Thursday, December 14, 2017

Raid of No Return

Raid of No Return. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #7) Nathan Hale. 2017. [November] Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On March 8th, 1862, near the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, the confederate ironclad CSS Virginia steamed into battle.

Premise/plot: Raid of No Return is part of a graphic-novel historical series written by Nathan Hale and starring Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale is joined by his executioners. He is delaying his execution by telling super-exciting action-packed stories from history, from the future. In this seventh adventure, he is turning to the second world war. This book is ALL about the Doolittle Raid or the Tokyo Raid of 1942. The adventure begins with the Japanese training to attack the United States.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this series. This is a good addition to that series. I love that the book follows all sixteen planes and their crews that took part in the raid. A few of the names were familiar to me, but not all of them. I would definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys history. You don't have to "love" graphic novels to be swept up into this story. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Nutcracker Mice

The Nutcracker Mice. Kristin Kladstrup. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. 2017. [October 24] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There were mice at the Mariinsky.

Premise/plot: The Nutcracker Mice is set in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1892. It takes place mostly in the theatre. A new ballet is about to premiere, The Nutcracker. The humans and the mice are hard at work on their productions. The mice face a more difficult challenge. They fear mice will not come to see--pay to see--a play where mice are the villains and are killed. They also fear that mice that are interested in seeing the new ballet, would choose to see the humans--with their elaborate costumes and sets--perform for free. And then there's the challenge of staying alive in the first place--finding enough food and avoiding mouse traps.

The heroine of The Nutcracker Mice is a young mouse named Esmerelda. She befriends a young girl, Irina, the daughter of a janitor and costume maker. Esmerelda's quick-thinking may just save the day.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I loved, loved, loved that Esmerelda and the mice decided to rewrite the Nutcracker, to adapt it to suit their audience. This one was just satisfying to read. I loved every minute of it. Much like I love every minute of the Nutcracker Suite. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2018 Reading Challenges: Old School Kidlit

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge
Host: Read-at-Home-Mom (sign up)
Check in at the end of each month with a list of what you've read and links to any reviews you have posted. When you post on social media, tag your posts with #OldSchoolKidlit2018
January - December 2018
# of books: 42


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol. Samantha Silva. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all. His cravat was loose, top button of his waistcoat undone, study windows flung open as far as they’d go. Chestnut curls bobbed over his dark slate eyes that brightened to each word he wrote: this one, no, that one, scribble and scratch, a raised brow, a tucked chin, a guffaw. Every expression was at the ready, every limb engaged in the urgent deed. Nothing else existed. Not hunger or thirst, not the thrumming of the household above and below—a wife about to give birth, five children already, four servants, two Newfoundlands, a Pomeranian, and the Master’s Cat, now pawing at his quill. Not time, neither past nor future, just the clear-eyed now, and words spilling out of him faster than he could think them. 

 Premise/plot: Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a fictionalized account of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. It contains several true facts: the necessity of writing/publishing a Christmas book in such a short period of time; the name of Charles Dickens and his family members; quotes from A Christmas Carol. But it is largely fictional.

It is just a few weeks before Christmas. His wife has just given birth. His publisher has come to him with a demand: write a Christmas book...or else. His last book--his current book, Martin Chuzzlewit--isn't doing all. His publishers NEED a successful book. There is no other way.

Dickens finds himself in need of a MUSE.

My thoughts: This was an extremely entertaining and mostly satisfying read. It is divorced from truth, perhaps. But I found it almost impossible to put down. The chapters just beg to be read right then and there. It helps that they are short chapters too. The writing was delicious. I'll do my best to show you what I mean:
“To whom shall I make it?” “Marley, sir. Jacob. A man who’s never missed a word you’ve written.” “My favorite sort of reader.” Dickens signed with a flourish. He sensed his children watching, felt Mamie squeeze his arm. He handed the album back with a satisfied smile. “Jacob Marley, I am ever in your service.” The gentleman flipped to the page to review his newest get. “Dickens? I thought you was Thackeray!” He tore it out, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the street, stomping away.
The children watched their father’s autograph be further insulted by the wheel of an omnibus clip-clopping past. Dickens narrowed his eyes. “Well. How sad Mr. Marley will be when I introduce him in my new number, only to kill him off in the next.” “He should be dead to begin with,” said young Charley. “Dead as a doornail,” said Katey. “So he shall. So he shall.” The matter settled, Dickens turned for home. His children trooped behind in cautious silence. 
“A tree?” demanded Dickens. “Inside the house?” “A Christmas tree. From Germany.” “Have we no trees in England?” “The Queen and Prince Albert insist on it. It’s a new tradition.” “Traditions are not new, Catherine. They are old. And we cannot afford the ones we have!” 
  “Your past is quicker than you are and will catch you soon enough.”
“Writers told what to write. Readers told what to read. People who do whatever you do … told what to do!” Dickens waved his arms like a windmill gone mad. “And once again, everyone making money on me but me!” 
She nodded, her voice quiet as a prayer. “But every book you’ve ever written is a book about Christmas. About the feeling we must have for one another, without which we are lost.”
Ebenezer Scrooge was waking to a new world, a new self, tears still wet on his face. For a miserable bean counter who had long made a business out of men, he now knew that his business was all mankind. Dickens wept and laughed and wept again. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, December 11, 2017

The Battle of Life

The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens. 1846. 88 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green.

Premise/plot: Doctor Jeddler has two daughters, Grace and Marion. Marion, the younger daughter, is engaged to Alfred Heathfield. No one could be happier for the couple than Grace. In fact, Grace talks about Alfred morning, noon, and night. The engagement is to be a long one, of several years. As the time nears for Alfred's return, Marion begins acting strangely. This is about the same time that Michael Warden makes plans to leave the country--due to financial disgrace/ruin. Could these two be in love? Perhaps. One thing is certain, Marion does meet secretly with him before Alfred's return. Clemency Newcome, a servant in the home, witnesses this arrangement.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I at least loved it more than I ever thought possible. Dickens introduces some great characters. Dr. Jeddler has a STRANGE philosophy about the meaning of life. As do some of the other characters in this one. (I can't remember now if it was Snitchey or Craggs that philosophizes. But here is the man's philosophy: "Everything appears to me to be made too easy, now-a-days. It’s the vice of these times. If the world is a joke (I am not prepared to say it isn’t), it ought to be made a very difficult joke to crack. It ought to be as hard a struggle, sir, as possible. That’s the intention. But, it’s being made far too easy. We are oiling the gates of life. They ought to be rusty. We shall have them beginning to turn, soon, with a smooth sound.") I really loved Clemency Newcome and Ben Britain, the two servants. They may be my favorite characters in the novella. I hoped that these two would end up together. I was so SATISFIED when they did.

The relationship between Marion and Grace was interesting and strange. I was certainly fooled by Dickens' presentation of Marion. For most of the novella, Marion is portrayed as being completely disinterested in Alfred and matrimony. Certainly there was not any indication that she's madly in love with him. Grace's crush on Alfred was obvious, and once Marion was out of the picture, it was equally obvious that these two would console each other all the way to the altar. Is it a good sign or a bad one that they choose Marion's birthday to be their wedding day?! Marion's big reveal was surprising--when it came. Is it realistic? Is it romantic? Or is it just all kinds of strange?

It did begin in an odd way, I admit. Several pages spent describing in detail a bloody battlefield.  Centuries later--I'm supposing, though it could just be decades--all traces of the battle, of the blood and gore, are gone. What remains is a village full of life.

My private opinion is, and I hope you agree with me, that we might get on a great deal better than we do, and might be infinitely more agreeable company than we are.
‘Don’t you know it’s always somebody’s birth-day? Did you never hear how many new performers enter on this — ha! ha! ha! — it’s impossible to speak gravely of it — on this preposterous and ridiculous business called Life, every minute?’
She was about thirty years old, and had a sufficiently plump and cheerful face, though it was twisted up into an odd expression of tightness that made it comical. But, the extraordinary homeliness of her gait and manner, would have superseded any face in the world. To say that she had two left legs, and somebody else’s arms, and that all four limbs seemed to be out of joint, and to start from perfectly wrong places when they were set in motion, is to offer the mildest outline of the reality. To say that she was perfectly content and satisfied with these arrangements, and regarded them as being no business of hers, and that she took her arms and legs as they came, and allowed them to dispose of themselves just as it happened, is to render faint justice to her equanimity. Her dress was a prodigious pair of self-willed shoes, that never wanted to go where her feet went; blue stockings; a printed gown of many colours, and the most hideous pattern procurable for money; and a white apron. She always wore short sleeves, and always had, by some accident, grazed elbows, in which she took so lively an interest, that she was continually trying to turn them round and get impossible views of them.
Such, in outward form and garb, was Clemency Newcome; who was supposed to have unconsciously originated a corruption of her own Christian name, from Clementina (but nobody knew, for the deaf old mother, a very phenomenon of age, whom she had supported almost from a child, was dead, and she had no other relation); who now busied herself in preparing the table, and who stood, at intervals, with her bare red arms crossed, rubbing her grazed elbows with opposite hands, and staring at it very composedly, until she suddenly remembered something else she wanted, and jogged off to fetch it.
‘The combatants are very eager and very bitter in that same battle of Life. There’s a great deal of cutting and slashing, and firing into people’s heads from behind. There is terrible treading down, and trampling on. It is rather a bad business.’ ‘I believe, Mr. Snitchey,’ said Alfred, ‘there are quiet victories and struggles, great sacrifices of self, and noble acts of heroism, in it — even in many of its apparent lightnesses and contradictions -not the less difficult to achieve, because they have no earthly chronicle or audience — done every day in nooks and corners, and in little households, and in men’s and women’s hearts — any one of which might reconcile the sternest man to such a world, and fill him with belief and hope in it, though two-fourths of its people were at war, and another fourth at law; and that’s a bold word.’ 
Snitchey and Craggs were the best friends in the world, and had a real confidence in one another; but Mrs. Snitchey, by a dispensation not uncommon in the affairs of life, was on principle suspicious of Mr. Craggs; and Mrs. Craggs was on principle suspicious of Mr. Snitchey. 
‘What! overcome by a story-book!’ said Doctor Jeddler. ‘Print and paper! Well, well, it’s all one. It’s as rational to make a serious matter of print and paper as of anything else. But, dry your eyes, love, dry your eyes. I dare say the heroine has got home again long ago, and made it up all round — and if she hasn’t, a real home is only four walls; and a fictitious one, mere rags and ink. What’s the matter now?’
‘Lor!’ replied his fair companion, with her favourite twist of her favourite joints. ‘I wish it was me, Britain!’ ‘Wish what was you?’ ‘A-going to be married,’ said Clemency. Benjamin took his pipe out of his mouth and laughed heartily. ‘Yes! you’re a likely subject for that!’ he said. ‘Poor Clem!’ Clemency for her part laughed as heartily as he, and seemed as much amused by the idea. ‘Yes,’ she assented, ‘I’m a likely subject for that; an’t I?’ ‘YOU’LL never be married, you know,’ said Mr. Britain, resuming his pipe. ‘Don’t you think I ever shall though?’ said Clemency, in perfect good faith. Mr. Britain shook his head. ‘Not a chance of it!’ ‘Only think!’ said Clemency. ‘Well! — I suppose you mean to, Britain, one of these days; don’t you?’
‘I can’t help liking you,’ said Mr. Britain; ‘you’re a regular good creature in your way, so shake hands, Clem. Whatever happens, I’ll always take notice of you, and be a friend to you.’ ‘Will you?’ returned Clemency. ‘Well! that’s very good of you.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Britain, giving her his pipe to knock the ashes out of it; ‘I’ll stand by you. Hark! That’s a curious noise!’
A month soon passes, even at its tardiest pace. The month appointed to elapse between that night and the return, was quick of foot, and went by, like a vapour. The day arrived. A raging winter day, that shook the old house, sometimes, as if it shivered in the blast.
We count by changes and events within us. Not by years.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: minimum 3,

Love reading? Love family? Love researching family history? Want a family-friendly reading challenge? 

Goal: To read a book from the birth year of your selected family members. You do not have to mention them by name, unless you want. But do please list the years you'll be reading. You may include yourself in your 'family tree.'

Minimum of three books (and three family members). You can read more, of course.

Sign up by leaving a comment.

What books count towards the reading challenge?
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Board books
  • Picture Books
  • Early Readers
  • Early Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books
  • Graphic Novels
  • Middle Grade Books
  • Young Adult Books
  • Adult Books
  • Poetry
  • Short Stories
  • Plays
Is a blog required? Are reviews required? No. If you do blog, I'd love a link to your blog so I can read your reviews and book recommendations. If you review books on GoodReads, leave a link to your profile so I can friend you and follow your reviews!

If you're on twitter, you can contact me @blbooks and talk cats OR books!

You can comment on this post or any challenge-related post to update others on your progress.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


2018 Reading Challenges: Family Tree

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for twelve

The years I'll be reading:


If I finish those:


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, December 09, 2017

Week in Review: December 3-9

The Librarian of Auschwitz. Antonio Iturbe. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. 2017. 424 pages. [Source: Library]
Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser. 2017. 640 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Chimes. Charles Dickens. 1844. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens. 1845. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]
Among the Brave. (Shadow Children #5) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2004. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite Quotes from A Christmas Carol
Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way). Patrick McDonnell. 2017. Little, Brown. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
This Is My Book! Mark Pett. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes The Easter Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda.  2014.  80 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes Valentine Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2015. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2015. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
When Is It Right To Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1992/2018. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol. Bob Welch. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
My Autumn with Psalm 199 #21
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #22
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #23
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #24
Journaling the Spurgeon Bible #4 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Back to the Classics 2018

Back to the Classics 2018
Host: Books and Chocolate (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: 6 - 12

_ 19th century classic
_ 20th century classic
_ classic by a woman author
_ classic in translation
_ children's classic
_ classic crime story
_ classic travel or journey narrative
_ classic with a single-word title
_ classic with a color in the title
_ classic by a new-to-you author
_ a classic that scares you
_ re-read a favorite classic

And here are the categories for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

3.  A classic by a woman author

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.

5. A children's classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Picture books don't count!

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. A journey should be a major plot point, i.e., The Hobbit, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc.

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine -- Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.).

9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on.

10. A classic by an author that's new to you. Choose an author you've never read before.

11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you've been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now's the time to read it, and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!

12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites -- choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


The Cricket on the Hearth

The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens. 1845. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The kettle began it! Don’t tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn’t say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.

Premise/plot: This novella doesn't have chapters, it has chirps. Readers meet a happily married couple with a baby: Mr. and Mrs. Peerybingle. (His name is John. Her name is Dot). The couple's wedding anniversary is nearing, and an acquaintance of theirs is soon to be wed. But Tackleton, the groom-to-be is nothing like John. And the bride-to-be, May, is not in love. Tackleton knows this, and is rather proud. He feels Mr. Peerybingle is foolish for loving his wife as he does, and plants seeds of doubt in his mind. Does Dot really truly love him? Or is he blinded by his own love for her? Could his wife even be carrying on with another man behind his back?!

Mr. Peerybingle is not quite as bad as Othello in terms of jealousy. But is that because he's got a Cricket in the hearth watching over his home and preventing the worst of it?! Perhaps. His wife is keeping a secret from her husband, but, it's a good secret. One concerning a friend. She isn't the only one with a secret that's a burden.

Caleb Plummer has been lying to his blind daughter, Bertha, for YEARS. The biggest lie of all is that the man who employs them to make toys--Tackleton--is a kind, good, pleasant man. The problem is, he's mean, inconsiderate, and extremely UNpleasant. She's fallen in love with a lie--a man of her father's creation. Her heart is breaking that Tackleton is marrying.

With Dot's help, Caleb is going to tell her the truth. John will learn the truth as well; some details come from his wife, but others come from the Cricket and the household fairies.

Will May and Tackleton marry? Or does the day hold surprises of its own?

My thoughts: This was my first time to read The Cricket on the Hearth. It had its worrying moments. In the hand of Thomas Hardy, I don't think I could have gone on. John has to walk down a dark valley and be sorely tempted. This one could easily have gone the way of Othello. Fortunately, Dickens did not go that route! Perhaps because this one provides such a contrast of human emotion, the happy ending was all the more joyful.

Favorite quotes:
  • The kettle had had the last of its solo performance. It persevered with undiminished ardour; but the Cricket took first fiddle and kept it. Good Heaven, how it chirped! Its shrill, sharp, piercing voice resounded through the house, and seemed to twinkle in the outer darkness like a star. There was an indescribable little trill and tremble in it, at its loudest, which suggested its being carried off its legs, and made to leap again, by its own intense enthusiasm. Yet they went very well together, the Cricket and the kettle. The burden of the song was still the same; and louder, louder, louder still, they sang it in their emulation.
  • When she came back, and sat down in her former seat, the Cricket and the kettle were still keeping it up, with a perfect fury of competition. The kettle’s weak side clearly being, that he didn’t know when he was beat. There was all the excitement of a race about it. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket a mile ahead. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle making play in the distance, like a great top. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket round the corner. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle sticking to him in his own way; no idea of giving in. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket fresher than ever. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle slow and steady. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket going in to finish him. Hum, hum, hum — m — m! Kettle not to be finished. Until at last they got so jumbled together, in the hurry-skurry, helter-skelter, of the match, that whether the kettle chirped and the Cricket hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the kettle hummed, or they both chirped and both hummed, it would have taken a clearer head than yours or mine to have decided with anything like certainty.
  • Tackleton the Toy-merchant, pretty generally known as Gruff and Tackleton — for that was the firm, though Gruff had been bought out long ago; only leaving his name, and as some said his nature, according to its Dictionary meaning, in the business — Tackleton the Toy-merchant, was a man whose vocation had been quite misunderstood by his Parents and Guardians.
  • ‘We have arranged to keep our Wedding-Day (as far as that goes) at home,’ said John. ‘We have made the promise to ourselves these six months. We think, you see, that home —’ ‘Bah! what’s home?’ cried Tackleton. ‘Four walls and a ceiling! (why don’t you kill that Cricket? I would! I always do. I hate their noise.) There are four walls and a ceiling at my house. Come to me!’ ‘You kill your Crickets, eh?’ said John. ‘Scrunch ’em, sir,’ returned the other, setting his heel heavily on the floor. ‘You’ll say you’ll come? it’s as much your interest as mine, you know, that the women should persuade each other that they’re quiet and contented, and couldn’t be better off. I know their way. Whatever one woman says, another woman is determined to clinch, always. There’s that spirit of emulation among ’em, sir, that if your wife says to my wife, “I’m the happiest woman in the world, and mine’s the best husband in the world, and I dote on him,” my wife will say the same to yours, or more, and half believe it.’
  • Caleb and his daughter were at work together in their usual working-room, which served them for their ordinary living-room as well; and a strange place it was. There were houses in it, finished and unfinished, for Dolls of all stations in life. Suburban tenements for Dolls of moderate means; kitchens and single apartments for Dolls of the lower classes; capital town residences for Dolls of high estate. Some of these establishments were already furnished according to estimate, with a view to the convenience of Dolls of limited income; others could be fitted on the most expensive scale, at a moment’s notice, from whole shelves of chairs and tables, sofas, bedsteads, and upholstery. The nobility and gentry, and public in general, for whose accommodation these tenements were designed, lay, here and there, in baskets, staring straight up at the ceiling; but, in denoting their degrees in society, and confining them to their respective stations (which experience shows to be lamentably difficult in real life), the makers of these Dolls had far improved on Nature, who is often froward and perverse; for, they, not resting on such arbitrary marks as satin, cotton-print, and bits of rag, had superadded striking personal differences which allowed of no mistake.
  • When, suddenly, the struggling fire illumined the whole chimney with a glow of light; and the Cricket on the Hearth began to Chirp! No sound he could have heard, no human voice, not even hers, could so have moved and softened him. The artless words in which she had told him of her love for this same Cricket, were once more freshly spoken; her trembling, earnest manner at the moment, was again before him; her pleasant voice — O what a voice it was, for making household music at the fireside of an honest man! — thrilled through and through his better nature, and awoke it into life and action.
  • ‘All things that speak the language of your hearth and home, must plead for her!’ returned the Cricket. ‘For they speak the truth.’
  • Friends, one and all, my house is very lonely to-night. I have not so much as a Cricket on my Hearth. I have scared them all away. Be gracious to me; let me join this happy party!’ He was at home in five minutes. You never saw such a fellow. What HAD he been doing with himself all his life, never to have known, before, his great capacity of being jovial! Or what had the Fairies been doing with him, to have effected such a change!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, December 08, 2017

Prairie Fires

Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser. 2017. 640 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On a spring day in April of 1924, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a fifty-seven-year-old farm wife in the Missouri Ozarks, received a telegram from South Dakota. Her mother, Caroline Ingalls, had just died. Wilder hadn’t seen her for more than twenty years.

Premise/plot: This book examines the life and works of Laura Ingalls Wilder and places both within the context of American history. Fraser writes, "For those of us seeking to understand the settlement of the frontier, she offers a path, perhaps our best path, to the past."

Is it a biography? Yes and no. If it is a biography, it is a biography of both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. But I'm leaning more towards it being a history book. The book's focus is on the American story; the personal lives of the Ingalls and Wilder families provide an entry point to this bigger story. Politics. Economics. Policies. Personalities.

Close to a third of the book focuses on the written works of Wilder and Lane. The book provides a behind the scenes glimpse into the writing and publishing process. One definitely gets the sense that the books were crafted with intent and purpose to tell a specific story, to impart certain morals and lessons. Fraser writes, "Her story, spanning ninety years, is broader, stranger, and darker than her books, containing whole chapters she could scarcely bear to examine. She hinted as much when she said, in a speech, “All I have told is true but it is not the whole truth.”"

My thoughts: If I have one complaint about the book, it is this: the chapters are LONG. Overall, I enjoyed reading this one. It is a bit on the dry, scholarly side. It is not a straightforward biography. It is anything but concise. IT is packed with details--not just details about the family--but details about the times in which she lived. These historical "asides" aren't really on the side. They are front and center to the book. If you don't love history, then this one probably isn't for you. That being said, I LOVE history.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Among the Brave

Among the Brave. (Shadow Children #5) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2004. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Great, Trey thought. I do one brave thing in my entire life, and now it's like, 'Got anything dangerous to do? Send Trey. He can handle it.' Doesn't anyone remember that Cowardice is my middle name?

Premise/plot: Among the Brave is the fifth book in Margaret Pertson Haddix's Shadow Children series. Trey, the narrator, faces great challenges in this one. For Trey, going outside is an act of bravery. So when all of his friends disappear, and the trustworthy adults in his life disappear as well, he's at a loss. He teams up for a while with Luke's brother, Mark. But Mark is CAPTURED leaving Trey on his own to brainstorm a rescue plan. Can Trey find a way to save everyone?

My thoughts: The world Haddix created is turned upside down by revolution. But it's a revolution that won't do third children any favors. Freedom still seems to be an impossible dream. I don't know how Haddix manages to pack so much ACTION into her novels. Usually the more action a book has, the less important character development is. That's so far from the case in this series. The books remain thoughtful--contemplative. Yet there's so much going on! Danger abounds.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Chimes

The Chimes. Charles Dickens. 1844. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Here are not many people — and as it is desirable that a story-teller and a story-reader should establish a mutual understanding as soon as possible, I beg it to be noticed that I confine this observation neither to young people nor to little people, but extend it to all conditions of people: little and big, young and old: yet growing up, or already growing down again — there are not, I say, many people who would care to sleep in a church. I don’t mean at sermon-time in warm weather (when the thing has actually been done, once or twice), but in the night, and alone.

 Premise/plot: Toby Veck is the hero of Charles Dickens' Christmas novella, The Chimes. Is Veck as guilty as Ebeneezer Scrooge in terms of being out of touch with reality? Maybe, maybe not.

One wintry night, he meets with his daughter, Meg, and his future son-in-law, Richard. They are greeted by a horrid little man who is full of hot air. His words are hateful and penetrating. Will those words dissuade Meg and Richard from marrying because they are poor? Will those words strip Veck of his hope in humanity? Will Veck, in fact, become persuaded to the horrid man's way of thinking? Veck later carries a letter to another man who is only slightly less horrible. That night Veck finds himself going to hear the chimes; he feels himself irresistibly called to visit the bells in person. The ghosts--or goblins--that inhabit the bells convict him. They convict him BEFORE showing him visions of the future. But is Veck awake--and dead--or asleep? The ending of The Chimes can be just as ambiguous as say the movie Inception.

My thoughts: I found the Chimes to be very confusing at times. I stuck with it, however, and am glad I did. I love Dickens' writing style:
  • A weak, small, spare old man, he was a very Hercules, this Toby, in his good intentions. He loved to earn his money. He delighted to believe — Toby was very poor, and couldn’t well afford to part with a delight — that he was worth his salt. 
  • Perhaps he was the more curious about these Bells, because there were points of resemblance between themselves and him. They hung there, in all weathers, with the wind and rain driving in upon them; facing only the outsides of all those houses; never getting any nearer to the blazing fires that gleamed and shone upon the windows, or came puffing out of the chimney tops; and incapable of participation in any of the good things that were constantly being handled, through the street doors and the area railings, to prodigious cooks.
  • They were so mysterious, often heard and never seen; so high up, so far off, so full of such a deep strong melody, that he regarded them with a species of awe; and sometimes when he looked up at the dark arched windows in the tower, he half expected to be beckoned to by something which was not a Bell, and yet was what he had heard so often sounding in the Chimes.
  • In short, they were very often in his ears, and very often in his thoughts, but always in his good opinion; and he very often got such a crick in his neck by staring with his mouth wide open, at the steeple where they hung, that he was fain to take an extra trot or two, afterwards, to cure it.
  • The wintry sun, though powerless for warmth, looked brightly down upon the ice it was too weak to melt, and set a radiant glory there.
  • The New Year, like an Infant Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with welcomes, presents, and rejoicings. There were books and toys for the New Year, glittering trinkets for the New Year, dresses for the New Year, schemes of fortune for the New Year; new inventions to beguile it. Its life was parcelled out in almanacks and pocket-books; the coming of its moons, and stars, and tides, was known beforehand to the moment;
  • The New Year, the New Year. Everywhere the New Year! The Old Year was already looked upon as dead; and its effects were selling cheap, like some drowned mariner’s aboardship. Its patterns were Last Year’s, and going at a sacrifice, before its breath was gone. Its treasures were mere dirt, beside the riches of its unborn successor!
  • A blast of air — how cold and shrill! — came moaning through the tower. As it died away, the Great Bell, or the Goblin of the Great Bell, spoke. ‘What visitor is this!’ it said. The voice was low and deep, and Trotty fancied that it sounded in the other figures as well.
  • ‘I thought my name was called by the Chimes!’ said Trotty, raising his hands in an attitude of supplication. ‘I hardly know why I am here, or how I came. I have listened to the Chimes these many years. They have cheered me often.’ ‘And you have thanked them?’ said the Bell. ‘
  • ‘Listen!’ said the Shadow. ‘Listen!’ said the other Shadows. ‘Listen!’ said the child’s voice. A solemn strain of blended voices, rose into the tower. It was a very low and mournful strain — a Dirge — and as he listened, Trotty heard his child among the singers. ‘She is dead!’ exclaimed the old man. ‘Meg is dead! Her Spirit calls to me. I hear it!’ ‘The Spirit of your child bewails the dead, and mingles with the dead — dead hopes, dead fancies, dead imaginings of youth,’ returned the Bell, ‘but she is living. Learn from her life, a living truth. Learn from the creature dearest to your heart, how bad the bad are born. See every bud and leaf plucked one by one from off the fairest stem, and know how bare and wretched it may be. Follow her! To desperation!’
  • Had Trotty dreamed? Or, are his joys and sorrows, and the actors in them, but a dream; himself a dream; the teller of this tale a dreamer, waking but now? If it be so, O listener, dear to him in all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your sphere — none is too wide, and none too limited for such an end — endeavour to correct, improve, and soften them.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz. Antonio Iturbe. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. 2017. 424 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The Nazi officers are dressed in black. They look at death with the indifference of a gravedigger.

Premise/plot: Though it is a work of fiction, The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on a true story: the story of a super-small library and its young librarian, Dita. Block 31 is different, special, almost miraculous and too good to be true. Here Jewish children come together every day while their parents labor under the watchful eyes of their guards. School is forbidden; learning is forbidden. But. A school it is. There are teachers and teenage helpers. Dita is one of the helpers or assistants. She's also the librarian. For what is a school without a library? This library collection, like the school, is completely forbidden. It consists of EIGHT books plus additional living books. Dita's job is risky, but important. Block 31 exists for one reason only: to fool the world in case someone comes looking for answers. The Germans mistreat Jews? You've got to be kidding. Just look! Here's a camp of families. We even see that the children are taken care of during the day and laugh and play and sing. The prisoners are not fooled for a minute, but, the children are fortunate in some ways.

The book is an intense, important read.

My thoughts: I would definitely recommend this one! It is a powerful, memorable story. It is well-written. Here are two of my favorite quotes:
"A book is like a trapdoor that leads to a secret attic; You can open it and go inside. And your world is different" (193)
"Life, any life, is very short. But if you've managed to be happy for at least an instant, it will have been worth living" (289)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, December 04, 2017

Favorite Quotes from A Christmas Carol

This morning I reviewed A Christmas Carol at Operation Actually Read Bible

There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. (3)

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! (4)

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call ‘nuts’ to Scrooge. (4)

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’ ‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.’ ‘Come, then,’ returned the nephew gaily. ‘What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.’ (5)

If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’ ‘Uncle!’ pleaded the nephew. ‘Nephew!’ returned the uncle sternly, ‘Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.’ ‘Keep it!’ repeated Scrooge’s nephew. ‘But you don’t keep it.’ ‘Let me leave it alone, then,’ said Scrooge. ‘Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!’ (6)

You wish to be anonymous?’ ‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. (8)

‘It is required of every man,’ the Ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!’ (15)

‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?’ Scrooge trembled more and more. ‘Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!’ (16)

‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself. ‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’ (17)
‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!’ (17)

‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One.’ ‘Couldn’t I take ‘em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?’ hinted Scrooge. ‘Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’ (18)

Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought it over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and, the more he endeavoured not to think, the more he thought. (21)

‘My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. ‘Quick.’ This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall. (31)
He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past. ‘It matters little,’ she said, softly. ‘To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’ ‘What Idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined. ‘A golden one.’ (32)

‘There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’ (42)

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily. ‘Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!’ ‘He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. ‘He believed it too!’ (50)

After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. (52)

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. ‘Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and a girl. (55)

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more. ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’ (56)

‘Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?’ (58)

‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley, Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this. I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees.’ (71)

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! (78)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Week in Review: November 26-December 2

Waylon! One Awesome Thing. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
Waylon! Even More Awesome. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2017. [October 31, 2017] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
How The Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea. Kate Hosford. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Dickens in December
December Plans
November Reflections
Tea-Ish Advent

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. Nancy Guthrie, editor. 2008. Crossway. 142 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. 2017. B&H. 273 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5 Months. 5 Goals. Update the Fourth.
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #19
Journaling the CSB Spurgeon Bible #3
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #20

The Little Reindeer. Nicola Killen. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Pick a Pine Tree. Patricia Toht. Illustrated by Jarvis. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell. Sue Hendra. 2017. (2011 UK) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Max at School (Max and Ruby). Rosemary Wells. Illustrated by Andrew Grey. 2017. [Oct. 24] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Santa Claus Book. Eileen Daly. Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship. 1972. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
Here Comes Santa Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2014. 88 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Dickens in December

Dickens in December
Hosted by Fanda Classiclit (sign up)
December 2017
Goal: To read books by Dickens or about Dickens

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite quotes from A Christmas Carol

My goal is to read Dicken's Christmas books and/or stories:
A Christmas Carol
_ The Chimes 
_ The Cricket on the Hearth 
 _ The Battle of Life
_ The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain 
The Christmas Stories:
_ A Christmas Tree
 _ What Christmas is as we Grow Older
_ The Poor Relation's Story  
_ The Child's Story
_ The Schoolboy's Story
_ Nobody's Story 
 _ The Seven Poor Travellers
 _ The Holly-Tree
 _ Wreck of the Golden Mary
 _ The Perils of Certain English Prisoners 
 _ Going into Society
_ A Message From the Sea
_ Tom Tiddler's Ground
 _ Somebody's Luggage
 _ Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings
_ Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy
 _ Doctor Marigold
 _ Mugby Junction
_ No Thoroughfare

And to read several books about Dickens:
_ Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
_ Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley
_ 52 Little Life Lessons from a Christmas Carol by Bob Welch 

replace the _ with an X or a ✔ (copy/paste it) when you finish reading a book.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, December 01, 2017

December Plans

Books I Hope To Read in December
 There are a few books I hope to finish reading in December:
  • CSB Spurgeon Study Bible
  • Prairie Fires
  • The Librarian of Auschwitz
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Frameley Parsonage
And also a few books I hope to begin reading in December:
  • I'm anxious to get some Charles Dickens read and two books ABOUT Dickens appear on this list.
  • Two middle grade books are also on the top of my list.
  • The others may or may not happen. But I want the goal of December to be quality and not quantity!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Reflections

Favorite picture book: Sleeping Beauty. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Erin McGuire. 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite Christmas picture book: Here Comes Santa Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2014. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early chapter book:  Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Mr. Putter & Tabby #1) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite book from my childhood:  Lambert The Sheepish Lion. Bill Peet. Walt Disney Company. 1970/1977. 42 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite realistic fiction: Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite historical fiction: The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite fantasy: The Wolf Hour. Sara Lewis Holmes. 2017. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Board books and picture books:

  1. How The Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea. Kate Hosford. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell. Sue Hendra. 2017. (2011 UK) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Santa Claus Book. Eileen Daly. Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship. 1972. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Here Comes Santa Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2014. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. This is the Kiss. Claire Harcup. Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. I Was So Mad. Mercer Mayer. 1983. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. I'm Sorry. Gina Mayer and Mercer Mayer. 1995. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Milly and the Macy's Parade. Shana Corey. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. 2002. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Book Itch. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. School Bus. Donald Crews. 1984. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  11. Too Many Cats. Leah Raechel Killen. 1988. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]
  12. The Aristocats: A Counting Book. Walt Disney Productions Presents. 1970. Whitman Tell-a-Tale Book. 26 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  13. Where Teddy Bears Come From. Mark Burgess. Illustrated by Russell Ayto. 2009. Peachtree Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. 88 Instruments. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Louis Thomas. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  15.  I Took My Frog to the Library. Eric A. Kimmel. Illustrated by Blanche Sims. 1990. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  16. The Log and Admiral Frog. B. Wiseman. 1961. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  17. Sleeping Beauty. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Erin McGuire. 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. The Little Red Hen. Lucinda McQueen. 1985. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  19. Paul's Christmas Birthday. Carol Carrick. Illustrated by Donald Carrick. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Mr. Putter & Tabby #1) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog (Mr. Putter & Tabby #2). Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #3) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Waylon! One Awesome Thing. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Waylon! Even More Awesome. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2017. [October 31, 2017] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Lambert The Sheepish Lion. Bill Peet. Walt Disney Company. 1970/1977. 42 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. Julius. Syd Hoff. (An I Can Read Book) 1959. 64 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Max at School (Max and Ruby). Rosemary Wells. Illustrated by Andrew Grey. 2017. [Oct. 24] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Giant Pumpkin Suite. Melanie Heuiser Hill. 2017. Candlewick Press. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Karina Yan Glaser. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. Melissa de la Cruz. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Daniel Eason. 2017. Candlewick. 104 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Snow & Rose. Emily Winfield Martin. 2017. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3.  Boy Called Christmas. Matt Haig. Illustrated by Chris Mould. 2015/2016. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Wolf Hour. Sara Lewis Holmes. 2017. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Children of Exile. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2016. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  6. Children of Refuge. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Whistling in the Dark. Shirley Hughes. 2015/2017. Candlewick. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Almost Autumn. Marianne Kaurin. Translated by Rosie Hedger. 2012/2017. Scholastic. 278 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Tru & Nelle. G. Neri. 2016. HMH. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  4. Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale. G. Neri. 2017. [October 24, 2017]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages.  [Source: Review copy]
  5. The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Classics, all ages: 0

Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer's Fight for Justice in 1930s Alabama. Joseph Madison Beck. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Book Itch. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. The Austen Escape. Katherine Reay. 2017. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. On This Special Night. Claire Freedman. Illustrated by Simon Mendez. 2009. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. 2017. B&H. 273 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. A Reader's Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards. Edited by Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  2. How Can I Be Right With God. R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 71 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The New Testament in the Language of the People. Charles B. Williams 1937. 572 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions #1) R.C. Sproul. 1983/2010. Reformation Trust. 114 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Bible Matters: Meeting God In His Word. Tim Chester. 2017. InterVarsity Press. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  6. What Do Jesus' Parables Mean? (Crucial Questions #28) R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Parenting God's Way. Alistair Begg. 2017. Truth for Life. 44 pages. [Source: Gift] 
  8. Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. Nancy Guthrie, editor. 2008. Crossway. 142 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. When Christ Appears: An Inspirational Experience Through Revelation. David Jeremiah. 2018. [January] 196 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Pizza with Jesus (No Black Olives). P.J. Frick. 2017. CreateSpace. 158 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


A Tea-Ish Advent

Today I'm sharing twenty-five FAVORITE teas!

December 1 Stash's Pomegranate Raspberry with Matcha

December 2 Triple Leaf Tea's White Tea

December 3 Bigelow's Sweet Dreams

December 4 Celestial Seasonings' Black Cherry Berry

December 5 Stash's English Breakfast

December 6 Stash's Peppermint

December 7 Bigelow's Green Tea

December 8 Stash's Moroccan Mint

December 9 Stash's Organic Earl Grey Black and Green Tea

December 10 Celestial Seasonings' Honey Vanilla Chamomile

December 11 Celestial Seasonings' Wild Berry Zinger

December 12 Celestial Seasonings' Fireside Vanilla Spice

December 13 Bigelow's Cinnamon and Blackberry
December 14 PG Tips' Black Tea

December 15 Twinings' Lady Grey Tea
December 16 Stash's Wild Raspberry Hibiscus
December 17 Stash's Chai Spice
December 18 Bigelow's Lemon Ginger
December 19 Bigelow's Salted Caramel
December 20 Celestial Seasonings' Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
December 21 Celestial Seasonings' Sugar Plum Spice
December 22 Harney & Sons' Chocolate Mint Tea
December 23 Harney & Sons' Cinnamon Tea
December 24 Celestial Seasonings' Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland
December 25 Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane

© 2017 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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