Friday, June 30, 2017

June Reflections

Favorite picture book published in 2017:  A Good Day for A Hat. T. Nat Fuller. Illustrated by Rob
Hodgson. 2017. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Favorite new-to-me picture book:  Matilda's Cat. Emily Gravett. 2012. 26 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early reader:  The Case of the Poached Egg. (Wilcox and Griswold #2) Robin Newman. Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite poetry book:  One Last Word. Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite YA novel:  The Button Girl. Sally Apokedak. 2017. 394 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author]
Favorite to share: Snoopy Contact! Charles M. Schultz. 2015. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite nonfiction:  Hidden Figures. Margo Lee Shetterly. 2016. 349 pages. [Source: Borrowed from Friend]
Favorite Christian nonfiction:  The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Matilda's Cat. Emily Gravett. 2012. 26 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals. Mo Willems. 2017. 30 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Buy My Hats. Dave Horowitz. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Hat. Paul Hoppe. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. A Good Day for A Hat. T. Nat Fuller. Illustrated by Rob Hodgson. 2017. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. How This Book Was Made. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. 2016. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Lily Brown's Paintings. Angela Johnson. 2007. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History. Walter Dean Myers. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. So Many Feet. Nichole Mara. Illustrated by Alexander Vidal. 2017. Abrams. 34 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. (Wilcox and Griswold #1). Robin Newman. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Case of the Poached Egg. (Wilcox and Griswold #2) Robin Newman. Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Piggy's Pancake Parlor. David McPhail. 2002. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Laura Amy Schlitz. Illustrated by Brian Floca. 2017. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Nate the Great. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1972. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. One Last Word. Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. The Button Girl. Sally Apokedak. 2017. 394 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author] 
  2. The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. (Wilcox and Griswold #1). Robin Newman. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Case of the Poached Egg. (Wilcox and Griswold #2) Robin Newman. Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Piggy's Pancake Parlor. David McPhail. 2002. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Laura Amy Schlitz. Illustrated by Brian Floca. 2017. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Foretelling of Georgie Spider. Ambelin Kwaymullina. 2015/2017. Candlewick Press. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Alex and Eliza. Melissa de la Cruz. 2017. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Return to the Secret Garden. Holly Webb. 2016 (November). 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. (Wilcox and Griswold #1). Robin Newman. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Case of the Poached Egg. (Wilcox and Griswold #2) Robin Newman. Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Nate the Great. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1972. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe #21) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Champagne for One. Rex Stout. 1958. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Death of a Gossip. M.C. Beaton. 1985. 179 pages. [Source: Library]

Classics, all ages:
  1. Portrait of a Lady. Henry James. 1881. 656 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Snoopy Contact! Charles M. Schultz. 2015. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Bertrams. Anthony Trollope. 1859. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Champagne for One. Rex Stout. 1958. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe #21) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  6. Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Hidden Figures. Margo Lee Shetterly. 2016. 349 pages. [Source: Borrowed from Friend]
  2. The Pianist. Wladyslaw Szpilman. Translated by Anthea Bell. 1946/1999. 222 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History. Walter Dean Myers. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Why We Get Fat. Gary Taubes. 2010. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Case Against Sugar. Gary Taubes. 2016. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. One Last Word. Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. All Our Yesterdays. Jason Quinn. 2017. 150 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. The Button Girl. Sally Apokedak. 2017. 394 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author]
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]
  2. The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Conversion: How God Creates a People. Michael Lawrence. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  5. Fearless Living in Troubled Times: Finding Hope in the Promise of Christ's Return. Michael Youssef. 2017. [August] Harvest House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Meditations on the Trinity. A.W. Tozer. 2017. Moody. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. How To Read and Understand The Biblical Prophets. Peter J. Gentry. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. New Testament Words for Today. Warren Wiersbe. 2013. 207 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  9. Sins We Accept. Jerry Bridges. 2013. NavPress. 59 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. The Will of God is the Word of God. James MacDonald. 2017. B&H Books. 216 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. John Dunlop, MD. 2017. Crossway. 208 pages.  [Source: Review copy]
  12. Basic Christianity. John Stott. 1958. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]
  13. DVD: The English Reformation and the Puritans. Michael Reeves. 2014. Ligonier Ministries. Twelve 23 minute messages. [Source: Gift] 
  14. DVD Luther and the Reformation. R.C. Sproul. 2011. Ten 23 minute messages. [Source: Gift]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2017 Challenges: Paris in July

Paris in July
Host: Thyme for Tea (sign up)
Duration: July 2017
My goal: 5 posts

Two books that I plan to read "for sure" are The Wretched (Les Miserables) by Victor Hugo newly translated by Christine Donougher and The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Miserables by David Bellos.

What I watch:
  1. The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution. Bruce Alfred (director, producer, writer). 2001. 200 minutes. [Source: Library] 
  2. Exhibition on Screen: Vincent Van Gogh. Directed by David Bickerstaff. 2015. 90 minutes. [Source: Library] 
  3. Camille. Directed by George Cukor. 1936. 109 minutes. [Source: Library]
  4. Moulin Rouge. Directed by Baz Luhrmann. 2001. 127 minutes. [Source: Own] 
  5. Les Miserables: 10 Anniversary Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Directed by John Caird and Gavin Taylor. 148 minutes. [Source: Library]
  6. Camille. Directed by Desmond Davis. 1984. 100 minutes. [Source: Library]
  7. Ninotchka. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. 1939. 110 minutes. [Source: Library]
     
What I listen to:
What I read:
  1. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Deborah Heiligman. 2017. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. 1848. Translated by Edmund Gosse. 254 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Camille: A Play in Five Acts. Alexandre Dumas, fils. Translated by Matilda Heron. 1852. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Bertrams

The Bertrams. Anthony Trollope. 1859. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:  This is undoubtedly the age of humanity — as far, at least, as England is concerned.

Premise/plot: The Bertrams chronicles the adventures and misadventures of three men: George Bertram, Arthur Wilkinson, and Sir Henry Harcourt. The novel, as a whole, has a feel of a proverb or two--for better or worse.

George Bertram starts off the novel as an academic success. But school is now behind him, his future awaits. And with each month that future seems dimmer not brighter. He doesn't know what to do next. Should he enter the church and become a clergyman? Should he become a lawyer? Whose advice should he take? His rich uncle's advice? his friends? a beautiful woman that he just met? his own heart?

Arthur Wilkinson is disappointed that he didn't do better at school, that the results of his last exams didn't go as well as he hoped. It looks like it will definitely be the church for him, but, he's not hopeful that he'll do well enough to marry. When his father dies, he does get a living, and it's enough to support his mother and sisters. But not his mother, sisters, wife, and future children--should he stop dreaming of his own happiness?

Sir Henry Harcourt is confident. But is he overly confident?! He feels that his bright future is a sure thing. He knows he'll be a big, big, big success. He knows that all his dreams will come true. He knows he'll be a SOMEBODY in this world. He knows that everyone around him will look up to him and respect him and maybe just maybe be a bit jealous of him.

There are two heroines in this novel. Adela Gauntlet is the neighbor and most special friend of Arthur Wilkinson. Any fool could see that she loves him madly, unconditionally. She's his for the taking. But will he ever propose? Will Arthur's stubbornness keep them both miserable? Caroline Waddington is the beautiful woman that George Bertram happens to meet on his travels. The two fall in love in the Middle East. It is her advice he follows. She can't imagine herself marrying a clergy man! So he decides for the law instead. But will these two get their happily ever after? Not if Harcourt has his way. He's super-impressed by his friend's fiancee. He just has to get to know her better! Now Caroline, unlike Adela, has a flaw. And it's a flaw that she shares with her grandfather and with Harcourt. That flaw is a LOVE OF MONEY and a longing to be thought of as GREAT. Will Caroline throw away her chance for happiness because she wants too much?

My thoughts: Normally I don't find Trollope's novels too wordy, in need of great editing, but I might make an exception with The Bertrams. I felt there were whole chapters--whole sections--that didn't really contribute much to the story. Perhaps because I felt such a huge disconnect with the main characters. These were characters that were--with a few exceptions--not that pleasant to spend time with. I didn't find many kindred spirits in this one. And the book was a journey in more than one way. It wasn't just a figurative rambling journey with characters that I didn't care much for. It was a literal journey as well. George goes on two journeys. One journey is at the beginning of the novel. It takes him to the middle east; one of the places he spends a good amount of time in is Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. The second journey is towards the end of the novel. It takes him to Egypt. Trollope weighs down his novel with descriptions of these "exotic" places, tourists attractions, and local curiosities. Let's just say that his descriptions of the local residents are not politically correct.

I also did not like George Bertram's religious views. 

Not everyone in Trollope's novel gets a happy ending. I was okay with this, for the most part.

Favorite quotes:
  • If a fellow mortal be ragged, humanity will subscribe to mend his clothes; but humanity will subscribe nothing to mend his ragged hopes so long as his outside coat shall be whole and decent.
  • Success is the god that we delight to worship.
  • It had always been Bertram’s delight to study in such a manner that men should think he did not study.
  • A long speech is a long bore, and a little speech is a little bore; but bores must be endured.
  • Nine-tenths of the men in the world neither swim nor sink; they just go along with their bows above the wave, but dreadfully water-logged, barely able to carry the burdens thrown on them; but yet not absolutely sinking; fighting a hard fight for little more than mere bread, and forgetting all other desires in their great desire to get that. When such a man does get bread, he can’t be said to sink.
  • The right man is wanted in the right place; but how is a lad of two and twenty to surmise what place will be right for him?
  • God is good to us, and heals those wounds with a rapidity which seems to us impossible when we look forward, but which is regarded with very insufficient wonder when we look backward.
  • Useless regrets are always foolish: we laugh at children who cry for what is quite out of their reach.
  • Success in life is not to be won by writing Greek verses; not though you write ever so many.
  • Who ever heard of setting people down to dinner without potatoes?
  • Love with me cannot be the birth of a moment. 
  • “Never bind yourself wantonly to an expiring policy,” said Mr. Die. “The man who does so has surely to unbind himself; and, to say the least of it, that always takes time.”
  • Infidelity that can make itself successful will, at any rate, bring an income.
  • Conversation will not always go exactly as one would have it.
  • In England, at any rate in the country in England, one is an ogre if one doesn’t go to church. It does not much matter, I believe, what one does when one is there; so long as one is quiet, and lets the parson have his say.
  • “No man thinks there is much ado about nothing when the ado is about himself,” said Bertram, laughing.
  • We are all apt to think when our days are dark that there is no darkness so dark as our own.
  • But now he began to doubt his doubts — to be less certain of his certainty.
  • Constant thoughts will break forth in words.
 
 
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures. Margo Lee Shetterly. 2016. 349 pages. [Source: Borrowed from Friend]

First sentence: "Mrs. Land worked as a computer out at Langley," my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.

Premise/plot: Margot Lee Shetterly goes on a search to tell the stories of the women 'computers' of NASA (NACA) in her book, Hidden Figures. It is a story grounded in science, math, engineering, and politics. How did women contribute to the space race? Or how much did women contribute to the space race? What were the challenges they faced as women, as African-Americans? The book is packed with information, and, many stories. Primarily it focuses on Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. But there were dozens of others involved. And the book does a great job of balancing the general with the specific.

My thoughts: I read this one in two or three days. It was a great read. If you loved the movie, I'd definitely recommend the book. Though I think the book is probably better. I think the movie was true to the spirit of the book, but, not as true to the individual stories. In other words, I think they made three composites that represented many different women. I think they might have also tightened the time frame of the story. The book spans from the early 1940s through the early 1980s! Whereas the book seems to be just about the Mercury Seven and the very early days of getting man into orbit.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Share-a-Tea June Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
What are you currently reading for the challenge?

RSV Bible. 1977. Oxford University Press. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]

The Wretched (Les Miserables) Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]

 Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?

I just started the newest translation of Les Miserables. So I imagine between that and my current Bible, I'll stay busy!

Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea.  
  • Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. ~ Henry James
  • Because a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn't a book, not really, until it has a reader. And then you came along, and you read this book through to the very last page, which was how this book was made. Mac Barnett
  • “Have you drunk your tea?” asked the son. “Yes, and enjoyed it.” “Shall I give you some more?” The old man considered, placidly. “Well, I guess I’ll wait and see.” He had, in speaking, the American tone. “Are you cold?” the son enquired. The father slowly rubbed his legs. “Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell till I feel.” “Perhaps some one might feel for you,” said the younger man, laughing. “Oh, I hope some one will always feel for me! Don’t you feel for me, Lord Warburton?” “Oh yes, immensely,” said the gentleman addressed as Lord Warburton, promptly. “I’m bound to say you look wonderfully comfortable.”
    “The fact is I’ve been comfortable so many years that I suppose I’ve got so used to it I don’t know it.” “Yes, that’s the bore of comfort,” said Lord Warburton. “We only know when we’re uncomfortable.”  ~ Henry James
  • There are as many points of view in the world as there are people of sense to take them.~ Henry James
  • We see our lives from our own point of view; that is the privilege of the weakest and humblest of us; Henry James
What teas have you enjoyed this month? Green Tea. White Tea. Earl Grey.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Pianist

The Pianist. Wladyslaw Szpilman. Translated by Anthea Bell. 1946/1999. 222 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I began my wartime career as a pianist in the Cafe Nowoczesna, which was in Nowolipki Street in the very heart of the Warsaw ghetto.

Premise/plot: In 1946, I believe, Wladyslaw Szpilman published a memoir sharing his story of how he survived the war. The book was later translated into English and began to include extracts from the diary of Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. The book did inspire a film, and, the film won lots of awards. As for the contents of the book, the life he led during the war, the near-death encounters he experienced, the physical and emotional trials--shocks--he endured, I'm near speechless. His style is matter-of-fact. It is rich in detail that would have been fresh on his mind, but, his intention was not to shock or manipulate to gain sympathy. It is very unemotional. It isn't a book of feelings or emotions. It isn't a diary he recorded day-by-day that captures the in-the-moment horrors of the war.

My thoughts: I read this one before I watched the movie. I am glad I read it first. If it had packed the emotional punch of the movie though, I'm not sure I could have endured it. It isn't that the movie portrays things differently. In fact, one of the things I noticed almost immediately was how true-to-the-book it was. It was that by visualizing it--seeing it, hearing it--changes things. For example, the violence, the destruction, the horror of it all. If you've seen the movie, chances are you know what I'm talking about. There are dramatic, traumatic scenes that words just can't do justice to. At times I watched the movie almost in shock that humans could treat each other like this, that so much hatred could exist, that the world could be unjust. But then I'd switch from the movie to the news, and, it was all reaffirmed.

The movie is not devoid of hope, nor should it be. If its about humanity--it shows us at our best and at our worst. There is good to be found as well as evil. There are kind, generous, loving people as well as monsters.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (June)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

I finished most of what I had on my nightstand last month. I finished the KJV Reformation Study Bible, Basic Christianity, Dawn's Early Light, Blood, Bullets, and Bones, The Portrait of a Lady, and 44 Scotland Street.


I've made a good deal of progress in Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. I've started sharing from it at Operation Actually Read Bible. Right now, I'm sharing just on Thursdays, but I might increase that as the summer continues.

I have not made much more progress in Mallthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. I think I've read two chapters since last month.

What's NEW.

The Bertrams. Anthony Trollope. 1859. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]

I'm continuing to read Trollope chronologically. I hope to finish this one this week or weekend.

Fearless Living in Troubled Times. Michael Youssef. 2017. [August] Harvest House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is a very thought-provoking read. Youssef is teaching from the books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Deborah Heiligman. 2017. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

I've decided that his family would have been perfect guests on the Dr. Phil show. But if Dr. Phil had gotten Vincent the help he needed, would he still be remembered today? Would his masterpieces even exist?

The Heirloom Murders. Kathleen Ernst. 2011. 349 pages. [Source: Library]

I've not read the first Chloe Ellefson murder yet--this is the second in the series--but this series shows some potential. I am most interested in reading the sixth book Death on the Prairie which has the heroine going to visit all the historic sites associated with Laura Ingalls Wilder.






© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Board Book: Welcome A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals

Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals. Mo Willems. 2017. 30 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Our research indicates this is YOU. Take a good look. How remarkable it is that you are you. You are a unique combination of LOVE + Time + Luck. I am lucky, too. I am lucky that you are here with me...while we read this book together.

Premise/plot: Mo Willems has a new picture book. It is for "new arrivals." It is written in the second person, presumably to your new baby. It celebrates reading books together among other things.

My thoughts: I asked for a second opinion on this one. My mom said, "what a disappointment! I expect more from a Mo Willems' book!" I concurred--which is why I went to her in the first place. I was very disappointed. Still, I want to talk about what this book is and isn't.

There is a mirror at the front and back of the book. Many books for babies feature mirrors. Babies do like to look at themselves...usually. So this could be a plus.

Also the cover is thicker and sturdier which may invite a certain amount of sucking and chewing. The pages themselves are not as sturdy or as thick as a traditional board book.

The text of the book is wordy. Or should I say verbose?! It is the sound of your voice reading anything, that babies enjoy, or so I've been told. So the fact that the book is text-heavy wouldn't have to be a deal breaker. Comprehension isn't the goal, right? Not at the 'new arrival' stage.

There is some repetition. Nine times we see the refrain, "while we read this book together." Repetition goes hand in hand with being a book for babies, toddlers, or preschoolers.

The book is all about being honest.
Please enjoy your stay. Many activities are available for you to enjoy, including, but not limited to: SLEEPING and WAKING, EATING and BURPING, POOPING and MORE POOPING. Other options are available upon request and will be updated on a regular basis. Of our current offerings, I can personally recommend your being right here with me...while we read this book together.
If you have further questions do not hesitate to CALL or FLAIL ABOUT or SCREAM LIKE A BANSHEE. Someone is standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will be with you as soon as possible. Right now I am here with you...while we read this book together.
Honesty is good.

Is the book truly for newborns? for very young babies? Or is the book written for new parents? Is the message really written for--directed to--new arrivals to this thing called parenting. If the "new arrivals" in question are actually the parents, then, I think it would make more sense!

Parents can establish the habit, the routine, of reading books aloud to their newborns. It is never too early to start reading aloud. One shouldn't worry if the baby can understand, comprehend, the text. As a bond-builder this one can more than suffice.

I guess what I found so disappointing were the illustrations. I just was not amused or impressed by the illustrations. I did not find them appealing. I found them dull, boring, uninspired.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 1 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prisoner's Base

Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe #21) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In Nero Wolfe's old brownstone house on West Thirty-fifth street that Monday afternoon in June, the atmosphere was sparky. I mention it not to make an issue of Wolfe's bad habits, but because it is to the point. It was the atmosphere that got us a roomer.

Premise/plot: Priscilla Eads shows up at Nero Wolfe's house expecting--hoping--that she can stay there for a week, that she can pay him room and board. She's hiding out from someone--a lawyer, a business partner. Archie lets her in, and tells her she can stay temporarily at least. The final word will come from Nero Wolfe, and he's not to be disturbed at the moment. (Readers can guess why.) Before the evening is out, two things occur: someone comes looking for her and wanting to hire Wolfe to find her AND Wolfe kicks Miss Eads out of his house. The next day, can you guess who's dead?!

Archie blames himself and takes it upon himself to FIND THE KILLER NO MATTER WHAT. And Wolfe finds himself with Archie as a client!!! Miss Eads was an heiress and she was about to come into a lot of stock and money as her birthday approached...

My thoughts: I really enjoy Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. I love, love, love, LOVE Archie Goodwin. This is a very satisfying, very quick read.

Quotes:
"If I had said I had read about you and seen a picture of you, and you fascinated me, and I wanted to be near you for one wonderful week, you'd have known I was lying." "Not necessarily. Millions of women feel like that but they can't afford the fifty bucks a day."
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Case of the Poached Egg

The Case of the Poached Egg. (Wilcox and Griswold #2) Robin Newman. Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 10:00 am, Headquarters. "Headquarters. Wilcox, here." "This is Henrietta Hen. My precious Penny is missing." "Did she fly the coop?" I asked. "Oh no! She can't fly." "Did she run away?" I probed. "Oh no! She can't run." "Can't fly or run? I've never heard of a chicken who couldn't cross the road." "She's not a chicken." "Not a chicken? What is she?" "An egg." I sure had egg on my face. "Are you sure she's gone?" "Yes, Detective. I always count my chickens before they hatch." "We're on our way!" I said. "Captain, we've got a Code 0, a poached egg." The captain held up a pot of water. "Not poached as in boiled," I said, "poached as in stolen!" We jumped into our cruiser and flew to the coop.

Premise/plot: This is the second book in the early reader mystery/detective series by Robin Newman. Wilcox and Griswold have another case to solve on the farm. This time it's a kidnapping case. Someone stole an egg. But who? And why? Can these two solve the crime and return Penny to her mother before she's hatched?!

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this series. I loved the first book, and I love the second book just as much if not more. I love Robin Newman's writing. I love her puns. I love the dialogue. I love the pace. I also love just the energy these two bring to any case they are working on. I would definitely recommend this series to young readers.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Victorian Quarterly Check-In

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?

✔ 6. A book with illustrations
Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 1838/1839. 608 pages. [Source: Bought] 
9. A book published between 1850-1860
Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. [Source: Bought] 
✔ 12. A book published between 1881-1890
Portrait of a Lady. Henry James. 1881. 656 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 33. A book with a number in the title
The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 34. A book with a place in the title 
Washington Square. Henry James. 1880. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

 What are you currently reading?

The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope

 Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. ~ Henry James
  • There are as many points of view in the world as there are people of sense to take them.  ~ Henry James
  • You must save what you can of your life; you mustn’t lose it all simply because you’ve lost a part. ~ Henry James
  • A mistake’s made before one knows it. ~ Henry James
  • “I’m rather ashamed of my plans; I make a new one every day." ~ Henry James
  • Don’t mind anything any one tells you about any one else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.” “That’s what I try to do,” said Isabel “but when you do that people call you conceited.” “You’re not to mind them — that’s precisely my argument; not to mind what they say about yourself any more than what they say about your friend or your enemy.” Isabel considered. “I think you’re right; but there are some things I can’t help minding: for instance when my friend’s attacked or when I myself am praised.” “Of course you’re always at liberty to judge the critic. Judge people as critics, however,” Ralph added, “and you’ll condemn them all!” ~ Henry James
  • You must be prepared on many occasions in life to please no one at all — not even yourself. ~ Henry James
  • When you’ve lived as long as I you’ll see that every human being has his shell and that you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There’s no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we’re each of us made up of some cluster of appurtenances. ~ Henry James
  • Wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • All persons who have a propensity to lecture others have a strong constitutional dislike to being lectured themselves. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • “it doesn’t take long to like a person — when once you begin.” Henry James
  • “The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the Doctor permitted himself to respond. ~ Henry James
  •  It is so much easier to preach than to practise. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • How is one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the things which happen around us?  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Our sheep have to put up with our spiritual doses whether they like them or not.  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • “You haven’t got another cup of tea, have you?” “Oh, uncle! you have had five.” “No, my dear! not five; only four — only four, I assure you; I have been very particular to count. I had one while I was—” “Five uncle; indeed and indeed.” “Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd number, I’ll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious.”  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity.  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels with ease. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Wounds sometimes must be opened in order that they may be healed.  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Love can only be paid in its own coin: it knows of no other legal tender.   ~ Anthony Trollope
Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?

I'm reading a lot of Henry James and Anthony Trollope this year!

Favorite book you've read so far...

The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library] 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Piggy's Pancake Parlor

Piggy's Pancake Parlor. David McPhail. 2002. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Piggy grew up on a small farm just below the hilltop village of West Wee. He was the runt of a large litter of pigs. The farm was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Farmer Todd, who took Piggy in because he was weak and underfed.

Premise/plot: Piggy, a runt raised by a farmer and his wife, learns the family's secret recipe for making the BEST PANCAKES EVER. He goes into business with Fox and starts a pancake parlor. These two friends learn many, many things together as the business grows and their customers keep coming back for MORE, MORE, MORE.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is an early chapter book: 48 pages in length, but nine chapters in total. It is illustrated. I love that the Fox--whom readers first meet IN a hen house stealing eggs--is not the automatic villain. I love that Piggy and his human parents are compassionate and generous. But my favorite FAVORITE aspect of this one was how they use Piggy's interest in TOY TRAINS in the restaurant--with mixed results!!! I loved the story, the characters, the writing.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Death of a Gossip

Death of a Gossip. M.C. Beaton. 1985. 179 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 'I hate the start of the week,' said John Cartwright fretfully.

Premise/plot: Death of a Gossip is the first mystery starring Hamish Macbeth. The series is set in Scotland. The setting of the first book is largely a fishing school/club and its surrounding rivers and lakes. John and Heather Cartwright manage the school, most of the students are out-of-town tourists. The students this eventful week are: Marvin and Amy Roth, Lady Jane Winters, Jeremy Blythe, Alice Wilson, Charlie Baxter, Major Peter Frame, and Daphne Gore. By the end of the week, one of these guests/students will be dead. Though technically Chief Inspector Blair is the detective on the case, it is really Hamish Macbeth, local constable, that gets the job done.

My thoughts: My mom hasn't read this first book, but she has been LOVING the later books in the series. I remember reading this one and not being all that impressed. But. I wanted to give Hamish Macbeth another try. I hope to see the television series soon. I am still not all that impressed. SO MUCH FISHING. I'm hoping that the series will improve as it goes on.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Princess Cora and the Crocodile. Laura Amy Schlitz. Illustrated by Brian Floca. 2017. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When Princess Cora was born, her mother and father thought she was as perfect as a snowflake.

Premise/plot: Soon after she was born, Princess Cora's parents stopped thinking she was perfect and began to worry about training her to be the next queen. Cora's training is 24/7. Her nanny has her taking at least three baths a day; the queen has her reading dry, boring books and studying for hours at a time; the king has her skipping ropes for hours so that she'll be the strongest monarch ever. Cora doesn't have it in her to rebel against the system directly, but, she does write her fairy godmother with one little request. She wants a pet. (She really wants a dog, but her note doesn't specify that clearly.) She ends up ripping up the note--which then turns into a butterfly--because she can't go with it. But to her surprise, the fairy godmother responds to her plea for help and does send her a pet. The pet she gets? A crocodile, of course! Will her pet crocodile save her from a life of misery?

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It was very silly, but also a lot of fun. It isn't your typical princess story, not really. This princess story has some bite to it. Overall, I'd say it was a very enjoyable early chapter book for young readers. The message is LIVE MORE, worry less. And sometimes that's the exact message parents need to hear. (Because it isn't just kings and queens who worry about training their child to BE SOMETHING.)



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Last Word

One Last Word. Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was thirteen years old when I read my poetry aloud in front of an audience for the first time.

Premise/plot: Nikki Grimes shares some of her favorite poems from the Harlem Renaissance in her newest book. After sharing the original poem, she follows it with one of her own. All of Grimes' poems are written in the poetry form Golden Shovel.
The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original.
The framework for this poetry collection is a brother and sister discouraged by watching the news come to find hope and inspiration from reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. The introductory poem asks, "Can I really find fuel for the future in the past?" In the last poem, we return to the framework. He has found his answer: "The past is a ladder that can help you keep climbing."

The collection includes poems from Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, William Waring Cuney, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Clara Ann Thompson, and Jean Toomer. (Biographies for each poet can be found in the back matter.) Each poem features an illustration. So many illustrators contributed to this book.

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I was unfamiliar with the Golden Shovel form before picking this one up, but, WOW what an incredible idea. I imagine it is very challenging yet extremely satisfying to write. I loved the poems Grimes shared. I was familiar with some of these poets, but, not all of them. I think I'll have to seek out more Georgia Douglas Johnson. I also loved Grimes' new poems. What this collection does really well is show how timeless poetry is, and how relevant it remains in our lives.

If you read only one poetry book this year, I'd recommend it be this one. It's SO good.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Return to the Secret Garden

Return to the Secret Garden. Holly Webb. 2016 (November). 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The children marched down the street in a long line of twos, and only one of them looked back.

Premise/plot: Emmie Hatton, our heroine, is an orphan. The book opens--in London, 1939--with her orphanage being evacuated to the countryside. All are sent to Misselthwaite Manor. Emmie is upset. You might think naturally so. After all, the children are being sent to the countryside for their safety, in anticipation of London being bombed. It's not just orphans facing this potentially traumatic move. But Emmie is upset by the fact that she can't take "her" cat, Lucy, with her. She's been told that animals are being put down--killed--because there isn't enough food and resources. So to say that Emmie's distraught at the idea of being separated from Lucy isn't that much of a stretch. Life at Misselthwaite Manor is nice enough. She soon finds a DIARY in her bedroom. She reads it: it tells of a lonely miserable girl named Mary. A girl who learned to jump rope. A girl who found a key. A girl who went in search of a door...in a wall. A girl who slowly but surely made friends and found her place to belong. Emmie wants that to be her story as well. So she sets off to find the door. She too finds the Secret Garden. She too makes friends with the gardener, the birds, the flowers. But will she find a family in her new 'temporary' home?

My thoughts: Return to the Secret Garden is written for a much younger audience than the original The Secret Garden, in my opinion. The text is much simpler; the vocabulary much more accessible. Also there isn't as much complexity and depth to the story or to the characters. It definitely is NOT action-driven. I'm not sure I'd call it theme-driven either. But it is very much about belonging and finding a place to call your own. It was nice to revisit some of the original characters. It may not have been the exact book I was hoping for. But it was a pleasant enough, quick enough read.

It would be interesting to see--perhaps as a young adult or adult book--a more direct sequel to the book that focuses on Mary, Colin, and Dickon before, during, and immediately after the Great War, the War to End All Wars. It might prove to be a devastating book--one that you'd have to put in the freezer. But it would be worth reading...at least in the hands of the right author.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Buy My Hats

Buy My Hats. Dave Horowitz. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Buy my hats! Monday. Down at the City Market, Frank and Carl got ready to sell some hats. "Step right up," said Carl. "Who wants to buy a hat?" But nobody did. Frank and Carl sold only ONE hat all day.

Premise/plot: Readers spend a week with Frank and Carl as they try to sell hats. All week long, Frank and Carl witness other businesses succeed while theirs fails. Every day they ask the more successful business their SECRET for success...every day they hear something new. (For example, Mister Pig is all about advertising his brand.) Will these two ever learn how to sell hats?

My thoughts: I liked it. I think I may like the premise more than the actual book. But. I still really like it overall. The author includes a note about the inspiration for the story.
In elementary school we were given an assignment to choose a fictitious product and create an advertisement for it. One student brought in a hat. Her poster was just the words BUY MY HATS! I thought it was brilliant. The teacher disagreed and gave her an F. Thirty years later, I can't even remember the student (who I'm sure grew up to become an international hat magnate), but I still remember those three little words: Buy My Hats!
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Hat

Hat. Paul Hoppe. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One day, Henry found a hat. "Can I keep it? Hat would be so cool!" Hat protects from the sun. Hat keeps off the rain. Hat is great for catching mice and performing magic tricks.

Premise/plot: Henry finds a hat on a park bench one day. He wants it as he imagines that it would be awesome to have. Henry has a BIG imagination. Hat--as seen through Henry's eyes--is anything but ordinary. Will Henry take the hat? Or will he leave it on the bench?

My thoughts: I love this one. I love, love, love the illustrations. I love the story and the writing. I love the joyfulness of this one boy's imagination. One of my favorite scenes in the book is..."Hat saves Henry's life." In the illustration, readers see a smug looking Henry. An alligator (or perhaps crocodile?!) has been foiled from eating Henry by this awesome red hat you see in its jaws. But I think what I love most of all is how we revisit all his original ideas in a new way after his mom asks him, "But, Henry, what if someone else needs this hat?"

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Good Day for a Hat

A Good Day for A Hat. T. Nat Fuller. Illustrated by Rob Hodgson. 2017. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Today is a good day for a hat," said Mr. Brown. But when he stepped outside...it was raining. "I have just the hat for that," Mr. Brown said. But when he stepped outside...the rain had turned to snow. "I have just the hat for that," Mr. Brown said. But when he stepped outside...

Premise/plot: Mr. Brown has a LOT of hats. But which hat will he wear today? Every time he opens the door, he's surprised by what he sees. And what he sees leads him to get a different hat to wear! Will he ever make it out the door and be on his way? And where is he going anyway?! It's a fun reveal at the end that is JUST RIGHT for this playful book.

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. I do. I love the writing. I think the repetition is awesome. I think it would lend itself well to writing activities in the classroom. But I don't just think it's a book that lends itself to writing or drawing prompts. I think it would be a great 'just for fun' read aloud either one-on-one with little ones and their parents or in a group setting at the library or in the classroom. I think there's enough--in the illustrations and the text--that will make rereads just as delightful.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Snoopy Contact!

Snoopy Contact! Charles M. Schultz. 2015. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: (Lucy) How can you be happy when you don't know what this year has in store for you? Don't you worry about all the things that can happen? That's better...live in dread...and fear...be sensible... (Snoopy) He he he he he he he.

Premise/plot: Snoopy: Contact! is a collection of Peanuts comic strips. Probably half of the comics in this collection feature Snoopy as a World War I Flying Ace in pursuit of the Red Baron. The other half in this collection focuses on all the characters and takes readers through all four seasons.

One of my favorite Flying Ace strips has Snoopy imagining himself landing behind the trenches having to crawl over/under barbed wire before he's spotted by enemy machine gunners. The barbed wire is really a jump rope in action. That comic is on page 14.

Another favorite strip has Snoopy singing for his dinner. I could really RELATE to this one. Charlie Brown ends the strip saying, "I must admit he's a very satisfying person to cook for." This strip is on page 29. (Page 30 has a great summer-themed strip.)

A little later on readers see Snoopy going through a photo album. What's making him so happy? He's looking at pictures of all the supper dishes he's ever owned. (107)

Ever wondered if Snoopy is the kind of dog to make plans?
(Charlie Brown) Well, Snoopy, what are your plans for today?
(Snoopy) Plans? I hadn't even thought about it. But I suppose I'll sleep a little this morning...then this afternoon, I'll take a short nap, and later on I'll try to get more sleep...those are good plans. (54)
One of my favorite winter-themed strips has Snoopy skating. Snoopy has had to do a lot of his practicing at night...because otherwise he's "surrounded by flocks of admiring girls..." (141).

My thoughts: I really love this collection. Snoopy and Linus are my favorite characters from Peanuts. The book is a quick read. I often found myself wanting to share strips with others.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, June 16, 2017

The Case Against Sugar

The Case Against Sugar. Gary Taubes. 2016. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: What if Roald Dahl and Michael Pollan are right, that the taste of sugar on the tongue can be a kind of intoxication? Doesn't it suggest the possibility that sugar itself is an intoxicant, a drug? Imagine a drug that can intoxicate us, can infuse us with energy, and can do so when taken by mouth. It doesn't have to be injected, smoked, or snorted for us to experience its sublime and soothing effects. Imagine that it mixes well with virtually every food and particularly liquids, and that when given to infants it provokes a feeling of pleasure so profound that intense that its pursuit becomes a driving force throughout their lives.

Premise/plot: Taubes argues in his newest book that sugar--both sucrose and high fructose corn syrup--is the principal cause of several (in fact many) diseases that are most likely to kill us. Taubes' book is a thorough examination of the subject.

Chapters include:
  • Introduction: Why Diabetes?
  • Drug or Food?
  • The First Ten Thousand Years
  • The Marriage of Tobacco and Sugar
  • A Peculiar Evil
  • The Early (Bad) Science
  • The Gift That Keeps On Giving
  • Big Sugar
  • Defending Sugar
  • What They Didn't Know
  • The If/Then Problem: I
  • The If/Then Problem: II
  • How Little Is Still Too Much?
Essentially, he argues against the status quo of nutritionists and scientists, those that would say it's dietary fat that makes you fat. That it is fat and salt in our diets that lead to disease. He argues against the idea that it is overeating and sedentary lifestyles that are making us fat--obese--and leading to more health problems. He carefully examines the evidence, the research. Just because someone claims to back up their claims with "the latest research" doesn't make it legit. There are hundreds--if not thousands--of ways to approach studies for research. Some more reliable than others. The results of studies have to be interpreted. And two people looking at the same set of facts can reach two very different, often contradictory conclusions. Research studies with humans often fail to consider all the factors going on. And animal studies, well, they may prove how mouse or rat biology work, but, don't always correlate well with us. Taubes argues that there is bias involved as well. If your research is funded exclusively by the sugar industry, well....let's just say that the sugar industry has spent decades defending sugar and excels at public relations. (And the sugar industry is not alone.)

Taubes examines both sides in a way. He looks at the research that says dietary fat is to blame and that sugar is harmless. He critiques those studies, those conclusions. He then presents his own views. How does the body digest sugar? What is the effect of sugar on the body? What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects? What if scientists have gotten the cause and effect mixed up? What if its sugar which leads to obesity which leads to metabolic syndrome which leads to diabetes which leads to heart disease which leads to this that and the other? What if sugar isn't harmless? Why are people so unwilling to consider the idea that sugar is the culprit? Why are people more willing to give up meat than sugar--to blame fat than sugar? To blame ANYTHING than sugar? Why aren't people asking more questions and looking at things from a common sense approach?

Whether your interest is in history, science, nutrition, or culture, Taubes' book may keep you reading. One thing it is not is a diet book, a how-to-lose-weight-and-be-the-best-you book. I'd describe the book as thorough, well-documented, and logical. It is his attempt to reason with you--with skeptics, with critics, with anyone and everyone who assumes that sugar is harmless and that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.

My thoughts: I'll be honest. I wanted to file this one in the horror genre. Some of the facts are truly horrifying in terms of what it means to human society, to the human race. At times I felt Taubes was a bit pessimistic, abandon hope all ye who have ever eaten sugar.

I'm going to guess that most readers will find his "no amount of sugar is safe to consume" guideline a bit too unrealistic and strict. 

But regardless of whether Taubes motivates you to give up processed foods and sugar, his book is thought-provoking. He gets you thinking about what you're consuming that's for sure.

Diabetes is a subject that I care very deeply about. I think it's a dangerous disease because the dangers--the effects of the disease--are not immediate. It's really easy to think it doesn't really matter if I eat that cookie or not. It's easy to cling to the idea that you'll straighten out your diet tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. That there is always time to get it under control. But the truth is every day counts. That it is serious, that it should be taken seriously. That it can lead to head-to-toe health problems. If you've ever witnessed someone die from complications related to diabetes, you know what I'm talking about.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Picture Book Parade

Option 1:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which squares did you fill?
  • Which squares are you having trouble with?
  • How many until you bingo?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 2:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which categories did you check off your list?
  • What is your goal? How close are you to meeting that goal?
  • Which categories are you having trouble with?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 3:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which letters have you read?
  • How many more to go until you've read the alphabet? K and X
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? K and X apparently :)
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books reviewed since last time:
  1. How This Book Was Made. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. 2016. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Matilda's Cat. Emily Gravett. 2012. 26 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Lily Brown's Paintings. Angela Johnson. 2007. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History. Walter Dean Myers. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Board book: So Many Feet. Nichole Mara. Illustrated by Alexander Vidal. 2017. Abrams. 34 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Mama Cat Has Three Kittens. Denise Fleming. 1998. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. I Don't Know What To Call My Cat. Simon Philip. Illustrated by Ella Bailey. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Cat Book. Silvia Borando. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. We're All Wonders. R.J. Palacio. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. The Queen's Handbag. Steve Antony. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Harry by the Sea. Gene Zion. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. 1976. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Say Hello to Zorro! Carter Goodrich. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Pig the Pug. Aaron Blabey. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. No More Bows. Samantha Cotterill. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  15. Dog Book. Lorenzo Clerici. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16. Rolling Thunder. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Greg Ruth. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  17. Elephant Twins. Richard Sobol. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. Elephants Can Paint Too. Katya Arnold. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Button Girl

The Button Girl. Sally Apokedak. 2017. 394 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author]

First sentence from the Prologue: REPENTANCE ATWATER STOOD BESIDE HER little sister, Comfort, studying the damp ground where all the mushrooms grew.

Premise/plot: Repentance has always been taught to reverence Providence; from the time she was a girl she's been taught the will of Providence, taught to submit to the will of Providence no matter the personal cost. But Repentance is sixteen, and, she has a decision to make. Should she accept the status quo and button with Sober? If she does the first two boys they have will belong to the Overlord and become slaves. (For Repentance and Sober both live in a breeder village.) If she does not button with Sober, then she herself--and Sober--will become slaves, will be carted away from their families and SOLD. A happy ending seems impossible, no one that she knows has fought back, resisted, persevered and won against the Overlords. Should she be the first from Hot Springs to do so?

As you might have gathered, The Button Girl is a fantasy novel. I would say it is best for young adults and adults. Repentance herself is sixteen, but, the decisions she makes thrust her into a very adult world. A world where young women, especially attractive young women are sold as sex slaves. The book isn't just about sex slaves, though, but about slavery itself. The world in which Repentance and Sober live, slavery is a harsh reality--the way things are, the way things have been for over two hundred years.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED the world-building in this fantasy novel. Readers learn alongside Repentance, the heroine. (This is a great way to show not tell, a way to avoid the info dump.) And the magical elements do, in part, make this a fascinating read.  But even more than the world itself, I love the story and the characters. I love Repentance. I love her determination, her feisty spirit. I love that she follows her heart, her conscience. I love that she doesn't accept that the way things are is the way things have to be forever and ever. I love her loyalty and selflessness. But even more than I love Repentance, I love and adore Sober. But the more I talk about Sober, the more I gush more likely, the greater the chance of spoiling this one. He's a GOOD guy. 

Favorite quotes:
Inside she’d been weeping and wailing all her life. She could go along with the buttoning, that’s what she could do. She could learn to be content like everyone else. But she was not like everyone else. She tried to be. She wanted to be. She had practiced the precepts of Providence since she was no bigger than a swamp rat. To be discontent is to complain against Providence himself, to call him a liar, to say he has not provided as he ought. And yet, Repentance Atwater was not content living in the breeder village. She was not content with the fog that clung like a burial shroud. She was not content with the muggy, oppressive heat, which threatened to smother her. And, most assuredly, she was not content to be buttoned to Sober Marsh and to bear sons for the overlords to take as slaves.
 Providence desires us to be honest, merciful, and joyous. Perfect! Except you couldn’t be all three at once. Honesty sucked all the joy right out of a body.
“I’m not really your merchandise, you know,” Repentance said, selecting another potato from the basket on the floor. “You can’t tell me what to think. What’s inside is the real me, and that’s between me and Providence. You can’t own that part.” Jadin burst out laughing. “You are welcome to your insides, Repentance. I cannot package and sell them. No man cares to buy the thoughts of a silly girl.”

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How This Book Was Made

How This Book Was Made. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. 2016. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: At first this book wasn't a book. It was an idea. Ideas can come at funny times. When I had the idea for this book, I went to a quiet place and I wrote. I wrote from early in the morning until late at night. It was very hard work. Soon I had a bunch of words on paper. Those words were a first draft. The first draft of this book was not so good. Neither was the second draft. Or the third. Or the twelfth.

Premise/plot: Love to write? Love to draw? Want to write your own books someday? This how-to picture book might just inspire the next generation to craft stories of their own. If it is nonfiction, it's OVER-THE-TOP meant to be hilarious to the audience nonfiction. (For example, he squeezes in some nonsense among his good advice. "But writing lots of drafts is a useful part of the writing process. For instance, when the tiger came back for revenge because I beat him in arm wrestling, I burned these drafts and scared him away.")

My thoughts: Barnett argues in this "message" book that a book is NOT a book until it has a reader. Once a book has a reader, then the book is MADE. I'm not sure I agree 100% with that. I would argue that there is a reader for most every book, and that every book has the potential to be some one's BEST BOOK EVER. I like this book, not sure that I love, love, love it.
Because a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn't a book, not really, until it has a reader. And then you came along, and you read this book through to the very last page, which was how this book was made.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It

Why We Get Fat. Gary Taubes. 2010. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from chapter one: Imagine you're serving on a jury.

Premise/plot: Taubes asks readers to forget everything they think they know about obesity, nutrition, and weight loss. At least everything that they may have picked up from the 1960s on. Taubes' theory on WHY we get fat may shock some, but, of course not all of his readers.

Here are a few of his potentially controversial claims:

Obesity is not caused by overeating and lack of exercise. If you're obese it is not because you're a lazy glutton with no self control.

There is a connection, of course, between obesity and overeating, but Taubes insists most people have it backwards. We overeat as a result of being fat. That is, there is something going on in our bodies--in our cells--that causes us to store fat, to hold onto fat, to not use the food we eat at fuel. It is our bodies quest for more fuel to burn that leads us to eat more, to overeat, if you will. It's a cruel cycle. Our bodies aren't getting what they need from food, but, our bodies keep trying. What causes this? Well, Taubes argues that there are a handful of factors: our genes, our hormones and enzymes, our insulin. (Specifically, he discusses having too little estrogen, and too much insulin.) Our bodies can--at any age really--become insulin resistant. And being insulin resistant leads to trouble, for one thing our bodies turn carbohydrates, sugars into fat. I know I'm forgetting something--I think LDL? Anyway, Taubes explains the science of how our bodies work. And reading it, well, it made sense at least at the time!

Taubes insists that both being obese and losing weight is not a matter of calories in/calories out. Of balancing how many calories are consumed by eating and drinking and how many calories are burned by exercise. He is emphatic about this: eating less calories does not make for successful weight loss AND increasing one's activity through exercise does not make for successful weight loss. Exercise makes you hungrier. Being hungrier makes you eat more. Eating more means more calories than you would have consumed had you not exercised. Eating less and doing less is not a long-term solution either. Yes, one can fast and lose weight. One can lose weight on bed rest. But not as part of a successful long-term solution to losing weight.

Some people are naturally lean. But that doesn't mean they will always, always, always be lean. At some point, they too may become insulin resistant. If that happens--when that happens--they too will start to store fat and pack on the pounds.

Many people, however, are not naturally lean. Though not a main point in his book, he did point out that the blood sugar levels of the mother effect the baby in the womb. (Very scary thought!!!) Their bodies can start out life being a bit insulin resistant. This is something that just progressively happens. Perhaps this is why children--even young children--are growing up overweight and obese. Perhaps this is why more children and teenagers are becoming type two diabetics.

As I was saying, unless you have incredible genes and are fortunate enough to be able to eat anything and everything you want, there's a very large chance that you're fat because of the carbohydrates you're eating. The only way to successfully lose weight--Taubes insists--is to eliminate carbohydrates from your life. Taubes attacks simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. He's not just targeting donuts, but, things like carrots and lima beans as well. Also fruit. Taubes really seems to have something against fruit.

To those that would say carbohydrates are essential fuel for your body, that your brain cannot function without carbohydrates, Taubes would respond with this: your body can and will learn how to use fat for fuel, and, that fat is a better fuel for your body, for your brain, anyway. 

Taubes insists, and, I fully concur, that this is not a diet book. This is a commit-to-do-something-for-life book. This is a book that asks readers to make difficult decisions. Give up almost all carbohydrates while losing weight, and, to once they reach their goal weight, possibly allow up to 72 carbohydrates a day. (Though I think he still would prefer you eat vegetables and fruits as opposed to grains.)

What would Taubes have you eat? A LOT OF MEAT. As much meat as you want, as often as you want. Don't worry about lean meat, any meat will do. GOOD QUANTITY of fat. Though he doesn't include a list of what fatty foods are healthy fat and which are not, he does emphasis that fat is not the problem. Eating fat does not make you fat. He recommends things like olive oil, avocados, eggs, etc. This book was written before the coconut oil craze, so he's silent on that issue. CERTAIN VEGETABLES. Essentially if it's a leafy green or a head of cabbage, you can eat however much you want. Acceptable vegetables are: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, jicama, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, pumpkin, shallots, snow peas, sprouts, sugar snap peas, summer squash, tomatoes, rhubarb, wax beans, and zucchini. (Two cups per day of leafy greens. One cup (measure uncooked) per day of other vegetables.)

My thoughts: Do I have thoughts?! YES. I think I agree with him up to a point. I do think that carbohydrates--especially overly processed, simple, turn-to-sugar-in-your-mouth carbohydrates are a big, big, big problem and should be the first thing to go if you're looking to be healthy and lose some weight.

However, Taubes has it in against complex carbohydrates. But some carbohydrates, I believe, are very slow to be digested and do not raise one's blood sugar or wreak havoc with insulin levels. And I do believe there is such a thing as resistant starch, and that resistant starch can be good for you. 

I believe that protein, fiber, and fat are KEY essentials in the weight loss journey. I do not believe that complex carbohydrates should be eliminated completely. Just measured. Eating a half-cup of lima beans is different than eating two cups after all. And so long as you don't go overboard and eat JUST carbohydrates at a meal, I think it all balances out in the end. I also am a big fan of fruit. Not eating just a meal of fruit. Not eating it in excess. But moderation is key.

Taubes definitely has something against sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, fruit, etc. But he did not say enough--in my opinion--against artificial sweeteners. He was, in fact, allowing them as substitutes. In my opinion, perhaps with the exception of stevia, and, I'll be honest organic stevia, artificial sweeteners should be avoided completely.

I do think it's wise to avoid sugar and sweets. But Taubes zero-tolerance is too much for me. I may not have a lot of sugar in my diet, some would say I have barely any, but no one will make me surrender my teaspoon of honey per day, and my 'starchy' (though measured) vegetables (lima beans are candy, don't you know!!!) and my fruit. If you give up the junky-sugar, there is plenty of naturally occurring sweet things to enjoy.

Another thing that Taubes does not mention--perhaps because the book is 'old' now--is probiotics and prebiotics, and the microbiome in general. The gut is the second brain, and, you might be surprised at how your GUT effects your brain. How essential a healthy gut is, and, how important GOOD BUGGIES are to your life and well-being. I do believe you have to starve off the bad guys, the guys telling you EAT SUGAR, EAT SUGAR, MORE SUGAR, NOW, NOW, NOW.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Foretelling of Georgie Spider

The Foretelling of Georgie Spider. Ambelin Kwaymullina. 2015/2017. Candlewick Press. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I floated, adrift in my own consciousness. All alone in the peaceful dark. Except I wasn't really alone and I wasn't in the dark. Or my body wasn't.

What you should know about the series:

This is the third book in Ambelin Kwaymullina's Tribe series. The first two books are The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf and The Disappearance of Ember Crow. It is absolutely essential that you read the books in order.

It is YA speculative fiction. I'd say somewhere between dystopian and post-apocalyptic. Post-apocalyptic because it is set hundreds of years after 'the reckoning' that almost destroyed the planet and wiped out humanity. Dystopian because of the ordered--often cruel--society or government that has restructured the world. So if you like or love either genre, then you should pick this one up. It is also science fiction. Not all characters are flesh-and-blood humans. There is some romance, some mystery, a good bit of fantasy, and a LOT of action.

The premise is simple perhaps to make up for the complex storytelling and intense plot. The premise? Well, some people are born with special powers or abilities. These abilities manifest themselves over time, so, you essentially grow into your power/ability. Strength (intensity/power) and control (ability to direct, use at will) vary from person to person. These people are labeled 'illegal' and are targeted by the government. The book is about the conflict between Illegals and the Powers That Be. Questioning Authority and Being True To Yourself are some of the themes explored.  

Premise/plot: This third book while not told strictly from Georgie's point of view certainly focuses more on Georgie than the previous two books have. Georgie's special gift is seeing the future. The animals she has a special bond with are spiders. (Ashala, the main heroine, is bonded with wolves; Ember, another heroine, is bonded with crows. You'll find that most characters--each Illegal--have a special bond with a specific animal.)

Georgie's seeing the future--all the many, many, many possibilities of the future. And the future is bleak. In all of the futures she sees, Ashala dies, and, the world is thrown into what she calls a 'blizzard.' It is a future too cold, too bleak, too disconnected, too unbalanced to foresee anymore. Georgie has always thought that she could not, should not, try to change the future, to pick any one future over the others. But. She finds herself NEEDING to save her friend's life...if possible. And she can't do it alone. The future depends on the choices of her friends. And Georgie informs each friend that their choices MATTER, so they should choose wisely.

Enemies were introduced in the first two books, and, this is THE BOOK where it all comes together and the BIG SHOWDOWN has to happen.

My thoughts: I was drawn into the story with the first book. But I can't say that I love, love, love everything about the series. As a fantasy-influenced sci-fi novel, it works well. But the world-building is really world-view-building as well. And this one has a lot of elements that I personally don't care for. Let's just say that the "theology" of this one is more influenced by "I Am the Walrus" than the Bible. Everything--every animal, every human, every plant, every speck of dirt, every breath of air--is connected in a spiritual, philosophical way. So the well-being of everything is interconnected. Ashala and the others interact with an ancient spirit or too. And Ashala even believes that her ancient spirit guide is her "grandfather." One of the ancient spirits is actually my favorite character. I love Starbeauty. I don't love her because she's an ancient spirit; I don't love her because she's oh-so-wise. I love her because she's a cat, and she acts like a cat in many ways.





© 2017 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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