Tuesday, August 30, 2022

August Reflections

In August I read thirty-one books!

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

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

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

121. Sloth Sleuth. Cyndi Marko. 2022. 192 pages. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
122. The Puppy Problem (The Daily Bark #1) Laura James. Illustrated by Charlie Alder. 2022. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
123. Hello, World. A High Contrast Book for Babies. Amelia Hepworth. Illustrated by Cani Chen. 2022. [January] 10 pages. [Source: Library]
124. Hello, Farm! High Contrast Book for Babies. Amelia Hepworth. Illustrated by Cani Chen. 2022. [January] 10 pages. [Source: Library]
125. Why, Daddy? Why? Tamara Girardi. Illustrated by Nichola Cowdery. 2022. [May] 16 pages. [Source: Library]
126. Richard Scarry's 5 Minute Stories. Richard Scarry. 2022. [May] 160 pages. [Source: Library]
127. Balto (Animals to the Rescue #1) Emma Carlson Berne. Illustrated by Francesca Rosa. 2022. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
128. My Life Begins. Patricia MacLachlan. 2022. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
129. Doggie. Nancy Armo. 2022. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
130. School's In Crabby. Jonathan Fenske. 2022. [June] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
131. Captain Pug (Adventures of Pug #1) Laura James. 2017. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
132. I Can't Feel My Feet (Trouble at Table 5 #4) Tom Watson. 2020. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
133. Charlie and Mouse Outdoors. (Charlie and Mouse #4) Laurel Snyder. 2020. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
134. Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery. Raj Haldar. Illustrated by Neha Rawat. 2022. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
135. The Button Box. Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Illustrated by Harshad Marathe. 2022. 152 pages. [Source: Library]
136. Mister Rogers' Gift of Music. Donna Cangelosi. Illustrated by Amanda Calatzis. 2022. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

29. The Prince and the Blight (The Dream Keeper Saga #2) Kathryn L. Butler. 2022. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]

30. The Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
31. I Belong: Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 1 for Children. Joyce Holstege. Illustrated by Meagan Krosschell. 2022. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
32. The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1963/1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

12. Holy Bible: Revised English Bible. 1989/1996. Cambridge. 1264 pages. [Source: Bought]
13. Giant Print Handy Size Reprint NASB 1977 Edition. 2011. AMG Publishers. 2304 pages.

August Totals

August reads
# of books31
# of pages10,345

2022 Yearly Totals

2022 Totals
# of books285
# of pages85,000

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 29, 2022

104. The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero. (Heroes of Olympus #1) Rick Riordan. 2010. 553 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.

Premise/plot: Percy Jackson has gone missing. Annabeth discovers three demigods--Jason, Leo, and Piper--while she is searching for Percy. The three soon find themselves at Camp Halfblood. Strange things are afoot (once again). A quest is coming...danger abounds...you now, same old same old. Piper, Leo, and Jason along with a mechanical dragon named Festus (think steampunk) soon find themselves searching for a missing goddess all the while battling giants...

My thoughts: Instead of following one narrator from start to finish, this one alternates between the three protagonists: Jason (who has lost his memory), Leo (who is keeping a secret about fire) and Piper (who is keeping a secret about her dad). The three will have to listen to one another--and work together--if they are to save the world. To be fair, this is only preliminary saving the world, but it is important nonetheless. 

Even though I've read this one before (back in 2011), I have absolutely no memory of it. Reading my review, I apparently loved it. I can't say that my thoughts are gushy now. It was solid enough for what it was--another mythology based quest featuring struggling  kids. I don't know if it is longer than the books in the Percy Jackson series, but it surely felt like it. Having a book with fifty-two chapters is intimidating. I know the other books didn't have that many chapters, though perhaps they just had longer chapters? Either way, I felt this one dragged a bit here and there. I cared about what happened. But I wanted to get there faster.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 27, 2022

103. Cookies and Milk

Cookies and Milk. Shawn Amos. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Sometimes you gotta take a chance. This is it. My last moment to go out on top. Summer is one minute away. All eyes are on me. 

Premise/plot: Ellis Johnson doesn't necessarily want to stay with his dad over the summer. Especially since staying with his dad means investing long, hard hours into setting up a COOKIE shop. (Their store will sell chocolate chip cookies and only chocolate chip cookies.)  The year is 1976. The place is Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Ellis will grow over the summer (and he does want to be taller) in many ways...learning many things about family, life, and love. 

The book stars Ellis, his father, his grandmother, and his best friend....to name a few. 

My thoughts: I really ENJOYED this one. And not just because it's semi-autobiographical. Shawn Amos, the author, is the SON of THE ONE AND ONLY FAMOUS AMOS. I wouldn't say I lived on Famous Amos cookies in college, but, well, I mostly did. (Not really.) I loved the storytelling. I loved the 70s setting. (Though I am curious why he set it in 1976 if the store actually opened in 1975). I loved the GRANDMA. Seriously, her catchphrase of NOT TODAY SATAN was priceless. I liked Ellis' adventures and misadventures. Life was sticky/messy. But he kept trying even when it felt like a constant struggle. I loved the flow of the story--all the people brought together by cookies.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 20, 2022

102. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson. 2007. 308 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of Evil Librarians. As you might imagine, that sort of situation can be quite disturbing. It does funny things to the brain to be in such danger -- in fact, it often makes a person pause and reflect upon his life. If you've never faced such a situation, then you'll simply have to take my word. If, on the other hand, you have faced such a situation, then you are probably dead and aren't likely to be reading this.

Premise/plot: It's the story of a boy--Alcatraz Smedry--who receives his inheritance--a bag of sand--on his thirteenth birthday. His parents are dead, and he's been in the foster care system for years. He has difficulties in settling down with families--he's been moved from foster home to foster home--because he has a way of breaking things just by touching them. When we first meet Alcatraz, he accidentally has broken a stove and set the kitchen on fire. Most would say this 'gift' makes Alcatraz extremely unlucky. But, it may just be his saving grace. When a mysterious old man claiming to be his Grandpa Smedry appears the day after his birthday, the boy is in for a shock or two. Fortunately for us readers, we're along for the ride! What follows is one exciting adventure. Grandpa Smedry claims this world is controlled by a cult: a cult of evil Librarians. Evil librarians that have stolen Alcatraz's inheritance: the bag of sand is missing! Can these two team up and reclaim what is rightfully theirs?

My thoughts: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is one of those rare gems of a book where you could open it to practically any page and find treasure. It's funny. It's fun. It's exciting. It's clever. Take for instance, this little treasure found at the beginning of chapter four:

Hushlanders, I'd like to take this opportunity to commend you for reading this book. I realize the difficulty you must have gone through to obtain it -- after all, no Librarian is likely to recommend it, considering the secrets it exposes about their kind.

Actually, my experience has been that people generally don't recommend this kind of book at all. It is far too interesting. Perhaps you have had other kinds of books recommended to you. Perhaps, even, you have been given books by friends, parents, or teachers, then told that these books are the type you "have to read." Those books are invariably described as "important" -- which in my experience, pretty much means that they're boring. (Words like meaningful and thoughtful are other good clues.)

If there is a boy in these kinds of books, he will not go on an adventure to fight against Librarians, paper monsters, and one-eyed Dark Oculators. In fact, the lad will not go on an adventure or fight against anything at all. Instead, his dog will die. Or, in some cases, his mother will die. If it's a really meaningful book, both his dog and his mother will die. (Apparently most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)

Neither my mother nor my dog dies in this book. I'm rather tired of those types of stories. In my opinion, such fantastical, unrealistic books -- books in which boys live on mountains, families work on farms, or anyone has anything to do with the Great Depression -- have a tendency to rot the brain. To combat such silliness, I've written the volume you now hold -- a solid, true account. Hopefully, it will help anchor you in reality.

So, when people try to give you some book with a shiny round award on the cover, be kind and gracious, but tell them that you don't read "fantasy," because you prefer stories that are real. Then come back here and continue your research on the cult of evil Librarians who secretly rule the world.

I think everyone should read this book. Seriously. I love, love, love the narrative style. I love how he speaks directly to the reader. I love his asides about authors and writing.

ETA: This is my third time to read this book. I almost hate to admit it...but I think I love this book more than The Lightning Thief.



© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

101. Miraculous

Miraculous. Caroline Starr Rose. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The silent dawn trailed Jack down Main Street, crept with him as he slipped his paste brush across each handbill and smoothed the dampened paper flat.

Premise/plot: Jack, our protagonist, is a young boy traveling with Dr. Kingsbury's traveling medicine show. Dr. Kingsbury sells a 'miraculous' tonic that can cure anything and everything. The greater your faith, the quicker the results. Little to no faith, well, might not get you anywhere. But with enough faith and hope, well, you might just find yourself cured. So he claims. So Jack claims. But after Isaac--another boy, an older boy, disappears suddenly without a trace, Jack begins to doubt everything he's believed up to this point. 

Mainly we get Jack's point of view. But there are about three or four other townsfolk who narrate this one. [We do not get Dr. Kingsbury's point of view--thank goodness.] Readers do get a chance to meet about half a dozen or so characters at greater depth. Plenty of folks live in Oakdale, a town/community experiencing drought. Dr. Kingsbury has PROMISED that the tonic (if left uncorked) will even bring the much needed rain to town...

My thoughts: This is an almost book for me. I was this close to being swept up and away into this narrative. I just wanted a tiny bit more. I definitely LOVED Jack (and Cora, a young girl whom he befriends). I was a little more puzzled by some of the other characters. Some I could immediately understood how they were contributing to the story overall. But others not as much. 

This had the potential to be dark(er) and spooky. Dr. Kingsbury could have been a bone-chilling villain with a past packed with deep, dark secrets. As it was, readers get a "dark" secret from the past and a "dark" secret from the present. But any consequences for those secrets happen off screen. And the details are left extremely vague. Two missing boys. Missing. There are no answers as to WHAT happened. 

This one is definitely rooted more in history than fantasy. The only other novel that I can think of with a traveling medicine show and a magical, miraculous tonic is BONESHAKER Kate Milford. That one is definitely dark and spooky.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

100. Dream, Annie, Dream

Dream, Annie, Dream. Waka T. Brown. 2022. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can be anything you want to be. My sixth grade teacher's parting words to the graduating class of Iron Hills Elementary rang in my ears, even over the deafening roar of the rocket motors.

Premise/plot: Aoi Inoue (aka "Annie") stars in Waka T. Brown's middle grade novel. The novel spans from summer of 1987 to summer of 1988. Our heroine is a seventh grader who is dreaming big, but, not without facing challenges from her family, friends, teachers, etc. Can she, an Japanese American, really be ANYTHING she wants to be? At the moment, her interests include acting, writing, and basketball. But her parents, well, they don't want her to be an actor, writer, or professional ball player. No, they are dreaming, of well, her becoming a professor or doctor. They definitely see her hobbies--which are time-consuming--to be a "waste" of time that she could be using to study or do "extra" academic work. Her parents don't seem as supportive as her friends' parents...but perhaps her friends' lives aren't all that perfect either???

She participates in a summer theatre program (1987 and 1988) and a school theatre program. The shows are Annie, The King and I, and Alice in Wonderland.

There's family tension, friend drama, and CRUSH drama. 

My thoughts: I really LOVED that this was set in 1987/1988. Though the author never once mentions BARBIE. I couldn't help but be reminded of the 🎵 We girls can do anything, right, Barbie 🎵jingle. I loved that Aoi loves musicals. I could 100% relate to her struggles with allergies. And I think I bonded a bit with the fact that she was sick over the Christmas of 1987 too. 

I loved the narrative. I loved the story. I loved the fact that this spans a full year. I felt the characterization was excellent. The setting felt very realistic. It was like stepping into a time machine.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 15, 2022

99. 12 To 22

12 to 22: POV You Wake Up In The Future. Jen Calonita. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling twenty-twooooooo!" It's a few minutes shy of seven a.m. and I'm belting out Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs. Don't worry. I'm not waking anyone in this house. We've all been up since five, when my little sister, Reese the Wrecker, climbed out of her crib and turned on the TV in my parents' room at full volume.

Premise/plot: Harper, our protagonist, is twelve and a half. Her family is BIG on celebrating half birthdays. So her half-birthday present (or one of them at least) is the permission to start posting on social media. She's been filming videos for months--but only for her family and friends to view. This will be her first chance to start uploading those videos onto social media platforms. The video she filmed that very morning was a video to Taylor Swift's 22. With permission granted, she uploads the videos. By the end of the day she's got hundreds of followers and even more likes. That night she's going to a super-exclusive, popular-and-trendy restaurant for a birthday party for a non-friend. (Yes, a NON friend.) Their moms are friends. Harper has invited her best, best friend, Ava, to the party as well. (Or maybe Celia's mom invited them both out of politeness knowing they are a packaged deal???) Ava knows that Celia and her copy-cat friends are ridiculously not worth it. But Harper, well, she wants to be just as awesomely popular as Celia. #lifegoals When Harper realizes that it was mostly a pity invite (a return for a favor essentially between the two moms), she has a complete and total meltdown...leading to her being a MESS on the bathroom floor. Which is where the novel really begins to get twisty....

She finds a birthday filter...and makes a wish...a wish to be a SOCIAL MEDIA STAR just as popular and big as Blake Riley (her current idol). And not just a star, but a 22 year old star. Because obviously, 22 year olds do not have any troubles or woes. They just have the most amazing lives every single day.

The next thing she knows...she's waking up...twenty-two. EVERYTHING about her life is unrecognizable. Her every wish has come true. She's famous, popular, rich, and FRIENDS WITH TAYLOR SWIFT (and other celebs). But she has NO MEMORY AT ALL of her life in those in between years. The technology has changed so much in those ten years. She barely knows how to do anything...it's a good thing her baby sister Reese (now 12) is there to help her out. (She just happens to be visiting the family. There was a reason. I just don't remember.) 

Is being 22 everything she thought it would be??? Is she living her best life ever??? Does she like how her life has turned out???

My thoughts: I must have watched 13 Going on 30 a dozen times the year it first released. I ADORE that movie so much. I love just about everything. I loved in that movie that it started in the 80s and jumped forward to the present day, mid 2000's. Both times being familiar. That isn't quite the case with this one. The two time periods--presumably--are 2022 and 2032. (Or perhaps 2021 and 2031, I don't know how long it takes for books to go through the writing, editing, publishing phases.) So many of the essentials are the same. Perhaps the biggest difference being that it is more evenly balanced. 13 Going on 30 was clearly a rom-com. This one is more about all aspects of life. Plenty of DOG-LOVING thrown in as well. 

I really enjoyed this one so much. I did. Obviously, it isn't realistic. Not just because of the wish-fulfilling fantasy elements....but because her instant success was definitely too much to believe. But even with all the unbelievable elements, this one just made me giddy.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

98. The Fort

The Fort. Gordon Korman. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I get stuck with Ricky the morning after the big storm. 

Premise/plot: Five boys--four of them being the best of friends before the big storm--discover a hidden underground 'doomsday' bunker in the woods after a big storm destroys their own (puny by comparison) fort. This middle grade coming of age novel has five alternating characters: Evan Donnelly, Mitchell Worth, Ricky Molina, C.J. Sciutto, and Jason Brax. This underground 'fort' has electricity, an old school television and VCR, and forty-plus year old canned goods. The boys are ecstatic, thrilled, and empowered. The fort comes to mean something to each and every boy, but, for some the fort means something even more significant: a safe refuge from an abusive home.

This coming of age novel has its own problems in the sense that it is your somewhat traditional "problem" novel. The conflicts are realistic and complex. Each boy his his own struggles or burdens to carry. But what I loved was the friendship element of this one. How the boys rally around and support one another. 

My thoughts: As an adult, I found this a heart-breaking read in some aspects. I just wanted to reach out and hug the characters. I do think it is realistic and relatable. I would hope to a certain extent or degree that readers would be reminded to be kind. You can never tell what the person next to you is struggling with in their own lives--in their own private, personal lives. You don't know the weight on their shoulders. 

I did love it. I loved the characterization. I loved the story. Definitely recommended.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 14, 2022

97. The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian. (Percy Jackson #5) Rick Riordan. 2009. 381 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car. Up until then, I was having a great afternoon.

Premise/plot: Percy Jackson and his fellow camp-mates from Camp Half Blood fight the ultimate battle against the oh-so-evil Kronus. (Kronus, if you remember, is currently embodying the body of Luke, a former friend turned traitor.) Kronus' side has won over a lot of discontented demigods and minor gods. It seems like a losing battle from page one. But is it enough for Percy to give up all hope and surrender? 

My thoughts: This was my first time to reread the last two books in the series. The first three books in the series got a little more reread love back in the day. Rachel Elizabeth Dare (who plays quite a big part in the last few books) is a character I had completely forgotten about--mostly. In particular, the love triangle that isn't really a love triangle. (Was there ever any doubt that Annabeth was Percy's choice all along?) If there was a love triangle--and I'm not convinced there truly was--then perhaps it was Annabeth, Luke, and Percy. 

I thought it was packed with plenty of action. Think of an Avengers' movie. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 08, 2022

96. The Lindbergh Nanny

The Lindbergh Nanny. Mariah Fredericks. 2022. [November] 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I can see the house. But not all of it and certainly not how you get there from here. 

Premise/plot: The Lindbergh Nanny is historical fiction. It opens in February 1931 and closes shortly after the trial (and conviction) of carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann. It follows (closely) the events through the nanny's perspective; her name is Betty Gow. 

My thoughts: This is FICTION. It is important to remember that. Yes, it is inspired by a real event. Yes, some amount of research was done. But this is a blending of fact and fiction. And sometimes the line between the two--fact and fiction--get very blurry. Facts can be embellished and changed. 

The perspective makes sense. Who better to tell the story than the child's nanny? Who better can "give" us readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the whole story--before the kidnapping, the day of the kidnapping, the immediate days following the kidnapping, the weeks, months, years of aftermath as the kidnapping/murder case is investigated. The nanny would know all the major players--both upstairs and downstairs, if you will--and be an eyewitness to all the great dramatic scenes. So the perspective does make perfect sense. 

The protagonist's point of view is that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was guilty. The author crafts a couple of scenes where the Nanny sees HIM, recognizes him, even interacts with him. This is pure fiction. The author does point out in a note that she also believes that Bruno Richard Hauptmann is guilty. She says she is no conspiracy theorist and that justice was done.

I do disagree. I don't violently disagree. (Enough to throw a book against the wall.) But there are hundreds if not thousands of holes in the case and how it was handled from day one through the appeal process. There are legitimate questions that don't have satisfying answers. Enough questions that it is easier to say I DON'T KNOW.

This one was a difficult read because of the content. It was a heartbreaking tragedy. This book does make the players in this tragedy feel more 'real' or 'human.' 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, August 06, 2022

95. Glitch

Glitch. Laura Martin. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: April 14, 1865. Gosh, I was sick of that date, and it wasn't just because that is when our sixteenth president was assassinated. Nope. I was sick of April 14, 1865, because I kept getting sent back to it for training purposes.

Premise/plot: Glitch is a middle grade time travel novel. For some readers, that alone might make you seek this one out. (It would me.) There are two protagonists: Regan Fitz and Elliot Mason. These two are glitchers--or at the very least glitchers in training. They've been raised by the Academy since birth--their genes having revealed the 'glitch.' They will be able to travel through time. Glitchers carry out missions to preserve history. PRESERVE being the key word. They seek out "butterflies" those from a rival time-traveling group who are out to change history. 

When the novel opens, Regan and Elliot are both STUDENTS in training. All of their missions are simulations. But everything changes when they--well, Regan, really--receive a COCOON, a message from the future. This cocoon means that at some point in the future one of them--or both of them--will become BUTTERFLIES. 

Thus begins an exciting, action-packed time traveling adventure.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved this one. I have a BIG weakness for time travel books. I do. This one most reminded me of the oh-so-sadly short-lived TIMELESS tv show. I crazy-loved that show. If it had been up to me, it would have had at least three to five seasons. The premise was AWESOME and I loved (most) of the cast. So much potential---ultimately wasted. 

I hope this becomes a book series. I would read every single one. I promise. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, August 05, 2022

94. African Town

African Town: Inspired by the True Story of the Last American Slave Ship. Irene Latham and Charles Waters. 2022. 448 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Be still, my children. Listen with your ears
and your heart. Our story starts with this
mark on my right cheek, these chipped teeth.
See? This is how you know I am who I say I am.
De town where I was born is called Bante.
It's nowhere near here, not in African Town, not
in Alabama. This town's way across de ocean,
on de west coast of Africa in de kingdom
of Dahomey. My family's home was a round,
two-story adobe with a terrace. Surrounded by hills,
about eight days' walk to de sea. Someday maybe
you will see de world de way I have seen it
in Bante. Then you will know how de sun
kisses de earth, melts like honey over de land--
it's no wonder I believed all of life would be
bright and sweet. No wonder it still shocks me
that de world can be so hard, so dark.
But that darkness, it brought me here.
It brought you here. This is our story.

Premise/plot: African Town is a verse novel based on or inspired by a true story. Long after the importation of slaves was illegal--though not slavery itself--one ship, the Clotilda, was used to smuggle in a shipment of slaves. The year was 1860. 

It is a verse novel that spans a little over four decades. It opens around 1859/1860 and closes around 1901. The poems alternate narrators...and in doing so alternates perspectives. Though by far the greatest representation are the men and women captured, enslaved, sold. Other narrators include white men in the slave trade, slave owners, and VERY VERY VERY oddly the ship Clotilda. 

It isn't "just" the story of African slaves. It is the story of how these last slaves bonded and formed a community--literally and figuratively. This is the story of the formation of African Town or Africatown.

My thoughts: Powerful. Compelling. Important. These are the words I'd use to describe this verse novel. It is a heavy novel in its subject matter. The characters--[loosely] based on real people--are well developed. The characters were easy to care about. I got swept up into this one. I knew a little bit about the Clotilda from previous reading. But this was an absorbing read. I thought the verse novel format was a perfect fit for this one.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

93. The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Battle of the Labyrinth. (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) Rick Riordan. 2008. 361 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school.

Premise/plot: Camp Half-blood is in trouble again. To be fair, it's more like destroying Camp Half-blood is step one on the bad guy's to do list. [I suppose you could argue that it isn't a bad guy so much as bad god.] Annabeth, Tyson, Percy, and Grover are teaming up again on a quest. They'll be going underground into the labyrinth. It's super-super dangerous. Those that do manage to come out again are rarely the same. The last person to come out has gone mad--they aren't quite sure how to cure him. But the world's only hope [so we're led to believe] is hidden within the labyrinth. It's a race--who will discover it, acquire it, use it...first. 

My thoughts: All the books are so closely connected. It is definitely best to read them all together. The tension does keep building and building. There is rarely a satisfying moment in the book in terms of suspense and tension. None of the books have that YES moment of success and completion. All the books are leading to the ultimate showdown. Book four still doesn't take readers to that final, ultimate BIG battle between good and evil. I would say book four offers less humor and more intensity. Looking back, The Lightning Thief now has such low stakes--but oh at the time, it felt like such a big quest. 

I do recommend the series. I am rereading the series this summer. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 01, 2022

92. The Agathas

The Agathas (Agathas #1) Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson. 2022. [May] 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Alice Ogilvie is crazy. The words are huge, written across my locker in thick black marker, impossible to miss. I see them from down the hall as I approach, the words like a pin to the eye. My first day back from house arrest, and this is what greets me. I can't say I'm surprised.

Premise/plot: The Agathas is a young adult mystery novel. Two teens team up to solve the murder of their classmate, Brooke Donovan. Alice Ogilvie and Iris Adams are unlikely friends. To be fair, Iris is being paid to tutor Alice. At a Halloween party, Brooke disappears after a public fight with her boyfriend (a boyfriend who happens to be Alice's ex.) Iris is one of the last to see her....alive. Or at least the last to see her alive who's come forward with information. (Obviously her killer is all hush, hush). Both Iris and Alice think Steve--who has been arrested and charged--is innocent. Since the police are unwilling to investigate the crime further, despite inconsistencies, the two teens team up (with a few others) to try their best to solve the case. 

My thoughts: This one has alternating narrators. I liked both Alice and Iris as narrators. Both are complex characters. Both have back stories. The mystery was well done. Sometimes it's hard to write about murder mysteries because you don't want to give away any spoilers about the crime, the clues, the suspects. But it was good. The right amount of tension and suspense.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews