Tuesday, January 28, 2020

17. Son

Son. (The Giver #4) Lois Lowry. 2012. 393 pages. [Source: Library] [dystopia; speculative fiction]

First sentence: The young girl cringed when they buckled the eyeless leather mask around the upper half of her face and blinded her. It felt grotesque and unnecessary, but she didn’t object. It was the procedure. She knew that.

Premise/plot: Claire is a Vessel, a birthmother, that was her assignment given at the Ceremony of Twelves. At fourteen she gives birth—or should I say delivered of—her Product. There is no he or she, no baby—just a product. They are not mothers but vessels. No maternal feelings or bonds allowed or encouraged. Claire is a misfit indeed since she can’t stop thinking about *her* baby, her son, number 36. Claire shocked the system in that she didn’t give birth naturally, her product had to be cut out of her. Claire is rejected from the program and reassigned to the fish hatchery. She pursues a connection with her son, wanting more, always more. Love may be a strange phenomenon in this cold and cruel community, but Claire is infected all the same. When Jonas takes the baby (toddler really since this is his second December), Claire is overwhelmed with emotion.

Son has three parts. The first and third sections are set in familiar communities. The first is where Jonas and Gabe escaped from. The third is the Village where Jonas lives as Leader—happily married to Kira. The second is a community new to readers. This is where Claire spends five to seven years, preparing herself for her journey to find her son. She will do antibiotics to find him and know he’s okay.

My thoughts: In the Giver, I, as a reader, was so focused on Jonas and his story, on the horror of the releases—new and young—that I didn’t think much about the other assignments, particularly the birthmothers. Son changes that. Claire’s story starts two to three years prior to The Giver.

This is an emotional read!!! I definitely love the series. The Giver remains my absolute favorite. One thing worth noting is that every single book has a different narrator, different style, different message, different tone. No two books are alike. Son unites the series and does a lovely job completing the story. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 27, 2020

16. Messenger

Messenger. (Giver #3) Lois Lowry. 2004. 169 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; Fantasy; Children's Book]

First sentence: Matty was impatient to have the supper preparations over and done with.

Premise/plot: Matty, a character whom we first met in Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue, now lives in the Village, a near perfect utopia—it seems. The Village has a long, long history of welcoming all refugees: the abused, the downhearted, the broken, and imperfect. Matty has been living with The Seer (aka Christopher, Kira’s father). But in the past few months, changes have been happening. People are less welcoming, less kind, less helpful, less compassionate, less empathetic and are becoming increasingly ruder and more selfish and self-absorbed. There is even talk of closing Village to outsiders (refugees) and building a wall. Matty has come of age since Gathering Blue and he is definitely the hero of this one.

The Messenger introduces readers to The Leader of Village. Readers will recognize him and the book where we first met him...

Of the three books in the series, this one is the most supernatural. While technically still post-apocalyptic, it is definitely magical in the supernatural sense.

My thoughts: Lest you conclude that this is a politically driven novel in response to a certain president, it was published in 2004. I had forgotten much of the plot, but I couldn’t help but see how relevant it is to the times.

Perhaps I unintentionally block the plot of this one?! It has a very Giving Tree feel to it. It is decidedly sad.

I do wonder if Matty was intended to be a Christ figure?! This story does not end with resurrection just a substitutionary atonement of sorts. I don’t want to read too much into it, but don’t want to ignore the obvious either. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 24, 2020

15. Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue. (The Giver #2) Lois Lowry. 2000. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Dystopia; children's fiction; mg fiction]

First sentence: “Mother?”

Premise/plot: Gathering Blue is a coming of age dystopian novel. It isn’t an in your face dystopia. It’s much more subtle, quiet even. Readers know that this community is a remnant of a civilization. There is one remaining building that has survived the centuries since the collapse. The community has a primitive feel to it—for a futuristic dystopia. The men hunt in packs; the women weave. If you cannot work hunting, gathering, planting, weaving, then you are essentially kicked out and left for the beasts. Kira, our heroine, has a twisted leg—she was born ‘a cripple.’ Some wanted her to be sent away, left for the beasts. But her mother and grandfather fiercely fought to keep her. Kira was being trained by her mother to weave, to dye thread, to embroider when her mother died. Now that she’s on her own the fight to kick her out has resurfaced. One woman demands Kira’s land should be hers. Kira’s fate depends on her defense attorney. Will she be saved? Can she take over her mother’s job?

My thoughts: Is it fair to compare this one to Lois Lowry’s The Giver? Probably not. Especially if you’re supposed to be wearing your book reviewer hat. Though this isn’t a review copy, so I suppose I can be as subjective as I please! I love, love, love The Giver and it gives off deliciously creepy vibes from page one. Something is way, way off and you know it. Gathering Blue has a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Civilization has been set back hundreds if not thousands of years because of a catastrophic collapse. The creepiness creeps up on you in this one. I didn’t see the potential evil in their midst—the secrets, the lies, the crimes. I just got the sense the people were ignorant and ‘uncivilized.’

Readers get a glimpse of one place that might be ‘beyond’ the sophisticated though evil civilization presented in The Giver.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

14. The White Ghost

The White Ghost. (Billy Boyle #10). James R. Benn. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical Fiction; Mystery; World War II]

First sentence: I turned away from the hot wind gusting against my face, gave up watching foe incoming aircraft, and went inside. Again.

Premise/plot: Though The White Ghost is the tenth Billy Boyle mystery. Chronologically, it takes place much, much earlier in the series. It is set in August 1943 in the South Pacific. (The past few books have been set in Europe in 1944; Italy, Ireland, England primarily.) Billy Boyle is once again investigating a murder, this time for the Navy. A senator’s son is a suspect, he is the one who found the body on the beach. Boyle has no love for the Kennedy family, but he’s determined to find out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If he clears Jack Kennedy, fine, if he doesn’t that’s fine too. But in solving this one murder, others are committed. Can Boyle and Kaz find the murderer as they also struggle to survive?!

My thoughts: I dare anyone to read this novel and not immediately seek out South Pacific. That being said, I definitely enjoyed this one. I thought it was a suspenseful, action packed read. I didn’t guess the murderer right off, which always makes for a better mystery experience.

I would recommend the series for those that love historical mysteries or war stories.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

13. The Ministry of Truth

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984. Dorian Lynskey. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction; History; Literature]

First sentence: December 1948. A man sits at a typewriter, in bed, on a remote island, fighting to complete the book that means more to him than any other.

Premise/plot: The Ministry of Truth is a biography of a book—George Orwell’s 1984. What does that involve? How does that even work? It is a closer look At Orwell’s life, his beliefs, his career, his works, his relationships. It is a closer look at the evolution of the utopian/dystopian genre. What books came before. What books are its contemporaries. What books came after. (This also means mini biographies of other writers.) It is a closer look at ideas, philosophies, politics. Can man be improved? Is perfection possible? Is progress helping us become better people? Will technology lead us to an ideal paradise? Or is humanity what is wrong with the world? Is technology destroying us? Will it ultimately be our downfall? Primarily there is a lot of discussion on communism, socialism, democratic socialism, totalitarianism, fascism, etc. Apparently there are distinctions between all of them. Orwell’s beliefs—his world view—shifted, changed, evolved, over time. And his beliefs can’t necessarily be divorced from the times, the culture, his life experiences. Learning more about the books he read, the company he kept, what he believed as deduced from what he was writing both publicly and privately, has me asking the question are people interpreting 1984 all wrong? I don’t have an answer to that...

My thoughts: I will be honest—this one was way too detailed for my interest level. I like 1984 okay, but I am not obsessed with it. I don’t have it memorized. It is not “my book.” (Think Fahrenheit 451). I do have an interest in the sub genre of dystopias. I have read Brave New World, We, 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, The Time Machine, The Sleeper Awakes, etc. (And of course Fahrenheit 451 which is one of my favorite, favorite books that I love and adore in a much more obsessive way.) I did find it interesting to learn about other novels that came before that I haven’t read...at least not yet. I didn’t necessarily love all the political and philosophical discourse. In that it’s hard for me to differentiate between all the isms in a meaningful way. I don’t get the hundred shades of socialism—but apparently it isn’t black and white. I get the impression that to read 1984 and conclude that socialism is bad or communism is bad is too simplistic in this scholar’s opinion. Apparently Orwell wasn’t condemning all of any ism. Conservatives see what they want in the novel. Liberals see what they want to see in the novel. No matter your political leanings, your world view, you interpret the book as agreeing with you to some extent at least. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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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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