Saturday, July 20, 2024

57. Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona. Beverly Cleary. 1955. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [Star rating: 5/5]

First sentence: Beezus felt that the biggest trouble with four-year-old Ramona was that she was just plain exasperating. If Ramona drank lemonade through a straw, she blew into the straw as hard as she could to see what would happen.

Unlike other books in the Ramona series, this one is narrated by Beezus. Like all other books in the Ramona series, it has a just-right feel about it. Beverly Cleary's greatest talent may be in her capturing what it feels like to be a kid.

Beezus, as you probably know, is Ramona's big sister. Ramona does steal the show in almost every book in which she appears. There's something unforgettable about her. But though the focus is on Ramona, this is still very much Beezus' book. It captures how she feels about her family, about Ramona.

"Beezus and Her Little Sister." Ramona LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to have The Littlest Steam Shovel read to her. Her parents are unwilling to read it to her--they have come to have no tolerance for it. But Beezus, well, she'll read it to Ramona, not that she likes it, but, she'll give in now and then. She gets the idea to take Ramona to the library to get a brand new book--for two weeks. Ramona picks a new book, but, it is still about steam shovels. She likes it so much, that she does something NAUGHTY so she can keep it for always. What will Beezus do since it was checked out on her card? Just how sympathetic will the librarian be?

"Beezus and Her Imagination" Beezus is in an art class. Ramona isn't supposed to be in the class with her, she's supposed to be playing outside in the sandbox. But on this occasion, Beezus finds Ramona in class with her. Could she get inspired by her sister's imaginary pet?! Could she earn her teacher's attention?!

"Ramona and Ribsy" Beezus invites Henry Huggins (and his dog, Ribsy) to her house to play checkers. It doesn't go well. Both Ribsy and Ramona have fits of sorts. And Ribsy ends up locked in the bathroom?! Beezus wishes Ramona was more like other people's sisters.

"Ramona and the Apples" Beezus is supposed to be watching Ramona while their mother does the grocery shopping. But. Ramona proves too much to handle. She sneaks into the basement and has her way with all the apples...taking one bite and just one bite from each apple. Will Beezus get in trouble? Can anything good come from all those ruined apples?

"A Party at the Quimbys" Ramona decides to have a party and invite other kids over to the house--without permission of course. What will Beezus and their mother do? This one ends in a parade. Among the guests, Howie and Willa Jean.

"Beezus's Birthday" Will Beezus have a cake for her tenth birthday?! It might not be as easy as you might think. Not with Ramona around. But with a little help from Aunt Beatrice, all might be well after all. Hint: If you have a sister like Ramona, don't read the story of Hansel and Gretel to her when your cake is in the oven!

I love the Ramona series. I do. I love, love, love the Ramona books. I think I read them dozens of more times than the Little House books. (I've recently reread these too.) I'm not sure Beezus and Ramona is my favorite of the series, but, it's a great start to a great series.



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, July 15, 2024

56. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. J.K. Rowling. 1997. 345 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

Premise/plot: Harry Potter, our protagonist, is an orphan destined for adventures--and misadventures. Raised by muggles, his aunt and uncle, he is clueless that his parents were involved in magic--witch and warlock. Both attended Hogwarts. Though the Dursleys plan to send Harry to an ordinary school, well, fate (if you will) has other plans. He receives dozens--and dozens and dozens--of invitations to Hogwarts. No matter how much his aunt and uncle want to deny Harry his heritage--his legacy--they are thwarted. (One might sympathize with them if they weren't presented as Roald Dahl style caricatures. After all, if they treated Harry as their own flesh and blood, if they treated him well, if they truly, deeply had his best interests at heart...then one might argue that they are trying to protect Harry.

Much of the book is set at school--Hogwarts--and involves Harry interacting with his closest friends (like Ron and Hermione), his classmates, his professors, his enemies. Harry (and company) get in and out of trouble on multiple occasions. Harry does have a BIG ENEMY (one who is not to be named, perhaps). He does make a brief appearance towards the end of the novel.

My thoughts: I read this series for the first time (ever) in 2023. I did decide I wanted to reread. I definitely enjoyed *more* this time around. There were little details that I may or may not have missed the first time around, but have taken out some meaning now that I've read the whole series. I definitely had greater appreciation for the whole cast of characters. My focus had shifted a bit. While the first time around, I was uncertain on if I even liked it and would continue on with the series, this time around I knew better what to expect and where the story was heading.


If only the had had mentioned a House for people who felt a bit queasy, that would have been the one for him.

But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

 There were a hundred and fort-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the coats of armor could walk.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. 

As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all-- the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

55. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games #1 Suzanne Collins. 2008. 374 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

I have seen the movie more than I've read the book. I *believe* that this is my third time to read the novel. And it appears that the last time I actually read the book was October of 2012! I'm surprised by that. 

This has been 'the year' for me revisiting this series. I've reread The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I've seen that movie adaptation twice. I've binged my way through the original movie trilogy. I've been intending to actually read the books themselves again. There is another 'prequel' coming next year, I think. 

As I said, I've watched the movie so many times since 2012, it was so refreshing to discover--rediscover--the DEPTH and substance of the book itself. There are so many layers. Especially when you add in what you've learned from the prequel. One thing that may be super-super-super obvious is that Katniss (our heroine) is BROKEN and traumatized from the moment we meet her. She is strong and resilient and a bit hardened. But the death of her father, the failing of her mother to be an adult, a parent, the HARSH realities of the district, these have made the Katniss we know. She's a provider, a survivor. The Games definitely contributed to her PTSD, her trauma-induced mental and emotional distress, but it wasn't only the games. Life in district 12 is hard--difficult. Raising yourself and your sister is difficult. 

I also was detail focused as I was rereading trying to observe things about all the districts and the characters--no matter how small--themselves. Again, so many layers if you've mainly spent time with the movies.

I do plan on reading the other books in this series. Rereading that is. 2012 may feel like a few years ago, but it's over ten.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, June 29, 2024

June Reflections

Quality not quantity? Maybe. Mostly. I read twenty-four books in June.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

50. Maria. Michelle Moran. 2024. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

51. Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. 1958. 141 pages. [Source: Library]

52, Operation: Happy. Jenni L. Walsh. 2024. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [j historical fiction, mg historical fiction, animal fantasy] 

53. My Lost Freedom: A Japanese American World War II Story. Georege Takei. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction picture book, World War II]

54. Tree. Table. Book. Lois Lowry. 2024. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

76. Welcome to the Woofmore. Donna Gephart and Lori Haskins Houran. Illustrated by Josh Cleland. 2024. 80 pages. [Source: Library]  

77. They Call Me No Sam! Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Mike Lowery. 2024. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 

78. Meatballs for Grandpa. Jeanette Fazzari Jones. Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett. 2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

79. The Boy Who Said Wow by Todd Boss. Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. 2024. [April] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

80. Board book: Tiny Bear Can, Too. Yusuke Yonezu. 2024. 16 pages. [Source: Library] 

81. A Fox, a Pig, and a Dig. Jonathan Fenske. 2024. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

82. The Squish. Breanna Carzoo. 2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

83. How to Love a Kitten. Michelle Meadows. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 

84. Dalmartian: A Mars Rover's Story by Lucy Ruth Cummins. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 

85. Waiting in the Wings. Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. Illustrated by Eg Keller. 2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

31. NKJV Spurgeon and the Psalms, Maclaren Series, Thomas Nelson. Devotions by Charles Spurgeon. Psalms by God. 2022. 548 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

32. Who are You? A Little Book About Your Big Identity. Christina Fox. Illustrated by Daron Parton. 2024. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

33. (Preaching the Word) Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God. Ajith Fernando. 2012. 768 pages. [Source: Bought]

34. The Hiding Place A Graphic Novel. Corrie ten Boom. With Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Adapted by Mario DeMatteo. Illustrated by Ismael Castro. 2024. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

35. The Justice and Goodness of God. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2024. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

36. For a Lifetime (Timeless #3) Gabrielle Meyer. 2024. 400 pages. [Source: Library]


Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

12. The One Year Bible for Women. God. 2023. Tyndale. 1136 pages. [Source: Bought]

13. Thomas Nelson, KJV Giant Print, Red Letter, 544B. [Thumb-indexed] God. 1976. 1900 pages [best guess] Source: Bought

14. Berean Standard Bible, Holy Bible, (BSB) God. 2022. 1504 pages. [Source: Bought]

 Yearly and Monthly Totals

Books Read in 2024190
Pages Read in 202451202
Books read in January36
Pages read in January6875
Books read in February 38
Pages read in February9731
Books read in March39
Pages read in March6730
Books read in April32
Pages read in April9367
Books read in May21
Pages read in May10246
Books read in June24
Pages read in June8253

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 28, 2024

54. Tree Table. Book.

Tree. Table. Book. Lois Lowry. 2024. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am going to tell you three words. I'm choosing them at random. Listen carefully. This will be important. House. Umbrella. Apple. Remember those. I'll explain later.

My thoughts (preview): I kept this one waiting. I have absolutely loved Lois Lowry's work in the past. I have. Yet the title was odd--for me (though trust me, it works). The cover was not one that made me want to drop everything and read it. I wasn't quite sure what this one was about. I thought it would likely be worth some point. Lowry's books rarely disappoint me. 

In a way, I'm glad I waited to read it. Now I can tell EVERYONE go read this book and it will actually be available at libraries and bookstores. 

Premise/plot: What is this one about? Friendship. Friendship. Friendship. Friendship can be complex, nuanced, wonderful, perplexing. Young Sophie (our heroine) is VERY dear friends with a much older Sophie. The two have a wonderful, sparkling friendship--vibrant and delightful. Yet the older Sophie is beginning to 'show' her age, if you will. No matter how much young Sophie does NOT want to admit it, acknowledge it, accept it, things can't stay the same forever. This Sophie is not Sophie's only friend. There are others in her life that are DIFFERENT yet special. There is only ONE Sophie--irreplaceable. 

My thoughts: I purposefully kept the premise/plot on the VAGUE side. Because the JOY of this one is in the unfolding. The less you know about the specifics of the plot, the more you will enjoy the journey. You should know it is character-driven. This isn't an action-packed novel with twists and turns. Nor is it a thriller. But for readers who LOVE character-driven novels that are ALL heart, ALL soul, written with care and beauty, this one is a must. It breaks you, in a way, but it also mends.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

53. My Lost Freedom

My Lost Freedom: A Japanese American World War II Story. George Takei. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction picture book, World War II]

First sentence: Hi, I'm George Takei, an eighty-seven-year-old actor.

Premise/plot: My Lost Freedom is a picture book biography for older readers. It is an autobiographical picture book of George Takei's time in several Japanese Internment camps during the Second World War. He was a young child--a very young child, just four years old. His earliest memories, his core memories, if you will, were formed in these war years. The picture book shares about this time in American history through a personal lens. It is personal yet broader than that. 

It would be easy to assume that this is a bleak, glummy, downer of a book. But it isn't. The book shares memories of his family life, his friendships, his community. I think he was young enough to not know just how unjust and wrong it was. Know might be a very poor word choice, feel to the depths of his soul might be better but more wordy. I think his memories would be different if he'd been twelve or thirteen when he entered the camp with his family. I also am guessing that his family chose to make the best of an absolutely horrible situation. I think they chose to make it as much a home as possible for their children. 

My thoughts: I didn't know what to expect from this one. I'd read a few books for older readers (middle grade, high school, adult) on this subject. These especially from older perspectives are rightly so angry and bitter. This may be the youngest 'memoir' perspective I've read. It does include plenty of general information about this time period in history.

Easily a five-star read.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 06, 2024

52. Operation Happy

Operation: Happy. Jenni L. Walsh. 2024. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [j historical fiction, mg historical fiction, animal fantasy]

First sentence: A dog is at the top of my wish list. I unwrap number three: a Monopoly board game. Then I pluck number five from under the Christmas tree: a Shirley Temple doll. And number two: a new Nancy Drew book. But number one is still very much missing. 

Operation: Happy is historical fiction--set around the Second World War--narrated by a girl, Jody, and her dog, Happy. Jody is used to moving frequently; her dad is a marine. Happy will be a constant in her life. No matter how many places, how many schools, how many friends she leaves behind--her and Happy together forever and ever. The family's newest home is [near] the naval base Pearl Harbor. Her mom--who is mentally and emotionally unstable--is fearful of the island. She has visions of great doom--even before they arrive on the island. Her daughters--Jody and Peggy--try to make the most of things. Sure Mom has horrible feelings about Hawaii but should they??? Jody may not share her mom's concerns exactly, however, she does begin to worry that Happy may die soon among other things....

This historical middle grade novel is set before, during, and after Pearl Harbor. It is told from both her point of view and that of Happy. 

My thoughts: I was NERVOUS. Dog on the cover: check. Set during a war: check. Possible foreshadowing in the first few chapters that the dog's health is declining: check. Would Happy survive to the end of the book? Would I be okay if Happy didn't???? Putting aside the dog issue, there is plenty of peril for the humans involved in this story. 

I am glad I read this one. I've been in a huge reading slump. I've lacked motivation to keep turning chapters. Maria and Operation: Happy are proving to me that I do still want to read.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

51. Danny and the Homework Machine

Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. 1958. 141 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Danny Dunn bent over a strange device that hung from the ceiling of his bedroom, directly over his desk.

Premise/plot: Danny Dunn loves to learn, experiment, invent. He's driven by curiosity. However Danny Dunn and his friends--new and old--don't like doing homework. In this "vintage" children's book Danny programs the Professor's computer [large, bulky, not user-friendly computer] to do their homework. This requires a LOT of programming, a LOT of extra work. He first has to teach the computer and then has to teach himself and his friends how to use the computer. Danny is under the belief that he is saving time by using a computer. The adults may be getting amusement out of this realizing that extra homework is what it really is.

My thoughts: This book does not age well....for better or worse. On the one hand, I do think vintage books can give you a glimpse into the past, a time capsule if you will. In this book and in the previous Danny Dunn book I've read, it's a glimpse into how THEY in the 1950s thought the future would look like. The first book I read Danny Dunn was about space and space travel. This one was about computers. It can be amusing to see how those living in the past imagined the future playing out. On the other hand, Danny Dunn's life is so out of place--so dated. I have a hard time imagining kids today reading about this super-ancient "advanced" computer that is "oh so miraculous" and "amazing." The story, the dialogue, the characters don't really age well. As an adult I was amused yet not particularly entertained. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, June 03, 2024

50. Maria

Maria. Michelle Moran. 2024. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: 
Dear Mr. Hammerstein,
It may come as a surprise that I am writing to you, as it appears that the theater industry believes I am dead and can now make up whatever they wish about me. 

Premise/plot: Michelle Moran's newest historical novel is a fictionalized account of the creation of the Broadway musical Sound of Music. Maria von Trapp, on whom the musical is in part based along with her family, was not happy with the script or characterizations. She believed--and tried to convey--just how wrong, how inaccurate, how nonsensical the changes were. She hoped--in vain--that by telling HER story and providing detailed notes (etc) that the script would be changed. This is the story of those interviews. Fran (a fictional character) is meeting with Maria and sharing what she learns knowing that the story is essentially set in stone...the musical is due to open in a matter of weeks. This novel also reveals Mr. Hammerstein's illness--this would be the last musical he would write before his death. 

The novel goes back and forth in time.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the musical Sound of Music. I have read at least one biography of Maria von Trapp. I can't remember if it was a biography written by another or an autobiography or memoir. I knew I *needed* to read this one. I found it a great read. I definitely recommend this one. 

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, May 30, 2024

May Reflections

In May I read twenty-one books. 

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

44. Fifty-Four Pigs (Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery #1) Philipp Schott. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery]

45. South of Somewhere. Kalena Miller. 2024. 288 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Realistic fiction]  

46. Unhappy  Camper (Graphic Novel) Lily LaMotte. Illustrated by Ann Xu. 2024. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade graphic novel] 

47. The One and Only Family. Katherine Applegate. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] 

48. Olivetti. Allie Millington. 2024. 253 pages. [Source: Library] 

49. The Kill Factor. Ben Oliver. 2024. 368 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Young Readers

66. Orris and Timble #1: Orris and Timble the Beginning. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Carmen Mok. 2024. 80 pages. [Source: Library] [early chapter book, animal fantasy, friendship, storytelling] 

67. Five Stories. Ellen Weinstein. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book for older readers] 

68. Fox versus Fox. Corey R Tabor. 2024. [March] 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

69. Bear and Bird: The Stars and Other Stories. Jarvis. 2023. [October 10] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

70. Duck and Moose: Duck Moves In. Kirk Reedstrom. 2024. [March] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

71. Duck and Moose: Moose Blasts Off. Kirk Reedstrom. 2024. [March] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

72. Happy Pudding. Kimberly Gee. 2023. [August] 64 pages. [Source: Library] 

73. The Story of Jim Henson. Stacia Deutsch. 2021. 70 pages. [Source: Library]

74. What is the Story of Captain Picard? David Stabler. 2023. 112 pages. [Source: Library] 

75. Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories. Jarvis. 2023. 64 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

30. The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach. Bryan Chapell. 2014. 222 pages. [Source: Library]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

8. NASB 1977 Ryrie Study Bible. 1978. Charles C. Ryrie, editor. God (author). 2059 pages. Source: Bought]

9. NKJV (New King James Version) Word Study Reference Bible. God. 2023. 1928 pages. [Source: Bought]

10. CSB Holy Land Illustrated Bible. (Christian Standard Bible) God. 2020. 2000 pages. [Source: Bought]

11. NIV 2011: The Daily Bible in Chronological Order with "narration" by F. Lagard Smith. 2020. 1730 pages. [Source: Bought]


2024 totals

Books Read in 2024166
Pages Read in 202442,949
Books read in January36
Pages read in January6,875
Books read in February 38
Pages read in February9,731
Books read in March39
Pages read in March6,730
Books read in April32
Pages read in April9,367
Books read in May21
Pages read in May10,246

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

49. The Kill Factor

The Kill Factor. Ben Oliver. 2024. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Emerson Ness had not been scared in a very long time. Now she was terrified.

Premise/plot: YA dystopia is not as prevalent [abundant] as it used to be ten years ago. The Kill Factor IS YA dystopia with a unique premise. Fifty contestants for a brand new television game show that are facing varying sentences for crimes they've committed. They will face challenges from the Producer [the powers that be] and one another. The winner will essentially be acquitted and have the charges dropped. The losers, well, the losers will face life-time sentences. Signing the contract to participate in the game show has huge risks and low odds of success. Yet for those who feel helpless and hopeless, a little hope is better than none. Emerson Ness, the narrator, has been charged with arson and murder. (I'm not certain at all what degree for the murder charge. I don't think the judicial process had gotten far enough along for official charges to have been made.) Her social-media obsessed dad is at first pushing for her to compete. Her fame could lead to his fame. She is conflicted. But ultimately she chooses to be a contestant so the book would be longer than two chapters.

The book is action-packed with definitely more emphasis on premise and plot than characterization. But Emerson Ness definitely is developed as a character.

My thoughts: I found this a compelling read. I was a big fan of the YA dystopia trend. I'd be happy to see a few published each year. This one definitely has some similarities to The Hunger Games, but also a little darker.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 20, 2024

48. Olivetti

Olivetti. Allie Millington. 2024. 253 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's quite possible you've never spoken to a typewriter before. This is not your fault. Humans tend to think we can't understand them. But when you sit still for long enough, there is much you can learn. 

Premise/plot: Can a typewriter save a dysfunctional family? 

My thoughts: I am SO tempted to leave that description so sweet and short. Olivetti is a typewriter who sees all, hears all, and knows MUCH. The typewriter can type on its own to communicate with humans. Olivetti has lived with the Brindles [his human family] for many, many, many years. But when his owner suddenly takes him to the pawn shop and sells him...and then 'runs away' from her gets messy. 

The premise isn't really one that grabbed me. It is strange, strange, super strange. However the writing/narration is great. I would say the writing was incredible. It is dual narration. Ernest Brindle (a young boy) is the other narrator.

The premise will either grab your attention or perhaps do the opposite. It really is STRANGE, but I would say the writing more than makes up for it. I wouldn't be surprised if this one got some award attention.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

47. The One and Only Family


The One and Only Family. Katherine Applegate. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Ivan. I'm about to become a dad. I'm hoping it's as easy as it looks.

Premise/plot: The One and Only Ivan is the fourth book in Katherine Applegate's series. Previous titles--as I'm sure many know--include The One and Only Ivan, The One and Only Bob, and The One and Only Ruby. Ivan and his gorilla partner, Kinyani, are going to be parents. This book--written in verse--chronicles Ivan's adventures/misadventures as a dad as "Big Daddy."

My thoughts: I LOVED this one. Is it for kids? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it for adults who read children's books? Almost definitely. Perhaps not exclusively. But The One and Only Ivan has been published for over ten years. He is such a memorable character that readers of all ages may want to read this one. The Ivan books (and sequels) have a timeless feel to them. This one gets VERY reflective and philosophical. I think adults will almost definitely connect with the narration. The writing just resonates at times. So many places I ended up highlighting. I am so glad I read this one.


Look at a gorilla infant's hand. Or a human baby's hand, if you don't happen to have access to a newborn gorilla. Which I suppose is quite likely. How could anything possibly be so small and so perfect? Now extend a finger, the way I am doing, the way every father since the beginning of time has done, and watch the way that tiny hand grabs hold as if it means the difference between life and death. Because perhaps it does. My son is holding on to me. Maybe it is not because of love, or need, or purpose. Maybe the movement is ingrained in a way we can't begin to understand. Perhaps babies hold on to fingers because they must. And perhaps that's all we need to know. 

I have my story. The twins will have theirs. Stories, it seems to me, are living things. Once you set them free, they're like offspring. They have destinies of their own. They're no longer your responsibility. They belong to the world. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

46. Unhappy Camper

Unhappy  Camper (Graphic Novel) Lily LaMotte. Illustrated by Ann Xu. 2024. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade graphic novel]

First sentence: Claire and I had many daring adventures with our dolls.

Premise/plot: Michelle (our narrator) and Claire (her older sister) are at odds in Unhappy Camper. Michelle wants to blend in--fit in, be liked, be popular--with her friend group and peers. Claire wants to be true to herself and express her most true self--which in this case means embracing her Taiwanese culture a thousand percent. Claire has gone many years to a Taiwanese-American summer camp. Michelle has never once wanted to go. This year her parents have decided she HAS to go. They hope these two sisters will learn to get along better and become greater friends. Michelle, meanwhile, spends a good deal of time worrying about her friends back home. Her friends seem to pity her for having to go to this "weird" "awful" camp. [That's the impression I got.] What will Michelle learn about herself? her sister? her friends? 

My thoughts: Graphic novels are not my go-to choice at the library. But I always try to read a few per year. This graphic novel is a coming of age novel that deals with relationships--the relationship between two sisters, the relationship(s) with friends. Michelle is building towards an "aha" moment where she realizes that her friends may not be true friends that truly care about her.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

45. South of Somewhere

South of Somewhere. Kalena Miller. 2024. 288 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Realistic fiction] 

First sentence: "I have sand between my toes." I announce this to the entire car. Nobody replies.

Premise/plot: Mavis Callahan's vacation with her family ends memorably--and not in a good way. Was it a little odd that her mom got a separate ride home from the airport? Maybe. But that is just the teeniest top of the iceberg. Turns out the FBI is investigating her mom for embezzlement. Her mom has evaded arrest so far, but EVERYTHING has changed for the whole family. The family leaves the big city (Chicago, I believe) and seeks refuge in a small town (Somewhere, Illinois). They'll be staying with her aunt--her father's sister. Everyone is making huge adjustments--finding new jobs, making new friends, getting to know their extended family. Mavis doesn't know what to think. Is her mom guilty? innocent? Does she want to hear from her mom? Is she angry? sad? hurt? disappointed? confused? A bit of everything all at once. In this coming of age novel, two preteens start a babysitting business....but there is little cutesy about it. 

My thoughts: This isn't the first book I've read--I want to say this year, though perhaps the other was last fall???--that deals with parents committing white collar crimes. There may be a sub-sub-sub-sub-genre trend in the works. This coming of age novel was well written. The characterization was substantive, you really get to know the whole family.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

44. Fifty-Four Pigs

Fifty-Four Pigs (Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery #1) Philipp Schott. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery]

First sentence: Peter heard it before he saw it. A deep, percussive thud from somewhere ahead and to the left.

Premise/plot: Dr Peter Bannerman is a veterinarian and an amateur detective--much to his brother-in-law's dismay. (His brother-in-law is an actual cop/detective.) This one opens with a bang--literally. An explosion in a pig barn killing fifty-four pigs. Was it an accident? Was it a crime? Well, all chances of it being an accident are put to rest when a body is found in the barn. And it is only the first in a series of crimes--not all murders--in the small Canadian community. Can he follow the clues and solve the crimes? Or will he be the next victim?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I loved getting to know the community. Peter is a bit at odds with the community--because he is a bit neurodivergent (in my opinion) but he is great at what he does. He is a great veterinarian AND a great detective--even if he's not supposed to be putting his life at risk by following clues. I am glad to have discovered a new series. I hope to read more in it soon.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

April Reflections

IN April I read thirty-two books. 

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

37. Uprising. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2024. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [J Historical Fiction; MG Historical Fiction]

38. Snowglobe. (Snowglobe Duology #1) Soyoung Park. Translated by Joungmin Lee Comfort. 2024. 384 pages. [Source: Library] [YA Dystopian; New Adult] 

39. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Suzanne Collins. 2020. [May] 439 pages. [Source: Library] 

40. How To Solve Your Own Murder (Castle Knoll Files #1) Kristen Perrin. 2024. 368 pages. [Source: Library] 

41. One Big Open Sky. Lesa Cline-Ransome. 2024. 304 pages. [Source: Library] 

42. Before Nightfall. Silvia Vecchini. 2024. 128 pages. [Source: Library] 

43. The Mystery of Locked Rooms. Lindsay Currie. 2024. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade realistic fiction]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

48. Sing High, Sing Crow (The Great Mathemachicken #3) Nancy Krulik. Illustrated by Charlie Alder. 2024. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

49. Poetry Comics. Grant Snider. 2024. 96 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry] 

50. Butts. Katrine Crow. [Board book] 2020. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

51. Bellies. Katrine Crow. [Board book] 2020. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

52. Counting Our Blessings. Emma Dodd. [Board book] 2020. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

53. (Little Chunkies) Animals in the Forest. DK Publishing. 2023. [Board book] 10 pages. [Source: Library] 

54. Board Book: Marvel Beginnings: Spider-Man Goes to the Farm. (978-1368090377) Steve Behling. 2024. 10 pages. [Source: Library]

55. Mary Had a Little Lamb. (Board Book) (Touch and trace) Silver Dolphin. 2024. 10 pages. [Source: Library] 

56.  Board book: Kisses: A Lift the Flap and Sliding Parts Book. Marta Comin. 2023. [December] 16 pages. [Source: Library]

57. Boop Me! Yappy Puppy. (Board book) Claire Baker. 2024. 10 pages. [Source: Library]

58. What is Snow? Very First Questions and Answers. (Board book) Katie Daynes. 2018/2023. 12 pages. [Source: Library]

59. Christmas at Nana's House. (Board book) Larissa Juliano. 2023. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

60. That's Not My Santa (Board book) Fiona Watt. 2008/2012/2023. 8 pages. [Source: Library]

61. Baby's First Passover. (Board book). DK Publishing. 2024. 13 pages. [Source: Library]    

62. Everything a Drum. Sarah Warren. Illustrated by Camila Carrossine. 2023. 24 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book] 

63. Henry's School Days. (Too Many School Days) Robert Quackenbush. 1987/2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

64. Tangle-Knot. Loretta Ellsworth. Illustrated by Annabel Tempest. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book] 

65. This Baby. That Baby. Cari Best. Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. 2024. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]

 Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

26. Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]

27. Are We Living In the Last Days. Bryan Chapell. 2024. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

28. The Deconstruction of Christianity: What It Is, Why It's Destructive, And How to Respond. Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett. Foreword by Carl R. Trueman. 2024. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

29. All My Secrets. Lynn Austin. 2024. 400 pages. [Source: Library] 

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible 

5. NIV Value Thinline Large Print (2011 edition). 2017. Zondervan. 1110 pages. [Source: Bought]

6. NASB 1995, Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Red Letter, Comfort Print, 2023. Zondervan. 2144 pages. [Source: Bought]
7. KJV Cameo Reference Bible with Apocrypha. Black Calfskin Leather, Red-Letter Text. God. Cambridge Bibles. 2011 this edition. 1868 pages. [Source: Gift]

Monthly and Yearly Totals:

Books Read in 2024145
Pages Read in 202432703
Books read in January36
Pages read in January6875
Books read in February 38
Pages read in February9731
Books read in March39
Pages read in March6730
Books read in April32
Pages read in April9367



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews