Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Books Read in 2022

Books Read in 2022

1. The False Prince (Ascendance #1) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2012. 342 pages. [Source: Library]
2. The Runaway King. (Ascendance #2) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. 331 pages. [Source: Library]
3. The Shadow Throne. (Ascendance #3) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
4. Road of Bones (Billy Boyle #16) James R. Benn. 2021. [September] 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5. The Captive Kingdom. (Ascendance #4) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2020. [October] 374 pages. [Source: Library]
6. Once Upon A Camel. Kathi Appelt. 2021. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library]
7. The Shattered Castle (Ascendance #5) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2021. [October 19] 332 pages. [Source: Library]
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 1979/2021. 289 pages. [Source: Library]
9. Waking Romeo. Kathryn Barker. 2022. [January] 384 pages. [Source: Library]
10. A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry. 1959/2011. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
11. The Accidental Time Machine. Joe Haldeman. 2007. 278 pages. [Source: Library]
12. Hawaii. James A. Michener. 1959. 1136 pages. [Source: Library]
13. Big Fish. Daniel Wallace. 1998. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
14. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/2011. 194 pages. [Source: Library]
15. My Fine Fellow. Jennieke Cohen. 2022. [January] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
16. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. Jennifer Ryan. 2017. 371 pages. [Source: Library]
17. Exodus. Leon Uris. 1958. 610 pages. [Source: Library]
18. The Last Cuentista. Donna Barba Higuera. 2021. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
19. Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1865. 801 pages. [Source: Bought]
20. The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Eugene Yelchin. 2021. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
21. Linked. Gordon Korman. 2021. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
22. Operation Do-Over. Gordon Korman. 2022. [January] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
23. I, Robot. Isaac Asimov. 1950. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
24. How Not to Fall in Love. Jacqueline Firkins. 2021. [December] 239 pages. [Source: Library]
25. I Must Betray You. Ruta Sepetys. 2022. [February] 336 pages. [Source: Library]
26. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Gabrielle Zevin. 2014. 260 pages. [Source: Library]
27. The Caves of Steel. Isaac Asimov. 1953. 270 pages. [Source: Library]
28. Total Recall. Philip K. Dick. 1966. 31 pages. [Source: Library]
29. The Kitchen Front. Jennifer Ryan. 2021. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30. Dune. Frank Herbert. 1965. 687 pages. [Source: Library]
31. Rima's Rebellion: Courage In a Time of Tyranny. Margarita Engle. 2022. [February] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick. 1968. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
33. The Naked Sun. (Robot #2) Isaac Asimov. 1958. 271 pages. [Source: Library]
34. Wakers. Orson Scott Card. 2022. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
35. Castles in Their Bones. Laura Sebastian. 2022. 514 pages. [Source: Review copy]
36. The Last Kingdom. (The Last Kingdom #1) Bernard Cornwell. 2004. 351 pages. [Source: Library]
37. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
38. A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice. Rebecca Connolly. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
39. In Harm's Way (Young Reader's Edition): The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Story of Its Survivors. Michael J. Tougias and Doug Stanton. 2022. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
40. Why the Titanic Was Doomed. Bryan Jackson. 2022. [June] 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
41. Yours Cheerfully. (The Emmy Lake Chronicles #2) A.J. Pearce. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Remember Me Gone. Stacy Stokes. 2022. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
43. The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. Jennifer Ryan. 2022. [May] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
44. Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis. Susan Hood. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
45. Louisa June and the Nazis in the Waves. L.M. Elliott. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
46. A Night to Remember. Walter Lord. 1955. 182 pages. [Source: Library]
47. Katherine. Anya Seton. 1954. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
48. Goblin Market. Diane Zahler. 2022. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
49. Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
50. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Alfred Lansing. 1959/2015. 357 pages. [Source: Library]
51. When the Sky Falls. Phil Earle. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
52. Cyrano de Bergerac. Edmond Rostand. Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F Guillemard. 1897. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
53. Sense and Second Degree Murder. Tirzah Price. 2022. [April] 416 pages. [Source: Library]
54. This is Not the Real World. (This is Not the Jess Show #2). Anna Carey. 2022. [May] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
55. The Forsyte Saga. (The Forsyte Chronicles #1-3). John Galsworthy. 1922. 872 pages. [Source: Bought]
56. Front Page Murder. (A Homefront News Mystery #1) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
57. Death on a Deadline (Homefront News #2) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [November] 304 pages (guess). [Source: Review copy]
58. Inheritance: American Royals Prequel. Katharine McGee. May 2022. 84 pages. [Source: Library]
59. Queen of the Tiles. Hanna Alkaf. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
60. American Shoes: A Refugee's Story. Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke and Garrett L. Turke. 2022. [February] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
61. Rivals (American Royals #3) Katharine McGee. 2022. [May] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
62. Meet the Malones. (Beany Malone #1) Lenora Mattingly Weber. 1943. 282 pages. [Source: Borrowed from a friend]
63. One Good Deed. (Archer #1) David Baldacci. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
64. My Own Lightning. (Wolf Hollow #2) Lauren Wolk. 2022. [March] 320 pages. [Source: Library]
65. The Belle of Belgrave Square. (Belles of London #2) Mimi Matthews. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
66. The Radium Girls: The Scary But True Story of the Poison That Made People Glow in the Dark. (Young Readers' Edition). 2020. [July] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
67. The Peach Rebellion. Wendelin Van Draanen. 2022. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
68. The Bachelor and the Bride. (The Dread Penny Society #4) Sarah M. Eden. 2022. [September] 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
69. Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Sara Pennypacker. 2012. 275 pages. [Source: Library]
70. Lines of Courage. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2022. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
71. A Gambling Man. (Archer #2) David Baldacci. 2021. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
72. And We Rise. Erica Martin. 2022. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
73. Two Truths and a Lie. April Henry. 2022. [May] 275 pages. [Source: Review copy]
74. With and Without You. Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
75. The Siren of Sussex. (Belles of London #1) Mimi Matthews. 2022. [January] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
76. See You Yesterday. Rachel Lynn Solomon. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
77. Garvey's Choice. Nikki Grimes. 2016. 120 pages. [Source: Library]
78. Garvey in the Dark. Nikki Grimes. 2022. [October] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
79. Smaller Sister. Maggie Edkins Willis. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
80. It's the End of the World in My Bathing Suit. Justin A. Reynolds. 2022. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
81. The Lightning Thief. Rick Riordan. 2005. 377 pages. [Source: Library]
82. Dream Town. (Archer #3) David Baldacci. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
83. A Talent to Deceive: The Search for the Real Killer of the Lindbergh Baby. William Norris. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
84. Wretched Waterpark (Sinister Summer Series #1) Kiersten White. 2022. [June] 256 pages. [Source: Library]
85. Escape. K.R. Alexander. 2022. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
86. The Sea of Monsters. (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) Rick Riordan. 2006. 279 pages. [Source: Library]
87. The Star That Always Stays. Anna Rose Johnson. 2022. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
88. The Titan's Curse. (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) Rick Riordan. 2007. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
89. Mystery in the Mansion (Case Closed #1) Lauren Magaziner. 2018. 390 pages. [Source: Library]
90. Stolen from the Studio (Case Closed #2) Lauren Magaziner. 2019. 480 pages. [Source: Library]
91. The Ogress and the Orphans. Kelly Barnhill. 2022. [March] 400 pages. [Source: Library]

92. The Agathas (Agathas #1) Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson. 2022. [May] 416 pages. [Source: Library]
93. The Battle of the Labyrinth. (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) Rick Riordan. 2008. 361 pages. [Source: Library]
94. African Town: Inspired by the True Story of the Last American Slave Ship. Irene Latham and Charles Waters. 2022. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
95. Glitch. Laura Martin. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
96. The Lindbergh Nanny. Mariah Fredericks. 2022. [November] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
97. The Last Olympian. (Percy Jackson #5) Rick Riordan. 2009. 381 pages. [Source: Library]
98. The Fort. Gordon Korman. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
99. 12 to 22: POV You Wake Up In The Future. Jen Calonita. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
100. Dream, Annie, Dream. Waka T. Brown. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
101. Miraculous. Caroline Starr Rose. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
102. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson. 2007. 308 pages. [Source: Library]
103. Cookies and Milk. Shawn Amos. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
104. The Lost Hero. (Heroes of Olympus #1) Rick Riordan. 2010. 553 pages. [Source: Library]

105. The Son of Neptune. Rick Riordan. 2011. 521 pages. [Source: Library]
106. The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3). Rick Riordan. 2012. 586 pages. [Source: Library]
107. The Robots of Dawn. Isaac Asimov. 1983. 438 pages. [Source: Library]
108. Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
109. Map of Flames (Forgotten Five #1) Lisa McMann. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
110. I.Q., Independence Hall (Book one in I.Q series). Roland Smith. 2008. 293 pages. [Source: Library]
111. Widowland. C.J. Carey. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
112. Singing with Elephants. Margarita Engle. 2022. [May] 224 pages. [Source: Library]
113. Eight is Enough: A Father's Memoir of Life with His Extra Large Family. Tom Braden. 1975. 173 pages. [Source: Review copy]
114. Miracle Season. Beth Hautala. 2022. [August] 320 pages. [Source: Library]
115. Magic of Ordinary Days. Ann Howard Creel. 2001. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
116. A Light Beyond the Trenches. Alan Hlad. 2022. [March] 362 pages. [Source: Library]
117. From the Shadows (Billy Boyle #17) James R. Benn. 2022. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library]
118. Frances and the Monster. Refe Tuma. 2022. [August] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
119. Daybreak on Raven Island. Fleur T. Bradley. 2022. [January] 256 pages. [Source: Library]

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 29, 2021

November Reflections


 In November, I read twenty-six books. I read a lot of five-star books this month. I managed four rereads. Seven were review copies. 

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

135. Don't Tell the Nazis. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2019. 226 pages. [Source: Library]
136. The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart. Nancy Campbell Allen. 2021. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
137. Love and Lavender (Mayfield Family #4) Josi S. Kilpack. 2021. [November] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
138. Friends Forever. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2021. [August] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
139. The Red Horse. (Billy Boyle #15) James R. Benn. 2020. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
140. Daughter of the Deep. Rick Riordan. 2021. 354 pages. [Source: Library]
141. Out of My Mind. Sharon M. Draper. 2010. 295 pages. [Source: Library]
142. The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

162. Clarice the Brave. Lisa McMann. 2021. [October] 272 pages. [Source: Library]
163. The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams. Mindy Thompson. 2021. [October 26] 272 pages. [Source: Library]
164. Dragon's Merry Christmas. Dav Pilkey. 1993. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
165. The Cat on the Dovrefell: A Christmas Tale. Illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Translated by George Webbe Dasent. 1979/2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
166. The Welcome Chair. Rosemary Wells. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
167. Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake. Barbara Lehman. 2021. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Library]
168. Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast (Interrupting Chicken #3) David Ezra Stein. 2021. [October 26] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
169. The Smart Cookie. Jory John. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2021. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
170. I Don't Want To Read This Book. Max Greenfield. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. 2021. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
171. Cat Dog. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2021. 40 pages. [Source: Library]


Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

74. Good News of Great Joy. John Piper. 2021. [September] 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. A Distant Melody (Wings of Glory #1) Sarah Sundin. 2010. 422 pages. [Source: Review copy]
76. Shadows of Swanford Abbey. Julie Klassen. 2021. [December] 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]
77. A Memory Between Us. (Wings of Glory #2) Sarah Sundin. 2010. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
78. Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential. Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman. 2021. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

11. Schuyler Quentel RSV with Apocrypha. God. 2021. Evangelical Bible. 1700 pages. [Source: Gift]
12. HCSB Super Giant Print Reference Bible [ISBN: 978-1433615757] God. 1824 pages. [Source: Review copy]
13. Jubilee Bible: From the Scriptures of the Reformation. Edited by Russell M. Stendal. 2013. 1152 pages. [Source: Bought]

 

November
number of books26
number of pages9329

2021 Totals
Books404
Pages114322

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2022 Chunkster Reading Challenge


2022 Chunkster Reading Challenge
January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022
Hosted by Becky's Book Reviews; sign up link
# of books: UP TO EACH PARTICIPANT

Guidelines: 

The books read must be 450 pages or more to be considered a chunkster.
(It is ANY book. I will not limit you to adult books only. Feel free to read MG and YA so long as they meet the page requirement.)
The books can be a hard copy, e-books, or an audio book. As long as each of these formats equal to 450 pages or greater (if it were a hard copy book). 
Rereads welcome as are crossovers with other challenges.
A blog is NOT required to participate.


Sign up by leaving a comment on this post.
Feel free to also leave comments about what you read for the challenge (including links if you like!).

Comment moderation is turned on, so be patient if your sign up comment doesn't appear immediately.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 22, 2021

142. The Nutcracker Comes To America


The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When you think of the Nutcracker, you probably think of this. And this. And maybe even this. You probably don't think of this. One hundred years ago, hardly anyone in the United States had ever heard of this old Russian ballet. So how did it become a holiday tradition? Well, our story kicks off in a small Utah town in the early 1900s and it's three brothers doing the kicking.

Premise/plot: The Nutcracker Comes To America is a nonfiction picture book. It is almost a picture book biography--almost. It is the story of the Nutcracker ballet, and it's a story that focuses on three dancing brothers--William (Willam), Harold, and Lew Christensen. Not all three brothers were born loving to dance even though it was the family business, but, they all learned to love dancing and excelled at it. In fact, two of the brothers left their hometown and sought to become professional dancers, first doing Vaudeville and then later New York. The book focuses not just on dancing, but on the lives of the brothers, on their careers, their contributions to the dance world. Notably, their contribution was in popularizing THE NUTCRACKER ballet into a holiday tradition or sensation.

In 1934, one of the brother's has his ballet students perform a few selections from The Nutcracker. Ten years later, 1944, sees the FIRST full-length American production of The Nutcracker. (Note: Fantasia, a Disney film released in 1940, had used several songs from the Nutcracker. So perhaps a few people would have first heard these songs from watching that movie.) This first production is in San Francisco where two of the brothers, I believe, are working. Two more productions follow: one in 1949 and one in 1951. Many different productions began to follow in the 1950s, including, notably, Balanchine's New York City production in 1954. Also of note, to me at least, is that there was a live television broadcast of THE NUTCRACKER in 1957.

It includes plenty of details on the Christensen brothers, on ballet, and specifically on The Nutcracker. The story is worth sharing. This picture book is a great example of why nonfiction picture books can be SO GOOD AND SATISFYING.

I loved The Nutcracker Comes to America. I did. True, I don't think it comes as a big, big surprise to anyone who knows how much I love, love, love The Nutcracker. But still, I loved it.  I loved, loved, loved the illustrations by Cathy Gendron. They were just-right and complemented the text perfectly. I loved the end papers too! I loved everything about this one!!! 

ETA: I first read this one in November 2015. I reread it November 2021. I found it just as fascinating the second time through. I probably should check this one out from the library to read every year.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

141. Out Of My Mind


Out of My Mind. Sharon M. Draper. 2010. 295 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Words.
I'm surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe millions.
Cathedral. Mayonnaise. Pomegranate.
Mississippi. Neapolitan. Hippopotamus.
Silky. Terrifying. Iridescent.
Tickle. Sneeze. Wish. Worry.
Words have swirled around me like snowflakes--each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.
Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs.
From the time I was really little--maybe just a few months old--words were like sweet, liquid gifts, and I drank them like lemonade. I could almost taste them. They made my jumbled thoughts and feelings have substance. My parents have always blanketed me with conversation. They chattered and babbled. They verbalized and vocalized. My father sang to me. My mother whispered her strength into my ear.
Every word my parents spoke to me or about me I absorbed and kept and remembered. All of them.
I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings.
But only in my head.
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.

Melody has cerebral palsy. She lets us know from the start her limitations: "I can't talk. I can't walk. I can't feed myself or take myself to the bathroom." But she's a smart girl, a gifted one, a genius. And the memories she has stored away--almost unbelievable. But so few know it. Out Of My Mind is an intimate novel. Readers get such a close look at Melody and her world. A world that includes not only her immediate family but Mrs. V and Catherine too.

Out of My Mind hooked me from the beginning. Melody, our narrator, has such a story to tell. And with just a few pages, I had to know it. While it isn't all that unusual for me to connect with a character from a book, it doesn't always happen so quickly.

Out of My Mind is a beautiful but bittersweet novel. I'd definitely call it intense. Very emotional. Very haunting. I'd definitely recommend it. I thought the writing was incredible.

ETA: I first read Out of My Mind in April 2010. I reread Out of My Mind in November 2021. There is a sequel to Out of My Mind that released this year. I wanted to get reacquainted with Melody and her family before reading the new book. (I think that's almost always best, especially when it has been ELEVEN years since the first book). Melody's story is still haunting. I don't know that it is a story that every reader will love and adore. I think there is ONE SCENE that may be a little too much for some readers. A scene that is terrifying in some ways--many ways. I do feel it was a bit manipulative to readers--to do that to readers. Even though I knew the scene was coming up, it still shook me the second time around.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, November 19, 2021

140. Daughter of the Deep


Daughter of the Deep. Rick Riordan. 2021. 354 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Here's the thing about life-shattering days. They start just like any other. You don't realize your world is about to explode into a million smoking pieces of awfulness until it's too late.

Premise/plot: Daughter of the Deep is Rick Riordan's newest book. It is a premise-driven what if novel. What if Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was more nonfiction than fiction, more true than false. What if his legacy was passed down through his descendants? His DNA--their DNA--holding keys to great staggering technological wonders and achievements. Ana Dakkar, our heroine, is Captain Nemo's descendant...and the fate of the world may depend on her survival and her ability to connect (and ultimately command) with the Nautilus. 

Harding-Pencroft Academy is at war with the Land Institute. Ana--and most of the characters of the book--are students and faculty of Harding-Pencroft Academy. But the setting is not on land, but on sea, the deep sea. Ana--and most of the characters--are freshmen at the academy. 

My thoughts: If an intriguing premise is ALL you need from a book, then this may prove quite entertaining. I will give it to Riordan that the premise--on paper--sounds fantastic. A premise with great potential for action, adventure, character growth, world building, etc. All the best action-adventure books have strong friendships at their core.

But. Does Daughter of the Deep deliver more than an interesting/intriguing premise? My opinion is NO. I think the book spends so much time on the premise and world building, that very little--if any--time is spent on developing RELATIONSHIPS or even characterization. I haven't decided if a) the characters are meant to be developed but just come across as boring or bland or indistinguishable or b) he was so busy writing descriptions and plotting action/battle scenes that he forgot that characters matter. The truth is if a reader fails to care about the characters, then it doesn't matter how many battle scenes there are: the book will be BORING and lifeless. More time and attention is spent on describing the Nautilus than there is developing characters like Ana.

So if I feel this strongly about the book, why did I keep reading???? Well, at first I thought it was just setting up the world and that if I could get past the first chunk of info-dumping, then it would "get good." Sure, the start might be slow, but somewhere along the way it would all click into place and then BOOM it would be worth it. All the world-building will have been time well spent, the big picture will be seen, and it will be satisfying. About hundred pages left to go, and I was like...I don't think this book is going to get better. I don't think it will prove ultimately satisfying. Then it was just stubbornness pure and simple. I'm not going to get that close to the end only to give up on a book. 

It didn't help that 98% of all reviews on Goodreads are WOW, I CAN'T BELIEVE WE HAVE A COVER NOW. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 15, 2021

139. The Red Horse


The Red Horse. (Billy Boyle #15) James R. Benn. 2020. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Something was wrong. The wind bit at the back of my neck, and I hunched my shoulders as gray clouds scudded across the sky, outpacing me as I trudged along the gravel path. I stuffed my hands into my pockets, thankful for the warmth. Thankful I could hide the tremor in my right hand. Because they were watching. I couldn't let them see how bad it had gotten.

Premise/plot: So because the book is part of a LONG series and I am just not clever enough to summarize it keeping it spoiler free for all previous books, I'll just say Billy Boyle is an American soldier who specializes in solving murder cases for the Allies. Before becoming a soldier, he was a police detective--just getting started, but part of the police force. This fifteenth book takes place in 1944. 

My thoughts:  I consider the discover of the Billy Boyle historical mysteries series to be one of my all time happiest discoveries. But. The books HAVE to be read in order. They just have to. Yes, the mysteries--the cases, usually murder cases--are contained. But there is an unfolding story that carries over all the books. I think it would be confusing to read them out of order.

I can't believe the series is up to fifteen books!!! I never want the series to end. Not really.

The Red Horse was INTENSE and interesting. Plenty of murders to solve and plenty of history to explore. I found the author's note fascinating. Don't skip it. I know it might be tempting to think the book is over. But don't miss out on finding out what was true and what was fiction with the story.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

138. Friends Forever


Friends Forever. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2021. [August] 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: And this year...I was an eighth grader.

Premise/plot: Friends Forever is the third book in Shannon Hale's autobiographical graphic novel series. (See also Real Friends and Best Friends.) These graphic novels chronicle her middle school (or junior high) years. This third volume is her recollections of being an eighth grader. The book is arranged somewhat thematically. Together the chapters tell the complete story of a young girl with BIG emotions that she didn't always know how to handle. And sometimes it wasn't just big emotions but BIG circumstances as well. 

My thoughts: I would love at some point to read all three books back to back. Enough time has gone by that I only remember loving the books in a general way. I don't remember the specifics or all the whys. I remember appreciating the honesty and vulnerability especially. I believe there were photos of her in the back of the book from that time period. That takes bravery.

So what did I think of this third book? Well. In some ways it made me uncomfortable. I'll try to explain. It made me uncomfortable in that it was so relatable. It was transporting me back emotionally--and I was going kicking and screaming. Any day where you can forget what it was like to live through your eighth grade year is a good day--as far as I'm concerned. I think there is something universal about this awkwardness and insecurity. The experiences included in the graphic novel feel authentic and raw. And overall, I think that's a good thing. While adults may relate by remembering their own experiences--and perhaps they are close(r) in age to Shannon Hale--the target audience isn't remembering. The target audience is currently living through these oh-so-tough years. And I think that's where the opportunity is. As adults we can want to shield kids from darker emotions and experiences. That doesn't make them go away. This book full on acknowledges those darker emotions--the insecurity, the fears, the stress, the worries, the frustration, anger, disappointment, loneliness, uncertainty, depression, despair--that come at home and school and everywhere in between. And the vulnerability on these pages--and the graphic novel does a great job of depicting the emotional angst and despair--is painful. Painfully valid. Painfully relatable.

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, November 05, 2021

137. Love and Lavender


Love and Lavender (Mayfield Family #4) Josi S. Kilpack. 2021. [November] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hazel had not slept well. Her crippled foot ached, despite it having been propped on a pillow all night to help manage the swelling induced by traveling.

Premise/plot: Hazel Stillman had all but given up on marriage and children. And she was fine with this--mostly. Still her uncle's offer of an incredibly generous dowry stung a bit. Not that he was singling out her--he made generous offers to ALL his nieces and nephews including his step-nephew, Duncan Penhale.

Duncan and Hazel meet in March 1822 on the day they are both offered special arrangements by their Uncle Elliott Mayfield. Duncan is an accountant, I believe, and she teaches advanced math at an all-girls school. They have a few things in common--like a love of puzzles and numbers. The two begin a strange but steady correspondence.

When circumstances change for the both of them--roughly around the same time--it seems a marriage of convenience may be the way to make the best of a bad situation. But will their uncle agree to them marrying each other solely to get their inheritance and meet his conditions?

My thoughts: Love and Lavender is a unique and original historical romance--a Regency. You might think, how could it possibly be original and unique when marriages of convenience are an established trope--something that you either love or hate. The answer is that Hazel and Duncan are well-developed, unique characters. Their story IS all theirs. Not one scene, not one line, could be cut and pasted into another romance novel. And not one scene from another romance novel could be cut and pasted into this one. The characters and story are memorable.

I really loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I did. I love Duncan Penhale. I do. I love Hazel too. They are perfect for one another. And not because either one is perfect...or "perfect." It was so WONDERFUL to read a romance novel with a hero and heroine like Duncan and Hazel. There was something so human about the story.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

136. The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart


The Matchmaker's Lonely Heart. Nancy Campbell Allen. 2021. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My dear Miss Franklin, I can only imagine the despondency you must feel at your mother's insistence that you entertain Mr. B's suit. Of course you may continue writing to me for advice or commiseration! You and I know of your desire to marry for love, but your mother is clearly of the elder generation who prefer to err on the side of practicality. Perhaps you might consider a blunt approach, as the elderly often require direct speaking, whether due to hearing loss or lack of compassion brought on by age, one can only speculate...Letter from Miss A. Hampton

Premise/plot: Miss Amelie Hampton, our heroine, works for her aunt's paper, The Marriage Gazette. Detective Michael Baker is still haunted by the death of a young woman. He suspects her husband, Mr. Harold Radcliffe, of murder. But there wasn't enough evidence--at least without an autopsy--to continue the investigation let alone bring charges against him. But Detective Baker has his eyes on Mr. Radcliffe...which leads him directly to Miss Amelie Hampton.

Miss Hampton met Mr. Radcliffe at a book club. She's more than a little smitten with his dashing ways. But she had no idea he was "Mr. Dashing" (if memory serves) who has written into The Marriage Gazette looking for love. It is only when she is spying on Miss Franklin's first meeting with her new match (Mr. Dashing) that she recognizes him and realizes his true identity.

His date with Miss Franklin was a failure, but his interests soon turn to Amelie herself. But she's surrounded by doubters--including Detective Baker--who feel that here is a man with many, many secrets. Perhaps deadly secrets. As she grows closer to Mr. Radcliffe, she's also growing closer to Detective Baker. Soon she'll have to decide whom she trusts...

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one! It's a blend of history, mystery, and romance. It's a straight forward story. There aren't many twists and turns; few--if any--red herrings. At least in terms of WHO is guilty of murder. There are a few surprises not related to the identity of the murderer.

I think what I enjoyed most about this one was that while the heroine was strong and feisty, she wasn't obnoxiously, over-the-top, intentionally stupid sort of strong and feisty. There were always reasons for the whys and hows of her dangerous situations. Her decisions lined up with her inner motivations and character. I did yell at her in a few places NO, DON'T DO IT. I suppose everything is relative. I've read so many books with heroines that annoy me to no end because they seem to go to all extremes to put themselves in danger. They seem incapable of making a logical, rational, common sense decision. They exist for the sole purpose of being saved by others. Amelie wasn't like that. 

 I also appreciated the unfolding of the romance.  

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 01, 2021

135. Don't Tell the Nazis


Don't Tell the Nazis. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2019. 226 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I huddled close to my sister under the comforter and prayed that we'd live through the night. At any moment the door might burst open and we could be dragged from our beds.

Don't Tell the Nazis opens in June 1941 in Ukraine in the days leading up to the Soviet retreat and the Nazi occupation. The Ukrainians suffered at the hands of the Soviets--no doubt--but any hope is short-lived that treatment under the Nazi regime would improve. If anything, the situation worsens. The book follows a young girl, Krystia, and her family. She'll face more than any child--any human--should be made to endure.

Don't Tell the Nazis is not an easy book to summarize. What you should know is that it is intense, compelling, heartbreaking, disturbing, haunting. It's the kind of book that requires a freezer. It is inspired by a true story, but it has been fictionalized to a certain degree. I found the author's note fascinating.

 It is not the kind of book any reader "enjoys" reading. It is horrific and traumatic not because the author has a depraved, disturbed mind BUT because it is authentically capturing the horrifying and shocking truth of history. History that should never be denied, discounted, or dismissed. When history shocks and disturbs the answer is not to bury your head in the sand but to take notice, listen, and learn.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews