Monday, June 21, 2021

54. Major Impossible

Major Impossible. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #9) Nathan Hale. 2019. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I've been on this gallows long enough! It is time to execute this spy! 

Premise/plot: The provost and hangman are joined by an eavesdropper leavesdropper, Bill Richmond, in Major Impossible. Nathan Hale, our hero, talks his way out of execution and straight into another tale. This time he's telling the hazardous tale of John Wesley Powell and company as they explore the Colorado River and (discover?) explore the Grand Canyon. There were ten that set out to explore on this expedition. (But how many would make it to the end?)

This story also uses flashbacks--which definitely annoy the hangman, especially at first.

The adventures mainly focus on the "present day" (1869) exploration of the river/canyon AND through the flashbacks events like the civil war.

For those not at all familiar with Nathan Hale and his hazardous tales, the series is a graphic novel series rooted in history. Nathan Hale, our hero, is facing execution by the British in 1776. He's prolonging his would-be execution by telling tales from history. Though to the provost and hangman, these "historical" events are from the future. He's an entertaining storyteller and he always leaves them wanting more, more, more.

The graphic novels aren't without some lighthearted moments (though perhaps the one on the Donner Party is an exception). In this one, some humor comes in as one of the adventurers lose all their clothes but their long john underwear.

My thoughts: I am not the target audience of this one, not really. That's a given. My complaint--really my sole complaint--is that the font size is teeny-tiny. I have to squint my way through the whole book. Seriously hard on the eyes. BUT again I am not the target audience. I do think younger readers--with better vision--will not have a problem reading and enjoying this one.

I have nothing but solidly good feelings about the series as a whole. I really do enjoy sitting down and enjoying Nathan Hale's hazardous tales. I think the series is super fun. I like learning about different historical figures in a fun and entertaining way.

I'm not sure this one is my absolute favorite and best from the series. But I definitely enjoyed it as part of the whole. I do recommend the whole series.

I do think you could read the series out of order.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, June 19, 2021

53. The Shadow Rising

The Shadow Rising. (The Wheel of Time #4) Robert Jordan. 1992. 672 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose on the great plain called the Caralain Grass. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

Premise/plot: The Shadow Rising is the fourth book in the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan. The series has grown more complex--in my opinion--with each book. The cast of characters and the amount of side stories increases.

There are four-ish main stories unfolding all at once. Not all chapters are narrated by the good guys. Occasionally (for whatever reason, for better or worse) Jordan gives us sections--sometimes entire chapters--from the point of view of the villains. Usually these are super tricksy and confusing to piece together. (It could be because readers are trying to keep up with a thousand plus named characters. According to Wikipedia the entire series has over 2,700 named characters). Darkfriends including the "Forsaken." Seanchan. Children of the Light.

So the main stories:

Rand is out to fulfill more prophecy and be recognized by the Aiel as He Who Comes With the Dawn. It won't be easy. I won't say it's more difficult than any other or every other obstacle he's faced in previous books. But he's always in danger--with a target on his back, if you will--plenty want to turn him, use him, destroy him, etc.

Mat and Egwene travel with Rand for very different reasons. It has been revealed to Mat that his life depends on him going to Rhuidean. The two go into the abandoned city--VERY SPOOKY ABANDONED CITY--together and have very different experiences. Egwene is there to learn from the Wise Ones how to dreamwalk or better dreamwalk.

Moraine (and presumably Lan) are along for this adventure as well. Though as more characters come into the stories, they seem to fade into the background and be less significant.

Aviendha is introduced I believe in this book. She seems to play a major role in the story. She watches over Rand, and it seems to be a case of hate at first sight. (But is this hate love in disguise????)

Nynaeve and Elayne are still in search of the Black Ajah. Their mission takes them to Tanchico. Along for the ride are Thom (the former gleeman) and Juilin Sandar (whom we met briefly in a previous book). It is tricky business looking for the Black Ajah because they are hunting hunters. If they channel, they risk alerting the bad guys to their presence. Yet sometimes it seems so necessary to channel in self defense as they face risks and dangers.

Perrin and Faile (along with Loial, whom I adore) return to Two Rivers. But all is not well--far from it--at home. In the two years (roughly) he's been gone, a LOT has changed. And the lives of those he cares about (and those he's just grown up with) are in danger. He will have to be ever vigilant and ready to fight, fight, fight if he wants to protect his people/country. MEANWHILE, PERRIN AND FAILE GET MARRIED. *Squeal*

Min--for whatever reason, convenience to the story really--is at the White Tower. And she's there just in time to possibly save some lives. All is not well at Tar Valon. And it seems the Black Ajah have a few tricks.

The stories are told unevenly. That is they don't receive equal attention and weight. You might go twenty chapters without hearing from a character only then to have them pop up again.

My thoughts: I have thoughts. I do. I wish I had a paperback copy of this one. The hardback was cumbersome to read from. But the last third was truly EXCITING and ACTION-PACKED. I might compare the first third being like standing in line to ride a roller coaster. Your feet start hurting. You seem to barely be moving. It might be hot. You are just ready for the thrills. The second third is like getting on the roller coaster, getting ready to hold on, and perhaps going up that first big hill. The last third--as I mentioned--is ALL THRILLS AND EXCITEMENT. In the end it makes it worth it.

I am so thankful there is a glossary. It is super handy. I can't imagine listening to this on audio book without a glossary to turn to whenever you need it. I also can't imagine loving an e-book as much for the same reasons. (Though probably an e-book would have a table of contents so maybe it wouldn't be impossible.)


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 14, 2021

52. Fan Fiction

Fan Fiction. Brent Spiner with Jeanne Darst. 2021. [October] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The second worst part of my job is wearing makeup. The worst part is taking it off. The only thing that will cut through my thick mask at the end of a sixteen hour day is a kerosene-based product called Eliminate.

Premise/plot: Fan Fiction is a premise-driven mystery/thriller by Brent Spiner. The what-if premise of this one is simple: What if Brent Spiner received a HORRIFYING and DISTURBING package in the mail by an obsessed fan? What if following that bloody package, he received dozens and dozens of stalker-y threatening letters? 

How would a fan's obsession (or fans' obsession) impact his personal and professional life? As Brent shares these disturbing messages (and objects) with those closest to him--his fellow cast, security, police, the FBI--his life gets a little bit crazy.

Fan Fiction is fueled by fan or super-fan culture. 

I should also mention it is set in 1991.

My thoughts: I called it a mystery-thriller. The book's description calls it a noir comedy. I had to look up the definition of noir to refresh my memory: "crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings." Fan Fiction is NOT your typical comedy. Or perhaps it is if your sense of humor never matured? I found it on the crude side. I honestly can't say I laughed once. It could just be me--I wouldn't be surprised if it was--but what is funny about a person (celebrity or not) receiving death threats? Nor did I find it amusing and laugh-out-loud when Spiner was recalling the fear he grew up in because of his step-father.

I do think the text explores various levels of fan obsession and the blurring of lines of what's appropriate (and healthy) and inappropriate (and SCARY).

For me one of the most thought provoking scenes in the novel is when Brent Spiner attends the funeral of Mrs. Spiner. There is a super-super-super-super obsessed fan who goes to the video rental store often to check out Star Trek videos. It is the same store Brent Spiner uses. She calls herself "Mrs. Spiner" and refers to Brent as HER HUSBAND. When something tragic happens he feels compelled to go to her funeral. Every person in attendance only knows her as Mrs. Spiner. No one knows her actual name or anything about her. She has no family, no friends that know her and are honoring her. (She may have family and friends living, but NO ONE knows her real identity and she's not being buried under her real identity).

I don't regret reading this one even though it was a bit more adult and crude than what I usually read. But it's not going to be topping my best books of the year list. Still I liked it.

If I'd known that 1991 was the year he released an album, I would have appreciated the song quotes a bit more.


"But we know that she related to something in us! And we related something in her. And you know that she related to good things inside you! Those things that you brought to your character, whether you want to admit that or not. You know that parts of you resonated with parts of her! So we all actually know a lot about her, because we know a lot about ourselves! And those parts of her that we share, those emotions, they are real! No matter what you think!"

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, June 13, 2021

51. Siege of the Seven Sins

Siege of the Seven Sins. (Seven Sins #2) Emily Colin. 2021. 300 pages (made up page count because publishers are meanies) [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The world is on fire, or I am.

Premise/plot: Siege of the Seven Sins is the sequel to Sword of the Seven Sins. In the first book, Eva and Ari fell madly, deeply in love with each other. Love of any form--even familial--is FORBIDDEN in the Commonwealth. But romantic love is especially frowned upon. Good thing they had a way out, right? Well, their exit from their cruel society didn't exactly go as planned--far from it. In fact, it was one disaster after another. But now that they're finally, finally, finally free from the Commonwealth and the past, they can be together forever, right?

Well, not exactly. And not all obstacles are coming from without. In fact even without the NEW powers-that-be (the ones in rebellion against the Commonwealth) and the Commonwealth (which we explored in the first book), these two are just stubborn and stupid enough to mess up their relationship without another soul interfering.

Eva is exploring her new body--or BODIES--as the case may be. And being around Ari may just be the death of them both...

My thoughts: The first half of the book was PAINFUL. I'll clarify what I mean by painful. Every single Eva chapter was like, I WANT TO BE WITH ARI BUT I CAN'T. And every single Ari chapter was like, I WANT TO BE WITH EVA BUT I CAN'T. And literally all that was going on was whining by both characters about how life was so super unfair and tragic because they couldn't be together together. In the background, there were hints of life going on for everyone else in this world.

The second half of the book improved a good deal. Ari and Eva still really wanted to be together together but couldn't. But. Also action and adventure started taking center stage. By the last few chapters, plenty was happening.

Does stuff happening at the very end of the book make up for all that came before???? Not really.

This might be a case for two books being stretched to make a trilogy. I'm assuming it will be a trilogy and that it won't be longer. Because if the same drama is going to have to go on for each book--Ari and Eva wanting to be together but being held back for reasons--then it's going to get old really fast.

For readers who want 98% romance and 2% dystopian world building, these two books might make a good fit. (I would say the first book it was more fifty-fifty. There was a lot of world building and character development....especially in comparison with the second.) I personally enjoyed book one a great deal more than this second book in the series.


"Let me tell you about wanting, Eva. The world could burn and the moon go dark and I would still want you. When I fight, you're the strength behind the arm that wields my blade. Eva, I love you. And nothing that happens between us--nothing you say to me--is going to make that stop." My voice breaks. "So please. Tell me what I have to do--what I have to say--so I won't lose you." 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 07, 2021

50. The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn. (The Wheel of Time #3) Robert Jordan. 1991. 624 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

The Dragon Reborn is the third book in the Wheel of Time series. It stars many characters whom we met in books one and two. In this one Rand is coming to terms with the Pattern--or beginning to slightly. It's a slow process. And the pattern seems to want him to be THE DRAGON REBORN. Not a false dragon, a fake, someone out looking for glory or adventure, but the true dragon of ancient prophecy. He's not entirely super comfortable with that role. But he's processing everything mainly in his own way in his own time. And doing it off screen, so to speak.

The Dragon Reborn barely features Rand. And I'm not complaining. It does feature three main stories.

One story has Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve working together. They've been assigned the super-super-super-super secret task of hunting the Black Ajah (the DARK, DARK, SUPER-DARK branch of the Aes Sedai). (Elayne and Egwene undergo their super-secret testing to become ACCEPTED into the Aes Sedai. Nynaeve did this in book two.) It will be dangerous. The three know each other to be reliable and good--on the right side--but how can they know who else to trust?

Another story has Perrin, Lan, Loial, and Moiraine questing together. They are following Rand and of course solving more puzzles along the way. Someone else joins this group--for better or worse--and seems determined to find the Horn (not knowing of course that the Horn has not only been found but already blown).

Yet another story has Mat on a journey. In the beginning of this third book he is finally healed (he became deathly ill in book one). The Aes Sedai want him to remain in Tar Valon, but, the girls (Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve) have other plans for him. And this has him gambling and rambling his way cross country. He picks up a buddy too. (Who wants to quest alone???) Thom (the gleeman from book one) joins Mat in his adventures/misadventures.

The reader may suspect that these three stories will come together into one story by the end, and, of course, you'd be right. All the questing groups DO end up in the same place at the same time. The only one whose quest we do not follow is Rand. And as I said I'm not complaining. What little we do hear from him is enough for me.

This one continues to develop the cultures and politics of the fantasy world. In particular we continue to look at the corruption within the Aes Sedai. (Of course corruption is also found in the governing bodies of other countries).

Dreams. Dreams. Dreams. More dreams. One of the big threads of this one are the dreams or NIGHTMARES that all the characters have from cover to cover. Are the dreams prophetic? Do they mean something? Why are so many people sharing the same dream? Do the dreams hold all the clues needed to defeat the enemy?

This was my first time to reread The Dragon Reborn. I am definitely enjoying rereading the series. I hope to get to books I've never yet read in the series. I am liking the world building and the characterizations.

I will say that sometimes it does feel a little creepy to unpack the book and think deeper about what is going on. Rand was fourteen in the first book. (As are Perrin and Mat). Yet it seems that all the adult women in this world Jordan has peopled--no matter their culture/ethnicity--seems to take one look at Rand (or Perrin or Mat) and think YUM. CANDY. The fact that so many grown women want to flirt seductively with a fourteen or fifteen year old is creepy. (I believe in the third book it's been a little under a year since the adventure began? They left in spring and the third book mentions it being winter). It is easy to get distracted by all the other drama--the ultimate showdown between Light and Dark--to forget that these heroes are YOUNG. You can almost recast them in your imagination as being older (say eighteen, nineteen) and begin to think nothing of it. I do wonder why Jordan didn't just make them older to begin with? Like Lord of the Ring, Frodo is in his 30s or 40s. Bilbo Baggins wasn't all that young on his quest either.

But overall I am loving the series. Quite an entertaining read.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

49. The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt. (Wheel of Time #2) Robert Jordan. 1991. 705 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass leaving memories that become legend, then fade to myth, and are long forgot when that Age comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Dhoom. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

The Great Hunt is the second book in the Wheel of Time series. It definitely has a different "feel" than the first book in the series, in my opinion. It stops feeling like flattery--an adoring fan of Tolkien writing his own love song to the epic quest genre--and begins to feel like its own unique story. Or more so. Perhaps each book takes us a step or two further away from being fan fiction to Lord of the Rings. 

So it is titled The Great Hunt. So expect the questing to turns more towards HUNTING. And the mission this go around is to recover and find THE HORN OF VALERE. The horn is legendary and is linked--supposedly--to the "Last Battle." It was stolen--along with a dagger--and the two must be found. The dagger is less legendary perhaps--though equally dark and shadowy--its worth is of great importance to Rand, Mat, and Perrin (our three heroes) because one of their lives depends on the finding of it. (If you've read the first book, you know which of the three it is.)

Our three heroes, Rand, Mat, and Perrin are joined on their quest with some old friends (like Loial whom I love, love, love and adore) and new faces (like Ingtar, Hurin, and Verin). It will prove a daunting journey. 

While half of our characters are out looking for the Horn (and the dagger), our other characters are continuing on with their own life goals. Nynaeve and Egwene travel to Tar Valon and begin their study to become Aes Sedai. They are joined by Min and Elayne. The four form a friendship of sorts. Particularly Min, Elayne, and Egwene. Min has a strong feeling that their fates are all twisted twisted up with Rand's for better or worse.

You might think they have an easier time. What dangers could they possibly face that would endanger their lives--especially compared to the dangers the guys are facing hunting for the Horn. But you'd be wrong. Readers finally, finally get a glimpse of the Aes Sedai in The Great Hunt. (Widening our perspective from just knowing Moiraine). These heroines end up IN VERY GREAT DANGER.

Some of the most intense scenes--in my opinion--involve the human trafficking of young girls and women. Those being targeted are those who can--in varying degrees--channel. And they are being captured, put in bondage, tortured, and shipped out to a foreign country. I'm sure there's a greater scheme at play, but I'm not sure it's out and out stated why the lands--both cities and rural areas--are being searched to find young girls/women to steal. 

There are two other side stories introduced (or further built upon as the case may be). Occasionally the action will turn from our heroes and heroines altogether and shift focus. We spend time with some Children of the Light (the White Cloaks) OR learning more about the Seanchan. I'll be honest, it just feels ODD to suddenly start reading a chapter where you don't know ANY of the characters and how it relates to the greater whole. But by the end it was beginning to make a wee bit of sense. 

The overall 'big picture' of this one is simple: Will Rand step forward and accept the fate the Pattern has written for him or will he run away--far and fast--and try to escape his fate? Will he accept the fact that he is indeed THE DRAGON of legend REBORN.

I have read the first book in the series The Eye of the World three times. This is my first time to reread The Great Hunt. When I read it the first time--for whatever reason--I rated it four stars--really???? I would definitely raise the stars to five upon rereading. 

I do wish it had more Lan.


"You wish everything could be the way it was, sheepherder? Or you wish the girl would go with you instead of to Tar Valon? You think she'll give up becoming an Aes Sedai for a life of wandering? With you? If you put it to her in the right way, she might. Love is an odd thing." Lan sounded suddenly weary. "As odd a thing there is." (8)

Loial was watching them dice, rubbing his chin thoughtfully with a finger thicker than a big man's thumb, his head almost reaching the rafters nearly two spans up. None of the dicers gave him a glance. Ogier were not exactly common in the Borderlands or anywhere else, but they were known and accepted here, and Loial had been in Fal Dara long enough to excite little comment. The Ogier's dark, stiff-collared tunic was buttoned up to his neck and flared below the waist over his high boots, and one of the big pockets bulged and sagged with the weight of something. Books, if Rand knew him. Even watching men gamble, Loial would not be far from a book. (30)

"My mother," she said firmly, "always told me the best way to learn to deal with a man was to learn to ride a mule. She said they have about equal brains most of the time. Sometimes the mule is smarter." (35) (Egwene)

She thinks only of the knowledge, Moiraine thought wonderingly. The culmination of the direst prophecy the world knows, perhaps the end of the world, and she cares about the knowledge. But she is still dangerous for that. (110)

"There is one rule, above all others, for being a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet." (119) (Lan)

"I never said--" he took a deep breath. "I told you I had nothing to offer for brideprice but widow's clothes. Not a gift any man could give a woman. Not a man who can call himself a man."
"I understand," she said coolly. "In any case, a king does not give gifts to village women. And this village woman would not take them. Have you seen Rand? I need to talk to him. He was to see the Amyrlin. Do you know what she wanted with him?"
His eyes blazed like blue ice in the sun. She stiffened her legs to keep from stepping back, and met him glare for glare.
"The Dark One take Rand al'Thor and the Amyrlin Seat both," he grated, pressing something into her hand. "I will make you a gift and you will take it if I have to chain it around your neck."
She pulled her eyes away from his. He had a stare like a blue-eyed hawk when he was angry. In her hand was a signet ring, heavy gold and worn with age, almost large enough for both her thumbs to fit through. On it, a crane flew above a lance and a crown, all carefully wrought in detail. Her breath caught. The ring of Malkieri kings. Forgetting to glare, she lifted her face. "I cannot take this, Lan."
He shrugged in an offhand way. "It is nothing. Old, and useless, now. But there are those who would know it when they saw it. Show that, and you will have guestright, and help if you need it, from any lord in the Borderlands. Show it to a Warder, and he will give you aid, or carry a message to me. Send it to me, or a message marked with it, and I will come to you, without delay and without fail. this I swear." (135)
Loial grinned, and his ears stood up. He moved his horse closer. "I say things I should not all the time. The Elders always said I spoke an hour before I thought." (146)

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 31, 2021

May Reflections

In May I read twenty-seven books. Twenty-two were review copies. One book was borrowed from my mom. One book was won in a contest several years ago. And three were books I bought myself through the years. Four books this month were rereads.

Three books were retellings or adaptations of Jane Eyre! My favorite of the bunch was John Eyre by Mimi Matthews which releases in August 2021.

Books Reviewed At Becky's Book Reviews

40. The Tobacco Girls. Lizzie Lane. 2021 [January] 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]
41. Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins. Sarah Miller. 2021. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. The Wife Upstairs. Rachel Hawkins. 2021. [January] 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
43. Mrs. Rochester's Ghost. Lindsay Marcott. 2021. [August] 398 pages. [Source: Review copy]
44. Isabelle and Alexander. Rebecca Anderson. 2021. [May] 324 pages. [Source: Review copy]
45. Big Apple Diaries. Alyssa Bermudez. 2021. [August] 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
46. John Eyre. Mimi Matthews. 2021. [August] 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]
47. Sword of the Seven Sins. (The Seven Sins #1) Emily Colin. 2020. [August] 300 pages. [Source: Review copy]
48. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) Robert Jordan. 1990. Tor. 814 pages. [Source: Bought]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

47. Baby Island. Carol Ryrie Brink. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1937. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
48. Pumpkin Heads. Wendell Minor. 2021. [August] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
49. Board Book: Disney All Aboard! Mickey's Railway. Nichole Mara. Illustrated by Andrew Kolb. 2021. [March] 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

50. Something Stinks. Jonathan Fenske. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
51. Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. 2006. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy?]
52. Wake Up, Crabby! Jonathan Fenske. (A Crabby Book #3) 2019. [November] 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
53. Moon Camp. Barry Gott. 2021. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
54. A Secret Shared. Patricia MacLachlan. 2021. [September] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
55. Board book: Comparrotives. Janik Coat.  2021. [June] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]
56. Board book: Colors My First Pop Up. Matthew Reinhart. Art by Ekaterina Trukhan. 2021. [May] 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
57. Five Children and It (Five Children #1) E. Nesbit. 1902. 237 pages. [Source: Bought]
58. Sloth and Smell the Roses. Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle. 2021. [January] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
59. Pancakes, Pancakes! Eric Carle. 1970. 36 pages. [Source: Bought]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

29. Board books: Bible Stories for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30. Come Back To Me (Waters of Time #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
31. Go and Do Likewise: The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus. John Hendrix. 2021. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
32. Providence. John Piper. 2021. 752 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

4. NIV Reader's Bible (2011 Translation). God. 2017. 1984 pages. [Source: Won a Contest]

May Totals

number of books27
number of pages7391

Yearly Totals

2021 Totals


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 28, 2021

48. The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) Robert Jordan. 1990. Tor. 814 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

Premise/plot: The Eye of the World is the first book in the Wheel of Time series. Three young lads are at the center of this misadventure which has good and evil facing off once again. Rand, Perrin, and Mat are country boys--farmers, sheep farmers, villagers. They never planned or wished for this adventure to befall them. And, truth be told, the excitement wore off quickly. But it's literally all or nothing for their lives are at stake--no, the future of the world is at stake.

They are not alone. There is a fellowship of sorts. Two young women--also from the same community (Emond's Field)--Nynaeve (the village wisdom) and Egwene (her apprentice). Egwene wanted to join in the adventure and is seeking a little something more to life. Nynaeve is distrustful and hesitant. Her mission is to get them all back home safe so life can return to NORMAL. (Well, that's her mission at first). The adults along for the ride are from the outside. There is a gleeman, Thom Merrilin, an Aes Sedai, Moiraine, and her warder, Lan. They also pick up one more along the way, notably Loial. (Would they have made it without him???)

So what should you expect: a tedious journey with a near impossible mission to complete on their quest. Tedious not for the reader--necessarily--but for those actually on the journey. It is full of hardships and literal nightmares. Night and day they must find the strength to keep on keeping on and resisting evil at every single turn.

My thoughts: This is my third time to read The Eye of the World. I really do love it. I forget just how much because I see it on my bookshelf--along with all the OTHER books in this massive series--and I find a plethora of reasons not to read the series....just yet. But I have an oh-so-faithful friend who encouraged me to pick it up again, that now is the time. She had more faith in me than I had in myself. I thought there was no way I could read it in a week, and, she thought YES YOU CAN. She was right. By the third day it was almost easy how right it felt to just read the one book. 

Expect world-building: introducing the world, introducing the cultures and traditions, introducing lore and legends, introducing characters, the formations of relationships--friendship and possibly romantic.

My advice for those that are intimidated by the prologue and perhaps the first few chapters is to keep on keeping on. Don't try to understand/comprehend the WHOLE world at once. Go with the flow and absorb the world at your own pace. 

My review from 2014.
My review from 2012.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 21, 2021

47. Sword of the Seven Sins

Sword of the Seven Sins. (The Seven Sins #1) Emily Colin. 2020. [August] 300 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The first time I condemned a man to death, I was ten years old. I was standing with the rest of the Commonwealth of Ashes in Clockverk Square, beneath the giant clockwork tower that stood watch over us all.

Premise/plot: Sword of the Seven Sins is a dystopian YA novel set in the future starring Eva, our heroine, and Ari, our hero. They live in a very unforgiving, strict, life-or-death society. There are, you guessed it, seven sins. And breaking any of the sins could lead to exile or death--most likely death. The sin tempting both Eva and Ari is the sin of lust. Now in this society, men and women do not fall in love, get married, have a family. Babies are conceived in a test tube and raised communally. There are no family units. No bonds between parent and child, no bonds between siblings, no attachments allowed ever. Well, you're supposed to be super-super-super loyal to the Commonwealth and serve where you're supposed to serve. But essentially, you're not supposed to be all feely-feely and think about the meaning of life.  

Eva had hopes of being chosen to be a computer tech, but, she's chosen instead to be a warrior. Ari is her mentor/trainer and fellow warrior. These warriors are called bellators.

The first book is all about world-building and initial conflicts leading to bigger conflicts. The goal of book one is to make the heroes feel angsty about the world they're living in and to get them to start questioning big things, little things, everything.

When the two begin to have some big doubts about the Powers That Be, will they risk everything to do what they think is right?

My thoughts: It has been a while since I've read a new-to-me dystopia. I've revisited dystopias off and on through the past few years. I've started rewatching some dystopian movies lately (Hunger games series, Divergent series, etc.) and so I was in the mood to revisit what used to be a favorite sub-sub-genre of me.

I liked it. I did. It is very much a YA DYSTOPIA. 

You might be it "ruined" with a love triangle?!?!?! I can say that there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!! That is fantastic news. Is it "ruined" with insta love??? That's more complicated. Romance is a super-strong element of this one. If you absolutely HATE romance mixed in with your dystopia, then I can see this one might drive you crazy! If you don't mind romance so long as it feels right and not forced, not rushed, then you might enjoy this one. It is intended to be a steamy read. And the last bit of the novel especially is all let's explore each other bodies now that the big chase scene stuff is over!

What agenda(s) does it have? This future nightmarish world is brought about due to climate change, bad immigration policies, and racism.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 16, 2021

46. John Eyre

John Eyre. Mimi Matthews. 2021. [August] 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: John Eyre stood over the freshly turned heap of earth, his head bent and his gloved hands clasped behind his back. The sun was breaking over the bleak Surrey Hills, a slowly rising rim of molten gold. It burned at the edges of the morning fog that blanketed the valley, pushing back the darkness, but doing nothing at all to alleviate the bone-numbing chill that had settled into his limbs.

Premise/plot: Mimi Matthews' newest book is a retelling of Jane Eyre. But it isn't your traditional retelling; it isn't a light update or a slight remix.

For one thing she reverses the genders of many of the characters. John Eyre is a tutor advertising for a new job, looking for new pupils. Mr. Fairfax contacts him about tutoring TWO wards of a widow woman, a Bertha (Mason) Rochester: two young lads Stephen and Peter. He makes his way to Yorkshire and Thornfield Hall...but his new job holds some surprises for him.

It keeps the historical setting--Victorian England 1840s. But it turns up the horror and thriller aspects by a thousand degrees. All while managing to hold onto the threads of romance.

My thoughts: John Eyre is the third Jane Eyre retelling I've read in the month of May. It is probably the most successful in my opinion. (I am not talking successful in terms of sales--it's not even releases yet--or even others ratings of it--again not released yet--but successful in terms of working for me personally.)

I loved the narrative. It is told from TWO perspectives. The present story is told from the perspective of John Eyre. (Though it is NOT told in first person--either first person past or first person present). Readers experience events as they unfold. Mystery is added in with the second perspective that of Bertha (Mason) Rochester. We come to know her story through LETTERS AND DIARIES. (A very Victorian way to add mystery and suspense and just plain old tell a good story. I can think of a handful of Victorian novels that use multiple narrators and multiple narrative techniques--including letters, diaries, etc.)

I love how the story is woven together. Trust me TWO stories are woven together--quite brilliantly in my opinion. The two stories are both CLASSIC NOVELS. One being Jane Eyre...the other being equally famous, equally dark (if not more so), both Victorian. I will NOT be the one to name names.

I love how she incorporates some of the best bits of Jane Eyre.

“You examine me, Mr. Eyre. Do you find me beautiful?” “No, ma’am.” The reply passed his lips before he’d fully deliberated on it. A feeling of horror followed. Had he just said…? Good lord. If a hole in the floor had opened up at that moment, he’d have gladly jumped into it. “Upon my word, sir, you’re a man of decided opinions. And you don’t cringe from uttering them, for all that you sit there as quiet and contemplative as a man of God.” “I beg your pardon. I ought to have said that questions about appearances are difficult to answer. Tastes differ so widely.” “I’m not to your taste, is that it?” He inwardly groaned. He was making things worse, but couldn’t seem to stop himself. Why couldn’t he have simply admitted to her beauty? He’d thought her beautiful before, hadn’t he? Strangely beautiful. And oddly forbidding.

I would recommend it to readers who love Victorian literature and are up for a good, solid spin on two of the best. 


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 13, 2021

45. Big Apple Diaries

Big Apple Diaries. Alyssa Bermudez. 2021. [August] 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's the first week of seventh grade.

Premise/plot: Alyssa Bermudez shares some of her diary entries in her new book, Big Apple Diaries. This nonfiction illustrated diary (is it a graphic novel or an illustrated diary?) opens in September 2000. She is entering seventh grade. The book covers both her seventh and eighth grade years, 2000 through 2002. It covers school life (friends, teachers, classes, homework) and home life (her parents' divorce, living in two homes, her freedom or lack thereof, her friends, her hobbies, etc.). One of the big topics is her crush on Alejandro, a classmate/deskmate. I should mention, I suppose, it is set at a Catholic School. As the title suggests, it's set in New York City.

My thoughts: I think adults and tweens will approach this book differently--for better or worse. As an adult, when I read the date--September 2000--I was like I bet this book covers 9/11. Emotionally I was already sent a shock wave--is that the right word??? Finding out that her father works at the World Trade Center and that her mother also works downtown, it was another punch. I felt a connection and was invested in Alyssa's story. The target audience for this one would have been born between 2008 and 2011. I'm not sure there will be this immediate connection or concern because they didn't live through this. 9/11 if thought of as all is probably an event in a history book, it doesn't come with mental/emotional baggage.

I don't want you to think the whole book is about 9/11. It isn't. Alyssa is your typical (somewhat typical) tween. The issues she is facing at this time in her life are universal and super relatable. And I think that is important. Readers today can connect with Alyssa still.

I definitely liked this one. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 10, 2021

44. Isabelle and Alexander

Isabelle and Alexander. Rebecca Anderson. 2021. [May] 324 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Isabelle Rackham stood in the morning parlor staring into the mirror, grateful to be alone for a moment; that nobody was fidgeting with buttons, bows, fasteners, or pins. She took as deep a breath as her corseting allowed and ran her hands down the waist of her bridal gown, allowing herself a little shiver of delight.

Premise/plot: Isabelle and Alexander have an arranged marriage, a bit of marriage of convenience. The two certainly aren't madly in love with each other at the start. Living side by side as strangers, the two face quite a challenge when Alexander is thrown from a horse and suffers severe injuries. Will his injury (and his recovery) bring them closer together or drive them further apart?

This one is set in 1850 in northern England. The two mainly live in a manufacturing town (Manchester) and he is a mill owner. Her husband also owns a country estate.

My thoughts: Isabelle and Alexander isn't your typical romance novel. For better or worse. This one isn't all about the swoon-y falling-in-love moments that happen before saying I do and making vows before God. This one is about marriage and the testing of marriage. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They face challenges both together--as a couple--and as individuals.

I would say this one is more about the knitting together of two souls than focusing on the physical lusts. True it's a proper romance title so it wouldn't get too smutty anyway.

I believe this is my second title in my nearly thirty years of reading romance novels where one of the leads is in a wheel chair and is differently abled. (The other I read was an Amish romance.)

I also loved getting to know the Kenworthy family. I loved, loved, loved the character of Glory.

I have seen other reviewers comparing this one to North and South. I don't know that I'd stretch it that far. There are some surface similarities for sure: the manufacturing town setting, the owning of a mill, the awkwardness of a couple who barely know how to communicate with one another. But really the two are quite different. 

This one doesn't really focus in on class differences nor does it focus in on unions, strikes, and disagreements between owners and workers. There's a tension in North and South that just isn't there in Isabelle and Alexander.

I would say upon further thought that this one is about Isabelle reorienting herself to her new circumstances. She's newly married, newly moved, adjusting to a new house that doesn't yet feel like a home. She doesn't have friends in the neighborhood--at least not at first. She is hoping that her husband will soon start to feel like a husband instead of a stranger.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

43. Mrs. Rochester's Ghost

Mrs. Rochester's Ghost. Lindsay Marcott. 2021. [August] 398 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In my mind, I can picture it clearly. Thorn Bluffs. December 17. Their fourth wedding anniversary.

Premise/plot: Mrs. Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott is a contemporary retelling of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. This retelling is set in California. Our heroine, Jane, is down on her luck. She's lost her job and her mother within a short span of time. And she's recently discovered her boyfriend and best friend were having an affair. A quick summer getaway (free) sounds like just what she needs. In exchange for tutoring, Jane can stay in a little guest cottage at a big estate--Evan Rochester's estate. Sophia, his daughter, is a mess--and understandably so. These two have the potential to help one another. But Jane discovers in the weeks following that all may not be as it appears. In particular, her employer, Evan Rochester, is still under investigation for the death and/or disappearance of his wife, Beatrice, a former super model.

Jane will have to decide ultimately who she trusts...

My thoughts: Mrs. Rochester's Ghost alternates between two narrators--Beatrice and Jane. (Occasionally we also get the point of view of Evan Rochester.) As I mentioned earlier, it is a retelling of Jane Eyre. Was it successful??? I'll do my best to share my thoughts.

Is it successful as a mystery? Maybe. Mostly. Though I can't help but think that if it was told solely from Jane's point of view it would have been a better mystery/thriller. I think by having dual narration, readers learn a bit too much before the other characters become aware...thus losing some suspense. Even so, there's plenty of elements that make this one a decent mystery with a few gothic elements thrown in.

Is it successful as a romance? NO. Not really. Here's the problem, readers probably won't like to see the main character, Jane, get gaslighted by Evan Rochester for hundreds of pages. It's hard to believe that readers will cheer on this coupling when Mr. Rochester is clearly all about gaslighting the women in his life! Seriously. I don't have a problem with Jane choosing to have a fling with him--against her better judgment and ours--I can't really say I want this relationship to last long term.

Are the relationships well developed? I will say the relationship between Jane and Evan was more lusty-lust than true love. HOWEVER. I will say this, I really did enjoy the developing relationship between Sophia and Jane. It was a gradual building up of trust. It may appear a bit rushed towards the end of the novel. But I will forgive the novel that because this relationship is really the novel's greatest strength. I wouldn't say the novel was character-driven, far from it, but it has at least a little bit of development.

Is it successful as a retelling? In places I feel it does capture the essence of the original. Not in the romance between Jane and Rochester. There are scenes that I felt were inspired directly by the original that come off decently. (For example, Jane being haunted--feeling haunted--and the strange things she almost sees and definitely hears as she stays on the estate.)

I didn't find Mrs. Rochester's Ghost as compelling and engaging as The Wife Upstairs. However, Mrs. Rochester's Ghost definitely has more likeable characters.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 03, 2021

42. The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs. Rachel Hawkins. 2021. [January] 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is the absolute shittiest day for a walk. Rain has been pouring down all morning, making my drive from Center Point out here to Mountain Brook a nightmare, soaking the hem of my jeans as I got out of the car in the Reeds’ driveway, making my sneakers squelch on the marble floors of the foyer. But Mrs. Reed is holding her dog Bear’s leash, making a face at me, this frown of exaggerated sympathy that’s supposed to let me know how bad she feels about sending me out in the rain on this Monday morning.

Premise/plot: If Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock got together to retell Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, it might look a little something like Rachel Hawkins' The Wife Upstairs.

What should you know going into it? Well, I'd say very little. I'll keep this section to a bare minimum. It's contemporary. Set in Alabama. A psychological thriller.

My thoughts: No doubt about it if I'd read this one in my night-owl days I'd have stayed up all night to read it in one sitting. As it is I had to split it into two readings. I definitely found it engaging and thought-provoking. (These characters stayed on my mind when I wasn't reading the book. I thought about them throughout the day as I was anticipating picking up the book again.)

It isn't strictly just a retelling of Jane Eyre. It's more like Jane Eyre is the jumping off place for a crazy psychological thriller. Crazy mostly in a good way.

One element completely lacking from The Wife Upstairs is what my mom would call the preachiness of Jane Eyre. Gone are all the religious/moral overtones and imagery. I doubt they'd work well in a contemporary novel anyhow.

I think the gothicness of Jane Eyre AND Rebecca combine well with the Southern setting.

It is told from three perspectives: Jane, Bea, and Eddie. (Though Hawkins keeps us waiting until the (very) end for Eddie's perspective). Because it isn't told in alternating chapters--rigidly going from one to the other in a strict pattern--the suspense builds and builds and builds. (In my opinion).

 Did I love it? I wouldn't say love is the right word. Depending on if you look for premise-driven and/or plot-driven books OR if you are mainly a fan of character-driven works. One or two words about the characters, I can't think of a single character (perhaps with the exception of all the dogs) that I'd classify as likeable. In other words, Hawkins isn't all about sympathetic characters that you cheer on and care about.

Is it clean? Not really. I'd say the number one reason it isn't clean is the language--lots of casual cussing. The language is far from ideal if that matters to you. The smut is kept to a bare minimum of description and gets very little page space. So I wasn't horribly bothered by the content.

Would I recommend it to Jane Eyre lovers that don't like psychological thrillers? No. Yes. Maybe.
No. I would not recommend The Wife Upstairs if Jane and Edward are your most favorite romantic couple of all time and one that you revisit a couple times a year. If what you love is the romance of the original--reader, I married him--then you'll probably be disappointed and not even call this a retelling. You might even call it a murder.
Yes. I would recommend if you enjoy the atmosphere of JANE EYRE and REBECCA and DRAGONWYCK. (Dragonwyck is by Anya Seton). This one is all about SUSPENSE, DANGER, MYSTERY, HORROR, THRILLS. If the actual feel-good romance and happily ever after ending was your least favorite part of the original, this one is for you.
Maybe. If you enjoy the original novel a great deal--perhaps even love and adore it--BUT are also open to psychological thrillers and suspense novels in general, then this one may appeal. If you're open to deconstructing and rearranging, then this one may just work well for you.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 02, 2021

41. Violet & Daisy

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins. Sarah Miller. 2021. [April] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Of course their mother screamed when they were born. She screamed so loudly and for so long on February 5, 1908, the neighbors pounded on the wall to command her to stop. But twenty-one-year-old Kate Skinner could not help but scream. After fourteen hours of unrelenting pain, her baby had not come. It had not even seemed to budge. The midwife, Mary Hilton, began to fear that the unborn infant had died. She ran downstairs and out of the house to call for the doctor.

Premise/plot: Violet and Daisy is nonfiction biography. It is listed as being YA Nonfiction, but honestly I can see adults reading it too. So Violet and Daisy were conjoined twins who--for better or worse, mainly for worse I imagine--lived life in the spotlight from an incredibly young age. Think toddlers. Born in 1908, the two lived at a time when it was all but impossible for 'freaks' not to be exploited or gawked at. I use the word freaks not because I genuinely believe they were freaks of nature and 'monstrous' but that is how they were perceived at the time by many.

Miller's biography chronicles their lives. It's not an easy task but a layered one full of puzzles and mysteries. You see, Violet and Daisy were "raised" (not nurtured by any stretch) by people who told flim flams as often as they breathed in and out. In other words, from an extremely young age, the two learned that truth was flexible and ever-changing. It wasn't so much what is actually-actually-actually true but what can bring in the most publicity and thus the most money. The "truth" being sold (or peddled) depended entirely on the audience and the day.

Piecing together their lives a century later requires much discernment and some intuition.

My thoughts: I found it compelling and fascinating. Also bleak--very bleak. Sarah Miller seems to be drawn to stories that are darker in nature, OR incredibly sad, or infuriating. Perhaps a bit of all three. Her nonfiction works include: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets, and Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins. I think she treats all her subjects with dignity--even though especially with the last two books the subjects were often exploited or taken advantage of. Miller is great at capturing the humanity of her subjects. And to be fair, that means the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Not literally ugly).

It's a bleak read, I won't lie. There were highs, for sure, moments when the two seemed to be actually truly authentically happy to be living their lives just as they wanted on their own terms. But mostly, this is a bittersweet story of two misunderstood often exploited souls who were seen as money-making tools.

It's sad in many ways. But no matter how I emotionally react to Miller's story, I found it engaging.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 01, 2021

40. The Tobacco Girls

The Tobacco Girls. Lizzie Lane. 2021 [January] 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Slight of stature, dark-haired and dark-eyed, fifteen-year-old Maisie Miles was currently engrossed in a world of her own. Though the newspaper sellers and the wireless shouted warnings of war to come, it meant nothing to her.

Premise/plot: Tobacco Girls is set in England (Bristol to be precise) at the start of World War II (1939). It follows the adventures and misadventures of three young women--factory workers all--Maisie Miles, Phyllis Mason, and Bridget Milligan. Each young woman (the youngest being Maisie) faces her own difficult struggles and challenges.

Phyllis Mason is engaged to a controlling man she doesn't really love--or even like. But he is "a catch," (even with a difficult mother), and her mother is pressuring her to just go with the flow.

Bridget Milligan is from a large Irish family--she's witnessed the cost of that large family--and she's questioning if love makes those hardships worth it.

Maisie Miles has an older brother who looks after her, but, her mother and father, well, life at home is anything but safe. Her father is a vile human being, and, her mother is helpless to protect herself or her daughter. What is her father capable of? What is he not capable of?

My thoughts: The Tobacco Girls is a historical soap opera. I sought this one out because of its world war two setting. I love to read books set during this period. It is very much "women's fiction." For better or worse. I enjoyed the drama--even when it bordered slightly on the melodramatic. I did come to care for all the characters. So much so that I felt like yelling at a few of them when they got into sticky situations.

It isn't clean nor smutty. The situations can be quite gritty--perhaps triggering for those who have lived through some dark stuff--but there's only a handful of scenes that I would consider bordering on adult. 



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 29, 2021

April Reflections

I read a total of twenty-four books in April 2021. I think it would be a larger number if April had two more days. I don't think I'll finish anymore books in just one more day.

Nineteen of the twenty-four books I read this month were review copies! I am pleased with this. Three of the twenty-four were rereads. So mostly new-to-me review copies.

Seven of the books I rated 5 stars.

I had two favorite, favorite, favorite books that I'd like to recommend. Both Christian fiction. But don't let that stop you from giving them a chance. Both were absolutely fantastic. Definitely literary/literature vibes. A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry. The Gold In These Hills by Joanne Bischof.

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

31. Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party. George R. Stewart. 1936. 392 pages. [Source: Online]
32. The Historians. Cecilia Ekback. 2021. [January] 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]
33. Pride, Prejudice, and Poison. (A Jane Austen Society Mystery #1) Elizabeth Blake. 2019. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]
34. Stan Lee: How Marvel Changed the World. Adrian Mackinder. 2021. [May] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
35. Favorite Poems of Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson. 1978. 160 pages. [Source: Family copy]
36. Sixteen Scandals. Sophie Jordan. 2021. [May] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
37. Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. Jeff Lantos. 2021. [August] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
38. Anna Karenina (Easy Classics, Russian Classics) Adapted by Gemma Barder. Illustrated by Helen Panayi. 2021. [July] 120 pages. [Source: Review copy]
39. The Talisman Ring. Georgette Heyer. 1936/2009. Sourcebooks. 303 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers 

40. The Story of Growl. Judy Horacek. 2008. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
41. DJ Funkyfoot: Give Cheese a Chance. (DJ Funkyfoot #2) Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2021. [September] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Usha and the Big Digger. (Storytelling Math). Amitha Jagannath Knight. Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
43. The Eyeball Alphabet Book. Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Shennen Bersani. 2021. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
44. Shhh! The Baby's Asleep. JaNay Brown-Wood. Illustrated by Elissambura. 2021. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
45. A Home for Peanut Butter and Jelly by Wendy Kaupa. 2020. [August] 90 pages. [Source: Review copy]
46. Ten Baskets of Biscuits. Kelly Kazek. Illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde. 2021. [April] 32 pages. [Best guess on pages][Source: Online YouTube video]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

22. Court of Swans (The Dericott Tales #1) Melanie Dickerson. 2021. [January] 328 pages. [Source: Review copy]
23. Castle of Refuge (The Dericott Tales #2) Melanie Dickerson. 2021. [June] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
24. My Dear Miss Dupré. Grace Hitchcock. 2021. [March] 364 pages. [Source: Review copy]
25. Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis. Scott David Allen. 2020. [September] 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
26. The Gold In These Hills. Joanne Bischof. 2021. [August] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
27. A Piece of the Moon. Chris Fabry. 2021. [April] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
28. A Lady in Attendance. Rachel Fordham. 2021. [June] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

3. New American Standard Bible: Giant Print Reference Bible. God. 2004/1995. Foundation Publications. 2000 pages. [Best guess on page numbers] Source: Gift. 


April Totals


Number of Books24
Number of Pages7044

Yearly Totals:

2021 Totals


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 15, 2021

39. The Talisman Ring

The Talisman Ring. Georgette Heyer. 1936/2009. Sourcebooks. 303 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sir Tristram Shield, arriving at Lavenham Court in the wintry dusk, was informed at the door that his great-uncle was very weak, not expected to live many more days out.

Premise/plot: How to introduce this one? Think, think, think. I could mention that it has a heroine that reminds me of Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen fame. Because it does. Eustacie de Vauban is silly and impulsive and much too much into romantic novels with daring adventures and dashing, swoon-worthy heroes. She, like Catherine, has an over-active imagination. But, this book isn't her story alone. So maybe that wouldn't quite be fair.

The book opens with a dying old man, the family patriarch, Sylvester, calling his family together. He wants his granddaughter, Eustacie, whom he rescued from France before the revolution got started with all the guillotining, to be safely married. He wants his great-nephew (Sylvester is Tristam's great-uncle), Tristram Shield, to marry her. He decidedly does not want Basil "The Beau" Lavenham to be the man for the job. Though since Ludovic Lavenham's "death" there is really no one closer in the line to inherit his title and his lands. But is Ludovic really dead?

The more time Eustacie spends with Tristram, the more she knows that he is not the one for her. He is not adventurous. He is not romantic. He is not impressed with her storytelling and imagining. He is much too grounded in reality to ever be dashing and heroic. He's simply put not hero material. So Eustacie makes up her mind to run away. In the middle of the night. On horseback. What could be wrong with that?

Well, maybe just maybe as she's running away...she runs right into the middle of a pack of smugglers. Instead of being scared silly. She's in love with the notion. An adventure worthy of any real heroine! Fortunately for her, her kidnapper is none-other than her cousin Ludovic. He's a man already on the outs with the law--charged with a murder several years previous. But is he guilty of that crime?

Can Eustacie (and company) prove Ludovic's innocent of murder? Can they redeem his name, enable him to come out of hiding, and claim what is rightfully his? It will be a massive undertaking and require some help! (Enter Sarah Thane and company).

My thoughts: It can be easy to forget just how much you enjoyed a particular Heyer romance when you've read so many. The Talisman Ring is certainly enjoyable and quite satisfying...even if it doesn't necessarily stay as fresh in one's memory as being a favorite-favorite. I enjoyed the two romances in this one. But above all, I enjoyed the dramatic, suspenseful mystery! It reminded me a bit of the promise of Northanger Abbey, except in this case, there was actually plenty of adventure and danger and mystery!

 A scene between Eustacie and Tristram:

“You would more probably have gone to the guillotine,' replied Sir Tristram, depressingly matter of fact.
'Yes, that is quite true,' agreed Eustacie. 'We used to talk of it, my cousin Henriette and I. We made up our minds we should be entirely brave, not crying, of course, but perhaps a little pale, in a proud way. Henriette wished to go to the guillotine en grande tenue, but that was only because she had a court dress of yellow satin which she thought became her much better than it did really. For me, I think one should wear white to the guillotine if one is quite young, and not carry anything except perhaps a handkerchief. Do you not agree?'
'I don't think it signifies what you wear if you are on your way to the scaffold,' replied Sir Tristram, quite unappreciative of the picture his cousin was dwelling on with such evident admiration.
She looked at him in surprise. 'Don't you? But consider! You would be very sorry for a young girl in a tumbril, dressed all in white, pale, but quite unafraid, and not attending to the canaille at all, but--'
'I should be very sorry for anyone in a tumbril, whatever their age or sex or apparel,' interrupted Sir Tristram.
'You would be more sorry for a young girl--all alone, and perhaps bound,' said Eustacie positively.
'You wouldn't be all alone. There would be a great many other people in the tumbril with you,' said Sir Tristram.
Eustacie eyed him with considerable displeasure. 'In my tumbril there would not have been a great many other people,' she said.” 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

38. Anna Karenina (Easy Classics)

Anna Karenina (Easy Classics, Russian Classics) Adapted by Gemma Barder. Illustrated by Helen Panayi. 2021. [July] 120 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: St Petersburg in 1874 was full of the most fashionable and important people in all of Russia. One of the most respected families were the Kareninas. Alexis Karenina was a government official. His wife, Anna, ran their large home. She made sure that everything was perfect when they entertained Alexis’s important guests. They had a little son called Serezha, whom Anna adored. Anna’s life was happy, but she had married when she was young. She sometimes felt that marrying someone much older than herself had made her old before her time. 

Premise/plot: Gemma Barder has adapted (but why????) Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina into an early chapter book geared towards the seven to nine crowd (but why????). The original novel has one of the greatest opening lines ever, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy then goes on to show MANY unhappy families (and one happy one).

For those that haven't read the original OR watched one of the adaptations, I'll sum it up concisely. Anna Karenina (a married woman) visits her brother and sister-in-law when the two are at a breaking point in the marriage. (He got caught cheating). She convinces her sister-in-law, Dolly, to give her brother, Stephen, another chance--essentially as many chances as he needs. Family is everything; sacrifices must be made to keep the family whole. While visiting she has a few chance encounters with Count Vronsky (a military man). It's lust at first sight. Though she has a husband and a child, her life is utterly incomplete without HIM. And apparently vice versa? (But is this true? If Anna had said NO, GO AWAY a couple dozen times, would he have started following/stalking the next pretty girl he sees?) We'll never know because Anna didn't say no. The two begin an affair that is not so subtle. When it goes from being a little hidden to right out in the open, her marriage reaches its own breaking point. (It doesn't help that she's pregnant with Vronsky's baby). Hard choices must be made, but she follows her heart...or so she thinks. Abandoning her child in favor of her lover, she risks it all to have a half-life in the shadows. When life proves less than satisfying--why didn't he live up to all of her dreams???? why is life so hard?????)--she decides life isn't worth living at all. Goodbye cruel world of my own making. THUD.

That is one family whose story is told in the original novel. As I said, there were a couple families followed.

This adaptation contrasts Anna's UNhappy ending with Kitty's happy ending. But Kitty and Constantine's story is one visited only briefly.

My thoughts: I have read Anna Karenina twice. Once as a college student. Once as a blogger. I *might* even reread it again one of these days. But my first thought was WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANYONE adapt a story about adulterous affairs and suicides into an early chapter book. And I think it is a fair question. Classic or not, this book isn't really a child-friendly read. Not as originally told.

But to be fair, this isn't as originally told. In the original, for example, she goes to visit Dolly because she is heartbroken and upset over her husband cheating on her. But it's been simplified to DOLLY'S REALLY BAD MOOD FOR NO REASON in this early chapter book adaptation:

As Anna headed for the railway station, she thought about her brother, Stephen. He had written to Anna to ask for her help. He and his wife, Dolly, had been arguing. Anna loved her brother and sister-in-law and wanted to help. Plus, Anna was secretly looking forward to a few days back in the city she grew up in, away from Alexis’s dusty old friends and their serious wives. In Moscow, Stephen Oblonsky’s eldest children were running around his feet. The youngest was crying in her cot. ‘Darling!’ he shouted, as calmly as he could. ‘I think the baby wants something!’ ‘Then why don’t you pick her up?’ Dolly huffed, standing in the doorway of their tidy sitting room. ‘Me?’ Stephen asked. ‘Yes, you,’ replied Dolly, hands on her hips. ‘Then maybe you can be of some use around here.’ Stephen looked at a loss. He peered into the cot and hopelessly cooed. ‘For goodness sake!’ Dolly bustled passed her husband, scooping the baby up into her arms. ‘Shouldn’t you be meeting Constantine for dinner anyway?’ Stephen nodded and went to kiss his wife goodbye. But she turned her head away from him and started to play with the baby.
And this is how the book handles Anna's being smitten with Vronsky:
On the dance floor, Anna could not take her eyes from Vronsky’s. She felt as though she had danced with him a thousand times before. The rest of the ballroom seemed to disappear. When Vronsky asked her to dance again, Anna accepted without hesitation. When he asked her a third time, Anna knew she should refuse. It wasn’t right for a married woman to dance so many times with another man. But Anna accepted. She forgot all about politeness. She forgot that she was married. She forgot that young Kitty was in love with the man she was dancing with. All she cared about was Vronsky.

As for the suicides, it's more like boo-boos at the train station. 

Reading is subjective. I suppose there are plenty of adult readers who sympathize/empathize with Anna Karenina, who side with her, if you will. Who see this affair as all kinds of wonderful and oh-so-worth-it. But I think again there are plenty that don't. The adaptation tries with every single page to present Anna Karenina sympathetically and heroically. But the truth is, she's just not that likeable. There are other characters that are a thousand--no, ten thousand times--more likeable within Tolstoy's novel. I just don't see the point of shallowly glorifying Anna's story. Shallow in that it doesn't go the depths--readers are too young to understand about SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, DEEP DEPRESSION, DESPONDENCY. And it's like well, Anna had a boo-boo at the train station and someone else raised her children. The end. (I exaggerate. The text reads something like her family learned that there had been an accident at the train station and Anna was killed.)

For the record (mom asked me this, you may be curious too), reading this would not help you pass any quizzes or tests for school. It wouldn't help you write an essay. You couldn't really bluff your way through class discussion on the themes and significance of the original.

My questions:

  • Why does this book exist? Why was it written? Why was it published?
  • Who is the main audience? Yes, it literally says it's for children age 7+. But who is really going to be buying this one and why? It will be adults buying this one either for their own personal libraries, to give to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; librarians and teachers may come into play as well. But the question is at what age does one need/want an adaptation for a very adult book? An adaptation for teens and new adults would make sense. But if you're *that* old do you want to be reading an early chapter book?
  • If you do want to give this to second graders, third graders, fourth graders to read--presumably for fun--the question again is WHY this book? WHY this classic? What are you hoping they get from exposure to the story? How are you wanting them to connect and interact with the story?
  • Is it really for adults who LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the book?

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews