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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. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (1971)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Judith Kerr. 1971. Random House. 191 pages. [Source: Bought]

I enjoyed reading Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The book is set in Germany, Switzerland, and France in the 1930s. The book opens several weeks before Hitler comes to power. Anna's father, a famous writer, decides to flee Germany before the election, just in case. A wise decision, it turns out. His family follows a week or two later, I believe. The family may have escaped immediate danger, but life won't exactly be easy either. He has to find a way to support his family--to continue to support his family no matter the economics or politics of Europe. The family first attempt to resettle in Switzerland, but, he's unable to find a paying audience for his work. That is, no one wants to publish his work. The family then moves to France to resettle. They spend more time in France than they did in Switzerland. But it's still a rough transition. The book is told through Anna's perspective. And the challenges are real. Learning new languages, going to new schools, general anxiety, etc.

The book has an unusual title. If you've read the book, it makes sense. The family leaves on relatively short notice. They can only take a few suitcases. They cannot take everything, of course. Anything they leave behind will most likely be taken or confiscated. Anna, for better or worse, chooses a new stuffed toy--a dog--over her favorite, beloved "pink rabbit." She hates the idea of it being gone forever and being confiscated or "stolen" by the Nazis.

The book does a good job of capturing what it might have been like to be Jewish in Europe in the 1930s. Though this one is set many years before World War II.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. Revisiting Princess Academy

Princess Academy. Shannon Hale. 2005. Bloomsbury. 314 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Shannon Hale's Princess Academy. I wanted to reread both Princess Academy and Palace of Stone before reading the third book out just this year. There isn't always time for me--unfortunately--to reread all the books in a series each time a new book is released, but, I do try to make it a priority when I've loved the author's work in the past. And that is certainly the case with Shannon Hale! 

Miri is the heroine of Princess Academy. She is small, for her age, and is, in a way, kept separate from others her own age for the simple fact that everyone but Miri is already working in the quarry. Miri tends the goats and keeps house for her family: her older sister and father. (Her mother died within a week of giving birth to her.) Her father isn't a man of many words, and, Miri misunderstands much. The community in which she lives is dependent on traders. They work the quarry and mine linder, they trade the precious stone for food and other supplies. It is both an anxious and exciting time for the village. This year is especially so. For this year the trader brings a BIG, BIG message. All the girls of the community--within a certain age, I believe twelve or thirteen to sixteen or so--MUST attend Princess Academy. For the prophets have revealed that Mount Eskel is the home of the future Princess/Queen. The prince heir (Steffan) will visit the academy in one year to choose his bride. All the girls must be trained and educated for any one of the girls could potentially be 'the one'. It is a huge shock to the community. Miri, of course, is one of the girls.

Readers get to know many of the girls at the Princess Academy. Some better than others, of course. Britta and Katar are two girls that get much attention. For very different reasons though. The book chronicles Miri's time at the academy: what she's learning, what they're all learning, what she likes, what she wants, etc. One thing she wants is to be able to go home more frequently and see Peder, the boy she loves and hopes one day to marry.

Another focus of the book is on quarry speech and the magical qualities of linder.

The book celebrates stories and storytelling and the power of words and literacy, the importance of education and knowledge. Miri is wise because she is able to absorb what she's taught and use it to her advantage and to the community's advantage.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Sacajawea (2015)

Sacajawea (Women Who Broke the Rules) Kathleen Krull. 2015. Bloomsbury. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Kathleen Krull has a new nonfiction book series: Women Who Broke The Rules. So far the series features biographies of Sacajawea, Judy Blume, Dolley Madison, and Sonia Sotomayor. Biographies of Coretta Scott King and Mary Todd Lincoln are listed as 'coming soon.' I think the series has some potential for its intended age group. Especially when I think about the oh-so-limited options I had as a child.

Krull has written plenty of picture book biographies, but these new books are chapter books. (They do feature illustrations. One of the most important things to me as a kid when it came to picking a nonfiction book for a book review.)

What did I think of Sacajawea? I liked the introduction to this new series. I thought it was a quick, informative read. As an adult, I have read a few books on the Lewis and Clark expedition, and so I knew a little about it. But I hadn't read a book specifically focused on Sacajawea. It was a nice introduction, I believe.

Overall, I'm happy to recommend the series. I think it would be a good choice for elementary students.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. I, Juan de Pareja (1965)

I, Juan de Pareja. Elizabeth Borton de Trevino. 1965/2008. Square Fish. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I, Juan de Pareja, was born into slavery early in the seventeenth century. I am not certain of the year.

I am so glad I read I, Juan de Pareja. The cover may not have said, read me, read me, but I found this historical novel to be quite compelling overall.
 
I, Juan de Paraja is set in Spain (and Italy) in the seventeenth century. Juan's master--for the most part--was Diego Velazquez, an artist. Both were real men. (Juan de Pareja) The first part of the novel introduces readers to Juan, and has him traveling to meet his new master after his former mistress' death. The rest of the novel spans several decades of his life and service. The focus is mainly on art--on painting portraits. Juan becomes quite interested in painting, and longs to be allowed to learn how to paint himself. (He's not allowed because he's a slave.) He observes and absorbs, waiting, perhaps for an opportunity to try for himself. Opportunity comes, and his secret life begins...

I found the book to be a quick read. I found it to be fascinating as well. I liked reading about both men, and I liked how focused it was on art. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Library Loot: Second Trip in May

New Loot:
  • Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  • The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
 Leftover Loot:

  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Christine Donougher
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Infernal Device & Others by Michael Kurland 
  • The Empress of India by Michael Kurland
  • Who Thinks Evil by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • One Summer by David Baldacci
  • Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
  • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold  
  • Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller  

      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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31. Week in Review: May 3-9

The Sneetches and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1961. Random House. 65 pages. [Source: Library]
Lion Heart (Scarlet #3). A.C. Gaughen. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Dead Wake. Erik Larson. 2015. Crown. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon. Ruth Stiles Gannett. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. 1987. Random House. 242 pages. [Source: Library]
B is for Betsy. Carolyn Haywood. 1939. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace. Ian Doescher. 2015. Quirk Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cocaine Blues. (Phryne Fisher #1) Kerry Greenwood. 1989/2007. Poisoned Pen Press. 175 pages. [Source: Library]
Flying Too High. Kerry Greenwood. 1990/2006. Poisoned Pen Press. 156 pages. [Source: Library] 
Board Book: Hi! A Rhyming Animal Sounds Book. Ethan Long. 2015. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8: An Animal Alphabet. Elisha Cooper. 2015 [July] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What I Saw In the Teachers' Lounge. Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Howard McWilliam. 2015. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Give Them Truth: Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds. Starr Meade. 2015. P&R Publishing. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses. Chris Bruno. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
The Love Letters. Beverly Lewis. 2015. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology. Joel R. Beeke. 2015. P&R Publishing. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 This week's recommendation(s):

So many this week are worthy of extra attention. I love, love, love The Sneetches and Other Stories. I loved Dead Wake. I loved Lion Heart.

I also love, love, love GIVE THEM TRUTH.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Board Book: Hi!

Board Book: Hi! A Rhyming Animal Sounds Book. Ethan Long. 2015. Abrams. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
Hoo!
Moo!
Growl!
Howl!
Chirp!
Slirp!

Premise/Plot: Hi! is an rhyming board book full of animals greeting each other. For example, an owl, "Hoo" and a cow, "Moo." The text is simple and quite limited: just animal sounds and "hi" and "goodbye."

My thoughts: It was okay. It looks simple, but, that doesn't mean it was easy to write necessarily. I like that some of the animals featured in the book are unique. When you think of books focused on animal sounds, you think either farm or jungle: oink or roar! Anteaters and yaks aren't as popular. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and fun.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Seuss on Saturday #19

The Sneetches and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1961. Random House. 65 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of The Sneetches:
Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had Bellies with stars.
The Plain-belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.
First sentence of The Zax
One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
First sentence of Too Many Daves
Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
First sentence of What Was I Scared Of?
Well...
I was walking in the night
And I saw nothing scary.
For I have never been afraid
Of anything. Not very.
Plot/Premise of The Sneetches: Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches have trouble playing and working together. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are envious of the Stars on the Star-Belly Sneetches. And the Star-Belly Sneetches look down on the Plain Belly sort. Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the whole situation with his "Star On" and "Star Off" machine. He makes a LOT of money in the process. Will the Sneeches ever learn?

Plot/Premise of The Zax: A North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax meet. Neither Zax will budge because, of course, the North-Going Zax will only go North, and the South-Going Zax will only go South. Take a step in the wrong direction?! Never! How long will these two be stubborn?

Plot/Premise of Too Many Daves: The premise of this one is simple and clearly stated in the first sentence: The McCave family has too many sons named Dave. The joy in this one comes from reading it aloud. All the names she wished she'd chosen. Names like "Hoos-Foos" "Putt-Putt" and "Oliver Boliver Butt." 

Plot/Premise of What Was I Scared Of? The narrator of this one claims he's not scared of anything. But one night when he sees a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them...he becomes very frightened indeed. Will he ever overcome his fear? Should he overcome his fear?

My thoughts on The Sneeches: This is a fun story. And it's so very quotable! This is a great start to a great story collection.

My thoughts on The Zax: Another fun story, and very true to life. Sometimes people are really that stubborn.

My thoughts on Too Many Daves: This one is shorter than the others perhaps, but, it's quite enjoyable! Some of the names are quite memorable too.

My thoughts on What Was I Scared Of? This one is probably my most favorite of all. I love, love, love this one. I had the record of this book, but, it is the audio narration of this one that has stayed with me the most. It is just a wonderful little story. And so quotable!!!
After that, a week went by.
Then one dark night in Grin-itch
(I had to do an errand there
And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)...
Well, I had fetched the spinach.
I was starting back through town
When those pants raced round a corner
And they almost knocked me down!
and
I ran and found a Brickel bush.
I hid myself away.
I got brickels in my britches
But I stayed there anyway. 
and
I said, "I do not fear those pants
With nobody inside them."
I said, and said, and said those words.
I said them. But I lied them. 
Have you read The Sneetches and Other Stories? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

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 10 Apples Up on Top.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. 8 An Animal Alphabet (2015)


8: An Animal Alphabet. Elisha Cooper. 2015 [July] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Find the one animal on each page that is pictured 8 times--8 ants, 8 badgers, 8 chickens. Find all the other animals too. Some may be familiar, such as a cat, and some not, such as a muskrat. (For help, see the "Did you know?" section in the back.)

Premise/Plot. Each alphabet page features lots of animals. Only one animal, however, is pictured 8 times. All animals for each page are listed in small print at the bottom of the page. The book concludes with a "Did You Know?" page sharing facts about all the animals.

My thoughts: I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I liked it well enough. If you're looking for a counting-to-eight concept book, an alphabet concept book, or, a book about animals, then this one may prove satisfying.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. What I Saw in the Teachers' Lounge (2015)

What I Saw In the Teachers' Lounge. Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Howard McWilliam. 2015. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I saw the sign on the door at school every day. It wasn't fair. Why couldn't students go in there? Oops--the door was open. I thought I'd take a peek. The first time I looked, I saw my teacher. She was surfing. Another teacher was in full hiking gear. She was climbing a rugged mountain.

Premise/plot: A young boy with a BIG imagination keeps peeking into the teacher's lounge. Each time he peeks, he sees something different, something strange and wonderful all at the same time. He tells everyone, but, few believe him.

My thoughts: It's certainly creative storytelling. Perhaps not as memorable as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, but, along those same lines. It was a nice read.

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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36. William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace

William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace. Ian Doescher. 2015. Quirk Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really liked reading Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace. Is it my favorite of the series? I'm not sure I can honestly say that though I enjoyed it. What I liked best about The Phantom of Menace was the role Jar-Jar played in it. I liked how Doescher transformed the character. Yes, some of the movie's dialogue remains. Jar-Jar on the surface appears as you probably remember. But the reader knows that Jar-Jar is playing a game, and that he's manipulating things actually. It is too his advantage to appear clumsy and stupid and obnoxious.

I found The Phantom of Menace to be a quick read. I read the play in just two days. I found myself enjoying the writing and the illustrations. Even if you're not a fan of the movie, you may enjoy this one.

Jar Jar A man approacheth, cloth'd in Jedi garb.
Belike this man brings aid unto Naboo
Such as will help my people and my land.
Mayhap this is the chance I have desir'd!
For I have wander'd lo these many months
A'thinking o'er this planet's dreary fate:
Two peoples separated by their fear
And prejudice, which e'er doth make us shirk
From giving help unto each other. Aye,
It may be that the only hope for us
To be united is to realize
That our two fates are tightly knit as one.
Perchance this Jedi, follow'd by these droids,
Doth bring the words to break our deep mistrust.
I shall make introduction--in my way--
Portray the part that I have learn'd so well:
It doth befit the human prejudice
To think we Gungans simple, low, and rude.
I shall approach them thusly, yet shall bend
Him to the path that shall assis us all.
Put on thy simple wits now, Jar Jar Binks:
Thus play the role of clown to stoke his pride. (25)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Lion Heart (2015)

Lion Heart (Scarlet #3). A.C. Gaughen. 2015. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I read Scarlet and Lady Thief last spring. It was LOVE. I've been waiting for Lion Heart since I finished Lady Thief last spring. I've held the characters close for a whole year in anticipation. I just have to say that I was not disappointed with Lion Heart at all.

If you're looking for a good--a great--retelling of Robin Hood, then you must pick up these three books. They're wonderful. Yes, they build upon the legend, and, a few details will feel familiar to readers--as they perhaps should. But the depth and complexity to the characters is remarkable. I loved, loved, loved getting to know all the characters. Especially Robin Hood and Scarlet (Marian). There are plenty of other characters to love as well. Though perhaps a fewer number in Lion Heart. (I'd forgotten just how Lady Thief ended. So rereading it and rushing into Lion Heart, I felt the loss of a certain character very much.) Still, there are plenty of new characters to get to know in Lion Heart.

Lion Heart definitely has a different feel to it in a way. But I still loved it. Much is required of Scarlet in this one, and, she'll continue to fight for what's right and what's good from cover to cover. I love that she never gives up. I love her determination and fierceness.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. B is for Betsy (1939)

B is for Betsy. Carolyn Haywood. 1939. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading "B" is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. It's one I've read before, though I don't remember reading the sequels, or all the sequels in this children's series. (Other books include Betsy and Billy, Back to School With Betsy, and Betsy and the Boys). In the first book, readers meet a young girl, Betsy, who is nervous about starting school. Though her anxiety is relieved after a successful day or two at school. The focus throughout the book is on Betsy's life at school and home. Each chapter has an "adventure" of sorts. Some of the adventures are more of an actual adventure. (For example, there is a chapter where Betsy finds and rescues a neighborhood dog from a pit she had fallen into. It may prove more 'exciting' than the chapter on the class' two pet tadpoles.) The book celebrates childhood, family life, friendship, and community.

It was originally published in 1939. In one of the chapters "How Wiggle and Waggle Grew," the class learns about Indians and makes an Indian village.
They made little wigwams of twigs covered with brown paper. They brought little dolls which they colored with reddish-brown paint. Some they dressed as squaws. Miss Grey had told them that the Indian women were called squaws. Some they dressed as Indian Braves. The Braves were the men who did the hunting and fighting while the squaws stayed home and did the work. Ellen brought a tiny doll which Miss Grey fastened on the back of one of the squaws. It was the squaw's papoose, which is the Indian name for baby. Betsy thought the Indian village was beautiful. (50-1)
So it's definitely a product of its time. For better and for worse. Betsy's world is quite different than ours. In Betsy's world, it's safe to walk everywhere, play anywhere, and every adult is a friend.

I wouldn't say it's a must-read children's classic, but, it is an enjoyable enough read for those looking for an old-fashioned read.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Three Tales of My Father's Dragon

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon. Ruth Stiles Gannett. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. 1987. Random House. 242 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading My Father's Dragon (1948), Elmer And the Dragon (1950), and The Dragons of Blueland (1951), all by Ruth Stiles Gannett. (My Father's Dragon was a Newbery Honor book for 1949.) I'd read My Father's Dragon before many years ago--long before I started blogging--but this was my first opportunity, I believe, to read the two sequels.

I loved the way My Father's Dragon opens:
One cold rainy day when my father was a little boy, he met an old alley cat on his street. The cat was very drippy and uncomfortable so my father said, "Wouldn't you like to come home with me?" This surprised the cat--she had never before met anyone who cared about old alley cats--but she said, "I'd be very much obliged if I could sit by a warm furnace, and perhaps have a saucer of milk." "We have a very nice furnace to sit by, said my father, "and I'm sure my mother has an extra saucer of milk." My father and the cat became good friends but my father's mother was very upset about the cat. She hated cats, particularly ugly old alley cats. "Elmer Elevator," she said to my father, "if you think I'm going to give that cat a saucer of milk, you're very wrong. Once you start feeding stray alley cats you might as well expect to feed every stray in town, and I am not going to do it!"
 This opening hooked me. It is through the cat--his cat--that he learns of a baby dragon in desperate need of help. He tells of the Island of Tangerina and Wild Island. He learns about the captive dragon and the dangerous residents of the island. He is determined to help free the dragon. The cat helps him form a plan...

The first book is all about his going to the islands, his adventures and misadventures as he's looking for the dragon--it's a good thing he came to the island well-prepared! Does he find the dragon? You can guess the answer to that. Of course he does!

My Father's Dragon is a delightful fantasy book for very young readers. It's short and quite satisfying.

In Elmer and the Dragon, Elmer starts his journey home--by dragon. His new dragon friend will fly him home. But neither Elmer or the dragon know the way home precisely. Elmer ends up having just as many adventures returning home as he did running away from home. One of the stops along the way is Feather Island, the home of all 'lost' canaries.

In The Dragons of Blueland, the dragon sets off to return to his own family that he hasn't seen since his captivity. He's anxious to be reunited. But when he returns, he learns that his own family--his very large family--has been trapped in their cave. The entrance is guarded by men intent on capturing them or perhaps even killing them. He needs to find a way to help his family! So he seeks out Elmer...

All three books are great. It's oh-so-easy to recommend these.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. Dead Wake (2015)

Dead Wake. Erik Larson. 2015. Crown. 448 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson? I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. But I certainly found it absorbing and compelling. It reads quite quickly despite the large cast of narrators and various perspectives. (I didn't miss a central narrator.)

It is abounding in detail: details about the ship, the captain and crew, the passengers, the cargo, about U-boats (submarines), about the war in Europe, about England, about Germany, about the United States.

One thing in particular that I found fascinating was "Room 40" the oh-so-secret British code-breakers that were decoding German transmissions and such. They were able to keep track of so much and make predictions about where the Germans might strike next. (But no warnings were sent to the Lusitania about all the recent activity by German submarines in their path just hours before.)

Another interesting aspect of the book is the focus on President Wilson--his personal private life and his public life. (Though it would be a huge stretch to say it is the most interesting aspect of the book.) Why was America so reluctant to enter the war? Why were they so sure they could avoid it no matter what? Did the loss of American lives really help change the general perception of the war and make the average American ready to enter the war? If it was, why wait almost two years to declare war?

The book definitely provides readers with a rich perspective of the times. It was suspenseful and full of tension in part because of all the questions that have no easy answers.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Meet Phryne Fisher

Cocaine Blues. (Phryne Fisher #1) Kerry Greenwood. 1989/2007. Poisoned Pen Press. 175 pages. [Source: Library]

I wanted to like Cocaine Blues. I did. There were a few things about this mystery that I did enjoy. I enjoyed the setting. Australia in the 1920s. I enjoyed the fact that there were several story lines going on at once: how Phryne Fisher had several cases, or potential cases, that she was looking into. On the surface, at least, these are all unconnected interests. The first is perhaps the least entertaining, the "case" that brought her to Australia to begin with: a concerned father wanting to check up on his daughter. He thinks she's being poisoned. One story, as you might have guessed, is about cocaine. One of Phryne's new acquaintances is searching for 'the king' of cocaine. There's a third story as well, though I hesitate to tell you too much about ANY of the stories. The fact that there were multiple stories to follow or cases to solve helped the book a good deal. I also appreciated getting to know Phyrne's new maid. There were a few minor characters that I just liked almost from the start.

But what I didn't like is the amount of smut. Cocaine Blues is far from "clean" let's just say. There will be plenty of readers who will enjoy ALL the aspects of the mystery, but, I was not one of them.

Flying Too High. Kerry Greenwood. 1990/2006. Poisoned Pen Press. 156 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy Flying Too High? Yes and no. Once I started, I felt I had to finish it. For better or worse. I'm disappointed with some of the content. I expect certain types of romance novels to have smut, but, I don't like the blending of smut into mysteries. I enjoy mysteries very much, smut not so much. (Some readers probably enjoy both, so this series will probably have fans.)

What I liked most about Flying Too High were the multiple mysteries involved. I liked following all three stories. I liked Phryne best when she was actively working on a case, and keeping her mind focused on the case. Sometimes she got TOO distracted. I thought she acted a bit unprofessional at times too.

I will probably not continue on with the series.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Library Loot: First Trip in May

New Loot:
  • Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller 
Leftover Loot:
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Christine Donougher
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Infernal Device & Others by Michael Kurland 
  • The Empress of India by Michael Kurland
  • Who Thinks Evil by Michael Kurland
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • One Summer by David Baldacci
  • Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
  • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold  

      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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43. Week in Review: April 26 - May 2

From May:

Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Green Eggs and Ham. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 62 pages. [Source: Library]
Ice Cream Summer. Peter Sis. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Completely Clementine. Sara Pennypacker. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
 
From April:
Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen. 2012. Walker. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
Charlotte's Web. E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1952. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright. 1957. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
The Devil's Arithmetic. Jane Yolen. 1988. Penguin. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]
17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Dragon Spear. Jessica Day George. 2009. Bloomsbury USA. 248 pages. [Source: Library]A Travelogue of the Interior: Finding Your Voice and God's Heart in the Psalms. Karen Dabaghian. 2015. David C. Cook. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Crossway. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Prince Caspian. C.S. Lewis. 1951. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s):

I loved rereading Scarlet and Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen. My review of the third book will be coming soon!

I loved rereading Charlotte's Web.

Devil's Arithmetic is a compelling read; I loved it more than Number the Stars. A lot more. So I definitely recommend it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. Revisiting Lady Thief

Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I wanted to reread Scarlet and Lady Thief in anticipation of the release of the third book, Lion Heart, this May. I read Scarlet and Lady Thief last spring and for the most part LOVED them. Particularly Lady Thief.

The heroine of Lady Thief is Marian (aka Scarlet). She's still very much in love with Robin Hood, but, she's been tempted with an offer almost too good to refuse. Her (abusive) husband will annul their marriage and let her go, if and only if, she plays the role of his wife while Prince John and his wife Isabel visit Nottingham. (A new sheriff needs to be appointed.) Also traveling with the royal family: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the queen mother. There's definite risk involved. But the idea of being free from him forever and ever and getting to have a happily ever after ending with her one true love blinds her for a bit. She agrees. What follows is a LOT of drama and angst and heartbreak. It's exciting and intense and emotional.

I love this adaptation of Robin Hood, a young Robin Hood. I love most all the characters. Robin Hood. John Little. Scarlet/Marian. Much. Tuck. And a few new characters as well: particularly Alan a Dale, Winchester, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It's oh so easy to hate Prince John and Guy Gisbourne.

It's easy to recommend this series. I am eager to read the third book!


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. April Reflections

In April I reviewed 61 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers. Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Lee White. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Cat In the Hat Comes Back. Dr. Seuss. 1958. Random House. 63 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1958/2008. Random House. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Prince of a Frog. Jackie Urbanovic. 2015. [May] Scholastic.  32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure. Derek Anderson. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Early readers/early chapter books:
  1. The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. Alice Dalgliesh. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1952. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

Middle grade:
  1. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Prince Caspian. C.S. Lewis. 1951. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.
  4. The Devil's Arithmetic. Jane Yolen. 1988. Penguin. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Number the Stars. Lois Lowry. 1989. (Won Newbery in 1990) 137 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  6. Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright. 1957. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
  8. Charlotte's Web. E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1952. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison. Lois Lenski. 1941. HarperCollins. 298 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Henry and Beezus. Beverly Cleary. 1952. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11.  Beezus and Ramona. Beverly Cleary. 1955. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Ramona the Pest. Beverly Cleary. 1968. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]  
  13. Ramona the Brave. Beverly Cleary. 1975. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Ramona and Her Father. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  15. Ramona and Her Mother. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]  
  16. Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Cleary. 1981. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  19. Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library] 
  20. Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky. Sandra Dallas. 2014. Sleeping Bear Press. 216 pages. [Source: Library]
  21. Twice Upon A Time: Rapunzel The One With All The Hair. Wendy Mass. 2006. Scholastic. 205 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  22. A Girl from Yamhill. Beverly Cleary. 1988/1996. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

Young adult:
  1. Seraphina. Rachel Hartman. 2012. Random House. 499 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen. 2012. Walker. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George. 2007. Bloomsbury USA. 324 pages. [Source: Library]  
  4. Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Dragon Spear. Jessica Day George. 2009. Bloomsbury USA. 248 pages. [Source: Library]

Adult fiction:
  1. Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime #1) Jasper Fforde. 2005. 383 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crime #2) Jasper Fforde. 2006.  382 pages. [Source: Library]

Adult nonfiction:
  1. 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Christian fiction:

  1. Creole Princess (Gulf Coast Chronicles #2). Beth White. 2015. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Christian nonfiction:
  1. Kept for Jesus: What The New Testament Really Teaches About Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security. Sam Storms. 2015. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe. Devin Brown. 2015. Abingdon Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. General Editors: John Piper and David Mathis. 2015. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. It is Finished: 365 Days of Good News. Tullian Tchividjian. 2015. David C. Cook. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Luther on the Christian Life. Carl R. Trueman. 2015. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. God is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. John Piper. 2005. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. A Travelogue of the Interior: Finding Your Voice and God's Heart in the Psalms. Karen Dabaghian. 2015. David C. Cook. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Crossway. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Gone-Away Lake (1957)

Gone Away Lake. Elizabeth Enright. 1957. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake. I am so glad to be participating in the Newbery Through the Decades reading project. I've been motivated to read many books that I probably never would have read.

Gone-Away Lake tells the summertime adventure of two cousins: Portia and Julian. Early on in the summer these two stumble upon a muddy, dried-up lake. They discover a "ghost town" of sorts--the remnants of a lake resort community. To their great surprise, they discover that it is not as abandoned as it first appeared. Two people still live there. A brother and sister. (They live in separate houses.) Her name is Mrs. Cheever. His name is Mr. Payton. The four become friends--good friends. There are thousands of stories to be shared. Much to explore. Much to do.

I enjoyed this one very much. It's not an action-packed story (though it does have an intense scene or two--at least relatively speaking). It's definitely driven by the interesting characters. (Something I can definitely appreciate!)

Have you read Gone-Away Lake? What did you think? How do you think it compares to Thimble Summer?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic. Jane Yolen. 1988. Penguin. 170 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Devil's Arithmetic is a captivating book. It is a story within a story. I'm not sure why it works so brilliantly, I just know it does.

The outside frame of the story is set in modern times. Hannah, the heroine, is, along with her family, preparing to celebrate the Passover Seder at another family member's home. To Hannah, this "celebration" or "observance" is a waste of time and energy. She just does not get it at all or understand why it's so important to other members of her family. It's something she has to do that she can't talk her way out of. But something happens to Hannah when she opens the front door to 'welcome Elijah.'

She opens the door to the past and walks right through. She finds herself in a Polish village in 1942! It's not Passover in 1942, but, there is a celebration going on just the same. A wedding in the village! But tragically, this wedding never occurs. The Nazis take everyone away; everyone is relocated. Hannah (Chaya) makes new friends, and fights to survive. It won't be easy. This new life, this 1942 life, becomes oh-so-painfully real to her. She knows what's coming. She knows about the death camps. She knows about how many Jews were killed, how many never came out of the camps, how many families were torn apart. She knows and can do nothing to prevent it from happening. She's powerless, but, her words still have power. Her words can shape stories that give hope and courage and strength to her fellow sufferers.

The story ends beautifully in my opinion. It may be an intense read, but, it's worth it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Completely Clementine (2015)

Completely Clementine. Sara Pennypacker. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

Completely Clementine is the seventh book in the series. Clementine is just as lovable as in earlier books. I continue to like the series very much. It's interesting to read Clementine so soon after reading all the Ramona books. I definitely love, love, love the Ramona books. But I solidly like the Clementine ones. I think I definitely would have liked them as a kid.

In this book:
  • Clementine struggles with saying goodbye to her favorite teacher
  • Clementine worries about if she's really ready for fourth grade like her teacher, her parents, and her principal say she is
  • Clementine nurtures her anger at her father for not suddenly becoming vegetarian; she refuses to speak to him for most of the book
  • Clementine anxiously waits for the birth of her baby sister
I perhaps could have done without the vegetarian element in the story. I'm not sure it's fair for a child to dictate what her parents eat in their own home. And I think she carries the silent treatment a bit too far.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Seuss on Saturday #18

Green Eggs and Ham. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 62 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I am Sam
Sam I am
That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like that Sam-I-am!
Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
Plot/Premise: Sam-I-am tries to convince the narrator to try something new: green eggs and ham. Sam I am is definitely persistent! He stays calm while the narrator doesn't! Who will prove more stubborn?!

My thoughts: Green Eggs and Ham is one I've read dozens of times. It's fun and playful. It's repetitive. What's not to love?!

Have you read Green Eggs and Ham? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

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 The Sneetches and Other Stories. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. Ice Cream Summer (2015)

Ice Cream Summer. Peter Sis. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dear Grandpa, Thank you for your letter. So far, it's been a delicious summer. I am very busy. But don't worry, I am not forgetting about school. I read every day. I am conquering big words like tornado and explosion!

Premise/Plot: A young boy assures his grandpa--via letter--that his summer is going well, and that he's still hard at work learning many things (math, history, cartography, to name just a few). Readers see that all relates back to ice cream in one way or another making Ice Cream Summer a fitting title for the book. This young boy LOVES his ice cream.

My thoughts: I like this one very much! Though I can't enjoy ice cream, I am glad that others can. And the hero of Ice Cream Summer certainly ADORES ice cream. I imagine that every day of his summer involves ice cream. The word play was cute and fun, for the most part. For example, "As you can see, Grandpa, I've been working hard all summer (though I always take a break on sundaes)."

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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