Monday, September 30, 2019

September Reflections

September# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews10
Young Readers5
Operation Actually Read Bible6


# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews3085
Young Readers350
Operation Actually Read Bible1224


# of Books# of Pages

Totals So Far

Books Read
Pages Read

New-to-me Highlights

Reread Highlights

none this month

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Victorian Check-In Post #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 one book that qualifies since the last check-in post in July.

The Lady and the Highwayman. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm not currently reading any either. Unless you count Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind...

I do hope to start one soon. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Stars Upon Thars #39

5 Stars
Sophia: Mother of Kings. Catherine Curzon. 2019. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Billy Boyle (Billy Boyle #1) James R. Benn. 2006. 294 pages. [Source: Library]
The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat Adventuring Cat. Caroline Adderson. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst. 2019. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
Nixie Ness: Cooking Star. (After School Superstars) Claudia Mills. 2019. 144 pages. [Source: Library] 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

September Share-a-Tea Check-In Post

Jean McLane, Tea Time
What are you currently reading for the challenge?
Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
Want to share any favorite quotes from a past or current read?
What teas have you enjoyed this month?

Currently reading the second book in the Kopp Sisters series. 

Books read since last time:

81. A Place to Belong. Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
82. The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought]
83. The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]
84.  The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 352 pages.
85.   The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 440 pages.
86. The Lady and the Highwayman. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
87. One Good Deed. David Baldacci. 2019. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
88. The Lightest Object in the Universe. Kimi Eisele. 2019. 325 pages. [Source: Library]
89. Sophia: Mother of Kings. Catherine Curzon. 2019. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
90. The Tuscan Child. Rhys Bowen. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I have tried a new tea this month. I love, love, love Stash's Jasmine Blossom Green Tea.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Chunkster Challenge Check-In #3

How are you doing on the challenge?
What books have you read?
What book are you currently reading?
How many points have you earned?
Do you have any questions about the challenge?

I haven't read any chunksters since the last update. I did read all three books in the LOTR series, but I didn't use an omnibus I'm not counting them since none of the individual titles qualify as a chunkster. I've read several large print books that were over 450 pages...but that was because they were large print. The regular print had them being between 430 and 440 pages. So it's been a few months of almost qualifiers.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Lightest Object in the Universe

The Lightest Object in the Universe. Kimi Eisele. 2019. 325 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Thirteen days into the second month of the year, the lights began to go out.

Premise/plot: The Lightest Object in the Universe is a post-apocalyptic romance novel starring Carson Waller and Beatrix Banks. When the darkness comes (which is after the deadly flu, by the way) Carson and Beatrix are lovers separated by a continent. He lives in New York; she lives in California. They’ve always used technology to communicate on a near daily basis. They visit one another via plane. Their love blossomed as they knew it, as everyone knew it disappeared in a matter of days. Carson heads out on foot—following railway tracks—to California. Beatrix, meanwhile, has a tough choice to make. Should she stay put and work on turning her own community into a communal haven? Or should she follow the vague directions of her fellow roommates?! The chapters do not alternate narrators—for better or worse. Each chapter switches back and forth and back and forth. There are no design indicators to let readers—perhaps sleepy readers—know who is narrating.

My thoughts: This is a good example of an almost love for me. On the one hand, I enjoy post-apocalyptic novels; I enjoy dystopian novels. The community Beatrix becomes a part of seems utopian. The community (the Center) that both Carson and Beatrix are skeptical of is definitely dystopian. This has a light thread of romance which acts as hope. On the other hand, this stayed a premise driven novel. The characters remained a bit too distant for me. I wanted them to find each other again, I did. But I didn’t really feel a true connection with either. There was a potential for tension and suspense. But I never felt the life-and-death danger of this new world they were adjusting to.

I don’t regret my time. But I don’t see myself rereading this one.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sophia: Mother of Kings

Sophia: Mother of Kings. Catherine Curzon. 2019. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: ‘The princess SOPHIA, who was a daughter and mother of a king, was herself mistress of every qualification requisite to adorn a crown. [Sophia was] the most accomplished lady in Europe.’

Premise/plot: This biography is divided—for better or worse—into three acts. Each act covers a role in her incredible life: princess, duchess, and electress. So who was Sophia? She was the daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, and Princess Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I of England. She was their twelfth child, seemingly unimportant to the politics of the nations. But by the end of her life, oh how things would change! For she and her offspring would enter into the succession. Sophia was the mother of the first Hanoverian king of England, George I. This book covers ALL her life and the other key players of the times.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. I would say it was far from dry and boring. I might even dare to say it was a thrilling read. Might. I think for those that—like me—love history OR love the royal family OR both it will be a compelling read. Usually I complain when a book has lengthy chapters. I do. I need potential stopping places—lots of them. But the lack of chapters did not bother me. I sped through the first two acts. I was getting caught up in the story, talking about it with my mom, keeping her updated with all the twists and turns, tuning out distractions. I was INTO the book. It read like a real life soap opera. It used a lot of quotes from Sophia’s own diary or autobiography. So it felt personal. I will say that the book began to drag a bit towards the end. There comes a point when it’s less soap opera and more obituary column. But when it’s good, it’s GOOD.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

World at War: Billy Boyle

Billy Boyle (Billy Boyle #1) James R. Benn. 2006. 294 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I typed the date under my name: Lieutenant William Boyle, August 6, 1942.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle is the lovable, oh-so-human, cop turned soldier starring in James R. Benn’s historical mystery series. Billy is an Irish cop/detective from Boston. After Pearl Harbor, his mom pulls some strings and gets her son an “easy” or “safe” posting. He goes to officer school, becomes a lieutenant, and gets assigned to General Eisenhower’s headquarters in London, England. “Uncle” Ike is pleased to give Boyle a task or two that will utilize his detective skills. His first assignment concerns the Norwegians. He’s told that there is likely a spy among them. He’s also told (by the Norwegians) that a crate or two of gold was stolen during transport—as the government was fleeing for their lives, the treasury was also being transported to safety. But the real investigation is a murder. This will be his first case as lead detective. It is tricky because it’s a delicate political situation. One of the top Norwegians has been murdered. Boyle wants free access to everyone there—regardless to nationality, rank, class, etc. But many answers would be top secret and classified. Can Boyle solve the case? Will justice be done?

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. I can’t believe this series has been around over a decade and I’m just now hearing about it?! Why did no one tell me?! I love historical fiction. I love books set during the Second World War. I love books set in England. I especially am interested in books about American soldiers serving in England during the war. (My grandfather did.) I love mysteries. This book just screamed out that it was written just for me. Indeed I found it a magical read. I absolutely loved the narrative. Boyle’s voice is unique and charming. I loved the characters—Daphne and Kaz especially. Whether the characters were featured a little or a lot—they felt human and real. The mystery was great. The murder didn’t occur until halfway through which could have proven problematic if the writing wasn’t so wonderful. I “need” all the books in the series.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat Adventuring Cat. Caroline Adderson. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst. 2019. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is the mostly true story of Pudding Tat, much-traveled cat, whose adventuring life began in the first year of a new and promising century. Not ours, but one long ago.

Premise/plot: Pudding Tat is the (cat) hero of this middle grade animal fantasy. He was born in 1901 in Ontario, Canada; he’s not like the other kittens born to Mother Tat—he’s an albino. His mother worries about him because he’s mostly blind. How can he hunt mice?! How can he avoid foxes?! How he can he stay out of the way of humans?! But Pudding Tat is a cat seemingly destined for adventures—big ones that will take him across borders and seas. This novel is told in episodic adventures spanning 1901-1915. Pudding is host to one flea—could this flea be unlike his 499 brothers and sisters?! These two communicate in an unusual way.

My thoughts: There was something satisfying and enjoyable about this one. I enjoyed the characters and stories. There are many humans that go in and out of Pudding’s life. The author admits—though most readers could probably guess on their own—that this mostly true story is pure fiction with some true events occurring in the background. (For example, the sinking of the Titanic.)

I loved the full circle-ness of this one!!!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

World at War: The Tuscan Child

The Tuscan Child. Rhys Bowen. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: He was going to die, that was quite obvious.

Premise/plot: Joanna Langley is on a quest to discover/uncover family secrets in this historical mystery by Rhys Bowen. The novel has two narrators: Hugo Langley in 1944/1945 and Joanna Langley in 1973. The book is set in England and Italy. After her father’s death (in 1973), Joanna discovers that there were many things in her father’s past that she was clueless about. She has an older half-brother, for example. Who knew that her father had been married twice?! Why did he never mention his ex-wife or. His son?! Who knew that he’d been shot down over Italy?! He never talked about his time there. But he did send a love letter to an Italian woman after the war. (It was returned unopened.) The letter mentions a child?! Could she have another half-brother?! She decides that she has to go to Tuscany to find out the truth for herself.

My thoughts: As often as I review novels with dual narratives you’d think I seek them out. Not so! I was drawn to this one because of the pilot of World War II aspect.

I will start with the good: I read it in one day. I cared enough about the unfolding mystery to keep reading one chapter after another.

Now for the bad...I was ultimately disappointed. I felt the title was tricksy. The build up is that she is on a quest to find a half-brother. She wants to find him and make a connection—reach out. If she can’t find him then she at least wants to find more truths—more clues indicating the kind of man her father was. The man she knew was distant, reserved, uninvolved, uncaring.

His narrative reveals a more passionate man who is in desperate conditions. He fears for his life; he is dependent on a super beautiful woman to keep him supplied with food and medicine. He is hiding out in an abandoned monastery. They share conversations and time. Could this be love?

How did this young man become that kind of father?!

I thought that Joanna’s narrative had too many mini-mysteries and sub-plots to work well. I felt like the book couldn’t make up its mind as to genre. Is it a drama? A mystery? A romance? Should it end with a couple embracing and pledging to love each other forever and ever? Should it end in a family reunion?

My favorite character was a friend she made in Tuscany, Paola.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #37

5 Stars
One Good Deed. David Baldacci. 2019. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

4 Stars
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao. Kat Zhang. Illustrated by Charlene Chua. 2019. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Max Tilt: Fire the Depths

Max Tilt: Fire the Depths (Max Tilt #1) Peter Lerangis. 2017. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Before the day he was abandoned, Max Tilt thought life was pretty much perfect.

Premise/plot: When Max’s mom gets sick, his parents leave him in the care of his older cousin, Alex, as they seek treatment out of town. The two (Max and Alex) soon discover that the parents have been horribly irresponsible. The electricity is turned off the second day, I think! The eviction notice has been served and is due to take effect within a week maybe two. Instead of contacting the parents (either Max or Alex’s), the two decide that by selling the contents of the home online and perhaps getting a part-time job they should be able to get the bills paid and stay in the home. One of the items they list brings trouble to their door! The item is an empty trunk that belonged to Jules Verne, THE Jules Verne. The two set out on a quest when they find a hidden text by Verne, the bad guys are never far behind. In fact, they end up keeping close company with the villains for most of the book. Can they best them by the end and get their hands on the lost manuscript?

My thoughts: I liked the premise of this one. Max and Alex are descendants of Jules Verne. They have inherited some of his things and discover a secret, hidden, mystery text. The descendants of Captain Nemo (or descendant) know about this mystery letter/manuscript and have been hunting for it. The two must battle it out in the book. Both claim that they want to save the world.

You have to suspend ALL your disbelief if you want to enjoy this one. It isn’t unusual for this sub genre. In fact it reminds me a bit of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. Two kids without much—if any—adult support set out to save the world. But it wasn’t the adventure quest that had me stumbling. It was the parents leaving Max in such a horrible position. How could they knowingly leave their son knowing that the electric bill is overdue?! Knowing that other utilities will soon follow?! Knowing that the family will be evicted in a few weeks?! It sounds like they are skipping town and abandoning Max. How could they not know about their unpaid bills?! How could they leave knowing?!

Perhaps they expected Alex to take Max home with her?!

I also wondered how the two made it to New York City since both had no money....

But the book did keep me reading. I have plans to read the second book in the series.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

World at War: One Good Deed

One Good Deed. David Baldacci. 2019. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a good day to be free of prison.

Premise/plot: Aloysius Archer is out on parole; he’s been resettled in the small, rural town of Poca City. The community is small enough that everyone know everybody’s business. Ex-cons tend to stick out, but Archer isn’t like other ex-cons. He was innocent of the crime he was convicted of. He is determined to stay out of trouble that might lead him back to prison. In addition to being fresh out of prison, Archer is a war veteran. The novel is set in 1949. America—Archer included—is still very much impacted by the war. One doesn’t simply forget the war and jump back effortlessly into “normal“ life.

So on his first day in town he picks up an unusual job. He is collect the collateral of a debt. Both men—the one who made the loan and the one who took out the loan—are unsavory chaps. Neither man seems “good”. Both seem super dangerous and unreasonable. But he is desperate for a job and this one pays $100. Will accepting this job be the biggest mistake of his life? Will he escape with his life?

My thoughts: I love, love, love historical fiction. I love, love, love mystery novels. When an amateur detective happens to love reading detective novels...I find it giddy making. So much of this one was just happy making. It was a compelling and suspenseful read. But it wasn’t so much about the destination—at least for me. It was every step of the journey. I hope this is the start of a new series. I want to spend more time with Archer!

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Georgian Check-In #5

  •    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 haven't finished reading any Georgian books since the last update.

I am STILL reading Cecilia by Fanny Burney. I suppose I shouldn't have put Pride and Prejudice on hold to help me "focus" more on Burney!!! I do still plan on finishing my reread of P&P.

I don't think there are any quotes to share. The writing has turned dense and not at all quotable. (Unlike Austen.)

If you've never read Burney before...don't start with Cecilia.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Stars Upon Thars #36

5 Stars
The Lady and the Highwayman. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

4 Stars

The Flight Girls. Noelle Salazar. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Library] 
The Wolf in Underpants. Wilfrid Lupano. Illustrated by Mayana Itoiz and Paul Cauuet. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, September 06, 2019

The Rule of One

The Rule of One. Ashley and Leslie Saunders. 2018. 258 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am falling. The dark is claustrophobic, like I’m buried underground.

Premise/plot: The Rule of One is a YA dystopian novel set for the most part in Texas—a Texas in the future. The premise that drives the book is that a strict one-child policy is in force. Ava and Mira are identical twins living a lie. Both are living as Ava Goodwin. But only one has the required microchip; only one is legal. The father is a high up political somebody; he too is part of the lie. But their family is worth any and every risk, right? So early on in the novel the lie is uncovered. The girls are forced to flee. Their first stop is Amarillo by morning. They hope to find the first of several safe houses. But life on the one is anything but easy. Resources are few, prejudices are many. The haves have spent decades learning not to care about the have-nots. Did they really need to be taught? Can Ava and Mira survive long enough to take a stand. And have a political impact?!

My thoughts: I found this premise driven novel to have plenty of action. Their on the go route is a familiar one minus Montana and Canada. I could almost imagine the sights they would see. But it is also important to keep in mind this is a dark and troubled future. Cities and towns have been abandoned because they cannot afford to rebuild after devastating storms and fires. No government assistance for rebuilding or resettling. In fact very little government assistance at all for those impoverished for any reason.

I liked it enough to read in one day. I am not sure it is love in terms of characters and writing. But the plot kept me reading.

There is a sequel. I will probably read it.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

World at War: The Flight Girls

The Flight Girls. Noelle Salazar. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The surf swirled and frothed around my ankles as the sweet Hawaiian trade winds whispered through palm trees, carrying the scent of coconut oil across the sand to where I stood staring at the skyline.

Premise/plot: Audrey Coltrane is a woman pilot, a flight instructor, who witnesses the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Several years later she joins the new program for women pilots, WASP. The book focuses on her training, her ferrying, and life after the WASP disbanded. She has always dreamed of owning her own airfield; of flying being an integral part of her life. This scares most men off, men who want a woman to be a wife, a mother, a stay-at-home mother. Audrey has always known she didn’t fit in that conventional box. But does that mean she’ll never find her one true love?!

My thoughts: This is a blend of historical romance and historical fiction. Audrey’s story is interesting for the most part. Her parents are supportive and kind; she makes friends easily; men always find her beautiful; she is never in a situation that she can’t handle. No matter life throws her she knows just what to do. She seems a bit too good to be true at times.

I will say this: I am SO thankful the author didn’t commit the unforgivable sin (in my book) of adding a superfluous S to WASP. I find it hard to respect any book—fiction or nonfiction—that does. It stands for Women Airforce Service Pilots. I edited oral histories of WASP pilots for several years when I was in graduate school. These histories focused on backgrounds, training, and serving. I learned much about the times. Some of these ladies were incredible! Some perhaps were better storytellers.

The one part of the story that felt a bit off to me was when she found a way to fly overseas to Europe so that she could search for her missing in action boyfriend.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Lady and the Highwayman

The Lady and the Highwayman. Sarah M. Eden. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Rumor had it, Fletcher Walker wasn’t born but had simply appeared one day, swaggering down the streets of London.

Premise/plot: Elizabeth Black and Fletcher Walker are both authors living in Victorian London. He writes penny dreadfuls. She writes silver-forks. He is the “king” of his genre until another King starts outselling him, a Mr. Charles King to be exact. Walker fears that King may not be a kindred spirit—one who will do just about anything, legal or not, to help the down and out children. Who is this man? Can he be trusted? Should he be invited to join the Dreadful Penny Society? Will he help their cause or hurt it? Does he want to see the poorest, dirtiest children get off the streets and receive an education?

Fletcher Walker asks Miss Black for assistance. Does she have any idea who this Charles King is?! Could she help him follow the clues and solve a mystery?! All indications point to her keeping his identity secret—but why? Likewise it seems Walker has his own secrets he keeps close. Will love bloom between these two authors?!

My thoughts: I absolutely love Sarah Eden’s romances. This one is not an exception. I loved that we get excerpts from each of their serial novels. It is a fun play on a genre that has not truly survived into this century. (Though one could argue that cheap, formulaic non-literature for the masses has. One could also dive into the topic of what makes a book worth reading...what makes a book “good.”) I loved the hero and heroine. I loved them individually and as a couple. I also cared for the fictional heroes and heroines within the story—the characters created by Walker and King. Granted I’m not sure that outside the framework I would want to spend hours with them. But maybe I would?! A novella length perhaps! Eden’s writing kept me turning pages. Turning pages and sometimes grinning from ear to ear.

I would recommend this one if you enjoy clean romance or historical romance. I loved the setting of Victorian London. It was romance packed with adventure.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews