Wednesday, June 26, 2019

World at War: The Victory Garden

The Victory Garden. Rhys Bowen. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My dear Clarissa, Thank you very much for your long letter.

Premise/plot: The Victory Garden is set in England during the last year of the first world war--1918. Emily Bryce, our heroine, has wanted to do something for the war effort; however, her parents would not allow it. After her twenty-first birthday, Emily volunteers for the Women's Land Army. She has a slight ulterior motive: her secret boyfriend--an Australian pilot--is recuperating near where she'll be training. Her parents disapprove of him as a companion let alone as a boyfriend!

A romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Robbie Kerr, leads to the unexpected--a marriage proposal and a baby out of wedlock. Will Emily be brave enough to let her parents know? Or will she try things her own way?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. Emily must be one of the most likeable human beings in the world because she was able to charm just about anybody she met. Well, perhaps with the exception of one or two people. This works out nicely since she's soon to be a single mother on her own.

I was interested in Emily's story--for the most part. But I didn't care for the subplot concerning the herb garden and the hidden journals. I think the part that irritated me the most was Emily's "saving" the "entire village" from the great influenza because of her herbal potions. I cringed when Emily was congratulating herself on doing that. It just didn't seem realistic.

Several potentially big plot twists were thrown in towards the last bit of the novel. It seemed odd to wait until the last twenty or so pages to try to add some drama and mystery. Like the book was trying to throw off the romance novel vibe at the last second. This one is clearly a romance--though perhaps not a straightforward one. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Elvis is King!

Elvis is King! Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Red Nose Studios. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Elvis is born!
But alas, he is born
in a humble shack
on the wrong side of the railroad tracks,
the side where the poorest of the poor live,
down down down in the Deep South--Tupelo, Mississippi.
Premise/plot: This picture book biography of Elvis Presley is written in verse. Each poem highlights a moment in his life. I should mention that this book only covers his childhood and his early young adult years. It ends with the success of Heartbreak Hotel. This picture book biography does not mention his many number one songs, his time in the military, his movie career, etc. This one is just the early stuff.

Hardware Store Guitar
There it is, hanging from a strap
behind the counter.
With pennies she saved,
Mama buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy
the most important gift he will ever receive.
It will be the key to his salvation.
 My thoughts: I don't dislike Elvis. I don't. But I don't love, love, love his work either. Still I was happy to review a picture book biography about his life. I know many people still love and adore Elvis and would love to share that love with their little ones.

I do have a slight pet peeve. I'm guessing the author didn't mean anything disrespectful to those of faith by saying that a guitar is the "most important" gift he ever received and it was "the key to his salvation." But it rubbed me the wrong way all the same. Not in an offended way, but in an annoyed way. (If you can see the distinction.)

I do like the text more than the illustrations. I HATED the illustrations.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, June 24, 2019

Celebrating Board Games

Celebrating Board Games. Nina Chertoff and Susan Kahn. 2006. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Games are a part of almost everyone's childhood. And board games in particular have a special place in most people's hearts.

Premise/plot: All the board games included in this tiny book belong to one collector. There isn't much text to it. Readers can learn the name of a board game and the year it came out. Occasionally, the author(s) elaborate. "This game is about who can make the most money..." or "the artwork of this one is racially offensive..." or "this game is like parcheesi..." or "this game is based on a tv show...." For each game mentioned, we have a photograph of the box, the game board, and the player pieces.

My thoughts: When I learned that all the games photographed (and included) belong to one person's collection it made a bit more sense as to what was included and what was not. This is not a comprehensive, thorough book that COVERS every board game from every decade. I've heard my mom talk about games she used to play--dad has a few stories as well--and sadly these were not included. Some of my own favorites from childhood were not included either. That's the way of things. (Careers is/was my personal favorite. Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Scrabble--these are the games off the top of my head that were not included. I never thought about how many games don't have a game board--Yahtzee, Hungry Hungry Hippo, Battleship, Scattergories, Guess Who). 

The book wasn't particularly organized. It would have perhaps to have the book organized into sections: games about making money, games about war or strategy, games based on tv shows or movies, educational games, games of chance, etc. 

I think some of the games were chosen for their rarity and novelty...not because they were super popular, beloved, and representative of their times.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, June 22, 2019

June Share-a-Tea

Hilda Fearon La fiesta del te
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?

Currently Reading...

several Bibles
Cecilia by Fanny Burney

Recently finished...

67. Beverly, Right Here. Kate DiCamillo. 2019. Candlewick Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. Taking Back the Good Book: How America Forgot the Bible and Why It Matters To You. Woodrow Kroll. 2007. Crossway Books. 222 pages. [Source: Review copy]
69. The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott. Josi S. Kilpack. 2017. Shadow Mountain. [Source: Library]
70. Resistance Women. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2019. 608 pages. [Source: Library]

Looking forward...

Perhaps something Victorian...and also translated from the French?

Teas enjoyed....

  • Citrus Green
  • Perfect Peach
  • Peppermint
  • Camomile
  • White Tea
  • Candy Cane Lane
  • Constant Comment Black

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Stars Upon Thars #25

5 Stars
 From An Idea to LEGO: The Building Bricks Behind the World's Largest Toy Company. Lowey Bundy Sichol. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
The Rest of the Story. Sarah Dessen. 2019. 440 pages. [Source: Library]
Resistance Women. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2019. 608 pages. [Source: Library]
Walt's Imagination: The Life of Walt Disney. Doreen Rappaport. Illustrated by John Pomeroy. 2018. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
The Berenstain Bears' New Baby. Stan & Jan Berenstain. 1974. 32 pages. [Source: Library
The Bears' Picnic. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1966. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, June 21, 2019

The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story. Sarah Dessen. 2019. 440 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The wedding was over. But the party had just begun.

Premise/plot: While her father and new step-mother are on their honeymoon in Greece, Emma Saylor Payne goes to visit her maternal grandmother (and extended family). She has no memories of her grandmother, Mimi, or her cousins. (Though she knows that she visited there when she was four.) It's a bit of an adjustment. It's a tourist-y town by a lake. Her grandmother owns and runs a motel. Her cousins--including a very pregnant one named Trinity--do a lot of the work. At first, Mimi thinks of SAYLOR as a guest. Saylor is not to do any work whatsoever. But lines between family and guest are blurred as she becomes more at home. She's hanging out with her cousins and their friends, including ROO, and working alongside them too.

Much of this one revolves around the question Who is she really??? Is she "Emma" or is she "Saylor"? Is she more like her father? Is she more like her mother?

My thoughts: Love YA romance? Love Sarah Dessen? There is much to love in her newest book. Dessen does an excellent job of developing heroes and heroines who fall in love. In the case of The Rest of the Story that would be Emma Saylor and Roo. I also enjoyed seeing relationships develop between Emma, Bailey, Trinity, and Gordon. (There's another cousin, Jack, who isn't all that developed. Not really). Not all the characters are fully developed. (Mimi and Nana come to mind. As well as Emma's dad and stepmom.) Quite a few are flat. (I'm thinking of Blake and Colin). The characters we spend the most time with are oh-so-human.

The Rest of the Story while it isn't an issue-driven novel does handle some big issues. Emma has to deal with the good, the bad, the ugly of her mother's past. Her mom was an addict. Her life was a big, big mess. Her mom hurt a lot of people--including herself. By letting herself really get to know her mom's side of the family, she's opening up the past and getting new and different glimpses of who her mom was and what she meant to other people. Does her mom's addiction mean that she's more likely to become an addict herself? Is she fated to make the same mistakes as her mom? Could she hurt others in the same way as her mom?

I enjoyed this one. It was nice to have a heroine who was anxious and had OCD. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe. Ally Condie. 2019. 328 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Call tells me he sees a star and that makes me laugh.

Premise/plot: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe is a dystopian young adult novel. Poe loves Call. Call loves Poe. In a perfect, perfect world these two would find a way to run away together and get a chance at a happily ever after. But this isn't a perfect, perfect world--it's a dystopian novel. Call, Poe's true love, is killed in the prologue thus inspiring Poe's lust for revenge. This lust suits the Admiral just fine. In fact he considers Poe a great weapon against 'the enemy.' 

Gold. The Admiral wants/needs it--badly. There are ships that dredge the river in pursuit of gold. Call and Poe are on such a ship in the prologue. And Poe spends the rest of the novel as Captain of another mining ship. This ship has been armed with a weapon of her own design--one that will keep the river raiders from boarding, from slaughtering, from stealing. It was a raider who murdered Call. But is living for revenge really living? There are many secrets to be discovered--it would be a shock and disappointment if there weren't secrets galore.

My thoughts: Action-packed. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe is packed cover to cover with action. But is it equally packed with heart and soul? Is there much substance or depth to the world Condie has created for teens? I would say no and no. Don't get me wrong. The action alone may keep you reading. (I read this one in two days.) There's nothing wrong with a book using action, violence, and suspense to keep you turning pages. A book can be a great escape.

This is definitely an action-driven novel. Dystopians can be premise-driven, action-driven, or character-driven. Perhaps the best of the best of the genre combine all three. I prefer premise-driven or character-driven dystopians. Novels that make me think or rethink the world. Novels that feature characters that I won't be forgetting any time soon. I definitely thought the character development suffered a bit in this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

World at War: Resistance Women

Resistance Women. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2019. 608 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The heavy iron doors open and for a moment Mildred stands motionless and blinking in the sunlight, breathless from the sudden rush of cool, fresh air caressing her face and lifting her hair.

Premise/plot: Resistance Woman is a fictional novel inspired by actual people and events. Many of the characters--Arvid and Mildred Harnack, Martha Dodd, Adam and Greta Kuckhoff, for example--were real people living in Germany and later Nazi Germany who were active members of the Resistance. (Arvid has a famous cousin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) A few fictional characters people the novel as well including Sara Weitz and her family. (The author wanted one of the narrators to be Jewish.) The book does alternate narrators. Mildred. Greta. Sara. Sometimes Martha. (Martha does not arrive in Berlin, Germany, until later. She leaves Germany before the war starts.) This isn't a novel where the author has a lot of control about the fate of her characters. (Some might argue that an author rarely has control about the fate of their characters--that stories tell themselves and unfold in the writing process.)

My thoughts: This is a tragic novel about women who to some degree chose to stay and resist. (Sara didn't so much choose to stay.) The novel spans decades--1929-1946. It was a turbulent time--to say the least. Mildred was an American who fell head over heels in love with a German who was studying in the United States. Greta, one of her friends, was also a German studying in the United States. They would reconnect in Germany many years after first meeting. Greta had an opportunity to stay in England, but chose to return to Germany to fight against evil instead of fleeing from it. Mildred could have left her husband and returned to the States--she was an American citizen. But she didn't want to leave her husband behind. Her home is where he was. Together no matter what--that's what she wanted.

The novel is a compelling read but not always an easy one. There is nothing light and breezy about this one. Their lives were on the line. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Noelle At Sea (Girls Survive)

Noelle at Sea: A Titanic Survival Story. Nikki Shannon Smith. Illustrated by Alessia Trunfio. 2019. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Noelle squinted at the water.

Premise/plot: Noelle at Sea is one of the new titles in a new series, Girls Survive. Noelle is a young French girl traveling with her parents on the Titanic. (They are second class passengers. Her father is Haitian, and her mother is French.) While on board, Noelle becomes friendly with a third-class passenger, Pauline. The two become so close that Noelle gives Pauline a few dresses. When the ship hits the iceberg, Noelle becomes concerned about Pauline's safety. Will she risk her own life to find and save her friend?

My thoughts: I checked out four of the Girls Survive series from my local library. It was a tough decision on which one to read before bedtime. I didn't want to read the one about fire, that's for sure. So I settled with the one with potential drowning. I hope to read the remaining books soon.

I liked this one well enough. I don't seek out books set on the Titanic. It doesn't matter if I know the whole 'women and children first' scenario ahead of time. It doesn't. I was not ready to see the father die. And, of course, die he does. Noelle was brave and foolish. Foolish to keep turning down opportunities to get on the life boats. Foolish to run away from her parents. But all in all brave to go in search of her third-class new-best-friend. Noelle thought that she was Pauline's one and only chance to make it off the ship. She probably was. When I read about the Titanic, I tend to get angry at a lot of people's foolishness.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, June 17, 2019

From An Idea to LEGO

From An Idea to LEGO: The Building Bricks Behind the World's Largest Toy Company. Lowey Bundy Sichol. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from chapter one: Ole (pronounced OH-lay) Kirk Christiansen was born on April 7, 1891, in the small village of Filskov, Denmark.

Premise/plot: This nonfiction book provides young readers with a behind-the-scenes look at LEGO. The LEGO story begins as a very human story--the story of a carpenter and his sons. He didn't set out to make and sell toys--especially not plastic toys, after all he was a carpenter. As for one day being the world's largest toy company--I imagine he'd laugh and cry. The story is packed with details.

My thoughts: Nonfiction can be so fascinating. I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to just about anyone and everyone. I was familiar with much of the story told within the book. Having watched the LEGO Story movie a couple dozen of times when it first came out. There were still plenty of things I learned from this book.

But this book goes beyond that simple story of how it came to be. It also includes plenty of informational text that focuses on business and economics.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Paris in July 2019

Paris in July
Hosted by Thyme for Tea, sign up here
July 2019
# of books: I'm hoping for three to four

What I watch:

What I read:


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #24

5 Stars
Queen of the Sea. Dylan Meconis. 2019. Candlewick Press. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
In Farleigh Field. Rhys Bowen. 2017. Lake Union. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Love and the Rocking Chair. Diane and Leo Dillon. 2019. [October 15] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids. Elizabeth Haidle. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Old Hat, New Hat. Stan and Jan Berenstain. 1970. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Bach to the Rescue. Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Elio. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, June 14, 2019

For the Love of Mike

For the Love of Mike (Molly Murphy #3) Rhys Bowen. 2003. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Actually I had been guessing at the time.

Premise/plot: Molly Murphy is determined to be a private investigator. In this third book in the series, she is working on two cases at the same time. One case has her going undercover at a garment factory. Another case has her looking for a missing person--a runaway daughter. Will she be able to solve both cases and collect her fees? Or will these cases prove too challenging and dangerous? Could Molly Murphy lose her life in the attempt to be a private investigator?

My thoughts: This is the third Molly Murphy mystery I've read.

I'll start with the good news. I like that the books build upon one another and that we're still catching glimpses of people we've met in books one and two. This seems like a good way to build a believable world--people it. Some are mere background players but others are becoming central to the plot.
Now for the bad news...

Are readers supposed to actually like Molly Murphy? Are we supposed to find Molly Murphy fierce, brave, empowered, independent, ahead-of-her-time? Because this reader is mostly finding Molly Murphy to be lacking any and all common sense. Are readers supposed to find her blunders and near-misses charming and adorable? This reader doesn't. It is not that I want Molly Murphy to actually suffer the consequences of her incompetence. I don't want her to be raped, molested, kidnapped, or killed. I don't. But at this point, she needs a team of men to follow her around to protect her from herself--her brave, daring, independent escapades and adventures. And surprisingly enough, that team of men actually exists. Men are fighting over her. They're also yelling at her, telling her not to be so stupid, but...they don't see her lack of sense as a bad thing...they actually want to be with her.

This touches on the second annoyance of the series...the "romance." In the first book, Molly fell for a police officer, Daniel Sullivan. He seemed to be equally smitten with her. It looked like it was going to be heading towards a happily ever after. But a few chapters into the second book--perhaps less--readers find out he's been engaged to another woman this whole time. Daniel seems to be hero who pops up dozens of times in each book to SAVE MOLLY FROM HERSELF. She then whines about how she hates to be "saved" by Daniel and how she wants to never, ever see him again. She also seems to be mourning the fact that he won't choose her. If Molly really and truly wants to never see Daniel again--perhaps she could work harder at NOT BEING ARRESTED or brought to the station for questioning. Perhaps if she avoided potentially dangerous situations altogether--going into gang hang-outs, for example, to ask her questions.

Right now there are TWO men "in love" with Molly. Because I actually like Jacob, I'm thinking he deserves better than Molly.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Queen of the Sea

Queen of the Sea. Dylan Meconis. 2019. Candlewick Press. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A queen does not abandon her people.

Premise/plot: Queen of the Sea is a graphic novel loosely inspired by the Tudors. Loosely. The author purposefully did not make it about Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I. Though that would have been an intriguing subject for a graphic novel, that isn't this graphic novel.

Queen of the Sea has a young heroine, Margaret, who has lived on an island, Albion, off another island, also Albion. She doesn't know who her father and mother were, or if they are alive or dead. All she knows is life at the convent. But while you might think life at the convent would offer no variety, no excitement, no adventure...well, you'd be mostly right...but not completely. Plenty happens--for better or worse.

It is a lovely coming of age novel.

My thoughts: I loved it. That's the short version. Did I love it because it's a graphic novel? No. Yes. Maybe. I really, really, really loved the characters and the story. Part of that story is told in the illustrations. So while a novel on the same topic would most likely thrill me just as much, there's a little something special in the illustrations.

I loved the characterization. I loved spending time with Margaret, William, Eleanor, Francis, and some of the sisters. Margaret and Eleanor's relationship is complex--rightly so. This one just had depth and substance to it. 
I loved the story and found it compelling. I read this one in one sitting. It was rough there at the end--it's hard for me to sit still that long--but it was worth it. No bookmark needed. Ha!
I would definitely recommend this one. Perhaps not to those that love, love, love graphic novels. I think the appeal is the HISTORY and the WORLD-BUILDING. If you don't love history, if you don't find it fascinating, then I'm not sure that this graphic novel would sweep you up, up, and away. But if you do, this is a treat of a book. So give it a try even if graphic novels aren't quite your cup of tea.  

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

World at War: In Farleigh Field

In Farleigh Field. Rhys Bowen. 2017. Lake Union. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It had been unusually hot all summer.

Premise/plot: In Farleigh Field is a stand-alone mystery/suspense novel set in England during the second world war. It has multiple narrators. It follows the lives of the aristocratic Sutton family and their neighbors. There are five daughters--no sons. Olivia (aka Livvy), Margaret (aka Margot), Pamela (aka Pamma), Diana (aka Dido), and Phoebe (aka Feebs).

Before the war, Pamela was head over heels in love with a neighbor, Jeremy Prescott, who joined the RAF. While she was making heart eyes at Jeremy, Ben Cresswell, the vicar's son, was making heart eyes at her. Almost three years later and little has changed. Well. Both Ben and Pamela are working for secret government agencies. (MI5 and Bletchley Park). But Ben still hasn't come any closer to getting the girl to notice him in that way. Pamela still daydreams that if Jeremy returns alive from the war that they may get married and live happily ever after one day.

At the Farleigh estate a dead man in uniform is found--his parachute did not open. Who was this man? Was he British? Was he German? Why parachute there? Was he on a mission to talk to someone who lived at Farleigh or nearby? What was his mission? what was his message? Does his death mean that the threat is over? Or does danger still lurk?

Phoebe and Alfie (a boy evacuated from London and living with the groundskeeper) team up on the sly to try to solve the mystery.

Ben has official orders to investigate--undercover of course. He's to go back home and see what he can uncover. Everyone should be willing to talk to the vicar's son, after all. And he may be better able to uncover the truth than a stranger would.

My thoughts: I found this an incredibly suspenseful read. Perhaps a bit predictable here and there but in a satisfying way. When it went the way I predicted, I wasn't disappointed but elated.

I typically don't like novels with alternating narrators, multiple narrators. But this one worked well for me. I loved the changing perspectives. It was nice not only to get the perspectives of Ben and Pamela but the others as well. In particular, I liked spending time with the other Sutton sisters--Dido, Phoebe, and Margot. With Margot, we got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in occupied Paris.

I read this one in one sitting. It was GOOD.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Love and the Rocking Chair

Love and the Rocking Chair. Diane and Leo Dillon. 2019. [October 15] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Many years ago, a young couple stood in a sea of chairs, searching for just the right one. "Look at that chair over there. It's perfect for the baby's room," the young woman said.

Premise/plot: Love and the Rocking Chair celebrates generations of a family and the legacy of a rocking chair passed on through the years. The book opens with a young couple expecting a baby and looking for just-the-right rocking chair. The chair is used when he is a baby and as he continues to grow. It is a chair he chooses to use in his own nursery when he's all grown up and expecting a child of his own...

My thoughts: Love and The Rocking Chair is a picture book for older readers. Dare I say it's a picture books written specificially with adults in mind?! It's a lovely book, don't get me wrong. But it's a book packed with sentiment and wisdom that only age can truly appreciate.

Love and the Rocking Chair is a bittersweet read. On the one hand, captured within this gem of a book are scenes of a family through the years. Babies being rocked. Toddlers being read to. Children imagining and playing. Children growing up, getting older, moving on, etc. On the other hand, it captures some heartbreaking moments as well. The husband/father getting old/sick, the wife/mother and the son standing together by a casket mourning. The wife/mother/grandmother wishing that her husband could be by her side to see his granddaughter. It's TOUGH, TOUGH I tell you on the heart strings.

It captures what life is--the way things are, the way things will always be in this world. LOVE is always present. Every single spread captures what it means to love and be loved. That's a difficult thing perhaps to capture in a meaningful way.

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

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, June 10, 2019

Before They Were Authors

Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids. Elizabeth Haidle. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: What makes a writer? Many of us wonder about the stories behind the stories of best selling authors...

Premise/plot: What do you call a nonfiction book that uses the graphic novel format?! This one is nonfiction. It includes brief biographies of ten--yes, ten--writers. (5 Men. 5 Women.) The writers included are Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, Dr. Seuss, Sandra Cisneros, Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Gene Luen Yang, Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. Some of these writers wrote for children--toddlers, preschoolers, grade school students; some of these writers wrote for young adults or even adults.

Each author biography is told over several pages. As I mentioned earlier, it uses the graphic novel/comic book format to tell the stories. Sprinkled throughout the biographies are quotes from the writers.

My thoughts: I love the idea of loving this one. I do. The truth is very few readers are going to agree on which ten authors "should" be included in the book. There are no right answers here. Some seem obvious to me--Dr. Seuss, for example or even J.K. Rowling. There is one "omission" that saddens me. I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED to see Beverly Cleary included here. Her story is surely just as interesting as Beatrix Potter's?! Another "omission" that comes to mind is L.M. Montgomery. Also Mo Willems. And Shannon Hale.

Are these ten authors personal favorites of mine? Not really. That's okay. The subtitle isn't Becky's Favorite Writers As Kids.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, June 08, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #23

5 Stars
 The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott. Josi S. Kilpack. 2017. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Beverly, Right Here. Kate DiCamillo. 2019. Candlewick Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Big Honey Hunt. Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain. 1962. 72 pages. [Source: Own]
Daddy-Sitting. Eve Coy. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Rabbit, the Dark, and the Cookie Tin. Nicola O'Byrne. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Future Astronaut. Lori Alexander. Illustrated by Allison Black. 2019. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
Murphy's Law. Rhys Bowen. 2001. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Beware of the Crocodile. Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. 2019. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, June 07, 2019

Death of Riley

Death of Riley. (Molly Murphy #2) Rhys Bowen. 2002. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "You want me to do what?" I demanded so loudly that a delicate young female walking ahead of us glanced back in horror and had to reach for her smelling salts. I burst out laughing.

Premise/plot: Molly Murphy, our heroine, is still determined to become a private investigator. True, she's never been trained or apprenticed. True, she lacks actual experience as a detective. True, she doesn't have money to start her own detective agency. But don't try to stop her from pursuing her dreams.

Miss Murphy DOES find a private investigator, a Mr. Riley. He agrees oh-so-reluctantly to hire her. Not because he believes she'll make a good actual assistant. But because his business is a complete and total disaster. She can help keep things clean and organized. She can make his job--his life--easier by doing so. If she happens to pick up a few little lessons on how things work here and there, that's okay by him.

But a few weeks later, Mr. Riley is found MURDERED. She's the one who finds his body in the office. Who could have killed him? Was he killed because of one of his open cases? Can Molly Murphy finish his few open cases? Can she more importantly still SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF WHO MURDERED HIM?!

She does find a new place to live in this one...and new characters are introduced...some old characters reappear.

My thoughts: This one was good but a bit silly. I mean I guess the first book had its silly moments too. But I was swept up so thoroughly in the first book that I never stopped to think about is this realistic? is this true to history? is this true to human nature? does this make sense?

I say that it's silly but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I have every intention of going on with this series!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Lady of the Lakes

The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott. Josi S. Kilpack. 2017. Shadow Mountain. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: I believe in God and Christ and long-suffering, but I do not feel that all three must be so densely mashed together as they are for a Calvinist Sunday sermon.

First sentence from chapter one: Walter did not try to hide the fact that he watched the door with focused attention. Mina--his muse and his future--would be entering at any moment, and he was determined to be the first set of eyes she saw.

Premise/plot: This historical romance novel stars SIR WALTER SCOTT. The prologue is set in 1791 when Sir Walter Scott first meets the lovely Mina. The first chapter is set four years later, 1795.

For Walter Scott, it was LOVE at first sight. He wooed the young Miss Stuart with words, words, and more words. Their meetings were infrequent--private meetings especially--but his letters to her, well, they were something special. Was it love at first sight for Mina? Decidedly not. She fell for his words and perhaps not his person. After all, he couldn't dance. And Mina, well, she loved to be the belle of the ball. She loved to dance every dance. But his words, well, they captivated least until they didn't.

Charlotte Carpenter is a French immigrant, an orphan, a spinster. She's "on the shelf" or "over the hill" at age twenty-five. She's under the care of a kind guardian--but kindness only goes so far when his wife is pressuring him to find her a match or else. Miss Carpenter rejects--perhaps rightfully so--the one match that is arranged for her. What she would like is to be an independent woman who has her own house/household, manages her own money/budget. She's not exactly penniless, but she's far from an heiress. No man is going to be hunting her down and marrying her for her fortune.

Charlotte and Walter Scott meet in 1797, one year after his heart has been crushed, obliterated by Mina. He is NOT looking for love. I repeat, he is NOT looking for love. Scott is convinced that LOVE has done him wrong. That he'll go down to the grave loving Mina and only Mina. That chapter in his life is over and done with. Woe to the friend, the companion, the brother that tries to "fix" or "mend" his heart. BEWARE. But Charlotte is unlike any woman he's ever met before. She's honest, genuine, forthright...true to herself. She isn't wearing a mask. Scott is CLUELESS, ABSOLUTELY CLUELESS, that he feels anything until the day she's set to leave town--her vacation being ended.

Scott follows her--of course, he does. But what he proposes's a bit unconventional.

Will Walter and Charlotte make a match of it and get married?

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I tolerated Mina, I suppose. But I never saw Mina through Walter's eyes--never saw her as being the dazzling, oh-so-perfect, only-one-in-the-world-worth-having woman. I loved Charlotte. From the moment Charlotte is introduced in this one--and it's several years before they meet--I loved her. I loved her character and her sense. I loved her spirit or attitude. The scenes with Walter and Charlotte were my absolute favorite. I adored the last half of this one. It was enjoyable and satisfying.

I would definitely recommend this one. It is a clean read being in the "proper romance" publishing line. Though there is quite a steamy hand-holding scene when he removes a glove while they're listening to a musical concert.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, June 05, 2019

World at War: A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. Sonia Purnell. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: France was falling.

Premise/plot: A Woman of No Importance is a biography of Virginia Hall. She came from an upper class background. Though her parents may have had certain expectations for her--a good marriage, raising a family, etc. She had plans of her own. These plans would include getting entangled in politics and government. Her dream job would be to work for the State Department and serve overseas. Realizing this dream in reality was a seemingly impossible quest. She faced discrimination certainly. It didn't help her cause that others saw her as a "cripple" or "disabled." (A hunting accident had led to an amputation of a leg.) But capable she was. Capable she'd prove herself to be over and over and over and over again. If there was no place for her to serve America, perhaps she'd serve France or Britain. Ultimately this is what she did. She served for a time as an ambulance driver in France at the start of the war. After France fell, she went to Britain where she became involved with a spy unit, SOE, she'd go to France undercover as an innocent American journalist/socialite. She'd be a spy and resistance leader. The book focuses extensively on the war years. One gets a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to be a spy--the dangers, the risks, the sacrifices and hardships. Hall faced challenge after challenge with bravery and gumption.

My thoughts: This one was packed with details. It is a complex biography with dozens--if not hundreds--of names and code names. It provides details of spy rings and resistance operations. It is complicated to keep everything straight. Her story would make a lovely documentary or bio flick. Perhaps seeing it on the screen would help. There would certainly be enough suspense and drama to keep you watching.

It is an interesting and important read. Some of the challenges Hall faced were because of her sex and/or disability. There were men who did NOT want to take orders or be under the authority of a woman, even a strong, competent woman who had proved herself through experience. She was not in the military, she had no title/rank to give her the power to enforce her authority. There were spies that were reckless and careless with their business. Not knowing or caring that they were endangering everyone in the spy ring by their behavior.

This is the kind of book you would expect to be super-compelling and intense. I didn't find it so. I found it on the dry, almost boring side--very mechanical. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Beverly, Right Here

Beverly, Right Here. Kate DiCamillo. 2019. Candlewick Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Buddy died, and Beverly buried him, and then she set off toward Lake Clara.

Premise/plot: The heroine of Beverly, Right Here is Beverly Tapinski who was first introduced in Kate DiCamillo's Raymie Nightingale. (Readers should also make a point of reading Louisiana's Way Home. All three books are set in the late 1970s.)

After the death of her dog, Buddy, Beverly runs away from home. She thinks of herself as an independent loner: someone who doesn't need--or want--anyone. But is that really true? Though Beverly's family has been less than ideal (an absentee dad, an alcoholic mother, countless boyfriends of her mother that have come and gone) she may just piece together a perfect-for-her family.

Iola Jenkins is an old woman who has lost her driving privileges. But she is not done living life on her own terms even if her son thinks she should be. Beverly, though not technically old enough to drive, becomes Iola's driver and "niece." Beverly is hesitant about this new relationship. Why is Iola willing to open up her home to a perfect stranger? But Iola has a lot of lessons to pass along to Beverly. Lessons about trust, friendship, attitude. ALSO how to dance.

Doris and Charles. Beverly buses tables at a local fish restaurant. Doris is the sole cook and Charles the sole dish washer. These two become a little protective of Beverly. Freddie, the sole waitress, talks big, but wouldn't hesitate to cheat Beverly from her fair share of tips.

Elmer. He works at a convenience store. His nose is always in a book. But he's aware of everyone that comes into the shop and has their interests in mind. He must protect little ones from the hand-made comics of hell fire and brimstone that one of the local ladies draws because she is so concerned about being God's Messenger. He also gives the occasional dime so that children can ride the horse in front of the store. He's hesitant--especially at first--to let Beverly into his life. But soon Iola, Beverly, and Elmer are fast friends.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It's a great read, just what you'd expect from a new book by Kate DiCamillo. I loved the relationships of this one. It was just a joy to spend time with Beverly and Iola and Beverly and Elmer. I honestly don't know which character I love more--Iola or Elmer. Both were just WONDERFUL. There is something oh-so-human about this one. Not all the characters are lovely and genuine.

It's a great coming-of-age novel. It has a lot of heart and soul in it.

Quotes (from an ARC):

  • “You don’t even know me,” said Beverly. “I do not,” said Iola. “I could be a criminal.” “Are you?” said Iola. Beverly shrugged. “My husband always did say that I was a fool for trusting people. He said, ‘Iola, you would trust the devil to sell you a pair of dancing shoes.’” 
  • “You can stay with me,” said Iola. She reached over and patted Beverly’s arm. “We will help each other out. We’ll trust each other.” 
  • Iola gave Beverly a nightgown to sleep in—one with pink flowers and lace at the collar. Beverly thought that she would rather die than put it on. And then she put it on. She was making all kinds of questionable decisions: working at a fish restaurant, eating tuna melts, wearing flowered nightgowns.
  • “I never said I would trust you,” said Beverly. “You didn’t say you wouldn’t,” said Iola. She smiled. And that was how they left things. 
  • She didn’t want to ride a horse to nowhere; she wasn’t going to let herself get fooled. 
  • “Just because you can’t stand to think about something don’t mean it ain’t happening, that it ain’t true. People wait on other people. People rely on other people.” 
  • “Imagine if you hadn’t found my trailer. Imagine if I didn’t need someone to drive the Pontiac. Then me and you wouldn’t’ve become friends, and you wouldn’t know how to dance. Oh, I’m glad I needed you. I’m glad you needed me.” “I didn’t really need you,” said Beverly. “Yes, you did, honey,” said Iola. “Yes, you did,” said Elmer from the back seat. “Okay,” said Beverly. “Whatever you people say.”

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, June 03, 2019

Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law. Rhys Bowen. 2001. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "That mouth of yours will be getting you into big trouble one day." My mother started saying that as soon as I could talk. It turns out she wasn't far wrong. By the time I was ten my refusal to hold my tongue had almost gotten us thrown out of our cottage. And a week before I turned twenty-three, I was on the run, wanted for murder.

Premise/plot: Molly Murphy has killed a man in self-defense, a man who was trying to rape her. Still, Molly knows that she has to flee Ireland--and fast, unless she wants to hang for her crime. Fortunately, she finds a sympathetic woman, Kathleen O'Connor, who happens to be in need of a favor. She is about to sail to America with her two children, Bridie and Seamus. But she has consumption and knows it--knows that she'll never be allowed into the country. The children must go to be with their father. Molly assumes--with full permission--Kathleen's identity on board the ship. But misfortune seems to be following Molly, for on Ellis Island a man is murdered. She'd be seen arguing with him on board the ship--slapping him even. Will she be the prime suspect?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It was a great reminder of why I love both historical fiction and mysteries. Molly was an enjoyable companion. I am excited that there are more mysteries in the series.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, May 31, 2019

May Reflections

May# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews24
Young Readers27
Operation Actually Read Bible11


# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews6590
Young Readers1294
Operation Actually Read Bible4048


# of Books# of Pages

Totals So Far

Books Read
Pages Read

New to Me Highlights

Reread Highlights:

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Stars Upon Thars #22

5 Stars
Chicks and Salsa. Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Paulette Bogan. 2005. Bloomsbury. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934. 322 pages. [Source: Bought]

4 Stars
Mercy Watson Goes For A Ride. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. 2006. Candlewick Press. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
The Good Land. Loula Grace Erdman. 1959/2007. Bethlehem Books. 185 pages. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


The Girl in Red

The Girl in Red. Christina Henry. 2019. Penguin Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The fellow across the fire gave Red the once-over, from the wild corkscrews of her hair peeking out from under her red hood to the small hand axe that rested on the ground beside her.

Premise/plot: The Girl in Red is a postapocalyptic retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Our heroine, Red, may wear a red hood and be going to Grandma's house, BUT, she also bears a striking resemblance to the woodcutter/hunter. I would recommend this to those that enjoy sci-fi thrillers.

Life as she knew it has come to an end...and it all starts with a cough. Its a highly contagious, near-always fatal disease. Though some seem to be immune to it. The few that are left have seemed to lost their minds...gone savage or lawless.

When we first meet Red, she is on her own. Readers learn slowly about her family and how she came to be alone. As for Red, she has taken to the woods for her own safety. She hopes to make her way to Grandma's house--since apparently her Grandma lives in a secluded, off-grid place. But it won't be an easy journey. Every day will be a struggle.

My thoughts: I found The Girl in Red to be a mostly compelling read. The first half definitely packs in a LOT of suspense and mystery. Chapters alternate between present and past, before and after.

Red, our heroine, is a complex character: biracial, bisexual, college student, book-loving, movie-loving, an amputee. She's smart. She's skeptical. She's opinionated. When people first start getting sick and dying, she knows--because of her book-reading and movie-watching that sooner or later--the family will need to flee their home on foot. She starts preparing mentally, physically, emotionally for that inevitable time.

Her brother, Adam, thinks his sister is being ridiculous and overly dramatic. Why not trust the quarantine camps set up by the government? If they can't stay in their own house, why can't they drive to Grandma's house? If they have to go on foot and rough it, why can't they travel by road? I think Adam exists just to disagree with Red.

Her parents agree with her--to a point. They agree that they'd end up walking at some point. (The highways would end up congested, they'd run out of gas, the car may break down.) But they are not ready to drop everything and head off into the woods. They want to wait until the last possible minute. They want to go to town and buy supplies. They want to take their time and pack. Red disagrees. Better to go unprepared than to go prepared but EXPOSED TO A DEADLY DISEASE.

The Girl in Red is definitely heavy on the THRILLER. It's a gory read, purposefully so. This isn't an intellectually-driven plot with well-drawn characters and complex relationships. It's all about the fight-for-survival. It's all about the shock factor.

The Girl in Red was working for me for most of the novel. But at some point it began to fall apart for me.




It wasn't enough that there was a highly-contagious thought-to-be-air-borne disease that was wiping out whole towns, cities, states, nations, etc. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that this led to no electricity, no radio, no tv, no cell phones, no internet, no technology. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that survivors turned lawless, starting looting and killing, and forming their own militias. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA. It wasn't enough that some militias were white supremacists, or, that others were out to kidnap women and children but slaughter all the men. NOT ENOUGH DRAMA.

What if, on top of that there was a government-experiment-gone awry? What if people were "birthing" parasitic flesh-eating monsters? Wouldn't it be all kinds of awesome if in the middle of this novel, Red stumbled across classified information that the government was trying to hide?!?! Surely this makes perfect sense. Some people legitimately had the COUGH and died from that disease while others had a cough, died, and then the parasitic monster would EAT ITS WAY OUT OF THE HOST AND ATTACK OTHERS. That isn't pushing it a little too far at all. In fact, the other novel would hardly be worth reading, right?

The other thing that bothered me was THE ENDING. I got to about twenty pages from the end and I knew there was absolutely no way in the world this was going to be wrapped up in any kind of way. Sure enough, near the very last page we find a convenient sentence...."25 days later...."

Are you serious?!?!?! You're just going to stop mid-action, give me a 25 DAYS LATER... and then cut to a scene where she's about to knock on Grandma's door?!?!?! And then not bother to linger long enough with Red to see if anyone at all answers the door?!?! So all that and STILL NO RESOLUTION. EITHER GRANDMA IS ALIVE OR DEAD. It doesn't matter to me which--not really. But is it really better for readers to forever be left guessing. Perhaps it is.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

World at War: The Girl With the White Flag

The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the introduction: On June 25, 1945, on the war-ravaged island of Okinawa, a young American army signal corps photographer took a remarkable photograph. It showed a little barefoot girl in tattered clothes waving a piece of white cloth tied to a crooked stick.

First sentence: I was born in Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, which is now part of the city of Naha.

The Girl with the White Flag is the story of the author's childhood in war-time Japan. It begins by giving the reader ample background into the time and culture and place. We meet our heroine, a young girl who throughout the book spans the ages of five through seven. One of the first events she shares with readers is the death of her mother. She then relates what life was like with her father, two older sisters, and her older brother. This portion is hard to navigate. I think in some ways it is just as hard for modern readers to understand the family life--the harshness, the strictness, the discipline, as it is to understand the monstrosities of war and soldiers and starvation. (Or maybe that's just my take on it.)

About halfway through the narrative, the father disappears. He was on his somewhat routine mission of delivering food to the Japanese soldiers, but on this occasion he never returned home. The four children are left to fend for themselves. The American soldiers have just begun their invasion, their battle to capture this island. The children become refugees and the fight to survive has begun. The children ranged in age from 17 to 6. Somewhere along the way, however, two things happen--big things--that make this event even scarier: 1) Their brother dies one night from a stray bullet. 2) Within a few days of burying their brother, our narrator--the six/seven year old girl becomes lost--separated--from her sister.

The book recounts what it was like to be seven and alone and wandering in and out of danger. There was no safe place. Not really. Japanese soldiers weren't "safe." In fact, in her brief encounters with them she was almost killed. No, being near soldiers wasn't safe. The only "safe" soldier was a dead soldier. She did in fact scavenge around the dead soldiers looking for food.

Her will to survive was strong. Her stamina incredible in my opinion. The sights. The sounds. The smells. All surrounded her. Could have potentially traumatized her and paralyzed her into inaction.

If there is power in the Girl with The White Flag it is in its rawness, its simplicity, its boldness when it comes to being straightforward and honest. The story is incredible is powerful because it's true. Here is an eyewitness account of what it means to be seven and a refugee in a war zone. It can be brutal. It can be intense. But there is more to it than that.

I found The Girl with The White Flag to be an incredibly compelling read, a must-read for adults. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Good Land

The Good Land. Loula Grace Erdman. 1959/2007. Bethlehem Books. 185 pages.

First sentence: Carolyn Pierce, pulling the white linen cloth straight on the long dining-room table, thought that perhaps the worst problem a girl could have was for people to think she didn't have any at all. 

Premise/plot: Carolyn Pierce is the "baby" of her family. She is the youngest of three sisters. Her older sisters are Melinda and Katie. Melinda has happily been married for at least five or six years to a doctor--Dennis Kennedy. They have a little girl, Kathleen. Katie has returned from her schooling back East. If things go Katie's way, she'll soon be MRS. Bryan Cartwright. (But will they?)

Carolyn will not go back East for high school, BUT, she will be going to Amarillo for high school. She'll live with her sister and brother-in-law. The thought both thrills and scares her. There is only one person that she knows that has gone to high school in Amarillo, a certain Jim Foster who is a few years older.

The Good Land is mainly about Carolyn's quest to make and keep friends. It is set in the Texas Panhandle at the turn of the twentieth century. (I'm guessing sometime between 1904 and 1910).

My thoughts: I have enjoyed rereading all three books in this historical series written for children. It is a frustrating love for me, however, because it leaves me ever wanting more, more, more. Each book is set when the heroine is fifteen. Each book covers just a few months of time. We get such short snapshots of this family's life.

I would have loved to see Carolyn settled in Amarillo. I would have loved to go with her to high school. To see what that experience was like. I would have loved to see her relationships with her sister, Melinda, and her niece, Kathleen. Instead, readers spend a few weeks with Carolyn as she prepares to leave her family. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, May 27, 2019

The Convenient Marriage

The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934. 322 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies.

Premise/plot: Lord Rule has offered for the eldest Winwood daughter little knowing that Elizabeth's heart belongs to a soldier. Elizabeth Winwood being a dutiful daughter has determined to break off the love match and please her mother. After all the Winwoods desperately needs Rule's money in order to satisfy their brother's debts. Horatia, the youngest, won't have it. Everyone knows she's fierce and a bit reckless. But no one suspects that she--accompanied by a maid--will go to Rule's house, request to see him, and bluntly tell him to marry HER and NOT ELIZABETH. This makes for the BEST SECOND CHAPTER IN A BOOK OF ALL TIME. He agrees despite her stammer and eyebrows or perhaps because of them. There is something fiery and unique about Horry. Readers can tell that this will be everything but a marriage of convenience.

My thoughts: Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage is a historical romance novel that I love and adore. It may just be my all-time favorite Heyer romance. It is without a doubt in my top two. I love everything about it and would change nothing.

I love the setting. It is set in the GEORGIAN period. The American Revolution is going on in the background. Elizabeth's soldier has been to America and back--he was injured in the fighting. The main character, Horatia, is named after her godfather, Horatio (Horace) Walpole. The book immerses you in the times--fashion and etiquette for men and women.

I love the humor and wit. It isn't just that there's great chemistry in the dialogue of Horry and Marcus (Lord Rule). That I would expect from any and every romance novel--especially those of Heyer. No, it seems the dialogue sparkles for ALL the characters. In particular I love, love, love Horry's brother, whom we mostly see as VISCOUNT or PEL.

 I love the characterization. Usually romance novels have two well-developed characters--the hero and the heroine. The whole point of the novel usually building up their relationship and leading to a happily ever after. Horry and Marcus enter the novel fully developed. They had me at hello--nearly. Again, a great second chapter that HOOKS you. But The Convenient Marriage is peopled with characters that I either love, love, love or love to hate. (Caroline Massey, Crosby Drelincourt and Robert Lethbridge).

I love the pacing. This story never once drags. There is not even one unnecessary scene. Everything is building to a GIDDY-MAKING conclusion. The journey is just as enjoyable as that ultimately satisfying conclusion you know is coming.

I love the action. Now, the action isn't the first thing that comes to mind. It does require a bit of imagination. But this one has sword-fighting and duels. It has highway men. I think it would make an absolutely thrilling film. Everything about this romance novel begs for a film adaptation. It is funny. It is romantic. It is dashing.

I also love the action you don't see--this is clean romance.  I wish clean romances were more common.

I mentioned this already but the writing is wonderful. All these quotes come from the second chapter.
‘Are you L-Lord Rule?’ demanded the lady. He was amused. ‘I have always believed so,’ he replied. ‘Why, I th-thought you were quite old!’ she informed him ingenuously. Did you come to see me in order to–er–satisfy yourself as to my appearance?’ She blushed fierily. ‘P-please forgive m-me!’ she begged, stammering dreadfully. ‘It w-was very r-rude of m-me, only you s-see I was surprised just for the m-moment.’‘If you were surprised, ma’am, what can I be but deeply flattered?’ said the Earl. ‘But if you did not come to look me over, do you think you could tell me what it is I am to have the honour of doing for you?’
‘It is because of L-Lizzie–my sister. You have offered for her, haven’t you?’
Slightly taken aback, the Earl bowed. Horatia said in a rush: ‘C-could you–would you m-mind very much–having m-me instead?’
‘Of c-course I know it ought to be Charlotte, for she is the elder, but she said nothing would induce her to m-marry you.’
His lips quivered. ‘In that case,’ he said, ‘it is fortunate that I did not solicit the honour of Miss Charlotte’s hand in marriage.’  
 ‘But may I know whether I appear to all the members of your family in this disagreeable light?’ ‘Oh no!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘M-mama is excessively pleased with you, and I myself d-don’t find you disagreeable in the least. And if only you would be so v-very obliging as to offer for m-me instead of Lizzie I should like you very well.’ ‘But why,’ asked Rule, ‘do you want me to offer for you?’
 Horatia said eagerly: ‘Oh, you will take m-me instead?’ ‘No,’ said Rule, with a faint smile. ‘I won’t do that. But I will engage not to marry your sister. It’s not necessary to offer me an exchange, my poor child.’
‘B-but it is!’ said Horatia vigorously. ‘One of us m-must marry you!’ The Earl looked at her for a moment.
‘I think you must explain it all to me,’ he said. ‘I seem to be more than ordinarily dull this morning.’
Horatia knit her brows. ‘Well, I’ll t-try,’ she said. ‘You see, we’re so shockingly poor. Charlotte says it is all P-Pelham’s fault, and I dare say it may be, but it is no use blaming him, b-because he cannot help it. G-gambling, you know. Do you gamble?’
‘Sometimes,’ answered his lordship. The grey eyes sparkled. ‘So do I,’ declared Horatia unexpectedly. ‘N-not really, of course, but with Pelham. He taught me.
‘It’s v-vulgar to care about Settlements, but you are very rich, are you not?’ ‘Very,’ said his lordship, preserving his calm.  
Horatia seemed determined to make a clean breast of her blemishes.
‘And p-perhaps you could become used to my eyebrows?’ The smile lurked at the back of Rule’s eyes. ‘I think, quite easily.’
She said sadly: ‘They won’t arch, you know. And I ought to t-tell you that we have quite given up hope of my g-growing any taller.’ ‘It would certainly be a pity if you did,’ said his lordship.
‘You m-may have n-noticed that I have a–a stammer.’ ‘Yes, I had noticed,’ the Earl answered gently.
‘If you f-feel you c-can’t bear it, sir, I shall quite understand,’ Horatia said in a small, anxious voice. ‘I like it,’ said the Earl.
‘It is very odd of you,’ marvelled Horatia. ‘But p-perhaps you said that to p-put me at my ease?’ ‘No,’ said the Earl. ‘I said it because it was true. Will you tell me how old you are?’
‘D-does it matter?’ Horatia inquired forebodingly. ‘Yes, I think it does,’ said his lordship. ‘I was afraid it m-might,’ she said. ‘I am t-turned seventeen.’
‘Turned seventeen!’ repeated his lordship. ‘My dear, I couldn’t do it.’ ‘I’m too young?’ ‘Much too young, child.’
Horatia swallowed valiantly. ‘I shall grow older,’ she ventured. ‘I d-don’t want to p-press you, but I am thought to be quite sensible.’
‘But I think that thirty-five makes a poor husband for seventeen.’ ‘P-pray do not give that a thought, sir!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘I assure you, for my p-part I do not regard it at all.
In f-fact, I think I should quite like to marry you.’ ‘Would you?’ he said. ‘You do me great honour, ma’am.’ He came towards her, and she got up.  
Other favorite quotes:
‘Well, to tell you the truth, Lizzie, I would like to m-marry him. But I c-can’t help wondering whether you are quite sure you d-don’t want to?’ 
‘I thought of that myself,’ admitted Horatia. ‘He s-says he thinks he will grow used to my horrid eyebrows quite easily. And I will t-tell you something, Charlotte! He said it would be a p-pity if I became any taller.’ 
‘My lord, let my treasured child answer you with her own lips. Horatia love, Lord Rule has done you the honour to request your hand in marriage.’
‘I t-told you he was going to, M-mama!’ said Horatia incorrigibly. ‘Horatia–I beg of you!’ implored the long-suffering lady. ‘Your curtsy, my love!’ Horatia sank obediently into a curtsy.
Mr Walpole’s face wore an approving smile, though he regretted that his god-daughter should be marrying a Tory. But then Mr Walpole was so very earnest a Whig, and even he seemed to think that Lady Winwood was right to disregard Rule’s political opinions.
The Macaroni, Mr Crosby Drelincourt, mechanically straightened the preposterous bow he wore in place of a cravat.
You do not look at all the thing, my dear fellow. In fact, I should almost feel inclined to recommend another hairpowder than this blue you affect. A charming tint, Crosby: you must not think I don’t admire it, but its reflected pallor upon your countenance.
But how in the world came they to put “Horatia” for “Elizabeth”?’ ‘You see,’ said Rule apologetically, ‘Arnold sent the advertisement to the Gazette.’
‘Well, I never would have believed Mr Gisborne to be so big a fool!’ declared her ladyship. ‘But perhaps I ought to explain, my dear Louisa, that he had my authority,’ said Rule still more apologetically.
‘Lord, Rule, what can you possibly mean?’ she demanded. ‘You’re not going to marry Horatia Winwood!’ ‘But I am,’ said his lordship calmly.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, and how you can mean to marry Horatia, who must be still in the schoolroom, for I’m sure I have never clapped eyes on her–in place of that divinely beautiful Elizabeth–’
‘Ah, but I am going to grow used to the eyebrows,’ interrupted Rule. ‘And she has the Nose.’
‘When did you have this notion of marrying her?’ she asked. ‘Oh, I didn’t,’ replied the Earl. ‘It was not my notion at all.’ ‘Whose, then?’
‘Horatia’s, my dear. I thought I had explained.’ ‘Do you tell me, Marcus, the girl asked you to marry her?’ said Lady Louisa sarcastically.
‘Marcus, is the girl a minx?’ she asked. ‘No,’ he answered. ‘She is not, Louisa. I am not at all sure that she is not a heroine.’
The Earl’s eyes gleamed. ‘Well, I am rather old, you know, though no one would think it to look at me. But she assures me she would quite like to marry me. If my memory serves me, she prophesied that we should deal famously together.’  
 ‘But for all that you are at my feet, Marcus, you have offered for another woman.’
‘Marriage,’ said his lordship pensively, ‘is such a very dull affair, you know.’ ‘Is it, my lord? Even marriage with the noble Earl of Rule?’
‘Even with me,’ agreed Rule. He looked down at her, a curious expression that was not quite a smile in his eyes. ‘You see, my dear, to use your own words, you would have to love me–only me.’
‘That would certainly be very dull,’ she said. She glanced sideways at him. ‘Are you perhaps jealous, my lord?’ ‘Not in the least,’ said the Earl placidly.
 ‘Not that I’m in the habit of borrowing from my friends, y’know, but I count you one of the family, Rule.’ ‘And admit me to its privileges,’ said the Earl gravely. ‘Admit me still further and let me have a list of your debts.’
The Viscount was momentarily startled. ‘Hey? What, all of ’em?’ He shook his head. ‘Devilish handsome of you, Rule, but can’t be done.’ ‘You alarm me,’ said Rule. ‘Are they beyond my resources?’ ‘The trouble is,’ said the Viscount confidentially, ‘I don’t know what they are.’
‘My resources, or your debts?’  
‘I wanted her to lead you a dance,’ she [Louisa] said candidly. ‘I thought it would be very good for you. But I never dreamed she would make herself the talk of the town while you stood by and watched.’
‘You see, I hardly ever dance,’ Rule excused himself.
‘C-Crosby, your wig is l-like the last verse of the song. You know, it runs like this: Five pounds of hair they wear behind, the ladies to delight, O!–only it doesn’t delight us at all.’
‘Oh, and you c-carry a fan! Lady Amelia, only see! Mr Drelincourt has a fan m-much prettier than mine!’
‘Do you find me a sore trial, Arnold? I am sure you must. It is time I made amends.’ ‘Does that mean you will look over the accounts, sir?’ asked Mr Gisborne hopefully.
‘No, my dear boy, it does not. But you may–ah–use your own discretion in the matter of Mr Drelincourt’s embarrassments.’
Mr Gisborne gave a short laugh. ‘If I were to use my own discretion, sir, Mr Drelincourt’s ceaseless demands on your generosity would find their way into the fire!’ he said roundly. ‘Precisely,’ nodded the Earl, and went on up the stairs.  
Attracted by Lethbridge she might be, but there was a very cogent reason why she should not be in the least in love with him. The reason stood well over six foot in height, and was going to be shown, in vulgar parlance, that what was sauce for the goose could be sauce for the gander as well.
Glamour might still have clung to a rakehell who abducted noble damsels, but no glamour remained about a man who had been pushed into a pond in full ball-dress. 
‘If a man gives a party, he ought to know what kind of party it is,’ argued the Viscount. ‘If you don’t know, how are we to know? It might be a damned soirée, in which case we wouldn’t have come. Let’s go home, Pom.’
‘Rid yourself of the notion that any of you are here by my invitation,’ said Lethbridge unpleasantly, and moved across to the table.
‘If your object was to drag my name in the mud, why, certainly!’ said Rule. ‘My wife remains my wife. Presently you shall tell me by what means you forced her to enter your house.’
Lethbridge raised his brows. ‘And what makes you so sure that I had any need to employ force, my lord?’
‘Merely my knowledge of her,’ replied the Earl. ‘You have a vast deal of explaining to do, you see.’  
  ‘Oh, make no mistake! I am all the villain you think me. She saved herself.’
 ‘When I married you there was another woman in my life. She is not there now, my darling, and in my heart she never had a place.’
‘Oh, M-Marcus, put m-me there!’ Horatia said on a sob. ‘You are there,’ he answered, and caught her up in his arms and kissed her, not gently at all, but ruthlessly, crushing all the breath out of her body. ‘Oh!’ gasped Horatia. ‘Oh, I n-never knew you could k-kiss like that!’
‘But I can, you see,’ said his lordship. ‘And–I am sorry if you do not like it, Horry–I am going to do it again.’
‘But I d-do like it!’ said Horatia. ‘I l-like it very m-much!’  
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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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
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