Monday, August 30, 2021

August Reflections

In August I read 77 books. 15 of the 77 were review copies. 1 was a gift. 1 was a book read aloud on YouTube. The rest were from the library. I am trying to read as many 2021 books as I can because the Cybils are approaching. Nominations will open soon, and I want to be prepared to nominate in all the categories.

There were a good many 5 star books this month. But that was balanced out with a lot of two star reviews.

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

79. Anne of Manhattan. Brina Starler. 2021. 327 pages. [Source: Library]
80. Rescue. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2021. [March] 400 pages. [Source: Library]
81. Da Vinci's Cat. Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2021. [May] 278 pages. [Source: Library]
82. That Thing About Bollywood. Supriya Kelkar. 2021. [May] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
83. Alone. Megan E. Freeman. 2021. [January] 404 pages. [Source: Library]
84. Meltdown: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima. Deidre Langeland. 2021. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
85. The Silver Blonde. Elizabeth Ross. 2021. [July] 400 pages. [Source: Library]
87. Along for the Ride. Rachel Meinke. 2021. [August] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
88. The Middler. Kirsty Applebaum. 2019/2020. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
89. Time Travel for Love and Profit. Sarah Lariviere. 2021. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
90. Bloom (The Overthrow #1) Kenneth Oppel. 2020. [March] 320 pages. [Source: Library]
91. In the Wild Light. Jeff Zentner. 2021. [August] 432 pages. [Source: Library]
92. Hatch. (The Overthrow #2) Kenneth Oppel. 2020. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Library]
93. Smile. Raina Telgemeier. 2009. 214 pages. [Source: Library]
94. Sisters. Raina Telgemeier. 2014. 199 pages. [Source: Library]
95. Guts. Raina Telgemeier. 2019. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
96. The House of Serendipity. Lucy Ivison. 2021. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
97. Dark Waters (Small Spaces #3) Katherine Arden. 2021. [August] 198 pages. [Source: Library]
98. Kind of a Big Deal. Shannon Hale. 2020. [August] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
99. Shout. Laurie Halse Anderson. 2019. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
100. The Merchant and the Rogue. (The Dread Penny Society #3) Sarah M. Eden. 2021. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
101. The Many Meanings of Meilan. Andrea Wang. 2021. [August] 368 pages. [Source: Library]
102. Thrive (The Overthrow #3) Kenneth Oppel. 2021. [May] 416 pages. [Source: Library]
103. William Shakespeare's Taming of the Clueless. Ian Doescher. 2020. [April] 192 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

95. Henry at Home. Megan Maynor. Illustrated by Alea Marley. 2021. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
96. The Bruce Swap. (Mother Bruce #6) Ryan T. Higgins. 2021. [May] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
97. See the Cat: Three Stories About A Dog. David LaRochelle. Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. 2020. [September] 64 pages.  [Source: Library]
98. Isobel Adds It Up. Kristy Everington. Illustrated by Ag Ford. 2021. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
99. My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World. Malcolm Mitchell. Illustrated by Michael Robertson. 2020. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
100. Swashby and the Sea. Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. 2020. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
101. Fox & Rabbit Celebrate. (Fox & Rabbit #3) Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Gergely Dudas. 2021. [May] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
102. Almost Time. Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. 2020. [January] 32 pages [Source: Library]
103. A Life Electric: The Story of Nikola Tesla. Azadeh Westergaard. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
104. History Smashers: Pearl Harbor (History Smashers #3) Kate Messner. Illustrated by Dylan Meconis. 2021. [January] 224 pages. [Source: Library]
105.  Skunk and Badger. Amy Timberlake. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2020. [September] 124 pages. [Source: Library] 
106. Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox. Michael Buckley. 2020. [April] 288 pages. [Source: Library]
107. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
108. Rosetown. Cynthia Rylant. 2018. 149 pages. [Source: Library]
109. Rosetown Summer. Cynthia Rylant. 2021. [July] 96 pages. [Source: Library] 
110. Abraham Lincoln Pro Wrestler (Time Twisters #1) Steve Sheinkin. Illustrated by Neil Swaab. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library] 
111. The Secret Life of The Sloth. Laurence Pringle. Illustrated by Kate Garchinsky. 2021. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
112. Cat Problems. Jory John. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 2021. [August] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
113. History Smashers: The Mayflower. Kate Messner. 2020. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
114. If You Were An Elephant. Leslie Staub. Illustrated by Richard Jones. 2021. [July] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
115. Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean. (Time Twisters #2) Steve Sheinkin. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library] 
116. Better with Butter. Victoria Piontek. 2021. [July] 320 pages. [Source: Library]
117. Haylee and Comet: A Tale of Cosmic Friendship. Deborah Marcero. 2021. [June] 72 pages. [Source: Library]
118. Sydney and Taylor Take A Flying Leap (Sydney and Taylor #2) Jacqueline Davies. Illustrated by Deborah Hocking. 2021. [August] 80 pages. [Source: Library]
119. Henry Gets in Shape. Robert M. Quackenbush. 2021. [August] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
120. CATastrophe! A Story of Patterns. Ann Marie Stephens. Illustrated by Jenn Harney. 2021. [August] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
121, Neil Armstrong and Nat Love Space Cowboys. (Time Twisters #3) Steve Sheinkin. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
122. Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. (Time Twisters #4) Steve Sheinkin. 2019. 176 pages. [Source: Library] 
123. Finn and the Time Traveling Pajamas. (The Finniverse #2) Michael Buckley. 2021. [March] 288 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
124. Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary. Vicki Conrad. Illustrated by David Hohn. 2019. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
125. Boardwalk Babies. Marissa Moss. Illustrated by April Chu. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
126. History Smashers: The American Revolution. (History Smashers #5) Kate Messner. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
127. Pizza and Taco: Who's The Best? (Pizza and Taco #1) Stephen Shashkan. 2020. [May] 72 pages. [Source: Library]
128. Pizza and Taco: Best Party Ever (Pizza and Taco #2) Stephen Shashkan. 2021. [January] 72 pages. [Source: Library] 
129. Pizza and Taco: Super Awesome Comic! Stephen Shashkan. 2021. [August] 72 pages. [Source: Library]
130. Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi. 2021. [July] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
131. The Hedgehog of Oz. Cory Leonardo. 2021. [February] 400 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

40. The Way of the Father. Michael W. Smith 2021 [May] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
41. Yours Truly, Thomas. Rachel Fordham. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Man of Sorrows, King of Glory: What the Humiliation and Exaltation of Jesus Mean for Us. Jonty Rhodes. 2021. [June] Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
43. The Cryptographer's Dilemma. Johnnie Alexander. 2021. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
44. Fighting Words Devotional: 100 Days of Speaking Truth into the Darkness. Ellie Holcomb. 2021. [October] 248 pages. [Source: Review copy]
45. Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe. Voddie T. Baucham Jr. 2021. [April] 270 pages. [Source: Library]
46. The Seeds of Change (Leah's Garden #1) Lauraine Snelling. 2021. [June] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
47. What Is God Like? Rachel Held Evans. Illustrated by Matthew Paul Turner. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: YouTube reading of the picture book + Amazon preview]
48. Let It Be Me. Becky Wade. 2021. [May] 378 pages. [Source: Review copy]
49. Pudge and Prejudice. A.K. Pittman (aka Allison Pittman). 2021. [January] 346 pages. [Source: Library]
50. Ordinary Hazards. Nikki Grimes. 2019. 325 pages. [Source: Library]
51. The Silver Shadow. Liz Tolsma. 2021. [May] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
52. A Cowboy for Keeps. (Colorado Cowboys #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021 [January] 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]
53. The Vanishing at Loxby Manor. Abigail Wilson. 2021. [January] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

6. NASB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, 2020 text. 1472 pages. [Source: Gift]

Monthly Totals

number of books77
number of pages17329

Yearly Totals

2021 Totals

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

103. William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Clueless

William Shakespeare's Taming of the Clueless. Ian Doescher. 2020. [April] 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Jane: Cher--handsome, clever, rich--who had a home
Most comfortable, a happy disposition,
Seem'd to unite, wherever she did roam,
The blessings of existence's condition.

Premise/plot: Ian Doescher has adapted the movie Clueless for his Pop Shakespeare series. It is adaptation of an adaption. In the afterword, he noted that he read Emma and watched Clueless before beginning his work. He also noted that he thinks that the plot of Clueless comes closest to something William Shakespeare would have written--in comparison with the other titles he's written/adapted.

So if you've seen the movie Clueless, you know the premise and plot of this one. Balthasar appears throughout singing the movie's soundtrack!

Behold, beyond the window,
'neath the sky,
The rushing carriages do pass thee by,
Whilst I do sit, to loneliness resign'd,
And ponder wherefore questions fill
my mind.
'Tis Friday night! I feel the soothing
And search this filthy city for a beat--
Downtown, the young ones go,
hey nonny non,
Downtown, the young ones grow,
hey nonny hey!
We are the children of America,
The children we of new America.


Where didst thou go? Where didst thou go?
Mine emptiness doth grow.
Where didst thou go? Where didst thou go?
I'm lost, and fain would know.

You can expect to find all the most memorable, iconic lines from the movie...

DIONNE: Didst see? Thou pass'd a sign that bid thee stop--
'Twas large and red, octagonally shap'd--
Yet thou drove on like thou wert being chas'd.
CHER: A pause complete I register'd therein.

No speech prepar’d I for this honor.
These few words, though, I’d gladly utter:
The tardy life’s the work of many—
My tardiness by many people
Created was. Yea, I am grateful
Unto my parents, ne’er rides giving,
The drivers of the L. A. buses
Who took a chance upon an unknown.
Last—not the least—the wonderful crew
At old McDonalds Inn, that spendeth
Their hours at cooking Egg McMuffins,
Sans which I never might be tardy.

Full well I know th’exhaustion of thy heart.
Still, though, I’ll warrant sport shall do us good—
Of late my body feels most heiferlike,
All weight and hips and udders ev’rywhere,
Like I had stomachs four that I must fill.
Today I had two bowls of Special K,
Three pieces of delightful turkey bacon,
A full hand’s worth of popp’d corn most delicious,
Five peanut butter M and Ms—

Though I’d not be a traitor to my age,
No turncoat to my generation bold—
I do confess confusion and dismay.
The way lads dress is nothing short of odd,
As if they fell, like apples, from their beds,
Adorn’d themselves in poorly fitting pants—
More like broad bags than pantaloons, in troth—
Then cover greasy hair with filthy caps,
Which they wear backward and proclaim it style.
In public they appear array’d as such,
And should we women swoon to see them so?
Nay, I think not, and never shall be sway’d!
To search for lads in high school is a quest
As useless as the hunt for meaning in
The dramas of the actor Pauly Shore—
The nation’s jester: a most dull fool he,
And none but libertines delight in him.

Eureka, I have fall’n in love with Josh!
Josh, he whom I have known since I was small,
Who tickles me and jabs me when nearby,
Who gives me cause to smile when I am sad,
Whose presence is a comfort in itself,
Who help’d me learn to drive my carriage well,
Whom I do dearly love to torment so,
Who, all these years, hath been a friend to me—
By heaven, it is he I love, none other!
Completely, totally, and majorly
My heart doth move toward him utterly!

My thoughts: I thought this was a super-fun read. It was fun, silly, enjoyable. A great way to spend a weekend. 



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 28, 2021

102. Thrive

Thrive (The Overthrow #3) Kenneth Oppel. 2021. [May] 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: High overhead, the winged cryptogen circled tightly, its golden wing glingtin in the sunlight that shafted through the clouds.

Premise/plot: Thrive is the third book Kenneth Oppel's Overthrow series. In the first book, Anaya, Seth, and Petra learned that they were the immune to the deadly dangerous alien plants that rained down as seeds. This being in part due to the fact that they were half-alien. It was quite a shock. In the second book, they faced dangers from within and without. Various governments of the world locked away these hybrids--including Seth, Petra, and Anaya--for experimental tests. (Also because the powers that be didn't trust them to be on the human side of the coming battle). In the third book, the battle is upon us. The aliens have arrived. And our protagonists can communicate telepathically with them.... There's a good chance that the aliens in contact with them are rebels within the invading army. But even joining forces these alien rebels and the humans may face quite an opponent....

My thoughts: I did find Thrive more action-packed and interesting than the second book in the series. (The second book was so boring.) I got hooked on the story in the first book and was hoping that the third story would end on a high enough note that I had an overall positive experience. I think it managed that fine.

I do think things were perhaps a little too easy and somewhat convenient. Not that I was cheering for the aliens to win, mind you, it's just that it was very tied up in a bow. By the end of the book, the world was ready to resume without any notable lingering effects of near-destruction. It was like the action of the past few months meant very little. And I just don't know how realistic that is.

I think what annoyed me most was Petra's being so clinging to Seth. I guess she developed a super crush on him in book one (that was not reciprocated) and it has just lingered on in books two and three. But by book three, I was so OVER it. He is not into you. He doesn't care about you like that. He barely cares about you at all. Like at all. Seth annoyed me the most. I wanted to yell and scream at him most of the time. (As opposed to yelling at Petra only half the time). HE was so stupid and lacking in common sense. The fact that two out of three of the protagonists were making clumsy decisions that could have had serious impacts on the fate of Earth and HUMANITY...and we still managed to "win" without too much trouble did make it seem a little unrealistic. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 26, 2021

101. The Many Meanings of Meilan

The Many Meanings of Meilan. Andrea Wang. 2021. [August] 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I thought I knew all of my grandmother’s stories, but I was wrong. Somehow, I forgot to ask Nǎinai about the most important one of all.Now Tiffi is demanding to hear it. I’m good at inventing bedtime stories, but it feels wrong to make up the story of how our family bakery got its name. There is meaning behind every name. But with Nǎinai gone and the rest of my family too broken to talk about her, I’m left to fill in the gaps on my own.I take a deep breath and gather my thoughts. “Long ago,” I start, “there was a fènghuáng who lived in a tall—”

Premise/plot: Meilan, our heroine, moves with her family from Boston, Massachusetts, to Redbud, Ohio, in Andrea Wang's The Many Meanings of Meilan. The move isn't by her choice, though Meilan certainly feels partially responsible. Wasn't it *her* bedtime story that set off her Third Aunt's mad frenzy of demands and accusations?! If she'd just read a picture book aloud to her cousin, would the family have imploded??? Now the family is fractured and the edges are sharp and painful. Making the move are Meilan, Bàba, Māma, and Gōnggong. (Her parents and grandfather). Meilan decides that it is her job to piece the family back together again, to "fix" what she has broken.

But really that's only a fraction of the weight Meilan is bearing. She faces prejudice, discrimination, and some bullying in her new school. It starts with the principal himself who insists that Meilan change her "exotic" name to something "more American" and "normal." Meilan becomes "Melanie" at school, but, it isn't a good fit....not really. And it doesn't make the others welcome and accept her.

The novel is about Meilan exploring the many meanings of her name...and how she wears a different name in different places and around different people.

My thoughts: The Many Meanings of Meilan is a Problem Novel. It is also a coming of age novel. But mainly it's a coming of age novel packed with many Problems. And one of the Problems is racism and race relations. It is a heavy book. Not just because of Race. No, it's also heavy because she bears the guilt--deserved or not--of causing the family's problems. As an adult, I want to tell her it is not her fault, her responsibility. The tensions in the family must have already been there and just beneath the surface before Third Aunt overheard her making up a story--a story that Third Aunt claims is a vision. But Meilan feels like she *has* to take care of everybody and everything.

It was a heavy novel though well written. I can't say I "enjoyed" it, but I certainly read it in one sitting and followed Meilan's story from beginning to end.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

100. The Merchant and the Rogue

The Merchant and the Rogue. (The Dread Penny Society #3) Sarah M. Eden. 2021. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If laughter truly were the best medicine, Brogan Donnelly would have been the healthiest Irishman in all of England. Jests came as easy to him as breathing, and that was more-or-less all anyone knew of him. He preferred it that way.

Premise/plot: The Merchant and The Rogue is the third in Sarah M. Eden's Dread Penny Society historical romance series. Each title focuses on a particular member of the Dread Penny Society. (Characters from other books do make appearances.) This third title focuses on Brogan Donnelly. He's hard at work UNDERCOVER investigating a case surrounding Russian immigrants--it's a political case. His undercover work brings him into close contact with Vera Sorokina and her father--who owns and operates a print/book shop. Vera loves, loves, loves to sell penny dreadfuls. She has no idea she has just hired someone who writes penny dreadfuls.

There are at least two (maybe up to three) sub-stories that add mystery, suspense, and danger to the novel. Some of these stories--or rather their villains--have carried over from previous books.

In addition to the main story--a romance between Vera and Brogan--there are two penny dreadfuls shared throughout. One being The Merchant and the Rogue and the other being The Dead Zoo.

My thoughts: The Merchant and the Rogue was a BUSY novel. I would almost recommend reading all three books in the series close together so that they stay fresh in your mind. I would also recommend reading this one is as few sittings as possible. I think if I could have found the time to read it in one to two sittings, I would have enjoyed it more. As a romance it worked for me. I just think I lost some of the mystery/suspense elements by taking two weeks to read it! It was especially hard--and this is all on me--to keep up with the penny dreadful sections. But the last third of the book I read all at once, and I did find myself swept up in the story. That's why I think it's mostly my fault.

I do recommend the series. This wasn't my favorite and best from the series. But again I think that might have been a timing issue. My advice is to read this one when you're in the just right mood for it. Perhaps one day--maybe before the fourth installment releases--I'll treat myself to a reread of all three books!


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

99. Shout

Shout. Laurie Halse Anderson. 2019. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
When he was eighteen years old, my father
saw his buddy's head sliced into two pieces,
sawn just above the eyebrows by an exploding
brake drum, when he was in the middle
of telling a joke.

Premise/plot: Shout is the memoir of Laurie Halse Anderson; it is written in verse. Anderson may best be known for her young adult novel, Speak. Speak stars a young girl, a freshman, named Melinda. In the summer Melinda was raped--the boy who raped her, aka IT, attends the same school. Melinda struggles. I was going to try to find the right words to say what she struggles with--but there are no right words. Her whole life is effected by what happened and the fact that she has not spoken up or shared her story with anyone is largely what the novel is about. Well, partly. The book, in my opinion, is about the injustices embedded within the system. Everyone makes assumptions about who Melinda is--makes judgments--without bothering to get to know Melinda. Speak is not strictly autobiographical. But Laurie Halse Anderson has her own experiences to share, her own IT from the past. One doesn't just "get over" sexual assault. The memoir shares her journey from childhood to adulthood. The memoir also gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse of an author's life. (How she got started writing, the long, long struggle to get published, the writing of Speak and other books, author visits and tours, receiving mail from readers, etc.) Speak resonated--has continued to resonate--with readers. It has helped people speak up about their own experiences with sexual assault. Many have shared their stories with Laurie Halse Anderson.

My thoughts: This is a compelling read. It is a dark read in some ways but also an inspirational one. It isn't without hope or "light" at the "end of the tunnel." The subject matter is mature. But the mature content doesn't mean it's inappropriate or "bad." The truth is that sexual assault can happen at any age. In a perfect, perfect world sheltering kids--tweens, teens--from the harsh realities of the potential dangers would make sense. But our world is far from perfect. Not speaking about something doesn't make that something go away. (That being said, how a subject is discussed differs with the age of the audience.) Shout uses strong language but not in an excessive, inappropriate way. (At least 99% of the time.) Shout is honest even when it ventures into the raw emotions of pain and confusion. There is something to be said for honesty, for putting away the mask that everything is fine, that everything is okay.

From the poem, "Lovebrarians"

I unlocked the treasure chest
and swallowed the key. (27)

From the poem, "Payback"
After Charlotte's Web
but before Little Women,
my sister stole the key
to my green plastic diary,
and blackmailed me
with what she found. (33)
Maybe I owe her,
my sister,
for stealing the key, toying
with my secrets, and thus igniting
the slow-fused inevitablity
of me weaving stories
in the dark. (34)

From the poem, "Diagnosis"
untreated pain
is a cancer of the soul
that can kill you. (69)
From the poem "How the Story Found Me"
too many grown-ups tell kids to follow
their dreams
like that's going to get them somewhere
Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead
cuz when you figure out what's eating you alive
you can slay it. (160)



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

98. Kind of a Big Deal

Kind of a Big Deal. Shannon Hale. 2020. [August] 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It began, predictably, with a dream.

Premise/plot: Josie Sergakis (aka Josie Pie) was--emphasis on past tense--kind of a big deal in high school. Encouraged by the drama teacher to drop out of school her senior year--yes, you read that correctly--she tried for several months to make it onto Broadway. Out of desperation, this high school dropout gets a job as a nanny. The family ends up moving to Montana which is where this novel opens. Mia (the child under Josie's care) and Josie together in Montana while the mother (Victoria) flits about here, there, everywhere.

Josie's adventures--or MISadventures rather--begin when she visits a bookshop.

The premise of this one is intriguing. Josie begins reading a book...and finds herself IN the book. The characters of the book resemble her acquaintances, friends, and family--faces from her past and present. Including the employees of the book shop. Including the other nannies at the park. Including her now-distant boyfriend. (Are they together? not together?)

This happens with every book Josie reads. As Josie tries out many, many genres and sub-genres, she learns a little about life and love....but will her life lessons come at the cost of her life?

My thought: This book has some BRUTAL reviews on GoodReads. I myself was tempted to quit reading this one...after several boring set-up chapters where little happened. But by the time she jumped into her second book, I was HOOKED.

This is without a doubt a premise driven novel. It is a bit all over the place. It is at times a COMEDY--whether you laugh or groan, well, that may be up to you and your personal taste. It is at times a terrifying DRAMA. Think TWILIGHT ZONE. Think INCEPTION. This novel has serious creepy vibes. But the transition from one to the other is slow. So readers may be tempted to give up before this book truly starts to shine.

I would recommend this one to
a) readers with a sense of humor about genres and sub-genres that can LAUGH at genre-specific tropes or cliches.
b) readers who LOVE Inception and/or The Twilight Zone
c) readers who like their psychological thrillers to be more on the subtle side
d) readers who are patient in waiting for rewards for their efforts.

There are so many deliciously creepy bits that I would love to share...but that would be full of spoilers. But I will share with you two quotes from bits that happen within the books she reads.

This one is from a YA post-apocalyptic romance novel:

“Hatchet? Okay. Nice to meet you. Hatchet.”
Wait … why did he say human? Did he talk to any nonhumans?
Maybe he talked to his hatchet.
She reached out to shake his hand. He slowly reached back, watching her hand as if expecting it to turn into a snake. When they finally touched, he sighed.
“I don’t think I know how to be a human being anymore.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “We all forget sometimes.”
As she said the words, she felt as if she really were talking to Justin, and her heart kind of folded in on itself. We all forget sometimes … to be human, to be decent to each other, to be in love … She blinked away the sting of threatening tears. He was still holding her hand but reluctantly let it go.
“Remember how people used to worry that personal robots and virtual-reality games were isolating humans from each other?” Hatchet said.
“Yeah, I remember!” Josie said with a forced laugh. “I mean, I do, right? At least … I probably have amnesia.”
Hatchet nodded knowingly. “From the stress.”

This one is from an adult romance, Love in the Spotlight. This one has the heroine starring in a musical production of A Scarlet Letter. They've added a porcupine to the cast...among other things!

Without a word he dropped the newspaper on her lap. It was the Arts section of the Village Voice.

Until tonight, I had studiously avoided Scarlet! at the Dorothy Gish Theatre, based on my esteemed colleagues’ scathing reviews. When, against my will and better judgment, I reluctantly attended tonight, what a shock to discover that, just a few days after the premiere, the show’s star, two-time Tony nominee Gloria Astor (High Society, Boatshow!) was replaced with Josie Pie, a novice chorus girl.
Now, I have a gentle message to my fellow critics. Fellas, you overlooked a crucial fact: Scarlet!
is a comedy. This show is a rollicking, laugh-a-second, ridiculous gem that pokes fun at everything: classic literature, Puritans, modern audiences, and even Broadway itself. Hester Prynne rises up on wires for no reason other than it’s Broadway and something should fly, right?
The Scarlet Letter is a classic novel best known for its egregious number of symbols. Scarlet! cleverly takes those symbols and blows them up till you can see their ridiculousness from the third balcony. Of particular note is the moment when Hester Prynne takes to the scaffold near the end of act three. Some of the townsfolk mock her until … the stage rises up on a previously hidden scaffold, higher than Hester. You see, the town itself is the real scaffold! The faux earnestness of the play on symbols is hilarious. In fact it was Josie Pie’s perpetually bewildered Hester, amazed at all the nonsense around her, that really drew the laughs.
The reports of Scarlet!’s death are greatly exaggerated. And if I don’t see Josie Pie’s name among the Tony nominees, I will dim Broadway’s lights myself.

Though the book started extremely slowly...I found myself hooked by the end.  


I loved that we see Josie's reading list (books mentioned) and mini-reviews at the end of the novel. We even get to see the BOOK COVERS.

This is book fourteen in the series. At what point is someone going to say, “Hey, Emma, there sure are a lot of murders happening in your high school.”
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU—DO NOT READ THIS!!! (note to my past self after three sleepless nights)
So romantic! I want to live in this book! JK. You’d have to be some kind of dark. minded non-human to want to live in this. I mean, it is a really good read, but it’s not going to be what you’d expect, unless you’re expecting bleak survivalist horror with a splash of romance and a lot of post-mortem goo.
*DNF = did not finish
I didn’t know I was a tawdry romance kind of a gal, but this book proved me wrong. I read it aloud to my BF and he also enjoyed.:)
Informative. This book is definitely for you if you like droughts, towels, firewood, fossils, and cereal without milk.
I loved it when I was in middle school, and I love it now too, though in a different way because I’m a different person. It’s so cool how books grow up with us.

I really liked this book—great characters, great dialogue—but it has way more medical drama than the cover let on. SPOILER: Am I the only one who didn’t know that “Canadian Semester” is a kind of necrotic fungus???
So enchanting and exciting and fun! Also, the second book in a trilogy apparently! Hey, Josie, maybe read book jackets more carefully before jumping in!
LADY JUSTICE (Issue #318)
I’ve read this entire series from the beginning, but this issue remains my favorite. For personal reasons.
DNF. TBH, DNStart.
It may look bland and old-fashioned, but this is honestly a book I could live in. At least, if I could reimagine a few parts …

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

97. Dark Waters

Dark Waters (Small Spaces #3) Katherine Arden. 2021. [August] 198 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Spring is East Evansburg, and the rain poured down like someone had turned on a hose in the sky.

Premise/plot: Brian, Olivia, and Coco are friends who face DANGERS together--for better or worse. In this their third adventure, they are MAROONED on a haunted island in the middle of a lake facing off against a sea monster. Well, a monster that can hunt on sea or on land. The danger is real and the monster isn't the only threat...Olivia's dad was bitten by a snake during this sailing adventure, and they were never able to contact help before their boat...well...let's just say that the monster took a big bite out of their boat...

My thoughts: I mostly enjoyed spending more time with our heroes: Brian Battersby, Olivia Adler, and Coco Zintner. The three are joined by a classmate, Phil Dimmonds. Turns out these three aren't the only one who remember the terrifying adventures in the first book (like they originally thought).

I personally don't understand why these three children agreed to go on a sailing adventure together. Seriously. After the events of the first and second books, you would think they'd be aware of the dangers of such an adventure.

The book packs plenty of thrills and action sequences...and the ending is quite the cliffhanger.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

96. The House of Serendipity

The House of Serendipity. Lucy Ivison. 2021. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I stopped and set my sewing machine down for the hundredth time.

Premise/plot: Myrtle Mathers (a young maid) and Sylvia Cartwright (a young lady) team up on the sly to be fashion designers in 1920s London. This one has alternating narrators--Myrtle and Sylvia. Myrtle, our seamstress, is a newly hired maid. Her mother is sick with consumption and has returned to Ireland; her father has died. She's hoping to support her mother with her wages while dreaming of brighter days. Sylvia has a vivid imagination and a sketchpad. Her older sister, Delphine, is a debutante this season. These two strangers (Sylvia and Myrtle) team up when Delphine's dress is HIDEOUS and FRIGHTFUL. The two hope they can make something out of the mess that is worth wearing for her big party/ball. After a successful (secret) project, the two team up a second time to help out another debutante, Agapantha Portland-Prince, who literally wants to run far, far away from this society nonsense...

But when secrets are outed, can Myrtle keep her job and reputation?

My thoughts: IF I was giving out stars based on the cover alone, I'd give this one five stars. I love everything about this cover. I'd go back in time and hand myself a copy of this book.

But I don't give out stars based on the cover...alone. I think for younger audiences (aka NOT adults) this one will prove an enjoyable and appealing dalliance with historical fiction.

For older readers (aka adults and maybe some young adults) it may be an almost book. Sylvia and Myrtle are from two distinct social classes. And there are things that Sylvia can get away with--especially at her young age--that Myrtle can't. It's not fair exactly. I'm not saying it is. But the book doesn't really go far enough, deep enough here. It's very neat and tidy. But Myrtle's choices while wonderful for fiction could have proved disastrous.

The ending. I don't know if this book could have a bigger bow ending. I have a hard time believing that Hollywood is anxious for two teens from Britain to come be costume designers. And I have a hard time believing that this is what is best for them...both. The truth is that both are what would be considered minors today. And for the two to dream of Hollywood fame...and to want to head out on their own...without adult supervision, guidance, wisdom. It seems like a HUGE mistake waiting to happen. Granted, London life may not be any safer in regards to possible exploitation. But at least Sylvia is living with her family. Would I have been bothered by this literal Hollywood ending as a kid? as a teen? probably not.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

95. Guts

Guts. Raina Telgemeier. 2019. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mom? What is it, honey? My stomach feels funny.

Premise/plot: Though it is not marketed as such, Guts is a prequel to Raina Telgemeier's autobiographical graphic novel SMILE. Guts covers her younger years--fourth and fifth grade. In this one, Telgemeier tackles the subject of anxiety, panic attacks, and GUT troubles (literally). Life at home and school are proving stressful--a little too stressful. Raina doesn't have (yet) the coping skills needed to thrive. In particular, she's struggling to have good, healthy friendships. There's some light bullying/teasing involved.

My thoughts: I liked this one. There were a few sequences/scenes that were oh-so-relatable. Sometimes feelings are so much bigger than words, and sometimes there are just no words to express them. Not as much happens in Guts as in the previous graphic novels. Mainly we have Raina's troubles at school and home. For example, Raina dreading/hating/fearing doing oral reports for school. Even with a partner, she struggles to find a confident voice ready to face her classmates. (So relatable!) Relationships with classmates do evolve and grow in this one. I think it is true to life, but it may not be as thrilling and memorable as Smile or Sisters.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

94. Sisters

Sisters. Raina Telgemeier. 2014. 199 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Are you sure you're all packed? You're not forgetting anything? What about the tent?

Premise/plot: Raina's family (her mom, her two siblings Amara and Will) are preparing to DRIVE to a family reunion in Colorado. (The dad will be flying to meet them there a bit later on in the week). As the family heads out for their adventures (and misadventures!) Raina has time to REFLECT on her life. Readers are treated to a series of flashback sequences. We see a young Raina anxious and eager to have a baby SISTER. We see Raina ecstatic--at first--until she realizes that her new sister doesn't do much at all. We see the tension between the two--they aren't all that close! We also see them both react to the news of having a baby brother! Meanwhile, there's plenty of action happening in the present both on the way and on the way back. In fact the climax of the book (in my opinion) happens on the way back!!!!

My thoughts: I really liked Smile. I did. I enjoyed Raina's perspective. I thought she was a great character. (It is an autobiographical graphic novel). But I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the second book in the series. Sisters was all kinds of awesome! I loved the flashback scenes especially. I won't mention my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite scene because SPOILERS but, seriously, this book is unforgettable. I loved the author including photographs there at the end.

Definitely recommend this series.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

93. Smile

Smile. Raina Telgemeier. 2009. 214 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Smile!! Good! Let's get you set up in a chair, and the orthodontist will look at your teeth in a few minutes.

Premise/plot: Smile is an autobiographical graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. The graphic novel chronicles her middle school adventures and misadventures. (The novel opens with her in sixth grade. It closes with her in high school.) The novel focuses on guessed it...SMILE. And she has a lot of reasons to NOT want to smile. Growing up is tough. Growing up with braces is tougher. Growing up with braces and missing two front teeth....well....that's the kind of tough that leads you to write books as an adult. It all starts with an accident...

The book is about growing up, struggling with friendships, the increasing tension in her family, puberty, and self-esteem issues to a certain degree. She's certainly self-conscious about her smile!

It is autobiographical. It is set late 80s to early 90s.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed reading Smile! I found the book relatable. It was a quick read. I loved the artwork. I loved the family dynamics. I loved the story. I loved the characters.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

92. Hatch

Hatch. (The Overthrow #2) Kenneth Oppel. 2020. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This wasn't normal rain.

Premise/plot: Hatch is the sequel to Kenneth Oppel's Bloom. In the first book, readers met three teens who seemed to be completely immune to the alien invasion--of plants. Now in the second book, these three are joined by many others who are half human and half alien. There are three types of aliens: those that live on land, on water, and in the air--jumpers, swimmers, and flyers. As their bodies continue to undergo strange and 'alien' transformations, these teens--including our three Anaya, Petra, and Seth--are kept under lock and key by the government who wants to use them for tests and experiments.

My thoughts: I found the first book, Bloom, to be action-packed and full of thrills and chills. It was exciting, intense, scary. This second book has a much slower pace, perhaps as slow as molasses. The focus for the first half seems to be the mundane, trivial moments of life as a captive of the government. I have no doubt that plenty of exciting, intense, terrifying things are happening outside. But we don't get to see that. Nope, we're stuck in the cafeteria chatty-chatting with others. The second half does seem to offer more excitement to readers. But this one is definitely unevenly paced.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 22, 2021

91. In the Wild Light

In the Wild Light. Jeff Zentner. 2021. [August] 432 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The human eye can discern more shades of green than of any other color. My friend Delaney told me that. She said it’s an adaptation from when ancient humans lived in forests. Our eyes evolved that way as a survival mechanism to spot predators hiding in the vegetation. There are as many tinges of understanding as there are hues of green in a forest. Some things are easy to understand. There’s a natural logic, a clear cause and effect. Like how an engine works.

Premise/plot: Cash Pruitt is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity: a scholarship to an elite boarding school where his best, best friend, Delaney Doyle, is attending. But it will mean leaving everything--and everyone--he loves behind for a few years. It will mean moving from Tennessee to Connecticut. Just at a time when he wants to be with his Papaw the most. But...ONCE in a lifetime. And everyone is telling him that he'd be a complete fool to pass this up...

In the Wild Light is a coming of age novel that chronicle's Cash's (first) year away at school. It is a GROWING time but also a grieving time.

My thoughts: The characters are oh-so-human. It is an emotional roller coaster of a book. It's tough in some places because the emotions are so genuinely raw. I dare anyone--who's lost a grandparent--to not *feel* that chapter. Not that every page of this one is about punching you in the heart. The strength of this one is in the writing--the narrative--and the characters. BOTH are so well done.


She’s tried to explain how her mind functions, without success. How do you tell someone what salt tastes like? Sometimes you just know the things you know. It’s not her fault we don’t get it. People still treat her like she’s to blame.
Some aren’t okay with not understanding everything. But I’m not afraid of a world filled with mystery. It’s why I can be best friends with Delaney Doyle.

A ray catches a crack in the windshield and illuminates it, a tiny comet. I’ve always loved when the light finds the broken spots in the world and makes them beautiful.

“I got an offer to go to a boarding school up north.”
My heart plummets. With all the press she’s been getting, I knew this day would come.
I swallow, then nod for her to continue. “Oh wow.” The unease in my voice is obvious to my own ears even as the words leave my lips.
“Middleford Academy. In New Canaan, Connecticut.”
“Sounds fancy.” My head swims.
“It’s one of the top five prep schools in America. This lady from Alabama named Adriana Vu, who made hundreds of millions in biotech, went to Middleford. She donated a shitload of money to the school to fund this amazing lab and STEM program. She contacted me and said she’d talked to Middleford and she’d pay for me to go there.”

Ever since I first became aware that the world contains mysteries and incomprehensible wonders, I’ve tried to live as a witness to them. As we came to know each other, I began to see something in Delaney that I’d never seen in another person. I can’t name that thing. Maybe it has no name, the way fire has no shape. It was something ferocious and consuming, like fire.
And I wanted to be close to it, the way people want to stand near a fire.

Where’s my Tess at? No Longmire tonight?” Tess is short for Tesla, which is what he started calling Delaney after she told him that Nikola Tesla was her favorite scientist. Before that, he called her Einstein.
“Tending her half brothers.”
“Y’all are like to have ruint my Saturday night.

Life has given me little reason to feel large, but I see no need to make myself feel smaller.

“Death’s all around us. We live our whole lives in its shadow. It’ll do what it will. So we need to do what we will while we can.”
With that, our conversation dwindles.
I rock and feel on my face the caress of the cool evening air, scented by the damp green of broken vines and cut grass. Beside me, Mamaw and Papaw hold hands but don’t speak.
Above us is an immaculate chaos of white stars and drifting moonlit-silver clouds. I remember how I would sit under the sanctuary of the night sky, into the late hours, waiting for my mama to get home. Or to escape her dopesick moaning and thrashing. Or to avoid the red-rimmed, whiskey-fogged glare of a new boyfriend. Or because I needed to feel like there was something beautiful in this world that could never be taken from me.
Papaw coughs and coughs. Eventually, he collects himself.
I listen to his shallow, uneven respiration. Ask me to number the breaths I wish for you. One more. Ask me a thousand times. The answer will always be one more

I thought the predawn tranquility would help me find some peace. But the quiet is just another clamor in my head, calling me in every direction I can’t choose between.

This must be what it’s like to die. You look around you and see how much of what you love you leave behind.

Delaney nestles herself into my side and asks me, “If you could know everyone who’s ever loved you, would you want to know?”
I think about my answer for a few moments. Would I? Would it be better to know that someone you never thought loved you did love you? Or would it be worse to know that someone you always thought loved you didn’t?
It’s not a question you can answer, like so many she poses, and I go to tell her so. By the time I do, though, she’s sound asleep—soon twitching and jerking as her slumber deepens. Careful not to rouse her, I pull a hoodie out of my backpack and drape it over her. I sit with my ghostly reflection in the finger-smudged window for company, as the new and sprawling American countryside blurs past us in the darkness.

We try to put new students with other new students.” Yolanda scans a paper. “So…Cash. You’ll be rooming with Patrick McGrath III—he goes by Tripp. He’s from Phoenix, Arizona. His father was actually just elected to the US House of Representatives.”
My newly full stomach roils. Hope you’re a good guy, Tripp. Sounds like you’re a rich and powerful one.
“Now for you, Delaney.” Yolanda leafs through her papers. “Here we go. Viviani Xavier. I think I’m saying that right? The X is a sh sound. She comes to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”
“You better brush up on your Spanish,” I tell Delaney.
“They speak Portuguese in Brazil,” Delaney says. “It’s the language most spoken in South America.”
“Viviani speaks excellent English,” Yolanda says. “You’ll have no trouble communicating.”

“I think of poetry lovers as people who love beautiful things.” He stops to catch his breath. “You love the beauty in this world. Ain’t a reason I can think of you don’t belong in a poetry class.

I’d thought about how funny it would be if when you got to heaven, God could give you a printout with all of your life’s vital statistics. How much hair you produced. How many colds you defeated. How many times you skinned your knees. How many nightmares you endured. How many pancakes you ate.
Every brave thing you did.
Every heartbreak you overcame.
Everyone you mourned.
Everyone you ever loved.
Everyone who ever loved you.

Before I left, Papaw told me that if I’m ever hanging out with a group, I should be the one to suggest getting ice cream, because it’ll always be a good time and it’ll be my doing. So before it’s time to leave, I do exactly that, and he’s right.

But we don’t choose our dreams; they choose us. So instead I dream of doors sealed by death and wake up sweating in the mute darkness, my roommate sleeping in blissful oblivion a few feet away and a world apart.
Memory is a tether. Sometimes you get some slack in the line and you can play it out for a while. You forget and think you’re free. But you’ll always get to the end and realize it’s still there, binding you, reminding you of itself, reminding you that you belong to each other.

Poetry is one of the highest artistic achievements of humankind.
“I told you that there are many things that poetry won’t do. But there are many things poetry will do. Poetry makes arguments. It presents cases for better ways of living and seeing the world and those around us. It heals wounds. It opens our eyes to wonder and ugliness and beauty and brutality. Poetry can be the one light that lasts the night. The warmth that survives the winter. The harvest that survives the long drought. The love that survives death. The things poetry can do are far more important than the things it can’t.”

Life often won’t freely give you moments of joy. Sometimes you have to wrench them away and cup them in your hands, to protect them from the wind and rain. Art is a pair of cupped hands. Poetry is a pair of cupped hands.”

Poets use language in ways I’ve never considered, to describe things I thought defied description.
Dr. Adkins picked poets who write about the world. About rivers and fireflies and formations of geese and deer and rain and wind. Things I love.
By the time I’m done reading at least one poem out of each book (usually more), I’m experiencing a deep calm, like I feel after being on a river, under the sun, in the wind, feeling the spray off my paddle. For those brief moments strolling through the forest of words, everything had disappeared. Papaw wasn’t dying while I was far from him at a place where I didn’t belong, always on the precipice of disappointing him. I had stolen moments of joy from a hungry world that devours them and protected them for a while in cupped hands.
I sit with the feeling for as long as I can before it fades and loses definition, like a cloud formation.
Then I remember the second part of my assignment. To write a poem. This part makes me more apprehensive.

Vi gets to the end of her twig.
“You deserve to do what you love in life.” I pick up another twig and hand it to her.
She gives me a melancholy smile and accepts my offering. “I love my parents, but I think they don’t always know who I am very well.”
“There anything I can do?”
She snaps off a piece of the twig, reaches over, and gently sets it upright in my hair. “Let me grow apple trees on your head so every time we hang out I can have free apples.”
My entire body hums at her closeness and touch. The crackle I felt last night at the game is still present. I sit stone-still. “Anything you want.” I’ve never meant something more.

Sometimes you don’t even realize you are ravenous until you start eating. Dr. Adkins’s story has identified that feeling I get when I read and write poetry: satiety. I didn’t know to call it a hunger until now. I think about my mama. Maybe the Oxys and fentanyl were her attempted cure for a nagging craving she was never able to identify. All she knew was what killed it for a while.
While we talk, the room fills even more with the sumptuous smell of cooking. Alex’s kimchi fried rice adds to the aromatic symphony. We hear Desiree and Alex laughing and talking cheerily in the kitchen. Periodically, one will say something like Nice touch! or Never thought to do that!

Words make me feel strong. They make me feel powerful and alive.
They make me feel like I can open doors.

If only heartbreak were truly what it claims to be, it might not be so bad. But here’s the thing—your heart never gets broken quite enough to stop wanting who broke it.

When he recovers, he says, “Tell you what, Mickey Mouse. You find that right someone, and ever’ minute you spend with them is like a Hawaiian vacation. She’s out there. You’ll figure it out.”
He’s never been to Hawaii.
It feels like he’s bequeathing me an inheritance of the only wealth he possesses—his memories, his quiet joys.

Dignity dies as the body does.
He pulls off his oxygen mask, and it makes a rushing sound, like the advance of wind before a storm. “Tell you a story,” Papaw says in his pale whisper, barely audible above the noise of his mask, as he visibly summons himself from the gloaming. “You was just born. Your mama’s trailer weren’t fit for a baby, so we brought you both home from the hospital. Your mama slept in her old room. Your room.” He pauses to muster his strength and continues. “Your mamaw was wore out too. It was springtime, so I took you out on the porch and sat, just you and me, in the rocker. Had you wrapped up so tight you weren’t but a head poking out of a blanket.” He stops and gathers himself. “Watched you feel the breeze on your face for the first time. Watched you open your little gray eyes and squint out at the trees swaying in the wind. And I says to you, ‘That wind you feel on your face is called wind. Them trees you see are called trees.’ Holiest thing I ever witnessed—you feeling the wind for the first time. Seeing a tree for the first time. Speaking their names to you. Saw the face of God in you that day. Ever’ time you tell a story, it becomes a little more ordinary. So I swore I’d only tell this one the once.” He pauses once more, and with what remains of himself, says, “There was a last time I held you in my arms, and I didn’t even know it.”
He finishes, spent by this effort. He murmurs something else, but I can’t make it out. Something Mickey Mouse.
I wriggle closer to him and pull his arm over me. Let this be the last time you hold me in your arms.
I slip his oxygen mask back on him. He drifts off, and I hold his hand until it goes limp and heavy.
“I love you. I’ll always love you,” I whisper again and again to his unconscious ear, hoping he absorbs it somehow.
Hoping he takes it with him to whatever unmapped land he’s journeying to.
Hoping he returns.
If only once more.

I cried until I was empty—not of feeling but of tears.

I wish our love was enough to keep whole the people we love.

Some people can lift your heart up to the light, reading the truth of you written on it.
I was afraid that being a man meant waging war on what’s beautiful.
I wanted to love the world without taking anything from it.
He knew all this. This is what you remember of the people you love when they’re gone—the ways they knew you that no one else did—even you. In that way, their passing is a death of a piece of yourself.

I don’t know how I’ll do this. I barely managed when I was only cracked. Now I’m broken wide open.

We ordinarily encourage sharing of rooms, to teach students compromise and conflict resolution and to forge lifelong friendships. But you have certainly earned the right to a solo room.”
That sounds pretty great. “What’s the other option?”
“One of your fellow students, who currently resides in a single room, has come forward and asked to be placed as your roommate if you so choose. I believe you know him. Alex Pak. An exceptional young man, from what I gather.”
An ecstatic bloom spreads through me. “Yeah, I know Alex. He is pretty exceptional. Let’s go with that.”

I’ll tell you the truest thing I know: You are not a creature of grief. You are not a congregation of wounds. You are not the sum of your losses. Your skin is not your scars. Your life is yours, and it can be new and wondrous. Remember that.”
“Goodbye for now, Cash.”
“Goodbye for now, Dr. Adkins.”
“My friends call me Bree.”
She looks at me.
“You said something at Thanksgiving I keep thinking about: that you didn’t inherit your mamaw’s gift for healing. But you did,” I say.

I remember first seeing her across the room at that Narateen meeting. Now we’re gazing at the lights of New York City together.
I wonder where I’d be at this moment, the smaller life I would have led if we’d never spoken.
You can feel when your mind’s building a palace for a memory. A place it lives, glowing and dancing in marble halls. A place you can visit when you need to feel less of the world’s gravity.
I feel my mind building such a palace for Delaney and me.
Sometimes I imagine the two of us at an all-night diner, drawing faces on pancakes with ketchup, drunk on each other, and laughing like nothing beautiful ever dies.
I’ll always love her.
Every wound, every hurt that brought us together—I regret none of it.

I once thought of memory as a tether. I still do, in a way. But now I also see memory as the roots from which you grow toward the sun.
The dreams of closed doors still come, but less now.
I sit with my notebook and pen in the wild light of the day’s end.
In the place where I learned the names of trees and wind, I write.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews