Monday, February 29, 2016

February Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in February 2016
  • She Is Mine: A War Orphans' Incredible Journey of Survival by Stephanie Fast. 2015. Destiny Ministries. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] ADULT, MEMOIR
  • Bedtime Blastoff! Luke Reynolds. Illustrated by Mike Yamada. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] BEDTIME BOOK
  • Ruby Lee & Me. Shannon Hitchcock. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] COMING OF AGE, MG, CIVIL RIGHTS
  • Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Library] PICTURE BOOK FOR OLDER READERS, MG NONFICTION, CIVIL RIGHTS, POETRY, BIOGRAPHY
5 Places "visited" in February
  1. Ancient Rome
  2. London, England
  3. French Riviera
  4. North Carolina (two books!)
  5. Korea (1950s)
Picture Books (also board books now and then):
  1. Bedtime Blastoff! Luke Reynolds. Illustrated by Mike Yamada. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] BEDTIME BOOK
  2. Supertruck. Stephen Savage. 2015. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages. [Source: Library] STORY BOOK; TRUCKS
  3. Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. 2016. Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. 2016. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] PICTURE BOOK FOR OLDER READERS
  4. Waiting. Kevin Henkes. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library] STORY BOOK; TOYS
  5. Peppa Pig and the Lucky Ducks. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] CONCEPT BOOK; COUNTING
  6. Peppa Pig and the I Love You Game. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] STORY BOOK
Early Readers (Also a few early chapter books now and then):
  1. The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde (#3) Shannon and Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2016. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] FANTASY
  2. Number One Kid. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2010. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] REALISTIC FICTION
  3. Big Whopper. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2010. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] REALISTIC FICTION
  4. Flying Feet. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2011. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] REALISTIC FICTION
  5. McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1985/1997. 64 pages. [Source: Bought] HUMOR
  6. Posy the Puppy (Dr. Kitty Cat #1) Jane Clarke. 2016. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] ANIMAL FANTASY
Contemporary (General, Realistic) Fiction, All Ages:
  1. First Love. 14 Warm and Glowing Stories Selected by Gay Head. 1963. Scholastic Book Services. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]  ROMANCE, MG AND YA
  2. Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library] GRAPHIC NOVEL, MG, YA
  3. The Odds of Getting Even. Sheila Turnage. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] MG REALISTIC FICTION, MYSTERY,
Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Science Fiction, etc.), All Ages:
  1. Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library] FANTASY, MG, CLASSIC
  2. Rise of the Wolf. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] MG, YA, FANTASY,
  3. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend. Michelle Cuevas. 2015. Penguin. 176 pages. [Source: Library] MG FANTASY
  4. Echo. Pam Munoz Ryan. 2015. Scholastic. 592 pages. [Source: Library] MG/YA HISTORICAL, MAGIC REALISM
Historical Fiction, All Ages
  1. Echo. Pam Munoz Ryan. 2015. Scholastic. 592 pages. [Source: Library] HISTORICAL, MG, MAGIC REALISM, COMING OF AGE
  2. A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk #2). Anne Perry. 1992. 344 pages. [Source: Library] ADULT, VICTORIAN MYSTERY
  3. Ruby Lee & Me. Shannon Hitchcock. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] COMING OF AGE, MG, CIVIL RIGHTS
Mysteries, All Ages
  1. Death on the Riviera. John Bude. 1952/2016. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy] ADULT, CLASSIC, MYSTERY
  2. A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk #2). Anne Perry. 1992. 344 pages. [Source: Library] VICTORIAN MYSTERY SERIES, ADULT
  3. The Odds of Getting Even. Sheila Turnage. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] MG REALISTIC FICTION, MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP
Classics, All Ages
  1. North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought] ADULT, CLASSIC, ROMANCE
  2. Death on the Riviera. John Bude. 1952/2016. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy] ADULT, MYSTERY
  3. Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library] MG FANTASY
  4. Hans Brinker, Or, The Silver Skates. Mary Mapes Dodge. 1865. 244 pages. [Source: Bought]  MG ADVENTURE, COMING OF AGE
Nonfiction, All Ages
  1. Trombone Shorty. Troy Andrews. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Library] NONFICTION, PICTURE BOOK FOR OLDER READERS
  2. She Is Mine: A War Orphans' Incredible Journey of Survival by Stephanie Fast. 2015. Destiny Ministries. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] ADULT, MEMOIR
  3. Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Library] PICTURE BOOK FOR OLDER READERS, MG NONFICTION, CIVIL RIGHTS, POETRY, BIOGRAPHY
Christian Fiction
  1. The Prophetess. Jill Eileen Smith. 2016. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] BIBLICAL FICTION
Christian Nonfiction
  1. Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos. Barry G. Webb. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] BIBLE COMMENTARY
  2. Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction. Sam Allberry. 2013/2015. Good Book Co. 93 pages. [Source: Gift] CURRENT ISSUES
  3. I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Voice of the Martyrs. 2016. David C. Cook. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy] CURRENT ISSUES
  4. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Prayers and Devotions. Arthur Bennett. 1975. Banner of Truth. 223 pages. [Source: Gift] DEVOTIONAL, POETRY, CHRISTIAN CLASSIC
  5. Christ Among Other Gods. Erwin Lutzer. 1994/2016. Moody. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] CURRENT ISSUES, CHRISTIAN LIVING, 
  6. Best of A.W. Tozer (#1) A.W. Tozer. Compiled by Warren Wiersbe. 1978/2007. 251 pages. [Source: Bought] DEVOTIONAL, CHRISTIAN LIVING
  7. Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]  BIBLE COMMENTARY
  8. A Tale of Two Sons: The Inside Story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder. 2008. Thomas Nelson. 221 pages. [Source: Gift] CHRISTIAN LIVING, 
  9. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance--Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2016. Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] THEOLOGY, CHRISTIAN LIVING
  10. Pleasing God. R.C. Sproul. 1994. Tyndale. 234 pages. [Source: Bought] CHRISTIAN LIVING, THEOLOGY
  11. PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace. Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. 2014. Zondervan. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] CHRISTIAN LIVING, THEOLOGY

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Hans Brinker, Or, The Silver Skates

Hans Brinker, Or, The Silver Skates. Mary Mapes Dodge. 1865. 244 pages. [Source: Bought]

What did I think of Hans Brinker, or, The Silver Skates? What did I REALLY think? It was something, that's for sure. At times I felt it was going in too many different directions to be a solidly-good read.

There is the Brinker family drama. Hans and Gretel are brother-and-sister in a desperately poor family. Their father has had a brain injury for a little over ten years, and, he is getting worse, beginning to suffer more, and lash out more in his madness. Hans wants to seek out a famous surgeon to see if his father can be helped. But, of course, there is no money to pay the surgeon, and, the surgeon travels around from city to city, and you never know where he is to be actually found.

There is the drama surrounding a dozen village children--boys and girls--all more "better off" than the Brinker children. A group of boys--including one visiting English boy--decide to go off on a sight-seeing adventure together on their skates. They'll cover many, many miles; go through many cities and villages; and spend many days and nights away from home. Throughout their actual adventure, history lessons--dense history lessons--are included in the form of dialogue among the children.

Then there is the drama and excitement of the SKATING RACE. Hans and Gretel *want* to participate of course. And all the other boys and girls ARE participating. Will Hans and Gretel be able to participate too. Perhaps if they can manage to buy *real* skates instead of homemade wooden ones. The prize for the skating race is a pair of silver skates; one pair to be awarded to a boy, another pair to be awarded to a girl.

The book is part action and adventure, part travelogue, part history book, part sentimental coming-of-age. I must admit that I really liked the story line with the doctor/surgeon and the Brinker family--how everything is resolved. I know it's the most sentimental aspect of the story, but, I really enjoyed it all the same. The basics of the story are good, I think, it's just I'm not sure how many readers really, really want detailed history lessons covering centuries worth of material.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 Challenges: March Take Control of Your TBR Pile

Take Control of Your TBR Pile (March)
Host: Caffeinated Book Reviewer (sign up here)
Dates: March 1-31
# of Books: I'm hoping to read 12 books

I'll be creating a shelf on Goodreads to keep me honest so that it is books I READ in March, not just those I review in March. I'll also list the books below on this page, but, reviews will probably not be posted in March--at least not all of them! I like to keep about two weeks ahead.

What I *read* in March 2016 that qualifies for this challenge. All books must have been published before March 1, 2016.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Voice of Freedom

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement is a book both easy to categorize and difficult. It is nonfiction. It is a biography of Fannie Lou Hamer--a picture book biography. A biography written in verse. So it's poetry too. And it's about the civil rights movement. Yes, the focus is on Fannie Lou Hamer's role in the civil rights movement, but, it isn't as if it's her story alone. It is so much more than that. The fact that it is a picture book biography written in verse about the civil rights movement makes it a great example of a picture book for older readers. (And the fact that it's about the civil rights movement, and, a heroine of the movement, makes it a great example of a diverse title and one highlighting a remarkable woman.) So there are at least half a dozen reasons why one would want to pick this one up and read it.

But could I be forgetting the most important reason to seek this one out to read?! It is a GREAT read. It was fascinating, absorbing, compelling. I've read a dozen or so books--mainly for young readers, I admit--about the civil rights movement, yet I still found myself learning things I hadn't known before. I love to learn as a I read. And it is so beautifully written, the narrative voice is just outstanding. A typical spread includes one poem and an illustration by Ekua Holmes.

Would I recommend it??? YES!
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ruby Lee and Me

Ruby Lee & Me. Shannon Hitchcock. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved, loved, loved Shannon Hitchock's Ruby Lee and Me. This middle grade historical novel is set in the 1969, I believe. It will be a year of BIG change for the heroine, Sarah Beth Willis. School integration is probably one of the least of her worries. First, her sister, Robin, is run over by a car. Sarah worries a lot. Will her sister die? will she wake up from the coma? Will she walk and run and play again? Will her sister blame her for the accident? Will her parents blame her for the accident? Can she ever forgive herself for reading a library book instead of keeping both eyes on her sister every single moment of the afternoon? Second, because of finances, her family will be moving in with her grandparents. Now Sarah loves, loves, loves to visit the family farm and to spend time with each of her grandparents. But to move away from her house, her room, her school, her neighborhood, her friends and to have to start all over again in a new place?! It's scary. The one person she does know--and is quite good friends with--is the one person the adults in her life tell her she CAN'T spend time with in town, at school: Ruby Lee.

Ruby Lee's grandma and Sarah's grandma grew up as friends, and, are still quite close--in their own way, in their own private, behind-the-scenes way. But whites and blacks can't be friends publicly and openly, can they?! School integration is happening in the fall. Ruby Lee and Sarah Beth will be in the same class. Sarah really wants to be at-school friends too. Ruby Lee is hesitant. Does Sarah know what she's getting herself into? Is it something she's comfortable with too? Tension is only getting worse between races: for the school will be getting African American teachers as well as students. And Sarah and Ruby Lee will be taught by an African American. A lot of parents are, at the very, very least concerned, and, at worst, ANGRY and upset by this. Sarah's family is fine with this, by the way.

Ruby Lee and Me is about race and school integration. But it isn't only about that. It is about friendship and family. How do you make a friend? How do you keep a friend? How do friends help one another? When is a friendship worth fighting for or standing up for? How do friends resolve disagreements and fights? I liked the focus on Ruby Lee and Sarah Beth. But I also appreciated the family focus. I loved getting to know Sarah, Robin, the grandparents, and parents. I also appreciated the community librarian! Readers do get a first impression of the teacher as well. Part of me wishes the book followed the girls past meet the teacher night and well into their school year.

Another aspect of the novel was faith--faith in GOD. I loved that aspect of it. Not enough books today are written with a good, strong, solid Christian faith tradition. The family's faith is presented realistically and naturally.

Anyone looking for a historical coming-of-age novel with strong characterization should read Ruby Lee and Me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Waiting

Waiting. Kevin Henkes. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There were five of them. And they were waiting....

Premise/plot: A collection of toys sit on a window sill and wait. Most toys are waiting for something specific, but, not all. Some just like looking out the window at anything and everything. There is some sense of companionship among the toys, but, I wouldn't necessarily call this one friendship-themed.

My thoughts: Unique, yes, I think it is. Simple too. But at times, I found it charming and sweet. This is sometimes conveyed by the text of the story. One of my favorite lines is, "When it finally snowed, the puppy was happy. He'd waited a very long time." But I'd say that most of the charm is conveyed by the illustrations. (Both text and illustrations are by Kevin Henkes.) One of my favorite scenes is when the toys are all shown "sleeping" on the sill. And in another scene, the toys are shown huddled together--afraid--because of the storm outside. It is more expressive than you might at first think.

I'd recommend it easily to anyone who enjoys Henkes' work. Is it my personal favorite by him? I'd say no. It is not an action-packed, make-you-laugh-out-loud book to share with children. It is a quieter, subtler read instead. Nice doesn't have to be a bad thing in terms of describing a book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Odds of Getting Even

The Odds of Getting Even. Sheila Turnage. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely am a fan of the Tupelo Landing middle grade mystery series by Sheila Turnage. It isn't so much the plots that I love, love, love. At best, I really like them. At worst, I just "like" them. Instead, it is the characters, the narration, the dialogue, the setting that I love, love, love. Turnage has created a whole community for readers to connect with, to love. And it is the whole community--carried over from book to book to book--that has me hooked on the series.

Mo Lobeau (the heroine) has a detective agency with two of her good friends, Dale, and Harm. They've solved a case (or two) in each book. And their work has consequences, as, readers learn in this one. The book seems to be more about the aftermath of previous cases in a way. But they are definitely ACTIVE in this book. Crimes are plentiful in town. And these sixth graders are just as active as the police detective in trying to solve them...

Would recommend the series. But be sure to read in order! This one, I think, wouldn't do as a stand-alone.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's On Your Nightstand? February


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.

Truman. David McCullough. 1992. Simon & Schuster. 1120 pages. [Source: Bought]

Such a THICK book. I originally had it as a library book. But decided to buy it when I saw it for $3.50 at my local charity book shop!

Tru and Nelle. G. Neri. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This one is a fictionalized account of the childhood friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee. It is good so far.

A Sudden Fearful Death. Anne Perry. 1993. Random House. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

I am LOVING this series. This is the fourth in the mystery series starring William Monk.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm

McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1985/1997. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

This early chapter book features three "tall tales" by Sid Fleischman. The three tall tales are "McBroom Tells the Truth," "McBroom and the Big Wind," and "McBroom's Ear." Here's how the first story begins: "There has been so much tomfool nonsense told about McBroom's wonderful one-acre farm that I had better set matters straight. I'm McBroom. Josh McBroom. I'll explain about the watermelons in a minute." I don't know about you, but this one had me at hello. I got the impression that the book would be funny and charming and quirky and unique. I wasn't wrong either!

The first story explains how the McBroom family came to own a "one-acre farm." He bought, or thought he was buying EIGHTY acres. But he was tricked into buying an 80-acre deep bog. But the joke isn't on him, for as luck would have it, a "dry spell" reveals that the topsoil is so rich, it should be kept in a bank. All three stories focus on how wonderful-and-magical this farm is.

I really loved all three stories. This one is a great book to share with young readers.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, February 22, 2016

She is Mine

She Is Mine: A War Orphans' Incredible Journey of Survival by Stephanie Fast. 2015. Destiny Ministries. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Stephanie Fast's She is Mine is a compelling, unforgettable memoir of a Korean war-orphan.

Her father, whom she never met, was an American soldier. He returned to the U.S. unaware that he was going to be a father. Her mother, ashamed and embarrassed, returned to her family. Initially beloved of her mother, the author was shunned by the rest of the family and shunned by the community in which she spent her early years. Eventually, her mother gave into the family pressure and abandoned her. The author was--at the age of four--put on a train and sent away. Told that "an uncle" would welcome her at the end of the line, the truth was she would never see her family again, never find her way back "home."

She had the clothes on her back, and, a day's worth of food. But how can a four-year-old survive on her own? But survive she did. The book chronicles the years--three or four years, I believe--she spent surviving, leading an uncertain, always desperate existence. Sometimes wandering in the country, in the fields; sometimes wandering into villages and cities. Usually her encounters with other people were negative. It went beyond her early-years experience of name-calling and "shunning." She was beaten. She was tortured. She was left to die. And yet. There were a few people who treated her kindly, with grace, who emphatically declared you must survive.

The memoir goes to really dark, really ugly places. I won't lie. Some of what she endured is horrifying and the fact that she was able to survive is a miracle.

She is Mine is ABOUT adoption, about the need for adoption, about how life-changing and amazing adoption can be. It's about adoption-as-redemption and redemption-as-adoption.

For anyone who enjoys nonfiction, this one is a must read.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Library Loot: Mid-February

New Loot:
  • Cupid by Julius Lester
  • Day of Tears by Julius Lester
  • How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson
  • Little Cat's Luck by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Cain His Brother by Anne Perry
  • Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
  • Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul
  • Gospel by J.D. Greear
  • Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
  • Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke
  • What Women Fear by Angie Smith
  • Love Wins by Rob Bell
  • The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay
  • The Great Influenza by John Barry
  • Already Gone by Ken Ham, Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard
  • Weighed in the Balance by Anne Perry
  • The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
  • Sherlock Homes and the Needle's Eye by Len Bailey
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
  • Taking God at His Word by Kevin deYoung

Leftover Loot:
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  • My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  • My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody 
  • The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan  
  • Blood Royal by Eric Jager
  • A Sudden, Fearful Death by Anne Perry
  • Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron
  • The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Nurse Matilda the Collected Tales by Christianna Brand
  • The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
              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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Peppa Pig and the Lucky Ducks

Peppa Pig and the Lucky Ducks. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peppa and George have come to visit the ducks. They see 1 pond, but the ducks aren't home.

Premise/plot: After concluding that the ducks have gone on an adventure, Peppa and George decide to make an adventure of FINDING ducks. Their adventure will have them counting all the way to twenty. Will these two find the missing ducks?

My thoughts: I love, love, love the characters from Peppa Pig. (Peppa, George, Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Grandpa, etc.) This picture book is a concept book--counting, one to twenty--featuring the characters from the TV show. It has a slight story to it: they're on a duck-hunt. But it is primarily a concept book.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Dangerous Mourning

A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk #2). Anne Perry. 1992. 344 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, loved, LOVED A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry. Reading this second William Monk mystery made me want to read everything Perry has ever written--at least her historical mysteries. It was so good, it was near-perfect. I loved, loved, loved the characters of William Monk and Hester Latterly. I like that the first-and-second books flow into one another so smoothly. I like how characters from the first book have carried over into the second book. I like that the series seems to be so much more than just another cozy mystery series. The author seems just as determined to appeal to historical fiction fans as mystery fans.

For those that haven't read the first book, this is what you need to know:

1) William Monk is the hero, the detective.
2) After a bad accident (which occurs BEFORE the first book opens), he has NO MEMORIES of his former life.
3) He knows that he was/is a police detective. He knows that he was respected but far from liked. His boss HATES him.
4) He meets Evans, the sergeant underneath him, his partner. Evans actually seems to genuinely like him and looks up to him.
5) Monk looks for clues to his own past as he continues to work for the police department on new cases.
6) Monk meets Hester Latterly, a nurse with Crimean War experience, and the two clash for the most part. (Think Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.)
7) Hester is very SMART, very OPINIONATED, very OBSERVANT, very LIKABLE. I was thrilled to see her in the second book too.

The mystery of the second book: Sir Basil's married/widowed daughter, Octavia Haslett, was murdered in her bedroom one night. Monk is assigned to the case. Everyone is assuming/presuming that an outsider, a burglar, broke into the house and killed her. But Monk finds no proof that it was an outside job, instead, all the evidence is showing him that someone IN the house committed the crime. Readers get to know the family (quite dysfunctional) and the servants (upstairs and downstairs servants) as the mystery continues....

I loved this book. I did. I definitely loved the first book too. But this one I loved even more. This one I found to be completely gush-worthy.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Flying Feet

Flying Feet. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2011. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Flying Feet is the third book in Patricia Reilly Giff's Zigzag Kids series. The books are loosely connected, I believe, by the fact that all the main characters attend the same school, Zelda A. Zigzag elementary school. But the books do not share main characters. The third book is narrated by Charlie, and, I think by far Charlie is my favorite narrator--at least so far.

Charlie HATES, HATES, HATES to be compared to his big brother, Larry, who also attended Zelda Z. Zigzag school. But no matter how much he hates it, it seems to be something that is unavoidable. His teachers seem clueless as to how annoying and frustrating this is!!!

The after school program is planning 'Come as A Character Day' and Charlie seems to be picked on by the teachers to help out with this project. He is so not excited by the idea of dressing up as a character...in fact, he wouldn't mind if the project was a total flop....or would he?!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde (#3) Shannon and Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2016. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am definitely liking the Princess in Black series by Shannon and Dean Hale. I like the third title in the series, The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde, even better than the second perhaps. (Though I did like meeting Princess Sneezewort in the second book. I wouldn't mind if she became a series regular!)

The book opens with Princess Magnolia and Frimplepants on their way to have brunch with Princess Sneezewort and her pet, Sir Hogswell. Frimplepants may be even more excited about brunch than Princess Magnolia. But, predictably, the two don't make it in time for brunch. Instead, the monster alarm goes off, and the two dash to the secret cave to emerge The Princess in Black and Blacky. The two arrive thinking to find MONSTERS. But all the Princess can see before her eyes are CUTE, ADORABLE, SWEET, LOVABLE BUNNIES. But Duff the Goat Boy insists that the bunnies ARE monsters. She's not convinced.

Who is right? The Princess in Black or Duff the Goat Boy?! Are the bunnies all they appear to be?! Or could the bunnies prove disastrous?!

I enjoyed this one very much. It definitely reminded me of "The Trouble with Tribbles."
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend. Michelle Cuevas. 2015. Penguin. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy Michelle Cuevas' Confessions of An Imaginary Friend? Yes, for the most part. It is narrated by an imaginary friend who, at first, has no idea that he is imaginary. His name is Jacques Papier.

So the book is a "coming of age" story for an imaginary friend. If he's not "real" if he's the product of someone's very active imagination, then does he "really" exist at all. If he's not real, what is he, if anything? Can he stop being *her* imaginary friend, and, become someone himself? What does freedom for an imaginary friend look like? And what happens to imaginary friends when the child that imagines them grows up? Where do they go? What do they do? Do they cease to exist? Or are they in some way reborn? We get answers to most of these questions at least. And we meet some interesting people...some real...some imaginary like our hero.

The book, as a whole, reminded me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. And I mean that in the best way possible; I know not everyone is a fan of Edward Tulane.

I liked it. I did. I definitely liked it. I'm not sure at this point if it's love, LOVE. But it was cute.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Echo

Echo. Pam Munoz Ryan. 2015. Scholastic. 592 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan? Yes. I found it both unique and compelling. Echo is unique in that it has three-in-one feel to it. Essentially Echo being three middle-grade novels in one. The three are held together by a fairy-tale-esque frame of a story, and, also a physical object: an harmonica. The framework of the story would lead me to think of it as "fantasy" or magical realism. But without that framework--which consists of just a few pages at the beginning and the end--the book IS historical fiction. Nothing happens within the three stories that couldn't--wouldn't--happen in the real world.

The book has three main characters. Friedrich living in Nazi Germany in the early 1930s; Mike living in Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s; Ivy living in California in the early 1940s. Music is a big part of each story, and, each have played the same harmonica.

So which story did I find most compelling? That's not a fair question at all! Friedrich perhaps would be my answer. He is very gifted, but, also publicly and privately shamed because of a birthmark and the fact that he had had epilepsy as a baby/toddler. His "imperfections" may prove too costly for him and his family with Hitler now in control. That and the fact that his father--a musician--is friendly with Jews. Is he "different"? Yes. But in a good way--a BRILLIANT way. When he hears a piece of music, he really HEARS it and REMEMBERS it. And he can play and replay it in his mind, it can "continue" to sweep him away each time. And the fact that he likes to pretend to conduct the music he hears in his head, well, that makes him horribly odd to outsiders. A handful of adults really see him as something special, but, others see him as an embarrassment, a disgrace, a mistake. This story had a few heartbreaking scenes in it. Scenes with the sister, Elizabeth, for example.

The other two stories are set in America. Mike's story features him and his little brother--both orphans. Both are musically gifted which proves to be fortunate. For a wealthy woman has to adopt a musical boy into her family in order to inherit her father's money. The problem? She doesn't *want* to be reminded of heartbreak in her own past. Can Mike and Frankie thaw her heart? Ivy's story is definitely centered on World War II. Her story is slightly more complex than the other two to summarize clearly. Essentially, Ivy (and her family) are Hispanic. They have moved a LOT through Ivy's young life. But the father receives an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If he will manage a piece of property for another family--a Japanese-American family being forced to resettle in an internment camp--then he will be hired on as manager or kept on as manager after the war and receive a small bit of property/house. The family experiences some prejudice after the move. Ivy can't attend school with white children. But she can participate in after school activities at the main school--including orchestra.

Overall, this one worked for me. Perhaps some scenes are better--stronger--than others. It is a long novel for middle-graders. As I said, it's like three-in-one! But I essentially enjoyed it


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Library Loot: The First Half of February

New Loot:
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  • My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • Dance! Dance! Underpants by Bob Shea
  • Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson
  • My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody 
  • The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan
Leftover Loot:
  • N or M? by Agatha Christie
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  • Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
  • Blood Royal by Eric Jager
  • A Sudden, Fearful Death by Anne Perry
  • Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron
  • The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh by Kathryn Aalto
  • The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Nurse Matilda the Collected Tales by Christianna Brand
  • The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
            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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

First Love

First Love. 14 Warm and Glowing Stories Selected by Gay Head. 1963. Scholastic Book Services. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]

First Love is a vintage collection of short stories compiled by Gay Head for Scholastic in 1963. All of the stories chosen had been previously published in magazines. Most of the stories first appeared in the 1950s, though a few come from the 1940s and early 1960s. (If Barbie were real, this is the kind of book I could see her reading.)

The theme of this collection, is, of course, first love or young love. Some of the stories are narrated from the girl's perspective; some are, however, narrated from the guy's perspective. There is a pair of stories "Sixteen" and "Eighteen" that go together. "Sixteen" by Maureen Daly tells the girl's side of the story--how she went skating one winter's day, was suddenly grasped around the waist by a cute boy, and how they skated and chatted together for what seems like hours. He walked her home. He said he'd call. But he never did. "Eighteen" by Charlie Brodie tells HIS side of the story. Most of the stories are not interconnected.

One of my favorite stories is "Prelude" by Lucille Vaughan Payne. Essentially, this is a clean version of Valley Girl that predates the movie by quite a few decades. Nancy Hollister, the heroine, falls for Stephen Karoladis to the dismay of her popular friends. He is an absolute genius when it comes to music, playing the piano, to be exact. Nancy feels about music the same way he does--it's like they are meant to be. But. He is poor--really, truly poor, work after school as a janitor poor. He will never dress like her friends. And he'll never be able to afford to take her out to the places that her friends go with their dates. But the connection they feel is true and deep and strong. What will happen when he asks her to the prom? Will she go with him knowing that her friends will laugh and mock and bully?! This short story doesn't conclude with "Melt With You" but it ends well all the same! Since I'll never watch Valley Girl again, most likely, I'm glad to have found a clean alternative that puts a grin on my face.

Another favorite story is "Theme Song" by Dave Grubb. In this one, a young girl falls for a soldier with a broken heart or "broken heart." He's received a letter that "his girl" has taken up with someone new. Though there was a time he loved playing "their song" on the jukebox over and over and over and over again...he discovers that the "B side" of the record had never been played....much to Edith's delight. Hearts mend, and new love stories begin...

One of the more unusual stories in this collection, one that brings to mind the Sesame Street song "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other," is Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. This "romantic" short story is about a machine--a computer--who falls in love. It's more complicated than that. The narrator and the computer both fall in love with the same girl. And it's a science-fiction twist to Cyrano de Bergerac if you will. (The computer writes the poems that make the girl fall for the narrator.)

Essentially readers who discover this vintage, out-of-print, title will discover a LOT of variety. Each story is unique. Some stories are a bit odder than others.

"Blue Valentine" by Mary Gibbons comes to mind! In this story, a guy with great intentions doesn't think through his gift choice. Angelo, the hero of the story, is essentially a good, thoughtful guy. He wants his Valentine's Day gift to his girlfriend to be extraordinarily WONDERFUL, the best of the best, the best that his money can buy. But this gift gets him in BIG TROUBLE with her family. His choice? Well, Gibbons left that a mystery for readers to solve until the last few pages of this short story--probably for some shock value. So I'll do the same.

Another 'odd' story, for me, was The Walnut Trees a story about a girl's BIG, BIG crush on a teacher. (Hint: Don't cut your teacher's yearbook photo out and put it in a heart locket. It is SURE to fall off, open, and HIM be the one to pick it up and hand it back to you!)

Each story has a description of sorts, or tagline. I'll include these for each story:
  • Stardust by Virginia Laughlin: Her heart went into orbit when she looked at him...
  • A Girl Called Charlie by William Kehoe: She thought that her whole future depended on one date...
  • Blue Valentine by Mary Gibbons: Angelo found the wrong gift for the right girl...
  • The Walnut Trees by Virginia Akin: A dream can be fashioned from cobwebs...
  • Once Upon A Pullman by Florence Jane Soman: Instant charm was not his secret of success...
  • Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Can a machine fall in love? This one did...
  • Sixteen by Maureen Daly: As she saw it...
  • Eighteen by Charlie Brodie: His side of the story...
  • Prelude by Lucille Vaughan Payne: Music gave her the answer...
  • Tomboy by Gertrude Schweitzer: She thought parties were stupid until one special night...
  • Bittersweet by Arlene Hale: It takes time to forget...
  • Who is Sylvia? by Laura Nelson Baker: Her name was like a haunting melody...
  • Theme Song by Dave Grubb: The young soldier might be the answer to Edith's dreams...
  • Tough Guy by Peter Brackett: He wore a chip on his shoulder to hide the secret in his heart...
Though the taglines might seem over-the-top ridiculous, the stories in this book were actually quite good and in some ways timeless. Some are better than others, I won't lie. But there were a few I really LOVED. And overall, it was even better than I thought it would be.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Peppa Pig and The I Love You Game

Peppa Pig and the I Love You Game. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "It's Valentine's Day!" says Mummy Pig.

Premise/plot: In celebration of Valentine's Day, Peppa Pig and her family name all of the many, many, many things they love. For example, Daddy Pig loves to make pancakes and George likes dinosaurs, or dine-saw, as the case may be. Peppa may just be the most vocal in the family. She names DOZENS of things that she loves. What will top her list? Can you guess?

My thoughts: I liked it well enough. I don't really think any Valentine's-Day themed book is going to top my best of list. But Peppa Pig is cute, fun, adorable. I love, love, love the TV show. And I'm almost always glad to see new picture books being released starring Peppa and her family. Anyone who enjoys the show will find this one fun, in my opinion. However, if you've never, ever seen the show, then this picture book will probably not quite work for you. Part of the fun is HEARING the characters talk and knowing their stories and backstories.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rise of the Wolf (2016)

Rise of the Wolf. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was excited to read Rise of the Wolf, the sequel to Mark of the Thief. (I did not reread Mark of the Thief in order to 'prepare' for this one. But after the first two or three chapters, I found myself managing just fine to remember the characters and the details.)

Nic is the hero of the story. He's a former runaway slave who is now staying with his sometimes-good-sometimes-quite-evil grandfather, Radulf.

Livia is the younger sister of the hero. She is not as defiant perhaps as Nic, but, she is more loyal to her brother than her grandfather. (The two did just meet their grandfather, and they know that he was plotting against Rome.)

Aurelia is probably the strongest female character in the book, and Nic's potential love interest as well. She is resourceful, stubborn, and never backs away from a fight. Nic mostly trusts her intentions, but, sometimes--only sometimes--would prefer her to stay far, far away from the danger.

Crispus is someone Nic has a hard time fully trusting. He is Valerius' son. Valerius was a tricky sort of 'friend' to Nic in the first book. Nic is jealous--does he have cause?--that Aurelia is friends with Crispus. Crispus declares himself mostly-mainly loyal to Nic, unless, Nic should suddenly become a traitor-ish threat to the Roman empire, in which case Crispus would have a hard time still supporting him.

Radulf is a Roman general. His loyalties are definitely questionable. He's power-hungry, ambitious, and not above using his grandson to get what he wants. He doesn't make the best first impression...or second impression. When the book opens, readers learn that he chains his grandson up at night in his room so that he can't escape.

The Praetors. The super-bad guys who are after Nic for the entire book. They want Nic to give them the key so they can find the MALICE. And once they have the MALICE and the BULLA, they want Nic to make them a JUPITER STONE. These are all magical items that wield great power and threaten to destroy life as everyone knows it--completely upsetting the Roman empire.

The plot is simple: As Nic continues to learn and use magic, his life is threatened by the Praetors. If the Praetors didn't have his mother as prisoner, Nic might consider running away from his problems with his sister and friends. But. He wants to save everyone he loves. And this leads him into dozens of confrontations with the bad guys. He has dozens of close-calls. A few of these close calls involve chariot races. But not all of them. There is a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE battle at the end. And the book ends in a crime-worthy cliffhanger.

So did I like it or love it? I think I found it super-compelling as I was reading it. I found the ending frustrating because it was just WRONG to end the book the way she does. But. I found it action-packed and interesting. I mentioned that Aurelia was a love-interest, but, I want to point out there is more action than romance. There are one or two scenes where feelings are discussed, but, it is far from being a romance novel.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Big Whopper

Big Whopper. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2010. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Big Whopper is the second book in Patricia Reilly Giff's Zigzag Kids series. The books are loosely connected, I believe, by the fact that all the main characters attend the same school, Zelda A. Zigzag elementary school. But the books do not share main characters. The book is narrated by Destiny Washington.

The theme this week for the after-school program at the school is discovery. Students are being encouraged to share what they've discovered with others on an art-project in the hall. Destiny Washington, the heroine, is discouraged and frustrated. She doesn't think she'll have even one discovery to share with others. In general, she's having a hard time of it. A few poor choices have her really down. Can she find a way to turn things around? A secondary story focuses on a cat...

While I enjoyed this one slightly more than the first book in the series, I still can't say that I am enjoying the series overall.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty. Troy Andrews. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Trombone Shorty is a picture book biography of Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, a jazz musician from New Orleans. It is illustrated by Bryan Collier. Perhaps I should say BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by Bryan Collier. I have a weakness for illustrations this beautiful. I do. I can't help it.

I also tend to read picture book biographies of jazz musicians. If you read a lot of picture books, you know that there are new ones every year. If you don't read a lot of picture books, well, you might just be surprised at how many picture books are biographies of musicians past and present--not just jazz musicians, but all sorts of musicians. I'm not sure why, but, I think it is perhaps because picture books lend themselves so very well to rhythm and rhyme.

So did I enjoy this picture book? Yes! Very much. I loved the illustrations, as I've mentioned. And I love the focus on mentoring and legacies and heritage. One of the points the author stresses is that musicians help younger musicians, they should help younger musicians. They can teach; they can inspire; they can provide opportunities. He was helped along from a very young age. And this picture book pays tribute to those who helped him, who influenced him, who guided him. The author's note also mentions how he is eager to do the same for a new generation of musicians.

This one is definitely easy to recommend.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Mio, My Son

Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

Here's how Mio, My Son begins: "Did you listen to the radio on October 15th last year? Did you hear the news about a boy who disappeared? This is what it said: 'Police in Stockholm are searching for a nine-year-old boy missing from his home, at 13 North Street, since 6.P.M. two days ago. Karl Anders Nilsson has light hair and blue eyes. At the time of his disappearance he was wearing brown shorts, a gray sweater, and a small red cap. Anyone with more information on his whereabouts should contact the police.'"

I don't even know why, but, something about that opening paragraph grabbed me. I wanted to read more. I knew nothing about the book, but I knew I wanted to make time to read it. (When was the last time you got hooked into a book?! I'd love to hear about it!)

So, you might think based on the opening paragraph that Mio, My Son was realistic fiction. That it was perhaps a bit on the dark side, and, that it would perhaps involve a kidnapping. Unless you've read reviews of it, you might not be expecting to find a FAIRY-TALE like fantasy novel set not in the 'real world' but in Farawayland. I know I was surprised--quite pleasantly--to find that Mio, My Son IS a fantasy novel.

The hero of this one is a boy sometimes called 'Andy' but usually called MIO. He is the 'missing boy.' He is narrating his own story, and doing it in his own way. The narrative voice is quite strong, in my opinion.

Now, I will warn readers that sometimes Mio repeats himself. For example, "I must go there to fight Sir Kato, though I was so scared, so scared." Some readers might find this an unforgivable sin. I don't. Not in this case at least. I didn't find it as annoying as a written stutter, for example. Perhaps because it mainly occurs when Mio is thinking about or talking about Sir Kato. It doesn't occur on every page.

So essentially, the book is Mio's adventures in Farawayland. The first half of the book is mostly light and joyous. Nothing heavy or dark. The second half of the book, however, is much more dramatic and dark. THINK Lord of the Rings only for a much younger audience. Mio has a mission to accomplish, something that only HE, as a royal son, can do. And it is seemingly impossible and very daunting. Mio must make up his mind to be brave and determined and risk everything for his mission.

Mio is not alone. He has a best friend, Pompoo, and a horse, Miramis. And, there is, of course, his father THE KING, who I personally LOVED.

So did I like this one? Did I love it? Did I love, love, LOVE it? I think I definitely loved it. I loved it for the narrative, for the descriptive language, for the imagery. I really loved the imagery of the Bread That Satisfies Hunger and the Well That Quenches Thirst. Also I really liked the Well That Whispers at Night. The first two images reminded me of Scripture. (John 4:13-14; John 6:35) The sacrificial nature of the mission also reminded me of Scripture. I'm not convinced it can only, always be read as an "allegory" (think The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). But as a Christian reader, I saw how it could be interpreted that way.

I think anyone can appreciate the imagery of the Well That Whispers At Night:

A whisper began deep, deep down in the well. It was such a strange voice, unlike any other voice. It whispered fairy tales. They weren't like any other fairy tales, and they were the most beautiful stories in the whole world. There was almost nothing that I loved more than listening to fairy tales, so I lay down flat on my stomach, leaning over the edge of the well to hear more and more of the voice that whispered. Sometimes it sang too, the strangest and most beautiful songs.
"What strange kind of well is this?" I said to Totty.
"A well full of fairy tales and songs. That's all I know," said Totty. "A well full of old stories and songs that have existed in the world for a long time, but that people forgot a long time ago. It is only the Well That Whispers at Night that remembers them all."
Here's another favorite passage:
I understood then for the first time that I never needed to be afraid of my father the King, that whatever I did he would always look at me kindly, like he was doing now as he stood there with his hand on the Master Rose Gardener's shoulder and with all the white birds flying around him. And when I understood him, I was happier than I'd ever been before in my life. I was so glad that I laughed quite hard.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, February 08, 2016

Two Friends

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. 2016. Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. 2016. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Susan B. Anthony set out two saucers, two cups, and two slices of cake. Frederick Douglass arrived for tea.

Premise/plot: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were friends. This picture book for older readers imagines these two sitting down and enjoying tea together. Readers learn facts about Susan B. Anthony and facts about Frederick Douglass. Readers can see what these two had in common and why they supported one another.

My thoughts: I liked it. This one reminded me of last year's Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes. But I happened to like this one a bit better. Instead of trying to force all the biographical facts into dialogue, this book devotes a few pages per person. Readers still learn a little bit about each one. But it doesn't feel as forced perhaps, at least in my opinion. This one was also not as text-heavy.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Bedtime Blastoff!

Bedtime Blastoff! Luke Reynolds. Illustrated by Mike Yamada. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A bed. A boy. His daddy. "Bedtime?" "Not yet!" A train…a conductor…His full-steam-ahead!

Premise/plot: A little boy isn't quite ready for bed yet. He and his dad have a LOT of playing to do…together.
My thoughts: I am so glad I didn't judge this book by its cover. I wasn't expecting to like it very much. But I gave it a chance and decided to go ahead and read it. The first few pages hooked me. It was GOOD. What did I like about it? The simplicity of the text. So much is communicated in just a few words. I liked the creative, imaginative play. I enjoyed the relationship between father and son. It was just sweet without being super-sticky sweet. And the illustrations may not have wowed me at first. I did appreciate the clues they provide.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, February 05, 2016

Posy the Puppy

Posy the Puppy (Dr. Kitty Cat #1) Jane Clarke. 2016. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was most impressed with Jane Clarke's new series Dr. KittyCat. Posy the Puppy is the first title in the series. The premise is simple and fun. Dr. KittyCat is a cat who is a vet. In this first book, she and her nurse, Peanut, see several animal patients. In particular, they see Posy the puppy, who is mysteriously sick and unable to compete in a Field Day competition. Can Dr. KittyCat help Posy feel better? Will Posy be able to compete after all?

I think the book is super-sweet, super-adorable, super-fun. The illustrations use "real" pictures of animals in their mostly purple illustrations. The fact that I love, love, love cats, I like animals, and I love the color purple, well, it helps me really love this new chapter book.

Chapter books and series books are both important stages in the learning to read, learning to love to read process. Do you remember which books you read as a child that helped you learn to love reading?
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Number One Kid

Number One Kid. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2010. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Number One Kid is the first book in Patricia Reilly Giff's Zigzag Kids series. The books are loosely connected, I believe, by the fact that all the main characters attend the same school, Zelda A. Zigzag elementary school. But the books do not share main characters. This first book is narrated by Mitchell McCabe. Mitchell, for better or worse, tends to think of himself as a loser. He doesn't see himself at being particularly "good" at any one thing. Will participating in the after-school program help him change how he sees himself? It isn't like he has a choice in the matter--he has to attend the after-school program regardless. But the good news is, it turns out he actually likes the after school program.

If you're looking for good, strong, deep characterization, this series will probably prove disappointing. If you're looking for extremely light, but widely diverse characterization, you probably will find it satisfying enough. I have to be honest and say that I found the characterization to be very light, and, the plot very light as well. So it isn't that this is a plot-driven, action-driven read at the expense of characterization. What it does have in its favor perhaps is the fact that it is short and illustrated. Also the book does tend to focus on friendship and teamwork and getting along.  

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Roller Girl

Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Do I typically read graphic novels? Not really. I want to admit that from the very beginning of this review! I might average about two or three a year. And I usually just read the ones that are getting Newbery buzz or actually do get a Newbery or Newbery Honor. Roller Girl IS a graphic novel. It IS a Newbery Honor book for 2016.

Roller Girl is a coming-of-age graphic novel set mainly in the summer as the heroine, Astrid, goes to Roller Derby summer camp. Astrid is a bit angsty that her friend, Nicole, is no longer her best-best friend who wants to do every little thing with her. For example, Nicole does NOT want to go to roller derby camp, she wants to go to dance camp. She also wants to start hanging out with and dating boys. Astrid? Not really her thing--at least not yet. There is some jealousy mixed in with frustration. It isn't just that Nicole is interested in different hobbies. It is that Nicole is spending time--a lot of time--with other people. And one of those people she's now spending a LOT of time with is her nemesis, Rachel. Rachel and Astrid have some ancient history--way back in second grade, I believe?!

Astrid is confused and frustrated and moody and angry and DETERMINED. Roller derby is, by far, the hardest thing she's ever done--ever attempted. And it does not come easy. She is not a natural on skates--not by any stretch of the imagination. And it is physically, emotionally, mentally challenging to her. She WANTS it so bad that she pushes, pushes, pushes to improve. It is because she struggles that I believe she is so relatable.

I also liked how Astrid begins to make other friends outside of Nicole, and, that she is given the opportunity to find her own thing, to become her own person. True, part of that journey involves dyeing her hair BLUE. But having blue hair isn't the "worst" of her crimes--in the eyes of her mom. It is the fact that Astrid is less than honest. Still, I think the two are depicted as having a mostly-positive relationship. Which is nice to see in fiction. That Moms and daughters can get along and talk through their differences.

Astrid also finds a mentor--of sorts--in Rainbow Bite. Readers do learn a good bit about the sport of Roller Derby.

So overall, I enjoyed the characterization. I enjoyed the coming-of-age aspect of it. And despite the fact that it is a graphic novel, and, despite the fact that it is sports-focused, I did enjoy it. I read it quickly, in one setting.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Settings


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
1. Regency England. I *tend* to love books set during the Regency period in England. Georgette Heyer wrote some GREAT romances set during this period. Also Anne Perry's William Monk mystery series is set at this time.

2. Victorian England. I *tend* to love books written by Victorians. (Think Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, etc.) But I also tend to enjoy historical fiction set during this period.

3. World War II. If a book is set during World War II--in any country--chances are I'm going to be curious and willing to read it. That's not to say it's a guaranteed five stars! I have read hundreds of books set during this time period.

4. 1930s-1940s--England or America. Perhaps because of my interest in World War II, I do tend to read books set prior and directly after the war. 1930s fiction set in America is often focused on the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl or the like. And 1930s fiction set in England or Europe is about the political tension of the times.

5. Middle Ages. England. Think 15th and 16th centuries. Think SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR. I have read dozens of books about the War of Roses. And a handful on the Tudors (boo, hiss, Henry VII and Henry VIII).

6. Edwardian England. And World WAR I. While not "my favorite" historical period to read about, I have read some really good books set during this time period. And I am always on the look out for more!

7. Pioneer Stories. America. I love "going west" and "living out west" stories.

8. Georgian England. Some of Georgette Heyer's romances are set during this period. Also books like The Scarlet Pimpernel.

9. Scotland. I would love to see Edward Rutherfurd write a HUGE saga set in Scotland.

10.  France. I'm not sure if I like historical fiction set in France so much as I enjoy reading French classics like The Three Musketeers and Les Miserables. But I've reviewed a good handful of books set in France at various historical periods, so make the list it does!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Supertruck

Supertruck. Stephen Savage. 2015. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The city is full of brave trucks.

Premise/plot: The garbage truck is the star of this book about "brave trucks" in the city. True, you won't find him among the three brave trucks shown on the first page. The three "brave" trucks are the fire truck, the bucket truck, and the tow truck. But Garbage Truck is brave all the same even if the other trucks are unaware of his secret identity. Essentially, the book shows what happens in the city when a BIG, BIG snow storm comes through. All the super-brave trucks are STUCK, STUCK, STUCK. But one truck is a SUPERTRUCK and "saves" the city. The other trucks are clueless who this HERO is...but readers know the truth.

My thoughts: I liked it. I definitely liked it. Yes, it is very, very simple. The illustrations are simple. The text is simple. The plot is simple. But it works, it all comes together and just WORKS.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, February 01, 2016

Death on the Riviera

Death on the Riviera. John Bude. 1952/2016. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
Did I enjoy reading John Bude's Death on the Riviera?! Yes! I might even go so far as to call it a gush-worthy read? Why? Purely because I found it hard to put down, and, just overall satisfying to read. Is it the best ever mystery novel? Probably not. But was it a joy to spend time with? Yes, very much.

Inspector Meredith (C.I.D) and Acting-Sergeant Freddy Strang head to Southern France in this mystery novel. They are teaming up with the local police to stop a gang of criminals from printing counterfeit money and introducing it into the currency. The prime suspect--the leader of the gang--is English. But though it is late in coming--very, very late in coming--this one is a murder mystery as well. So there are at least two 'big' stories going on in this delightful golden-age detective novel.

Why did I find it so delightful? Probably for me, the number one reason is the characters and characterization as shown off so well in the dialogue. I really, really enjoyed Freddy Strang's presence in this one. And his attempted romance was just cute and sweet in all the right ways. It was never the focus of the book, but, it was like the chocolate bits in a trail mix. I also enjoyed the setting and the plot and the solution.

The book was originally published in 1952, and it has been republished in 2016.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

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.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

Pageloads Counter

Search Book Blogs Search Engine

My Blog List

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP