Thursday, September 29, 2022

September Reflections

In September I read thirty-five books.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

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

Books reviewed at Young Readers

137. Lily's Story (A Puppy Tale) W. Bruce Cameron. 2019. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
138. Lily to the Rescue: Two Little Piggies (Lily #2) W. Bruce Cameron. 2020. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
139. Trouble to the Max (Trouble at Table 5 #5) Tom Watson. 2021. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
140. Just Right Jillian. Nicole D. Collier. 2022. [February] 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
141. Our Little Mushroom: A Story of Franz Schubert and His Friends. Emily Arnold McCully. 2022. [August] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
142. Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. 2015. 98 pages. [Source: Library]
143. The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives. Michael Buckley. Illustrated by Peter Ferguson. 2005. 284 pages. [Source: Library]
144. Fenway and Hattie. Victoria J. Coe. 2016. [February] 176 pages. [Source: Library]
145. Next Door to Happy. Allison Weiser Strout. 2022. [July] 192 pages. [Source: Library]
146. Haylee and Comet: A Trip Around the Sun. Deborah Marcero. 2022. [January] 72 pages. [Source: Library]
147. The Year of Miss Agnes. Kirkpatrick Hill. 2000/2020. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
148. Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story. Linda Elovitz Marshall. Illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang. 2022. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
149. Charlie and Mouse are Magic (Charlie and Mouse #6) Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. 2022. [August] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
150. Chester Van Chime Who Forgot How To Rhyme. Avery Monsen. 2022. [March] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
151. Pizza! A Slice of History. Greg Pizzoli. 2022. [August] 56 pages. [Source: Library]
152. I Survived the Wellington Avalanche, 1910. (I Survived #22) Lauren Tarshis. 2022. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

33. Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living. Todd Wilson (Preaching the Word series). 2013. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
34. What is Saving Faith? Reflections on Receiving Christ as Treasure. John Piper. 2022. [April] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
35. The Sweet Life (Cape Cod Creamery #1) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2022. [May] 308 pages. [Source: Library]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

14. Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 2016. Tyndale. 1696 pages. [Source: Bought]

September Totals

September reads

# of books35
# of pages9911

2022 Yearly Totals

2022 Totals
# of books320
# of pages94911


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

119. Daybreak on Raven Island

Daybreak on Raven Island. Fleur T. Bradley. 2022. [January] 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Raven Island was a forgotten place. Sure, you could see the massive rock from the Pacific coast. On a clearer day, you may get a glimpse of the prison, or the empty dock that used to welcome boats and ferries. You could even see the lighthouse, once proud and bright but now extinguished. Forgotten. The ravens were perfectly fine with this situation.

Premise/plot: Seventh grade field trip gone horribly wrong--this is the premise of Fleur T. Bradley's Daybreak on Raven Island. This action thriller OR mystery/suspense novel--for middle graders--is narrated by three seventh graders: Tori, Marvin, and Noah. These three were not friends before the field trip, but the good old "buddy system" assignments has brought them together (ultimately to be terrified). So the seventh grade class is visiting an old (long, abandoned) prison thought to be haunted. This will be the first time any outsider has visited the island in decades. But on this special occasion, a seventh grade class and a film crew (for a ghost-hunting show) are on the island. Some hoping to avoid ghosts; some hoping to see ghosts. For three students (and the film crew) the adventure awaits at night... 

Tori, Marvin, and Noah miss the ferry back home and have to remain on the island overnight....where danger awaits.

My thoughts: This isn't my typical kind of read, but, I do occasionally push myself to read outside my normal comfort zone. This one offers mystery, suspense, action, adventure...and plenty of secrets. I do think this one has plenty of appeal to the thrill-seeking kid. It offers a bit of spookiness with just the tiniest dose of didactic "nutrition." I am not saying that to be mean, I'm not. A book about a prison is certainly an opportunity to talk about the justice system--past and present. 

Without a doubt this one is premise driven and not character driven. If the premise sounds good to you, likely you'll enjoy it. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, September 26, 2022

118. Frances and the Monster

Frances and the Monster. Refe Tuma. 2022. [August] 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: August 29, 1939, was a Tuesday. Under normal circumstances, Frances had little reason to keep track of the days of the week. Or the months of the year, for that matter. Calendars were for marking dates and times, for meeting people and going places. Frances never went anywhere and rarely saw anyone. With no comings or goings to punctuate her existence, she lived in a peculiar flatness of time unique to those who never leave the house.

Premise/plot: Frances Stenzel has not left her house in years--not since a car accident left her scarred for life. The choice has been made by her parents, not Frances. She doesn't really remember a time "before." But as she is getting older, she believes she should be allowed more freedom and independence--including traveling with her parents to an international scientific symposium. (True, there is a world war going on...but....Frances doesn't see the danger in that. Current events have little to no effect on her day to day life--to say the least.) 

Essentially, the plot gets started once her parents leave...with a robot, Hobbes, in charge as her tutor. Frances rebels--again and again and again and again. And that rebellious I-know-better-than-anyone-else leads to some drama.

Her choices--for better or worse--unleash a MONSTER, a literal monster, on her home town. (Also some family secrets, but that is a secondary matter perhaps.) As Frances leaves the house (for essentially the first time in her recollection) she encounters the world....and the world encounters her. It will be quite an action-packed adventure. 

My thoughts: I loved the cover. I liked the premise. I do love the novel Frankenstein. The idea of a middle grade novel being inspired by Frankenstein, well, it intrigued me. The setting of World War II also initially intrigued me. However, I think the setting had very little to do with the novel. It could have been set any time, any place--almost. I wanted more of the times to influence the novel. (I would say the Great Depression has more of an impact than the war itself.) 

What I liked most was how Frances started forming relationships and attachments with others once she started leaving the house. True, these were partly formed by trauma and were certainly packed with drama, but, I still enjoyed seeing Frances world widen. 

This one has two or perhaps three twists in it. I saw the BIG twist coming from a mile away. I'm not sure a child would see it coming. Perhaps not. But I started seeing warning signs and guessed the big reveal way too early. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, September 22, 2022

117. From the Shadows

From the Shadows (Billy Boyle #17) James R. Benn. 2022. [September] 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The sea wanted to swallow me whole. I wouldn't have minded if it had been quick.

Premise/plot: Billy Boyle is starring in his SEVENTEENTH mystery novel in James R. Benn's From the Shadows. This historical mystery novel is set in France in 1944. Boyle (and company) are working hard to fight the good fight. Their work does mostly take place behind the scenes, their missions more secret than not. And, let's face it, wherever they go they always end up needing to solve a murder or two. Such is the case in this newest installment. This time they are tracking down a traitor, but, it is anything but simple and straightforward.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I always enjoy Billy Boyle mysteries. Without a doubt, Billy Boyle is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite book characters. I love the history. I love the mystery. I love the action and suspense. But I will say that you do need to read these in order. It wouldn't be a bad idea to binge-read your way through the entire series. 

The author note includes information about the 442nd Regimental Combat team. I always like to know what inspired the author and to find out what is true and what is fiction. I found this one packed with history. Of course, it is a blend of history and fiction, but it is fascinating nonetheless.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

116. A Light Beyond the Trenches

A Light Beyond the Trenches. Alan Hlad. 2022. [March] 362 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the eve of the war crime, Max Benesch was crouched in a trench on the western front.

Premise/plot: A Light Beyond the Trenches is set (mainly) in Germany during the First World War (aka the Great War, aka The War to End All Wars). There are three primary narrators: Anna, Bruno, and Max. Anna is a Red Cross nurse engaged to a soldier, Bruno. During her time as a nurse, she has the opportunity to become involved in the very first guide dog school. They will be pairing German shepherds with blinded veterans and training them on how to function in the world so they can have some independence. This was a novel idea at the time. Max is a blind veteran who boards with Anna. He is paired with a dog Anna nursed back to health, Nia. Life in Germany during the war is rough--to say the least--starvation seems inevitable with so few supplies and resources. But Anna, Max, and Nia are finding the light in a very dark situation. Bruno's chapters counterbalance that light. He is still on the front.

My thoughts: You don't have to worry about the dog. There's that at least. But I was seriously not expecting this one to be....what it was. It was an intense, emotional read. I found the story unfolding in such a way that I just had to keep saying one more chapter, one more chapter, just one more chapter. It was new to me. I don't think I've read about the first world war from a solely German perspective. I definitely want to read more of this author's work. He was new to me.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, September 18, 2022

115. Magic of Ordinary Days

Magic of Ordinary Days. Ann Howard Creel. 2001. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I don't often think back to that year, the last year of the war--its days, its decisions--not unless I'm out walking the dawn of a quiet winter morning, when new snowfall has stunned into silence the lands around me, when even ice crystals in the air hold still. On those mornings of frozen perfection, when most living creatures keep to a warm bed or a deep ground hole, I pull on my heaviest old boots and set out to make first tracks through the topcrust and let the early dawn know I'm still alive and appreciating every last minute of her fine lavender light. Then I remember.

Premise/plot: Olivia (Livvy) Dunne finds herself married to a stranger, Ray Singleton--a farmer--after she finds herself in an unfortunate situation: she's pregnant. Her father arranges with another minister to marry off 'poor' Livvy to a good, stable man. The two meet on their wedding day. She asks him WHY he's willing to marry a stranger and IF he'll be able to love the baby. His answer surprises her, he feels it's God's will to bring them together, and, of course, he'll love her baby. It is the raising of a child that makes a father.

The novel chronicles their lives together that first year as she adjusts to an isolated country lifestyle, as she tries to find ways to occupy her time and grasp the fringes of her true dreams. She loves history and archaeology. She loves finding and discovering old things. She loves finding out about the past, imagining herself in that past. Ray is only a little helpful, it is Ray's sister, Martha, who is able to help her the most. For Martha has stories about their parents, grandparents, etc. It is Martha who is able to tell her about the settling of the place, the original structures built, how their family lived and worked and struggled to create a legacy for the family. And Livvy does see how very much Ray loves the farm, the land, the strong connection he feels to the past and present.

Livvy is lonely still, however. She becomes friendly with two Japanese women living at a nearby Japanese internment camp. She actually meets them in her own fields--for they have been hired to help with the harvest. It seems they are an answer to her prayers; they are so nice and friendly and pleasant to talk with. They even volunteer their tailoring services--providing her with a maternity dress and suit. But is the friendship genuine? I think it's as genuine as it can be since Livvy doesn't like being vulnerable and the two sisters almost by necessity don't feel comfortable telling all their secrets either. I'm not even sure Livvy realizes this until the end when she sees that by protecting herself, protecting her heart, always keeping things inside, she's keeping love out too.

Livvy's perspective provides insights to readers about what it was like to live during this time. Livvy tries to keep up with the war through newspapers--though she has to content herself with news that is a day or two old since the delivery is so slow. The travel restrictions also keep Livvy at home with Ray instead of allowing her to visit her family at Christmas and New Years--like she originally planned. ("I'll Be Home for Christmas" would have still been a 'new' Christmas song, having been done in 1943. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" would have been another 'new' holiday song first introduced in the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. "The Christmas Song" was written in 1944, but not recorded until 1946.) 

I really enjoyed this novel. I loved Ray and Livvy. I loved Martha and her daughter too.

My thoughts: I've read the book twice now. But I've watched the movie probably twice that. I love, love, love the movie. I do. I enjoy the book as well. Both are wonderful. I do think the book explores things with a little more depth. But the romance perhaps plays better on the screen. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, September 16, 2022

114. Miracle Season

Miracle Season. Beth Hautala. 2022. [August] 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Persephone Pearl Clark sat on her porch step one morning in June, the spring sun warm against her back, watching the tendrils of a small vine slowly twist around her finger. 

Premise/plot: If you like a little magic realism with your coming of age drama, Miracle Season might be a great fit for you. Our protagonist, Persephone, is struggling with grief (and anger) in the aftermath of her older brother's horrible accident. Things haven't been the same since that tragic day, but when she stumbles across an unsent application to a reality television show--a show that spotlights small towns and home improvements--she follows her impulse and forges his name. One little lie becomes a dozen or so. As the summer unfolds, she finds friendship and hope in unexpected places, but will her new friends be there for her when the truth comes out?

My thoughts: This one has a healthy--though light--dose of magical realism. I enjoyed getting to know the characters of this town. The story is definitely bittersweet. No amount of hope and love and reconciliation and determination can wipe away the tragedy of that one day. But life does go on, and she has a lot of growing up to do. My heart ached for her. (I take this as a good sign that I was invested in the characters.) There is a CAT. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

113. Eight is Enough

Eight is Enough: A Father's Memoir of Life with His Extra Large Family. Tom Braden. 1975. 173 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I was a boy in Iowa, my ambition was "to become a pullman conductor and see the world." I know that because I wrote it in a diary I kept when I was seven.

Premise/plot: The book calls itself a memoir and who am I to disagree? I see each chapter as more of a vignette or essay. But again, who am I to disagree with the subtitle? Tom Braden was many things--soldier, spy, politician, journalist, husband, and father. He doesn't really recount much of anything besides husband-and-father in this memoir. I had no idea he worked for the CIA (or is it in the CIA???) until I read the afterword; that he was a soldier in World War II, I'm not surprised. Regardless, this book recounts his raising his family in the 1960s and 1970s. Expect anecdotes and some name dropping--as to both husband and wife moved in high circles.

My thoughts: I have very vague memories of catching the TV show in reruns. Very vague. (I think it was before we got the VCR.) But I remember just enough to be interested/intrigued in reading this one. I had no expectations. I didn't know if it would be sincere/sentimental or if it would be more like Erma Bombeck. (Don't laugh, remember I had no idea what to expect.) Some chapters do read like straight up comedy. Others read more like commentary of the times. There were a very few places that I found a bit creepy. But that could just be me not understanding the 60s and 70s.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

112. Singing with Elephants

Singing with Elephants. Margarita Engle. 2022. [May] 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Musical elephants are like
mountains with windy whispers,
the sea when it roars or chants a lullaby,
tree branches that clack like maracas,
and every animal that opens its mouth
to howl, bark, or chant
about the freedom
to walk, walk, walk,
rejoicing in the sheer joy
of touching
green earth
with rhythmic feet
and dancing

Premise/plots: Singing with Elephants is set in 1947 in Santa Barbara, California. Oriol, our heroine, is in absolute love with words. Inspired by a newcomer--a poet--Gabriela Mistral, she begins writing day and night, night and day. Little knowing--at least at first--that Gabriela Mistral is world-famous. Her other love is animals. Her parents are veterinarians. Oriol especially loves the new elephant--a PREGNANT elephant who is due to give birth soon....

But life is complicated, and this elephant family is is up to Oriol--and other like-minded folks--to save the day.

My thought: ELEPHANTS IN PERIL. I don't know why I entered this novel without a care in the world little thinking that all wouldn't be happy-comfy-cozy. So I want to warn sensitive readers especially that this one will keep you tense. That isn't a bad thing necessarily. Just a thing. 

It is a verse novel. It is a coming of age novel. It is well written. But just so very tense when it comes to the well being of these animals...


Poetry is like a planet, she says,
each word spins
and radiates


all I need
is a purpose
it's a word
filled with echoes
of other words
like courage
and hope


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, September 12, 2022

111. Widowland

Widowland. C.J. Carey. 2022. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: A biting east wind lifted the flags on the government buildings in a listless parody of celebration. All the way from Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall, they rippled and stirred, turning the dingy ministerial blocks into a river of arterial red. The splash of scarlet sat savagely on London's watercolor cityscape: on the dirt-darkened Victorian facades and dappled stone of Horse Guards, the russet Tudor buildings and ruddy-bricked reaches of Holborn, and around the Temple's closeted, medieval squares. It was a sharp, commanding shout of color that smothered the city's ancient grays and browns and obliterated its subtleties of ochre and rose. 

Premise/plot: Widowland is alternative history. The premise is that England and Germany arrived at an alliance in 1940. The book focuses on the upcoming coronation of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis. The heroine, Rose Ransom, has been ranked (all women are ranked) high and is enjoying certain privileges that many do not. The purer your 'stock' and the prettier your face, the more life has to offer you. She has been tasked with several things, however, primarily she spends her time REWRITING classic literature to fall into line with the new order. You wouldn't want anyone to stumble into a book, start to think for himself, and start a revolution. (Or herself). At the same time, she's sent on a secret mission to the 'Widowlands' to find disgruntled women who are using graffiti to voice their discontent. Usually the graffiti is comprised of quotes from literature. 

While the main 'action' occurs in the spring of 1953, you do get some idea of how things have gone in those thirteen years. Primarily, reading--for men, women, boys, and girls--is not encouraged all that widely. Well, certain books which fit into a certain agenda are okay. But reading for pleasure, reading books that encourage thinking independently, well, no one wants to be caught reading. Self-censorship is high because one doesn't want to be informed against for being too different, too suspicious, too outside the accepted ideals. Blend in at all costs, never be noticed. But women, as  you might expect, do have it worse--relatively worse. They exist for one reason and one reason only....and thinking is not it. 

As she is doing her job, Rose starts to think for herself...and well...that's not without risks.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this speculative novel. I enjoy a good alternative history, something that asks a good what if. And this one was intelligently done, in my opinion. Unlike some of the more frothy and trivial what-ifs that imagine if America had a royal family--that George Washington was America's first king, this one explores a much darker what if. 

I found it an interesting, absorbing read. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, September 11, 2022

110. I.Q.: Independence Hall (Book #1)

I.Q., Independence Hall (Book one in I.Q series). Roland Smith. 2008. 293 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: From a window across the street, Eben Lavi watched the couple and the two children leave their loft and climb into the back of a white limousine. It pulled away from teh curb and started down the street.

Premise/plot: I.Q. is an action packed spy thriller starring two kids. Angela (whose mom was a secret service agent) and Quest are step-siblings. Their parents have literally just gotten married. Together they are MATCH a newly formed (relatively newly formed?) musical group who have gone viral. Their honeymoon will take place (with kids) on the tour bus as they make their way to Philadelphia. The tour is coming and will be HUGE. The kids will be out of school--well, school, school. They will be homeschooling on the bus for the tour. And getting to know each other...and as it turns out...fighting to survive.

My thoughts: Mysteries. Secrets. Politics. Action. This one has a little bit of everything. And it all unfolds in a satisfying way. Not too fast. Not too slow. The pacing was just about right. It was just the kind of book I was needing. I was reading this at the same time as Map of Flames. Unfortunately, I think my impressions of Map of Flames suffered a bit because this one was so very good. Both are action-packed. This is an older title. I'm not even sure it's still in print? 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

109. The Forgotten Five #1: Map of Flames

Map of Flames (Forgotten Five #1) Lisa McMann. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Birdie Golden's fingers were still stained with dirt from digging her father's grave. Tears smudged her cheeks.

Premise/plot: Map of Flames is a premise-driven, action-adventure driven super-hero MG novel. The premise sounds amazing. Eight super-villains hide in the ultimate tropical jungle hide-out. Their five children (between the eight) have never known the larger 'outside' world. Many (if not all) have superpowers just like their parents. Now the children are on their own without any of the parents. And some of them (soon all of them) are going to be going on their first mission ever...and leaving the only place they've ever lived.

My thoughts: The premise sounds all kinds of amazing. And perhaps for the majority of readers it holds up well to that premise. It is packed with action and adventure. Never a dull or slow moment. But. For me, an adult reader who loves character-driven novels that have some depth and substance and heart...this was just an almost for me. I kept reading because I wanted there to be a moment when it all fell into place and there was great reward...for me. Again, maybe the majority of readers think this book is absolutely awesome.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, September 10, 2022

108. Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "Linnet Ridgeway!" "That's her!" said Mr. Burnaby, the landlord of the Three Crowns. He nudged his companion.

Premise/plot: All is not fair in love or war. This Hercule Poirot mystery is set on a cruise of the Nile river. It is the honeymoon trip for one happy couple--or should I say one "happy" couple. For this happy couple is being stalked/followed by a disgruntled (and dramatic) ex. She is not happy to see HER former fiance marry a now former friend. She even introduced them! These three aren't the only travelers with struggles, traumas, and dramas of their own. Poirot picked quite a bunch to travel with. (Not that he had much say in the matter.) But when bodies start to fall, well, he has his work to do.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. It is such a great mystery, very complex! Hercule Poirot and Colonel Race find themselves on board a ship on the Nile, they are in interesting company. Poirot notices the tension between some of his fellow travelers from the very start. And as he takes the time to get to know everyone, to have personal chats with almost every one, his unease only increases. He fears that before the trip is over, murder will have been committed. But who shall the victim be? And who the murderer? Meanwhile, Race is on a mission of his own before a body is even found. He is on the trail of a killer, a radical. He's not sure WHO his man is, just knows that he is almost certainly on board, that is where his clues have led him. When the oh-so-wealthy heiress, Linnet Ridgeway, is murdered on her honeymoon with Simon Doyle, there are plenty of suspects. For not all of the passengers on board are exactly strangers to her....

The first part of this one is set in England, but the rest is all set in Egypt.

This one had me from the start. It was so thrilling! Not only was the plot interesting and surprising and wonderful, the characterization was so well done!!!


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, September 04, 2022

107. The Robots of Dawn

The Robots of Dawn. Isaac Asimov. 1983. 438 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Elijah Baley found himself in the shade of the tree and muttered to himself, "I knew it. I'm sweating."

Premise/plot: Detective Elijah Baley stars in his third science-fiction mystery in Isaac Asimov's The Robots of Dawn. The first two books are Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. All have Baley working closely with R. Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot, to solve a murder. In this third book, Baley finds himself heading to Aurora to solve the "murder" of a robot. It is not so much a criminal investigation. The "murder" being more a matter for the civil courts. But this is a case that might very well have huge implications. It isn't so much the destruction of one robot, as it is a fiery political mess of WHO should be colonizing planets in the future. The options being a) humanoid robots only but preparing the way for human colonists centuries later b) humans and robots working together c) Spacer humans only NOT those from Earth. d) Aurorans (humans from the planet Aurora) only, no other spacers, e) Earthmen and Spacers f) only Earthmen. Essentially, what role (if any) should robots have in colonizing space. Will the robots being ruled by the three laws interfere with the natural order of things? Will robots over-protective nature of "saving" humans at all costs, keep humans from taking the risks necessary to colonize space? 

My thoughts: This book felt like it was 800 pages, and not in a good way. It is without a doubt a premise driven novel. It is not really a mystery novel, not really. Of course that is my opinion. It is so DRY and BORING and INFO-DUMP-y when it comes to interrogating and interviewing everyone he meets. Info-Dump is a great word for the narrative style. Little character development. If I wasn't already attached to Baley and Daneel, then I would have refused to finish it. The topics are mainly sociology (particularly sexuality, reproduction/parenthood, marriage) science (inventors, researchers, ethical responsibilities), and politics.

 When it wasn't being incredibly boring, this book was disturbing. And not because of the adulterous one-night affair between Baley and Gladia. There's a fine balance between odd/weird and disturbing. The Aurora society is so SEX with no prohibitions or inhibitions, no taboos, that they see absolutely NOTHING wrong with incestuous relationships. In fact, it's thought "odd" if fathers refuse daughters, or daughters refuse fathers. (It is a little more complicated than that. But still disgusting). Children are encouraged from a young age, instructed and taught. It wasn't that every time the subject of sex was brought up in the book, it involved children. But even a couple of times makes this a weird read.

I was disappointed. I enjoyed the first two books so much. The first two books were not as weird/creepy.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, September 02, 2022

106. The Mark of Athena

The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3). Rick Riordan. 2012. 586 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Until she met the exploding statue, Annabeth thought she was prepared for anything.

Premise/plot: At last all seven of the demigods are united and gathering to face all odds and do ultimate battle. Percy, Jason, Piper, Hazel, Annabeth, Frank, Leo. We spent the first two books in the series getting to know these characters--three at a time. These seven are heading to the ancient homelands--ancient Rome/ancient Greece. The odds are not in their favor. And along the way, they'll have to win approval of some gods at least if they are to stand a chance. For it is only when heroes and gods work together that victory is even possible. 

My thoughts: So much going on. So many characters. All of them claiming to be "ultimate." The book, to me, felt wearisome. I did not feel as invested in all seven of the heroes as I should have been. I think it's not that I don't care at all. I do. It's just hard to care about all seven at the same time. And there comes a time when quests--even super-ultimate-this-is-really-it quests--are just tiresome to get invested in. This is book three out of five. You know wherever, however this one's not really close to "the end."

That being said, this is perhaps the first chance that Annabeth gets to truly shine on her own. Not as part of a group or duo, but on her own. This book had interesting/intriguing moments/scenes. I just had a hard time staying that way cover to cover. 

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

105. The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune. Rick Riordan. 2011. 521 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The snake-haired ladies were starting to annoy Percy.

Premise/plot: Percy Jackson, who has lost his memory (mostly), is a demigod (son of Poseidon/Neptune) who is spending time at a Roman camp for half-bloods. He doesn't recall most of his time at Camp Halfblood (the Greek camp), but he does remember Annabeth. He knows that she is out there somewhere looking for him. But meanwhile, there are bad guys to fight, quests to fulfill, and new friends to make.

This one is narrated by Percy, Hazel, and Frank. Hazel and Frank's stories are revealed slowly but surely--as are the identities of their godly parents. This one continues to set up a new ultimate this-is-it-we-mean-it end-of-the-world scenario.

My thoughts: I liked getting to know Hazel and Frank (for the most part). And I am glad that Percy is "back" and that he has been "found." I like the idea that the Greeks and Romans have been hidden from each other for decades/centuries. I do like how this one ends with the Greeks and Romans getting ready to meet up as possible-possible-possible allies.

But knowing that this is book two in a five book series that is setting up yet another final-final-ultimate-super-ultimate battle, it is just wearisome. In my opinion. So much investment knowing that there isn't going to be much satisfaction until the last book. (And only then if Rick Riordan leaves the characters in peace.)


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews