Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Reflections

Favorite picture book: Sleeping Beauty. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Erin McGuire. 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite Christmas picture book: Here Comes Santa Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2014. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early chapter book:  Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Mr. Putter & Tabby #1) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite book from my childhood:  Lambert The Sheepish Lion. Bill Peet. Walt Disney Company. 1970/1977. 42 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite realistic fiction: Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite historical fiction: The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite fantasy: The Wolf Hour. Sara Lewis Holmes. 2017. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Board books and picture books:

  1. How The Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea. Kate Hosford. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell. Sue Hendra. 2017. (2011 UK) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Santa Claus Book. Eileen Daly. Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship. 1972. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Here Comes Santa Cat. Deborah Underwood. 2014. 88 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. This is the Kiss. Claire Harcup. Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. I Was So Mad. Mercer Mayer. 1983. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. I'm Sorry. Gina Mayer and Mercer Mayer. 1995. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Milly and the Macy's Parade. Shana Corey. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. 2002. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Book Itch. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. School Bus. Donald Crews. 1984. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  11. Too Many Cats. Leah Raechel Killen. 1988. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]
  12. The Aristocats: A Counting Book. Walt Disney Productions Presents. 1970. Whitman Tell-a-Tale Book. 26 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  13. Where Teddy Bears Come From. Mark Burgess. Illustrated by Russell Ayto. 2009. Peachtree Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. 88 Instruments. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Louis Thomas. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  15.  I Took My Frog to the Library. Eric A. Kimmel. Illustrated by Blanche Sims. 1990. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  16. The Log and Admiral Frog. B. Wiseman. 1961. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  17. Sleeping Beauty. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Erin McGuire. 2017. Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. The Little Red Hen. Lucinda McQueen. 1985. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  19. Paul's Christmas Birthday. Carol Carrick. Illustrated by Donald Carrick. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Mr. Putter & Tabby #1) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog (Mr. Putter & Tabby #2). Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #3) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Waylon! One Awesome Thing. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Waylon! Even More Awesome. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2017. [October 31, 2017] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Lambert The Sheepish Lion. Bill Peet. Walt Disney Company. 1970/1977. 42 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. Julius. Syd Hoff. (An I Can Read Book) 1959. 64 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Max at School (Max and Ruby). Rosemary Wells. Illustrated by Andrew Grey. 2017. [Oct. 24] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Giant Pumpkin Suite. Melanie Heuiser Hill. 2017. Candlewick Press. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Karina Yan Glaser. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. Melissa de la Cruz. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Daniel Eason. 2017. Candlewick. 104 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Snow & Rose. Emily Winfield Martin. 2017. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3.  Boy Called Christmas. Matt Haig. Illustrated by Chris Mould. 2015/2016. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Wolf Hour. Sara Lewis Holmes. 2017. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Children of Exile. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2016. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  6. Children of Refuge. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Whistling in the Dark. Shirley Hughes. 2015/2017. Candlewick. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Almost Autumn. Marianne Kaurin. Translated by Rosie Hedger. 2012/2017. Scholastic. 278 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Tru & Nelle. G. Neri. 2016. HMH. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  4. Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale. G. Neri. 2017. [October 24, 2017]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages.  [Source: Review copy]
  5. The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Classics, all ages: 0

Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer's Fight for Justice in 1930s Alabama. Joseph Madison Beck. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Book Itch. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. The Austen Escape. Katherine Reay. 2017. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. On This Special Night. Claire Freedman. Illustrated by Simon Mendez. 2009. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. 2017. B&H. 273 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. A Reader's Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards. Edited by Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  2. How Can I Be Right With God. R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 71 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The New Testament in the Language of the People. Charles B. Williams 1937. 572 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions #1) R.C. Sproul. 1983/2010. Reformation Trust. 114 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Bible Matters: Meeting God In His Word. Tim Chester. 2017. InterVarsity Press. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  6. What Do Jesus' Parables Mean? (Crucial Questions #28) R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Parenting God's Way. Alistair Begg. 2017. Truth for Life. 44 pages. [Source: Gift] 
  8. Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. Nancy Guthrie, editor. 2008. Crossway. 142 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. When Christ Appears: An Inspirational Experience Through Revelation. David Jeremiah. 2018. [January] 196 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Pizza with Jesus (No Black Olives). P.J. Frick. 2017. CreateSpace. 158 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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A Tea-Ish Advent

Today I'm sharing twenty-five FAVORITE teas!

December 1 Stash's Pomegranate Raspberry with Matcha

December 2 Triple Leaf Tea's White Tea

December 3 Bigelow's Sweet Dreams

December 4 Celestial Seasonings' Black Cherry Berry

December 5 Stash's English Breakfast

December 6 Stash's Peppermint

December 7 Bigelow's Green Tea

December 8 Stash's Moroccan Mint

December 9 Stash's Organic Earl Grey Black and Green Tea

December 10 Celestial Seasonings' Honey Vanilla Chamomile

December 11 Celestial Seasonings' Wild Berry Zinger

December 12 Celestial Seasonings' Fireside Vanilla Spice

December 13 Bigelow's Cinnamon and Blackberry
December 14 PG Tips' Black Tea

December 15 Twinings' Lady Grey Tea
December 16 Stash's Wild Raspberry Hibiscus
December 17 Stash's Chai Spice
December 18 Bigelow's Lemon Ginger
December 19 Bigelow's Salted Caramel
December 20 Celestial Seasonings' Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
December 21 Celestial Seasonings' Sugar Plum Spice
December 22 Harney & Sons' Chocolate Mint Tea
December 23 Harney & Sons' Cinnamon Tea
December 24 Celestial Seasonings' Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland
December 25 Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

How The Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea. Kate Hosford. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every morning when the Queen woke up, two maids dressed her, two more styled her hair, and the butler made her tea. Each day, she sipped her tea, alone. And each day, her tea started to taste a bit worse. Finally, she could stand it no longer.

Premise/plot: The Queen sets out on an adventure in this picture book. She travels by hot air balloon to three different countries: Japan, India, and Turkey. She meets a local child in each place; the child invites her to have a cup of tea, and shows her how to make it. The Queen becomes used to company while drinking her tea, and it is this human companionship and warmth that help make her cup of tea perfect. The book concludes with the Queen having a tea party and inviting all her new friends.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it. But I found it charming in many ways.

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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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The One

The One. John Marrs. 2018. (2016 UK) 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mandy stared at the photograph on her computer screen and held her breath.

Premise/plot: What if finding "the one" was as simple as taking a DNA test and waiting to be matched with your one and only perfect match? The premise of this one is simple: for the past ten to twelve years, people have been joining Match Your DNA. Some wait weeks to hear back about their match; for others the wait is longer--much longer, YEARS longer. Once your match has been found, you're emailed the results. But, of course, love is a business, and you have to pay for contact information. The One follows the lives of five characters: Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick, and Ellie. All have recently got that all-important email. But their results differ.

The One is supposed to eliminate the "prejudices" and "biases" of dating, changing your expectations if you will. You might be matched with a male or female. (The process never once asks you your sexual orientation.) You might be matched with someone (much) older or (much) younger. Your perfect match might be a different religion and live on the opposite side of the world. Your perfect match might be rich or poor. Your perfect match might be married--with or without children--to someone else. Love has no boundaries or limitations. People are using the idea of a "perfect match" to end engagements, end marriages, abandon their children, quit jobs, and/or move around the world. Gone is the idea that love is a choice.

Who should read The One? Those that love HORROR just as much as SOAP OPERAS. It's melodramatic like a soap opera--with some near-graphic sexual scenes--but also GORY. It is not a suspense, in my opinion, because one of the main characters is up-front about being a serial killer. In that character's introductory chapter, readers learn this. And while other characters face dangers of their own, I personally saw most of the twists coming. The stories of these five characters do not really ever connect with one another.

My thoughts: Objectively, I suppose I don't have any problems with The One. The chapters are short; the action is well-paced. The narrators are unique enough that you can easily tell their voices--their stories--apart even if they weren't clearly marked. The characters, if not well-developed, are developed enough. What it lacks in suspense, it makes up for with some twists and turns.

Subjectively, I didn't care for it at all. I didn't realize it was published by Harlequin until I'd already said yes to reviewing it. I usually have a strict policy in terms of "adult" romance and a book's graphic-ness. I was looking for a suspense with plenty of action. But not Harlequin-type action. I also prefer less GORE.

That being said, the narrators alternate chapters. If this one was a book with five novellas, I definitely would have enjoyed some stories more. I preferred the stories of Mandy, Jade, and Ellie. Though there were elements within those stories that I didn't care for completely. And here's the thing: many of these elements weren't really all that necessary to the plot.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Waylon! Even More Awesome

Waylon! Even More Awesome. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2017. [October 31, 2017] 208 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: One look at Baxter's face, and Waylon knew. "Dumpster Eddy was picked up again."

Premise/plot: I loved the first book in the series, Waylon! One Awesome Thing. Several months have passed since the first book. In those months, Waylon and Baxter have gotten to know each other much better. One thing unites them: Dumpster Eddy. This is a stray dog that keeps getting picked up by the police. On the day he's scheduled to be shipped to an animal shelter, he always mysteriously disappears. Waylon and Baxter have everything to do with that. But they are beginning to think long-term. How can they really save this dog?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Clementine is definitely more present in this second book. In fact, she helps them out occasionally in their scheming. The action definitely centers around the dog. But this is more than just a dog story. It's a story about working together, working well together. Waylon and Baxter happen to see eye to eye on Eddy. But. Waylon is not seeing eye to eye with another of his friends. The two are supposed to be writing a comic book together--a science themed comic book. But things aren't going well at all. DRAMA. Waylon does have a lot to learn about friendship. And readers continue to get to know Waylon, his family, and his classmates.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand (November)

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.
CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers (B&H). 2017. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]

I am tracking my progress here. But I am LOVE, LOVE, LOVING this one.

Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 1852. 438 pages. [Source: Bought]

This was my Classics Spin for the Classics Club. Definitely recommended.

The Librarian of Auschwitz. Antonio Iturbe. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. 2012/2017. 424 pages. [Source: Library]

This is an intense read. But very good so far. Dita is a fourteen year old librarian. There are eight physical books that they are keeping hidden from the Nazis. And there are also "living books" in the collection. People who are books--stories--because they are so familiar with the original. 

Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser. 2017. 640 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I only have one complaint: the chapters are super-super-super-long. But this one is packed with information and does a great job of putting her life into the context of American history. In fact, I'd say this one is part history textbook. But it's all good. I love history!

The Soul's Conflict and Victory Over Itself by Faith. Richard Sibbes. 1577-1635. 362 pages. [Source: Bought]

I am LOVING Richard Sibbes.

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]
Thomas Manton is another Puritan I love and adore. I've read the first 67 sermons in this one. I'm blogging through the sermons one by one.



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Share-a-Tea November 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?
  • Would you be interested in participating in this challenge next year? 2018 sign ups are open.
Currently reading:

CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers (B&H). 2017. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]

Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 1852. 438 pages. [Source: Bought]

What I have finished for the challenge this past month:
Favorite quotes:
none to share this month

This month's teas:
  • PG Tips Black Tea
  • Earl Grey
  • Black Cherry Berry
  • Green Tea
  • English Breakfast
  • Peppermint
  • Candy Cane Lane
  • Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
  • Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Stash's Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea
New Teas:
  • Sugar Plum Spice
  • Lady Grey
  • Salted Caramel

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Waylon: One Awesome Thing

Waylon! One Awesome Thing. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Waylon craned his neck. "Moon at the nearest point in its orbit--check. Clouds--check. But Joe, I'm telling you--"

Premise/plot: Waylon is in fourth grade, and it's complicated. Most of the time, he's happy to just be--to be himself, to be excited about anything and everything connected to science and nature. But some of the time, well, he starts to imagine how he appears to others. "As though he was outside his body watching himself. Not extraterrestrial others. Extraterrestrials watching wouldn't bother him at all. If they were looking down from their space pods. Waylon felt sure they would grok him. Grok was a word he'd learned in a science fiction story. It meant to understand something so completely you practically merged with it. No, it wasn't extraterrestrials he worried about, it was other human kids. And when Waylon imagined other human kids watching him, he imagined them laughing--not nice laughs, but mean smirks" (22-3). In the past few weeks, his class has started dividing into teams. And he HATES that. Why do they need to divide into an "us" and "them." And which team would he want to be on if he has to be on a team. But the arrival of a not-so-new-kid, Baxter, changes the class dynamics. Is there hope for Waylon after all?

My thoughts: I loved Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series. LOVED. This fourth grade class has Clementine in it, but the narrator is Waylon. And to be honest, Waylon is more interested in science, sports, and dogs than in girls. I really enjoyed this chapter book. Some names will be familiar to readers--since so many elements of Clementine's stories focused on her school life. It didn't take many chapters for me to love Waylon for himself.

I loved the characters, the writing, the story, and the illustrations.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Week in Review: November 19-25

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea (Mr. Putter & Tabby #1) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog (Mr. Putter & Tabby #2). Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake. (Mr. Putter & Tabby #3) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 1994. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
This is the Kiss. Claire Harcup. Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I'm Sorry. Gina Mayer and Mercer Mayer. 1995. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]

Milly and the Macy's Parade. Shana Corey. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. 2002. 40 pages. [Source: Bought]

Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions #1) R.C. Sproul. 1983/2010. Reformation Trust. 114 pages. [Source: Bought]
Bible Matters: Meeting God In His Word. Tim Chester. 2017. InterVarsity Press. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bookish Advent
Journaling the CSB Spurgeon Bible #2
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #17
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #18


Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer's Fight for Justice in 1930s Alabama. Joseph Madison Beck. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Karina Yan Glaser. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]




© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Far From the Tree

Far from the Tree. Robin Benway. 2017. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grace hadn't really thought too much about homecoming.

Premise/plot: Far from the Tree is YA fiction at its best. I'm not the only one who thinks so. It won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature this year. The novel opens with Grace, one of the heroines, giving birth to 'Peach.' She decided to give her baby up for adoption early on in the pregnancy. And she carefully picked out the adoptive parents. But giving up the baby wasn't easy. It was the hardest thing she's ever done. It is as she's on this emotional roller coaster that her parents bring up the fact that she has two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Would she like to get to know them? They all live close by. They share a birth mom. Maya is fifteen; Joaquin is seventeen. (Grace is sixteen). Far From The Tree is narrated by all three teens. Each teen is experiencing some drama and hardship. Three main characters, three sets of parents, three sets of friends. This novel has the potential to either be awesome or a HUGE mess.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I didn't expect to love it. It is YA; I'm more a middle grade fan. It uses the f-word quite a bit; this usually keeps me from 'liking' a book let alone loving it. But. The characterization is so good; and characterization is for me the MOST important thing in a book. There's depth and substance to this one. Not just with the three main characters, but with all the characters. In fact, one of my favorite characters was a side character, Rafe. There are certainly romantic elements to this one, but by far it is about family. I loved the story and the storytelling. The dialogue was great.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Father and Atticus Finch

My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer's Fight for Justice in 1930s Alabama. Joseph Madison Beck. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Judge W.L. Parks began the telephone call to Foster Beck with the customary courtesies, asking first after his father, then about his law practice. Other questions too: about the dry spell, fishing conditions. Finally, in his own good time, the judge said what he was calling about, the rape case there in Troy.

Premise/plot: Was the trial in To Kill A Mockingbird based on a real case? Perhaps. In 1938, Foster Beck defended a black man, Charles White, accused of raping a white girl, Elizabeth Liger. Though he did his best and there was no clear evidence of rape--or attempted rape--he lost his case. My Father and Atticus Finch chronicles the case and provides a behind the scenes glimpse of Southern life in the late 1930s.

My thoughts: This nonfiction book was fascinating. I have loved To Kill a Mockingbird for most of my life, and I did find quite a few similarities. While there is no "proof" that the book was based upon this exact case, if you are drawn into the story of To Kill A Mockingbird, there's a good chance this real-life case will do the same. It is intense and at times heartbreaking.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Race to the Bottom of the Sea

Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Lindsay Eagar. 2017. Candlewick Press. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The recipe in Fidelia Quail's observation book was for chum, and at eleven years old, she could recite it by heart.

Premise/plot: Love orphan stories? Love sharks? Love pirates? Love adventure stories? Love non-traditional narratives that jump back and forth in time? Love unhappy endings? Then have I got a book for you: Lindsay Eagar's Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Fidelia Quail is a clever, inventive eleven year old who is kidnapped by pirates just a few weeks after her parents death. Fun times, right? Merrick the Monstrous is on a mission--a quest. He only has a few weeks to live and he needs help reclaiming his greatest treasure--which is at the bottom of the sea. Can he force Fidelia to help him? Will Fidelia figure out how to make her water-eater work so she can breathe under water and dive to the bottom of the sea?

My thoughts: I don't love orphan stories, sharks, pirates, adventure stories, or narratives that jump back and forth in time. The fact that this book is ALL of those things at once didn't work in its favor. I loved Eagar's Hour of the Bees so my expectations were high--too high. I do think for the right reader this one could definitely work.

One problem I had with this one is establishing the world it was in. Was it a fantasy novel with made-up lands and seas, countries and nations? Was it set in the real world? And if so what time period? Whether it was set in a fantasy world or the real world--I had trouble "placing it" in terms of development. Fidelia comes from a science-loving, inventive family. And Fidelia herself made a submarine for her family to use. Her other project is a water-eater which would allow her to breathe under water if she could find a way to filter sea water into breathable oxygen. The diving equipment her family uses seems homemade. Their research however is funded by grants. There were elements that led me to think it was modern, and elements that made me think it wasn't. I spent almost all of the novel confused about very basic things.  

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The War That I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won. (The War That Saved My Life #2) Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2017. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can know things all you like, but that doesn't mean you believe them.

Premise/plot: The War I Finally Won is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life. The novel opens with Ada, the heroine, in the hospital. She is about to have surgery that will correct her club foot. Susan, her guardian for the war, is by her side. Susan has learned some news--for better or worse. Ada's mother is dead. She and Jamie are orphans. Susan, of course, has plans to adopt them forever and ever. But Ada isn't the trusting, optimistic sort. She has valid reasons; after all, her mother did lock her up and not let her out of the house, and did take out ALL her anger on her. Can Ada learn to love and be loved? Will Ada and Jamie make a new life together with Susan? Who else will join their family?

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved both of these books. Even though there is a super-strong horse emphasis. Ada still loves Butter and finds riding her the best medicine in the world to heal her mentally, physically, emotionally. This is a fabulous coming-of-age story. And a great story about what makes a family. Ada's friendship with Maggie continues. And readers also meet a young Jewish girl named Ruth.

Definitely recommend both books to anyone and everyone who loves historical fiction.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Karina Yan Glaser. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 297 pages. [Source:

First sentence: In the middle of a quiet block on 141st Street, inside a brownstone made of deep red shale, the Vanderbeeker family gathered in the living room for a family meeting.

Premise/plot: Meet the Vanderbeeker children: Isa and Jessie, Oliver, and last but not least Hyacinth and Laney. These siblings will team up (mostly) to work for the common good of the family: to change their landlord's mind and to 'save' their home. The novel opens five days before Christmas. The family meeting is about their lease not being renewed. They have to be out of their apartment in the brownstone by January 1. Their landlord is "the Beiderman." He never leaves his apartment, yet without knowing him or his story, the children have judged him a mean, old grouch. They've never gone out of their way to be kind to him before, but, with new motivation they're willing to try anything and everything to get on his good side. (Does he even have a good side they wonder!) The family does not want to leave Harlem.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. What I really enjoyed about this one was the family itself. I loved meeting all the siblings. If I had to pick a favorite it would be OLIVER. But I'm glad I don't have to pick. How much did I love this fictional family? I wouldn't mind a five book series--or more! There is an old-fashioned feel to this one that I also enjoyed. The story itself is more predictable than not. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Would I have wanted an unhappy ending? Would I have wanted the Beiderman to stay the GRUMP? Even though I knew exactly where this story was heading, I didn't see the how right away. (I love that the how involves a cute and adorable KITTEN.) I also loved the message of this one. I think Atticus Finch would approve.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Week in Review: November 12-18

 Boy Called Christmas. Matt Haig. Illustrated by Chris Mould. 2015/2016. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Wolf Hour. Sara Lewis Holmes. 2017. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Children of Exile. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2016. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Children of Refuge. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Book Itch. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Julius. Syd Hoff. (An I Can Read Book) 1959. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Aristocats: A Counting Book. Walt Disney Productions Presents. 1970. Whitman Tell-a-Tale Book. 26 pages. [Source: Bought]
Where Teddy Bears Come From. Mark Burgess. Illustrated by Russell Ayto. 2009. Peachtree Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
88 Instruments. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Louis Thomas. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]


What Do Jesus' Parables Mean? (Crucial Questions #28) R.C. Sproul. 2017. Reformation Trust. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Parenting God's Way. Alistair Begg. 2017. Truth for Life. 44 pages. [Source: Gift]
On This Special Night. Claire Freedman. Illustrated by Simon Mendez. 2009. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Do You Read With Your Eyes Shut?
2018 Official TBR Pile
2018 Good Read Rules
Journaling the CSB Spurgeon Bible
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #15 
My Autumn with Psalm 119 #16
 

© 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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