Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Reflections

I read 42 books in October!!! And some of what I read was just AMAZING. I reread The Giver trilogy in anticipation of her newest book, Son, which was wonderful!!! And I discovered the Wheel In Time series by Robert Jordan!!! I also read some great middle grade fiction!

My favorite picture bookBoy + Bot. Ame Dyckman.
My favorite fairy tale adaptation: Snow in Summer. Jane Yolen.
My favorite MG mystery: Three Times Lucky. Sheila Turnage.
My favorite MG Victorian historical fantasy:  Splendors and Glooms. Laura Amy Schlitz.
My favorite YASon. Lois Lowry.
My favorite new series: Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (#1, #2, #3)
My favorite historical romance: A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller.

Board Books, Picture Books, Chapter Books:
  1. Boy + Bot. Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2012. Random House. 32 pages.
  2. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Mo Willems. 2012. HarperCollins. 40 pages.
  3. Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. Jan Thomas. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.  
  4. Dragons Love Tacos. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2012. Penguin. 40 pages. 
  5. Monkey and Elephant. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2012. Candlewick. 48 pages. 
  6. Bramble and Maggie: Horse Meets Girl. Jessie Haas. Illustrated by Alison Friend. 2012. Candlewick. 56 pages.   
  7.  The Big Something. Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Diane Palmisciano. 2012. Scholastic. 40 pages.
  8. Ballet Stars. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. 2012. Random House. 24 pages.

 
Middle Grade and Young Adult Books:
  1. Splendors and Glooms. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2012. Candlewick. 384 pages. 
  2. Three Times Lucky. Sheila Turnage. 2012. Penguin. 256 pages. 
  3. Liar & Spy. Rebecca Stead. 2012. Random House. 192 pages. 
  4. Snow in Summer. Jane Yolen. 2011. Penguin. 256 pages. 
  5. The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. 
  6. Gathering Blue. Lois Lowry. 2000/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 215 pages. 
  7. Messenger. Lois Lowry. 2004/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 169 pages.   
  8. Son. Lois Lowry. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 400 pages. 
  9. Vessel. Sarah Beth Durst. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 424 pages. 
  10. Hanging By A Thread. Sophie Littlefield. 2012. Random House. 288 pages. 
  11. The Book of Blood and Shadow. Robin Wasserman. 2012. Random House. 448 pages. 
  12. The Broken Lands. Kate Milford. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 455 pages.  
  13. Yesterday. C.K. Kelly Martin. 2012. Random House. 368 pages. 
  14. Unspoken. Sarah Rees Brennan. 2012. Random House. 384 pages. 
  15. Unwholly. Neal Shusterman. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages. 
  16. Origin. Jessica Khoury. 2012. Penguin. 372 pages. 
  17. Monument 14. Emmy Laybourne. 2012. Feiwel & Friends. 294 pages. 
  18. Rootless. Chris Howard. 2012. Scholastic. 336 pages. 
  19. The Eleventh Plague. Jeff Hirsch. 2011. Scholastic. 304 pages. 
  20. What Came From the Stars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages. 
  21. Yesterday's Dead. Pat Bourke. 2012. Second Story Press. 232 pages. 
  22. The Bar Code Tattoo. Suzanne Weyn. 2004/2012. Scholastic. 256 pages.
Adult Books:

  1. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) Robert Jordan. 1990. Tor. 814 pages. 
  2.  The Great Hunt. (Wheel of Time #2) Robert Jordan. Tor. 600 pages.
  3. The Dragon Reborn. (Wheel of Time #3) Robert Jordan. 1991. Tor. 624 pages.    
  4. Redshirts. John Scalzi. 2012. Tor. 320 pages. 
  5. The Tuesday Club Murders. Agatha Christie. 1932/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. 256 pages. 
  6. The Doorbell Rang. Rex Stout. 1965. 207 pages.
Christian Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller. 2012. Revell. 332 pages.
  2. Twice Promised. Maggie Brendan. 2012. Revell. 332 pages.
  3. Wondrous Works of God. Starr Meade. 2012. Crossway. 288 pages.
  4. Whispers in the Wind. (Wild West Wind #2) Lauraine Snelling. 2012. Bethany House. 352 pages.
  5. All Things New. Lynn Austin. 2012. Bethany House. 416 pages.
  6. My First Handy Bible: Timeless Bible Stories for Toddlers. Cecilie Olesen. Illustrated by Gustavo Mazali. Scandinavia Publishing House. 64 pages. 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Bar Code Tattoo (YA)

The Bar Code Tattoo. Suzanne Weyn. 2004/2012. Scholastic. 256 pages.

The Bar Code Tattoo is a quick read that I ultimately found disappointing. Kayla is weeks away from turning seventeen, in just a few weeks she'll have to choose whether she wants to conform or rebel against society and the government. The tattoo is relatively new--at least to the United States, having been tested first in Europe and Asia. And the tattoo is changing lives, for better or worse. For some who receive it, their lives improve dramatically: new opportunities at work, pay increases, etc. For others, it ruins them almost completely. Some lose their jobs, their homes, their credit or money no longer being "good" enough to be accepted anywhere. Not that any of this is being publicized, not really. Those who speak out against the tattoo are in the minority--or so it seems. And while there are rebel groups out there, well, they don't have the power to change things. At least not yet. Kayla's mind is made up almost from the time of her father's death. She blames--and her mother blames--his suicide to the tattoo. He has NOT been the same since receiving it, the changes coming slowly but surely over a month or two. Kayla joins a group she learns about at school, and so her rebellion begins. It may not seem like much of a commitment at first, but Kayla will ultimately have to make some tough choices.

It is a quick read, very fast-paced, very plot-driven. It started off promising enough, but by the end I was disappointed. The last few chapters were odd.


Read The Bar Code Tattoo
  • If you're looking for a light, quick read
  • If you're looking for a futuristic (2025 or so?) read featuring conspiring evil governments, societies, scientists, corporations, etc. 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Vessel (YA)

Vessel. Sarah Beth Durst. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 424 pages.

Vessel is a good example of an almost book for me. It almost almost made me love it, but, not quite. I did enjoy it, for the most part. There were chapters that were quite satisfying, that gave me hope. But then there were places I felt a disconnect, and ultimately I didn't end up loving it as much as I had originally hoped. I definitely went into this one with high expectations. I thought it had the potential to be wow-worthy. And I think for some readers, it works well, really well. I am sure it will find readers that do love it.

Readers first meet Liyana, a young woman who is destined to be a "vessel" to her clan's goddess, Bayla. When the possession does not happen, when the goddess fails to come and take possession of this girl's body, well, her clan leaves her to die in the desert. She doesn't die, however, she is found by a god, Korbyn, a trickster god who has recently taken possession of his own human vessel. He has a message and a mission. Certain gods and goddesses have vanished from the Dreaming, including Bayla. The ceremonies have failed and the gods and goddesses are disappearing. He doesn't know where, though he tells her he felt a pull to the East, but he knows that they have to rescue them from false vessels and restore them to their worthy (human) vessels. For only if they are restored will the god's magic be able to heal the desert lands and save all the desert clans. Liyana is easy to convince; she finds Korbyn charming and swoon-worthy. But some of the other vessels won't be so easy to convince. These two must prepare to go on quite the adventure quest...

Readers also meet a super-mysterious emperor, but, I felt these sections weren't as compelling as the rest of the novel. (I didn't connect with them and was a bit puzzled by everything until the ending when things became clearer.)

For those that like fantasy and magic and storytelling, this one does have potential
.

Read Vessel
  • If you love fantasy, magic, gods and goddesses
  • If you love storytelling, if you love storytelling cultures and mythologies
  • If you love novels with world-building

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hanging by a Thread (YA)

Hanging By A Thread. Sophie Littlefield. 2012. Random House. 288 pages.

I had low expectations for this one because I don't generally like reading paranormal fiction. The heroine of this one, Clare, has a gift, a legacy. She touches fabric--clothes to be exact--and gets visions of their owners. She's recently moved to her mom's old hometown, and, well, there happens to be an ongoing mystery. Two murders over the past two summers occurring around the fourth of July. She stumbles across the jean jacket of the previous year's victim, and has a strong reaction to it, her strongest vision so far. A vision which prompts her to start investigating the two crimes. (She has a feeling they are connected.) It won't be easy to solve this one, and it may just lead her into danger if the murderer is still around, but, how can she ignore what she knows to be true?

I liked this one so much more than I thought I would. It's a paranormal romance and I still happened to like it.


Read Hanging By A Thread
  • If you enjoy mysteries OR paranormal fiction
  • If you are interested in fashion design

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow (YA)

The Book of Blood and Shadow. Robin Wasserman. 2012. Random House. 448 pages.

I thought this one started out with a lot of potential. The opening chapter was great, I thought. I definitely wanted to love this one, but, by the end, I had lost my enthusiasm. (I do think others may enjoy this one more than I did.) This unsolved mystery case, which spans several centuries, begins as a translation project for several college students, Max and Chris, and a high school student, our heroine, Nora. The guys are assigned one part of the project, Nora another. Her project includes translating the private letters of Elizabeth Weston. She's looking for clues as to what she has to say about her father's work, and/or her brother's work on this mystery book. Nora becomes involved in her project and Elizabeth's life starts to fascinate her. (Nora's friends aren't always excited to hear about it.) But Nora's "unimportant" private letters become extremely important, but it takes attempted murder (the professor), theft (of the letters), and murder (of her very very best friend) for it all to become clear to her. With each chapter things become more and more complicated. It has plenty of action and suspense plus secrets, lies, betrayals, etc.

If I had cared about the characters more, I think this one would have been a better read for me. The mystery with its dozens of clues wasn't enough to hold my interest. I do think it may work for others better.


Read The Book of Blood and Shadows
  • If you like mystery/suspense/thriller novels with puzzles, mysteries, riddles, codes to solve, etc.
  • If you are looking for a gothic/horror read
  • If you have a special fondness for heroines and heroes that love Latin 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Salon: Watching Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella is a lovely film. I don't think Walt Disney's Cinderella is as lovely and romantic as it could be, or should be. But as an animal fantasy, or, cat-and-mouse adventure it works quite well. Prince Charming doesn't matter in Cinderella, for the most part. His personality and character are practically nonexistent. (Unless you want to say that he waltzes well?) Almost all of the animal characters (even Bruno and the horse) get more time and attention. Gus is probably my favorite, favorite mouse. But all the mice--including Jacques--are fun additions to the story. I really appreciate the cat-and-mouse scenes with Lucifer (and sometimes Bruno). And Cinderella herself is lovely, I enjoy the opening scenes of the film, and just love A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes. I also LOVE Sing Sweet Nightingale. In one of the special features (I think it was under Backstage Disney, The Cinderella that Almost Was?) there is mention of how at one time there was a music teacher and discussion of how the scene was much longer (and probably funnier). I watched all of the Special Features of the 2005 release, and almost all of them were fascinating and well worth the time!!! (There's even a clip of Perry Como, the Fontane Sisters, and Ilene Woods singing together.) And I love the ending, of course, when she's rushing down the stairs trying to get her turn to try on the slipper...it can be quite magical at times.

Do you have a favorite scene or favorite song? Is this your favorite adaptation of Cinderella?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in October

New Loot:
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan 
Leftover Loot:
  • Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
  • A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James Owen
  • The Shadow Dragons by James Owen
  • The Indigo King by James Owen
  • The Dragons of Winter by James A. Owen
  • The Dragon's Apprentice by James A. Owen
  • American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels, 1956-1958 edited by Gary K. Wolfe
  • American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1953-1956 edited by Gary K. Wolfe
  • Variant by Robison Wells  
  Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg 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.  

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Son (MG/YA)

Son. Lois Lowry. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 400 pages.

I found SON to be an amazing read!!!! I just loved, loved, loved it! Definitely a book I read in one sitting. In fact, I read The Messenger and Son the same evening. The book focuses on two characters: Claire and Gabe.

When Claire was twelve, she was assigned to be a birthmother. Barely two years later, she gives birth to her first (and only) child. Birthmothers never raise their own children, never care for their own young, not even that first year before it is placed into an adopting family. Because #36's arrival was complicated, Claire is dismissed from her (original) assignment and reassigned to the fish hatchery. Perhaps she should have stopped thinking about the baby she gave birth to, the baby she never even caught a glimpse of. But she happens to have an acquaintance assigned to the Nurturers, and she happens to learn the number of her child. And she learns he was a boy. She takes risks, perhaps, and decides to volunteer--unofficially if she must. Over the course of a year or so, she has the chance to bond with her son. She doesn't know his name, not really. And it's not as if there is a way for her to get her happily ever after, but, she has to make those few precious stolen moments count.

What I loved about Claire's story is that it offers readers an opportunity to revisit The Giver, to see it from another point of view. Readers get a chance to meet Jonas's father, to get to know him, in a way, over a series of encounters throughout the year. Readers also get a chance to explore different sides of the community. Claire is a fascinating heroine, in my opinion. I'm not sure that she's more fascinating than Jonas in The Giver, but, she's an observant, emotional heroine. And I connected with her from the start.

The novel covers many years, and only the first section is set in the same community as The Giver...

The other narrator of Son is Gabriel. Readers get a chance to revisit the community first introduced in Messenger. It gets VERY exciting and dramatic...


Read Son
  • If you're a fan of Lois Lowry
  • If THE GIVER is one of your favorite books and you really want to revisit it and learn more about this chilling community
  • If you've read the The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger and want a conclusion to a great series
  • If you enjoy dystopias and middle grade science fiction

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Messenger (MG/YA)

Messenger. Lois Lowry. 2004/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 169 pages. 

In anticipation of reading Son, I decided to reread the Giver trilogy. Messenger is the third book, and it is a companion to The Giver and Gathering Blue. The hero of Messenger is Matt, a character first introduced in Gathering Blue. Several years have passed between the two books, and Matt is living with Kira's (blind) father. At one time, both found their village completely ideal. It was a community that celebrated morality: kindness, mercy, tolerance. It was a community that celebrated second chances. Open hearts, open borders, education for all. But times are changing slowly but surely and some are beginning to notice the differences. The Forest is also changing...

At one time Matt felt comfortable entering the Forest. He traveled from community to community. Not everyone COULD enter the Forest, not everyone wanted to enter the Forest. The Forest had a way of letting a person know if he/she were welcome. For those not welcome, it would seem to maliciously attack you.

Matt has ONE HUGE MESSAGE to deliver when the Forest begins to become unfriendly...will he leave the forest alive?

This one stars Matt and Kira (and Kira's father), but also mentions THE LEADER and a certain sled.

This one is definitely a darker novel, and a more symbolic novel.


Read The Messenger
  • If you enjoyed The Giver and Gathering Blue and want to continue on in the series
  • If you are a fan of Lois Lowry
  • If you enjoy mysteries and dystopias 
 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gathering Blue (MG)

Gathering Blue. Lois Lowry. 2000/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 215 pages.

In anticipation of reading Son, I decided to reread the Giver trilogy by Lois Lowry. Gathering Blue is the second book, it is a companion to The Giver. Readers are introduced to a crippled heroine named Kira whose life is in danger because of her mother's recent death. The village in which she lives has a small tolerance level, I suppose you'd say, for those they deem worthless or less-than. Because of her so-called disability, there are those that food should not be wasted on her, for what good could she ever be to the community. Soon after the novel begins, Kira finds herself on trial. If the court decides in her favor, she'll continue to live in the village, if not, she'll be forced out. Kira lucks out, and she is "rescued" by one of the council. But her life will never be the same, she'll have an honored role in her village, in a way, doing a special job, something that only she can do, but along with the privilege she'll learn some secrets that will perhaps haunt her...

Readers also meet Kira's friend Matt.

I definitely liked this one. I think this is only the second or perhaps third time I've ever read it--I've read The Giver probably six or seven times. I think I appreciated it more this time around.  


Read Gathering Blue
  • If you're a fan of The Giver and want to read on in the series
  • If you're a fan of Lois Lowry
  • If you enjoy middle grade dystopias 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Giver (MG/YA)

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages.

 It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

This is my third blog review for The Giver. (My first review. My second review.)

I decided to reread The Giver in anticipation of Lois Lowry's newest book, Son. While there have been two companion books to The Giver--Gathering Blue and Messenger--Son will be the sequel to The Giver. I knew I would need to reread the three previous books in order to fully, fully appreciate and enjoy Son.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Giver. It is one of my favorite, favorite books. No matter how many times I read it, I just continue to love it and think it is one of the best books ever. The same conversations get me every time. I just think it's a book EVERYONE should try.

It's a quick read, but a memorable one. The world Lowry has created in haunting and unique. I've read a handful of dystopian novels lately--including Yesterday, Bar Code Tattoo, The Forsaken, Once, Eleventh Plague, Rootless, etc. just to mention the ones I've read this past month or so--and while many dystopias are good, there's something almost magical about this one. The WAY she has written the story. There's not too much telling and not enough showing. To me, it doesn't feel forced or unnatural. It isn't too didactic. The characters feel authentic to the world, and fully developed. That is why it is so chilling, so horrific, so wonderfully haunting. 


Read The Giver
  • If you're a fan of Lois Lowry
  • If you want to read one of the best, best books ever written
  • If you're looking for a timeless, classic dystopian novel 
  • If you enjoy science fiction, dystopias
  • If you enjoy children's literature
  • If you're looking for a Newbery

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn. (Wheel of Time) Robert Jordan. 1991. Tor. 624 pages. 

The Dragon Reborn is the third book in the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan. The first book is The Eye of the World; the second book is The Great Hunt. I am continuing to love the series so far. The "hero" of the series, Rand, is a person of interest in this book, but not necessarily a major character. Rand who has recently declared himself to be the Dragon reborn--or allowed himself to be declared the Dragon reborn--has gone missing in this one, and that has many worried including Moiraine, Lan, Perrin, Nynaeve, Egwene, Elayne, Mat, and Loial, to name a few. Many journeys are undertaken in this one as everyone seeks to help their friend in his oh-so-dangerous journey. (There are many different groups traveling, many points of view in this one.)

I enjoyed many of the perspectives in this one. I especially liked reading about Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne. (They are still dealing with the events that happened in The Great Hunt.) Even if I didn't absolutely love each character, I still cared enough to keep reading. I found this book to be very connected to the Great Hunt, so it was great to read both books so close together. I think this one has a great pace to it. I loved the adventure, danger, and mystery.

Read The Dragon Reborn
  • If you've read and enjoyed The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt
  • If you enjoy fantasy, dark fantasy
  • If you enjoy world-building and storytelling
  • If you enjoy series books

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Yesterday (YA)

Yesterday. C.K. Kelly Martin. 2012. Random House. 368 pages.

Yesterday has an interesting premise, but, it didn't quite work for me. In the prologue, readers meet a grieving and oh-so-angry Freya who has vowed to never forgive her father who "allowed" her brother with a deadly and oh-so-contagious disease to be taken away by authorities. Now she knows they are coming for her, though even she doesn't suspect the real reason why. In chapter one, readers meet a Freya who is newly arrived in Canada and about to start her first day of school. She's been raised in various countries, but, after her father's recent death, her family has decided to settle down. The Freya readers first meet is from 2063, the second from 1985. The first few chapters follow Freya through her first few weeks at school as she attends classes, makes friends, goes to a party, talks to a couple of guys. But things begin to change when Freya forces makes a connection with a guy named Garren. It would be just chance, their meeting, they are from different cities, different schools. But she sees him and knows that she knows him. That face, she knows. That face, she loves. He means something to her, if only she could think of a logical reason for having such a strong feeling. She follows him home. She thinks of him constantly. She decides to skip school so she can go to his house and talk with him. Without the prologue, readers might question Freya. But, of course, knowing that Freya doesn't belong in 1985, it's easier to believe that she's on the right track, that Garren is just like her, someone from the future who doesn't truly belong. Everything is a struggle for Freya, and soon everything is a struggle for Freya and Garren as these two team up to solve the mystery.

The book has an interesting premise: a future world that is in so much trouble that they've resorted to sending people back in time to save them. But the book is so didactic, so message-heavy. And the writing never felt quite right to me. Perhaps if the story had more mystery and the framework was different, it would have been a better read for me.

Read Yesterday
  • If you're equally interested in futuristic science fiction and realistic fiction/realistic romance set in 1985
  • If you enjoy reading books with unique premises

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Snow In Summer (MG)

Snow in Summer. Jane Yolen. 2011. Penguin. 256 pages.

I found Snow in Summer to be a quick and compelling read. It's a retelling of Snow White set in the Appalachian mountains in the late 40s and very early 50s. If you're looking for a dark, creepy horror read this one gets it just right. Snow White just is a dark story. Snow in Summer, our heroine, gradually realizes just how EVIL her new stepmother is. True, she's almost always, always been hesitant to trust her and genuinely love her. But she did try in the beginning, after all, she wanted to be part of a happy family. But as the weeks, months, and years go by, Snow in Summer has every reason to suspect her stepmother has bewitched her father and has some dark, dangerous secrets.
This one is told with multiple perspectives which I just LOVED. The scenes told from the stepmother's perspective are so very, very, very creepy, very atmospheric, adding to the horror elements of this one. And I did enjoy Snow in Summer and some of the other characters from this one. I would definitely recommend this one!


Read Snow in Summer
  • If you enjoy reading adaptations of classic fairy tales
  • If you enjoy reading dark fantasy
  • If you're a fan of Jane Yolen 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday Salon: Watching Snow White

I recently watched Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I also watched the "Making of Snow White" feature which called it "the merriest and scariest" I just have to agree with that assessment. This is a dark tale in many, many ways. The dark scenes are terrifying. The sequence starting with the Queen's order to the Huntsman to kill Snow White and put her heart in that box to Snow White's calming down surrounded by forest animals is intense--to say the least. Not to mention the Queen's "transformation" into the old hag where she is conjuring magic spells and plotting to poison Snow White. For better or worse. I personally prefer the lighter, merrier side of the film. My favorite moments of this film are ones that feature the seven dwarfs. I love the Dwarf's Washing Song, for example, but my favorite, favorite, favorite is "The Silly Song" (The Dwarf's Yodel Song). (Another light moment I enjoyed was the turtle going up/down the stairs.) I can appreciate the sound effects, the score, and many of the songs. (Though I don't care for Snow White's singing. I do like the Prince's singing. His "One Song" is a favorite.)  I think it's a great soundtrack overall, and I learned that it was the first soundtrack album for a feature film. I found the making-of feature to be fascinating! It pointed out that there had been nothing like it before, and that this was something brand new with great wow-potential for the audience.

Do you have a favorite song or scene from this movie?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Library Loot: Third Trip in October

New Loot:
  • The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
  • Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
  • A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
  • Here There Be Dragons by James Owen
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James Owen
  • The Shadow Dragons by James Owen
  • The Indigo King by James Owen
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  • American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels, 1956-1958 edited by Gary K. Wolfe
  • American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1953-1956 edited by Gary K. Wolfe
  • Variant by Robison Wells 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
  • The Dragons of Winter by James A. Owen
  • The Dragon's Apprentice by James A. Owen 
  • Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
   Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg 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


© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Four 2012 Picture Books

Boy + Bot. Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2012. Random House. 32 pages.

A boy was collecting pinecones in his wagon when he met a robot. "Hi!" said the boy. "Want to play?" The robot blinked. "Affirmative!" They played. They had fun. 

Boy + Bot is such a fun picture book! A boy and a robot meet each other one day and decide to play together. When the robot is accidentally turned off, the boy doesn't understand why the robot is no longer responsive. So he tries a little bit of everything to make him all better and wake him up again. When the robot's power switch is finally turned back on--again an accident--the robot doesn't understand why the boy is unresponsive, the boy is asleep in bed. Now it is the robot's turn to "fix" the boy. The robot takes him home and does his best to make him better in the way he knows how. Fortunately, the robot's inventor intervenes before the boy's batteries are changed. It is a fun, simple, playful book that I liked more and more each time I reread it.

Read Boy + Bot
  • If you enjoy imaginative, playful books
  • If you're looking for a fun read aloud 

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Mo Willems. 2012. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway. 

Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs isn't my new favorite picture book or even my new favorite picture book by Mo Willems. But it is a playful retelling, a more sarcastic retelling, of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In this retelling, the three dinosaurs see Goldilocks--or perhaps some other unsupervised girl--as prey. They are setting a trap to catch a little girl unawares. Their bait is chocolate pudding. Three giant bowls of chocolate pudding--chocolate pudding at varying temperatures, true, but irresistible to just about everyone. Goldilocks definitely is tempted by the pudding--it would be hard to resist--but she's not so foolish as to ignore each and every warning sign of danger. The result is two completely different morals at the end of this one.

It was fun to see just how many changes were made to the story. And some of the changes were just right, in my opinion. But. I didn't love it absolutely. I think the humor is better appreciated the older you are. And it may be a book that grows on you with each reading. I notice more each time I reread it. Small things mostly in the illustrations. 


Read Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
  • If you're a fan of Mo Willems
  • If you like fairy or folk tales
  • If you like playful (sarcastic) adaptations of traditional tales
  • If you like funny books

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. Jan Thomas. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.  

I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Jan Thomas' IS EVERYONE READY FOR FUN? I really wanted to love her newest book, Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, just as much. It didn't quite happen. But. I did really enjoy it. I really do love Thomas' cows. They are just so much fun!!! The book begins with a cowboy singing a gentle lullaby to two of his cows, things are going well until....the song gets interrupted...by the cowboy's "EEK!" as the cowboy gets frightened over and over again. The cows do a great job in calming and reassuring the cowboy most of the time...

I thought this one was fun and playful. The cowboy's fears provided the silliness required to be a Jan Thomas book. And it's definitely not your typical bedtime book. I am not sure I'd recommend this one for bedtime, but, I do think it would make a fun anytime read aloud.


Read Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy
  • If you're a fan of Jan Thomas
  • If you're looking for a book about a cowardly cowboy
  • If you like silly books with playful twists
Dragons Love Tacos. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2012. Penguin. 40 pages. 

I thought Dragons Love Tacos was very fun, very silly, a bit predictable but mostly enjoyable! A boy who loves dragons just knows that dragons love, love, love tacos, and if they love anything more than tacos, it's a taco-eating party thrown just for them. But he also knows that dragons HATE spicy salsa, and that spicy salsa hates them. The spicy heat leads to disastrous tummy troubles... If you enjoy silly books, then this one may just be for you. 

Read Dragons Love Tacos
  • If you like dragons OR like tacos
  • If you like silly books
  • If you're looking for a fun read aloud

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt. (Wheel of Time #2) Robert Jordan. Tor. 600 pages.

A few weeks ago I read The Eye of the World the first book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I loved it. I loved the promise of it especially. From the start, I felt it was going to be a just-right series for me, that it was going to have characters that I could love and appreciate. The Great Hunt was a great second book. Perhaps the second-half wowed me more than the first half, but, I definitely reached a place where the book became wonderfully intense and almost magical. The Great Hunt features some of the same characters as the first book, but it also introduces a few new characters. And this second book has the characters on somewhat separate journeys.

The men (Rand, Mat, Perrin) join soldiers on a mission to find the Horn of Valere. The women (Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne) begin their studies at the White Tower in Tar Valon; Nynaeve undergoes a test and becomes Accepted while Egwene and Elayne are novices still. The second half of the book truly focuses on these three characters--and Min--and these chapters were easily my favorite!!! There are three women--Min, Egwene, and Elayne--who have interest in Rand and his uncertain future. All are concerned about where his journey will take him--now and in the future. Will his "destiny" lead to madness and destruction? Can he be saved? '

In The Great Hunt, I felt the story truly begins. I continue to love the series so far.

Read The Great Hunt
  • If you've read and enjoyed The Eye of the World
  • If you enjoy fantasy and adventure
  • If you like world-building and storytelling  
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Four 2012 Early Readers

Monkey and Elephant. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2012. Candlewick. 48 pages.

Monkey and Elephant tried to rest under the afternoon sun.  

Monkey and Elephant are friends. But they are not exactly at their best in this chapter adventure for young readers. For it is extremely, irritatingly HOT, HOT, HOT. And the day is ripe for complaining and whining. Can these two friends make the best of an impossibly hot day? In the first chapter, Monkey and Elephant start off on their journey to find a shade tree. Before long, both are too thirsty...a puddle only provides temporary relief. In the second chapter, the two sing songs to one another. In the third chapter, the walk continues. Elephant is able to 'protect' his friend, Monkey, from some unfriendly animals. They finally reach the shade...

Essentially one big story broken into three small segments...

I liked it.


Bramble and Maggie: Horse Meets Girl. Jessie Haas. Illustrated by Alison Friend. 2012. Candlewick. 56 pages.

Bramble gave riding lessons. Mrs. Blenkinsop told the rider what to do, and the rider told Bramble what to do. They went around and around the riding ring with the other horses. Around and around. Around and around.

I really liked this early reader (early chapter book) about Bramble and Maggie. Bramble is a horse with attitude. Tired of riding in a ring every day, tired of being a teaching horse, Bramble wants more--to belong to one person, to have one rider who understands and loves. Maggie would love a horse of her own, and when her parents spot a sign offering a free horse, well, Maggie is beyond excited. She HOPES that Bramble will want to come home with her. And the two do seem to get along right from the start. For Maggie has an understanding heart and she treats Bramble with kindness and respect. The first two chapters are about Bramble and Maggie and their first meeting. The last two chapters are about Bramble moving to her new home--new stall--and settling down with Maggie. The third chapter, for example, shows Maggie showing her horse around her yard, getting her used to her new environment, making sure she's comfortable and not scared. The fourth chapter is about their first night...which they end up spending together.  

The Big Something. Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Diane Palmisciano. 2012. Scholastic. 40 pages.

I do wish this one hadn't mentioned witches--even in the context of Hansel and Gretel's house. Not that the "witch" in question is a witch. Just two children with an active imagination fearing the worst...for their dog Fiercely. Turns out, Fiercely wasn't actually digging a hole to China, no, he was just digging under the fence to go next door to the new construction site. The kids are absolutely convinced that the new building is a house--a house just like in Hansel and Gretel. No matter how scared they are--no matter how terrified--they must save their dog from the witch who happens to be a teacher who is building a big red schoolhouse.  

Ballet Stars. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. 2012. Random House. 24 pages.

Ballet show today--hooray! We all dress up a fancy way. Sparkly ribbons. Ballet shoes. Bright white tights. And new tutus. We do stretches. We do bends. We warm up with ballet friends. Ballet arms. Ballet feet. Toes point out and fingers meet. 

I enjoyed this early reader. Using rhyming text, the book describes the fun and excitement of the big day, the day of the class's ballet recital. While the class is mainly little girls, there is one little boy excited about ballet. It was fun and simple. Comes with two pages of stickers.  


© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Unspoken (YA)

Unspoken. Sarah Rees Brennan. 2012. Random House. 384 pages.

Every town in England has a story. One day I am going to find out Sorry-in-the-Vale's.

Though others may think Kami Glass is crazy or slightly crazy, Kami knows the voice in her head is all too real. She's been hearing it since she can remember. And one of her closest friends, Jared, exists only as a voice she hears in her mind. Soon after the novel starts, Kami realizes that her "imaginary" friend is very real and has just moved to town. He is nothing like she imagined, not really. Jared and his cousin, Ash, are just two members of the strange and powerful Lynburn family. The family has long been established in Sorry-in-the-Vale, and it is only the youngest generation that has been raised elsewhere. But the family has returned, and brought a darkness with them. Strange things begin to happen: dead animals discovered, screams in the woods, etc. While investigating a story or two, Kami finds herself in real trouble: she's pushed down a well. It is only her psychic connection with Jared that saves her. The problem? Many people assume that he's the one who pushed her in the first place. (But if that was true, why would he jump in and save her?) Kami's life continues to be in danger, as this gothic fantasy thriller continues...

I think many readers will enjoy Unspoken. It is a dark gothic horror novel with only slight touches of romance. Kami is a strong heroine who is fiercely independent at times and always opinionated. She is smart enough not to trust anyone blindly, but, she's loyal enough to her own way. While I didn't exactly want to spend time with Kami, Angela, Holly, Jared, and Ash, I think other readers will.

Read Unspoken
  • If you enjoy dark fantasies, gothic fantasies, gothic romances, 
  • If you enjoy horror novels or thrillers

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unwholly (YA)

Unwholly. Neal Shusterman. 2012. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages.

I really loved Neal Shusterman's Unwind; it was just so compelling! The world he created in his dystopia was fascinating, and I loved all three narrators. It was a book I just couldn't put down and just had to recommend.

Unwholly is the sequel to Unwind. It was compelling and action-packed. Readers meet even more teens about to be unwound including a tithe or two--those raised with the knowledge and belief that unwinding is something sacred. Readers even get to meet a character whose very existence challenges everything, a boy named Cam. It's a blend of old characters (Lev, Connor, Risa) and new characters (Cam, Starkey, Miracolina). I liked getting to know the new characters, they definitely add something to the story. And, of course, I enjoyed following the old characters.

Because this was a sequel, it is hard to talk about it without spoiling the first book. And truly, even if it wasn't a sequel, it's one best left for you to discover. 

Read Unwholly
  • If you enjoyed Unwind
  • If you are a fan of Neal Shusterman
  • If you enjoy dystopias and science fiction 
  • If you enjoy stories with multiple narrators
  • If you enjoy action, suspense, thrillers

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Times Lucky (MG)

Three Times Lucky. Sheila Turnage. 2012. Penguin. 256 pages.

Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt. Almost before the dust had settled, Mr. Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down. 

I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. I just loved the narrator, Miss Moses LoBeau. I loved her voice, found it unique and authentic. I loved her from page one. I found her coming of age story--a true murder mystery--compelling and wonderful. I loved the small town setting. I loved getting to know the people of the community. I loved seeing their quirks--their strengths and weaknesses. I liked seeing Mo's pieced together family. She was discovered floating in a river after a hurricane; she doesn't have a clue who her biological mother and father are. But she does have a family, a flawed family to be sure, but a very loving family. There are a couple of mysteries to solve in this one, and it has plenty of action. So it isn't all focused on characters, but, the characters were probably my favorite part of this one!!!

Read Three Times Lucky
  • If you like great children's books
  • If you enjoy mysteries AND coming-of-age stories
  • If you like strong narratives and flawed characters
  • If you like Southern stories

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Redshirts

Redshirts. John Scalzi. 2012. Tor. 320 pages.

Redshirts is definitely a quick read. And it was fun in places, I admit. It definitely had a fun and playful premise. There were a few scenes that I enjoyed very much, but then there were a couple of scenes that disgusted bothered me. The premise was interesting and would probably make this one a good read no matter what. But I found the characterization a bit uneven, and there were a few characters that I just did NOT like at all. I really liked the hero, Andrew Dahl, and I enjoyed spending time with him. But unfortunately, I didn't like the company he kept. One friend really irritated me. I hated every conversation and scene with this one person.

I wish this one had been a cleaner read. So much of the adult content was completely needless in my opinion. I do think others will enjoy this one more than I did. 


Read Redshirts
  • If you like Galaxy Quest and/or Star Trek 
  • If you like science fiction
  • If you like (adult) humor
  • If you're a fan of John Scalzi

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Origin (YA)

Origin. Jessica Khoury. 2012. Penguin. 372 pages.

I'm told that the day I was born, Uncle Paolo held me against his white lab coat and whispered, "She is perfect." 

Origin has an interesting premise. Pia has grown up in the Amazon jungle almost completely unaware of the world outside the Little Cam research community. She is the result of five generations of experimentation and genetic engineering. The goal, the quest, immortality. And with Pia, at last, they've done it. But it has required great sacrifice. Pia is blind to just how much sacrifice, especially in the beginning. She is so excited to be PERFECT and so excited to be the first of her kind, so trusting, so loyal that she just can't wait to become a scientist too. To take her place alongside those who have almost manufactured her. But one night Pia becomes curious, and what she discovers in the jungle changes everything...

I liked this one. I found it an interesting, fast-paced read.

Read Origin
  • If you like science fiction (genetic engineering; quest for immorality)
  • If you like mysteries and thrillers
  • If you enjoy YA with a little romance

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Salon: Watching Six Hero Movies

I recently watched Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America (2011) and The Avengers (2012). Each film had strengths and weaknesses in my opinion. I did prefer the first Iron Man to the second. (Tony Stark's ego in Iron Man 2 was beyond obnoxious, taken way past any tolerable extreme. And there were so many absolutely ridiculous things in the film.) I enjoyed The Incredible Hulk more than I thought I would. I found the story (minus the ridiculous fight scene at the end) quite compelling. 

Two definitely stand out as being my favorites: Captain America and Thor! I loved Thor!!! I really, truly loved it. I enjoyed Thor and his conflict with his brother, Loki. I liked seeing how his "fall" to Earth helped him to be a better "god" in a way. I really enjoyed seeing Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman, and Kat Dennings. Also the Thor and Jane Foster romance was very fun to see!!! There were just some great scenes--great moments there. And I definitely LOVED Captain America. It was a great movie. I enjoyed the character, Steve Rogers/Captain America. I enjoyed the setting of the film, World War 2, and I liked getting a glimpse of Tony Stark's father, Howard. I loved seeing this good guy become a great hero. Great story, great characters, good dialogue.

 Did I enjoy The Avengers? Yes. Did I love it? Not really. I did LOVE Thor and Captain America. I really enjoyed their scenes in this one, for the most part. And I loved some of their lines in the film. There were many, many enjoyable moments throughout the film--not just with Thor and Captain America--but with many if not all of the "heroes." But there was just too much fighting overall. A movie where one fight scene leads to another to another to another to another to another to another with barely anything in between...is not my kind of movie. I want more story. I definitely saw improvement in Tony Stark's character, and so I definitely liked this one much better than Iron Man 2. So I definitely liked this one; loved in some places, just liked in others. I am very glad I watched these movies.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Library Loot: Second Trip in October

New Loot:

  • The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
  • The Dragons of Winter by James A. Owen
  • The Dragon's Apprentice by James A. Owen

Leftover Loot:

  • Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans
  • Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin   
  • Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
  • Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg 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

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What Came From the Stars (MG)

What Came From the Stars. Gary D. Schmidt. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages.

I wanted to love this one, but I'm not sure I can even say I liked it. I found the fantasy sections to be confusing, in an unnecessary way. (I think he could have written it to be more accessible and enjoyable.) YET at the same time, these sections reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. (I would have preferred to be reminded of The Hobbit!) The realistic sections were interesting. A grieving boy finds an out-of-this-world necklace that changes him in small ways--foreign ways; and since this necklace is highly sought after by evil aliens from a far away planet, bad stuff starts happening in the boy's community. This one had a handful of scenes that I really enjoyed. For example, when Tommy Pepper (our hero) is "fixing" the painting of his principal, I believe. There were a few scenes with delightful details that just worked. And some of the dialogue was great. But I had a hard time connecting with this one for the most part.

Read What Came From The Stars
  • If you're a fan of Gary D. Schmidt
  • If you enjoy children's fantasy OR science fiction
  • If you're looking for a unique book on grief and guilt

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 12, 2012

All Things New

All Things New. Lynn Austin. 2012. Bethany House. 416 pages.

Historical fiction set in Virginia in the weeks and months following the end of the Civil War. All Things New is told from multiple perspectives. Lizzie and Otis are slaves who have just learned of their freedom, they are the only former-slaves to choose to stay at White Oak Plantation. Lizzie wants what is best for her family, since the Freedmen's Bureau has opened up a school she has decided it is best they stay there so her children can attend school and learn to read and write. Josephine Weatherly is the oldest daughter. She is mourning the death of her father and brother and struggling to make peace with her brother who returned from the war a very different man. She misses the luxuries of the old life, in a way, but she's a practical no-nonsense woman who'd rather survive and learn to change to fit the new times. Eugenia (Josephine's mother) is so unlike her daughter. She's lost her husband and one son, all her wealth, and she wants things to go back to the way they were before, she wants things to go back to normal right now, she's had enough change, enough loss. Why should she change in order to make sense of this crazy world? All Things New is all about conflict and tension. Will the white families allow the former slaves their freedom, their independence, their right to make decisions for themselves...or will they do whatever it takes to keep them in their "rightful" place? Will these months lead to peace or strife? Is more violence around the corner? Or can a community start to heal?

All Things New is also a romance between a Southern woman, Josephine, and a Yankee, Alexander Chandler...

I liked it. I didn't love it or hate it. I'm not as interested in the Civil War and Reconstruction period as I am in other historical periods. (I just love Lynn Austin novels set during World War II). This wasn't a novel I could feel comfortable with.

Read All Things New
  • If you're a fan of Lynn Austin
  • If you enjoy historical fiction, historical romance, clean historical romance
  • If you enjoy christian fiction
  • If you enjoy historical fiction set in the Civil War/Reconstruction period 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Broken Lands (YA)

The Broken Lands. Kate Milford. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 455 pages.

I just loved, loved, loved Kate Milford's The Boneshaker. I can't say I loved The Broken Lands as much, but, I still really liked it. I think I loved the narration more in Boneshaker. With The Boneshaker, it was love almost from the first page, it definitely took me longer to connect with the characters and the story from this newest book. But. Once I started caring about Sam and Jin, I did care. Both books, of course, are about good versus evil, and being brave enough to make the right choices and stand up for good. And there were great scenes in both books. I continued to love the author's description and storytelling. I would recommend both books.

The Broken Lands is historical fantasy set in New York City in 1877.


Read The Broken Lands
  • If you love great storytelling and unique characters
  • If you love historical fantasy young adult fiction
  • If you're looking for a 'magical' or 'supernatural' book set in New York City
  • If you are looking for a little supernatural in your fantasy BUT you don't necessarily want werewolves or vampires or zombies

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Splendors and Glooms (MG)

Splendors and Glooms. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2012. Candlewick. 384 pages.

I enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would. I don't typically love spooky dark fantasy novels, but the historical setting of this one and the storytelling itself soon had me hooked. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are two orphans working for a master puppeteer and performer, Gaspare Grisini. He isn't the best caretaker in the world, not particularly caring if they have food to eat, etc. But. He has taught them just enough; Parsefall a little too much. Parsefall he's trained to be a thief in addition to a performer. When Grisini is hired to perform at Clara Wintermute's birthday party, life changes for everyone...

I really liked the three children and enjoyed learning more about each of them. I loved the characters, the writing, the storytelling, the setting and atmosphere. I also liked the themes of brokenness and healing. It is a great historical fantasy novel set in England around 1860.


I think this is one of the must-reads of 2012!!!

Read Splendors and Glooms:
  • If you love GREAT children's books
  • If you like children's books with a slightly dark tone to them; 
  • If you like fantasy with magic, enchantments, magic curses, witches, etc.
  • If you enjoy children's historical fantasy

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Monument 14 (YA)

Monument 14. Emmy Laybourne. 2012. Feiwel & Friends. 294 pages.

Monument 14 was a quick and mostly compelling read. The book has an interesting premise, for the most part. Life as we know it has ended, at least for the near future, and a dozen (or so) students find themselves for better or worse "trapped" in a superstore. The students vary in age, of course, from kindergartners to seniors or juniors. They must find a way to work together to make the best of a very bad situation: the outside world has turned hostile and there is no guarantee that they'll be able to leave the store in the next few months. 

The narrator is one of the older students, a guy named Dean; he happens to be trapped with his brother, Alex. While there are plenty of characters, I didn't really feel connected to anyone. This one was not great at characterization or relationships. Dean happens to have a big, big crush on one of the girls he's trapped with...but she has a boyfriend, another one of the characters. And Dean is having to balance his "love" for her with his need to not make a bigger-than-him enemy.


For those who don't mind a premise-driven post-apocalyptic, this one may work well enough. It was definitely interesting in places, and intense too. But I didn't love it.


Read Monument 14
  • If you like survival-catastrophe-thrillers 
  • If you don't mind a little teen drama (high school stereotypes abound)

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Liar & Spy (MG)

Liar & Spy. Rebecca Stead. 2012. Random House. 192 pages.

There's this totally false map of the human tongue. It's supposed to show where we taste different things, like salty on the side of the tongue, sweet in the front, bitter in the back. Some guy drew it a hundred years ago, and people have been forcing kids to memorize it ever since. But it's wrong--all wrong. As in, not even the slightest bit right.

If you enjoy character-driven coming of age stories, then Liar & Spy could prove quite satisfying! Georges, our seventh grade hero, is being bullied at school. Readers get a chance to witness this during science class--they're studying taste--and gym class. Georges doesn't exactly like playing sports, but the teacher seems friendly enough. Georges feels all alone, but, the truth is he is slowly but surely making friends with another boy, Bob English Who Draws.

Readers also witness his home life. Georges' life is changing quickly. His dad recently lost his job, his mom started working more hours, and the family had to move from their home to an apartment. Georges had to leave behind a great bedroom--with an old fire escape built-in--to move to an apartment. But soon after the move, he meets a few kids in his apartment building: Safer (who is around his own age) and Candy (who is ten). Safer and Georges make up the spy club for the apartment building...

I loved the characterization in Liar & Spy. I enjoyed getting to know Safer and Candy. I just LOVED Candy. I loved her idea of a dream guy. She wants to grow up to marry someone who LOVES orange because she HATES the flavor and since she's candy obsessed, she wants someone to "give" all her rejects to. I loved the vulnerability of both Safer and Georges, though they aren't necessarily vulnerable in the same ways. I liked the building of friendships. And I liked how Georges came to know himself better through the novel. By the end, he's become more open, and he's ready to face some of his fears.

It is a quirky novel in some ways. But it works for me. I just loved it.

Read Liar & Spy
  • If you like Rebecca Stead
  • If you like reading Middle Grade novels
  • If you like quiet, quirky books about family, school, and friends
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday Salon: Watching and Reading The Hunger Games

I decided to reread The Hunger Games before watching the film adaptation of The Hunger Games. It was a great opportunity for me to revisit this great dystopia. I think I want to reread the rest of the series now, I'm curious to see if my feelings change as I revisit the story.

I thought the adaptation worked really well. In fact, it may be the best adaptation of a novel to film that I've seen in recent years. What details were changed in the movie seemed to make complete sense. While novels will always allow a reader more of a chance to get to know characters, I thought the movie did a GREAT job with the characters. (For example, I thought the movie did a GREAT job at portraying the relationship between Rue and Katniss. It was amazing.) While the "love triangle" annoyed me in the book, I wasn't as bothered by the portrayal on film. Perhaps because a few silent scenes can convey much more than whining words on a page.

I do think the film was able to capture some things better than the book. I thought they did a GREAT job with the hunger games. I thought they did a great job at showing the corruption of the system, of how calculated, heartless and manipulative the games are. I thought the behind-the-scenes look at how the games are manufactured were great. As a reader you get a little of that, of course, because Katniss seems always aware of the fact that there is an audience, etc. But I thought the film did a great job at bringing everything to life.

Have you seen this one? What did you think? Do you prefer the book or the movie?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Library Loot: First Trip in October

New Loot:
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans
  • Let's Go For  A Drive by Mo Willems
  • The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
  • Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
  • Gooney Bird on the Map by Lois Lowry
  • Gooney Bird is So Absurd by Lois Lowry
  • Gooney, the Fabulous by Lois Lowry
  • Gooney Bird and the Room Mother by Lois Lowry
  • Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Leftover Loot:
  • Whispers in the Wind by Lauraine Snelling
  • Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
  • Dodger by Terry Pratchett
  • Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Snow in Summer: Fairest of Them All by Jane Yolen
  • Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.
  • Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas
  • Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg 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.  

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) Robert Jordan. 1990. Tor. 814 pages. 

Perhaps I was just in the perfect mood for The Eye of The World, or maybe it's just that good. I do know that it was an experience. I read this one in just three days!!! I knew within a chapter or two that this one was just right for me, one that I'd really enjoy through and through. I enjoyed the world-building, the characterization, the storytelling, and, of course, the quest and adventure. If you don't like quests or journeys, or heroes-in-the-making setting out for long, uncertain journeys then perhaps this one wouldn't thrill you.

Three young men (Rand, Mat, and Perrin) are escaping danger and setting forth on a very dangerous journey with a couple of strangers (Moraine and Lan) whom they have reason both to trust and mistrust. On the one hand, Moraine has proven herself by helping to heal the wounded in Two Rivers after a devastating Trolloc attack. She saved Rand's father, Tam, when no one else would even try. So Rand, at least, owes her something. And she is trying to save all their lives--she knows all three are in great danger. On the other hand, Moraine is Aes Sedai, and Lan is her Warder. There has never been a story or tale told where Aes Sedai are good and trustworthy and safe. Also along for the journey are Egwene, a young woman who cares for Rand deeply, and Thom Merrilin, a gleeman--entertainer, storyteller, musician, etc. They are also joined by Nynaeve, a young woman, the local Wisdom, intent on one thing getting all three men back where they belong: Two Rivers.

There is definitely a good amount of uncertainty, mystery, and danger in The Eye of the World. Danger comes in many, many shapes and sizes. And there's plenty of action along the way leading up to some intense chapters at the end. I enjoyed it for the journey just as much as the end. I enjoyed the narrative style, for the most part.

I definitely LOVED it.

Read The Eye of the World
  • If you enjoy fantasy
  • If you really enjoy fantasy
  • If you like coming-of-age, going-on-a-quest fantasy
  • If you like world-building and storytelling

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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