Sunday, July 30, 2023

July Reflections

 In July, I read 72 books!!! (July ties with February in the number of books read. But I read more pages in February). Obviously I read a LOT of picture books!

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

125. Beneath the Wide Silk Sky. Emily Inouye Huey. 2022. [October 18] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Historical Fiction]

126. A Season Most Unfair. J. Anderson Coats. 2023. 285 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Historical; MG Historical, Middle Ages] 

127. The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought] 

128. The Woman with the Cure. Lynn Cullen. 2023. [February] 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Adult historical fiction] 

129. Miss Irwin. Allen Say. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

130. Wool Omnibus (Silo #1) Hugh Howey. 2012. 509 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult science fiction, adult horror, adult mystery, dystopia] 

131. Quantum Radio. A.G. Riddle. 2023. 562 pages. [Source: Library] [adult science fiction; multi-verse] 

132. The Spectacular. Fiona Davis. 2023. [June] 368 pages. [Source: Library] 

133. The Probability of Everything. Sarah Everett. 2023. [June] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade Fiction] 

134. Dressing Barbie: A Celebration Of the Clothes That Made America's Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them. Carol Spencer. 2019. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [adult nonfiction; history; fashion design; toys; adult collectors] 

135. Far Out! Anne Bustard. 2023. 221 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade historical fiction; MG mystery] 

136. The McNifficents. Amy Makechnie. 2023. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction; Animal Fantasy] 

137. The Chaperone. M. Hendrix. 2023. [June] 448 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Fiction; dystopia]

138. Shift. Hugh Howey. 579 pages. 2013. [Source: Book I Bought] [adult science fiction; dystopia; futuristic; apocalyptic]


Books reviewed at Young Readers

146. Kitty-Cam (Ready to Read, Pre-Level 1) Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2023. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

147. Board book: Moo-Moo, I Love You! Tom Lichtenheld. Illustrated by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2022. [November 1] 34 pages. [Source: Library] 

148. Oslo Learns to Swim (Ready to Read, Level One) Doug Cushman. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Early reader, beginning reader]

149. Graphic novel: Waffles and Pancake: Failure to Launch. Drew Brockington. 2023. March. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

150. Flashback to the Awesome '80s! Patty Michaels. Illustrated by Sarah Rebar. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction, early readers, beginning to read level 2]

151. Flashback to the Fly 90s! Patty Michaels. Illustrated by Sarah Rebar. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction, Beginning readers, ready to read level 2] 

152. Board book: The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk. Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2016/2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

153. A Smart, Smart School. Sharon Creech. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

154. Board book. Hello Baby Sloth (Say Hello! Baby Animals series) Beverly Rose (according to GoodReads). 2023. [March] 18 pages. [Source: Library]

155. Board book: Now That You're Here. Loryn Brantz. 2023. [January] 22 pages. [Source: Library]

156.  Board book: Christmas Kitten: A Touch and Feel Book. Rosie Adams. Illustrated by Lucy Barnard. 2022. [September] 10 pages. [Source: Library]

157. Board book: Peppa Pig: Class Pet (Touch-and-Feel) Adapted by Eric Geron (according to Goodreads). Illustrated by Eone. (according to Goodreads). 2023. 10 pages. [Source: Library]

158. Board book: For Your Smile. Loryn Brantz. 2022. [September] 22 pages. [Source: Library]

159. Board book: I Love You, Little Truck. David and Stephanie Miles. Illustrated by Natasha Molins. 2023. [January] 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

160. What Cat Likes Best: Rhymes for Children. Erwin Moser. Translated by Alistair Beaton. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

161. What Bear Likes Best: Rhymes for Children. Erwin Moser. Translated by Alistair Beaton. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

162. What Hedgehog Likes Best: Rhymes for Children. Erwin Moser. Translated by Alistair Beaton. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

163. Arfy and the Stinky Smell. (Step Into Reading, Step 2, A Comic Reader) Troy Cummings. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Early reader]

164. A Doll for Marie. Louise Fatio. Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. 1957/2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture Book, Classic] 

165. DK Super Readers (level 2): Cats and Kittens. D.K. Publishing. 2023. [May] 35 pages. [Source: Library] [early reader, nonfiction]

166. There's a Cow in My Bed. Daniel Fehr. Illustrated by Jorge Martin. 2023. 36 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

167. Cat's Very Good Day. Kristen Tracy. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

168. Kitty & Cat: Opposites Attract. Mirka Hokkanen. 2023. [April] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

169. Extraordinary Warren's World. (Previously published as Extraordinary Warren and Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day) Sarah Dillard. 2020. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

170. DK Super Readers (Level 3) Spacebusters Race to the Moon. Philip Wilkinson (according to Goodreads) 2023. [April] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction, early chapter book]

171. DK Super Readers, Level 1. A Day on the Farm. DK Publishing. 2023. [April] 35 pages. [Source: Library] [early reader; nonfiction] 

172. The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination. Brad Montague. Illustrated by Brad and Kristi Montague. 2023. [March] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

173. Kunoichi Bunny. Sara Cassidy. Illustrated by Brayden Sato. 2022. 20 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

174. 10 Cats. Emily Gravett. 2022/203. [May 2023 in U.S.] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

 175. Being A Cat A Tail of Curiosity. Maria Gianferrari. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

176. The Perfect Present. Petr Horacek. 2022/2023. [May] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

177. This Story is Not About a Kitten. Randall de Seve. Illustrated by Carson Ellis. 2022. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

178. A Kitten Tale. Eric Rohmann. 2008. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

179. BOARD BOOK: Oakley the Squirrel: Camping 1 2 3! A Nutty Numbers Book. Nancy Rose. 2023. [May] 30 pages. [Source: Library]

180. BOARD BOOK: Little Chicks. Taro Gomi. 2018/2023. 26 pages. [Source: Library]

181. BOARD BOOK: It's Tummy Time! Elise Parsley. 2023. [February] 22 pages. [Source: Library]

182. BOARD BOOK: I'M YOUR ICE CREAM TRUCK. Hannah Eliot. Illustrated by Belinda Chen. 2023. [May] 18 pages. [Source: Library]

183. BOARD BOOK: I Love You Slow Much. Rose Rossner. Illustrated by Sanja Rescek. 2022. [December] 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

184. Our Incredible Library Book and the Wonderful Journeys It Took. Caroline Crowe. Illustrated by John Joseph. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] [Books about books]  

185. Space Cat #2: Space Cat Visits Venus. Ruthven Todd. Illustrated by Paul Galdone. 1955. 87 pages. [Source: Library] [Chapter book; Vintage; Classic] 

186. Bear Is Never Alone. Marc Veerkamp. Illustrated by Jeska Verstegen. Translated into English by Laura Watkinson. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

187. Before, Now. Daniel Salmieri. 2023. 48 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

188. Walter Finds His Voice: The Story of a Shy Crocodile. Ann Kim Ha. 2023. [May] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

189. Hattie Harmony: Opening Night. Elizabeth Olsen and Robbie Arnett. Illustrated by Marissa Valdez. 2023. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

190. Rabbit, Duck, and Big Bear. Nadine Brun-Cosme Illustrated Olivier Tallec. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

191. Mr. S: A First Day of School Book. Monica Arnaldo. 2023. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book] 

192. Pepper & Boo: Paws Up for Joy! Charise Mericle Harper. 2023. [February] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

193. The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her. Cindy Eagan. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction; picture book biography] 

194.  Cinderella with Dogs! Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Freya Hartas. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book; fairy tale adaptation; humor; dogs and cats]

195. A Book for Bear. Ellen Ramsey. Illustrated by MacKenzie Haley. 2023. [July] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] [picture book; books about books; friendship] 

196. Dogtown (A Dogtown Book #1) Katherine Applegate and Gennifer Choldenko. 2023. [September] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Animal fantasy; J Fiction; MG Fiction] 

197. The Brilliant Ms. Bangle. Cara Devins. Illustrated by K-Fai Steele. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

198.  Nothing's Wrong! A Hare, a Bear, and Some Pie To Share. Jory John. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

199. Rain. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Lisa Congdon. 2023. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 

200. Our Dragon. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Linda Davick. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

54. Tell Me The Stories of Jesus: The Power of Jesus' Parables. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 2022. [June] 256 pages. [Source: Library]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

6. ESV Large Print Bible. God. Crossway Publishers. 2001/2011. 1408 pages. [Source: Bought]
7. ISBN 9780310460534. NASB 2020. Thinline Bible, Premium Goatskin Leather, Brown, Premier Collection, Black Letter, Gauffered Edges, 2020 Text, Comfort Print. God. Zondervan Publishers. 1216 pages. [Source: Bought]
8. Fourth Edition (1964) King James Thompson Chain Reference Bible. God. 1591 pages. [Source: Bought]


2023 Totals

# of Books72
# of Pages10400

Books Read in 2023402
Pages Read in 202388809

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

138. Shift Omnibus

Shift. Hugh Howey. 579 pages. 2013. [Source: Book I Bought] [adult science fiction; dystopia; futuristic; apocalyptic]

First sentence: Troy returned to the living and found himself inside of a tomb.

Premise/plot: Shift is the second book published in the Silo science fiction series by Hugh Howey. It is a series of flashbacks. It spans centuries. It reveals how the Silo(s) came to be. It isn't until the end of the novel that the action catches up to Wool.

So there are essentially two or three stories: 1) Donald's story of how the Silo project came to be and how the world ended; 2) Donald/Troy's various shifts through the centuries as manages the Silo project(s). 3) Jimmy (aka Solo)'s never-ending nightmare as the "only" survivor of his Silo. He's not really the one and only survivor--as revealed in Wool. But he might as well some extent. It's all survival of the fittest, shoot to kill, trust no one. This section has  CAT. (I'd forgotten about the cat). 

My thoughts: Jimmy's story was SO compelling and heartbreaking. This character and his experiences have sticking power. I don't think I'll soon forget him. Troy/Donald is perhaps a less likeable character. Perhaps. He's a pawn in many ways. Even if he'd "woken" up and seen the truth about how things were going down, what could he have done???? Is there anything he could have done? anything he could have said? I don't think there is. 

I do think this is a thought-provoking read. It is MORE political than Wool (in my opinion). But it was written political in a time BEFORE politics went...I'm trying to think of a good, polite way to say it...before politics became so very, very, incessantly divisive and explosive for the nation. So it doesn't feel like it was written with a hammer directed at anyone in particular. (Which I appreciated.) 

I've never read the third book in the series. So I'm not sure how the series ends....but I have to keep going now.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 22, 2023

137. The Chaperone

The Chaperone. M. Hendrix. 2023. [June] 448 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Fiction; dystopia]

First sentence: I hear it while I'm in my room getting ready for Sunday Visitation.

Premise/plot: The Chaperone is YA dystopian. The premise is that a 'New America' has arisen and is super strict. (Think SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE documentary-ish). Stella Graham, our protagonist, is a high schooler who has lived under the care and guidance of a chaperone--as most young girls do--from the time she came of age [aka her period started]. This one begins with the death of her first chaperone, Sister Helen. (That's not a spoiler. It's literally the second sentence of the novel.) 

Stella has grown up in New America. She doesn't remember a Before. She has nothing to compare it to. No one talks about it--at least not in a fair, representative way. Perhaps they talk about it in a revisionist way. New America is AWESOME, don't you know. It's so wonderful that young girls, women are respected, valued, cherished, protected. There are rules for women [girls] and rules for men [boys]. The only tiny glimpse of 'before' she's been exposed to are a few books that her chaperone has encouraged her to read. 

Sister Laura is her new chaperone...and under her "care" and "guidance" well Stella becomes an independent thinker. She goes from a rule-follower to rule breaker like in a day. [Okay, perhaps I exaggerate. Let's be fair. Three days.] 

Will Stella submit to all the rules and conform??? Or will she find a way to be independent, expressive, and FREE according to her own definition?

My thoughts: I do have thoughts. First, I don't fault The Chaperone for being written with a hammer instead of a pen. That's the way of many dystopian novels. Exaggerate to the point of absurdity. Take an inkling of a perceived problem and magnify it by ten thousand. Hammer your world view for a couple of hundred pages. So I don't fault it for that. 

It is exactly what you think it will be. Conservative values and views magnified by a million and taken to the point of absurdity so they are unrecognizable. This isn't switch and bait. Again, can't fault it for that. I like it when a book delivers on a premise.

What I don't necessarily enjoy/appreciate about this one is the characterization and timing. I think Stella's coming of age is inevitable. The novel would be very short indeed if it wasn't about Stella's journey from rule-follower to rule-breaker. I think it was too instant to be believable. I don't know that the book takes into account how thoroughly "normal" and "ordinary" Stella's upbringing would have seemed. You can't be raised in something--immersed for sixteen to eighteen years in something--and not have it be a foundational, as natural as breathing, way of life. New America formed before her parents were married. She's known no other way of life. Her friends have not known another way of life. Sneaking a few books over the past few years doesn't seem "enough" to push from committed believer to total skeptic. (Not that the book is a god/religion thing). And the catalyst we're supposed to buy her being left unchaperoned for like five or ten minutes. (I think at a library? some public place?) Sister Laura "hid" from view. She had Stella in view, but Stella could not see her. Stella's response was panic, worry, despair. After this initial "trauma" Stella has a complete and total realization--hey I believe nothing and I want out. Again, I just don't buy it. Too instant. Too fast. Not enough time spent wavering, doubting, considering, reasoning with one self. Just GIRL POWER. MUST RAISE UP AND ROAR. I think I would have found Stella more compelling if there was an actual-actual struggle, a journey--a metamorphosis. 

I also found it a bit shaky on WHY. I'll try to explain. If Stella had been being courted by Mateo (or another boy she found cute, attractive, desirable, ideal), would she have been eager to leave New America? If she had been allowed to 'follow her heart' and get to know the boy of her dreams, would she have ever considered leaving New America? If she hadn't been being courted or pursued by young men [and men] she had NO interest in, no attraction, no desire, just pure yuck factor, would the story have played out differently? Would she have EVER realized that New America was less than ideal if her hormones hadn't been influencing her? That is, if she'd been in control of WHO she dated/courted....if she'd been allowed a say in whether or not she said I do or I don't....would it have been an issue???? 

This wasn't so much about god (or God) or a particular religion or practice of religion. (Again, don't care one way or another. Perhaps it's better that it wasn't so much geared that way). But Stella's idea of freedom mainly consists in freedom to express one's sexuality, to act on sexual desires, to be free to be sexual on one's own term. 

I thought the world-building had potential. I thought it was more often than not shallow and opposed to immersive and believable. Again, I thought there could be potential with the premise/concept. Just it felt a little too instant and convenient. 

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, July 21, 2023

136. The McNifficents

The McNifficents. Amy Makechnie. 2023. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction; Animal Fantasy]

First sentence: IN A LARGE PINK FARMHOUSE at 238 Marigold Lane lives a most unusual nanny: Lord Tennyson, a short, middle-aged gentleman with white whiskers and a royal pedigree. If he could speak, it would be with dignity and a touch of an English accent. If he wore clothing, he imagines he’d wear a suit of gray silk and a striped bow tie. But he does neither because Lord Tennyson is a dog, a miniature schnauzer to be exact, who wears only a blue-and-green collar that has teeth marks in it from when Sweetums was going through a particularly bad biting phase.
Despite his distinguished appearance and pedigree, he was not spending his morning caring for a dignitary’s son or the daughter of the president. Rather, his duty was herding the unruly McNiff children from the old pink farmhouse into the old red farm truck for the first swim of summer vacation. There were six of them: two boys and four girls. As you can imagine, getting all of them to and from the lake was not an easy task.

My thoughts (preview): I fell in love with the book cover. I did. It looked like it would be an awesome book that I would just click with from the start. The premise also sounds awesome: a DOG as a nanny; six naughty children having adventures/misadventures for hundreds of pages. I was disappointed. There is a good possibility it is all on me. I think the timing was off. I tried so many times to read this one and get hooked, get invested. I kept waiting for it to come naturally. For me to be able to read smoothly, naturally, to fall in love with the characters and story. Never happened....for me.

Premise/plot: A SENIOR miniature Schnauzer is a "nanny" for six horribly, naughty children. The McNiffs need Lord Tennyson (the dog) to help teach them how to be loving, caring, decent human beings. They need a lot of help because they are so not there yet. The children couldn't get along if their lives depended on it. There is fussing, fighting, arguing, grudges, revenge, sneakiness. The parents are mostly absent. The dog is the narrator.

My thoughts (conclusion): I really HATED the melodrama of the next-to-last chapter. I realize that he is a senior dog. I realize that dogs die. But to have this melodramatic death scene (turns out to be near-death not actual death), was just CRUEL. I think this nearly losing Lord Tennyson is the climax of their behavior. This is the first glimpse of hope that the kids can unite for something--or someone. But still. 

I *wanted* more than just naughty children. Personally. I do think it was just bad timing on my part. Maybe if I'd read it a few months from now or a year or two from now, it would be the right time and place for me to love this one.



© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

135. Far Out!

Far Out! Anne Bustard. 2023. 221 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade historical fiction; MG mystery]

First sentence: When your last name is "Crook" and your best friend is Nick Lawless and your daddy's the sheriff, then folks never forget you. That's A-OK by me. I'm proud to be Magnolia Jean Crook from Totter, Texas. Especially the Totter part. Especially now. Because we are fixing to host our First Annual Come On Down Day. In just one week our small town aims to welcome any and all space aliens who wish to visit. No RSVP required. 

Premise/plot: Historical mystery set in a small Texas town in 1964. Far Out! is just that--a bit far out. Magnolia (MJ) and Nick set out to solve a mystery. Someone has stolen a meteorite that was on display at the local public library. It is privately owned and was on borrow. The meteorite is found in MG's grandmother's shed--her grandma who admittedly does have keys to the library--is suffering from Alzheimer's. (Though they may not use that term exactly. Just "old age" and "forgetfulness"). These two kids believe that she is being framed by the real crook, and they have a list of suspects. But the sheriff and deputies must follow the clues...despite personal feelings and intuition. 

Meanwhile, the town continues to prepare for a HUGE celebration. (All this takes place in one week in November 1964). 

My thoughts: This was an odd read. The town wants a claim to fame and they are hoping that UFOs are the way to go. Though perhaps some are genuine believers? It blends the mystery of who stole the meteorite--and why--AND the town preparing for the UFO landing party. (Spoiler alert--no aliens come to visit; no UFOs are sighted.) I typically enjoy small town mysteries. I didn't not enjoy this one. It just wasn't my favorite in the genre.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, July 17, 2023

134. Dressing Barbie

Dressing Barbie: A Celebration Of the Clothes That Made America's Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them. Carol Spencer. 2019. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [adult nonfiction; history; fashion design; toys; adult collectors]

First sentence:  Barbie quite simply changed my life.

Premise/plot: Carol  Spencer shares her experiences as a fashion designer for Barbie at Mattel. She worked as a designer for Mattel from 1963 through the 1990s. Four decades designing fashion and fashion accessories for Barbie (and friends). The book is packed with back stories and photographs. It is organized by decade. When she started at Mattel, there were four women working as fashion designers. I'm not sure how many more were added to that team through the decades. But she definitely played an important role in styling Barbie. This one provides context for Barbie's style. She gives behind-the-scenes look in various inspirations for various looks. 

MY thoughts: I absolutely loved this one!!!! I enjoyed reading about each of the decades. I don't know that I have a favorite, favorite section. I loved finding out more behind-the-scenes glimpses of memorable and iconic dolls. Like the creation for Totally Hair Barbie, for example. She was responsible for the first MY FIRST BARBIE doll and the subsequent My First Barbie line. One of my the funniest stories is how she shares WHY there were three different fashions with gold and white stripes--a bathing suit and headdress, a holiday dress, and another shorter dress. They accidentally ordered 2,500 yards instead of 250 yards! 

I read this one in one sitting. It was an awesome read. Perhaps not for every single reader. But for those that do love BARBIE or those that love fashion design or history. 

I think this one works as a book that you read cover-to-cover. OR as a reference book that you skim. The photographs are awesome. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 15, 2023

133. The Probability of Everything

The Probability of Everything. Sarah Everett. 2023. [June] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle Grade Fiction]

First sentence: We first noticed the asteroid because my little sister, Lo, kept trying to eat it. It was a Sunday morning in April, and the three of us--me, Mom, and Dad--were sitting at the dining table, discussing a news story Dad was reading on his tablet. 

My thoughts (preview): This book has mostly five and four star reviews on GoodReads. Clearly many people have read it and enjoyed it. BUT. I was not one of those. One of the reasons why I personally did not enjoy this one--not even a little bit--is that it is all switch and bait. In other words, Kemi Carter, the protagonist, is a completely unreliable narrator. Readers can take nothing--absolutely nothing--at face value. I don't like being gaslighted for 80 to 90% of the novel. Some readers may be like WOW the author really fooled us, how clever! Not me. I'm like, where's the book that was promised?!?!

Premise/plot: The framework of the book is that this "book" is a letter written to be found in the future--either by humans who survived the asteroid OR aliens? OR another species that evolves out of the atoms? Something like that. It is written directly to the reader. 

From the prologue, "Dear Reader, If you are reading this, then chances are that our world has ended. I don't know what that makes you? . . . All that matters is that you've found this. All that matters is that you now know we existed."

Kemi Carter loves, loves, loves science and math. She's supposedly, supposedly all about the facts. (Except for when she isn't, apparently).

Most of the novel is her "preparing" for the end of the world by creating a time capsule to be buried before the asteroid strikes earth.

My thoughts (conclusion): Perhaps some readers don't mind being tricked. But other readers may. Or at the very, very least I mind. Every reader has his/her own way of choosing what to read next. They make decisions based on jacket copy, descriptions, book cover, sample excerpt (like from Amazon), or even other reviews. When most--if not all--lead the reader to certain conclusions, it seems tricky to have the actual-actual book be about something completely different. Not only are you not getting what you wanted to read, you're getting something that you may very well NOT want to read. In fact, for those that tend to overthink (hint: me again): perhaps that's why the trickery exists in the first place. To get more people to read your book than otherwise would have because of the subject matter being what it is.

As I said at the start, I am definitely in the minority here. Most people seem to think this one is wonderful, brilliant, clever, etc.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, July 14, 2023

132. The Spectacular

The Spectacular. Fiona Davis. 2023. [June] 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I still dance in my dreams. But not in my life. In my life, I shuffle around this too-large house, tossing whatever is within reach into the nearest cardboard box, not bothering to wrap anything in newspaper or to make sure the box labeled living room actually contains items from the living room.

Premise/plot: Historical fiction set in New York City in the 1950s. This historical novel has a framework. It is set in 1992--December--and in 1956. Marion, the protagonist, is a dancer who auditions and becomes a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. Her father (and boyfriend) object strongly. She defies them both and goes for her dream anyway. Her sister, unfortunately, gets caught up in the drama. During one of the shows, her sister is the victim of a mad bomber. (A bomb left in the seat next to her). Marion catches sight of this "Big Apple Bomber" who has been setting off bombs for over fifteen years--since the early 1940s. The police don't take her eyewitness account seriously. But Marion is convinced that she can help solve this case--with or without the support of the police. She recruits a psychologist who is experimenting with something brand new--psychological profiling. Can they profile the type of man likely to commit these crimes and give the police an idea of who to look for?

My thoughts: Do not expect romance. Do expect drama. I enjoyed the mystery. I'm not sure I support the ways in which Marion and Peter (the psychologist) went about solving the crime. I could be wrong, but the way they "gather evidence" seems to violate all the rules and guidelines for what would be admissible in a court of law. (That is not addressed. And what do I know for sure about 1950s New York police departments or the court systems?)


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

131. Quantum Radio

Quantum Radio. A.G. Riddle. 2023. 562 pages. [Source: Library] [adult science fiction; multi-verse]

First sentence: In an auditorium at CERN, Tyson Klein stood behind a wooden podium, watching his colleagues arrive. It was the end of the workday, and most seemed tired. 

Premise/plot: Tyson (Ty) Klein is one of four protagonists in A.G. Riddle's newest science fiction thriller. His newest discovery proves dangerous. The day he reveals his latest research, an attempt is made on his life. He flees to the United States with the help of his father. But it comes at a cost. The powers that be in the U.S. don't want him so closely involved in the project--even if it does rely heavily on his research. Both the "good guys" and the "bad guys" want to be the first to build and use a quantum radio. No one is quite sure exactly, exactly what it will do...but there is this race to be first. 

When it is turned on or dialed, Ty and three companions are transported to an alternate universe--one of many in the multi-verse. They have a mission to solve though none of the four know what it is they are supposed to be doing. But they get an idea that that world--at least--will end within the week if they don't stop it from ending.

My thoughts: This one had all the elements that you would think I would naturally love, love, love. It reminded me in many ways of one of my favorite, favorite all-time favorite television shows that was cancelled way too soon. Perhaps because I kept thinking of that show--its twists and turns--I had a harder time connecting with the book in hand. That plus my natural skepticism/realism when it comes to "good guys" and "bad guys" in science fiction. There are obvious-obvious bad-guys, no doubt, but I'm not personally sure that the from-the-future-in-an-alternate-universe "good" guys are being 100% honest and straightforward. 

This one stayed a strong "almost" for me for most of the novel. I think if the plot was a little tighter, perhaps, I would have loved it more? Or maybe I just need it to be a television show.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, July 09, 2023

130. Wool Omnibus (Silo #1)

Wool Omnibus (Silo #1) Hugh Howey. 2012. 509 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult science fiction, adult horror, adult mystery, dystopia]

First sentence: The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. While they thundered about frantically above, Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around and around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads.

My thoughts: I first read this one in 2013. I loved it so, so, so much. I never went back to reread it, however, until now. I saw that it was being adapted into a show/series. I may never see the adaptation, but I am so glad that I took this chance to reread it. It's been long enough that it was like reading it for the first time--which was glorious for the horror-mystery bits. I love the tension of this one.

Premise/plot: Set in the future. What remains of humanity is living underground in a silo--or silos, as the case may be. Generations have come and gone, hundreds of years have passed, those that live in the silo have only ever known the silo. It functions or malfunctions, as the case may be, by following or "following" rules and guidelines put into place. But what happens when little things trigger chain reactions? 

So this one is titled, "Wool." Those trouble-makers, those "law-breakers," if you will, are "punished" by being sent OUT. And one of their last responsibilities is cleaning. Cleaning cameras, viewers, windows? But one woman sentenced to this fate refuses to clean....and subsequently....well life in Silo 18 will never be the same.

Further thoughts: I definitely recommend this book. It's a little bit of everything--dystopia, mystery, suspense, horror, science fiction. It alternates points of view. But this is an instance where that is a great thing--used for building suspense.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 08, 2023

129. Miss Irwin

Miss Irwin. Allen Say. 2023. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On his way home, a boy stops by a small house. "Grandma!" he calls from the front steps. "Your door is open!" 

Premise/plot: Miss Irwin is a picture book for older readers. Andy is visiting his grandma. The problem? She doesn't remember him. At all. She thinks he's a student, a former student. Miss Irwin used to be a teacher (before she retired). Their visit is bittersweet, in my opinion, and extremely focused on one subject: birds. Still, Andy can't help loving his grandma.

My thoughts: Would I love this one more if it didn't feature birds so dominantly? Maybe. Probably. I love the idea of loving this book. I love seeing depictions of grandchildren and grandparents in fiction. I love books that focus on that relationship. Alzheimer's effects on relationships is depicted in this one. I think it will "hit a chord" so to speak with some readers--perhaps those that have experienced this in their own lives. This is actually one of several books I've read this year that deals with grandparents with Alzheimer's. (The others being middle grade novels.)

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

128. The Woman With The Cure

The Woman with the Cure. Lynn Cullen. 2023. [February] 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Adult historical fiction]

First sentence: Arlene would never get over the empty swimming pools. 

Premise/plot: What should you know before picking this one up? Spans a little over two decades. Follows a half dozen (or so) people in a semi-shallow way for those decades. Multiple points of view. The main character is Dr. Horstmann--Dr. Dorothy Horstmann. She's a doctor on a mission--one of MANY--who is dedicated/committed to polio research. How to prevent it, how to treat it, how to cure it. It's a hit or miss research field with more unknowns than knowns. Doctors and scientists want answers so they can save lives, save families. There are many bumps and disappointments along the way. 

For those who want a story about the race to create a polio vaccine, this would be a good fit. What moves the plot forward is this--dedication, diligence, perseverance of doctors and scientists. Chapters serve as snapshots or vignettes of that journey.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I wanted to read it. I didn't find the characters or the storytelling super-engaging. But I was interested in this history. If you are reading this because you just love historical fiction in general, this may not be the main fit. You have to care about the polio element of this one to find it engaging. In my opinion.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

127. The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the prologue: This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history.

First sentence from chapter one: When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

Premise/plot: The novel opens with a HUGE celebration. Bilbo will be turning 111 and Frodo will be turning 33.

Bilbo is preparing to leave the Shire forever, but, he'll be leaving most everything to Frodo--including his magical ring. Gandalf is relieved that the ring will pass onto Frodo, it makes him a bit nervous to see Bilbo so attached to it and calling it precious. As the years go by--and years DO go by--Gandalf becomes concerned, worried, anxious about the ring. He fears that it is the ONE RING, and that Frodo's possession of the ring is dangerous.

I believe Frodo is about fifty when he does eventually set out on his very own adventure. And he won't be alone. He'll be accompanied by Sam, Pippin, and Merry. As their journey progresses, more people join the fellowship, and more risks are faced.

My thoughts: I love, love, loved rereading The Fellowship of the Ring. I think this is my third time to finish the series. (Yes, I've read all three of the trilogy when I'm writing this review.) There is something comforting about rereading it. I think it gets better each time. I find more to love, more to share. I notice more as well.

  On birthday presents:

Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in Hobbiton and Bywater every day in the year was somebody’s birthday, so that every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.
It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up: for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received. 
On the food at the birthday party:
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking – continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started. 
Bilbo confesses something to Gandalf:
‘I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!’ he snorted. ‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’ Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. ‘No, it does not seem right,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘No, after all I believe your plan is probably the best.’ ‘Well, I’ve made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf – mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.’ 
The ring:
As Frodo did so, he now saw fine lines, finer than the finest pen-strokes, running along the ring, outside and inside: lines of fire that seemed to form the letters of a flowing script. They shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth. ‘I cannot read the fiery letters,’ said Frodo in a quavering voice. ‘No,’ said Gandalf, ‘but I can. The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
It is only two lines of a verse long known in Elven-lore: Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.’
But as for breaking the Ring, force is useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine. 
‘There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.’ 
Frodo and Gandalf 'regret' the times in which they live:
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think, but they are ripening. We shall be hard put to it. We should be very hard put to it, even if it were not for this dreadful chance. 
I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’ ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’
‘Not safe for ever,’ said Gandalf. ‘There are many things in the deep waters; and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’ 
More words of wisdom from Gandalf:
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. 
Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.  
The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.’ 
It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill. But such falls and betrayals, alas, have happened before. 
‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.’ 
Favorite Sam Bits:
‘Well, sir,’ said Sam dithering a little. ‘I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself, if you know what I mean. Lor bless me, sir, but I do love tales of that sort. And I believe them too, whatever Ted may say. Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn’t you take me to see Elves, sir, when you go?’
‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’ ‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’
‘Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now – now that your wish to see them has come true already?’ he asked. ‘Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.’
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.’ 
‘Where did you come by that, Sam?’ asked Pippin. ‘I’ve never heard those words before.’ Sam muttered something inaudible. ‘It’s out of his own head, of course,’ said Frodo. ‘I am learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey. First he was a conspirator, now he’s a jester. He’ll end up by becoming a wizard – or a warrior!’ ‘I hope not,’ said Sam. ‘I don’t want to be neither!’ 
Sam sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. ‘I wish I had never come here, and I don’t want to see no more magic,’ he said and fell silent. After a moment he spoke again thickly, as if struggling with tears. ‘No, I’ll go home by the long road with Mr. Frodo, or not at all,’ he said. ‘But I hope I do get back some day. If what I’ve seen turns out true, somebody’s going to catch it hot!’ 
‘So all my plan is spoilt!’ said Frodo. ‘It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together. We will go, and may the others find a safe road! Strider will look after them. I don’t suppose we shall see them again.’ ‘Yet we may, Mr. Frodo. We may,’ said Sam.
Concerning Aragorn and other members of the Fellowship:
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king. 
‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’
‘Did the verses apply to you then?’ asked Frodo. ‘I could not make out what they were about. But how did you know that they were in Gandalf’s letter, if you have never seen it?’ ‘I did not know,’ he answered. ‘But I am Aragorn, and those verses go with that name.’ He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. ‘Not much use is it, Sam?’ said Strider. ‘But the time is near when it shall be forged anew.’
There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world.



© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, July 02, 2023

126. A Season Most Unfair

A Season Most Unfair. J. Anderson Coats. 2023. 285 pages. [Source: Library] [Children's Historical; MG Historical, Middle Ages]

First sentence: I'm only going out to get the fire started, but already the cats have assembled.

Premise/plot: A Season Most Unfair is set in medieval England. (Presumably because one of the settings is Cambridge.) The dates are fuzzy. The day-to-day details are fuzzy. But the main story is solid. Scholastica "Tick" is a young girl/young woman who's grown up helping her father, a chandler (or candlestick maker). But this year he's got an apprentice, Henry, the son of a friend. Henry is now learning the trade and taking over ALL her jobs. Not a single job left behind. Tick knows that she's got all the skills. She knows exactly what to do and how to make the best of the best. But her father--who's going blind--needs an apprentice, a BOY. Tick is VERY, well, ticked. She's not a happy camper. So how will she respond to all the dozens of changes going on in her life????

My thoughts: I didn't love this one. I really liked elements of it. I'm glad that Tick and Henry progressed to friendly. She was SO angry at the situation at the beginning. I loved that even though we see the events unfold through her eyes, her perspective, the characters are fleshed-out. I enjoyed getting to know all the characters better. The context could have been developed more. But I liked this one well enough.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

125. Beneath the Wide Silk Sky

Beneath the Wide Silk Sky. Emily Inouye Huey. 2022. [October 18] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Historical Fiction]

First sentence: I jumped as the rat streaked across the edge of the chicken pen.

Premise/plot: Set in Hawaii during the early days of the Second World War. This middle grade coming of age novel opens in early December 1941 in the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sam Sakamoto, our heroine, loves photography. She has big dreams. Big, big dreams that her family doesn't quite support--not because they don't love her or want the best for her. She has an older brother, an older sister, and a father. (The mom died before the novel started). The book is from her she witnesses firsthand prejudice, discrimination, racism. Fear + mob mentality is not the best mix. It isn't just coming from the masses, however, it's also coming from higher up--the government itself.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I did. I did NOT at all do it justice. Sam is such a lovely narrator. I loved her voice. I loved seeing the world through her eyes. I loved getting to know her family, her friends, her community better. I loved seeing her life at home and at school. I loved the tension and conflict. It was handled so well. This one is INTENSE yet it never felt--to me at least--melodramatic. There were some hard situations--particularly when it comes to race relations, her sister is dating a white boy--but I had to keep reading.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews