Monday, June 30, 2014

June Reflections

In June I read 46 books.

Board books, picture books, early readers:

  1. Count on the Subway. Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. Miles to the Finish. Jamie Harper. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Baby's Got the Blues. Carol Diggory Shields. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Miss You Like Crazy. Pamela Hall. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Tanglewood Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! Anne Vittur Kennedy. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. E-I-E-I-O How Old MacDonald Got His Farm. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Matthew Myers. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]     
  9. Five Hungry Pandas. A Count and Crunch Book. Alexis Barad-Cutler. Illustrated by Kyle Poling. 2014. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Longest Night. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Catia Chien. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then. Harriet Ziefert. Illustrated by Karla Gudeon. 2010. Blue Apple Books. 40 pages. [Library]  
  13. The Story of Passover. David A. Adler. Illustrated by Jill Weber. 2014. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Patricia Hruby Powell. 2014. Chronicle. 104 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. James McMullan. 2014. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 113 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities.  Kent Rasmussen. 2014. Chicago Review Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. 11 Birthdays. Wendy Mass. 2009. Scholastic. 267 pages. [Source: Library book]
  7. Finally (Willow Falls #2) Wendy Mass. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. 13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. The Bell Bandit. Jacqueline Davies. (Lemonade War #3) 2012. HMH. 192 pages. [Source: Library]  
  11. The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  13. Between Two Worlds. Katherine Kirkpatrick. 2014. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.]  
  15. Wonders and Miracles: Eric Kimmel, editor. 2004. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. You Wish. Mandy Hubbard. 2010. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  17.  The Story of the Amulet. E. Nesbit. 1906/1996. Puffin. 292 pages. [Source: Bought]
  18. Harding's Luck. E. Nesbit. 1909. 164 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  19. The Lost Sun. (The United States of Asgard #1) Tess Gratton. 2013. Random House. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. The Law and the Lady. Wilkie Collins. 1875. 430 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  5. History of England. Jane Austen. 1977. 64 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]  
  6. A Child's History of England. Charles Dickens. 1851-1853.  390 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  7. Tendrils of Life: A Story of Love, Loss, and Survival in the Turmoil of the Korean War. Owen Choi. 2012. Princeton Falcon Press. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian fiction and nonfiction:
  1. The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt. Scott O'Dell. 1975/1988. JourneyForth. 182 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. God's Amazing World! Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Ideals. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. A Place In His Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2014. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms. Matthew Jacoby. 2013. Baker Books. 183 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. Wounded Tiger. A Nonfiction Novel. T. Martin Bennett. 2014. Onstad Press. 472 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Women of the Word. Jen Wilkin. 2014. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  7. 30 Days To A More Beautiful You: A Devotional For Girls. Kylie Bisutti. Tyndale. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Patricia Hruby Powell. 2014. Chronicle. 104 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell. I loved that this biography is told in verse. The book essentially looks at her entire life, not all biographies for young readers take the time and make the effort. By focusing on her entire life instead of just one or two moments where she shined or triumphed, readers get a greater glimpse of who she was and what she wanted. The book has highs and lows, of course, presenting many challenges that faced her throughout her life. The book sought to capture her spirit, her personality. I think it succeeded. The book also, in my opinion, gives readers a good sense of the times in which she lived.

I also loved the illustrations by Christian Robinson. I suppose you could even say I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. They add so much to the book! They seem to capture movement and fun. They definitely compliment the text well. Together they give readers a spirited look at the past.
 
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Favorites So Far (January - June)

The Captive Maiden. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.

The Captive Maiden is a retelling of Cinderella. Like the movie Ever After, it retells the familiar story grounding it in reality without the magical touches. Our heroine, Gisela, and our hero, Valten (a duke) will get their happily ever after, but, they'll have to work a lot harder for it!


Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

It was oh-so-easy to choose Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. A contemporary retelling of Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Need I say more?! For those that love that funny and charming romance originally published in 1912, this one is a must! It may also be a must for those who love, love, love classic romances. Samantha Moore, the heroine, LOVES to read. (You've probably guessed that Jane Austen is among her favorites!) It's a very satisfying read.

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library] 

This week it was much harder to choose a favorite. Should I choose a reread that I absolutely love, love, love? Three of the books I read this week were rereads: Sense and Sensibility, Doomsday Book, and The Merchant's Daughter. I can honestly say that I love, love, love all three. The Boys in the Boat is nonfiction. And it was LOVELY. I was absolutely captivated by the story. It was everything a book should be. But do I love it more than Doomsday Book?! And can it compete with Austen?! 

I chose The Boys in the Boat. People need to be reminded that nonfiction can be unforgettable and compelling and WOW-worthy!

Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Good Morning, Miss Dove was easily my favorite book this week. I've read the book; I've watched the movie. I will say the movie has a definite not ambiguous ending; the book, perhaps, less so. But I want to believe that the book is just as optimistic about Miss Dove's chances for recovery as the movie.  

Seven Stories Up. Laurel Snyder. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My favorite this week may just be my favorite of the entire month of January. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Laurel Snyder's Seven Stories Up. The novel opens circa 1987, Annie, our heroine, is preparing to meet her (dying) grandmother for the first time. They meet. It's a bit overwhelming--a mix of good and bad, perhaps. The love the grandmother has for the granddaughter that she's never met because of the horrible relationship she has with the daughter--well, it's heartbreaking. But I can see how Annie might not now how to take on that much emotion from a stranger. She goes to bed, she wakes up in 1937! Same room. Same hotel. (In the modern setting, the family-owned hotel had been closed awhile.) Annie meets Molly, a girl just her age. It isn't long before she realizes that Molly IS her grandmother...this one is OH-SO-MAGICAL. Loved every page of it!!!

Sword in the Storm. David Gemmell. 1998. Del Rey. 448 pages [Source: Library] 

My favorite book this week is David Gemmell's Sword in the Storm.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 

This week I chose To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it. I watched it. I listened to it. I would DEFINITELY recommend listening to the audio book. It is narrated by Sissy Spacek, and it is wonderful! So beyond wonderful! Over the course of a month, I became absorbed in the story. It is a story that just resonates. Loved all three formats for getting the story!
The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1940. 334 pages. [Source: Library] 
It is a hard choice this week. Do I choose The Long Winter a book I've read dozens of times? Or do I choose an almost book? A book that I almost love but not quite? I found The Eustace Diamonds to be mostly satisfying but slightly frustrating at the same time! Trollope is a delight to read, a pure joy. But then again so is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I choose The Long Winter!

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008. Random House. 274 pages. [Source: Library]

Another tough decision faces me this week! Do I choose The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? This is a reread that I absolutely love and adore!!! It's so very quotable. It is just a book that delights from cover to cover. OR. Do I choose The Second Confession by Rex Stout. This is a new-to-me book from a favorite series. I adore Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. And this is one of the best mysteries I've read this year!!! As much as I adore Archie Goodwin, I think I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a tiny bit more! (It was oh-so-close!)

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm glad that not all weeks are this difficult! There are three books that could EASILY win almost any other week.
The Giver is one of my FAVORITE books. It's one I've read and reviewed again and again. But. People already know about The Giver.
P.S. Be Eleven was a GREAT read. I cared about the characters so much. It has a just-right feel to it which always deserves recognition.
Books set during World War II, especially children's books set during World War II, especially HOLOCAUST books have a special place all their own in my reading. I thought The Boy on the Wooden Box was EXCELLENT. I just loved it cover to cover. It's one that I think deserves more readers.
Though it wasn't easy, I choose The Boy on the Wooden Box.

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

Pride and Prejudice may not be my favorite Jane Austen novel, but it is still my favorite read of the week. For the record, I do like Elizabeth Scott's Heartbeat a good deal, especially Caleb. And True Colors is a very good coming-of-age novel. But there is something about Pride and Prejudice that keeps me coming back!
Fair Weather. Richard Peck. 2001. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
I really loved Fair Weather by Richard Peck. 
In the Best Families. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1950. 272 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
There were two books this week that I absolutely loved, loved, loved. I have read Five Children and It a handful of times now. I just love and adore this children's classic. If you have not read E. Nesbit, this would be a great first choice! I also absolutely loved, loved, loved In the Best Families by Rex Stout. Rex Stout wrote many, many Nero Wolfe mysteries. In The Best Families is the last book in a trilogy starring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. (And Be A Villain and Second Confession are the first two. The Second Confession and In The Best Families should definitely be read in order. And Be A Villain is more of a stand alone.) Nero and Archie are two of my FAVORITE characters. I love them so much. And this is one of the best, best books in the series, that is why it is my choice for this week's favorite and best!
Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed the books I reviewed this week! Switched At Birthday was super fun! The False Prince is the first in what has become one of my favorite, favorite fantasy series. And Robin Brande's new book? Well worth reading! But since I have to choose just one, I'm going to go with A.C. Gaughen's The Lady Thief.

A few weeks I reviewed Scarlet. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for its premise and its potential. It wasn't a perfectly-perfect book--for me. The second book in the series just wowed me! It had so much depth, so much intensity. And the characters, well, they went from one dimensional to being oh-so-achingly human. Characterization is one of the most important things to me, and, this novel excelled way beyond what I hoped and expected. For anyone who enjoys Robin Hood stories, this one is a MUST. 

The Runaway King. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy. I do. The Runaway King is the second in the series.  
The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This series is oh-so-wonderful.  

Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World's Fair. Robert Jackson. 2004. HarperCollins. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a very tough decision this week! I loved, loved, loved Melisande by E. Nesbit! I also loved The House of Arden. I wouldn't say I loved it as much as Melisande or as much as The Phoenix and the Carpet, but E. Nesbit is WONDERFUL. I also loved Kate Breslin's For Such A Time. This historical romance is set during World War II. It was quite the read! I highly recommend it! But. Meet Me in St. Louis is a GREAT nonfiction read. One of the few nonfiction books I've wanted to read again, again. I found it to be well researched and very fascinating. 

Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. Douglas Florian. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]   
This week was oh-so-easy. I love, love, LOVE Douglas Florian's Poem Depot!!! Yes, I enjoyed other books this week. I did. Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck is probably my favorite, favorite Peck title. But it is a book that I've read and reread. I've even listened to it on audio. Poem Depot is a new title, a deserving title that should be read by kids and adults who love kids books!
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

My favorite this week is the nonfiction book Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. I've read this one three or four times now. It never fails to captivate. It was interesting reading Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World and The Winter Pony so close together. Both books are set on Antarctica within a decade of each other. But they tell very different stories. With one leader, it is men first; men's lives are always worth saving. With the other it is all glory, glory, I want glory. 
The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved Lindsey Leavitt's The Chapel Wars. I enjoyed many other books this week. Overall, it was a very strong week! But The Chapel Wars is YA romance at its best!
Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought] 

This week I choose Because of Winn Dixie as my favorite. I love, love, love this one! It's just a wonderful novel. Love the writing. Love the characters. Love the narration. It's just a book that stays with you.
 Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 1997/2005. Multnomah. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a hard decision this week. On the one hand, I loved reading McCormick Templeman's The Glass Casket. It had atmosphere, in my opinion, and it was oh-so-compelling. I read it in one sitting. It's not my typical genre. I don't really read horror at all. Not on purpose anyway. So the fact that it grabbed my attention and kept my attention says something. But is it truly-truly my favorite of the week? On the other hand, there is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a fantastic historical novel that I'd heard so much about. I've been meaning to read it for over five years! It has been sitting around my house for that many years! It did not disappoint. It has a definite message: it is a retelling of the book of Hosea. But it is probably NOT what anyone would expect a christian novel to be. It goes to dark, uncomfortable places. The heroine was sold into prostitution as a child. She's spent years of her life as a prostitute, and her journey to grace is not an easy one. If I'm looking just at themes or messages, then the choice would be easy. It would be Redeeming Love. It speaks to my heart. If I'm looking just at suspenseful storytelling or pacing, then the choice would be easy, it would be The Glass Casket. These two are so very different from one another!

The better cover? The Glass Casket. I can't say I'm a big fan of headless women on novels! And the cover of Redeeming Love is probably one of the reasons why it took me so very long to read!

Either book would easily win if reviewed in another week...

My choice is Redeeming Love. One of the reasons why I ended up choosing Redeeming Love is that I thought it had more reread appeal. I am more likely to reread this one than the Glass Casket.


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Why a picture book? Why not a picture book! I chose Meanwhile Back at the Ranch because I loved the crazy storytelling. Is a tall tale? Is it romantic comedy? Can a picture book even be romantic?! I loved the characters. I loved meeting the heroine, Tulip Jones. I loved the hero, Charlie Doughpuncher. I loved how the widow's friends (Linsey, Woolsey, and Calico) helped "save" the day by advertising for 1,000 brides! The storytelling was practically perfect! And the language was just so much fun!


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 

I enjoyed many books this week. I did. I really loved reading two very different "history of England" books. One by Jane Austen. One by Charles Dickens. I found Wounded Tiger to be a compelling World War II novel with unforgettable characters. But. One book stood out above the others: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. This classic novel by Betty Smith was just so WONDERFUL. Francie, the heroine, is a kindred spirit in some ways. I'm sure many book lovers can agree! On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived. 
 
Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I choose Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee.


Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]  

Frozen in Time is my pick this week. It isn't the only nonfiction on my list. Other favorites from this year include The Boys in the Boat, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. Frozen in Time is incredibly compelling! It was impossible to put down. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in June

New Loot:
  • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of The Night by James Runcie
  • Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie
  • The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
  • Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
  • A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Secrets of the Manor: Kate's Story by Adele Whitby
  • Secrets of the Manor: Beth's Story by Adele Whitby
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson
  • The Attenbury Emeralds The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery by Jill Paton Walsh

Leftover Loot:
  • A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
  • Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
  • Brazen by Katherine Longshore
  • A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection
  • War Dog by Damien Lewis  
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: June 22-28

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library] 
Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.] 
Wonders and Miracles: Eric Kimmel, editor. 2004. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
The Longest Night. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Catia Chien. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then. Harriet Ziefert. Illustrated by Karla Gudeon. 2010. Blue Apple Books. 40 pages. [Library] 

This week's favorite:

Frozen in Time is my pick this week. It isn't the only nonfiction on my list. Other favorites from this year include The Boys in the Boat, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. Frozen in Time is incredibly compelling! It was impossible to put down. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Reread #26 Doggirl

Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've been wanting to reread Robin Brande's Doggirl for years now. I first read it in June 2011 and it was LOVE.

Riley Case is the heroine of this coming-of-age middle grade novel. Riley and her parents have recently moved to the area. The "official" reason for the move is for her mom to take a teaching job at a college. The unofficial reason for the move, well, Riley was being bullied by some of her classmates, and her life had become misery.

Riley knows exactly what she wants out of life. She wants to be an animal trainer; her dream job would have her training animals for movies and/or television. She loves, loves, loves her three dogs. And she loves working with them daily and training them. And she has got incredible talent training them! Talent which doesn't really go unnoticed.

Riley decides to go outside her comfort zone and collaborate with the drama department for a play, for a competitive project. Riley and her three dogs are an almost instant hit with all involved on stage and behind the scenes.

In some ways, Riley is ecstatic with the changes in her life. The people she's met, the students, well, the way they all work together and fit together, there is something so delightful and inviting about being a part of something, of BELONGING. But. Riley has never really had the "belonging" experience before. She's thought she's had it, she has felt liked and accepted before ONLY to have the worst happen: pure humiliation, repeated humiliation. Of course, she WANTS friends, she wants to have found a group of friends to belong with, to be with. But she's hesitant to commit as well, to show that she wants it, if that makes sense. What if it is all too good to be true? What if they don't really like her? What if they're just using her for the competition?

Riley has some growing to do in Doggirl. I loved her character. But I also enjoyed getting to know her three dogs, and the students in the drama program. I especially enjoyed getting to know Nate!

There is something sweet and honest about the whole book, something that you don't find in every book.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Magic Trap (2014)

The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Magic Trap is the fifth novel in Jacqueline Davies' Lemonade War series. Her newest book starring Evan and Jessie Treski opens in the month of May. It is almost summer once again, readers have almost spent an entire year with these two siblings.

Mrs. Treski is going on a business trip. She'll be gone a whole week. She's hired a sitter to stay with Evan and Jessie. But hours before she's scheduled to leave and just mere minutes after an unexpected knock at the door, she learns that the sitter has been in a car accident and needs surgery. While she'll be fine, there is no way she'll be able to keep two kids. The knock at the door? Evan and Jessie's father. He just happens to be in town for a day or two; he just happens to be in between stories for the moment; he's a war correspondent. He volunteers to stay with the kids the whole week. She is hesitant. After all, the last visit he stayed just a few hours. He is always in and out of their lives. He rarely stays around longer than a day or two at most. A whole week with the kids?! Is he capable of sticking around that long? Of putting his kids first? She isn't positive. But she goes.

Evan is working on a disappearing act of his own. Evan's new interest? Magic tricks. He's got a handful he's great at. He's working at mastering several more. He's found an old--really, really old--magic book. He needs help, and Jessie and his Dad are ready to help him out. Evan plans a big magic show and everything...

But life doesn't always go according to plan. And Jessie and Evan are about to be severely tested. All week long, their dad has been emphasizing over and over and over again how tough Treskis are and how they can do anything. Jessie and Evan will be given the chance to prove just that...

The Magic Trap certainly has its dramatic moments.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Candy Smash (2013)

The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The fourth book in Jacqueline Davies Lemonade War series brings us to February in Jessie and Evan Treski's fourth grade year. Apparently after returning to school, Jessie decided to start a classroom newspaper. The Candy Smash is ALL about Jessie working very hard as a journalist and reporter as she tries to figure out the ethics of publishing. For example, if Jessie *knows* that someone like-likes someone, should she report it? Perhaps if Jessie herself were to have a crush, she'd know the answer to that one. But boys, well, they just don't interest her yet. Evan, on the other hand, well, he is definitely interested in one particular girl. (He has been since The Lemonade War!)

The Candy Smash isn't all about journalism. The teacher has started a poetry unit. While some students like hearing and discussing the poems each class day, Evan happens to love it. He tries not to let his love show too much, of course. But Evan's big secret: HE LOVES POETRY. And at home, behind his unlocked "locked" door (there's a sign on the door) he writes poetry of his own. For someone who has struggled with school, Evan's newly discovered gift with words is pure blessing.

The books have been getting more serious as the series progresses. In the Candy Smash, readers learn that Grandma has come to stay with them. I was very relieved to learn that she would not be left on her own. Also, Jessie has started thinking a LOT about her father whom she hasn't seen in over a year. Readers learn that HE is a journalist, that he travels all over the world. I knew, of course, that their mother is a single mom, divorced, but this is the first mention that I can recall revealing details about the dad.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What's On Your Nightstand: June


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Currently Reading:

The Princess of Celle by Jean Plaidy
Does it count if I haven't picked it up in a week or two?! I have every intention of finishing it. But. I've been distracted lately. (Watching six seasons of LOST almost marathon-style will do it, I suppose!)


The Birth of Britain (History of the English Speaking People #1). Winston Churchill.
Some chapters I love. Some chapters, well, not so much. Some are very boring. I won't lie. This one ends around the time of Richard III. I want to finish it. I'm very curious to learn his opinions!






Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope
I haven't been faithfully reading this one either. I've been reading it since May! I only have a few hundred pages left. I don't want to not finish. But again with the distractions!

Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
I want to be in the mood to love this book. But I'm not quite there. It's hard to read current series where you have to wait a year between books, it's hard to get back into the story and the characters after so much time. I do want to finish before it's due at the library though.

Want to be reading:

Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
I always start out the year with an "Impossible Dream" idea of how many books I can read in a year. I had wanted to read all of E. Nesbit's books this year. I have read a good many, but, I need to get very busy reading if I want to finish this goal. This is the next book up.



An Autobiography. Agatha Christie.

This book is a chunkster. It is on my 2014 TBR reading challenge list. If I want to finish it this year, it would be best to start it now in the summer!

The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side. Damien Lewis.
This nonfiction book sounds fascinating!

Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
Another nonfiction book that sounds worthy!


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant (1986)

Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.] 

I acquired Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant from the library book sale a few years ago. Bethany Brant, the heroine, is a preacher's kid. The book is set near the turn of the twentieth century. And it's set in Texas. It felt like it could be a very good fit for me. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what I expected it to be.

The book opens with Bethany Brant visiting a fortune teller at a fair or carnival. Her parents are busy listening to live music; her brother, Abel, is off on his own. Bethany knows her parents wouldn't approve of her visiting a fortune teller, of her wasting her money on such a thing, of her giving so much of her time and thought to what the fortune teller says. But. Bethany Brant does, at least on this occasion, exactly what she wants.

The entire book is centered around what the fortune teller said. She was told at least three specific things: something bad was going to happen, there were elephants in her future, and that a one-eyed man would befriend her in her greatest need.

The book chronicles Bethany through all three "prophecies" (for lack of a better word.) It follows her for almost two years. A lot does happen to turn Bethany's world upside down. And in many ways, the book is just your average coming-of-age story.

I liked this one. But I certainly didn't love it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Brought to you by the letter "A"

I saw this meme at Stuck in a Book on Sunday. He was kind enough to give me a letter (randomly) so I could do the meme on my own blog. I got the letter A.

Favorite book: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. It seems like an obvious choice for the letter A. (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland also occurred to me.)

Favorite author: Jane Austen. Going with another obvious choice. I do love Austen enough to keep rereading her books.

Favorite song: "All You Need Is Love" The Beatles. It happens to be my favorite Beatles song.

Favorite movie: Aristocats.

Favorite object: This one was tough. I admit it. But I'm going with air conditioning.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Frozen in Time (2013)

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]

I absolutely loved Mitchell Zuckoff's Frozen in Time. Nonfiction can be compelling and fascinating and oh-so-intense. True, most people when looking for an engaging, emotional read might tend to think of fiction, but, nonfiction can prove just as addictive, just as satisfying. Such was the case with Frozen In Time. I found this nonfiction book IMPOSSIBLE to put down!

In the first chapter, readers learn how 'obscure' Greenland became suddenly important to the world:
All of that changed on April 9, 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded Denmark. American leaders suddenly looked with fear upon the big island so close to North America. They shuddered at the thought of Hitler building air bases and ports in Greenland, from which they imagined he might strike at Allied planes and ships in the North Atlantic. Even more frightening, Greenland was then six hours by air from New York, well within the range of German bombers. Worst of all was a doomsday scenario under which the island would be used as a Nazi staging area and springboard for a blitzkrieg, or 'lightning war,' with a ground invasion of the United States and Canada.
More immediately, American officials worried that Germany would establish elaborate weather stations in Greenland. The weather in Europe is "made" in Greenland; winds and currents that flow eastward over the island give birth to storms heading toward Great Britain, Norway, and beyond. Whoever knows today's weather in Greenland knows tomorrow's weather in Europe. Allied planners feared that German weather stations in Greenland could guide Luftwaffe bombing runs over Great Britain and the Continent. The battle to control Greenland wasn't a war for territory, one American official said--it was 'a war for weather.'
Concern about Greenland also reflected the fact that some wars are lost not in the field but in the factory. If the Nazis ruled Greenland, Germany would gain control of a rare and unique resource that could help determine the outcome of the war. A mine at Greenland's southwestern coast, in a place called Ivigtut, was the world's only reliable natural source of a milky white mineral called cryolite. Cryolite, a name derived from Greek words meaning "frost stone," was essential to the production of aluminum, and aluminum was essential to the production of warplanes...At less than a mile from the water, the Ivigtut mine was vulnerable to sabotage or attack...(19-20)
That one chapter gives the reader some context for appreciating the whole. The book itself focuses on several plane crashes on Greenland in November 1942. The first plane crash was a C-53 Skytrooper. There were survivors. Radio contact was made. Other planes were sent to search for this missing plane. Unfortunately, one of the planes that went to search for the C-53 also crashed. This second plane crash was a B-17. All nine aboard survived--initially. But their continued survival was always a big question mark. After they finally make radio contact, and after several failed attempts at rescue by other means, another plane is sent to search for the B-17. The good news? They find the B-17! They are able to take two men aboard their plane and take them to safety. They plan to return the next day to rescue more of the men. The bad news? When they return the next day, it's a whole other story. They were not able to rescue more men. On their return flight, this rescue plane crashes. There are no survivors.

The whole book is about survivors and saviors and would-be saviors: lives lost and saved. Just telling the story simply makes for a harsh, intense read. The intensity of the cold and hunger and the physical pain make it so. Not to mention the emotional and psychological effects of being stranded in a very very harsh environment in the middle of winter! These men weren't arctic explorers out for glory and fame, these were soldiers and pilots who were unprepared for this kind of danger.

Half the book focuses on the past, set during the winter of 1942-1943. The other half focuses on the present, a team of men and women searching for the "Grumman Duck" the rescue plane that crashed around Thanksgiving 1942. Their hope was to find it and recover the bodies of the three aboard. Two of the men were from the Coast Guard.

While I found this one to be essentially fascinating from cover to cover, I won't lie and say that the past and present narratives were equally captivating at all times. Part of the present story was chronicling the raising awareness and raising funds, searching for big sponsors, pleading their case to anyone who would listen.

This was a wonderful read! It is not as bleak as you might expect. I would definitely recommend it!!!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Brat Farrar (1949)

Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

I definitely enjoyed reading Brat Farrar. Was it my favorite-favorite Tey novel? Probably not. But I enjoyed it so much more than Miss Pym Disposes and A Shilling for Candles.

In Brat Farrar, the reader is in on the secret. Brat Farrar is impersonating Patrick Ashby. Alec Loding "discovers" Brat Farrar's resemblance to the Ashby family. There were twin brothers Patrick and Simon. Patrick vanished when he was twelve or thirteen, and he was presumed dead. The note he conveniently left behind led everyone to believe it was suicide. Even though Patrick didn't seem the sort. Then again, Patrick would not have been the sort to run away for eight years either. Alec Loding is encouraging his new friend, Brat, to invent such a tale. BE Patrick. Inherit the family estate. He tempts him with horses. If there is one thing our hero can't resist, it's horses. His oh-so-special way with horses gives his life meaning. On the one hand, Brat is essentially a moral guy. He knows right from wrong. He is not the sort to be reckless and cruel for the fun of it. On the other hand, ALL THOSE HORSES. So he allows Loding to coach him, teach him, anything and everything he needs to know to BE PATRICK. (How does Alec know all these details? Sure, a family friend might know some stuff, but everything from the age of three or four on up?! Everything???)

So Patrick Ashby returns from the dead. He takes his place with his family. Everything seems to be off to a good start, but, Brat can't help wondering WHY Simon is so SMUG. Like Brat, readers pick up some clues...not firm, exact clues perhaps...but strong feelings that Simon is, well, the more evil twin.

I liked this one. It was a very quick read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Library Loot: Third Trip in June

New Loot:
  • A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
  • Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
  • Brazen by Katherine Longshore
  • Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder
  • A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection
  • Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then by Harriet Ziefert
  • War Dog by Damien Lewis

Leftover Loot:
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
  • Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
  • Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: June 15-21

Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Between Two Worlds. Katherine Kirkpatrick. 2014. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. James McMullan. 2014. Algonquin
Books of Chapel Hill. 113 pages. [Source: Library]
The Law and the Lady. Wilkie Collins. 1875. 430 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
The Story of Passover. David A. Adler. Illustrated by Jill Weber. 2014. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt. Scott O'Dell. 1975/1988. JourneyForth. 182 pages. [Source: Bought]
God's Amazing World! Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Ideals. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

I choose Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Challenge Completed: Once Upon A Time

Host: Stainless Steel Droppings
Title: Once Upon A Time; sign up post; review site
Duration: March 21-June 21, 2014
# of Books: Quest the First (5 books from any of the 4 categories: fantasy, folklore, fairy tale, mythology); OR Quest the Third (5 Books + Midsummer Night's Dream)

What I Read:

1. Five Children and It. E. Nesbit. 1902/2004. Puffin Classics. 240 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
2. Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale. Charles de Lint. Illustrated by Charles Vess. 2014. Little, Brown. 272 pages. [Source: Library]  
3. Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
4. The False Prince. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2012. Scholastic. 342 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5. The Runaway King. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. The Trouble with Magic. Ruth Chew. 1976/2014. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
7. Magic in the Park. Ruth Chew. 1972/2014. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
9. Melisande. E. Nesbit. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch. 1901/1988/1999. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
10. The House of Arden. E. Nesbit. 1908. 242 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
11. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. 2013. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
12. Switched at Birthday. Natalie Standiford. 2014. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
13. Hero. (Woodcutter Sisters #2). Alethea Kontis. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
14. Rumpelstiltskin. Jenni James. 2013. Stonehouse Ink. [Source: Bought]
15. Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie. 1911/2008. Penguin. 207 pages. [Source: Review copy]
16. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boys. Karen Foxlee. 2014. Random House. 240 books. [Source: Review copy]
17. The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
18. The Glass Casket. McCormick Templeman. 2014. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
19. The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
20. 11 Birthdays. (Willow Falls #1) Wendy Mass. 2009. Scholastic. 267 pages. [Source: Library book]
21. Finally (Willow Falls #2) Wendy Mass. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
22. You Wish. Mandy Hubbard. 2010. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
23. The Story of the Amulet. E. Nesbit. 1906/1996. Puffin. 292 pages. [Source: Bought]
24. The Lost Sun. (The United States of Asgard #1) Tess Gratton. 2013. Random House. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
25. 13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]
26.  The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What I Watched:

Frozen 
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Escape
Secret of the Wings
Pirate Fairy


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Reread #25 Julia Gillian And the Art of Knowing

Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Several years ago, I read the Julia Gillian series. The first book in the series is Julia Gillian And the Art of Knowing. The book introduces us to a lovely little heroine, Julia Gillian, who is something. She is not really like other children her age (she's about 10) and she's not really like other adults either. She is individual, unique, special. While I did not see myself in each and every bit of Julia Gillian, there was one thing in particular we share. (Or should I say shared.) Julia Gillian is afraid of books with sad endings. Julia Gillian has recently bought a book, a green book, I believe, with a dog on the cover. (As a child, I would have known to avoid it.) When she started the book, all was well. A few chapters in, and Julia has become WORRIED, very WORRIED about the dog in the story. She's afraid that the dog might...dare she say it...DIE in the end. The second she begins to worry, she stops reading. She puts the book aside. But. Julia Gillian can't stop thinking about the book, about the characters. Though she's not spending time with the book anymore, it's still haunting her. Her parents guess this, as do some of her older friends, and for some reason they make her finish the book. (The reason why sounded a bit unbelievable to me.) Can Julia Gillian survive reading a sad book, a sad dog-dying book?

Julia Gillian lives life. She is very, very, very close to her dog, Bigfoot. Her dog is her best, best friend. So it's understandable why she has such a hard time reading the book. Her fear is, in a way, not so much that the fictional dog will die as it is that HER beloved dog will die.

There are several little stories going on in Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing. I liked how Julia reaches out to a neighborhood girl who is about to start kindergarten. They have two conversations, I believe, but in them we see Julia Gillian at her best.

I definitely enjoyed rereading this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Last Present (2013)

The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Last Present is the sequel to 13 Gifts. The two books are closely connected. 13 Gifts had a cliffhanger ending--for better or worse. Much of 13 Gifts was spent hinting that Leo and Amanda had a BIG TASK AHEAD which required them to sacrifice talking to one another for an entire year. (Only texting and writing was allowed.) Tara, the heroine of 13 Gifts, came to town in the last weeks of their sacrifice. At first, Leo and Amanda, guess that it's all about Tara, and then that it's all about David. Two friends celebrating birthdays the same weekend in July. But at David's party, the truth becomes obvious. Grace, the younger sister of Connor, one of David's friends, falls into a coma after babbling nonsense. Amanda and Leo have no doubt that Angelina will be needing them to save the day somehow, someway. Such is the case.

The two will be traveling back in time. They will travel to each of Grace's birthday parties. They will fix what went wrong with Angelina's "blessing of protection." What they notice from the start is that Connor and another relative seem to be acting against them each and every time. They have no idea if Connor is ruining his sister's parties on purpose or if it's completely accidental. Their mission is clear. How that mission is actually accomplished remains a bit of a puzzle. Readers are just told at each twist and turn that it's the work of Angelina, and that she alone knows what is going on, and since Angelina wouldn't ever dream of sharing that knowledge with anyone no matter what, everything the kids do is on faith.

I liked this one. I didn't not like it anyway. But for a book that supposedly answers all the questions and solves the mystery that is Angelina, this one left me unsatisfied. Out of all the novels, this one is definitely the clearest that this is FANTASY and that magic is going on all around. But the little details seem messy from my perspective.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

13 Gifts (2011)

13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Tara Brennan is the heroine of Wendy Mass's 13 Gifts. It is a companion novel to 11 Birthdays and Finally. It is set in Willow Falls. Tara's mom and dad were born and raised in Willow Falls. They have moved dozens of times since they got married. Tara is tired, very tired, of all the moving. Tara wishes that she had some place to call her own, to be HOME. After an incident at school involving a stuffed goat in the principal's office, Tara is "sent away" to Willow Falls to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. This cousin, Emily, was first introduced in Finally. Emily was Rory's first babysitting job. Tara just happens to be the same age as Rory, Leo, and Amanda. All characters introduced in previous books. The group soon realizes that Tara belongs, that she too has been chosen by Angelina d'Angelo. Tara is given a task, a big task, a can't-handle-it-by-herself task to accomplish by her thirteenth birthday in July. She is to acquire what appears to be completely random items from individuals in the town.

The list:
  • One wicker basket with handles in the shape of hearts
  • One gray wool blanket with two-inch red stripes around the border
  • One brass candlestick in the shape of a fish
  • One large white shawl with the initials ER on the left corner
  • One knife with a black handle inside a red sheath
  • A 2-ounce purple glass bottle with a silver stopper
  • One long strand of pearls with a gold clasp
  • One leather-bound copy of the Bible, black, Book of Genesis repeated twice
  • One wooden key with the words "Made in Willow Falls, 1974" carved in the shank
  • One black steamer trunk with gold latch
  • One violin, silver plating on back reads Sam, 1902
  • One bottle of apple wine, 1925, brewed by Ellerby-Fitzpatrick Brewers
  • One wooden cane, handle shaped like a duck's beak
Tara needs friends; she needs friends who are smart and resourceful and who KNOW Willow Falls. Her new friends have ideas and are more than willing to help her on her quest. In addition, readers meet new characters like David, Connor, and Grace.

I enjoyed 13 Gifts. I liked how Tara's quest was about healing the community and righting past wrongs. I liked that Tara--and readers--were clueless about the bigger task until the very end. I liked spending time in Willow Falls. Readers get to spend more time interacting with residents than in any previous novel. It was fun.

© 2014 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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