Monday, October 31, 2022

October Reflections

In October I read forty-nine books.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

120. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing. Deb Caletti. 2022. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
121. So Much More to Helen! Meeg Pincus. Illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Muller. 2022. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
122. Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Angela Joy. Illustrated by Janelle Washington. 2022. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
123. Magnificent Obsession. Lloyd C. Douglas. 1929. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
124. The Roman Hat Mystery. Ellery Queen. (aka Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee) 1929. 239 pages. [Source: Library]
125. The House of Hades. (The Heroes of Olympus #4) Rick Riordan. 2013. 597 pages. [Source: Library]
126. Passing. Nella Larsen. (Introduced by Emily Bernard). 1929. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
127. We Own the Sky. Rodman Philbrick. 2022. [September] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
128. The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus #5) Rick Riordan. 2014. 516 pages. [Source: Library]
129. The Jumping-Off Place. Marian Hurd McNeely. Illustrated by William Siegel. 1929. 321 pages. [Source: Review copy]
130. Days of Infamy: How A Century of Bigotry Led to Japanese American Internment. Lawrence Goldstone. 2022. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
131. Fairy Tale. Stephen King. 2022. 608 pages. [Source: Library]
132. Vampiric Vacation: Sinister Summer #2. Kiersten White. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
133. Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell. Candace Fleming. 2022. [October] 288 pages. [Source: Library]
134. Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
135. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Rachel Field. Illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop. 1929. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
136. You Only Live Once, David Bravo. Mark Oshiro. 2022. 381 pages. [Source: Library]
137. Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card. 1985. 324 pages. [Source: Bought]
138. The Scrivener's Bones( Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians #2) Brandon Sanderson. 2008. 322 pages. [Source: Library]
139. Black Bird, Blue Road. Sofiya Pasternack. 2022. [September] 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

153. The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects. Michael Buckley. Illustrated by Peter Ferguson. 2005. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
154. How To Build An Orchestra. Mary Auld. Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli. 2020. [October] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
155. Sometimes I Grumblesquinch. Rachel Vail. Illustrated by Hyewon Yum. 2022. [August] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
156. Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie Thief (Cookie Chronicles #4) Matthew Swanson. Illustrated by Robbi Behr. 2022. [September]  304 pages. [Source: Library]

157. Violet and Jobie In the Wild. Lynne Rae Perkins. 2022. [September] 240 pages. [Source: Library]
158. Ballet Bruce (World of Reading, Level 1) Ryan T. Higgins. 2022. [July] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
159. Snail's Silly Adventures. Mary Peterson. 2020. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
160. Even Robots Can Be Thankful. Jan Thomas. 2022. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
161. How Kind! (Board Book) Mary Murphy. 2022. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
162. Hey, Bruce! An Interactive Book. Ryan T. Higgins. 2022. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
163. Haylee and Comet: Over the Moon (Haylee and Comet #3) Deborah Marcero. 2022. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
164. The Area 51 Files. Julie Buxbaum. 2022. [September] 304 pages. [Source: Library]
165. Race to Fire Mountain (Future Hero #1) Remi Blackwood. 2022. [August] 144 pages. [Source: Library]
166. Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion. K. Tempest Bradford. 2022. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
167. Just Harriet. Elana K. Arnold. 2022. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
168. Two-Headed Chicken. Tom Angleberger. 2022. [September] 208 pages. [Source: Library]
169. Ballewiena. Rebecca Bender. 2022. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
170. Doggo and Pupper Save The World (Doggo and Pupper #2) Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Charlie Alder. 2022. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
171. Who Was A Daring Pioneer of the Skies? Amelia Earhart. Melanie Gillman. 2022. [August] 64 pages. [Source: Library]
172. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2022. [October 18] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
173. Creepy Crayon! Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown. 2022. [August] 48 pages. [Source: Library]
174. A Very Mercy Christmas. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. 2022. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
175. Max Can Read. Rosemary Wells. 2022. [October] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
176. Odder. Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2022. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

36. Counterfeit Kingdom: The Dangers of New Revelation, New Prophets, and New Age Practices in the Church. Holly Pivec and R. Douglas Geivett. 2022. [November] 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
37. The First Songs of Christmas. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. 2021. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
38. The Florence Legacy. Lauraine Snelling. 2022. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

39. The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip. Sara Brunsvold. 2022. 361 pages. [Source: Library]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

15. ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible: Christ In All of Scripture, Grace for All of Life. 2019 (this edition). 2096 pages. [Source: Gift]
16. New American Standard Reference Edition. 1973. God. 1899 pages. [Source: Bought]


October Totals

October reads
# of books49
# of pages14218

2022 Yearly Totals

2022 Totals
# of books369
# of pages109129


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, October 27, 2022

139. Black Bird, Blue Road

Black Bird, Blue Road. Sofiya Pasternack. 2022. [September] 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hello! Come in. Sit down. Don't be scared. This is a very important story, after all, and you shouldn't be afraid to hear it. It's from a very long time ago. A thousand years! In thos days, they used to begin their stories like this: There was one, there was no one. So that's how I'll begin, too. There was one. A girl. Ziva bat Leah, the daughter of a judge and the sister of a prophet. There was no one. No one to believe that Ziva could do the things she set out to do--like find a cure for her brother's illness, or master a demon, or sway the Angel of Death, whom she called malach ha-mavet. Ziva did two of those things, dear listener. Which two? Well. 

Premise/plot: Historical fantasy starring Jewish characters [and community]. Ziva, our heroine, loves, loves, loves her twin brother, Pesah. Everytime someone tells her that her brother is dying, she reacts. NO. No. No. A thousand times no. She is not ready to give up on her brother. He may have leprosy. He may have a gurgling, hagging-nagging cough, but she is not ready to give up on him. She will stand by his side fighting for a cure, clinging to any and every hope for a cure. This ultimately leads her to run away from home--with her brother--in search of a cure. It is an incredible journey. I will refrain from going into specifics of that journey. BUT MY OH MY this book was good.

My thoughts: The first few pages of the prologue grabbed my attention. The first part of the novel (proper) were much slower, in my opinion. But once these two start on their [runaway] journey, this one really takes off. Once these two encounter the half-demon (there was a Jewish name but I don't have a copy of the book in front of me and I didn't take actual notes), Almas, and these three set off in search of a city [Luz] where they can find immortality, the book becomes impossible--absolutely impossible--to put down. They are on a flight to out-run the Angel of Death.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

138. Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians: The Scrivener's Bones

The Scrivener's Bones( Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians #2) Brandon Sanderson. 2008. 322 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So, there I was, slumped in my chair, waiting in a drab airport terminal, munching absently on a bag of stale potato chips. Not the beginning you expected, is it? You likely thought that I would start this book with something exciting. A scene involving evil Librarians, perhaps -- something with altars, Alivened, or at least some machine guns. I'm sorry to disappoint you. It won't be the first time I do that. However, it's for your own good.

Premise/plot: This is the sequel to Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Alcatraz Smedry is back for his second adventure. And oh how he loves to manipulate his readers, tease them, taunt them. It's mean and I love it. If you haven't read the first book, you should. Trust me on that. It's funny and clever. And the best entertainment to be had between the covers of a book.

I'd like to make something clear. I have been unfair to you. That is to be expected, liar that I am.
In the first book of this series, I made some sweeping generalizations about librarians, many of which are completely true.
I need to come clean. There are several kinds of librarians. There are the ones I talked about in my last book -- the Librarians, with a capital L. We also call them the Librarians of Biblioden, or the Scrivener's Librarians. Most of what I said about that particular group is, indeed, factual.
However, I didn't take the time to explain that they're not the only kind of librarians. You may, therefore, have assumed that all librarians are evil cultists who want to take over the world, enslave humanity, and sacrifice people on their altars.
This is completely untrue. Not all librarians are evil cultists. Some librarians are instead vengeful undead who want to suck your soul.
I'm glad we cleared that up. (44-45)

In this second adventure, we have Alcatraz and Bastille teaming up with others--new characters, new talents--on a quest trying to track down Grandpa Smedry and Attica Smedry. (Attica being the long-lost-and-often-presumed-dead father of our hero, Alcatraz.) Alcatraz believes that both can be found in the Library of Alexandria. It is here in this ancient library, that they come across the worst sort of librarian: the kind that can take your soul if you take a book. (If you sign a contract to lose your soul, you have ten hours before the dreaded soul-taking takes place. If you don't sign a contract but happen to pick up a book, then you've got ten seconds.) These librarians taunt and tease. Urging you to read this and that. Good news if you give in: You get to read all the books in the library. And we're not just talking ancient scrolls and the like. New books--American books--are being sent over all the time. (Every book ever written.) Bad news: You're doomed to spend eternity there with no hope of ever leaving. And as a curator, you yourself will join their numbers trying to steal other people's souls.

Can Alcatraz find his father and grandfather and escape this threatening-but-oh-so-tempting library with his soul intact? Will his friends? There's danger. There's threats--new and old. There are traps, traps, and more traps. There are daring rescues (or rescue attempts I should say). There are more than a few surprises. It's great fun. You should try it.

My thoughts: I really LOVE revisiting this series. I don't know why I've never taken the time to reread these books. I definitely loved them the first time around and I'm loving them this time around as well. I am so glad a new book in the series is releasing so I can revisit this wonderful series. I do think the narrative style is super appealing to readers of all ages.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

137. Ender's Game

Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card. 1985. 324 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."

Premise/plot: Andrew Wiggin, aka "Ender," is six years old and potentially the earth's savior. Two wars have been fought and barely won against the aliens known to readers as Buggers. The third war will take much preparation--decades worth of the International Fleet training up children to be commanders and soldiers.

Ender is one such student or trainee. His older brother, Peter, and older sister, Valentine, didn't make it so far as Battle School in space. Ender's life is wearisome and burdensome. He doesn't make friends easily and his biggest fear is being just as violent and out of control as his brother, Peter. He is prone to self-reflection and self-loathing. But in terms of military genius, strategizing, leadership...he excels.

When the time comes to fight the war, will he be ready?

My thoughts: There was a time I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this novel. The past few times I've revisited the novel, that has lessened a bit. I still love elements of this one. But there are definitely elements about it I do not like at all. The first fourth of the novel, well, it's DISTURBING, uncomfortable, awkward, a bit off. I did NOT remember the use of the n word. I did not remember the jokesy approach to different races (or ethnicities). I did not remember the chokehold scene where Peter is trying to kill his brother. I did not remember some of the crudeness.

One thing that bothers me is Peter. Peter is a psychopath in my opinion. He is cruel to his brother and sister. He is cruel to small animals. He is a bully. He is manipulative. He is egocentric and a narcissist. He dreams of world domination. He is just a sick, sick, sick individual. And I think what readers are outright told about him is just the tip of the iceberg. If Valentine is to be believed about the files and records she's been keeping of her brother. Chances are he might have done even more than she knew about. There was one line that disturbed me where she is telling Ender that you don't know what I had to do to keep Peter from hurting you. Of course, we don't know--she doesn't say. But Card later seems to redeem the character of Peter and seeks to make him sympathetic.

Card does do flawed humans well. I will give him that. Are any of the characters in this one not flawed?!?! I think the most likable characters may be Bean and Petra.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

136. You Only live Once, David Bravo

You Only Live Once, David Bravo. Mark Oshiro. 2022. 381 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "What if we just don't go to school?"

What I expected: I did not do my due diligence before checking this one out of the library. That is on me. What I expected was either a) a fun, whimsical wish-gone-wrong light-hearted romp where life goes from messy to messier to messiest before the main character learns a lesson of contentment and shows gratitude b) a subtle creepy, spooky Twilight-Zone trapped-in-the-wrong-time-line vibe c) an offbeat, quirky ultimately absurd (think Tom Angleberger) romp that plays with the nerdy glory of alternate time lines, parallel universes, etc. I didn't get either of those three. Again, I probably should have done a little more research on my end to find out exactly what the book is all about before I checked it out of the library. If I had, I would not have been left with the feeling of being given a shaken-up can of soda. I can't fault the author for not giving me the book *I* wanted. 

Premise/plot: David Bravo is starting his first day of middle school. He's upset (and understandably so) that his best friend (his only friend) Antoine is not in any of his classes. They don't even have the same lunch periods. (They just overlap by fifteen minutes). Everything seems to be going wrong. He's awkward because he's nervous/anxious but also awkward because he's frozen in indecision. And not just on the first day. It seems to be an ongoing issue with him that he's so scared of making any/every/all choices that he takes really long pauses.

After a particularly bad day, he wishes for a do-over. And his wish is granted by a shape-shifting, once-alive-and-human spirit named Fea (though that was not her human name). Fea is a shape-shifter. Once Fea enters the picture, it seems David's troubles magnify. Instead of helping, she seems to be making things worse. Her good intentions of making things better or making things right is almost irrelevant. She definitely is the interfering sort. She's convinced that David Bravo's life is in horrible-no-good-very-bad shape because he's not being honest about *who* he is. If he would only admit that he likes-likes Antoine as more than just a friend, then his life would get back on track. And essentially "she would get her wings." (Not really, but her infinity emblem would go from red to green. So essentially thematically same-same.) But David is reluctant and needs pushing. He tries any/every solution but her suggestion. But Fea and David's misadventures continue. She even flashes to her own past life as a human to show him her mistakes in not coming out and being honest with her best friend. 

Also complicating this story line--and perhaps the one straw too much????--is the theme that David Bravo is adopted. Not that adoption stories are too much for stories. (Far from it.) But in this instance, once the main story *is* resolved (yes, he tells Antoine that he likes likes him) we still have this other story that is resolved in an over-the-top bizarre way. The ending is just all kinds of wrong. (Again, my opinion). 

My thoughts: This isn't the story I wanted it to be exactly. Not the author's fault for not meeting my expectations. 

I will say that it had some It's a Wonderful Life vibes. Perhaps some readers will really appreciate that. Again, David struggles with depression, self-worth; sometimes thinks it would be better if he'd never been adopted out. He questions where he belongs--if he belongs.

I do think that too many things were being juggled in the air--plot wise. There was David needing to come out to his best friend; there was David being confused about being adopted; there was Fea being haunted by her past life; there was also a weird sub-plot about how neither boys really wanted to run track??? The ending is where this book totally and completely lost me.








The search for his birth mother led him to a twin brother (also adopted out) and the realization that his birth parents--both of them--died in a car accident on their way to the hospital. The twins survived but were separated. The fact that his twin-brother was adopted into the family of Fea's girlhood CRUSH and that Fea (the spirit) dances with the grandmother (her former crush) just seems like this ending doesn't know when to stop pushing. I wasn't feeling great about the tacked on twin brother and the tragic reveal about the parents. But everything all together at the end of this one--was just way too much. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, October 22, 2022

135. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Rachel Field. Illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop. 1929. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The antique shop is very still now. Theobold and I have it all to ourselves, for the cuckoo clock was sold day before yesterday and Theobold has been so industrious of late there are no more mice to venture out from behind the woodwork. Theobold is the shop cat--the only thing in it is that is not for sale, which has made him rather overbearing at times. Not that I wish to be critical of him. We all have our little infirmaties and if it had not been for his I might not now be writing my memoirs. Still, infirmities are one thing, and claws are another, as I have reason to know.

Premise/plot: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years won the Newbery award in 1930. Who is Hitty? Hitty is a doll. A wooden doll made from the ever-lucky mountain-ash wood. Her story begins when an Old Peddler--old peddlers are so rarely named in books--takes refuge with a family in Maine. Mrs. Preble is awaiting the return of her husband--who is a whaler--and she has the children to care for. One of her children is a young girl named Phoebe. (The other is a boy named Andy.) The Peddler takes refuge in the storm, but ends up staying quite a while with the family. At some point during his visit, he carves this doll--soon named Mehitabel--for the little girl. Phoebe's told she must sew clothes for the doll before she can be played with--and one of the items Phoebe makes is an undergarment--a chemise--with "Hitty" cross-stitched on it.

Hitty's (mis)adventures span the globe and span generations. Sometimes her change of locale is purposeful--when the Preble family takes her on a ship's voyage to the South Seas--and other times it is quite accidental--when Phoebe drops the doll in India and she is "discovered" by a wandering snake charmer. She has many different owners; she has many different adventures. Throughout it all, she tries to hold on to as much grace and dignity as she can. Which isn't always easy. (Like when she's made an idol in the South Seas.)

My thoughts: Hitty--the doll--is a plaything for children, yet, her various owners through the decades are only rarely children who play with her [and love her as a toy]. Many adults own Hitty. A seamstress sees Hitty as an opportunity to experiment with fashion design and fabrics. Another sees a pincushion. Some see an antique to be displayed and valued. Hitty's purpose changes and fluctuates. 

Much the same, Hitty--the book--may have started out its life as a children's book--a winner of the Newbery, no doubt--yet I venture forth a guess that most often her readers in the past few decades--at least--are adults. And perhaps that is for the best. There is without a doubt much value (or potential value) in vintage antiques. But sometimes antiques lose their suitability for children. Or perhaps the better word may just as well be appeal. I think it's a bit of both with the case of Hitty. 

Not all of Hitty is out of sorts or out of fashion. Plenty remains to charm. But there are definitely episodes--or chapters, or parts of chapters--that just are jarring to modern readers. A little cringe here or there. Injuns, savages, Hindoos...these are just a few of the things that might read a bit off. [One of Hitty's owners has a best friend who is a German immigrant, the German speaks very broken English.] 

As I said, Hitty isn't perfectly-perfect for modern readers. But it isn't without charm. Hitty is a wooden doll who sees, hears, thinks, feels, and sometimes even moves. She observes over a century--give or take a few years--of what we would call history. Imagine how much the world would change from 1829 to 1929! Hitty has "lived" life--the good, the bad, the really ugly. [A low point might be her YEARS buried in a horse-hair sofa.] Her misadventures/adventures have taken a lot out of her physically. Just like some might pass her by as an "ugly" doll, some readers might take a pass on Hitty. But I think she'll find friends here and there that do appreciate her for what she is.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

134. Beavallet

Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The deck was in shambles.

Premise/plot: Dona Dominica, the daughter of the former governor of Santiago, Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, is on her way back to Spain--along with her dying father, when their ship the Santa Maria is boarded by English adventurers (pirates) led by the fearless El Beauvallet (Nicholas Beauvallet). The two are taken captive by Beauvallet and brought aboard his ship, Venture. But he promises--and it's not a promise without risk--to return these two safely to Spain. If anyone can land an English ship safely into a Spanish port during these hostile times it would have to be Beauvallet.

At first Dominica hates her captor. She refuses to admit to herself that he is a little charming, a little handsome. She flirts with the other men to drive him crazy. But. Soon she has to admit that there is an attraction between them. And she's shocked to hear him boast recklessly of his honorable intentions to make her an English woman before the year is out. Since she is his captive, you might think this would be easy. Just set sail for England instead of Spain. The lady seems willing enough. But Beauvallet wants the challenge. So he keeps his promise--his first promise--both father and daughter arrive safely in Spain. Beauvallet returns to England, to his family, to his Queen.

But Dominica has not been forgotten. And a few months later, Beauvallet is ready to pursue his lady. To woo her in Spain. With England and Spain so very, very close to war--how can an Englishman, a pirate, a dreaded pirate, safely enter Spain? He has boasted that he will find a way...

Meanwhile, Dominica's father dies and she is taken into her aunt's family. Her aunt!!! Oh what a character Dona Beatrice is! She's a strong, strong woman with a mind of her own. She has a way of bullying all the men in her life including her son, Don Diego. She has determined that he must marry Dominica.

Beauvallet is an exciting and dramatic historical romance set in the Elizabethan era. Beauvallet is a bold adventurer who will risk it all to win his lady love. With his faithful companion, Joshua Dimmock, by his side, Beauvallet is ready for any challenge. 

My thoughts: The book had action, adventure, drama, and romance. I enjoyed Beauvallet very much! If only Beauvallet had been filmed... Errol Flynn would have been perfect--absolutely perfect--as Heyer's hero, Nicholas Beauvallet. It was easy to imagine, which perhaps helped me enjoy the novel more. Beauvallet would never be among my favorite, favorite Heyer romances. Most of my favorite Heyer novels are set in the Regency. This historical romance is set in the Elizabethan period. But it's good fun and well worth the read. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, October 21, 2022

133. Crash From Outer Space

Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell. Candace Fleming. 2022. [October] 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the evening of June 13, 1947, William "Mack" Brazel sat on the porch of his tiny ranch house near Roswell, New Mexico.

Premise/plot: In her newest nonfiction book, Candace Fleming spends time unpacking ALL the many, many stories surrounding "Roswell" and the "crash from outerspace." Layer by layer, decade by decade, source by source, witness by witness. It is a story of how a narrative is crafted and framed. It is a story that asks quite a few thought-provoking questions. Can you just take a person at their word? Is something true just because someone claims to have witnessed it? How much weight do you give to sources--whether a source be a person's eye-witness account, a person's diary, a photograph, a video? How do you know what sources to trust? What would motivate a person to lie? Do investigative reporters make mistakes? How easy it is to be fooled...and how painstakingly careful one needs to be. 

My thoughts: I enjoyed how she chronicled the story growing and growing and growing from the 1940s to the present day. How it became this almost epic, mythic STORY that lives and continues to live in our culture. She chronicles the writers--authors and reporters--that have covered this story, this mesmerizing, fascinating story. One message I took away from the book was that it isn't enough for sources to appear to be true and trustworthy. Critical thinking--no matter your age--is always a good thing. 

I also loved the use of photographs!


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

132. Vampiric Vacation

Vampiric Vacation: Sinister Summer #2. Kiersten White. 2022. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The day was decidedly sinister. But not in a charming Sinister-Winterbottom way.

Premise/plot: Theo(dora), Alex(ander) and Wil(helmina) are back in their second (mis)adventure novel. Their summer vacation continues. The novel opens when Aunt Saffronia drops them off at the Sanguine Spa--and then dashes off. Wil (the oldest) sticks to her phone and can't really be bothered. But Alex and Theo have much to explore--to seek and find. But it would be helpful if they had a little guidance as to what they were looking for. As they engage with the super-young staff and the Count himself, they become more curious and definitely more spooked. What is going on in this castle-spa-hotel???

My thoughts: I definitely engaged more with the first book in the series. I liked the water-park (amusement park) setting. The characters seemed fresh/original. It wasn't particularly being tied to any other book/story. This one has so many ties to Dracula that it was a little frustrating. At a certain point, it began to tell its own story and from there it improved. But it wasn't love cover to cover. I wasn't charmed like I had been with the first book. That being said, I do like the characters. And I'd definitely still be interested in reading book three in the series. The larger mystery is just beginning to unfold, I think. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, October 20, 2022

131. Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale. Stephen King. 2022. 608 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm sure I can tell this story. I'm also sure no one will believe it. That's fine with me. Telling it will be enough. My problem--and I'm sure many writers have it, not just newbies like me--is deciding where to start. 

Premise/plot: Charlie Reade, our protagonist, has quite a story to tell readers. Though the adventures [or misadventures] start with a neighbor's shed, the story starts much earlier. He opens his story with the story of a bridge, the bridge where his mother died when he was a young kid. The accident not only took his mom's life, but, his father spent years--many, many years--living life inside a bottle. However, when the story opens--Charlie's father is in recovery and miraculously returned to him. Charlie feels--to a certain extent--that he has made a bargain with God. He'll be GOOD, great, compassionate, kind--all the things--if his father is healed of his alcoholism. In part, this is why he goes above and beyond when his literal neighbor is in need. 

Mr. Bowditch is the crankiest, grumpiest neighbor. He's a recluse essentially. But when Charlie hears his neighbor's dog, Radar, howling (barking?) he checks on the situation to find that his neighbor indeed does need help--a great deal of help. He has fallen off the ladder and the situation is dire. He saves his neighbor's life...and the two are forever joined, in a way. The bridge that holds these together--besides a promise to be good--is Radar. Charlie and Radar become best, best, best buddies. Soon these two will be inseparable. There is literally NOTHING that Charlie wouldn't do for Radar...

...which leads us eventually to the super-mysterious shed...and all the adventures and misadventures. 

My thoughts:  Fairy Tale is not your typical Stephen King novel. I'm assuming. Granted I am not qualified to judge that. (I've read Under the Dome and 11/22/63.) The first half is a heart-felt coming-of-age story starring a BOY AND HIS DOG. You've got a story of unlikely friendship between a dying neighbor and a young, athletic [whole life before him] boy. The relationship between Charlie, Mr. Bowditch [Howard], and Radar is just uplifting and enjoyable. The second half is mystery-suspense-thriller-fantasy. Charlie goes through a portal to another realm/another world. 

I wouldn't be surprised if readers are divided as to which half is "better" or "more enjoyable." As for me, I absolutely LOVED the first half. I enjoyed the second half. I did. I kept turning pages. I read this book in THREE DAYS. There wasn't any "slow" part. I wonder if those who are looking for a thriller-y, action-packed fantasy think the first half too slow??? 

The only content warning I would have is language. I think this is typical King in the use of curse/cuss words--like the f word. If you are super-sensitive and try to carefully avoid books that use "crude" language, then this probably isn't for you. I found the story so captivating and the characters so well done that I wasn't bothered. [This isn't always the case. For me, it is almost a book by book, story by story call.]


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 17, 2022

130. Days of Infamy

Days of Infamy: How A Century of Bigotry Led to Japanese American Internment. Lawrence Goldstone. 2022. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese navy launched on American air and naval bases at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress. He told American lawmakers that December 7, 1941 was a "date which will live in infamy," and asked that a state of war be declared between the United States and Japan. While his denunciation of an unprovoked attack as the two nations were actively negotiating to resolve their differences was certainly justified, three years later, December 18, 1944, became another date that has lived in infamy, one about which President Roosevelt was silent. The reason for his lack of outrage on this occasion was perhaps because he was directly responsible for what would later be widely seen as an indelible stain on America's honor. On that day, with the defeat of fascism glimmering into sight, the United States Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, ruled that the forced relocation of more than 100,000 Americans, two-thirds of whom were United States citizens, to what government officials themselves called "concentration camps," was fully justified under the United States Constitution. Not one of these Americans had been accused of a crime. They had been torn from their homes, jobs, schools, and communities to be deposited in tawdry, makeshift housing behind barbed wire solely because of their race. 

Premise/plot: Two things this book is not: 1) It is not a graphic novel.* 2) It is not a nonfiction book focusing on Japanese-American internment (concentration) camps during the Second World War.** 

Who can be a citizen of the United States of America? How has citizenship been legislated from the very beginning? What rights do citizens have? Do non-citizens have any rights? How has race been defined, regulated, legislated? Does "white" mean EVERY person who is not "black"? This begins to be an issue with Chinese (and subsequently Japanese) immigration in the nineteenth century. The east coast and the west coast have VASTLY different (equally strong) opinions on how big a problem or issue this immigration is. Politicians run campaigns (and sometimes win elections) based on the subject of IMMIGRATION. The book covers over a hundred years of policy. [What could rightly be called systematic racism.] The book examines the subject of race--sometimes Chinese, sometimes Japanese, sometimes all Asians--through the decades. This is done primarily through laws being legislated. (Sometimes these laws/bills are successful; sometimes legislation fails) And the book also looks at judicial cases. The book is definitely a LAW NERD book. Readers get a close look at case after case after case through the decades. It all leads up to HOW COULD INTERNMENT HAVE HAPPENED???? And the answer, of course, was it was inevitable. For over seventy-five years, there's essentially been one narrative being pushed. And that one narrative is undeniably bigoted.

My thoughts: I have read a handful of books (at least) about Japanese-American concentration (internment) camps. Some nonfiction. A few fiction. All of them thought-provoking. I hadn't ever read about the history leading up to this however. It was fascinating yet incredibly sad. All the legal cases were something unique. I've not read many books from this legal viewpoint one that uses the law as a way to bridge the story together into a wonderful whole.


*My local library actually has this filed as a "teen graphic novel" and assigned it a call number accordingly. It does future readers little good to come into the book expecting it to be a graphic novel.
**Yes, the book mentions this, of course it does, but it is the end-destination.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

129. The Jumping-Off Place

The Jumping-Off Place. Marian Hurd McNeely. Illustrated by William Siegel. 1929. 321 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Down on their knees, a boy and girl were taking up the kitchen linoleum. It was a queer time to be at that work--half past eight in the evening--and there was an air of strangeness about the house; an unusual silence, a hollowness and a fragrance of crushed flowers in the air. 

Premise/plot: Four kids (Becky, Joan, Phil, and Dick)--doubly orphaned, first by their parents and then their uncle-guardian--set off for Tripp County, South Dakota, in 1910 to homestead on their Uncle's filed claim. And this is to be accomplished almost always on their own. Yes, there are supportive adults who share advice and sometimes an extra pair of hands, but, hundred percent of the blood, sweat, and tears of farming/homesteading will be on these four youngsters. (The oldest is sixteen or seventeen.) The book chronicles about a year's worth of time--give or take a couple of weeks. We definitely go through [late] spring, summer, fall, winter, and the beginning of another spring. Becky, the oldest sibling, I believe, becomes a "teacher" of sorts in a one-room schoolhouse. She isn't certified, but, she's a) willing b) gone through school herself so she's educated enough to teach younger ones c) wanting to go to "normal college" to get her teacher's certificate. There is the almost obligatory chapter where a blizzard strands kids at school. 

My thoughts: This one was published in 1929. It was recognized with a Newbery Honor in 1930. This book was published half a decade (at least) before Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing her children's stories about the homesteading life. (Some of Wilder's books would be set in South Dakota, though decades earlier.) The 1910 setting is interesting. We've got some modern touches--the kids have lived in a city and had city conveniences before--but we've got hints of the older 'pioneer' lifestyle as well. To original readers, 1910 wouldn't have seemed all that "historical" in all likelihood. Today's readers will definitely consider it 'historical' in nature. Perhaps a bit quaint and dated, perhaps outdated. 

Anytime you have an older book, you'll always have people curious about the content and if it is problematic. This one has at least one instance of the n-word--just so you know that up front. It is in relation to working hard and long hours in the field. The children obviously didn't see anything wrong with this word as a descriptor. (Modern readers, if this book has any, may not agree.) There was not really a presence--or notable presence--of Native Americans or "Indians" in this one. You could argue that their absence from the story raises its own issues. But you won't find any scenes like in Little House On the Prairie. So one could definitely look for ways to talk about context and content with children if you're reading this one with children. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

128. The Blood of Olympus

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus #5) Rick Riordan. 2014. 516 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Jason hated being old. His joints hurt. His legs shook. As he tried to climb the hill, his lungs rattled like a box of rocks.

Premise/plot: The Blood of Olympus is the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus series. It has nine narrators--nine! Reyna and Nico join the seven in narrating duties: Jason, Percy, Annabeth, Piper, Frank, Leo, Hazel. (Though to be fair, I'm not a thousand percent sure that Hazel and Frank have chapters???? They definitely have roles to play in the action though.) The demigods are running out of time. The earth mother, Gaia, is rising--which means TROUBLE for almost everyone. The Greek demigods and the Roman demigods must find a way to work together and brainstorm a way to defeat her. (Something easier said than done). Each demigod has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

My thoughts: The resolution worked for me. I want this resolution to stick. I don't want another series of books starring Percy and Annabeth that undoes this happy-ish ending. Overall, I enjoyed the characters. All the books in the series are LONG, LONG, SUPER LONG. I am glad I read this second series of books.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, October 13, 2022

127. We Own the Sky

We Own the Sky. Rodman Philbrick. 2022. [September] 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Aside from the priest and the gravediggers, me and my sister, Jo, are the only ones to witness our dear mother, Eva Morin Michaud, being lowered into her grave. Papa having perished in a mill accident some years previously, the hard, hard loss of our mama makes us orphans. When I begin to cuss the lung ailment that so cruelly took her from us, Jo hushes me. "Wait until the priest is out of earshot," she says, hugging me tight. "Then I shall join you and we'll cuss like pirates. We'll turn the air blue, Davy, I promise." I won't put down what we said, exactly, for fear it'll set this page on fire.

Premise/plot: Jo and Davy (Davy is our narrator) are taken in by their Aunt Ruth, an aviatrix, after their mother's death. Their aunt is part of a flying circus, a daredevil touring group. Both will be working at the circus. (Davy, for example, sells bags of popcorn before finding an act (on the ground) to make his own.) The historical setting for this one is 1924 Maine. The KKK has recently increased its presence there and has become quite popular. They are targeting immigrants. (Think French-Canadian, Irish, Polish, Italian, Jews, etc.) Readers get a behind the scenes look at early aviation, traveling circuses, and the harsh realities of the hateful KKK. 

My thoughts: What a read! I've read a few books with a circus setting, but, never a book featuring daredevil plane stunts. (Jo even trains to DANCE the Charleston on the wings of a plane. You might have heard of wing-walkers, but I'd never heard of anyone dancing.) Life on the road is always interesting. I thought the characterization was solid. I enjoyed getting to know all the characters; it reads almost as a found-family. The book is intense in places, but, everything is well-balanced. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

126. Passing

Passing. Nella Larsen. (Introduced by Emily Bernard). 1929. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was the last letter in Irene Redfield's little pile of morning mail.

Premise/plot: Irene Redfield, our protagonist, has a love-hate relationship with Clare Kendry, a former friend with whom she grew up. After Clare's father died, the two lost touch if you will. Clare--perhaps slowly and semi-deliberately, perhaps quickly and very deliberately--cut ties with her past (including her whole [racial] community.) Clare, you see, was taken in by her white aunts. Being light-skinned and seeing a world of opportunities ahead of her, made a choice to pass for white full-time even going so far as to marry an out and out racist. Meanwhile, Irene, remained--and married--in the African-American community. 

The story begins with a chance encounter. When these two see each other--quite accidentally--they are both passing for white. [They are in a hotel which prohibits blacks.] Irene does not recognize Clare for the longest time. She's a bit shocked with this reunion. She is hesitant to keep in touch. Especially when she finds out [a few days later] that Clare married such an apologetically racist man. Why would she invite her and another former friend (Gertrude, I believe) into her home only to be insulted. [True, he doesn't know that his wife and her friends are African American, but if he knew, they'd be a big problem.] 

If only the meeting had been oh-so-brief and contained to that one week! 

I mentioned the love-hate relationship, well, the story turns much, much, much darker as it progresses. Leading up to an ambiguous ending (of sorts). But you won't find spoilers here.

My thoughts: The introduction is scholarly, as you'd expect. I suppose there is always a scholarly, academic, intellectual, weighty way to read a book, particularly a classic. But never forget that there are more relaxed ways to just sit back and enjoy a book as well. My approach was not to read in such a way as to produce an essay. My choice--for better or worse, right or wrong--was not to spend time focusing on themes but on the oh-so-human characters. 

This is Irene's story start to finish. I think there might be a temptation to shift the focus solely to Clare. But we see Clare through Irene's eyes. These are Irene's memories and experiences. And the judgments--whether we agree or dare to disagree--are Irene's judgments. Irene sees Clare and both loves and hates what she sees. Clare infuriates and fascinates. (Not that those are Irene's only feelings, mind you, just that she can hold such contrary, conflicted feelings at the exact same time.) 

Clare--or at least Irene's perception of Clare--reminds me, personally, of Scarlett O'Hara or Becky Sharp. 

Irene is NOT a saint. The story being painted--or presented, I guess is the right word--may be biased in a way to present Clare in a negative light. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

125. The House of Hades

The House of Hades. (The Heroes of Olympus #4) Rick Riordan. 2013. 597 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: During the third attack, Hazel almost ate a boulder. She was peering into the fog, wondering how it could be so difficult to fly across one stupid mountain range, when the ship's alarm bells sounded.

Premise/plot: The fourth book in the series, The House of Hades, is action-packed (finally). Readers follow eight characters--Jason, Percy, Annabeth, Hazel, Piper, Leo, Frank, and Nico. (I think Nico is the only character whose point of view we do not get). In the last book, Percy and Annabeth plummeted to Tartarus. From the underworld side, they will be fighting their way to the Doors of Death. On this side, the other six characters are fighting their way to the Doors of Death. Plenty of battles, plenty of enemies, plenty of action. 

My thoughts: I struggled with the earlier books in this series. Or at least the third book in the series. I don't remember books one and two dragging out and being pointless. (That is my opinion, and it could be a matter of timing.) I was engaged with this one from cover to cover. It was such a happy thing to be so engaged in a book that I actually want to keep turning pages. Especially since the third book felt like it had a million pages and no end in sight. 

Because this is a SERIES book, it's hard to talk about the premise and plot and my thoughts on the premise and plot--namely the characters and story--without spoiling earlier books. And sometimes my thoughts--in order to make sense--would require me to unpack multiple books. It is just easier to keep things brief and vague.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

124. The Roman Hat Mystery

The Roman Hat Mystery. Ellery Queen. (aka Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee) 1929. 239 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The dramatic season of 192- began in a disconcerting manner. Eugene O'Neill had neglected to write a new play in time to secure the financial encouragement of the intelligentsia; and as for the "low-brows," having attended play after play without enthusiasm, they had deserted the legitimate theatre for the more ingenuous delights of the motion picture palaces.

Premise/plot: The Roman Hat Mystery--the first in the Ellery Queen series--stars a father and son. Inspector Queen is a police inspector. Ellory Queen, the son, is a mystery writer and amateur detective. The crime in this murder mystery takes place during a Broadway show. The only clue they really have to work with--their biggest clue--is that the murder victim's top hat is missing. Since they didn't find the hat on or near the victim, or even at the theatre, someone either wore it out of the theatre or carried it out of the theatre. The theory goes that if you can trace down what happened to the hat, you'll find the murderer.

My thoughts: I found The Roman Hat mystery to be incredibly dull. Perhaps methodical would be the best way to phrase it in polite terms? Perhaps investigations are truly tedious and lack dramatic interest. Perhaps it is just a ton of paperwork and matter of fact, ho-hum questioning. But it was just so much to get through. And the pay off--to me--didn't seem worth it. Dare I say you could read the first two or three chapters and jump straight to the last chapter without missing anything??? You wouldn't miss fleshing out of any characters, that's for sure. And I would even say that the father and son aren't all that fleshed out either. Perhaps they are in later books? Or at least the son?

The book was first published in 1929. Expect the morals and values of 1929. In other words, certain things have not aged well at all. Certain descriptions and plot points are just what most people would call backward. I didn't notice this so much in the dull-as-dirt middle but in the big reveal, it's hard to miss.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 10, 2022

123. Magnificent Obsession

Magnificent Obsession. Lloyd C. Douglas. 1929. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It had lately become common chatter at Brightwood Hospital--better known for three hundred miles around Detroit as Hudson's Clinic--that the chief was all but dead on his feet. The whole place buzzed with it.

Premise/plot: Two men--one supposedly a "saint" and the other a "sinner"--both in dire need of medical equipment to save their lives. The problem? Well, there's only one machine. The so-called "sinner," Robert (Bobby) Merrick is the one whose life is saved. For the record, I don't think a choice was deliberately made at any point by any medical staff to choose one over the other. It's just that the equipment/machine was currently being used to save Bobby's life WHEN Doctor Hudson (the so-called "saint") subsequently needed it. Everyone within three-hundred miles loathes Bobby Merrick for existing. If it wasn't for the likes of him, their precious, dear, beloved, incredibly saintly Dr. Hudson might still be here--working himself to death. The staff doesn't hide it--not even a little--and are downright hostile and cruel. So it's no surprise when Merrick develops a guilt complex and finds himself pledging to be a sinner no more. Off to medical school he'll go. He'll train to become a brain surgeon. He'll do EVERYTHING to fill the doctor's shoes. (No matter how weird or creepy). 

Turns out that the doctor had a gnostic/mystical new-age-y obsessive philosophy about how to live life. He wrote all about it in a journal--in code that would have to be deciphered. For better or worse, Bobby Merrick is able to decipher the code and, you guessed it, Hudson's obsession is transferred completely to Merrick. 

My thoughts: How to describe this one? Weird? Creepy? Odd? Disappointing? Those might be my own descriptions. But they wouldn't be objective descriptions. I am trying to untangle how much of my reaction is tied into the incredibly horrible theology, and how much is tied into the plot and characterization. Because obviously, not every single reader is going to find the religious content objectionable, or, perhaps better phrased as objectionable for the exact same reasons. Two readers could agree that the religious aspects made a mess of this novel, but, disagree as to how and why. 

I'll start with something that I think is more objective and still slightly creepy. In Bobby Merrick's need to "take the place of Dr. Hudson," that includes the need to be a FATHER to his daughter and a HUSBAND to his wife. In other words, in addition to wanting to become a surgeon so he could potentially save the lives Dr. Hudson might have saved had he lived longer, he wants to step in as FATHER and HUSBAND to Hudson's family. The romance didn't feel organic--in my humble opinion. It was predictable, tacky, slightly weird. 

Bobby Merrick, when first introduced, is not in the slightest religious or spiritual. He would never in a million years call himself a Christian. (By the end of the book, he still has hesitations as to the label Christian.) Through reading Hudson's notes, he takes an interest in the New Testament and the Galilean. He realizes that for almost two thousand years, people have been missing the point totally and completely. The New Testament is a methodical, formulaic equation. If you DO a + b + c, then the Major Personality (Merrick refuses to label him God) will follow through with blessing you x + y + z. It isn't so much about the next life, eternal life, or believing and trusting in you-know-who. It is all about what you can get out of this life in the here and now. How a person can "work the system" "stack the deck" do everything just so that everything always, always, always goes your way. Any faith you might have as a result of reading the New Testament, is faith in your faith. He is so excited that he's figured out a way to make religion work for him--and cut the Major Personality almost out altogether--that he's eager to go forth and proselytize. He even convinces a pastor. (To be fair, the pastor at best was an agnostic going through the motions who didn't believe in God all that much but he didn't want to shock the old people in his congregation too much, too fast.) Merrick ridicules the "old time religion" throughout. In particular, he ridicules DEVOTION, adoration, any touch of sentimentality that would have people praising and worshiping God. The Bible to Merrick is just like an algebra book. 

Obviously, as I mentioned, I have personal objections to this type of religious book. I don't expect any other reader to agree. But I do think that so much of this book is taken up in being didactic. And NOT in a way that is clear, logical, reasonable. I found the writing to be vague, mystical, and CONFUSING as all get out. His religious catch-phrases were so foreign to me personally. But he was big into personality implanting and sending out your personality? And something about how your personality is connected with others so that when someone dies part of your personality (soul?????) dies as well? Anyway, I truly think half the book is gibberish at best. I'm labeling it as gnostic/mystic/new-age-y simply because of the whole "I've-got-a-secret" aspect of it. Also it borders on the idea of wealth-prosperity-gospel teaching. But it doesn't fit exactly. 

What you are left with at the end of the day is philosophizing and a sloppily thrown together romance. 

Plus, as a modern reader I am curious about what brain surgeons would have been able to do--the kinds of things they could treat, the surgeries performed, the outcomes of their patients--in the 1920s when this book was both written and set. But the book is about anything but actual medicine or medical practices. I am not sure how long it would have taken for someone to go to medical school and become a brain surgeon, but it takes Bobby Merrick three years to become a brain surgeon and take Doctor Hudson's place at the hospital.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, October 07, 2022

122. Choosing Brave

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Angela Joy. Illustrated by Janelle Washington. 2022. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The boy they found was far frome home,
far from Mother and Grandmother.
"Here on a visit," Papa Mose would say.
The sheriff set out to dig a grave that day,
To hide the crime in the mud of Mississippi,
Where no one would see the boy's suffering.
But Mamie did the harder thing.
She said, "No. You send my son home."
It was the braver thing
That changed everything.

Premise/plot: Choosing Brave is a picture book biography of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, and perhaps the mother (or godmother) of the Civil Rights Movement. Because of the incredibly, heavy subject matter, I'm thinking it is a picture book for older readers (upper elementary through adults). 

My thoughts: Choosing Brave is a powerful, compelling, beautiful, haunting, poignant biography written in verse. It does require a bit of 'bravery' to read it because the subject matter is so heartbreaking and rightly heavy. Each word, each phrase, each line was like a puzzle piece coming together to make an incredible picture. The recurring theme of Mamie choosing to do the harder thing, the braver thing because it was RIGHT thing gives readers much food for thought. 

Definitely recommended.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, October 06, 2022

121. So Much More to Helen!


So Much More to Helen! Meeg Pincus. Illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Muller. 2022. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Asked of Helen Keller's glory,
most folks talk of this one story:
DeafBlind girl--no one could reach her.
First word "water," thanks to teacher.
It's (mostly) true and worth retellin'--
Yet there's so much more to Helen!

Premise/plot: Picture book biography of Helen Keller. Each spread celebrates a side to Helen Keller that you may not be familiar with. 

My thoughts: I really loved, loved, loved this one!!! So beautiful. I loved the text and the illustrations. I loved the message as well.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

120. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing. Deb Caletti. 2022. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Harper scooches her foot this way, and then scooches her foot back. It's always so hard to know what to do with your hands. Why are you so suddenly aware of your hands when you're trying to take a good photo, when they usually just do their own thing? 

Premise/plot: Harper, our protagonist, is almost always on her phone. She's always thinking about her social media image--how to get more views, more likes, more engagement, etc. She's not as thoughtful or considerate of the actual human beings in her life. (Like her mom and her boyfriend.) But all that changes over the course of one summer when she goes on a family vacation with strangers. 

Harper meets up with three of her forty-plus HALF-siblings. (Her father was a sperm donor). A few of them have worked together to track him down. He's in Hawaii. That summer they will go to meet him...and get to know one another.

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing definitely is influenced by the aftermath (or the continuance) of COVID. Harper is learning or relearning how to function in the 'real world' again. She's still a little fearful of getting completely back to normal. But overcoming bigger fears (like meeting her father) might just help her make peace with who she truly is.

My thoughts: Harper isn't the most likable character. But I don't know that that is a must to tell a compelling story. (The story is set during the summer before her senior year of high school. But Harper is only now beginning to get to know herself or to find herself.) I definitely cared enough to keep reading to find out where the story went...


© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews