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Mainly reviews of children's and young adult literature. Primarily focuses on new literature, 2004-present, but may feature older titles if they are "favorites" of mine. Feel free to leave comments. I always enjoy reading what others have to say!
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26. Week in Review: October 5-11

The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom. With John and Elizabeth Sherrill. 1971/1984/1995. Chosen. 228 pages. [Source: Bought]
Sky Jumpers. Peggy Eddleman. 2013. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Howl's Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones. 1986. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And Their Noses) Save The World. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Case of the Stolen Sixpence. Holly Webb. Illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Only Thing To Fear. Caroline Tung Richmond. 2014. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Midnight Library. Kazuno Kohara. 2014. Roaring Brook. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Say Hello Like This! Mary Murphy. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Good-Pie Party. Elizabeth Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
My Pet Book. Bob Staake. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Bunny in the Ballet. Robert Beck. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Frances Dean Who Loved To Dance and Dance. Birgitta Sif. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
Druthers. Matt Phelan. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
Alexander, Who's Trying His Best To Be The Best Boy Ever. Judith Viorst. Illustrated by Isidre Mones. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
The Way to the Zoo. John Burningham. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Mouse Who Ate The Moon. Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
Can You Say It Too? Roar! Roar! Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Can You Say It Too? Growl! Growl!  Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Open Wide. Stephen Krensky. Illustrated by James Burks. 2014. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bizzy Bear's Big Building Book. Benji Davies. 2014. Candlewick. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions. Lisa Whelchel. Illustrated by Jeannie Mooney. 2004. Multnomah Books. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
When Love Calls. (The Gregory Sisters #1) Lorna Seilstad. 2013. Revell. 338 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

There are four books I considered picking as favorite. The Midnight Library is a picture book that I absolutely loved. It still hasn't been nominated for the Cybils, if you're looking for a picture book to nominate. Howl's Moving Castle is a reread. I love this book. I do! Sky Jumpers is another book that I loved. (Though I didn't love the sequel as much as the first book.) If I hadn't happened to reread The Hiding Place, it would definitely have been the favorite this week. But. The Hiding Place is special. It is one of the BEST, best books. It is a must-read memoir.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. Reread #41 Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones. 1986. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]

 I first read and reviewed Howl's Moving Castle in 2009.

After Sophie's father dies, her step-mother sends away two of her sisters. Sophie she keeps on as an apprentice in the family's hat business. Sophie trims hats. While she's trimming hats and arranging them, she finds herself very often talking to the hats, supposing what kind of person will buy the hat, etc. The shop begins to do well--really well. One person--one witch--notices and decides to act. Poor Sophie finds herself under the witch's spell! Sophie leaves her old life behind, without a word, and goes on an adventure of sorts. Life certainly becomes more challenging for Sophie! But she soon finds a new place to belong, a strange place, an odd place, but a place that begins to feel oddly enough like home. Sophie makes friends in unexpected places.

I loved rereading Howl's Moving Castle. From start to finish, this fantasy novel proves delightfully charming. I loved the characters. I especially loved Sophie and Wizard Howl. I loved the world-building. I love the storytelling. I loved Jones' descriptions. It's just a fun, fun adventure story with heart.

Here's how it begins: "In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes. Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success!" It hooks readers from the very beginning. It certainly hooked me!

I would definitely recommend this one! I just love it!
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Sky Jumpers (2013)

Sky Jumpers. Peggy Eddleman. 2013. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved, loved, loved Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman. I didn't expect to love it that much. I certainly wanted to enjoy it, to love it even. I always want to like what I read. I was swept away by Sky Jumpers. I found it impossible to put down! I thought the world-building was fantastic. I thought the characterization was so well done. And the plotting too. Really, I have no complaints actually! Everything just works so very well in this one. It is intense and dramatic when it needs to be, and full of heart when it needs to be. It balances action with emotion.

Hope Toriella is the heroine of Sky Jumpers. I loved Hope. I did. Hope is different from the others in the community of White Rock. It seems EVERYONE in the community is good--if not great--at inventing. And since everyone over the age of four is encouraged--strongly encouraged--to invent things throughout the year, to be good at it means that you belong, that you fit. Why are inventions so central to the community? Well, the world has been devastated by World War III. And surviving communities are trying to rebuild and survive. Anything that can make surviving easier, anything that enhances life in the community is a very, very good thing. Hope has strengths. She does. But they aren't useful-to-the-community strengths. She is clever--quick thinking. When she gets in a predicament, she can usually think her way out of it. She is athletic too. And above all else, Hope is a brave, risk-taker. Hope seems certain that the community doesn't need her, that instead of contributing to the community, she's just a burden--another mouth to feed, another body to clothe and shelter. But is that really true? Could Hope's unique gifts be just what the community needs to survive another winter?

Along with Hope, readers get to know Brock, Aaren, and Brenna. To name just a few. I really thought the whole community was developed well, brought to life. The world Eddleman created seems so real, so possible. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. The Only Thing To Fear (2014)

The Only Thing To Fear. Caroline Tung Richmond. 2014. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What if the Nazis had won the war? The Only Thing To Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond is set in an alternate universe where this is so. It is set in the future, eighty years after the Nazis win the war. Zara St. James is our sixteen year old heroine. She is a bit unusual. And not just because the Nazis are so strict as to what is normal and abnormal. There are a couple of premises in the book: 1) Germany and Japan were successful in creating super-soldiers, genetically enhanced superior soldiers giving them the military advantage. 2) Russia, or the Soviets, never joined the war against the Nazis. I share these details because it is important to be grounded in this imagined reality or future. Both facts are important not only in understanding the past--as created by the author--but the future as well.

Though the eastern states have been under Nazi rule for almost eight decades, there are plenty of Americans still angry enough to fight and rebel. Zara's uncle Redmond leads the local Alliance. Zara whines for almost the entire book on how it is so completely unfair that she's not allowed to join yet. Zara is the only family Uncle Red has left. He's lost almost everyone he's ever cared about. Plenty of people have lost loved ones to the Nazis. Zara refuses to accept that that is just the way things are. She demands justice. Not clinging to future justice when the Alliance gains strength and numbers, but a RIGHT NOW justice even though all the odds are against them.

So Zara's rebellion is strengthened by her odd gifts. To say more would be to spoil the book. To say less would give you the wrong impression of the book. This book is DEFINITELY speculative fiction and not just because it's set in an alternate future. Zara has a unique advantage over most people--an unnatural advantage. I almost wish that it hadn't gone that direction. I wasn't looking for that kind of read.

Romance. What would a YA read be without a little romance?!

The Only Thing To Fear was a quick read. I liked it just fine. I didn't love it.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. The Case of the Stolen Sixpence

The Case of the Stolen Sixpence. Holly Webb. Illustrated by Marion Lindsay. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I liked The Case of the Stolen Sixpence. It is a light historical mystery set in Victorian London. It is light on history and light on mystery. But light isn't necessarily a bad thing. This is an often charming book for young readers.

Maisie Hitchins is the protagonist. Perhaps she is supposed to be helping her grandmother run the boardinghouse. Perhaps she is supposed to be focused on helping with chores and running errands and keeping guests happy. But Maisie sees the world differently. She sees herself as a detective, a young detective perhaps, but one with great potential. She wants REAL cases, HARD cases. But the cases that come her way right now come from her own curiosity. For example, she finds a puppy in a wet sack, she wants to know WHO tried to drown the puppy? (And can she keep him PLEASE!!!!) She hears that the delivery boy has lost his job at the butcher's shop, she wants to know WHY did he lose his job? (And can he have it back PLEASE!!!!) Maisy is certainly likable and there are plenty of cute, charming scenes. The mysteries may be "light" cases, but, they matter very much to Maisy.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. Sniffer Dogs (2014)

Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And Their Noses) Save The World. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Sniffer Dogs was a great read. It is packed with information. I learned so much by reading it. For example, did you know that there are specially trained dogs who can alert diabetics (type 1) if their blood sugar is too high or too low?! While I knew that there were dogs involved in search and rescue, I did not know that there were also dogs especially trained to search out bones. The book is very reader-friendly; I loved all the photographs. I loved the personal stories about the men and women who work with and train dogs to do very special tasks.

I would definitely recommend this one to readers of all ages who love dogs. It would also make a great choice for those readers who enjoy compelling nonfiction. This book is about dogs who make a difference, and also about the special bond between dogs and their trainers/owners.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Excited about Cybils

Nominations are now for the 2014 Cybils. You may nominate books October 1 through October 15. You can read all about it at the Cybils site: the categories, the current nominations, the guidelines and rules.
I haven't nominated for all the categories myself. There are some categories that I just don't read much: the graphic novels, for example.

If you need ideas for what to nominate in picture books, you can browse through my 2014 posts.

October -- Ten 2014 Picture Books
September -- Nine 2014 Picture Books 
August -- Nine 2014 Picture Books 
July -- Six 2014 Picture Books
June -- Eight 2014 Picture Books
May -- Seven 2014 Picture Books
April -- Five 2014 Picture Books
March -- Five 2014 Picture Books
January -- Four 2014 Picture Books

And for early readers and early chapter books:

Eight 2014 Early Readers (September)
Six 2014 Early Readers (August)

I do try to group books together in terms of publication date because I always keep the next Cybils in mind. Next year, I might even start adding the month of publication.

I am also super-excited that Hope is The Word is hosting the Armchair Cybils Reading Challenge!!!

The categories:
I will not be reading from every category--just most of them. The rules as listed on her post.
  • Read as many or as few of the Cybils nominated titles as you care to and write up your thoughts on your blog.  You can do this on a title-by-title basis or in one big ol’ post–it’s up to you!
  • Come back here on the following dates to link up your Armchair Cybils posts:
    • October 15 — your “I’m participating!” post
    •  November 15–reviews
    •  December 15–reviews
    •  January 1–shortlist thoughts
    •  January 15– reviews and thoughts
    • February 14–reviews and thoughts about the winners

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Ten 2014 Picture Books

The Mouse Who Ate The Moon. Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

One evening, Little Mouse peered out of her hole. She was looking at the moon. "The moon is beautiful," she said as she settled down to sleep. "I would love to have my very own piece of the moon."

I enjoyed reading The Mouse Who Ate The Moon. I liked Little Mouse very much. One night Little Mouse wishes she could have a piece of the moon. The next morning, she discovers that her wish has come true. She is delighted to find a piece of the yellow moon had fallen from the sky and landed on her doorstep. She never expected it. She also didn't expect to be tempted by it, tempted to want to eat it. One thing leads to another, and soon Little Mouse is convinced that she's eaten HALF the moon and the sky will never be the same again... Her friends try to gently tell her that she's just being silly. NO ONE can eat the moon they say again and again and again. Can her good friends cheer her up again?

I love the illustrations. I love "the piece of the moon" that Little Mouse discovers. Readers may realize the truth about "the moon" long before Little Mouse does! It is a simple story that is beautifully illustrated.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

The Way to the Zoo. John Burningham. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

One evening, just before Sylvie went to sleep, she thought she could see a door in the wall of her bedroom. She decided to look again in the morning to see if the door was really there. In the morning, Sylvie was late for school and forgot about the door until bedtime. 

What will Sylvie find when she opens the door? You'll want to read this one and find out for yourself.  (Or you could read the title and take a guess, I suppose!) I loved John Burningham's The Way to the Zoo. It was oh-so-magical for me. I loved the story progression. How Sylvie brings back animals--small animals, mainly--back to her own room night after night. I loved how careful she was with this magic. She always made sure to leave the door closed. But I also loved that there was just this one time when she forgot...

The story is just fun and joyful. I loved seeing what happened next, what animals she brought back with her. I loved the story, I did. But I didn't love the illustrations. At least not as much as I loved the text itself.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


Alexander, Who's Trying His Best To Be The Best Boy Ever. Judith Viorst. Illustrated by Isidre Mones. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Can Alexander be "the best boy ever" for one whole week?! After suffering the consequences of eating a whole box of donuts, Alexander sets out to prove that he CAN and WILL be good, better than good, the BEST. His parents and his brothers may have their doubts, big doubts, that Alexander can stay away from trouble for even just a day or two. But Alexander has something to prove to himself. His goal is ambitious, his temptations are many. At home and at school, everywhere he goes Alexander is tempted. There are so many things he wants to do during those six or seven days that are a bit naughty--some more naughty than others perhaps. What will Alexander learn about himself during this week? Is it good or bad that he learned it? Will readers agree or disagree with Alexander's conclusions?

I liked it. I didn't love it.


Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10 


Druthers. Matt Phelan. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

It was raining. And raining. And RAINING. "I'm bored," said Penelope. "If you had your druthers, what would you do?" asked her Daddy. "What are druthers?" "Druthers are what you would rather do if you could do anything at all." 

I really enjoyed reading Matt Phelan's Druthers. I loved how Penelope and her Dad played together on a rainy day. I loved turning the pages to see what she wanted to do next. Each activity was a "druther" of course. For example, wanting to go to the zoo, wanting to be a cowgirl, wanting to go to the moon, etc. Each druther leads to a fun opportunity for this father and daughter to explore together. This is a book that celebrates imaginative play. It also celebrates family! (I suppose you could also say the book handles disappointments as well.) The book is very sweet. I definitely recommend it.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10


Frances Dean Who Loved To Dance and Dance. Birgitta Sif. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Once there was a girl whose name was Frances Dean. She loved to dance and dance. 

Frances Dean loves to dance. She does. She loves, loves, loves to dance. But only in private. Only outside surrounded by nature. In front of people, well, Frances Dean gets too shy to dance. Will meeting a little girl who loves to sing inspire her to share her love of dance with another person? It just might! 

I love the illustrations. I do. This is a beautiful book. The story and illustrations are charming. I love how passionate Frances Dean is. This book is dedicated to "all those who live with all their heart."

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


A Bunny in the Ballet. Robert Beck. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Of the great many things in this world that we rabbits LOVE to do, ballet dancing tops the list! At least it does for me, Desiree Rabbit. But there were NO BUNNIES in the ballet until I came along. And this is my story...

Desiree is a bunny with big dreams. She is a Parisian bunny that wants to study ballet. She loves it so much. Dancing is her life, her passion. She adores ballet. If only she can convince a couple of humans to give her a real chance to learn and perform. Will Desiree achieve her dreams? Will she dance in a ballet? 

This one is a cute read. It's predictable, I suppose. But charming too. I definitely enjoyed some of the illustrations. There were one or two that were just so very right. (I liked the illustrations of Desiree better than the illustrations of the humans in her life.)

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


My Pet Book. Bob Staake. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Most pets, you know, are cats and dogs. Go out and take a look. But there's a boy in Smartytown whose pet is... a little book. 

The boy in this story has a book for a pet. It's not that his parents wouldn't allow a cat or a dog, but, that this boy really wanted a pet book. The premise is quirky and not without potential. For some readers, this one may prove completely charming. 

My problem with the Pet Book was not the premise. I found the rhythm and rhyme to be a bit off or unnatural. The rhyming just didn't work for me. And it felt like it was the need to rhyme that was driving the book, the story. For example when the book "runs away," this is the rhyme we're "treated" to:
"He ran away! He ran away!" The boy began to bleat. "How could a pet book run away without a pair of feet?" 
It continues, 
The maid could hear the crying boy. (That sound was such a rarity.) "I think I know what happened..." (gulp) "I gave your book to...charity."
Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 5

The Good-Pie Party. Elizabeth Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Posy Peyton doesn't want to move. 

Posy Peyton may not want to move, but, Posy Peyton really doesn't have a choice in the matter. What she does have a choice in perhaps is how to handle it, how to cope with it. And one of the ways she does handle it is by baking in the kitchen with her friends. (The kitchen is the only room in the house that hasn't been boxed up...yet.) What she discovers is that GOOD PIE is better than saying good bye. And so inspiration comes, they throw a good-pie party and invite their friends and neighbors. Everyone is to bring a pie....

I liked this one.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Say Hello Like This! Mary Murphy. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A dog hello is licky and loud...like this!
bow-wow-wow-wow!
A cat hello is prissy and proud...like this!
purrrrrr...meow

Say Hello Like This! is a fun, playful book to read aloud to little ones. It is all about the animal sounds! It is also rich in descriptive words. (licky, loud, prissy, proud, silly, happy, tiny, tappy, etc.)

I would recommend this one as a read aloud. I love the bright illustrations.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

The Midnight Library. Kazuno Kohara. 2014. Roaring Brook. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Once there was a library that opened only at night. A little librarian worked there with her three assistant owls. Every night, animals came to the library from all over the town. And the little librarian and her three assistant owls helped each and every one find a perfect book. 

I really, really liked this one. I still don't know what it is about it that I do like so very much. If it is the illustrations. If it is the premise. But there is just something magical about this one for me. I find myself mesmerized by the illustrations. Most picture books are after all illustrated in more than three colors. (Midnight Library is all black, blue, and yellow.) They are simple too. Yet I find myself spending time looking at the illustrations carefully. I find the story charming. My favorite part? Well, I guess that would be when the little librarian insists that the tortoise gets a library card. The image of him with the book on his back, it just makes me smile!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Four 2014 Board Books

Open Wide. Stephen Krensky. Illustrated by James Burks. 2014. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Time for dinner, Sam. You must be hungry. Open wide for the airplane. Pay attention, Sam. There's a lot of good food on board. 

Two frustrated parents try their best to get their son, Sam, to eat his dinner. I'm not sure which parent has the "easy" role in this one: Mom with the spoon, or Dad with his crazy antics. Sam is not impressed enough, I suppose, by Dad's antics to open wide enough for Mom to slip in the spoon. Will the two give up? Should the two give up? Will Sam's dinner go into Sam?

I liked this one okay. The Dad is certainly silly. And both Mom and Dad are persistent and frustrated. But I didn't love the illustrations. (I liked them okay. But I didn't LOVE them.)

Can You Say It Too? Roar! Roar! Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Who's that behind the bush? It's a friendly lion! Roar! Roar!
Who's that in the treetops? It's a tall giraffe! Munch! Munch!

Does your little one love to make animal sounds? Does your little one love to lift flaps in books? Then this new series in the Nosy Crow line might be a good match. The books are simple, very simple. There are only a few words per page making this one a good choice for little listeners with short attention spans. It can also be an interactive experience if you encourage your little one to join in on making all the sounds. I will say that this probably isn't the best in the series for actual animal sounds. The animals featured are lion (great choice), giraffe, hippo, crocodile, and elephant (great choice).

 Earlier in the year, I reviewed two books in this series. Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! And Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof!

Can You Say It Too? Growl! Growl!  Sebastien Braun. 2014. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Who's that behind the rock? A hungry bear! Growl! Growl!
Who's that among the flowers? It's a pretty parrot! Squawk! Squawk!

This is the fourth book in Nosy Crows' Can You Say It, Too? series. This series is great for little ones who love animal sounds. Also there is a big (seemingly sturdy) flap to lift for each page. All the animals are hiding, of course! Which animals can little ones find in this book? A bear! A parrot! A snake! A monkey! A tiger. You can guess based on this selection, that reading it aloud will be a treat. Plenty of opportunities to get loud and play!

Bizzy Bear's Big Building Book. Benji Davies. 2014. Candlewick. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bizzy Bear has an exciting building project to do today! First he makes sure he has all the tools he needs. Then he gets started with some measuring.

Bizzy Bear and three of his friends, Eric, Rosie, and Freddy, are all busy building something. When the project is finished, they'll all be able to enjoy it. But building can be fun too. This one is an interactive book for little ones. Little ones can measure with the tape measure. They can saw wood. They can use a drill. They can paint. The book itself seems sturdy. There are a few flaps--some of the smaller flaps--that seem a little less durable than the rest. But for the most part, I think this one was designed to be played with by the target audience.

I liked this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Library Loot: First Trip in October

New Loot:
  • Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
  • A Little Women Christmas by Heather Vogel Frederick
Leftover Loot:
  • Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells
  • Morris' Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells
  • Papa's Christmas Gift by Cheryl Harness
  • Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford
  • The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
  • The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  • Half A World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
  •  The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  • The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
  • A Cat of A Different Color by Steven Bauer
  • The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett 
  • A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath 
  • The Edge of Terror by Scott Walker
  • Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona
  • The War of Our Childhood reported by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
  •  The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson 
  • Tumtum & Nutmeg Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
  • Tumtum & Nutmeg The Rose Cottage Tales by Emily Bearn
    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Week in Review: September 28 - October 4

From September:
The Singing Sands. Josephine Tey. 1952. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
 
From October:
The Orphan and the Mouse. Martha Freeman. Illustrated by David McPhail. 2014. Holiday House. 220 pages. [Source: Library]
Thursdays with the Crown. (Castle Glower #3) Jessica Day George. 2014. Bloomsbury. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
All Clear. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 645 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals You When Others Hurt You. Mary DeMuth. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Key Words of the Christian Life. Warren W. Wiersbe. 2002. Baker Books. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's favorite:

I choose Goodnight, Mr. Tom. I loved, loved, loved this one. This book is set during World War II in England. Need I say more? That would be enough to get my attention at least. I also loved, loved, loved the movie adaptation of this one!!!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Challenge Updates

For the Victorian Reading Challenge:

  1. No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.
For the British History Reading Challenge:
  1. Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought]  
For the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge:
  1. In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]  
For the 2014 Year of Rereading Challenge:
  1. The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 
  5. Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought]  
For the Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge:
  1. The Singing Sands. Josephine Tey. 1952. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
For the 2014 Chunkster Challenge:
  1. No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.
  2. Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought]   
For the R.I.P. Reading Challenge:
  1. The Attenbury Emeralds. Jill Paton Walsh. 2010/2011. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. The Late Scholar. Jill Paton Walsh. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier. 1951. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Lost. Sarah Beth Durst. 2014. Harlequin. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten. Harrison Geillor. 2011. Night Shade Books. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  7. Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 
  8. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9.  The Singing Sands. Josephine Tey. 1952. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. Reread #40 All Clear

All Clear. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 645 pages. [Source: Bought]

If you want a gushing review of the book, I recommend visiting my first review of the book.  It is always interesting to me to see which books reread well, and which ones don't. Mood obviously comes into it. And apparently, I was not in the mood for All Clear. Perhaps because I was taking my time, instead of rushing through, I found myself less enthusiastic with the stories and characters. Too much time to think and ask questions, maybe?!

Is All Clear a disappointing novel? Yes and no. On the one hand, I certainly didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it the same way I loved Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. Since I love reading books set during World War II, one would think that I'd almost have to love, love, love these two time travel books set in England during the war. I mean, I love time travel, I love books set during this time period. It would seem like the most natural thing in the world for me to ecstatically love Blackout and All Clear. But. That is not the case. On the other hand, the books are enjoyable enough. I certainly came to care about the characters and wanted to know what happened next. But there wasn't an urgency to KNOW if you know what I mean. I found both books less compelling than the previous time travel books. I found a handful of characters enjoyable or interesting. But I didn't LOVE any of the characters.

Would the books have been better if they'd been published as one book, perhaps an edited-down one book? Probably. Hard to say for sure. It wasn't that any one section or chapter proved boring or irrelevant. It is just that both books were so very, very thick. And the books weren't necessarily action-packed. Which I don't have a problem with actually. I prefer character-driven books typically. But essentially the books are just about three characters realizing they are trapped in the past and may never get back to the future. They think about being trapped a lot. They brainstorm. They panic. They brainstorm. They cling to hope but give into worrying.

Without any previous books in the series to compare it too, Blackout and All Clear are certainly enjoyable enough on their own. It is really only in comparison to Willis' earlier time travel novels that the novels become a bit disappointing.

I liked All Clear. I didn't love All Clear.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Thursdays with the Crown (2014)

Thursdays with the Crown. (Castle Glower #3) Jessica Day George. 2014. Bloomsbury. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Thursdays with the Crown. I'm glad I read it so soon after finishing Wednesdays in the Tower. I only wish I'd had the time to reread the first novel in this fantasy series, Tuesdays at the Castle. I'm sure I would have appreciated the whole series even more if I'd had the chance to reconnect with the characters and have an attachment. That being said, I ended up enjoying so many of the characters anyway. Thursdays with the Crown picks up right where Wednesdays in the Tower left off. I was prepared to love it from the start.

The novel opens with Celie, Lilah, Pogue, Rolf, Lulath, and Rufus (Celie's griffin) finding themselves in a strange, foreign place. They have been transported to the Glorious Arkower, a land they believe the Castle originated from. They come into this adventure with a few assumptions for better or worse. When they come across two different men with two very different stories--contradictory stories--everything becomes a bit confusing. Who is telling the truth? Is either man telling the whole truth? What is true and what is only half-true? If a man lies about one thing, does that mean he's lying about everything? Celie and her friends will have to puzzle things out.

It is definitely an adventure fantasy. It is a quick read, a delightful read in many ways. I think I love Lulath best of all.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. The Orphan and the Mouse (2014)

The Orphan and the Mouse. Martha Freeman. Illustrated by David McPhail. 2014. Holiday House. 220 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Martha Freeman's The Orphan and the Mouse, a fantasy novel inspired by E.B. White's Stuart Little. The book is set in 1949. (Note: I haven't read Stuart Little, but, this novel tempts me to seek it out.) This fantasy is told through multiple perspectives: a few mice, one cat who loves to hunt mice, a couple of orphans, and a practically evil orphanage director. It is illustrated by David McPhail.

I liked this one. I liked the setting. It took some time for me to get hooked on the actual story, but, no time at all to get hooked on the premise of the story. I liked the characters. Mary, the mouse heroine, was a great narrator. I also came to care for Caro, one of the orphans living at the Cherry Street Children's Home. The book offers some suspense and mystery, though often the reader knows much more than the characters in the book. Readers get to watch the characters put it all together and possibly maybe save the day.

I also really appreciated the length of the chapters!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. September Reflections

In September, I read 52 books.

Board books, picture books, early readers:

  1. Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Red Panda's Candy Apples. Ruth Paul. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. I'm My Own Dog. David Ezra Stein. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson. Adapted by Elizabeth Schaefer. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. I Feel Five. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Go To Sleep, Little Farm. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. The Scarecrows' Wedding. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. The Loch Mess Monster. Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Big Bad Bubble. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]       
  10. Poppy the Pirate Dog's New Shipmate. Liz Kessler. Illustrated by Mike Phillips. 2014. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  11. Tony Baloney Buddy Trouble. Pam Munoz Ryan. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Biggety Bat: Hot Diggety, It's Biggety! Ann Ingalls. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. Cinderella in the City. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Fairy Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. Snow White and the Seven Dogs. (Level 2) (Flash Forward Tales) Cari Meister. Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  15. Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding. Carole Lexa Schaefer. Illustrated by Galia Bernstein. 2014. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  16. Racing the Waves (Tales of the Time Dragon #2) Robert Neubecker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  17. Steve & Wessley in The Sea Monster. (Level 1) J.E. Morris. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Review copy]    
Middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Everything on a Waffle. Polly Horvath. 2001/2008. Square Fish. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. One Year in Coal Harbor. Polly Horvath. 2012. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Emperors of the Ice. Richard Farr. 2008. FSG. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1937.  320 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  6. Wednesdays in the Tower. Jessica Day George. 2013. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Mythmaker: The Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anne E. Neimark. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. I Kill the Mockingbird. Paul Acampora. 2014. Roaring Book Press. 176 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. Love by the Morning Star. Laura L. Sullivan. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  11. Get Into Art: Animals. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Get Into Art: People. Susie Brooks. 2013. Kingfisher. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.
  3. Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen. 1817/1992. Everyman's Library. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 
  4. Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. The Singing Sands. Josephine Tey. 1952. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. The Boleyn King. Laura Andersen. 2013. Ballantine. 358 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Attenbury Emeralds. Jill Paton Walsh. 2010/2011. St. Martin's Press. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. The Late Scholar. Jill Paton Walsh. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier. 1951. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Lost. Sarah Beth Durst. 2014. Harlequin. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  13. The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten. Harrison Geillor. 2011. Night Shade Books. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. The Bible Study Handbook. Lindsay Olesberg. 2012. IVP. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Edwards on the Christian Life. Dane C. Ortlund. 2014. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Love's Fortune. Laura Frantz. 2014. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5.  The Names of Jesus. Warren W. Wiersbe. 1997. Baker Publishing. 159 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  6. One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Tullian Tchividjian. 2013. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. Fair Play (It Happened At the Fair #2) Deeanne Gist. 2014. Howard Books 433 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. The Savior of the World. Benjamin B. Warfield. 1991. Banner of Truth. 270 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  9. The Early Readers Bible: New Testament. V. Gilbert Beers. Illustrated by Terri Steiger. Zonderkidz. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  10. The 30 Day Praise Challenge. Becky Harling. 2013. David Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Good Night, Mr. Tom (1981)

Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

 "Yes," said Tom bluntly, on opening the front door. "What d'you want?"
A harassed middle-aged woman in a green coat and felt hat stood on his step. He glanced at the armband on her sleeve. She gave him an awkward smile.
"I'm the Billeting Officer for this area," she bagan.
"Oh yes, and what's that got to do wi' me?"
She flushed slightly. "Well, Mr., Mr..."
"Oakley. Thomas Oakley."
"Ah, thank you, Mr Oakley." She paused and took a deep breath. "Mr Oakley with the declaration of war imminent..."
Tom waved his hand. "I knows all that. Git to the point. What d'you want?" He noticed a small boy at her side.
"It's him I've come about," she said. "I'm on my way to your village hall with the others."

 Read this book. Read it. At the very least, you should consider watching the movie adaptation. I doubt you regret meeting Willie Beech and Tom Oakley.

Goodnight Mister Tom is set during the early months of World War II. For the most part, it is set in the English countryside. William (Willie) Beech is one of many children being evacuated to the country for safety reasons. Willie has been assigned to a widower, Tom Oakley. Willie isn't quite sure what to think about his new home? Everything in the country seems to surprise him including Tom's dog, Sammy. Tom isn't quite sure what to think about Willie either. He's a bit puzzled because Willie does act a bit off. It's not just the fact that he's never been out of the city. Willie doesn't know how to read or write even though he's almost nine. (He also wets the bed.)

Tom soon learns enough to get him good and angry. Willie arrives essentially with nothing but the clothes he has on. But his mom has included a belt with a note on how and when to use it on her son. Tom soon sees the evidence of abuse for himself.

It was oh-so-easy to care for the characters, especially Tom and Willie. As Willie spends time in the country, it is in many ways his first taste of safety and freedom. And love and kindness. And stability. And friendship. I loved seeing Tom with Willie. I loved his patience and firmness. I loved his kindness and encouragement. I loved seeing Tom work with Willie on his writing and reading. I loved seeing them read together every day. I loved seeing Tom encourage Willie with his drawing.

Willie also finds friends his own age. His best, best friend is a Jewish boy named Zach. Plenty of time is spent with Willie and Zach and their other friends and/or classmates.

The novel is both intense and ultimately satisfying. It it intense for multiple reasons. I expected it to be intense because of the war. And it was. I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be intense for psychological reasons. The novel is ultimately satisfying, but, don't expect sweet scene after sweet scene. The sweetness is found in friendship and hope, but, there are some bitter shocks as well. 

I loved this one. I did. I loved, loved, loved the characters. I am so glad I read this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. In Search of England

In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]

I enjoyed reading H.V. Morton's travel book In Search of England. If you enjoy reading leisurely, sometimes amusing, travel books with observations and stories you should consider reading it. I liked the casual, often-charming style of Morton's travel writing.

The premise of this book is simple: the author returns home to England from Palestine with one simple goal to go "in search of England." His homesickness has given him the desire to have an adventure, "I will see what lies off the beaten track. I will, as the mood takes me, go into famous towns and unknown hamlets. I will shake up the dust of kings and abbots; I will bring the knights and the cavaliers back to the roads, and once in a while, I will hear the thunder of old quarrels at earthwork and church door. If I become weary of dream and legend I will just sit and watch the ducks on a village pond, or take the horses to water: I will talk with lords and cottagers, tramps, gipsies, and dogs; I will, in fact, do anything that comes into my head as suddenly and light-heartedly as I will accept anything, and everything, that comes my way in rain or sun along the road."

In Search of England is best read with leisure and patience. Don't expect the book to be a thrilling fast-paced adventure. Expect to take your time, to read it in between other books you're reading. I enjoyed what I read. But I never enjoyed it so much that I felt the need to read the whole book in one sitting. It's not that kind of book. It's a book that you don't lose momentum on by taking a break.

(I've also read and reviewed H.V. Morton's In the Steps of the Master.)

Favorite quotes:
How often in London rain weighs on the spirit and soaks itself into the very soul; but in the country it seldom saddens you - in fact, there is a kind of country rain that exhilarates and causes you to sing aloud.
Whenever I see a small boy sail a boat I long to join in. I can never see him without wondering whether boys still have the heavenly time with boats that I have had.
I once heard a bright young man say at a party that living in Bath was rather like sitting in the lap of a dear old lady. Nobody laughed, because it is true. Bath is the dear old lady of Somerset: grey-haired, mittened, smelling faintly of lavender; one of those old ladies who have outlived a much-discussed past, and are now as obviously respectable as only old ladies with crowded pasts can be. She nurses you with a shrewd twinkle in which you detect experience mellowed by age. You look at her lovingly, wondering how she could ever have been wicked; wishing that she could grow young again for one wild evening and show you! That might wake you up!
I have been reading with avidity the medical pamphlets provided free in Bath, and I feel that my arteries become harder and harder every minute. I wonder whether the ache in my left eye is paraplegia. I have no idea what this is, but when I whisper the word something ominous seems in mid-air with bared claws. It is hardly possible that I shall escape from oxularia. (Obesity does not worry me.) Intestinal stasis? Well, perhaps! Chronic vesical catarrh? I wonder? As I glance down the long list of diseases cured at Bath - feeling a sharp twinge of fibrocitis, a swift jab of lithiasis, and an alarming touch of rhinitis - it is perfectly clear to me that the average human being's chance of seeing Bath more than once is about a hundred to one.
This story has no right in this book, and I apologize for writing it. It happened like this. I was finding my way out of Carlisle with the intention of crossing the Roman Wall that runs across England from Solway Firth to the Tyne, when I saw a signpost: `To Gretna Green io miles.' I pulled up sharply: `This,' I said, `is where I go right off the rails. I must see Gretna Green! I'll take a holiday and - go to Scotland!' How could I neglect to visit the scene of so much folly? In a few minutes I had left England behind me and was spinning along in a country which looked exactly like it, but was not. I had crossed the Border! Scotland does not begin to get `bonny' just here, but it was stimulating to realize that we were in the land of red whiskers and freckled maids, of brown trout streams, of purple moors, of great mountains, which, even in fair weather, wear white caps of cloud. At the cottage doors clustered brawny sandy-haired boys (who some day, of course, go south) and little girls who will grow up and speak the most delicious English in the world. The road runs straight from Carlisle to Gretna, as if anxious to cut off all the corners and give a sporting finish to the race. At the end of this road - and in the heart of a great crowd - I found Gretna Green. 
How much romance, beauty and drama can be skipped over by a guide-book! As I was standing behind the high altar of Durham Cathedral earlier in the day I saw a large platform with one word carved in the stone: `Cuthbertus.' The guide-book says: `In the place of honour behind the high altar is the tomb of St Cuthbert, who died A.D. 687. The body still rests below....' Now as I read this bald truth my imagination went on a long journey. At the end of a tunnel of time, 1,239 years long, I saw a strange England, and I saw the hill of Durham before its great Norman church was built, before the stone Saxon church was built, before the first little reed chapel was built: just a woody hill of red sandstone, with perhaps a speckled.fawn standing in the fern. The roots of Durham go back into an England difficult to see: an England wild, bloody, savage; an England which prayed to Wotan and Thor in the ruins of Roman temples; an England beautiful at this time beyond words, because, caring nothing for the clash of kingdom on kingdom, the sound of swords and the trail of fire, Christ was walking through English meadows humbly as He walked through Galilee. The legions of Rome had returned with shaven heads bearing not a sword, but a message. Men have done deeds in the name of God which would have made Christ weep, but the story of the conversion of England to Christianity, with which Durham is so marvellously linked, is, I believe, one of the loveliest stories since the New Testament.
York is the lovely queen - as London is the powerful king - of English cities.
Men didn't just arrive with cartloads of stones and start to build a church. There is a story of faith and struggle behind every English cathedral.
I am the only person I have ever known who has been to Rutland. I admit that I have known men who have passed through Rutland in search of a fox, but I have never met a man who has deliberately set out to go to Rutland; and I do not suppose you have. Rutland - which I believe most people think is in Wales - is the smallest county in England, and the most remarkable. It is only seventeen miles long and seventeen miles wide, and it contains only two towns, Oakham and Uppingham, neither large enough to be a municipal borough. The county of Rutland, nestling like a baby in arms between Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire, is included in `The Shires'. Rutland is the only shire carved out of old Saxon Mercia not named after its county town, otherwise we would know it as Oakhamshire. On the other hand, no one would dream of calling it Rutlandshire! Tiny Rutland is the only example of an ancient Mercian division which has survived the West Saxon shire-ing of the district.
Norfolk is the most suspicious county in England. In Devon and Somerset men hit you on the back cordially; in Norfolk they look as though they would like to hit you over the head - till they size you up. You see, for centuries the north folk of East Anglia were accustomed to meet stray Vikings on lonely roads who had just waded ashore from the long boats...`Good morning, 'bor!' said the Vikings. `Which is the way to the church?' `What d'ye want to know for?' was the Norfolk retort. `Well, we thought about setting fire to it!' You will gather that Norfolk's suspicion of strangers, which is an ancient complex bitten into the East Anglian through centuries of bitter experience, is well grounded, and should never annoy the traveller... They mean well. Once they bring themselves to call you "bor' (which, I conclude, is the short for `neighbour' or, perhaps, `boy'), you can consider yourself highly complimented. In East Anglia men are either neighbours or Vikings.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. The Late Scholar (2014)

The Late Scholar. Jill Paton Walsh. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed The Late Scholar enough while reading it, for the most part, but the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am. I have liked or enjoyed Jill Paton Walsh's sequels to Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter mysteries. The Late Scholar is set in the 1950s. (I'm not sure if it's early, mid, or late 50s. But Queen Elizabeth is on the throne, I believe.) The novel opens with the Duke of Denver (aka Lord Peter Wimsey) learning that he is a Visitor at Oxford. He is being called upon to settle a dispute among the fellows. The person--ultimately one of many suspects, I suppose--who initially requested his interference comes to regret it. Lord Peter is thorough. He doesn't want to just cast a vote on a controversial topic without any thought. He wants to study the situation, learn both sides, draw his own conclusions about what is best. The dispute is about selling a medieval book to get the money to buy land next door that has come up for sell. Is land more valuable to the college than one book in the library? Or is the ancient book more valuable to the college than a piece of real estate? It wouldn't be a mystery book if it didn't turn to violence and murder. Lord Peter, Harriet Vane, and Bunter must follow all the clues to catch a murderer or two.

There were a few things that felt a bit off, that kept this one from feeling like a genuine, authentic Lord Peter/Harriet Vane mystery. I allow some change would be natural enough. Two decades would change a person, would change a couple. But the changes in a way have a very surface feel to them. I'm not sure the characters have the depth that they need, they are very much reliant on familiarity with the original.

I have not reread the whole (original) series, but, Lord Peter seems changed and not always for the better. I could not show you a passage where Lord Peter reveals a personal faith in God. But I have a feeling I would have remembered if Lord Peter revealed a cold mockery for Christianity and/or stated openly and unashamedly that he did NOT believe in God. There were a few uncomfortable scenes in Late Scholar where Peter's atheism comes to light, I suppose. It was done in an almost ha, ha, don't be silly, of course I don't believe in God kind of way. It just struck me as wrong. I'm not saying that I consider Lord Peter evangelical. But. I always got the impression that he believed there was a God, that at the very least he was agnostic. The reason this strikes me as wrong is that Dorothy Sayers was a Christian, she wrote Christian books. I've read some of her theological essays and they are quite good. I just don't see HER Lord Peter being one to make light of or mock Christianity or the Bible or the fundamental belief that there is a God. Of course times have changed. Decades have passed since his creation, so maybe modern readers assume that naturally Lord Peter is "smart enough" to have outgrown any idea of God.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King. Laura Andersen. 2013. Ballantine. 358 pages. [Source: Library]

Alternate history. What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted and needed? What if she survived her husband instead of being beheaded? What if Henry VIII had only had TWO wives? What if Elizabeth and her younger brother grew up with both parents, relatively happy? King William is that son. His father has died, and, he though under the age of 18, has been England's king. He faces challenges, every king does, and those challenges are what The Boleyn King is all about. The book has four narrators: William and Elizabeth (royal siblings) and Minuette and Dominic (close and trusted friends of both William and Elizabeth). Minuette seems to be the type of heroine that no male character can resist. Elizabeth somewhat secretly is in love with a married man, no surprises as to who that is. William is being pressured to marry well. Will his choice be a) Mary, Queen of Scots b) Jane Grey c) a French princess d) someone of his own choice that will upset his advisers and the court just as much as his father's decision to marry Anne Boleyn. This is the start of a trilogy...

The good news: It's a quick read. I read it in one day. It is also a premise-driven book. For readers who find the premise intriguing, this one is worth the read. Especially if one can get it from the library. Just in case. I liked seeing which characters avoided death and disaster. I don't know if these characters will continue to have happily ever afters, of, if they'll find themselves in troubles of a different sort. But. It was an interesting enough read.

The bad news: It's light on history. This one focuses more on fictional characters than on real people. And the characters based on real people aren't always that accurate. This makes some sense for some characters whose lives were very different in this alternate universe. But this may leave some readers disappointed that there isn't more substance and depth. If you're looking for a character-driven book, this one might disappoint. Also. It definitely is trying to appeal more to romance readers than historical readers. If that makes sense.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. One Year in Coal Harbor (2012)

One Year in Coal Harbor. Polly Horvath. 2012. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm not sure I loved-loved Everything On a Waffle OR One Year in Coal Harbor. But I think I almost loved both books. I think my favorite part--for better or worse--was the recipes at the end of each chapter. I loved Primrose's narration of this recipes. They were cutesy at times, I admit. But they were pure fun. I kept reading so I could get to the next recipe. I'm not sure I was supposed to like them that much.

As to the rest of the book, I'm glad she's still in touch with her former foster parents. I think her foster parents, Bert and Evie, are more developed than most of the other characters. Primrose's parents still felt under-developed to me. I liked meeting Ked. I am glad that Primrose finally, finally got someone her own age to spend time with. I liked Ked very much. Both before and after. I wish that the romance between Uncle Jack and Miss Bowzer was better. I'm not sure what better would look like. I am not sure that the romance should be center-stage of this book. And I am glad with the overall outcome. But it just felt awkward at times. Granted, we see all of this through Primrose's eyes, so maybe Uncle Jack and Kate saw each other more than we know, and had actual conversations.

I like the idea of liking this book. It has a couple of cute concepts: the restaurant that serves EVERYTHING on the menu with a waffle, the couple that serves just about everything with mini-marshmallows. But the book(s) remain almost for me.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. Reread #39 Blackout

Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought]


This year I've decided to reread all of Connie Willis' time travel books. This is the third book I've reread. I've also reread Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. I first reviewed Blackout in November 2010. I reviewed it again in January 2012.


Blackout is about (three) time travelers studying World War II. For the most part, the novel is set in the year 1940. However, the novel also contains other stories--almost like riddles. These small stories are set in 1944 and 1945, they feature other characters--or do they?--studying World War II: V1 Rockets and V-E Day.

Merope Ward (aka Eileen O'Reilly) has gone back to study the evacuation of children to the country. She is working as a nurse/maid on a country estate. Her assignment was for the spring of 1940.

Polly "Sebastian" (she takes on a different Shakespearean last name for every assignment) has gone back to study the London Blitz. She wants to work as a London shopgirl. Her assignment was for the fall of 1940.

Michael Davies (Mike) has gone back to observe the Dunkirk evacuation. His assignment was for the summer of 1940.

They've heard over and over again that historians cannot change the past, that historians cannot damage the timeline, that historians can merely observe past events. But what if everyone was wrong? What if time travel is dangerous and risky? Not just dangerous for the time traveler who may find himself/herself in trouble, but dangerous for everyone. What if there are negative consequences for time travel?

Eileen, Polly, and Mike will question what they've all been told when they find themselves trapped in 1940 unable to return to Oxford and their own time. Eileen missed her deadline because of a quarantine initially. Months later she tried to use her drop and failed. She thought it was because there were too many people nearby--the military has just taken possession of the estate where she worked. She remembers that Polly Churchill will be in London soon. She wants to find her and use her drop to go back. Mike was injured during the Dunkirk evacuation. An injury that kept him trapped for weeks. His drop is also impossible to use. He remembers Polly's assignment. He goes to London desperate to find another time traveler. These three reunite only to discover what Polly already knew--her own drop was damaged--she thinks because of a bomb. She was hoping that THEY were there to rescue her. Being trapped changes everything.

Blackout is an intense read. Primarily the focus is on what war was like on the homefront, what the war was like for Londoners. I definitely recommend this one. But it does come with a warning. It is only half the story. All Clear is the sequel, and, you'll want to read it to finish the story. Blackout does not stand on its own.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Week in Review: September 21-27

No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.
Blackout. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 495 pages. [Source: Bought]
One Year in Coal Harbor. Polly Horvath. 2012. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Boleyn King. Laura Andersen. 2013. Ballantine. 358 pages. [Source: Library]
The Late Scholar. Jill Paton Walsh. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Emperors of the Ice. Richard Farr. 2008. FSG. [Source: Review copy]
The Names of Jesus. Warren W. Wiersbe. 1997. Baker Publishing. 159 pages. [Source: Bought]
One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Tullian Tchividjian. 2013. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
Fair Play (It Happened At the Fair #2) Deeanne Gist. 2014. Howard Books 433 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

While last week was difficult, this week was an easy choice for me: No Name by Wilkie Collins. This 748 page book was a quick read--yes, really--because it was so very, very, very good. It also reminded me of WHY I tend to LOVE Wilkie Collins! Have you read Wilkie Collins? Do you have a favorite?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Library Loot: Fourth trip in September

New Loot:
  • Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells
  • Morris' Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells
  • Papa's Christmas Gift by Cheryl Harness
  • Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
  • Just a Little Critter Collection by Mercer Mayer
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford
  • The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
  • The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  • Tell Me by Joan Bauer
Leftover Loot:
  • Tumtum & Nutmeg Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
  • Tumtum & Nutmeg The Rose Cottage Tales by Emily Bearn
  • The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas
  • The Vicar of Nibbleswicke by Roald Dahl
  • The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
  • A Cat of A Different Color by Steven Bauer
  • The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett 
  • A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath 
  • The Edge of Terror by Scott Walker
  • Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona
  • The War of Our Childhood reported by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
  •  The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson  
  • The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
  • The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
  • Half A World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
  •  The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
  • Card Games for Children by Len Collis
   Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. The Singing Sands (1952)

The Singing Sands. Josephine Tey. 1952. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was six o'clock of a March morning, and still dark. The long train came sidling through the scattered lights of the yard, clicking gently over the points.

Inspector Alan Grant is on holiday. He's had to take a personal holiday because of his mental health condition. He's had a nervous break, I suppose. Suddenly, he's weighed down by fear and anxiety, and shame. He doesn't want everyone to know what his mind is doing to him. Little things that he's always taken for granted now are tormenting him: riding in a train, sleeping in a sleeper car, riding in a car, riding in a plane. He's become claustrophobic.
Well, at least he had managed not to open the door last night. But the triumph had been dearly bought. He was drained and empty, a walking nothingness. "Don't fight it," the doctor had said. "If you want to be in the open, go into the open." But to have opened the door last night would have meant a defeat so mortal that he felt there would be no recovery. It would have been an unconditional surrender to the forces of Unreason. So he had lain and sweated. And the door had stayed closed. (4)
The morning after his sleepless night, Grant discovers a dead body. "Number B Seven" is found dead in his sleeper. Grant, who is not on duty, gets a very good look at him, and he accidentally picks up the dead man's newspaper. He takes it with him by chance. Later, when he's arrived at his cousin's house, I believe, he realizes what he did. He notices for the first time that the paper had been written on. It contains a few lines of poetry. Grant isn't sure if the man was writing an original poem, or, if he was writing down someone else's poem. But either way, those lines and that handwriting make an impact on him. He can't stop thinking about "Number B Seven." Even though he's supposed to be on vacation, resting and relaxing, and FISHING.

As you have probably guessed, Grant is not going to do much relaxing on his vacation. Oh. He does try. But he keeps thinking about this case. A case that others at Scotland Yard have already closed. They've identified the body and the cause of death. End of story. But it's not enough for Grant. He thinks there is more to the story...and since this is his story, his FINAL story, I might add...he's right!

I liked this one. I am not sure I loved it. But I liked spending time with Grant.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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