Friday, February 28, 2020

February Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

20. Persuasion. Jane Austen. 1818. 325 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult fiction; adult romance; adult classic]
21. Blue Madonna. (Billy Boyle #11) James R. Benn. 2016. 316 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]
22. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. Chris Cleave. 2016. 418 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II; Historical; Romance; Adult Fiction]
23. The Devouring (Billy Boyle #12) James R. Benn. 2017. 310 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]
24. The Stars We Steal. Alexa Donne. 2020. [February] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
25. Solemn Graves. (Billy Boyle #13) James R. Benn. 2018. 340 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; Adult Fiction; World War II]
26. When Hell Struck Twelve. (Billy Boyle #14) James R. Benn. 2019. 360 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult fiction; adult historical; world war 2]
27. Promised. Leah Garriott. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Proper Romance; Clean Romance; Regency Romance; Adult Fiction]
28. The Undoing of Thistle Tate. Katelyn Detweiler. 2019. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Romance; YA Realistic Fiction]
29. The Boneshaker. Kate Milford. 2010. 372 pages. [Source: Library][YA Fiction; YA Fantasy; YA Historical; YA Supernatural]
30. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? Temi Oh. 2019. 520 pages. [Source: Library][Adult science fiction; science fiction; space opera; alternate histories]
31. Man and Wife. Wilkie Collins. 1870. 652 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult classic; Adult romance; Victorian]
32. Other Words for Home. Jasmine Warga. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Coming-of-age, mg fiction; mg realistic fiction; Newbery honor; family]
33. New Kid. Jerry Craft. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library][Newbery Medal; coming of age; mg realistic fiction; mg fiction; j realistic fiction; j fiction]
 

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

15. The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) Jeanne DuPrau. 2003. 270 pages. [Source: Library] [futuristic; dystopia; mystery; series book]
16. Running Out of Time. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 1995. 184 pages. [Source: Library] [action, adventure, speculative fiction]
17. Owen. Kevin Henkes. 1993. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture books; love objects; security blankets; animal fantasy]
18. Chrysanthemum. Kevin Henkes. 1991. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture books; animal fantasy; school; friendship]
19. Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918. Don Brown. 2019. 96 pages. [Source: Review] [Graphic Novel; Historical; World War I]
 20. A Bear Called Paddington. Michael Bond. 1958. 159 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's classic; animal fantasy]
21. Remarkables. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2019. 304 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative Fiction; Realistic Fiction; J Fiction; MG Fiction]
22. Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren. 1945. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Classic; J Fantasy]
23. Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Christian McKay Heidicker. Illustrated by Junyi Wu. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Newbery Honor; J Fantasy; MG Fantasy; J Fiction; J Fantasy; Animal Fantasy]
24. Undefeated. Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry; picture book; Newbery honor; caldecott medal]
25. My Father's Words. Patricia MacLachlan. 2018. 112 pages. [Source: Library] [coming of age; middle grade; children's book; realistic fiction; animals]
26. The Little Fire Engine. (Mr. Small #6) Lois Lenski. 1946. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
27. The Little Sailboat. (Mr. Small #2) Lois Lenski. 1937. 56 pages. [Source: Library][picture book]
28. Cowboy Small. (Mr. Small #7) Lois Lenski. 1949. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
29. The Little Airplane. (Mr. Small #3) Lois Lenski. 1938. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]
30. Fry Bread. Kevin Noble Maillard. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. 2019. 42 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; poetry]
31. Red Riding Hood, Retold by Beatrix Potter. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 2019. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

13. The Wedding Dress. Rachel Hauck. 2012. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian Fiction; Romance; Women's Fiction]
14. What if Jesus Was Serious? A Visual Guide to the Teachings of Jesus We Love To Ignore. Skye Jethani. 2020. [June] Moody Publishers. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; Christian living; theology; sermon on the mount]
15. Jesus, Who Are You? Names of Jesus. Janna Arndt and Kay Arthur. Illustrated by Tessa Sentell. 2020. [May] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [family; bible study; parents and children; christian nonfiction]
16. The Bible in 52 Weeks: A Yearlong Bible Study for Women. Dr. Kimberly D. Moore. 2020. [February] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Bible Study; Devotional; Christian nonfiction; junk]
17. That Way and No Other: Following God Through Storm and Drought. Amy Carmichael. 2020. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] [biography, autobiography, christian nonfiction]
18. 7 Feasts: Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament. Erin Davis. 2020. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
19. Enough About Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self. Jen Oshman. 2020. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology; Christian living]
20. An Uncommon Woman. Laura Frantz. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical; Romance; Christian]
21. God of Surprise: The Life-Changing, Unexpected Ways God Works for Our Good. Bill Crowder. 2020. [May 2020] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [devotional; christian living]
22. On Waiting Well: Moving from Endurance to Enjoyment When You're Waiting on God. Bradley Baurain. 2020. [July 2020] Moody. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living; Christian nonfiction; theology]

The 5 Star Books
An Uncommon Woman. Laura Frantz. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical; Romance; Christian]
Enough About Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self. Jen Oshman. 2020. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology; Christian living]
The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) Jeanne DuPrau. 2003. 270 pages. [Source: Library] [futuristic; dystopia; mystery; series book]
Owen. Kevin Henkes. 1993. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture books; love objects; security blankets; animal fantasy]
A Bear Called Paddington. Michael Bond. 1958. 159 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's classic; animal fantasy]
Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren. 1945. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Classic; J Fantasy]
Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Christian McKay Heidicker. Illustrated by Junyi Wu. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Newbery Honor; J Fantasy; MG Fantasy; J Fiction; J Fantasy; Animal Fantasy] 
Undefeated. Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2019. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry; picture book; Newbery honor; caldecott medal]
Persuasion. Jane Austen. 1818. 325 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult fiction; adult romance; adult classic]
The Boneshaker. Kate Milford. 2010. 372 pages. [Source: Library][YA Fiction; YA Fantasy; YA Historical; YA Supernatural]
Man and Wife. Wilkie Collins. 1870. 652 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult classic; Adult romance; Victorian]

February totals
Pages9525
Books41

2020 Totals
Pages19430
Books86



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

33. New Kid

New Kid. Jerry Craft. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library][Newbery Medal; coming of age; mg realistic fiction; mg fiction; j realistic fiction; j fiction]

First sentence: This is how I feel every single day of my life, like I’m falling without a parachute.

Premise/plot: Jordan Banks is starting seventh grade in a new private school whether he wants to or not. His mom insists that this is the best for him and will teach him lessons he’ll need to succeed and thrive in life as an adult. His dad is less certain that this school—made up of 98 to 99% white students—is the only place to learn those lessons. Jordan finds himself one of two African American students in his classes. Drew is the other. One teacher—maybe even more—(and it’s their home room teacher at that) rarely calls them by the right name.

Overall, there are definitely some universal themes going on in this coming of age graphic novel. Jordan is an artist and not an athlete. He’s brand new to the school, some of these kids have known each other since kindergarten. He doesn’t hate every single thing about his new school, his classes, his classmates. But he doesn’t love everything either. He makes a few friends, but he’s not super popular and comfortable with the crowd. He is adjusting but not overnight. He wants to be seen, heard, understood, liked for who he is. Very universal that. Even if you’re not in middle school.

Race is kept front and center for the most part. This book examines what it is like to be black in a mostly only white private school.

My thoughts: It is the Newbery Medal for 2020. I am glad I read it. I would not have sought it out on my own because graphic novels aren’t usually my thing. But I liked it, definitely liked it.

One scene that stuck out to me—resonated with me—was the one where his homeroom teacher finds his art journal, reads it without permission, confronts and judges him. I hate that she is accusing him of being angry, having a bad attitude and not trying hard enough to adjust or fit in at the school. First she had no business to read his private journal—art or not. Second she took his accounts and experiences and negates his feelings, experiences, etc. and blames him for not being happy happy joyful grateful for being there. As if he would prefer to be teased and doesn’t want to be friends with anyone. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 24, 2020

32. Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home. Jasmine Warga. 2019. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Coming-of-age, mg fiction; mg realistic fiction; Newbery honor; family; verse novel]

First sentence: It is almost summer and everywhere smells like fish, except for right down by the sea where if you hold your nose just right you can smell the sprawling jasmine and the salt water instead.

Premise/plot: Other Words for Home is a coming of age verse novel set in Syria and the United States. When the novel opens readers meet Jude and her family in Syria. We get to know her parents, her older brother, her aunt and best friend. When Syria becomes increasingly dangerous, Jude and her mother immigrate to the U.S. Jude’s uncle (her mom’s brother) lives with his family in Cincinnati. Jude has to adjust to America as it really is, not as it is in her favorite nineties movies starring Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. Will Jude come to accept this as her new home or will home always be half a world away. Does she have to choose between them?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this compelling story. I thought the characters were fleshed out well. I got a definite sense of her life at home, at school, and a sense of who she was. I liked that Jude became involved with the school musical. I really enjoyed the developing friendships—Jude and Layla, Jude and Miles, etc.

It was a good read. I am glad it was a Newbery honor book so it caught my attention. 


 © 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 21, 2020

31. Man and Wife

Man and Wife. Wilkie Collins. 1870. 652 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult classic; Adult romance; Victorian]

First sentence from the prologue: ON a summer’s morning, between thirty and forty years ago, two girls were crying bitterly in the cabin of an East Indian passenger ship, bound outward, from Gravesend to Bombay.
 
First sentence from chapter one: THE OWLS. IN the spring of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight there lived, in a certain county of North Britain, two venerable White Owls.
 
Premise/plot: Anne and Blanche are best, best friends. As were the parents--Blanche and Anne. But Anne, both Annes, haven't had the best fortune when it comes to choosing wisely whom to love and trust. One Anne was doomed to die in despair...but will the second Anne suffer the same fate? Or will Blanche and her family prove to be her salvation?!
 
My thoughts: I first read this one in 2009. It was my first novel by Wilkie Collins. I loved, loved, loved it. I still love, love, love it. My favorite character--and probably the eldest book crush I've ever, ever had--perhaps with the exception of Matthew Cuthbert--is Sir Patrick Lundie. Now, I don't want you to think this book is really a ROMANCE with him as the romantic lead. No, he may be a scene-stealer (at least for this reader!!!) but the romantic lead is played by Arnold Brinkworth, a young man madly, deeply in love with Blanche. 
 
 Here is a little love scene between Arnold and Blanche:

[Blanche] could have boxed Arnold on both ears for being so unreasonably afraid of her.
"Well," she said impatiently, "if I did look in your face, what should I see?"
Arnold made another plunge. He answered: "You would see that I want a little encouragement."
"From me?"
"Yes--if you please."

Blanche looked back over her shoulder. The summer-house stood on an eminence, approached by steps. The players on the lawn beneath were audible, but not visible. Any one of them might appear, unexpectedly, at a moment's notice. Blanche listened. There was no sound of approaching footsteps--there was a general hush, and then another bang of the mallet on the ball and then a clapping of hands. Sir Patrick was a privileged person. He had been allowed, in all probability to try again; and he was succeeding at the second effort. This implied a reprieve of some seconds. Blanche looked back again at Arnold.

"Consider yourself encouraged," she whispered and instantly added, with the ineradicable female instinct of self-defense, "within limits!"

Arnold made a last plunge--straight to the bottom, this time.

"Consider yourself loved," he burst out, "without any limits at all."

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

30. Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? Temi Oh. 2019. 520 pages. [Source: Library][Adult science fiction; science fiction; space opera; alternate histories]

First sentence: It is just like Earth; Terra Two.

Premise/plot: Do You Dream Of Terra Two? is a science fiction novel set in an alternate past or history. What if a life-sustaining planet had been discovered in the twentieth century? What if colonies and space stations had happened in the space race? What if at the dawn of the twenty-first century saw nations preparing to colonize this Terra Two planet? What if colonizing space was seen as part of the solution to global warming and climate change? The six young adults preparing for this first mission trained from 2004-2012. At the start there were several hundred students (10 to 13 year olds), through the years cuts were made until the final six and a back-up team of six were ready. These six will work with four veteran astronauts (one is picked up from Mars). These pioneers will prepare the way for future settlers.

It will take twenty three years give or take to arrive on Terra Two. The mission is dangerous and a once in a lifetime opportunity and experience. Yes, they’ve been trained, but training can’t prepare you for so many unknowns and uncertainties. Can they handle it?

Harry, Jesse, Astrid, Juno, Eliot, and Poppy these are the six young adults on board....

My thoughts: This one has many narrators. For over half the novel I found the characterization to be on the weaker side. By the end the characters were starting to come about and feel more developed. But make no mistake, this one is a premise-driven, action-driven space opera. The characters alone can’t carry this story forward.

I found the premise intriguing. I did. I like science fiction. I have a soft spot for books set in space. I liked the idea of space pioneers trekking across space dreaming of the future and battling the obstacles that stand in their way. I liked how some of these obstacles are internal. The six are troubled souls. I don’t know how these problems could have gone undetected on earth. So maybe these mental and psychological weaknesses were seen as strengths? I don’t know.

There were occasions of info dumping. In particular there’s a scene where socialism/communism is pushed quite strongly and obviously as the solution to everything. This new planet will be set up in such a way that it could never ever ever fail: socialism/communism. The characters acknowledge that humanity has messed up the planet earth. But fail to realize that transplanting humans to another planet won’t give any human a new nature. Human nature can’t be flawed on Terra Two! There will be a written constitution in place before settlers come! We all know that written constitutions, laws, and rules are always kept, obeyed, upheld and never changed, rewritten, updated, overturned, rebelled against, revolted against.

The ideals of a few characters and lack of a common sense understanding of reality caused a few eye rolls.

Also, this one has adult content of a semi-graphic nature plus a few obscenities. So it is not a clean read. (I don’t think all books should be, have to be, need to be “clean.” I mention it just because I like to know so I can make an informed decision when I pick a book up.)

I liked it. I think for the right reader it will work well. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

29. The Boneshaker

The Boneshaker. Kate Milford. 2010. 372 pages. [Source: Library][YA Fiction; YA Fantasy; YA Historical; YA Supernatural]

First sentence: Strange things can happen at a crossroads.

Premise/plot: Natalie Minks stars in Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker. This one is set in a small town in Missouri in 1913. It definitely has a historical feel to it, but, it also has a supernatural gothic element to it. A battle between good and evil is coming to this town located near a crossroads...it won’t be the first or last. Natalie, our heroine, finds herself front and center for the action. Her curiosity and skepticism may just save the day.

So. Essentially this one is all about a nefarious traveling medicine show that comes to town...

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. I do. I am not sure if this is the second or possibly the third time I have read this one. I love the writing, the atmosphere, the suspense, the characters and story. I love everything about this one.

The description doesn’t really do this one justice. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 17, 2020

28. The Undoing of Thistle Tate

The Undoing of Thistle Tate. Katelyn Detweiler. 2019. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Romance; YA Realistic Fiction]

First sentence: I have lots of dreams, but I’ve only ever had one nightmare and it’s always exactly the same.

Premise/plot: Thistle Tate is super popular bestselling author living a lie. She is not the real author of the books—her father is. When her father has a horrible accident just a week away from a deadline for the last book in the trilogy, Thistle has good reason to panic. She could try to write on her own, or, she could come clean to the agent and publisher. But can she tell the truth after living a lie for three years?

Thistle’s love life is also up in the air. Does she love Liam? Does she love Oliver? Does she like like both of them equally?

My thoughts: This one has a nice enough premise. But it was just an almost for me. I almost cared about the characters; I almost cared about the story. I liked everything just well enough to keep reading. But it wasn’t compelling. I found myself skimming the quotes of the bestselling series. I can’t imagine making it through those books. I definitely would not call it tense and gripping like the jacket copy reads.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

27. Promised

Promised. Leah Garriott. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Proper Romance; Clean Romance; Regency Romance; Adult Fiction]

First sentence: Mrs. Hickmore shuffled our party of hopeful strangers into her lavish dining room.

Premise/plot: Margaret Brinton has lost in love before. Having decided that once was enough to last a lifetime, she vows to never fall in love again. This might make choosing a husband a tad tricky. She’s looking for a potential husband whom she could never ever love. He must be willing to marry her—for convenience. But love is off the table...or is it? Could Margaret fall in love with the pesky gentleman who keeps standing in the way of her match with a rake?! Could Lord Williams surprise her after all? Did she judge him too quickly?

My thoughts: I love, love, love Regency romances. More, more, more! I can never get enough. Especially if they are CLEAN and PROPER romances. I enjoyed Margaret’s story. If you enjoy romance—even if slightly predictable and contrived—you might enjoy this one. Here’s the thing, when it comes to romance I know exactly what I like, what I want. I don’t mind a bit of predictability and formula. I really don’t. The characters were nicely drawn. There were some very sweet scenes.

I would recommend it.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

26. When Hell Struck Twelve

When Hell Struck Twelve. (Billy Boyle #14) James R. Benn. 2019. 360 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult fiction; adult historical; world war 2]

First sentence: The ground was a carpet of gray corpses.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle stars in his fourteenth mystery in When Hell Struck Twelve. Big Mike, Kaz, Billy, and Diana are all in France. (Diana in Paris, still occupied by the Nazis.) Billy and friends are headed towards Paris in pursuit of a traitor and murderer who is in cahoots with the Germans. Many lives are in danger. There are murders, but Billy is not taking time to investigate and solve. He’s hunting one man and can’t let anything distract him. This one is definitely more of a war story, action-packed at that.

My thoughts: This book should have a warning. This book has NO ENDING. It just ends in a complete mess of a cliffhanger. I hate, hate, hate cliffhangers in mystery series. Mystery novels should have endings and resolutions. War stories and action series (think thrillers) maybe cliffhangers work...but I imagine most readers will want to yell at this ending.

My advice is to read this one while you have number 15 on hold or preorder.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

25. Solemn Graves

Solemn Graves. (Billy Boyle #13) James R. Benn. 2018. 340 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; Adult Fiction; World War II]

First sentence: The first dead body I saw in Normandy was a cow, tangled in the branches of a shattered tree at a crossroads by the edge of a field, a good thirty feet off the ground.

Premise/plot: Solemn Graves is the thirteenth historical mystery in the Billy Boyle series. This one is set in the summer of 1944 in France. Billy is investigating a murder in a farmhouse, Major Jerome. But his investigation is also about making sure that the super super top secret ghost army unit stays secret. As with most Boyle mysteries, it doesn’t stay one murder but becomes a handful of murders. Helping him out is Big Mike, Kaz, and even Diana!!!!

My thoughts: I definitely love the series. I do. I love, love, love the characters and the relationships. I love the details, learning more about various aspects of the war itself. I can appreciate the author’s note at the end of each book. This is a solid read, a compelling one. It may not be my absolute favorite and best in the series, but it’s good, very good.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 10, 2020

24. The Stars We Steal

The Stars We Steal. Alexa Donne. 2020. [February] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The extravagance made my teeth hurt.

Premise/plot: Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg stars in this space opera retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. To be fair, Austen isn’t the only inspiration, as the rose on the cover might hint. There’s a bit of The Bachelor influence as well.

Set several hundred years in the future, it features a society of strict social class divisions, the haves and have-nots. The elite want all the supplies, even luxuries—no rations. The poor are starving and dying. Not every spaceship or starship is equal. Leo’s family has lost their wealth but not their royal blood. They are the Scandinavian royal family. Leo, her father and sister are living a little on the charity of their cousins. Her aunt is a captain of a very elite starship. The ship that is hosting the Valg Season. Held every five years, it offers humans the opportunity to meet and arrange marriages across space/starships. All the ships dock and a series of social events are held over a series of weeks. In the end, engagements will be announced. Leo doesn’t want to have to get married. But her family desperately needs money. There will be plenty of men who want to marry into royalty.

Elliot Wentworth is one young man who has come for the season, but are his intentions honorable where Leo is concerned....

My thoughts: I love, love, love Persuasion. I do. I absolutely loved the premise of turning the story into a space opera with a futuristic almost dystopian setting. Things aren’t all comfy cozy while humans wait for Earth to thaw and become inhabitable again. There is a political element to this one. It isn’t all fluffy romance. In fact the fluff is kept to a minimum, in my opinion.

I definitely liked this one. I may even really like it. But not quite love. There were a few things that kept me from loving it. I would recommend it to most teens, perhaps not Christian teens looking for a squeaky clean read. But most teens I would recommend this one. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 06, 2020

23. The Devouring

The Devouring (Billy Boyle #12) James R. Benn. 2017. 310 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]

First sentence: Light is faster than sound. Strange, the things you think about when you’re about to die.

Premise/plot: This is the twelfth Billy Boyle historical mystery. Billy and Kaz are undercover in Europe, currently in France but heading to neutral or “neutral” Switzerland. They will be investigating some crimes or suspected crimes, mainly of a financial nature. Their guide is a Sinti vigilante, Anton Lasho, who has on his own been seeking out all the Nazis he can and killing them, wherever, whenever. The resistance is not pleased. They prefer plans, organization, maximum impact. Not random murders with no tactical gains. Lasho goes with Kaz and Boyle, perhaps this will be a new beginning for a man who has seen to much during the war. Boyle and Kaz and their new associates have a difficult task ahead—and it seems their lives are in danger. New threats and risks abound as they investigate. Soon the two are trying to solve a murder...

My thoughts: I really love, love, love this series. I definitely found this a compelling addition to the series. I can’t say I love Lasho as much as Kaz in terms of being a sidekick. But I hope he’s back in future books. I hope he does begin working with them, for Eisenhower. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

22. Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. Chris Cleave. 2016. 418 pages. [Source: Library] [World War II; Historical; Romance; Adult Fiction]

First sentence: War was declared at eleven-fifteen and Mary North signed up at noon.

Premise/plot: Mary North is the heroine of Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven. This historical romance is set primarily in London during the early years of the Second World War—1939-1942. Miss North is assigned a class to teach—teaching doesn’t come to mind like nursing, driving an ambulance, doing factory work or farm labor as being a vital part of the war effort, but it would free male teachers to fight in the war. She is a hit with her students, but not with her employer. So when her class is evacuated from London to the countryside, she’s told to stay behind, essentially fired. But she feels teaching is her calling, plus she’s too proud to tell her insufferable mother that she’s lost her job. She pretends to teach until she can persuade a superintendent to hire her. That superintendent is Tom Shaw. He falls head over heels in love with. Her. He’s in awe that the oh so amazing, incredibly beautiful Mary North could like like him. But she does...even when she falls hard and fast for his roommate, Alistair Heath, an enlisted soldier home on leave. The undeniable attraction is mutual and unfortunate. Both love and respect Tom too much to even hint to the other aloud that there is something there, a spark of love. But the war is vicious and no happy endings are assured. Mary’s “best” friend is a plain Jane who has repeatedly been hurt by Mary. Any guy that has potentially been interested in her, drops her when they meet Mary. Mary has kissed many of her friend’s fellows or suitors or dates.

Forgiveness is a theme of the novel.

My thoughts: I found this a super compelling read. I loved the historical setting. I loved the focus on teaching. Mary North has a heart for the least of these. This means at this time for black students, physically disabled, and mentally challenged students that have been deemed unteachable and unwanted. They were not evacuated with the others because they were unwanted, unable to be placed with country families. In some cases they were evacuated, then sent back rejected. Mary North’s reputation suffers because she cares about these communities and gets involved beyond teaching them the basics. Readers should be aware that the n word is used liberally throughout. One of her students has a father who is in a minstrel show, she sees his show and is shocked at what she sees and hears. Shocked by how her friends react. She feels that she is alone in seeing them as humans.

I mostly loved, loved, loved the writing. Cleave is quite quotable.

The characters were developed but realistically enough not at all self aware. Mary was blind to her own biases and selfishness. She was clueless to how she was hurting her best friend, clueless to how she was hurting her mother, clueless to the fact that her mother has thoughts, opinions, feelings, dreams. Mary’s compassion is limited. She had a huge heart for her students, but, didn’t extend that heart to her own family and closest friends.

It is not a clean read—both language and situations. Both are probably realistic and true to the times and human nature. But if you’re looking for a clean read, this is not it. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 04, 2020

21. Blue Madonna

Blue Madonna. (Billy Boyle #11) James R. Benn. 2016. 316 pages. [Source: Library] [Historical; Mystery; World War II]

First sentence: It was a nice day for a drive.

Premise/plot: Blue Madonna is the eleventh historical mystery starring Billy Boyle. This one is set May/June 1944 in England and France. It begins with a shocking twist: a court martial for Billy Boyle. But after an unusual start it soon settles into a more predictable Billy Boyle mystery. Wherever he goes, he finds murders to solve and clues to follow. Even in Nazi occupied France.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the series as a whole. These characters live for me. I am thoroughly attached to Billy Boyle, Kaz, Big Mike, Diana, etc. I love following the stories from book to book as to how these relationships and stories develop and evolve. But. Sometimes individual titles are just okay and not super amazing or oh so compelling. Blue Madonna is not my favorite in the series.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 03, 2020

20. Persuasion

Persuasion. Jane Austen. 1818. 325 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult fiction; adult romance; adult classic]

First sentence: Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.


Premise/plot: Anne Elliot, our heroine spinster, has missed her chance for love and happiness--or has she?! When she broke off her engagement seven years earlier--I believe it to be seven; it is at the very least seven--Anne never expected to see Frederick Wentworth again...

The Elliot family is in financial trouble--Anne the only sensible Elliot. The family decides to rent out their big estate and move to Bath. Anne isn't really necessary for this--she's just Anne--so she remains behind in the neighborhood, staying with her married sister, Mary, and brother-in-law, Charles, and their two children. Lady Russell, Anne's substitute mother of sorts, will bring her to Bath when she comes (several months) later.

The estate is rented out to the Crofts--Admiral and Mrs. Croft. Her brother happens to be....Captain Frederick Wentworth. (If The Bachelor had existed in 1818, he'd have applied to be a contestant.) What he is looking for MARRIAGE. She must be....anyone but Anne. Well, that's what he thinks at the start...

So the two socialize in the same circles; Mary has two sisters-in-law either which would do for Captain Wentworth--if he can choose between them. But Anne is ever in the background. Perhaps especially in her own family. Though at least with the Musgroves she's vital and essential to the every day management of life and comfort and peace. (As opposed to when she's with her father and other sister, Elizabeth, where she might as well be an ugly vase.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, crazy love and ABSOLUTELY adore this one. I've reviewed it in 2008 (in which I said it was my second time to read it); in 2011; in 2014 and 2016. I find it a giddy-making read. I love, love, love the romance between Anne and Frederick. I love the last half of the novel especially. There is such incredible build-up in this relationship. It never fails to thrill even when I know exactly how it will end.

Quotes:
Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation.
His two other children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance, by becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way--she was only Anne.
To Lady Russell, indeed, she was a most dear and highly valued god-daughter, favourite, and friend. Lady Russell loved them all; but it was only in Anne that she could fancy the mother to revive again.
Lady Russell, indeed, had scarcely any influence with Elizabeth, and seemed to love her, rather because she would love her, than because Elizabeth deserved it.
Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly anybody to love; but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail.
They were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love.
It would be difficult to say which had seen highest perfection in the other, or which had been the happiest: she, in receiving his declarations and proposals, or he in having them accepted.
She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing: indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it.
The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation, under the misery of a parting, a final parting; and every consolation was required, for she had to encounter all the additional pain of opinions, on his side, totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill used by so forced a relinquishment.
She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.
To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all; and Anne, glad to be thought of some use, glad to have anything marked out as a duty, and certainly not sorry to have the scene of it in the country, and her own dear country, readily agreed to stay.
"There is hardly any personal defect," replied Anne, "which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to."
Excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste.
If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it, and Charles is as bad as any of them.
A sick child is always the mother's property: her own feelings generally make it so.
You, who have not a mother's feelings, are a great deal the properest person.
He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure.
She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.
"Yes, here I am, Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor, who has had no society among women to make him nice?"
"A strong mind, with sweetness of manner," made the first and the last of the description. "That is the woman I want," said he.
"Something a little inferior I shall of course put up with, but it must not be much. If I am a fool, I shall be a fool indeed, for I have thought on the subject more than most men."
We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.
They were more in love with him; yet there it was not love. It was a little fever of admiration; but it might, probably must, end in love with some.
He was only wrong in accepting the attentions (for accepting must be the word) of two young women at once.
You are never sure of a good impression being durable; everybody may sway it.
One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best.
I have done very little besides sending away some of the large looking-glasses from my dressing-room, which was your father's. A very good man, and very much the gentleman I am sure: but I should think, Miss Elliot," (looking with serious reflection), "I should think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life. Such a number of looking-glasses! oh Lord! there was no getting away from one's self.
Give him a book, and he will read all day long.
Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. 
There is so little real friendship in the world! and unfortunately" (speaking low and tremulously) "there are so many who forget to think seriously till it is almost too late."
 She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! alas! she must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.
 One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering.    
  Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room. Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed; but she knew nothing about it. She was thinking only of the last half hour, and as they passed to their seats, her mind took a hasty range over it.
What wild imaginations one forms where dear self is concerned! How sure to be mistaken!
Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left.
All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.
On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense.
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W. "I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."         
Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.
There could be only the most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture.
There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.               
Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort.

© 2020 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
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  • 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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