Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Reflections

In September I read 52 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: I Love My Dinosaur. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Pig Is Big On Books. Douglas Florian. 2015. Holiday House. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. Sitting In My Box. Dee Lillegard. Illustrated by Jon Agee. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! (Rosetta Stone) Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Michael Frith. 1975. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. Winston the Book Wolf. Marni McGee. Illustrated by Ian Beck. 2006. Walker. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going To Sleep? Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2011. Two Lions. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Poetry: A Great Big Cuddle. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 2015. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Oh, The Thinks You Can Think. Dr. Seuss. 1975. Random House. 41 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Wacky Wednesday. Dr. Seuss (Theo LeSieg). Illustrated by George Booth. 1974. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. Great Day for Up. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1974. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Momo's Kitten. Mitsu and Taro Yashima. 1961. Viking. 33 pages. [Source: Bought]
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. Big Dog and Little Dog Going for a Walk. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Little Shaq. Shaquille O'Neal. Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. 2015. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Pizza Pat. Rita Golden Gelman. Illustrated by Will Terry. (A Bright & Early Book) 1999. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  4. 26 Fairmount Avenue. Tomie dePaola. 1999. Penguin. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

Middle grade:
  1. Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poetry of Laurence Dunbar. Sally Derby. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Candlewick Press. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Sunny Side Up. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2015. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. Seventh Most Important Thing. Shelley Pearsall. 2015. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Mark of The Thief. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Betty Crocker Kids Cook. 1999/2015 (spiral-bound) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Island of Dr. Libris. Chris Grabenstein. 2015. Random House. 242 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez. 2013/2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Hired Girl. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2015. Candlewick. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. 2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Case of the Phantom Cat (Maisie HItchins #3) Holly Webb. Illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Arthur, For The Very First Time. Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. 1980/2002. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Library]  
  12. Whittington. Alan Armstrong. 2005. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  13. Criss Cross. Lynne Rae Perkins. 2005. 337 pages. [Source: Library]  
  14. A Night Divided. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  15. The Thing about Jellyfish. Ali Benjamin. 2015. Little, Brown. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16. History of Women's Fashion (Design Line). Natasha Slee. Illustrated by Sanna Mander. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  17. Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]
 Young Adult:
  1. Archivist Wasp. Nicole Kornher-Stace. 2015. Big Mouth House. 268 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Conjured. Sarah Beth Durst. 2013. Walker. 368 pages. [Source: Library]  
Adult books:
  1. Notting Hill Mystery. Charles Warren Adams. 1862/2015. Poisoned Pen Press. 284 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. A Test of Wills (Ian Rutledge #1) Charles Todd. 1994/2006. Harper Collins. 305 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. William Shakespeare's The Clone Army Attacketh. Ian Doescher. 2015. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian fiction:
  1. Mistress of Tall Acre. Laura Frantz. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Memory Weaver. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2015. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Convenient Bride Collection. 2015. Barbour Books. 446 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection. 2015. Barbour Books. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Golden Braid. Melanie Dickerson. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Not by Sight. Kate Breslin. 2015. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Newton on the Christian Life. Tony Reinke. 2015. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Reckless Love of God. Alex Early. 2015. Bethany House. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. ESV Reader's Bible. 2014. Crossway. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]  
  5. Exalting Jesus in Galatians (Christ-Centered Exposition) David Platt and Tony Merida. 2014. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts. Douglas Bond. 2013. Reformation Trust. 163 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 
  7. The Holy Spirit. Kevin DeYoung. 2011. Crossway. 30 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Meet Me At The Manger…And I'll Lead You to the Cross. Leighann McCoy. 2010. 341 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

26 Fairmount Avenue

26 Fairmount Avenue. Tomie dePaola. 1999. Penguin. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading Tomie dePaola's 26 Fairmount Avenue? Yes. I think I appreciated it more upon rereading than I did the first time I read it a decade ago. This autobiographical early chapter book is about his moving to 26 Fairmount Avenue. It is not a simple transition, or, an easy move. Because life happens, things--big things, little things--keep happening to prevent work on the new house and to prevent their move. This building of the new house is always in the background. Meanwhile, he's growing up and having plenty of firsts. One of the incidents in the book is of his going to see Snow White at the theatre with his family. It captures what he thought as he saw the story unfold on screen. The intensity of it--how mesmerizing it was. And yet, HOW UNLIKE THE BOOK. So he is both drawn to it and repulsed by it. Finding it amazing and magical, and yet feeling it was missing something. This resonated with me. I liked the flow of the narrative. It has a comfy-cozy feel to it.

I don't think I've read the others in this series. I may need to seek them out soon.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Island of Dr. Libris

The Island of Dr. Libris. Chris Grabenstein. 2015. Random House. 242 pages. [Source: Review copy]

At times I loved it. At times I just almost loved it. Weeks from now, I'm not sure which feeling will be the one that lasts. I'll start with what I enjoyed most. Billy, the hero, is quite special. (Of course, he is.) When he reads books in the summer cabin, odd things happen on a nearby island, the island of Dr. Libris. He doesn't believe what he's hearing, and, sometimes seeing. So he takes a row boat to investigate the situation, and, indeed it seems true enough upon further investigation. The characters in the books he reads are coming to life on the island. When he visits the island, he interacts with fictional characters, and those characters interact with each other too. For better or worse. Since most of the books he's reading are packed with action and danger and good guys and bad guys, well, visiting the island comes with some risks. Billy doesn't automatically know how to solve these problems, it will take some thinking and some teamwork perhaps. Billy teams up with a not-quite-as-special kid, Walter, and things get even more exciting. At some point, Pollyanna gets read...and she starts interacting with everyone. (Some of these scenes made me laugh.)

What didn't I love? Well, the premise was interesting enough. But the dialogue didn't wow me. Bringing all these characters--from all these different genres--to life and making it REALLY work, making it believable, would take some great dialogue. I'd describe the dialogue as more fair to average than great. I just never got swept up in the story in a giddy-making way. The characters felt like weak, weak copies of their originals. And while it was fun to see which books got read, it wasn't quite as magical as I was hoping. Also, Dr. Libris himself remains shadow-y and flat.

Still, I enjoyed elements of this one. A book doesn't have to be the best book ever in order to be an enjoyable book.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jump Back, Paul

Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poetry of Laurence Dunbar. Sally Derby. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Candlewick Press. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

It had me at hello.
You never heard of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar? Child, where've you been? I got to have a word with you. Why, back in the day, you'd have whole families sitting around listening while one of them performed "When Malindy Sings" or "Little Brown Baby" or "A Negro Love Song" (which folks most always call "Jump Back, Honey").
Within a page or two, I was just fascinated with the book, with the story, with the narrator, and just HAD to keep reading. I wasn't expecting to find a book about a poet compelling, honestly. But this is a well-crafted narrative.
Readers learn about Paul Laurence Dunbar. Readers get the opportunity to read many of his poems. And that opportunity comes within the context of learning about his life. And I think, in part, that is why it is so compelling. It isn't just "here kid, read some poems." Far from it, readers have all they need--in my opinion--to understand and appreciate the poems. Readers are given a taste only, just enough to make you want more.

I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure what I enjoyed most: learning about the poet, OR, reading the poems. I think both elements work well together. I think if readers had the biography without the poems, it would fall short. And I think the reverse is also true. Without knowing his life story, the times in which he lived, what mattered and why, the poems lose something--especially with so young an audience.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Heidi

Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]

I enjoyed reading Heidi for the third time. I really did. I definitely think there is something timeless about this children's novel. Why do I like it so much?

Well, I like Heidi herself, of course. I love her actually. Like isn't strong enough a word for how I feel about her.

I also love the developing relationship between Heidi and her Grandfather. I do. I really tend to love books that highlight the special bond or relationship that exists between grandparents and grandchildren, or, even between the generations, such as Heidi and "the Grandmother" (Peter's grandmother). Heidi values--loves unconditionally--these two so very much. And I have to admit I love them too.

I enjoy reading about Heidi's time with Peter. Peter is such an interesting character: at times very naughty and so stubborn. Yet there is something joyful about him too. Even if he is a bit difficult to get along with at times. Heidi never gives up on Peter, she keeps pushing him to be better and better.

I like that the book does have flawed characters. Characters like Peter and the Grandfather. Now, I suppose, one could argue that Heidi is too good to be true, that she's not flawed enough. I don't have a good answer for that, other than the fact that in this case, it doesn't bother me. Perhaps because Heidi is clueless as to how good she is. Heidi isn't proud or snobbish. Far from it.

I like the morals of the book. I really do. There is just something incredibly wholesome about this one. One of the 'morals' of this one is the providence of God. Heidi may not understand just why she's torn away from Grandfather and forced to go away and be a companion for Clara, but, she later comes to realize that it was God working all things for good. While with Clara, she not only makes a good friend, but she learns to read, she meets Jesus, she makes other friends whose lives she will without a doubt change for the better. Because she's met Jesus, when she does eventually go back to Grandfather, she is able to tell him about Jesus, and he comes to Christ as well. Heidi touches many lives besides the Grandfather and Grandmother, she also helps Clara's doctor reconcile with God. And, then, there is, of course, the obvious, Clara's coming to visit and learning to walk again. The book has some good-and-wise things to say about life, prayer, and God. This focus on the spiritual life may make the book seem old-fashioned to some readers perhaps. And may even be unwelcome by some today. But. I think Heidi has that something special that more modern books lack at times.

There is something sweet about the book that leaves you with a satisfied feeling. Not every book does you know.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in September

New Loot:
  • Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War by Raghu Karnad
  • Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain by Harriet Ziefert
  • Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going To School? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Pig Is Big On Books by Douglas Florian
  • The Year of Fear: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt that Changed the Nation by Joe Urschel
  • Click, Clack, ho ho ho! by Doreen Cronin
  • Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Frintz
  • It's A Big World, Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi
  • Banana by Ed Vere
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
  • The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter

Leftover Loot:
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
  • An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog? by Theo LeSieg
  • Hooper Humperdink--? Not Him! by Theo LeSieg
  • My Book Box by Will Hillenbrand
  • Listen to My Trumpet by Mo Willem
  • We Are In A Book by Mo Willems
  • Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Week in Review: September 20-26

Pig Is Big On Books. Douglas Florian. 2015. Holiday House. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Sitting In My Box. Dee Lillegard. Illustrated by Jon Agee. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! (Rosetta Stone) Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Michael Frith. 1975.
Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Winston the Book Wolf. Marni McGee. Illustrated by Ian Beck. 2006. Walker. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going To Sleep? Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2011. Two Lions. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Little Shaq. Shaquille O'Neal. Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. 2015. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Great Big Cuddle. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 2015. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. 2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Betty Crocker Kids Cook. 1999/2015 (spiral-bound) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Notting Hill Mystery. Charles Warren Adams. 1862/2015. Poisoned Pen Press. 284 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Holy Spirit. Kevin DeYoung. 2011. Crossway. 30 pages. [Source: Bought] 
The Reckless Love of God. Alex Early. 2015. Bethany House. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
ESV Reader's Bible. 2014. Crossway. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift] 

This week's recommendation(s): I reviewed quite a few picture books this week. I would definitely recommend Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo, True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, and Pig is Big On Books.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Pig Is Big On Books

Pig Is Big On Books. Douglas Florian. 2015. Holiday House. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pig is big on books. Pig likes to read. 

Premise/plot: Readers meet a pig who loves, loves, loves to read books. Big books. Small books. All kinds of books. Pig loves to read anywhere too. But what happens when pig can't find a book to read?!

My thoughts: I loved this book. I really loved, loved, loved it. I do love books and reading. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that I loved this very reading-focused title. Still, there is something simple and just-right about it. It flows really well. And I loved the direction the story went. I definitely recommend this one. It is an "I Like To Read" book.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sitting In My Box

Sitting In My Box. Dee Lillegard. Illustrated by Jon Agee. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Sitting in my box. A tall giraffe knocks. "Let me, let me in" So I move over.

Premise/plot: A young boy is reading a book while sitting in a box when....a tall giraffe, an old gray elephant, a big baboon, a grumpy lion, and a hippopotamus intrude in a delightfully predictable way. They ALL want in HIS box, of course. But is there room for so many animals in such a small box?! What can he do?! What will he do?! Read for yourself and see in this imaginative book.

My thoughts: Enjoyed this one very much. Though I do wish it said, "Let me in, let me in!" instead of "let me, let me in." But other than that, this one is definitely delightful and just FUN for sharing aloud. (I loved the "not me, not me, not me, not me" page, for example).

For another picture book about boxes, try A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom. That one is also quite charming.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Seuss on Saturday #39

Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! (Rosetta Stone) Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Michael Frith. 1975. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You may not believe it, but here's how it happened. One fine summer morning...a little bug sneezed. Because of that sneeze, a little seed dropped. Because that seed dropped, a worm got hit.

Premise/plot: You never know what may happen with one little sneeze! Cause and effect have never been so much fun as in Seuss's Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. I do. It's always been one of my most favorites. It's just so funny. And I think it's one that just begs to be read again and again and again. Do you have a favorite scene?

Have you read Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hooper Humperdink...? Not Him!


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, September 25, 2015

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everybody knows the story of The Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story, because nobody has ever heard my side of the story.

Premise/plot. A. Wolf (the narrator) wants readers (like you and me) to know the TRUTH. He is not a BIG BAD WOLF. He's not. Here's why: he was simply going to his neighbors' to ask for a cup of sugar. Why? Well, it was all for the best of causes: his dear granny's birthday cake. True, his neighbors all happened to be PIGS. But his intention was for SUGAR, AND SUGAR ALONE. It's not his fault that he had a cold and that his POWERFUL SNEEZES took out the first two pigs' houses. And it's not his fault that the pigs he found within the collapsed houses were DEAD. Perhaps it wasn't neighborly to EAT them after he found them dead. But it was the natural thing to do--he is a wolf, and pigs are tasty. He asks readers to trust his side of the story. Do you?!

My thoughts: This one is fun, fun, super-fun, just a true delight to read and reread. I've read it plenty of times since it was first published in 1989, but, this is the first time I've reviewed it. If you haven't read it yet, you should! You're never too old to pick this one up.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Winston the Book Wolf





Winston the Book Wolf. Marni McGee. Illustrated by Ian Beck. 2006. Walker. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Marni McGee's Winston the Book Wolf. If you enjoy fairy tale twists OR books about books, then this is one to seek out. Winston the Wolf LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to eat words, all sorts of words. He is literally eating the words, thus one of perhaps many reasons why he is banned from the library. But someone has pity on Winston, a girl with a red hood, and shows Winston that there is a BETTER way to devour words: that way, of course, is by READING them. After Winston learns to read, he NEEDS the library; he needs more books, more stories, more words. But sadly, he is banned. Can he and his new friend find a way to sneak him into the library?!

This one is definitely worth reading and sharing.

The illustrations were a bit odd, I admit, but they mostly worked for me. Mainly because they definitely add to the story. Readers can spot, for example, three little pigs on nearly every spread. One thing I didn't quite get, however, was WHY the tables and chairs and such had to have faces.

First sentence: Winston the Wolf swished his tail as he ran past the burger stand. He did slow down to sniff, but he did not drool. Meaty treats were not what Winston had in mind. Winston wanted books, and he knew where to find them.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going To Sleep?

Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going To Sleep? Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2011. Two Lions. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, the day is almost done."
"Not yet, Mother, I still can see the sun."


And so the book begins. The oh-so-familiar sometimes-tense "struggle" to put a child--in this case a kitten--to bed. The mom (a cat, of course) gently reminds the kitty cat that it is almost bedtime, that it is time to take a bath, etc. The Kitty Cat isn't eager by any stretch of the imagination, but isn't defiant either. There are hundreds if not thousands of bedtime books out there--picture books about the nightly routine of getting ready for bed, of getting sleepy, etc. This one happens to star two cats. So if you like cats, or, if you love, love, love cats and happen to need a bedtime book, this one satisfies.

I like the rhymes for the most part. And I like the repetitiveness of it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Little Shaq (2015)

Little Shaq. Shaquille O'Neal. Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. 2015. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Little Shaq is the first in a new series of early chapter books by Shaquille O'Neal. In this first book, readers meet Little Shaq and his cousin Barry. An argument over basketball leads to a frustrating video game experience for the two. Instead of being a way to make peace, the video game increases the tension between these two close friends. The game ends up getting broken, and, the two brainstorm a way to earn money to replace the game. Since they are both at fault, they both need to make it right. Working together in a new watering-and-gardening business, can they get the job done?

I liked this one. I did. I don't love sports now, and I didn't love sports as a kid. But a good book is a good book no matter the subject.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Great Big Cuddle (2015)

A Great Big Cuddle. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 2015. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Love poetry? Want to introduce your little ones to poetry? Michael Rosen's A Great Big Cuddle is a lovely collection of poems for the 'very young.' The poems are, for the most part, silly and fun and packed with rhythm.

Poems include:
  • Tippy-Tappy
  • Party Time
  • Music
  • Wiggly Wiggly
  • Reading Lesson
  • Mr. Hobson-Jobson Says
  • I Am Angry
  • Gruff and Dave
  • Let Me Do It
  • Hello Good-bye
There is a lot of variety in the poems. Some short and simple. Others a good deal longer. Some tell stories. Others are more a collection of really fun sounds to string together.

Overall, this one is easy to recommend. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. 2015. Random House. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is just good fun. It is. It is probably more for younger readers than older readers--think elementary school instead of high school. But I think this charming book could prove delightful to readers of all ages. Especially if used for a family read-aloud where a book needs to be both family friendly and entertaining--packed with interesting characters and/or action-packed.

The narrator is a dragon, Miss Drake, and she's a dragon in mourning. She's lost her pet, "Fluffy" (aka Great-Aunt Amelia). Fluffy's niece (great-niece actually) shows up to "claim" Miss Drake as HER pet saying that her aunt "left" her to her in her will. She's NOT happy about this turn of events. She's not quite ready for another pet, training a new human could prove quite trying and tedious, and more than the work itself, is she ready emotionally for a new human in her life? One human just can't replace another, right? But Winnie, the niece, seems quite persistent and strong-willed. Perhaps as strong-willed as Miss Drake herself.

Winnie and Miss Drake have quite an ADVENTURE together. And the book is very satisfying. I really enjoyed it very much.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

What's On Your Nightstand (September)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
After reading Newton on the Christian Life, I was inspired to pick up MESSIAH: FIFTY EXPOSITORY DISCOURSES PREACHED IN THE YEARS 1784 AND 1785 by John Newton. I am LOVING this one.

I'm also reading--or rereading--Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton.

I've got some books I'm excited to be reviewing in the next week or two:
  • The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein
  • Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Betty Crocker Kids Cook

Betty Crocker Kids Cook. 1999/2015 (spiral-bound) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed skimming through Betty Crocker Kids Cook. I don't "review" cook books often, but, I do enjoy looking at ones specifically designed to appeal to children and teens. This one is written with kids of all ages in mind. It features recipes that kids can cook on their own with just a little guidance, and some more difficult recipes that may take more cooperation with an adult.

The recipes fall into five categories: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and desserts. The book includes simple instructions and guidelines for general cooking and baking. (The end papers illustrate the tools of the trade.) The "Just the Basics" section even includes the current nutritional guidelines, MyPlate.

The recipes themselves seem straightforward and reader-friendly. As an adult, I appreciate them listing the nutritional information for each recipe. (Serving size, number of calories, number of carbohydrates, amount of fat, amount of fiber, etc. It also includes the number of carbohydrate exchanges (choices) a serving is. Most of the recipes, though certainly not all, are carbohydrate heavy I noticed. Some recipes look delicious, very delicious, but are certainly not healthy enough to be eaten all that often, in my opinion.

The recipes that looked most appealing to me include:

  • Super-Tasty Sweet Potato Bacon Biscuits (p. 23)
  • Surprise! Confetti Pasta Salad (p. 60)
  • Impossibly Easy Mini Chicken Pot Pies (p. 98)
  • Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs and Spaghetti (p. 112)
  • Bottom of the Cereal Box Cookies (p. 140)
Do you have a favorite cookbook for children or teens?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Notting Hill Mystery

Notting Hill Mystery. Charles Warren Adams. 1862/2015. Poisoned Pen Press. 284 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Dare I say that I enjoyed The Notting Hill Mystery at least as much as Wilkie Collin's A Woman in White? What if I say I liked it even more?! Granted, it has been a few years since I've read A Woman in White. But Notting Hill was such a surprisingly wonderfully old-fashioned mystery, and, with good reason, I suppose, since it was published in the 1860s!

If you enjoy sensational Victorian novels, this one proves a satisfying treat. The "hero" of the novel has collected all the evidence he can about a certain case. He's not positively sure it's a murder case, because if it is murder, it's far from straight-forward. The less you know, the better the novel will read, in my opinion. But it involves TWINS and mesmerism and poison.

At first, I thought this one would be a slow read, since the evidence consists of letters, diaries, interviews, etc. But I found it an entertaining and satisfying read.

It is easy for me to recommend this one. I think mystery lovers will appreciate it. And if you have a love for all things Victorian, then you may really, really LOVE it, just as I did.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Library Loot: Third Trip in September

New Loot:
  • How To Be Friends with a Dragon by Valeri Gorbachev
  • The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore
  • Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand
  • My Book Box by Will Hillenbrand
  • A Day with Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone
  • I Like Shoes by Candice Ransom
  • Listen to My Trumpet by Mo Willems
  • The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton
  • Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore
  • We Are in a Book by Mo Willems

Leftover Loot:
  • Somewhere There Is Still a Sun by Michael Gruenbaum
  • 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola  
  • Because  A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo by Rosetta Stone
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Would You Rather be a Bullfrog by Theo LeSieg
  • Hooper Humperdink--? Not him! Theo LeSieg
  • An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers  
  • Vango. Between Sky and Earth. Timothee de Fomb
  • The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes  
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  •  Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal
         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Week in Review: September 13-19

Mark of The Thief. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Hired Girl. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2015. Candlewick. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Arthur, For The Very First Time. Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. 1980/2002. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez. 2013/2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Whittington. Alan Armstrong. 2005. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
Pizza Pat. Rita Golden Gelman. Illustrated by Will Terry. (A Bright & Early Book) 1999. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
Oh, The Thinks You Can Think. Dr. Seuss. 1975. Random House. 41 pages. [Source: Library]
Criss Cross. Lynne Rae Perkins. 2005. 337 pages. [Source: Library]
The Memory Weaver. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2015. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts. Douglas Bond. 2013. Reformation Trust. 163 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Exalting Jesus in Galatians (Christ-Centered Exposition) David Platt and Tony Merida. 2014. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s):

I enjoyed Mark of the Thief and it's oh-so-easy to recommend. I also enjoyed The Hired Girl, but not wholeheartedly from cover to cover. So few books are absolutely perfectly perfect cover to cover though.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Seuss on Saturday #38

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think. Dr. Seuss. 1975. Random House. 41 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can think up some birds. That's what you can do. You can think about yellow or think about blue...

Premise/plot: The narrator encourages the reader to THINK and to imagine. My favorite: "You can think about SCHLOPP. Schlopp. Schlopp. Beautiful scholopp. Beautiful schlopp with a cherry on top."

My thoughts: I liked this one fine. Of course, it has lots of silly rhyming. And the whole book is whimsical. And for those readers who can't get enough of Dr. Seuss, this one is worthy of reading. But. Is it a favorite of mine personally? Probably not. But it is good fun all the same.

Have you read Oh, The Thinks You Can Think? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Because A Little Bug Went Ka-choo!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Pizza Pat

Pizza Pat. Rita Golden Gelman. Illustrated by Will Terry. (A Bright & Early Book) 1999. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is Pat.
This is the tray that Pat bought.
This is the dough, all stretchy and floppy,
that lay in the tray that Pat bought.
This is the sauce, all gooey and gloppy,
that covered the dough, all stretchy and floppy,
that lay in the tray that Pat bought.

Premise: Pat's making pizza! Pat looks like he loves pizza. Loves to make it, and loves to eat it. But will Pat get to eat THIS oh-so-yummy pizza? You'll just to have to read this one to see for yourself.

My thoughts: I loved it. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it. But I loved it a LOT more than I ever imagined possible. Why? Well, I'm not the biggest fan of The House That Jack Built. I'm just not. But this pizza-themed story, well, it was just FUN.

This one would pair well, in my opinion, with More Spaghetti, I Say! which also happens to be by Rita Golden Gelman.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Criss Cross (2005)

Criss Cross. Lynne Rae Perkins. 2005. 337 pages. [Source: Library]

If Criss Cross had not won a Newbery, would I have felt differently about it? I think I definitely would have had lower expectations, and lower expectations or even no expectations often work in a book's favor. High expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration.

Criss Cross didn't "wow" me. I wasn't overly impressed with the writing, the characterization, or the plot. That is I did not find the writing, the characterization, or the plot: amazing, brilliant, wonderful, spectacular, or overly memorable. There was never this WOW, WHAT A BOOK moment.

The writing was okay. It was. The characterization was just fine. The plot, well, not much happens, but not much has to happen if I'm enjoying the writing or the characters. It was an ordinary, just fine, not-extra-memorable read for me. Nothing to complain about certainly, but nothing to gush about.

Criss Cross visits the lives of a handful of teens: some boys, some girls. One of the characters is a girl named Debbie. She almost has a main-character feel to her. But just almost. There were too many character perspectives to really feel properly settled with any one of them as being the main character. There lives sometimes touch each other. (One chapter even has two perspectives side by side.) Criss Cross is definitely made up of many moments--seemingly insignificant moments--that when reflected upon later take on a bit of significance.

For those who love coming-of-age stories, this one could prove satisfying enough.

I will add that this one is historical fiction. Though the historical setting is a bit fuzzy. There are hints throughout the text that this is set in the past, but, it may not prove obvious to every reader, especially in the beginning.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Arthur, For The Very First Time

Arthur, For The Very First Time. Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. 1980/2002. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Patricia MacLachlan's Arthur, For the Very First Time. Readers meet a young ten-year old boy, Arthur, and journey with him to his aunt-and-uncle's farm for an eventful summer. Arthur is a somewhat troubled young boy. Troubled being VERY relative of course. He's having trouble communicating with his parents. They still haven't told him that he's to have a little brother or little sister. Though he has figured it out himself. He hasn't exactly told them he knows or how he feels about this "happy" event. Arthur definitely spends time wishing things were different but believing that they can't be different. So how does Arthur spend his time? Well, before visiting Aunt Elda and Uncle Wrisby, he spent most of his time writing in his matter-of-fact journal. He spent a lot of time OBSERVING the world around him, but, not necessarily taking part of it. During his summer vacation, however, things will change for the better. Arthur will start living a little bit more--in some cases, a LOT more.

The book is definitely character-driven. I loved that. I loved meeting Arthur, his aunt and uncle, his new friend Moira. I loved meeting some of the animals as well. Like the chicken, Pauline, whom everyone speaks to in French! It was just a very satisfying read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Hired Girl (2015)

The Hired Girl. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2015. Candlewick. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely appreciated Laura Amy Schlitz's The Hired Girl. This historical novel is set around 1911, most of it takes place in Baltimore, though not all of it. The heroine, Joan Skraggs, is an interesting companion for readers. This fourteen year old is leaving school never to return. Oh, she wishes she could continue her education. Her mom dreamed big, and wanted Joan to become a teacher. But her father--don't let me get started on him!!!--has different plans for her. Plans that keep her on the farm and working day and night. Joan would never have contemplated running away from home unless provoked. Several things go wrong. Her asking for the egg money--politely and respectfully--begins the trouble perhaps. But after her father BURNS her books, her most beloved possessions, (Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, and Dombey & Son) she sees no possibility of reconciliation. She reads in the paper that young girls can earn around $6 a week as a maid or hired girl. She thinks: if there's one thing I know it's how to do housework, I might as well get PAID to do the work. So she courageously leaves the only home she's known and sets off for the unknown, the big city....

JANET (a name change never hurts!) is fortunate that she is hired by the Rosenbachs. They have had trouble in the past hiring young girls and having them stay. Malka, who is like family, of course, isn't the easiest to get along with. And she is very particular and not always patient and kind and understanding. But Janet and Malka, after a very rough start, seem to be quite compatible. Janet soon finds herself becoming friendly with most of the family, though not all of the family! Janet becomes very friendly with the daughter and one of the sons. Also the father proves to be a kindred spirit of sorts.

The Hired Girl tackles religion straight-forwardly. Joan/Janet is a sometimes Catholic. Her mother was Catholic. Her father is--well, I already said I shouldn't talk about him--nothing. He wouldn't dream of entering a place of worship! And he doesn't really want her "wasting" her time on Sundays either. So she's never been instructed or confirmed in the church. She is hired by a Jewish family. And both through curiosity and duty she comes to learn about Judaism. (She has to learn what is kosher and what is not. There are right ways and wrong ways to do everything in the household it seems!) She is clueless in some ways about their faith and her own. But on her days off, she does seek to learn and grow in her own Catholic faith. That is until a cute boy enters the picture...

Personally, I could have done without the "romance" of this one. See conflicts happen when you're fourteen-pretending-to-be-eighteen.

There is a certain complexity to Hired Girl. It's an absorbing read. And I think it will prove a memorable one, though it is a little early to say for sure. The heroine is far from perfect. She can be at times smart and intuitive and at other times immature and clueless. But the fact that she is far from perfect isn't a problem for me. Her flaws make her seem oh-so-human.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mark of The Thief (2015)

Mark of The Thief. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy Jennifer A. Nielsen's Mark of the Thief? Yes!!! Very much. What should YOU know before picking it up? Well, it's a FANTASY novel set in Ancient Rome. Sound appealing? I think so! Here's how it starts:
In Rome, nothing mattered more than the gods, and nothing mattered less than its slaves. Only a fool of a slave would ever challenge the gods' power. I was beginning to look like that fool.
 Mark of the Thief is narrated by a slave, Nic, who through a series of events find himself in ever-increasing danger. It starts with him refusing to obey Sal's orders to go into a newly discovered tunnel/cave within the mine. He's not the first slave Sal's ordered there. The first died. The second, well, he came back clearly insane. Nic's escape attempt doesn't quite go as planned, it's best not to overhear EVIL, SECRET plans and be seen...But Nic is lucky in many ways when he does finally venture into the depths of the earth....

I would definitely recommend this one. Nic's character was great. And Nic meets a lot of interesting characters, including one he's not quite sure about at any given time: a young woman named Aurelia.

Betrayal, Secrets, Mystery and Suspense. Magic. ACTION. Just a few reasons why you might find this one difficult to put down!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Electrical Wizard

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez. 2013/2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It never failed, when I was in school, that one of the year's assignments would be to read a biography and either write a written report or give an oral report. It was a boring assignment, but, it wouldn't have had to be. What did I look for in a biography? First, that it was a SHORT book, meeting the minimum number of required pages certainly, but, not looking to go OVER either. Second, that it had PICTURES. The more illustrations, the better, in my opinion. And if they were COLOR illustrations, it was EVEN better. The subject matter didn't matter as much to me--at least then--as did these two essentials. Electrical Wizard would have been an absolute dream come true to me as a kid. I really don't remember ANY biography coming close in terms of being kid friendly and visually appealing. Children are lucky to have such lovely biographies available today. This one happens to be published by Candlewick.

So, the book is a biography of Nicola Tesla. And Rusch managed quite effortlessly to make electricity easy to understand. And Tesla was quite an interesting--fascinating--man. So this one makes for a delightfully compelling read.

Seven chapters focus on his life. Several more focus on his impact and relevance. For example, "Ahead of His Time," shows the brilliance of Tesla's inventions. And "Tesla Vs. Edison" provides context for understanding/appreciating both men. Also included scientific notes, a time line, source notes, and selected biography.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Whittington

Whittington. Alan Armstrong. 2005. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Alan Armstrong's Whittington. This book celebrates two of my favorite things: storytelling and cats. The framework of the story really worked for me. The modern day story is of a cat, Whittington, and his friends living in a barn. The book tells of his arrival at the barn, his meeting of the other animals, their hesitant acceptance of him. Soon Whittington proves his worth. One reason why may be he is great at storytelling. He tells the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat to the others. So readers are treated to TWO equally delightful stories. The book also features a few children, a brother and sister, the young boy is having trouble learning to read. The book explores the concept of the Reading Recovery program.

I liked this one very much. I liked all of the stories. I liked the characters--human and animal. It was just a satisfying way to spend an afternoon.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Library Loot: First and Second Trips in September

New Loot:
  • Because  A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo by Rosetta Stone
  • The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson
  • Here Comes The Big, Mean Dust Bunny by Jan Thomas
  • How To Be A Cat by Nikki McClure
  • Sitting in My Box by Dee Lillegard
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Somewhere There Is Still a Sun by Michael Gruenbaum
  • The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka
  • 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola
Leftover Loot:
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Oh, the thinks you can think by Dr. Seuss
  • Would You Rather be a Bullfrog by Theo LeSieg
  • Hooper Humperdink--? Not him! Theo LeSieg
  • An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
  • The Well by Stephanie Landsem
  • The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers 
  • The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
  • The Matchmaker: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma by Sarah Price
  • Second Chances: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion by Sarah Price
  • Vango. Between Sky and Earth. Timothee de Fomb
  • The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes  
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal 
         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Week in Review: September 6-12

Conjured. Sarah Beth Durst. 2013. Walker. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Case of the Phantom Cat (Maisie HItchins #3) Holly Webb. Illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Night Divided. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Thing about Jellyfish. Ali Benjamin. 2015. Little, Brown. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
History of Women's Fashion (Design Line). Natasha Slee. Illustrated by Sanna Mander. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Test of Wills (Ian Rutledge #1) Charles Todd. 1994/2006. Harper Collins. 305 pages. [Source: Library]
Wacky Wednesday. Dr. Seuss (Theo LeSieg). Illustrated by George Booth. 1974. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Momo's Kitten. Mitsu and Taro Yashima. 1961. Viking. 33 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: I Love My Dinosaur. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mistress of Tall Acre. Laura Frantz. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Convenient Bride Collection. 2015. Barbour Books. 446 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Newton on the Christian Life. Tony Reinke. 2015. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

Praying the Bible. Donald S. Whitney. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mistress of Tall Acre. Laura Frantz. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Convenient Bride Collection. 2015. Barbour Books. 446 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Newton on the Christian Life. Tony Reinke. 2015. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Seuss on Saturday #37

Wacky Wednesday. Dr. Seuss (Theo LeSieg). Illustrated by George Booth. 1974. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It all began with that shoe on the wall.

Premise/plot: A young boy wakes up to an increasingly wacky world. The text reveals how many "wacky" things are on the page. Readers can try to spot them all if they like.

My thoughts: Very weird. Can't say that I really "liked" it. But I can see it appealing to a certain kind of reader. The focus is on finding the details in the illustrations. If you rush through the text without taking the time to examine each page closely and counting them up for yourself, it's a very dull read.

Have you read Wacky Wednesday? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Oh the Thinks You Can Think.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Momo's Kitten

Momo's Kitten. Mitsu and Taro Yashima. 1961. Viking. 33 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Momo's family moved out West from New York City to Los Angeles, but Momo did not see any ranches or cowboys around her. Instead of these, on the way home from the nearby market one afternoon she found a miserable kitten under a geranium bush by the sidewalk. "If your father says it's all right, you may keep the kitty," Mother said. Momo made herself ready to cry in case Father should say it was not all right.

Premise/plot: Momo, the heroine, finds a stray kitten and gets to keep it. To her surprise, but probably not to her parents' surprise, her cat, Nyan-Nyan grows up to have kittens of her own. She's not allowed to keep the kittens, but consoles herself, in a way, by making birth certificates for each kitten as they are given away. The illustration of the certificate I found quite charming. I would say this is a good, old-fashioned first-pet story.

My thoughts: I love, love, LOVE Umbrella by Taro Yashima. I do. It's one of my favorite, favorite books. Momo's Kitten is another story starring Momo. So if you love Umbrella, you may just want to seek this out-of-print book out. Did I love it as much as Umbrella? Probably not. But I am glad I read it. I definitely enjoyed the text. Some illustrations I loved. Other illustrations not so much. I definitely found the illustrations for Umbrella to be more appealing.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

I Love My Dinosaur

Board Book: I Love My Dinosaur. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hi! I'm Patrick, and I love my dinosaur! 
So here's my little dino.
He's green with tiny teeth.
Scaly on his top side
And bumpy underneath.

Premise/plot: Readers meet a boy, Patrick, who loves his dinosaur. Through rhyme, he shares just why he loves his dinosaur so much.

My thoughts: Caroline Jayne Church's board books are best for young toddlers. The art is cute and precious-y. Some readers find that type of art irresistible. Others not so much. But you always know what to expect from Caroline Jayne Church.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Case of the Phantom Cat

Case of the Phantom Cat (Maisie HItchins #3) Holly Webb. Illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed this one, I did. But I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two books in the Maisie Hitchin's mystery series. In the third mystery, Maisie meets a new friend, Alice. Alice takes French lessons from someone who boards with Maisie's grandmother. Alice has been sick and missed a few lessons, Maisie, curious as ever, goes to visit her. This will be their first time to actually talk freely and for any length of time. Some in Alice's household take a liking to Maisie, others not so much. Her father invites Maisie, whom he has just met, and whom his daughter has just met, to accompany his daughter to the country. The two girls will be accompanied by the governess. Things could go smoothly, or, not so smoothly for everyone...but with a title like CASE OF THE PHANTOM CAT...one can guess that trouble and danger are on the way...

Alice and Maisie do indeed find an adventure at the rented country house. But it isn't necessarily a dangerous one. Maisie will solve the mystery of the spooky sounds, the white "phantom" cat, and the HORRIBLE smell in the library...

If you're already hooked to the series, this one is worth your time. If you haven't met Maisie yet, this isn't the best introduction.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Night Divided

A Night Divided. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen? Yes and no. The better question may be, did I find it compelling and well-written? The answer to that question is YES. You see, A Night Divided isn't exactly a book that you can feel comfortable ENJOYING. The heroine, Gerta, wakes up one morning to find a wall outside her window. THE BERLIN WALL. This would be disturbing or troubling no matter the situation, but, the fact that her father and brother are now outside the wall, on the other side of Berlin, that is VERY TROUBLING to Gerta, Fritz (her other brother), and her mother.

Gerta knows that what she is feeling, that what she is thinking--whether acted on or not--could lead to nothing but trouble with the government if she's found out or informed against. For she longs with all her being to be FREE. Her brother does as well. The two of them are at risk throughout the novel...even before Gerta interprets a "secret" message from her Father.

I would definitely recommend this one to readers who enjoy historical fiction. The writing was great. The characterization was done quite well. And though I know it's subjective, I feel it was a compelling, captivating read.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing about Jellyfish. Ali Benjamin. 2015. Little, Brown. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Thing About Jellyfish is a middle grade novel showing one girl's reaction to a former friend's unexpected death. To say she STRUGGLES would be an understatement. She breaks down, or shuts down even. Suzy (Zu) turns to science for the answers. But her obsession with finding THE answer leads to more trouble. Though she herself doesn't see it. To Suzy there has to be one definitive answer to WHY her friend drowned. And until she proves her theory, she is going to stay obsessed with jellyfish.

I have very mixed feelings about The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. At times I loved it. At times I hated it. I didn't consistently feel any one way about it. Perhaps this is directly connected with how I felt about the characters.

Zu (Suzy) is at times likable and infuriating. On the one hand, her account very much focuses in on her as a victim. Poor Suzy, doesn't fit in, she doesn't belong. Suzy grew up having one really good, solid friendship. But as the two girls grew--Franny is her name--they grew apart. That is Suzy stayed exactly the same as she always was. And Franny started growing up, becoming older, more in touch socially. Zu becomes increasingly ANGRY with Franny. She takes this venomous anger to EXTREMES. If she'd merely felt all angsty and angry and hurt and confused and whatnot, I'd have sympathized more. I really would have. But because she chose to act out, well, I have a really hard time relating to Zu. Socially awkward misfit, yes, I can relate to that. Not having anyone to sit with at lunch time, yes, I can do that too. Not really wanting to talk unless you have something important to say, unless you feel really heard, I can get that to in a way. But it's the extremities that Zu goes to that keeps me from identifying with her in the end. For example, Zu is out of touch with right and wrong in big ways, extreme ways. The end of school incident between Zu and Franny is a great example of how out-of-touch she is. Not to mention the whole, it would be a great idea for me to steal money from my parents and travel to Australia to meet a perfect stranger.

I actually liked several of the "minor" characters in this one. I really liked the boy who befriends her and calls her "Belle." And I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the science teacher. So there were definitely things I enjoyed about this one. But there were also things that I didn't enjoy, things that troubled me.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Conjured

Conjured. Sarah Beth Durst. 2013. Walker. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely found Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst to be a compelling and surprisingly romantic read. What I enjoyed most about this dark YA novel is the mystery. Readers are kept clueless, just as clueless as the heroine herself. Her name, so she's been told, is Eve. What can Eve remember? Not much. And the two people "closest" to her, well, they're odd sorts. One, Malcolm, seems honorable enough, but still crazy mysterious. The other, Nicki, seems mysterious too, but, also antagonistic. Both seem anxious for Eve to recover her memories, but, are trying to pretend that it's no big deal, that the memories will come--or not--as they will. Eve definitely feels PRESSURE from almost everyone in her life.

Eve has, for better or worse, started a job at a library. She meets a boy around her own age, Zach. I would say that he's unlike any other boy she's ever met, but, since Eve has no memories at all of her past, and surprisingly few of her present, that would not be worth much. But Zach is special, and, he thinks Eve is very, very special indeed. Zach isn't the only "young person" she's met since leaving the hospital. She's also met a few others, that are STRANGE, STRANGE, SUPER-STRANGE.

Conjured is a book that celebrates MYSTERY. Eve is on a journey of self-discovery, and, the mystery she's trying to solve is herself...
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, September 07, 2015

History of Women's Fashion

History of Women's Fashion (Design Line). Natasha Slee. Illustrated by Sanna Mander. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Is it a book? Is it a chart? Readers can decide for themselves how they want to approach this newest book in Candlewick's Design Line. The subject of this illustrated nonfiction guide? Women's fashion from the past hundred and ten years--or so.

One side of the fold-out-spread (or chart) features the fashions themselves, briefly labeled. The other side features a silhouette of each fashion and a longer description. Each item was chosen because it was "iconic." (Readers can agree or disagree with the choices. Perhaps even have some suggestions on what should have been included instead.)

It covers hats, shoes, purses, dresses, bathing suits, shirts, skirts, pants, glasses, jewelry etc.

This is a fine example of one type of nonfiction reading. You don't have to read it cover to cover. You are invited to look, to examine, to study. There isn't a right or wrong way to read this one.

So what iconic pieces are included in this one:
  • The Gibson Girl (1906)
  • Silk Turban Hat (1912)
  • Flapper Dress (1926)
  • Chanel Costume Jewelry (1935)
  • Christian Dior Suit (1947)
  • Halter-Neck Sundress (1952)
  • Mondrian Dress (1965)
  • Mid-Calf Platform Boots (1972)
  • High-Waisted Jeans (1986)
  • Flannel Shirt and Ripped Jeans (1990s)
  • Gym Chic (2004)
There are over 100 pieces illustrated and discussed.
 Blue Utility Suit (1945)
War rationing meant the "utility look" dominated fashion. Skirts were shorter as more women rode bicycles, while narrow waists, peep-toe shoes, and the 1940s curl hairstyles ensured that the look remained feminine. Even brides wore the utility suit!
Land Girl Uniform (1939)
The British Government formed the Women's Land Army at the start of World War II to replace farm laborers who had gone to fight and to help the country grow more of its own food. Nicknamed the "Land Girls," 80,000 women volunteered. They wore a uniform of overalls, a shirt, and Wellington boots, with headscarves to hold back their hair.
Beaded Purse with Zipper (1924)
Frenetic Charleston dancers required secure bags small enough to grip in their hands. This elegantly beaded bag, in the "tango purse" style designed for dancing, features a small strap to wrap around the wrist and a zipper to keep possessions inside--zippers having only just begun to be used in fashion.
I really enjoyed the illustrations.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Meet Inspector Rutledge

A Test of Wills (Ian Rutledge #1) Charles Todd. 1994/2006. Harper Collins. 305 pages. [Source: Library]

A Test of Wills is the first book in Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series. He has returned home from war--the first world war--and is on his first case. It will prove challenging in more ways than one. First, the war has left him changed--broken, confused, uncertain. Second, the case itself is tricky. One of the suspects is super-friendly with royalty, and there is pressure to solve the case, but, solve it in such a way that there isn't a scandal. He is arriving on the scene several days after the crime, the murder, and he doesn't even see the crime scene or the body. His work mainly has him interviewing anyone and everyone that might have seen something--or heard something. But there aren't many leads that are fruitful. He has a handful of clues, but, the clues lead him to no one person. There's always something off. For example, the person with the best motive, has an alibi that is solid. The people with opportunity have no motive, etc. So can he do it? can he solve the case?

I liked this one well enough. Ian Rutledge is so very, very different from Bess Crawford. (I've read two or three of the Bess Crawford mystery series also by Charles Todd). Both show the effect of the war certainly. Bess Crawford mainly does this through her other characters: Bess is nursing men who have been wounded--sometimes severely--and/or are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. The soldiers we meet in the Crawford mystery series certainly showcase the effect of war. But with the Ian Rutledge series it is completely different. It's an inside-out look, for better or worse. Ian is very broken, very disturbed, and we're in his head for the most part. It was an interesting aspect and added a new level to the mystery.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Week in Review: August 30 - September 5

A Girl Named Disaster. Nancy Farmer. 1996. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became The Beatles. Susanna Reich. 2015. Henry Holt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Archivist Wasp. Nicole Kornher-Stace. 2015. Big Mouth House. 268 pages. [Source: Library]
William Shakespeare's The Clone Army Attacketh. Ian Doescher. 2015. Quirk. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Seventh Most Important Thing. Shelley Pearsall. 2015. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sunny Side Up. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2015. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Dog and Little Dog Going for a Walk. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Great Day for Up. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1974. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
The Golden Braid. Melanie Dickerson. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collection. 2015. Barbour Books. 448 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's recommendation(s):

Seventh Most Important Thing
Sunny Side UP
The Golden Braid

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Seuss on Saturday #36

Great Day for Up. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1974. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Up! Up! The sun is getting up. The sun gets up. So UP with you!

Premise/plot: Do you like getting up in the morning? The book is gentle prompting to do just that. "Up" being the prominent word of the entire book. But does the narrator himself end up getting out of bed? Read and see for yourself!

My thoughts: I liked the "twist" ending. I did. Overall, I liked this one fine. I didn't love, love, love it. But it's certainly an entertaining enough read.

Have you read Great Day for UP! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Wacky Wednesday!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Big Dog and Little Dog Going for A Walk

Big Dog and Little Dog Going for a Walk. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really, really enjoyed meeting Big Dog and Little Dog in the first book in the series. So I was excited to see there are many books in this series including the title I'm reviewing today: Big Dog and Little Dog Going for A Walk.

In this early reader, Big Dog and Little Dog go for a walk with their owner. They leave the house nice and clean, but, will they return home that way?! Probably not since Big Dog and Little Dog like mud. Can you guess the FIRST thing they want to do once their owner gives them a bath?!

I enjoyed this one very much. Perhaps even more than the first book in the series. I loved it because it was funny and charming and simple. The storytelling was great, in my opinion. Simple does not mean boring.

I love the text. I love the illustrations. This one is oh-so-easy to recommend.

Like the first book, this one has end-of-the-book activities.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

Pageloads Counter

Search Book Blogs Search Engine

The background is based on a background I found here...with some small adjustments on my part so it would work with the template.
Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP