Monday, May 30, 2022

May Reflections


In May, I read twenty-six books. 

Books read for Becky's Book Reviews

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]

Books read for Young Readers

51. Good Knight, Mustache Baby. Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Joy Ang. 2021. [December] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
52. King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin. Stephen Costanza. 2021 [September]. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
53. Fenway and the Bone Thieves (Make Way for Fenway #1) Victoria J. Coe. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 2022. 85 pages. [Source: Library]
54. The Fabled Stables: Belly of the Beast (Fabled Stables #3) Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2022. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
55. Night Train, Night Train. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
56. What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures. Barney Saltzberg. Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis. 2022. [March] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
57.  Crab and Snail: The Invisible Whale (Crab & Snail #1) Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Jared Chapman. 2022. [March] 64 pages. [Source: Library]
58. DJ Funkyfoot: The Show Must Go Oink (DJ Funkyfoot #3) Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2022. [March] 112 pages. [Source: Library]
59. Blips on a Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession. 2022. [March] Kate Hannigan. Illustrated by Zachariah OHora. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
60. Zia Erases the World. Bree Barton. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
61. Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II. Lia Levi. Illustrated by Jess Mason. Translated by Sylvia Notini. 2022. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

Books read for Operation Actually Read Bible

19. In Honor's Defense. (Hanger's Horsemen #3) Karen Witemeyer. 2022. [June] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
20. The Lord's Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray. Kevin DeYoung. 2022. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 

May Totals

2022 Yearly Totals

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

66. The Radium Girls


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]
 

First sentence: The scientist had forgotten all about the radium. It was tucked within his waistcoat pocket, enclosed in a slim glass tube in such a small quantity that he could not feel its weight. He had a lecture to give in London, England, and the vial of radium stayed within that shadowy pocket throughout his journey across the sea. 

Premise/plot: The Radium Girls is nonfiction; it is a narrative account of the 'radium girls'--the women employed as dial painters whose exposure to radium (radium-based paint to be exact) proved costly and deadly. It is an account of the long, long, long, long BATTLE (yes, battle) for justice to be done.

There were several plants--or factories if you prefer--that employed women as dial painters. This is narrative focuses on three of them; readers are introduced to dozens of women; I wouldn't be surprised if it tells the story of three to four dozen women at least.

The story begins in 1917 in New Jersey and concludes (well, mainly concludes) in Illinois circa 1938.

My thoughts: I read the adult version of The Radium Girls (2017) last spring. I absolutely loved it. I had initially picked it up because of the new movie of the same title. After rewatching the movie a few months ago, I wanted to read the young readers' edition. (I had review copies of both the adult and young readers version.) I will only add that reading the book is a thousand times better than watching the movie. And I loved the movie--I did. But it's like three percent of the story. It is such a fracture of the story that could be told. So I highly recommend either edition. (There's about a hundred page difference.)

The Radium Girls was a POWERFUL read that resonated with me from start to finish. I am so thankful that I finally got around to reading it. If you've been meaning to read it too but have been putting it off, then I encourage you to give it a chance.

I loved that it was a PERSONAL read. The women aren't mere numbers or statistics. Their lives AND their deaths had meaning; and as I believe it is mentioned either in the movie or the book their bones still are speaking to us. Even those whose voices were never "heard" in life--due to injustice and indifference--can be heard now and for the next thousand plus years. The narrative's greatest strength is that it focuses on the personal, the intimate, the real.

The read was both FASCINATING and DEVASTATING. It is hard to imagine today that no one wouldn't know that radium was DANGEROUS and to be radioactive is a BAD, BAD thing. But so much of the book focuses on this struggle between those that put MONEY, MONEY, MONEY first and foremost and those that valued HUMAN LIVES and HUMAN DIGNITY over profit, wealth, fame.

I was shocked--should I have been shocked???--at the out and out LYING and CORRUPTION. The doctors that were being paid/employed by the factories could run all their tests, do their examinations, and then say YES, YOU ARE 100% HEALTHY. NO PROBLEMS. All the while, your teeth are falling out, your face is swollen, you can hardly stand up straight, you're losing weight. Sounds like the perfect state of health, right?! In other words a lot of GASLIGHTING going on. But that isn't being fair. Not all doctors said the women were in 100% health--the best state of health they could ever be in. Some were for team misdiagnosis. Like let's diagnose you with SYPHILIS. Because that will make you quiet for sure--if you believe it. Who wants to be known to be dying from that!

But I was also encouraged by those that stood up to the big guys--the giants--and faced near impossible odds. It wasn't easy for the lawyers to take on, take up, this GIGANTIC mess of a case.

I was surprised by the resilience and attitude of some of the women. Some relied on GOD and turned to prayer and other spiritual disciplines for support, comfort, peace. Others relied more on FAMILY and FRIENDS for comfort, support, guidance. While the book mentions a few women's nerves or state of mind seemed to be negatively effected by the diagnosis, I was surprised it wasn't more. It couldn't be *easy* on one's mental health to be diagnosed with a FATAL DISEASE with NO CURE and little proven treatment. The strength and courage it would take to face each and every day is not to be discounted. We're talking tremendous physical pain with no hope of relief. Not really. Every day would be a choice--to despair or to cling to hope.

It's impossible to read this novel and not turn introspective. WHY DO I COMPLAIN SO MUCH?

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 27, 2022

65. The Belle of Belgrave Square


The Belle of Belgrave Square. (Belles of London #2) Mimi Matthews. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Julia Wychwood was alone in Rotten Row, and that was exactly the way she liked it. 

Premise/plot: Julia Wychwood is the heroine of Mimi Matthews' The Belle of Belgrave Square. What can I say about Julia? Well, she's socially anxious, prefers books to people, and she happens to be an heiress. Her parents play up (or perhaps that was just my perception???) their illnesses. And they are just as convinced that their daughter, Julia, is weak, fragile, and "poorly." Julia sometimes doesn't fight against this notion--if being "ill" equals more time in her room reading the latest book. But there comes a time when enough is enough is enough.

Captain Jasper Blunt, a war hero (and the hero of this romance novel), doesn't love town life--or should that be TON life. London life isn't exactly his cup of tea; he much prefers life in YORKSHIRE on his estate (run down though it may be). He is in town looking for an heiress to marry. Why an heiress? Well, his estate is in shambles--literally and figuratively. It isn't just that the estate isn't profitable. The situation is dire. He is thinking of his three children--illegitimate though they may be in the eyes of society and the law. Julia is his first choice. For many, many, many reasons. 

Julia is drawn to Jasper--deeply. But there are obstacles on the way to this match from both. One thing the two share is a LOVE for reading. In fact, these two love to talk about their favorite authors and favorite books. The discussion is real, and goes beyond the surface. 

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, LOVE, LOVE, crazy love this book. I had no idea it was the second in a series when I chose it for review. I will definitely be going back to read the first book in the series. This book gave off BEAUTY AND THE BEAST vibes, and I was all for it. However, as the novel progressed, I soon picked up on something that thrilled me even more....the book was reminding me of The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. The Blue Castle is without a doubt one of my favorite, favorite, favorite romances by Montgomery. Perhaps because I identify with the heroine so much. 

I loved Julia. I could identify with her. It is so refreshing to identify with heroines in romance novels. Not usual or typical for me. Give me a socially awkward or socially anxious heroine that panics with small talk, and you'll have me at hello.

I loved Jasper. His story isn't necessarily straightforward, plenty of twists and turns. I definitely was cheering for him throughout. There were so many scenes--so many--that just made me giddy.

Is the romance novel clean? Maybe. I'll clarify. If your objection with certain scenes is premarital or extramarital, then yes, this one is "clean" enough. Nothing improper happens before vows are exchanged. Mostly. It depends on if one little kiss counts as improper. But from the start, she knows his intentions are marriage. There's never a creepy-creeper vibe that he is trying to take advantage of her. There are romantic, sensual scenes (a handful) in the novel after they are married. I found them in the tasteful (mostly) range. These scenes are not front and center and written without excessive detail. The scenes don't go on for pages and pages and pages. These scenes do not steal the show or distract from the actual story.

 Quotes: 

In a novel, she was safe. Her throat didn't close up and her palms didn't grow damp. She could experience things in a way that didn't overwhelm her.

This was how he could help her. Not by holding her. Not by carrying her off to safety somewhere. But by talking to her. By engaging her on the subject she loved most.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

64. My Own Lightning


My Own Lightning. (Wolf Hollow #2) Lauren Wolk. 2022. [March] 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I didn't know there was a storm coming. Had I known I might have done things differently.

Premise/plot: My Own Lightning is the sequel to Wolf Hollow (2016). It is a historical novel set in 1943 during the Second World War. Annabelle, our heroine, continues to come of age. Soon after the novel opens, Annabelle is struck by lightning. Miraculously, she survives...with a little help from an anonymous person... but the experience changes her. She finds herself more in tune to understand/relate/communicate with animals.

My thoughts: I didn't love, love, love Wolf Hollow when I read it. It was getting a LOT of buzz when it released. Everyone was talking about how awesome it was. Because it was historical middle grade set during one of my favorite time periods to when about, I wanted to love it. I just didn't. I thought at the time--and I do still think this to some extent--that it was just a difference of expectations. It was too buzzed about. 

I hadn't thought about Wolf Hollow in years. This wouldn't be a book I thought "needed" a sequel. 

I liked this one okay. Probably more than the first book. (Though I think it would have been much appreciated to better sum up the events of book one. Whether you are a first time reader who hasn't read Wolf Hollow OR a reader who read Wolf Hollow years ago (2016 feels like ages ago), there are some gaps. Names are dropped--Betty, Toby--but with NO context really. I was hoping that things would come together. I'd have some memory of the first book. But nope. Plenty of readers, I imagine, would be picking this one up without any previous knowledge of the first book. A little context would make a world of difference. Since this book explores the relationship between Andy and Annabelle. 

There were things I liked about this one. 

Quote:

"Just because he..." My mother let out a little gasp. "Annabelle, there is no just about that." My grandmother looked at me, her face lovely and sad. "But there is forgiveness my girl. A good deed doesn't erase a bad one, but it's worth a lot. And I happen to think it's worth, even more considering...well, considering it's Andy we're talking about."

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 23, 2022

63. One Good Deed



One Good Deed. (Archer #1) David Baldacci. 2019. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
 

First sentence: It was a good day to be free of prison.

Premise/plot: Aloysius Archer is out on parole; he’s been resettled in the small, rural town of Poca City. The community is small enough that everyone know everybody’s business. Ex-cons tend to stick out, but Archer isn’t like other ex-cons. He was innocent of the crime he was convicted of. He is determined to stay out of trouble that might lead him back to prison. In addition to being fresh out of prison, Archer is a war veteran. The novel is set in 1949. America—Archer included—is still very much impacted by the war. One doesn’t simply forget the war and jump back effortlessly into “normal“ life.

So on his first day in town he picks up an unusual job. He is collect the collateral of a debt. Both men—the one who made the loan and the one who took out the loan—are unsavory chaps. Neither man seems “good”. Both seem super dangerous and unreasonable. But he is desperate for a job and this one pays $100. Will accepting this job be the biggest mistake of his life? Will he escape with his life?

My thoughts: I love, love, love historical fiction. I love, love, love mystery novels. When an amateur detective happens to love reading detective novels...I find it giddy making. So much of this one was just happy making. It was a compelling and suspenseful read. But it wasn’t so much about the destination—at least for me. It was every step of the journey. I hope this is the start of a new series. I want to spend more time with Archer!

 ETA: I reread One Good Deed. It has been almost three years since I first read it. I still loved it. I think my favorite thing about it remains the narrative voice. I just LOVED spending time with Archer and seeing the world through his eyes. I thought the pacing was great.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, May 22, 2022

62. Meet the Malones


Meet the Malones. (Beany Malone #1) Lenora Mattingly Weber. 1943. 282 pages. [Source: Borrowed from a friend]

First sentence: MARY FRED MALONE had just bought a horse. He was black and his name was Mr. Chips and Mary Fred was riding him home.

Premise/plot: Meet the Malones is the first in a series of books that chronicles the [fictional] Malone family. Elizabeth, Mary Fred, Johnny, and Beany. The book is set during the Second World War in Colorado. Elizabeth's husband, Don, is overseas fighting. Their father, a journalist, has gone to Hawaii. The family is mostly on their own--except for when they aren't. Nonna, the grandmother, is a FIERCE force to be reckoned with when she does arrive. She does change the family dynamics quite a bit. 

The point of view in this one is all Mary Fred. She has her first misadventure with "love" in this one. As this "mop-squeezer" is swept off her feet by the super-popular football player who typically dates "queens." Elizabeth returns home with a newborn son to care for! The whole family helps out...not just with Elizabeth but with other children in need. There is a real spirit of hospitality and compassion in this one. (Though that may not extend all the way to the neighbor's dog.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one very much! I enjoyed getting to know the family. At times I was left wanting more--which overall I think is better than reverse. Each chapter is a "snapshot." Some focus more on family life at home, their relationships with each other. Others focus more on school OR the community. You do get a sense of how life on the home front is during the war. The war is never far from their minds, they are always thinking of ways they can help out the war effort and encourage/support those serving. 

Quotes:

  • The young Malones made their own decisions about lamb chops and life.  He was the delight of his English Lit teacher, gray-haired, gray-eyed, gray-garbed Miss Hewlitt.
  • ‘The highest price you can pay for a thing is to get it for nothing.’ That’s the trouble with this generation; they want everything—” 
  • Mary Fred said softly, “I read some place where courage is fear that has said its prayers.” 
  • “Rabbits,” groaned Beany. “Why do people always poke rabbits at children when they’re too young to defend themselves?” “They’re beautiful blankets,” Elizabeth insisted. 
  • Shame was different from grief or anxiety. You could share those with the ones you loved.
  • Elizabeth said earnestly, “I don’t think they ought to end stories like that for children. It gives them the wrong idea. There’s happiness in love—oh, happiness that shakes you and enriches you, but love and marriage isn’t a happy-ever-after thing. Love and marriage has so much ache and emptiness and hurt with the happiness.” 
  • Elizabeth detained them for one last word of admonition. “Now listen, gals, be sure you go out there to this soldiers’ dance with only one idea—not to have a good time yourselves but to give them one. Because you’ve got other good times ahead of you. But these kids—we don’t know what’s ahead for them.”
  • “I didn’t bring you here to gloat over you,” he said quietly, as he swerved the car around and started home. “I wanted you to see for yourself. You’re always talking about Nonna and her being like a fairy godmother. I’m not up on my fairy tales but it seems to me I read about some old woman who fed a girl a poisoned apple and it stuck in her throat and she lay in a coma until something jolted her and it fell out. I wanted to jolt you.”
 
 
 
 
 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 20, 2022

61. Rivals (American Royals #3)


Rivals (American Royals #3) Katharine McGee. 2022. [May] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Beatrice pulled her arms overhead in a stretch. 

Rivals is the third novel in the American Royals series. For those not familiar with the series, the premise is that George Washington became King instead of President. The Washington family has been reigning since the Revolution. There are three Washington siblings: Beatrice, Samantha, and Jefferson. America is not the only nation that has been re-imagined with a royal family. I would say almost all nations/countries have a reigning royal family. Not that McGee spends the majority of her text filling in and filling up her world. The series specializes in the adventures/misadventures of the love lives of the three Washington siblings. Not surprisingly, the book is told with alternating narrators. Surprisingly, Jefferson is not one of the narrators. Instead of Jefferson's voice, readers are "treated" to two potential love interests Nina and Daphne. 

To "refresh" your memory, at the start of this novel:

  • Beatrice is NOT married to Teddy (though she spent all of book two engaged and planning a wedding). But the two are still together.
  • Samantha (a twin) is head over heels with Marshall (a man that she fell for while pretending to date). The two have some conflict because it is an interracial relationship.
  • Jefferson is "on" with Daphne. But his friendship with Nina is "on" as well. The previous two books has been very messy with these three. HOWEVER, in the first two books, it was not a triangle but a rectangle. Ethan was always on stand by to switch out with Jeff. Whichever girl wasn't currently with Jeff was secretly (or not so secretly) with Ethan. 

So what does the third book offer readers?

[sound of silence]

Honestly, I feel this third book is a huge step backwards from the first two books. Turns out, I must have a secret (or not so secret) liking for Ethan. I don't know if it is Ethan himself, or, the fact that he offers some tell-it-like-it-is chaos. I honestly don't know if that's the best description. But there is no pretense, not really, with Ethan. 

Beatrice. It's not that I hate Beatrice, I don't. I think it's just that the author seems BORED of this character and like her chapters are a chore to write. There seems to be a disconnect with the way this character is written and how the others are written. I don't know that it's fair to say that Beatrice is playing at being a grown up in this one. But I just found her scenes where she is being a FIERCE Queen a bit ridiculous. (There's one laughable scene, not meant as a joke, where she stands up and make a speech ... and I won't continue with spoilers, but seriously. Just no.) Still, I didn't like how this one ended for Beatrice. It was just like the author was like DONE.

Sam. I think Sam is by far a more interesting character. She's had a handful of interesting love interests. Her scenes can have some drama that feels a little CW, but, her chapters move quickly. I do like her relationship with Marshall. But at the same time, these serious "notes" seem a little disconnected with the series as a whole. I have a LOT of questions about this alternate American history. And how this alternate series of events--a royal family instead of elected Presidents (and elected Congress) usually from two differing political parties--would impact EVERYTHING in society/culture. I could think of dozens of questions. I'll narrow it down to two or three--WAS there a civil war? WHEN did slavery get abolished? WAS there a civil rights movement? I could go on and on. Not just about race. But about EVERYTHING. The changes seem to be so small and insignificant they are barely noticeable. 

Nina. I do like Nina. She may be even more of a favorite than Sam. But I don't always like how she's "stuck" just being a love interest for Jeff and a sidekick for Sam (when Sam wants one). I get that these three grew up inseparable and that before the series open, there are literally twelve to sixteen (ish) years of back story for these three being TIGHT. But I almost like Nina better when she's not in the shadow of the royal family.

Daphne. Would there be any action in any of the books without Daphne moving the plot forward???? She is the chaos that initiates anything and everything. Mostly. That being said, my FAVORITE FAVORITE part of this book was the new-found friendship between her and Nina. I never in a million years thought I'd be cheering for these two to be best friends. But for a couple of chapters, there was this excitement of what it could mean. What if both girls decided that there was more to life than hanging all over Jeff??? But I was unsatisfied with how these stories played out. 

 Would I like Jeff MORE if he narrated his love life??????? He just seems SO VERY VERY VERY empty. Like as full of life as Disney's Prince Charming (animated original)--in other words not at all. 

I was disappointed with this third book. I had extremely low expectations, mind you, I wasn't expecting sudden genius. But I wanted more entertainment--even if that is twists and turns throughout. 

This series is MOST irritating if you in any way like history. The more history you've read in your life, the more irritating the series will be. Same with if you are a genealogist. The idea that there could even be a Washington family to reign and rule for two centuries is absurd. But the wider you expand this fictional world, the more questions you have. Like with genetics. HOW do you get past all the genetic problems from ruling royals. So this book may be above my maturity in some aspects.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

60. American Shoes: A Refugee's Story


American Shoes: A Refugee's Story. Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke and Garrett L. Turke. 2022. [February] 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was raised with the belief that life gives us a blank canvas on which to paint our lives.

Premise/plot: American Shoes is based on the author's own memories. Rosemarie (aka Rosel) was born in the United States of America to German parents. A family trip to Germany to visit grandparents--an ailing grandfather--has unintended consequences. This trip happened when Rosel was a young girl--four? five? six?--the family found themselves unable to leave the country. Though not Jewish, the family clearly faces some hardship in Nazi Germany. 

This story is not told in a linear manner. The framework of the story is Rosel as a teen girl--15, I believe--leaving Germany on her own. Her parents (and younger sister) having German citizenship and not American citizenship--are unable to get permission to re-enter the United States of America. As an American, Rosel has the ability to leave the country and return to her place of birth. She'll be one of many refugees on their way to the U.S.A. 

The "chapters" of the book chronicle her time on the ship AND include her flashbacks (often tied to specific nightmares). Her past is slowly revealed, perhaps unevenly revealed. Much of the book focuses on her mingling with other refugees and her experiences of preparing to begin a new life. Rightly so, she--and just about every single person she is meeting and talking with--are dealing with a LOT of baggage from the war. (PTSD) 

My thoughts: The book is based on the author's memories. I'm honestly not sure if this book is categorized as fiction (but based on a true story) or a memoir (straight up nonfiction). She is recounting memories from when she was very young. These are strong impressions she is sharing. It seems completely inappropriate to nitpick literary style or narrative because of the subject matter.

History matters. Voices matter. Her story is worth reading--especially if you read books set during this time period. Not every reader seeks out books about World War II. It can be a sensitive subject, a triggering subject. 

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

59. Queen of The Tiles


Queen of the Tiles. Hanna Alkaf. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When Trina Low walks by, the world holds its breath.

Premise/plot: Najwa Bakri, our heroine, is returning to the world of competitive scrabble a year after the death of her best friend (and social media star) Trina Low. It's been one year since her friend literally dropped dead mid-game in competition. The experience was so traumatic that Najwa still can't remember exactly what happened that day; she's blocked it out. But when her dead friend's Instagram account starts posting again the weekend of competition, well, it's spooky and weird. Najwa and her frenemies (and a few legitimate friends) work together--or seemingly so--to solve the mystery of Trina's death. Is there a killer among them? Or was her death an accident?

My thoughts: Queen of the Tiles is a YA mystery. The list of suspects is long. I think the quicker a reader can speed through this one, the better it will be to become immersed in the story and go with the flow. Some characters blend together; others stand out. But beware red herrings!

There is a LOT of Scrabble talk--playing, planning, strategizing, etc. Each chapter starts with an [obscure] word and its [possible] points when played. 

I can see this appealing to some readers, but not all readers.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

58. Inheritance (American Royals 0.5)


Inheritance: American Royals Prequel. Katharine McGee. May 2022. 84 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Royals: they're just like us. You don't actually believe such an absurdity do you? It's just a myth that tabloids use to sell magazines--accompanied by photos of the Washington twins shooting pool at a dive bar, or of Princess Louise of France blowing on the polish of her fresh manicure. Surely you realize that those photos are staged.


Inheritance is a prequel novella. It covers the events of ONE night. This one significant, life-altering night has been referred to in countless flashbacks in the first two books. Beatrice, the heir apparent, is at a royal function. Sam(antha) and her twin brother, Jeff, are "home alone" (aka without their parents) celebrating their high school graduation. Of course, they are anything but home alone. They are hosting a huge party where a lot of drama happens. Daphne. Nina. Ethan. Liam. Sam. Jeff. These are among the guests that night. Beatrice is the odd one out--as she so often is--and she's entangled (a bit) with a guard, Connor.

Is it worth reading? Yes or no.

Yes, if you are looking to refresh your memory before the third book releases later this year. You can in a relative short number of pages be reminded of the main characters--their names, their motives, some of their drama. 

Yes, if you can get it from the library. 

No, if you have to spend your own money to buy it. There is nothing new (really) revealed in this prequel that hasn't been touched on or hinted at in the flashbacks. A few details of the greater, wider world might be presented. Then again, it could just be that those details were of so little importance, so insignificant that they were easily forgotten in flashbacks. But my guess is some of the world's details are being slightly fleshed out in this prequel. These details are being placed because they will be of importance in the third book.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

57. Death on a Deadline


Death on a Deadline (Homefront News #2) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [November] 304 pages (guess). [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Clark Gable is coming to Progress and will be appearing at our war bond drive," Ava Dempsey said. "I have it on good authority."

Premise/plot: Irene Ingram is back for a second adventure in Death on a Deadline. In this murder mystery, the town is getting ready to have a fair, and not just any fair, a fair combined with a war bond drive. Several "stars" from Hollywood will be coming for the multi-day event. But not all the stars will be leaving town with a pulse. Is the murderer one of the town's own??? Or is it one of the other Hollywood stars? (Or "stars" as the case may be.) Irene finds herself right in the middle of another mystery... working side by side with her future father-in-law the chief of police.

My thoughts: I really LOVED both books. I love the small town setting. I love getting to know all the residents of the town. I love the sense of community, sense of place, and sense of time. Both books are set in 1942. This second book being set in June/July of 1942. I would recommend the series if you enjoy war fiction, cozy mysteries, historical fiction, or books with strong character development.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

56. Front Page Murder


Front Page Murder. (A Homefront News Mystery #1) Joyce St. Anthony. 2022. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pop taught me a lot about the newspaper business. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell me the sentence I'd hear most often was That's not how your father would do it.

Premise/plot: Irene Ingram has taken over her father's newspaper business, the Progress Herald. It's a small town; the news is usually equally small. But a series of small-time crimes lead to the ultimate crime...one of the paper's own is murdered while working on a lead to a story. While the Chief of Police initially rules the death accidental, Irene becomes suspicious when she discovers a note on his desk. She decides--for better or worse--to work on the case (and the story) herself until she has enough proof to take it to the police. What she discovers is that not everyone in town is flag-waving, or, as the case may be waving the American flag...

My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this one. I did. I loved the setting--small town America during the second world war. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I love that we get a feel for her life--not just as a detective on one specific case, but her actual life. It makes the story feel more genuine to know that she has grown up in this community, that she has friends, that she has a family that she loves dearly.

I liked that this one is well-peopled; there are plenty of suspects and plenty of clues. Perhaps here and there I got a wee bit confused keeping all the details straight. But I think that is more my fault than the author's fault. Perhaps if I'd read it in one sitting instead of three, I'd have had no trouble keeping track of all the town's residents. 

Would recommend to fans of mysteries AND fans of war fiction.

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 02, 2022

55. The Forsyte Saga


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

First sentence: Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight--an upper middle-class family in full plumage. 

First impressions: I have had The Forsyte Saga on my to-read list for almost twenty years. I saw bits and pieces (at least) of the 2002/2003 adaptation. It made me curious to read the book...at some point....though I bought a physical copy of the book around that time. It had the actors on the cover.

This review will have varying degrees of spoilers throughout. But it's a classic. I don't *think* they are the kind of spoilers that would keep you from reading this one on your own if you want.

Premise/plot: This classic novel chronicles the adventures (and misadventures) of the Forsyte family. It spans three or so generations, give or take. Though chiefly--in all honesty--it really only covers two. But before I begin summarizing--or attempting to summarize--I should probably mention this is three novels published as an omnibus. The three novels are The Man of Property, In Chancery, To Let.

Long story short, Soames Forsyte is married to the beautiful but aloof Irene. The marriage is not a happy one. Tolstoy wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." From her perspective, she despises/hates her husband. It is like she cringes every single time they are in the same room. She finds herself cringing a lot. The idea of speaking with him, being intimate with him in any way--physical, mental, emotional--disgusts her. Not annoys, disgusts. From his perspective, his wife is mysteriously aloof. Perhaps because she is so aloof, he's always trying hard to change things. It's like he's a begging, pleading dog. Please love me, please love me, please love me, why don't you love me. I'm not sure it's her he loves--maybe it is--but he loves the idea of her. He finds her fascinating, mesmerizing, bewitching. It's like he loses all reason when he thinks of her. But he doesn't know her--not really, not as a person, a human being. From his perspective, she's being unreasonable and irrational. WHY does this WOMAN behave in such a way??? From her perspective, he's a monster. Here's the thing, she acts like he's a monster way, way, way, way before he starts doing monstrous things. Like, I get that he does do monstrous things--eventually. But it's like she decides after the honeymoon, NOPE, don't like him, never will. EWWWWW gross. Don't touch me ever again. I'll never open my heart or mind up to you ever. Don't even bother trying because I'm checked out. 

So feeling 100% justified because she finds her husband ewww gross, Irene has an affair with a young architect, Philip Bosinney. An architect who happens to be ENGAGED to marry Soames' cousin, June Forsyte. Also keep in mind that Irene is supposedly good friends with June. But after these two meet one another, well, June and Soames don't stand a chance. (Not that Soames ever stood a chance. Seriously. Irene hates his guts.) But June, well, it's just a matter of time before the lusty affair destroys her chance for wedded bliss. To be fair, is he worth having if he dumps you after getting a good look at your friend???? But what kind of friend--a married friend at that--has an affair with her friend's fiance??? This affair is doomed...and, well, Philip Bosinney doesn't have a happily ever after with anyone...he ends up dead.   

Now, it will be pointed out that when Soames finds out about this humiliation, this affair, this transgression against him and their marriage, well, let's just say that he does act monstrous. There's no justification for his violent "passion." It would make sense if her hatred of Soames started AFTER this assault. But she hated him years before. 

So the two separate--but do not divorce.

Fast forward a decade. Soames wants an heir. He has a spare woman he could marry if he wants to divorce Irene. But if there's a chance that a decade of not seeing him might have dulled her animosity towards him, well, he's willing to extend the hand of friendship. Nope. Still hates him. Perhaps even more now that he's come crawling back asking to see if she'll take him back. Irene takes comfort in another Forsyte--a cousin named Jolyon. These two marry and have a son, Jon. Meanwhile, Soames remarries, a younger woman. They have a daughter, Fleur. Fast forward twenty years this time...and Fleur and Jon meet. Fleur becomes fascinated and mesmerized by Jon. And he's besotted as well. 

Will Fleur and Jon marry??? Or will their families put a great big stop to this relationship.

 My thoughts: I have thoughts and opinions on this one. I don't think I'm the average reader. I think the reader is supposed to sympathize with Irene. Poor, poor Irene. It's not that I sympathize with Soames. I don't. Not really. It's just that I don't think Irene is justified in her affair. To be fair, I'm not saying she needed a scarlet "A" for her chest. But still, the book presents her as if she's an angelic saint, perfectly innocent and pure and just an absolute darling. Soames, well, he's a fool undoubtedly. There are so many things that go right over his head--like the meaning of life. If there is something positive to say about him, however, he is a constant presence in his daughter's life. He loves, loves, loves, loves her. Like undoubtedly he loves her. To be fair, he might be a little too indulgent by not disciplining her. Her character, well, let's just say she's narcissistic, manipulative, a taker. What she wants, she WANTS. She reminds me a bit of Scarlett O'Hara actually. 

I think my favorite characters were Jon (Jolyon III), June (in the few scenes we get), Holly (in the few scenes we get). Now that I think about it, all three of my favorite characters are half-siblings. 

I don't regret my time reading this one. But this was not a novel where I found myself liking the characters. I kept reading because a) I wanted to know what happened next (would these two end up together???) b) I am STUBBORN if nothing else. 

 

Quotes: 

Love is no hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. A wild plant that, when it blooms by chance within the hedge of our gardens, we call a flower; and when it blooms outside we call a weed; but, flower or weed, whose scent and colour are always, wild!

"Love has no age, no limit, and no death."

Marriage without a decent chance of relief is only a sort of slave-owning; people oughtn't to own each other. Everybody sees that now.

"You may think you're very old," he said; "but you strike me as extremely young. To rattle ahead of everything is not a proof of maturity."

"Don't be angry, Jon dear. We can't all see people in the same light, can we? You know, I believe each of us only has about one or two people who can see the best that's in us, and bring it out. For you I think it's your mother. I once saw her looking at a letter of yours; it was wonderful to see her face. I think she's the most beautiful woman I ever saw—Age doesn't seem to touch her."

Monstrous trick, that Fate had played him! Nemesis! That old unhappy marriage! And in God's name-why? How was he to know, when he wanted Irene so violently, and she consented to be his, that she would never love him? Fleur smiled bitterly. "Tell me, didn't she spoil your life too?" June looked up. "Nobody can spoil a life, my dear. That's nonsense. Things happen, but we bob up."

 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

54. This is Not the Real World


This is Not the Real World. (This is Not the Jess Show #2). Anna Carey. 2022. [May] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The gondola glided between buildings, and that same song filtered in right as we slipped under the third arched bridge.

First impressions: I fell hard for the premise of the first book, This is Not the Jess Show. That first book did not disappoint. I thought it was a fabulous premise-driven YA novel that was just fun. I was so excited to see the sequel is being published this May. I would love for it to be just as great as the first book.

Premise/plot: Jess Flynn has escaped the lie. But life is far from ideal in the real world especially when your boyfriend, Kipps, is still seventeen and under contract with Like-Life Productions. The two along with some friends (who helped them in the previous book) are hiding out...but the fact that they haven't been caught yet...perhaps leads to some mistakes in judgment. 

After a very special celebration--the worst happens (relatively speaking). Will Jess sacrifice her own freedom in the real world to return to the lie she escaped? Will she return to her 90's obsessed television show? 

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Did I enjoy it as much as book one? Probably not. Not that I didn't enjoy it at all. But it's hard for a premise-driven book to still carry that some momentum with a second book. I still cared about the characters, still had questions about the world--on and off of the set. This one had some twists and turns, but obviously not as many as the first book.

Definitely recommend for those that enjoyed the first book. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews