Sunday, January 30, 2022

January 2022 Reflections


In January, I read forty-one books. (Forty books and one Bible). I read plenty of new-to-me books this month, but I also fit in some time for rereading. There were some pleasant surprises, books that exceeded my expectations for awesomeness. I wholeheartedly recommend the Cookie Chronicles by Matthew Swanson. And a few disappointments as well, I so wish that My Fine Fellow had been a 'wow' for me because I love and adore My Fair Lady so much. 

My viewing also inspired me to pick up some books. I read Hawaii, Big Fish, and A Raisin in the Sun after watching the movies.

Books Read for Becky's Book Reviews

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]

Books Read for Young Readers

1. Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Lita Judge. 2021. [October 26] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2. Poems from When We Were Very Young. A.A. Milne. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. 2021. [October 26] 80 pages. [Source: Library]
3. Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch. (Ready to Read Pre-Level 1) Emma J. Virjan. 2021. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
4. Motor Mouse Delivers. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2020. [August] 72 pages. [Source: Library]
5. The Quest for Snacks (Cat & Cat Adventures #1) Susie Yi. 2021. [September] 96 pages. [Source: Library]
6. Bright Brown Baby. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. 2022. [January] 64 pages. [Source: Library]
7. Chester's Way. Kevin Henkes. 1988. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
8. The New Class (Ballet Bunnies #1) Swapna Reddy. Illustrated by Binny Talib. 2021. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
9. Let's Dance (Ballet Bunnies #2) Swapna Reddy. Illustrated by Binny Talib. 2021. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
10. Bear is a Bear. Jonathan Stutzman. Illustrated by Dan Santat. 2021. [September] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
11. Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom. (Cookie Chronicles #1) Matthew Swanson. Illustrated by Robbi Behr. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
12. Yes & No. Elisha Cooper. 2021. [April] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
13. Monday: Into the Cave of Thieves. (Total Mayhem #1) 2021. [August] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
14. ¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! the Dance That Crossed Color Lines. Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Eric
15. I Wish I Had a Wookiee: And Other Poems For Our Galaxy. Ian Doescher. Illustrated by Tim Budgen. 2021 [September] 128 pages. [Source: Library]
16. Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Endless Waiting. (Cookie Chronicles #2) Matthew Swanson. Illustrated by Robbi Behr. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
17. Tally Tuttle Turns Into a Turtle. (Class Critters #1) Kathryn Holmes. Illustrated by Ariel Landy. 2021. [August] 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books Read for Operation Actually Read Bible

1. After Emmaus: How the Church Fulfills the Mission of Christ. Brian J. Tabb. 2021. [November] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2. God Is My Hiding Place: 40 Devotions for Refuge and Strength. Corrie ten Boom. 2021. [October] 174 pages. [Source: Review copy]
3. The Dangers of a Shallow Faith. A.W. Tozer. Edited by James L. Snyder. 2012. 219 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. The Healing of Natalie Curtis. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2021. [September] 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5. A Dozen Things God Did With Your Sin (And Three Things He'll Never Do). Sam Storms. 2022. [January] Crossway. 225 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. Walking As He Walked. Joel R. Beeke. 2002/2007. 133 pages. [Source: Bought]
7. Tacos for Two. Betsy St. Amant. 2021. [October] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Read for Operation Actually Read Bible

Legacy Standard Bible (Handy Size Edition) Steadfast Bibles (Publisher) 2021. 1665 pages. [Source: Bought]

January Totals

January Reads
# of books41
# of pages10855

2022 Yearly Totals

2022 Totals
# of books41
# of pages10855

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

16. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. Jennifer Ryan. 2017. 371 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: First funeral of the war, and our little village choir simply couldn't sing in tune. "Holy, Holy, Holy" limped out as if we were a crump of warbling sparrows.

Premise/plot: Set in a "little village" in England during the Second World War, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir focuses on the dramas--little and big--that beset the community. The chapters alternate narrators; some chapters are diary/journal entries while others are letters.

It opens with the funeral of Edmund Winthrop...which happens to be the choir's last performance for the war....if the vicar has any say in the matter. But the community comes together to form a LADIES choir arguing that music is needed now more than ever. The choir brings together some that otherwise might not socialize together.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I'm not sure if it's merely "love" or if it is closer to love, love, love. Usually I am skeptical about novels with multiple narrators. They don't always work smoothly for me. It can be--at times--difficult to get to know the characters and to be able to distinguish voices/personalities. That was not the case with the Chilbury Ladies' Choir. I found the characters to be well developed and easy to distinguish. 

There are a handful of stories that add drama and melodrama to the quaint-ish homefront setting. 

Venetia, one of our heroines, is falling head over heels in love with a super-mysterious painter who is traveling through. He doesn't seem to be the right class for someone of Venetia's standing...but the heart wants what the heart wants. And EVERY male wants Venetia. (Venetia reminded me for sure of Scarlett O'Hara surrounded by her beaus. She is a TEASE who enjoys holding the hearts of all the guys in town.) But it was hard to hate her completely because of reasons....

Mrs. Tilling, our middle-aged nurse, is what I imagine a much younger Miss Marple to be. (That could just be me though). I love how observant and yet how compassionate she can be. No wonder so many seek her out to confide in! I really, really love her story overall. It was very satisfying!!!

Kitty is just a JOY to spend time with....she is our youngest narrator.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

15. My Fine Fellow

My Fine Fellow. Jennieke Cohen. 2022. [January] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the year 1833 of the Common Era, a fair ten years since King George IV died and his much beloved daughter, Princess Charlotte, succeeded him as Queen Charlotte of England, Ireland, Hanover, and so on and so forth, one Miss Penelope Pickering stood in the shadowed portico of St. Paul's London, wondering how much longer she'd have to wait for her dear friend Helena Higgins.

My Fine Fellow is a YA adaptation--a spin--on the classic musical My Fair Lady which is an adaptation of Pygmalion. Helena Higgins and Penelope Pickering team up to teach a young street vendor, Elijah Little, how to become a gentlemen chef. The two young heroines are still in training themselves, mind you, but they feel that with their "expertise" and a little luck, they can fool everyone with their finished project. If all goes well, he'll be cooking for Queen Charlotte herself.

The novel is told primarily through Penelope Pickering's perspective--with perhaps a few moments here and there from other characters. 

It is set in an alternate history one where Princess Charlotte survives childbirth and goes on to reign as Queen. Queen Charlotte is ALL about women's rights, women's equality, opening up all education and careers to women.

The novel definitely is heavier than you might expect. You might suppose that this would be a light, entertaining, silly read. And it is--in places. The heaviness comes in with race and racism. In some ways there's no recovering from that. 

The book provides an opportunity for rants. If you've ever had a strong opinion on HENRY HIGGINS (from the original), then you might enjoy the ranting against Helena Higgins. But really, the characterization is minimal. 

I feel this book is too 'modern' for its own good. Just my opinion. I think the dishes they were having the characters prepare scream out Food Network from the past ten years AND not like any recipe you'd find in any book from the nineteenth or even twentieth centuries. Granted, this is an alternate history, but, still.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, January 24, 2022

14. Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/2011. 194 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a pleasure to burn.

Premise/plot: Guy Montag, a fireman, is challenged in his beliefs after meeting a young neighbor girl, Clarisse, who is seventeen and crazy. Though their meetings are brief--she dies soon after--his life is forever changed by the act of actually thinking, observing, engaging.

Guy Montag has his eyes opened--and once they are open--he's quick to see that his society is in BIG, BIG TROUBLE and that most likely it is DOOMED, heading straight for collapse.

My thoughts: Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books. It's not about censorship--not really. Despite what any back cover says.

There is a line in a song from Beauty and the Beast that tackles what this one is about.

Gaston: Lefou, I'm afraid I've been thinking.
Lefou: A dangerous pastime,
Gaston: I know.

It is a nightmarish look at what happens to an entire civilization/culture that embraces the philosophy that IGNORANCE IS BLISS. That a mindless life is a happy life. It shows us the results of several generations CHOOSING for THEMSELVES not to think--to just be entertained quick and easy, fast and mindless. That's why I said it is NOT about censorship. Except for the occasional "oddball" that hasn't been brainwashed by the education system, the parlor families (aka television), the ads and billboards, the majority are happy and content to be mindless. They're not desperate rebels anxious to pick up a book. They don't need the government, the system, the powers that be forbidding them from picking up books and reading. It's almost a non-issue. It's the oddballs that keep the firemen in business.

Mindless, easy entertainment that never challenges or questions--merely entertains has weakened society. Though most wouldn't ever guess it or observe it on their own. They're doomed and clueless.

In addition to entertainment and education (or lack thereof) this one also has MUCH to say about war.

Favorite quotes:

I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames. (8)
Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. (30)
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)

"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)

Do you see? Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more. (55)

School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored (55)

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (58)

It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today thanks to them you can stay happy all the time. (58)

Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right right? Haven't you heart it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these. (59)

The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle. (60)

Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. (65)

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." (71)

Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it! We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe. (73-4)

Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)

It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty’, but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. (82)

It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. (82)

The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. (83)

And what does the word quality mean ? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more literary you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. (83)

We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)

The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. (86)
"Caesarians or not, children are ruinous; you're out of your mind," said Mrs. Phelps.
"I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid." Mrs. Bowles tittered. "They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!" (96)

Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks...if you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. (104)

What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. (107)

Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. (108)



© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

13. Big Fish

Big Fish. Daniel Wallace. 1998. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On one of our last car trips, near the end of my father's life as a man, we stopped by a river, and we took a walk to its banks, where we sat in the shade of an old oak tree.

Premise/plot: William Bloom seeks to make the most of his last opportunity to get to know his father--really, truly, honestly--in Daniel Wallace's Big Fish. Edward Bloom is a storyteller, a lover of jokes; he has a story (and then some) for every single occasion. It doesn't matter if everyone has heard them hundreds of times--he LOVES to tell stories. But, William Wallace feels like his father is mostly a stranger. His tales about his own life--Edward's tales about his own life--well they sound more like tall tales (epic exaggerations) than truth. Can William peel back the layers of his father's stories to find the real man? Does he even want to when all is said and done?

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love the movie. I do. I discovered it late--only last year--but I have seen it three or four times now and I just love it. It is fantastical, strange, bizarre, and ultimately satisfying. The book and film are quite different. The tall tales are there, but they are different. The book spins tales that the movie doesn't have; the movie spins tales that the book doesn't have. I think the spirit of the book is captured in the film. But the book is perhaps even more ambiguous than the film.

I found the movie to be more satisfying than the book. That being said, the book is definitely readable. It is a quick read--a literary read. It is a blend of tall tales and more serious chapters. There are four chapters titled 'My Father's Death.' These are chapters where William seems to be preparing himself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, to handle the inevitable death of his father. He's imagining how it will play out.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 21, 2022

12. Hawaii

Hawaii. James A. Michener. 1959. 1136 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Millions upon millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed and the principal features of the earth had been decided, there existed, then as now, one aspect of the world that dwarfed all others. It was a mighty ocean, resting uneasily to the east of the largest continent, a restless ever-changing, gigantic body of water that would later be described as pacific.

Will Hawaii be the longest book I read this year? That's WAY too early to call. I first decided to pick this one up after watching the film adaptation of Hawaii starring Julie Andrews as one of the missionary wives. The film adaptation covers a little less than one chapter of this one. For those that are curious, this book has SIX (and only six) chapters. The film adaptation keeps some things the same, (Abner Hale is an a**) but varies from the book in many ways. 

I would not pick this one up if you are looking for lovable, likable, pleasant, charming characters. The book thrives on conflict and dysfunction. Conflicts between husbands and wives, men and women, parents and children, employer and employee, and perhaps more significantly between races and cultures. The 'native' Hawaiians, the American missionaries, the Chinese, the Japanese, etc.  The second chapter is about the original would-be inhabitants who fled Bora Bora and discovered Hawaii. The third chapter is about the arrival of the missionaries. The fourth chapter is about the arrival of the Chinese. The fifth chapter is about the arrival of the Japanese. The sixth chapter is set after the Second World War, and is about the journey to statehood and the synthesis of culture(s), this blending of East and West. The book is also about the conflict between VALUES and morals.

It tackles about a dozen plus subjects--in varying detail--spanning roughly one hundred and fifty years. It uses about a dozen (maybe a little less) families to tell this story of ideas. For example, the descendants of the missionary families stay on in the background for the remaining chapters. The chapters do build on one another. 

Business and economics, politics and religion--these are things he covers throughout the book. One of the main questions being -- What is best for Hawaii? Do outsiders do more harm than good? What makes Hawaii, Hawaii? 

I thought many of the characters were horrible people. They just weren't likable. Especially some of the men. They were just jerks. It was easy to HATE some of the characters. Some of the scenes were just hard to take. Like when a grandfather takes his thirteen year old (maybe, maybe fourteen year old grandson) to a brothel and pays for him "to become a man." I really didn't want to be there for that--nor did I want to know about how excited the prostitutes were to have such a young client. There were other scenes as well that proved this one was out of my comfort zone. 

The language is DEFINITELY not clean. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, January 17, 2022

11. The Accidental Time Machine

The Accidental Time Machine. Joe Haldeman. 2007. 278 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The story would have been a lot different if Matt's supervisor had been watching him when the machine first went away.

Our hero, our narrator, is a twenty-something MIT grad student named Matt Fuller. He loves working in the labs. And he's putting off writing his dissertation. You might think he sounds pretty typical for a science geek. (He's also recently been dumped by his girlfriend.) But his life is about to take a different turn. And it all starts when his calibrator disappears. It reappears in a flash. It was just a flicker, one brief instant in time--a true if I'd a blinked I'd a missed moment--but it was long enough that it changed a young man's life forever.

The reset button.

All of the drama, the action, centers around this one tiny button on a machine that is about the size of a shoe box. You might not expect something so tiny to have the ability to change the world in the blink of an eye. But it can and does.

Here we have a time machine that can travel only in one direction; each jump of longer duration. No way to predict if the future will be better or worse. No way to go back. 

This is my second time to read The Accidental Time Machine. I first read it in February 2008. I loved it then. Loved it enough to gush about it. I've always meant to reread it....

But. I didn't enjoy it as much (if at all) the second time around.

What I still loved was the conclusion. I love, love, love how the book ends. The last chapter maybe last two chapters I still enjoyed very much.

What I didn't love was just about everything that came before. To be honest, it was the blasphemy and crudeness that I found so off-putting the second time around. That is great news for most readers. Chances are that *most* readers won't be bothered by such content. That doesn't guarantee you'll love it--far from it. You could still find fault with say the science or the logic or the characterization.

There were parts of this that seem super rushed. But the ending worked for me.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

10. A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry. 1959/2011. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Come on now, boy, it's seven thirty!

The Younger family had a lot of dreams, but those dreams are dying fast. The whole family--Mama (Lena), Beneatha, Walter Lee, Ruth, and Travis--are losing hope, losing faith. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, is angry, disappointed, frustrated. Ruth (his wife) is tired--exhausted really. The thought of bringing a second child into this world is almost too much to handle. Beneatha is restless and yearning for something that she can't even name or put into words. Mama (Lena) is stretched thin and weary. She sees the mental, emotional, spiritual state of her grown children and she doesn't know how to fix it, how to make everything right. She's got the weight of the world on her shoulders--and she's still grieving. Travis, well, it's not so much that he's struggling with hope. He's got the most hope and resilience of anyone in the family. It's just that the adults want SO MUCH MORE, for their own sakes, of course, but also for Travis. They see the world and ache at what the future may hold for Travis. 

The play opens with the family at a crossroads. Mama (Lena) Younger is about to receive the life insurance money after her husband's death. (Though his death occurs BEFORE the play opens, he is not forgotten.) $10,000--what can the family do with that much money. What is the BEST use of that money??? It is Mama's money, and Mama's decision. But the whole family can't help reviving their own private dreams for a moment or two. And this is where some discontent bubbles up perhaps.

This is a family in crisis. Things simply can't continue as they are.

I first read this one in college. I can't remember if it was as an undergraduate or graduate or both. I took an African American literature class, AND, I took a twentieth century American plays. So it's certainly possible I read it twice. But it has been twenty years--give or take--since I last read it.

It is a powerful read. The emotions pack a punch. Here is a family hurting, struggling, arguing, speaking harshly with one another. There is SO much to feel. One also has to consider that this is a glimpse of a family. There's obviously complex dynamics between ALL family members.

One thing that strikes me is that ALL the family (perhaps with the exception of Travis) is well-fleshed out and oh-so-achingly-human. Not one member of this family is perfect, flawless. My personal favorite, Mama, is not flawless (though I love her dearly). All are broken--whether from the outside in or inside out hardly matters. They have choices to make. Will they continue to tear each other down OR will they come together and stand together.

 My absolute favorite scene is between Beneatha and Mama:

“Beneatha: Love him? There is nothing left to love.

Mama: There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing. (Looking at her) Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and for the family 'cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning - because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so! when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

I think it is heartbreaking to see Mama (Lena) grieving and aching for her son and daughter-in-law. Mama does not want to see her grandchild (her unborn grandchild) destroyed (aka aborted). The idea that her family is so full of despair that they cannot see anyway forward is breaking her to pieces. Something has to happen.

I do wonder if the play is (as) well received today by readers. Would modern pro-choice readers be like Ruth has every right to have an abortion. It is none of Mama's business. She is being oppressive trying to shame her son and daughter-in-law. Would they also see Mama as oppressive in her relationship with Beneatha? Would they cheer on her atheism? Be like her mother has no right to tell her daughter that she *has* to believe in God so long as she lives in her mother's house? 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 14, 2022

9. Waking Romeo

Waking Romeo. Kathryn Barker. 2022. [January] 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm sitting in the chapel for school assembly when Headmistress Cisco says, "And now we'll hear a special tribute from Rosaline."

It has been said a million times (or more) that two wrongs don't make a right. (But what if they did????) If you've been a long-term follower of my reviews, you already know that I am NOT a fan of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet OR Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. 

Kathryn Barker's imaginative new novel Waking Romeo plays with a handful of characters from these two classics. Specifically, readers meet JULES, a troubled teen whose life has not been the same since her attempted suicide and Romeo's "death" and ELLIS one of a handful of time travelers that can go *backwards* and *forwards* in time. 

Ellis (and his 'Deadender' "family") live at the end of time in an abandoned bus. They go on missions throughout time in a grand seemingly-impossible attempt to save the world (from itself). Their missions all seem to center in and around this idea guessed it...WAKING ROMEO. But Romeo has been in a coma--I guess coma is the right word--for years.

Jules, as I mentioned, is a mess. One of her outlets is writing a play in the style of William Shakespeare. She is writing her and Romeo's story. Only she knows deep down that what is on the page is far, far, far from the truth. Still, if it was not 'true love' if it was just two kids being idiots, how can she make what happen mean something? How can she come to terms with her rock bottom if it was all for nothing???

Ellis (and friends) meet Jules in her time--2083--and thus begin their adventures and misadventures in waking Romeo...

I definitely like Waking Romeo a thousand times better than Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet.

The world-building is slushy. I'll try to explain. Some things are clear and straight-forward. Someone created time-travel pods--maybe in the 2050s???---and it became trendy to travel. But there's a catch, travelers can only go *forward* in time. Traveling thus disrupts families, generations, society, and culture. If everyone keeps leaping ahead, there is no one left behind to do the work--the maintenance needed to take care of the world, of society. Travelers may not like what they see so they keep jumping and jumping and jumping ahead. Those who can afford the pods to travel, well, they just think I'll keep jumping until I find paradise...but such does not exist. Thus 'the end of the world' is the dead-end. Time travel has a DARK side, for sure. This highlights in a way the moral/ethical laziness of the human race. Where it gets a bit slushy--aka a bit unclear--is the TIME TRAVEL itself. Instead of the time travel being lovely little loops or such, imagine a Gordian knot. I simply don't know if any reader could truly "understand" or "comprehend" *ALL* of the time-trips and piece them together in any sort of order that would make sense. 









In particular when there are multiple copies of each person in play. A middle-aged Jules and a middle-aged Ellis PLUS a teenage Jules and teenage Ellis. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 1979/2021. 289 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood on its own and looked out over a broad spread of West Country farmland. Not a remarkable house by any means – it was about thirty years old, squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as well, tall, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio, which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they probably thought. It was, too – most of his friends worked in advertising.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is all about the journey and NOT the destination. Arthur Dent, one of our heroes, is one of two survivors of Earth's destruction--the other being a stranded alien named Ford Prefect. Earth was 'set' to be demolished on the same day that Arthur Dent's house was set to be demolished... many adventures or misadventures follow once these two hitch a ride on a spaceship (or two). 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy follows a dream logic of sorts. The less you think about it, the more you go with the flow, you can almost relax into the story and it works. It's silly and outrageous, but, you're content to go along for the laughs. It helps that it is quite quotable in places. But like a dream, the ending is abrupt. You can't help wanting to close your eyes and try to get back into the dream to see if you can wrap things up. 

The ending was my least favorite part. The humor was my most favorite part.


I like the cover,’ he said. ‘Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.’
‘I’ll show you how it works,’ said Ford. He snatched it from Arthur who was still holding it as if it was a two-week-dead lark and pulled it out of its cover.
‘You press this button here, you see, and the screen lights up giving you the index.’
A screen, about three inches by four, lit up and characters began to flicker across the surface.
‘You want to know about Vogons, so I enter that name so.’ His fingers tapped some more keys. ‘And there we are.’
The words Vogon Constructor Fleets flared in green across the screen.
Ford pressed a large red button at the bottom of the screen and words began to undulate across it. At the same time, the book began to speak the entry as well in a still quiet measured voice. This is what the book said.
‘Vogon Constructor Fleets. Here is what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy – not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters. The best way to get a drink out of a Vogon is to stick your finger down his throat, and the best way to irritate him is to feed his grandmother to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
‘On no account allow a Vogon to read poetry at you.’
Arthur blinked at it.
‘What a strange book. How did we get a lift, then?’
‘That’s the point, it’s out of date now,’ said Ford, sliding the book back into its cover. ‘I’m doing the field research for the new revised edition, and one of the things I’ll have to do is include a bit about how the Vogons now employ Dentrassi cooks, which gives us a rather useful little loophole.’
A pained expression crossed Arthur’s face. ‘But who are the Dentrassi?’ he said. ‘Great guys,’ said Ford. ‘They’re the best cooks and the best drinks mixers and they don’t give a wet slap about anything else. And they’ll always help hitchhikers aboard, partly because they like the company, but mostly because it annoys the Vogons.

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem ‘Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning’ four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been ‘disappointed’ by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.
The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction of the planet Earth.

All right,’ said Ford, ‘just stop panicking!’
‘Who said anything about panicking?’ snapped Arthur. ‘This is still just the culture shock. You wait till I’ve settled down into the situation and found my bearings. Then I’ll start panicking!’
‘Arthur, you’re getting hysterical. Shut up!’ Ford tried desperately to think, but was interrupted by the guard shouting again. ‘Resistance is useless!’

All right,’ said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to the Great Question…’
‘Of Life, the Universe and Everything…’ said Deep Thought.
‘Is…’ said Deep Thought, and paused.
‘Yes …!!! …?’
‘Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

7. The Shattered Castle

The Shattered Castle (Ascendance #5) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2021. [October 19] 332 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Throughout the years, I'd faced death more times than I could count, fought a war, endured the loss of my parents, and survived torture, cruelty, and multiple insults i nthe form of overcooked meat at the supper table. I thought that I had already faced the worst of anything this world might offer.

The Shattered Castle is the fifth and possibly the final book in the series. It is closely connected to the fourth book, Captive Kingdom, and both Captive Kingdom and The Shattered Castle occur in the story BEFORE the end of the third book. Both books are 'after thoughts' (if you will) of the original trilogy. The books fill in the blanks of that missing year between the end of the war and the marriage of King Jaron and Imogen.

The fourth book introduced new villains or antagonists. The fourth book ended with a temporary pause in hostilities. He had won that battle, but, probably most likely it wasn't going to be THE END of that conflict. He had just bought his kingdom time--maybe a little, maybe a lot. The fifth book opens with several "conflicts." His future mother-in-law has arrived, and she is displeased at best with how things are. HE is not good enough for HER daughter. No matter that he is the king. He is trouble with a capital T. The son of a former regent--one removed from the position because of his actions/choices--has arrived demanding that he be allowed to take his father's position as regent. Jaron has a strong instinct that he is TROUBLE. But the third conflict, well, he wasn't expecting trouble SO SOON and so sudden.

This novel EXPLODES with action quickly. The title is to be taken quite literally.

This novel gives King Jaron a dozen plus opportunities to reassess his life, his choices, his priorities. WHAT MATTERS MOST. That is what is on the back of his mind--not the front and center, mind you. That is taken up with things like SURVIVING, PLOTTING, PLANNING, SCHEMING and trying to stay a few steps ahead of his enemies. 

I didn't love, love, love the fourth book. I didn't. I wasn't so crazy about this one either--for most of the journey--but it began to redeem itself a bit halfway through. By the end, I was glad I kept reading. All that being said, if you reach the third book and you're like WOW what a great way to end a great series. This is oh-so-satisfying...I couldn't ask for a better, more fulfilling ending...then probably don't seek out these two late additions???

It's not that they are bad. They're not. I love, love, love, love, crazy love these characters. I've grown super attached to them. But at the end of the day, we're still right back at the ending with the third book....only now we've read about three or four dozen close-calls with Jaron and his friends almost dying. Jaron does grow as a character. So there is that at least. Jaron grows in each and every book in this series. And that's a great thing.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, January 10, 2022

6. Once Upon a Camel

Once Upon A Camel. Kathi Appelt. 2021. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Incoming!" Even in her sleep, Zada recognized that voice. The old camel raised one eyelid. It was still dark.

Premise/plot: Once Upon a Camel is Kathi Appelt's newest animal fantasy. It is set in Texas circa 1910 (though it has flashbacks dating from the 1850s) and stars a camel, Zada, and a family of kestrels. A sand storm is coming--and fast--and all are in danger. It is ultimately up to 'Auntie' Zada (and her stories) to save the lives of the chicks Wims and Beulah. These two are left in her care--atop her head to be precise--when their parents Perlita and Pard are blown away or caught up in the storm. Can she keep them safe? Will they make it to the mission? (their prearranged meeting spot after the storm) Will everyone survive?

My thoughts: Once Upon a Camel is animal fantasy with a historical setting that very much celebrates stories and the idea of linking stories and survival. Zada's stories--selectively covering her past--give her the mental/emotional/spiritual boost she needs to keep going, keep hoping, keep it together. And the chicks, well, they love Zada's stories. The stories are both entertainment, distraction, and love language.

I was a little nervous about this one so I had my mom read it first. I don't handle SAD well. She highly recommended that I read this one. I'm so glad I did. I definitely found it a captivating story. Though I don't consider myself a 'bird person' I soon got caught up in the story. I was hoping that all would be well and that Wims and Beulah would be reunited with their parents. 

The ending was GOOD.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, January 06, 2022

2022 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge

Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2022
Hosted by Books and Chocolate (sign up here)
January - December 2022
# of books: 9 to 12 is my goal

Categories for 2022

1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899
Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1865. 801 pages. [Source: Bought]

2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published.

Exodus. Leon Uris. 1958. 610 pages. [Source: Library]

3. A classic by a woman author.

Katherine. Anya Seton. 1954. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 
Mio, My Son. Astrid Lindgren. 1954/2015. NYR Children's Collection. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author.

A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry. 1959/2011. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

 Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). Examples include Murder on the Orient Express, Crime and Punishment, In Cold Blood.
Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors. 

I, Robot. Isaac Asimov. 1950. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

8. Pre-1800 Classic. Anything written before 1800. Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category. 

Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Translated by Edith Grossman. 1605. 940 pages. [Source: Bought]

9. A Nonfiction Classic. Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category.

A Night to Remember. Walter Lord. 1955. 182 pages. [Source: Library]

10. Classic That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest. Find the classic book that's been hanging around unread the longest, and finally cross it off your list!  

The Forsyte Saga. (The Forsyte Chronicles #1-3). John Galsworthy. 1922. 872 pages. [Source: Bought]

11. Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit. Can be real or imaginary -- Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc. It can be someplace you've never been, or someplace you'd like to visit again.

Hawaii. James A. Michener. 1959. 1136 pages. [Source: Library]

12. Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it's at least 50 years old

 Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Alfred Lansing. 1959/2015. 357 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

5. The Captive Kingdom

The Captive Kingdom. (Ascendance #4) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2020. [October] 374 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One may ask, how is the great King Jaron described by those who know him?

The Shadow Throne has an incredible tied-up-in-a-bow ending that is giddy making. So what does The Captive Kingdom add to the series???

The Captive Kingdom takes place in that 'missing year' before the super-happy ending in The Shadow Throne. It rewinds the story to let readers know that things didn't suddenly become super-easy and ultra-convenient for the characters all of a sudden. They had to WORK (even more than we thought) for their happily ever after.

In case you haven't just read the first three books essentially back to back to back... King Jaron is on the throne, but it hasn't been easy for him to stay on the throne and keep his kingdom safe. It's involved risking his life again and again and again and again. Also a lot of breaking bones and "really big boo-boos." Imogen and Jaron are together--at last!--and things seem to be falling in place.

But an unexpected attack at sea--by an enemy long discounted by nearly everyone--brings their happily ever after to a halt. Once more there's DANGER, DANGER, more DANGER. And an uncovering of secrets.

I will say that the PLOT TWIST in this one was unexpected. I did NOT see it coming. There were no clues from the other books (and I've read them recently enough to remember.) But I don't have a problem with this NEW twist--even if it is an add-on.

This one still features the characters I've come to know and love. I don't know that I *need* this book in the series. I have yet to read the newest new book in the series. Perhaps I'll come to the conclusion that three books was enough for me. Maybe I won't. It's unfair to judge decisively at this point what I'll ultimately decide...


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

4. Road of Bones

Road of Bones (Billy Boyle #16) James R. Benn. 2021. [September] 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Number four's on fire!"

Have there really been sixteen books????? Road of Bones is the newest in James R. Benn's Billy Boyle historical mystery series. The series is set during the Second World War. Each book tends to take us somewhere different in the war. Road of Bones, for example, for the most part takes place in Russia. Billy Boyle (and his team) are investigating two murders--one Russian, one American. The murders were set up to look like executions, but just who killed them...and why???

Big Mike and Kaz star in this one as well as Billy Boyle. There is a COMPLEX mystery to solve. It will take the two countries working together to solve....

I really enjoyed seeing the Night Witches in action in this one!

Road of Bones is not my favorite and best in the series. But as far as I'm concerned the series can't really go wrong. At this point having followed these characters (and their circumstances) for so many books--I am 1000% invested. I care so deeply about these characters that the mystery almost doesn't matter. (Almost.)

I wholeheartedly recommend the series overall. Read them in order.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

3. The Shadow Throne

The Shadow Throne. (Ascendance #3) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In my life, I'd had my share of fights, sometimes with fists, sometimes with knives, occasionally with a sword.

The inevitable war has come at last to Carthya. And in The Shadow Throne, everyone we've come to know (and love) is in DANGER. Imogen, Jaron's (not-so-secret "secret" true love), has been taken. Carthya's borders have been invaded. War on multiple fronts from multiple countries. Pure chaos is erupting throughout Jaron's kingdom...and it seems that war will cost Jaron dearly.

The Shadow Throne is action-packed. WAR, war, more war. (And the return of pirates). Will Jaron get his happily ever after?

While I've reread The False Prince and the Runaway King several times, this was my first time to reread The Shadow Throne. I had forgotten many of the details. Because I didn't remember how everything worked out [or didn't]...I found it almost impossible to put down. I had to keep reading chapter after chapter after chapter.

I read all three books back to back over the course of a week. I loved every moment I spent with the characters. Plenty of action. Good world-building. Characters that are oh-so-human. Relationships that are carefully developed and not rushed.

Highly recommend this series.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, January 03, 2022

2. The Runaway King

The Runaway King. (Ascendance #2) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. 331 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I had arrived early for my own assassination.

Jaron (aka Sage) has 'ascended' to the throne of Carthya--and rightfully so. He is no 'false prince' but the true second son and rightful heir. But not everyone is happy to see a rightful heir. Both within and without his own country, it seems not everyone is pleased by the turn of events. Jaron has just a handful of people he trusts--Mott and Tobias being two. He is being strongly "encouraged" to go into hiding--to runaway essentially--for his own good. Let the regents iron out any problems with foreign countries. Jaron finds himself in a difficult place--no matter if he stays or runs, it seems WAR IS COMING to his country. It isn't a matter of IF but when. He sees a very small opportunity in front of him...not an opportunity to avoid war at all. But a small chance to have a bit of control over matters when war does come....

And this opportunity involves THIEVES AND PIRATES and a PIRATE KING.

This book introduces the young FINK to the story. Plenty of pirate-y action in this one as Jaron--who again assumes the name SAGE--seeks to learn as much as possible about his enemies to turn to his advantage...and since it was the PIRATES who were hired to kill him in the first place (when he was younger) and perhaps pirates who have been hired this second time...perhaps finding out more could be the key.

I really enjoyed rereading The Runaway King. This is my third time to read The Runaway King. I love the characterization, the action, the twisty-turny plot, the relationships. Reading the novels back to back is the way to do it. I am so excited to be on a journey to reading the fourth and fifth novels in this series. I really appreciate that CHARACTERIZATION is not sacrificed for action in this one.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, January 01, 2022

1. The False Prince

The False Prince (Ascendance #1) Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2012. 342 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: If I had it to do all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I'm not sure I ever had a choice. These were my thoughts as I raced away from the market, with a stolen roast tucked under my arm.

Sage, our young mischievous hero, is about to become closely entangled with a dangerous scheme. Not of his own choosing, mind you, but his escapades with the roast lead to some unexpected consequences. He finds himself one of four (soon to be one of three) young orphans being trained to impersonate the dead Prince Jaron. Prince Jaron was murdered by pirates--so everyone says--though it was never proven. Conveniently never proven since actual evidence would have probably led to war. But there is an opportunity for the brave, reckless, scheming sort to grab the throne...

Sage has a choice to make...go along with this scheme and do whatever it takes to "win" this competition to become the PRINCE or resist and rebel and ultimately die for his failure. There can only be one PRINCE after all. Does he have what it takes to become prince (and ultimately KING).

This is my third time to read The False Prince. Looking back at earlier reviews, it seems I have loved, loved, loved, LOVED it each time. I'm still good with that reaction. I am. I had forgotten just how much I love this series. But, yes, I do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. I love the characters. I love the setting and world-building. I love the relationships.

 I do have my own copies of these books. But I found it more convenient to read the library copies.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews