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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. Best Friends (2015)

(Peppa Pig) Best Friends. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, Peppa's best friend, Suzy Sheep, came to play. "I have something to show you," said Suzy. Suzy held up a photograph of a baby sheep. "Look! It's me," said Suzy. "You're not a baby, Suzy," said Peppa, shaking her head. "This is an old photo," Suzy explained. "It was taken when I was a baby." Peppa snorted. She didn't remember Suzy being a baby. That was just silly!

 Premise/plot: Peppa Pig is skeptical that Suzy Sheep and herself were ever, ever babies. The idea is beyond belief. But Suzy's photograph, and the photographs Mummy Pig show her prove her wrong. Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig tell Peppa all about "the olden days" when she was a baby: how she's always been friends with Suzy sheep, and how she's almost always loved jumping in muddy puddles.
"What did we do when we were babies?" asked Suzy. "You cried...you burped...and you laughed!" said Mummy Pig. Suzy and Peppa giggled. It must have been so silly being babies! 
My thoughts: Best Friends is an adaptation of an episode of the Peppa Pig television series. ("The Olden Days.") It is one of the last episodes of the show. And it is probably among my all-time favorite, favorite episodes. Adorable, sweet, precious, and FUNNY.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. Railroad Hank

Railroad Hank. Lisa Moser. Illustrated by Benji Davies. 2012. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Railroad Hank and his fine little train rolled down the track. Chugga Chugga, Chugga Chugga, Woo Woo Woo!! Railroad Hank stopped at Happy Flap Farm to talk to Missy May. "I'm headed up the mountain to see Granny Bett," said Railroad Hank. "She's feeling kind of blue." 

Premise/Plot: Railroad Hank is on a mission to cheer up Granny Bett. But, he's a bit clueless how to go about it. He's more than willing to listen to some good advice from the people he meets as his train rolls along. But is he really understanding their advice?! Not really. For example, Missy May advises him to take some eggs to Granny Bets because "scrambley eggs" always makes her feel better. So Railroad Hank takes some of the CHICKENS from Happy Flap Farm. By the time he's made it to Granny Bett's place, well, it's been quite a TRIP.

My thoughts: This one was very funny in a cutesy, country way. It is a bit over-the-top, I admit. After the initial advice, readers--adults and children--can probably predict how the rest of the trip is going to go. Which is a good thing in many ways. By the end, it had charmed me more than I thought it would have. Still it's probably not for every reader. But no book is after all!

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Missing in Action

Missing in Action. Dean Hughes. 2010/2015. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed reading Dean Hughes' Missing in Action. I think anyone who enjoys stories set during World War II or anyone who enjoys baseball stories will be able to appreciate this coming-of-age story.

Jay Thacker has recently moved from Salt Lake City to Delta, Utah. Jay and his mom are staying with his grandparents--his maternal grandparents. It is a bit of an adjustment for him--not that his life was perfect before--but starting over isn't always easy no matter one's past. Jay's father--who was half-Navajo--is a soldier currently listed as "missing in action." Jay is confused by this. Is his dad alive or dead? Is he a prisoner of war? Should he feel guilty if he starts moving on in his life? of thinking of his father as dead? how long should he cling to hope that he's alive? He doesn't want his dad to be dead, but, he's been missing-in-action for two or three years--a LONG time not to have heard. Still. There's always a chance that he is still alive...and Jay isn't one to rule that out. (Is his mom?)

So. Jay is new in town, and, he starts playing baseball with the other kids--the other boys. He loves playing with the others, he does, but, he doesn't like that he's called "Chief" because he's Indian. He feels that there is some stigma attached to being Indian, and, he doesn't want to 'be' anything...other than himself. Are these friendships real?

Complicating things in a wonderful way, Jay begins working with Ken, a Japanese-American teen, one of many being held at an Internment Camp in the desert. If his Dad happens to be alive, chances are, he is in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Wouldn't be friendly with Ken be a betrayal to his Dad? Then again, Ken isn't like Jay thought he "ought" to be. Ken is great at baseball, great at dancing, and so very American. Ken is easily one of the best characters in the novel. It's hard not to love him. Jay learns a lot about friendship from his time working side-by-side with Ken on his grandfather's farm.

Missing in Action is a great coming-of-age story focusing on identity and friendship. It's easy to recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Milo Speck, Accidental Agent

Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. Linda Urban. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Did I enjoy Linda Urban's new book? Yes. What should you know? Well, it's a fantasy novel. A fantasy for middle grade. Milo Speck, the hero, finds himself suddenly in an adventure he's completely unprepared for. How did he get there? The dryer. Yes, I'm serious. He is reaching into a dryer, looking for a missing sock, when suddenly he's being picked up by an OGRE, pulled from an OGRE'S dryer. He's confused, and has every right to be. What will become of him? How will he get back home? How can he avoid being eaten? Is he alone? Or are there other kids out there being pulled into this ogre-world? Can he save the day?

If you enjoy quick fantasy reads, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy Linda Urban's Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. It's slightly-slightly predictable in a place or two. But for the most part, it kept me reading. Was it silly? Yes. Especially the GIANT TURKEYS. But did I want to keep reading to find out what happened next? Of course I did. Plenty of action and adventure in this one. But I also enjoyed meeting Milo and Tuck.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Where Did My Clothes Come From?

Where Did My Clothes Come From? Chris Butterworth. Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Wouldn't it be great if you could wear your favorite clothes ALL the time? But you need different clothes for different weather and for doing different things.

Premise/plot: A nonfiction book written for children to answer two questions: 1) What are your clothes made of? 2) Where did they come from? Readers learn about what jeans, sweaters, silk/satin dresses, soccer uniforms, fleece jackets, and rain boots. Several pages tell the story of each item. (Think "Bert's Blanket" but without the singing. Actually the comparison isn't exactly fair, the subject is treated seriously and factually.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I found it interesting. I had no idea, for example, that fleece jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles. "It takes about 12 bottles to make your fleece jacket." The information is presented well: clearly, step by step. I definitely appreciated that. This one is easy to recommend.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. Double Play

Double Play: Monkeying Around With Addition. Betsy Franco. Illustrated by Doug Cushman. 2011. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Br-iiing, the bell for recess time! The kids can gallop, race, and climb. Jill and Jake line up in twos. They peek outside. What will they choose? 1 friend + 1 friend = 2 friends

Premise/plot: Jill and Jake are two monkeys who love recess time. Readers are introduced to ten addition facts worked into the story in rhyme. The story is all about playing at recess time, playing with your friends, enjoying life. Here are some of the addition facts:
  • 2 knees + 2 knees = 4 knees
  • 3 kids + 3 kids = 6 kids
  • 7 bubbles + 7 bubbles = 14 bubbles
  • 9 players + 9 players = 18 players
The addition facts go up to twenty.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. But it was an enjoyable concept book. I liked the rhyme, for the most part, I didn't find it super-annoying. (That can happen sometimes, unfortunately. Not every book needs to try to be Dr. Seuss.) Anyone looking for a math-themed picture book to share with children, should consider this as an option.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Library Loot: Second trip in August

New Loot:
  • There's A Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss
  • The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss
  • Wings of Fire by Charles Todd
  • A Question of Honor by Charles Todd 
  • An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd
  • The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
  • Second Chances: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion by Sarah Price
  • Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen
  • Vango. Between Sky and Earth. Timothee de Fombelle; translated by Sarah Ardizzone
  • Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs To Churches That Send by J.D. Greear
Leftover Loot:
  • A Test of Wills by Charles Todd
  • Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
  • Ordinary by Michael Horton
  • Great Day for UP by Dr. Seuss
  • The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes  
  • Wouldn't it Be Deadly an Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery by D.E. Ireland
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Search the Dark by Charles Todd
  •  The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
  • Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Austen by Tracy Kiely
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal
            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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons. Sharon Creech. 1994. HarperCollins. 280 pages. [Source: Bought]

Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true. I have lived most of my thirteen years in Bybanks, Kentucky, which is not much more than a caboodle of houses roosting in a green spot alongside the Ohio River. 

Did I love Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons? Yes and no. On the one hand, it's a book that I know I would have either--as a kid-- avoided at all costs (if anyone had dropped hints of how sad it was) OR found myself hating, bitterly regretting having picked it up in the first place. There was a time I thought all sad books should be labeled. So at least you were making an informed decision before you got swept up in the story and invested a part of yourself in it. On the other hand--as an adult--I couldn't help finding it a beautiful and compelling story.

Sal--the heroine--is on a road trip with her grandparents (Gram and Gramps). They are on their way to "see" Sal's mother. That's what readers are told, and, as an adult I connected the dots early on. (Sal's world is upset when her Dad moves them to a new town after learning that the mom wouldn't be coming back.) But much is left a mystery for the reader. I can't honestly say how I would have interpreted the text as a kid. It doesn't really matter. The trip is enlivened by Sal's storytelling. She is telling the story of her new friend, her classmate, her almost-neighbor: Phoebe. (Readers also hear of other friends--classmates--including a boy named Ben.) Phoebe's life is also becoming something of a mess. Though Sal is better at spotting the signs than Phoebe herself. The book alternates between focusing on the past--Sal's new life, her friendships, her memories, her emotions--and the present, the road trip. Both stories are compelling. Mainly through dialogue, the grandparents become fully fleshed characters that you can't help loving and admiring. The way they love Sal, and, cherish her. There is just something sweet about this family. And readers do get to know them better than any other adult in the novel. Unfortunately, I think that is why the book leads me angry. Part of me angry anyway. THE ENDING. I did not see it coming. And it was beyond cruel to this reader. Was it realistic? Yes. Looking back were their signs that it was coming? Probably. But though I guessed one reason why the novel was one of those dreaded SAD books. I didn't the second. And the second HURT so much.

Walk Two Moons is the 1995 Newbery winner.

Have you read Walk Two Moons? What did you think? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Do you like sad books? Or do you avoid them when you can?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Week in Review: August 2-8

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Most Underrated Organ. Giulia Enders. Illustrated by Jill Enders. 2014/2015. Greystone Books. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
A Little In Love. Susan Fletcher. 2015. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir. 2015. Penguin. 446 pages. [Source: Library]

Wish You Well. David Baldacci. 2000/2007. Grand Central Publishing. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
Murder at Longbourn. (Elizabeth Parker #1) Tracy Kiely. 2009. St. Martin's Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
The Queen's Hat. Steve Antony. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Friendshape. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Clifford Goes to Kindergarten. Norman Bridwell. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Oh No, George! Chris Haughton. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
In A People House. Dr. Seuss. (Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1972. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Five Minute Bedtime Bible Stories. Retold by Amy Parker. Illustrated by Walter Carzon. 2015. Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Respectable Sins. Jerry Bridges. 2007. NavPress. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. Jonathan Dodson. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):
I really did enjoy Susan E. Fletcher's A Little In Love. And Oh No, George was hilarious. And The Queen's Hat was super-adorable. If I had to pick just one book, it would be Giulia Enders' Gut: The Inside Story of Our Most Underrated Organ.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Seuss on Saturday #32

In A People House. Dr. Seuss. (Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1972. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Come inside, Mr. Bird," said the mouse. "I'll show you what there is in a People House...A People House has things like...chairs things like roller skates and stairs.

Premise/plot: Is there a plot? Perhaps a slight one. A mouse is showing a bird around a people house. Each page is filled with words of things in a people house. But there isn't exactly a compelling story. It seems a random waste, in my opinion.
piano
peanuts
popcorn
pails
pencil
paper
hammer
nails
My thoughts: Not a favorite. I didn't really like it at all. True, it's silly, especially at the end. True, it rhymes. But it doesn't seem as good as it should be if it's Seuss.

Have you read In A People House? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Clifford Goes to Kindergarten (2015)

Clifford Goes to Kindergarten. Norman Bridwell. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hello! My name is Emily Elizabeth, and this is my dog, Clifford. I started kindergarten yesterday. At first I was scared, but now I love school.

Premise/plot: Emily Elizabeth is starting school. Will she like kindergarten? Will she love it? What will Clifford do when she's in school? Well, on one day at least he will go to school with her. What will the teacher think? What will her classmates think?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I don't always "love" each and every Clifford book. But overall, I do like the characters of Emily Elizabeth and Clifford. Don't expect it to be the absolute best book in the series. But it's certainly enjoyable enough.

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


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Oh No, George!

Board Book: Oh No, George! Chris Haughton. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Harry is going out. "Will you be good, George?" asks Harry. "Yes," says George. "I'll be very good." I hope I'll be good, George thinks.

Premise/plot: With a name like, "Oh NO, George!" little ones might guess--and guess correctly--that George won't be good after all. George faces a handful of temptations in this book: he's tempted to eat cake, tempted to "play" with a cat, tempted to dig in dirt, tempted to dig in the trash. Will George give into temptation every time? Maybe. Maybe not. You'll have to read and see for yourself. But there is a refrain: OH NO, GEORGE!

My thoughts: I liked this one. It was fun. It was cute. It was simple yet clever. I loved the refrain, and, how it can get readers involved with the story--predicting what George will do--and joining in the refrain at various points in the story. The narration is quite charming as well. George is really given a great voice in this story.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. The Queen's Hat

The Queen's Hat. Steve Antony. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Queen was on her way to visit someone very special when the wind went…swish! The wind took the Queen's favorite hat right off her head.

Premise/plot: The Queen is on her way to visit the new royal baby when the wind sweeps her hat away. The Queen and the palace guards chase the hat all over London. In the process of the chase, little readers are introduced to famous London sites: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, London underground, London Zoo, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and Kensington Palace.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the premise of this one! It was so very cute and quite delightful. I could see adults enjoying this one very much! I know I did. There's just something joyous about it.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Friendshape (2015)

Friendshape. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: What's so great about having friends? We're glad you asked! See, the great thing about having friends is…everything! Friends make you feel happy. Friends make you feel at home.

Premise/plot: Four shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle) answer the question "what's so great about having friends?" for young readers. It is a pun-filled celebration of friendships.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked the puns, for the most part. Adults may spot them a bit quicker than little ones. But regardless of whether the book's play on words makes you giggle or not, the book is fun and playful. It is a simple book, in some ways, but clever too.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. A Little In Love (2015)

A Little In Love. Susan Fletcher. 2015. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm dying. There's no use hoping I'll live or telling myself, Keep going, it's only a small wound. There's too much blood on the ground. I'm going to die in this street.

Eponine has always been one of my favorite characters from Les Miserables. I've always felt sympathy for her. And so I was quite excited to see that Susan Fletcher has written Eponine's story in her novel, A Little In Love.

Is an understanding--an appreciation, a love--for the novel Les Miserables a must for picking this one up? I wouldn't say it's a must. I wouldn't want to limit the audience for this one. Certainly this book will mean more to the reader who has at least watched one of the movie adaptations (though I'm not sure all movie adaptations even have Eponine's character? I do not care for the musical, for the most part, but this song gets me every time.*) But the most enthusiastic fan may just be the reader who has read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables--and unabridged at that! But any reader who is drawn to historical fiction set in nineteenth century France will find this of interest.

The framework of this one does make sense. I'm not always a big fan of stories told within a framework. But it is wisely done in this one. The narrator--Eponine herself--is not being melodramatic. She is, in fact, dying. And in a way, the whole book is a flashback showing us moments in her life that have led up to this moment--this heroic, tragic, bittersweet moment. This adaptation does not change the ultimate outcome.

Is it faithful to Victor Hugo's novel? Yes, for the most part. I do think a few details are changed along the way. And I do think plenty has been added, filled out, if you will. The characters we meet in A Little in Love are fleshed out.

So did I like it? love it? I really enjoyed it. It is one I read all at once--like a treat. I admit that I'm probably the ideal reader for this one since Les Miserables is one of my most favorite, favorite books of all time. My 2014 reviewMy 2013 review.

*I think I fell in love with this song a full decade before ever picking up the novel. Why? Well, it's one that skaters really, really, really LOVE to skate to.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Wish You Well

Wish You Well. David Baldacci. 2000/2007. Grand Central Publishing. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading David Baldacci's Wish You Well. That is, I "enjoyed" it as much as one can enjoy a book with so much heartache in it. Some of the heartache was completely predictable, I won't lie. But some of it wasn't.

Readers meet Lou (Louisa) and Oz (Oscar). These two undergo a lot in the course of a year. The family is in a car crash. Their father dies at the scene. Their mother is left in a coma, of sorts. She's able to eat and drink, but, not to talk or walk. She's essentially dead to the world, unable to give any sign to anyone that she is still in there. The two go to live with a great-grandmother in Virginia. This great-grandmother raised their father. Her name is Louisa. Life in the country is certainly different than life in New York City, but the two adjust quickly. They enjoy spending time with Diamond, an orphan boy around their age, and Eugene, a black man who lives and works with them on the farm. Their mother lives with them as well. They manage to nurse her and do all the farm work as well. One man, a young lawyer, takes it upon himself to visit the family often. Cotton reads to Alicia (the mother) as often as he can. The children quickly bond with him. So they've experienced loss certainly, but, they've made new friends as well.

Is life perfect? Not really. Oz and Lou would give anything to have their parents back. And Oz especially is still counting on his mom waking up again. Lou secretly wants this just as badly. But she's older, and "wiser," and doesn't want anyone to know that she believes in wishes and happy endings. She can't help herself for wanting and wishing, but, she's ashamed of it at the same time. She hates herself for it in a way.

The book chronicles their adventures and misadventures in the country. The setting is 1940, by the way. I won't spoil the book; yes, a few things are predictable. But not everything in my opinion.

Wish You Well is a coming-of-age story written for adults. Don't be confused by the child narrator, this one really is an adult book.

What I liked best was the characterization and the setting. I liked Lou and Oz and Diamond. I liked Louisa and Cotton. I liked spending time with them. And the historical setting was a nice touch. 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. An Ember in the Ashes (2015)

An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir. 2015. Penguin. 446 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. This young adult fantasy is a quick, compelling read with two narrators. Laia is a slave from the conquered Scholars tribe. Elias is a Mask, a soldier from the dominant (conquering) Martials tribe. The chapters alternate points of view. Which is good and bad. Good in that both narrators have action-packed stories that sometimes happen to collide. Bad in that the action is interrupted oh-so-often. And when you're all caught up in the moment, the last thing you want to do is switch narrators! Even if you know that in just a page or two you'll be swept right back up again. But at least both stories are fast-paced and action-packed. It could be a lot worse.

So. The world building is interesting. And the world-building is gradual in a way. You keep learning more about the world as the plot unfolds. It is never so unsettling that you're completely confused. But you know that the world is unique from the start.

So what is this one about? Laia turns to the rebel resistance when her brother is arrested and put in prison. She has no spy-skills to speak of, but, she's determined to do whatever it takes, no matter how hard, no matter how risky, to free him. She's placed as a spy within Blackcliff, the soldier-school, and her mistress is cruel. (She's also the Commandant.)

Elias is planning an escape of his own. He may have trained as a soldier--as a mask--but he's never bonded with his mask. He doesn't see himself as a cruel, heartless soldier who rapes and kills and follows orders. But he hesitates at the last minute, and decides to become an Aspirant instead. There were four named. Two will die. One will be the new emperor. One will take an oath to serve the new emperor until death. And the four trials will be more challenging, more risky, than anything he's ever faced before.

Both Elias and Laia are absolutely miserable and are facing huge challenges daily...

I liked it because sometimes you just need an intense, compelling read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. Gut

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Most Underrated Organ. Giulia Enders. Illustrated by Jill Enders. 2014/2015. Greystone Books. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Words to describe this one: Thrilling, Fascinating, Informative, Fascinating.

Gut by Giulia Enders is a compelling, action-packed nonfiction read that I found almost impossible to put down. I read it in two sittings. And I found myself stopping only to share little bits of information with others. My goal: to try to get everyone to read this one! Why? Because I think people NEED to know how the body works, and how ESSENTIAL gut-health is for HEALTH.

Yes, primarily, the book is about "the gut" (digestion from start to finish), but, it is also about how the whole body functions or malfunctions.

 The last third of the book focuses on microbes, or gut flora. This section of the book is so absorbing and enlightening. And part of what makes it so exciting is how much is still not known, how NEW this research still is, and how promising it looks to be. There is still so much we don't know, don't understand, about how our bodies function, and what causes things like diseases and obesity. The link between gut microbes and obesity is certainly attention-grabbing.

From start to finish, I found Gut to be a great read. The jacket copy says that the narrative has "quirky charm" and I quite agree. You can watch this video as well.

Table of Contents:

Gut Feeling
  • How Does Pooping Work? And Why That's An Important Question
  • The Gateway to the Gut
  • The Structure of the Gut
  • What We Really Eat
  • Allergies and Intolerances
The Nervous System of the Gut
  • How Our Organs Transport Food
  • Reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • The Brain and the Gut
The World of Microbes
  • I Am An Ecosystem
  • The Immune System and Our Bacteria
  • The Development of the Gut Flora
  • The Adult Gut Population
  • The Role of the Gut Flora
  • The Bad Guys--Harmful Bacteria and Parasites
  • Of Cleanliness and Good Bacteria

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. July Reflections

In July, I reviewed 60 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Books: Picture This: Homes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board books: Picture This: Shapes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Board book: Little Blue Truck's Beep-Along Book. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 8 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Board book: Carry and Learn Numbers. Illustrated by Sarah Ward. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Gingerbread for Liberty: How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Funny Face, Sunny Face. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Big Princess. Taro Miura. 2015. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]  
  12. Out and About: A First Book of Poems. Shirley Hughes. 1988/2015. Candlewick Press. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Edited by Elizabeth Hammill. 2015. Candlewick. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Middle grade:
  1. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Cinderella Smith. Stephanie Barden. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 2011. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Miss Patch's Learn-to-Sew Book. Carolyn Meyer. 1969/2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Close to the Wind. Jon Walter. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. First Flight Around The World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won The Race. Tim Grove. 2015. Abrams. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Polar Bear Scientists. Peter Lourie. 2012/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. 2015. Penguin. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Phantoms in the Snow. Kathleen Benner Duble. 2011. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. All We Have Is Now. Lisa Schroeder. 2015. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Messengers. Edward Hogan. 2015. Candlewick Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Apple and Rain. Sarah Crossan. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Adult fiction:
  1. The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Ross Poldark. (Poldark #1) Winston Graham. 1945/2015. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Innocent. Ann H. Gabhart. 2015. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2.  Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1973/1993. Intervarsity Press. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Pass It On. Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee. David C. Cook. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  5. Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The End of Me. Kyle Idleman. 2015. David C. Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  8. Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  9. Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  10. Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible. Brian Cosby. 2015. David C. Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Ten Playful Penguins

Board Book: Ten Playful Penguins. Emily Ford. Illustrated by Russell Julian. 2015. [October] Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ten playful penguins, living in the zoo. They've had their lunch, and now they're off to find something to do.

Premise/plot: The penguins "disappear" one by one as they find "something" to do. The "something" almost always involves meeting and playing with another zoo animal. The book counts backward from ten to one with plenty of rhyme, of course.

My thoughts: Do I have an opinion? I'm not sure I do. It is what it is. A simple counting--or counting backward--concept book for young children starring penguins, monkeys, hippos, bears, pandas, parrots, elephants, etc. If your little one loves animals or zoo animals--especially penguins--this one is a cute and satisfactory enough read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Peppa's Windy Fall Day (2015)

Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is a windy fall day. Peppa and her family are going to the park. "Let's put on our warm clothes," says Mummy Pig. When it is cold outside, Peppa and her family wear their hats, scarves, and coats. 

Premise/plot: An adaptation of an episode of the television show Peppa Pig. Peppa and her family go to the park on a windy fall day. They talk about the leaves on the tree, play ball, and jump in leaves.

My thoughts: I do love the show. I really do. I enjoy the book adaptations of the show. I adore Peppa, George, Mummy Pig, and Daddy Pig.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. Seuss on Saturday #31

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. Go. GO! I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!

Premise/plot: The narrator REALLY, REALLY, wants Marvin K. Mooney to GO. But will Marvin K. Mooney be so obliging?

My thoughts: I liked it. It is definitely one of the catchier Seuss books. (Though not as fun or as silly as say Fox in Socks or Green Eggs and Ham. Still. There's something pleasant about it.) It's just FUN to say phrases like "You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!" It just is.

Have you read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is In A People House. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Week in Review: July 26-August 1

From July
The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]
Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library] 
 The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

From August
Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Ten Playful Penguins. Emily Ford. Illustrated by Russell Julian. 2015. [October] Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's recommendation(s): I loved, loved, loved THE ARMSTRONG GIRL. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Meet Elizabeth Parker

Murder at Longbourn. (Elizabeth Parker #1) Tracy Kiely. 2009. St. Martin's Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Tracy Kiely's Murder at Longbourn. It is first and foremost a cozy mystery. It is not a retelling or adaptation of any particular Austen novel. So don't expect that, and you won't be disappointed, or as disappointed.

As I said, I enjoyed this holiday-themed mystery novel. Elizabeth Parker, the heroine, goes to visit her great-aunt for New Year's Eve/Day. There is a party hosted at her great-aunt's bed and breakfast. It is a themed party--there will be a "murder" at the party. She meets plenty of new people at her great-aunt's bed and breakfast. Some of them being guests staying at the b&b. Some being guests (from the town) invited to the New Year's party. But one person is not a new acquaintance at all, but, an old "nemesis" named Peter. The two knew each other as children, and, as far as Elizabeth is concerned, there's nothing but hate between them: past, present, and future.

The party goes horribly, of course, and a real murder is committed. Elizabeth is convinced that there is a lot of framing going on--and her aunt may suffer for it--but can she with a tiny bit of help from Peter--find the real murderer in time?

I liked Elizabeth well enough. I didn't love everything about her. There were times she came across as not too bright. And I did find quite a few things about this one to be predictable. But. In the moment, as I was reading it, I cared more than I didn't. I wanted to keep reading it. I wasn't annoyed or frustrated or disgusted or disappointed. It was a very pleasant read. Now, a week after finishing it, the in-the-moment pleasure of it all has faded a bit.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. Library Loot: First Trip in August

New Loot:
  • A Test of Wills by Charles Todd
  • Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
  • Ordinary by Michael Horton
  • Great Day for UP by Dr. Seuss
  • When Books Go To War by Molly Guptill
  • The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes
Leftover Loot:
  • Wouldn't it Be Deadly an Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery by D.E. Ireland
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
  • A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
  •  Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Search the Dark by Charles Todd
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are by Dr. Seuss
  •  The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
  • The Lost Princess by George MacDonald
  • Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely
  • Murder Most Austen by Tracy Kiely
  • Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella MacNeal
          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  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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