Monday, September 25, 2017

When My Sister Started Kissing

When My Sister Started Kissing. Helen Frost. 2017. FSG. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The baby, Claire, in a sunsuit and yellow hat, sat on her father's shoulders, the great wide world spread out before them. Two egrets flew home to their nest as thunder rumbled, far off in the distance.

Premise/plot: If you read many verse novels, then chances are good you're familiar with Helen Frost. When My Sister Started Kissing is her newest verse novel; it has multiple narrators. Claire and her older sister, Abigail, have always spent the summer at the cabin with their dad. This year is the first year that the girls' stepmother, Pam, will be joining them. And this family of four is about to become a family of FIVE. Claire who is nearly eleven isn't a fan of change. Abigail is all about change. For example, she now wants to be called Abi. She doesn't want to hang out with her sister; she wants to spend time with Brock and the other teenagers. She doesn't want to spend every moment with her family; she wants to be allowed to go off with her friends and do whatever/whenever. Claire and Abigail are obvious narrators. The third narrator is the LAKE.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. The writing is excellent. The verse aspects of this one are essential. There are at least three different poetry forms used throughout the book. Each narrator has their own poetic form that suits the story, the character, best.

This novel is set over one summer vacation. Claire's narration keeps the novel focused on the family. Abigail's narration, on the other hand, keeps the novel focused on BOYS. TJ is a family friend; the two families have vacationed near one another for years. Last summer, Abigail and TJ kissed--"for practice." This summer, Abigail thinks kissing should be reserved for someone that you really like-like. She's nervous to see TJ again. Will he be interested in her still? Does she even like-like him? Is he boyfriend material or like-a-brother? And then there is Brock. He's new. He's cute. He's got FANS. There are half a dozen girls who cling to him. Brock seems to notice HER out of the crowd. And though she doesn't know him, she likes being liked. She feels grown up with Brock, perhaps because she hasn't grown up with him. Claire doesn't get why Abi is ignoring TJ and going out of her way to avoid his family and why she's sneaking around to see Brock. This love triangle is resolved--for now--by the end of the novel.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Goat

The Goat. Anne Fleming. 2017. 120 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Once there was a mountain goat who lived in New York City.

Premise/plot: A goat lives on the roof of a New York City apartment building. Only a few residents have spotted the goat--and its rumored that if you do see him, you'll have years of good luck. But most don't believe the rumors are true--about the goat being real or about the goat bringing luck. But one person definitely believes, a kid named KID. Kid teams up with her new friends to find out all she can about the goat.

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one. It sounded like it had a great premise. It seemed to promise a dozen or so super quirky characters. The potential for humor was definitely there. And it seemed to have potential for some heart as well: friends to be made, experiences to be gained. But. It remained an "almost" for me. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't love it. I thought it would be memorable and one-of-a-kind. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't awesome.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Week in Review: September 17-23

The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]
Orphan Island. Laurel Snyder. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
The Wooden Prince. John Claude Bemis. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 312 pages. [Source: Library]
You Can Read. Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Mark Hoffmann. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Verdict of Twelve. Raymond Postgate. 1940/2017. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Catch-22. Joseph Heller. 1961. 453 pages. [Source: Library]
Board book: This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Daniel Roode. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Catawampus Cat. Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by Gus Gordon. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
I Want My Hat Back. Jon Klassen. 2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Nighty-Night, Cooper. Laura Numeroff. 2013. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Wallace and Grace Take the Case. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
 Cats. Larry Dane Brimner. Illustrated by Tom Payne. 2001. 24 pages. [Source: Library]



Imagine. John Lennon. Illustrated by Jean Jullien. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cherished Mercy. (Heart of the Frontier #3) Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 310 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Godspeed: Voices of the Reformation. David Teems. 2017. Abingdon Press. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
ESV Reformation Study Bible. 2015. Edited by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2560 pages. [Source: Gift/Bought]


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Wretched

The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In 1815, Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne. He was an old man of about seventy-five. He had been bishop of Digne since 1806.

Premise/plot: An ex-convict does his best to live life according to his conscience. Will it ever be enough?

My thoughts: I love, love, love Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I believe this is my third time to review it for the blog? My 2013 review. My 2014 review.

Political, philosophical, spiritual, dramatic, and romantic. Each word describes the novel, in part. While there are many characters in this novel, I loved the narrator the best of all. Who are some of the characters? Bishop Myriel, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Inspector Javert, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, and Gavroche--just to name a few.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who seeks shelter from Bishop Myriel one night. Though he's been treated only with kindness, Valjean in his bitterness (he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread), he steals the bishop's silver. When the theft is discovered, the bishop is all compassion telling the officials that there has been a misunderstanding. Valjean did not steal the silver; it was given as a gift. In fact, he's happy to give Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. Valjean is shocked and overwhelmed. The meeting turns out to be quite life-changing.

When readers next meet Valjean, he has a new name and life. Monsieur Madeleine is a successful business man. He has a BIG heart. He's always giving. He's always thinking of others. He's always doing what he can, when he can to make a difference when and where it matters most. One woman he is determined to help is a young, single mother, Fantine. Circumstances have separated Fantine from her child, Cosette, but, Valjean is determined to correct as many wrongs as he can in this situation. He will see to it personally.

Unfortunately, his past catches up with him. He learns that a man has been arrested; "Jean Valjean" has been caught. Of course, Madeleine knows this is nonsense. Can he let another take his place in prison? If he tells the truth then he can no longer help the poor, but if he doesn't tell the truth, how could he live with himself? He does the honorable thing--though it is one of the greatest challenges he's faced so far.

But that means, for the moment, that Cosette is left in unpleasant circumstances...

There comes a time, an opportunity for Valjean to escape. What he does with his freedom--this time he's assumed drowned, I believe--is go and find Cosette. The two become everything to one another. Cosette is the family he's never had, never even knew he needed or wanted... the two end up in Paris.

Almost half of the novel follows the love story between Marius and Cosette. But it isn't only a love story. Marius is a poor man in conflict with his rich grandfather. The two disagree about many things. But their main source of disagreement is politics. At first, Marius is swept up in his father's politics, with a new awareness of who his father was as a soldier, as a man, as a possible hero. But later, Marius begins to think for himself, to contemplate political and philosophical things for himself. He becomes friendly with a political group at this time. But his love of politics dims when he falls in love with Cosette...and she becomes his whole reason for being. For the longest time these two don't even know each other's names! This romance isn't without challenges...

This novel has so much drama! I found it beautifully written. So many amazing passages! Such interesting characters! I'm not sure I loved the ending. And I was frustrated with Marius at times. But. I definitely loved this book!

It's also a novel heavy on details. When it's good, it's REALLY good. But at times some of the details are too taste-specific. In other words, some of the details weigh the story down. At times Les Miserables is boring. It's worth reading. It is. It's worth pushing through to the end. It's okay to skim certain sections, in my opinion, because it is one of the most satisfying reading experiences overall. Not that I LOVE the ending, though I think I may have made peace with it this time around.

I definitely enjoyed this translation of the novel. I LOVED the introductory materials. I found the notes to be thorough. If I were to ever STUDY the book, this would be the translation I'd use because the notes are so extensive. 

Favorite quotes:
  • True or false, what is said about men often figures as large in their lives, and above all in the fate that befalls them, as what they do.
  • ‘To sin as little as possible, that is the law of mankind. Not to sin at all is the angel’s dream. Everything earthly is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitational force.’
  • Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater vision? You choose.
  • Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever position the body might be in, the soul is on its knees. If you are human, be love.
  • Love is an ardent forgetfulness of everything else.
  • Suspicions are nothing but wrinkles.
  • Alas! to have climbed does not preclude falling. This can be seen in history more frequently than anyone would wish.
  • Everything can be parodied, even parody.
  • To love, or to have loved, is enough. Ask for nothing more. There is no other pearl to be found in life’s shadowy convolutions. To love is an achievement. The first step is nothing, it is the last step that is hard.
  • When the heart is on the slippery slope, there is no stopping it.
  • Love each other always. That’s about the only thing in the world that matters: loving each other.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Victorian Quarterly Check-In

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?

✔ 25. A book that has been filmed as movie, miniseries, or television show
Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. 1848. Translated by Edmund Gosse. 254 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 16. A book by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]
17. A book by Wilkie Collins
Hide and Seek. Wilkie Collins. 1854. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. A book that REALLY intimidates you
The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 35. free choice
The Bertrams. Anthony Trollope. 1859. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 

What are you currently reading?
  • Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
How many ways does the heart take, how many reasons does it invent for itself, in order to arrive at what it wants. ~ Alexandre Dumas, fils
Art wouldn't be the glorious thing it is, if it wasn't all difficulty from beginning to end. ~ Wilkie Collins
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. ~ Charles Dickens
Love is an ardent forgetfulness of everything else. ~ Victor Hugo
 Constant thoughts will break forth in words. ~ Anthony Trollope
 Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?

I'm enjoying what I'm reading.

Favorite book you've read so far...

The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library] 

Of note to ALL participants! VICTOBER 2017 Hosted by these book-tubers

Ange (Beyond the Pages)
Lucy (Lucy the Reader)
Katie (Books and Things)
Kate (Kate Howe)
  • Read a Victorian book by a Irish, Scottish or Welsh author 
  • Read a Victorian book that was recommended to you 
  •  Read a supernatural Victorian book 
  • Read a lesser known Victorian book 
  • Read a Victorian book by a female author



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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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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