Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews
49. The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television. Koren Shadmi. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [graphic novel; biography; adult]
50. The Bone Fire. (Somershill Manor Mystery #4) S.D. Sykes. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult historical fiction; historical mystery]
51. Ready Player One. Ernest Cline. 2011. 374 pages. [Source: Review copy] [speculative fiction; futuristic; gaming; science fiction; adult fiction]
52. The Warrior's Curse. (The Traitor's Game #3) Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic. 359 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Fiction; YA Fantasy; YA Romance]
53. Victoria's War. Catherine A. Hamilton. 2020. 276 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; world at war; adult fiction; historical fiction]
54. Lakeshire Park. Megan Walker. 2020. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult fiction; adult romance; historical fiction; historical romance]
55. Rakes and Roses. (Mayfield Family #3) Josi S. Kilpack. 2020 [May] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [romance; Regency romance; historical]
56. Killing November. Adriana Mather. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [YA Fiction; YA Action; YA Mystery]
57. A Pleasure To Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories. Ray Bradbury. 2010. Subterranean Press. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; Novellas]
58. A Journal of the Plague Year. Daniel Defoe. 1722. 336 pages. [Source: Bought] [classic]
59. Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts. (Steampunk Proper Romance #4) Nancy Campbell Allen. 2020. [April] Shadow Mountain. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [alternate history; vampires; shape shifters; romance]
60. Howard's End. E.M. Forster. 1910. 246 pages. [Source: Bought] [classic; adult fiction]
61. Murder Once Removed. (Ancestry Detective #1) S.C. Perkins. 2019. 319 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Mystery; Thriller] 
Books Reviewed at Young Readers
46. Prairie Lotus. Linda Sue Park. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; j fiction]
47. Dandelion Fire. (100 Cupboards #2) N.D. Wilson. 2008. 480 pages. [Source: Library]
48. The Chestnut King. (100 Cupboards #3) N.D. Wilson. 2010. 482 pages. [Source: Library]
49. Bittle. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2004. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; animals; new babies]
50.  Don't Forget the Bacon. Pat Hutchins. 1976/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
51. Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter. 1913. 304 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's fiction; orphans; classic]
52. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. 1964. 155 pages. [Source: Library] [J fiction; j fantasy; children's classic]
53. Time School: We Will Remember Them. Nikki Young. 2020. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; speculative fiction; time travel; history; World War I]
54. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl. 1972. 166 pages. [Source: Library] [sequels not worth reading]
55. The Search for Delicious. Natalie Babbitt. 1969/1998. 167 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fantasy; J Fiction; Children's Classic] 
Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
30. Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. W. David O. Taylor. 2020. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Theology; Christian Living; Christian Nonfiction; Bible Study]
31. Welcome To Your Bible: Reading and Study Helps, Whatever Your Experience Level. George W. Knight. 2020. Barbour Books. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction]
32. Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy. John Piper. 2016. Desiring God. 122 pages. [Source: Free Download] [Devotional]
33. Coronavirus and Christ. John Piper. 2020. [April] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; Christian living; current events]
34. At Love's Command. (Hanger's Horsemen #1) Karen Witemeyer. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical romance]
35. Unyielding Hope. (When Hope Calls #1) Janette Oke and Laura Oke Logan. 2020. May 2020. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical fiction; romance; Christian fiction]
36. When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent: Finding Hope in the Psalms. J. Ligon Duncan. Foreword by Mark Dever. 2020. Crossway. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living]
Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
2. ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions. Crossway. 2020. 1424 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3. CSB Day by Day Chronological Bible. George H. Guthrie, ed. Holman. 2018. 1664 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible; Chronological Bible]

The 5 Star Books
Prairie Lotus. Linda Sue Park. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; j fiction]
Victoria's War. Catherine A. Hamilton. 2020. 276 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; world at war; adult fiction; historical fiction]
Lakeshire Park. Megan Walker. 2020. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult fiction; adult romance; historical fiction; historical romance]
Rakes and Roses. (Mayfield Family #3) Josi S. Kilpack. 2020 [May] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [romance; Regency romance; historical]
A Pleasure To Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories. Ray Bradbury. 2010. Subterranean Press. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; Novellas]
The Search for Delicious. Natalie Babbitt. 1969/1998. 167 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fantasy; J Fiction; Children's Classic]  
Bittle. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2004. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; animals; new babies]
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. 1964. 155 pages. [Source: Library] [J fiction; j fantasy; children's classic]
Time School: We Will Remember Them. Nikki Young. 2020. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; speculative fiction; time travel; history; World War I] 
Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter. 1913. 304 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's fiction; orphans; classic]
 ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions. Crossway. 2020. 1424 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Welcome To Your Bible: Reading and Study Helps, Whatever Your Experience Level. George W. Knight. 2020. Barbour Books. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction]
CSB Day by Day Chronological Bible. George H. Guthrie, ed. Holman. 2018. 1664 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible; Chronological Bible]
 At Love's Command. (Hanger's Horsemen #1) Karen Witemeyer. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical romance]
 When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent: Finding Hope in the Psalms. J. Ligon Duncan. Foreword by Mark Dever. 2020. Crossway. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living]

April Totals
April Totals
Pages10833
Books31

2020 Totals
Pages41318
Books153


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

61. Murder Once Removed

Murder Once Removed. (Ancestry Detective #1) S.C. Perkins. 2019. 319 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Mystery; Thriller]

First sentence: The knife had pierced Seth Halloran’s heart, exactly at the spot that would stop it cold. Poor guy would’ve dropped right where he stood. I hit speed dial and tucked the phone between my ear and shoulder. “Got a report for me yet, Lancaster?” Gus asked. “Our witness,” I said, not taking my eyes off the body. “The portrait photographer. He heard yelling and ran to investigate.” “Tell me something I don’t know,” Gus said. “I’ll do you two better,” I replied. “One, the witness finally has an ID. His name’s Jeb Inscore.” “Inscore, huh? Not a name you hear often.” I agreed. “Secondly, Jeb hid in a nearby alley, where he saw two unknown men standing over the victim. One of them was holding a knife. Jeb saw blood on it.” “That’s not what said he said the first time.” “Nope,” I said. “At least not on the official record. Gus, this wasn’t an accidental death. Seth Halloran was murdered.” Gus snorted, though I knew he was intrigued. Murder had certainly been the rumor. “How do you figure that?”

Premise/plot: Lucy Lancaster, our heroine, is a professional genealogist and an amateur detective. Solving mysteries--particularly murder mysteries--isn't part of her day to day routine. In fact, this may be her first temptation to be an amateur detective. But the crime, well, it was committed in 1849...and she discovered it while researching for a client. She was just wanting to find out MORE about Gus Halloran's ancestors...but what she discovered was a dead body and a crime that might carry over into the present.

It soon becomes clear that SOMEONE is out there and posing a very real danger to those closest to the case. Even the FBI is involved...Lucy doesn't want to follow any modern, contemporary clues...but how can she stop researching the past, the families involved?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I can't say that I loved, loved, loved it. I didn't quite. I loved the Texas setting. I really liked Lucy. I really liked Ben. There was good tension throughout the book. I enjoyed the genealogical aspects of this one. Though it really TRULY annoyed me when she referred to finding people in the 1890 census!!! (There is NO 1890 census. Leaving many mysteries behind for family researchers to this day.)

I can't say that the characterization was especially deep and amazing. But it was light and though not beyond the surface, it wasn't unpleasant. 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 27, 2020

60. Howard's End

Howard's End. E.M. Forster. 1910. 246 pages. [Source: Bought] [classic; adult fiction]

First sentence: One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister.

Premise/plot: Howard’s End concerns the Schlegel sisters Margaret and Helen. The novel opens with Helen falling in and out of love with Paul Wilcox at Howard’s End on holiday. She was invited by the Wilcoxes—both sisters had met the Wilcox family at a European hotel previously. In the upcoming years these two families keep colliding.... Margaret becomes friends with Mrs. (Ruth) Wilcox. Mrs. Wilcox even pencils in a dying request: Howard’s End should be left to Margaret. It seems Ruth feels her to be a spiritual heir. This doesn’t come about...not as she planned anyway. But Henry Wilcox (the father) does end up years later marrying Margaret. But will the two suit since they are so very different.

Helen meanwhile adopts Leonard Bast—a grown man with a wife and job—as an ongoing charity project. She feels certain that with her constant meddling and kind advice his life might be worth living after all. But is her help his making or breaking?!

My thoughts: I can’t say that I loved any of the characters wholeheartedly. I am not sure any comes about as believable humans. Each seems to be a Symbol or Ideal for an abstract idea or philosophy. I wanted actual human beings. Though I will say this there are plenty of flaws imbedded in all.

Quotes

The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched—a life in which telegrams and anger count. (20)


It will be generally admitted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man. (23)


I do know when I like a thing and when I don’t. (29)


Discussion keeps a house alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone. (60)


How many of these vacillating shoppers and tired shop assistants realized that it was a divine event that drew them together? (63)


Has the soul offspring? (77)


Actual life is full of false clues and sign posts that lead nowhere. (83)


I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place. (102)


It is odd and sad that our minds should be such seedbeds, and we without power to choose the seed. (219)
I did watch a Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Howard's End. I found it to be similar to the book in many, many ways. In truth, I watched the movie first. I felt *surely* the movie would have some condensing and that the book would plump up the movie. That the characters would be fuller, deeper, richer. That one could draw more insights about their inner lives and motivations. But NOPE. The movie and the book were truly alike. If the characters felt more flat than realized--that is representing types and symbols--it wasn't the fault of the movie maker.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

59. Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts. (Steampunk Proper Romance #4) Nancy Campbell Allen. 2020. [April] Shadow Mountain. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [alternate history; vampires; shape shifters; romance]

First sentence: Emmeline Castle O’Shea stood at a podium in the balcony of the Municipal Hall for Citizen Affairs and looked out with satisfaction at the murmuring crowd, feeling the energy build in the large room as she finished speaking.

Premise/plot: Emme, our feminist heroine, is forced to spend company with a detective, Oliver Reed, when her life is threatened by a Bad Letter. Her new body guard becomes quite caught up in her life and causes. Emme is quite involved in the cause for Shifter Rights.

The book is labeled as a steampunk retelling of Cinderella. It is the fourth in a series of retelling. Supposedly each can stand alone.

My thoughts: Would I have enjoyed this one more if I was familiar with other titles in the series?!?! Probably. I do think this steampunk world has a good deal of world building to it, character building. Other reviews indicate that characters from other books appear in this one.

How much Cinderella is there to this retelling? Not much in my opinion. The connection is faint if present at all. I will say her new friend Gus (a good vampire) is one of the more memorable characters.

I do like the relationship of Oliver and Emme. If this wasn’t labeled a retelling of Cinderella would I have enjoyed it more?! 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

58. A Journal of the Plague Year

A Journal of the Plague Year. Daniel Defoe. 1722. 336 pages. [Source: Bought] [classic]

First sentence: It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland;  for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not from whence it came; but all agreed it was come into Holland again. We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since. But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private.

Premise/plot:  A fictionalized journal chronicling the plague of 1665 as witnessed by a man who stayed in London, bore witness to its atrocities, and survived to tell the tale.

My thoughts: Some things about this read feel quite relevant to our current circumstances: the daily updates of how many dead listed by community or parish; the debate of whether one should shelter in place with as many provisions as one could stock up on before it "hit" your parish OR if you should send someone--a servant usually--out to daily market and risk bringing back the plague with your food stuffs; who should have the authority to "govern" or make laws and rules; how the poor were hit hardest--both by the plague and the economy.

The narrator is quite religious. He trusts in the sovereignty of God--God's faithfulness, his goodness, his providence. He trusts that come what may God will be with him and give him the strength and courage he needs to face any and every situation.

If I have a complaint...it's the lack of any breaks. A journal might have dates as natural stopping places. (This one doesn't). Novels would, of course, have chapters. Daniel Defoe was a CHILD (around 5 years old) so he is not the narrator. But one of his relatives certainly could have told stories and related details to him. All details are historical fact. It's the narrator piecing them together that is the fictional element.

Quotes:
It immediately followed in my thoughts, that if it really was from God that I should stay, He was able effectually to preserve me in the midst of all the death and danger that would surround me; and that if I attempted to secure myself by fleeing from my habitation, and acted contrary to these intimations, which I believe to be Divine, it was a kind of flying from God, and that He could cause His justice to overtake me when and where He thought fit. These thoughts quite turned my resolutions again, and when I came to discourse with my brother again I told him that I inclined to stay and take my lot in that station in which God had placed me, and that it seemed to be made more especially my duty, on the account of what I have said.
  
Add to this, that, turning over the Bible which lay before me, and while my thoughts were more than ordinarily serious upon the question, I cried out, 'Well, I know not what to do; Lord, direct me I' and the like; and at that juncture I happened to stop turning over the book at the gist Psalm, and casting my eye on the second verse, I read on to the seventh verse exclusive, and after that included the tenth, as follows: 'I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust:
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling,' &C.

I scarce need tell the reader that from that moment I resolved that I would stay in the town, and casting myself entirely upon the goodness and protection of the Almighty, would not seek any other shelter whatever; and that, as my times were in His hands, He was as able to keep me in a time of the infection as in a time of health; and if He did not think fit to deliver me, still I was in His hands, and it was meet He should do with me as should seem good to Him.
It was a very ill time to be sick in, for if any one complained, it was immediately said he had the plague; and though I had indeed no symptom of that distemper, yet being very ill, both in my head and in my stomach, I was not without apprehension that I really was infected; but in about three days I grew better; the third night I rested well, sweated a little, and was much refreshed.
But in the whole the face of things, I say, was much altered; sorrow and sadness sat upon every face; and though some parts were not yet overwhelmed, yet all looked deeply concerned; and, as we saw it apparently coming on, so every one looked on himself and his family as in the utmost danger.
Tears and lamentations were seen almost in every house, especially in the first part of the visitation; for towards the latter end men's hearts were hardened, and death was so always before their eyes, that they did not so much concern themselves for the loss of their friends, expecting that themselves should be summoned the next hour.
On the other hand it is incredible and scarce to be imagined, how the posts of houses and corners of streets were plastered over with doctors' bills and papers of ignorant fellows, quacking and tampering in physic, and inviting the people to come to them for remedies, which was generally set off with such flourishes as these, viz.: 'Infallible preventive pills against the plague.' 'Neverfailing preservatives against the infection.' 'Sovereign cordials against the corruption of the air.' 'Exact regulations for the conduct of the body in case of an infection.' 'Anti-pestilential pills.' 'Incomparable drink against the plague, never found out before.' 'An universal remedy for the plague.' 'The only true plague water.' 'The royal antidote against all kinds of infection';—and such a number more that I cannot reckon up; and if I could, would fill a book of themselves to set them down.
 Feasting prohibited. 'That all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of this city, and dinners at taverns, ale-houses, and other places of common entertainment, be forborne till further order and allowance; and that the money thereby spared be preserved and employed for the benefit and relief of the poor visited with the infection.
And here I must observe again, that this necessity of going out of our houses to buy provisions was in a great measure the ruin of the whole city, for the people catched the distemper on these occasions one of another, and even the provisions themselves were often tainted; at least I have great reason to believe so;
As for my little family, having thus, as I have said, laid in a store of bread, butter, cheese, and beer, I took my friend and physician's advice, and locked myself up, and my family, and resolved to suffer the hardship of living a few months without flesh-meat, rather than to purchase it at the hazard of our lives.
Certain it is, the greatest part of the poor or families who formerly lived by their labour, or by retail trade, lived now on charity; and had there not been prodigious sums of money given by charitable, well-minded Christians for the support of such, the city could never have subsisted.
Let any one who is acquainted with what multitudes of people get their daily bread in this city by their labour, whether artificers or mere workmen—I say, let any man consider what must be the miserable condition of this town if, on a sudden, they should be all turned out of employment, that labour should cease, and wages for work be no more.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 20, 2020

57. A Pleasure to Burn

A Pleasure To Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories. Ray Bradbury. 2010. Subterranean Press. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories; Novellas]


A Pleasure to Burn is a collection of stories and novellas that show the progression of an idea that would become an unforgettable classic, a masterpiece: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Readers can trace this development as they read each story or novella. The two pieces that come closest are Long After Midnight and The Fireman.

It includes

  • The Reincarnate (After awhile you will get over the inferiority complex. Maybe. There's nothing you can do about it. Just be careful to walk around at night. The hot sun is certainly difficult on you.)
  • Pillar of Fire (He came out of the earth, hating. Hate was his father; hate was his mother. It was good to walk again. It was good to leap up out of the earth, off of your back, and stretch your cramped arms violently and try to take a deep breath. He tried. He cried out. He couldn't breathe. He flung his arms over his face and tried to breathe. It was impossible. He walked on the earth, he came out of the earth. But he was dead.)
  • The Library (The people poured into the room. Health officials reeking of disinfectant, sprinklers in their hands. Police officials, fierce with blazing badges.)
  • Bright Phoenix (One day in April 2022, the great library door slammed flat shut. Thunder. Hello, I thought. At the bottom step glowering up at my desk, in a United Legion uniform which no longer hung as neatly upon him as it had twenty years before, stood Jonathan Barnes.)
  • The Mad Wizards of Mars (Their eyes were fire and the breath flamed from out the witches' mouths as they bent to probe the cauldron with greasy stick and bony finger.)
  • Carnival of Madness ("During the whole of a dull, dark and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher..." Mr. William Stendahl paused in his quotation. There, upon a low black hill, stood the house, its cornerstone bearing the inscription: 2249 A.D.)
  • Bonfire (The thing that bothered William Peterson most was Shakespeare and Plato, and Aristotle, and Jonathan Swift and William Faulkner and the poems of Weller, Robert Frost perhaps and John Donne and Robert Herrick. All of these, mind you, tossed into the Bonfire.)
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (The door slammed and John Martin was out of his hat and coat and past his wife as fluently as a magician en route to a better illusion.)
  • The Pedestrian (To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o'clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr. Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do.)
  • The Garbage Collector (This is how his work was: He got up at five in the cold dark morning and washed his face with warm water if the heater was working and cold water if it the heater was not working.)
  • The Smile (In the town square the queue had formed at five in the morning, while cocks were crowing far out in the rimed country and there were no fires. All about, among the ruined buildings, bits of mist had clung at first, but now with the new light of seven o'clock it was beginning to disperse. Down the road, in twos and threes, more people were gathering in for the day of marketing, the day of festival.)
  • Long After Midnight (Mr. Montag dreamed. He was an old man hidden with six million dusty books. His hands crawled, trembling, over yellow pages, and his face was a smashed mirror of wrinkles by candlelight. Then, an eye at the keyhole! In his dream, Mr. Montag yanked the door. A boy fell in.)
  • The Fireman (The four men sat silently playing blackjack under a green droplight in the dark morning. Only a voice whispered from the ceiling: "One thirty-five a.m. Thursday morning, October 4th, 2052 A.D. One forty a.m....one fifty..." Mr. Montag sat stiffly among the other firemen in the fire house, heard the voice-clock mourn out the cold hour and the cold year, and shivered.)
It also includes three bonus stories: The Dragon Who Ate His Tail, Sometime Before Dawn, and To The Future.


I really LOVED some of these stories. I don't know that I love Long After Midnight and The Firemen MORE than Fahrenheit 451. But I love them all the same.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

56. Killing November

Killing November. Adriana Mather. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [YA Fiction; YA Action; YA Mystery]

First sentence: My name is November Adley and I was born in August. The way my dad tells it, the Connecticut nights were unusually cool that summer, and the day I arrived our maple burst with color reminiscent of late fall—hence my name. He claims the leaves shone so brightly in the morning sun that it looked like our front lawn was on fire. Dad also says that’s part of the reason I’m obsessed with the woods.

Premise/plot: November Adley finds herself in a new and spooky environment. It turns out her father has sent her to boarding school--but not just any boarding school. This one specializes in secrets, mayhem, and perhaps a little murder. Will November live long enough to discover all the secrets?!

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this action-packed YA thriller. November, our heroine, is naive but super-skilled. She teams up with her roommate, Layla, and Ash (Layla's brother). There are many mysteries to solve, but not much time to piece everything together. Every day is packed with dangers and intrigues.

I did enjoy the world-building. I thought that worked nicely. It definitely has a YA feel to it. It's fun.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

55. Rakes and Roses

Rakes and Roses. (Mayfield Family #3) Josi S. Kilpack. 2020 [May] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [romance; Regency romance; historical]

First sentence: Harry Stillman swirled the set of dice within the cup and would have prayed if he were that sort of man.

Premise/plot: Rakes and Roses is the third novel in the Mayfield Family historical romance series by Josi S. Kilpack. Harry Stillman, our hero, is down on his luck and out of chances....or is he?!?! This gambler might just get an undeserved second chance from a mystery benefactor...

Lady Sabrina, our heroine, is not a gambler. The last thing she’d ever gamble on is giving love and marriage a second try. But when she stumbles upon a downtrodden Harry—he’s been beaten and left for dead—she finds herself playing nurse and caretaker.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this series. I think each book could stand alone. Each is a complete love story on its own, just focusing on different members of an extended family. Harry is the family member in this book.

I love Lady Sabrina and Harry. I do. Josi Kilpack has created lovely characters with flaws. Flaws are definitely important. If you enjoy character driven stories, especially with a romantic element, I would recommend this series.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 10, 2020

54. Lakeshire Park

Lakeshire Park. Megan Walker. 2020. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult fiction; adult romance; historical fiction; historical romance]

First sentence: My fingers held the last chord on the pianoforte a beat longer than necessary.

Premise/plot: Imagine this scenario: You must find a husband within two weeks. Ready. Set. Go. Fortunately, you’re living in a Regency Romance and have just been invited to a house party with a few eligible men. There will be competition, you’re not the only woman there looking to marry. Are you up to the challenge?

Amelia (19) and her younger sister, Clara, have been invited to a house party. Their stepfather is dying. Their inheritance is nonexistent. It would be one thing if it was a matter of it being entailed, but their stepfather and his family despise them. This party is their best hope—only hope—to secure a future.

Who will they meet? Will either sister fall in love?

Amelia has placed her hope in her sister, Clara, finding a match. She’ll do just about anything—anything still respectable—to help her sister stay in the game. Even if it means agreeing to spend time with Peter Wood.

Peter Wood finds Amelia delightful. But is she spending time with him for the right reasons? Can he get Amelia to actually fall in love with him in just a week or two?

My thoughts: I would give it a hundred stars if I could. I just loved, loved, loved it. I am slightly biased. I adore Regency romances, historical fiction, clean romances. This one was absolutely delightful. I would not change even one thing about it.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

53. Victoria's War

Victoria's War. Catherine A. Hamilton. 2020. 276 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; world at war; adult fiction; historical fiction]

First sentence: The radio changed Victoria Darski's world. It brought swing jazz and blues into her living room. And on the first of September, when she sat on the high-backed sofa and reached for the brass knob on the cabinet radio, it brought news of war.

Premise/plot: Victoria's War is a fictionalized account based on the author's researching real women's experiences in Poland during the Second World War. The novel might be called Victoria's War, but it isn't just Victoria's war--it is everyone's war. And readers get multiple perspectives on the war from a woman's point of view. The first few chapters give readers a taste of what to expect: war brings cruelty, brutality, horrors, hardships, pain, shame, regret, guilt. If these first few chapters are too much, too intense, too painful...the rest of the novel will definitely prove overwhelming.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love reading war stories. Not because I love war--I don't. But because I believe that every voice is worth hearing, every story worth telling. Especially when stories are researched, realistic, true to life. (I do read both fiction and nonfiction.) Just because it's painful and uncomfortable to witness doesn't mean I should turn away and dismiss. That being said, I am an adult. I would not by any means suggest handing intense, not-quite-age-appropriate war books to young readers and forcing them to bear witness to atrocities of the past. One's own mental health and mental state will also play a role in what you yourself seek to read. But I don't shy away from the darkness, the sorrow, the pain. I see you. I hear you.

Victoria's War has its darkness. I won't lie. But it's got a resilient, compassionate, empathetic, heroine who has gumption, courage, and strength.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the ending. It was WORTH IT.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 06, 2020

52. The Warrior's Curse

The Warrior's Curse. (The Traitor's Game #3) Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic. 359 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Winter had come, bringing harsh winds that cut like knives through my cloak, the land frozen beneath my feet each morning and continuing to chill, even when the sun rose. Not that we saw much sun in such a forsaken place.

Premise/plot: This one is the third and probably final book in the series. Books one and two are The Traitor’s Curse and The Deceiver’s Heart. Kestra is our heroine; Simon is our hero. These two love each other truly, madly, deeply but there are obstacles, oh so many obstacles.

At the start of this one, Kestra has been kidnapped and is being held against her will by Loelle in the All Spirits Forest. Simon is recovering and continuing to search for Kestra. Did she leave him by choice?! Or was she kidnapped?! Should he pursue a rescue mission against the advice of his political and military advisers? Should he let her go and marry Harlyn?!

My thoughts: In a perfect world I would have reread the previous books in the series. But with the library closed due to Covid 19, you do what you can do. This book was the last book I checked out—little knowing that the world would change within a week.

I thought it might be difficult to follow because it’s been a while since I read the previous books. But within a few chapters, I was immersed in the story and enjoying it very much!!!

I love Nielsen’s books. She’s a tried and true author who has proven herself worthy time and time again.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 03, 2020

51. Ready Player One

Ready Player One. Ernest Cline. 2011. 374 pages. [Source: Review copy] [speculative fiction; futuristic; gaming; science fiction; adult fiction]

First sentence: Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.

Premise/plot: Wade/Parzival is the gaming hero in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. He is one of many—perhaps millions—hunting the Easter egg that James Halliday hid within the OASIS. Three keys, three gates, one prize. Wade is the first to unlock the first key and gate. His sudden appearance on the score board brings opportunities and dangers. The hunter becomes the hunted...

Is the game worth risking your actual life?!


My thoughts: I read this one because I enjoyed the movie. I think I prefer the movie to the book. Perhaps because I am not a gamer and lack the imagination to world build in my mind?! Perhaps because the text just begs to be translated to film?! I don’t regret reading it. Now I know.

I didn’t like the language in the book. I knew it had adult language, profanity if you will. But I was hoping that the pull of the story would be strong enough to keep me distracted from being bothered. It wasn’t. Perhaps because I have seen the movie. Though it has been long enough that there could be great differences between the two and I would be clueless.

I would probably watch the movie again. But I won’t be rereading the book.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 02, 2020

50. The Bone Fire

The Bone Fire. (Somershill Manor Mystery #4) S.D. Sykes. 2019. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery; adult historical fiction; historical mystery]

First sentence: Our party left Somershill in the November of 1361, as soon as we heard that plague had crossed the river Darent.

Premise/plot: Oswald de Lacy is taking his wife and son (and mother) to safety during the latest outbreak of Plague. They will be staying with a friend in a fortified castle. Other families will be taking refuge as well. They may be safe from the disease but are they safe from one another?!?! Imagine Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None only with the threat of Black Death too. Okay, that may not be a fair comparison. But the truth is bodies do keep piling up....

My thoughts: I missed a book in the series. Perhaps my library branch didn’t have it on the shelf, maybe they don’t have it at all. But because of COVID I can’t get it now anyway. I missed his falling in love and marrying. But this story still makes sense even if there are three new characters.

I definitely enjoyed this one. The series is good.
 


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

49. The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television. Koren Shadmi. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [graphic novel; biography; adult]

First sentence: Damn.

Premise/plot: Twilight Man is a biography of Rod Serling told in graphic novel format. The framework of the story is simple. Serling is on a flight and chatting up the beautiful woman beside him. He tells his life story to a stranger. Well, most of his life story. His story starts with the war, the Second World War; he was a paratrooper. Most focuses on his career as a writer, producer, director, celebrity.

My thoughts: I discovered The Twilight Zone as a kid. I loved, loved, loved some episodes; others were just okay. The show holds good memories for me. Though kids may find the show enjoyable, this graphic biography is written primarily for adults. I think older teens could read this one. But. I would definitely say the subject matter and language make it an extremely poor fit for a younger audience.

I would say that a familiarity with the Twilight Zone is an absolute must. If it’s been a while since you’ve watched the show, you might want to watch some classic episodes first. You’ll appreciate the illustrations more.

I didn’t love it. I enjoyed it well enough.


© 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
  • 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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