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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. Cain His Brother

Cain His Brother. Anne Perry. 1995. 404 pages. [Source: Library]

I found Cain His Brother a bit of a disappointment after The Sins of the Wolf. Especially in the beginning. Readers be warned, you may spend a lot of time YELLING at William Monk. Especially in the first half of this one. William Monk has been somewhat sympathetic even if flawed in earlier books, but, in this one, well, the way he speaks to Hester is just ALL KINDS OF WRONG. I think it stood out more in this one because of how Sins of the Wolf ended. And it wasn't just that. Also he seems to be completely stupid and gullible sometimes where women are concerned. When Druscilla's character was introduced, for example, I started shouting warnings to Monk. He didn't listen. No matter how many times I tried to warn him. I ended up liking this story after all, but, only because Hester COMPLETELY redeems the situation and saves the day. Does he know it?! Of course not. And if he did, he'd probably just yell at Hester and dig a deeper hole for himself as far as I'm concerned. But still I enjoyed this one overall for how Hester, Monk, and Rathbone work together for justice. And the case they're working on is INTERESTING.

Angus Stonefield has been murdered--presumably--by his "evil" twin brother, Caleb Stone. There is no body, just bloody clothes and a missing person case. Some might argue, well, he tired of his wife, he decided to abandon his family, his job, and begin a new life somewhere else. And his clothes might have anyone's blood on them. The widow, Mrs. Stonefield, comes to William Monk desperate. She needs him to find enough proof that he can be declared dead. Sure she'd love justice, but, is realistic about the situation.

Hester and Lady Callandra, meanwhile, are busy nursing typhoid patients on the wrong side of town. The book is very much focused on poverty and the horrible living conditions in 1850s London.

There is plenty of detecting in this one, and, I think this one probably has the biggest twist so far in the series.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still. Karlin Gray. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. 2016. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: A picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci.

My thoughts:  First, I just want to say that I want--no, I NEED--more picture books about gymnastics. Or early readers. Or chapter books. Or, you know, novels. And while I'm at it, I'll put in a request for books about ice skating. A picture book about the 1996 U.S. Gymnastics team would be GREAT fun I think!

Second, I just have to say that I really enjoyed this picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci! It is a very age-appropriate biography I must say. It is set in Romania in the 1960s and 1970s. (But the focus is never on politics or hardships or possible reasons why she might have defected from her country.) Readers meet a young Nadia and her coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. She began doing gymnastics at the age of 6. Over half the book focuses on the 1976 Olympic Games. The book ends with her returning home after winning at the Olympics. She was 14 years old, I believe. I want to say that these days you have to be at least sixteen in order to compete at the Olympics. A timeline will catch adults up on her life story.

One thing I did appreciate was the source notes provided at the end of the book. So often picture book biographies fail to show their research.

This one is easy to recommend.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Poem for Mother's Day

Because you love me I have much achieved,
Had you despised me then I must have failed,
But since I knew you trusted and believed,
I could not disappoint you and so prevailed. 

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Encouraged"

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Anne of the Island

Anne of the Island. L.M. Montgomery. 1915. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily. She and Diana Barry had been picking apples in the Green Gables orchard, but were now resting from their labors in a sunny corner, where airy fleets of thistledown drifted by on the wings of a wind that was still summer-sweet with the incense of ferns in the Haunted Wood.

I love Anne of the Island. It isn't my absolute favorite of the series, but, it is oh-so-good. In this one Anne goes away to college, makes new friends, receives a handful of marriage proposals, and corresponds with folks from Avonlea.

Anne does mature, but, in some ways it is slow in coming. Particularly in terms of her seeing the obvious: Gilbert is her soul mate. But perhaps because it is so long in coming, it makes for quite a satisfying conclusion.

The best way to show you how much I adore this one, is perhaps to share my favorite quotes:

Great one-liners...
It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.
We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy.
But FEELING is so different from KNOWING. My common sense tells me all you can say, but there are times when common sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possession of my soul.
Exaggeration is merely a flight of poetic fancy. 
Facts are stubborn things, but as some one has wisely said, not half so stubborn as fallacies. 
“All life lessons are not learned at college,” she thought. “Life teaches them everywhere.”
We are never half so interesting when we have learned that language is given us to enable us to conceal our thoughts.
“People who send word they are coming on Saturday shouldn’t come on Friday,” said Aunt Jamesina.
“Words aren’t made — they grow,” said Anne.
“Will you please define what gumption is, Aunt Jimsie?” asked Phil. “No, I won’t, young woman. Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”
Fun with Anne:
Talk of being lonesome! It’s I who should groan. YOU’LL be here with any number of your old friends — AND Fred! While I shall be alone among strangers, not knowing a soul!” “EXCEPT Gilbert — AND Charlie Sloane,” said Diana, imitating Anne’s italics and slyness. “Charlie Sloane will be a great comfort, of course,” agreed Anne sarcastically; whereupon both those irresponsible damsels laughed. Diana knew exactly what Anne thought of Charlie Sloane; but, despite sundry confidential talks, she did not know just what Anne thought of Gilbert Blythe.
“Miss Ada’s cushions are really getting on my nerves,” said Anne. “She finished two new ones last week, stuffed and embroidered within an inch of their lives. There being absolutely no other cushionless place to put them she stood them up against the wall on the stair landing. They topple over half the time and if we come up or down the stairs in the dark we fall over them. Last Sunday, when Dr. Davis prayed for all those exposed to the perils of the sea, I added in thought ‘and for all those who live in houses where cushions are loved not wisely but too well!’ There! we’re ready, and I see the boys coming through Old St. John’s. Do you cast in your lot with us, Phil?”
“You LOVE it,” said Miss Patty with emphasis. “Does that mean that you really LOVE it? Or that you merely like the looks of it? The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.” Anne’s conscience bore her up. “I really do love it,” she said gently. “I’ve loved it ever since I saw it last fall. My two college chums and I want to keep house next year instead of boarding, so we are looking for a little place to rent; and when I saw that this house was to let I was so happy.”
“No, I shall never try to write a story again,” declared Anne, with the hopeless finality of nineteen when a door is shut in its face. “I wouldn’t give up altogether,” said Mr. Harrison reflectively. “I’d write a story once in a while, but I wouldn’t pester editors with it. I’d write of people and places like I knew, and I’d make my characters talk everyday English; and I’d let the sun rise and set in the usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If I had to have villains at all, I’d give them a chance, Anne — I’d give them a chance. There are some terrible bad men in the world, I suppose, but you’d have to go a long piece to find them — though Mrs. Lynde believes we’re all bad. But most of us have got a little decency somewhere in us. Keep on writing, Anne.”
Trotting along behind her, close to her heels, was quite the most forlorn specimen of the cat tribe she had ever beheld. The animal was well past kitten-hood, lank, thin, disreputable looking. Pieces of both ears were lacking, one eye was temporarily out of repair, and one jowl ludicrously swollen. As for color, if a once black cat had been well and thoroughly singed the result would have resembled the hue of this waif’s thin, draggled, unsightly fur. Anne “shooed,” but the cat would not “shoo.” As long as she stood he sat back on his haunches and gazed at her reproachfully out of his one good eye; when she resumed her walk he followed. Anne resigned herself to his company until she reached the gate of Patty’s Place, which she coldly shut in his face, fondly supposing she had seen the last of him. But when, fifteen minutes later, Phil opened the door, there sat the rusty-brown cat on the step. More, he promptly darted in and sprang upon Anne’s lap with a half-pleading, half-triumphant “miaow.” “Anne,” said Stella severely, “do you own that animal?” “No, I do NOT,” protested disgusted Anne. “The creature followed me home from somewhere. I couldn’t get rid of him. Ugh, get down. I like decent cats reasonably well; but I don’t like beasties of your complexion.” Pussy, however, refused to get down. He coolly curled up in Anne’s lap and began to purr. “He has evidently adopted you,” laughed Priscilla. “I won’t BE adopted,” said Anne stubbornly.
“It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana’s being married,” sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana’s room. “I don’t see what’s horrible about it, when she’s doing so well,” said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. “Fred Wright has a fine farm and he is a model young man.” “He certainly isn’t the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana once wanted to marry,” smiled Anne. “Fred is extremely good.” “That’s just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?” “Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he COULD be wicked and WOULDN’T.

Fun with Davy
“When I’m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.” “All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.” 
“But if you DID want to catch a man how would you go about it? I want to know,” persisted Davy, for whom the subject evidently possessed a certain fascination. “You’d better ask Mrs. Boulter,” said Anne thoughtlessly. “I think it’s likely she knows more about the process than I do.” “I will, the next time I see her,” said Davy gravely. “Davy! If you do!” cried Anne, realizing her mistake. “But you just told me to,” protested Davy aggrieved. 
Dear anne, please write and tell marilla not to tie me to the rale of the bridge when I go fishing the boys make fun of me when she does. Its awful lonesome here without you but grate fun in school. Jane andrews is crosser than you. I scared mrs. lynde with a jacky lantern last nite. She was offel mad and she was mad cause I chased her old rooster round the yard till he fell down ded. I didn’t mean to make him fall down ded. What made him die, anne, I want to know. mrs. lynde threw him into the pig pen she mite of sold him to mr. blair. mr. blair is giving 50 sense apeace for good ded roosters now. I herd mrs. lynde asking the minister to pray for her. What did she do that was so bad, anne, I want to know. 
“I — I want to say a bad word, Anne,” blurted out Davy, with a desperate effort. “I heard Mr. Harrison’s hired boy say it one day last week, and ever since I’ve been wanting to say it ALL the time — even when I’m saying my prayers.” “Say it then, Davy.” Davy lifted his flushed face in amazement. “But, Anne, it’s an AWFUL bad word.” “SAY IT!” Davy gave her another incredulous look, then in a low voice he said the dreadful word. The next minute his face was burrowing against her. “Oh, Anne, I’ll never say it again — never. I’ll never WANT to say it again. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t s’pose it was so — so — I didn’t s’pose it was like THAT.” “No, I don’t think you’ll ever want to say it again, Davy — or think it, either. And I wouldn’t go about much with Mr. Harrison’s hired boy if I were you.” “He can make bully war-whoops,” said Davy a little regretfully. “But you don’t want your mind filled with bad words, do you, Davy — words that will poison it and drive out all that is good and manly?” “No,” said Davy, owl-eyed with introspection. “Then don’t go with those people who use them. And now do you feel as if you could say your prayers, Davy?”
“Our new teacher is a man. He does things for jokes. Last week he made all us third-class boys write a composishun on what kind of a wife we’d like to have and the girls on what kind of a husband. He laughed fit to kill when he read them. This was mine. I thought youd like to see it. “‘The kind of a wife I’d like to Have. “‘She must have good manners and get my meals on time and do what I tell her and always be very polite to me. She must be fifteen yers old. She must be good to the poor and keep her house tidy and be good tempered and go to church regularly. She must be very handsome and have curly hair. If I get a wife that is just what I like Ill be an awful good husband to her. I think a woman ought to be awful good to her husband. Some poor women haven’t any husbands. “‘THE END.’”
Mrs. Lynde was awful mad the other day because I asked her if she was alive in Noah’s time. I dident mean to hurt her feelings. I just wanted to know. Was she, Anne?
The new minister was here to tea last night. He took three pieces of pie. If I did that Mrs. Lynde would call me piggy. And he et fast and took big bites and Marilla is always telling me not to do that. Why can ministers do what boys can’t? I want to know.
The mention of age evidently gave a new turn to Davy’s thoughts for after a few moments of reflection, he whispered solemnly: “Anne, I’m going to be married.” “When?” asked Anne with equal solemnity. “Oh, not until I’m grown-up, of course.” “Well, that’s a relief, Davy. Who is the lady?” “Stella Fletcher; she’s in my class at school. And say, Anne, she’s the prettiest girl you ever saw. If I die before I grow up you’ll keep an eye on her, won’t you?” “Davy Keith, do stop talking such nonsense,” said Marilla severely. 

Fun with Mrs. Lynde:
Mrs. Lynde’s letter was full of church news. Having broken up housekeeping, Mrs. Lynde had more time than ever to devote to church affairs and had flung herself into them heart and soul. She was at present much worked up over the poor “supplies” they were having in the vacant Avonlea pulpit. “I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays,” she wrote bitterly. “Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and, what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what! Last Sunday night he announced that next Sunday he’d preach on the axe-head that swam. I think he’d better confine himself to the Bible and leave sensational subjects alone. Things have come to a pretty pass if a minister can’t find enough in Holy Writ to preach about, that’s what.
“Poor Atossa laid in her coffin peaceful enough,” said Mrs. Lynde solemnly. “I never saw her look so pleasant before, that’s what. Well, there weren’t many tears shed over her, poor old soul. The Elisha Wrights are thankful to be rid of her, and I can’t say I blame them a mite.” “It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world and not leave one person behind you who is sorry you are gone,” said Anne, shuddering. “Nobody except her parents ever loved poor Atossa, that’s certain, not even her husband,” averred Mrs. Lynde. “She was his fourth wife. He’d sort of got into the habit of marrying. He only lived a few years after he married her. The doctor said he died of dyspepsia, but I shall always maintain that he died of Atossa’s tongue, that’s what. Poor soul, she always knew everything about her neighbors, but she never was very well acquainted with herself. Well, she’s gone anyhow; and I suppose the next excitement will be Diana’s wedding.” 
 Anne and Gilbert:
“I hope no great sorrow ever will come to you, Anne,” said Gilbert, who could not connect the idea of sorrow with the vivid, joyous creature beside him, unwitting that those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.
“But there must — sometime,” mused Anne. “Life seems like a cup of glory held to my lips just now. But there must be some bitterness in it — there is in every cup. I shall taste mine some day. Well, I hope I shall be strong and brave to meet it. And I hope it won’t be through my own fault that it will come. Do you remember what Dr. Davis said last Sunday evening — that the sorrows God sent us brought comfort and strength with them, while the sorrows we brought on ourselves, through folly or wickedness, were by far the hardest to bear? But we mustn’t talk of sorrow on an afternoon like this.
As a companion, Anne honestly acknowledged nobody could be so satisfactory as Gilbert; she was very glad, so she told herself, that he had evidently dropped all nonsensical ideas — though she spent considerable time secretly wondering why.
But Gilbert’s visits were not what they once were. Anne almost dreaded them. It was very disconcerting to look up in the midst of a sudden silence and find Gilbert’s hazel eyes fixed upon her with a quite unmistakable expression in their grave depths; and it was still more disconcerting to find herself blushing hotly and uncomfortably under his gaze, just as if — just as if — well, it was very embarrassing. Anne wished herself back at Patty’s Place, where there was always somebody else about to take the edge off a delicate situation. At Green Gables Marilla went promptly to Mrs. Lynde’s domain when Gilbert came and insisted on taking the twins with her. The significance of this was unmistakable and Anne was in a helpless fury over it.
“There is something I want to say to you.” “Oh, don’t say it,” cried Anne, pleadingly. “Don’t — PLEASE, Gilbert.” “I must. Things can’t go on like this any longer. Anne, I love you. You know I do. I — I can’t tell you how much. Will you promise me that some day you’ll be my wife?” “I — I can’t,” said Anne miserably. “Oh, Gilbert — you — you’ve spoiled everything.” “Don’t you care for me at all?” Gilbert asked after a very dreadful pause, during which Anne had not dared to look up. “Not — not in that way. I do care a great deal for you as a friend. But I don’t love you, Gilbert.” “But can’t you give me some hope that you will — yet?” “No, I can’t,” exclaimed Anne desperately. “I never, never can love you — in that way — Gilbert. You must never speak of this to me again.” There was another pause — so long and so dreadful that Anne was driven at last to look up. Gilbert’s face was white to the lips. And his eyes — but Anne shuddered and looked away. There was nothing romantic about this. Must proposals be either grotesque or — horrible? Could she ever forget Gilbert’s face? “Is there anybody else?” he asked at last in a low voice. “No — no,” said Anne eagerly. “I don’t care for any one like THAT — and I LIKE you better than anybody else in the world, Gilbert. And we must — we must go on being friends, Gilbert.”
“Do you call it idiotic to refuse to marry a man I don’t love?” said Anne coldly, goaded to reply. “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” “Phil,” pleaded Anne, “please go away and leave me alone for a little while. My world has tumbled into pieces. I want to reconstruct it.” “Without any Gilbert in it?” said Phil, going. A world without any Gilbert in it! Anne repeated the words drearily. Would it not be a very lonely, forlorn place? Well, it was all Gilbert’s fault. He had spoiled their beautiful comradeship. She must just learn to live without it.
Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stuart were nothing to her — absolutely nothing. But Anne had given up trying to analyze the reason of her blushes. As for Roy, of course she was in love with him — madly so. How could she help it? Was he not her ideal? Who could resist those glorious dark eyes, and that pleading voice? Were not half the Redmond girls wildly envious? And what a charming sonnet he had sent her, with a box of violets, on her birthday! Anne knew every word of it by heart. It was very good stuff of its kind, too. Not exactly up to the level of Keats or Shakespeare — even Anne was not so deeply in love as to think that.
Yet just before she left Patty’s Place for Convocation she flung Roy’s violets aside and put Gilbert’s lilies-of-the-valley in their place. She could not have told why she did it. Somehow, old Avonlea days and dreams and friendships seemed very close to her in this attainment of her long-cherished ambitions. She and Gilbert had once picturedout merrily the day on which they should be capped and gowned graduates in Arts. The wonderful day had come and Roy’s violets had no place in it. Only her old friend’s flowers seemed to belong to this fruition of old-blossoming hopes which he had once shared.
The Arts graduates gave a graduation dance that night. When Anne dressed for it she tossed aside the pearl beads she usually wore and took from her trunk the small box that had come to Green Gables on Christmas day. In it was a thread-like gold chain with a tiny pink enamel heart as a pendant. On the accompanying card was written, “With all good wishes from your old chum, Gilbert.” Anne, laughing over the memory the enamel heart conjured up the fatal day when Gilbert had called her “Carrots” and vainly tried to make his peace with a pink candy heart, had written him a nice little note of thanks. But she had never worn the trinket. Tonight she fastened it about her white throat with a dreamy smile.
There is a book of Revelation in every one’s life, as there is in the Bible. Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert — had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her.
And the knowledge had come too late — too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind — so foolish — she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him — he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them — she could not! She cowered down by her window and wished, for the first time in her gay young life, that she could die, too. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that. He did not love Christine Stuart — never had loved Christine Stuart. Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert — to think that the flattered fancy she had felt for Roy Gardner had been love. And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.
He had come quite often to Green Gables after his recovery, and something of their old comradeship had returned. But Anne no longer found it satisfying. The rose of love made the blossom of friendship pale and scentless by contrast. And Anne had again begun to doubt if Gilbert now felt anything for her but friendship. In the common light of common day her radiant certainty of that rapt morning had faded.
“Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. Something in his tone — something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place — made Anne’s heart beat wildly. But she made answer lightly. “Of course. Everybody has. It wouldn’t do for us to have all our dreams fulfilled. We would be as good as dead if we had nothing left to dream about. What a delicious aroma that low-descending sun is extracting from the asters and ferns. I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” Gilbert was not to be thus sidetracked. “I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends — and YOU!”

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Library Loot: First Trip in May

New Loot:
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  • The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie fogliano
  • Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
  • Be A Friend by Salina Yoon
  • The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
  • The Crown by Kiera Cass
  • The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
  • The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile
  • Unbound by Neal Shusterman
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Cage by Megan Shepherd
  • The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Leftover Loot:
  • The Education of Ivy Blake by Ellen Airgood
  • The Runaway's Gold by Emilie Christie Burack
  • The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
  • Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson 
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  • The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
  • Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker 
  • Peter Pan (Annotated Edition) Barrie
  • That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  • Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi
  • Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
  • Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung 
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]

I am loving my reread of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I think it may just be a trilogy that I love more each and every time I read it. The book opens delightfully with a birthday celebration. (Not that I skipped the prologue, mind you. I happen to find all the hobbit history interesting.) Bilbo will be turning 111 and Frodo will be turning 33.

Bilbo is preparing to leave the Shire forever, but, he'll be leaving most everything to Frodo--including his magical ring. Gandalf is relieved that the ring will pass onto Frodo, it makes him a bit nervous to see Bilbo so attached to it and calling it precious. As the years go by--and years DO go by--Gandalf becomes concerned, worried, anxious about the ring. He fears that it is the ONE RING, and that Frodo's possession of the ring is dangerous.

I believe Frodo is about fifty when he does eventually set out on his very own adventure. And he won't be alone. He'll be accompanied by Sam, Pippin, and Merry. As their journey progresses, more people join the fellowship, and more risks are faced.

It is different from the movie. But the movie is true to the spirit of the book. In my opinion. It is an absorbing, compelling read. I love, love, love the world-building, the writing, the characterization.

Have you read Fellowship of the Ring? How many times? Do you have a favorite character? a favorite scene? a favorite quote? 

On birthday presents:
Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in Hobbiton and Bywater every day in the year was somebody’s birthday, so that every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.
It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up: for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received. 
On the food at the birthday party:
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking – continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started. 
Bilbo confesses something to Gandalf:
‘I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!’ he snorted. ‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’ Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. ‘No, it does not seem right,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘No, after all I believe your plan is probably the best.’ ‘Well, I’ve made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf – mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.’ 
The ring:
As Frodo did so, he now saw fine lines, finer than the finest pen-strokes, running along the ring, outside and inside: lines of fire that seemed to form the letters of a flowing script. They shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth. ‘I cannot read the fiery letters,’ said Frodo in a quavering voice. ‘No,’ said Gandalf, ‘but I can. The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore: Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.’
But as for breaking the Ring, force is useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine. 
‘There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.’ 
Frodo and Gandalf 'regret' the times in which they live:
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think, but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance. 
I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’ ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’
‘Not safe for ever,’ said Gandalf. ‘There are many things in the deep waters; and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’ 
More words of wisdom from Gandalf:
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. 
Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.  
The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.’ 
It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill. But such falls and betrayals, alas, have happened before. 
‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.’ 
Favorite Sam Bits:
‘Well, sir,’ said Sam dithering a little. ‘I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself, if you know what I mean. Lor bless me, sir, but I do love tales of that sort. And I believe them too, whatever Ted may say. Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn’t you take me to see Elves, sir, when you go?’
‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’ ‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’
‘Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now – now that your wish to see them has come true already?’ he asked. ‘Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.’
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.’ 
‘Where did you come by that, Sam?’ asked Pippin. ‘I’ve never heard those words before.’ Sam muttered something inaudible. ‘It’s out of his own head, of course,’ said Frodo. ‘I am learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey. First he was a conspirator, now he’s a jester. He’ll end up by becoming a wizard – or a warrior!’ ‘I hope not,’ said Sam. ‘I don’t want to be neither!’ 
Sam sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. ‘I wish I had never come here, and I don’t want to see no more magic,’ he said and fell silent. After a moment he spoke again thickly, as if struggling with tears. ‘No, I’ll go home by the long road with Mr. Frodo, or not at all,’ he said. ‘But I hope I do get back some day. If what I’ve seen turns out true, somebody’s going to catch it hot!’ 
‘So all my plan is spoilt!’ said Frodo. ‘It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together. We will go, and may the others find a safe road! Strider will look after them. I don’t suppose we shall see them again.’ ‘Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may,’ said Sam.
Concerning Aragorn and other members of the Fellowship:
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king. 
‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’
‘Did the verses apply to you then?’ asked Frodo. ‘I could not make out what they were about. But how did you know that they were in Gandalf’s letter, if you have never seen it?’ ‘I did not know,’ he answered. ‘But I am Aragorn, and those verses go with that name.’ He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. ‘Not much use is it, Sam?’ said Strider. ‘But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.’
There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Many Mini-Reviews, Movies (April, May)

Much Ado About Nothing

This movie is one of my FAVORITES. I adore it so very much. I love nearly everything about it. I particularly LOVE the soundtrack. Did you know that Patrick Doyle makes an appearance in the movie itself?! I recently learned. If you haven't seen this one, you should. Though you should know that it has oh-so-brief moments of nudity in it--a bathing scene--it is such a GREAT movie. One I could watch again and again and again.

Amazing Grace

I haven't seen this one again and again and again. But I have seen it twice now. I really do enjoy it very much. I think I loved it even more the second time. I recognized a LOT more faces for one thing. (Spotting "Sherlock" was fun.) The subject matter is good and intense. It's a lovely movie.

Lawrence of Arabia

Speaking of "good and intense" I recently watched Lawrence of Arabia for the first time. It has a great theme to it, but what really stands out to me--besides the camels--is the acting. Did I love, love, love Lawrence as a character??? Not really. But I did come to grow very fond of Ali. The movie is AN EXPERIENCE. It is long and painful, but not painfully long. That's not my main point. One sees how war can effect one's life--one's emotional, mental, psychological well being. Expect bursts of drama in between all the riding around on camels and horses scenes.

Schindler's List

Good. Intense. Great Theme. The words I used to describe Lawrence of Arabia can easily be applied to Lawrence of Arabia. Though I will say the subject matter is even darker and even more disturbing.  I had forgotten just how intense, how painful, how disturbing, how unsettling this one truly is. Moments of kindness juxtaposed with raw brutality. Very well done, quite outstanding. This one gets quite carnal and sensual in places, but for the right audience, it is almost a must-see. Not one to watch again and again and again. But one that you should watch at least once. Probably one of the few R-rated movies that I've seen.

Victoria and Albert

How does Victoria and Albert compare with Young Victoria???? Well, the focus is completely different. Young Victoria is focused on selling a romance, a sweep-you-off-your-feet ROMANCE. It isn't that it ignores other kinds of tension--family and politics--it' doesn't. In some ways, it is even more political than Victoria and Albert. One other key difference is that it only tells about the first few years of Victoria's reign. Victoria and Albert proclaims itself a love story as well, but, to me it didn't feel like one. One sees a very, very human Victoria and a very, very human Albert at times at odds with everyone and even with one another. If there was a happily ever after it came at the expense of both making sacrifices and compromises. It covers about twenty years or so! Victoria is played by Victoria Hamilton whom I recognized as Ruby Pratt! She does a great job with the role. Albert is played by Jonathan Firth.   

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Happy Little Family (1947)

Happy Little Family. Rebecca Caudill. 1947. 107 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, loved Rebecca Caudill's Happy Little Family. I bought this one because it was marketed for "those who love Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books." In fact, Rebecca Caudill was a contemporary author of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Happy Little Family was published in 1947, just a handful of years after These Happy Golden Years.

Happy Little Family is set in the Kentucky Mountains. The main character, for the most part, is a little girl named Bonnie who is about five years old. Bonnie has lots of siblings: Debby, Emmy, Chris, and Althy. (Readers also get to know the Mother and Father.) Each chapter is set in a different season of the year.

It opens in January with "Crack the Whip" a story about Bonnie wanting to go skating with her siblings and Father. She's "five" now--just turned five--and she wants to do everything her older sisters do. But skating isn't as easy as it looks, and, being the youngest has its advantages and disadvantages.

"The Pink Sunbonnet" is the story set in spring. Bonnie is jealous of her sisters who get new hats. She doesn't exactly want a new sunbonnet even if it is pink. She thinks only "little" girls wear sunbonnets. One really gets a sense of the family in this story. Even more so than in the first chapter. By this point, it was LOVE for me.

"The Arrowhead" is the story set in summer. The theme this time is BRAVERY.

"The Red Toboggan Cap" is the story set in fall. It is a lost and found story....

"The Journey" is the story set in December. Though she's not quite ready for school full-time, Bonnie gets to visit school for the very first time in this one. It is a bit about bravery too, I suppose, and a lot about growing up or trying to grow up! This story had its precious moments. Like when Bonnie thought she'd be brave enough to cross the oh-so-scary bridge by herself if only she could learn how to read and write the word CAT.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Everland

Everland. Wendy Spinale. 2016. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Everland is a dystopian, steam-punk retelling of Peter Pan.

If I was giving stars for premise, it would be five stars for sure. The premise is surely the most interesting and captivating thing about Everland. Gwen Darling is the heroine. Since a virus/plague killed off most--if not all--of the adults in England, Gwen is responsible for her younger siblings, Mikey, the youngest, and her sister Joanna. When Gwen is out scavenging one day, Joanna is kidnapped by the Marauders, the Marauders are led by Captain Hook, though Hook is just a nickname. His initials are H.O.O.K. Fortunately for Gwen, on the same scavenging trip, she caught her first glimpse of Pete and Bella. These two come to her rescue. Pete eagerly and generously. Bella with much protest and grumbling. Pete hopes that Gwen is truly IMMUNE, the one human on earth who is immune to the virus, the one whose blood or antibodies in the blood may hold the cure for saving those left alive. Pete takes Gwen and Mikey to the underworld--the underground remains of Everland, or London. She'll join the Lost Boys. Bella is the only other girl. Jack and Doc are two Lost Boys that seem to stand out from the rest.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the premise gets five stars from me. Unfortunately, I found the world-building, the storytelling (narration, plotting), and the characterization to all be lacking.

The world-building seemed all-surface and not much depth. Like flimsy props on a set that could potentially be tipped over leading to disaster. I never once forgot myself in the story or got lost in the story. And that's what you want in fantasy: to be swept into a whole new world, to become absorbed in it, fascinated even. It isn't that the world created doesn't have potential or promise. It does. But I don't want potential-fulfillment, I want actual fulfillment. One thing that bothered me was the depiction of this "war" between England and Germany. The German bad guys--led by the oh-so-evil Queen that we never once meet--didn't come across to me as well-executed.

The narration was an almost for me as well. I really did not enjoy the alternating narrators. Chapters alternate perspectives between Gwen and Hook. If I had to have alternating characters, I'd much rather have gotten to know Bella or Pete or if it absolutely had to be a bad guy, Smeeth. Seeing Captain Hook through Smeeth's eyes would have likely been more entertaining than being stuck in Hook's head. Still, I think readers didn't get to know Bella enough, and, it would have been great to have alternating chapters between Gwen and Bella. It would have made for a lively, tension-filled read. Because Bella seemed fierce, strong, stubborn.

The plot itself was okay, but, it was the little things that annoyed me. For example, the "need" to represent pixie dust leading to the gold dust powder that somehow, someway enables all the characters to see in the dark. That's just one example of how the need to represent as many details as possible from Peter Pan led to a weaker story. That being said, the surprise introduction of Lily was very much necessary. Now that I think about it, LILY would have made a good alternate narrator. What I was not thrilled with was the "instant" romance between Pete and Gwen.

The characterization. I personally found it on the weak side. If the premise wasn't so strong, would anyone really keep reading? Or, would I have kept reading?! (That would be the fairer question). Gwen, Pete, Bella, Hook, all the characters really felt like paper dolls. Some readers prefer action-driven novels. Some readers prefer character-driven novels. I happen to prefer character-driven novels. And I like my action novels to have a certain depth to their characters. I think the best villains should be fleshed-out villains. Even though we were in Captain Hook's head, I never once really thought of him as being a developed character.

Think of LOST. Tons of characters, plenty of action and drama, plenty of tension and suspense, plenty of mystery. Yet what hooks me is the DEPTH of the characterization. Every single character is fully fleshed out--past, present, everything in between. You may or may not "like" a character. But every action, every word seems to come from within a character, staying true to that character. The same could be said of Once Upon A Time. And that show put a WHOLE new spin and then some on Peter Pan and Captain Hook!!!!

Would a rereading at some point persuade me to reevaluate this one, and "like" it more??? Perhaps. After all, such has occurred before. But I'm not eager to do so now.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. How To Be A Pirate

How to Be a Pirate. Sue Fliess. Illustrated by Nikki Dyson. 2014. Golden Books. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ahoy, landlubber! Come with me. Board me ship upon the sea! Not a pirate? Don't know how? Ye can learn to be one now! Come in closer--I don't bite. A pirate ye shall be tonight!

Premise/plot: The title says it all, this book "teaches" how to be a pirate.

My thoughts: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I like the rhythm and the rhyme of it. It gets that part right at least!!! The plot is simple enough, and, in a way it's predictable enough. There is just something joyful and fun about this one.
Rules for pirates?
Let's just say...
ye can throw all the rules away!
No more toothpaste!
Farewell, bath!
once ye choose the pirate path.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. The Children's Homer

The Children's Homer. Padraic Colum. 1918/1982. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

I really enjoyed reading Padraic Colum's The Children's Homer, a retelling--originally published in 1918--of the Iliad and the Odyssey. You should know from the start that it is a prose retelling.

The story opens by introducing readers to Telemachus, the now grown son of Odysseus. When Telemachus was just a baby--just a month old--his father went off to war, to fight in the Trojan War. The war took ten long, agonizing years. But it's been over for just as many--ten long years. Telemachus and his mother, Penelope, need to know: Is Odysseus dead or alive? If he's alive, where is he? Why hasn't he come home yet? They are not the only one curious. Plenty of men want to know too. But. They're hoping that Odysseus is dead and not alive. Why?! They want a chance at Penelope. They've come to "woo" her. That and to eat and drink a lot at the estate's expense. Telemachus wants it to stop. It angers him to see so many men about the place anxiously trying to become Penelope's new husband. So what can he do about it?

For one, he can set out on a quest of his own to see if he can find traces of his father's story. Because Telemachus has at least one or two gods or goddesses on his side, he is somewhat mostly successful. He hears ALL about the Trojan war. Not just about his father, but, about many men--many soldiers. Including Achilles and Hector and Paris. He also learns that his father survived the war and is trying to come back home.

The second half of the book is about Odysseus' journey back home and how he handled or resolved the situation with all those men chasing after his wife. It is mainly if not exclusively from Odysseus' point of view. Readers see a couple of happy reunions along the way.

Plenty of action and adventure happens in both sections as the war and its aftermath is recounted. It is an interesting read. Parts of it felt very familiar to me. Overall, it was just a pleasant, enjoyable read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and then he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: "First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you're there. Good-morning."

Premise/plot: The Banks family is in need of a nanny. The children's idea of a 'perfect' nanny is far different from their parents idea. Mary Poppins is the practically-perfect nanny that transforms a family though this transformation is not overnight and without struggle. Each chapter is an adventure of sorts.




My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It wasn't the first time I read it. I've reread it a few times even. Some chapters I love and adore. Other chapters I merely like. But if you haven't read it, I think it's one you should consider reading! It is really different from the movie and live musical.
 
My favorite song from the live musical is Practically Perfect.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Manifesto for May

  • I will read what I want to read when I want to read it regardless of length. 
  • I will not allow the "need" to have a certain number of reviews to post keep me from reading the long books that I love and adore.
  • I will let myself abandon books that I'm not liking even if--maybe even especially if--they are review copies. (Why do I feel the need to keep reading?!?!)
  • I will be sensible at the library and not bring home twenty new books each weekend. I will try.
  • I will not automatically renew everything that is on my library card. I will be sensible and try to return the items I'm not going to be reading within two weeks.
  • I will make time for people and be thankful to be in the moment.
  • I will prioritize sleep over reading and blogging. Or try to at least.
  • I will create more top ten lists for the blog.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Misadventures of Grumpy Cat

The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat and Pokey, vol. 1 Ben McCool, Royal McGraw, Elliott Serrano, Ben Fisher, Steve Uy. 2016. Dynamite Entertainment. 104 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I didn't enjoy reading The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat (and Pokey!), at least not as much as I was expecting to--wanting to. I hoped my love of Grumpy Cat would outweigh my dislike of comic books. That wasn't the case at all. The portrayal of Grumpy Cat didn't really live up to my expectations either. More often than not, my reaction to a comic was: so what?

I wasn't expecting the weirdness in the collection: a couple of ghost stories, a time travel story, an alien encounter, and one about ancient Egyptian mummies.

Treasure Map--Grumpy Cat exerts a lot of energy in this one to set up Pokey for a trick: she buries a treasure map, pretends to be disinterested, refuses to cooperates, reluctantly agrees, dresses up as a ghost or two, etc. A "real" ghost ends this strip. I was less than enthused by this first comic.

Grumpy in HD--Grumpy gets Pokey and a dog into trouble with the humans in this one. It is about the remote control and how to "make" it work. It felt shorter and less annoying--which is a good thing.

Super-Pokey & Grumpy Cat in Paws of Justice--Pokey convinces Grumpy Cat to be his sidekick. Pokey having been inspired by watching superheroes on tv. There are costumes and everything. Can this duo prove heroic in the local neighborhood. This one is a bit over-the-top in a purely silly way. If I had to pick a favorite to like, it, might accidentally be this one.

Grumpy Cat Goes to Comic-Con--just one page, and, definitely one of the 'so what????' strips.

Cell Phone--Grumpy Cat and Pokey get into some trouble with a cell phone. At first Grumpy Cat was don't *try* to answer the phone, leave it alone, it's nothing but trouble waiting to happen. Then, she changes her mind when the human on the other end of the phone starts talking about bringing treats.
It doesn't end well for the cats.

Vincent Van Grump--In an effort to become famous, Grumpy tries her hand at singing, writing, and painting. Perhaps one of the better ones in the collection. At least it isn't otherworldly.

Grumpy Birthday to You--Grumpy Cat is grumpy about her birthday.

Detective Cats--Grumpy Cat and Pokey become detectives to solve a case--a case about missing food or missing treats or something like that. It was okay.

A Grump in Time--weird from start to finish and not in a good-weird way or a funny-weird way. Just weird-weird as in--so what????

Close Encounters of the Grumpy Kind--Pokey and Grumpy meet aliens. At this point I was ready for the book to be done already.

I Know What You Did Last Summer...I Just Don't Care--Fortunately there was just one more story. Unfortunately it was Halloween-themed. This one features the haunted house (again) and an Egyptian mummy-cat.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. April Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in April 2016
  1. Churchill: The Power of Words. Winston S. Churchill. Edited by Martin Gilbert. Da Capo Press. 536 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. War Dogs. Kathryn Selbert. 2016. [April 2016] Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. No Other Will Do. Karen Witemeyer. 2016. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Persuasion. Jane Austen 1818/1992. Knopf Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Tyndale. 2 Discs. [Source: Library]
  6. Much Ado About Nothing. William Shakespeare. 1599/2004. SparkNotes. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
5 Places Visited in April:
  1. Texas
  2. Bath and London (England)
  3. Russia
  4. Pakistan 
  5. Ecuador
Picture books:
  1. Absolutely One Thing. Lauren Child. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Bedtime for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1960/1996. HarperCollins. 32 pages.
  3. A Baby Sister for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1964/1992. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Bread and Jam for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1964/1992. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. A Birthday for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1968/1995. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. I Didn't Do It. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest. Illustrated by Katy Schneider. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. War Dogs. Kathryn Selbert. 2016. [April 2016] Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. 2016. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. Eva and the New Owl. Rebecca Elliott. 2016. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. A Bargain for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1970/1992. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Best Friends for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1969/1994. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. Frog and Toad Are Friends. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1970. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (General, realistic) fiction, all ages: 0
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages: 0

Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster. Lauren Tarshis. 2016. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Murder in the Museum. John Rowland. 1938. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Death in the Tunnel. Miles Burton. 1936/2016. Poisoned Pen Press. 232 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Classics, all ages:
  1. Persuasion. Jane Austen 1818/1992. Knopf Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Much Ado About Nothing. William Shakespeare. 1599/2004. SparkNotes. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Doctor Zhivago. Boris Pasternak. Translated by John Bayley. 1957. 592 pages. [Source: Library]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Churchill: The Power of Words. Winston S. Churchill. Edited by Martin Gilbert. Da Capo Press. 536 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. I Am Malala. Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. 2014. Little Brown. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Death by Food Pyramid. Denise Minger. 2014. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. 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]
  5. 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]
  6. A Big Fat Crisis by Deborah Cohen. 2013. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Stuffed: An Insider's Look At Who's Really Making America Fat. Hank Cardello. 2009. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Secrets from the Eating Lab. Traci Mann. 2015. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. No Other Will Do. Karen Witemeyer. 2016. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. No Graven Image. Elisabeth Elliot. 1966. 267 pages. [Source: Inter-Library-Loan]
  3. C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Tyndale. 2 Discs. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation. Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein. 2013. Reformation Heritage. 108 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. God's Word, Our Story. Learning from the Book of Nehemiah. D.A. Carson and Kathleen B. Nielson, editors. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Know the Creeds and Councils. Justin S. Holcomb. 2014. Zondervan. 183 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart. Robert J. Morgan. 2010. B&H Publishing. 288 pages. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Looking for Lovely. Annie F. Downs. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]    
  6. Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Joe Thorn. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. The Pursuit of Holiness. Jerry Bridges. 1978. NavPress. 160 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Why Bother With Church? Sam Allberry. 2016. Good Book Company.  [Source: Borrowed]
  9. Jesus Without Borders. Chad Gibbs. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Library Loot: End of April

New Loot:
  • The Toymaker's Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith
  • Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson
  • Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
  • The Education of Ivy Blake by Ellen Airgood
  • The Runaway's Gold by Emilie Christie Burack
  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
  • A Lion To Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  • The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
  • Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Leftover Loot:

  • Peter Pan (Annotated Edition) Barrie
  • That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  • The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  • I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Njood Ali
  • Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi
  • Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
  • Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung 
              Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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