Sunday, March 31, 2024

March Reflections

In March, I read 39 books.

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Review

29. A Murder in Hollywood: The Untold Story of Tinseltown's Most Shocking Crime. Casey Sherman. 2024. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

30. Everyone On This Train is A Suspect. Benjamin Stevenson. 2023. 335 pages. [Source: Library] 

31. Across So Many Seas. Ruth Behar. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [interconnected stories; novellas; historical fiction; mg]

32. The Girl Who Sang: A Holocaust Memoir of Hope and Survival. Estelle Nadel. Illustrated by Sammy Savos. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [graphic novel; graphic memoir; Jewish/Holocaust] 

33. Ferris. Kate DiCamillo. 2024. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction, J Fiction, Realistic, Historical] 

34. You've Been Summoned. Lindsey Lamar. 2024. 376 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery, adult fiction] 

35. The Light That Shines Forever: The True Story and Remarkable Rescue of 669 Children on the Eve of World War II. David T. Warner. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

36. The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry. Anna Rose Johnson. 2024. 192 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Young Readers

25. Cranky. Phuc Tran. Illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2024. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

26. My Thoughts Have Wings. Maggie Smith. Illustrated by Leanne Hatch. 2024. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

27. Today is For You! Sally Lloyd-Jones. Illustrated by Kevin Waldron. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

28. Barnacle is Bored. Jonathan Fenske. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

29. You Are Not a Cat. Sharon G. Flake. 2016/2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

30. You Make Me Sneeze! Sharon G. Flake. Illustrated by Anna Raff. 2024. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 

31. Tucker's Nose Knows: An Allergen Detection Dog Graphic Novel. Mari Bolte. Illustrated by Diego Vaisberg. 2023. 29 pages. [Source: Library]

32. Daphne Shows Support: An Emotional Support Dog Graphic Novel. Mari Bolte. Illustrated by Alan Brown. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

33. Rossi Guides the Way: A Guide Dog Graphic Novel. Mari Bolte. Illustrated by Alan Brown. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 

34. Buffalo Fluffalo. Bess Kalb. Illustrated by Erub Kraan. 2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

35. Hot Cat, Cool Cat. Laura Manaresi. Illustrated by Roberta Angaramo. 2023. [November] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

36. Why Do Elephants Have Big Ears? Questions -- And Surprising Answers -- About Animals. Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. 2023. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library] 

37. Board book: Good Night, Cuddle Tight. Kristi Valiant. 2023. [December] 20 pages. [Source: Library]

38. Baby Bear's Busy Day with Brown Bear and Friends. [Board book] "Eric Carle" Odd Dot. 2023. [September] 10 pages. [Source: Library]

39. The Paper Doll Wedding. Hilda Miloche and Wilma Kane. 1954. 20 pages. [Source: Bought] [Vintage Golden Book, Little Golden Activity Book]  

40. Board book: Country Baby. Laurie Elmquist. Illustrated by Ellen Rooney. 2024. 20 pages. [Source: Library]

41. Slide and See First Words: Farm (Board book) Helen Hughes. Illustrated by Samantha Meredith. 2024. 12 pages. [Source: Library]

42.  Board book: Don't Push the Button! On the Farm. Bill Cotter. 2024. 24 pages. [Source: Library] 

43. The Great Puptective. Alina Tysoe. 2024. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

44. Henry and the Something New. Jenn Bailey. Illustrated by Mika Song. 2024. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [early chapter book; series book] 

45. The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Bakeshop (Board book) Eric Carle (World of Eric Carle). 2023. [November] 14 pages. [Source: Library]

46. Bears are Best: The Scoop About How We Sniff, Sneak, Snack, and Snooze. Joan Holub. Illustrated by Laurie Keller. 2023. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

47. Cookie Queen: How One Girl Started Tate's Bake Shop. Kathleen King (Founder of Tate's Bake Shop) and Lowey Bundy Sichol. Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki. 2023. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible 

20. Eve and Adam and Their Very First Day. Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Irina Avgustinovich. 2023. [October 24] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

21. The Rand McNally Book of Favorite Stories of Jesus. Mary Alice Jones (according to GoodReads). Illustrated by Elizabeth Webbe, Eleanor Corwin, Manning de V. Lee, and Janet Robson Kennedy. 1981. 109 pages. [Source: Bought]

22. When the Day Comes. (Timeless #1) Gabrielle Meyer. 2022. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

23. Live Your Truth and Other Lies: Exposing Popular Deceptions That Make Us Anxious, Exhausted and Self-Obsessed. Alisa Childers. 2022. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

24. This Special Blessing for You. Eric and Meredith Schrotenboer. Illustrated by Denise Hughes. 2024. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book, children's book]

25. In This Moment. (Timeless #2) Gabrielle Meyer. 2023. 416 pages. [Source: Library] [Speculative fiction; historical romance]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

3. Whole Bible. The Holy Bible, King James Version, Red-Letter Edition, Self-Pronouncing Text. God. 1769. 1246 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions. Crossway. 2020. 1424 pages. [Source: Review copy]

2024 Totals


Books Read in 2024113
Pages Read in 202423,336
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



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

36. The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry

The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry. Anna Rose Johnson. 2024. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: "What are we going to do with young Lucy?"

Premise/plot: The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry is a children's historical fiction novel set in 1912. Lucy Landry is an orphan being sent to live with a new family--the Martins. The Martins live in a lighthouse and Mr. Martin is the lighthouse keeper. The family is already LARGE. They are strangers to one another. Lucy has a vivid imagination--especially when it comes to her identity and story. She is a girl on a mission. She wants to "complete" her father's mission--as best she can. He wanted to find treasure from a shipwreck. (The name of the ship is escaping my memory). Lucy is terrified of the water and not so fond of ships or boats, but her love of her father may prove stronger.

My thoughts: This one was an almost for me. I wanted to love it. I did. In the actual year 1912, one of the biggest trends in children's literature WAS orphans. THIS is the time of Pollyanna and Anne Shirley and Emily (of New Moon) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I'm sure there are dozens more. An orphan with a big imagination sounds like my cup of tea. The opening was giving off big vibes of Emily of New Moon--minus the cats. But I personally failed to bond with the characters. At one point--and I take full responsibility--I blinked and missed a crucial plot point. I spent the last half of the novel slightly confused and out of sorts. Not lost enough to truly have lost the plot. Yet just confused enough to feel something was missing. If I could pinpoint *where* I blinked and missed something, I would go back to the chapter and pick it up again. But I don't know where I lost it. I think I wanted a stronger emotional reaction to this one. I still think this one could largely be all on me--my fault. Your reading experience might be different.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, March 25, 2024

35. The Light That Shines Forever

The Light That Shines Forever: The True Story and Remarkable Rescue of 669 Children on the Eve of World War II. David T. Warner. 2023. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the final months of 1938, the shadow of war was spreading across Europe. HItler's armies had marched into the borderlands of Czechoslovakia, forcing Jewish families, among others, to flee their homes and seek refuge inland.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book for older readers--mid to upper elementary aged students through adults. This is the story of Nicholas Winton and his rescue of six hundred plus Jewish children. While he couldn't rescue or save whole families, he could get hundreds of Jewish children out of the country and living with host families. He did what he could in the months that he could. 

My thoughts: The story has been told in other books about the war (and holocaust). It certainly is a story worth sharing in this new format. The illustrations are beautiful. I definitely found both narrative and illustrations engaging. I would definitely recommend this one to readers of most ages. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, March 23, 2024

34. You've Been Summoned

You've Been Summoned. Lindsey Lamar. 2024. 376 pages. [Source: Library] [adult mystery, adult fiction]

First sentence: Wear your best costume and tell your worst've been summoned.

My thoughts (preview): This one definitely requires some suspension of disbelief. But if you go with the flow, you might get caught up and forget how unrealistic it is. 

Premise/plot: YOU the reader are being asked to go through the files of a case and make a recommendation to the police on who to arrest for the crime. The files are unusual--hence why you will need to suspend your disbelief. You'll have access to the INTERIOR thoughts of Jane--the sister of the victim of the crime. These are "Jane's Recount." They are not an interview. They are not diary or journal entries. You'll have access to a diary of a woman (another twin) Mary who lived in 1940s at this same house. There are amateur interviews conducted by Jane, and professional interviews conducted by the police. There are physical documents/evidence--notes and letters found on the scene. There is digital evidence as well--text messages, etc. There is a "call transcript" from 911. YOU the reader are being asked to sift through these files and make your best educated guess as to who, how, and why. 

After you have made your recommendation, the author lets you know what really happened and how it all played out. In other words providing the "correct" answer to your amateur detecting. 

My thoughts: Technically, I don't find the premise believable. BUT all that aside, I found it great fun. I did find it an engaging/compelling read. I read through the first file folder in one sitting. I read the other nine file folders in one sitting. I found it that gripping. 

Did I guess right? Yes. Did I arrive at my conclusion reasonably and logically piecing together all the clues and evidence? No. The ending lists out all the clues that point to the right answer. I missed most of them. Because they required a lot of reading between the lines, noticing what was missing or going unsaid; things that should have been present or accounted for but weren't in other words. I wasn't randomly guessing, mine was more of a following my gut.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, March 14, 2024

33. Ferris

Ferris. Kate DiCamillo. 2024. 240 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Fiction, J Fiction, Realistic, Historical]

First sentence: It was the summer before Emma Phineas Wilkey (who everyone called Ferris) went into fifth grade. It was the summer that the ghost appeared to Charisse, the summer that Ferris's sister, Pinky Wilkey, devoted herself to becoming an outlaw, and the summer that Uncle Ted left Aunt Shirley and moved into the Wilkey basement to paint a history of the world. It was the summer that Ferris's best friend, Billy Jackson, played a song called "Mysterious Barricades" over and over again on the piano. Billy Jackson loved music. The very first sentence he had ever spoken to Ferris, was, "I hear piano music in my head all the time, and, I wonder, would it be all right if I held on to your hand?"

Premise/plot: Ferris is Kate DiCamillo's newest children's book. I would say the book is timeless, but, what I truly mean is that the book exists out of time. It could almost be any and every time period. So what is it about? The recurring theme or message is that every story is a love story, or, every good story is a love story. It is very much a story celebrating family and friends and community. Ferris isn't particularly "troubled;" she isn't facing an extraordinary problem that she has to overcome. There are no gigantic, looming conflicts. And THAT is a trend I'd love to see in children's books now and then. 

Ferris' grandmother is seeing a ghost, AND has recently been diagnosed with [congestive] heart failure. When she learns from her grandmother that the ghost wants to see the chandelier lighted so that her husband can find her, Ferris sets about doing just that. It isn't so much fulfilling a ghost's wish as it is fulfilling her grandmother's wish too. This is, I suppose, the "big" plot point of the book, but the book has scores of LOVELY quiet moments, ordinary moments, lovely moments where Ferris is just living life. They aren't always calm, peaceful, relaxed moments. But they are the little moments that make up a life. 

ETA: I could see Pinky, Ferris' sister, stealing the show much like Ramona did in Beezus and Ramona. Now that I think of that comparison, I can't not see it. This book is, in some ways, the answer to the question how on earth can I get along with my sister story.

My thoughts: The writing was solidly good. I do tend to love and adore her writing. I enjoyed the characters. I LOVED the relationships. I think the highlight, for me, are the many, many relationships we get to explore in this one. Do I love the ghost aspect? Not really. Is it a big enough subtraction that I dislike the book? No.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, March 08, 2024

32. The Girl Who Sang

The Girl Who Sang: A Holocaust Memoir of Hope and Survival. Estelle Nadel. Illustrated by Sammy Savos. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [graphic novel; graphic memoir; Jewish/Holocaust]

First sentence: Will I ever be free?

Premise/plot: The Girl Who Sang is a MEMOIR [nonfiction autobiography] in graphic novel format. It is set primarily during the Second World War, but the memoir continues through some turbulent aftermath years. After the war, the family of siblings emigrate to the United States. But there is no magical, warm and fuzzy happily ever after story. Love sometimes isn't enough to keep a family of siblings together. 

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved this one. I don't read many graphic novels--fiction or nonfiction. But this one is a MUST. I found it compelling and haunting. It was SO well done. I have read plenty of books about the Holocaust and the Second World War. I've read fewer graphic novels, however, this is a powerful format for storytelling. Perhaps the story will impact readers more by being in this format.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

31. Across So Many Seas

Across So Many Seas. Ruth Behar. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [interconnected stories; novellas; historical fiction; mg]

First sentence: The sound of trumpets coming from the direction of our town gates tears me from sleep, my dreams forgotten as I jolt out of bed.

Premise/plot: Across So Many Seas contains four interconnected (three super-connected) historical stories or novellas. The time periods are 1492 (Spain), 1923 (Turkey), 1961 (Cuba), and 2003 (Miami, Florida). 

The novel opens with Benvenida, our twelve-year-old narrator, learning of a new decree. ALL Jews must either a) convert to Christianity b) leave the country [Spain] or c) disobey by staying and risk being hanged. Some of the community--including some of her extended family--do choose to convert. They do not want to leave their homes, businesses, etc. The story chronicles their exodus as they flee their country and seek a new homeland. It's a tough, demanding journey.

The three following stories follow three generations of the same family. Reina, Alegra, and Paloma star in compelling stories of their own. The stories examine coming of age from a Jewish perspective. Though that isn't really doing any of the stories justice. There is great turmoil in the first three stories. In the first, the Jewish population is being persecuted. In the second, the family is living in a newly independent Turkey. In the third, she is coming of age in the midst of Cuba's revolution. The fourth story "closes the circle" or "bridges the gap" the narrator is traveling with her family to Spain to learn more about their cultural history. 

My thoughts: I found this a great read. I really was invested with ALL of the stories. I sped through it. I used to speed through books all the time. As I get older, as my vision worsens, as reading becomes more physically demanding, I don't always give in to "page-turners." But I absolutely loved this one. 

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, March 04, 2024

30. Everyone On This Train is a Suspect

Everyone On This Train is A Suspect. Benjamin Stevenson. 2023. 335 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 
Hi <Redacted>,
It's a hard no on the prologue, I'm afraid. I know it's the done thing in crime novels, to hook the reader in and all that, but it just feels a bit cheap here. I know how to do it, of course, the scene you want me to write.

Premise/plot: A handful of mystery writers board a train on their way to the Australian Mystery Writers' Festival. But not everyone who boards the train exits the train....still breathing. Hence, everyone on this train is a suspect. 

Ernest Cunningham is the main character "author" who wrote the book Everyone In My Family Killed Someone based on a horrific family reunion. He's working on a second novel, hopefully a book not based on his personal life, but events of the train are proving challenging. If he survives the trip, then a second book has conveniently unfolded right when he needs it. (Though is that a motive for crime???)

Most all of the characters are new in this one--with the exception of his love interest. 

My thoughts: I absolutely loved Everyone In My Family Killed Someone. I thought Ernest Cunningham was a delightful narrator. I liked the gimmick of it, the premise of it. In theory, I like the premise of this one as well. In theory. I didn't quite love this one. I'm not sure if I just wasn't in the right mood for it, or, if the first book was just better. I still like the main character, and, sometimes with detective novels, each mystery has a little bit of hit or miss to it. Some you just enjoy more than others all the while loving the detective character at the center of the novel.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

29. A Murder in Hollywood

A Murder in Hollywood: The Untold Story of Tinseltown's Most Shocking Crime. Casey Sherman. 2024. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Lana Turner paced the pink carpeted floor with a cigarette gripped tightly between her fingers. She took a deep drag into her lungs and blew out a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling of her spacious bedroom. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, Cheryl, was in her own bedroom, sobbing hysterically. 

Premise/plot: Nonfiction with a gossipy twist--that is how I would describe this one. It gives brief biographies of Lana Turner and her immediate family (her parents, her husbands, her daughter) and brief biographies of a series of crime bosses (mob bosses) including Johnny Stompanato. The stories cross paths when Lana Turner entangles herself with Johnny Stompanato. This is a combustive relationship--for sure--leading to murder and scandal. Casey Sherman argues that it was not Lana's fourteen-year-old daughter but Lana herself who killed Johnny. 

My thoughts: This book is troubling and disturbing both in content and narrative style. I'll try to explain. This one goes into great detail--graphic detail--of horrific crimes. Many of these crimes are of the SA of a minor child variety. Of course there are plenty of other crimes as well that do not involve children. But still. This is a HEAVY read that is treated perhaps a little lighter than I would personally like. The book's approach--in my personal opinion--is like gossip, gossip, give me all the gossip, spill all the tea, tell me everything. It doesn't necessarily--to me--seem respectful. The content IS shocking and NOT shocking at the same time. Hollywood is presented as an absolute nightmare. The more power and influence, the more guilty you are of horrendous crimes. Nothing glamorous or glitzy--just very horrific crimes going on and kept hush-hush by the powers that be. 

This one is definitely more graphic than I like to read.



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews