Friday, August 23, 2019

Eventown

Eventown. Corey Ann Haydu. 2019. 328 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Jenny Horowitz likes horses and the color pink and asking lots of questions about things I don’t want to talk about.

Premise/plot: Elodee, our heroine, is a twin; her sister is Naomi. Both are in the fifth grade. Both are struggling with their emotions and feelings. Both are trying to support the other. The Lively family as a whole is struggling actually. The parents decide that what is best for them all is a move, a move to the oh-so-perfect town of Eventown. Every one is always happy, friendly, comfortable in Eventown. They live in identical houses, have similar yards, have similar interests and traditions. There is a right way to do community.

Elodee has trouble truly fitting in. Naomi blossoms and shines in this even environment. But Elodee, well, she has questions—dozens of them. Why is there only one song sung in Eventown?! Why is the no television, no internet, no music, no movies?! Why are all the books in the library beautifully bound but blank?!

The school also seems to have its own priorities in the curriculum. Readers can clearly discern that something is afoot. What makes Eventown unique? Why would anyone choose to move there?

My thoughts: I found this to be a compelling, suspenseful read. Suspenseful in a Twilight Zone way. A not-so-subtle creepiness that closes in around you as you turn the pages. At one point, for example, vines surround their house blocking out the light and making it difficult to open the door.

I really enjoyed the characters and relationships. I loved Elodee’s friendship with Veena and her Mom. I also liked her relationship with her dad.

This one reminded me of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. (Also of Orson Scott Card's under-appreciated Worthing Saga). I would not be disappointed if it won an award or two.

I used to think feelings were part of a person, but lately I’ve been thinking they are separate beings, that they come like aliens and invade people’s bodies and cause destruction.


S
P
O
I
L
E
R

This one hints of darkness. The family has a reason—right or wrong—for wanting a new start or beginning. But this beginning comes at a huge price. Do we truly want to forget completely everything that has hurt and challenged us?


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little People, Big Dreams: L.M. Montgomery. Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz. 2018 [October]. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: This is a lovely picture book biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery. It focuses on her big dream of writing and storytelling. While it briefly mentions her unhappy childhood, for the most part it stays happy-happy never delving into her adulthood unhappiness and struggles with mental health. It is a cozy read for elementary readers who are on the verge of meeting Anne for the first time.

My thoughts: I found this an enjoyable read. Last year I read a biography for an older audience (though still for youth) that was incredibly depressing though probably true to life. Mental health is important and was rarely understood in the past. It was nice that this one didn’t go dark. There is a time and place for both books.

The illustrations are good! I loved seeing a young Maud in braids. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

World at War: The Brave Princess and Me

The Brave Princess and Me. Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Juliana Kolesova. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There once was a princess who lived in Greece. Her full name was Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie, but she was called Princess Alice. When she was very young her family discovered that she was deaf.

Premise/plot: Rachel Cohen and her daughter, Tilde, are desperate for help and they find it in the kind and gracious acts of a princess. This illustrated book for young readers is set in Greece during the Second World War. The story is inspired by true events. The princess that stars in this one is the mother of Prince Philip who is married to Queen Elizabeth II.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the illustrations of this one. They are simply beautiful. I also love that it is inspired by true people and events. I have read very little about the Second World War that was set in Greece. I loved how Princess Alice fooled the Nazis by playing dumb. It never occurred to them apparently that a deaf person could be intelligent, informed, opinionated, political.

The story is written in the first person. It is short but packed with emotion.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood. 1985. 344 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

Premise/plot: The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian classic by Margaret Atwood. It is narrated by a handmaid, Offred, and set in the Republic of Gilead. Offred, which is her new name not her birth name, remembers a time before--a time when women were free: free to work, free to manage their own money, free to read and write. Because she married a divorced man, when the change happened, her marriage became illegal--immoral. She was retrained/reschooled--taught by "Aunts" in how to be an obedient servant to the Republic. In her new role as handmaid, she will seek to bear the Commander's child. Different women are assigned different tasks. Some are for sex and the bearing of children. Some are for working. Only the poorest of men have econowives--one woman expected to do ALL the household work and tasks.

The novel definitely gives us an ALTERNATE 1980s.

My thoughts: I read this one not because it is a feminist classic but because it is a dystopian classic. I found it a compelling read for the most part. It was strange to see biblical themes appear and reappear throughout the novel in various ways--none of them exactly true to an actual biblical interpretation. It would be sad if readers actually assumed this is the Christian way of thinking and that to be a Christian means you want to live in the Republic of Gilead.

I believe it is written in stream of consciousness. Offred's recollections are mixed in generously with the here and now. It is only a sense--an intuition--that keeps readers discerning what is happening in the present and what may have happened last week, last month, last year, ten years ago. I followed it for the most part. I was swept up in the story. I would not want to be quizzed on the ins and outs of it. But it kept my attention.

A few weeks ago I reviewed We Set the Dark on Fire a novel that supposedly mirrors--for a young adult audience--The Handmaid's Tale. I found it lacking even before reading this one. It just isn't as thought-provoking or as substantive. The world building just isn't there. What the two do have in common is that towards the end the narrators become distracted sexually. Offred becomes enamored--filled with lust--for Nick. And Dani becomes obsessed with Carmen. One big difference between the two is that The Handmaid's Tale is a serious work of fiction that is carefully crafted throughout. We Set the Dark on Fire, on the other hand, has the mere potential to be a serious work. I wanted it to be a political, feminist WORK. I didn't want it to be a silly, flimsy work.

The Handmaid's Tale does leave DOZENS of unanswered questions. But it does so in a way that still builds the world up satisfactorily. The danger is real in Handmaid's Tale. It is never quite in We Set the Dark on Fire.
 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity

A Time  Traveler's Theory of Relativity. Nicole Valentine. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the prologue: We lie to ourselves when necessary. Some of us are more convincing than others. My family has always been particularly good at it.

First sentence from chapter one: Finnegan Firth slid out of his bedroom window and padded on bare feet across the cold slate patio.

Premise/plot: Finn, our hero, believes that science holds the answers to everything. But he's forced to question and re-question everything he believes to be true after his grandmother's death. For the night she died, she revealed a huge family secret. The women in their family are travelers. Most have only ever been able to travel to the PAST. But in recent generations--notably his mother and grandmother--they have been able to travel to the future. (In fact the Grandma revealing the HUGE secret is not the Grandma from his time line. That Grandma is lying dead in bed as they speak.) She wants him to try to time travel via a portal that his mom created in order to help save his family from their current crisis. But does Finn have enough faith? Perhaps even enough faith to save FAITH? Who is Faith? Faith is his twin sister who disappeared--believed drowned--when they were three. Her body was never found. What would a great, noble, oh-so-dangerous quest be without a best friend? Finn's best friend is Gabi.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It was super-compelling and packed with action and intrigue. You should know that I tend to LOVE time travel stories. I do. I always have. I think my first exposure to time travel came via Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation. I have never really stopped being intrigued and fascinated by the concept of traveling to the past or the future.

I enjoyed the dual narrators. The second narrator--the one of the prologue--is super-spooky. Her voice is a haunting one. I wouldn't say it kept me reading--Finn's voice alone probably would have achieved the same thing--but it added a certain darkness or richness to the text overall.

“I don’t want to hear any ancient stories, Gran. I want to hear about now.” She studied him for a moment, her eyes narrowed. “Everything is now, dear boy. And make no mistake, things that happened before you were born have everything to do with who you are and what you do. So much of our lives are built on what happened before we even arrived. The past is never dead. It’s not even past. Faulkner said that.”


© 2019 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

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP