Wednesday, November 29, 2023

November Reflections

In November, I read 49 books. 

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

177. Once There Was a Bear: Tales Before It All Began. Jane Riordan. 2021/2023. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [prequel to a children's classic] 

178. Anne of Windy Poplars. L.M. Montgomery. 1936. 288 pages. [Source: Bought] 

179. The House Without a Christmas Tree. Gail Rock. 1974. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]

180. Miracle on 34th Street. Valentine Davies. 1947. 136 pages. [Source: Library]

181. I Survived the Great Alaska Earthquake, 1964. Lauren Tarshis. 2023. [November] 144 pages. [Source: Library] 

182. Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. Matthew Perry. 2022. 250 pages. [Source: Library] 

183. Prize for the Fire. Rilla Askew. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Library] 

184. The Sky Over Rebecca. Matthew Fox. 2022/2023. 256 pages. [Source: Library]


Books Reviewed at Young Readers

282. Dory Fantasmagory #6: Can't Live Without You. Abby Hanlon. 2023. [September] 160 pages. [Source: Library]

 283. Puppy Cam. Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2023. [August] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Early Reader]

284. All We Need Is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! Peter H. Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds. 2023. [October 3] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

285. Dragon's First Taco (Board Book) Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2023. [September] 16 pages. [Source: Library]

286. I'll Be A Chicken Too (Board book) Lana Vanderlee. Illustrated by Mike Deas. 2023. [May] 22 pages. [Source: Library]

287. Fifteen Animals (Board book). Sandra Boynton. 2002/2008/2014. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

288. Snow (Board book) Leslie Patricelli. 2023. [September] 26 pages. [Source: Library]

289. Leo at the Park (Board book) Anna McQuinn. 2023. [June] 18 pages. [Source: Library]

290. Snow, Snow, Snow. (Board book) Sandra Boynton. 2023. [September] 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

291. Detective Duck #1: The Case of the Strange Splash. Henry Winkler. Illustrated by Lin Oliver. 2023. [October 17]  80 pages. [Source: Library]

292. I Am Mister Rogers. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2023. [October 31] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

293. How To Count to One: And Don't Even Think About Bigger Numbers. Caspar Salmon. Illustrated by Matt Hunt. 2023. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

294. Squash, the Cat. Sasha Mayer. 2023. [August] 40 pages. [Source: Library]

295. Just Because. Matthew McConaughey. Illustrated by Renee Kurilla. 2023. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

296. Cornbread and Poppy at the Museum (Cornbread & Poppy #3) Matthew Cordell. 2023. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

297. Trim Sets Sail. Deborah Hopkinson. 2023. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

298. Trim Helps Out. Deborah Hopkinson. 2023. [October 24] 48 pages. [Source: Library]

299. Shark-Cam. (Critter Cam) Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2023. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

300. Let's Eat! Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z. Jacqueline Brooks. Illustrated by Davide Ortu. 2023. 20 pages. [Source: Library] [Board book]

 301. Party Animals (Tig and Lily #2) Dan Thompson. 2023. [September] 96 pages. [Source: Library]

302. 10 Dogs. Emily Gravett. 2023. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

303. I Want 100 Dogs. Stacy McAnulty. Illustrated by Claire Keane. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

304. The Bear and Her Book. Frances Tosdevin. 2023. [November] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

305. Out Cold (A little Bruce book) Ryan T. Higgins. 2023. [October 3] 32 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

306. Just One Flake. Travis Jonker. 2023. [October 10] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

307. A Very Cranky Book. Angela and Tony DiTerlizzi. 2023. [September] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

308. The Big Cheese. Jory John. Illustrated by Peter Oswald. 2023. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book] 

309. Lullaby for The King. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Michelle Carlos. 2023. [October 10] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book] 

310.  Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. Robert E. Barry. 1963. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]


Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

78. The Prayer Book Revealed: A Brief Illustrated History of the Book of Common Prayer. Peter S. Paine. 142 pages. [Source: Library]

79. The Practice of the Presence of Jesus: Daily Meditations on the Nearness of Our Savior. Joni Eareckson Tada. 2023. [October] 255 pages. [Source: Review copy]

80. The Girl From the Papers. Jennifer L. Wright. 2023. [August] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

81. God's Promises For Your Every Need. King James Version. Word Publishing. 1995. 340 pages. [Source: Bought]

82. The Book of Common Courage. K.J. Ramsey. 2023. [January] 224 pages. [Source: Library]

83. O Come, O Come Emmanuel: A Liturgy for Daily Worship from Advent to Ephiphany. Jonathan Gibson. 2023. 380 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

84. Memorizing Scripture: The Basics, Blessings, and Benefits of Meditating on God's Word. Glenna Marshall. 2023. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]


Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

15. KJ21: Holy Bible. God. 1994. 1888 pages. [Source: Bought]
16. NASB, 1977 Edition. Thompson Chain Reference Bible. (Leathersoft) God. 2021. 2240 pages. [Source: Bought]
17. NKJV (New King James Version). Personal Size Reference. Sovereign Collection. God. 2022. 1696 pages. [Source: Bought]
18. Holy Bible, RSV CE 2 (Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition). God. 2006. 1096 pages. [Source: Bought]19. King James Version, Giant Print, End of Verse Reference, Special Helps. 1976. Nelson 882BR. 1962 pages. [Source: Bought]


Yearly and Monthly Totals

Books Read in 2023599
Pages Read in 2023133734
# of Books50
# of Pages12848
# of Books72
# of Pages15241
# of Books55
# of Pages15216
# of Books55
# of Pages10876
# of Books52
# of Pages14695
# of Books46
# of Pages8196
# of Books72
# of Pages10400
# of Books51
# of Pages9868
# of Books56
# of Pages10259
# of Books41
# of Pages11107
# of Books49
# of Pages13691

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, November 27, 2023

184. The Sky Over Rebecca

The Sky Over Rebecca. Matthew Fox. 2022/2023. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Somebody had made a snow angel in a perfect white snowdrift down by the lake. There was something odd about it. Something about it didn't look right. 

Premise/plot: Kara, our modern-day heroine, finds herself able to interact with the past. She meets Rebecca and her brother, Samuel. They are living in the past--hiding on an island--during the Second World War. Kara wants to help 'save' these new [Jewish] friends, but is there a way to save them from the present? Or is history always going to play out the same way? 

My thoughts: The Sky Over Rebecca was definitely an 'almost' book for me. Almost a textbook case of "almost" for me. There's a supernatural/fantastical element of this one involving time. It is in a roundabout way about World War II and the Holocaust. Yet it was a little too odd--too out there--for me. I am not sure if there was a disconnect with Kara or just so many unanswered questions. 








For example, why Kara? Why is she the one who can see the 'ghosts' of the past--talk to them, hear them, see them, etc. Has Rebecca been in her timeloop for eighty years? Is Kara the first one that Rebecca has successfully communicated with?


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

183. Prize for the Fire

Prize for the Fire. Rilla Askew. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: They live meanly here, Maddie, and demand of me that I do the same. It is not poverty of purse but meanness of spirit which causes them to crimp their mouths if one but ask for a bit of beef for one's supper.

Premise/plot: Prize for the Fire is historical fiction based on the life of Anne Askew (aka Anne Kyme). She lived during the reign of Henry VIII and suffered greatly, or, perhaps reaped much spiritually from her many, many, many sufferings. She was Protestant and an advocate for reading the Bible in English at a time when England was having an identity crisis of sorts spiritually. The country could not decide how much access people should have to the Word of God in English, particularly in terms of class and gender. Her reading the Bible in private AND forming her own opinions of what the text means led to many difficulties. But first and foremost this one is about how HARD her life was because she could not separate from her A**H*** of a husband. She lived at a time when men could literally do anything and everything to punish their wives for any perceived faults. Perhaps not all took advantage of this power, but some did. Anne sought help from her family--her parents, her brothers, etc. But no one was willing or able to help 'save' her from this abuse. Some even, in my opinion, betrayed her and sided with her husband his his family. Her own family saw her as TROUBLE in her insistence that she had the right to read the Word of God on her own privately. She also shared what she learned with others. Wikipedia says she was a preacher. I'm not sure I took that away from reading the novel. I saw her speaking with other women, other ladies, about the Word of God. I don't see her preaching [from a pulpit] to audiences. I suppose it depends on how you define preaching. OR the accuracy of Wikipedia.

My thoughts: Honestly this one started off so incredibly sluggish. I persisted because I knew if the story ever really began to pick up, it would be worth it. The last third of the novel was quite INTENSE and fast-paced. Much of this one--if not all--is heartbreaking. The thought that it could be deemed WRONG or even ILLEGAL to read the Bible in one's own home in one's own language is shocking. I think I knew this in the back of my mind. I knew that the transition from Roman Catholic to Protestant was ROUGH and deadly. That there were many who were imprisoned and/or martyred for matters of faith. Owning the Bible in English was novel during her lifetime. Being able to read AND study the Word of God was still "new" during this century.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, November 16, 2023

182. Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing


Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. Matthew Perry. 2022. 250 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead. If you like, you can consider what you're about to read to be a message from the beyond, my beyond.

Premise/plot: Matthew Perry's memoir was published in the fall of 2022. After his recent death I put this one on hold at the library. It is a personal story--with ups and downs. He writes of highs (literally and figuratively) and lows--successes and failures. He writes of his near death experiences. He doesn't shy away from the lowest of lows, of telling stories that make him look horrible.

My thoughts: This one was thought provoking. It was heartbreaking and brutal, but also eye opening in my opinion. I think even if you don't struggle with alcohol, drugs, or smoking (addictions), you can find it relatable. He never quotes Augustine, but you can't help but read this one without thinking of the God-shaped hole that every single person has. He writes of seeking God--and I've shared plenty of quotes below. It reads like the book of Ecclesiastes. He tried EVERYTHING; he kept trying everything. More, more, more--never enough. There was no joy, no happiness, no contentment in anything he was throwing into the void, into the emptiness, into the uncomfortable dread of reality. It isn't always easy to talk about sadness, depression, emptiness and loneliness, but Matthew Perry did in this memoir. Perhaps his book can help others who are experiencing their own battles. He asks many, many questions but I'm not sure he found the answers.


  • My mind is out to kill me, and I know it. I am constantly filled with a lurking loneliness, a yearning, clinging to the notion that something outside of me will fix me. But I had had all that the outside had to offer!
  • Not being able to stop screaming is a very scary state to be in.
  • It is very odd to live in a world where if you died, it would shock people but surprise no one.
  • I'm not the biggest fan of confrontation. I ask a lot of questions. Just not out loud.
  • That said, I don't know how advanced civilization has to be to understand that giving phenobarbital to a baby who just entered his second month of breathing God's air is, at best, an interesting approach to pediatric medicine. But it wasn't that rare in the 1960s to slip the parents of a colicky child a major barbiturate.
  • Maybe it was because I was always trying to fill a spiritual hole with a material thing...I don't know.
  • "God, you can do whatever you want to me. Just please make me famous." Three weeks later, I got cast in Friends. And God has certainly kept his side of the bargain--but the Almighty, being the Almighty, had not forgotten the first part of that prayer as well.
  • You have to get famous to know that it's not the answer. And nobody who is not famous will ever truly believe that.
  • The most unnerving part was, I knew God was omniscient, which meant that he knew, already, what he had in store for me.
  • "God, please help me," I whispered. "Show me that you are here. God, please help me."
  • I had been in the presence of God. I was certain of it. And this time I had prayed for the right thing: help. Eventually the weeping subsided. But everything was different now.
  • He had saved me that day, and for all days, no matter what. He had turned me into a seeker, not only of sobriety, and truth, but also of him. He had opened a window, and closed it, as if to say, "Now go earn this."
  • And I seek the answer every day. I am a seeker. I seek God.
  • I'm this close to dying every day. I don't have another sobriety in me. If I went out, I would never be able to come back. And if I went out, I would go out hard. I would have to go out hard because my tolerance is so high.
  • I want that connection to something bigger than me because I'm convinced it's the only thing that will truly save my life. I don't want to die. I'm scared to die.
  • I've never let myself feel uncomfortable long enough to have a spiritual connection. So, I fix it with pills and alcohol before God can jump in and fix me.
  • I've seen God in my kitchen, of all places, so I know there's something bigger than me. I know it's an omnipresent love and acceptance that means that everything's going to be OK. I know something happens when you die. I know you move on to something wonderful.
  • I am me. And that should be enough, it always has been enough. I was the one who didn't get that. And now I do.
  • Someday you, too, might be called upon to do something important, so be ready for it. And when whatever happens, just think, What would Batman do? and do that.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

181. I Survived the Great Alaska Earthquake, 1964

I Survived the Great Alaska Earthquake, 1964. Lauren Tarshis. 2023. [November] 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: To eleven-year-old Jackson Barrett, it seemed like the world was ending. He was caught in the middle of the most powerful earthquake in United States history. Across Alaska, the ground shattered like glass. Buildings fell to pieces. Icy cliffsides crashed into the sea. Giant tsunami waves smashed into towns and villages along the coast.

Premise/plot: Jackson has grown up in the wilds of Alaska. His family has lived in a tiny cabin they built themself--a bit "off grid" if you will. (Before being off grid was trendy). But a fire caused by a wild bear has the family living in town for a change...and this puts them right in the path of the Great Alaska Earthquake--March 27, 1964. 

My thoughts: All of the I Survived books have a certain formula. This is good news for kids, I'd imagine. You know exactly what to expect and if you love one, chances are you'll enjoy if not love almost all of the others in the series. (Though, of course, there will always be favorites that stand out.) As an adult reader this one won't be making my favorites list. Some in this series prove captivating to me. Others less so. 


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

180 Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street. Valentine Davies. 1947. 136 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: If you searched every old folks' home in the country, you couldn't find anyone who looked more like Santa Claus. He was the living, breathing incarnation of the old gent--white beard, pink cheeks, fat tummy and all--and his name was Kris Kringle, too. Whether this was coincidence or design--a sort of stage name he had assumed--his friends at the Maplewood Home for the Aged never knew. Nor did they know exactly how old he was.

Premise/plot: Movie novelization of the classic holiday film of the same name. Both were released in 1947. I believe the note to the reader admits that the book is based on the film's script. If you've seen the movie, you've essentially read the book. Almost. There isn't much substance and depth added above and beyond the movie. While a few scenes we get a wider scope--greater understanding there are a few scenes that are very abrupt or concise. The climax of the movie are all the dramatic court scenes, this showdown of lawyers. In the book, however, the court stuff is kept to a bare minimum. The book definitely has a blink and you miss it ending. The same attention to detail that was found throughout the novel is a bit rushed for the last bit. For those that have not seen the movie, essentially a little girl puts Santa Claus to the ULTIMATE test. Meanwhile, Kris Kringle is on trial himself. Is he sane? insane? A danger to himself or others?

My thoughts: I am glad I've read this one. I have read it twice now. I want to love this one so much. I adore the movie. I am always glad to revisit these characters. If you are able to read this one, you should. But if you are having a hard time tracking it down, relax knowing that the book isn't "better" than the movie in this instance. It isn't a waste of time, mind you. It's not. It just doesn't go deeper than the movie and the plot is the same.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

179. The House Without a Christmas Tree

The House Without a Christmas Tree. Gail Rock. 1974. 84 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Carla Mae and I were sitting in our little kitchen at the old wooden table, with our spoons poised in mid-air. In front of each of us was a hard-boiled egg perched in an egg cup. We both stared intently at the faces we had drawn on our eggs. The longer the stare, the better the hex. "Who's yours today?" she asked. "Billy Wild," I said, making a face. 

The House Without a Christmas Tree is a nice holiday read. Addie Mills is the ten-year-old heroine in the novel. As Christmas approaches, she has one thing on her mind. Will this be the year that her Father gives in her begging--her pleading, her imploring--and buys a Christmas tree? Or will this be another disappointing Christmas season? She can't ever recall having a tree of her very own. She's not sure she completely believes her father's excuse that since they'll be spending Christmas day at her uncle's house--and he has a tree--that there is no need for a tree of their own. Her grandmother is on her side. But both seem a bit timid, and hesitant, to speak their full minds in front of Father.

Here are some other things it's nice to know about Addie:

  • She is best, best friends with Carla Mae.
  • She is worst friends with Tanya Smithers.
  • She definitely does not like-like Billy Wild. (Or does she?)
  • She loves her Grandma, and feels fiercely protective of her.
  • She loves but does not understand her Father at all.
  • She feels very misunderstood by her Father.
  • She's curious about the mother she never knew.
The book is set in a small town in 1946.

 I have read this one a handful of times through the years. I do like revisiting the characters and their complex relationships. There are three more books, I believe, in the series. I have not read them all. But I'd be interested in reading them if I can find them.



© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, November 10, 2023

178. Anne of Windy Poplars

Anne of Windy Poplars. L.M. Montgomery. 1936. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:  DEAREST: Isn't that an address! Did you ever hear anything so delicious? Windy Poplars is the name of my new home and I love it. I also love Spook's Lane, which has no legal existence. It should be Trent Street but it is never called Trent Street except on the rare occasions when it is mentioned in the Weekly Courier . . . and then people look at each other and say, 'Where on earth is that?' Spook's Lane it is . . . although for what reason I cannot tell you. I have already asked Rebecca Dew about it, but all she can say is that it has always been Spook's Lane and there was some old yarn years ago of its being haunted. But she has never seen anything worse-looking than herself in it. 

Premise/plot: Anne and Gilbert are engaged at last! But Gilbert still has three years of school to go, and, so Anne finds herself a job as principal of a school in Summerside. Anne of Windy Poplars gives us an intimate look at those three years. Much of the book provides glimpses into the letters Anne writes Gilbert. But there are some traditional chapters as well.

My thoughts: Anne of Windy Poplars is such a delightful (late) addition to the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery. I love, love, love it. Even if Gilbert himself is absent. (We only see her letters to him, never his letters to her.)

This book showcases what Montgomery does BEST: bring her characters to life. It doesn't seem to matter if we spend two paragraphs with a character or two chapters. I CARE about every character she introduces.

Some of the characters we meet in this one: Aunt Kate, Aunt Chatty, Rebecca Dew, Dusty Miller (cats count as characters, right?!), Little Elizabeth, Nora Nelson, Jim Wilcox, Esme Taylor, Dr. Lennox Carter, Cyrus Taylor, Teddy Armstrong, Lewis Allen, Katherine Brooke, Mrs. Adoniram Gibson and Pauline, Cousin Ernestine Bugle, Jarvis Morrow, Dovie Westcott, Frank Westcott.

Favorite quotes:

I have a scratchy pen and I can't write love-letters with a scratchy pen...or a sharp pen...or a stub pen. So you'll only get that kind of letter from me when I have exactly the right kind of pen. 
You know I've always been one to whom adventures come unsought. I just seem to attract them, as it were.  
School begins tomorrow. I shall have to teach geometry! Surely that can't be any worse than learning it. 
Isn't it queer that the things we writhe over at night are seldom wicked things? Just humiliating ones.
I don't like reading about martyrs because they always make me feel petty and ashamed...ashamed to admit I hate to get out of bed on frosty mornings and shrink from a visit to the dentist!
Nobody is ever too old to dream. And dreams never grow old.
I said drenched and I mean drenched.
Oh, no, babies are never common," said Anne, bringing a bowl of water for Mrs. Gibson's roses. "Every one is a miracle."
It seems so strange to read over the stories of those old wars...things that can never happen again. I don't suppose any of us will ever have more than an academic interest in 'battles long ago.' It's impossible to think of Canada ever being at war again. I am so thankful that phase of history is over. 
Nobody is ever too old to wear just what she wants to wear. You wouldn't want to wear it if you were too old.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, November 09, 2023

177. Once There Was A Bear

Once There Was a Bear: Tales Before It All Began. Jane Riordan. 2021/2023. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [prequel to a children's classic]

First sentence: Not so very far away there is a forest. You've probably been there. It's the sort of Forest with trees to hide behind, sticks to bend and snap, streams to wet your toes in, and steep running down-y bits to run down. In this Forest, two friends sat in a patch of sunlight.

Premise/plot: This is the official prequel to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. These are stories that take place before the first book. For example, ever wonder how Winnie the Pooh came to be Christopher Robin's bear? Ever wonder about Pooh's experiences in a department store? The stories mainly seem to stand alone. 

My thoughts: I had very high expectations. This one mostly lived up to those high expectations. I wouldn't say that it was completely and totally magical from cover to cover. But there were two or three stories that really stood out to me as wonderful. Most were pleasantly good and solid--nothing disappointing. I loved Eeyore's origin story, for example. And Piglet's story with the boot was also great. 

Is this one necessary for every Pooh lover? Maybe. Maybe not. The originals are SO wonderful, marvelous, memorably epic. This prequel is solidly good and pleasant enough. I definitely enjoyed it more than not. I don't know that it is something that would be an absolute must for every fan.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews