Saturday, October 31, 2009

R.I.P. IV Completed


1. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness
2. Look for Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn
3. A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck
4. Vampire Kisses: The Beginning by Ellen Schreiber

Extra books:

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel (short story)
Night Runner by Max Turner
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler
Vampire A Go-Go by Victor Gischler
Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Marilyn Kaye.
Evermore by Alyson Noel
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber

Never Slow Dance With a Zombie. E. Van Lowe.
Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

My *favorite* book by far was The Ask and The Answer!!!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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October Accomplishments

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in October of 2009:

I remember cheese. I remember pizza; real pizza. Deep-dish, Chicago-style, four-cheese pizza, fresh from the oven, the cheese steaming and bubbling on top like cooling lava.

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave.

It was fun at first, playing house.

I've been wrong before.

Grandpa frowns when he plays chess, like he does when he prays.

October's Top Five Ten:

All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg.
Lips Touch Three Times. Laini Taylor.
Crossing Stones. Helen Frost.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. Lenore Look.
Love, Aubrey. Suzanne LaFleur.
Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff.
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine.
Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry.
Twenty Boy Summer. Sarah Ockler.
Strawberry Hill. Mary Ann Hoberman.

Number of Picture Books: 7

I Spy Fly Guy! Tedd Arnold. 2009. Scholastic. (Early Reader) 30 pages.
Archie and the Pirates. Marc Rosenthal. 2009. HarperCollins.
A Walk Down Sesame Street. 2009. Candlewick Press (Pop-Up/Novelty.) 16 pages.
Baby Polar by Yannick Murphy. 2009. Clarion Books.
Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman. 2009. Chronicle Books.
I Don't Want A Posh Dog by Emma Dodd. 2009. Little, Brown.
Duck and Cover. Jackie Urbanovic. 2009. HarperCollins.

Number of Board Books:

Number of Children's Books: 30

Sunny Holiday by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. 2009. Scholastic. 160 pages.
Jemma Hartman: Camper Extraordinaire. Brenda A. Ferber. 2009. FSG. 215 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. Lenore Look. Random House. 2008. 172 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters. Lenore Look. 2009. Random House. 170 pages.
The Sisters 8: Annie's Adventures. Lauren Baratz-Logsted. 2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 136 pages.
Gullible Gus. Maxine Rose Schur. 2009. Clarion Books. 48 pages. (early reader/chapter book)
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell. 2008. HarperCollins. 171 pages.
Love, Aubrey. Suzanne LaFleur. 2009. Random House. 262 pages.
Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 235 pages.
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. 2009. Penguin. 266 pages.
Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. 2009. Little, Brown. 198 pages.
Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry. 2009. Random House. 161 pages.
Ottoline Goes to School. Chris Riddell. 2009. HarperCollins. 170 pages.
Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me. Nan Marino. Roaring Brook Press. 154 pages.
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. Lauren Tarshis. 2007. Penguin. 200 pages.
Callie's Rules by Naomi Zucker. 2009. Egmont USA. 225 pages.
Signal. Cynthia DeFelice. 2009. FSG. 151 pages.
Take the Mummy and Run by Mary Amato. 2009. Holiday House. 226 pages.
Strawberry Hill. Mary Ann Hoberman. 2009. Little, Brown. 230 pages.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. Lauren Tarshis. 2009. Penguin. 169 pages.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano. Peggy Gifford. 2009. Random House. 177 pages.
Mudville. Kurtis Scaletta. 2009. 265 pages. Knopf.
Alibi Junior High. Greg Logsted. 2009. 244 pages. Simon & Schuster.
Journey of Dreams. Marge Pellegrino. 2009. Frances Lincoln Children's Books. 250 pages.
The Unfinished Angel. Sharon Creech. 2009. HarperCollins. 164 pages.
Piper Reed, Navy Brat. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 146 pages. 2007.
Piper Reed The Great Gypsy. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 160 pages. 2008
Piper Reed Gets A Job. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 160 pages. 2009.
Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally). 2009. Lisa Yee. Scholastic. 170 pages.
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies. Mick Cochrane. 2009. Random House. 177 pages.

Number of YA Books: 11

Evermore by Alyson Noel. 2009. St. Martin's Press. 306 pages.
(Re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin. 2009. Random House. 273 pages.
A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck. 2009. Penguin. 164 pages.
A Killing Frost by John Marsden. 1995. Houghton Mifflin. 275 pages.
Vampire Kisses: The Beginning. Ellen Schreiber. 2003. 2005. 2006. HarperCollins. 562 pages.
Girl in the Arena. Lise Haines. 2009. Bloomsbury. 384 pages.
Almost Perfect. Brian Katcher. 2009. Random House. 360 pages.
Twenty Boy Summer. Sarah Ockler. 2009. Little, Brown. 290 pages
Dance With A Vampire. Ellen Schreiber. 2009. HarperCollins. 178 pages.
Never Slow Dance With a Zombie. E. Van Lowe. 2009. Tor Teen. 253 pages.
Sacred Scars. Kathleen Duey. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 554 pages.

Number of Adult Books: 9

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
. Laurie Viera Rigler. 2007. 293 pages.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. 1937. 103 pages.
The Good Humor Man. Andrew Fox. 2009. 280 pages.
The Jewish Husband by Lia Levi. 2009 (date of the translation) 2001 (original publication). Europa. 209 pages.
The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York. Margaret Campbell Barnes. Sourcebooks. 336 pages.
Emily's Ghost. Denise Giardina. 2009. W.W. Norton & Company. 335 pages.
A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward, O.S.F. 2009. Sourcebooks. 350 pages.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. 2005. Random House. 464 pages.
Girl In a Blue Dress. Gaynor Arnold. 2008. Crown Publishing. 414 pages.

Number of Christian Books: 3

Though Waters Roar. Lynn Austin. 2009. Bethany House. 430 pages.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. (Audio Dramatization) Focus on the Family. 2009.
A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling. 2009. Bethany House. 367 pages.

Number of Verse Novels: 2

Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009. FSG. 184 pages.
All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg. 2009. 220 pages. Scholastic.

Number of Graphic Novels:

Number of Nonfiction: 3

Princess Tea: Parties and Treats for Little Girls
. 2009. Janeen A. Sarlin with Noelle Shipley. Chronicle Books. 120 pages.
Paula Deen's Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set. Paula Deen. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 192 pages.
If America Were A Village: A Book About the People of the United States. David J. Smith. 2009. Kids Can Press.

Number of Short Story Collections, Anthologies, Poetry Books: 1

Lips Touch Three Times. Laini Taylor. Illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo. Scholastic. 272 pages.

Movies Watched/Reviewed:

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sacred Scars


Duey, Kathleen. 2009. Sacred Scars. Simon & Schuster. 554 pages.

Sadima sat cross-legged on the cold stone, just outside the cage. She was holding her slate so the boys could see the symbol she had drawn. Most of them were trying to copy it. Two stolen lanterns hung from the iron bars above their heads, held in place by some Market Square merchant's missing tarp hooks. The rest of the vast cavern was dark.

Is magic good or bad? Is it more harmful than helpful? Should anyone be allowed to use it? Even if it is supposedly for the benefit of all? Sacred Scars is the sequel to Skin Hunger. Both books are complex. Not easily summarized. The book continues its dual narration. We have Sadima's story--her being torn between love and hate. Hating Somiss, loving Franklin, and being oh-so-confused about magic but wanting to preserve the (gypsy) songs all the same. We have Hahp, a young man, who among others, is tortuously being taught magic by the wizards. These teens (I'm assuming they are teens) are being deprived of so very much. (In a way, it reminds me of the cruelty of battle school in Ender's Game only this is five hundred times worse.) Their stories are generations apart at least--perhaps hundreds of years. Yet the two share overlapping characters. How can this be? Well, you won't really find any answers in Sacred Scars.

This is the second in the series. And I'm only assuming more is to come. Because the story does not have a resolution. Not even close. True, it doesn't end quite as cliff-hanger-y as the first one did. But still. No resolution. Over five-hundred pages and there are still more questions than answers.

I'm torn about this series. On the one hand, they're complex and (almost) always compelling. You don't always know what is going on. You don't have a clue where it's heading. But somehow you care anyway. Or maybe I should just say I cared anyway. But on the other hand, these are two very long books and we're not any closer to having the answers, to having the story make sense. I kept waiting for a time where I could finally say that all the pieces had come together. A place where I could come to appreciate the complexity of it.

One thing Kathleen Duey did do well with both books is make both narrators compelling. It's hard to do when the stories and plots are so different (in a way) from one another. In books set in two time periods it's really really hard to make the reader care about both (in my opinion). And Kathleen Duey did do that for me. So I can say it was well-written. I just wish I'd gotten more satisfaction from the experience.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Crossing Stones


Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. FSG. 184 pages.

You'd better straighten out your mind, Young Lady.

Loved, loved, loved this verse novel by Helen Frost. It's historical fiction. A drama following the lives of two families. The Jorgensens and The Normans. The year is 1917 (and 1918). We've got many narrators (both male and female), many stories. Emma and Frank Norman. Ollie and Muriel Jorgensen. Frank loves Muriel. (Does she love him like that though?) Ollie loves Emma.
But war has its own role to play in the lives of these two families. It changes everything. It changes what should be and what could be. It confuses everyone, taints everything. Will anyone be the same after it is all over?

Women's suffrage. World War I. Spanish influenza. Muriel, Ollie, and Emma are coming of age at a difficult time in American history. Muriel is arguably the strongest narrator of the bunch. She believes in peace, hates that American soldiers are getting involved in the war, hates the fact that the men in her life--Frank and Ollie--are wanting to go to war, enlisting. She's a suffragist--in her dreams at least. She supports the cause. Even though she's not actively involved in marches and protests and such. Like her aunt.

The book examines how war--this war in particular--shaped the men and women of that generation.

What did I love about this book? Just about everything! I loved the setting. Felt it very rich in detail. Loved the feeling of losing myself in another time and place. I loved getting a look at what life was like (or what it could have been like at the very least) during this time period. So much of what I read--when it comes to war--is set during World War II, so it was refreshing to see this one about World War I. It was interesting to me. Compelling. The poetry was great. Loved the different voices--each narrator was unique, and I appreciated all the different perspectives. I loved that it made me think, really think. It's one that I'd definitely recommend to those in my life that can't get enough historical fiction.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Unfinished Angel (MG)


Creech, Sharon. 2009. The Unfinished Angel. 164 pages. HarperCollins.

Peoples are strange!
The things they are doing and saying--sometimes they make no sense. Did their brains fall out of their heads? And why so much saying, so much talking all the time day and night, all those words spilling out of those mouths? Why so much? Why don't they be quiet?


This is a strange but strangely lovely little book. Very quirky. Not for everyone. But for some readers, this may be a delightful little read. It's narrated by an angel, an angel who feels a little 'unfinished' at times. He (or she for that matter, I don't know that it ever says one way or the other...at least not that I can recall) has been living in a stone tower of the Casa Rosa, a tiny village in the Swiss Alps for centuries. This angel has watched over the villagers for hundreds and hundreds of years. Sometimes choosing to get involved, and sometimes not so much. This book takes place at a time when the angel is choosing to become involved--mainly because of a lovely but lonely little girl named Zola.

Me, I am an angel. I am supposed to be having all the words in all the languages, but I am not. Many are missing. I am also not having a special assignment. I think I did not get all the training. (2)

You won't believe this, but there are peoples who pay money to other peoples to wash their hairs and even to paint colors on their toes. Is really! And in the same world of peoples there are other peoples who have to crawl in the dirt scrounging for a measly piece of garbage to eat. I am not fabbagrating. Don't get me started.
At night I swish in the heads of the peoples with the clean hairs and feets, showing them the peoples crawling in the dirt, but in the morning when the clean peoples wake up they have already forgotten. I think maybe it is my fault that they forget so quick and so it is my fault that there are peoples who have to crawl in the dirt. I am not knowing enough. What are the other angels doing?
(26-27)

I am a little crankiful when I am not sleeping well. (60)

As I said, this one might not appeal to every reader. But I think it is delightful in its own little way. I thought it was an interesting book with a unique narrative voice. The word choice and style may be a little off-putting for some readers, but it may work well with others. I know that I'll probably be borrowing words like crankiful. I only wish I'd thought to make a list of all the words I liked. Some were really quite clever.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Journey of Dreams


Pellegrino, Marge. 2009. Journey of Dreams. Frances Lincoln Children's Books. 250 pages.

Thwap, thwap, thwap. The high green branches of the pine trees shiver in the wind from teh dark green machine whirring above us. My brother Carlos scoops up Manuelito and runs toward me. With his arm around my shoulder, we flee from the dark shadow, which moves swiftly along the ground. As we approach, Mama sees us and pulls back into our ni'tzja. We follow her inside our home. Together we sit on the floor, surrounded by the rest of our family. We sit without speaking, until the sound fades and the sun leaves us.

Tomasa is our heroine, she narrates this dangerous journey taken with her family--her father, her brother, her sister--as they flee the life they've known and seek the elusive thing that is safety and freedom. Journey of Dreams is set in Central America (Guatemala to be exact.) War has upset Tomasa's life. And with the soldiers burning and destroying villages, they have little choice but to flee the life they've always known. The only way to survive is to run. The journey is dangerous...and long. Will they ever be safe? Will this family ever find a place to call home?

The book was definitely interesting. I thought it did a good job in presenting a representative story of refugees from this time period (and other time periods presumably). It's a complex story with well-drawn characters that you could connect to emotionally.

The book also includes a glossary and map--both which I found useful.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Alibi Junior High (MG)


Logsted, Greg. 2009. Alibi Junior High. Simon & Schuster. 244 pages.

I hate airports. I've been in airports all over the world, but they're basically all the same. Places of painful partings and awkward greetings.

Our hero, Cody Saron, is new to town. His father, an agent for the CIA, has left him in the care of his aunt, Jenny, and for the first time, he'll be attending a real school. He knows plenty of stuff--very smart, very observant--but he doesn't know the basics even of how to survive in junior high. How to interact with kids--both sexes--his own age. How to attend classes without getting in trouble with the teachers and coaches. Whose fault is that? Does Cody have an attitude problem? Or are the teachers seeing what they want to see? The book is from his opinion, and from his perspective at least plenty of the teachers (and principal) are jerks, they just have it in for him no matter what. (It was weird how I was getting the Speak-vibe from this one. The two have little in common. At least on the surface.) Can Cody survive his first year of junior high?

Did I like this one? Mostly. It was enjoyable. A quick and easy read for sure.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mudville (MG)


Scaletta, Kurtis. 2009. Mudville. Random House. 265 pages.

Prologue: My father says the defining moment of his life came when he was twelve-years old.
Chapter one: To understand baseball, you have to understand percentages.

Why is Moundville called Mudville? One very good reason. It's been raining every day for twenty-two years straight. It all starts with a baseball game. Moundville against Sinister Bend. A game that ends up being called for rain--a game that has yet to have a rematch. But one fourth of July, the rain stops just as suddenly and as mysteriously as it began. Can baseball games and old rivalries be too far away? Roy McGuire stars in this little book about baseball, old curses, and mixed-up families.

What did I like about this one? The premise mostly. Imagine living in a town that rained all day, every day. Imagine what it would mean to you--as a child, as a grown-up. What would that look like, feel like. What would you do the first day of your life that it didn't rain?

As a few of you may remember, I'm not all that big on sports. And if I liked baseball, this one probably would have been better for me. The only reason I kept reading was because this little book about baseball was so quirky. But not everything worked for me. I thought a few things were underdeveloped. His family for one thing. Not that this book needed to be a problem novel. I just think there are some issues--bound to be some issues--going on in Roy's life that go unaddressed here. Especially his non-relationship with his mother. Maybe it is because I so wanted this book to be about more than baseball that I started looking for different directions to shift the focus. But the truth is this one is meant to appeal to fans of baseball, boys and girls, and that not much more is needed.

Other reviews of Mudville: Semicolon.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Never Slow Dance With A Zombie (YA)


Van Lowe, E. 2009. Never Slow Dance With A Zombie. Tor Teen. 253 pages.

Do you think I'm a failure?

This one was fun. In a way. Definitely not for everybody. I think you have to have a certain sense of humor to like zombie books. Especially zombie books that are more funny than scary. (Though me, I'll take a funny zombie book over a 'scary' one any day). Our heroine Margot Jean Johnson is not happy with herself. Here it is her junior year in high school, and she has failed to do anything on her list. She's not popular. She doesn't have a boyfriend. She doesn't go to parties. She doesn't have a car. Things are just not going like they're supposed to. But when the entire high school (well, almost all) turns into zombies (students and teachers alike), things begin to look up for her. Is this her chance to be everything she was meant to be? Popular and bossy and in control? Is this her chance to get her dream boyfriend? Even if it means bribing him with raw meat? Does she really know what she wants?

This isn't just Margot's story--though she is the star--it also features her best friend, Sybil, and her best friend who-happens-to-be-a-boy, Baron.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #43

Happy Sunday everyone! I'm still recovering from the Read-a-thon, but I'd hate to miss posting my weekly recap.

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. Lauren Tarshis. 2007. Penguin. 200 pages.
Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry. 2009. Random House. 161 pages.
Ottoline Goes to School. Chris Riddell. 2009. HarperCollins. 170 pages.
Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me. Nan Marino. Roaring Brook Press. 154 pages.
Dance With A Vampire. Ellen Schreiber. 2009. HarperCollins. 178 pages.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. 2005. Random House. 464 pages.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

Duck and Cover. Jackie Urbanovic. 2009. HarperCollins.
Callie's Rules by Naomi Zucker. 2009. Egmont USA. 225 pages.
Signal. Cynthia DeFelice. 2009. FSG. 151 pages.
Take the Mummy and Run by Mary Amato. 2009. Holiday House. 226 pages.
Strawberry Hill. Mary Ann Hoberman. 2009. Little, Brown. 230 pages.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. Lauren Tarshis. 2009. Penguin. 169 pages.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano. Peggy Gifford. 2009. Random House. 177 pages.
Girl In a Blue Dress. Gaynor Arnold. 2008. Crown Publishing. 414 pages.
All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg. 2009. 220 pages. Scholastic.

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

Mudville. Kurtis Scaletta. 2009. 265 pages. Knopf.
Alibi Junior High. Greg Logsted. 2009. 244 pages. Simon & Schuster.
Journey of Dreams. Marge Pellegrino. 2009. Frances Lincoln Children's Books. 250 pages.
Never Slow Dance With a Zombie. E. Van Lowe. 2009. Tor Teen. 253 pages.
Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009. FSG. 184 pages.
The Unfinished Angel. Sharon Creech. 2009. HarperCollins. 164 pages.
Piper Reed, Navy Brat. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 146 pages. 2007.
Piper Reed The Great Gypsy. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 160 pages. 2008
Piper Reed Gets A Job. Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt. 160 pages. 2009.

What I've read and really, really need to review:

What I'm currently reading:

Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Monk by Matthew Lewis

What I've abandoned:

Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden
*I'm taking a break from this series for a while.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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End of Readathon

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

The wee morning hours. I didn't make it past two.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I'll suggest what I always suggest Life As We Knew It :)

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Not really.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Everything was fine.

5. How many books did you read? 9 (and a half)

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Piper Reed, Navy Brat; Piper Reed, The Great Gypsy; Piper Reed Gets A Job. All the Piper books are by Kimberly Willis Holt.

I've also read Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech.

I've reviewed: The Walls Have Eyes by Clare Dunkle, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell In Love by Lauren Tarshis, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano by Peggy Gifford, and Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman.

I finished Never Slow Dance with a Zombie by E. Van Lowe.

And I made it over halfway through Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey.

7. Which book did you enjoy most? I *liked* all the books I read. Sacred Scars was the most intense though.

8. Which did you enjoy least? I didn't have a least favorite.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I can't see me not participating. And I love being a reader.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mid-Event Readathon Survey

1. What are you reading right now?


I'm a couple of chapters into Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey. (About 29 pages)
I'm a couple of chapters into The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (About 39 pages)

2. How many books have you read so far?


8 so far.

I've read some that I haven't reviewed yet: Piper Reed, Navy Brat; Piper Reed, The Great Gypsy; Piper Reed Gets A Job. All the Piper books are by Kimberly Willis Holt.

I've also read Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech.

I've reviewed: The Walls Have Eyes by Clare Dunkle, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell In Love by Lauren Tarshis, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano by Peggy Gifford, and Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman.


3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I haven't decided *for sure* what my next book will be. It might be more of a monster-book like The Monstrumologist (454 pages) or Sacred Scars (554 pages). I struggle between finding a balance between the shorter (more doable) books that are a breeze to get through. And choosing longer books that are (probably) more compelling and intense.

A graphic novel might be a good idea at some point!


4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?


Not really.


5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?


I don't mind interruptions, mostly. I insert my own at times. I took time to watch ice skating several times. (I am so in love with the universal sports station for broadcasting the grand prix) And I'm preparing to watch a couple of more hours of skating this evening. My book will be near by for commercial breaks and such.


6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?


Few things surprise me at this point. I haven't really done much connecting this time round (by my choice). I decided to *read* more, and mini-challenge less. In previous read-a-thons, I loved participating in as many mini-challenges as possible. It was a fun game for me. But this time, I wanted to focus on books. I *may* change focus as the night continues.


7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?


Not really. I love it just as it is.


8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?


I'm not sure I'd do anything differently. It doesn't seem to matter if I go into it with a plan or no-plan, I always end up having fun.


9. Are you getting tired yet? No.


10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?


Well, I like reading children's books because they *can* be light and easy. I'll probably switch to YA for the second-half of the read-a-thon. I'd like to finish at least one more book. Though it would be *great* if I could get ten done.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Walls Have Eyes (MG)


Dunkle, Clare B. 2009. The Walls Have Eyes. Simon & Schuster. 225 pages.

"She's melted down? Completely?"
"We couldn't save a single chip."


This one is a sequel to The Sky Inside. Martin Glass, our hero, is still on the run having escaped his suburb-in-a-dome-home. In the previous book, he found his sister, Cassie, whose life was in danger. Still is in danger, in fact. She's one of the Wonder Babies. And this model of child has been recalled by the government. But Martin will do anything--as will his dog-that's-not-a-dog, Chip--to save his sister. Even if it means making a big sacrifice.

I enjoyed this one. I don't know that I love, love, loved it as much as the first one. But I certainly found it an exciting read. It has danger and adventure and mystery.
It was a good choice for the Read-a-thon today.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Emma Jean Lazarus Fell In Love (MG)


Tarshis, Lauren. 2009. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell In Love. Penguin. 170 pages.

Emma-Jean Lazarus knew very well that the seventh-grade boys at William Gladstone Middle School behaved like animals at times. They threw fruit in the cafeteria and stampeded through the hallways. They chased balls on the blacktop and laughed in a howling manner when Mr. Petrowski discussed a certain part of the digestive system in science. But none of this particularly troubled Emma-Jean.

Emma-Jean is back in her second adventure. Emma-Jean has learned how to be friends. (She's very good at encouraging and supporting her new friends.) But is she ready for love? In this new book, Emma Jean and her new friends get a little boy-crazy. (Not in a bad way, but in a totally age-appropriate way. The 'going together' way of passing notes and sitting together at lunch.) When Colleen receives a note from a secret admirer, it is up to Emma-Jean to discover just which boy it is that likes her best friend. Can she solve this mystery while battling one of her own? Why is Will, her classmate, hard to get off her mind? Could she have a little crush herself?

This is an adorable, sweet book that was just fun and enjoyable all around.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (MG)


Gifford, Peggy. 2009. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (but she does love being in recitals). Random House. 177 pages.

It was just after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, and Moxy Maxwell was still in bed.

Moxy Maxwell is back in her third adventure. (The first book was Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little. The second book was Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes.) And she's just as prone to trouble as she ever was. (Much like Ramona Quimby, by the way!) The book follows just one day in Moxy's life, but it's a big day. A long-awaited day. The day of Moxy's recital. She and her little sister are preparing to play Heart and Soul for the recital. (Her twin brother Mark is also part of the recital. Not that Moxy pays all that much attention to his part in it!) But there are a few problems leading up to the recital. For one, Moxy isn't happy about how short the song is. She wants it to be longer...like six minutes long. And second, she's taken some liberties with it: she's added symbolic pounding to 'be' the heart of the piece. How will this day turn out?

Moxy is Moxy like always. And if you're a fan, you're going to want to read this one too. It's funny. Moxy is just what readers need now and then for a quick and easy smile.

Other reviews: A Patchwork of Books, Kids Lit, Booking Mama.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Strawberry Hill (MG)


Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2009. Strawberry Hill. Little, Brown. 230 pages.

You would have thought it was the best news in the world.

If I had to pick one word to describe Mary Ann Hoberman's Strawberry Hill, it would be lovely. I could choose charming or delightful. Or perhaps old-fashioned and cozy. Or if I wanted to be truly original, I could say it was happy-making.

Strawberry Hill is historical fiction--set fuzzily in the 1930s. It's the Depression: that much is clear from the beginning. Our heroine is a young girl named Alice (hint: call her Allie if you want her to answer!) When the book opens, she is learning that her family is to move from New Haven to Stamford. They'll be moving to a house on a street called Strawberry Hill. And the name alone sells her on the idea. But moving isn't all she hopes it to be (even though her parents surprise her with a pink bedroom). For, alas, there are no strawberries on Strawberry Hill. What there are instead are a couple of neighborhood kids: Martha and Mimi. Which girl will be her best friend?

This is an enjoyable novel exploring friendship between two young girls.

Strawberry Hill is a pleasant book with a satisfying just-right feel. At least for me. Allie is a fun character. Allie's pastimes include hopscotch, paper dolls, tea parties, and jump rope. And it was fun for me to read about her school days. (She's in the fourth grade.) I loved the fact that Allie loved to read--the book talks about Heidi and Mary Poppins specifically. (And I was happy to see the role reading had in the story.) Overall, I just really liked this one.

Other reviews: Kids Lit, The Curious Reader, Thoughts From An Evil Overlord, A Patchwork of Books.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Readathon


Today is the 24 Hour Readathon. It starts at 7AM Central Time. I *will* not be up until later in the day. (I don't know *when* exactly that will be. But trust me, it probably won't be at 7!) But I did want to let everyone know that I plan on joining in the fun all day and then some!

I'll try to update throughout the read-a-thon. I'm not sure if I'll review all the books I read, or if I'll save them to review during the week.

Hour 1 Meme:

Where are you reading from today?

my house

3 facts about me …


I have no idea what books I'll be reading


I don't know if I should read Cybils books and be 'good'...or if I should read some of the books I've been saving up to read.


I'm not a morning person.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?


I don't know that I have a definite 'tbr pile' for the read-a-thon. Don't get me wrong, I have stacks of books all over the place. But I don't know what I'll be reading

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?


No goals.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?


Don't be afraid to read longer books. If you can find one engaging enough or compelling enough it will keep you motivated to read.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 23, 2009

All the Broken Pieces (MG)


Burg, Ann E. 2009. All the Broken Pieces: A Novel In Verse. Scholastic. 220 pages.

My name is Matt Pin
and her name, I remember,
is Phang My.
His name
I will never say,
though forever I carry his blood
in my blood,
forever his bones
stretch in my bones.
To me,
he is nothing.
If he stumbled on me now,
I wonder,
would he see himself in my eyes?
And I?
Would I recognize the dragon
who went beyond the mountain
and never came back?


Thus opens All The Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg. A verse novel about so much more than Vietnam and baseball. It's been two years since Matt has come to America and been placed with a new family: a new mom and dad and brother. But time isn't healing everything. Sometimes silence speaks volumes. How can his new family help Matt the most? How can they start him on the right path, the path to healing and peace? How can they support him best?

The verse is incredibly well-written. It was so powerful and compelling. It had so many wow-moments for me. Little poems that I just had to read over and over again because they resonated so deep and strong.

My top drawer
is full of pencils, new,
used, half-used, and
all-the-way-to-the-eraser-cap used.
I never get rid of pencils.
I never get rid of anything.
Who knows?
Even a stub
is worth something.

If bombs fall here,
if something terrible
ever happens
that I get sent away,
I'll stuff everything
I can fit
into my pockets.

Even the broken pieces
are worth something
to me. (58-59)
What did I love about this one? It had heart and soul. I loved Matt. I ached for him really. He was hurting so deeply, yet he didn't know how to reach out for help. He needed love so desperately, and yet he was afraid that his new family didn't love him enough. He thought his mother loved him, but she gave him away. That's how he sees it. Can Matt learn the power of love? And what that love sometimes means.

So yes, this book is about baseball. Because baseball is one of the things that helps Matt most. And being on a team, being a part of the team helps heal him in so many ways. Even if it means struggling a bit to find that place on the team.

I think this one works really, really well. I just loved it.

Other reviews: Kids Lit, A Year of Reading, Reading Junky's Reading Roost, Semicolon, Musings of a Book Addict.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Read-a-thon Stack

These are the books I'm considering for the 24 Hour Read-a-thon:


One False Note (39 Clues #2) by Gordon Korman
The Sword Thief (39 Clues #3) by Peter Lerangis
Beyond the Grave (39 Clues #4) by Jude Watson
The Black Circle (39 Clues #5) by Patrick Carman


The New Girl (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls #2) by Meg Cabot
Best Friends and Drama Queens (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls #3) by Meg Cabot
Stage Fright (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls #4) by Meg Cabot

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano: But She Does Love Being In Recitals by Peggy Gifford.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


Fire by Kristin Cashore


Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman


Revelations (#3 in Blue Bloods) by Melissa de la Cruz
Van Alen Legacy (#4 in Blue Bloods) by Melissa de la Cruz

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

A to Z Challenge Completed

Challenge Website (for posting links to reviews and signing up)

Option C: Read both authors A to Z and titles A to Z (52 books; this is the challenge Joy created)

Hosted by Becky, Sally, and Patti




Authors List

A -- Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Ten Things I Hate About Me
B -- Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights
C -- Clare, Cassandra. City of Glass.
D -- De Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote.
E -- Engle, Margarita. Tropical Secrets
F -- Ferraro, Tina. The ABC's of Kissing Boys.
G -- Godbersen, Anna. Envy.
H -- Hunt, D.A. Bonavia. Pemberley Shades.
I -- Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go.
J -- Jones, Carrie. Need.
K -- Kvasnosky, Laura McGee Zelda and Ivy: Keeping Secrets.
L -- Lockhart, E. Fly On the Wall
M -- Mantchev, Lisa. Eyes Like Stars.
N -- Norman, Kim. Crocodaddy
O -- Odgers, Darrel and Sally. Jack Russell: Dog Detective: The Mugged Pug.
P -- Potter, Ellen. SLOB
Q -- Qamar, Amjed. Beneath My Mother's Feet.
R -- Reeve, Philip. Mothstorm.
S -- Sensel, Joni. The Farwalker's Quest
T -- Trollope, Anthony. The Warden.
U -- Uehashi, Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.
V -- Von Ziegesar, Cecily. Gossip Girl
W -- Williams-Garcia, Rita. Jumped.
X -- Francisco X. Stork Marcelo in the Real World
Y -- Yoo, David. Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before.
Z -- Zucker, Naomi. Callie's Rules.

Titles List


A -- Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal
B -- Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
C -- Chocolat by Joanne Harris
D --A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve
E --Emma by Jane Austen
F -- Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
G -- Graceling by Kristin Cashore
H -- House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
I --Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve
J -- Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
K -- The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby
L -- Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
M -- Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
N -- Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
O -- Old Man's War by John Scalzi
P -- Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie
Q -- Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti
R -- Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman.
S --Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan
T -- Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
U -- Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
V -- Veronica by Jane Claypool Miner
W -- What Would Emma Do by Eileen Cook
X -- Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson
Y -- The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Z -- Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree (MG)


Tarshis, Lauren. 2007. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree. Penguin. 200 pages.

Emma Jean Lazarus knew very well that a few of the seventh grade girls at William Gladstone Middle School were criers. They cried if they got a 67 on an algebra test or if they dropped their retainer into the trash in the cafeteria. They cried if their clay mug exploded in the kiln and when they couldn't finish the mile in gym. Two even cried in science, when Mr. Petrowski announced it was time to dissect a sheep's eyeball. Of course Emma-Jean had no intention of participating in such a barbaric and unhygienic activity. But crying was not a logical way to express one's opposition to the seventh-grade science curriculum.


Emma Jean is unique, no doubt about it. (You can tell that from the start. She has her own voice, her own way of seeing the world, of expressing herself.) But can she learn to be less logical and more compassionate? Can she use her powers of observation, her logic to help others, to make new friends, to keep old ones? Emma Jean has heart--I don't doubt that for a second--but can she learn how to interact better with others?

Set in middle school, it features students--some with bigger problems than others--all trying to do the best they can. (Yes, there's a bully or two, a mean girl or two, but there are plenty of nice students with friend-potential.)

I don't think I've done the book much justice at all. I think I've failed to communicate just how great a story it is. Emma Jean is someone you really should get to know--on her own terms of course! (There are two stories about Emma Jean now.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Girl In A Blue Dress


Arnold, Gaynor. 2008. Girl In A Blue Dress. Crown Publishing. 414 pages.

My husband's funeral is today. And I'm sitting here alone in my upstairs room while half of London follows him to his grave. I should be angry, I suppose.

Loosely based on the wife of Charles Dickens--their broken marriage--it is the story of Dorothea "Dodo" and Alfred Gibson. Alfred Gibson is the One and Only, an author esteemed by just about everybody, everywhere. But what is his home life like? What kind of father is he? What kind of husband?

The book is retrospective. Dodo begins her story with Alfred's death. She's not attending the funeral. Since the separation--when he forced her out of his life and out of the lives of their children--she's not seen him or heard from him. Her life is lonely and sad. She clings to what once was. She holds on to the fact that at one time, he did love her, did need her, did want her. Despite what he's said recently. Despite how he's treated her.

The novel is the story of redemption--in a way--how Dodo is able to pick up the pieces--after his death--and reconnect with those she's lost contact with, especially her children. The conversations she has with her children--mainly all grown up now--are intriguing in a way. It is interesting to see how each one viewed their famous dad. How he was both loved and hated. How he was both charming and not-so-much. How his selfishness impacted them all. Yet how in spite of how he treated his family, how he could be a good man, a great man. Showing friendship and compassion to others--especially those down on their luck.

The book was an interesting read. I almost wish it didn't say that it was loosely based on Catherine Dickens. That had me guessing throughout the entire book how much was based on truth, on fact, (though the names are changed), and how much was pure fiction and speculation. How closely does Alfred resemble Charles? How closely does Dodo resemble Catherine? How much is really known about their courtship and marriage? It made me want to read more about the real Dickens.

Still, I have to admit it was a good read for me.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dance With A Vampire (YA)


Schreiber, Ellen. 2007. Dance with a Vampire. HarperCollins. 178 pages.

I awoke from a deadly slumber entombed in Alexander's coffin.

I haven't decided if I'm going to keep going with this series of vampire books or not. Dance With The Vampire is the fourth in the Vampire Kisses series. (The first three books were recently released in a single book entitled Beginnings.) On the one hand, they're quick--very quick. Like eating a pixy stick. And depending on what you're looking for in a book--it could be satisfying enough I suppose. But I didn't find it necessarily 'filling' enough for me to really enjoy. What is this one about? It's about Alexander (the vampire hero) and Raven (the mortal heroine) and their romance--can it survive the danger from other vampires coming into town and making threats? (For the record, the vampire threat is a tween.) And there's also a dance--prom, I think. Expect melodrama--and only melodrama. (In fact, I think I did a bit of eye rolling with the dialogue.)

My eyes filled with tears. I grasped his arm. "I'm happy to know that you thirst for me the same way I thirst for you. I want us to be together--in your world."
"I know, but--"
I put my fingers on his lips.
"That's always been my dream. Since I was a little girl. My middle name is 'Vampire.'"
Alexander took my hand in his. "I never meant to put you in any danger--and that's all I've ever done since I met you...I am a threat to you--on many levels."
"I've never felt threatened by you--only loved..." (176)
I'm sure there are some readers out there who will enjoy this. So do you think I should keep reading and complete this series? Is the fact that they're just so short and easily read reason enough to keep going?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 19, 2009

A Thread of Grace


Russell, Mary Doria. 2005. A Thread of Grace. Random House. 464 pages.

A simple answer to a simple question.

A Thread of Grace is a complex historical fiction novel for adults. Set mainly in Italy during World War II, it tells not one or two stories--but many stories, a dozen at least. The good news? They are very human stories. They can also be very compelling stories. The bad news? They're not all equally compelling. And I'm not sure why that is. It could be all on me. The book could be all brilliant, all the time, but my mood just played too big a role in how I 'read' that day. Or, the book could be unevenly written.

The book can definitely be challenging. There are over thirty characters to follow, and many of these--though certainly not all of them--play narrator at various times. We get to see many of these characters up, close, and personal. But their stories are tangled together, intertwined. And the narrative structure isn't always the easiest to follow.

The good news is that when it's good, it's really, really good. When you're able to connect with the story, with the characters, then everything is great. The bad news is that when you're not able to connect, when you're more confused than anything else, it can be a chore to read. I haven't decided why I would feel such a connection with some of these characters, and yet feel so disconnected from others.

Was it worth it?....for me? Yes! The parts I enjoyed, I really enjoyed. There was so much to love in this one. Fascinating, flawed humans living during a very difficult time in history. I cared about the fate of these rebels, those in the Resistance fighting against the Nazis, and I really cared about the Jewish families trying to survive and hide. The book was harsh and brutal in places. Don't expect everything to be happy-happy-happy, because it's not going to happen. This is not that kind of book. Because it was authentic to the times, I think. It wasn't always an easy novel to read--emotionally speaking. I was surprised at the depth of some of these characters. One in particular, but I don't want to spoil things for you!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Heart of a Shepherd (MG)


Parry, Rosanne. 2009. Heart of a Shepherd. Random House. 161 pages.

Grandpa frowns when he plays chess, like he does when he prays.

Our narrator is Brother. (If your name was Ignatius, you might prefer the nickname Brother too.) As he says in the first chapter, "Guess they ran out of all the good saints by the time they got to me. Lots of things ran out by the time they got to me. My brother Frank says it could be worse--they could have picked Augustine or Cyril--but honest, I wouldn't have minded being Gus, or even Cy. But Ignatius pretty much shortens to "Ig" or "Natius." That's not even a good name for a cow. Heck, I wouldn't name a pig either one" (8).

He comes from a line of ranchers and soldiers. Big men, strong men, manly men. Unfortunately, for Brother, his father's reserve unit has been called to Iraq. And his older brothers are all in college. So it's just him, grandpa, and grandma there on the ranch. (Well, along with a few hired hands.) Can he handle it? Does he have what it takes to be a rancher? A real rancher? Can he be responsible? Can he be a man?

Cows. Sheep. Horses. You'd think I wouldn't like this one. But you'd be wrong. I ended up loving this one because it has a lot of heart. I'm talking meaning-of-life type heart and soul here. Can Brother find his place, find his purpose? Should he follow in his father's footsteps? His grandfather's?

I loved this one for many different reasons. It was thoughtful, for one thing. It portrayed faith really, really well. Probably one of the best examples of faith-in-fiction that I can think of. (A Road to Paris also comes to mind in this category.) It was also relevant. It dealt with how a young person might react to having a parent go to war. Since this town had a lot of parents-as-soldiers, there is a whole community of kids, of families worrying and waiting and hoping. It's not often you get modern-day stories about war. (Not nearly as popular as books set during World War II.) But above all else, I think the book does justice to relationships, of family dynamics. I think the friendship between grandfather-and-grandson was just awesome. I love, love, loved this aspect of the novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #42

Happy Sunday everyone!

I had an incredible week reading. Really. I think I read some of my favorite and my best for the year this past week. I don't know how I'll ever manage a top five for this month. I might have to cheat a little. Do you think I can get away with cheating?!

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

Emily's Ghost. Denise Giardina. 2009. W.W. Norton & Company. 335 pages.
Girl in the Arena. Lise Haines. 2009. Bloomsbury. 384 pages.
Jemma Hartman: Camper Extraordinaire. Brenda A. Ferber. 2009. FSG. 215 pages.
The Sisters 8: Annie's Adventures. Lauren Baratz-Logsted. 2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 136 pages.
Love, Aubrey. Suzanne LaFleur. 2009. Random House. 262 pages.
I Don't Want A Posh Dog by Emma Dodd. 2009. Little, Brown.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

If America Were A Village: A Book About the People of the United States. David J. Smith. 2009. Kids Can Press.
A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward, O.S.F. 2009. Sourcebooks. 350 pages.
Twenty Boy Summer. Sarah Ockler. 2009. Little, Brown. 290 pages
Gullible Gus. Maxine Rose Schur. 2009. Clarion Books. 48 pages. (early reader/chapter book)
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell. 2008. HarperCollins. 171 pages
Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 235 pages.
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. 2009. Penguin. 266 pages.
Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. 2009. Little, Brown. 198 pages.

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry. 2009. Random House. 161 pages.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. 2005. Random House. 464 pages.
Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber. 2007. HarperCollins. 178 pages.
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree. Lauren Tarshis. 2007. Penguin. 200 pages.
Ottoline Goes To School. Chris Riddell. 2009. Harpercollins. 170 pages.
Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me. Nan Marino. 2009. Roaring Brook Press. 154 pages.

What I've read and really, really need to review:

What I'm currently reading:

Girl in A Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden

What I've abandoned:


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had (MG)


Levine, Kristin. 2009. Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. Penguin. 264 pages.

I've been wrong before. Oh, heck, if I'm being real honest, I've been wrong a lot. But I ain't never been so wrong as I was about Emma Walker. When she first came to town, I thought she was the worst piece of bad luck I'd had since falling in the outhouse on my birthday. I tell you, things were fine in Moundville before Emma got here, least I thought they were. Guess the truth is, you'll never know how wrong I was till I'm done telling and explaining--so I'd better just get on with the story.

I'll be honest from the start. I love, love, love this book. I do. I mean this is one oh-so-good, oh-so-magical, practically-perfect-in-every way type of book. But that's my opinion.

Our narrator, Harry Otis Sims (aka "Dit") had me at hello. His oh-so-southern voice won me over. I guess maybe this won't appeal to everyone. I mean some people love Southern fiction--books set in the Deep South--and others don't. (This one is set in Alabama.) This one is also historical fiction. So there's that as well.

The year is 1917. (The novel does go into 1918 as well. In fact we see the influenza epidemic come into the story. Winnie's War is set around this same time only in Texas.)

Dit is your typical boy. He's more interested in fishing and playing baseball than almost anything else. And he really wants--more than anything--to have a best friend his own age who shares his interests. That is one reason why he's excited the town is getting a new postmaster. He's hoping he'll have a family, a son, just the right age.

Emma. She's a girl. (Obviously.) And she is colored. (That's the word they use in the book, for the most part.) The Walker family has just moved from Boston. (The postal service has transferred him. He'll be here a year at least.)

What's this small community to make of this new family? What's poor Dit to think of this new girl? Can the two ever be friends? And what would that friendship look like?

I loved Emma. I mean I love, love, loved Emma. I loved how smart she was. I loved her bookishness. I loved how her love of books baffled young Dit. How he just couldn't understand how awesome reading is. I don't want to go into all the details, but I just thought this story had it all.

The characters. The dialogue. The story. Everything just right. Well, almost. I still think the cover could have been better. It's not that the flying bird doesn't work thematically. It's just that it doesn't scream read me, read me. What do you think? Based on the cover alone, would you pick it up?

Other reviews: TV and Book Addict, Semicolon, Book Bits, Patchwork of Books, Musings of a Book Addict.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 16, 2009

A Match for Mary Bennet


Ward, Eucharista. OS.F. 2009. A Match for Mary Bennet. SourceBooks. 350 pages.

Prologue: One might say that using the divine gift of human memory for the recitation of three-month-old annoyances represents talent misspent. Mary Bennet thought, as she sat with her hand poised over the silver tea urn, that not even all four evangelists together had documented Jesus's public life as thoroughly as her mother insisted on recounting Mary's social life.

How do you feel about Mary Bennet? Do you think she's doomed to be an old maid? A stuffy old maid at that? Or do you think there's hope for such a bookish soul?

I really enjoyed Eucharista Ward's novel. She does a great job at fleshing out Mary's character. Of showing that there is much more going on than we've been led to believe. She does a good job with all the familiar characters really. Lydia. Kitty. Elizabeth. Jane. Georgiana. Mrs. Bennet. She also introduces readers to new characters, men like Mr. Stilton, Mr. Grantley, and Mr. Oliver. Which of these men (if any) will Mary choose to settle down with? Will it be a love match?

It's been several years since Jane won her Charles, and Elizabeth her Darcy. Is it Mary's turn for love?

What did I enjoy about this one? Mary. Yes, books matter to her. And music. And God. She takes her faith seriously. But she is a human character. She's not as stiff and unfeeling, as cold and closed-off as you might think. And I love seeing her side of things.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Love, Aubrey (MG)


LaFleur, Suzanne. 2009. Love, Aubrey. Random House. 262 pages.

It was fun at first, playing house.
I made all my own meals. Crackers and cheese, three times a day.
I watched whatever I wanted on TV, all day.
It'd been a good three days: crackers and cheese for breakfast, TV; crackers and cheese for lunch, TV; crackers and cheese for dinner, TV, bed. Nothing to think about but TV and cheese. A perfect world.
Then I ran out of cheese.


I loved Love, Aubrey. It was such a wonderful book. Bittersweet in a way. But even in it's sadness, it was oh-so-right. (Always authentic.) I loved Aubrey. And I think you will too. Who is she? What is her story?

In a way, I think it's best for you to meet her yourself. To meet Aubrey on her own terms. Her story is revealed slowly throughout the book. And it is in the telling of her story, that the story has its power, its emotional depth.

That being said, I've got to say something to show you how wonderful this one is. When we first meet Aubrey, she's all alone. She's not playing house. And there's nothing funny about her situation. What happened to her mom? her dad? her sister? And who is Jilly? Is she really all on her own? It would seem like it. Her and her beta fish, Sammy, living all on their own. Trying to escape the notice of their neighbors, the church ladies, the authorities in town. Why is she so scared? She's watched TV. She knows that if she's discovered to be on her own, she'll be put into foster care.

But Aubrey won't be alone for long. A concerned grandmother shows up, and Aubrey--scared as she may be of change, as untrusting as she may be--is soon under her care. Can Aubrey's heart be healed, be mended? Can she learn to love again, to trust again?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cybils (MG) Books I've Read




48 / 105 books. 46% done!





  1. Amato, Mary. 2009. Take the Mummy and Run.
  2. Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2008. Chains.
  3. Austen, Catherine. Walking Backward. 2009.
  4. Baratz-Logsted, Lauren. 2008. Annie's Adventures.
  5. Barnes, Derrick. 2009. Ruby Flips For Attention.
  6. Barrett, Tracy. 2009. The Beast of Blackslope.
  7. Baskin, Nora Raleigh. 2009. Anything But Typical.
  8. Brown, Linda Beatrice. 2009. Black Angels.
  9. Burg, Ann E. 2009. All the Broken Pieces.
  10. Cheng, Andrea. 2009. Brushing Mom's Hair.
  11. Choldenko, Gennifer. 2009. Al Capone Shines My Shoes.
  12. Cochrane, Mick. 2009. The Girl Who Threw Butterflies.
  13. DeFelice, Cynthia. 2009. Signal.
  14. Dowell, Frances O'Roarke. 2009. The Kind of Friends We Used To Be.
  15. Durand, Hallie. 2009. Dessert First.
  16. Edwards, Nicholas. Dog Whisperer: The Rescue.
  17. Engle, Margarita. 2009. Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba.
  18. Ferber, Brenda A. 2009. Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire.
  19. Fitzmaurice, Kathryn. 2009. The Year the Swallows Came Early.
  20. Frederick, Heather Vogel. 2009. Dear Pen Pal.
  21. Graff, Lisa. 2009. Umbrella Summer.
  22. Hemingway, Edith M. 2009. Road to Tater Hill.
  23. Hoberman, Mary Ann. 2009. Strawberry Hill.
  24. Holt, Kimberly Willis. 2009. Piper Reed Gets A Job.
  25. Kahn, Rukhsana. 2009. Wanting Mor.
  26. Kidd, Ronald. 2009. The Year of the Bomb.
  27. LaFleur, Suzanne. 2009. Love, Aubrey.
  28. Leal, Ann Haywood. 2009. Also Known As Harper.
  29. Levine, Kristin. 2009. Best Bad Luck I Ever Had.
  30. Logsted, Greg. 2009. Alibi Junior High.
  31. Look, Lenore. 2009. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters.
  32. Lopez, Diana. 2009. Confetti Girl.
  33. Marino, Nan. 2009. Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me.
  34. Moss, Jenny. 2009. Winnie's War.
  35. Parry, Rosanne. 2009. Heart of a Shepherd.
  36. Peck, Richard. 2009. A Season of Gifts.
  37. Pellegrino, Marge. 2009. Journey of Dreams.
  38. Pitchford, Dean. 2009. Captain Nobody.
  39. Preller, James. 2009. Bystander.
  40. Russell, Rachel Renee. 2009. Dork Diaries.
  41. Scaletta, Kurtis. 2009. Mudville.
  42. Sheinmel, Courtney. 2009. Positively.
  43. Slayton, Fran. 2009. When the Whistle Blows.
  44. Stewart, Trenton Lee. 2009. Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma.
  45. Suma, Nova Ren. 2009. Dani Noir.
  46. Tarshis, Lauren. 2009. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell In Love.
  47. Trueit, Trudi. 2009. No Girls Allowed.
  48. Yee, Lisa. 2009. Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally)
  49. Zucker, Naomi. 2009. Callie's Rules.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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