Wednesday, July 31, 2019

July Reflections

July# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews20
Young Readers19
Operation Actually Read Bible9



48


July
# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews5699
Young Readers1532
Operation Actually Read Bible3082


Totals10313



# of Books# of Pages
January7414571
February5810646
March5510974
April6311095
May6211932
June518565
July4810313


Totals So Far

Books Read
411
Pages Read
78096


New-to-Me Highlights

Reread Highlights


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

July Share-a-Tea Check-In

Mädchen mit Teekanne
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?

These are my books:

71. More Than Words Can Say. (Patchwork Family #2) Karen Witemeyer. 2019. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
72. Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) Robin LaFevers. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 387 pages. [Source: Review copy]
73. ESV Prayer Bible. 2019. Crossway Books. 1920 pages. [Source: Review copy]
74.  The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Jeanne Birdsall. 2011. 295 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. I Always Loved You. Robin Oliveira. 2014. 343 pages. [Source: Library]
76. Lovely War. Julie Berry. 2019. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

These are my teas:

  • Constant Comment Green
  • Honey Vanilla Camomile
  • Earl Grey
  • Green 
  • English Tea Time
  • Double Bergomot
  • Irish Breakfast
  • Camomile


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #30

5 Stars
Lovely War. Julie Berry. 2019. 480 pages. [Source: Library]
Goodnight, Starry Night (Peek-a-boo Art) Amy Guglielmo and Julie Appel. 2019. [October 15] Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Pigeon Has To Go To School. Mo Willems. 2019. [July] Disney-Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Dragon's Fat Cat (Dragon #2) Dav Pilkey. 2019. (1992) Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 

4 Stars
The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins. Gail Shepherd. 2019. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #8 Lafayette! Nathan Hale. 2018. [October 16] Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
The Strangers (The Greystone Secrets #1) Margaret Peterson Haddix. Illustrated by Anne Lambelet. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
A Friend for Dragon. (Dragon #1) Dav Pilkey. 2019. Scholastic. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Diary of a Pug: Pug Blasts Off (Pug #1) Kyla May. 2019. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 26, 2019

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins. Gail Shepherd. 2019. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There is such a thing as honorable lying.

Premise/plot: The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins is set in a small town, Love's Forge, in Tennessee in 1985. Lyndie B. Hawkins, our heroine, is having a time of it. Her family has recently moved in with her grandparents (Lady and Grandpa Tad). Her home life is full of TENSION and STRESS. Her dad--a Vietnam war veteran--may think he's hiding his alcohol problem from the rest of the family and the whole community...but...few are fooled. Lyndie knows SOMETHING is wrong even if she doesn't have a label--or a solution--for it. Half the stress for Lyndie is knowing that she can't share the stress; she has to keep her family's secrets. No matter what questions her pastor, her teachers, her friends, her neighbors ask...she knows that she has to be ready with a lie that protects her family's honor and privacy. This is endangering the relationship with her best friend, Dawn, who comes from a somewhat nosy neighboring family. Lyndie trusts Dawn as much as she trusts anyone...but is that enough to go against her family?!

Dawn's family is one of the kindest in town. They are taking in a juvenile delinquent, D.B., for a year. He's been sentenced to Pure Visions until he's eighteen; but the place is the stuff of nightmares. Lyndie becomes chummy with D.B., and she wants to fix his problems even if she can't fix her own...

My thoughts: This was a tough read for personal reasons. That's mostly a good thing. I think it's a sign that the author has written characters that are all-too-human and placed them in realistic situations that feel true to life. I loved, loved, loved Lyndie's interest in history and genealogy. I could relate to both. In addition, Lyndie LOVES research and libraries. I ached for Lyndie in places. I'm glad that this one ends with a bit of hope that this family can be helped, that patterns can be changed.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Lafayette! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales)

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #8 Lafayette! Nathan Hale. 2018. [October 16] Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This title page would be better with sound effects. Whang! Klang! Shing! Slice! Stab!

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale is still prolonging his life by telling stories to his two executioners. The story he is sharing with them today is of Major General Lafayette, a Frenchman who came to help Americans fight for their independence from Britain, a good friend to many of our founding fathers including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, etc. It is set in France, America, and Canada. Nathan Hale's STORY of Lafayette ends with the American Revolution. This book does NOT in any way cover Lafayette's involvement in the French Revolution. What it does cover are many, many battles in the American Revolution.

My thoughts: I really have loved this graphic novel series. Nathan Hale doesn't just tell stories about the American Revolution, though in this case he does. He also tells entertaining, adventure stories from many different wars, conflicts, and battles. OR even episodes in history like the DONNER PARTY, the underground railroad, or the exploration of the Grand Canyon. The series could go on for quite a while since Nathan Hale is in no rush to get to his own execution.

I will say that the size of the font seems to have shrunk since the last time I read and reviewed one of the series. Surely it's not just my eye sight?! Okay. It could be just my eye sight. There were days when I couldn't even read it with squinting. But eventually I did get through all of it! It was a good read though perhaps not as compelling  as some of the other books in the series.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

World at War: Lovely War

Lovely War. Julie Berry. 2019. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It is early evening in the lobby of an elegant Manhattan hotel.

Premise/plot: The novel opens during the second world war. A husband has caught his wife having an affair: an impromptu trial results. That husband? His name is Hephaestus. That wife? Her name is Aphrodite. The lover? Ares. If those names sound at all familiar to you--and they should--then it is because they are gods and goddesses. Aphrodite asks to tell a story of LOVE and WAR. That story is set during the Great War, the first World War.

Hazel Windicott, one of our heroines, is a young and talented pianist. She's playing at a dance when a young soldier--a young, about-to-ship-out-overseas soldier--James Alderidge sees her and falls in love with her. The two only share three days together, but oh what wonderful days. Both feel that this could be LOVE, the once-in-a-lifetime true love. He will be serving in France.

Aubrey Edwards, one of our heroes, is a young and talented ragtime (and jazz) musician. (He does play piano, but he doesn't only play piano.) He's a black man serving overseas in France. (He's a soldier and an entertainer.)

Hazel follows her heart across the channel and volunteers in France with the YMCA as an entertainer. She becomes quite chummy with our other heroine, Collette Fournier, another entertainer--a singer/dancer. Her story is quite tragic. She's the sole survivor of her family; she's a Belgian war orphan/refugee. She has known great love and great loss. Her heart has given all it can, or has it?

Hazel knows that it is against all the rules for her and Collette to socialize with the black soldiers. (Probably with any of the soldiers. It wouldn't be proper. But there is a definite extra stigma of prejudice going on as well.) Likewise it is against the rules for black soldiers like Aubrey to sneak out from camp and visit with women. But these three are drawn together--powerfully connected--by music.

Will Hazel and James get their happy ending? Will Aubrey and Collette? What price will the war demand of their love? And what impact will these stories have on the gods and goddesses?

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It was such an incredibly well-told story. I loved the dual settings. We get flashes of England and France during the Great War, the first world war. Our flashes of the second world war perhaps lack some of the perspective, being that they are all within a hotel room in New York. BUT. I think it still works overall pulling readers far enough away to see the bigger picture. There is no war to end all wars; war will always be; war will always destroy and kill, pull apart. Yet where there is love there is hope and goodness. I don't always love, love, love stories within stories, BUT this one was absolute perfection.

James "Jim" Europe and the 15th New York
I love the mythological touch. This is something that I would have never, ever, ever, ever thought of on my own. Adding Greek goddesses to a compelling war story very much grounded in reality. (The characters are fictional, of course, but James Reese Europe, one of the characters, was very much a real person.)

I love the importance and significance of music (and to some degree other arts). The beauty of music, of love, of life, of friendship provide an important--crucial--contrast against the ugly brutality of war. Both Aubrey and James are changed by seeing action at the front, changed by the training (or lack of training in some cases), that they receive while in France. No one can return home from war unchanged. And yet, and yet life still goes on. Beauty remains though perspective changes.
 
I love that hope resonates. It isn't that Aubrey and Collette and James and Hazel are absolutely guaranteed happily-ever-after endings with neat, perfect little bows and ribbons. It isn't that there's a guarantee against sadness, heartbreak, doubts, fears, disappointments, frustrations. But love HOPES and TRUSTS.

I love the writing, the language. It could be giddy-making in a romantic way. It could be quite funny.
"If I'm not a secret," he said, "what am I?"
"You're a brand-new piece of sheet music," she said slowly, "for a song which, once played, I'd swear I'd always known." (48)
"All I'm saying"--Apollo is still chewing--"is that my little flu virus, in its microscopic, contagious way, was a thing of beauty." He smacks his lips. "Annihilation has its own je ne sais quoi. We're all guilty of it. So spare me the sermons."
"I'm not guilty of it," says Aphrodite. "Destruction has nothing to do with me."
The male gods stare, then explode laughing. Aphrodite turns her back on them all.
"Then there's the poetry," says Apollo. "Another reason to love war. Why in the Great War...Not since the Trojan War has a conflict inspired such verse. Here, let me recite for you--"
"No!" Three divine voices sound together, for once in perfect accord.
Apollo looks genuinely surprised. "You don't want me to?" He plucks a ukulele out of the air. "Well, I'll be darned. Anyway," he says, "there was the music. The Great War lit a musical fire that engulfed the world." (59)
I also loved that it was written in five acts. It added just the right amount of DRAMA and TENSION.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Strangers

The Strangers (The Greystone Secrets #1) Margaret Peterson Haddix. Illustrated by Anne Lambelet. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The three Greystone kids always raced each other home when they got off the school bus, and Finn always won. It wasn't because he was the fastest. Even he knew that his older brother and sister, Chess and Emma, let him win so he could make a grand entrance.

Premise/plot: Kate Greystone is a single mom (a widow) raising three children on her own: Chess, Emma, and Finn. These kids are super-close to their mom. Readers get a small hint of the good times they share together before the mystery rapidly begins unfolding. It starts with the news. Three children in Arizona have been kidnapped. Sad? Sure! Of course, anyone empathetic would say so. But why should it change their lives and turn things topsy-turvy? That's part of the mystery, I suppose. But ultimately the first clue is that the three children share the kids' names, ages, and birthdays. And the kidnapped children also have a mom named KATE who looks IDENTICAL to their own mom. Though there's no indication that the Greystone children are familiar with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, they've certainly entered it, right?!?!

Mrs. Greystone feels led to ACT, to do SOMETHING, which means leaving Chess, Emma, and Finn in the care of Mrs. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. Natalie teams up with the Greystone children to solve the mystery...for their mom's business trip is no ordinary business trip...and Kate Greystone has been keeping a couple of HUGE secrets from her children.

My thoughts: If you enjoy books where middle school age children team up to solve mysteries--puzzles, codes, clues, oh my!--then The Strangers may be a perfect fit for you. It is the first in a new series. (I'm assuming there will be two books, perhaps three.) This one is told in alternating narratives: Emma, Finn, and Chess. Each voice is distinct, which is always a plus where you've got alternating narrators. It's always a disappointment when voices blend together and you're never sure who's who.

I am a BIG, BIG, BIG, BIG fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix. I love her adventure stories. She knows how to tell compelling stories with twists and turns (predictably they will have twists and turns, but the twists and turns themselves aren't always predictable). I love how characterization is never sacrificed in place of ACTION, ADVENTURE, THRILLS. You can have both.

Another bonus, for me, is this one has a cat.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 22, 2019

We Set the Dark on Fire

We Set the Dark on Fire. Tehlor Kay Mejia. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the beginning, there were two brother-gods: the God of Salt and the God of Sun.

Premise/plot: The book is set in the fictional island-world of Medio. In this culture, every man--or at least every man of rank--has two wives.

Dani, our heroine, has spent years training to be a Primera--a first wife. She won't be her husband's only wife, but she will be his equal, his helpmate. She'll manage his household, and keep things running smoothly. When she graduates she'll be fulfilling her parents' dream and making all their sacrifices worth it. But is it what she really wants? Maybe, maybe not. Dani's country is just as unsettled and out of sorts as her heart and mind. Political unrest has been growing and building--mainly concerning the nation's borders and those seeking to cross. Dani's would-be husband is a wealthy politician--the son of a wealthy politician. She'll take her husband's status and shed forever hers--which is for the best, right? But if it's right, why does it feel so wrong?

On the day she marries Mateo Garcia, he marries his Segunda (second wife) as well. Her name is Carmen. The two young women have been training at the same school for years. Segundas have an entirely different role within the family. They are for heart, passion, and childbearing. Dani worries that Carmen--who has sometimes bullied her in the past--will make life difficult for her.

She enters into the marriage uneasy...and her intuition is correct...there will be nothing predictable about it.

My thoughts: The prologue was beautifully written. It made it sound like there would be at least some mythological substance, some spirituality to the world-building. In the first few chapters, Dani alludes to the fact that her gods--the gods of her family--are not those of Medio. But this thread tends to not go anywhere or serve a purpose. Though the prologue makes you think its about gods in conflict with one another--sibling rivalry--the book isn't really.

I was drawn into this one from the prologue and the first chapter or two. Dani, our narrator, has a tough decision to make. Will she continue living a lie just because her parents want her to have a better life? Will she continue living that lie out of self-preservation? Will her secret come out? (The secret is about where she was born--what side of the border she was born on and the sacrifices her parents made to falsify her documents.) How does she feel about the border? about the racism? about the violence? about politics?

Medio. The culture isn't really explored as fully as I had hoped. The more I read, the shallower it felt to me. It just felt undeveloped.

It is definitely action-driven and not character-driven. I felt most of the characters--with the exception of Carmen and Dani--were incredibly flat and insubstantial. The action wasn't particularly satisfying--to me. The book seemed to digress from being a political thriller with SPIES to being about two women who make out a lot.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Victorian Check-In Post #3

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
These are what I've read since the Check-In Post #2.

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008. Modern Library. 1330 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Marie, Dancing. Carolyn Meyer. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  Murder by Ghostlight. (Charles Dickens & Superintendent Sam Jones #3) 2019. 277 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Always Loved You. Robin Oliveira. 2014. 343 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm not currently reading any Victorian books. I hope to start one soon. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #29

5 Stars
Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of World War II. Mary Cronk Farrell. 2019. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Jeanne Birdsall. 2011. 295 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

4 Stars
Murder by Ghostlight. (Charles Dickens & Superintendent Sam Jones #3) 2019. 277 pages. [Source: Review copy]I Love Mozart: My First Sound Book. Marion Billet. 2019. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 19, 2019

American Royals

American Royals. (American Royals #1) Katharine McGee. 2019. Random House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You already know the story of the American Revolution, and the birth of the American monarchy. You might know it from the picture books you read as a child. From your elementary school performances--when you longed to play the role of King George I or Queen Martha, and instead were cast as a cherry tree.

Premise/plot: American Royals is a contemporary what-if novel. What if George Washington had become King instead of President? More important still for the sake of this plot, what if George and Martha had had children to continue their legacy, their reign? What if the contemporary royal children were young, beautiful, and dating? What if their lives were falling into place like a parody of a soap opera during ratings? I haven't decided if this one is leaning more towards being a TV series on the WB or if it's leaning more towards a Hallmark romance movie. (It does open in December and feature holiday parties--Christmas and New Year's Eve.)

Has there ever been a more poor, unfortunate, soul than the heir-to-the-crown, Beatrice?! Beatrice is on the verge of womanhood--in all its splendors--when she's "forced" to propose to an eligible, wealthy young man whom she barely knows....all the while lusting for her bodyguard who is oh-so-dreamy. (His name is Connor.)

Actual quote (well, actual quote from an ARC that may change before publication date...)
"Is America going to love me the way Connor does? Listen to my secrets and kiss me good morning and tell me my dreams are worth chasing? All I've ever done for America is give and give and give and still America wants more! When will it ever be enough?"
Don't let Samantha hear you (the reader) pitying, Beatrice!!! Sam's the poor, unfortunate soul!!! She really is. Her sister could PICK ANY OF LIKE SIX, YOU KNOW, ELIGIBLE GUYS to court, or whatever, and Beatrice had to go and pick the ONE GUY FROM THE LIST that Samantha had made out with in the coat closet!!! (and in the hot tub!!!) (His name is Teddy.)

Perhaps if someone deserves a "Bless his heart!" it's Jeffrey, Samantha's twin brother. Simply because he hasn't an observant brain cell in his body. But he does have two women fighting over him. Daphne and Nina. Nina met Samantha and Jeff when she was six. Technically, she's probably known and loved him the longest--even if it hasn't always been like-like or love-love. Nina is sincere and spirited. She's not afraid to tell Sam or Jeff the truth as she sees it. She grounds them in a way that no one else does. Daphne is--on paper--the absolute, perfect dream girl a Prince could have. But Daphne does not have a genuine bone in her body...Perhaps you're thinking WELL, MAYBE JEFF IS ONLY STUPID WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN....well, what about Ethan?!?! Ethan has been his best friend since kindergarten...but Ethan surely has an agenda of his own....

My thoughts: It was silly. It was ridiculous. All hopes of it actually being a serious attempt at a what-if novel soon died. But would anyone actually ever in a hundred million years take seriously a what-if novel that supposes an American monarchy? (Assuming one that accounted for the fact that the actual George Washington did not have any offspring?) It strains credibility, doesn't it, that the actual George Washington would say YES to the throne. Would say YES to establishing a monarchy in America? So the further removed from reality the book takes us--the better, right? Probably.

But I was curious to see how well I could predict how all the characters get from point A to point B before the end of the novel....I think you could do just as well if you give it your time. (But should you?!?! Should I have?!?!)

This one is super-silly and incredibly predictable. But sometimes the writing can put a smile on your face. It reminds me of a creative writing assignment I had in high school to write a soap opera script.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Murder by Ghostlight

Murder by Ghostlight. (Charles Dickens & Superintendent Sam Jones #3) 2019. 277 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The actor on stage seemed to be asleep, one long white hand hanging from the arm of the velvet chair, and the white of his shirt showing momentarily in the flickering lamplight. His head was on his chest and he was quite still.

Premise/plot: Murder by Ghostlight is the third novel in J.C. Briggs' mystery series starring Victorian writer Charles Dickens. Dickens does not solve crimes alone; he works with Inspector Sam Jones. Briggs does a good job of peopling her world. The mysteries build on one another in terms of stories and relationships.

Dickens is NOT in London when the mystery opens--he and his friends, acquaintances, are putting on a show in Manchester. But the show--the last show anyway--did NOT go as planned. After the performance, one of the actors (or is it?!?!?!) is found onstage. The Manchester Police actually suspect Charles Dickens of the crime! Silly police. Of course, that gets cleared up relatively quickly--after a night in jail. Can Dickens help solve the murder BEFORE more murders are committed?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. There is just something so lovely about these mysteries. I'm not sure I would call them cozy. I personally would...but maybe someone else wouldn't? These mysteries often have multiple bodies and sometimes the crime scenes can be horrific. But I love spending time with Dickens and Jones. I love spending time with the other characters we've come to know and care about. (Some of them are children.)

Quote:
What makes a man a murderer? When comes the moment that he steps off the precipice into the abyss? When exactly does he condemn himself? For whether he escapes or not, he condemns himself to exile from humankind. He becomes a hunted, homeless beast. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

World at War: Standing Up Against Hate

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of World War II. Mary Cronk Farrell. 2019. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was a wet, gunmetal-gray February in 1945. Rank upon rank of American khaki-clad soldiers marched down the gangplank of the Ile de France in Glasgow, Scotland.

Premise/plot: Standing Up Against Hate is a children's nonfiction book about African American women serving in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and Women's Army Corps. (The name switched from WAAC to WAC towards the end of the war. But it was much more than a name change.) It is the story of one woman--Charity Adams--it is the story of many women. It gives young readers (elementary, middle school) a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to be an African American WOMAN serving during the second world war. They faced prejudice because they were women; they faced prejudice because they were African American. How you were treated, what your experience was like, varied greatly based on WHERE you served and WHOM you served. (Some people could be JERKS.) Towards the end of the war, one unit (led by Charity Adams) did get to serve overseas. But as I mentioned before, this isn't just the story of one battalion. The book touches on many different experiences, many different voices.

My thoughts: I found this to be a super-compelling, super-fascinating read. I have read many books set during this time period. I've never--to my recollection--read one about the WAC, let alone one that focuses on the African American experience. It was an eye-opener. It was good--really good. My background--in terms of women in the military during this time period--focuses on the WASP which I know excluded black women. I would definitely recommend this one. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I Always Loved You

I Always Loved You. Robin Oliveira. 2014. 343 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Mary Cassatt lifted two shallow crates of assorted brushes, pigments, palettes, and scraping knives and set them atop the paint-smeared table shoved under the arched, north-facing windows of her untidy studio.

Premise/plow: Love art? Love history? Love art history? Don't require much actual-actual romance in your your historical romance? I Always Loved You is a fictionalized account of the friendship between Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. It isn't their story alone--it is the story of a group of artists, an artistic movement. The novel opens in 1877 and closes in 1926.

My thoughts: Impressionism is my absolute favorite art style/period. (Renoir is my FAVORITE AND BEST). I was intrigued by this one, I was, and not just by the premise. I liked looking at the bigger picture--how these people fit into each other's lives, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of artists, for better or worse. And sometimes it was worse. Tempers could be lost; tantrums be thrown. Each person seemed fully obsessed with THE ART, always, only the art. Perhaps with the exception of our narrator, Mary. Mary seemed to actually care equally about people and art.

I thought the novel was beautifully written in places.

  • Only paint was honest. But even a painting could be wiped clean and refined. (5)
  • "Degas provokes and reveals our prejudices. Wouldn't you like to be good enough to unsettle someone in this same way one day?" (14)
  • "Paris is the sanctuary of art," Abigail said. "And it's battleground," Mary said, kissing her friend once more. "The place where artists live or die." (17)
  • "You've painted love," Edgar said. "You must always paint love. You must never paint anything else. You have found it. Your obsession is love." He was right. Here was love--light and color and affection sprung from her brush, desire, and innocence in every stroke, and something more, something real, something absolute. A moment passed, and then another, "And what of you? What will you paint?" Mary said. "I will paint what is real." "And love is not real?" "It is when you paint it," he said. (234)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 15, 2019

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Jeanne Birdsall. 2011. 295 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Penderwick family was being torn apart. The tearing wouldn't last long--only two weeks--but still it was uncomfortable.

The first book in the series: The Penderwicks.
The second book in the series: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.  

Premise/plot: Mr. Penderwick and his his new bride are off on their honeymoon; the oldest Penderwick daughter, Rosalind, is vacationing with a friend; the remaining Penderwicks (Skye, Jane, and Batty) will be vacationing with Aunt Claire and their friend, Jeffrey. It will be a summer they never forget--for many reasons. For example, Jane, the writer of the family, is determined that her newest Sabrina Starr novel will feature LOVE. So she's asking just about anyone and everyone personal questions about love. But it may be Jane--not Sabrina--that has her first taste of "love" this summer. Skye, let's be honest, is a bit nervous about being the oldest available Penderwick sister. Especially when Aunt Claire has a bit of an accident. But she is stronger and braver then she believes herself to be. Batty--lovely Batty--discovers a new love: MUSIC.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! I loved meeting Alec, a new musically inclined neighbor. I loved how he fits in with their group in a natural way. It was also fun to meet Mercedes--even if she does have a brother who's TROUBLE with a capital T. It was just a joy to spend time with all of Birdsall's characters.

This was a perfect book to read while recovering from having my wisdom teeth out.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #28

5 Stars
Click, Clack, Peep! (Ready to Read) Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. 2015/2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Climbing the Stairs. Padma Venkatraman. 2008. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Degas, Painter of Ballerinas. Susan Goldman Rubin. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
We Need More Nuts! Jonathan Fenske. 2017. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Pete the Cat's Giant Groovy Book. James Dean. 2019. HarperCollins. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Marie, Dancing. Carolyn Meyer. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 12, 2019

In Dublin's Fair City

In Dublin's Fair City. (Molly Murphy #6) Rhys Bowen. 2007. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Be careful what you wish for." That was another of my mother's favorite sayings--one of the few in her wealth of warnings that didn't predict a bad end, hell fire, and eternal damnation.

Premise/plot: In Dublin's Fair City is the sixth Molly Murphy mystery. Molly Murphy gets a couple of paying jobs in this one. First, she's hired by a playwright (Tommy Burke) to go to Ireland and search for his long-lost "baby" sister, Mary Ann Burke. This search will take her--you guessed it--to Dublin, Ireland. Her second paying job is to switch places with a famous New York actress on the voyage over. This one isn't an investigative job, but, it leads to a whole other kind of investigation.

Now you may be wanting to know if there's any movement in the Daniel Sullivan story line--there isn't. Daniel is STILL in trouble with the law and awaiting his trial. He is out on bail. But Molly is quick to leave him--and New York City--behind when she gets an opportunity to earn some money.

My thoughts: I am finding the series as a whole mainly enjoyable. Molly is still stubborn and willful. Molly is still fierce and sometimes obnoxious. BUT. To be fair, in the big fight scene with Daniel...I wanted to yell at Daniel AND I wanted to yell at Molly. They were both being a bit obnoxious.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Degas, Painter of Ballerinas

Degas, Painter of Ballerinas. Susan Goldman Rubin. 2019. Harry N. Abrams. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: As the young girls adjusted their toe shoes and warmed up for class, Edgar Degas studied them.

Premise/plot: This is a nonfiction picture book for older readers and/or art lovers of all ages. This one focuses both on the ART of Edgar Degas (and the subject of his art: dancers) and the LIFE of Edgar Degas. (Roughly eight pages is devoted to his life--the rest is focused on his art.)

Each spread highlights a piece of art. (Sometimes a spread highlights two pieces of artwork.) There is an overall narrative to the text. But each piece of art also has accompanying sidebar packed with details.

I thought the narrative was lovely! It even included a few quotes.
During his long career from 1852 to 1912, Degas created more than a thousand dance pictures. He learned that ballet training was very much like studying art. It took hard work and hours and hours of practice. Degas drew the same poses again and again, just as the dancers repeated their positions at the barre again and again. "One must repeat the same subject ten times, a hundred times," said Degas. "Nothing in art, not even movement, must seem an accident." (2)
Sometimes Degas invented his own costumes for his paintings. In the classroom, the dancers really wore plain white skirts and tops, but he added blue and pink sashes and black throat ribbons. He needed the accents of color. Once when Degas was giving art lessons to a friend's son, he told the young student to paint the whole canvas in tones of a single color, perhaps gray or brown. "You put a little color on it, a touch here, a touch there," said Degas, "and you will see how little it takes to make it come to life." (14)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It isn't a book to be rushed through and read cover to cover. Though if one wanted to get the big picture...one could certainly do that first. But it is best to be enjoyed a little here and there. The art deserved to be appreciated, which takes time and effort. I loved learning about each piece.

I would definitely recommend this one.




© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

World at War: Climbing the Stairs

Climbing the Stairs. Padma Venkatraman. 2008. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I still remember the day we celebrated Krishna Jayanthi, the festival of Lord Krishna's birth, at our home in Bombay.

Premise/plot: Set in India during the early years of World War II, Climbing the Stairs is narrated by a charming young woman, 15, Vidya, who dreams of nothing more than going to college and continuing her education. She has an older brother, Kitta, a best friend, Rifka. When the novel begins, Vidya seems to have everything she wants within her grasp. Her parents have agreed that she won't be put on the marriage market quite yet unlike her cousin, Malati. And on a special father-daughter bonding trip, her father even agrees that she should go to college. And then....and then tragedy strikes.

Vidya's life isn't easy. It's in just as much turmoil--it seems--as India itself. There is within India a movement, a freedom movement, to create an independent India free from British rule and oppression. But there is also a call from the British to rise up and join the British ranks--British soldiers--on the field fighting the Axis powers. Yet Vidya's family at least--and presumably many others as well--believe in nonviolence. Affirm that all killing, all war is wrong. It doesn't matter who you're opposing, to take up arms is in itself wrong.


Climbing the Stairs. What does that mean exactly? Well, her grandfather and his family--his large extended family--live in a house. The men live upstairs. The women live downstairs. Women are not allowed in the men's domain. The library--technically speaking--should be off limits to her simply because of her sex, her gender. Women are not valued, not respected. Young women, girls, are seen merely as future wives, future mothers. They have no value except what value is placed on them by the men in their lives--father, brother, husband.

My thoughts: Vidya makes for a charming narrator for many reasons. But one of the reasons that I fell so in love with her as a narrator is the fact that she loves to read, loves to learn. When tragedy forces the family to move from their own home to her paternal grandfather's home, she doesn't give up hope, not completely. Life is very, very different. Very, very unpleasant. And yet, she always finds something to hold onto. And one of her greatest resources is her grandfather's library.

I absolutely loved this historical fiction novel. Definitely recommended.

This was my second time to read this one. It was just as good as I remembered.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Madeline

Madeline. Ludwig Bemelmans. 1939. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In an old house in Paris/ that was covered with vines/ lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

Premise/plot: Madeline is a children's classic set in Paris, France. It stars a brave little girl, Madeline, who has to go to the hospital with her appendix.

My thoughts: I love the setting of Madeline. I do. The illustrations of this one are lovely. The rhyming is nice. But the story itself--when you really stop and think about it--is a bit odd. As a child, I never really stopped to think about where they lived. Was it an orphanage? Were all the girls orphans? Is that why sometimes they were very, very sad? Was it a school? I also never really understood--then or now--why the other girls wanted Madeline's scar?!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 08, 2019

Marie, Dancing

Marie, Dancing. Carolyn Meyer. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "You," said the man wearing blue-tinted eyeglasses. 

Premise/plot: Edgar Degas is known for his paintings of dancers. But he is also known, of course, for his sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Marie, Dancing is a fictional account of that fourteen-year-old dancer, Marie van Goethem. The novel opens in 1878 with Degas inviting the young girl to model for him. It follows her through several years--even when she is no longer dancing.

Marie is the middle daughter. She has an older sister, Antoinette, and a younger sister, Charlotte. All three are ballet dancers. Dancing alone would never bring home enough money to pay the rent and buy food. That's one reason their aunt disapproves of the way her sister is raising the girls. (Another reason is that the mom is a drunk who takes what little money they have to drink.) Marie and Charlotte are almost always on the hungry side. Antoinette has started looking for men willing to pay for her company. So she'll come home with extra money, jewelry, and clothes. She's a vain girl; the more attention she receives from men the less attention she gives to her sisters and her dancing. Marie uses the money she gets from modeling to support her family. The modeling does not last long--at least through the eyes of Marie herself. She misses the money when it's gone. It took years for the sculpture to get finished and be ready for exhibition. (1881)

My thoughts: Marie, Dancing is set in Paris, France, during the late nineteenth century. It stars a few historical figures--Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. Marie van Goethem was a real girl; the novel has its basis in truth. But the novel is definitely fictional!

Carolyn Meyer is one of my favorite historical writers. I definitely enjoyed this one! I loved, loved, loved the setting. Although the novel could make one hungry....if one is prone to really getting immersed in a novel. I loved the sprinkling of French throughout the novel. I found that aspect delightful.

I thought the characterization was wonderful. I really loved Marie and Charlotte. I loved Marie's friendship with Jean-Pierre. I was really hoping these two would have a happy ending. (I was disappointed.)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 06, 2019

Georgian Check In #4

  •    What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
    •    What are you currently reading?
    •    Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
    •    Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
    •    Favorite book you've read so far...

I've only read two books since the last check-in:

17. The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934. 322 pages. [Source: Bought]
18. The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott. Josi S. Kilpack. 2017. Shadow Mountain. [Source: Library] 

I am currently reading TWO books.

Cecilia by Fanny Burney
and
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Quotes to share:

Pleasure given in society, like money lent in usury, returns with interest to those who dispense it: ~ Fanny Burney

She got together her books, arranged them to her fancy, and secured to herself for the future occupation of her leisure hours, the exhaustless fund of entertainment which reading, that richest, highest, and noblest source of intellectual enjoyment, perpetually affords.~ Fanny Burney

Hope is never so elastic as when it springs from the ruins of terror. ~ Fanny Burney

You are much deceived; you have been reading your own mind, and thought you had read his. ~ Fanny Burney

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.” ~ Jane Austen

I don't know that I have a favorite book so far...I have enjoyed many of the books I've read.


© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #27

5 Stars
Now You Know What You Eat. Valorie Fisher. 2019. [October 15] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) Robin LaFevers. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 404 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars
Oh Danny Boy (Molly Murphy #5) Rhys Bowen. 2006. 338 pages. [Source: Library]
Knights vs. Monsters. Matt Phelan. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 05, 2019

Halfway Check-In, Part 2

Board books and Picture Books100
Classics41
Contemporary/Realistic29
Early Readers, Early Chapter Books42
Historical Fiction78
Mysteries25
Nonfiction51
Poetry, Plays, Short Stories25
Romance54
Speculative Fiction36



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Oh Danny Boy (Molly Murphy #5)

Oh Danny Boy (Molly Murphy #5) Rhys Bowen. 2006. 338 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  There was that maniacal laughter again.

Premise/plot: Molly Murphy stars in her fifth but far from final mystery novel in Oh Danny Boy. In this one, Molly takes on her toughest case yet. Captain Daniel Sullivan is in JAIL. He's been accused of accepting bribes and arranging a prizefight. Daniel assures Molly that he is completely innocent--well mostly. Will she do what she can to clear his name? So long as it doesn't, you know, actually involve talking to anyone who might be dangerous (other police officers, mob bosses and gangsters, etc.) The case he gives her isn't exactly the case she takes up. She will clear his name no matter what. She'll use false names, go dangerous places, follow leads where they lead her.

Clearing Daniel's name isn't the ONLY thing on her mind these days. But a new friend or two helps clarify things there as well. I hope that Mrs. Goodwin sticks around for other books. This lady police officer was a delight.

My thoughts: I definitely found this to be an absorbing read. I was happy that the love triangle did not magically reappear. Though there are obstacles standing in the way of the couple's happily ever after, none of the obstacles are other love interests. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

Now You Know What You Eat

Now You Know What You Eat. Valorie Fisher. 2019. [October 15] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: How to read this book:
a + b = c  a combination of a and b equals c
a - b = a without b equals c
a } b a comes from or can be found in B.

Premise/plot: Now You Know What You Eat is a fascinating concept book for young readers. There are plenty of details packed into the illustrations. It does rely mainly on the illustrations and photographs. There is no central narrative text, just text boxes accompanying some of the illustrations. So the premise, what is it? On each page or two page spread, a food is highlighted. For example, vanilla ice cream cone, oatmeal raisin cookie, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, macaroni and cheese, pizza, vegetable soup, potato chip, etc. On the spread (or single page), illustrations/photographs reveal what is in that food and how it is made.

What ingredients make up an ice cream cone? What ingredients make up vanilla ice cream?

Some examples are more detailed than others. One of the more detailed pages is for oatmeal raisin cookies. Readers can learn where individual ingredients come from and then how to make those ingredients into a homemade cookie.

The page on peanut butter and jelly spends a good amount of time explaining the growing process of peanuts.

It has plenty of information including a nutrition guide, a page on vitamins and minerals, and a glossary of words to know.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I love that it uses play food in the photographs. Not every illustration is a photograph, mind you. There isn't "play food" to represent a vanilla orchid, for example! But much of the finished food products are photographs of play food. Even the author (aka "book creator")  includes a photograph of a PLAY DOLL instead of her actual picture.

Kids are curious. And this book feeds on that natural curiosity. I found this one a very fun and satisfying read! It would have been GREAT fun if they'd included a spread on lunchables. (I understand why they wouldn't/couldn't. But still.) Also why was there no page on CHICKEN NUGGETS?!?! Fisher could have easily swapped out DILL PICKLES or VEGETABLE SOUP for a spread on chicken nuggets.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Halfway Mark for 2019 Reading Challenges

2019 Read 52 Books in 52 WeeksHost: Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (sign up)
January - December 2019
# of books: 52



27 / 52 books. 52% done!

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge (2019) AUTHORS
Host: Escape with Dollycas (sign up here)
January 2019 - December 2019
# of books: 26+  I'm aiming for three mostly-complete bowls. (Mostly complete means for me 20-22 letters per bowl.)



57 / 78 books. 73% done!

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge (2019)
Host: Escape with Dollycas (sign up here)
January 2019 - December 2019# of books: 26+ I am going to try for six mostly complete bowls of soup (Mostly complete means for me 20-22 letters per bowl.)



101 / 156 books. 65% done!

2019 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge
Host: Books and Chocolate, sign up 
January - December 2019
# of books: 9 to 12.



8 / 12 books. 67% done!

Blogger Shame Challenge
Host: Herding Cats and Burning Soup (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: I'm aiming for 42



26 / 42 books. 62% done!

Calendar of Crime
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: 12 mysteries



14 / 24 books. 58% done!

Charity Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: January-December 2019
# of books: 42



20 / 42 books. 48% done!

2019 Chunkster Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: December 2018 - December 2019
# of points: 100



60 / 100 points. 60% done!

2019 European Reading Challenge
Host: Rose City Reader (sign up here)
January - January 31, 2020
# of books: I'm aiming for five   



5+ / 5 books. 100% done!

Family Tree Challenge is going well...but there isn't really a numbered goal....

Georgian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Duration: December 1, 2018 - December 31, 2019
# of books: minimum four



18 / 24 books. 75% done!


Good Rule Reading Challenge going great. So far I've read 261 new books and 108 old books.

2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Host: Passages to the Past (sign up)
January - December 2019
# of books: I'm aiming for Prehistoric 50+ books.


74 / 52 books. 142% done!

Jane Austen Book Club
Hosted by:  Bunny's Girl; sign up here
January - December 2019
# of books: I hope to read twelve.



2 / 12 books. 17% done!

Girl reading a book by Federico Zandomeneghi

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: minimum of 6

54 / 100 books. 54% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: 36 -- Mt. Vancouver




55 / 36 words. 153% done!
Picture Book Challenge is doing great...

Read It Again, Sam
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up here)
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: my goal is 48



60 / 48 books. 125% done!

Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Sign up here
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: 52 is my goal



72 / 52 words. 138% done!

2019 Sweet Southern Reading Challenge
Host: Readeropolis (sign up here) #SweetSouthernRC (suggestions)
January - December 2019
# of books: I'm signing up for 'Three Glasses of Sweet Tea' 7 to 9 books



7 / 9 books. 78% done!

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge
Host: Adam (Roof Beam Reader) (sign up here)
January - December 2019
# of books: 12 to 14



5 / 14 books. 36% done!

Victorian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
sign up here
Duration: January - December 2019
# of books: My goal is 8



10 / 8 books. 125% done!

2019 When Are You Reading Challenge
Host: Taking On A World of Words (sign up here) (home page for challenge)
January - December 2019
# of books: 12



10 / 12 books. 83% done!

World At War Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Sign up here
Duration: January - December 2019
Goal: My goal is to read at least 52 books--fiction, nonfiction.



28 / 52 books. 54% done!

Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) 2019 Reading Challenge Checklist
Host: Modern Mrs. Darcy (sign up here)
January - December 2019
# of books 12




8 / 12 books. 67% done!


 © 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
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