Friday, September 21, 2018

The Grave's A Fine and Private Place

The Grave's A Fine and Private Place. Flavia de Luce #9. Alan Bradley. 2018. 365 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: I am on my deathbed. Again.

Premise/plot: The Grave's A Fine and Private Place is the ninth Flavia de Luce mystery novel. Flavia is on a vacation of sorts--a holiday boating trip--when she discovers a dead man floating in the river. She secures a few things from the crime scene--or the body, in this case--and sets to work solving a mystery away from home. She has some help from Dogger along the way. But not everyone she meets in town is prepared for the awesomeness that is Flavia. Not everyone wants the crime to be solved...

My thoughts: I had completely blocked from memory the TRAGEDY that occurred at the end of the last novel. So beginning this one was like discovering it all over again. It was a ROUGH start for that reason. My bad memory is not the author's fault--though I suppose you could blame him for taking the plot in that direction in the first place.

I enjoyed spending time with Flavia for the most part. I wish I'd taken the time to tag the passages that made me smile. Flavia can be quite witty. Some of her jokes fall flat, in my opinion, but overall I do like her.

She IS maturing. I was going to write for better or for worse. But that wouldn't be fair. She's growing up, and no one stays exactly the same. If after eight adventures she hasn't changed at all, then that would be reason for concern. Realistic characters age.

For those new to the series, I would recommend reading them in order. The series is set in England in the early 1950s.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins. Based on the novel by P.L. Travers. Adapted by Amy Novesky. Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. 2018. [October 23, 2018] HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If you are looking for Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane--and it is likely that you are, for this book is all about this particular house--you'll find it.

Premise/plot: This book is a picture book adaptation of the novel. It is beautifully illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. Amy Novesky, the adapter, has selected a few scenes from the novel to share with young readers. These scenes may or may not be what you expect. (There's no kite-flying, for example. Nor jumping into sidewalk pictures. The match-man is simply the 'match-man' and not BERT.) The children do visit Mr. Wigg and have a tea party on the ceiling, visit a special bakery with gold stars, and visit the zoo at night.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the illustrations. I thought they were WONDERFUL.

I'm not sure how I feel about the adaptation of the narrative. Perhaps because I've read Mary Poppins several times and I can't imagine leaving out a single scene--or character. Perhaps because it feels a bit rushed.

For example, in this picture book Mary Poppins just shows up. Readers are not told the family was looking for a nanny. There were no advertisements placed. She is just THERE. She moves in without a single person questioning who she is and why she's there. Which brings something else to mind, never once does the picture book mention that this is the BANKS family.

I like the idea of a picture book adaptation. (Though I'd also recommend just reading the original novel aloud to young children. There is something DELIGHTFUL about the novel. Reading novels aloud should be encouraged. One doesn't have to stick with picture books.)

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Dress and the Girl

The Dress and the Girl. Camille Andros. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2018. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Back when time seemed slower and life simpler, there was a dress. A dress much like many others, made for a girl by her mother. The dress loved the girl, and the girl loved the dress. They spent each day together, an ordinary girl wearing an ordinary dress. Every day the same story.

Premise/plot: The Dress and The Girl has two narrators: the girl and the dress. (One certainly expects to find the point of view of a girl in a book--a picture book. But one does not expect to ever really read a book from the point of view of a dress.) The two are inseparable until they aren't. What will the dress do without the girl? What will the girl do without the dress?

My thoughts: I just want to say that if you can fall in love with a book based on the end papers alone, I fell in love. It's just that simple. The brown fabric spoke to me, called me by name, said CREATE. I also love the illustrations. They are beautiful and compelling. They compliment the story so well. I'm not as sure about the text as I am the illustrations. I liked it. I did. But at the same time I didn't. I loved when the dress and the girl were together. I liked when the dress and the girl were reunited decades later. But when the dress is on its own, well, the narrative is just so ODD. 

I think adults may appreciate this one more. This book screams out SYMBOLISM. I think the dress symbolizes one's connection to the past, to a way of life, to traditions, to memories; it is tangible reminder of the past, of where you've been. 

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Bob. Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. 2018. Feiwel & Friends. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I feel bad that I can't remember anything about Gran Nicholas's house. On the table in her kitchen Gran has lined up three things I do not remember: A green stuffed elephant in overalls; a net bag full of black chess pieces; a clunky old tape recorder. "You loved these things when you were here before," Gran Nicholas tells me.

Premise/plot: Livy last visited her Australian grandmother when she was five. She is ten now. She'll be spending a week or two with her grandmother as her mother travels around Australia visiting old friends and showing off her new baby. Livy's genuine memories of her time here before are few and far between. She remembers playing a bump-bump game on the stairs. She thinks she might remember a special chicken that was a bit different than the others. But as she settles in, a few things come back to her. First and foremost there is BOB who is waiting for her in "her" closet. Bob, a "zombie" in a "chicken suit" has been waiting patiently/impatiently for her to return. She's both shocked and overjoyed. How could she have forgotten BOB?! But now that she's older and wiser, she can't help thinking WHAT IS BOB? WHY CAN I SEE HIM? CAN OTHERS SEE HIM TOO? WHERE DOES HE COME FROM? DOES HE HAVE FAMILY?

The chapters alternate between Livy and Bob. Livy is determined to find out all she can about Bob before she has to return to the United States.

My thoughts: I really loved this fantasy novel for young readers. At first I thought Bob might be purely imaginary. That would have been a fun story too, but, this wasn't that story. There is a definite mystery surrounding Bob. And Livy has quite a task ahead of her. I loved both narratives.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You. (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #2) Jenny Han. 2015. Simon & Schuster. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Peter, I miss you. It's only been five days but I miss you like it's been five years.

Premise/plot: P.S. I Still Love You is the sequel to Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Peter and Lara Jean, our hero and heroine, are together--except for when they're not. Their now "real" relationship gets tested. Tested by the reality and aftermath of the hot tub video. Tested by Peter's friendship with his ex. Tested by Lara Jean's relationship with another recipient, John Ambrose McClaren. Will they still be together by the end of the book? Or will Lara Jean have a new boyfriend?

My thoughts: I recently watched the Netflix adaptation of To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I loved, loved, loved it. It brought to mind all the reasons why I enjoyed the first book. I would have reread the first book, but the holds list was LONG. So I began with the second book. I have memories of starting it before--but not finishing it. (Probably because it wouldn't renew not because it was dreadful.) How do I feel about the second book? I don't love, love, love it.

What I loved about the first book was the connection between Lara Jean and Peter as revealed by their conversations. In the little things these two shared together as their relationship developed. It's not that these two never, ever, ever talk in the second book, BUT more often than not the dialogue is an ARGUMENT, a misunderstanding, or just awkward.

The person she's having those sweet, little, get-to-know-you conversations with in this book is John Ambrose McClaren. It begins with an exchanging of letters. Then they begin to hang out in real life. Then they begin a flirtation of sorts. Lara Jean feels justified because Peter is still talking--even hanging out with--his ex.

Though always telling the truth was written into their new contract, Lara Jean and Peter struggle to communicate with one another. There is little--if any--trust between them. Peter is jealous of John. Lara Jean is jealous of Genevieve. Lara Jean is more than a little worried about how-to-be-a-girlfriend.

One thing I did love was her sister Kitty. Kitty turns ten in this one.

© 2018 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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