Monday, November 29, 2021

November Reflections

 In November, I read twenty-six books. I read a lot of five-star books this month. I managed four rereads. Seven were review copies. 

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

135. Don't Tell the Nazis. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2019. 226 pages. [Source: Library]
136. The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart. Nancy Campbell Allen. 2021. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
137. Love and Lavender (Mayfield Family #4) Josi S. Kilpack. 2021. [November] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
138. Friends Forever. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2021. [August] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
139. The Red Horse. (Billy Boyle #15) James R. Benn. 2020. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
140. Daughter of the Deep. Rick Riordan. 2021. 354 pages. [Source: Library]
141. Out of My Mind. Sharon M. Draper. 2010. 295 pages. [Source: Library]
142. The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

162. Clarice the Brave. Lisa McMann. 2021. [October] 272 pages. [Source: Library]
163. The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams. Mindy Thompson. 2021. [October 26] 272 pages. [Source: Library]
164. Dragon's Merry Christmas. Dav Pilkey. 1993. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
165. The Cat on the Dovrefell: A Christmas Tale. Illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Translated by George Webbe Dasent. 1979/2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
166. The Welcome Chair. Rosemary Wells. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
167. Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake. Barbara Lehman. 2021. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Library]
168. Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast (Interrupting Chicken #3) David Ezra Stein. 2021. [October 26] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
169. The Smart Cookie. Jory John. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2021. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
170. I Don't Want To Read This Book. Max Greenfield. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. 2021. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
171. Cat Dog. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

74. Good News of Great Joy. John Piper. 2021. [September] 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. A Distant Melody (Wings of Glory #1) Sarah Sundin. 2010. 422 pages. [Source: Review copy]
76. Shadows of Swanford Abbey. Julie Klassen. 2021. [December] 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
77. A Memory Between Us. (Wings of Glory #2) Sarah Sundin. 2010. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
78. Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential. Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman. 2021. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

11. Schuyler Quentel RSV with Apocrypha. God. 2021. Evangelical Bible. 1700 pages. [Source: Gift]
12. HCSB Super Giant Print Reference Bible [ISBN: 978-1433615757] God. 1824 pages. [Source: Review copy]
13. Jubilee Bible: From the Scriptures of the Reformation. Edited by Russell M. Stendal. 2013. 1152 pages. [Source: Bought]


number of books26
number of pages9329

2021 Totals



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2022 Chunkster Reading Challenge

2022 Chunkster Reading Challenge
January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022
Hosted by Becky's Book Reviews; sign up link


The books read must be 450 pages or more to be considered a chunkster.
(It is ANY book. I will not limit you to adult books only. Feel free to read MG and YA so long as they meet the page requirement.)
The books can be a hard copy, e-books, or an audio book. As long as each of these formats equal to 450 pages or greater (if it were a hard copy book). 
Rereads welcome as are crossovers with other challenges.
A blog is NOT required to participate.

Sign up by leaving a comment on this post.
Feel free to also leave comments about what you read for the challenge (including links if you like!).

Comment moderation is turned on, so be patient if your sign up comment doesn't appear immediately.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 22, 2021

142. The Nutcracker Comes To America

The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When you think of the Nutcracker, you probably think of this. And this. And maybe even this. You probably don't think of this. One hundred years ago, hardly anyone in the United States had ever heard of this old Russian ballet. So how did it become a holiday tradition? Well, our story kicks off in a small Utah town in the early 1900s and it's three brothers doing the kicking.

Premise/plot: The Nutcracker Comes To America is a nonfiction picture book. It is almost a picture book biography--almost. It is the story of the Nutcracker ballet, and it's a story that focuses on three dancing brothers--William (Willam), Harold, and Lew Christensen. Not all three brothers were born loving to dance even though it was the family business, but, they all learned to love dancing and excelled at it. In fact, two of the brothers left their hometown and sought to become professional dancers, first doing Vaudeville and then later New York. The book focuses not just on dancing, but on the lives of the brothers, on their careers, their contributions to the dance world. Notably, their contribution was in popularizing THE NUTCRACKER ballet into a holiday tradition or sensation.

In 1934, one of the brother's has his ballet students perform a few selections from The Nutcracker. Ten years later, 1944, sees the FIRST full-length American production of The Nutcracker. (Note: Fantasia, a Disney film released in 1940, had used several songs from the Nutcracker. So perhaps a few people would have first heard these songs from watching that movie.) This first production is in San Francisco where two of the brothers, I believe, are working. Two more productions follow: one in 1949 and one in 1951. Many different productions began to follow in the 1950s, including, notably, Balanchine's New York City production in 1954. Also of note, to me at least, is that there was a live television broadcast of THE NUTCRACKER in 1957.

It includes plenty of details on the Christensen brothers, on ballet, and specifically on The Nutcracker. The story is worth sharing. This picture book is a great example of why nonfiction picture books can be SO GOOD AND SATISFYING.

I loved The Nutcracker Comes to America. I did. True, I don't think it comes as a big, big surprise to anyone who knows how much I love, love, love The Nutcracker. But still, I loved it.  I loved, loved, loved the illustrations by Cathy Gendron. They were just-right and complemented the text perfectly. I loved the end papers too! I loved everything about this one!!! 

ETA: I first read this one in November 2015. I reread it November 2021. I found it just as fascinating the second time through. I probably should check this one out from the library to read every year.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

141. Out Of My Mind

Out of My Mind. Sharon M. Draper. 2010. 295 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Words.
I'm surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe millions.
Cathedral. Mayonnaise. Pomegranate.
Mississippi. Neapolitan. Hippopotamus.
Silky. Terrifying. Iridescent.
Tickle. Sneeze. Wish. Worry.
Words have swirled around me like snowflakes--each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.
Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs.
From the time I was really little--maybe just a few months old--words were like sweet, liquid gifts, and I drank them like lemonade. I could almost taste them. They made my jumbled thoughts and feelings have substance. My parents have always blanketed me with conversation. They chattered and babbled. They verbalized and vocalized. My father sang to me. My mother whispered her strength into my ear.
Every word my parents spoke to me or about me I absorbed and kept and remembered. All of them.
I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings.
But only in my head.
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.

Melody has cerebral palsy. She lets us know from the start her limitations: "I can't talk. I can't walk. I can't feed myself or take myself to the bathroom." But she's a smart girl, a gifted one, a genius. And the memories she has stored away--almost unbelievable. But so few know it. Out Of My Mind is an intimate novel. Readers get such a close look at Melody and her world. A world that includes not only her immediate family but Mrs. V and Catherine too.

Out of My Mind hooked me from the beginning. Melody, our narrator, has such a story to tell. And with just a few pages, I had to know it. While it isn't all that unusual for me to connect with a character from a book, it doesn't always happen so quickly.

Out of My Mind is a beautiful but bittersweet novel. I'd definitely call it intense. Very emotional. Very haunting. I'd definitely recommend it. I thought the writing was incredible.

ETA: I first read Out of My Mind in April 2010. I reread Out of My Mind in November 2021. There is a sequel to Out of My Mind that released this year. I wanted to get reacquainted with Melody and her family before reading the new book. (I think that's almost always best, especially when it has been ELEVEN years since the first book). Melody's story is still haunting. I don't know that it is a story that every reader will love and adore. I think there is ONE SCENE that may be a little too much for some readers. A scene that is terrifying in some ways--many ways. I do feel it was a bit manipulative to readers--to do that to readers. Even though I knew the scene was coming up, it still shook me the second time around.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, November 19, 2021

140. Daughter of the Deep

Daughter of the Deep. Rick Riordan. 2021. 354 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Here's the thing about life-shattering days. They start just like any other. You don't realize your world is about to explode into a million smoking pieces of awfulness until it's too late.

Premise/plot: Daughter of the Deep is Rick Riordan's newest book. It is a premise-driven what if novel. What if Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was more nonfiction than fiction, more true than false. What if his legacy was passed down through his descendants? His DNA--their DNA--holding keys to great staggering technological wonders and achievements. Ana Dakkar, our heroine, is Captain Nemo's descendant...and the fate of the world may depend on her survival and her ability to connect (and ultimately command) with the Nautilus. 

Harding-Pencroft Academy is at war with the Land Institute. Ana--and most of the characters of the book--are students and faculty of Harding-Pencroft Academy. But the setting is not on land, but on sea, the deep sea. Ana--and most of the characters--are freshmen at the academy. 

My thoughts: If an intriguing premise is ALL you need from a book, then this may prove quite entertaining. I will give it to Riordan that the premise--on paper--sounds fantastic. A premise with great potential for action, adventure, character growth, world building, etc. All the best action-adventure books have strong friendships at their core.

But. Does Daughter of the Deep deliver more than an interesting/intriguing premise? My opinion is NO. I think the book spends so much time on the premise and world building, that very little--if any--time is spent on developing RELATIONSHIPS or even characterization. I haven't decided if a) the characters are meant to be developed but just come across as boring or bland or indistinguishable or b) he was so busy writing descriptions and plotting action/battle scenes that he forgot that characters matter. The truth is if a reader fails to care about the characters, then it doesn't matter how many battle scenes there are: the book will be BORING and lifeless. More time and attention is spent on describing the Nautilus than there is developing characters like Ana.

So if I feel this strongly about the book, why did I keep reading???? Well, at first I thought it was just setting up the world and that if I could get past the first chunk of info-dumping, then it would "get good." Sure, the start might be slow, but somewhere along the way it would all click into place and then BOOM it would be worth it. All the world-building will have been time well spent, the big picture will be seen, and it will be satisfying. About hundred pages left to go, and I was like...I don't think this book is going to get better. I don't think it will prove ultimately satisfying. Then it was just stubbornness pure and simple. I'm not going to get that close to the end only to give up on a book. 

It didn't help that 98% of all reviews on Goodreads are WOW, I CAN'T BELIEVE WE HAVE A COVER NOW. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews