to prove that it is relatively easy to find a young girl--thirteen or so--to buy for immoral purposes. He goes undercover himself to prove that this is so. Now, for the record, his intentions are to save her once he's bought her. To place her safely among friends in The Salvation Army so that she is not sold again. Who is he? He's William Thomas Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette. His series of stories about child prostitution and sex trafficking were called The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. His big goal was to strongly encourage--compel, force--parliament to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16.
Here is how he 'warned' his readers:
Therefore we say quite frankly today that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool's paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days. The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell is not pleasant reading, and is not meant to be. It is, however, an authentic record of unimpeachable facts, "abominable, unutterable, and worse than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived." But it is true, and its publication is necessary. 
The first half of the book focuses on the articles he wrote and the legislation that resulted from his reporting. The second half of the book focuses on the legal aftermath of his reporting. He is arrested and placed on trial. Others who helped him--knowingly or unknowingly--are put on trial as well. Will he be found guilty? How about the others, will they be found guilty as well?


I loved this book. I found it fascinating. It was well-written. It was compelling--complex and detailed, full of oh-so-human characters. It was rich in primary sources: excerpts from the articles, testimonies from the trial, journal entries and letters from some of the participants, etc. It was just an absorbing read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Library Loot: Fifth Trip in July

New Loot:
  • The Lost Princess by George MacDonald
  • Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Austen by Tracy Kiely
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal
  • Emma by Jane Austen
Leftover Loot:
  • Wouldn't it Be Deadly an Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery by D.E. Ireland
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
  •  Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • Wish You Well by David Baldacci 
  • Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Search the Dark by Charles Todd
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are by Dr. Seuss
  • In A People House by Dr. Seuss
  • The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
        Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Mom School (2015)

Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I go to school, I learn how to cut and glue paper, count to 100, and sing silly songs. My mom says she went to school, too. I think she went to Mom School.

Premise/plot: A little girl is convinced that her Mom went to Mom School to learn how to be the BEST BEST mom in the whole world. She imagines all the things her Mom might have learned at Mom School. Things such as:
  • learning how to go grocery shopping without losing any kids
  • learning how to pitch a ball slowly so a kid can actually hit it
  • learning how to go on scary rides
  • learning how to talk on the phone and do hair at the same time
  • learning how to cook and listen to silly made-up songs at the same time
  • learning how to make forts out of couch cushions
And that's just a small sampling of one little girl's imagination.

My thoughts: This one was super-sweet and adorable. Predictably so, yes. But it's irresistibly charming in some ways. If you're looking for a sweet mom-and-daughter read that celebrates family life. I really love the little girl's pigtails. I do.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I wanted to reread the book because the second book is finally available. I wanted to reconnect with Lara Jean and Peter.

Did I enjoy it as much the second time around? Probably not. Oh, I still liked it a lot. I did. I loved some scenes very much. I like having Peter hang out with Lara Jean and Kitty and her Dad. And the Christmas cookie scene is still very fun. But I noticed myself being more intolerant and less forgiving of some of the other characters. For example, Lara Jean's friend, Chris. For some reason, I was annoyed by every single scene with her in it. And I don't remember feeling that annoyed the first time around! Josh also annoyed me more the second time around.

So I am glad I read it. But I didn't find it as delightful and surprising as the first time around. Some books are like that though. I am still looking forward to reading the second book.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Week in Review: July 19-25

The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library]
Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]
All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]
Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

This week's recommendation(s):  I enjoyed quite a few books this week. I reread one of my favorite books--The Daughter of Time. Children of Hurin was a great fantasy read. And imperfect as it may have been, I couldn't put down All We Have Is Now.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Picture This: Shapes

Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Dot
The number of dots on a ladybug's wings tells us what type of beetle it is. How many do you count?
Line
Look at the pigeons on the telephone line. Together they take a break from flying in the sky.
Curve
Snakes curve from side to side as they slither along.
Premise/plot: A nonfiction concept board book for young(er) children. The focus this time is on shapes found in nature. Readers are introduced to the following shapes: dot, line, curve, round, triangle, square, rectangle, diamond, oval, semicircle, coil, spiral, crisscross, star, pentagon, hexagon, ball, and trapezoid. These 'shapes' are found in photographs.
Spiral
The chameleon can twirl its tail to grab on to branches. See the spiral as it sits in a tree?
My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I enjoyed it just as much as Homes. Both books are definitely worth seeking out. It's never too early to start sharing good nonfiction titles with your children!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Picture This: Homes

Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Ant
The weaver ant twists leaves and twigs together with silk thread to make a home.
Spider
This wasp spider spins a web in tall grass, where it rests and catches its food.
Premise/plot: A nonfiction concept book for young(er) children. Readers are introduced to a wide variety of animals and learn where they live. The book is full of photographs of animals and their homes. The book is quite simple in concept, yet, oddly fascinating at the same time. Some animals may prove familiar (polar bear, ant, bee) others may seem more exotic (Fennec fox, eel, village weaver).

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. As I said, I wasn't expecting to find the book fascinating. (Board books, well, they rarely fascinate me. They can make me smile now and then. And now and then even sing.) If you're looking for a nature-themed concept book, this one is worth your time.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Seuss on Saturday #30

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]

First sentence: At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...is the Street of the Lifted Lorax. 

Premise/Plot: Readers hear about the Lorax from the Once-ler. It's a story of lessons not learned in time, a story of an environment abused and wasted. It is a heavy tale for a picture book. Perhaps the heaviest of Seuss' picture books.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
 My thoughts: The Lorax is my least favorite Seuss book. I won't lie and say it is the only Seuss novel with a moral or lesson, it's not. Many of Seuss's books have a moral in them. Some are subtle. Some are in-your-face obvious. I prefer the subtler moral. I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Hatchet

Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I still can't say that I love this cover of Hatchet, but, avoiding the book because of the cover was a bit silly of me. So did I enjoy reading Hatchet? Yes, for the most part. Hatchet is a survivor story starring Brian Robeson. (It is a Newbery Honor book). Brian is on the way to visit his Dad after the dramatic divorce. (Brian knows something his father doesn't. This SECRET haunts him throughout the book. He's definitely not over the divorce.) But the single engine plane taking him to visit his Dad never arrives. The pilot has a heart attack, and Brian must land/crash the plane himself. He survives the crash, but will he know how to survive in the wild until he is rescued? Fortunately, his mom gave him a hatchet before the trip. And it's a hatchet he wore on the plane, on his belt, I believe? So it's the one thing he has with him that may enable him to survive until help comes...

Brian has adventures and misadventures. He manages to survive, but, never to the point where it becomes fun and amazing. These aren't adventures he'd ever choose to have.

I definitely am glad I read this one. Have you read it? What did you think?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. All We Have Is Now (2015)

All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

No one saw it coming. Because this particular cosmic death star came from the direction of the sun, we were blind.

Did I love All We Have Is Now? Yes and no. If you're asking if it is a perfect read, then the answer is no. Yet there was something about it that kept me reading. Here's the premise, Emerson and Vince are two homeless streets getting by--barely--when the news comes in that the world is ending. Now everyone--including our two teens--are having to deal with life issues in a hurry. How will they spend their last two days? What will they learn about themselves? about each other? about humanity? life?

If you only give the book a few chapters--or a few pages--then you'll come to the wrong conclusion about what kind of book this is. For the simple reason that at first, these two decide they do not want to wait to die, that waiting would be torturous, that it would be better to decide when and where and how they'll die. So they make a plan to commit suicide together. This doesn't happen. For the two meet Carl, an older man, who has spent the past few days helping others and making other people's dreams come true. Inspired, Emerson and Vince take on a new mission: how many people can they meet in their last days? how many dreams can they help come true? 

Emerson and Vince are best, best friends. Vince is in love with Emerson, though she does have some issues. And Emerson is beginning to think that she's been wrong to keep Vince as only a friend. He is so much more than her best friend. But now time is against her. She's brave enough to face the end of the world perhaps so long as he is with her. But one of Vince's dreams is to make sure Emerson doesn't have any regrets at all before she dies...

The book is emotional and compelling. It is very sweet at times, very romantic. But I'm just not sure about the ending--the epilogue. I'm not sure it fits with the rest of the book and what it all means. But I thought there were some beautifully written scenes in this one. Most of this one is written in prose, but, some chapters are in verse.

It's like a song that
pulls you in and
fills you up
and gives you what
you didn't even know
you needed until
the sounds, the melody,
and the voices
wash away the pain.
They have each other,
and it's all they need.
A new single,
headed for the top
of the charts. (129)

The best kind of days
are the ones that make
you feel like you are living
inside a kaleidoscope,
twirling and swirling
with dazzling joy.
It doesn't happen often.
But when it does,
you hold on tight and
wish for the delight to
go on
and on
and on.
Forever. (156)

What I really appreciated about this one was the characterization. I loved getting to know Emerson and Vince. And I love following Carl's story as well.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Phantoms in the Snow

Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Phantoms in the Snow was a great book set during World War II. Noah, the hero, is a young man who has just lost both parents to small pox. His only living relative is an uncle that he's never met, or can't remember meeting. He's a soldier in the army, a "Phantom" part of a skiing unit. Now Noah was raised by pacifists, and, until their death he's never really thought about how he personally feels about war, and if he should be a part of it or not. He's sent to live with his uncle at a mountain camp, army camp. Once there, his uncle signs him up and lies about his age. Noah begins his training. He first has to learn to ski. He already knows how to shoot. But there's so much about army life that he doesn't know at least not yet. Noah remains conflicted through much of the book. About who he is and what he believes and where he really belongs. He learns a lot about life and about how you should never make assumptions about where another person is coming from, and what life is like for others. Anyway, it's a very strong coming-of-age story. It's a story with a lot of heart, I might add. I cared about Noah. I cared about his uncle. And I cared about a character called Skeeter. Overall, this one is oh-so-easy to recommend.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Seuss on Saturday #29

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Oh, the wonderful things Mr. Brown can do! He can go like a cow. He can go MOO MOO. Mr. Brown can do it. How about you?

Premise/plot: Mr. Brown knows so many wonderful noises. But do you? Mr. Brown shows little readers all the noises he can make, and, he challenges them to copy him.

My thoughts: I have to admit that Mr. Brown can Moo! Can You? is one of my favorite Seuss books. It is. I do have to say that the board book is very, very different from the original. I'm not saying to avoid the board book, mind you. Just be sure that you introduce little ones to the real Mr. Brown Can Moo! when they get a bit older. I don't know WHY they had to edit the board book edition so heavily. Sounds they eliminate in the board book:
  • eek eek = squeaky shoe
  • choo choo = train
  • blurp blurp = horn
  • slurp slurp = big cat drinking
  • sizzle sizzle = egg in a frying pan
  • grum grum = hippopotamus chewing gum
  • pip = goldfish kiss
Have you read Mr. Brown Can Moo? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Lorax.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Week in Review: July 12-18

Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Cinderella Smith. Stephanie Barden. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 2011. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]
Close to the Wind. Jon Walter. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
First Flight Around The World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won The Race. Tim Grove. 2015. Abrams. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Messengers. Edward Hogan. 2015. Candlewick Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Big Princess. Taro Miura. 2015. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Board book: Little Blue Truck's Beep-Along Book. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Carry and Learn Numbers. Illustrated by Sarah Ward. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

I loved Sarah, Plain and Tall. It was a reread, of course. And I read some great picture books as well.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in July

New Loot:
  • Search the Dark by Charles Todd
  • Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson
  • Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are by Dr. Seuss
  • In A People House by Dr. Seuss
  • The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
Leftover Loot:
  • Wouldn't it Be Deadly an Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery by D.E. Ireland
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
  •  Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • Miles from Nowhere by Amy Clipston
  •  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  •  Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis
  • The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  •  Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Perfidia by James Ellroy
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • Wish You Well by David Baldacci 
  • Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
        Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. At The Back of the North Wind (1871)

At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]

I HAVE been asked to tell you about the back of the north wind.

Do you enjoy reading children's classics? Or enjoy reading children's fantasy novels? There's a chance that you may love George MacDonald's At The Back of the North Wind. I won't lie. It is a good, old-fashioned story packed with morals and symbolism. So maybe it won't satisfy every single reader. Still there is something about it, even if it is is too wholesome for some.

At The Back of the North Wind is Diamond's story. Diamond is a young boy who is completely good and rather odd because of it. He is a bit of an angel, always doing the right thing, always saying the right thing. His intentions are always as pure as can be. But he isn't smug or arrogant. And he does genuinely care for others. So I do not personally see him as being self-righteous or obnoxious. One of Diamond's friends is the North Wind. The first half of the book focuses on this dream-like relationship. At night, he sometimes accompanies her on her journeys. Eventually, he does find his way to the back of the North Wind. The second half of the book focuses on Diamond's family and his personal relationships with his family and friends. The family situation definitely changes throughout the novel. And Diamond's life isn't an easy one. He is an optimist, a dreamer. But the family's struggle is very real and a definite concern to him.

One of Diamond's friends is the kind-hearted Mr. Raymond. Mr. Raymond has a heart for children, especially for poor ones, and he does what he can to help everyone. He is also a story-teller. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Mr. Raymond's story called "Little Daylight." Even if you're not interested in reading the whole novel, even if it doesn't sound like your kind of book, you should make time to read this one stand-alone chapter. Especially if you LOVE fairy tales. (And who doesn't love fairy tales?!) I think Little Daylight would make a lovely picture book adaptation.

So I definitely enjoyed this one. Perhaps not as much as The Light Princess. But at least as much as the two Princess books (Princess and the Curdie, Princess and the Goblin).

 Quotes:
At the same moment, a peal of thunder which shook Diamond's heart against the sides of his bosom hurtled out of the heavens: I cannot say out of the sky, for there was no sky. Diamond had not seen the lightning, for he had been intent on finding the face of North Wind. Every moment the folds of her garment would sweep across his eyes and blind him, but between, he could just persuade himself that he saw great glories of woman's eyes looking down through rifts in the mountainous clouds over his head.
He trembled so at the thunder, that his knees failed him, and he sunk down at North Wind's feet, and clasped her round the column of her ankle. She instantly stooped, lifted him from the roof—up—up into her bosom, and held him there, saying, as if to an inconsolable child—
"Diamond, dear, this will never do."
"Oh yes, it will," answered Diamond. "I am all right now—quite comfortable, I assure you, dear North Wind. If you will only let me stay here, I shall be all right indeed."
"But you will feel the wind here, Diamond."
"I don't mind that a bit, so long as I feel your arms through it," answered Diamond, nestling closer to her grand bosom.
"Brave boy!" returned North Wind, pressing him closer.
"No," said Diamond, "I don't see that. It's not courage at all, so long as I feel you there."
"But hadn't you better get into my hair? Then you would not feel the wind; you will here."
"Ah, but, dear North Wind, you don't know how nice it is to feel your arms about me. It is a thousand times better to have them and the wind together, than to have only your hair and the back of your neck and no wind at all."
"But it is surely more comfortable there?"
"Well, perhaps; but I begin to think there are better things than being comfortable."
"Yes, indeed there are. Well, I will keep you in front of me. You will feel the wind, but not too much. I shall only want one arm to take care of you; the other will be quite enough to sink the ship."


"You never made that song, Diamond," said his mother.
"No, mother. I wish I had. No, I don't. That would be to take it from somebody else. But it's mine for all that."
"What makes it yours?"
"I love it so."
"Does loving a thing make it yours?"
"I think so, mother—at least more than anything else can. If I didn't love baby (which couldn't be, you know) she wouldn't be mine a bit. But I do love baby, and baby is my very own Dulcimer."
"The baby's mine, Diamond."
"That makes her the more mine, mother."
"How do you make that out?"
"Because you're mine, mother."
"Is that because you love me?"
"Yes, just because. Love makes the only myness," said Diamond.
"What are you reading?" I said, and spoke suddenly, with the hope of seeing a startled little face look round at me. Diamond turned his head as quietly as if he were only obeying his mother's voice, and the calmness of his face rebuked my unkind desire and made me ashamed of it.
"I am reading the story of the Little Lady and the Goblin Prince," said Diamond.
"I am sorry I don't know the story," I returned. "Who is it by?"
"Mr. Raymond made it."
"Is he your uncle?" I asked at a guess.
"No. He's my master."
"What do you do for him?" I asked respectfully.
"Anything he wishes me to do," he answered. "I am busy for him now. He gave me this story to read. He wants my opinion upon it."
"Don't you find it rather hard to make up your mind?"
"Oh dear no! Any story always tells me itself what I'm to think about it. Mr. Raymond doesn't want me to say whether it is a clever story or not, but whether I like it, and why I like it. I never can tell what they call clever from what they call silly, but I always know whether I like a story or not."
"And can you always tell why you like it or not?" "No. Very often I can't at all. Sometimes I can. I always know, but I can't always tell why.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book

Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book. I had no idea that Carolyn Meyer wrote a book on sewing. I love her best for her historical fiction. In particular, White Lilacs, but also her series of young royals: Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary Anne, etc.

Did you grow up sewing? I did. I didn't learn from a book, or at least this book. But it felt very familiar all the same. I think I've done similar projects myself. What kinds of sewing projects are included? pillows, pillowcases, drawstring bags, scarves and aprons, quilt squares, skirts and slips, toys, and doll clothes. Some of the projects have you making your own pattern out of newspaper, and other projects have you copying patterns from this book. The instructions, for the most part, are simple and straightforward.
This is how to thread a needle:
Cut a piece of thread as long as your arm.
Then poke the end of the thread through the "eye" of the needle.
It will go through more easily if you wet it on the tip of your tongue and then squeeze it. Now try to hit the eye.
Pull the thread through until the ends are even and make a knot.
This is how to make a knot:
Wet your finger a little on the tip of your tongue.
Wrap the thread around your finger once.
Roll it off with your thumb.
Pull it tight.
The knot should be small and neat.
If it isn't, don't worry.
You can hide it so no one will see it, and the next time you do it, it will look much better. 
The book is step-by-step, which is an absolute necessity in my opinion.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. The Children of Hurin

The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading The Children of Hurin? Yes! Very much! After reading The Silmarillion last week, I wanted more new-to-me Tolkien, and The Children of Hurin was an excellent choice. And a very reader-friendly excellent choice I might add. This is a longer version of a story contained in The Silmarillion. (I believe Tolkien wrote several adaptations or versions of this story. Perhaps one or two poetic form. But this one is prose. I'm relieved that it is.)

So Turin is hero--tragic hero--of Tolkien's Children of Hurin. And this reads like an Greek tragedy. A hero doomed because of a fatal flaw, one that is almost fundamental to who he is. It isn't a happy-happy read in other words. But it is full of spirit and adventure and love. It features several strong and brave women who love with all their hearts and minds and who will truly do anything to stand by who they love. There's a fierceness to the friendships as well. One thing I can confidently say, Children of Hurin is not boring.

I won't share many details. But you should know that it is about the ongoing battle between good versus evil. And it does feature a dragon.

I definitely liked it. I'm not sure if it was LOVE. But I definitely enjoyed it more than Book of Lost Tales Part One.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

Grant lay on his high white cot and stared at the ceiling. Stared at it with loathing. He knew by heart every last minute crack on its nice clean surface. He had made maps of the ceiling and gone exploring on them; rivers, islands, and continents. He had made guessing games of it and discovered hidden objects; faces, birds, and fishes. He had made mathematical calculations of it and rediscovered his childhood; theorems, angles, and triangles. There was practically nothing else he could do but look at it.

Is The Daughter of Time my favorite mystery? I've read it five times, the most recent being in August 2014. At the very least it is my favorite mystery by Josephine Tey. And also one of my favorite books about Richard III. So it's a definite favorite. Unfortunately, the actual clip of the Richard III song from Horrible Histories has been removed, but this one in remains. And here is a live version of it.

Inspector Alan Grant has broken his leg and is hospitalized. In his boredom, he resorts to solving one of history's unsolvable cases. He becomes quite interested in Richard III and in figuring out if he was a cruel murdering tyrant. Is he responsible for the deaths of the two princes in the tower? Or was he framed to take the blame by the conquering Tudors? Readers get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Grant's thought process as he seeks to solve the mystery.

The book is so well-written. It's unique. It's funny--in places. I loved the narrative voice. I loved the subject as well. I think everyone should give it a try.

Alan Grant on popular fiction authors:

The Sweat and the Furrow was Silas Weekley being earthly and spade-conscious all over seven hundred pages. The situation, to judge from the first paragraph, had not materially changed since Silas's last book: mother lying-in with her eleventh upstairs, father laid-out after his ninth downstairs, eldest son lying to the Government in the cow-shed, eldest daughter lying with her lover in the the hayloft, everyone else lying low in the barn. The rain dripped from the thatch, and the manure steamed in the midden. Silas never omitted the manure. It was not Silas's fault that its steam provided the only uprising element in the picture. If Silas could have discovered a brand of steam that steamed downwards, Silas would have introduced it. (13)
Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about "a new Silas Weekley" or "a new Lavinia Fitch" exactly as they talked about "a new brick" or a "new hairbrush." They never said "a new book by" whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like. (14)
The Rose of Raby proved to be fiction, but at least easier to hold than Tanner's Constitutional History of England. It was, moreover, the almost-respectable form of historical fiction which is merely history-with-conversation, so to speak. An imaginative biography rather than an imagined story. Evelyn Payne-Ellis, whoever she might be, had provided portraits and a family tree, and had made no attempt, it seemed, to what he and his cousin Laura used to call in their childhood "write forsoothly." There were no "by our Ladys," no "nathelesses" or "varlets." It was an honest affair according to its lights. And its lights were more illuminating than Mr. Tanner. Much more illuminating. It was Grant's belief that if you could not find out about a man, the next best way to arrive at an estimate of him was to find out about his mother. (59)
Alan Grant on Sir Thomas More
He came to the surface an hour later, vaguely puzzled and ill at ease. It was not that the matter surprised him, the facts were very much what he had expected them to be. It was that this was not how he had expected Sir Thomas to write. "He took ill rest at nights, lay long waking and musing; sore wearied with care and watch, he slumbered rather than slept. So was his restless heart continually tossed and tumbled with the tedious impression and stormy remembrance of his most abominable deeds." That was all right. But when he added that "this he had from such as were secret with his chamberers" one was suddenly repelled. An aroma of back-stair gossip and servants' spying came off the page. So that one's sympathy tilted before one was aware of it from the smug commentator to the tortured creature sleeping on his bed. The murderer seemed of greater stature than the man who was writing of him. Which was all wrong. Grant was conscious too of the same unease that filled him when he listened to a witness telling a perfect story that he knew to be flawed somewhere... (71)
He was five. When that dramatic council scene had taken place at the Tower, Thomas More had been five years old. He had been only eight when Richard died at Bosworth. Everything in that history had been hearsay. And if there was one word that a policeman loathed more than another it was hearsay. Especially when applied to evidence. He was so disgusted that he flung the precious book on to the floor before he remembered that it was the property of a Public Library and his only by grace and for fourteen days. More had never known Richard III at all. He had indeed grown up under a Tudor administration. That book was the Bible of the whole historical world on the subject of Richard III--and it was from that account that Holinshed had taken his material, and from that Shakespeare had written his--and except that More believed what he wrote to be true it was of no more value than what the soldier said.... Grant had dealt too long with the human intelligence to accept as truth someone's report of someone's report of what that someone remembered to have seen or been told. (81)
Other favorite quotes:
"One would expect boredom to be a great yawning emotion, but it isn't, of course. It's a small niggling thing." (16)
"I'm feeling like a policeman. I'm thinking like a policeman. I'm asking myself the question that every policeman asks in every case of murder: Who benefits? And for the first time it occurs to me that the glib theory that Richard got rid of the boys to make himself safer on the throne is so much nonsense. Supposing that he had got rid of the boys. There were still the boys' five sisters between him and the throne. To say nothing of George's toy: the boy and girl. George's son and daughter were barred by their father's attainder; but I take it that an attainder can be reversed, or annulled, or something. If Richard's claim was shaky, all those lives stood between him and safety."
"And did they all survive him?"
"I don't know. But I shall make it my business to find out. The boys' eldest sister certainly did because she became Queen of England as Henry's wife." (105)
It was brought home to him for the first time not only what a useless thing the murder of the boys would have been, but what a silly thing. And if there was anything that Richard of Gloucester was not, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was silly. (137)
"Of course I'm only a policeman," Grant said. "Perhaps I never moved in the right circles. It may be that I've met only nice people. Where would one have to go to meet a woman who became matey with the murderer of her two boys?"
"Greece, I should think," Marta said. "Ancient Greece."
"I can't remember a sample even there."
"Or a lunatic asylum, perhaps. Was there any sign of idiocy about Elizabeth Woodville?"
"Not that anyone ever noticed. And she was Queen for twenty years or so."
...
"Yes of course. It's the height of absurdity. It belongs to Ruthless Rhymes, not to sober history. That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history like a peepshow; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background."
"Perhaps when you are grubbing about with tattered records you haven't time to learn about people. I don't mean about the people in the records, but just about People. Flesh and blood. And how they react to circumstances." (151)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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