Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (April)

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.

Good news! I finished the NIV Tozer Bible, The Three Clerks, Oliver Twist, Here I Stand, and Gosnell. All of these books appeared on March's nightstand post.

Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

Ginger is helping me out once again in introducing my newest Bible reading project. This is my fourth Bible to select as project this year. I am LOVING it. You can read about my initial impressions at Operation Actually Read Bible.

Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought]

I was looking for something to walk to and put my Nero Wolfe series in the DVD. I fell in love with Archie Goodwin--swoon--almost immediately. I questioned WHY I had ever taken a break from reading and rereading this series. OR watching and rewatching the series. I might be tempted to reread all the ones I own.

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 522 pages. [Source: Bought]

Yes, I'm still tackling Anthony Trollope chronologically. This is a re-read.

Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am really excited to start this series. I've only read the last in the series (Williamsburg is the name of the series), and that was in high school--twenty-something years ago. (It was the only one in the series the school library had.)

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]

Still enjoying this one. I try to read a sermon or two per week.

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've been reading this commentary since February. I am making some progress. I think I'm around Matthew 16 or Matthew 17. So I'm hopeful that another month will see it done. If I can stay consistent!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Headed for Home

Headed for Home. Mary Helen Brown. 2016. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tommy Austin getting killed by the angel was the first strange thing to happen that summer, but it certainly wasn't the last.

Premise/plot: Enjoy Southern fiction? Enjoy coming of age stories? Enjoy mysteries with a touch of the supernatural? Enjoy family dramas? Headed for Home might be the best book that you've not heard of...at least not yet. Speedy is the narrator of this small-town charmer. Speedy's sister, affectionately nicknamed SISTER, is home for the summer and she's brought some college friends with her. They aren't taking the summer off, however, but are instead working collectively on a research project.

They are doing research on their hometown (Rowja, Texas), on their families, on local folklore, etc. All but one of the girls have definite connections to the town's past--for several generations. But one doesn't. She thinks there is a slight chance than a great-uncle might have visited the town based on a photograph or maybe a postcard. The background is Rowja's courthouse, I believe. But she doesn't really know anything at all about this distant relation. Just that he disappeared around the time of World War I and never communicated with the family again.

Speedy will be staying with Sister and her classmates at the Big House. On their first night of "research," they have a seance of sorts and hear from a spirit identifying himself as Tom. He was murdered. He's buried. The girls--young women--think it would be compelling--good for their grade--if they used this angle to make their research more interesting. At first, no one actually believes that Tom is a disgruntled spirit--ghost--trying to communicate with them. But by the end, most everyone does believe.

My thoughts: On the one hand, I loved it. Mary Helen Brown's short novel is super-entertaining and the characters are so developed and fascinating. The little details have a just right feel to them. The way she writes--the way her characters talk--feels authentically Texan. I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. On the other hand, I really didn't love it. There were spiritual "danger, danger" signals going off now and then. I did not like the seances, or the use of Ouija boards. While I wanted Tom's story to be told, the facts to be discovered, I just wish the clues they'd followed hadn't been received the way they had. Because it is a matter of faith--and reading is subjective--I went with a full five stars. My objection to the book's content in that one area is completely subjective. Another reader may think the mystery is amazing. And the writing was so strong, so good.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 24, 2017

Goin' Someplace Special

Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 'Tricia Ann was about to burst with excitement.

Premise/plot: Goin' Someplace Special is based on the author's childhood. It is set in Nashville in the 1950s. For younger readers unfamiliar with the way things were before (and during) the Civil Rights movement, this is a lovely introduction. The heroine, Tricia, is going by herself to "someplace special." To get to someplace special, she'll face some obstacles, these obstacles mainly exist because of the color of her skin. But the trip will be worth it. The destination? The public library. Someplace special indeed. An author's note points out that the public library was one of the few places in town that was integrated.

My thoughts: What a lovely book! I remember loving this one when I was in library school which was years before I had a blog to keep track of what I read. I have been wanting to reread it for years, but, I couldn't think of the author or the title. I stumbled across this one recently, and, I'll never let myself forget it again!!!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God

The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Long, long ago, when the Vikings ruled the seas, people loved to tell stories about gods and giants. Renowned as warriors and sailors, the Vikings were also great storytellers. Their most treasured stories were about a god named Thor.

Premise/plot: This is a story book for elementary readers. It contains nine stories--all generously illustrated. The stories are: "Why Thor Is Called the Thunder God," "The Giants," "Thor's Family," "Loki's Bet," "Tialvi and the Billy Goats," "A Duel," "Outwitted," and "Stolen Thunder."

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't perhaps love, love, love it like I did Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology. But this is a children's book. And the focus isn't on ALL the gods, but specifically on Thor. Some stories are in both books. I really enjoyed some of these stories. My favorites were "Outwitted," "Stolen Thunder," and "Loki's Bet." The stories are action-packed and most are packed with humor as well.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang

What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What this story needs is a pig in a wig, building a stage, arranging a stand, and getting set to conduct the Pig in a Wig Band.

Premise/plot: Pig in a Wig has a band now in her latest book. As more and more animals and instruments join in, the chaos increases. Will They make beautiful music together?

My thoughts: I like this one. Perhaps I don't love, love, love it. But this series has a just right feel to it. Much like Mo Willem's series starring Gerald and Piggie. I would definitely recommend this series to parents, teachers, and librarians.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Washington Square

Washington Square. Henry James. 1880. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession.

Premise/plot: Catherine Sloper is being raised by her father, Dr. Sloper, and her aunt, Mrs. Penniman. Neither is the ideal guardian perhaps. Mrs. Penniman is foolish and her romantic ideals rarely if ever match up perfectly with reality. Dr. Sloper is an unpleasant, opinionated, hard-hearted soul. He sees the world very much in black and white terms. And he's judged his daughter--practically from her birth--a person to be easily dismissed or ignored. He reckons that trouble will come--not because his daughter is beautiful, not because his daughter is intelligent, not because his daughter is charming, not because his daughter is kind and compassionate--but because her aunt will try to talk his daughter into the idea that she is worthy of attention and love from the opposite sex. How dare she try to tell Catherine that one day she'll get married! Who would ever want to marry her?! Sadly, he's got the notion that just because he sees his daughter as a waste that every person feels likewise.

A young man does come into her life--Morris Townsend--but who will prove right? Catherine who thinks it's true love. Mrs. Penniman who hopes that the two will marry so that she can continue to hang on his every word. Dr. Sloper who KNOWS (there is no mere thinking) that Mr. Townsend is a no-good idler after her money.

My thoughts: Henry James is JUST what I needed. I sped through this one in just two days. You've got to love a classic that just absorbs and excites you.

The characters. I hated Dr. Sloper. I wanted to YELL at Mrs. Penniman. I wanted to cheer for Catherine. As for Morris Townsend, well, it's best not to say anything about him at all. (I do wish we'd seen more of his sister, however.)

The story. I wasn't disappointed. Perhaps there was a time when the ending would have annoyed me. But not anymore.

“Try and make a clever woman of her, Lavinia; I should like her to be a clever woman.” Mrs. Penniman, at this, looked thoughtful a moment. “My dear Austin,” she then inquired, “do you think it is better to be clever than to be good?” “Good for what?” asked the Doctor. “You are good for nothing unless you are clever.”
Dr. Sloper would have liked to be proud of his daughter; but there was nothing to be proud of in poor Catherine. There was nothing, of course, to be ashamed of; but this was not enough for the Doctor, who was a proud man and would have enjoyed being able to think of his daughter as an unusual girl.
“He is not what I call a gentleman. He has not the soul of one. He is extremely insinuating; but it’s a vulgar nature. I saw through it in a minute. He is altogether too familiar — I hate familiarity. He is a plausible coxcomb.” “Ah, well,” said Mrs. Almond; “if you make up your mind so easily, it’s a great advantage.” “I don’t make up my mind easily. What I tell you is the result of thirty years of observation; and in order to be able to form that judgement in a single evening, I have had to spend a lifetime in study.”
“it doesn’t take long to like a person — when once you begin.”
“But your daughter doesn’t marry a category,” Townsend urged, with his handsome smile. “She marries an individual — an individual whom she is so good as to say she loves.” “An individual who offers so little in return!” “Is it possible to offer more than the most tender affection and a lifelong devotion?” the young man demanded. “It depends how we take it. It is possible to offer a few other things besides; and not only is it possible, but it’s usual. A lifelong devotion is measured after the fact; and meanwhile it is customary in these cases to give a few material securities. What are yours? A very handsome face and figure, and a very good manner. They are excellent as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough.”
“The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the Doctor permitted himself to respond.
“Don’t undervalue irony, it is often of great use. It is not, however, always necessary, and I will show you how gracefully I can lay it aside. I should like to know whether you think Morris Townsend will hang on.” “I will answer you with your own weapons,” said Mrs. Penniman. “You had better wait and see!”

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, April 21, 2017

Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man. Gavriel Savit. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When Anna Lania woke on the morning of the sixth of November in the year 1939--her seventh--there were several things that she did not know...

Premise/plot: The day after Anna's father disappears forever, she follows a stranger into the forest because of a brief connection they shared outside a shop. She wants to know his name, after all he now knows hers. But he thinks names are dangerous things, he allows her to call him Swallow Man. (She wanted to call him Solomon because he is WISE.) This one is set in Poland during World War II. These two wander around together for the duration of the war--or most of it. Both speak multiple languages well. But the language they speak most often is Road. It is impossible to lie when speaking Road he tells the innocent girl. Their stories change always from one encounter to the next. He is her whole world, her everything. But as she grows up, she begins to see that he has flaws. A time even comes when she has to make life or death decisions for them both.

Will Anna survive the war?

My thoughts: In this YA book, readers really only get to know three characters: Anna, the Swallow Man, and Reb Hirschl. I hated what happened to Reb. It was all so pointless in my opinion. Overall, I found the first half to be delightfully written, just beautiful sentences woven together to tell a unique story. The second half, however, was not a good fit for me. I became less enchanted of the Swallow Man, and more concerned for Anna. It made sense that facts were hazy impressions when she was seven. Not so much when she became older.

At first I thought this one would be a good match for Book Thief fans, but by the end it just didn't hold up. Definitely more for adults who love literary fiction and non-endings.

Disappointment, though heavy, is an easy enough thing to pack away in a suitcase--it has straight edges and rounded corners, and it always fits into the last remaining empty space. Hope is much the same. But somehow the hybrid of the two is something much less uniform--awkward, bulkier, and no less heavy. It is far too delicate to pack away. It must be carried in the hands. (224)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quinito's Neighborhood

Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My mami is a carpenter. My papi is a nurse. Mi mami es carpintera. Mi papi es enfermero.

Premise/plot: Remember the song, "Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?" This picture book is a bilingual answer to that question. It is written in English and Spanish and is set in a colorfully diverse neighborhood. Readers meet not just his immediate and extended family, but the people that he meets each day.
Mrs. Hernandez sells Rafi's bread at her bodega, too. And her daughter, Sonia Isabel, counts the money in the bank on the corner. Guillermo is our mailman. Guillermo is going to marry Sonia Isabel.
My thoughts: I like this one. I can't say it makes much of a story--more of a friendly conversation. But the illustrations are wonderful. Perhaps with one exception!!! I could have done without the clowns!!! (Why did his grown-up cousin Tita have to go to clown school?!?!)

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Joseph Lambert. 2012. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller is a nonfiction graphic novel; it is a biography of Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan. The first scene in the book is a wordless sequence that continues for several pages: Helen Keller trying to eat off her teacher's plate and being made to eat off her own plate and to eat with a spoon. It's a contest of wills between the two, for sure. The first third of the book--at least--this struggle continues. Annie trying to have a break through with Helen Keller. How do you teach the concept of language, of ideas, of words to someone who can neither hear or see? If there is someone as stubborn as Helen, it is Annie. Together these two will have an impact on the world. The water scene occurs about thirty pages into this one. Instead of using this as the end of the story, Lambert uses this as the beginning of the story. The focus in this graphic novel is truly the EDUCATION of Helen Keller. I found this to be FASCINATING. The climax of this one surrounds the 'trial' of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Sullivan has been writing to her teacher/mentor. She shared a story that Helen Keller wrote, The Frost King. He was so impressed with this story that he tried to get it published in a magazine, only to be humiliated when he was told that the story was 'plagiarized.' Keller and Sullivan stand 'trial' before him and the school board. Were either guilty of knowingly copying a story and passing it off as original?

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It wasn't perfect. I would have loved it if the panels of this graphic novel had been larger, and if the font size had been larger. It was hard on the eyes. Especially since you're reading CURSIVE in a tiny print. Cursive and finger spelling. I didn't struggle with the finger spelling. (As a kid, I was so fascinated by The Miracle Worker that I learned the manual alphabet. And that's something I kept in my memory with the exception of x and z.) I read in the author's note that the cursive bits were taken from Sullivan's actual letters. So this isn't a flimsy biography, but a serious one.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ten Years Later: Becky's 5 W's (Or More About Becky)

On April 19, 2007 I asked myself some questions. Today I'm updating my answers because a LOT has changed in ten years.

I keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.

From "The Elephant's Child" by Rudyard Kipling

What is the purpose of "Becky's Book Reviews"?

To promote the love of reading by sharing reviews of all the books I read. The focus is on BOOKS, BOOKS, MORE BOOKS, and also what I think about those books!

What do I look for in a book?
  • Character-driven books with substance
  • Action-driven books with amazing premises
  • Good, solid writing no matter if they're character-driven or action-driven
  • Books that are near-impossible to put down
Where can you find my reviews?

Essentially my reviews appear at my two blogs: Becky's Book Reviews and Operation Actually Read Bible.

Also Goodreads.

And occasionally Amazon when a publisher requires an Amazon review.

Where do I get my books?
  • Review copies sent by publishers
  • Review copies sent by authors
  • Library Books
  • Library Books Through Inter-library Loan
  • Borrowed from Friends or Family
  • Gift from friends or family
  • Bought
When is the site updated?

Becky's Book Reviews usually has a new review every day of the week. This isn't a solid-promise because there have been times I've failed to do so. (Like when I was in the hospital 12 days unexpectedly!)

Operation Actually Read Bible features two to three book reviews a week. All reviews which appear here are linked to in my monthly reflections post. 

How do I choose what to review? 

Mostly whimsy. I read what I feel like reading at any given moment. Library books have a due date attached. New library books especially have a due date attached! Blog tours have a due date attached as well. But mostly, I decide what I want to read next.

I have a theory that entering the library boosts my curiosity. I love, love, love to browse. And so you never know what I'll check out at the library. Since I have to pay $50 for my library card, library books do tend to get preference over review copies. For better or worse. But I feel the library card is worth every penny.

How do I approach writing reviews?

My goal is to both describe the book--give an honest peek into what the book is like, what it's about--and share what I think about the book. By doing both I hope that even if the person reading my blog has completely different tastes in book, they can still know whether any specific book is likely to appeal to them.

How long does it take me to write a review?

It varies. I've written reviews quickly--ten minutes or so. But I've also labored over reviews taking hours to come up with a first draft and then revising further another day! So it depends on the book.

How do I feel about spoilers?

Essentially my view is that if a book is forty-to-fifty years old and likely to have at least one film or tv adaptation from it, it is open to spoilers. Charlie gets the chocolate factory. Scrooge is a changed man after being visited by three spirits. Elizabeth and Darcy live happily ever after. Jane Eyre marries Mr. Rochester. I will not purposefully spoil newer books.

Why do I continue to blog? 
  • Because I can't stop reading.
  • Because I don't want to stop reading.
  • Because I don't know what I think until I try to put it into words.
  • Because If I'm going to go to the trouble of putting it into words, it might as well be public.
  • Because I like being part of the reading community. Especially the reading challenge community. 
  • Because it's satisfying to look back and see what I've read and how I felt about any particular book at the time.
  • Because I'm thankful. Thankful that I have made the friends I have--in part because of the blog. Thankful that I have received the books I have. Thankful that I am able to keep reading, to keep hosting. 
Why two blogs instead of just one? 

That's a VERY good question. Both blogs reflect who I am as a person and reader. Operation Actually Read Bible is where I blog about my faith, the Christian books--fiction, nonfiction--I read, the quotes I'm loving, all of my weekly Bible updates, the occasional movie/music review. It is very much ME. No holding back, just me loving God and loving theology. I don't deny my faith at Becky's Book Reviews. I don't try to hide the fact that I'm a Christian. But the focus is on everything else. Emphasis on everything!

I tell myself that it's for readers I separate things out. That the fan of Becky's Book Reviews would lose patience, lose interest if I included the faith-driven posts here. And that the same would be true at Operation Actually Read Bible. Those looking just for Christian books would be impatient and out of sorts if they had to wade through reviews of everything else--every genre for every audience.

But is that the real reason?! I'm not sure. I think I just like the design and layout of both so much that I couldn't bear to let the other one go.

Why do I include what I include in my bibliographic "citation"?

I use that term loosely because it's one of my own devising.

Title. Author. Illustrator (if applicable). Year of Publication. Publisher (if I have the book handy and especially, especially if it's a review copy). # of pages. Source of book. 

The title and author are obvious givens. You couldn't really review a book without mentioning these two!

Year of publication. This matters to me. Not just because I'm focusing on everything new-new-new. Though that is a part of it. (When it comes time to nominate books for Cybils--if it's a children's or teen book--this is essential.) But because I like to keep track. Is it new? Is it old? Is it likely to be in print? out of print?

Publisher. It's a matter of gratitude on the one hand. If a publisher sends me a book, the least I can do is mention the publisher by name! It's a matter of courtesy on the other hand. Treat others the way you want to be treated. When I come across a book I want to read, I want to know the publisher too!

# of pages. Again this is personal preference. I think this can tell potential readers a lot about a book, what kind of book it is, what age group it's for, how much time and commitment it may require.

Source. This is a must. Not because without disclosing it I'd be prone to dishonesty and bias. But because I think it doesn't hurt to be upfront and straight forward about where I got a book.

Who am I? One person sharing opinions on books because I read a LOT. I am more than a reader. I'm not only a reader. But this post is long enough!!!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ten Years Later: To Blog Or Not To Blog

Ten years ago today, I published a little article "To Blog or Not To Blog." This is significant only to me, but, it was the first time any post of mine really got read by a non-friend or non-relation. And it was my first post to get some comments. The spring of 2007 in many ways was the 'start' of my blog--not the fall of 2006 when my audience was an audience of me, myself, and I. It was also that spring that I participated in my first reading challenges!

Why blog?
  • Wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions. ~ Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
  • Every man has the right to voice his conviction into the air.  Dostoyevesky, The Adolescent, p. 31
  • Ah! So you, too, suffer sometimes because a thought won't go into words! It's a noble suffering, my friend, and granted only to the chosen; a fool is always pleased with what he says, and besides, he always says more than he needs to; they like extras. Dostoyevsky, The Adolescent, 122
  • Everyone is entitled to his likes and dislikes and to his prejudices. Come to think of it, I don't care for pistachio ice cream. I don't know why I don't like it, but I don't. (E.B. White, Trumpet of the Swan, 114) 
  • We can't have freedom unless we have freedom. And that means freedom to speak our minds (Jean Lee Latham, 91).
Why do I (continue to) blog?
  • Because I can't stop reading.
  • Because I don't want to stop reading.
  • Because I don't know what I think until I try to put it into words.
  • Because If I'm going to go to the trouble of putting it into words, it might as well be public.
  • Because I like being part of the reading community. Especially the reading challenge community. 
  • Because it's satisfying to look back and see what I've read and how I felt about any particular book at the time.
  • Because I'm thankful. Thankful that I have made the friends I have--in part because of the blog. Thankful that I have received the books I have. Thankful that I am able to keep reading, to keep hosting.  
Why the blog has changed through the years?

My blog has definitely changed--in terms of content--since I began. I used to focus exclusively on NEW books written for children and teens. I now have a much, much broader--almost whimsical--approach to blogging. I read what I want, when I want. If I want to read nonfiction, I read nonfiction. If I want to read adult mysteries published in the 1920s-1950s, I do. If I want to go on a Trollope binge, I will. It's not all about the new. It's not all about the IT book, the trends.
Highlights from the original post that I still stand behind:
The great thing about reading is everyone is different. Everybody reads a book differently. One person could love it. One person could like it. One person could hate it. Which person is right? None of them. All of them. Only the reader can decide what is "good" in their opinion. You can't force anyone to like a book. You can't enforce your tastes and opinions on anyone else. Everyone can have their own opinion on a book. That's the only way to view it. If I disagree with your taste in books, fine. If you disagree with my taste in books, fine. There is no right or wrong here. All this is obvious. More than obvious. But here is the bottom line: how does a reviewer balance their personal response from a book with an objective view of the book? Can any book be read objectively? How can the reader divorce themselves from the reading process? Should they even try?
Reviews are opinions. They reflect the opinion of one person--the reviewer. They cannot reflect every opinion. 
Every book is potentially someone's "favorite" book waiting to be discovered. 
There is no *right* way to review a book. 
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Steppin' Out

Steppin' Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Lin Oliver. Illustrated by Tomie DePaola. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When I open my front door,/ There's a whole world to explore.

Premise/plot: The book is a collection of poetry written to be shared with little ones--preschoolers to be exact. The common theme is 'steppin' out.' These are poems about little ones experiencing the world around them: going to the library, eating out, playing outside, visiting family, going up and down on elevators and escalators, going to the car wash, shopping at the mall, getting a hair cut, buying groceries, going to the beach, playing on the playground, sharing with other kids, being in a dance class, going to preschool or daycare. These are all common-place experiences, ordinary moments that Lin Oliver has used as inspiration for her verses.

My thoughts: I think my favorite poem may have been "At the Mall." In this one, a little girl is shopping with her Mom at the mall. She's told she can pick ONE THING and only one thing. She picks out a pink koala bear, and, when she gets home, she shares it with her baby sister. Is it realistic? Maybe, maybe not. Is it cute and sweet? Definitely!

From Playground Fling:
The swing
is a fling

From Rainy Day at Grandpa's:
There's nothing like a rainy day
When streets are seas of puddles,
And afterward a cup of tea
with snuggly Grandpa cuddles.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 17, 2017

Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Jan Thomas. 2009. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hello! We are Ed, Ned, Ted...and Bob.

Premise/plot: Ed, Ned, Ted are dust bunnies great at playing rhyming games. Bob, the fourth dust bunny, is horrible at rhyming but great at paying attention to the world around them and potential dangers.

Favorite quotes:
What rhymes with dog? Hog, log, fog. Look out! Here comes a big scary monster with a broom! Bob, no..."look out here comes a big scary monster with a broom!" does not rhyme with anything really.

My thoughts: I love Jan Thomas. I do. She is one of the best writers when it comes to humor and personality. Bob is a great example. Who could not love Bob?!

Her illustrations are bold and bright--attention grabbing in all the right ways.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur

Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Tim Bowers. 2012. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You're shopping at the grocery store. Surprise! You see a dinosaur. This doesn't happen every day. So, what are you supposed to say? Hello, I'm pleased to meet you.

Premise/plot: How well do you know your manners? This book supposes that you--the reader--are meeting a dinosaur at the grocery store. Each page reveals a new scenario. Rhyming clues may prompt readers to the right answer for each scenario.

Favorite quotes:
You want to buy some butter brickle. Yikes! You need another nickel. The dinosaur says, "Here's a dime." What are the magic words this time? Thank you. Here's your change. Would you like some butter brickle? The dinosaur is worried that a brickle snack would make her fat. She does not want it even slightly. How does she let you know politely?
My thoughts: This is a favorite of mine. It is definitely my favorite concept book for teaching manners. Also it is my favorite book starring a dinosaur. And while it might be a stretch to say it is my favorite rhyming book ever, it is my favorite rhyming book by Judy Sierra. In fact her other books tend to disappoint me. Still this is one I love, love, love to read! "Even slightly" is a great phrase to work into your conversations.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Picture Book Parade

Option 1:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which squares did you fill?
  • Which squares are you having trouble with?
  • How many until you bingo?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 2:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which categories did you check off your list?
  • What is your goal? How close are you to meeting that goal?
  • Which categories are you having trouble with?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 3:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which letters have you read?
  • How many more to go until you've read the alphabet?
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? 
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books reviewed since last time:
Finn Throws A Fit. David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Cat Named Swan. Holly Hobbie. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
That's Me Loving You. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Teagan White. 2016. [December] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
Strega Nona. Tomie dePaola. 1975. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Wolf's Story. Toby Forward. Illustrated by Izhar Cohen. 2005. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Rooster Crows. Maud and Miska Petersham. 1945. (Caldecott Medal) 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Board book: Charlie Rides. Bob Bianchini. 2017. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Helen's Big World. Doreen Rappaport. Illustrated by Matt Tavares. 2012. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Pancakes, Pancakes! Eric Carle. 1970. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Tim Bowers. 2012. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Review copy] 
Antoinette. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Gaston. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
What This Story Needs Is A Pig in a Wig. Emma J. Virjan. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Schoolroom in the Parlor

Schoolroom in the Parlor (Fairchild Family #4) Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Decie Merwin. 1959. 145 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the afternoon of New Year's Day, the long narrow valley where the Fairchilds lived lay gray and frozen and stilled.

Premise/plot: In this final book of the series, the Fairchild family homeschools. Althy, the oldest daughter, homeschools her siblings: Chris, Emma, Debby, and Bonnie. This school semester will last from January to mid April. Normally the children only have one semester per year: August to December. Miss Cora comes to teach the community children each year. But this year, the learning can continue each morning! No one is as excited as Bonnie!

My thoughts: I liked this one. Each month holds another treat. January is for memorizing great thoughts. February is a read aloud of Under the Lilacs. March is for telling 'scary' Indian stories. April is all about surprising their teacher with gifts.

The "Cherokee Joe" chapter was disappointing. Every offensive phrase/word from a checklist of words to avoid at all costs can be found. I am guessing "real live Indian" which is used at least twice is the worst. The family does meet a friendly Native selling baskets door to door. The children eventually come out from cowering under the bed or table. They do like him once they talk to him. This is disappointing but not surprising. At least it does not say the only good Indian is a dead Indian like Little House On the Prairie does.

Bonnie remains my favorite character. Her parents are lovely.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, April 14, 2017

Up and Down the River

Up and Down the River (Fairchild Family #3). Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Deci Merwin. 1951/2009. 143 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "I do wish we could find some way to get rich, like Althy!" said Bonnie.

Premise/plot: Bonnie and her older sister Debby really want to find a way to make money over the summer. A way to make money without spending money, or much money. They settle on a magazine scheme--offer. Selling picture cards for ten cents each, and selling bluing for ten cents a sheet. They get enough to sell--just paying for stamps to mail the company--to earn two dollars. (The company would be mailed two dollars too.) This involves a lot of walking up and down the river to visit each of their neighbors. At one of their neighbor's farms they get a newly orphaned lamb to take home as a pet. It won't be the only pet of the summer either! A duck, two Bantam chickens--a king and queen--and three kittens complete the assortment! There is a story behind each pet! But some stories are bittersweet. (Poor ducks!)

My thoughts: I always enjoy spending time with Bonnie and her family. I like this one but I am not sure it is my favorite from the series. The message might be on learning responsibility. Or it might be something to do with our greatest riches are friends and family and the memories we share together.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Audacity Jones to the Rescue. Kirby Larson. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Audacity Jones had once again devoured every sprig of burned broccoli, even though clean plates simply were not tolerated at Miss Maisie's School for Wayward Girls.

Premise/plot: Audacity Jones loves to be punished. Why? Because the punishment room is the library. She doesn't mind a bit spending hours locked away being punished, not with so many wonderful books--both fiction and nonfiction--to read. Still on this Christmas Eve she wasn't expecting to find herself invited into an actual adventure story. The Commodore has dropped by looking for a twelve year old orphan. Audacity goes with him. By the time she's gotten to their destination, Washington D.C., she is more than a little suspicious. But resourceful and intelligent she can outsmart any conman, right?

My thoughts: This one is not thought-provoking, but, it is fun and delightful. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. This one is set during the Taft administration. Audacity ends up meeting the President even when she saves the President's niece Dorothy. But while I enjoyed many things about this one what I loved most was the cat, Min.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Antoinette. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mrs. Bulldog watched her puppies race through the yard. Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette. Here they come again! Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette. Busy, aren't they? And ridiculously cute, but please don't tell them that.

Premise/plot: Antoinette, the poodle puppy being raised in a family of bull-dogs, doesn't know what makes her special, what makes her unique. Mrs. Bulldog keeps assuring her that she is, but gives no specifics as to how or why. But when Antoinette's friend Ooh-La-La (Gaston's sister) goes missing, it is her turn to shine. This determined pup WILL find her friend no matter what...proving that she is brave, resourceful, persistent.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one and Gaston. I read this one first actually. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to read Gaston as well. I like Gaston and Antoinette as a couple, and I like knowing that one day these two pups will have pups of their own to love and raise. I like the setting (France) and the sprinkling of French throughout the text. It's just a very fun book.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Gaston. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies. Fi-fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston.

Premise/plot: Gaston is not like Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, or Ooh-La-La. In fact he isn't like his mother, Mrs. Poodle, either. Oh, he tries really hard to excel in his lessons. "Whatever the lesson, Gaston always worked the hardest, practiced the longest, and smiled the biggest." One day in the park, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston meet Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette. By appearances, it looks like the puppies have been mixed up. Antoinette is a poodle, and Gaston is a bull-dog. Should the dogs trade places?

My thoughts: I really like this one very much. It's set in France, I believe. And it involves two very cute dog families. Mrs. Bulldog and her puppies plus Mrs. Poodle and her puppies. Readers get a chance to see both dog families at home and at the park. The narrative style is fun and playful though the subject is slightly serious: what makes family, FAMILY. Do you have to look the same? act the same? love the same? How much room is there for differences in family?

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 10, 2017

Fly Guy Phonics

Fly Guy Phonics. Tedd Arnold. 2017. Scholastic. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from first book: Fly Guy likes to go to school with Buzz. He likes going to class. But most of all he likes lunch. The lunchroom has the best trash cans! He loves to grab a snack in the trash can. Until the day he meets the lunch lady, Roz. "This is bad," thinks Fly Guy.

Premise/plot: This boxed-phonics set features ten books and two work books. Each book focuses on a short or long vowel sound. One workbook focuses on short vowel sounds; the other workbook focuses on long vowel sounds. Within each story, the words in bold are the "practice" words illustrating the sound.

My thoughts: I don't know why I always associate phonics books with being short, simple, not much story, and having a very limited vocabulary. The books in this phonics boxed set certainly break that pattern. The books have a lot of text. If a reader is truly only learning about short vowel and long vowel sounds, I'm not sure how they'd read the rest of the text on their own. These do not seem to be written for a very beginning reader. I'm not sure where they'd be on the scale of things--but I'm not seeing these as being A, B, C, or even D. But that being said, I think the stories are fun enough for what they are.

Though the books all have a copyright of 2017, I feel that some of these stories are taken from earlier Fly Guy books. Perhaps not word for word, perhaps with some changes to highlight the particular vowel sound being highlighted in that specific book.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, April 09, 2017


Wish. Barbara O'Connor. 2016. FSG. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I looked down at the paper on my desk. The "getting to know you" paper.

Premise/plot: Charlie Reese is a wish-maker. She's made the same wish--in hundreds of ways--for at least the past year. Her dad is in jail; her mom is checked out from reality; her oldest sister is staying with a friend. Charlie? She's moved to Colby to stay with an aunt and uncle she's never met. She's been assigned a backpack buddy named Howard, an easygoing friend with a large family. Adjusting to her new life will take time and courage, will Charlie's wish come true?

My thoughts: I want more Howard. I love him. I do. Maybe it's silly to get so attached to a fictional character, but seriously a Howard in real life would be a girl's dream come true. I love the book. I love the characters. Bertha and Gus, Howard, Wishbone, the whole Odom family. This is a middle grade novel with heart! No wonder the author is getting fan letters from kids saying that she's the best author ever!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Victoria vs. Young Victoria

This winter I watched the first season of Victoria on Masterpiece. I also took the time and opportunity to rewatch (for the perhaps twentieth time) Young Victoria. I thought I would share my thoughts on both.

  • Longer overall and spans more time
  • Has beautiful costumes
  • Complex characters

  • Makes too much of a "romantic" relationship with Lord Melbourne. 
  • Spends too much time with the "downstairs" of the palace
  • Is always, always concerned with devilish plotting and conniving. (Did her uncles really continue to plot against her that many years after she took the crown?!)
  • The way it's written, it makes me suspect it's more "loosely" based than actually historically accurate.
What annoyed me most was this Lord M. nonsense.  It annoyed me that for three episodes (maybe four?) I had to put up with Victoria being "madly, deeply" in love with her prime minister Lord M. That the two were "desperately" in love with each other, but were forbidden to be together. That theirs was a love "never to be." Oh. How. Sad. And. Horrible. Maybe some people find Rufus Sewell swoon-worthy. (I'm not one of them.) Maybe once he was cast, the writer(s) felt they had to give audiences "what they wanted." Or maybe he was cast first, and he was the author-and-writer's first and only choice of an oh-so-dreamy Lord M. Maybe she was writing out her own fantasy. Regardless, it was silly and lasted much too long.

I like Albert well enough. I mean Tom Hughes does a good job in the role. And the show improved drastically once the two were engaged and married.

In the first episode, or one of the first episodes, Victoria accuses Lady Flora of being pregnant. She is forced to undergo a medical exam, where, it is discovered that she is NOT pregnant--a virgin still--but that she is dying because of a cancerous tumor. The show juxtaposes the two stories: Queen Victoria being crowned and Lady Flora being examined. It creates drama and tension and is emotionally powerful. Of course, she was crowned in June of 1838, and the Lady Flora scandal was actually in February 1839. But I'm not surprised or upset at this playing with the time line. Lady Flora gave me food for thought. To undergo physical and emotional and mental pain and distress and hold onto your dignity and faith was something worth admiring.

Young Victoria

  • Beautiful Costumes
  • Amazingly beautiful and practically perfect in every way soundtrack. I love, love, love Ilan Eshkeri's work.
  • Complex characters
  • Emphasis on the right relationship--Albert and Victoria
  • Great at establishing political context
  • Dramatic AND romantic (One of the best proposal scenes EVER)

  • Probably plays around with historical details and timelines in order to make the movie as dramatic and romantic as it can be in under two hours.
  • Perhaps doesn't emphasis the moral weaknesses of both Victoria and Albert.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one so much. I love everything about it start to finish practically. I love how viewers spend a good bit of time BEFORE she becomes queen. I loved seeing the few scenes with King William (Jim Broadbent). I love the tension and drama. (If he dies before she comes of age, there will be another regency. And regencies are not good for the country....and this one could be disastrous.) I love Paul Bettany's portrayal of Lord M. I really do. But more than anything, I love this slow-building-up of a relationship between Albert and Victoria. I love how even when Albert is out of the country, the two are corresponding as friends and relations. I love how they're connected even when apart. The letter writing is just so swoon-worthy. If there is a hint of Lord M and Queen Victoria perhaps perhaps falling in love, it's just that an innuendo told to Albert by his uncle to "rush" him along. Lord M is not the hero and never will be. Viewers aren't being manipulated into thinking he is Victoria's "one true love." Albert is very much THE HERO and oh-so-swoon-worthy. This film helps you get why Victoria would love him so much and be so steadfast and loyal even after his death.

I don't think Young Victoria's presentation would hold up to a critical scholarly approach of being "historically accurate." Or historically complete and/or objective. Just selective in what it portrays and how its portrayed. It is beautifully done. 
For me, the choice is obvious as to which is better. But so long as Lord M stays out of the picture--then I might keep watching more seasons.

My favorite songs:
Go To England, Make Her Smile 
Down the Stairs 
The King's Birthday
Marriage Proposal
Victoria and Albert

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


The Dream Keeper and Other Poems

The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Langston Hughes. 1996. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Bring me all your dreams, You dreamers, Bring me all of your Heart melodies That I may wrap them In a blue cloud-cloth Away from the too-rough fingers Of the world.

Premise/plot: This is an anniversary edition of a collection of Langston Hughes poems originally published in 1932. It is illustrated by Brian Pinkney. The poems are divided into sections: The Dream Keeper, Sea Charm, Dressed Up, Feet o' Jesus, Walkers with the Dawn, and Additional Poems.

My thoughts: I didn't love all sections equally. (Sea Charm has to be my least favorite section.) I did love the sections The Dream Keeper and Dressed Up. Walkers with the Dawn also had some truly memorable poems. The poem you most likely know--perhaps even have memorized is--I, Too which begins: I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother.

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began--
I loved my friend. (12)
Other favorites:
  • Fairies
  • Song
  • My People
  • I, Too
From Song:
Open wide your arms to life,
Whirl in the wind of pain and strife,
Face the wall with the dark closed gate,
Beat with bare, brown fists--
And wait. (29) 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, April 07, 2017

On the Right Track

On the Right Track (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hamster Holmes held up two pencils.

Premise/plot: A beaver is in distress in this addition to the mystery series starring Hamster Holmes and Dr. Watt. He is an inventor and he fears someone has been messing around in his workshop, looking at his plans, stealing ideas, etc. And the clues do point to at least one intruder, but, the clues don't tell a simple story.

My thoughts: I like this one. It is more of a misunderstanding than a proper mystery, but, I don't expect dead bodies in an early reader! That would be disturbing, not appealing. I really enjoy the illustrations. Overall I've liked all three books so far.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Combing for Clues

Combing for Clues. (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hamster Holmes and his firefly friend, Dr. Watt, liked solving mysteries.

Premise/plot: A porcupine has lost his comb--his heirloom comb! He shares the details with our detectives and they take the case. Can young readers follow the clues as they are revealed before Holmes solves the case and explains all?

My thoughts: I like this fun new series. I love mysteries as an adult, I did not discover the genre as a child. If Hamster Holmes had been around perhaps I would have discovered my love much sooner! I love that all sorts of series are available for young readers.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

A Mystery Comes Knocking

A Mystery Comes Knocking (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hamster Holmes was a very smart detective.

Premise/plot: Hamster Holmes and his firefly sidekick Dr Watt solve mysteries together. In this one a squirrel can't figure out who is knocking at his door late at night. By the time he opens the door, no one is in sight. Can these two detectives solve the case?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I probably would have liked it more as a kid. (I loved hamsters. Owned a few over the years too.) It is nice to introduce a new series of early readers to children. Series are so very important developmentally.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring. Rebecca Bond. 2017. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was spring at last. Pig was in a good mood. "The sun is shining!" said Pig. "The sky is blue!" said Pig. "Goody gumdrops!" said Pig. "I am going to have a picnic by the pond."

Premise/plot: Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring is an early chapter book. (It has three chapters: "A Spring Morning," "A Picnic Lunch," and "The Party.") The book focuses on the friendship of Pig and Goose. In chapter one, Pig--while on her way to a picnic--sees Goose returning. These two are very happy to see each other. Pig wants Goose to teach HER how to fly. That doesn't happen. But Goose does get invited to the picnic. In chapter two, Pig and Goose enjoy the picnic together. While Pig falls asleep and has a lovely dream, Goose enjoys a swim on the lake. At the end of the chapter, Goose is invited to Pig's house for a party later that night. In chapter three, Pig throws a GREAT party. Many friends--new and old--have come to celebrate. Pig and Goose make plans to see each other the next day.

My thoughts: I really like this one. Pig and Goose are fun characters. The illustrations are lovely.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 03, 2017

What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch

What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What this story needs is a pig in a wig, baking bread, pouring punch, and meeting a friend for a picnic lunch.

Premise/plot: The Pig in a Wig is meeting her friends for a picnic lunch!

My thoughts: This one might be my favorite of the three I've read. The story is packed with fun. I would love to be there with them at the picnic! The book is just joyful!  

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Star Wars (Topps) Classic Sticker Book

Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book. 2017. Abrams. 76 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Love Star Wars? Grew up loving Star Wars? Love collecting anything and everything Star Wars? This sticker book may be a must for you. This book features reproductions of classic Topps Star Wars stickers--in their original size--originally produced from 1977-1983. As a bonus, it includes eighteen stickers for the "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" promotion. Is it just a sticker book? While stickers may be its main appeal, perhaps, it also features five double-sided pull-out posters. You may choose--if you like--to stick your stickers on these posters. Five sides of the posters feature a Topps Star Wars puzzle poster.

I would not describe myself as someone who loves, loves, loves, LOVES Star Wars. If you take out most of the loves, you'll find me loving *some* of the movies. But what I do appreciate about this one is the vintage-feel of it. I love seeing the stickers. They very much say LATE SEVENTIES. I think it's an interesting look at how the films were originally promoted.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


What This Story Needs Is A Hush and a Shush

What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What this bedtime needs is a pig in a wig, brushing her teeth, combing her hair, and going to bed with her new teddy bear.

Premise/plot: Pig in a wig is ready for bed, but as she is settling in for the night, she has some guests drop by for a sleepover. Noisy barn animals have come! Will Pig in a wig handle the situation well?

My thoughts: I very much like the series overall. I think Virjan is great with rhythm and rhyme. Not every author who makes the attempt is. Good rhythm is more than finding words that rhyme. A good author also cannot be ruled by the rhymes, the story has to be a STORY. I would definitely recommend this series!
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 01, 2017

The Three Clerks

The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]

 First sentence: All the English world knows, or knows of, that branch of the Civil Service which is popularly called the Weights and Measures. Every inhabitant of London, and every casual visitor there, has admired the handsome edifice which generally goes by that name, and which stands so conspicuously confronting the Treasury Chambers.

Premise/plot: The Three Clerks that star in Trollope's novel are: Henry (Harry) Norman, Alaric Tudor, and Charley Tudor.  These three will end up courting the three Woodward sisters: Gertrude, Linda, and Katie. Henry Norman takes first one friend and then the other 'home' with him. (His second home, his home-away-from home.) Mrs. Woodward LOVES hosting him for the weekend, and she enjoys some of the fellows he brings with him. The book spans years. The courtships are not rushed at all--in fact the opposite. Romance isn't exactly the genre I'd fit this in!!! Politics, crime, and family drama or melodrama all come to mind first! 

My thoughts: Of the novels I've read so far this year, this is probably my least favorite of Trollope. I had definite opinions on the characters. Of the three clerks, Alaric is my least favorite. I really did like Harry and Charley, but, Charley might be more developed making him slightly more interesting. What we know about Harry: He loves Gertrude; he's rejected by Gertrude; he's angry at his friend for 'stealing' Gertrude and marrying her; he's steady and good. When the crisis comes, he's dependable 100%. Charley's character actually develops throughout the book, and, his character is more transformed or redeemed. I really loved spending time with him. He also provided the MOST entertainment throughout. He was a writer on the side. And readers are treated to his plot ideas, his stories, his conversations with his editor, and reviews of his books. 

  • It is not by our virtues or our vices that we are judged, even by those who know us best; but by such credit for virtues or for vices as we may have acquired.
  • All persons who have a propensity to lecture others have a strong constitutional dislike to being lectured themselves.
  • Wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions.
  • God Almighty could never have intended us to make chimneys of our mouths and noses.
  • ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!’ Let that petition come forth from a man’s heart, a true and earnest prayer, and he will be so led that he shall not hear the charmer, let him charm ever so wisely.
  • Oh, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, guardians, and elderly friends in general, kill seven fatted calves if seven should unfortunately be necessary!
  • In public life when is there time for gratitude? Who ever thinks of other interest than his own?
  • If God forgives us our sins, surely we should so carry ourselves that men may not be ashamed to do so.
  • Woe to those men who go through the world with none but new coats on their backs, with no boots but those of polished leather, with none but new friends to comfort them in adversity.
  • The world, we think, makes a great mistake on the subject of saying, or acting, farewell. The word or deed should partake of the suddenness of electricity; but we all drawl through it at a snail’s pace. We are supposed to tear ourselves from our friends; but tearing is a process which should be done quickly. What is so wretched as lingering over a last kiss, giving the hand for the third time, saying over and over again, ‘Good-bye, John, God bless you; and mind you write!’ Who has not seen his dearest friends standing round the window of a railway carriage, while the train would not start, and has not longed to say to them, ‘Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once!’ And of all such farewells, the ship’s farewell is the longest and the most dreary. One sits on a damp bench, snuffing up the odour of oil and ropes, cudgelling one’s brains to think what further word of increased tenderness can be spoken. No tenderer word can be spoken. One returns again and again to the weather, to coats and cloaks, perhaps even to sandwiches and the sherry flask. All effect is thus destroyed, and a trespass is made even on the domain of feeling. I remember a line of poetry, learnt in my earliest youth, and which I believe to have emanated from a sentimental Frenchman, a man of genius, with whom my parents were acquainted. It is as follows: — Are you go? — Is you gone? — And I left? — Vera vell! Now the whole business of a farewell is contained in that line. When the moment comes, let that be said; let that be said and felt, and then let the dear ones depart.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


What This Story Needs Is A Pig In a Wig

What This Story Needs Is A Pig in a Wig. Emma J. Virjan. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What this story needs is a pig. A pig in a wig, on a boat, in a moat, with a frog, a dog, and a goat on a log.

Premise/plot: This early reader is all about the rhyme. But just because it has simple rhymes, simple words, don't mistake it for a dull story where little happens. It has crazy action at times!

My thoughts: Who knew that a story starring a pig in a wig could be so delightfully fun?! I am excited to read more books in this new series.

For reference, this isn't as text heavy as the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

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

I also review adult books.

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

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

I am especially fond of:

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

I am not a fan of:

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

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

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

You should know several things before you contact me:

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

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

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Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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