Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bob

Bob. Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. 2018. Feiwel & Friends. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I feel bad that I can't remember anything about Gran Nicholas's house. On the table in her kitchen Gran has lined up three things I do not remember: A green stuffed elephant in overalls; a net bag full of black chess pieces; a clunky old tape recorder. "You loved these things when you were here before," Gran Nicholas tells me.

Premise/plot: Livy last visited her Australian grandmother when she was five. She is ten now. She'll be spending a week or two with her grandmother as her mother travels around Australia visiting old friends and showing off her new baby. Livy's genuine memories of her time here before are few and far between. She remembers playing a bump-bump game on the stairs. She thinks she might remember a special chicken that was a bit different than the others. But as she settles in, a few things come back to her. First and foremost there is BOB who is waiting for her in "her" closet. Bob, a "zombie" in a "chicken suit" has been waiting patiently/impatiently for her to return. She's both shocked and overjoyed. How could she have forgotten BOB?! But now that she's older and wiser, she can't help thinking WHAT IS BOB? WHY CAN I SEE HIM? CAN OTHERS SEE HIM TOO? WHERE DOES HE COME FROM? DOES HE HAVE FAMILY?

The chapters alternate between Livy and Bob. Livy is determined to find out all she can about Bob before she has to return to the United States.

My thoughts: I really loved this fantasy novel for young readers. At first I thought Bob might be purely imaginary. That would have been a fun story too, but, this wasn't that story. There is a definite mystery surrounding Bob. And Livy has quite a task ahead of her. I loved both narratives.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You. (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #2) Jenny Han. 2015. Simon & Schuster. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Peter, I miss you. It's only been five days but I miss you like it's been five years.

Premise/plot: P.S. I Still Love You is the sequel to Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Peter and Lara Jean, our hero and heroine, are together--except for when they're not. Their now "real" relationship gets tested. Tested by the reality and aftermath of the hot tub video. Tested by Peter's friendship with his ex. Tested by Lara Jean's relationship with another recipient, John Ambrose McClaren. Will they still be together by the end of the book? Or will Lara Jean have a new boyfriend?

My thoughts: I recently watched the Netflix adaptation of To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I loved, loved, loved it. It brought to mind all the reasons why I enjoyed the first book. I would have reread the first book, but the holds list was LONG. So I began with the second book. I have memories of starting it before--but not finishing it. (Probably because it wouldn't renew not because it was dreadful.) How do I feel about the second book? I don't love, love, love it.

What I loved about the first book was the connection between Lara Jean and Peter as revealed by their conversations. In the little things these two shared together as their relationship developed. It's not that these two never, ever, ever talk in the second book, BUT more often than not the dialogue is an ARGUMENT, a misunderstanding, or just awkward.

The person she's having those sweet, little, get-to-know-you conversations with in this book is John Ambrose McClaren. It begins with an exchanging of letters. Then they begin to hang out in real life. Then they begin a flirtation of sorts. Lara Jean feels justified because Peter is still talking--even hanging out with--his ex.

Though always telling the truth was written into their new contract, Lara Jean and Peter struggle to communicate with one another. There is little--if any--trust between them. Peter is jealous of John. Lara Jean is jealous of Genevieve. Lara Jean is more than a little worried about how-to-be-a-girlfriend.

One thing I did love was her sister Kitty. Kitty turns ten in this one.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Currently #37

Something Old

Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 695 pages. [Source: Bought]
Little Men. Louisa May Alcott. 1871. 329 pages. [Source: Bought]

Dear and Glorious Physician. Taylor Caldwell. 1958. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]

Frankenstein (Oxford World's Classics). Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 1818/1998. 261 pages. [Source: Bought in College.]
Something New
The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Al Capone Throws Me A Curve. (Al Capone at Alcatraz #4) Gennifer Choldenko. 2018. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Something Borrowed
Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Novella Collection. Karen Witemeyer. Mary Connealy. Regina Jennings. Melissa Jagears. 2018. Thorndike Press Large Print. 602 pages. 

The Grave's A Fine and Private Place. Flavia de Luce #9. Alan Bradley. 2018. 365 pages. [Source: Library]
Something True 
NIV Rainbow Study Bible. 2015. Holman Bible Publishers. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]

New American Standard Bible Reference Edition. 1971. Lockman Foundation. 1730 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Quotable Tozer. A.W. Tozer. Compiled by James L. Snyder. 2018. Bethany House. 369 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Contentment: Seeing God's Goodness. Megan Hill. 2018. P&R Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

My Victorian Year #34 Me?! Listen to Audio? #36

I have continued reading Louisa May Alcott's Little Men and Anthony Trollope's Small House at Allington. I've also begun to listen to Charles Dickens' Bleak House on audio book.

Quotes from Small House at Allington
“Ten minutes before the time named; and, of course, you must have understood that I meant thirty minutes after it!” That is my interpretation of the words when I am thanked for coming early.
It is very hard, that necessity of listening to a man who says nothing.
Quotes from Little Men
"You mustn't; it's wicked to say 'Damn!'" cried Tommy, who had followed his leader so far. "Oh, hang! don't you preach, but play away; it's part of the fun to swear." "I'd rather say 'thunder turtles,'" said Tommy, who had composed this interesting exclamation and was very proud of it.
Dear me, half the science of teaching is knowing how much children do for one another, and when to mix them.
Kindness in looks and words and ways is true politeness, and any one can have it if they only try to treat other people as they like to be treated themselves.
Bleak House. I'm thirty-five chapters into this one; it has sixty-seven. Here is my one sentence summary from two years ago. One sentence summary: Bleak House is about a long, often-thought-hopeless, law case that seems to doom all involved with it, perhaps with the exception of John Jardyce and his favorite ward, Esther Summerson.

A word from Esther:

I don't know how it is, I seem to be always writing about myself. I mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say, "Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature, I wish you wouldn't!" but it is all of no use. I hope any one who may read what I write, will understand that if these pages contain a great deal about me, I can only suppose it must be because I have really something to do with them and can't be kept out. (102-3)
A description of Sir Leicester:
Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state, and rarely bored. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man, to have so inexhaustible a subject. (139)
A description of Mr. Smallweed:
Everything that Mr. Smallweed's grandfather ever put away in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly. (257)



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Al Capone Does My Homework

Al Capone Does My Homework (Al Capone at Alcatraz #3) Gennifer Choldenko. 2013. 212 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Today is my dad's first official day as associate warden on Alcatraz Island, home to anyone who is anyone in the criminal world. On our island we have world-famous robbers, thieves, swindlers, sharpshooters, second-story burglars, mad-dog murderers, plus a whole lot of ordinary criminals--vicious but not well-known. 

Premise/plot: Al Capone Does My Homework is the third book in Gennifer Choldenko's series. The first two are Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes. To be fully appreciated, the books should be read in order.

Moose, our hero, is equal parts excited and scared that his dad has been promoted from electrician part-time guard to associate warden. He fears that this new job will bring new dangers. An electrician is hardly a target--an associate warden or warden is. Moose being Moose is prepared to shoulder even more responsibility. Can he keep his dad safe?

It doesn't take much time for Moose to be overwhelmed. It starts with a fire. In their apartment. At night. While their parents are out. The fire is barely out when busy-body neighbors start a rumor that Natalie--Moose's sister--set the fire. Moose, once again, feels the need to prove himself, to prove to everyone that his sister is innocent and that someone else set the fire. (Could they have been trying to kill his dad?!)

My thoughts: I love this series. Each book stars the same cast of friends or frenemies as the case may be. Piper. Annie. Jimmie. Janet. Natalie. Moose. I love spending time with these characters. I don't always see things the way Moose does, but I love, love, love Moose. (What does he see in Piper?!?!)



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Pigeon Needs A Bath

The Pigeon Needs a Bath. Mo Willems. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hi! I don't know if you've noticed, but the Pigeon is filthy. So, I could use your help, because: The Pigeon Needs A Bath! (That is a matter of opinion.)

Premise/plot: Does the Pigeon *need* a bath?! Pigeon is going to try his best to convince you, the reader, that he absolutely DOES NOT need a bath. Will this filthy bird ever get in the tub?!

My thoughts: The Pigeon Needs a Bath! is one of those picture books that is practically perfect in every way. Every single page of this one--every word of text, every expression in the illustration--is perfection. It is one of those rare books where you could open it up to any page and find gold at the end of the rainbow.
I don't really need a bath!
I took one last month!
I think it was last month.
"Clean." "Dirty."
They're just words, right?
I feel clean.
Maybe YOU need a bath!
YEAH! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!
Oh. That was pretty recently.
Life is so short. Why waste it on unimportant things?
Like taking a bath!
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? Mo Willems. 2012. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Hello! May I have a cookie, please? Oh! Thanks! That was very nice of you! Oh! Look at all those nuts.

Premise/plot: The Duckling has a cookie--with nuts--and Pigeon is having a jealous fit. He's having a fit like only he can. This is Pigeon at his most flustered. (Probably).

My thoughts: I like this one. For the longest time it was my favorite book in Mo Willems' Pigeon series. I'm not sure it still is--though it comes close. I do recommend all of the Pigeon books. Pigeon is the kind of character that grows on you. You may not instantly love him. You may not quite "get" him. For me it was a sneaky love. One day I realized that I did in fact love him.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Mo Willems. 2003. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hi! I'm the bus driver. Listen, I've got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember: DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS!

Premise/plot: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is the first book in Mo Willem's Pigeon series. Pigeon is Pigeon. To know him is to love him, perhaps?! He addresses readers directly and proceeds to argue! In this one he's trying to persuade you to let him drive the bus.
I'll be your best friend! How 'bout I give you five bucks? What's the big deal!? It's just a bus!!! No fair! I bet your mom would let me. I have dreams, you know! Fine. 
This one earned a Caldecott Honor in 2004.  

My thoughts: Mo Willems is a must-read author. He's created several super-successful series. Pigeon is one of them. Elephant and Piggie is another. I love, love, love, love, crazy-love his Elephant and Piggie series. But I do love Pigeon. I recently read that there will be a new Pigeon book next year!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Soof

Soof. Sarah Weeks. 2018. Scholastic. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I saw a white rabbit with one bent ear hopping over a giant spoon filled with whipped cream. That's what it looked like to me anyway. I'd been lying on my back in the bed of my father's rusty old pickup truck all morning, watching clouds.

Premise/plot: Soof is a companion novel to So B. It. Heidi is NOT the narrator of Soof. Heidi is an adult now--a married woman with a child on the way. Aurora, the daughter of Ruby and Roy, is our narrator. She's heard stories about Heidi from the womb practically. Her mother crediting Heidi's "luck" for her daughter's miraculous conception. Aurora doesn't have a problem with a far-away-Heidi. There's no competition so long as Heidi stays far-away. But with Heidi coming to visit, well, Aurora is feeling out of sorts. She does NOT understand how Ruby can love Heidi like a daughter. Aurora has her own way of seeing the world and coping with the world, a way that makes her seem odd or quirky. Her mother worries that she might be autistic, might be "on the spectrum." She has taken Aurora to countless doctors trying to find a reason for her daughter's social awkwardness. (You can imagine how Aurora feels about her mother's anxiety. Aurora does NOT want to be explained, she wants to be loved unconditionally.)

Aurora's best friend is a dog named DUCK. Consider yourself warned.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the cover. I do. I'm not sure that I love the text. Aurora is not Heidi. She's her own person. I know in my head that that is a good thing. To compare Aurora and Heidi would be a mistake their parents--and readers--should avoid.

My favorite part of the book comes at the very end when Aurora makes her very first (non-related human) friend, Rosemary.  Though Rosemary only stars in two or three pages at best, I instantly loved her. I'm left imagining how incredibly awesome the whole book would have been if she'd been there from the beginning.

Over half of the novel focuses on life without DUCK and how Aurora is struggling with the loss of her best friend. Perhaps because she's lost her coping mechanism--her furry friend--she's unable to handle Heidi's visit.

It was nice to visit with Heidi again. But she's all grown up and practically a stranger. Readers learn, for example, that Bernadette is all better--she's able to leave her apartment and she's even got a steady boyfriend. Heidi is married, as I mentioned, but we learn nothing about whom she married. So many stories that this adult reader wanted to hear. But the novel is from Aurora's point of view. And Aurora is hostile to Heidi. I hope that Ruby and Heidi are confiding in each other and getting properly caught up. Unfortunately, we're not there to eavesdrop.



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, September 10, 2018

So B. It

So B. It. Sarah Weeks. 2004. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: If truth was a crayon and it was up to me to put a wrapper around it and name its color, I know just what I would call it--dinosaur skin. I used to think, without really thinking about it, that I knew what color that was. But that was a long time ago, before I knew what I know now about both dinosaur skin and the truth.

Premise/plot: Heidi It is the narrator of Sarah Weeks' So B. It. Heidi is on a mission for the truth. She's looking for clues about her mother's past. Specifically she'd love to know what SOOF means. Her mother has a vocabulary of only twenty-three words. Most of the words, Heidi, and her next door neighbor, Bernadette, know. But SOOF is elusive. Bernadette is content not knowing. Heidi is not. The way I see it, not knowing SOOF is just the last straw for her.

Heidi follows clues found on an old roll of film. Those clues will lead her on a road trip--a bus trip--across the country. Bernadette couldn't accompany her even if she wanted to (and she doesn't). Bernadette doesn't leave her own apartment. Will Heidi's quest give her the answers she needs?

My thoughts: So B. It is beautifully written but definitely bittersweet. I loved, loved, loved Heidi. I thought she was well developed. Whether Heidi was talking with Bernadette, her mother, or a stranger on the bus, I just wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug. There is a hopeful innocence combined with incredible resilience in Heidi.

I reread So B. It because Sarah Weeks has recently published a companion book SOOF.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Currently #36

Something Old

Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 695 pages. [Source: Bought]
Little Men. Louisa May Alcott. 1871. 329 pages. [Source: Bought]

Dear and Glorious Physician. Taylor Caldwell. 1958. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]

Frankenstein (Oxford World's Classics). Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 1818/1998. 261 pages. [Source: Bought in College.]

Something New
The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Hearts Entwined: A Historical Romance Novella Collection. Karen Witemeyer. Mary Connealy. Regina Jennings. Melissa Jagears. 2018. Thorndike Press Large Print. 602 pages. 

Something Borrowed
The Grave's A Fine and Private Place. Flavia de Luce #9. Alan Bradley. 2018. 365 pages. [Source: Library]

Al Capone Does My Homework (Al Capone at Alcatraz #3) Gennifer Choldenko. 2013. 212 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True 
NIV Rainbow Study Bible. 2015. Holman Bible Publishers. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]

New American Standard Bible Reference Edition. 1971. Lockman Foundation. 1730 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Hand of God. Alistair Begg. 1999/2018. 204 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
The Quotable Tozer. A.W. Tozer. Compiled by James L. Snyder. 2018. Bethany House. 369 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, September 08, 2018

My Victorian Year #33

I've continued reading Louisa May Alcott's Little Men and Anthony Trollope's Small House at Allington.

Quotes from Little Men:
  • It takes so little to make a child happy that it is a pity, in a world so full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, or lonely little hearts.
  • I regret to say that Nat sometimes told lies. Not very black ones, seldom getting deeper than gray, and often the mildest of white fibs; but that did not matter, a lie is a lie, and though we all tell many polite untruths in this queer world of ours, it is not right, and everybody knows it.
  • Little men are like big ones, good cooking will touch their hearts and soothe their tempers delightfully," added Aunt Jo, with a merry nod toward the door, where stood Papa Bhaer, surveying the scene with a face full of amusement.
  • "Salt is like good-humor, and nearly every thing is better for a pinch of it, Posy," and Uncle Fritz stopped as he passed, hammer in hand, to drive up two or three nails for Sally's little pans to hang on.
I still don't have quotes to share from Small House at Allington. Not because it isn't interesting but because it isn't all that quotable--at least not yet. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Me? Listen to Audio?! #35 My Victorian Year #32

Framley Parsonage. Anthony Trollope. 1861. Dramatised by Nick Warburton. Produced and directed by Marion Nancarrow for BBC Radio 4. 3 one hour broadcasts. "Two Different Sets of People." "A Word of Warning." "A Gift of Fire." There are about twenty days left to listen!

I have read Framley Parsonage twice. The first time I liked it just okay. The second time I loved it. Listening to it was PURE DELIGHT. All the BBC Radio 4 adaptations of the Barchester series have featured a narrator-housekeeper. She may not exist in the novels, but, she certainly helps listeners out. (I believe Trollope used the third person omniscient narrative style.)

 Premise/plot: Framley Parsonage is the fourth novel in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. In my opinion, the women characters are the greatest strength of this novel. Mark's wife, Fanny; Mark's sister, Lucy; Miss Dunstable; Mrs. Crawley; even more difficult to like characters like Mrs. Harold Smith, Mrs. Proudie,  and Lady Lufton.

So what is this one about? Mark Robarts is a vicar at Framley. He is married to a wonderful woman, Fanny, whose true strength and courage is not obvious at first or second glance perhaps. He gets into big, big trouble when he decides to sign his name alongside his new friend's name on a bill. Embarrassed that he could be held responsible for the money if his friend proves to be anything but, he keeps it a secret from almost everyone in his life. That bill--and another that follows it--haunt him throughout the novel until he has his epiphany moment.

At one point, Mark's sister, Lucy, comes to stay at the parsonage. Lord Lufton, Mark's close friend, falls in love with Lucy. But their love seems doomed almost from the start since Lady Lufton (Lord Lufton's (busybody) mother has set ideas about who is and isn't appropriate for her son to marry. She visits Fanny and tells her that Lord Lufton is off limits and that Lucy should make herself scarce. Fanny tells Lucy that she shouldn't fall in love with Lord Lufton, but it's too late.) Will Lord Lufton stand up to his mother? Will Lucy agree to be his wife? Will the novel end with a wedding?


Lady Lufton wants her son to marry Griselda Grantly. She throws them together at multiple social events--both in Barsetshire and in London. But to no avail. Griselda does get some attention from another Lord however.

Miss Dunstable, whom we met before, is still very much single. There are still men in pursuit of her. Mrs. Harold Smith would have her unworthy brother--admittedly unworthy, a scoundrel--Mr. Sowerby marry the incredibly wealthy Miss Dunstable. She even proposes on his behalf. But Miss Dunstable doesn't want that kind of husband. The man she has in mind, well, is more honorable: Dr. Thorne!


Mr. Sowerby features a lot in this one, for better or worse. But every novel, make that every Victorian novel, needs a character to boo and hiss at when they enter the scene, right?!

I really LOVED the characters of Lucy and Fanny and Miss Dunstable. The story line where Mary is trying to play matchmaker with her uncle, Dr. Thorne, and Miss Dunstable were priceless. I adored this couple so much.

Lucy was such a gem of a heroine. She was witty and compassionate. Her observations were great.

I also REALLY loved the fact that so many familiar faces pop up in this one. Even if old friends just show up for a couple of scenes, they're still there, still a reminder that Barchester is a place I'd love to visit.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, September 07, 2018

The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator. Catherine Reef. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mary Shelley had been dead a year when her son unlocked her portable desk and found the remains of human heart. The heart, he knew, had been his father's. It had rested in the desk for thirty years, unseen and untouched, since the day in 1822 when Mary Shelley tenderly wrapped it in pages of poetry and put it away. Dust and bits of dried-up muscle were all that was left.

Premise/plot: Catherine Reef's newest biography for young adults is Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator. Frankenstein is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. 

Words to describe this one: dramatic, emotional, compelling, fascinating, heartbreaking, thought-provoking.

Mary Shelley's life was just as tragic as it was unconventional. Her parents were near-celebrities among the intellectually elite. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an unconventional woman--an early feminist--who believed in living--experiencing--her life on her own terms despite the frowns of society. She believed in following her heart even if it meant breaking all the rules, even if it led to pain and heartbreak. She brought an illegitimate daughter with her into her marriage with William Godwin (Fanny). Godwin was a like-minded free thinker. At least when he was young with no teenage daughters of his own to raise! It would almost be easier to list everything he was against then to list everything he was for. Anti-tradition, anti-religion, anti-marriage, anti-government, etc. Both Godwin and Wollstonecraft were philosophically-minded writers whose works were published and somewhat applauded and celebrated--at least in certain circles. Mary Godwin's mother died when she was just days old. Godwin who at one time believed he'd never, ever marry now found himself marrying a second time. The woman (Mary Jane Clairmont) he married brought two children (Charles and Jane) from a previous relationship. It was a BLENDED family certainly: Fanny, Charles, Jane, Mary--and then "baby" William.

Her father as I mentioned was well-known in certain circles and their house--their bookshop--had plenty of well-known or soon-to-be well-known authors.

When Mary was a teenager--perhaps fifteen--she met a young would-be poet named Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was married--married with children. But neither one cared about conventions or morality. It was LOVE. The choice she made at sixteen to follow her heart's passion would change her life for better or worse forever and ever. Perhaps even more startling to modern readers is Mary's decision to bring her step-sister, Jane, with her. The two of them would run away with Percy Bysshe Shelley to Europe. It wasn't just a departure from England but from convention. (They'd return to England...but never quite to convention.)

Their lives were packed with DRAMA, DRAMA, AND MORE DRAMA. Mary found herself at the center of it all--an eyewitness to an era. The Romantic poets didn't just approach poetry in a "new," "fresh," "innovative," "genius," way. It was a lifestyle; the poems were a result of how they saw the world around them, what they thought, how they thought. It was thrilling AND disturbing. They wouldn't want it any other way. But would Mary? The book does NOT address that. Perhaps we'll never know the many emotional layers of her heart and mind. (How she felt about her husband, her sister, their many friends that brought chaos and fun into their lives.)

My thoughts: Mary Shelley's life was like a wreck--car, train, ship, take your pick--a devastating crash-boom-bang in many ways. But it makes for a fascinating read. I appreciated that the book was more than just a traditional biography. It also focused on her works. It focuses on Frankenstein, of course, but it also focuses on her other works. She didn't just write one book. She kept writing throughout her life. The book includes how her work(s) were critically received (then and now).  It also focused on relationships. To read of Mary Shelley is to read of the Romantic poets. For better or worse.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Promises and Primroses

Promises and Primroses. Josi S. Kilpack. 2018. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Elliott Mayfield, the fifth Viscount Howardsford, looked across the desk at Peter, his eldest nephew and heir. Destiny and opportunity are not that different, he reminded himself in an effort to bolster his courage.

Premise/plot: Elliott Mayfield has decided that his nieces and nephews need a little extra help in making good matches and settling down. Emphasis on good. Their parents--his brother and sisters--made bad matches, regrettable matches leading to scandalous talk--either before or after. Peter is perhaps his favorite.

Peter is a widower with two young children--daughters. He's not looking to marry a second time. His first marriage was not a mistake: she was the love of his life. The idea of marrying to please his uncle and to set a 'good example' for his cousins is ridiculous. NO THANK YOU.

Yet it isn't long after his uncle's suggestion that he hires a new governess, Julia Hollingsworth. She wasn't his first or even second choice--she is young and beautiful. But she's a perfect fit for his household. She's great with his daughters. And she is knowledgeable about dogs too. He's newly in the breeding business and he could use her help.

But Julia's mother is ANGRY--disgruntled. When she finds out WHO hired her daughter, she takes steps to intervene. She seeks out Elliott Mayfield to enlist his help. Julia must not be allowed to remain in a Mayfield residence.

Can Peter change Amelia Hollingsworth's mind? Will he realize just what Julia is becoming to mean to him in time?

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this one. It's set in England--in the countryside--in 1822. It is written from four perspectives: Elliott, Peter, Julia, and Amelia. It was a nice touch including Elliott and Amelia's point of view. Julia has a hard time understanding or appreciating her mother. If one didn't get Amelia's point of view as well, one would leap to conclusions about her character. As it is, there are four well-developed four very-human characters for readers to get to know.

I love romance. I don't read it all that often because I prefer clean romances to smutty ones. When I find an author or in this case a publishing company that is reliably clean I get excited. I would definitely recommend this one!



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art. Hudson Talbott. 2018. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Thomas Cole was a curious boy.

Premise/plot: Picturing America is a picture book biography of Thomas Cole an American landscape artist. It is an excellent introduction to his art and the man himself. To learn more readers can visit: http://www.explorethomascole.org/  or https://www.wikiart.org/en/thomas-cole

My thoughts: I found Picturing America to be a fascinating book. I am not an art enthusiast. I know very little about art--American or otherwise. I found the book to be a compelling read. Cole makes for an intriguing subject. The more I read, the more I wanted to know.

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes. Gennifer Choldenko. 2009. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Nothing is the way it's supposed to be when you live on an island with a billion birds, a ton of bird crap, a few dozen rifles, machine guns, and automatics, and 278 of America's worst criminals--"the cream of the criminal crop" as one of our felons likes to say. The convicts on Alcatraz are rotten to the core, crazy in the head, and as slippery as eels in axle grease.

Premise/plot: Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. Both books are set on the island of Alcatraz in 1935. Both are narrated by our baseball loving hero, Moose Flanagan.


In Al Capone Does My Shirts a desperate Moose turns to Al Capone for help. His sister, Natalie, needs to be admitted to a special school--a school for special needs children. The school has rejected her twice claiming that she's too old to be helped or that she's just not a good fit for their program.

Moose's plea for help worked--or at least he thinks it did! Natalie is now away at school. Life should be moving smoothly. But it isn't. It's a MESS. His relationships with his friends are all over the place. There's his off-island friend, Scout, his on-island friends Jimmy, Annie, Theresa, and PIPER. From day to day, Moose is never sure who is going to be MAD at him. But his problems aren't just juvenile. He's got a few ADULT problems as well. Al Capone wants a favor. How can he say yes? How can he say no? No matter what happens next, it could be big, big trouble for him and his family.

My thoughts: Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an action-packed, emotional roller coaster. There's some melodrama with Moose and his friends, but, there's also some very real DRAMA with an attempted prison escape.

I definitely liked this one. It was a quick, compelling read.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2018 Reading Challenges: Victober

Victober
Hosted by Ange, Kate, Katie, and Lucy. (All BookTubers) GoodReads Group page.
When: October 2018
# of books: I'm aiming for 4 (I'd be surprised if I finish that many).

Ange's challenge: Read a book by one of the hosts' favourite Victorian authors: Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, or Thomas Hardy. 

I will be reading Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell

Kate's Challenge: Read A Victorian book with a proper noun (place name or personal name) in the title.

I will be reading The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope.

Katie's Challenge: Read a book from the first ten years of the Victorian period (1837-1847) and/or a book from the last ten years of the Victorian period. (1891-1901)

I will be reading The Three Musketeers (1844) OR The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.

Lucy's Challenge: Read a Victorian book written by a woman anonymously or under a pseudonym.

I will be reading Romola by George Eliot.

General challenge: Read a Victorian book and watch a screen adaptation of it:

I have a movie adaptation of Old Curiosity Shop and The Three Musketeers. If I read either of those I can watch the movie version too.  I also have Wives and Daughters!!!!

Bonus Group Readalong: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, September 03, 2018

Currently #35

Something Old

Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 695 pages. [Source: Bought]
Little Men. Louisa May Alcott. 1871. 329 pages. [Source: Bought]

Dear and Glorious Physician. Taylor Caldwell. 1958. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New

The Romanov Empress. C.W. Gortner. 2018. 431 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Al Capone Shines My Shoes. Gennifer Choldenko. 2009. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Something Borrowed
The Grave's A Fine and Private Place. Flavia de Luce #9. Alan Bradley. 2018. 365 pages. [Source: Library]
So B. It. Sarah Weeks. 2004. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
NIV Rainbow Study Bible. 2015. Holman Bible Publishers. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Hand of God. Alistair Begg. 1999/2018. 204 pages. [Source: Review copy] 


The Soul's Quest for God. R.C. Sproul. 1992. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Quotable Tozer. A.W. Tozer. Compiled by James L. Snyder. 2018. Bethany House. 369 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2018 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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