Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December Reflections


December# of Books
Becky's Book Reviews20
Young Readers11
Operation Actually Read Bible15



46


December# of Pages
Becky's Book Reviews6950
Young Readers532
Operation Actually Read Bible7251


Totals14733




# of Books# of Pages
January7414571
February5810646
March5510974
April6311095
May6211932
June518565
July4810313
August143263
September214659
October3812384
November3910271
December4614733


Totals So Far

Books Read
569
Pages Read
123406

New-to-Me Highlights
Re-read Highlights


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Year in Review: Favorite books of 2019

Top three books read in January

Top three books read in February
Top three books read in March
  • Because. Mo Willems. Illustrated by Amber Ren. 2019. Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  • Miss Buncle's Book. D.E. Stevenson. 1934. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  • Stepsister. Jennifer Donnelly. 2019. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Top three books read in April
  • Dealing with Dragons. (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1) Patricia C. Wrede. 1990/2015. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  • Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 276 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  • Resistance. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2018. Scholastic. 385 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Top three books read in May

Top three books read in June

Top three books read in July

Top three books read in August

Top three books read in September

Top three books read in October
Top three books read in November
Top three books read in December


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 30, 2019

Year in Review: Twelve Favorite Rereads

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.
The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages. [Source: Bought]
Alas, Babylon. Pat Frank. 1959. 323 pages. [Source: Library] 
The Sunne in Splendour. Sharon Kay Penman. 1982. 936 pages. [Source: Library]
Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated by Julie Rose. 1862/2008. Modern Library. 1330 pages. [Source: Bought]
Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought] 
Grave Mercy. Robin LaFevers. 2012/2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 560 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Eyes Like Stars. Theatre Illuminata #1) Lisa Mantchev. 2009. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Speak. Laurie Halse Anderson. 1999. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Stars Upon Thars #52

5 Stars
Serious Goose. Jimmy Kimmel. 2019. [December] 40 pages. [source: Library]
Murder for Christmas. Francis Duncan. 1949/2015. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]


4 Stars
Dasher: How A Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever. Matt Tavares. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Vow for Christmas. (Spinster Mail-Order Brides #7) Linda Carroll-Bradd. 2019. 92 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Georgian Check-in #7

  •    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 finished Cecilia!!!!!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Chunkster Challenge Check-In #4

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 finished Cecilia

TitleAuthorPage NumbersPoint ValueBonus Points
Grave MercyLaFevers, Robin5603
The Book ThiefZusak, Markus5603
IvanhoeScott, Walter54451
EvelinaBurney, Fanny45552
Ruled BrittaniaTurtledove, Harry5765
ShirleyBronte, Charlotte62451
Innocents AbroadTwain, Mark56051
DuneHerbert, Frank68751
Resistance WomenChiaverini, Jennifer60851
Les MiserablesHugo, Victor1330102
Lovely WarBerry, Julie48030
Sunne in SplendorPenman, Sharon K93610
Gone With The WindMitchell, Margaret103710
CeciliaBurney, Fanny1056103



Page # TotalsPoint Totals96
10013



© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall

A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall. Jane Linfoot. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: ‘Could there be a better present for the woman who has everything?’ I’m smiling across at Merwyn in the front seat and, as I take in the words Cockle Shell Castle carved into the monumental gateposts, I’m so excited I’m finding it hard to breathe. Then I ease my car through the gateway and onto the winding approach, and as we round a bend and the pale walls and castellated towers come into view, washed in moonlight, I can’t help letting out a gasp.

Premise/plot:  Ivy Starforth, our heroine, has been hired by her friend's sister to "kit out" the holiday rental--a castle in Cornwall. But there's been a slight mix-up. The rental is not the one fabulously pictured online, it's bare and decidedly un-Christmasy. And it comes with a grumpy landlord, Bill Markham. Can she fix up the rental before her super-picky-not-at-all-likeable employer arrives with ALL of her children and family?!

My thoughts: I had a hard time getting into this one. Do people really hire out other people to photograph every single moment of their holidays and post it on social media for them?!?!?! I suppose some of the super-elite might hire out a professional to decorate their own home, but a rental home?! Why introduce dozens of characters of this crazy-eccentric-quirky-dysfunctional family (not a single one likeable) when the main focus is obviously going to be on a romance between Ivy and Bill?!

Speaking of the romance, why do they have to happen to know each other previously. Why couldn't it be a super-predictable romance with a stranger? At least if it was a stranger, there wouldn't be the repetitive Will/Bill thing going on where she remembers their past vacation encounter and wonders why he is now calling himself Bill instead of Will. Seriously annoying.

This one is full of characters I just didn't care about at all, not even a little. And it's crude. I wouldn't classify it as smut-smut, just crudely written. I definitely would NOT recommend it to those who prefer/seek out clean fiction. The language alone--no matter the actual subject matter--would classify it as NOT clean. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

World at War: Christmas on the Home Front

Christmas on the Home Front. (Land Girls #3) Roland Moore. 2019. 273 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was one day before Christmas. And Joyce Fisher wondered whether she would live to see it. This winter-bleak thought wasn’t borne of fatigue from living through so many years of war. It wasn’t even the result of having lost so much along the way. No, Joyce knew, totally rationally, that today was one of those days that can change a life forever; a crossroads in which taking the wrong path could cost everything. She wished with all her heart that it wasn’t the case, that there was some rosy alternative, another path to take. But she couldn’t see any way out of it.

Premise/plot: Roland Moore's Christmas On the Home Front is not a stand-alone read; it's the third book in the series. I have not read the first two books in the Land Girls series. Joyce Fisher, our heroine, is a land girl. She's survived the war so far, despite hardships and stress. But will she survive to see the war end?! Will she live to see the year 1945 welcomed in?!

My thoughts: Christmas On the Home Front is not a cozy mystery, nor a cozy romance. It isn't set in a cozy little village starring dozens of super-eccentric characters that all come together to make the best of things always. If I had to describe this one it would be THRILLER. Thrillers aren't a genre I read all that often. Mysteries, yes. Cozies, often. But THRILLERS, not so much. But once I started reading Christmas on the Home Front I could hardly stop. I'm guessing you won't be able to either.

The good news is that it is fast-paced and intense.

The bad news is that the writing is a bit confusing. It will back track to show you the same exact scene from a different point of view. You might spend several pages--or even chapters--with one character and have time be moving forward. And then be thrown back a few hours, a day even, with the focus on different characters. Eventually the two will collide again--collide may be just the right word. But it has a sloppy feel to it. For the record, I am NOT talking about the prologue. It isn't all that unusual for a book to begin with a dramatic flash-FORWARD. And then have the novel lead you up to that climatic moment in time.

The less you know about the plot specifics, the better. Just allow yourself to be thrown in. Now, I am curious how this one fits in with the other books in the series. Are they equally thriller-esque?


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Murder for Christmas

Murder for Christmas. Francis Duncan. 1949/2015. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the prologue: No one could have foretold how it was going to end. Not even the murderer. It is not to say that the crime was hastily conceived and clumsily executed.

Premise/plot: The book opens on Christmas Eve. Father Christmas, or I should say, a man dressed as Father Christmas is murdered at the foot of the Christmas Tree. The setting is a country house party. One of the guests is a murderer...and one guest happens to be an amateur detective. Coincidence?! Perhaps.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this atmospheric mystery. I believe it is my first time to read Francis Duncan, and my first time to meet Mordecai Tremaine. I want MORE, MORE, MORE....now, now, now. I hope I can track down the rest of the books in this classic series.

I thought the writing was well done. It has a literary feel to it almost. But literary or not--it is definitely suspenseful!

The landscape was a Christmas card in three dimensions. There would have been no incongruity if a sleigh drawn by reindeer had come sweeping over the brow of the downs. It did not, in fact, seem fantastic that the red-robed figure of Father Christmas was outlined in the moonlight, moving quickly along the terrace of the big house. It was, after all, Christmas Eve, when such things—particularly in such a setting—were to be expected. But if one watched carefully, it was sometimes possible, especially when the moon was obscured, to see a faint glow behind the windows of the ground floor. It was a glow that changed its position, as though it owed its origin to a flashlight carried by someone who moved stealthily within the house. And outside in the snow and the shadows there were muffled, hidden figures. Concealed from the house and from each other, they watched intently—and waited upon opportunity. The atmosphere was brooding, tense with foreboding. Fantasy and mystery, violence and death were abroad. It seemed that time was moving reluctantly and with an ever more tightly coiled dread toward some terrible climax. And at last the climax came. It came when the bell had stopped. It came when the moonlight, searching again through the clouds, swept softly across the white lawns, revealing the ragged line of footprints. It came when the cold light flooded up to the half-open french doors and, tracing the moisture on the polished floor, came to rest upon the red thing of horror that was Father Christmas, stark and sprawled upon its face in front of the despoiled Christmas tree. It came with a woman’s scream—desperate, high-pitched, and raw with terror.
I enjoyed the characterization. In mysteries of this sort, it is important that readers really get to know all the suspects and the detective. No complaints here! Duncan did a fantastic job!!!

I almost want to reread this one now that I know who did it to see it again through new eyes. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 23, 2019

World at War: Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop

Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop. Elaine Roberts. 2019. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Victoria Appleton’s slender fingers clutched the brown envelope in her coat pocket, while the other hand gripped the wooden handle of her black umbrella.

Premise/plot: This historical holiday-themed romance has a light and breezy feel to it despite its world war one setting. Readers should know from the start that it is the third book in a series. The Foyles Bookshop Girls, The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War and then Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop. There is a cast of characters that I'm guessing appear in all the books. The three "main" characters are Victoria, Molly, and Alice. Molly and Alice are married and engaged or engaged and married. One is married with one child and another on the way. The other is engaged and very soon to be married. By the end of the book, she's married. Sadly, I can't really remember which is which.

Victoria, the primary main character, is going through her parents' belongings (after seven years of waiting for no particular reason), volunteering at a local hospital for wounded/recovering soldiers, missing her one-true-love that stopped writing her ages ago, and enjoying her new responsibilities at the bookshop.

The book focuses on the daily lives of the characters. Very little "big" happenings occur. Many, many "teeny-tiny" ones do. For some readers, this means NOTHING happens. But not all readers, perhaps. Sometimes you go on journeys WITH the characters as company.

My thoughts: I didn't mind the slow pacing. I didn't. What I minded a little more was the constant changing focus. I'm not sure you'd say this one has multiple point of view characters. But I'm not sure you wouldn't couldn't say that. It was a bit of a guess at any time WHO the focus would be on and why. This being the third book in the series there wasn't much attachment to any of the characters, especially at the beginning. If I had read the previous two books, I imagine that I would CARE from page one and be instantly drawn into the story. I saw the plot twist coming from miles and miles away. I think any reader could. The book lacks all subtlety there. But even so, I won't spoil the book here in the review. It takes the characters in the book a couple of hundred pages to know what readers essentially know from the first few chapters.

I liked the focus on daily life. I liked the small details, the small things that make life, LIFE. If I had access to the previous two books via library, I would definitely read those and catch up on their lives. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Vow For Christmas

A Vow for Christmas. (Spinster Mail-Order Brides #7) Linda Carroll-Bradd. 2019. 92 pages. [Source: Review copy]

  First sentence: “Nay, sir, you canna come inside.” Vika shoved a shoulder hard on the apartment door, leveraging her weight against that of the landlord, Mister Zeleny. She jammed a booted foot at the base. “I’ve three more days until the rent is due.”

Premise/plot: Chad Rutherford is a widower advertising for a bride in Linda Carroll-Bradd's new historical romance novel. Set in Colorado in 1881, it stars a "spinster" mail-order bride, Vika Carmichael, and a widower, Chad Rutherford. They marry hours within meeting. But will this marriage of convenience prove to be a love match?

My thoughts: Say what you will, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a good predictable, oh-so-satisfying, formulaic romance novel. Particularly if it's historical romance. I was not surprised by any plot twists. Did I care?! NOT for a minute. I found this one giddy-making from start to finish. The kind of book you read with a super-silly grin on your face. It is a nice touch that this one is holiday-themed. Of course, it wouldn't have to be holiday-themed to be enjoyable. It's not the fact that these two marry close to Christmas that makes it oh-so-magical, at least not for me. It's the happily ever after.

Is it clean? Is it smutty? It's neither. It's not super-squeaky clean. There are descriptive kisses, all after the vows if that matters to you. But it's so far from smutty that some readers (not me) will be disappointed perhaps.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage. Katie Ginger. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Felicity Fenchurch primped and preened in front of the camera, brushing her honey-blonde curls back from her face. The director shouted, ‘Action,’ and she gave a longing smile, dipped down to pull a tray from the oven, and gazing at the camera from under false eyelashes, pouted.

Premise/plot: Esme has it all...until she doesn't. She loses her job, her boyfriend, and her apartment all in one day! She returns to her hometown but not her parents' home. She rents a tiny cottage and starts making plans for her future. Encouraged by her friends, she starts a food blog. Can she make the blog a huge success in just three or four weeks in times to make all her holiday dreams and wishes come true?!

My thoughts: WHY did this one have to be about blogging?!?! I can gladly accept formulaic holiday-themed romances light on intelligence. But I cannot accept stories of bloggers that go from zero views to thousands of views in just a week or two. Enough views to land her a new job. Seriously. Everytime she COMPLAINED about how slow the process was for getting page views, I wanted to SCREAM at her. I actually spent most of the book angry at the main character. That being said, the romance elements were mostly enjoyable. I think if she had been doing anything else with her life instead of blogging, I would have been fine with the writing.



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #51

5 Stars
The Mustache Baby Christmas. Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Joy Ang. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10) Alan Bradley. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Blood on the River. James Town 1607. Elisa Carbone. 2006. 237 pages. [Source: Library]
Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm. Jaimie Admans. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Notting Hill in the Snow. Jules Wake. 2019. 410 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 

4 Stars
Santa's Cookie Is Missing. Illustrated by Anne Passchier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
All You Need for a Snowman. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. 2002/2019. 28 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Mortal Terror (Billy Boyle #6) James R. Benn. 2011. 345 pages. [Source: Library]


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Notting Hill in the Snow

Notting Hill in the Snow. Jules Wake. 2019. 410 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: ‘Do you have to bring that thing on here at this time of day?’ snapped the woman, whipping round to look at me, her spiky, spider leg mascaraed eyes shooting sheer poison as everyone on the platform at Notting Hill Gate surged forward when the tube doors opened.

Premise/plot: Viola Smith (who plays the viola and works for the London Metropolitan Opera Company) finds herself falling hard and fast for a married man, Nate Williams, in Jules Wake's Notting Hill in the Snow. Williams' marriage is crumbling away; his wife has been gone almost a year leaving him to raise his little girl (Frozen-obsessed little girl), Grace, on his own. Viola steps in to help out. He needs it. She's got experience--plenty of it--with her cousins' children. She knows all the crafts and tools of the trade. She feels the attraction from the first; but doesn't really expect him to as well. And even if they're both attracted to the other--a bit--what could really happen between them? He's super-busy. She's super-busy. The only time they really see each other is when they're both with Grace. Sure she could close her eyes and imagine being with these two FOREVER AND EVER. But it's her imagination, nothing more. It will last a few weeks, until January, perhaps when he can get a full-time nanny. Then her life can return to normal...

My thoughts: Notting Hill In the Snow definitely has a Christmas movie vibe to it. In other words it's simply delightful and a bit predictable. If you've watched any Christmas romance in the last few decades, chances are you'll be able to spot what twists and turns are coming. But I don't mind predictable so long as I get my happily-ever-after.

I really loved this one. Not because he's married and this affair is near-adulterous. But because I loved seeing Viola interact with Grace. I loved Viola's understanding and compassionate heart. I loved how she opened up her heart to Grace and just welcomed her right in. I loved the family-type experiences they had together. Baking. Shopping. Decorating. I loved the writing, the dialogue. It's just a satisfying read.

Is it clean? Is it smutty? Well, there is the whole issue of his being married to someone else when there is a LOT of kissing involved. But. It really doesn't go much further then kissing. (Though there's plenty of wanting to take the next steps. Does lusty daydreaming count as smut if it's not graphic?)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm

Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm. Jaimie Admans. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am never drinking again. Please tell me that pounding, throbbing sound is not coming from inside my own head. I peel one eye open and severely consider not bothering to open the other one. I’m slumped on the living room floor and propped upright by the coffee table, with my face smooshed against the keyboard of my open laptop.

Premise/plot: Love Hallmark-esque Christmas movies? Admans' Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm may prove the perfect match for you. Leah, the heroine, buys a CHRISTMAS TREE FARM (sight unseen) in Scotland with her inheritance. She is hoping that her parents' would have approved and that this will be a true new-beginning for her. (Things haven't been all that great lately...most recently having been humiliated in "love.") The farm, well, is so far from what she imagined that there are no words. Fortunately, her nearest neighbor, Noel, is JUST what her best friend, Chelsea, imagined. HOT, HOT, AND DID I SAY HOT?! He proves more than willing to help her out, once he sees that she sincerely wants to make a go of it. Will they fall in love in the weeks leading up to the holiday season?

My thoughts: I ADORED this one. I didn't love, love, love every little thing about this one. The language in describing her ex--and WHY they "broke up"--is a bit graphic for my liking. But I loved the chemistry between Leah and Noel from start to finish. It had one super-predictable, obligatory CONFLICT that I found myself rolling my eyes over. Why do romance novels need OBSTACLES in the first place? But this one had a series of lovely scenes, a sprinkling of charming characters, and a general CHARM to it that left me grinning. I almost forgot to mention THE DOG.

Is it clean? Is it smutty? As I said earlier, the descriptions with the ex are a bit much (and they happen near the start of the book) are a bit much--for my liking. Remember SUBJECTIVE taste. But Leah and Noel's romance is neither squeaky clean nor out-and-out smut. Mostly kissing, plenty of descriptive kissing. (You know there has to be a mistletoe scene or two involved, right?!) But nothing beyond that is graphically described. 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

World at War: A Mortal Terror

A Mortal Terror (Billy Boyle #6) James R. Benn. 2011. 345 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Kim Philby owed me one.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle stars in his sixth book in this historical mystery series. This one begins with a happy reunion between Billy and Diana Seaton. The reunion will be brief—the war is far from over. But their time together ends abruptly (almost as abruptly as the novel itself) when Billy is ordered to investigate a series of murders in Italy. The crimes continue...danger builds. This one has a huge body count...and not just because of the Nazis. Can Billy (and Kaz) solve the mystery in time?

My thoughts: Why does this one end so abruptly?!?! It’s like a slap in the face with its non-ending. That being set aside, it was a fabulously compelling read for mystery lovers. I put off reading this one—my mom warned me—until the next book in the series was ready to go.

Maybe he had been a good man once, before the shooting started. Before the hard choices. That’s how evil made its way in this world. Not with a devil’s face, as the nuns taught us. It slithered between the cracks, caught decent people off guard, dragged them along until they were in too far. Then it made them into something they never thought they could ever be. (165)



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Blood on the River: James Town, 1607

Blood on the River. James Town 1607. Elisa Carbone. 2006. 237 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My feet slap, bare and cold, on the cobblestones.

Premise/plot: Samuel Collier stars in this action packed historical coming of age novel for children. He is saved from jail, if you will, when he is chosen to be a servant (indentured?) to a Captain John Smith. Smith is one of many men heading to the New World, to Virginia. Technically one of their goals is to find the lost colony of Roanoke. But mainly, it’s all about the money. What can they find in the new land to turn a quick profit. They are hoping for gold, gold, and more gold. But other natural resources may be a better choice. But the settlers are clueless, naive, inexperienced, short-sighted. Potential wealth isn’t as important as survival. And risks are everywhere. Sometimes coming from natives, sometimes not. Disease, starvation, freezing temperatures also threaten their future. Collier is a part of it all, a witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life is challenging.

My thoughts: This one opens shortly before the ships(3?) leave England for Virginia. It proves a super compelling read from the start. It offers both action and suspense. The characters were all real men, women, and children. The novel is well researched if the bibliography is to be believed. Of course, the primary sources are subjective in nastier as all journals and diaries tend to be. But there are enough sources to offer readers a glimpse of what it might have been like to live through these earliest years in America.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 16, 2019

The Golden Tresses of the Dead

The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10) Alan Bradley. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I’d like to remark at the outset that I’m a girl with better than average brain.

Premise/plot: Flavia de Luce, child-detective, is starring in her tenth mystery. In this one her older sister, Ophelia “Feely” is getting married. Her wedding goes well. The reception less so! A severed finger is found in the wedding cake giving the bride quite a shock. The guests remain mainly unaware of what causes the excitement. Dogger and Flavia—already an official detective team—take up this case privately. But they do take on a professional case. There is a murder to solve in this one along with several side mysteries. There is always something going on in their “quiet” community.

My thoughts: I really love Flavia and Dogger. I am still heartbroken over the father’s death which happened several books ago. I am starting to warm up to Undine. I love revisiting all the characters from the community. We do see Gladys make a few appearances in this one. You wouldn’t think a bicycle could leave a lasting impression. Overall I am still enjoying the series. Perhaps this one is my favorite of the newer mysteries in the series? I don’t know that it would be a favorite favorite from the setting as a whole?

Definitely read these in order and not as a stand-alone.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Cecilia

Cecilia. Frances Burney. 1782. 1056 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: “Peace to the spirits of my honoured parents, respected be their remains, and immortalized their virtues! may time, while it moulders their frail relicks to dust, commit to tradition the record of their goodness; and Oh, may their orphan-descendant be influenced through life by the remembrance of their purity, and be solaced in death, that by her it was unsullied!” Such was the secret prayer with which the only survivor of the Beverley family quitted the abode of her youth, and residence of her forefathers;

Premise/plot: Cecilia, the heroine, is a heiress. Despite her soon-to-be large fortune, she finds making a match difficult--if not impossible. One reason is that while men may be quick to fall in love with her--or her fortune. She is not so quick to "fall for" any man. But primarily the greatest obstacle to her "catching" a husband is the stipulation that the MAN CHANGE HIS SURNAME to hers. (I believe it's Beverley.) It isn't easy for Cecilia to be an independent woman. I believe the novel opens when she isn't quite of age to accept her inheritance. But even once she's of age, she cannot live on her own and do as she pleases. She has three guardians: Mr. Harrel, Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Delville. Each is bad news in his own unique way. All have different weaknesses that make them less than ideal to "manage" or "guard" her. Will she ever find her true love match? Or will she die insane?

My thoughts: It feels like I've been "reading" this one FOREVER AND A DAY. I know I was "currently" reading it in May of 2019. I finished December 11, 2019. What did I think of this one? 

I think it is LONG, LONG, VERY LONG. I think it has a couple dozen too many characters if you want to keep track of them all. I think the dialogue is unnatural and melodramatic. I can't imagine it being a reflection of any time. The sentence structure--not only of the dialogue, but in general--is absurd. If I had to guess, most sentences would have 200 to 300+ words. Of course, there are a few gems hidden deep within.

Quotes:


So short-sighted is selfish cunning, that in aiming no further than at the gratification of the present moment, it obscures the evils of the future, while it impedes the perception of integrity and honour.
Pleasure given in society, like money lent in usury, returns with interest to those who dispense it:
“If sorrow,” cried Mr Belfield, darting upon her his piercing eyes, “wears in your part of the world a form such as this, who would wish to change it for a view of joy?” 
“You intend, then, madam,” said Mr Belfield, “in defiance of these maxims of the world, to be guided by the light of your own understanding.”
“Be upon your guard,” he cried, “with all new acquaintance; judge nobody from appearances; form no friendship rashly; take time to look about you, and remember you can make no alteration in your way of life, without greater probability of faring worse, than chance of faring better. Keep therefore as you are, and the more you see of others, the more you will rejoice that you neither resemble nor are connected with them.”

“You, Miss Beverley,” said Mr Arnott in a low voice, “will I hope give to the world an example, not take one from it.”

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.
 
A strong sense of DUTY, a fervent desire to ACT RIGHT, were the ruling characteristics of her mind:


Hope is never so elastic as when it springs from the ruins of terror.
  
You are much deceived; you have been reading your own mind, and thought you had read his.

I hate every thing that requires attention.

But it is vain to debate where all reasoning is disregarded, or to make any protestations where even rejection is received as a favour.
 
Let us live to ourselves and our consciences, and leave the vain prejudices of the world to those who can be paid by them for the loss of all besides!
 
 People reason and refine themselves into a thousand miseries, by chusing to settle that they can only be contented one way; whereas, there are fifty ways, if they would but look about them, that would commonly do as well.

The true art of happiness in this most whimsical world, seems nothing more nor less than this — Let those who have leisure, find employment, and those who have business, find leisure.
 
 Misery seeks not man, but man misery. He walks out in the sun, but stops not for a cloud; confident, he pursues his way, till the storm which, gathering, he might have avoided, bursts over his devoted head.


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Victorian Check-In Post #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...
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stars Upon Thars #50

5 Stars
Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown: The Kings and Queens Who Never Were. J.F. Andrews. 2020 [January] Pen and Sword History. 200 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Candy Cane Caper. (A Culinary Mystery) Josi S. Kilpack. 2019. Shadow Mountain. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cilka's Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) Heather Morris. 2019. St. Martin's Pres. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
The Milkman's Son: A Memoir of Family History, a DNA Mystery, and a Story of Paternal Love. Randy Lindsay. 2020. [March] Shadow Mountain. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble. Rosemary Wells. 2019. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Ye Olde Cat Memes. Eulalie Osgood Grover. 1911/2019. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy #1) Deborah Wiles. 2010. 394 pages. [Source: Library]

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



© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, December 13, 2019

The Milkman's Son

The Milkman's Son: A Memoir of Family History, a DNA Mystery, and a Story of Paternal Love. Randy Lindsay. 2020. [March] Shadow Mountain. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The dastardly thing about a life-changing event is that it can disguise itself as a normal day.

Premise/plot: Randy Lindsay grew up being called 'the Milkman's son' because he looked nothing like his siblings--all younger. But he never suspected that his dad wasn't his biological father. When his father asks him to do genealogical research and record the family tree, he didn't know that it would end up changing his life. The project started out as research, a side-project. He soon became obsessed with tracking all the lines of his family, in particular the LINDSAY line of his tree. Was he a Lindsay with an A or a Lindsey with an E. When traditional research left him at a dead end, he decided to do a DNA test little expecting that the results of that test would change him and how he defined family. The 'journey' spans almost a decade--perhaps a little more. He chronicles the ups and downs of the experience. He focuses on his feelings and on his relationships.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. I found it a captivating story. In part because he is a good writer and knows how to tell a story. I've read other "DNA mystery" books where family secrets are spilled and lives are changed. This is the best I've read so far. The other book I read felt like it should have been about ten pages--no more. This one wasn't like that at all. It was actually a good read. I loved his developing interest in genealogy. I could definitely relate to his DILEMMA: "I struggle with the decision of whether I should go to bed or check one more name." And I smirked here, " I finally connect the Lindsays to a royal line and it happens to be one that includes an infamous villain in popular fiction. Does that mean the next time I watch a Robin Hood movie I need to root for the bad guy? That isn’t any fun. I already know he’s going to lose. And it will make me look like an idiot if I sit there during the movie and chant, “King John. King John. Go-o-o-o-o Lackland.” 


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

2020 Reading Challenges: HIstorical Fiction

2020 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Host: Passages to the Past (sign up) There will be monthly posts to share review links
Duration: January - December 2020
# of books: I'm signing up for Prehistoric 50+ books (I read over 100 in 2019, so this seems doable.)

My goal is to get caught up (or better caught up) on my historical fiction review copies. (Though I'll count any historical fiction I read towards the challenge.)

As of December 12, 2019 this is my TBR list. There are 92 books on the list.

Vagabond VicarBrentwood, Charlotte
At the Water's EdgeGruen, Sara
The Determined HeartMay, Antoinette
Mother TimeHerman, Louise
The Summer Before the WarSimonson, Helen
Radio GirlsStratford, Sarah Jane
A Bridge Across the OceanMeissner, Susan
Seven Days in MayIzzo, Kim
Mr. RochesterShoemaker, Sarah
Romancing DaphneEden, Sarah
Courting the Country MissHatch, Donna
I, Eliza HamiltonScott, Susan Holloway
Can't Buy Me LoveHumphries, Martin
For Castle and CrownBessey, Sian Ann
Enchantress of NumbersChiaverini, Jennifer
The Lost Season of Love and SnowLaam, Jennifer
The Girls in the PictureBenjamin, Melanie
As Bright as HeavenMeissner, Susan
My Name is VictoriaWorsley, Lucy
ChristyMarshall, Catherine
The Battle for England (Wars of the Magna Carta #1)Hernon, Austin
The Hidden WomenBarrett, Kerry
Inventing VictoriaBolden, Tonya
Brides in the SkyHolladay, Cary
The Beantown GirlsHealey, Jane
Finding DorothyLetts, Elizabeth
SpartanburgFleming, Richard
A Conformable WifeLey, Alice Chetwynd
The VillageDuke, Philip
Storm Chasers of Wentworth HallChambers, IreAnne
No Woman's LandMidwood, Ellie
A Proper ScandalHatch, Esther
Gold DiggerRosenberg, Rebecca
The Daughter's TaleCorrea, Armando Lucas
The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekRichardson, Kim Michele
Gardenia DutyVarn, Kathleen
The Summer CountryWillig, Lauren
In the Warsaw GhettoHaybittle, Glenn
The Work of ArtMatthews, Mimi
The Violin Maker's DaughterMaas, Sharon
The Secret LetterRix, Debbie
BethlehemKelly, Karen
The Winter SistersWestover, Tim
Daisy's WarSummers, Rowena
The Substitute BrideMack, Dorothy
All The forgivenessesHardinger, Elizabeth
The VentriloquistsRamzipoor, E.R.
Uber AllesNeff, Robert Arthur
The Papers of A.J. Wentworth BAEllis, H.F.
Everybody's SomebodyKingston, Beryl
The Teacher at Donegal BayDoughty, Anne
A Matter of InterpretationMacDonald, Elizabeth
The Last Train to LondonClayton, Meg Waite
Christmas Once AgainBacarr, Jina
Secrets & SuitorsBarker, Joanne
The Paris GirlEvans, Natalie Meg
Murder Cuts the MustardEllicott, Jessica
Kit's HIllStubbs, Jean
The Caldwell GirlsSummers, Rowena
Love on the SoundKnight, Ciara
Mercy RoadCreel, Ann Howard
Across a Broken ShoreTrueblood, Amy
The OccupationSwift, Deborah
Anne and LouisGaston, Rozsa
To Crown a KingMelin, Raedene Jeannette
RavelledGannon, Seph
The German HouseHess, Annette
Kit and ElizabethTuft, Karen
All The Ways We Said GoodbyeWilliams Beatriz and Lauren Willig and Karen White
The Whispers of WarKelly, Julia
Lady ClementineBenedict, Marie
Light Changes EverythingTurner, Nancy E.
The Vineyards of ChampagneBlackwell, Juliet
The Companion Blakemore, Kim Taylor
RememberedBattle-Felton, Yvonne
PromisedGarriott, Leah
The Light After the WarAbriel, Anita
The Girl in White GlovesMaher, Kerri
The Queen's FortunePataki, Allison
The Borgia ConfessionsPalombo, Alyssa
Above the Bay of AngelsBowen, Rhys
The Other Bennet SisterHadlow, Janice
My Long List of Impossible ThingsBarker, Michelle
The Forgotten Letters of Esther DurrantNunn, Kayte
BeheldNesbit, TaraShea
The Engineer's WifeWood, Tracey Enerson
Miss AustenHornby, Gill
The German HeiressScott, Anika
Lakeshire ParkWalker, Megan
The Jane Austen SocietyJenner, Natalie
While the music PlayedLande, Nathaniel
The Patron Saint of Pregnant GirlsHegi, Ursula

 What I have read.

January
1. Death's Door. (Billy Boyle #7) James R. Benn. 2012. Soho Crime. 358 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical Fiction; Mystery]
2. A Blind Goddess (Billy Boyle #8) James R. Benn. 2013. Soho Crime. 320 pages [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]
3. Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5) Amy Stewart. 2019. 355 pages. HMH. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical]
4. The Rest Is Silence. (Billy Boyle #9) James R. Benn. 2014. Soho Crime. 323 pages. [Source: Library] [Genres: Historical; Mystery]
5. The Twelve Brides of Christmas Collection. Barbour Books. 2015. 544 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical; Romance; Christian Fiction]
6. Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection. Tracie Peterson. Karen Witemeyer. Regina Jennings. Jen Turano. 2019. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian Fiction; Historical; Romance]
7.  The Sobbin' Women. Stephen Vincent Benet. 1937. 26 pages. [Source: Online]
8. The White Ghost. (Billy Boyle #10). James R. Benn. 2015. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical Fiction; Mystery; World War II]

February
9. Blue Madonna. (Billy Boyle #11) James R. Benn. 2016. 316 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]
10. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. Chris Cleave. 2016. 418 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II; Historical; Romance; Adult Fiction]
11. The Devouring (Billy Boyle #12) James R. Benn. 2017. 310 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]
12. Solemn Graves. (Billy Boyle #13) James R. Benn. 2018. 340 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; Adult Fiction; World War II]
13. When Hell Struck Twelve. (Billy Boyle #14) James R. Benn. 2019. 360 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult fiction; adult historical; world war 2]
14. Promised. Leah Garriott. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Proper Romance; Clean Romance; Regency Romance; Adult Fiction]

March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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Good Rules Cheat List

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

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