Friday, February 23, 2024

26. The Beatles Couldn't Read Music?

Wait! What? The Beatles Couldn't Read Music? Dan Gutman. 2023. 144 pages. [Source: Library] 

First sentence: Most teachers don't really want you to know anything about the Beatles! They want you to know about Abraham Lincoln and educational stuff like that.

Premise/plot: This is a "nonfiction" book. The framework is fiction, a fictional brother and sister duo battle it out to see who knows more about the Beatles. The information they're sharing is factual and nonfiction.  

The book talks about the band, The Beatles. It talks about the four members of the band, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Each Beatle gets his own personal biographical chapter. Other chapters talk more about the band as a whole--chronicling the timeline of the band. 

My thoughts: Did I learn anything new? No. Is that surprising? Not really if you KNOW me. I liked this one. I did. I was slightly annoyed by the fictional framework. However, I do appreciate that this one focused on the band AND the individuals within the band. I do think the Beatles are best introduced by their music. I know this is impossible to do in a book. Or perhaps not impossible, challenging enough, but the best way to get to know the Beatles is by....listening to the Beatles. Without that immediate connection to the music itself, I'm not sure how memorable or impactful or interesting or entertaining the book is. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

25. Heroes

Heroes. Alan Gratz. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "It's an attack!" Stanley cried. "Enemy airplanes--dozens of them. Coming in low over the water!" 

Premise/plot: Frank and Stanley are best friends living on [one of the islands] of Hawaii in December 1941. When the novel opens, these two are bonding over comic book superheroes. In fact, these two want to write and illustrate their own comic book series. So many ideas. So much potential. But that near-perfect day is soured when bullies enter the scene. Stanley stands up to the bullies, and Frank, well, Frank is too scared to stand up for what's right and just. The next day, December 7, will be a big day. Frank must find a way to repair his relationship with Stanley. The two will be going on a tour of a battleship. But Frank's confession of a deep, dark secret takes second place to the drama-trauma of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Can Frank and Stanley be heroes when it counts the most? 

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, crazy-loved this historical novel for children and middle grade. Definitely my best read of the year--granted it is February. I loved Frank. I loved Stanley. I loved all the talk of superheroes and origin stories and comic books. I loved the creativity. I loved the HEART and substance of this one. I thought the book was great at SHOWING and not telling. Of course, that is my perspective. I loved the narrative. The writing was outstanding.

 I already want to reread this one.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

24. Nothing Else But Miracles

Nothing Else But Miracles. Kate Albus. 2023. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  If you were looking for Dory Byrne--not that there's any reason you would be--you'd most likely find her at the Castle. Which makes it sound as if this is a story about a princess. It isn't. Castle Clinton, as it was known to most people, wasn't actually a castle at all. It was--or had been--at various points in its history: 1) a fort, 2) a restaurant and opera house, 3) an immigration processing center, 4) an aquarium, 5) a ruin. Which is what it was now. An empty place, half-demolished. Derelict. Dangerous, even. But a place whose remaining ramparts, if you were a slightly underfed girl of twelve who wasn't afraid to climb over a little rubble, provided an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty. So now you know.

Premise/plot: Dory and her family--siblings--are on their own...mostly. Their father is away fighting in the war (World WAR II) and the three siblings are relying heavily on each other AND on their neighbors AND on their community. But a difficult, uncompromising landlord changes their more relaxed approach to surviving. Can Dory brainstorm a way to keep their family together and safe while they wait for news of their father? [And the funds he sends...]

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It is set in the Lower East Side of New York City during the Second World War. I loved the setting, the story, the characters.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

23. All-of-a-Kind Family

All-of-A-Kind-Family. Sydney Taylor. 1951. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "That slowpoke Sarah1" Henny cried. "She's making us late!" Mama's girls were going to the library, and Henny was impatient.

Premise/plot: Ella (12), Henny (10), Sarah (8), Charlotte (6) and Gertie (4) are sisters that make up [part of] an "all-of-a-kind family."  The book is set in the Lower East Side of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. It chronicles the adventures of a Jewish family in the course of a year (or most of a year). The book opens with a bittersweet library visit and ends with the birth of a new sibling! There are highs and lows.

My thoughts: I love this book. I'm excited to read all the sequels. I remember reading this one a few times as a kid. This is my second time, I believe, to read it as an adult. (I first blogged about it in 2008). I enjoy the storytelling and characterization. I love the old-fashioned, traditional feel. I think it has acquired that through the decades. It wasn't particularly 'traditional' at the time it was published. I was reading the introduction to the one of the sequels and it was pointing out all the ways this book was 'novel' aka "new" and unconventional.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, February 15, 2024

22. Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame

Mrs. Quinn's Rise To Fame. Olivia Ford. 2024. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a December night, the sort which usually makes being inside feel wonderfully cozy, but tonight it didn't. 

Premise/plot: Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame is a "coming-of-old-age" story. (To be clear, "coming of old age" is on the publisher description of the book. I didn't come up with the phrase). Jenny Quinn loves, loves, loves, LOVES to bake. But as much as baking has saved her--in a way--she can't help feeling a little out of sorts and empty. She decides somewhat impulsively that it's time to do something "risky," and apply to a television show--Britain Bakes. She keeps her application and audition secret from her husband, Bernard. The two have been married almost sixty years, but, there are a few things he doesn't know about her. And it is one very big secret that is eating away at her one bite at a time. 

My thoughts: I mostly enjoy Great British Bake-Off. I don't always love the un-funny, often crude jokes. Some of the hosts have been absolutely awful. But the contestants and the baking are very enjoyable to follow. I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Call the Midwife. Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame was a good fit for me. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews