Monday, September 25, 2017

When My Sister Started Kissing

When My Sister Started Kissing. Helen Frost. 2017. FSG. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The baby, Claire, in a sunsuit and yellow hat, sat on her father's shoulders, the great wide world spread out before them. Two egrets flew home to their nest as thunder rumbled, far off in the distance.

Premise/plot: If you read many verse novels, then chances are good you're familiar with Helen Frost. When My Sister Started Kissing is her newest verse novel; it has multiple narrators. Claire and her older sister, Abigail, have always spent the summer at the cabin with their dad. This year is the first year that the girls' stepmother, Pam, will be joining them. And this family of four is about to become a family of FIVE. Claire who is nearly eleven isn't a fan of change. Abigail is all about change. For example, she now wants to be called Abi. She doesn't want to hang out with her sister; she wants to spend time with Brock and the other teenagers. She doesn't want to spend every moment with her family; she wants to be allowed to go off with her friends and do whatever/whenever. Claire and Abigail are obvious narrators. The third narrator is the LAKE.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. The writing is excellent. The verse aspects of this one are essential. There are at least three different poetry forms used throughout the book. Each narrator has their own poetic form that suits the story, the character, best.

This novel is set over one summer vacation. Claire's narration keeps the novel focused on the family. Abigail's narration, on the other hand, keeps the novel focused on BOYS. TJ is a family friend; the two families have vacationed near one another for years. Last summer, Abigail and TJ kissed--"for practice." This summer, Abigail thinks kissing should be reserved for someone that you really like-like. She's nervous to see TJ again. Will he be interested in her still? Does she even like-like him? Is he boyfriend material or like-a-brother? And then there is Brock. He's new. He's cute. He's got FANS. There are half a dozen girls who cling to him. Brock seems to notice HER out of the crowd. And though she doesn't know him, she likes being liked. She feels grown up with Brock, perhaps because she hasn't grown up with him. Claire doesn't get why Abi is ignoring TJ and going out of her way to avoid his family and why she's sneaking around to see Brock. This love triangle is resolved--for now--by the end of the novel.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Goat

The Goat. Anne Fleming. 2017. 120 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Once there was a mountain goat who lived in New York City.

Premise/plot: A goat lives on the roof of a New York City apartment building. Only a few residents have spotted the goat--and its rumored that if you do see him, you'll have years of good luck. But most don't believe the rumors are true--about the goat being real or about the goat bringing luck. But one person definitely believes, a kid named KID. Kid teams up with her new friends to find out all she can about the goat.

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one. It sounded like it had a great premise. It seemed to promise a dozen or so super quirky characters. The potential for humor was definitely there. And it seemed to have potential for some heart as well: friends to be made, experiences to be gained. But. It remained an "almost" for me. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't love it. I thought it would be memorable and one-of-a-kind. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't awesome.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Week in Review: September 17-23

The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]
Orphan Island. Laurel Snyder. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
The Wooden Prince. John Claude Bemis. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 312 pages. [Source: Library]
You Can Read. Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Mark Hoffmann. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Verdict of Twelve. Raymond Postgate. 1940/2017. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Catch-22. Joseph Heller. 1961. 453 pages. [Source: Library]
Board book: This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Daniel Roode. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Catawampus Cat. Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by Gus Gordon. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
I Want My Hat Back. Jon Klassen. 2011. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Nighty-Night, Cooper. Laura Numeroff. 2013. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Wallace and Grace Take the Case. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Laura Zarrin. 2017. Bloomsbury. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
 Cats. Larry Dane Brimner. Illustrated by Tom Payne. 2001. 24 pages. [Source: Library]



Imagine. John Lennon. Illustrated by Jean Jullien. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cherished Mercy. (Heart of the Frontier #3) Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 310 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Godspeed: Voices of the Reformation. David Teems. 2017. Abingdon Press. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
ESV Reformation Study Bible. 2015. Edited by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2560 pages. [Source: Gift/Bought]


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Wretched

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

First sentence: In 1815, Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was bishop of Digne. He was an old man of about seventy-five. He had been bishop of Digne since 1806.

Premise/plot: An ex-convict does his best to live life according to his conscience. Will it ever be enough?

My thoughts: I love, love, love Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I believe this is my third time to review it for the blog? My 2013 review. My 2014 review.

Political, philosophical, spiritual, dramatic, and romantic. Each word describes the novel, in part. While there are many characters in this novel, I loved the narrator the best of all. Who are some of the characters? Bishop Myriel, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Inspector Javert, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, and Gavroche--just to name a few.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who seeks shelter from Bishop Myriel one night. Though he's been treated only with kindness, Valjean in his bitterness (he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread), he steals the bishop's silver. When the theft is discovered, the bishop is all compassion telling the officials that there has been a misunderstanding. Valjean did not steal the silver; it was given as a gift. In fact, he's happy to give Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. Valjean is shocked and overwhelmed. The meeting turns out to be quite life-changing.

When readers next meet Valjean, he has a new name and life. Monsieur Madeleine is a successful business man. He has a BIG heart. He's always giving. He's always thinking of others. He's always doing what he can, when he can to make a difference when and where it matters most. One woman he is determined to help is a young, single mother, Fantine. Circumstances have separated Fantine from her child, Cosette, but, Valjean is determined to correct as many wrongs as he can in this situation. He will see to it personally.

Unfortunately, his past catches up with him. He learns that a man has been arrested; "Jean Valjean" has been caught. Of course, Madeleine knows this is nonsense. Can he let another take his place in prison? If he tells the truth then he can no longer help the poor, but if he doesn't tell the truth, how could he live with himself? He does the honorable thing--though it is one of the greatest challenges he's faced so far.

But that means, for the moment, that Cosette is left in unpleasant circumstances...

There comes a time, an opportunity for Valjean to escape. What he does with his freedom--this time he's assumed drowned, I believe--is go and find Cosette. The two become everything to one another. Cosette is the family he's never had, never even knew he needed or wanted... the two end up in Paris.

Almost half of the novel follows the love story between Marius and Cosette. But it isn't only a love story. Marius is a poor man in conflict with his rich grandfather. The two disagree about many things. But their main source of disagreement is politics. At first, Marius is swept up in his father's politics, with a new awareness of who his father was as a soldier, as a man, as a possible hero. But later, Marius begins to think for himself, to contemplate political and philosophical things for himself. He becomes friendly with a political group at this time. But his love of politics dims when he falls in love with Cosette...and she becomes his whole reason for being. For the longest time these two don't even know each other's names! This romance isn't without challenges...

This novel has so much drama! I found it beautifully written. So many amazing passages! Such interesting characters! I'm not sure I loved the ending. And I was frustrated with Marius at times. But. I definitely loved this book!

It's also a novel heavy on details. When it's good, it's REALLY good. But at times some of the details are too taste-specific. In other words, some of the details weigh the story down. At times Les Miserables is boring. It's worth reading. It is. It's worth pushing through to the end. It's okay to skim certain sections, in my opinion, because it is one of the most satisfying reading experiences overall. Not that I LOVE the ending, though I think I may have made peace with it this time around.

I definitely enjoyed this translation of the novel. I LOVED the introductory materials. I found the notes to be thorough. If I were to ever STUDY the book, this would be the translation I'd use because the notes are so extensive. 

Favorite quotes:
  • True or false, what is said about men often figures as large in their lives, and above all in the fate that befalls them, as what they do.
  • ‘To sin as little as possible, that is the law of mankind. Not to sin at all is the angel’s dream. Everything earthly is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitational force.’
  • Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater vision? You choose.
  • Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever position the body might be in, the soul is on its knees. If you are human, be love.
  • Love is an ardent forgetfulness of everything else.
  • Suspicions are nothing but wrinkles.
  • Alas! to have climbed does not preclude falling. This can be seen in history more frequently than anyone would wish.
  • Everything can be parodied, even parody.
  • To love, or to have loved, is enough. Ask for nothing more. There is no other pearl to be found in life’s shadowy convolutions. To love is an achievement. The first step is nothing, it is the last step that is hard.
  • When the heart is on the slippery slope, there is no stopping it.
  • Love each other always. That’s about the only thing in the world that matters: loving each other.


© 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?

✔ 25. A book that has been filmed as movie, miniseries, or television show
Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. 1848. Translated by Edmund Gosse. 254 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 16. A book by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]
17. A book by Wilkie Collins
Hide and Seek. Wilkie Collins. 1854. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. A book that REALLY intimidates you
The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 35. free choice
The Bertrams. Anthony Trollope. 1859. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 

What are you currently reading?
  • Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
How many ways does the heart take, how many reasons does it invent for itself, in order to arrive at what it wants. ~ Alexandre Dumas, fils
Art wouldn't be the glorious thing it is, if it wasn't all difficulty from beginning to end. ~ Wilkie Collins
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. ~ Charles Dickens
Love is an ardent forgetfulness of everything else. ~ Victor Hugo
 Constant thoughts will break forth in words. ~ Anthony Trollope
 Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?

I'm enjoying what I'm reading.

Favorite book you've read so far...

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

Of note to ALL participants! VICTOBER 2017 Hosted by these book-tubers

Ange (Beyond the Pages)
Lucy (Lucy the Reader)
Katie (Books and Things)
Kate (Kate Howe)
  • Read a Victorian book by a Irish, Scottish or Welsh author 
  • Read a Victorian book that was recommended to you 
  •  Read a supernatural Victorian book 
  • Read a lesser known Victorian book 
  • Read a Victorian book by a female author



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Orphan Island

Orphan Island. Laurel Snyder. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Jinny heard the bell. She threw down her book, rose from the stale comfort of the old brown sofa, and scrambled for the door. When she burst from the cabin into the evening air, Jinny ran.

Premise/plot: The setting is an island that seems to in some way take care of the nine children who inhabit it. It's not your ordinary island.
Nine on an island, orphans all,
Any more, the sky might fall.
Every year a boat comes bearing a young child--perhaps four or five years of age. The eldest child of the island gets in the boat and departs. The next-to-oldest becomes the new elder and takes charge of the new child. In that one year, the elder will teach her care how to survive--thrive even--on the island. (Or his care.)

Jinny becomes the new elder soon after the novel opens. Her care is a young girl named Ess. Jinny struggles in her role as elder. She both loves and hates it. It is without a doubt the hardest thing she's ever done.

At the end of the year, Jinny knows she should get in the boat--like every other elder that has gone before her. But will she be able to face her fears, face the uncertainties?

Orphan Island, I believe, is supposed to be an allegory about the struggles of growing up, about the journey of leaving childhood behind. Jinny, our heroine, doesn't want to grow up. The idea of leaving the safety of the island behind her and journeying forth literally into the unknown terrifies her. 

My thoughts: Orphan Island left me speechless--for the most part. I have no answers because there are so many questions are still unanswered by the end of the novel. Mainly questions about how the children got on the island, how the island takes care of the children, why just nine children, who sends and directs the boat, where the elders go when they leave the island.

One fascinating aspect of Orphan Island is the unknown Abigail. The children have no idea who Abigail is/was. But her books are on the island. Her notes are in the books. Some of the children feel like they *know* Abigail through the clues she's left behind. I would LOVE to know more about Abigail and the first generation of children who lived on the island.

I would recommend this one. But if you hate untidy endings that leave you wanting more, then maybe it's best to know that ahead of time. There will be questions you *need* answered. They won't be answered in the book. Perhaps they'll never be answered by the author. Perhaps you'll have to choose your own ending.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Wooden Prince

The Wooden Prince. John Claude Bemis. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 312 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: By the time Pinocchio arrived in the village of San Baldovino, he was bursting with impatience to get free. Being locked in a trunk shouldn't have bothered him. He was an automa, after all.

Premise/plot: Think you know the story of Pinocchio? Think again! Bemis asks readers to join him on a fantastical journey. In the original story, Pinocchio is almost always unlikable; he is always rebellious and disobedient; he is more an object lesson than a 'real boy.' In this new novel--the first in a series--Pinocchio has a chance to be THE HERO.

My thoughts: Bemis has created a complex fantasy world. I wish I'd known about the glossary sooner. But reading the glossary after I finished the novel helped answer a few remaining questions I had. I really liked the world he created. Perhaps I wouldn't have loved this new fantasy world so much if I hadn't been drawn in by the characters as well. But what I loved most of all is his spin on the original, there are elements that do feel familiar. But everything has been spun about--and all for the better. There are still moral elements in this one. But instead of feeling like a lesson on how not to behave, a lesson about the consequences of disobedience, it has become more a series of lessons on how valuable life is and how essential friendship is. I loved seeing Pinocchio in a whole new light.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Can Read

You Can Read. Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Mark Hoffmann. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can read in the classroom. You can read in the park. You can read on a mission under cover in the dark.

Premise/plot: You Can Read celebrates reading books anywhere and everywhere. It rhymes, and in a good way.

My thoughts: The text of the book is in all-caps. I found this very annoying to read. But even more annoying is the disturbing lack of periods. There is not a single period in the whole book. (I couldn't help adding periods into the text I quoted above. I just couldn't present it the way it is in the book.) (Two sentences end in exclamation points.) If this book were getting graded by a first grade teacher, it would lose a lot of points. (The students in the first grade class might love it because of the illustrated underwear.)

That being said, the text of the book itself isn't bad. The message is a good one. I LOVE books. (Everybody knows that I love books.) I wanted to love, love, love it. The illustrations were not my style at all.

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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Verdict of Twelve

Verdict of Twelve. Raymond Postgate. 1940/2017. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Clerk of Assize had to have some way of relieving the tedium of administering the same oath year after year.

Premise/plot: Verdict of Twelve is a classic mystery originally published in 1940 in Britain. This mystery has four parts. In the first part, readers meet the twelve jurors. Backstories--some quite detailed--are given for all members of the jury. In the second part, the crime is laid out for readers. This isn't the trial itself. This is a behind-the-scenes glimpse just for readers. In the third part, I believe, the trial occurs and the jury deliberates. The fourth and final part is an epilogue revealing if the jury got it right or wrong.

A young boy dies of poisoning. His aunt stands accused of the crime. Is there enough reasonable doubt to rule her not guilty? That is the question. The defense will argue that four people equally had motive, means, and opportunity. The aunt, the two servants, the boy himself. (The aunt and two servants would inherit a good bit of money if he died. All of the people in the house had access to ivy dust from the ivy plants. All had opportunity to mix ivy dust into the salad dressing.) The defense targets the boy himself--the victim. They argue the boy was trying to murder his aunt, but wasn't smart enough, clever enough to pull it off successfully.

My thoughts: This one was a fascinating yet troubling read. There are scenes from this mystery that may haunt me for years to come. I definitely liked it and would recommend it. While the focus is closely on the twelve jurors, it is a very different type of read than Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I open my dresser drawers, find them empty, empty, empty.

Premise/plot: Calliope June is the young heroine in Ellie Terry's Forget Me Not. This middle grade novel actually has two narrators. Calli's narrates in verse while Jinsong narrates in prose. Here's what you need to know about Calli: a) she HATES moving; b) she HATES having to introduce herself to her classmates; c) she struggles to make friends; d) she wishes her mom would grow up; e) she has Tourette syndrome. Here's what you need to know about Jinsong: a) he LOVES baseball b) he's popular; c) he like-likes Calli; d) he's afraid to be friends with her in public; e) he cares too much about what others think of him; f) he's self-aware enough to know he's being a big jerk and a coward.

My thoughts: I found this to be a quick, compelling read. I enjoyed the characterization. Readers really only get to know Jinsong and Calli, but, these two are well developed in my opinion. The relationship that tortured me the most was between Calli and her mom. I really wanted Calli's mom to grow up and get the help she needed. I hated that Calli's life was being turned upside down every few months because of her mom's love life. The ending leaves me worried. I think Calli has matured a great deal, but, her mom is still a big, big mess.

Does this one "need" to be a verse novel? I'm not sure it does. The verse isn't spectacular poetry. Calli could have told her story in prose just as well. I am glad Calli's story got told. I like her as a narrator. And being in verse does make it go quicker because there are fewer words.

Do we "need" Jinsong's narration? I'm not sure we do. But I am conflicted on this. His narrative does allow readers to see Calli from a different perspective, an outside perspective. We see most of the bullying from his perspective. He's a mostly silent bystander. He does some much-needed growing up in this one.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Train I Ride

Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The train I ride is sixteen coaches long.

Premise/plot: Rydr is our young heroine. After the death of her grandmother, she finds herself on a train heading east to live with her great uncle. Readers learn what happened before in a series of flashes, memories. The novel ends when she arrives in Chicago; it ends before she meets her new guardian. So readers are left with a bit of uncertainty. Rydr's story is revealed as she interacts with fellow passengers on the train--both children and adults.

My thoughts: I didn't expect to love, love, love this one. But I did. Rydr is a vulnerable young girl with a big heart. Her heart may not be trusting, and, she may have more than a couple of schemes always in place. Yet how could you say she isn't compassionate?! I'm thinking of the scene where she spends what little money she has--five dollars--buying a hand-made bracelet from a young girl who is just as desperate for money as Rydr is. I have many, many favorite scenes in this one. I loved Rydr's friendship with Tenderchucks, a young boy scout. These two are so good for one another. Another relationship I loved to see develop through the course of the novel was that of Rydr and Neal.

What I loved about this one: the writing, the coming-of age elements, the relationship-building, the characterization.

Favorite quotes:
If a poem is using words in a way that isn't quite what you're accustomed to, don't think that there's something wrong with you or your ability to understand them. They're just art objects painted with words. Sometimes they look like things you recognize, and sometimes not. (65)
"We should make a pact," he says. "A non-cruelty pact." "Between us?" "Between us. And everyone we meet. Until it extends to everyone." (93)
The people sitting at the table with me feel like a family. My family. If I could choose my family they'd be just like this. (113)
Carlos folds and unfolds his hands. "The best kind of people are people who feel, and who hold hope in their hearts. Even if it sometimes means being hurt and disappointed. Even if it means always being hurt and disappointed." (161)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Catch-22

Catch-22. Joseph Heller. 1961. 453 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him. Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn't quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn't become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.

Premise/plot: Catch-22 is set during the Second World War near the Italian front. Yossarian, our protagonist, is ruled by one thing: the desire to stay alive another day. He doesn't want to be a hero. He doesn't want to do his duty. He doesn't want to be a team-player. He doesn't want to follow orders, not if following orders means dying. He's a terrible, terrible soldier and he knows it.
Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive. (29)
Throughout the novel, the number of flight missions needed to complete the tour of duty keeps increasing. Yossarian didn't mind--quite so much anyway--doing his part if the end was in sight. Say he'd flown 35 out of 40 missions. But to know that no matter how many you fly, your squadron's missions will keep increasing is too much. By the end, I want to say it's eighty missions before you can get sent home. Meanwhile, his friends--some of them his close friends--keep dying.

If I had to sum it up simply I'd say Catch-22 was one man's struggle to stay alive and stay sane in the attempt. Is he successful at the staying sane? You'll have to judge for yourself.

 
My thoughts: I didn't love, love, love everything about this one. It is far from clean in terms of profanity and adult situations. But I really enjoyed the narration. I thought it was a very well-written novel. I found it funny.
"Can't you ground someone who's crazy?" "Oh, sure. I have to. There's a rule saying I have to ground anyone who's crazy." "Then why don't you ground me? I'm crazy. Ask Clevinger." (45)
"Is Orr crazy?" "He sure is," Doc Daneeka said. "Can you ground him?" "I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule." "Then why doesn't he ask you to?" "Because he's crazy," Doc Daneeka said. "He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to." "That's all he has to do to be grounded?" "That's all. Let him ask me." "And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked. "No. Then I can't ground him." "You mean there's a catch?" "Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy." (45-6)
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.(46)
History did not demand Yossarian's premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. (68)
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live. (124)
You know, that might be the answer--to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail. (139)
Something was terribly wrong if everything was all right and they had no excuse for turning back. (140)
It was one thing to maintain liaison with the Lord, and they were all in favor of that; it was something else though to have Him hanging around twenty-four hours a day. (201)
"What in the world are Wisconsin shingles?" asked Yossarian. "That's just what the doctor's wanted to know!" blurted out the chaplain proudly, and burst into laughter. "There's no such thing as Wisconsin shingles. Don't you understand. I lied. I made a deal with the doctors. I promised that I would let them know when my Wisconsin shingles went away if they would promise not to do anything to cure them. (363)



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Week in Review: September 10-16

Carrot & Pea. Morag Hood. 2017. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Cookie Fiasco. Dan Santat (and Mo Willems). 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
We Are Growing. Laurie Keller (and Mo Willems). 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
The Good for Nothing Button. (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading #3) Charise Mericle Harper. (Mo Willems). 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Under Their Skin. (Under Their Skin #1) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
In Over Their Heads. (Under Their Skin #2) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
 Seeking Mansfield. Kate Watson. 2017. 300 pages. [Source: Library]
The Circular Staircase. Mary Roberts Rinehart. 1908. 197 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Case of the Fiery Fingers. Erle Stanley Gardner. 1951. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Case of the Lucky Loser. Erle Stanley Gardner. 1957. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
Death of a Cad. M.C. Beaton. 1987. 214 pages. [Source: Library]
 Peck, Peck, Peck. Lucy Cousins. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Impressionism. Florian Heine. 2015. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

Board book: Baby Loves Quantum Physics! Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Irene Chan. 2017. Charlesbridge. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Baby Loves Thermodynamics. Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Irene Chan. 2017. Charlesbridge. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Charlie Builds. Bob Bianchini. 2017. Harry N. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board book: Changing Faces: Meet Happy Bear. Nathan Thoms. Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. 2017. Harry N. Abrams. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Chicken in School. Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Shahar Kober. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Chicken In Space. Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Sharhar Kober. 2016. HarperCollins. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
The Plot Chickens. Mary Jane Auch. Illustrated by Herm Auch. 2009. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us To Live in Light of the End. David Gibson. 2017. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Beloved Hope. (Heart of the Frontier #2) Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 338 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Heart on the Line. (Ladies of Harper's Station #2) Karen Witemeyer. 2017. Bethany House. 329 pages. [Source: Review copy]
My Summer with Psalm 119 #22
My Summer with Psalm 119 #23
My Summer with Psalm 119 #24


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seeking Mansfield

Seeking Mansfield. Kate Watson. 2017. 300 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Finley Price was a fool.

Premise/plot: Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson is a YA adaption of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Finley Price lives with the Bertrams, but she's not related to the Bertrams. Finley's father was fraternity brothers with Mr. Bertram, I believe. After her father's death and her mother's breakdown, the Bertrams took her in and raised her as one of her own. Finley is particularly close with the two Bertram sons, Tate and Oliver. There is a sister as well, but, Finley isn't close with her. Finley's one-big-passion is the theatre, and her one-big-dream is to direct. Harlan Crawford, and his sister Emma, come to town. Harlan Crawford is a teen celebrity, as a child actor he worked with Finley's dad. These two start to date just as Emma begins to date Oliver. Does Finley have what it takes to be in the spotlight?

My thoughts: I had a love-hate relationship with this one. It would be a fair question to ask if I have an equally love-hate relationship with the original Austen novel. I think hate is a strong word. It's a complex novel with complex characters. With such complexities, readers can interpret things subjectively.

For example, in the original is Henry Crawford evil incarnate? Was he truly in love with Fanny? Was he manipulated into a compromising situation? There is depth and substance to Austen's work. You can read it several times and still come away with insights--newer, stronger, better. You can respectfully disagree with other readers. You can see things from other perspectives. You can see other points that are valid--just as valid as your own.

Seeking Mansfield lacks complexity. The characterization is superficial. The creativity comes in the details, not the characterization. The novel is rooted in a contemporary setting. Instead of characters being concerned about Fanny borrowing/owning a horse, the matter is should she have her own cell phone. If she does have her own cell phone, should the phone be a hand-me-down phone or a new phone? If she does get her own cell phone, should it be a smart phone? The only meanie the author has left in place is Aunt Nora. Nora hasn't been updated one little bit. And every scene with Nora in it is cringe-worthy. Because she just doesn't belong in this retelling--at least not with a modern update or twist.

Are the characters true to Austen's originals? Not really. I think every single character in Mansfield Park--but especially Fanny, Edmund, Mary, and Henry--is often misunderstood. How you react to the novel--love it, hate it--depends on how you "read" each character and their relationship to all the others.

In Seeking Mansfield, Oliver is madly in love with Finley from start to finish. He doesn't think of her as a sister; he doesn't take her for granted; Finley is never underappreciated by him; he does not begin to neglect her because he's attracted to someone else. In fact, lusty thoughts of Finley play in his mind often. Oliver bears little in resemblance to Edmund Bertram.

I was most disappointed in the character of Harlan. He's just not all that believable as a fleshed-out character. I think when a certain page count was reached, it was like a switch went off--better make him evil incarnate now.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Picture Book Check-In

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?
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? 
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books Reviewed Since Last Time:

  1. Peck, Peck, Peck. Lucy Cousins. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Carrot & Pea. Morag Hood. 2017. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Here Comes Teacher Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2017. 88 pages. [Source: Library]  
  4. Sister Day! Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. Charlie & Mouse. (Charlie & Mouse #1) Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. 2017. Chronicle Books. 48 pages. [Source: Library]  
  6. This Is How We Do It. Matt LaMothe. 2017. Chronicle. 52 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Fruits in Suits. Jared Chapman. 2017. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Muddle & Mo. Nikki Slade Robinson. 2017. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review]   
  9. Wordplay. Adam Lehrhaupt. 2017. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Naptastrophe. Jarret J. Krosoczka. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring. Gilbert Ford. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Sock Thief. Ana Crespo. Illustrated by Nana Gonzales. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Cat Dreams. Ursula K. Le Guin. Illustrated by S.D. Schindler. 2009. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. Baby Loves Quantum Physics! Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Irene Chan. 2017. Charlesbridge. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  15. Charlie Builds. Bob Bianchini. 2017. Harry N. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16. Changing Faces: Meet Happy Bear. Nathan Thoms. Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. 2017. Harry N. Abrams. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  17. Chicken in School. Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Shahar Kober. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. Chicken In Space. Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Sharhar Kober. 2016. HarperCollins. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  19. The Plot Chickens. Mary Jane Auch. Illustrated by Herm Auch. 2009. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  20. The Skunk. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]  
  21. An English Year: Twelve Months in the Life of England's Kids. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  22. Bear's House of Books. Poppy Bishop. Illustrated by Alison Egson. 2017. 25 pages. [Source: Library] 
  23. A Fairy Friend. Sue Fliess. Illustrated by Claire Keane. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  24. Be Quiet! Ryan T. Higgins. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  25. Too Big. Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. 1945/2008. NYR Children's Collection. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  26. Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet. Ann Whitford Paul. 1991. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  27. Bulldozer Helps Out. Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  28.  Books! Books! Books! Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library. Mick Manning. Illustrated by Brita Granstrom. 2017. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  29.  Plankton is Pushy. Jonathan Fenske. 2017. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  30. Duck & Goose Colors. Tad Hills. 2015. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  31. Gossie & Friends Say Goodnight. Olivier Dunrea. 2017. HMH. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  32. Goodnight, Numbers. Danica McKellar. Illustrated by Alicia Padron. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  33. Sam Sorts. Marthe Jocelyn. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  34. Triangle. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2017. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  35. I Lost My Sock. P.J. Roberts. Illustrated by Chris Eliopolous. 2017. Abrams. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  36. The Princess and the Pizza. Mary Jane Auch and Herm Auch. 2002. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  37. The Three Little Pigs. Michael Robertson, illustrator. 2017. Scholastic. 7 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  38. Trucks. Byron Barton. 1986. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  39. Where's The Giraffe. Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  40. Where's the Ladybug? Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  41. First Words Baby Signing. 2017. Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  42. I'm Scared (My First Comics #4) Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2017. Random House. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  43. Sleepy Toes. Kelli McNeil. Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. 2017. Scholastic. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  44. Hey Diddle Diddle (Sing Along With Me) Yu-Hsuan Huang. 2017. Candlewick Press. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  45. Happy Birthday (Sing Along with Me) Yu-Husan Huang. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Peck, Peck, Peck

Peck, Peck, Peck. Lucy Cousins. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Today my daddy said to me, "It's time you learned to peck a tree." "Now hold on tight. That's very good. Then peck, peck, peck, peck, peck the wood." Peck peck peck.

Premise/plot: A young woodpecker experiences the joy of pecking for the first time. Not satisfied pecking trees or wooden things, our bird hero has a blast pecking everything.

My thoughts: This book was satisfying to read. Joy can be contagious. It was fun to see what he would peck, peck, peck next. His pecking was a bit out of control, yet he was born to peck! The illustrations are fun to look at with little ones. There's lots of opportunities to engage with the text and illustrations making the book more interactive. (How many holes did he peck on this page? He must have really loved jelly beans! What do you think his favorite flavor was? What will he peck next? Do you think he is getting tired?)

Even if you can't stand Maisy, you should try this book by Lucy Cousins.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
 


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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In Over Their Heads

In Over Their Heads. (Under Their Skin #2) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The warning alarm woke Lida Mae from the deepest of sleep.

Premise/plot: In Over Their Heads is the sequel to Margaret Peterson Haddix' Under Their Skin. Both books are science fiction for the middle grade audience. In the first book, readers met Nick and Eryn, our hero and heroine who made a shocking discovery about the world they live in. In the second book, the adventure continues. Instead of being told solely from Nick and Eryn's perspective, however, the narrative expands to include more points of view: Ava, Jackson, and Lida Mae. As to the action in this one, I can't reveal that without spoiling the first book!

My thoughts: I liked the whole story as contained in both books. Both books read like one good episode of The Twilight Zone. I think young readers who enjoy eery science fiction will enjoy this two-book series. Fans of these novels who haven't watched The Twilight Zone should definitely seek out some episodes!
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Good for Nothing Button

The Good for Nothing Button. (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading #3) Charise Mericle Harper. (Mo Willems). 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hey, look! It's Yellow Bird. Hi, Yellow Bird. Look what I have. WOW! Wowee! Wow! Wow! I cannot believe it! What is it? It is a BUTTON. A red button. Red is my favorite! What does it do? NOTHING! Nothing?

Premise/plot: Gerald and Piggie are getting ready to read another book together: The Good for Nothing Button. (Elephant and Piggie star in the first few pages and the last few pages of this one.) Three birds (Yellow Bird, Blue Bird, Red Bird) try to decide what a button does--if anything. Will these three agree? Will they agree to disagree? Can they ever decide what qualifies as "something" and what qualifies as "nothing"? Will readers?!

My thoughts: I liked it. I really love Gerald and Piggie. I miss them so much. I do wish their series was continuing on. That being said, if I can't have a full early reader book starring my favorite friends, I suppose I'll make do with these teasing intros.

The text was satisfying, but, for me the illustrations were not. The dialogue worked for me--lots of bickering, lots of emotion. The speech bubbles kept the plot moving really quickly.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Under Their Skin

Under Their Skin. (Under Their Skin #1) Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "You're doing what?" Nick exploded.

Premise/plot: Nick and Eryn are surprised that their mom is getting remarried. They worry that things will change--and not for the better. They are right, in a way, but not in the way you might be thinking. New step-father, new step-sister, new step-brother, new house, new rules, new dynamics. Right?! Not exactly. Their lives will be forever changed though.

My thoughts: I am still irritated at GoodReads for not saving my first review. This second review will be much shorter. And if GoodReads glitches again, the third one will be just a sentence long! It's not fair to Haddix to blame her though. The book is interesting. It's definitely plot-driven, action-driven. The characters aren't horribly developed. But I found it a very quick read--just one sitting. Overall, a satisfying read. I'm not sure I'll remember it as one of Haddix's best novels....I'm not sure I'll remember much of it at all. But that's a consequence of reading a couple hundred middle grade books a year.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We Are Growing

We Are Growing. Laurie Keller (and Mo Willems). 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: BOING! What was that? I think I just grew! LOOK! Wow! You did grow! Look at that! I just grew. All by myself. Cool, huh? I know, I know. I made it look EASY. But growing is HARD WORK. In fact--

Premise/plot: Usually when someone says a book is as exciting as watching grass grow it's a bad thing. It means the book is slow, boring. Not so in Laurie Keller's new early reader, We Are Growing. Readers get the chance to watch eight blades of grass grow--each in their own special way at their own special pace. The book is melodramatic--there is even an identity crisis. Is it a little too over the top?

My thoughts: Do books have to have an embedded meaning, a moral lesson, a social message to disperse? Can you overthink a book? At its simplest, Gerald and Piggie are sharing a book together, a book called We Are Growing!

At its most complex, I'm guessing an optimist, a pessimist, and a realist would walk away with a different impression on what it all means.

One possible message of the book is that we're all something special and unique. We all deserve to have an "est" to describe ourselves. Tallest. Curliest. Silliest. Etc. We're equally awesome. Is this message challenged by the end of the book? Should it be challenged?

The twist in this book is the lawn mower. The lawn mower comes--readers can catch the clues well in advance--and suddenly all the leaves of grass are the same height. They've lost their uniqueness. They've lost their bragging rights. They're stripped of their glory, their beauty. The one leaf of grass who was struggling to find himself, to find his "est" is the only one left with an est. He looks around him, sees the mess--the mowed grass, and does something about it. Because he cleans up his mess--and everyone else's mess as well--he's the neatest. I couldn't help noticing that all the other descriptive words were superficial and based on appearances. Only the "neatest" label comes from within.

The blades of grass are silly and not all that smart. They don't see the big picture. They don't see what's coming--the lawn mower. They don't know--without being told--that they'll grow again another day. They're quick to brag and boast though. They're quick to take credit for something that is out of their control--growing. They don't know that all grass share an equal fate--a fate worse than a lawn mower when all is said and done.

The Bible on occasion describes people as being grass.
  • For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:11
  • As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; Psalm 103:15
  • The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:7-9
I do think its entirely possible to overthink a book. One shouldn't have to discern the meaning of the lawn mower in order to find a powerful message about how to live life.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Circular Staircase

The Circular Staircase. Mary Roberts Rinehart. 1908. 197 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous.

Premise/plot: The novel opens with Rachel Innes, "Aunt Ray," deciding to rent a large country house in the summer to share with her niece, Gertrude, and nephew, Halsey. Both are old enough to have courtship and marriage on their minds. Gertrude being madly in love with a Mr. Bailey, and Halsey being mad for a Miss Louise Armstrong. (It is actually the Armstrong's home which they are renting for the summer. Though Aunt Ray isn't aware that her nephew is in love with the wealthy young daughter. The Armstrongs are supposed to be vacationing in California for the summer.) Problems start almost immediately. Faces in the window. Strange noises in the night. Scratches on the staircase that weren't there before. Day by day, night by night it just keeps getting creepier. It's a day or two before the first dead body shows up....

Liddy is the only "servant" from the city accompanying Miss Innes. Servants are hired in the country--and without references too--Miss Innes is so desperate for help. It seems servants--young, old, male and female--are easily frightened by murder and burglary.

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one. I didn't. I liked it here and there. I couldn't decide if Miss Innes was for real. If she was supposed to be taken seriously or not. There were times in her narration where she just seemed to be oh-so-blind to the humanity of those around her. For example,
There was no laudanum, and Liddy made a terrible fuss when I proposed carbolic acid, just because I had put too much on the cotton once and burned her mouth. I’m sure it never did her any permanent harm; indeed, the doctor said afterward that living on liquid diet had been a splendid rest for her stomach. But she would have none of the acid, and she kept me awake groaning, so at last I got up and went to Gertrude’s door. To my surprise, it was locked. 
Or, 
Halsey bought a car, of course, and I learned how to tie over my bonnet a gray baize veil, and, after a time, never to stop to look at the dogs one has run down. People are apt to be so unpleasant about their dogs.
If readers were supposed to find her charming, delightful, lovable, a woman of great intelligence and wit...I wasn't ready to accept her as such.

As for the mystery, I found it very confusing. I didn't find the narration straight-forward enough to help with the clues. Everything was cleared up by the end of the book. I loved, loved, loved the first sentence. The rest, not so much.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Cookie Fiasco

The Cookie Fiasco. Dan Santat (and Mo Willems). 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hey, guys! COOKIE TIME!

Premise/plot: There are FOUR friends and only THREE cookies. Since each believes in EQUAL COOKIES FOR ALL, this is a big, big problem. Can these four solve the problem in a way that's equally agreeable. Each initially has a suggestion, but, all suggestions are not equally fair.

My thoughts: This book is the first in a new series of easy readers: Elephant & Piggie like reading. The book begins and ends with Elephant & Piggie deciding to read Dan Santat's The Cookie Fiasco. Thus this is a book within a book! I have to agree with Gerald, "Good books make me feel big things...."

So what exactly did I feel about The Cookie Fiasco? I liked it. I really liked it. I'm not sure I loved it. I liked the problem-solving. I loved, loved, loved seeing Elephant and Piggie again. But I did not like the illustrations.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Case of the Lucky Loser

The Case of the Lucky Loser. Erle Stanley Gardner. 1957. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Della Street, Perry Mason's confidential secretary, picked up the telephone and said, "Hello."

Premise/plot: The novel opens with a mystery woman calling to hire Perry Mason to sit in on a trial occurring later that day. Ted Balfour has been charged with manslaughter--a hit and run accident. At the time of this trial, the man hasn't even been identified yet. After the trial--while the jury is debating Mr. Balfour's fate--Mason receives a few more phone calls about the case. He ends up being hired as a replacement lawyer when the jury is hung. The victim is identified after the trial in a shocking way: he was hit with a car and dragged, no doubt, but it was a BULLET in the head that killed him. New trial, new lawyer. Same victim. This novel has dozens of twists and turns.

My thoughts: I remember this episode from the television show. But knowing what was coming didn't rob me of enjoying it thoroughly every step of the way. In fact, I think this might be my favorite Perry Mason novel that I've read this year.
"I have one weapon," Mason said. "It's a powerful weapon. But sometimes it's hard to wield it because you don't know just where to grab hold of it."
"What weapon is that?" Della Street asked.
"The truth," Mason said.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Impressionism: 13 Artists Children Should Know

Impressionism. Florian Heine. 2015. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Impressionist is the name we give to a special kind of painter. The Impressionists first began painting in France during the late 19th century. They had new ideas about the way we should paint.

Premise/plot: This is a nonfiction book for children and young adults about the Impressionists. (Let's be honest, it's also for adults who are intimidated by the subject and are looking for an easy introduction.) It introduces readers to thirteen artists. These artists are: Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, Max Liebermann, Georges Seurat, Childe Hassam, Paul Signac, and John Singer Sargent. Of the thirteen artists, many--but not all--were French OR spent a part of their life living in France. (Paris was quite the place to be.) At least two pages--if not more--are dedicated to each artist. Readers will see at least one--if not more--work from each artist. The author does a great job of representing an artist's uniqueness.

Edouard Manet, "Music in the Tuileries Gardens" (1862); "Bunch of Asparagus" (1880), "Asparagus" (1880)
Claude Monet, "Impression Sunrise" (1872); "Wheat Stacks, Snow Effect, Morning" (1891); "Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge" (1899)
Auguste Renoir, "Dance at the Moulin de la Galette" (1876)
Gustave Caillebotte, "Paris Street, Rainy Day" (1877)
Edgar Degas, "Ballet Dancers/The Star" (1876/77); "Dancers Practicing at the Bar" (1877); "At the Races" (1877/78)
Berthe Morisot, "Butterfly Hunt" (1874); "Hanging the Laundry Out to Dry" (1875)
Camille Pissarro, "Boulevard des Italiens" (1897)
Mary Cassatt, "The Letter" (1891); "The Boating Party" (1893/94)
Max Liebermann, "The Parrot Man" (1902); "Terrasse Restaurant Jacob in Nienstedten/Elbe" (1902/03)
Georges Seurat, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (1884-86)
Childe Hassam, "Church at Old Lyme" (1905); "The Avenue in the Rain" (1917); "Rainy Midnight" (1890)
Paul Signac, "Portrait of M. Felix Feneon" (1890); "Grand Canal (Venice)" (1905)
John Singer Sargent, "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" (1882)

My thoughts: I liked it. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it because I thought it was a bit uneven at times. It included at least one artist that wasn't an impressionist at all. I think when you look at the whole book, one does get a sense of what made them unique and set them apart from what had gone before. I also liked that it is packed with information about each artist. And the representations of the art is nice. Most of the time, the pictures are big and you get an idea of the magnificence of the original piece.

Personally, I don't understand why some artists get three pictures and other artists get only one. For example, I think the author chose the two asparagus pieces of Manet just to squeeze in an interesting "I-didn't-know-that-fact." I don't think from a representative artistic point of view that asparagus is more thrilling than say Renoir's incredibly beautiful work. I think the book should have been 12 Artists Children Should Know and given more space to Renoir.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Death of a Cad

Death of a Cad. M.C. Beaton. 1987. 214 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Henry Withering, playwright, slumped down in the passenger seat of the station wago after another bleak look out at the forbidding landscape.

Premise/plot: Death of a Cad is the second mystery in the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton. Priscilla Halburton-Smythe has brought her fiance home with her. They'll be a country house party to celebrate their engagement, or, else it's to celebrate his success as a playwright. Most of the invited guests are a pain. Henry included. No wonder Priscilla keeps finding ways to spend time with Hamish MacBeth instead--much to her parents disapproval.

My thoughts: Being a murder mystery, readers can guess that one of the guests at the party will be the victim, and, another guest at the party will be the murderer. And of course, Hamish MacBeth will be the one to solve the crime. I welcome predictability in murder mysteries. I do. If the style of the writer suits the reader, knowing that there are thirty-something books in the series is welcome news. I'd like more of the same, please. My mom has read almost all of the series in about three or four weeks. She can't get enough of Hamish MacBeth. I'm a bit more reluctant, but, I am hoping that if I ever see the television show I'll be won over.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Carrot and Pea

Carrot & Pea. Morag Hood. 2017. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Lee. He is a pea. All of his friends are peas. Except Colin. Colin is not a pea. He is much too tall and much too orange.

Premise/plot: Lee loves his friend Colin. Even though Colin can't roll (like a pea) or bounce (like a pea) and is horrible at hide and seek (he doesn't blend like the other peas!). Colin's differences make him really fun to play with. He's the BEST tower, a great bridge, and a wonderful slide! Lee and the other peas wouldn't have nearly as much fun if Colin were just like them.

My thoughts: This one is a simple book: simple text, simple illustrations. Yet this simple message is compelling and sweet. I like both Lee and Colin. For being vegetables, they both happen to be quite expressive. This one was originally published in the UK.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Case of the Fiery Fingers

The Case of the Fiery Fingers. Erle Stanley Gardner. 1951. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Perry Mason had just returned to the office after a long day in court.

Premise/plot: Perry is far from impressed when Nellie Conway shows up at his office needing his legal advice. (She pays him a dollar.) She is a nurse--a night nurse--working for the Bain family. Mrs. Bain has been seriously injured in a car accident and is estranged from her husband. Nurse Nellie claims that Mr. Bain has offered to pay her money to give his wife "special medicine." Nellie is convinced that the medicine he's given her is really poison. Perry Mason wasn't her first choice; she went to the police first and was laughed out of the building. Mason, well, he's not taking Nurse Conway seriously either. But he does have one of the tablets tested to see what it is, if it is poison. Within days--if not hours--Nurse Conway finds herself in need of a lawyer for another reason altogether. She's been accused of theft by her employer, Mr. Bain. Will Mason represent her? He says yes, but more to annoy other people than to help her out. Mason soon regrets ever hearing the name of Bain....

My thoughts: This murder mystery is enjoyable. It involves TWO trials. Mason has two different clients.
Judge Peabody:
The vice of a leading question, of course, consists in having asked it.
Perry Mason:
A lawyer isn't paid to consider probabilities. He's paid to consider possibilities.
Perry Mason:
A good lawyer must always remember one thing. Never get mad unless someone pays him to do it.
Charlotte Moray:
He likes his pastures while they're green and while they're on the other side of the fence. Give him the key to the gate and it would mean nothing.
Lt. Tragg:
You know lots of things, Mason. Sometimes you amaze me when I find out what you do know, and then again there are times when I am afraid I never do find out what you know. So I have to try to keep you from finding out what I know.
Lt. Tragg:
Winners never explain. Losers always do.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Week in Review: September 3-9

Here Comes Teacher Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2017. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
Sister Day! Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Charlie & Mouse. (Charlie & Mouse #1) Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. 2017. Chronicle Books. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
This Is How We Do It. Matt LaMothe. 2017. Chronicle. 52 pages. [Source: Library]
Fruits in Suits. Jared Chapman. 2017. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Muddle & Mo. Nikki Slade Robinson. 2017. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review] 
Blood, Bullets, and Bones. The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA. Bridget Heos. 2016. 263 pages. [Source: Library]
Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street #2) Alexander McCall Smith. 2005. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
Heirloom Murders. (Chloe Ellefson Mystery #2) Kathleen Ernst. 2011. 349 pages. [Source: Library]
Light Keeper's Legacy. (Chloe Ellefson Mystery #3) Kathleen Ernst. 2012. 360 pages. [Source: Library]
The Case of the Gilded Lily. (Perry Mason #50) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1956. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Case of the Daring Decoy. (Perry Mason #54) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1957. 198 pages. [Source: Bought] 
The Wife Between Us. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. 2018. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Wordplay. Adam Lehrhaupt. 2017. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
This Little Piggy. An Owner's Manual. Cyndi Marko. 2017. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Naptastrophe. Jarret J. Krosoczka. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library
The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring. Gilbert Ford. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Peppa Pig Phonics Set. Adapted by Lorraine Gregory. 2017. Scholastic. [Source: Review copy]
The Sock Thief. Ana Crespo. Illustrated by Nana Gonzales. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Cat Dreams. Ursula K. Le Guin. Illustrated by S.D. Schindler. 2009. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Learning to Love the Psalms. W. Robert Godfrey. 2017. Reformation Trust. 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth. Philip Ryken. 2017. Intervarsity Press. 150 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. Keith and Kristyn Getty. 2017. B&H Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Psalm 119 #19
Psalm 119 #20
Psalm 119 #21

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Here Comes Teacher Cat

Here Comes Teacher Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2017. 88 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Psst--Cat! I know you're napping, but this is an emergency! Ms. Melba had to go to the doctor! She needs you to teach Kitty School today. Dog is on vacation. And I suspect Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy aren't available either. Yes. There will be kittens there. That's kind of the idea of Kitty School.

Premise/plot: Cat is going to be a substitute teacher for a day. What will Cat teach the kittens?! What will the kittens teach Cat?! What will Ms. Melba think when she returns to her classroom?!

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I loved the casual, conversational style. I loved, loved, loved the character of CAT. I thought the sequence of events during the school day was just fun. Overall, I'd definitely recommend it!!!

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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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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