Thursday, June 29, 2023

June Reflections

 I read forty-six books in June 2023. I wanted to reach fifty, but, well life happens. Migraines happen.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

109. Reign. (American Royals #4) Katharine McGee. 2023. [August] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

110. Home Away From Home. Cynthia Lord. 2023. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 

111. A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. Holly Jackson. 2019. 433 pages. [Source: Library]

112. Tenmile. Sandra Dallas. 2022. [November] 240 pages. [Source: Library] 

113. Strangers in the Night. Heather Webb. 2023. 432 pages. [Source: Library] 

114. Revenge of the Librarian. Tom Gauld. 2022. [October] 180 pages. [Source: Library] 

115. Captain America: The Ghost Army. Alan Gratz. Illustrated by Brent Schoonover. 2023. [January] 176 pages. [Source: Library] 

116. Minerva Keen's Detective Club. James Patterson and Keir Graff. 2023. [May] 336 pages. [Source: Library] 

117. Gnome Is Where Your Heart Is. Casey Lyall. 2023. [May] 304 pages. [Source: Library]

118. World's Fair 1992. Robert Silverberg. 1970. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult science fiction] 

119. Someplace to Call Home. Sandra Dallas. 2019. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade Historical] 

120. Projekt 1065. Alan Gratz. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade, Young Adult Historical Fiction, World War II] 

121. Five First Chances. Sarah Jost. 2023. [April] 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Adult Romance; Science Fiction; Time Loops] 

122. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Judith Kerr. 1971. 191 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade, Historical, World War II]  

123. The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow. Elaine Dimopoulous. Illustrated by Doug Salati. 2023. 181 pages. [Source: Library] [Animal Fantasy, Children's, Middle Grade] 

124. If You Sailed on the Titanic. Denise Lewis Patrick. Illustrated by Winona Nelson. 2023. [January] 80 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction, Children's and Middle Grade]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

122. Picture Book Biography: Rock, Rosetta, Rock! Roll, Rosetta, Roll! Presenting Sister Rosetta Tharpe the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Tonya Bolden. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

123. Basil and the Cave of Cats (Great American Detective #3? #2?) Eve Titus. Illustrated by Paul Galdone. 1971. 101 pages. [Source: Library] [Link to cover image]  

124. Teaching Tornero: The True Story of a Sloth Superstar. Georgeanne Irvine. 2023. [May] 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

125.  Audrey L. and Audrey W. Best Friends-ish (Book 1) Carter Higgins. Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann. 2021. 184 pages. [Source: Library]

126. Monster Mac and Cheese Party. Todd Parr. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

127. The Great Mathemachicken: Hide and Go Beak. Nancy Krulik. 2022. [January] 96 pages. [Source: Library]

128. The Great Mathemachicken #2 Have A Slice Day. Nancy Krulik. 2023. [April] 96 pages. [Source: Library]

129. Elena Rides. Juana Medina. 2023. [March] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

130. City Under the City. Dan Yaccarino. 2022. [November] 68 pages. [Source: Library] 

131. Gertie, The Darling Duck of WWII. Shari Swanson. Illustrated by Renee Graef. 2023. [March] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

132. The Underdogs #1: The Underdogs: Catch a Cat Burglar. Kate and Jol Temple. Illustrated by Shiloh Gordon. 2021. 160 pages. [Source: Library] 

133. True Creative Talents (Audrey L & Audrey W #2) 2022. [October] 176 pages. [Source: Library]

134. Destiny Finds Her Way: How a Rescued Baby Sloth Learned to Be Wild. Margarita Engle. 2023. [February] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

135. Fish and Worm. (I Can Read Comics, Level 1) Sergio Ruzzier. 2023. [May] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Early Reader] 

136. Gnome and Rat. Lauren Stohler. 2023. [June] 80 pages. [Source: Library] [Early chapter book, graphic novel] 

137. The Ice Cream Vanishes. Julia Sarcone-Roach. 2023. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

138. The Corgi and the Queen. Caroline L. Perry. Illustrated by Lydia Corry. 2022. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

139. Anne Dares (Anne #5) Kallie George. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. 2023. [October 17?] 72 pages. [Source: Review copy] [early chapter book; illustrated chapter book] 

140. Poppleton in Summer (Poppleton #6?) Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2023. [May] 64 pages. [Source: Library] [Early chapter book, Animal fantasy] 

141. Board book: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Adapted from C.S. Lewis. Illustrated by Joey Chou.. 2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  

142. Board book: ABC's of Texas. Sandra Magsamen. 2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

143. Board book: I Love You As Big as Texas. Rose Rossner. Illustrated by Joanne Partis. 2021. 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

144. Where I Live: Poems About My Home, My Street, and My Town. Edited by Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrated by Hyewon Yum. 2023. [March] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Poetry collection for young children]

145. Pizza and Taco #6, Pizza and Taco: Dare To Be Scared. Stephen Shaskan. 2023. [June] 72 pages. [Source: Library] [Graphic novel, early chapter book]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

49. Short of Glory: A Biblical and Theological Exploration of the Fall. Mitchell Chase. 2023. [May] 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

50. Be Heroic (Minor Prophets): Demonstrating Bravery by Your Walk. Warren Wiersbe. 1997. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

51. Fairest of Heart. Karen Witemeyer. 2023. [June] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

52. Ladies of the Lake. Cathy Gohlke. 2023. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

53. The Book of Confessions. Presbyterian Church General Assembly. 1994/1999. 378 pages. [Source: Bought]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

5.66 The New Testament in the Language of the People. Charles B. Williams 1937. 572 pages. [Source: Bought]

Totals for 2023


Books Read in 2023330
Pages Read in 202377072
# of Books50
# of Pages12848
# of Books72
# of Pages15241
# of Books55
# of Pages15216
# of Books55
# of Pages10876
# of Books52
# of Pages14695
# of Books46
# of Pages8196

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

124. If You Sailed on the Titanic

If You Sailed on the Titanic. Denise Lewis Patrick. Illustrated by Winona Nelson. 2023. [January] 80 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction, Children's and Middle Grade]

First sentence: If you had set sail on the Titanic, you would have been looking forward to an amazing experience on the largest ocean liner ever built. You may have been a wealthy traveler who was used to grand hotels and excellent meals. You might have been a young sailor, excited about crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Or, you and your family might have been leaving the life you knew behind, hoping to find a wonderful new home in America. Whatever your dreams might have been, everything would have changed in the middle of one dark night when the unexpected happened to the "unsinkable" Titanic.

Premise/plot: This "If You...." title asks and answers twenty-five questions regarding the Titanic. Each "chapter" is a question and answer. Just a few pages--text and illustration. Questions like....

"What was daily life like for passengers on the Titanic?"
"Were there animals on the ship?"
"Who rescued the survivors?"
"Can people visit the wreckage?"
"Are the Titanic movies true?"

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this one. I loved the organization and layout. I found the illustrations helpful and engaging. I thought the questions were good, for the most part. Obviously, this one was written and published before the loss of the submersible Titan. But there is a chapter about tourists being able to pay loads of money to go down in a submersible to view the Titanic themselves.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, June 25, 2023

123. The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow

The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow. Elaine Dimopoulous. Illustrated by Doug Salati. 2023. 181 pages. [Source: Library] [Animal Fantasy, Children's, Middle Grade]

First sentence: Everyone in Milkweed Meadow still talks about the rescue, and if you stop hopping around like a kit that's found a banana slice, I'll tell  you the story. Mother encourages strong beginnings. "Snare them!" she says. It's a joke--we rabbits are terrified of snares, me more than most. But I suppose that's what a good story does. It digs into your skin like a silver wire and holds you in its grasp. 

Premise/plot: Butternut, a timid, anxious rabbit, befriends Piper, a robin, and Winsome, a fawn. These three unlikely friends enjoy life to the fullest...but when they come across abandoned coyote pups, this friendship is threatened. Can these three friends help the little ones knowing that when they grow up, they will be prey?

My thoughts: My summary was unfair. Butternut is a WONDERFUL, AMAZING storyteller. She has a way with words. She knows how to HOOK or snare readers. She kept me turning pages. I, well, I went straight to the point. Something Butternut wouldn't approve. I loved this one so much. The writing was incredible. I loved each character's voice. I really felt there was substance and depth to this story. It was a compelling read. It has its intense moments. But it was lovely and delightful. 


Now that this tale is well underway, you’re probably thinking that it’s going to be about my friendship with Piper. We meet on the lawn. He reports on his morning aerial excursions, I tell dinner stories, and around and around we go.
Mother would call that a boring second act.
Fortunately that’s not what’s coming next. Yes, the story is about Piper and the part we both played in the rescue. But our friendship includes someone else too. This means there’s another character for you to meet. And characters are like bananas: if they’re good, you can never have too many. I like to think that new characters represent new perspectives—and that their flaws remind us of our own.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 23, 2023

122. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Judith Kerr. 1971. 191 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade, Historical, World War II] 

First sentence: Anna was walking home from school with Elsbeth, a girl in her class. A lot of snow had fallen in Berlin that winter. It did not melt, so the street cleaners had swept it to the edge of the pavement, and there it had lain for weeks in sad, greying heaps.

Premise/plot: Anna and her family are Jewish. In the week leading up to elections, her father flees Germany just in case Hitler wins the election. If Hitler does win, his family will follow him to Switzerland. (The dad is a writer. His views will not be appreciated by Hitler and the Nazi party.) He tries to sell enough of his writing in Switzerland...and then France. But the economy of the 1930s isn't all that great. The family left everything behind--including Anna's pink rabbit--and are essentially penniless. By the end of the novel, Anna and her brother, Max, I believe have been sent to England.

The novel takes place circa 1933/1934. 

My thoughts: This is my second time to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. It is set in the early 1930s. Many of the policies had not come into play yet. There were warning signs which this family heeds. But it is very early days. It is set in Germany, Switzerland, France, and England. (The last chapter is set in England.) I believe this one is in part autobiography. I don't know how much is based on her experiences and how much is pure fiction. The novel's conflict is subtle and perhaps more about a family's economic and financial struggles as they are displaced. The novel is about learning new languages, trying to economize as much as possible, struggling to make ends meet. Perhaps subtle isn't the best word. I mean that this isn't so driven by external events happening--like so many books set during the second world war.



© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

121. Five First Chances

Five First Chances. Sarah Jost. 2023. [April] 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Adult Romance; Science Fiction; Time Loops]

First sentence: Baby elephants can die of loneliness. I'm hiding at the darker end of the room, in this village pub erected so close to the church that either would crumble without the other.

Premise/plot: Do you NEED to know the ins and outs of this sci-fi romantic drama? Is this the case of the less you know the better your experience? Perhaps. So I'll keep this short. 

Lou (Louise) is attending a funeral with her friend Yuki (a former roommate). Nick's funeral is an odd place, perhaps, for Lou to be. She barely knew him. A friend of a friend. The majority of this one is a series of time loops--five to be exact. Lou finds herself stuck in a time loop. The loop starts with her attending Yuki's birthday party several years before. This is the party where she meets Nick. (This is also the party where she gets an unexpected text message from an ex.) Each loop plays out differently.... will Lou ever "get it right"?

My thoughts: I enjoy fictional time loops. It's one of my favorite sub-sub-genres of science fiction. This one blends romantic drama into the mix. There are a handful of characters: a blend of Lou's family and mutual(ish) friends of Lou and Yuki. There are differences in each time loop--for example, who Yuki ends up dating--but similarities as well. This is one of those books that's definitely meant to be one of those "meaning of life" books, an adult "coming of age" story, if you will. Lou is on a journey of self-discovery/transformation. Each trip in the loop changes her perspective on the meaning of life, and the meaning of HER life specifically. 

Is it a clean read? I would say the graphic-ness of this one is kept to a minimum. There are a handful of sex scenes throughout the book. But instead of say taking up an entire chapter, it's a few sentences. It isn't quite fade to black, but almost.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

120. Projekt 1065

Projekt 1065. Alan Gratz. 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade, Young Adult Historical Fiction, World War II]

First sentence: It's hard to smile when you're having dinner with Nazis.

Premise/plot: Michael O'Shaunessey may be a boy, but he's also a spy from a family of spies. His father is the Irish ambassador to Germany, and the family has lived in Berlin for over seven years. He belongs to the Hitler Youth for one reason only, to help his cover and his parents' cover. Michael is essential to his family's work because he has a photographic memory.

My thoughts: Thank you, Alan Gratz for your short chapters! Each chapter left me wanting more, and because the next chapter was so short I could keep going and going and going. This historical novel was compelling and packed with action. The characters were developed well. It was interesting to see Michael take an interest in the banned books and take up reading mystery novels! Loved the Rex Stout Golden Spiders reference. Simon was a memorable character as well. I'll refrain from elaborating because I don't want to include spoilers. Fritz was an interesting character as well. I am glad there was some complexity to some of the boys in the Hitler Youth. 

ETA: I reread this one in June 2023. I remember loving Alan Gratz's work. I knew he wrote several set during the Second World War. This one was such a mighty (aka INTENSE) read. One thing I noticed in my reread were the details about books and the talk about banned books. One of my favorite scenes is when he's talking with either Simon OR his father (maybe both???) about books. He's challenged to rethink an issue. Michael's family has a hidden stash of banned books that would be burned if discovered. There's a certain risk if these books are discovered. Yet despite having access to books, Michael is not a reader. There's a line like IF YOU AREN'T READING THESE BOOKS, if you're not valuing these books, the contents of these books, they might as well be burned. I'm sure I got the scene a little wrong. Unlike Michael I don't have a photographic memory. But it reminded me of Fahrenheit 451. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 19, 2023

119. Someplace to Call Home

Someplace to Call Home. Sandra Dallas. 2019. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade Historical]

First sentence: The battered old Model T Ford sputtered and stalled. With a sigh, sixteen-year-old Tom Turner guided it to the side of the dirt road. He slid out of the worn seat on the driver's side and stood next to the vehicle, stopping a moment as he heard a hissing sound. He shook his head. "The transmission's bad, and it looks like we blew a tire, too."

Premise/plot: Hallie, Tom, and Benny are orphans traveling the road during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. When their car breaks down in Kansas, they have no choice but to camp out until they can fix it. The farmer whose land they are on talks with them. It isn't instant friendship or kinship. But he offers Tom a chance, an opportunity. That's what Tom wants--all of them want--opportunities to work, to earn money, to survive. The family soon becomes neighborly. Benny befriends their daughter--both have similar mental/developmental differences. They bring out the best in each other. They bless one another with friendship. Hallie and the mother take turns teaching the children since the school system refuses to educate them because of their disability. Hallie does go to school sometimes. She loves learning and sees it as a great opportunity. Are the children accepted? Not really. Not at first. They are seen as "squatters" and "vagrants" and "thieves." The fact that Tom--who is very skilled mechanically--is taking away a job from an unskilled person is offensive to some. 

The book is set in the 1930s, of course, and in Kansas. 

My thoughts: Ultimately this one is such a feel-good read. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it. I thought everything about it was wonderful. I loved the relationships that developed. I loved the unfolding of the story. I highly recommend this one!


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 16, 2023

118. World's Fair 1992

World's Fair 1992. Robert Silverberg. 1970. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult science fiction]

First sentence: Against the night sky, the nearly completed World's Fair Satellite gleamed like a shiny new penny. You could see it even with low-powered field glasses as it moved in its stately orbit around the Earth: a giant copper-hued globe, the biggest space satellite ever constructed. The Fair's opening day--October 12, 1992--was only some six weeks away. And in very much less time than that, Bill Hastings was going to be up there to begin his year in space.

Premise/plot: Bill Hastings won an essay contest and his prize is a year in space. The year? 1992/1993. The job? He'll be an assistant working on the Mars Pavilion of the World's Fair. There are six or seven scientists--slightly different specialties--working there maintaining the exhibit. There are a handful of "Old Martians" on display. Some of the scientists are unhappy with the circumstances. But do the ends justify the means? Perhaps. (The ends being greater research opportunities. The means being "kidnapping" Martians from Mars and putting them on display for tourists to the World's Fair.) Hastings makes friends with the scientists. His essay topic was about possible life on Pluto.

My thoughts: If my summary seems odd, then there's a good reason. This book is a bit odd. The main conflict is one of ethics. Bill Hastings is observing other scientists wrestle with this dilemma. As they seek to colonize other planets. (And by colonize, I mean visit. I don't necessarily mean visit with the goal of setting up least not right away). Perhaps I mean explore not colonize? (Colonization is such a loaded topic, a word with a lot of baggage--for better or worse. And this fair is celebrating Christopher Columbus "discovering" America and establishing colonies. So in part, I think there's a definite intention to address this topic. Hastings was not involved in any way with the decision to bring living Martians to the World's Fair to be exhibited. But he is involved when the powers-that-be decide to go to PLUTO and seek out "alien life" on Pluto to bring back to set up as an exhibit. And this is where the book, for me, starts to lose its way. The first half is a dull-ish read set on the World's Fair Satellite. There were conversations about Mars, Martians, science, etc. But essentially, dulls-ville. The second half is when Bill becomes a member of an exploring team on a mission to Pluto--the first manned mission to Pluto. The book ends soon after he returns. Bill has become disenchanted with the World's Fair by that point. 

I think the setting and initial premise had potential. I'm not sure it works as a novel written from one point of view. I could see it working as a shorter novella or even short story. Or I could see it working as a collection of short stories set at the World's Fair Satellite--stories with many perspectives or points of view. I could see it working as a mystery or thriller. For example, if the "evil" billionaire genius was the focus of an assassination, or assassination attempt. Or maybe if it was about Bill Hastings discovering something horrible about the World's Fair and working to bring it to light. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

117. Gnome Is Where Your Heart Is

Gnome Is Where Your Heart Is. Casey Lyall. 2023. [May] 304 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade]

First sentence: The golden rule of shady Elms Retirement Home was listed clearly on the front door: No unaccompanied minors on the premises after six p.m. Which was why I was not using the front door.

Premise/plot: Lemon Peabody, our heroine, has been working on Project Validation for most of her life. Her Grandpa Walt--so says he--had an alien encounter thirty years ago. Few--if any--believe him. In fact, the town has collectively made light sport of his story. It's a 'thing' apparently, to paint the faces of garden gnomes green in this town. Lemon's father HATES garden gnomes because of this; he has little appreciation for a daughter who "encourages" and "supports" Grandpa Walt's so-called delusions. Now that he's in a nursing home, he's hoping EVERYONE will forget the whole aliens thing. This seems likely since Walt has Alzheimer's and his memory is touch and go at best. Lemon finds it heartbreaking that she's losing her Grandpa and doing so before she could prove his claims to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. She must find proof that her Grandpa really, truly had an alien encounter....

So it is super convenient that the SECOND narrator (or should that be gnarrator) is a space alien--a cadet, I believe--whose space ship crashes on earth in the very same town, in the very same woods as thirty years ago. Lemon happens, of course, to witness this! Finally, an opportunity to prove to her dad (and others) what she's always believed--her Grandpa is telling the truth.

My thoughts: This is a strange little book. On the one hand, you've got a HEAVY book. Lemon loves, loves, loves her Grandpa. Yes, the book might try to make this one fun and light-hearted by shifting the focus to HOW DELIGHTFUL Grandpa Walt met and befriended a super-cute-adorable-alien (who looks like a garden gnome). But Grandpa's medical condition is real and devastating. As an adult, I can see the dad making some very valid points. Lemon's insistence on breaking all the rules and getting her Grandpa flustered up and having breakdowns because he can't remember problematic. Yes, readers learn the truth. But it could have easily gone the other way (in another genre for another audience). On the other hand, as I mentioned, the gnome-alien-race is SUPER adorable and cute. They all have adorable names. There's nothing threatening or dangerous--just super precious and adorable. 

I think age and experience might play a role in if you see this one as hilarious and delightful or heartbreaking. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 12, 2023

116. Minerva Keen's Detective Club

Minerva Keen's Detective Club. James Patterson and Keir Graff. 2023. [May] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade]

First sentence: At the marble-topped chess table in the wood-paneled lounge of our apartment building, I sat across from my elderly neighbor, Kermit Hermanson. Both of us were playing fast and furiously. I wanted to win so badly it was killing me.

Premise/plot: Minerva Keen starts a detective club after a series of strange occurrences at the apartment building where she leaves. The strange occurrences? Well a series of poisonings--a few residents die from the poison; a few manage to survive just long enough for the police (and Minerva's detective club) to solve the case. Minerva and her brother, Heck, are being cared for by their cousin, Bizzy, a college student, I believe. The parents are off--perhaps in more than one way. Essentially, all the kids are running amok, but, that might be beneficial considering how helpful they are to the police detective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed so many aspects of this one. Was it realistic? No. Definitely more of an escape read. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The "problems" in this one aren't like the problems you'd find in so called "problem books" that are super-serious and heavy. Yes, the parents are completely and totally missing and oblivious to their kids' needs. Yes, the cousin--who's in her early to mid 20s--isn't much more responsible. But on the bright side, the book almost sparkles with entertainment value. 

All that being said, I cringe at the thought of the ending chapters of this one. I can't say why without spoiling. I'll give you a hint though--it's not clown or dentist related.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 09, 2023

115. Captain America: The Ghost Army

Captain America: The Ghost Army. Alan Gratz. Illustrated by Brent Schoonover. 2023. [January] 176 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade; Young Adult]


Premise/plot: Graphic novel set during World War II starring Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) and Bucky Barnes (aka James Buchanan Barnes). There are others you'd probably recognize as well from the Marvel Universe. It is set during World War II, as I mentioned, and the pair are investigating a strange, supernatural phenomenon. The soldiers that they'd killed just hours before have come back to life and are foes once more. Their victory camaraderie broken up by GHOSTS. But ghosts that are held back (restrained) by moving water. This is a [supernatural] mystery worth investigating...and it takes them into a village.

Meanwhile, readers get panels featuring the villainy-villains. A big battle between the two is coming....

My thoughts: I have never read an actual-actual Marvel comic OR graphic novel. This is definitely a graphic novel. (I talk as if I could tell the difference with my eyes blindfolded. I couldn't.) Captain America and Bucky are two great characters that I've loved from the movies alone. I know, I know, I know that the comics can be VERY different from the movie depictions. I do think there are some differences--perhaps big differences--between these characters and the movie characters. They are not cookie cutter copies. How Gratz's and Schoonover's depiction line up against the actual [canon] collection of Marvel comics is a question for someone more well-schooled. Again, not my area of expertise. 

I definitely appreciated the story. It was a little bit over the top, but in a good way.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

114. Revenge of the Librarians

Revenge of the Librarian. Tom Gauld. 2022. [October] 180 pages. [Source: Library] [Bored Adults]

First sentence: Now that you are my bride, you will never leave this castle! Wow! Your library is amazing! 

Premise/plot: A collection of book-themed comic strips. Each strip stands alone. All are connected loosely by the theme of books. There are comic strips about writing, editing, publishing, reading, reviewing, and librarying. (Okay, there's no such word. Being a librarian.) The strips also address the pandemic. 

My thoughts: Each strip stands alone. Some I loved. Some I didn't. Most fall in neutral territory. It was a quick and easy read. It sometimes made me smile. I think my favorite came towards the end of the book. (There are NO page numbers. This was a little bit frustrating.) "Review Dice" 

Can't decide what kind of book review to write? Simply cut out, assemble, and roll this helpful dice! Hatchet job; super-detailed, spoiler-filled retelling; brutally polite dismissal; elegant and insightful analysis; rambling personal essay that barely mentions the book; ecstatic love letter. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 08, 2023

113. Strangers in the Night

Strangers in the Night. Heather Webb. 2023. 432 pages. [Source: Library] [Adults]

First sentence: Every important moment of my life could be measured in notes and captured by a song. That was never truer than the first night I saw her across the room, belonging to someone else.

Premise/plot: Historical fiction starring Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Historical romance [of the graphic sort] starring Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. It roughly begins circa 1946. (I say roughly because the prologue is undated.) It follows the "tragic" "star-crossed" lovers across several decades and around the globe. He was a global singing star AND a movie star. She was a movie star. Together they were one hot mess.

My thoughts: Is the book flattering to Frank? Not really--in my own personal opinion. Is the book flattering to Ava? Again, not really--in my own opinion. I do think the book was meant to be flattering to both. I get the impression that the author enjoyed [greatly appreciated] both personalities--flaws and all. I think the "tragic romance" element was supposed to hook readers into sympathizing with these lovers. Was I sympathetic to Frank and Ava as a couple? NO! I thought together they were obviously extremely toxic. Individually, I think there was some toxicity. I will say that I never got the impression that it was all his fault or all her fault. I think they as individuals made repeated bad decisions. There were things he did that I would find unforgivable. There were things she did that I would find unforgivable. 

I do wish that this one had been CLEARER about dates. Each "part" was given a range of years. The first part covers three or four years. That's not so bad, I suppose. But other sections cover DECADES. And there's no specific years mentioned at all. Like "1950 to 1966" or "1966 to 1990." And HOW is that even remotely helpful???? I think the book would have been greatly improved if there were more connections to specific times--dates, months, years, events.

There were some movies mentioned for each. There were a few songs and/or albums mentioned for him. If it had been more historical fiction and less graphic romance novel, perhaps it would have done a better job doing tribute to the life and times. I do think the potential is there to tell great stories in this time period.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

112. Tenmile

Tenmile. Sandra Dallas. 2022. [November] 240 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade]

First sentence: The baby stretched its arms and legs as Sissy wrapped it in the soft flannel blanket. She smiled at the wriggling infant with its tiny wrinkled face. 

Premise/plot: Sissy Carlson, the doctor's daughter, struggles with life in her hometown of Tenmile, Colorado, a mining town. When this children's novel opens, Sissy knows one thing for sure: she wants to leave Tenmile and never, ever, ever return. She sees only the negative aspects of life in Tenmile--the poverty, the poverty, the limited opportunities, the limited resources, the distinctions in social classes and in genders. (To be fair, I don't know so much that girls have it so much worse than boys in Tenmile. I think both boys and girls are expected to quit school at an early age--8 or 9--to work to help support the family.) To live in Tenmile is to live in misery from birth to death. 

This is historical fiction set in 1880s Colorado. The novel chronicles Sissy's experiences--again, mostly negative. She goes to school. She helps her father in and out of the home. She helps with his medical practice. She spends time with friends. She hates Tenmile. She knows that all of her friends and classmates are trapped in Tenmile. No bright futures for anyone unfortunate enough to live there. 

Her view shifts, however, by the end of the novel. Has she made peace with her hometown?

My thoughts: Tenmile is bleakity-bleak. Sissy is the complete and total opposite of Pollyanna. She doesn't see the good in anything or anyone. Not really. It was hard as a reader to like Sissy. She was such a downer. That's not to say that her views and opinions were unfair. I have no doubt that life in a mining town was harsh, cruel, unfair. There being no way to break the cycle of poverty. Once a child enters work in the mine, it's unlikely that they'll escape mining life. They'll risk their life every single day and still be stuck in poverty. Because the circumstances don't really change, it makes for an odd choice that Sissy decides that Tenmile is HER forever home, and that she wants to spend her life serving this community. That's not to say that attitudes can't change. But it's hard to reflect that well in the narrative. The town is peopled with characters that weren't super likable. (With one exception of Greenie.) Because the characters weren't all that wonderful to spend time with, this made for a different read. 

I think for those that like historical fiction and don't want particularly happy endings, this one could definitely work. 

I don't have to have tied-in-a-bow endings. I can accept history for history. I am thankful that the characters seem to reflect the life and times MORE than being twenty-first century characters dressing up. I think there were many elements of this one that were realistic.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 05, 2023

111. A Good Girl's Guide To Murder

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. Holly Jackson. 2019. 433 pages. [Source: Library] [Young Adult]

First sentence: Pip knew where they lived. Everyone in Fairview knew where they lived. Their home was like the town's own haunted house; people's footsteps quickened as they walked by, and their words strangled and died in their throats.

Premise/plot: Pippa "Pip" Fitz-Amobi is a senior on a mission. Her senior project is to research a missing person's case--a suspected case of murder. If the alleged murderer hadn't been found dead in the woods, well, he might have been convicted of murder despite the fact that there was no body. Andie Bell is the missing person. Sal Singh is the alleged murderer. Pip thinks that Sal is innocent and she teams up with the alleged killer's brother, Ravi, to help her make sense of this case. The longer her suspect list gets, the more threats she receives. Will she survive long enough to break the case?

My thoughts: This one felt so familiar to me. There's no proof whatsoever that I actually read this one years ago--when it came out. But it was almost how spooky how familiar the story, the characters, the crime even. So strange. I don't think it's a case of an author writing in super predictable ways. Though I have read several YA books where the main character is investigating an old case from the community. So maybe I've just read a few too many this year. 

I liked this one.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, June 03, 2023

110. Home Away From Home

Home Away From Home. Cynthia Lord. 2023. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade]

First sentence: "GPS says the road is coming up," I announced from the back seat of the rental car.

Premise/plot: Mia visits her Grandma most summers. This summer is slightly different, however. Mia will be staying (by herself) for a month. Her mother (and stepfather/mother's boyfriend) are preparing to sell the house. Mia didn't want to be a part of renovating, packing, etc. There have been changes since last summer. Mia meets a new neighbor, a boy around her own age, Cayman. They share an interest in birds--an eagle's nest (with baby eaglets) is on his property. They love to visit the birds. A visiting bird--a rarely sighted bird for the state of Maine--has been spotted by the pair for several days. Mia can't resist posting pictures and descriptions online at a bird-watching hobby site. But will her posts lead to disaster for the bird(s)?

My thoughts: This is a coming of age story. I loved seeing her relationship with her grandmother and with her new friend. It is a LOT about birds, however. So if bird-watching isn't your thing then perhaps parts of this one may seem a little dull. Still, I think even if you aren't a fan of watching birds for fun (or education), the coming of age aspects still offer something to readers.

I do enjoy Cynthia Lord's novels for the most part. I am glad I read this one.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

109. Reign

Reign. (American Royals #4) Katharine McGee. 2023. [August] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Link to cover image] [Young Adult]

First sentence: The sound of a door swinging open, and a sharp intake of breath. 

Premise/plot: Reign is the fourth and perhaps final book in the American Royals series by Katharine McGee. The series premise is relatively simple: what if George Washington had been crowned king and his (non-existent) descendants reigned through the centuries. The series is contemporary alternate history. The series introduces us to three Washington heirs--Beatrice (the oldest), Samantha and Jefferson (twins). These young-ish royals have a balancing act on their hands--how to balance drama-filled love lives AND maintain a good reputation in the public spotlight. Beatrice, now queen, is relatively tame--boring, even. She had her love triangle in the first two books, I believe. She chose Teddy, and that's it, right???? Well, what if she has amnesia from that car accident in book three???? Samantha is the 'spare' who loves drama. What happens if she were to LOSE her title and government funding? What if she were to be thrown out of the royal family and walk away from her duties and become a regular citizen? Read and see, I suppose. Jefferson, poor, poor, poor Jefferson. Out of all the siblings, he has NO VOICE because the author chose not to give him one. He exists solely to be the middle of a sandwich. (I jest, mostly). Daphne and Nina are the other two in this oh-so-stupid love triangle. Will Daphne marry her prince? Will Nina move on from Jefferson? (She hasn't in three books...)

My thoughts: There's one big question you may have--if you're like me. DOES THIS BOOK HAVE ETHAN? The answer is YES. Ethan returns. And Daphne's chapters are entirely better for it. Nina also gets a new love interest, another ROYAL interest. 

I have a hate-love-hate-love-hate relationship with these books. I don't know ever why I keep reading them, and why I can't stop reading them. The history is SO incredibly pointlessly wrong. The world-building is shallow and unexplained at best. The modern/contemporary world is barely different at all. You know it would HAVE to be different if we were to take the history stuff seriously. 

I loved the way most of the stories wrapped up. So I am happy that I've read this one.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews