Saturday, August 31, 2019

August Reflections

August# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews10
Young Readers4
Operation Actually Read Bible0



14

August
# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews3039
Young Readers224
Operation Actually Read Bible0


Totals3263



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


Totals So Far

Books Read
425
Pages Read
81359


New-to-me Highlights
Reread Highlights

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #35

5 Stars
Anne Arrives. Kallie George. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. 2018. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
Anne's Kindred Spirits. Kallie George. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. 2019. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
A Skunk in My Bunk. Christopher Cerf. Illustrated by Nicola Slater. 2019. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 352 pages.
The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 440 pages.
 A Place to Belong. Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Return of the King

The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 440 pages.
 
First sentence: Pippin looked out from the shelter of Gandalf's cloak.

So Return of the King consists of books five and six of Lord of the Rings. In book five, narrators shift from chapter to chapter to chapter. Essentially we spend time with everyone but Sam and Frodo. We spend time in Rohan and Gondor. Scarlett O'Hara would be nothing but bored, bored, bored for this one is all about WAR, WAR, WAR. If they're not actually IN battle, they're marching towards battle, planning battle tactics, or recovering from battle. Did I personally find it boring??? Far from it, it is INTENSE and heartbreaking in places. (For example, Theoden's end.) I would actually say almost all the action happens in book five.

Book six starts out as being all about Sam and Frodo, but, it doesn't stay their book. The climax to the trilogy comes early in book six. Soon the fellowship is reunited and readers get the full cast of characters they've become so attached to. Here we have two to three romances squeezed in. If I had any advice for new readers it would be this: don't expect the book to be as focused on ROMANCE and FEELINGS as the movies are. 

So does book six drag? Is the end of the war coming so early in the novel a weakness in the book? I'm going to say perhaps and NO. I love that the book shows what happens next. I love that the book focuses on soldiers going home, on trying to settle back into life after the war. I love that we see the effect of the war. I love that we don't get a polished, rushed happy ending. It would be so easy for a movie to end in a parade and award ceremony. (Think Star Wars!) But life isn't like that. It isn't always easy for soldiers to adjust back into life, into society. I love that we see the ongoing consequences of war. We see how war has changed everyone--not just the Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin--but everyone in the Shire.

Favorite quotes:

Well, no need to brood on what tomorrow may bring. For one thing, tomorrow will be certain to bring worse than today, for many days to come. And there is nothing more that I can do to help it. The board is set, and the pieces are moving. 
‘Nine o’clock we’d call it in the Shire,’ said Pippin aloud to himself. ‘Just the time for a nice breakfast by the open window in spring sunshine. And how I should like breakfast! Do these people ever have it, or is it over? And when do they have dinner, and where?’

‘I am no warrior at all and dislike any thought of battle; but waiting on the edge of one that I can’t escape is worst of all. What a long day it seems already! I should be happier, if we were not obliged to stand and watch, making no move, striking nowhere first.
‘So we come to it in the end,’ he said: ‘the great battle of our time, in which many things shall pass away. But at least there is no longer need for hiding. We will ride the straight way and the open road and with all our speed. The muster shall begin at once, and wait for none that tarry. Have you good store in Minas Tirith? For if we must ride now in all haste, then we must ride light, with but meal and water enough to last us into battle.
‘O Sam!’ cried Frodo. ‘What have I said? What have I done? Forgive me! After all you have done. It is the horrible power of the Ring. I wish it had never, never, been found. But don’t mind me, Sam. I must carry the burden to the end. It can’t be altered. You can’t come between me and this doom.’
‘So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,’ thought Sam: ‘to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job then I must do it. But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton and her brothers, and the Gaffer and Marigold and all. I can’t think somehow that Gandalf would have sent Mr. Frodo on this errand, if there hadn’t a’ been any hope of his ever coming back at all. Things all went wrong when he went down in Moria. I wish he hadn’t. He would have done something.’ But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.
Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!’ ‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.’ As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light.
Then to the wonder of many Aragorn did not put the crown upon his head, but gave it back to Faramir, and said: ‘By the labour and valour of many I have come into my inheritance. In token of this I would have the Ring-bearer bring the crown to me, and let Mithrandir set it upon my head, if he will; for he has been the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory.’ Then Frodo came forward and took the crown from Faramir and bore it to Gandalf; and Aragorn knelt, and Gandalf set the White Crown upon his head, and said:
‘Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!’ But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried: ‘Behold the King!’
‘Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side. ‘Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo. ‘It is my shoulder. The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today.’ ‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,’ said Gandalf. ‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo. ‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’ Gandalf did not answer.




© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Blog manifesto

Today marks the thirteenth blog birthday of Becky’s Book Reviews. As I embark on my fourteenth year of blogging, I wanted to take a few minutes to mark my perhaps radical change in philosophy. This isn’t without a certain amount of risk. Will this philosophy, this change of practice, be lasting?! Can an old dog learn a few new tricks?! I have made significant life changes in the past and kept them up. So there is hope.

I am removing “have”, “should”, and “must” from my blogging philosophy.

I “have” to review a book every day of the week.
I “must” review ten plus books a week (across all three blogs).
I “should” finish this book tonight so that I have a review to post tomorrow.
I “have” to choose short books so that I have plenty of books to review in any given week.
I “must” finish this book because I’ve already gotten this far.
I “should “ have weekly features.
I “have” to host reading challenges. I started the challenge, I “should “ keep it going each year.
I “must” be open to accepting review copies.
I “have” to read and review 500+ books a year. The higher the number of books, the higher the number of pages...the better.
I “should” be supportive and join other reading challenges that other bloggers host.
I “must” read books that fulfill reading challenges.
I “have” to review every book I finish reading—even if I have nothing to say.
I “should” read from as many genres and sub genres as possible.
I “must” read outside my comfort zone.

You get the idea. All of these are self-imposed, I know this. The only real should is that if I’ve committed to reading a book for a blog tour within a given time frame (a specific day or week) I need to keep that obligation. I will keep that should!

From now on, my goal is to post around four to six book reviews a week across all three blogs. If it’s two or three—no stress, no panic.

Heading into 2020, my goal is to review a hundred books per blog over the course of a year. It will be a complete experiment. It might not be achievable. It might be quite easy to achieve.

I will probably change up the format of my posts in 2020. Perhaps numbering the posts in the title so that I can keep up with how many I have reviewed for that blog. I may add—emphasis on “may”— the dates I started and finished a book.

Probably the biggest change I will try to hold myself to in 2020 is abstaining from joining and hosting reading challenges. I may decide between now and January that I want to host one (and only one) reading challenge. If I do, I will need to choose carefully. And for the right reasons. Just because I “have” a fun idea for a challenge doesn’t mean it needs to happen. Likewise, I may decide that I want to join one and only one reading challenge. But I “should” not say yes to a challenge just because I like the challenge image.

I am hoping that these changes—big and small—will lead to a better (more sustainable, more natural) experience. I was tempted to say genuine. But it’s not that I haven’t been honest in my reviews. But perhaps I haven’t been honest about stress, exhaustion, fatigue, burn-out. I have tried to be super human instead of human.

I want the freedom to read what I want to read when I want to read it.

I want the freedom to take my time with a book. To read it as fast or as slow as I choose.

I want the freedom to read only books that I currently find exciting, compelling, engaging. I want to fall in love, be swept up, up and away. I want to visit worlds where I can get lost. I want to find kindred spirits. I want to have book crushes. I want to revisit old friends.

I want the freedom to read massive, epic, oh-so-intimidating chunksters. In the past, I’ve held myself back because it might mean three or four reviews for the month instead of twenty or thirty.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Two Towers

The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 352 pages.

First sentence: Aragorn sped on up the hill. 

Premise/plot: The fellowship has been broken, but the adventures are just beginning. The narrative is split between Frodo and Sam (the last part) and Aragorn and the gang (the first part)

The book opens with some drama: Merry and Pippin have been taken! Boromir has fallen valiantly in battle trying to protect them. He confesses all to Aragorn moments before he dies. (But the movie does it even better. That death scene in the extended edition is SOMETHING.)

Aragorn knelt beside him. Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak. At last slow words came. ‘I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,’ he said. ‘I am sorry. I have paid.’ His glance strayed to his fallen enemies; twenty at least lay there. ‘They have gone: the Halflings: the Orcs have taken them. I think they are not dead. Orcs bound them.’ He paused and his eyes closed wearily. After a moment he spoke again. ‘Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.’ ‘No!’ said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. ‘You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!’ Boromir smiled. ‘Which way did they go? Was Frodo there?’ said Aragorn. But Boromir did not speak again.
The company also learns that Sam and Frodo have left, have "broken" the fellowship. The mission has changed without a doubt, but the remaining members still have purpose.
‘The rumour of the earth is dim and confused,’ he said. ‘Nothing walks upon it for many miles about us. Faint and far are the feet of our enemies. But loud are the hoofs of the horses. It comes to my mind that I heard them, even as I lay on the ground in sleep, and they troubled my dreams: horses galloping, passing in the West. But now they are drawing ever further from us, riding northward. I wonder what is happening in this land!’ ‘Let us go!’ said Legolas.
They decide to pursue the orcs and attempt a rescue of the hobbits. In their quest to save Merry and Pippin, they meet an old friend in a surprising place!

In addition to meeting an old friend, readers also meet some new characters: Treebeard, Éomer, Théoden, and Éowyn. Merry and Pippin encounter the Ents! Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, (and Gandalf) go to Rohan. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this third book.

The fourth book concerns Frodo, Sam, Gollum. Readers meet Boromir's brother as well. It's good, very good. But I can't help thinking that it is largely redeemed by SAM.





My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. Rereading is the BEST.


Favorite quotes:

Gimli ground his teeth. ‘This is a bitter end to our hope and to all our toil!’ he said. ‘To hope, maybe, but not to toil,’ said Aragorn.  
‘Awake! Awake!’ he cried. ‘It is a red dawn. Strange things await us by the eaves of the forest. Good or evil, I do not know; but we are called. Awake!’
‘You may say this to Théoden son of Thengel: open war lies before him, with Sauron or against him. None may live now as they have lived, and few shall keep what they call their own.
The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’ ‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.’ ‘True indeed,’ said Éomer. ‘But I do not doubt you, nor the deed which my heart would do. Yet I am not free to do all as I would. It is against our law to let strangers wander at will in our land, until the king himself shall give them leave, and more strict is the command in these days of peril.
There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.
There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain’t, as you might say. I’ll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please – nice names. For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.’ A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. ‘For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.
‘Of course, it is likely enough, my friends,’ he said slowly, ‘likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. 
‘My name!’ said the old man again. ‘Have you not guessed it already? You have heard it before, I think. Yes, you have heard it before. But come now, what of your tale?’ The three companions stood silent and made no answer. ‘There are some who would begin to doubt whether your errand is fit to tell,’ said the old man. ‘Happily I know something of it. You are tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits, I believe. Yes, hobbits. Don’t stare, as if you had never heard the strange name before. You have, and so have I. Well, they climbed up here the day before yesterday; and they met someone that they did not expect. Does that comfort you? And now you would like to know where they were taken? Well, well, maybe I can give you some news about that. But why are we standing? Your errand, you see, is no longer as urgent as you thought. Let us sit down and be more at ease.’  
They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say. At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!’ Gimli said nothing, but sank to his knees, shading his eyes. 
Hope is not victory. War is upon us and all our friends, a war in which only the use of the Ring could give us surety of victory. It fills me with great sorrow and great fear: for much shall be destroyed and all may be lost. I am Gandalf, Gandalf the White, but Black is mightier still.’ 
Go where you must go, and hope! 
A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.
Men need many words before deeds. 
 ‘Yet dawn is ever the hope of men,’ said Aragorn.
That must be my hope,’ said Legolas. ‘But I wish that he had come this way. I desired to tell Master Gimli that my tale is now thirty-nine.’ ‘If he wins back to the caves, he will pass your count again,’ laughed Aragorn. ‘Never did I see an axe so wielded.’ ‘I must go and seek some arrows,’ said Legolas. ‘Would that this night would end, and I could have better light for shooting.’ 
‘We will have peace,’ said Théoden at last thickly and with an effort. Several of the Riders cried out gladly. Théoden held up his hand. ‘Yes, we will have peace,’ he said, now in a clear voice, ‘we will have peace, when you and all your works have perished – and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just – as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired – even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Háma’s body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the House of Eorl. A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’ 
Now, Pippin my lad, don’t forget Gildor’s saying – the one Sam used to quote: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.’
‘Don’t hurt us! Don’t let them hurt us, precious! They won’t hurt us will they, nice little hobbitses? We didn’t mean no harm, but they jumps on us like cats on poor mices, they did, precious. And we’re so lonely, gollum. We’ll be nice to them, very nice, if they’ll be nice to us, won’t we, yes, yess.’
We only wish to catch a fish, so juicy-sweet! 
‘Yess, yess, nice water,’ said Gollum. ‘Drink it, drink it, while we can! But what is it they’ve got, precious? Is it crunchable? Is it tasty?’
‘I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go,’ said Frodo. ‘If there is only one way, then I must take it. What comes after must come.’
Sam said nothing. The look on Frodo’s face was enough for him; he knew that words of his were useless. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed. Now they were come to the bitter end. But he had stuck to his master all the way; that was what he had chiefly come for, and he would still stick to him. His master would not go to Mordor alone. Sam would go with him – and at any rate they would get rid of Gollum. 

All hobbits, of course, can cook, for they begin to learn the art before their letters (which many never reach); but Sam was a good cook, even by hobbit reckoning, and he had done a good deal of the camp-cooking on their travels, when there was a chance. He still hopefully carried some of his gear in his pack: a small tinder-box, two small shallow pans, the smaller fitting into the larger; inside them a wooden spoon, a short two-pronged fork and some skewers were stowed; and hidden at the bottom of the pack in a flat wooden box a dwindling treasure, some salt. But he needed a fire, and other things besides. He thought for a bit, while he took out his knife, cleaned and whetted it, and began to dress the rabbits. He was not going to leave Frodo alone asleep even for a few minutes. 
Sam drew a deep breath. ‘An Oliphaunt it was!’ he said. ‘So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me. Well, if that’s over, I’ll have a bit of sleep.’
‘I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’ ‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’ ‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’
Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.”’ ‘It’s saying a lot too much,’ said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. ‘Why, Sam,’ he said, ‘to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. “I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?”’ ‘Now, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam, ‘you shouldn’t make fun. I was serious.’ ‘So was I,’ said Frodo, ‘and so I am. We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: “Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.”’


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

World at War: A Place to Belong

A Place to Belong. Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This was the secret thing Hanako felt about old people: she really didn’t understand them.

Premise/plot: Hanako and her brother Akira are traveling to Japan with their parents. It will be the first time they meet their grandparents. There will be many, many firsts both on the journey by ship, the train ride to Hiroshima, and life in a small country village. The year is 1946; Hanako’s family is one of hundreds that have renounced their American citizenship. (The parents have—not the children, at least in this case.) Hanako thought any life outside the camps (internment camps) would be an improvement. One thing the family has in abundance love and affection. There is a sweet, tender, compassionate side to all the relationships. The two children love, love, love their grandfather and grandmother. It is mutual. These two grandparents have been unconditionally loving them since they were born. But there are many, many hardships—namely lack of food. There isn’t enough food to feed six people. Even if everyone works every day all day. Hunger is ever present and it gnaws at the family’s hope. It is important for them all that the children hold onto hope. Is there a future for them all in Japan? Is Japan the place the family belongs? Or is America still home despite the way they were treated?

My thoughts: What a tender and compelling read! Hanako touched me and I believe she’ll touch you too. What I loved most about her was her heart. She is kind, generous, thoughtful, sensitive to others. She is the model of empathy. And not in a goody two shoes way. She sees how the war—particularly the dropping of the atomic bomb has devastated a community and impacted so many. She sees the pain and seeks to do something—anything, even if it’s just a small gesture.

I also loved the family as a whole. Unconditional love, sacrificial love, selfless love. There was just something lovely and tender yet bittersweet as well. I just wanted to hug all the characters.

The book is character-driven. It told a story that I was unfamiliar with and found fascinating. I had no idea that some families chose to leave America and “return” to Japan after the war. I had no idea that many later hired a lawyer to fight on their behalf to have their citizenships reinstated. Did the families truly choose or were they pressured to renounce? The book also gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse at life in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Highly recommended.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the prologue: This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history.

First sentence from chapter one: When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

Premise/plot: The novel opens with a HUGE celebration. Bilbo will be turning 111 and Frodo will be turning 33.

Bilbo is preparing to leave the Shire forever, but, he'll be leaving most everything to Frodo--including his magical ring. Gandalf is relieved that the ring will pass onto Frodo, it makes him a bit nervous to see Bilbo so attached to it and calling it precious. As the years go by--and years DO go by--Gandalf becomes concerned, worried, anxious about the ring. He fears that it is the ONE RING, and that Frodo's possession of the ring is dangerous.

I believe Frodo is about fifty when he does eventually set out on his very own adventure. And he won't be alone. He'll be accompanied by Sam, Pippin, and Merry. As their journey progresses, more people join the fellowship, and more risks are faced.

My thoughts: I love, love, loved rereading The Fellowship of the Ring. I think this is my third time to finish the series. (Yes, I've read all three of the trilogy when I'm writing this review.) There is something comforting about rereading it. I think it gets better each time. I find more to love, more to share. I notice more as well.

  On birthday presents:

Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in Hobbiton and Bywater every day in the year was somebody’s birthday, so that every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.
It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up: for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received. 
On the food at the birthday party:
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking – continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started. 
Bilbo confesses something to Gandalf:
‘I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!’ he snorted. ‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’ Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. ‘No, it does not seem right,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘No, after all I believe your plan is probably the best.’ ‘Well, I’ve made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf – mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.’ 
The ring:
As Frodo did so, he now saw fine lines, finer than the finest pen-strokes, running along the ring, outside and inside: lines of fire that seemed to form the letters of a flowing script. They shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth. ‘I cannot read the fiery letters,’ said Frodo in a quavering voice. ‘No,’ said Gandalf, ‘but I can. The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore: Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.’
But as for breaking the Ring, force is useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine. 
‘There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.’ 
Frodo and Gandalf 'regret' the times in which they live:
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think, but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance. 
I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’ ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’
‘Not safe for ever,’ said Gandalf. ‘There are many things in the deep waters; and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’ 
More words of wisdom from Gandalf:
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. 
Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.  
The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.’ 
It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill. But such falls and betrayals, alas, have happened before. 
‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.’ 
Favorite Sam Bits:
‘Well, sir,’ said Sam dithering a little. ‘I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself, if you know what I mean. Lor bless me, sir, but I do love tales of that sort. And I believe them too, whatever Ted may say. Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn’t you take me to see Elves, sir, when you go?’
‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’ ‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’
‘Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now – now that your wish to see them has come true already?’ he asked. ‘Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.’
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.’ 
‘Where did you come by that, Sam?’ asked Pippin. ‘I’ve never heard those words before.’ Sam muttered something inaudible. ‘It’s out of his own head, of course,’ said Frodo. ‘I am learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey. First he was a conspirator, now he’s a jester. He’ll end up by becoming a wizard – or a warrior!’ ‘I hope not,’ said Sam. ‘I don’t want to be neither!’ 
Sam sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. ‘I wish I had never come here, and I don’t want to see no more magic,’ he said and fell silent. After a moment he spoke again thickly, as if struggling with tears. ‘No, I’ll go home by the long road with Mr. Frodo, or not at all,’ he said. ‘But I hope I do get back some day. If what I’ve seen turns out true, somebody’s going to catch it hot!’ 
‘So all my plan is spoilt!’ said Frodo. ‘It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together. We will go, and may the others find a safe road! Strider will look after them. I don’t suppose we shall see them again.’ ‘Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may,’ said Sam.
Concerning Aragorn and other members of the Fellowship:
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king. 
‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’
‘Did the verses apply to you then?’ asked Frodo. ‘I could not make out what they were about. But how did you know that they were in Gandalf’s letter, if you have never seen it?’ ‘I did not know,’ he answered. ‘But I am Aragorn, and those verses go with that name.’ He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. ‘Not much use is it, Sam?’ said Strider. ‘But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.’
There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 26, 2019

The Hobbit

The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.  

Premise/plot: Bilbo Baggins has an unexpected adventure in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. When this children's classic opens, Bilbo is decidedly not a burglar. But by the end of it, well, you may have to decide for yourself if he is or isn't... Regardless, Bilbo sets off with THIRTEEN dwarves on a get-rich-or-die-trying quest. They're off to face down a DRAGON, but the dragon won't be the only challenge they face. Will Bilbo return to his beloved shire wiser?!

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love, love, love this one. I do. I may even love it a tiny bit more than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Maybe. It's a tricky thing really because in truth, I just LOVE hobbits. I love spending time with hobbits. I love Tolkien's insights about hobbits. One of the things I love about Tolkien is how quotable he is.

Quotes:

“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” “All of them at once,” said Bilbo.
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”
He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he—as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful—he might have to go without.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!”
He was altogether alone. Soon he thought it was beginning to feel warm. “Is that a kind of a glow I seem to see coming right ahead down there?” he thought. It was. As he went forward it grew and grew, till there was no doubt about it. It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder. Also it was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him. It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.
“You have nice manners for a thief and a liar,” said the dragon. “You seem familiar with my name, but I don’t seem to remember smelling you before. Who are you and where do you come from, may I ask?” “You may indeed! I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen.” “So I can well believe,” said Smaug, “but that is hardly your usual name.” “I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number.” “Lovely titles!” sneered the dragon. “But lucky numbers don’t always come off.” “I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me.” “These don’t sound so creditable,” scoffed Smaug. “I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider,” went on Bilbo beginning to be pleased with his riddling. “That’s better!” said Smaug. “But don’t let your imagination run away with you!”
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #34

5 Stars
Eventown. Corey Ann Haydu. 2019. 328 pages. [Source: Library]
Little People, Big Dreams: L.M. Montgomery. Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz. 2018 [October]. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
 The Brave Princess and Me. Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Juliana Kolesova. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Time  Traveler's Theory of Relativity. Nicole Valentine. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]


4 Stars
 The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood. 1985. 344 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 24, 2019

August Share-a-Tea Check-In Post

Mary Cassatt, Dame am Teetisch
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?

 
77. A Time  Traveler's Theory of Relativity. Nicole Valentine. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
78. The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood. 1985. 344 pages. [Source: Library]
79. The Brave Princess and Me. Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Juliana Kolesova. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
80. Eventown. Corey Ann Haydu. 2019. 328 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't tried any new-to-me teas. But I have been drinking old favorites. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Eventown

Eventown. Corey Ann Haydu. 2019. 328 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Jenny Horowitz likes horses and the color pink and asking lots of questions about things I don’t want to talk about.

Premise/plot: Elodee, our heroine, is a twin; her sister is Naomi. Both are in the fifth grade. Both are struggling with their emotions and feelings. Both are trying to support the other. The Lively family as a whole is struggling actually. The parents decide that what is best for them all is a move, a move to the oh-so-perfect town of Eventown. Every one is always happy, friendly, comfortable in Eventown. They live in identical houses, have similar yards, have similar interests and traditions. There is a right way to do community.

Elodee has trouble truly fitting in. Naomi blossoms and shines in this even environment. But Elodee, well, she has questions—dozens of them. Why is there only one song sung in Eventown?! Why is the no television, no internet, no music, no movies?! Why are all the books in the library beautifully bound but blank?!

The school also seems to have its own priorities in the curriculum. Readers can clearly discern that something is afoot. What makes Eventown unique? Why would anyone choose to move there?

My thoughts: I found this to be a compelling, suspenseful read. Suspenseful in a Twilight Zone way. A not-so-subtle creepiness that closes in around you as you turn the pages. At one point, for example, vines surround their house blocking out the light and making it difficult to open the door.

I really enjoyed the characters and relationships. I loved Elodee’s friendship with Veena and her Mom. I also liked her relationship with her dad.

This one reminded me of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. (Also of Orson Scott Card's under-appreciated Worthing Saga). I would not be disappointed if it won an award or two.

I used to think feelings were part of a person, but lately I’ve been thinking they are separate beings, that they come like aliens and invade people’s bodies and cause destruction.


S
P
O
I
L
E
R

This one hints of darkness. The family has a reason—right or wrong—for wanting a new start or beginning. But this beginning comes at a huge price. Do we truly want to forget completely everything that has hurt and challenged us?


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little People, Big Dreams: L.M. Montgomery. Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz. 2018 [October]. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Premise/plot: This is a lovely picture book biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery. It focuses on her big dream of writing and storytelling. While it briefly mentions her unhappy childhood, for the most part it stays happy-happy never delving into her adulthood unhappiness and struggles with mental health. It is a cozy read for elementary readers who are on the verge of meeting Anne for the first time.

My thoughts: I found this an enjoyable read. Last year I read a biography for an older audience (though still for youth) that was incredibly depressing though probably true to life. Mental health is important and was rarely understood in the past. It was nice that this one didn’t go dark. There is a time and place for both books.

The illustrations are good! I loved seeing a young Maud in braids. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

World at War: The Brave Princess and Me

The Brave Princess and Me. Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Juliana Kolesova. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There once was a princess who lived in Greece. Her full name was Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie, but she was called Princess Alice. When she was very young her family discovered that she was deaf.

Premise/plot: Rachel Cohen and her daughter, Tilde, are desperate for help and they find it in the kind and gracious acts of a princess. This illustrated book for young readers is set in Greece during the Second World War. The story is inspired by true events. The princess that stars in this one is the mother of Prince Philip who is married to Queen Elizabeth II.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the illustrations of this one. They are simply beautiful. I also love that it is inspired by true people and events. I have read very little about the Second World War that was set in Greece. I loved how Princess Alice fooled the Nazis by playing dumb. It never occurred to them apparently that a deaf person could be intelligent, informed, opinionated, political.

The story is written in the first person. It is short but packed with emotion.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood. 1985. 344 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

Premise/plot: The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian classic by Margaret Atwood. It is narrated by a handmaid, Offred, and set in the Republic of Gilead. Offred, which is her new name not her birth name, remembers a time before--a time when women were free: free to work, free to manage their own money, free to read and write. Because she married a divorced man, when the change happened, her marriage became illegal--immoral. She was retrained/reschooled--taught by "Aunts" in how to be an obedient servant to the Republic. In her new role as handmaid, she will seek to bear the Commander's child. Different women are assigned different tasks. Some are for sex and the bearing of children. Some are for working. Only the poorest of men have econowives--one woman expected to do ALL the household work and tasks.

The novel definitely gives us an ALTERNATE 1980s.

My thoughts: I read this one not because it is a feminist classic but because it is a dystopian classic. I found it a compelling read for the most part. It was strange to see biblical themes appear and reappear throughout the novel in various ways--none of them exactly true to an actual biblical interpretation. It would be sad if readers actually assumed this is the Christian way of thinking and that to be a Christian means you want to live in the Republic of Gilead.

I believe it is written in stream of consciousness. Offred's recollections are mixed in generously with the here and now. It is only a sense--an intuition--that keeps readers discerning what is happening in the present and what may have happened last week, last month, last year, ten years ago. I followed it for the most part. I was swept up in the story. I would not want to be quizzed on the ins and outs of it. But it kept my attention.

A few weeks ago I reviewed We Set the Dark on Fire a novel that supposedly mirrors--for a young adult audience--The Handmaid's Tale. I found it lacking even before reading this one. It just isn't as thought-provoking or as substantive. The world building just isn't there. What the two do have in common is that towards the end the narrators become distracted sexually. Offred becomes enamored--filled with lust--for Nick. And Dani becomes obsessed with Carmen. One big difference between the two is that The Handmaid's Tale is a serious work of fiction that is carefully crafted throughout. We Set the Dark on Fire, on the other hand, has the mere potential to be a serious work. I wanted it to be a political, feminist WORK. I didn't want it to be a silly, flimsy work.

The Handmaid's Tale does leave DOZENS of unanswered questions. But it does so in a way that still builds the world up satisfactorily. The danger is real in Handmaid's Tale. It is never quite in We Set the Dark on Fire.
 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 19, 2019

A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity

A Time  Traveler's Theory of Relativity. Nicole Valentine. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the prologue: We lie to ourselves when necessary. Some of us are more convincing than others. My family has always been particularly good at it.

First sentence from chapter one: Finnegan Firth slid out of his bedroom window and padded on bare feet across the cold slate patio.

Premise/plot: Finn, our hero, believes that science holds the answers to everything. But he's forced to question and re-question everything he believes to be true after his grandmother's death. For the night she died, she revealed a huge family secret. The women in their family are travelers. Most have only ever been able to travel to the PAST. But in recent generations--notably his mother and grandmother--they have been able to travel to the future. (In fact the Grandma revealing the HUGE secret is not the Grandma from his time line. That Grandma is lying dead in bed as they speak.) She wants him to try to time travel via a portal that his mom created in order to help save his family from their current crisis. But does Finn have enough faith? Perhaps even enough faith to save FAITH? Who is Faith? Faith is his twin sister who disappeared--believed drowned--when they were three. Her body was never found. What would a great, noble, oh-so-dangerous quest be without a best friend? Finn's best friend is Gabi.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It was super-compelling and packed with action and intrigue. You should know that I tend to LOVE time travel stories. I do. I always have. I think my first exposure to time travel came via Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation. I have never really stopped being intrigued and fascinated by the concept of traveling to the past or the future.

I enjoyed the dual narrators. The second narrator--the one of the prologue--is super-spooky. Her voice is a haunting one. I wouldn't say it kept me reading--Finn's voice alone probably would have achieved the same thing--but it added a certain darkness or richness to the text overall.

“I don’t want to hear any ancient stories, Gran. I want to hear about now.” She studied him for a moment, her eyes narrowed. “Everything is now, dear boy. And make no mistake, things that happened before you were born have everything to do with who you are and what you do. So much of our lives are built on what happened before we even arrived. The past is never dead. It’s not even past. Faulkner said that.”


© 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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