Wednesday, April 08, 2020

53. Victoria's War

Victoria's War. Catherine A. Hamilton. 2020. 276 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; world at war; adult fiction; historical fiction]

First sentence: The radio changed Victoria Darski's world. It brought swing jazz and blues into her living room. And on the first of September, when she sat on the high-backed sofa and reached for the brass knob on the cabinet radio, it brought news of war.

Premise/plot: Victoria's War is a fictionalized account based on the author's researching real women's experiences in Poland during the Second World War. The novel might be called Victoria's War, but it isn't just Victoria's war--it is everyone's war. And readers get multiple perspectives on the war from a woman's point of view. The first few chapters give readers a taste of what to expect: war brings cruelty, brutality, horrors, hardships, pain, shame, regret, guilt. If these first few chapters are too much, too intense, too painful...the rest of the novel will definitely prove overwhelming.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love reading war stories. Not because I love war--I don't. But because I believe that every voice is worth hearing, every story worth telling. Especially when stories are researched, realistic, true to life. (I do read both fiction and nonfiction.) Just because it's painful and uncomfortable to witness doesn't mean I should turn away and dismiss. That being said, I am an adult. I would not by any means suggest handing intense, not-quite-age-appropriate war books to young readers and forcing them to bear witness to atrocities of the past. One's own mental health and mental state will also play a role in what you yourself seek to read. But I don't shy away from the darkness, the sorrow, the pain. I see you. I hear you.

Victoria's War has its darkness. I won't lie. But it's got a resilient, compassionate, empathetic, heroine who has gumption, courage, and strength.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the ending. It was WORTH IT.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 06, 2020

52. The Warrior's Curse

The Warrior's Curse. (The Traitor's Game #3) Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic. 359 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Winter had come, bringing harsh winds that cut like knives through my cloak, the land frozen beneath my feet each morning and continuing to chill, even when the sun rose. Not that we saw much sun in such a forsaken place.

Premise/plot: This one is the third and probably final book in the series. Books one and two are The Traitor’s Curse and The Deceiver’s Heart. Kestra is our heroine; Simon is our hero. These two love each other truly, madly, deeply but there are obstacles, oh so many obstacles.

At the start of this one, Kestra has been kidnapped and is being held against her will by Loelle in the All Spirits Forest. Simon is recovering and continuing to search for Kestra. Did she leave him by choice?! Or was she kidnapped?! Should he pursue a rescue mission against the advice of his political and military advisers? Should he let her go and marry Harlyn?!

My thoughts: In a perfect world I would have reread the previous books in the series. But with the library closed due to Covid 19, you do what you can do. This book was the last book I checked out—little knowing that the world would change within a week.

I thought it might be difficult to follow because it’s been a while since I read the previous books. But within a few chapters, I was immersed in the story and enjoying it very much!!!

I love Nielsen’s books. She’s a tried and true author who has proven herself worthy time and time again.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, April 03, 2020

51. Ready Player One

Ready Player One. Ernest Cline. 2011. 374 pages. [Source: Review copy] [speculative fiction; futuristic; gaming; science fiction; adult fiction]

First sentence: Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.

Premise/plot: Wade/Parzival is the gaming hero in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. He is one of many—perhaps millions—hunting the Easter egg that James Halliday hid within the OASIS. Three keys, three gates, one prize. Wade is the first to unlock the first key and gate. His sudden appearance on the score board brings opportunities and dangers. The hunter becomes the hunted...

Is the game worth risking your actual life?!

My thoughts: I read this one because I enjoyed the movie. I think I prefer the movie to the book. Perhaps because I am not a gamer and lack the imagination to world build in my mind?! Perhaps because the text just begs to be translated to film?! I don’t regret reading it. Now I know.

I didn’t like the language in the book. I knew it had adult language, profanity if you will. But I was hoping that the pull of the story would be strong enough to keep me distracted from being bothered. It wasn’t. Perhaps because I have seen the movie. Though it has been long enough that there could be great differences between the two and I would be clueless.

I would probably watch the movie again. But I won’t be rereading the book.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, April 02, 2020

50. The Bone Fire

The Bone Fire. (Somershill Manor Mystery #4) S.D. Sykes. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult historical fiction; historical mystery]

First sentence: Our party left Somershill in the November of 1361, as soon as we heard that plague had crossed the river Darent.

Premise/plot: Oswald de Lacy is taking his wife and son (and mother) to safety during the latest outbreak of Plague. They will be staying with a friend in a fortified castle. Other families will be taking refuge as well. They may be safe from the disease but are they safe from one another?!?! Imagine Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None only with the threat of Black Death too. Okay, that may not be a fair comparison. But the truth is bodies do keep piling up....

My thoughts: I missed a book in the series. Perhaps my library branch didn’t have it on the shelf, maybe they don’t have it at all. But because of COVID I can’t get it now anyway. I missed his falling in love and marrying. But this story still makes sense even if there are three new characters.

I definitely enjoyed this one. The series is good.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, April 01, 2020

49. The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television. Koren Shadmi. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [graphic novel; biography; adult]

First sentence: Damn.

Premise/plot: Twilight Man is a biography of Rod Serling told in graphic novel format. The framework of the story is simple. Serling is on a flight and chatting up the beautiful woman beside him. He tells his life story to a stranger. Well, most of his life story. His story starts with the war, the Second World War; he was a paratrooper. Most focuses on his career as a writer, producer, director, celebrity.

My thoughts: I discovered The Twilight Zone as a kid. I loved, loved, loved some episodes; others were just okay. The show holds good memories for me. Though kids may find the show enjoyable, this graphic biography is written primarily for adults. I think older teens could read this one. But. I would definitely say the subject matter and language make it an extremely poor fit for a younger audience.

I would say that a familiarity with the Twilight Zone is an absolute must. If it’s been a while since you’ve watched the show, you might want to watch some classic episodes first. You’ll appreciate the illustrations more.

I didn’t love it. I enjoyed it well enough.

© 2020 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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