Monday, December 09, 2019

Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me

Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me. Julie Wright. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My fairy godmother was all talk and no action. Like the tooth fairy, she was definitely not someone I could depend on. I had a sneaking suspicion the two had run off together a long time ago and were now downing drinks with umbrellas while they lounged on a beach somewhere exotic and peaceful.

Premise/plot: Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me is a light-hearted romance novel. The heroine, Charlotte Kingsley, is a writer. Her dream is to be PUBLISHED of course. But after yet another brutal rejection (all rejections are brutal no matter how civil the wording), she writes a NONFICTION self-help book instead of another fairy-tale romance. That book, the "rant" as her neighbor believes it to be, is NOT rejected. But the terms under which it is published leave a little to be desired. For Charlotte will have to BECOME the person people expect her to be. Her Swedish neighbor, Anders, is NOT pleased that his absolute best friend (and possible love of his life) is changing EVERYTHING about herself in order to fit a mold that the publisher dictates. Everything from who she can friend or follow on social media, what she can post, what she can share, how she dresses, who she can be seen with, the furnishings of her apartment. It is all so EXTREME. Is she losing herself to get the happily ever after ending that she's always wanted?

My thoughts: I am Team Anders on this one. I don't know if I was supposed to be. Oh, it's fairly obvious that Anders is the love interest. But when it comes to all the changes they are demanding of her--from her--I am Team Anders. It seemed all kinds of WRONG that a writer would have to essentially change everything about herself in order to be liked by potential readers. I hope this aspect of the story is pure FICTION. I would hate to think that this kind of thing happens in the real world.

As for the romance, I definitely enjoyed this one. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #49

5 Stars
Nine Open Arms. Benny Lindelauf. Translated into English by John Nieuwenhuizen. 2004/2014. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
Fing's War. Benny Lindelauf. Translated into English by John Nieuwenhuitzen. 2019. 376 pages. [Source: Library]



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 05, 2019

2020 Picture Book Reading Challenge

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January 2020 - December 2020
Goal: To have adults read more picture books. To celebrate the fact that picture books are for everyone! Families are, of course, welcome to join in!
# of books: minimum of 12 (or 24)

I. Read one picture book (or board book, or early reader) per month for a total of twelve by the end of the year.

II.  Level two is, I hope, a fun twist to the challenge. Read two books that share a theme. One book representing "then" and one book representing "now." Then and now are subjective terms certainly. Depending on one's own age, life experiences, and reading habits. But there should be around a twenty year gap (or more) between the "then" and "now" books.

I have a list of suggested themes, but, by all means feel free to come up with your own!

Suggested themes:
alphabet books
counting books
shapes
colors
first word dictionaries
Caldecott Honors
Caldecott Winners
pets
bedtime
lullabies
songs
meal time
bath time
new sibling(s)
siblings
new experiences/first experiences
animal fantasy (animals as main characters instead of humans)
life on the farm
life in the city
trips and travels
grandparents
parents
friendship
feelings
sharing
kindness
toys
folk tales
fairy tales
Mother Goose
poetry collections
wordless picture books
joke/riddle books
school
books about books/books about storytelling
spring
summer
winter
fall
holidays
characters from TV, movies, games, etc.
golden books
series books

How was the subject treated then? How is it treated now? Were there any similarities in the two books that you read? Were there any differences? How well did your "then" book age? Is it dated or still relevant? Do you think your "now" book will age well? Could it become a classic? Which did you prefer? Which would you recommend to an actual child?

If you have a blog, write a post reviewing both books...OR...write a post comparing the two and linking to your reviews. If you don't have a blog, then you can share your thoughts in a comment on one of the check-in posts.

Sign up by leaving a comment. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2020 Georgian Reading Challenge

Georgian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: December 1, 2019 - December 31, 2020
# of books: minimum 4

What counts:

  • Novels, poems, plays, short stories, novellas, letters, diaries, essays, nonfiction published in Great Britain (or its colonies) during the Georgian era. (1714-1837) or (1714-1830)
  • Nonfiction books published about the Georgian era. Including, of course, biographies on the royal family. 
  • Historical fiction set during the Georgian era. 
  • Books, e-books, audio books.  
  • Movies and television series set during this period--if you review them--can count. But try to keep things balanced.
You may make a list if you want to plan ahead...or read according to your whimsy.

Sign up by leaving a comment. No blog is required--no review either. But if you do have a blog, I'd love a link to it. Same with GoodReads if that is where you review books. (Comment moderation is turned on.)

You may follow me on twitter @blbooks.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2020 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Girl reading a book by Federico Zandomeneghi

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January - December 2020
# of books: minimum 12

Level One: Read ANY twelve books throughout the year.
Level Two: Themed Then and Now Pairs (minimum 6 pairs, or twelve books)

Sign up for either (or both) by leaving a comment.

Level one is self-explanatory. Any means ANY. If a book qualifies as being for a middle grade audience, then it qualifies as ANY. Fiction. Nonfiction. Graphic novels. Poetry. What is a middle grade audience? There's a younger range and an older range within middle grade. Certainly there are distinctions between books published for twelve year olds and books published for eight year olds. But essentially think books for mid-to-upper elementary schools and/or lower middle schools.

Level two is, I hope, a fun twist to the challenge. Read two books that share a theme. One book representing "then" and one book representing "now." Then and now are subjective terms certainly. Depending on one's own age, life experiences, and reading habits. But there should be around a twenty year gap (or more) between the "then" and "now" books. For example, you might compare CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker to RAMONA THE PEST by Beverly Cleary.

I have a list of suggested themes, but, by all means feel free to come up with your own!

Suggested themes:

Newbery Winners
Newbery Honors
Coming of age novels
Problem novels
Death/Dying/Grief
Friendship
Family/Dysfunctional Family
Series books
Fantasy
Animal Fantasy
Pets
Orphans
Action/Adventure
Science Fiction/Dystopias
Ghost Stories
Sports
Mysteries
Young Love/First Romance
First Job(s)
Historical Fiction
War
Rural setting
Urban setting
School setting
Summer
Characters from TV, movies, games, etc.
New Experiences
Nonfiction
British Authors
American Authors
Australian Authors
Canadian Authors

How was the subject treated then? How is it treated now? Were there any similarities in the two books that you read? Were there any differences? How well did your "then" book age? Is it dated or still relevant? Do you think your "now" book will age well? Could it become a classic? Which did you prefer? Which would you recommend to an actual child?

If you have a blog, write a post reviewing both books...OR...write a post comparing the two and linking to your reviews. If you don't have a blog, then you can share your thoughts in a comment on one of the check-in posts.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2020 Victorian Reading Challenge

Victorian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2020
Goal: Read between 4 to 6 Books (4 minimum)

Choose to participate in the basic challenge (quarterly) or the advanced challenge (themed months). All books must fall into the "Victorian" category being either a) books originally published between 1837 and 1901 b) books originally written (but not published) between 1837 and 1901 c) general nonfiction about the Victorian era (the times, the culture, the people, the events) d) biographies of Victorians.

Sign up by leaving a comment.

I. Quarterly Victorian Challenge; Check-Ins will be posted at the end of each quarter so you can share your progress.

Read ONE book between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020
Read ONE book between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020
Read ONE book between July 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020
Read ONE book between October 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020


II. There will be ELEVEN themed monthly posts. (And ONE Super-Bonus Theme that will cover all twelve months). You can sign up for this level of the challenge and not "have" to participate every month. The goal is to read at least four to six books throughout the whole year. It is also more important to finish your current book than start a new theme. So if a new month comes and you're still halfway through your book...finish your book...and don't worry about keeping up with that month's theme. I will post check-ins throughout the year.

JANUARY/FEBRUARY: The theme is JOURNEYS and TRAVELS. Read any book where a character goes on ANY journey. (For example, Pickwick Papers, Three Men in a Boat, Jane Eyre, Can You Forgive Her?, Great Expectations, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, etc.) The journey does not have to be a grand adventure or luxurious vacation.

FEBRUARY/MARCH: The theme is LOVE and MARRIAGE. Read any book where characters fall in love, or fall out of love, or court, or become engaged, or get married. It doesn't have to be an epic romance with a happily ever after. (Though it can!)

MARCH/APRIL: The theme is SECOND CHANCES. Give an author a second chance. Give a book a second chance. Give a genre a second chance.

APRIL/MAY: The theme is NAMES AS TITLES. Read any book where a proper name (a person, a place, etc) is the title of the book.

MAY/JUNE: The theme is LONG TITLE OR LONG SUB-TITLES. Victorians could be RIDICULOUS and a bit over-the-top with the titles and subtitles of their books. Choose to read one with a long/longer title and/or subtitle.

JUNE/JULY: The theme is ADAPTATIONS. Read any book that has been adapted into a movie, miniseries, or television show. OR read any book that you think SHOULD be adapted into a movie. If you choose that option you can even make a case for WHO should star in it.

JULY/AUGUST: The theme is FAVORITE AUTHORS, NEW-TO-ME Books. Choose a favorite author and read a book by him/her that you've never read before.

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER: The theme is BACK TO SCHOOL. Read (or reread) any book that you were assigned to read in school or university. OR Read any book where a character's education is emphasized (Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Eyre, etc.) OR Read any book that you think SHOULD be required reading for high school or university.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: The theme is CRIME OR TRUE CRIME. Thrillers. Mysteries. Suspense. Horror. GOTHIC. This would be a great place to fit in general nonfiction about the Victorian era. Some great true crime books have been published.

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: The theme is HOME AND FAMILY. Read any book with a focus on family life and relationships between family members. (The relationships do not have to be healthy.)

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER: The theme is COMFORT READS. Reread a book (of any length) that just makes you HAPPY.

January Through December: The super-bonus theme is BEARDED VICTORIANS. I've listed a few examples below.

Charles Dickens

Anthony Trollope
Wilkie Collins

George MacDonald

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

World at War: Fing's War

Fing's War. Benny Lindelauf. Translated into English by John Nieuwenhuitzen. 2019. 376 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One rainy afternoon, I was called to heaven.

Premise/plot: Fing’s War is the sequel to Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf. While the first book focused on the whole family, multiple narrators, the second book is Fing’s story. It is an historical coming of age story set in Holland at the very start of the Second World War. There aren’t many opportunities for young girls in their small town. Domestic work or marriage is the norm. Fing hasn’t really dreamed beyond that until the Sisters at her school offer her a chance for a scholarship at teacher’s college. But her father and grandmother have different plans for her. And the scholarship seems like another word for charity case to suit her grandma. No, Fing is to be hired out as help for the Cigar Emperor and his German wife. Fing, well, what choice does she have?! Enter the Nazi soldiers and the Dutch Blackshirts. The war will change her mind, body, and soul forever. Her whole family as well...

My thoughts: I am so glad I put off reading this one until I was able to read Nine Open Arms. It may claim to be a stand alone novel, but it would be hard going to actually CARE about the characters if you haven’t read the first book. Once that relationship with the family is in place, this one is a compelling read. I could see how this one might be a slow read if you don’t already love this family and appreciate their unique house on the edge of town. I didn’t find it slow. True not all elements were equally compelling. But I could see how Fing might interpret life that way. This one is very much coming of age. So many firsts are touched on throughout the novel. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept. Lara Prescott. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We typed a hundred words per minute and never missed a syllable.

Premise/plot: This historical novel focuses around the publication and distribution of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Unable to find a publisher in the Soviet Union, he risked it all by allowing it to essentially be smuggled out of the country and published in Italy. Meanwhile in America, the C.I.A. was hard at work smuggling banned literature into the U.S.S.R. It seemed obvious to try to get their hands on the Russian manuscript or a copy. To produce a copy—in Russian—to smuggle into the U.S.S.R. would be just the thing.

While part of the novel is about Doctor Zhivago, much of the novel is about the women’s typing pool of the agency focusing on a handful of employees that have a second secret job in the agency. Irena and Sally are the two main characters.

The novel Doctor Zhivago features a “forbidden” love story between Zhivago and Lara. It is an adulterous affair. Likewise The Secrets We Kept features a “forbidden” love story between Sally and Irena. Set during a time when being outed could prove costly—loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of family and friends, etc., the novel captures the dangers and intensity of love.

My thoughts: This is the first book about the Lavender Scare that I’ve read. (Though I did see the recent PBS documentary last year on the subject.) I didn’t seek out the book because of this angle. In fact, there were no obvious clues in the jacket description that indicated exactly what the SECRET alluded to in the book title actually was. For better or worse. I think knowing ahead of time would probably bring in more readers. Perhaps.

I sought out the book solely because of my interest in history and literature. I have read and enjoyed Doctor Zhivago. I have an interest in Russian literature. It seemed like a good fit.

I felt like the description was a tiny bit misleading. I wanted more spies and suspense.

I would warn about the contents of this one. There is a graphically violent rape scene. Most adults should be able to handle it. I think it will make you rightfully angry. I found myself wanting to scream at the book.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Nine Open Arms

Nine Open Arms. Benny Lindelauf. Translated into English by John Nieuwenhuizen. 2004/2014. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: At the end of Sjlammbams Sahara stood a house. We weren’t the first to live there or the first to give it a name. We had no idea yet about Nienevee from Outside the Walls and Charley Bottletop. But if it hadn’t been so windy that day, we surely would have been able to hear them signaling to each other, drumming with their bones deep under ground.

Premise/plot: John Nieuwenhuizen has translated this Dutch coming of age novel into English. Nine Open Arms is a historical middle grade novel starring the Boon family. Primarily we spend time with three sisters (Fing, Jess, and Muulke), their father (Antoon), and their maternal grandmother (Oma Mei). There are nine in the family in all. But the brothers seem to hardly make an appearance or impression.

So the plot?! The Boon family is moving. Again. The father is trying a new venture. Again. This time it is making cigars. He believes this is it—no more worries, no more new beginnings. But the rest of the family might take a bit more convincing. Especially Oma Mei. She, among other things, is a story teller. But she has to be in the right mood to pull out her crocodile, to pull out a photograph, to share a story. But when she does...it’s something. Family stories. Community stories. So many they’ve not heard before.

So about a third of the plot is a story she tells about the previous owners of the house. This is set not in the 1930s (like most of the novel) but several decades earlier (1860s). This story is fascinating all the more so because of how it connects with the present.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I did. I love Oma Mei. I love the three sisters. I love the complexity of the family relationships. I love, love, love the crocodile—the holder of all the family photographs. I love the mini-mysteries. I love the stories. It is definitely a character driven novel, but those are my favorite and best kind. I would highly recommend.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

November Reflections

November# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews16
Young Readers11
Operation Actually Read Bible12



39


November# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews5513
Young Readers442
Operation Actually Read Bible4316


Totals10271




# of Books# of Pages
January7414571
February5810646
March5510974
April6311095
May6211932
June518565
July4810313
August143263
September214659
October3812384
November3910271

Totals So Far

Books Read
523
Pages Read
108673





New to me highlights:
Reread highlights:


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #48

5 Stars
Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell. 1936. 1037 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Spy Runner. Eugene Yelchin. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Look! I Wrote A Book! Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2019. 34 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars
Dovetail. Karen McQuestion. 2020. [March] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit (Kopp Sisters #4) Amy Stewart. 2018. 309 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell. 1936. 1037 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]


First sentence: Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

Premise/plot: Scarlett’s “love” for her brainy neighbor, Ashley Wilkes, prevents her from living happily ever after with Charleston-born bad-boy, Rhett Butler. Set during the war between the states and reconstruction, Gone With The Wind showcases the good, the bad, the ugly—and everything in between—of the American south. An example of the good would be Melanie Hamilton Wilkes. An example of the bad would be Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, our “heroine” who excels at math and manipulation. (But fails completely in being a good human.) An example of the ugly...should I pick the racism, the sexism, or both?!

My thoughts: I have read this one dozens of times. It is nothing like the movie. You probably doubt me on this. The movie is so iconic, so classic, so beloved that surely it does a good to great job adapting the book to the big screen. But no. Scarlett’s character is definitely more complex and many of the events that shape and mold her most are just not to be found on screen. Several relationships that shed light on Scarlett are never developed because the characters never appear on screen at all. True not every character in Mitchell’s novel can make it to the screen. But some exclusions make no sense. For example, Scarlett having Charles’ baby, Wade, and Frank’s baby, Ella. Or take the existence of Will, a Confederate soldier who stays at Tara after the war and ultimately marries Suellen. Or Archie, a prisoner—murderer—freed close to the end of the war to fight for the Confederacy. He is taken in by the kind-hearted open-minded Melanie. But probably my favorite character that is excluded from the movie is Grandma Fontaine. Her scenes with Scarlett (mainly after the war but before her marriage to Rhett) are among my absolute favorites in the entire book. Her observations on Scarlett are spot-on. Her advice, though not taken or understood, is excellent. But it isn’t just an absence of characters, but scenes or events as well. The tones and themes differ as well.

Hollywood’s “South” does not resemble Mitchell’s South. One could go ahead and argue that Mitchell’s South bares little resemblance to the actual South. But perhaps that is just its limited perspective. Scarlett, the heroine, does a poor job observing and understanding the world around her. She doesn’t bother with anything requiring deep thought or analysis. She also takes selfishness to an extreme. But the novel isn’t told merely or exclusively through her eyes, it includes other perspectives—both of specific characters and a general omniscient narrator. These would be limited as well. It is set during the war and reconstruction and reflect that mindset. It was written by an author who grew up listening to family stories from those who lived through that time. Her growing up years would have not only been shaped by her personal family but through her community, her culture. It was written over a series of years—late twenties to mid-thirties. Would Mitchell’s text have been viewed as (overly) racist when it was published? Would it have been fitting given the time the novel was set historically and the time it was published? That being said, reading the book today begs for discussion. And not just about race, by the way. By all means talk about the problems in the text. But try to keep context in mind.

I mentioned sexism earlier. I don’t typically read books—classics through a feminist lens. But in light of #metoo...it’s hard not to see that the novel has some issues, some examples. The characters are very judgmental, extremely so. If a woman is assaulted outside her home, she’s to blame for leaving it. Many, many actions are seen as being forward, asking for it, unladylike. Different situations prove “compromising.” Here we have a whole other mindset of sexuality. But the issue of Rhett can’t be ignored. He is aggressive, in some cases, assaulting. It’s all written off with a grin because Scarlett gets “swept up” and ends up reciprocating his passion. But to Rhett, no doesn’t mean no. Scarlett is his to possess or to reject. No locked doors could keep him out of her room, out of her bed...if....he wanted her. Rhett has all the power. And for Scarlett to admit to herself or to anyone else that she actually enjoys sex...it’s not going to happen. The situations are definitely complex and perhaps worth discussing. Perhaps in light of how rape has historically been depicted in women’s fiction and romance novels. Many by women authors. Heroes must be strong, bold, aggressive, assertive, take what they want. What kind of sense does it make for women to fall in love and stay in love with their rapists? What kind of sense does it make for readers to love such literature? To accept, even expect, such “love” scenes. I am thinking beyond Gone With The Wind. Everything is subtle or mostly subtle in this one. Nothing overly graphic or smutty. Nothing that would obviously need censoring.

Then there are Scarlett’s lack of choices at the time she lived....

The last chapter was written first. Rhett’s leaving Scarlett was set in stone—inevitable. What does this mean for interpreting the novel? Mitchell never intended a sequel. Didn’t want one. Nothing ambiguous as far as she was concerned. Scarlett had lost Rhett. Rhett’s love for Scarlett was gone with the wind. Her happy ending just as much a lost cause as the Confederacy. But readers like ambiguity. Scarlett is not to be discounted just yet. She will live to fight another day. She will not let go easily. But who will prove more stubborn? Can Rhett withstand Scarlett’s manipulations? Is he really ready to walk away from her forever?

I think Scarlett is at a crossroad. I have no doubt she’ll come out standing, stronger than before. I have no doubt that she’ll prove resilient. But will she get him back?! Much tougher. Because what she needs is a complete, total, radical transformation or change of tactics. Aggressive will not win Rhett back. I’m not sure passive-aggressive will win him back. But perhaps passive, passive, passive, aggressive, passive passive will. Her pursuit of him needs to be so subtle, so layered-ly subtle that no one can even suspects she still wants him back. Can Scarlett pull that off? She’s not good at subtle. Another tactic might be to attract him back by being a better mother. It won’t take much for Scarlett to be better than previously. She’s horrible, absolutely horrible. But if she can learn to treat Wade and Ella with kindness, give them affection and attention, spend time getting to know and understand them. Perhaps Rhett will see her as capable of change, of maturity. Perhaps he can see that she is capable of putting others first, of empathy, of being human. Even if that should fail to get him back, she won’t be alone-alone. Maybe she’ll be a super strong single mother who has healthy relationships with her kids. But is Scarlett capable of this? Does Mitchell write her that way? Does it matter what her intentions are? I hate to think of Scarlett staying the same, of her misery and desperation increasing day by day, week by week, etc. What Scarlett needs though she does not know it—more than a return trip to Tara, more than winning Rhett back—is Jesus Christ. She has a god-shaped hole that can’t be filled with alcohol, with money, with power, with lust, with love.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dovetail

Dovetail. Karen McQuestion. 2020. [March] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Time has a way of evening things out. I was beautiful once, turning heads and garnering admiring glances, but now I would not stand out in a group of my peers.

Premise/plot: Joe Arneson, our hero, is a reluctant patient at Trendale Psychiatric Treatment Center. He’s been having vivid nightmares, recurring nightmares, four of them. Doctors are stumped. His family is stumped. Joe feels that since the doctors are clueless and therapy clearly isn’t working, he should be able to leave. When the novel opens, he’s about to be released into the care of his Grandma. The problem? Joe has always believed that his grandma was dead. But Grandma Pearl is very much alive...though she is dying. She wants to hire Joe to clean up, clean out her house so it can be sold. He’s confused but willing. His time at the family home will bring him much closer to the woman running the local secondhand store/shop. The summer of 1983 may prove unforgettable.

My thoughts: This mystery-thriller has two time settings: 1983 and 1916. The 1916 story focuses on the tension between Pearl and her older sister, Alice, as Alice falls in love for the first (and only) time. Their father has hired a young man, John Lawrence, for the summer. Pearl thinks that she is a thousand times more beautiful than her sister, so the new guy in town should fall madly in love with her...if not at first sight, soon thereafter. But. John only has eyes for the sweet and selfless Alice. Is all fair in love and war?!

Pearl ties these two stories together—in a way. Though Joe and his nightmares are crucial to putting the two halves together.

I read this one quickly—perhaps two days. The short chapters kept me reading at a steady pace giving at least the illusion of great suspense. But is the book truly suspenseful or is it predictable? Does it matter if it is predictable? I think the story idea isn’t unoriginal. I liked that it was set in the past—1916 and 1983. I could see where the story was heading very early on. Perhaps a third of the way through. Once you’ve pieced one piece of the puzzle in place, it’s obvious what will unfold in both stories. But. Knowing didn’t stop me from reading and reading quickly. Even though I felt I knew every twist and turn coming. It was like being on your favorite roller coaster ride. You know exactly what is ahead, but it’s still an enjoyable experience worth standing in line for.

I have tried to avoid spoilers in my review. I don’t know if I’d recommend reading the jacket flap either. The more you can delay knowing, the more you may enjoy it. But you may be like me and enjoy it regardless. Perhaps surprising twists and turns are overrated.

“Tell Pearl what you told me. About the joints that hold it together.” She set Daisy down and ran her fingers over the corner of the chest. She looked up at Pearl. “They’re called dovetail joints. Dovetail. Doesn’t that sound beautiful?” “I guess.” Their father said, “The sides of the hope chest are connected using dovetail joints. The edges are cut in a pattern, so one side slides into the other. Wide tails and narrow pins are what they’re called. It works almost like this.” He clasped his hands together, fingers interwoven. “Once the two pieces are glued together, the place where they’re joined is stronger than the wood itself. Your mother always thought it was perfect for a hope chest, because when a couple is married, they are stronger together than they were when separate.” As so often happened when he mentioned their mother, emotion overcame him. “It’s very difficult to break the connected pieces once they’re locked in place. A dovetail joint can stand the test of time.”

I’ve long believed that no one should be judged on the worst thing they’ve ever done. And not on the best thing either, for that matter.” She sighed. “Human beings are much more complex than one event that happened on one day in a very long life.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

World at War: Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit

 Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit (Kopp Sisters #4) Amy Stewart. 2018. 309 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the day I took Anna Kayser to the insane asylum, I was first obliged to catch a thief.

Premise/plot: Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit is the fourth in the Kopp series by Amy Stewart. Constance Kopp is still a lady deputy, but how long can she hold onto the job and its responsibilities during an election year. Sheriff Heath her long-time friend, supporter, and boss is running for Congress. Whoever wins the race for sheriff, change is a coming for Constance. The country itself is changing. Should America be busy preparing for war? Should America even consider entering the war?

My thoughts: I am just loving this historical series that is based on true people and events—as taken from the headlines of the times. Of course there is a good blend of fiction as well. I love these characters. I am sad that there is just one book left for me to read. Hopefully the series will continue on with a new book every year. It’s been a great couple of months!


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Loki: Where Mischief Lies

Loki: Where Mischief Lies. Mackenzi Lee. 2019. 408 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The Royal Feast of Gullveig, like all Asgardian feast days, was enjoyable for those who were fond of listening to overly long speeches......

Premise/plot: Loki stars in this YA prequel. Loki and Thor are still vying for position of heir to the throne. Still competing for Odin’s attention, approval, love. Loki can’t help but feel it’s a losing battle. Thor is a warrior. Loki is a magician. Warriors are valuable and trusted. Magicians are dangerous, potentially untrustworthy. The kingdom expects the ruler to be a warrior. Loki can’t beat Thor so long as he plays by the rules. Is it Loki’s destiny to betray Asgard, to betray his family? Perhaps. Odin receives a vision showing just that...but can Loki change his destiny?

Much of this one is set on earth and not Asgard. Loki is sent to investigate a series of murders. Loki knows his father is punishing him. Odin doesn’t actually care about a handful of human victims. What will Loki learn about himself and his destiny as he explores Victorian London under the watchful eye of SHARP?!

My thoughts: I don’t know why I had high hopes for this one. Perhaps because I love Loki and find his banter particularly delightful and enjoyable. He also reminds me a bit of Jack Sparrow. “I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly … stupid.”

Anyway. I was super disappointed with this one. I disliked that the mystery that takes him to Earth in the first place is inconsequential to the plot. I disliked that the whole point of the book seems to be this “relationship” with Theo. How Theo’s unhappiness mirrors his own. Loki is unwelcome on his world because he’s potentially super evil or destined to be so. Theo is “unwelcome” because he’s gay. He can’t be truly himself—must hide his preference from all but the most trusted friends. Loki must hide his magic. Warriors are what is “needed” not enchanters, sorcerers, witches. Theo wants Loki to take him back to Asgard a world so advanced and enlightened that no one cares about sexuality and love is love is love.

I liked their friendship. I did. But Loki is Loki is Loki. He’s never going to give up his dreams—ruling/conquering a kingdom, proving himself. Letting anyone or anything be a distraction...not going to happen.

I said that this almost almost experience with Theo was the point of the book. But I might have stretched the truth a bit. Destiny. Does Loki have one set destiny locked into place? Can he rewrite his destiny? Can he actually choose who he wants to be? The book “struggles” to answer this question. But really there is no tension because there is really only one answer. The ending is—dare I say it?—inevitable.

A prequel that showed the ups and downs, the mischievous moments between Thor and Loki...the tension, the love/hate relationship. I would have embraced that prequel. I wouldn’t have minded a prequel that was actually an action-packed mystery with suspense and tension. Or if instead of being sent to earth as punishment, Loki was sneaking off and being mischievous on earth. Loki in disguise as a Victorian criminal mastermind...I could have gone there.

I also thought the writing was confusing/clumsy. Mainly about the timeline. Amora is banished to earth...one chapter later...perhaps two...without any textual or visual clues...years have passed. If you’re going to jump ahead that much....it’s good to take your readers with you.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 25, 2019

2020 Reading Challenge: #ClassicsCommunity

Name: #ClassicsCommunity
Host: Lucy the Reader (youtube, twitter, goodreads)
Goodreads Group: #ClassicsCommunity 2020 Reading Challenge
Duration: January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020

My goal: I don't have a set number of books to read throughout the year. But I do have a challenge-y way I want to go about reading classics. My goal is to read one (possibly two or even three) chapters per day. Of course, I will need "grace" days. BUT. If I can manage to read between five to eight chapters per week, I should be able to read a LOT more classics. But perhaps more importantly, I'll stay immersed in a book and enjoy the reading experience more. Despite my "good" intentions, I'm currently reading about three chapters a month in my "current" classic. It's hard to feel I'm currently reading ANY classic when my reading is more accidental than not.

I do want to blend NEW-TO-ME titles with NEW-TO-ME authors all the while not forgetting my absolute favorite and best authors and titles. I am A REREADER. That won't be changing. But I don't want my potential list to JUST be rereading Austen for the seventeenth time.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Her video about the challenge:


The #ClassicsCommunity is an Internet-based reading group and challenge for anyone who loves classics or wants to read more of them. You can set your own goals -- or take part in the baseline challenge to read at least 12 classics during the year -- such as 'read 3 Victorian classics' or 'read 25 classics during 2020' or 'read 5 Russian classics'. The number one aim is to have fun!

In the first two weeks of January (Wednesday 1st - Wednesday 15th) the #Classicsathon will return to kickstart your classics reading year! Create your own Classics TBR and read as many classics as you can during the first fortnight of the year.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Spy Runner

Spy Runner. Eugene Yelchin. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every morning the students of Mr. Vargas’s class pledged allegiance to the flag.

Premise/plot: Jake McCauley narrates Eugene Yelchin’s newest book, a historical middle grade novel set in 1953 in an American town. Jake is still missing his missing-in-action father who didn’t return home from the Second World War. He’s gone but not forgotten. But has his mom started to forget...to move on?! Jake worries that this is so when she takes a boarder in the attic rooms that once were his father’s. Because the boarder—this complete stranger—is Russian, Jake fears that he is a Russian spy. He takes it upon himself to investigate. Can he prove that this man is a spy? If he does, will he survive to tell the tale?

My thoughts: I greatly enjoyed this one? It was very though provoking. I loved how everything was more complex than it at first appeared. I wish he’d trusted his mom a bit more. But what a read this was! I also enjoyed the illustrations—both the endpapers and within the narrative itself.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

November Share-a-Tea Check-in

Mary Cassatt, The Cup of Tea
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 from a past or current read?
What teas have you enjoyed this month?

Finished since last time...


99. Westering Women. Sandra Dallas. 2020 [January 7] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
100. Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound. Kathleen Cornell Berman. Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
101. White Bird: A Wonder Story. R.J. Palacio. 2019. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
102. You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood. Aimee Reid. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've tried several new teas. I can't remember mentioning Lavender Camomile Tea in the past few months? I'm not sure when I first tried it...if it was November or October...or even September.

One new tea I've tried this month...this past week...is Peppermint Peak. It is AWFUL.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #47

5 Stars
 The Giver of Stars. Jojo Moyes. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
Flubby Will Not Play With That. J.E. Morris. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars
Dead Voices. (Small Spaces #2) Katherine Arden. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Rag and Bone (Billy Boyle World War II #5) James R. Benn. 2010. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound. Kathleen Cornell Berman. Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

World at War: Rag and Bone

Rag and Bone (Billy Boyle World War II #5) James R. Benn. 2010. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everyone was happy.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle returns to England in the fifth historical mystery series set during the Second World War. In this one he is investigating several Russian murders. Because of the political tensions between Poland and Russia, Kaz, one of the series regulars, becomes a prime suspect. In some instances, just a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus it looks like he is being set up—framed. Can Billy prove his friend’s innocence and find the actual murderer?!

My thoughts: I really love this series. I do. This is a strong title in the series though probably not my absolute favorite.

Never underestimate the power of peaches in syrup when an island has been at war for four years. (120)

Every actor has his choice. To speak the lines or have no lines to speak. (248)



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dead Voices (Small Spaces #2)

Dead Voices. (Small Spaces #2) Katherine Arden. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Winter in East Evansburg, and just after dusk, five people in a beat-up old Subaru peeled out of town in a snowstorm.

Premise/plot: Dead Voices stars three friends whom we met in Small Spaces: Ollie, Coco, and Brian. The three are spending the first week of winter vacation—along with Coco’s mom and Ollie’s dad—at a soon to be opened ski resort, Mount Hemlock. The storm could be a sign of things to come. If they are advising people to stay off the roads and stay home, then you should listen. But that would be a very short and incredibly boring book! Dangers abound in this one, especially if you’re a child. If you’re an adult, well, then you just cook, eat, sleep, and never observe your surroundings.

My thoughts: This one promises to be a delightfully spooky ghost story. A family is trapped by a blizzard in an haunted house. That’s the premise. Lots of foreboding and build up. One child keeps seeing and hearing ghosts. Another keeps having dreams. Combined there are plenty of warnings. Warnings like don’t listen to the dead, stay out of closets, never look in mirrors. Yet. Yet what do our narrators do?!?! Listen to the dead, look in closets, and look in mirrors. Part of me was screaming at the characters. The other part of me was racing through the book.

I do not want to include any spoilers in my review. But I do have some thoughts on this one. It is not a little creepy—but very creepy. The adventures with a certain someone from a previous book seem to be just beginning. The books are definitely more connected than I originally thought.

On a side note, I did not like the inclusion of the Ouija board and the subplot of trying to communicate with the dead. The first book was creepy but not in a kids are interested in the occult way.

I do like that there are definite clues throughout. Even though the characters themselves didn’t seem to have eyes that see and ears that hear.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Books Read in 2020

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars. Jojo Moyes. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Listen. Three miles deep in the forest just below Arnott’s Ridge, and you’re in silence so dense it’s like you’re wading through it.

Premise/plot: The Giver of Stars is a historical novel set in Kentucky in 1937/1938. The main characters are women who volunteer to be traveling librarians—riding horses or mules to get books to the rural communities. One of our main characters is Alice Van Cleve an English woman who married an American. Her marriage turns a bit sour; the library, the patrons, the other librarians prove to be her only solace. She can make a big difference in people’s lives by providing them books, magazines, recipes—knowledge of all sorts. But not every family in the community welcomes this new notion of Eleanor Roosevelt. Some are opposed to book learnin’ and think that women should stay at home and mind their own business. Alice’s father-in-law is the most vocal opponent. He hates the idea that people are being encouraged to think, to form opinions, and yes, even look up their legal rights. The second main character is an awesomely unconventional woman named Margery. She is deemed the worst influence of the community. But is that true?!?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. Yes, Margery is a bit unconventional in a moral sense. (Has a baby out of wedlock.) But she is selfless, generous, kind, welcoming. I loved meeting all the librarians—all volunteers from the community. I loved going with them on their routes. I loved it when, for example, Alice took time out of her schedule to read to a sick, dying man. I loved it even more when she comforted the widow by reading aloud. Readers get to know a handful of characters really well. Overall this is a great read. It’s not super squeaky clean, but it’s only mildly unclean. In other words, it has a completely realistic feel to it. Nothing out of proportion or place. It never felt like a smutty book. Which by the way comes up in the novel, what kind of books are they carrying? Are they moral? virtuous? appropriate? Or are they vile, dangerous, the work of the devil? Should anyone read anything outside of the Good Book?!

I found it a compelling read. Definitely recommended.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #46

5 Stars
White Bird: A Wonder Story. R.J. Palacio. 2019. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Best Friends (Real Friends #2) Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Small Spaces. Katherine Arden. 2018. 218 pages. [Source: Library]
Henry's Awful Mistake. Robert M. Quackenbush. 1981/2019. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars
The Kindness Book. Todd Parr. 2019. Little Brown Young Readers. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

World at War: White Bird

White Bird: A Wonder Story. R.J. Palacio. 2019. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Julian, no more video games. Do your homework. This IS my homework. I’m FaceTiming Grandmere for my humanities project.

Premise/plot: White Bird is a Wonder story told in graphic novel form. The framework of the story stars Julian, a character first introduced in Wonder. If you need a refresher, he was one of the main bullies tormenting Auggie Pullman. But the heart and soul of this one is Julian’s assignment. His grandmother, Sara, is sharing her war story, her life-changing experiences as a Jewish girl in hiding. When the Second World War begins, Sara and her family aren’t panicking yet. They live in Free France, not the Occupied Zone. But changes come one after another. Soon there are all sorts of restrictions, rules, and dangers. Jewish people have even begun to be rounded up. Sara didn’t exactly plan out a place to hide, or even to hide at all. But a series of events soon leave her just one choice to trust a “crippled” often bullied and teased boy with her life. His name is Julian.

My thoughts: I was unfamiliar with this story. Though apparently much of it is told in a previously published novella/short story. I absolutely loved the story. I loved the relationship between Sara and Julian—both Julians. It is a heartwarming, heartbreaking story of love, endurance, kindness, and hope.

I believe that Holocaust stories both nonfiction and fiction are important—even essential. Children need to be introduced to the Holocaust. We cannot afford as a society to forget.

This is a love, love, love for me.

I believe that all people have a light that shines inside of them. This light allows us to see into other people’s hearts, to see the beauty there. The love. The sadness. The humanity. Some people, though, have lost this light. They have darkness inside them, so that is all they see. In others: darkness. No beauty. No love. Why do they hate us? Because they cannot see our light. Nor can they extinguish it. As long as we shine our light, we win. That is why they hate us. Because they will never take our light from us.

You might forget many things in your life, but you never forget kindness. Like love, it stays with you forever.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Small Spaces

Small Spaces. Katherine Arden. 2018. 218 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: October in East Evansburg, and the last warm sun of the year slanted red through the sugar maples.

Premise/plot: Olivia Adler stars in this super-spooky middle grade mystery. Olivia “Ollie” is an angsty heroine. She’s fine being a bit of a lonely outsider. She doesn’t need anybody, right?! Well when a school field trip goes horribly wrong—in an amplified Twilight Zone way—she may find herself having to work together with a few classmates struggling to survive. The eerie nature of the book begins early on the night before the field trip to a nearby farm. She saves a book from being thrown into the river(or lake or pond). She starts reading it...and this gives her a slight advantage over her classmates and teacher. But will it be enough to see her safely home?!?!

My thoughts: Is it a mystery? Is it horror? I’m not confident enough to untangle the delicate distinctions between these two genres. It’s incredibly spooky and suspenseful. Readers have an opportunity to try to figure out what is going on and who the Smiling Man is. It is without a doubt a page turner. I don’t love horror typically. I don’t seek out scares. I really don’t. But I found this spooky read to be enjoyable all the same. It can be good to take baby steps outside your comfort zone. I wouldn’t necessarily push this one on kids who don’t like scary/spooky books. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Best Friends

Best Friends (Real Friends #2) Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

  First sentence: In summer, nothing ever seemed to change. The sky stayed blue. The air stayed warm. And friends stayed friends forever.

Premise/plot: I’m tempted to keep it simple and short and merely say Shannon Hale’s newest book should be required reading for humanity. It’s one of those meaning of life books. Those aren’t as common as you might believe. So what is this one about? It is the follow up to her previous graphic novel, Real Friends. Both books are inspired by her childhood. Both books are set in the mid-80s. This one covers her sixth grade year, 1985/86. But it does feature a few flashback sequences to earlier years. A young Shannon is trying to figure out the rules: rules about how to be liked, how to avoid being laughed at, how to make friends, how to keep friends, how to be true to yourself yet not so true as to be deemed a weirdo. Is there a way to stay popular/semi-popular and still be kind? Why does being kind require such bravery? Is lying ever justified?

Throughout it all, she’s also struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and a bit of OCD. Whether you personally struggle with these exact mental health issues or not—I think the book is an honest and thought provoking way for readers to experience what it is like and perhaps gain a bit of empathy.

Who hasn’t struggled at one age or another with friends—making, keeping, forgiving friends. It can be a traumatic, troubling thing—some may struggle a year or two before finding their people, their crowd, where they actually belong; some may spend decades struggling to find “real” or “best” friends. This book keeps it real, keeps it honest, and stays ever-relevant.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one so much. It is so honest at times that it stings when bringing up memories from the past—my past. I think no matter where you fit on the spectrum of popular or unpopular, bully or bullied, it will give you food for thought. I hope it is an empathy builder especially for children reading the book. The book is incredibly amazing. I loved the glimpse into Shannon’s past. This one will be hard to beat as a favorite of the year.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 09, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #45

5 Stars
Enchanted Air. Margarita Engle. 2015. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions. (Kopp Sisters #3) Amy Stewart. 2017. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood. Aimee Reid. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Will Race You Through This Book. Jonathan Fenske. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Westering Women. Sandra Dallas. 2020 [January 7] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
Mr. Adam. Pat Frank. 1947. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, November 08, 2019

Westering Women

Westering Women. Sandra Dallas. 2020 [January 7] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hidden beneath her black umbrella, Maggie stood in the shelter of the church and stared at the woman reading the broadsheet.

Premise/plot: Maggie is one of dozens of women signing up to travel west via wagon train to Goosetown, California, a mining town in 1852. The women will face challenges great and small along the way.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved this one. I did. I requested a review copy because the title was close to one of my all-time favorite movies, Westward the Women. Those who know me well, know that I do not do westerns. I don't. I don't like them--never have, never will. But Westward the Women has long been an exception to the ALLERGIC TO WESTERNS rule. Dallas' novel imitates the movie in the best possible ways. I do not mean it in anyway as an insult to compare the two. 

I loved that the focus was on FRIENDSHIP and not particularly on romance. The characterization was incredibly well done. This book is authentic in a raw, gritty way. The lives these women led--both before joining up, during the trek west, and afterwards in California--were ROUGH. Maggie, one of our main heroines, has had a rough life. She's had to make some incredibly difficult decisions. As have some of the others. This isn't a book appropriate for younger readers (tweens and younger teens.) There are a couple of #metoo instances that while completely realistic and authentic make it an intense read. 

© 2019 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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Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

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