Saturday, May 30, 2020

May Reflections

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews
62. Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. 1958/2006 edition. 268 pages. [Source: Library] [science fiction; short stories; classic]
63. Anna Komnene and the Alexiad: The Byzantine Princess and the First Crusade. 2020. [July] Pen and Sword. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction]
64. The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories that Carried Them Through a War. Delphine Minoui. Translated by Lara Vergnaud. 2020. [October] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; books about books; war stories]
65. The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. 2003. 302 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; dysfunctional families; adult novels with young protagonists]
66. The Highlander's English Bride. (Clan Kendrick #3) Vanessa Kelly. 2020. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] [adult* romance]
67. Misleading a Duke (The Wallflowers of West Lane #2) A.S. Fenichel. 2020. [September] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. The Art of Saving the World. Corinne Duyvis. 2020. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
69. Hunting November. (Killing November #2) Adriana Mather. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
70. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Winifred Watson. 1938. 234 pages. [Source: Library]
71. Goldilocks. Laura Lam. 2020. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Science fiction; dystopia; feminist]
72. Miss Mackenzie. Anthony Trollope. 1865. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]
73. The Tale of a Niggun. Elie Wiesel. Illustrated by Mark Podwal. 2020. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; Holocaust; Poetry]
74. Majesty (American Royals #2) Katharine McGee. 2020. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
75. Who's That Earl (Love and Let Spy #1) Susanna Craig. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
76. The Pull of the Stars. Emma Donoghue. 2020. [July] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Books Reviewed at Young Readers
56. Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
57. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]
58. Family Reminders. Julie Danneberg. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2009. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical fiction]
59. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic] 
60. A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical] 
61. The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy]
62. No Ordinary Boy (Tales from the Round Table). Adapted by Tracey Mayhew. 2020. [September] Sweet Cherry. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; j fantasy; chapter books]
63. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
64. The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
37. The Complete Guide to the Names of God. George W. Knight. 2020. Barbour Books. [August 2020 this edition] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Reference; Dictionary]
38. Is God Speaking to Me? How To Discern His Voice and Direction. Lysa TerKeurst. 2020. [September] 64 pages. Harvest House. [Source: Review copy] [Christian Nonfiction]
39. Arlo and the Great Big Cover-Up. Betsy Childs Howard. Illustrated by Samara Hardy. 2020. [June] Crossway. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] [picture book; children]
40. The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Entire Bible. Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid. Foreword by J Gary Millar. 2020. [March] Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology]
41. Saints & Scoundrels In the Story of Jesus. Nancy Guthrie. 2020. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
42. Sixty Days with John Owen in Hebrews. John Owen. Edited by Daniel Szczesniak. 2011. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]
43. Epic. Tim Challies. 2020. Zondervan. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible
4. The NKJV Woman's Study Bible: Receiving God's Truth for Balance, Hope, and Transformation. Thomas Nelson. 2017. 2112 pages. [Source: Bought]
 
The 5-Star Books
Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. 1958/2006 edition. 268 pages. [Source: Library] [science fiction; short stories; classic]
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic] 
A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical] 
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories that Carried Them Through a War. Delphine Minoui. Translated by Lara Vergnaud. 2020. [October] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [nonfiction; books about books; war stories]
 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Winifred Watson. 1938. 234 pages. [Source: Library]
Miss Mackenzie. Anthony Trollope. 1865. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]  
The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy] 
 Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library] 
Sixty Days with John Owen in Hebrews. John Owen. Edited by Daniel Szczesniak. 2011. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
 
May Totals
May Totals
Pages9257
Books30

2020 Totals
Pages50575
Books183



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 29, 2020

76. The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars. Emma Donoghue. 2020. [July] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Still hours of dark to go when I left the house that morning. I cycled through reeking Dublin streets that were slick with rain. My short green cape kept off the worst, but my coat sleeves were soon wet through.

Premise/plot: Set during the Spanish Influenza of 1918 in Dublin, Ireland, it follows Nurse Julia Power closely over the course of three days in the maternity fever ward. Julia is a midwife; she's used to losing patients--either mothers, or babies, or sometimes both mother and baby. She has a way of marking each loss of a patient; she's diligent and hardworking, but caring as well.

Readers get to know a few other characters as well including one person from history: Dr. Kathleen Lynn (1874–1955).

My thoughts: What an incredibly intense read!!!! For better or worse. There's nothing beautiful or glamorous about being a nurse/midwife. And the women in her ward, in her care, well they're fully fleshed/realized characters. This is like a super-super-super-super-super intense episode of Call the Midwife minus the hope and humor.

There are essentially NO CHAPTERS, just four sections (if I counted right, which is always doubtful!). I'm not sure if the lack of chapters kept me up reading, or, if it was my need to know if anyone would be okay, if the patients would live to see another day or night.

I'm not sure if the narrative style is technically stream of consciousness, but, if I had to guess I'd say it might very well be. It is very in the moment and personal. We see everything through Nurse Power's eyes.

Reading this during COVID is an experience in and of itself. I think that's why it's being published perhaps a little earlier than originally intended?

I noticed just one headline about the flu today, low down on the right: Increase in Reports of Influenza. A masterpiece of understatement, as if it were only the reporting that had increased, or perhaps the pandemic was a figment of the collective imagination. I wondered whether it was the newspaper publisher’s decision to play down the danger or if he’d received orders from above.


That’s what influenza means, she said. Influenza delle stelle—the influence of the stars. Medieval Italians thought the illness proved that the heavens were governing their fates, that people were quite literally star-crossed. I pictured that, the celestial bodies trying to fly us like upside-down kites. Or perhaps just yanking on us for their obscure amusement.


But wasn’t it the whole world’s war now? Hadn’t we caught it from each other, as helpless against it as against other infections? No way to keep one’s distance; no island to hide on. Like the poor, maybe, the war would always be with us. Across the world, one lasting state of noise and terror under the bone man’s reign.


THE PUBLIC IS URGED TO STAY OUT OF PUBLIC PLACES SUCH AS CAFÉS, THEATRES, CINEMAS, AND PUBLIC HOUSES. SEE ONLY THOSE PERSONS ONE NEEDS TO SEE. REFRAIN FROM SHAKING HANDS, LAUGHING, OR CHATTING CLOSELY TOGETHER. IF ONE MUST KISS, DO SO THROUGH A HANDKERCHIEF. SPRINKLE SULPHUR IN THE SHOES. IF IN DOUBT, DON’T STIR OUT.


It occurred to me that in the case of this flu there could be no signing a pact with it; what we waged in hospitals was a war of attrition, a battle over each and every body.


THE GOVERNMENT HAS THE SITUATION WELL IN HAND AND THE EPIDEMIC IS ACTUALLY IN DECLINE. THERE IS NO REAL RISK EXCEPT TO THE RECKLESS WHO TRY TO FIGHT THE FLU ON THEIR FEET. IF YOU FEEL YOURSELF SUCCUMBING, REPORT YOURSELF AND LIE DOWN FOR A FORTNIGHT. WOULD THEY BE DEAD IF THEY’D STAYED IN BED? 




© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

75. Who's That Earl

Who's That Earl (Love and Let Spy #1) Susanna Craig. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In spite of the eerie, not-quite quiet that settled over the island in the hours between dusk and dawn, Lieutenant Thomas Sutherland nearly missed the telltale rhythm of oars slicing through water. Damn and blast. If he weren’t careful, he’d find himself in enemy hands after all this time. Or at the mercy of his general, once he’d explained how he’d been distracted from his duties by the scent of flowers.

Premise/Plot: Thomas Sutherland has newly inherited a title and an estate in Scotland. He'll need to take time away from his service--he's a spy--to settle things. As things stand there is a tenant--a famous/infamous gothic writer, Robin Ratliff-- leasing Dunnock castle. He'll need to either renew the lease or take up residence himself...

Jane "Higginbotham" loves living at Dunnock castle. It's the perfect place for her secret to stay secret. She's not the "secretary" of a famous author, she is THE author. Her gothic romances are entirely inappropriate for proper women, decent women to read or to admit to reading. Ratliff has just as many enemies--those who hate his immoral books--as fans. When the novel opens, Jane has just received two pieces of mail. One warning that there is a new Magnus and he's on his way (that would be Thomas Sutherland, though it does NOT name names.) The other a death threat against the author Robin Ratliff. One could leave her temporarily homeless...the other leave her dead. If in fact the writer means what he threatens...

Jane and Thomas soon meet. But surprise, surprise, surprise Thomas and Jane are not entirely strangers to one another. Seven years previously they'd enjoyed a brief flirtation that if things had gone another way--if he hadn't been called away by the army, for example--and if they'd had more time. Thomas doesn't want Jane to know he is the new Magnus. Jane doesn't want him to know she's the author. Both have secrets from the other....

My thoughts: I loved the idea of this one. A woman author writing under a pen name finds great success writing over-the-top gothic novels...and perhaps will find her true love as well...as her own life undergoes some adventures and misadventures. I love the idea of the hero being a spy/former spy. I love the Scottish setting. I love the Regency time period. I love the plus-size heroine.

Did I actually love, love, love this one? Almost. Maybe. Perhaps. I like the idea of these two being reunited unexpectedly. Are the feelings still there? Can they clear up any misunderstandings? Are the obstacles standing in the way any closer to being removed? I like the tension between these two secret keepers. It reminds me of the Friends episodes where eventually everyone is connecting the dots about Monica and Chandler. They don't know that we know...they don't know that we know they know we know. I like how they come to trust each other.

But. It is not a clean read--which is what I personally, personally prefer. It definitely has on-screen "smut." Conveniently these scenes seem to be contained within two separate chapters. So technically if readers knew in advance which chapters contained the "naughty" "smutty" bits, they could skip over them...if they want a clean read. And, well, if you don't...you might not mind knowing exactly where these bits are either.

There is definitely a feel of instant about this one. The connection and spark between the two is there from the start. There is no falling in love. There is no gradual development of feelings and desires. It is BOOM. The fact that these two have a history together might explain some of the instant--but not necessarily. I mean I think that kind of thing happens more often than not in genre romances. This bears closer resemblance to a soap opera perhaps than Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

74. Majesty

Majesty (American Royals #2) Katharine McGee. 2020. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The morning had dawned dreary and gray, with a mist that hung over the streets of the capital. It was, the media correspondents all agreed, appropriate weather for a funeral. They stood behind a velvet rope to one side of the palace doors, swapping cigarettes and breath mints, hurriedly checking their lipstick in their phone screens. Then the palace’s main gates swung open to admit the first guests.

Premise/plot: Majesty is the second book in the series. (The first one is American Royals). The series has a unique-ish premise: what if George Washington had been crowned King after the war ended? And what if he had actually you know had biological descendants to inherit the crown? And what if America still had a Monarchy?

So Beatrice has just inherited the throne and become America's first QUEEN. But some--many? few?--can't imagine her ruling America on her own. Could a woman possibly handle the task of ruling a country on her own?!?! Beatrice must marry Teddy practically immediately so there will at least be a king-consort by her side. But is this what Beatrice wants? What Teddy wants?

So Beatrice has two siblings--twins--Samantha and Jefferson. And this soap opera wouldn't really be soapy if they didn't have tangled love lives. Samantha is still bitter over losing Teddy to her older sister...will she find a new man in this second book? Perhaps even finding one that is a better fit for her?!

Jefferson and Nina have broken up. But will Nina be ready to move on before Jeff? Perhaps. Regardless Daphne can't keep her interfering hands from playing puppet-master. Ethan, Nina, Jeff--she wants to control them all. And that's leaving off her supposed, supposed best-ever friend who spent the whole first book in a COMA. (She's not in a coma in book two).

Life goes on.

My thoughts: I didn't love the first book. Perhaps I'm just a little too old to get giddy about a book founded on such a silly premise. George Washington had no children. George Washington had NO children. But there is something breezy about both books. Even if it was ridiculous, I raced through the first book...and now the second. Not because I found it intelligent or well-written or super-clever or thought-provoking. But because it was almost the exact opposite.

I will say this, I definitely found the second book better than the first. I repeat I found it way more enjoyable than the first book in the series. I found it satisfying in the end.

The series definitely reminds me of Anna Godbersen's series: Luxe and its sequels. Which I believe Luxe is a copycat Gossip Girl. Which I suppose makes this a copycat of a copycat Gossip Girl? But one scene in particular appears to have been largely inspired wink-wink-wink from Gone With The Wind. The whole confrontation between Rhett and Scarlett is almost duplicated between two characters...I won't tell you WHO. Now that I've seen this character speaking Rhett's lines I'm not sure I'll be able to look at him the same way again. And that's not necessarily a bad thing! Perhaps it makes me like him even more?


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

73. The Tale of a Niggun

The Tale of a Niggun. Elie Wiesel. Illustrated by Mark Podwal. 2020. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; Holocaust; Poetry]

First sentence: A ghetto, somewhere in the East, during the reign of night, under skies of copper and fire. The leaders of the community, good people all, courageous all, fearing God and loving His Law, came to see the rabbi who has cried and cried, and has searched darkness for an answer with such passion that he no longer can see. It’s urgent, they tell him, it’s more than urgent; it’s a matter of life or death for some Jews and perhaps all Jews.

Premise/plot: The Tale of a Niggun is a narrative poem by Elie Wiesel originally published circa 1978 within a larger collection of works honoring Rabbi Wolfe Kelman. It has newly been republished on its own--or soon will be published in November 2020.

The setting is a GHETTO in the midst of the second World War. The leaders are seeking an answer to an impossible question: should they supply the Nazis with a list of TEN names of people to be deported/taken? If they fail to give a list, then ANY could be taken or ALL could be taken. Perhaps every person will die as a result of not cooperating. Yet wouldn't it be murder to cooperate and help choose WHO dies? A rabbi reluctantly wrestles with this question seeking out the wisdom of his ancestors.

My thoughts: It's a quick read but super-super-super intense and masterful. It is written as a narrative poem. It may at first seem intimidating to the non-Jewish reader, BUT, a helpful glossary is provided in the back of the book that will prove super helpful.

if the enemy wishes to kill, let him kill—and do not tell him whom to kill. Your role, my young brother and colleague, the role of rabbi is to be with his Jews, not facing them. Should they be summoned by God or the enemy, should they choose to respond, do as they do, walk with them, pray with them or for them, howl with them, weep as they weep; share their anguish and their anger as you have shared their joy; see to it that the sacrifice imposed by the enemy unites his victims instead of separating them; as rabbi, there is only one call you must issue: Jews stay together, Jews stay together as Jews. 



© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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