Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God

The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Long, long ago, when the Vikings ruled the seas, people loved to tell stories about gods and giants. Renowned as warriors and sailors, the Vikings were also great storytellers. Their most treasured stories were about a god named Thor.

Premise/plot: This is a story book for elementary readers. It contains nine stories--all generously illustrated. The stories are: "Why Thor Is Called the Thunder God," "The Giants," "Thor's Family," "Loki's Bet," "Tialvi and the Billy Goats," "A Duel," "Outwitted," and "Stolen Thunder."

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't perhaps love, love, love it like I did Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology. But this is a children's book. And the focus isn't on ALL the gods, but specifically on Thor. Some stories are in both books. I really enjoyed some of these stories. My favorites were "Outwitted," "Stolen Thunder," and "Loki's Bet." The stories are action-packed and most are packed with humor as well.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang

What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What this story needs is a pig in a wig, building a stage, arranging a stand, and getting set to conduct the Pig in a Wig Band.

Premise/plot: Pig in a Wig has a band now in her latest book. As more and more animals and instruments join in, the chaos increases. Will They make beautiful music together?

My thoughts: I like this one. Perhaps I don't love, love, love it. But this series has a just right feel to it. Much like Mo Willem's series starring Gerald and Piggie. I would definitely recommend this series to parents, teachers, and librarians.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Washington Square

Washington Square. Henry James. 1880. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession.

Premise/plot: Catherine Sloper is being raised by her father, Dr. Sloper, and her aunt, Mrs. Penniman. Neither is the ideal guardian perhaps. Mrs. Penniman is foolish and her romantic ideals rarely if ever match up perfectly with reality. Dr. Sloper is an unpleasant, opinionated, hard-hearted soul. He sees the world very much in black and white terms. And he's judged his daughter--practically from her birth--a person to be easily dismissed or ignored. He reckons that trouble will come--not because his daughter is beautiful, not because his daughter is intelligent, not because his daughter is charming, not because his daughter is kind and compassionate--but because her aunt will try to talk his daughter into the idea that she is worthy of attention and love from the opposite sex. How dare she try to tell Catherine that one day she'll get married! Who would ever want to marry her?! Sadly, he's got the notion that just because he sees his daughter as a waste that every person feels likewise.

A young man does come into her life--Morris Townsend--but who will prove right? Catherine who thinks it's true love. Mrs. Penniman who hopes that the two will marry so that she can continue to hang on his every word. Dr. Sloper who KNOWS (there is no mere thinking) that Mr. Townsend is a no-good idler after her money.

My thoughts: Henry James is JUST what I needed. I sped through this one in just two days. You've got to love a classic that just absorbs and excites you.

The characters. I hated Dr. Sloper. I wanted to YELL at Mrs. Penniman. I wanted to cheer for Catherine. As for Morris Townsend, well, it's best not to say anything about him at all. (I do wish we'd seen more of his sister, however.)

The story. I wasn't disappointed. Perhaps there was a time when the ending would have annoyed me. But not anymore.

“Try and make a clever woman of her, Lavinia; I should like her to be a clever woman.” Mrs. Penniman, at this, looked thoughtful a moment. “My dear Austin,” she then inquired, “do you think it is better to be clever than to be good?” “Good for what?” asked the Doctor. “You are good for nothing unless you are clever.”
Dr. Sloper would have liked to be proud of his daughter; but there was nothing to be proud of in poor Catherine. There was nothing, of course, to be ashamed of; but this was not enough for the Doctor, who was a proud man and would have enjoyed being able to think of his daughter as an unusual girl.
“He is not what I call a gentleman. He has not the soul of one. He is extremely insinuating; but it’s a vulgar nature. I saw through it in a minute. He is altogether too familiar — I hate familiarity. He is a plausible coxcomb.” “Ah, well,” said Mrs. Almond; “if you make up your mind so easily, it’s a great advantage.” “I don’t make up my mind easily. What I tell you is the result of thirty years of observation; and in order to be able to form that judgement in a single evening, I have had to spend a lifetime in study.”
“it doesn’t take long to like a person — when once you begin.”
“But your daughter doesn’t marry a category,” Townsend urged, with his handsome smile. “She marries an individual — an individual whom she is so good as to say she loves.” “An individual who offers so little in return!” “Is it possible to offer more than the most tender affection and a lifelong devotion?” the young man demanded. “It depends how we take it. It is possible to offer a few other things besides; and not only is it possible, but it’s usual. A lifelong devotion is measured after the fact; and meanwhile it is customary in these cases to give a few material securities. What are yours? A very handsome face and figure, and a very good manner. They are excellent as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough.”
“The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the Doctor permitted himself to respond.
“Don’t undervalue irony, it is often of great use. It is not, however, always necessary, and I will show you how gracefully I can lay it aside. I should like to know whether you think Morris Townsend will hang on.” “I will answer you with your own weapons,” said Mrs. Penniman. “You had better wait and see!”

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, April 21, 2017

Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man. Gavriel Savit. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When Anna Lania woke on the morning of the sixth of November in the year 1939--her seventh--there were several things that she did not know...

Premise/plot: The day after Anna's father disappears forever, she follows a stranger into the forest because of a brief connection they shared outside a shop. She wants to know his name, after all he now knows hers. But he thinks names are dangerous things, he allows her to call him Swallow Man. (She wanted to call him Solomon because he is WISE.) This one is set in Poland during World War II. These two wander around together for the duration of the war--or most of it. Both speak multiple languages well. But the language they speak most often is Road. It is impossible to lie when speaking Road he tells the innocent girl. Their stories change always from one encounter to the next. He is her whole world, her everything. But as she grows up, she begins to see that he has flaws. A time even comes when she has to make life or death decisions for them both.

Will Anna survive the war?

My thoughts: In this YA book, readers really only get to know three characters: Anna, the Swallow Man, and Reb Hirschl. I hated what happened to Reb. It was all so pointless in my opinion. Overall, I found the first half to be delightfully written, just beautiful sentences woven together to tell a unique story. The second half, however, was not a good fit for me. I became less enchanted of the Swallow Man, and more concerned for Anna. It made sense that facts were hazy impressions when she was seven. Not so much when she became older.

At first I thought this one would be a good match for Book Thief fans, but by the end it just didn't hold up. Definitely more for adults who love literary fiction and non-endings.

Disappointment, though heavy, is an easy enough thing to pack away in a suitcase--it has straight edges and rounded corners, and it always fits into the last remaining empty space. Hope is much the same. But somehow the hybrid of the two is something much less uniform--awkward, bulkier, and no less heavy. It is far too delicate to pack away. It must be carried in the hands. (224)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quinito's Neighborhood

Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My mami is a carpenter. My papi is a nurse. Mi mami es carpintera. Mi papi es enfermero.

Premise/plot: Remember the song, "Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?" This picture book is a bilingual answer to that question. It is written in English and Spanish and is set in a colorfully diverse neighborhood. Readers meet not just his immediate and extended family, but the people that he meets each day.
Mrs. Hernandez sells Rafi's bread at her bodega, too. And her daughter, Sonia Isabel, counts the money in the bank on the corner. Guillermo is our mailman. Guillermo is going to marry Sonia Isabel.
My thoughts: I like this one. I can't say it makes much of a story--more of a friendly conversation. But the illustrations are wonderful. Perhaps with one exception!!! I could have done without the clowns!!! (Why did his grown-up cousin Tita have to go to clown school?!?!)

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 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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