Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Short Stories from 1909-1922

Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]

This book contains twenty-seven short stories by L.M. Montgomery. They were originally published from 1909-1922. The stories vary in length and quality but also in type. What they all have in common, perhaps, is a satisfying happily ever after ending. There are stories of romance, of friendship, of families coming together again, of young people finding their place in the world.

I have already reviewed twenty-five of short stories in my weekly 'Keep It Short' series.

The two stories I haven't reviewed yet are "Uncle Richard's New Year's Dinner" and "White Magic."

Uncle Richard's New Year Dinner.
First sentence: Prissy Baker was in Oscar Miller's store New Year's morning, buying matches—for New Year's was not kept as a business holiday in Quincy—when her uncle, Richard Baker, came in. He did not look at Prissy, nor did she wish him a happy New Year; she would not have dared. Uncle Richard had not been on speaking terms with her or her father, his only brother, for eight years.

Premise/plot: A family feud is mended when Prissy Baker sets out to secretly prepare a New Year's dinner for her uncle. She overhears that he will be away on business and will be returning to an empty house. (His housekeeper having the holiday off.) She doesn't think anyone--even someone as mean as Uncle Richard--should have to eat a cold dinner on New Year's Day. That's no way to start the New Year off! She plans to be gone by the time he returns, but, as chance would have it. He "catches" her and is DELIGHTED with her consideration. He's ready to mend things at last.

My thoughts: It was okay. I didn't dislike it. And I suppose the world needs stories set at New Year's just like it needs Christmas stories.

White Magic.
First sentence: One September afternoon in the year of grace 1840 Avery and Janet Sparhallow were picking apples in their Uncle Daniel Sparhallow's big orchard.

Premise/plot:  Janet cannot understand why Avery isn't super-excited about her upcoming wedding to Randall Burnley. Who wouldn't want to marry Randall?!?! But Avery decidedly is NOT in love. She's marrying because she's twenty-two and afraid of being an old maid. As for why Randall, the Burnleys are the only local family "good enough" for the Sparhallows.

Janet does something DARING. She goes to the "local witch" and gets a love potion. Randall, in her opinion, deserves a wife who adores him. If she can make Avery fall in love with Randall, all will be well. She tries to follow the instructions, but, fate intervenes. The first person Avery sees is NOT Randall. Janet is the one who will have to confess to Randall that Avery is going to jilt him and marry someone else. How will he take the news?

My thoughts: I LOVE this story. I do. Janet and Randall were obviously meant to be. Readers can spot where this one is heading from the start. Janet LOVES Randall but isn't quite aware that she's in love with him. And even if she has her suspicions, her doubts, she's convinced that Randall could never, ever, ever, ever love her like that. After all, he's been "courting" her sister, Avery for years now. True Janet and Randall spend a great deal of time together talking and laughing. But it's Avery he's attached to, right?!
Randall could never fancy her—a little plain, brown thing, only half grown. Nobody could think of her beside beautiful, rose-faced Avery. Janet accepted this fact unquestioningly. She had never been jealous. She only felt that she wanted Randall to have everything he wanted—to be perfectly happy.
"Now I can tell you, Janet, how much I love you." "Me? Me!" choked Janet. "You. Why, you're in the very core of my heart, girl. Don't tell me you can't love me—you can—you must—why, Janet," for his eyes had caught and locked with hers for a minute, "you do!"
Three years ago you were a child. I did not think about you. I wanted a wife—and Avery was pretty. I thought I was in love with her. Then you grew up all at once—and we were such good friends—I never could talk to Avery—she wasn't interested in anything I said—and you have eyes that catch a man—I've always thought of your eyes.
Looking back at all the short stories in this one, here are my top eight.

Abel and His Great Adventure (read online)
If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and feel comfortable, you and that person can be friends. If you can't, friends you'll never be, and you needn't waste time in trying."
Aunt Philippa and the Men (read online)
"So you want to get married?" she said. "You'd better wait till you're grown up." "How old must a person be before she is grown up?" I asked gravely. "Humph! That depends. Some are grown up when they're born, and others ain't grown up when they're eighty."
Charlotte's Ladies (read online)
I wouldn't really like to be anybody but myself, even if I am homely. It's better to be yourself with mousy hair and freckles than somebody else who is ever so beautiful.
How We Went to the Wedding (read online)
The sergeant gave us the tent and stove, and sent a man down to the Reserve for Peter Crow. Moreover, he vindicated his title of friend by making us take a dozen prairie chickens and a large ham—besides any quantity of advice. We didn't want the advice but we hugely welcomed the ham.
Miss Sally's Letter (read online)
Prose, rightly written and read, is sometimes as beautiful as poetry.
The Garden of Spices (read online)
To love is easy, and therefore common; but to understand—how rare that is!
The Gossip of Valley View (read online)
Young Thomas looked rather serious, however, when the minister and his wife called that evening and referred to the report. Young Thomas gravely said that it was unfounded. The minister looked graver still and said he was sorry—he had hoped it was true. His wife glanced significantly about Young Thomas's big, untidy sitting-room, where there were cobwebs on the ceiling and fluff in the corners and dust on the mop-board, and said nothing, but looked volumes.
The Letters (read online)
The pain and suffering of the world never dies, and while it lives there will be work for such as you to do, and in the doing of it you will find comfort and strength and the highest joy of living. I believe in you. I believe you will make of your life a beautiful and worthy thing. I give you Godspeed for the years to come. Out of my own loneliness I, an unknown friend, who has never clasped your hand, send this message to you. I understand—I have always understood—and I say to you: "Be of good cheer."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory Head in the Clouds

Dory Fantasmagory #4: Head in the Clouds. Abby Hanlon. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory, but most people call me Rascal. I have an enemy named Mrs. Gobble Gracker--you might have heard of her. She has been trying to catch me and bring me to her cave. But today I have a problem that's even bigger than Mrs. Gobble Gracker. It's this coat.

Premise/plot: In this fourth book in the series, Dory gets her first loose tooth. What kinds of things will she imagine about the tooth fairy? And where will her imagination lead her?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this imaginative chapter book. My favorite part of the series remains the illustrations. They are super fun. For example, the book opens with a map of Dory Land that is partially inspired (perhaps) by the Candy Land game board.

The first two chapters of this one are about a BUNCHY COAT and how it is the coat's fault that she lies again and again and again to her teacher. (Her parents don't buy that excuse, but they give the coat away anyway). The remaining chapters focus on a LOOSE TOOTH and Dory's speculations on the tooth fairy. Her siblings have her convinced that the Tooth Fairy is like Santa Claus, she only leaves money to GOOD children. She leaves EGGS or OMELETS for BAD children. And wouldn't you know Dory HATES eggs. Can she get on the good side of the tooth fairy? Perhaps she'll have the chance to explain when she "meets" the tooth fairy at the local grocery store.

There's never a dull moment if it's spent in Dory's company.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 23, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep

Dory Dory Black Sheep (Dory Fantasmagory #3) Abby Hanlon. 2016. 156 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory but everyone calls me Rascal. I am six. I have a lot of freckles. My hair is just messy. This is my nightgown that I try to wear as much as I can. But the most important thing about me is that I have two worlds. One is real and one is imaginary.

Premise/plot: Is Dory the black sheep of her family? Perhaps if you accept the lighthearted definition provided for readers at the beginning of the book: "a member of a family or group who does things a little differently." Dory does things differently. Ask her mom...or teacher...or her older brother, Luke, or her older sister, Violet. (Though her siblings' opinions might be biased!)

Dory does indeed live in two worlds: one real and one imaginary. But she doesn't give equal time and attention to both. In fact, 90% of the time she's in her own world and completely out-of-touch with reality. To use the world miracle lightly and perhaps inappropriately, it's a miracle if Dory stays on task and answers questions when asked.

Because Dory rarely--if ever--stays on task she's having difficulty learning to read. Her reading instruction time at school seems to be completely independent and without much guidance or instruction. Essentially the teacher saying: hey kid, read this book. Dory is paired with a partner, but the partner hasn't any more clue of how to read than Dory does. The teacher doesn't seem concerned with teaching them how to read--the skills and techniques they need to know to progress. Perhaps she just hasn't gotten around to working with their group yet.

Dory doesn't like being in the lowest reading group and being given a basket of "baby books" to read. But when she opens up the book and begins reading the illustrations, well, she supplies a story of her own imagination. A story peopled with her own imaginary friends and characters, and the black sheep of the farm story, well he leaps out of the book and becomes part of Dory's day-in, day-out imagination. Can she get the black sheep back in the book? Does she want to?

Her friends soon get swept up, up, and away with this new story. Even her friend who is able to read LONG chapter books all on her own. Dory's story is more exciting perhaps. 

This is Dory's third adventure. (I reviewed the first chapter book in the series in 2015. And here's my review of the second book in the series.)

My thoughts: One thing is delightful for sure: the illustrations. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the illustrations.

 I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't quite. Perhaps because I had a hard time NOT taking it seriously. Instead of getting swept up, up, and away by Dory's overactive imagination and delighting in her creative, free spirit, I kept thinking that her mom and her teacher weren't really giving Dory the attention she needed.

Learning to read is important, significant, life-changing. It isn't a cookie cutter process. And every child has his or her own timeframe for learning to read or becoming a fluent reader. There isn't one perfectly-perfect right way to teach reading. But I do think it is something that requires instruction. You just can't leave a child with a basket of books and hope for the best.
We pretend we are reading until she leaves. "If I was the farmer, I would just eat all the animals," whispers George. "If I was the farmer, I would move to the city and get an apartment with an elevator, I say. "If I was the farmer, I would run around naked and put mud all over my body and then stick things to it," says George. "But you would do that anyway," I say. "Yeah..." he says. 
"This little black sheep is kind of cute." I show George the picture. "And he's looking at you," George says. "What do you mean?" I say, and hold the book up closer. "I think his name is Goblin," I say. "Does it say that?" George asks. "I don't know," I say. "I can't read." "Raise your hand if you hate reading!" says George. And we both raise our hands high in the air.
Parenting Dory would be DIFFICULT to say the least. I don't envy her mom the task. But I get the idea that reading aloud to Dory wasn't ever a high priority to her. Perhaps Dory protested every time she tried. Perhaps the struggle wasn't worth it. Perhaps she was busy helping the older children with their homework. Perhaps Dory was so amazing at entertaining herself that she didn't want to interrupt her play, her free time. Perhaps she thinks teaching reading is the teacher's responsibility alone.

But Dory's homework of reading for a certain amount each day is completely independent. Her mom doesn't sit down with her, doesn't listen to her daughter read aloud, doesn't ask her questions about her reading, doesn't witness if her daughter is reading or not. So essentially there are no adults in her life that know Dory is struggling with reading. Dory seems to be all on her own, expected to make progress without any help, encouragement, or instruction.

Does Dory want to learn to read? Yes. Does she stay on task when left on her own to practice? Not really.

The book is cheerful. Dory, for the most part, is happy, happy, happy nearly all the time. She has her real friends and her imaginary friends to keep her company 24/7. Her imagination is over-the-top delightful. And I think Dory is content to make up her own stories instead of reading stories from a book. Her stories seem to be packed more with adventure and excitement.

Dory is a fictional character. I need to keep this in mind. Dory's over-the-top IMAGINATION has the potential to enchant young readers, to make them really excited about reading. Engaging real readers--real children--is more important than a technical behind-the-scenes guide for adults in how to teach children how to read. 

The writing is fun.

But before I get dressed, I have to wake up Mary. Lately, I've had to wake her up with a pan in my hand so she knows I really mean it. She's gotten super lazy now that she stays home when I'm at school. 
Rosabelle has a big thick chapter book in her lap. She looks up and sees me running toward her. We take turns picking each other up. It's like hugging, but more dangerous. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently Reading #17

Something Old
Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]

Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. Joseph Loconte. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

Pet War. Allan Woodrow. 2013. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets #2). Thomas B. Costain. 1951. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

The Pendericks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy. Jeanne Birdsall. 2005. 262 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need To Know. R.C. Sproul. 1973/1998. 218 pages. [Source; Bought]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 21, 2018

My Victorian Year #16

Good news! I finished Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I wish I could say that I also finished Orley Farm as well. It feels like I've been reading it for three or four months! As of last night, I have exactly twenty chapters to go! (Unless my maths failed me. Entirely possible.)

I have also begun a reread of Little Women.

Quotes from Orley Farm
“I cannot understand Madeline,” Lady Staveley went on, not caring overmuch about Felix Graham’s acquirements.“Well, my dear, I think the key to her choice is this, that she has judged not with her eyes, but with her ears, or rather with her understanding. “But I must acknowledge that I cannot feel angry with Madeline.” “Angry! no, not angry. Who would be angry with the poor child?” “Indeed, I am somewhat proud of her. It seems to me that she prefers mind to matter, which is a great deal to say for a young lady.”
“Wit and intellect and power of expression have gone further with her than good looks and rank and worldly prosperity. If that be so, and I believe it is, I cannot but love her the better for it.”
Half-hours between young ladies and young gentlemen before breakfast are very serious things.
I believe that schoolmasters often tell fibs to schoolboys, although it would be so easy for them to tell the truth. But how difficult it is for the schoolboy always to tell the truth to his master!
But I believe that people can never really love each other merely because they are told to do so.
Friendship between true friends must extend to all the affairs of life.
Unhappiness and a melancholy mood suited him perhaps better than the world’s ordinary good-humour. He was a man who looked his best when under a cloud, and shone the brightest when everything about him was dark.
And Sophia also was not unequal to the occasion. There was, however, this difference between them. Lucius was quite honest in all that he said and did upon the occasion; whereas Miss Furnival was only half honest. Perhaps she was not capable of a higher pitch of honesty than that.
I cannot understand how any gentleman can be willing to use his intellect for the propagation of untruth, and to be paid for so using it.
“Yes, he is clever enough,” repeated the judge, “clever enough; and of high principles and an honest purpose. The fault which people find with him is this, — that he is not practical. He won’t take the world as he finds it. If he can mend it, well and good; we all ought to do something to mend it; but while we are mending it we must live in it.”
High position and a plentiful income are great blessings in this world, so that they be achieved without a stain. But even in this world they are not the greatest blessings. There are things much sweeter than them.
“Money and rank are only good, if every step by which they are gained be good also. I should never blush to see my girl the wife of a poor man whom she loved; but I should be stricken to the core of my heart if I knew that she had become the wife of a rich man whom she did not love.”
But what I say is this: you should never give up as long as you live. There’s a sort of feeling about it which I can’t explain. One should always say to oneself, No surrender.
“Nobody should ever knock under of his own accord.”
Quotes from Little Women
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
He will stay and do his work faithfully as long as he can, and we won’t ask for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and hear the letter.
 I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.
Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City.
Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but in earnest, and see how far on you can get before Father comes home.” “Really, Mother? Where are our bundles?” asked Amy, who was a very literal young lady. “Each of you told what your burden was just now, except Beth. I rather think she hasn’t got any,” said her mother.  “Yes, I have. Mine is dishes and dusters, and envying girls with nice pianos, and being afraid of people.” Beth’s bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted to laugh, but nobody did, for it would have hurt her feelings very much.
© 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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