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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. Library Loot: Second Trip in April

New Loot:
  • Three Squares the Invention of the American Meal by Abigail Carroll
  • Eat Dirt by Dr. Josh Axe
  • Obsessed America's Food Addiction by Mika Brzezinski
  • Peter Pan (Annotated Edition) Barrie
  • The Microbiome Solution by Robynne Chutkan
  • The Diet Fix by Yoni Freedhoff
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream 
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
Leftover Loot:
  • Churchill the Power of Words: His Remarkable Life Recounted Through His Writings and Speehes by Winston Churchill, selected, edited, and introduced by Martin Gilbert
  • That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • The Hunt for Vulcan: And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson
  • The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  •  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  • Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
  • Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
  • I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Njood Ali
  • Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi
  • Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
  • Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung 
              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
  
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. March Tag Questions

Old Fashioned Charm
Period Drama Challenge

March Tag Questions:
1. What period dramas did you view in March? Some Lark Rise to Candleford. (I've completed the first two seasons, and am halfway through season three.) Ever After, Doctor Zhivago, Scarlet Pimpernel, Persuasion.
2. What is your favorite period drama soundtrack? Much Ado about Nothing. I adore it ;)
3. If you could attend a ball in a Jane Austen story what would be the color of your ballgown and who would you dance with? Definitely Henry Tilney, and, I'm not sure on the color of the dress.
4. Do you prefer watching period dramas by yourself or with friends/family? Why? Either. Both. I don't mind watching them on my own, and, then dragging people into the fun for repeated watching.
5. What period dramas are you looking forward to viewing in April 2016? I'll be reviewing Much Ado About Nothing, Ever After, and some more Lark Rise. As to what I'll view next...probably a musical or two!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Death by Food Pyramid

Death by Food Pyramid. Denise Minger. 2014. 292 pages. [Source: Library]

While I'm not so patiently waiting to read my library's copy of Eat Fat, Get Thin, I decided to read Denise Minger's Death by Food Pyramid. It was quite refreshing after reading Hank Cardello's Stuffed.

Here are a few things I loved about Death by Food Pyramid:

That the goal of the book was to educate you on how to read, understand, and interpret books (and articles) about health, food, and how the body works on your own. That the goal was NOT take my word for it, trust me, I'm an expert, I know everything there is to know, and, if you want to lose weight and be healthy, just follow my advice always no matter what. That readers should stand up, take responsibility for their bodies, and get educated, seek knowledge, seek understanding.

That the book was equal parts history and science. Part of understanding where-we-are-now and how-do-we-know-what-we-know is understanding where we've been, understanding all the steps and missteps along the journey, understanding how scientific research is done, and in some cases not only how it's done, but, WHY it's done. A lot of the book focuses on research done about heart disease, and, to some extent, diabetes and cancer. A lot of the book focuses on how the research was then interpreted. And how that interpreted research was then summarized and conveyed to the public at large. But it also focuses on invention. (For example, the invention of "trans fat" and Crisco.)

The book doesn't solely focus on "bad science," "bad government," "bad food industry," or "bad media." It focuses on educating you to make the best choices available for your health based on what we now know to be true, or what we now believe to be true. It is not about choosing "good" diets over "bad" diets. But knowing all the facts, and being aware that there is not one diet that is right for every single person.

The book is well-written, well-organized, packed with just-the-right of information to empower you to think for yourself. It is entertaining; It is fascinating. Some facts may shock you. For example, did you know that the government has known since 1968 that trans fats were dangerous, and, did absolutely nothing--except encourage their use--for decades?! (See page 157-158) I also loved all the chapters on various research studies. Including the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of the 1940s.
The men's physical and mental turmoil emerged on diets averaging 1,500 to 1,600 calories per day, plus consistent physical activity--levels well within the range of many crash-diet fats plenty of us follow today. More important though, the study shows what can happen when we deliberately and severely eat less than our body is asking for. Think about that for a minute. The same health authorities propagating food-pyramid wisdom also tend to fixate on cutting calories and increasing exercise--the "eat less, move more" paradigm. Sounds familiar, doesn't it. What if calorie restricting makes our bodies think we're starving? And what if what happened to the Minnesota men at 1,500 calories is what our government and the billion dollar diet industry has been selling to modern Westerners? The answer seems clear enough: we've set ourselves up to be a nation of disordered eaters, struggling against biology, when what really needs to change is the quality of our food. (91-2).
I love how the author believes the reader can be smart enough, and motivated enough, to learn. The book is very matter-of-fact. These are the words you need to know. These are the phrases you'll see in all the books, all the articles, all the graphs, all the news stories. Here are the definitions so you can know what is being said and evaluate it for yourself. Never automatically agree with someone's spin of it. Weigh all the evidence, consider all points of view, and decide for yourself.

I loved that the message was: YOU CAN DO IT. CHOOSE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH. YOU CAN BECOME INFORMED. YOU CAN BECOME EDUCATED. Don't be a victim of circumstances. Don't say "Well, I didn't know any better."
If you choose to put a label on your diet, make sure it doesn't undergo a sneaky "mission creep" into the realm of your self-identity. Your current food choices may be low-carb, or lowfat, or plant-based, or any other number of descriptors--but you are not low-carb; you are not lowfat; you are not plant-based. You're a human being trying to make choices that best serve you and your specific goals at this point in time. You are not defined by the foods you eat. You are not a slave to an ideology. (243)
So why is it titled Death by Food Pyramid?! The Food Pyramid is more the work of politics and business than anything else. And that's keeping it polite. It is not actually representative of what is good and healthy for you to eat. In fact, just the opposite. Even though it has been "updated" or even "replaced," it still influences how people think about what to eat or not eat--at least for certain generations.

I loved learning about Luise Light who began working on the Food Pyramid in the 1970s. Her version never saw the light, you might say.
Unlike previous food guides, Light's version cracked down ruthlessly on empty calories and health-depleting junk food. The new guide's base was a safari through the produce department--five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. "Protein foods" like meat, eggs, nuts, and beans came in at five to seven ounces daily; for dairy, two to three servings were advised. Instead of promoting what would soon become a nationwide fat-phobia, Light's guide recommended four daily tablespoons of cold-pressed fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil, in addition to other naturally occurring fats in food. The guide kept sugar well below 10 percent of total calories and strictly limited refined carbohydrates, with white-flour products like crackers, bagels, and bread rolls shoved into the guide's no bueno zone alongside candy and junk food. And the kicker: grains were pruned down to a maximum of two to three servings per day, always in whole form. (The lower end of that range was for most women and less-active men, for whom a single sandwich would fill the daily grain quota.) Satisfied that their recommendations were scientifically sound and economically feasible, Light's team shipped the new food guide off to the Secretary of Agriculture's office for review. And that's when the trouble began. The guide Light and her team worked so hard to assemble came back a mangled, lopsided perversion of its former self. The recommended grain servings had nearly quadrupled, exploding to form America's dietary centerpiece: six to eleven servings of grains per day replaced Light's two to three. Gone was the advisory to eat only whole grains, leaving ultra-processed wheat and corn products implicitly back on the menu. Dairy mysteriously gained an extra serving. The cold-pressed fats Light's team embraced were now obsolete. Vegetables and fruits, intended to form the core of the new food guide, were initially slashed down to a mere two-to-three servings a day total--and it was only from the urging of the National Cancer Institute that the USDA doubled that number later on. And rather than aggressively lowering sugar consumption as Light's team strived to do, the new guidelines told Americans to choose a diet "moderate in sugar," with no explanation of what that hazy phrase actually meant. (Three slices of cake after a salad is moderate, right?" With her science-based food guide looking like it had just been rearranged by Picasso, Light was horrified. She predicted--in fervent protests to her supervisor--that these "adjustments" would turn America's health into an inevitable train wreck. Her opinion of the grain-centric recommendations was that "no one needs that much bread and cereal in a day unless they are longshoremen or football players," and that giving Americans a free starch-gorging pass would unleash an unprecedented epidemic of obesity and diabetes. (23-24)
Asking the Department of Agriculture to promote healthy eating was like asking Jack Daniels to promote responsible drinking: the advice could only come with a wink, a nudge, and a complementary shot glass. (25)
Folks with low genuine skill in their field [nutrition] suffer from double trouble: not only do they grossly overestimate their own abilities, but they also don't even have the knowledge necessary to realize what they're saying is inaccurate. (53)
Anyone who's certain they're right about everything in nutrition is almost definitely wrong. (53)
Out of all the food pyramid's victims, the most brutally slaughtered was fat--particularly the saturated form. (82)
The burden is on our own shoulders to stay educated, informed, shrewd, critical, proactive, and unyielding in the face of the Goliaths that loom before us. (247)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. I Didn't Do It

I Didn't Do It. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest. Illustrated by Katy Schneider. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I Didn't Do It is a picture book collection of dog-themed poems. Or perhaps I should say puppy-themed poems. If you're thinking it's adorable, you're right. It is. Now, I love cats more than dogs. But the illustrations and poems combined got to me, I must admit!

The poems include:
  • "Shhh...I'm Here"
  • "No Name"
  • "Rules"
  • "What I Don't Like"
  • "What I Like"
  • "I Didn't Do It"
  • "Rain"
  • "What Did I Do??"
  • "Big"
  • "Pretty Puppy"
  • "She Flies"
  • "One Thing, One Time"
  • "Puppy Dreams"
  • "Every Night"
If you've got a reluctant poetry reader who happens to love dogs, this may be an excellent 'exception' to the rule. I love it when books surprise you. I do think there are plenty of exceptions when it comes to books.

The poems are written by a mother-daughter team. Patricia MacLachlan you've heard of most likely. I've read a lot of her books for younger readers. Though I didn't know she wrote poetry. Plenty of MacLachlan's books reveal a love of animals.

I really enjoyed the illustrations. Some spreads I love more than others. But overall, a very cute book.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. I Survived the Hindenberg Disaster, 1937

I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster. Lauren Tarshis. 2016. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Scholastic has published many books in the I Survived series for middle schoolers, but, this is the first I was curious enough to pick up and read. I've seen a couple of documentaries on the Hindenburg Disaster, and, I find it a fascinating subject. The book is written from a young boy's perspective.

Our hero's name is Hugo Ballard. He is an American travelling with his family back to the U.S. His younger sister, Gertie, is very, sick--a matter of life and death. Accompanying the family--but in the cargo hold--is the family dog. Hugo meets fellow passengers, and, quite a few things happen to move the plot along BEFORE the big disaster. Most of the book is in fact "the before." Readers, of course, know that the voyage is doomed--that disaster awaits the Hindenburg.

I liked this one. I think it would be a good choice for those who perhaps may not seek out historical fiction for the sake of history... Me? I was the kid who LOVED history practically from the time I could read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. War Dogs

War Dogs. Kathryn Selbert. 2016. [April 2016] Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Rufus's best friend, Winston Churchill, is a busy man, but most days Rufus and Winston share a walk.

Premise/plot: Essentially, War Dogs is a picture book biography of Winston Churchill during the Second World War told from the point of view of his poodle, Rufus. The book has plenty of Churchill quotes throughout. These are set apart from the main text, and are easily identifiable. One of the quotes is:
The road to victory may not be so long as we we expect. But we have no right to count upon this. Be it long or short, rough or smooth, we mean to reach our journey's end. August 1940
My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED this one. War Dogs would definitely be more of a picture book for older readers than a story you'd share aloud with preschoolers. But. I think picture books for older readers are important and necessary, and can be quite LOVELY. I do think that picture books can be for everyone--people for all ages. So I'd definitely recommend this one. It would be a great introduction--picture book introduction--to the Second World War, and to Winston Churchill in particular. So if you're a history lover or a dog lover, you should definitely consider picking this one up!!!

I love the text. I love the illustrations. I love how each quote is sourced. Not all picture book biographies show their work when it comes to research. This one does! (Can you tell that I tend to love research myself!)

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. 2016. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My dear reader, this is a story about a girl named Beatrix Potter and what happened when she borrowed her neighbor's guinea pig.

Premise/plot: As an adult, Beatrix Potter borrowed a guinea pig from one of her neighbors. She wanted, of course, to draw it. Unfortunately, it died while in her care. In this picture book, Beatrix Potter is a child when she borrows it. Instead of returning a live guinea pig, she "returns" a sketch, a drawing of it to the neighbor. The book concludes with the "fun" fact that one of Beatrix Potter's sketches--one of a guinea pig, possibly done around the same time as this story--recently sold at auction for a lot of money.

My thoughts: Is this a children's book, really?! I would make the distinction that this picture book is best shared with older readers, perhaps mid-to-upper elementary students. I don't think it would work for younger audiences. "Gather round, everybody, let's read a story about a guinea pig that dies!!!" I am fond of Beatrix Potter's own books. Some I love. Some I like. One or two genuinely puzzle me. The contents of this one would make a great author's note. When I was reading The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, each story had a biographical sketch about when it was written, and what was going on in the author's life and such. This story would be great in a book like that. Or in a book for adults perhaps showcasing sketches, drawings, illustrations that never quite made it into a published book.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Library Loot: First Week in April

New Loot:
  • Churchill the Power of Words: His Remarkable Life Recounted Through His Writings and Speehes by Winston Churchill, selected, edited, and introduced by Martin Gilbert
  • That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • The Hunt for Vulcan: And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson
  • The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway
  • Our Kind of People by Uzodinma Iweala
  • The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
  • Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn
  • Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
  • Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann
  • Jesus Without Borders by Chad Gibbs
  • Crossing Stones by Helen Frost

Leftover Loot:
  • I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Njood Ali
  • Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  • Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
  • The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
  • The Great Influenza by John M. Berry
  • Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung
                 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
 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. My Thoughts on Doctor Zhivago

I recently watched Doctor Zhivago. It was a film my parents had seen a couple of times before. (Mom has definite thoughts on Omar Sharif. In fact, for years, that's all I've ever heard about this movie. I must admit she was right about him.) I had not seen it before. While mini-reviews for the Period Drama challenge are okay for films I've seen a dozen or so times, I wanted to be sure to capture my thoughts on this new-to-me film.

Omar Sharif. I have to say that he made this movie very watchable! He's probably a good reason why this movie is a classic.

Julie Christie as Lara worked for me more than I initially thought it would. The only other movie I've seen with her is Fahrenheit 451. That movie did not work for me...at all.

Alec Guinness plays Yuri Zhivago's half brother. I associate him with Star Wars so much, it was nice to see him in something else, and a bit younger looking too.

The music composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre. I love, love, love the music in this one! It definitely helped me persuade me that yes, I was liking this movie.

The story and content. Doctor Zhivago is intense drama, in a way. Its set during a violent, turbulent, bloody, cruel, horrifying period of Russian history. It focuses on two people: Lara and Doctor Zhivago mainly. For being a movie about a married man falling in love with a married woman, it was surprisingly tasteful. (As tasteful as it could be. It could have always been a lot worse.)  I am assuming the fact that it was 1965 has a little something to do with that. 

The Trailer



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Absolutely One Thing

Absolutely One Thing. Lauren Child. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I have this little sister, Lola. She is small and very funny. Sometimes for a treat, Mom says, "We are going to the store and you may choose one thing." "One thing EACH," I say, "or ONE thing between two?" And Mom says, "Each."

Premise/plot: Charlie and Lola are brother and sister. Charlie takes great care of his little sister. And he's surprisingly very patient, very kind, very tender with her. Lola is without a doubt a handful! In this new book, Charlie and Lola are going to the store. If they can get ready and out the door. If LOLA can get ready and out the door that is. Nothing goes quite as planned with these two... Which gives the author plenty of opportunity to sneak some math lessons into the story itself.

For example:
It takes me three minutes to brush my teeth, one minute to remember that I have forgotten to eat breakfast, four minutes to eat my puffa pops, three minutes to brush my teeth again and eight minutes to find Lola's left shoe. That makes us nine minutes late.
My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE Charlie and Lola. I thought I had made peace with the idea of there being no more new Charlie and Lola books. So I was surprised and thrilled to see a new one being published! This book is FUN and delightful. It is a very strong addition to the series. It isn't just an adaptation of a TV episode, a somewhat weaker imitation of Lauren Child's beloved characters. This book captures the heart and soul of what makes this series great.

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Stuffed

Stuffed: An Insider's Look At Who's Really Making America Fat. Hank Cardello. 2009. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I was curious to read Hank Cardello's Stuffed: An Insider's Look At Who's (Really) Making America Fat. It is an interesting, somewhat informative, book.

The first five chapters focus on the 'who' is making America fat. It is part history lesson (like chapter one and the invention of frozen dinners) and part behind-the-scenes commentary (like learning how advertising and marketing works, and why grocery stores place things where they are). It covers "the food industry." Think grocery stores, restaurants, and even school cafeterias.

The next three chapters, in my opinion, focus more on the government--national and state--and various lobbies and special interest groups. He has strong opinions on how people are reacting to the obesity crisis. And he doesn't agree necessarily with how some people want to "fix" the problem.

The remaining chapters focus on clearly identifying the problem and brainstorming on how to do something about it. If I understand his position correctly, and that is something that I hope I'm being fair about, it is that he doesn't support "banning" or "forbidding" any ingredient or type of food through legislature. Instead, he is all about urging food companies (manufacturers), grocery stores, restaurants, schools and school cafeterias to voluntarily act on their own to do something about the obesity crisis.

I found the first half more interesting than the second. I didn't personally find anything 'shocking' or 'scandalous' in the book. Though I could see it being an 'eye-opener' for some readers. Essentially, he argues that there is more than enough blame to go around--we are all, in various ways, responsible for the current health crisis. It is not just the fault of the government. (Though reading about how *involved* the government is with big agricultural farmers is disgusting. In my opinion. With the government--as of 2009--paying obscene amounts of money to farmers to plant certain crops in their fields.) It is not just the fault of food companies. It is not just the fault of grocery stores. (He talks a lot about food placement, and end displays). It is not just the fault of restaurants (with their huge portion sizes and the focus on how much money can I make off a customer). It is not just the fault of consumers who with their wallets show how satisfied they are with the status quo. It is not just the fault of the individual who is, after all, the one ultimately deciding what to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat. Everyone is to blame; no one is "solely" to blame.
As long as the government controls which foods are farmed, there is little reason to expect any improvement in the overall nutritional value of the nation's food supply. Fats and sweeteners are in. Fruits and vegetables are still out. (97)
The conventional wisdom among the food industry, activists, and government is that we consumers should act in a rational, disciplined manner. If something's bad for me, I'm obliged to say no. If it's good for me, then it's okay. But life doesn't work this way, as witnessed by our increased belt sizes. (141)
I think his focus was more on fixing things for "large groups of people" and not on individuals.

I would say his ideas or suggestions for how to "fix" things were on the modest side. For example, keep all the vending machines in schools, etc. Just stock them with snacks that are 100 calories or less. Just stock them with diet drinks or sugared-sodas in an 8 oz. size. One of his suggestions, and, I'm really doubtful that this would ever happen, was that fast food restaurants should refuse to sell food to kids and teens between certain hours of the day. Another idea that seems more on the ridiculous side to me, was, teacher-controlled cupcakes as 'rewards' for academic achievement.

I was disappointed, in a way, that he thought artificial sweeteners were the solution to most things. Make all snacks 'healthier' by artificially sweetening them. Lower calories equals automatic healthy snack! I disagree with that. I think artificial sweeteners--perhaps with the exception of stevia--are to be avoided if you really, truly care about what you're putting in your body and how it will effect you. Just my opinion.

He also seemed to think that the solution to 'unhealthy' restaurant food was to add omega-3 to (almost) everything. Just add omega-3 to Big-Macs and Big Macs will be healthy. (I'm not exaggerating. I'm really not.)

Yet another disappointment, to me, was that he didn't seem to think the way forward was to focus on real food, whole food, actual grown-from-the-earth food like fruits and vegetables. His focus was on future engineered food--junk food that is suddenly because of science actually healthy for you. I don't think the answer to America's health crisis is *more* engineering of our food. I think there are companies, perhaps with the best intentions in the world, "playing God" with our food supply, and in the name of "making it better" or "making it more affordable" or "making it tastier" is doing who-knows-what to the nations' future health. I think it needs to be said: we don't have all the answers, we don't know exactly what we're doing, we're trying and experimenting, but there are still so much we don't know yet.

But to close with something I can wholeheartedly agree with:
"The Food Pyramid saga gives us a good look at what happens when the government tries to do more than it is capable of." (94)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. March Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in March 2016
  1. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Penny Parker Klostermann. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. 2015. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. How To Dress A Dragon. Thelma Lynne Godin. Illustrated by Eric Barclay. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Ann Likes Red. Dorothy Z. Seymour. Illustrated by Nancy Meyeroff. 1965. 28 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Little, Brown. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Hour of the Bees. Lindsay Eagar. 2016. Candlewick. 360 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor. Mark Schatzker. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
5 Places "visited" in March:
  1. Narnia
  2. Iran
  3. New Mexico
  4. Prince Edward Island
  5. London, England
Picture books (also board books now and then):
  1. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Penny Parker Klostermann. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. 2015. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [Humor]
  2. How To Dress A Dragon. Thelma Lynne Godin. Illustrated by Eric Barclay. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Humor]
  3. Peppa's Busy Day Magnet Book. 2016. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Novelty]
  4. Last Stop on Market Street. Matt de la Pena. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [Award Winner]
  5. The House That Zack Built. Alison Murray. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. A Big Surprise for Little Card. Charise Mericle Harper. Illustrated by Anna Raff. 2016. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers (also a few early chapter books now and then):
  1. Ann Likes Red. Dorothy Z. Seymour. Illustrated by Nancy Meyeroff. 1965. 28 pages. [Source: Bought] [Childhood Favorite]
  2. Moo Bird. David Milgrim. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Review copy] [Early Reader]
  3. Clover the Bunny (Dr. KittyCat #2) Jane Clarke. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  [Early Chapter Book, Animal fantasy]
  4. A Pig, A Fox, and a Box. Jonathan Fenske. 2015. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  [Early reader, animal fantasy]
  5. Ballet Cat Dance! Dance! Underpants. Bob Shea. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [early reader, animal fantasy]
Contemporary (General, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Hour of the Bees. Lindsay Eagar. 2016. Candlewick. 360 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Slight fantasy, possible magical realism, definite coming-of-age]
  2. Skinnybones. Barbara Park. 1982/2016. 111 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Humor, sports]
  3. American Ace. Marilyn Nelson. 2016. 128 pages. [Source: Library] [Verse novel]
  4. The Pastures of Heaven. John Steinbeck. 1932. 207 pages. [Source: Library] [Short stories]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. The Adventures of Miss Petitfour. Anne Michaels. 2015. [November 2015] Tundra. 144 pages. [Source: Library] [Slight fantasy--think Mary Poppins, only with CATS, lots of cats]
  2. Tuck Everlasting. Natalie Babbitt. 1975. FSG. 139 pages. [Source: Library] [Slight fantasy, coming -of-age]
  3. Little Cat's Luck. Marion Dane Bauer. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. 2016. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library] [animal fantasy, verse novel]
  4. The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought] [fantasy, children's classic]
  5. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] [adult fantasy, christian classic]
  6. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]  [classic, dystopia]
  7. Hour of the Bees. Lindsay Eagar. 2016. Candlewick. 360 pages. [Source: Review copy] [slight fantasy, part realistic coming-of-age]
  8. Megan's Brood. Roy Burdine. 2015. 105 pages. [Source: Review copy] [fantasy]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. My Name Is Not Friday. Jon Walter. 2016. Scholastic. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [civil war/slavery]
  2. By the Stars. Lindsay B. Ferguson. 2016. Cedar Fort. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] [world war II, romance]
  3. Defend and Betray. (William Monk #3) Anne Perry. 1992. 439 pages. [Source: Bought] [historical mystery, series book]
  4. A Sudden, Fearful Death. Anne Perry. 1993. 464 pages. [Source: Library] [historical mystery, series book]
  5. The Sins of the Wolf (William Monk #5). Anne Perry. 1995. 436 pages. [Source: Library]  [historical mystery, series book]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Defend and Betray. (William Monk #3) Anne Perry. 1992. 439 pages. [Source: Bought] [historical mystery, series book]
  2. A Sudden, Fearful Death. Anne Perry. 1993. 464 pages. [Source: Library] [historical mystery, series book]
  3. The Sins of the Wolf (William Monk #5). Anne Perry. 1995. 436 pages. [Source: Library] [historical mystery, series book]
Classics, all ages:
  1. Anne of Avonlea. L.M. Montgomery. 1909. 304 pages. [Bought] [children's classic, series book]
  2. The Pastures of Heaven. John Steinbeck. 1932. 207 pages. [Source: Library] [short stories]
  3. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought] [dystopia, science fiction]
  4. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]  [adult fiction, christian classic]
  5. The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's classic, fantasy]
  6. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis. 1943. 256 pages. [Source: Library][Christian classic]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Not Without My Daughter. Betty Mahmoody. 1987. 432 pages. [Source: Library] [Memoir]
  2. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Little, Brown. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book]
  3. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor. Mark Schatzker. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [Adult nonfiction]
  4. My Name is Mahtob. Mahtob Moody. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Memoir]

Christian fiction:
  1. A Sweet Misfortune. Maggie Brendan. 2016. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical Romance]
  2. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult fantasy]
  3. The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. George Herbert. 1633. 192 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Habits for Our Holiness. Philip Nation. 2016. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living, spiritual disciplines, theology]
  2. Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering. Elizabeth A. Johnson. 2013. Ambassador International. 160 pages. [Source: Bought] [christian living, suffering, christian nonfiction]
  3. Lessons from a Hospital Bed. John Piper. 2016. Crossway. 80 pages. [Source: Free from Desiring God Ministries.] [Gift book, christian living, suffering]
  4. A Peculiar Glory. John Piper. Crossway. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] [book about the Bible, christian nonfiction, theology]
  5. Parables. John MacArthur. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 288 pages. [Source: Gift from Grace to You] [book about the Bible, christian nonfiction]
  6. Walking As He Walked. Joel R. Beeke. 2002/2007. 133 pages. [Source: Bought] [Christian living, christian nonfiction]
  7. Hosea and Joel. J. Vernon McGee. 1978/1996. Thomas Nelson. 180 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible commentary]
  8. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis. 1943. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian classic]
  9. 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. Stephen T. Um. 2015. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Bible commentary]
  10. My Name is Mahtob. Mahtob Moody. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Memoir]
  11. The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion. Martin Thielen. 2014. Westminster John Knox. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [Not exactly recommended]
  12. Healed of Cancer. Dodie Osteen. 1986/2003. Lakewood Church. 81 pages. [Source: Borrowed] [Definitely not recommended]
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. A Big Surprise for Little Card

A Big Surprise for Little Card. Charise Mericle Harper. Illustrated by Anna Raff. 2016. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Little Card lived in a building with all of his card friends. Each card had a special job.

Premise/plot: Each card has a purpose, a unique purpose. Little Card receives a letter in the mail marked "L.C." he begins training as a birthday card. But it seems there was a mix-up. Long Card was meant to receive that training, and he was meant to be a LIBRARY card. How is the library like a birthday? Little Card sees some similarities. Little Card isn't just "a" library card, he is Alex's library card. Readers learn along with Alex and Little Card about the library.

My thoughts: It has a unique premise, in my opinion. I'm not sure I absolutely needed to see a talking library card in order to appreciate the library. But it could always be worse. I do LOVE the library. And I do love books. And this picture book celebrates reading and the library. So there is that!

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. The Pastures of Heaven

The Pastures of Heaven. John Steinbeck. 1932. 207 pages. [Source: Library]

This was not my first Steinbeck, but, even so I didn't know quite what to expect. Sometimes I love, love, love his work, and, other times I really almost hate it. The Pastures of Heaven is a collection of inter-connected short stories set in California, spanning several decades, I believe.

I wouldn't consider myself a fan of short stories--usually. The one notable exception being my love for L.M. Montgomery's short stories. But. I found the stories within The Pastures of Heaven to be compelling and entertaining. I read the book all in one sitting, it was just that hard to put down. True, it's not a huge book. But still, it's worth noting all the same. There was a time when I read many books quickly, but, that isn't the case anymore.

The characters. What can I say? Some I really liked. Some I really hated. Some I almost felt pity for more than anything else. I think overall one could easily say that Steinbeck created very human, very flawed, very authentic-feeling characters. Some stories were on the amusing side; others were almost melancholy. I liked the variety. Not just of the emotions within the stories and the types of stories, but, also of the narratives, of the narrators.

I was not a fan of Grapes of Wrath, but, I am a fan of Pastures of Heaven.

Favorite quote:
He knew that the people who were to be his new neighbors were staring at him although he could never catch them at it. This secret staring is developed to a high art among country people. They have seen every uncovered bit of you, have tabulated and memorized the clothes you are wearing, have noticed the color of your eyes and the shape of your nose, and, finally have reduced your figure and personality to three or four adjectives, and all the time you thought they were oblivious to your presence. (12)


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. The House That Zack Built

The House That Zack Built. Alison Murray. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is the house that Zack built. And this is the fly that buzzed on by, over the house that Zack built. This is the cat that stalked the fly that buzzed on by, over the house that Zack built.

Premise/plot: A retelling, of sorts, of The House that Jack Built. Zack, the house-builder, lives on the farm. And animals feature prominently in this retelling.

My thoughts: While I am not a fan of The House That Jack Built, I am very much a fan of The House that Zack Built. Part of the charm, for me, is the CAT. This gray-and-white cat had me at hello. And finding the cat on each page, and seeing the cat's expression was great fun for me. This cat has ATTITUDE, trust me. I liked the text. I did. I thought the rhythm and rhyme of it worked well. But I really enjoyed the illustrations.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Ballet Cat Dance! Dance! Underpants

Ballet Cat Dance! Dance! Underpants. Bob Shea. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

For the record, I have not read the first Ballet Cat book. So perhaps if I had, I would have maybe liked this one more than I did. It's not that I didn't like it, mind you. It's just that I didn't find it amazingly wonderful and laugh-out-loud funny.

Ballet Cat is playing with Butter Bear. She wants to play ballet. Butter Bear wants to play ballet, too, so long as playing ballet doesn't include mandatory leaps--or super high leaps. Ballet Cat is insistent. Leaping is required. No exceptions. Butter Bear makes half-a-dozen or so excuses...before revealing the real reason. Why won't Butter Bear leap???

The answer, my friend, is in the title. So it's not a complete surprise, perhaps. But if you have a little one who laughs and giggles every time the word "underpants" or "underwear" is mentioned, then this one is worth picking up.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. What Easter is About



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight

There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Penny Parker Klostermann. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. 2015. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight. I don't know why he swallowed the knight. It's not polite! There was an old dragon who swallowed a steed that galloped around at a terrible speed. Oh, how the dragon wished it would stop, that clippity, clippity, clippity clop. He swallowed the steed right after the knight. I don't know why he swallowed the knight. It's not polite!

Premise/plot: A rendition of "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly" starring a fire-breathing dragon...

My thoughts: For the record, I just have to say that I loathe "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly." It is not a story or song that I particularly enjoy, and definitely not one that I like to see copied, adapted, parodied endlessly by other writers. But you might notice the five stars I gave it. Why? If I don't "like" the original, and if I usually don't like other renditions?! Because this one is fun, lively, and delightful. Half the book focuses on the 'old dragon' swallowing stuff--a knight, a steed, a squire, a cook, etc--and half the book focuses on the 'old dragon' burping all that stuff back up. Or does he?!

The text works--for me--because the rhythm and rhyme of it work. It is crucial for me to have it; it is that certain something that makes a book decidedly good. A picture book without a proper working of rhythm and rhyme, a natural flow--though not overly forced or it becomes embarrassingly unnatural and awkward--is just sad. A good picture book text should flow naturally enough that any one should be able to read it aloud easily and comfortably. Some books require a good amount of practice and experimentation and energetic effort to get the "reading aloud" just right.

The illustrations also work well for me. I love them. The illustrations were quite detailed and expressive. I loved the last spread.

Overall, I'd say this one was quite satisfying.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. 2016 Challenges: Classic Children's Lit Event

Name: Classic Children's Lit Event
Host: Simpler Pastimes (sign up here)
Duration: All of April
# of Books: I'm hoping for 4

What I Read:

1.
2.
3.
4.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Anne of Avonlea (1909)

Anne of Avonlea. L.M. Montgomery. 1909. 304 pages. [Bought]

Do I love Anne of Avonlea? I do. I really do. True, I often forget about it being among my favorites because it isn't the first or the last. And it isn't the one with the giddy-making proposal between Anne and Gilbert. But the fact that this sequel to Anne of Green Gables is so very, very good says something about Montgomery's talents.

Highlights of Anne of Avonlea:
  • Anne begins her first job--teaching in Avonlea; it is rewarding, sometimes; exhausting, almost always.
  • Anne discovers an unlikely kindred spirit in Mr. Harrison, her neighbor; she does NOT love his parrot.
  • Anne becomes the best of friends with Gilbert Blythe
  • Anne and her friends form a club, A.V.I.S. (Avonlea Village Improvement Society); they don't always "improve" the village.
  • Anne becomes a big sister; Marilla adopts TWINS: Davy and Dora
  • Anne becomes especially close to one of her pupils, Paul Irving
  • Anne becomes quite chummy with Miss Lavendar and Charlotte the Fourth
  • Love is in the air! No, Gilbert and Anne don't say I love you. But Diana does become engaged to Fred; and Miss Lavendar marries her sweetheart after several decades apart! 

This book has several things in abundance: JOY and LAUGHTER. (Well, I guess the exception being when Thomas (Rachel's husband) dies. But still.) It is just a lively, delightful, funny read. It is also oh-so-quotable!
If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don’t you think? Then friendship would be the most beautiful thing in the world.
What is an imagination for if not to enable you to peep at life through other people’s eyes? 
It’s a very bad habit to put off disagreeable things, and I never mean to again, or else I can’t comfortably tell my pupils not to do it. That would be inconsistent. 
“Davy Keith, don’t you know that it is very wrong of you to be eating that jam, when you were told never to meddle with anything in THAT closet?” “Yes, I knew it was wrong,” admitted Davy uncomfortably, “but plum jam is awful nice, Anne. I just peeped in and it looked so good I thought I’d take just a weeny taste. I stuck my finger in . . .” Anne groaned . . . “and licked it clean. And it was so much gooder than I’d ever thought that I got a spoon and just SAILED IN.”
“Anyhow, there’ll be plenty of jam in heaven, that’s one comfort,” he said complacently. Anne nipped a smile in the bud. “Perhaps there will . . . if we want it,” she said, “But what makes you think so?” “Why, it’s in the catechism,” said Davy. “Oh, no, there is nothing like THAT in the catechism, Davy.” “But I tell you there is,” persisted Davy. “It was in that question Marilla taught me last Sunday. ‘Why should we love God?’ It says, ‘Because He makes preserves, and redeems us.’
Well, I’m doing my best to grow,” said Davy, “but it’s a thing you can’t hurry much. If Marilla wasn’t so stingy with her jam I believe I’d grow a lot faster.” 
“Anne,” said Davy, sitting up in bed and propping his chin on his hands, “Anne, where is sleep? People go to sleep every night, and of course I know it’s the place where I do the things I dream, but I want to know WHERE it is and how I get there and back without knowing anything about it . . . and in my nighty too. Where is it?” 
“Some are born old maids, some achieve old maidenhood, and some have old maidenhood thrust upon them,” parodied Miss Lavendar whimsically. “You are one of those who have achieved it then,” laughed Anne, “and you’ve done it so beautifully that if every old maid were like you they would come into the fashion, I think.”

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. What's On Your Nightstand (March)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Stuffed: An Insider's Look At Who's (Really) Making America Fat And How the Food Industry Can Fix It. Hank Cardello. 2009. 258 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm about halfway through this one. It is interesting. Perhaps not as interesting as The Dorito Effect which I reviewed earlier this month. But interesting all the same. I'm finding it a bit dated actually. Which I think is a good thing. Since some of the "new" and "coming soon" things he was talking about have come to pass. (For example, restaurants making nutrition information available to customers, fast food restaurants offering salads, etc.)

Eat Fat, Get Thin. Mark Hyman. 2016. Little Brown. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

I am next on the hold list. Assuming that the person ahead of me isn't fond of late fees and returns the book on time, I should have this one by the weekend! Not that I'm counting down the days. Okay. Maybe a little. I've seen the author talk about the book on Dr. Oz, and, I've seen glimpses of the PBS special. And I'm looking forward to seeing the big picture and not just excerpt-size bits. This is probably one of my most-anticipated reads of the year.

Churchill: The Power of Words: His Remarkable Life Recounted Through His Writings and Speeches. Winston Churchill. Selected. Edited. Introduced by Martin Gilbert.

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us. Erin Moore. 2015. 223 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm not very far into this one. But I hope to make time for it soon. 

Heaven and the Afterlife: The Truth About Tomorrow and What It Means for Today. Erwin Lutzer. 2016. Moody. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Essentially this is an omnibus edition of three of Lutzer's books: One Minute After You Die, How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God, and Your Eternal Rewards. All were originally published in the 1990s, I believe. I've read them all before, but, they're so good they deserve rereading. (Actually, I'm not sure I love, love, love the third book in the trilogy.)

1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. Stephen T. Um. 2015. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really have enjoyed Crossway's Preaching the Word commentary series. 1 Corinthians is one of the books I find trouble digesting, so maybe this commentary will help me appreciate it a bit more!


What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God's Sovereignty by Scott Christensen. 2016. P&R. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I won't lie, this one is scholarly. It requires you to have your thinking cap on, and to take your time reading it. But I'm finding it well-written and interesting.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. Clover the Bunny (2016)

Clover the Bunny (Dr. KittyCat #2) Jane Clarke. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Dr. Kittycat series as a child. I would have. I know it. Partly because even as an adult, I am charmed and quite pleased. Partly because I've always had a fondness for cats and animals.

So Clover the Bunny is the second book in the series. Dr. KittyCat and Peanut are planning a camping trip. Sadly, some animals who were planning to go with them came down with paw pox. Fortunately, not everyone got sick. (You do only get paw pox once, and if you've had it, you're immune.) Clover, a bunny, is one of the animals going camping. And it is Clover who happens to need quite a bit of medical attention throughout the book! Dr. KittyCat is always prepared, and so is Peanut!

The story is cute and charming, and, probably won't appeal to every adult certainly. It probably won't appeal to every single child either. But for the right child, this might be the series that gets them super-excited to pick up a book! And series books are so essential in this stage of development!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. By The Stars

By the Stars. Lindsay B. Ferguson. 2016. Cedar Fort. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do you enjoy reading books about World War II? Do you enjoy reading romance novels? Would you find it refreshing to read a book with Mormon characters that isn't about polygamy and sister wives? By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson may be just the book you're looking for. The book is primarily set in Utah, except for the chapters that follow our hero, Cal, to training camp and war. The story has a framework, someone has come to Cal's home to interview him. Subsequently, Cal is telling his story--his and Kate's story humbly and simply. Most of the book, I suppose, is what I'd call a flashback.

Cal and Kate met in junior high school. Their lockers were next to each other. For him, it was love at first sight. For her, well, she wasn't looking for love right then. And while she was friendly enough, she wasn't overly interested in being best-best friends or having him as a boyfriend. But that was then. The book gives readers glimpses of their encounters, meetings. A scene here and there spread out over ten years.

I can see why these glimpses had to be so short and almost disconnected. To keep the story moving. After all, if the narrative were continuous, and the book started when he was in eighth grade, the book would be at least a couple hundred more pages. And it would have a lot more angst more likely. That being said, I had a hard time at first really connecting with the characters. This didn't stay the case by any means. But it was almost like I was waiting for the "real" story to begin.

After Cal returns from his three year mission trip for the church (which we learn little about besides his bus trip there, and his first day there), he reconnects with Kate. But don't imagine for a second, that it will be easy to woo her. For Kate won't easily be persuaded to say "I do" to anyone. She doesn't, she asserts again and again, believe in marriage....

Cal's time in the war was in the last year. Readers get glimpses of the war as well....

Once the romance starts, the story picks up. If you like romance, I think this one will work for you. I have to be in the exact right mood for romance. (I think of Anne Shirley needing just the right kind of pen in order to be able to right mushy love letters to Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Windy Poplars.) I wasn't in that right mood while I was reading this one. But even so, I found it enjoyable enough.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Hour of the Bees

Hour of the Bees. Lindsay Eagar. 2016. Candlewick. 360 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I adored Lindsay Eagar's Hour of the Bees. Sometimes I wish 'reviewing' books was as simple as saying: READ THIS BOOK. TRUST ME. But it's never that simple. Words have to be found somehow to try to do this book justice.

Carol, the heroine, isn't exactly thrilled that she'll be spending the summer with her family on her grandfather's sheep farm in the New Mexico desert. Her father and grandfather have not gotten along, and so this is the first time he'll be meeting his grandchildren: Carol and Lu. (Or as he likes to call them Carolina and Luis. There is also Carol and Lu's half-sister, Alta.) Since they don't get along, why are they going? For the simple reason that he is getting older, and, he has dementia. He "needs" to be at a facility where he can be looked after closely. Living on an isolated drought-plagued farm miles away from any town is not an option anymore. But as you might imagine, he does not want to go; he doesn't want to leave the home he shared with his wife, Rosa. (Rosa died the same day Carol was born.)

Perhaps the first day was a bit of a struggle full of strange, awkward moments where no one was quite comfortable. But relatively soon after their arrival, Carol becomes drawn to her grandpa like a magnet. She especially loves to hear him tell stories. The stories are vivid and magical, and, they almost always start the same way: Once upon a time, there was a tree...

The family works HARD; it is exhausting work in the heat. And whether the drought has been 'a hundred years' like her grandfather claimed, or just a few years, it is HOT and miserable. Yet Carol finds herself having the best summer of her life. How can this be?!

One unusual thing about this summer is that bees seem to follow Carol EVERYWHERE. She is always seeing or hearing bees. Her grandfather, Serge, claims that the bees will bring the rain. That it was in fact the bees who took the lake--each one taking one drop of the lake as they flew off...

The stories Serge tells feel timeless...and that's one reason why Carol can't get enough of them. But can she actually believe in her grandfather's stories? Will you?

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. How To Dress A Dragon

How To Dress A Dragon. Thelma Lynne Godin. Illustrated by Eric Barclay. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If you have to dress a dragon, you must be prepared to catch him as he flies by. You may have to tickle-tackle him to the floor and give him belly kisses.

Premise/plot: A boy demonstrates for readers HOW to dress a dragon. It isn't an easy task certainly!!!! The book is quite informative. Dragons LOVE underwear, but, hate shirts and pants. (Good thing they like capes, shorts, and hats!)

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one. So silly. So funny. So quirky. (Its endpapers are underwear!) It just had me at hello from the very start. I think I "knew" how good this one would be based on the cover alone.

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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