Saturday, March 17, 2018

Me Listen to Audio?! #10

This week I've continued to listen to Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. I've listened to episodes five through ten so far. I've reached the part of the story where it's completely new to me. I'd attempted the novel a few years ago. It is holding my interest. Some story lines more than others. There are a few characters--okay ONE character in particular--that I just can't help boo-hissing every time he enters a scene. I have come to loathe his voice simply because I hate the character so much. I believe there are twenty-five episodes in all. What keeps it perhaps from becoming overwhelming is the fact that each episode is less than fifteen minutes long!

I also listened to "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace."  There is just one more episodes of The Inimitable Jeeves left. It has been so much fun to revisit these stories. I definitely enjoy it more than The Old Curiosity Shop!!!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Keep it Short #11

This week I read three short stories by L.M. Montgomery.

First sentence: When the vegetable-man knocked, Jessamine went to the door wearily. She felt quite well acquainted with him. He had been coming all the spring, and his cheery greeting always left a pleasant afterglow behind him.

Premise/plot: Jessamine never expected to fall in love with anyone, but love knocks at her door one day. He's the nephew of her regular vegetable-man, Mr. Bell.

 My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! Jessamine, our heroine, lives with her brother and his snooty wife. But she longs for the country life she was forced to leave. I am so glad she got her happily ever after ending!

Miss Sally's Letter
First sentence: Miss Sally peered sharply at Willard Stanley, first through her gold-rimmed glasses and then over them.

Premise/plot: Willard Stanley is madly in love with Miss Sally's niece, Joyce. But Miss Sally has sworn that she would never, ever, ever give her consent for Joyce to marry anyone. Miss Sally's heart was crushed and broken once--men are not to be trusted. Willard Stanley is determined and clever. He seeks Miss Sally's help in decorating his new house. He acts as if he'll be bringing home a bride soon. And Miss Sally assumes that it is someone besides Joyce. He lets her believe this. Now Miss Sally loves, loves, loves, loves to fix up old houses. If they'd had HGTV back in the day, she'd have had her own show. Will Miss Sally get to know and trust Willard doing this home renovation project? Will Joyce and Willard get their happily ever after?

My thoughts: I really loved this one!

"But I think it will do," mused Miss Sally. "We'll make it do. There's such satisfaction getting as much as you possibly can out of a dollar, and twice as much as anybody else would get. I enjoy that sort of thing. This will be a game, and we'll play it with a right good will. But I do wish you would give the place a sensible name."
"It will be Eden for me when she comes." "I suppose you tell her all that and she believes it," said Miss Sally sarcastically. "You'll both find out that there is a good deal more prose than poetry in life."
Prose, rightly written and read, is sometimes as beautiful as poetry.

My Lady Jane
First sentence: The boat got into Broughton half an hour after the train had gone. We had been delayed by some small accident to the machinery; hence that lost half-hour, which meant a night's sojourn for me in Broughton. I am ashamed of the things I thought and said. When I think that fate might have taken me at my word and raised up a special train, or some such miracle, by which I might have got away from Broughton that night, I experience a cold chill. Out of gratitude I have never sworn over missing connections since.

Premise/plot: A man is given a second chance at love. This story is completely silly but has a charm about it as well. Clark Oliver and Elliott Cameron are cousins who could be identical twins. They hate each other. They LOATHE each other. Elliott had no intention of seeking out his cousin's company, but, he missed his train. Delayed for a day, he sees his cousin and ends up agreeing to do him a favor. He will pretend to be Clark for the evening and attend a social dinner. At the dinner he sees an old girlfriend that had broken his heart. In the role of Clark, the two talk and chat...will he get a second chance?!

My thoughts: This one is essentially a short story version of George Strait's LEAD ON. I liked it very much.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


My Victorian Year #11

This week I continued reading Anthony Trollope's Orley Farm. I also made a strong effort in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. The premise of Crime and Punishment is a dark one. The narrator, our "hero," is a bit mad. He's got a notion in his head of committing murder and seeing if he can get away with it. The crime has been committed now, and I'm just awaiting whatever "punishment" may be coming next. Assuming that the title tells all!

Quotes from Crime and Punishment:
One death to a hundred lives--I mean, there's arithmetic for you! And anyway, what does the life of that horrible, stupid, consumptive old woman count for when weighed in the common balance? No more than the life of a louse, a cockroach, and it's not even worth that, because the old woman is harmful. (80)
To be quite honest, if one goes into all the ins and outs of everyone, are there really going to be all that many good people left? (162)
One can always forgive a man for telling lies; lying's a harmless activity, because it leads to the truth. (163)
"We've got facts," they say. But facts aren't everything: at least half the battle consists in how one makes use of them! (164)
 Quotes from Orley Farm:
Mr. Furnival might feel himself sufficient to secure the acquittal of an innocent person, or even of a guilty person, under ordinary circumstances; but if any man in England could secure the acquittal of a guilty person under extraordinary circumstances, it would be Mr. Chaffanbrass.
Why should I not? Such had been the question which Sir Peregrine Orme had asked himself over and over again, in these latter days, since Lady Mason had been staying at his house; and the purport of the question was this: — Why should he not make Lady Mason his wife?
I and my readers can probably see very many reasons why he should not do so; but then we are not in love with Lady Mason. Her charms and her sorrows, — her soft, sad smile and her more lovely tears have not operated upon us.
Lady Mason was rich with female charms, and she used them partly with the innocence of the dove, but partly also with the wisdom of the serpent.
“You have every right. You shall have every right if you will accept it. Lady Mason, I am an old man, — some would say a very old man. But I am not too old to love you. Can, you accept the love of an old man like me?”
“It shall not be withdrawn. Do not let that feeling actuate you. Answer me out of your heart, and however your heart may answer, remember this, that my friendship and support shall be the same. If you will take me for your husband, as your husband will I stand by you. If you cannot, — then I will stand by you as your father.”
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, March 16, 2018

With My Hands

With My Hands: Poems About Making Things. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am a maker.

Premise/plot: With My Hands is a themed collection of poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. The theme of the collection is "making things." What kinds of things? All sorts. Not just artsy things like drawings, paintings, cards, and collages. But all sorts. For example, I wasn't expecting a poem about soap carving or making shadow puppets on the wall! I think there is enough variety to inspire and encourage every young reader to say I want to try that!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this collection very much. It celebrates creativity in all its forms. And it captures the joy of play and creation. I had a few favorite poems in this one. I thought "Card" was a sweet poem celebrating a child's love for his/her dad. (The poem is written in first person. The speaker could be a girl or a boy. But the illustration is of a boy.) But my favorite poem is "Mess."

Yes. It's a mess.
Do not let it distress you.
I'm making a project
that might just impress you.
Projects are messy--
all makers agree.
And the messiest maker
of projects

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that poem because it is so me.

I think this book would pair well with Peter Reynold's Happy Dreamer.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Magician's Hat

The Magician's Hat. Malcolm Mitchell. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 2018. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Family Fun Day at the library was filled with exciting events. Book scavenger hunts. Storytelling. Reading rallies. Today, for the first time, a magician arrived with a bag of tricks and a BIG hat.

Premise/plot: Do libraries need visiting magicians to be magical places? NO! But in this picture book, a magician who loves books happens to be visiting. He tells the children that books are magic, that books can take you to places you've only dreamed about. The book does seem to be occupied chiefly with associating books with occupations. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "I've got a book for that in my hat!" (The quotes are NOT from the book, just my summing up of the book's plot.)

My thoughts: I love books. I love reading. I love the message that books can be magical. But. I didn't quite love this one. Books aren't only for figuring out what you want to do in life. That is such a narrow, narrow focus of what books have to offer readers. There are hundreds of reasons why kids might pick up a book. There are hundreds--if not thousands--of reasons why adults might continue to read books.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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