What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Becky's Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top
Results 26 - 50 of 4,984
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
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!
Statistics for Becky's Book Reviews

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 61
26. Big Bad Detective Agency (2015)

Big Bad Detective Agency. Bruce Hale. 2015. Scholastic. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Once upon a time in Fairylandia, when magic was common and cheese was two shillings a pound, there lived a wolf named Wolfgang. Being a wolf, he was widely adored, called "cute" and "cuddly," and invited to all the best parties. Not. What makes you think Fairylandia is so different from anyplace else?

Premise/Plot: Wolfgang, the hero, is falsely accused of a crime. Of breaking into the homes of all three little pigs, of destroying property, of stealing. He didn't do it. And there isn't exactly any evidence that he did it. Except for the fact that he's a wolf, and everyone in the community can get away with blaming him whenever something goes a bit wrong. "The wolf did it!" is such a handy thing to be able to say. He's been given a chance to clear his name, however. He'll have one day to find another suspect, to find proof that someone else did the crime. He teams up, reluctantly, with the fourth little pig: Ferkel. Can these two unlikely amateur detectives solve the crime? Will Wolfgang prove his innocence and avoid being locked up?

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was fun and playful. The premise was just too much fun to resist. I liked the detecting in this one, loved getting all the clues, watching the team piece it all together.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Big Bad Detective Agency (2015) as of 1/17/2015 11:23:00 AM
Add a Comment
27. Please, Mr. Panda (2015)

Please, Mr. Panda. Steve Antony. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
Give me the pink one.  (penguin)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind.  (panda)
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
I want the blue one and the yellow one. (skunk?)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind. (panda)


If the book had not been described as a book about manners, I would have been puzzled by Steve Antony's Please, Mr. Panda. In my opinion, it is still a very strange book. My first impression of the story was NOT that the animals were lacking in manners and being rude to Mr. Panda. Far from it. I actually found Mr. Panda to be the rude one since he was ASKING animals, "Would you like a doughnut?" and then abruptly changing his mind and saying NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE AFTER ALL. The description may say that Panda is patient and polite, but, that was not my impression. He came across as bored, disinterested, and disgusted. But apparently, that isn't the proper way to read Please, Mr. Panda. Readers are supposed to believe that it is the animals who say "Yes, I'd like a doughnut" who are being RUDE. At least according to Mr. Panda, no matter what else is said if you fail to include the word "Please" it means YOU are being unforgivably rude and justifies completely his subsequent actions. Perhaps further complicating the situation, I never could distinguish if Mr. Panda was offering free doughnuts he'd made OR if Mr. Panda had a job selling doughnuts. If selling doughnuts was his job, if it was his job to go around asking animals if they'd like a doughnut, he was TERRIBLE at it. Clearly Mr. Panda would be far, far happier at another job where he didn't have to interact with anyone at all. Since clearly he is not what I'd call a "people-person." If none of this was job-related, I'm still confused. Clearly, Mr. Panda hates doughnuts. And he probably hated making them just as much as he hates walking around trying to give them away. The question I have is WHY would he bother? Either way, I think Mr. Panda had a bad attitude and was extra-sensitive to "insults." It wasn't as if the animals were going: Hurry up, I want it NOW, NOW, NOW! Or whining WHY ARE THERE NO SPRINKLES?! I NEED SPRINKLES!!! Or THESE DOUGHNUTS ARE TOO SMALL. The animals didn't come across as demanding or whining or picky or complaining. If the book is teach the importance of saying Please and Thank You always, always, always, then a little exaggeration of the "rudeness" so it was less subtle and actually obvious may have been preferable. I think the animals in the story are just as puzzled as I was. They're probably thinking, WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM, ANYWAY? Now that I've read the book three or four times, I can see that the ostrich was definitely rude and the whale was very, very tacky. But still am puzzled by the book as a whole.

This one was originally published in the UK. I do like the illustrations well enough. But it was hard to like Mr. Panda.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Please, Mr. Panda (2015) as of 1/17/2015 11:23:00 AM
Add a Comment
28. Xander's Panda Party (2013)

Xander's Panda Party. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Xander planned a panda party. Yes, a dandy whoop-de-do! But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo. Xander sat and chewed bamboo. He changed his plans and point of view. 

Premise/Plot: Readers meet Xander, a party-planning panda bear, who is struggling with his party plans. At first, he was planning a panda party. He then expands it to include all bears. But one thing after another after another leads him to include ALL the animals at the zoo.

My thoughts: I read this one because I needed an "X" title for my Alphabet Soup challenge. I can't say that I really "liked" Xander's Panda Party. I liked it in places. Some phrases seemed to have a just-right feel to them. For example, "He wasn't sure what he should do. He chewed a slew of new bamboo; he nibbled, gnawed, and thought things through" (11) But in other places, I thought the writing style (the word choice, the rhythm and/or rhyme) were off.  For example, "And he planned a hearty party! 'Fur or hair or hide can come. All the mammals, every one!'" (12). It just wasn't consistently working for me. Because it worked for me some of the time, I wanted it to work for me all the time. That being said, it was a cute enough story about a panda making new friends. I liked that he won't be a lonely panda for long.

I liked the illustrations. I needed repeated readings to fully appreciate them perhaps. For example, readers know that there is just one panda at the zoo, but the illustrations show many, many pandas. The illustration reveals Xander's frantic pacing and rushing about, his emotional distress.  (I'm thinking of page 15 and 19/20.) Amanda Salamander also makes frequent appearances, it took me a second reading to spot her on many of the spreads.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Xander's Panda Party (2013) as of 1/17/2015 8:53:00 AM
Add a Comment
29. This Side of Home (2015)

This Side of Home. Renee Watson. 2015. Bloomsbury USA. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This Side of Home is without a doubt an issue book. But the issues within This Side of Home are relevant and almost universal, I'd say. So, it may be an "issue book" but the issues addressed are authentic ones. The book spans Maya's senior year in high school.

Maya and Nikki are twins. They've always been super close. But the older they get, the more that is changing. Nikki is becoming her own person. Maya is becoming her own person. And sometimes the two just don't understand where the other is coming from. They can like each other, even LOVE each other, but still not quite understand each other.

Maya and Nikki have the same best friend, Essence. But again this is changing. Maya and Essence continue to be close--despite the fact that Essence moves near the start of the novel. But Nikki and Essence, well, they are growing apart from one another.

Essence has lived across the street (I believe, or, perhaps next door?) from Nikki and Maya for years and years. The girls can't remember not being friends with each other, of being just steps away from each others' houses. The two families are close--a little too close sometimes probably from Essence's mom's point of view. But when Essence and her mom are evicted (the landlord wants to upgrade the house and sell it) a new family--a white family--moves in. This family has a brother and a sister. Kate becomes close to Nikki. And Maya becomes close to Tony.

Race is very much an issue in This Side of Home. Nikki and Maya see things very differently, but, both are true to themselves. Maya embraces her ethnicity/culture. She is proud and outspoken and passionate. Nikki is often accused of "acting white." Nikki doesn't like to be picked on--Essence's family in particular has opinions--but she's not trying "to be white," she's just being true to herself, dressing the way she wants, the way she prefers, and wearing her hair the way she likes it, the way that suits her best. 

Community is also an issue in This Side of Home. Through Maya's eyes we witness a community in the process of changing--of a primarily black community changing more and more into a more diverse one--a white one, she fears. She doesn't mind the addition of shops and restaurants and general property improvements, but, why are all the new owners white?

School. This is very much a "school" novel where the emphasis is on the whole school year...from the end of summer to the beginning of another summer. Maya is a diligent student, very smart, and very active. In fact, she's president of the student council, I believe. So much of the book is about her experiences as a Senior...and her thoughts about what comes next, where she wants to go to school, thinking about what those big, big changes will mean to her and her family and her friends. (How will going away to college change her relationship with her family? with Essence? with Tony?)

There are two things I really liked about This Side of Home. First, I loved the characterization. I loved the thoroughness of it. Major characters. Minor characters. Every character was brought to life. The characters had substance and felt human. Second, I thought the author did a good job with the setting and atmosphere of this one. (It's set in Portland, Oregon.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on This Side of Home (2015) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
30. The Paper Cowboy (2014)

The Paper Cowboy. Kristin Levine. 2014. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

"Hands up!"
My best friend, Eddie Sullivan, had a newspaper rolled and pointed at me like a gun. He was only twelve, but over the summer he'd grown so much, he looked big enough to be in high school. 

I've yet to be disappointed by Kristin Levine's fiction. I loved, loved, loved The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. I loved, loved, loved The Lions of Little Rock. I still would love to find time to reread both books. Her newest book is The Paper Cowboy. The author's note reveals much: The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had is loosely based on her maternal grandfather's memoirs; The Lions of Little Rock was inspired by her mother's childhood in Arkansas. This newest book? Well, it is based on/influenced by her father's childhood. It is set during the McCarthy era, when the threat of communist spies was very strong no matter how big or small the community.

I'm tempted to keep it brief: READ THIS. But would that do it justice? Probably not. But I don't want to give away too much either.

I love The Paper Cowboy for its humanity. It almost aches with its humanity. There's not one perfect, flawless character within. Tommy, the protagonist, is far from perfect. In fact, he's a bit of a bully. But it's almost impossible to keep standing in judgment of Tommy once you get a glimpse of his home life. Time and time again, readers see a powerless Tommy in heartbreaking situations.

I love The Paper Cowboy for its look at family life. Every member of the family is fully developed. (Well, perhaps with the exception of the baby. Tommy's youngest sister is just three months old when the novel opens!!!) But one really gets relationships in this book. Tommy in relationship with his dad, with his mom, with his older sister, with his younger sisters. And the relationships--no matter if they're "good" or "healthy" or not-so-much, the relationships feel completely authentic. The sibling Tommy is closest to is his sister, Mary Lou, who is badly burned--an accident--near the start of the novel.

I love The Paper Cowboy for its sense of community. I loved getting to know folks in his community. Particularly, I loved his developing relationships with several adults within the community: Mr. McKenzie and Mrs Glazov, Mrs. Scully and Pa and Ma Konecky. I just came to CARE for all the characters, no matter how 'minor.' For example, Mrs. Glazov never felt 'minor' to me at all! I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED her.

I love The Paper Cowboy for its look at friendship and school life and even bullying. I didn't "love" the book because of its examination or treatment on bullying. I wasn't seeking out a book on bullying. I certainly wasn't expecting a book on the subject of bullying told primarily from the bully's point of view. But sometimes a book just finds you, you don't have to seek it out. I do think it's interesting to consider Tommy as a whole person. Yes, at recess at his school, he can pick on his classmates and get away with it because he has a way with his teachers. But the reader sees deeper and sees beneath the surface. Yes, absolutely Tommy's actions are just WRONG. But when a character is fleshed out so completely, so thoroughly that compassion may just come easier than judgment. One friendship comes about so slowly that it deserves attention. I loved the character of Sam McKenzie. 

I love The Paper Cowboy because its one that makes you feel--sometimes so much it leaves you aching. It's an emotionally intense read. There are just some TOUGH moments to witness in this coming-of-age novel.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Paper Cowboy (2014) as of 1/15/2015 3:53:00 PM
Add a Comment
31. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. 1937. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. (1)
I've read Their Eyes Were Watching God a handful of times now. (I first read it in college.) This book by Zora Neale Hurston is just beautiful and compelling. Every time I reread it I'm reminded just how beautiful and how compelling. I never quite forget, mind you. But every time I pick the book up, I'm swept into the story and experience it all over again. (The best kind of book to reread!)

Janie is the heroine of Their Eyes Were Watching God. There is a framework to the story that allows the reader to come full circle with Janie. Readers first see Janie through an outsider perspective, a gossiping group.
So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead... The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment. (1)
One from the group is Janie's best friend, Pheoby, she leaves the group after a few pages, and goes to her friend bringing a much welcomed plate of food. Then, together, they talk. Janie tells her friend her story--her whole story--framing things just so, explaining and justifying as need arises. It's honest and emotional.
Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches. (8)
 To keep it short: Janie was raised by her grandmother; when she came of age (16 or so), her grandma arranged a marriage for Janie to an older man; when that marriage failed to bloom in love and happiness, Janie is swept off her feet by a traveler passing by; she leaves her first husband and is married to a second; the two settle in Florida and are influential founders of the black community; after the third husband dies, Janie finally, finally, finally falls in love, but, is Tea Cake the love of her life perfectly perfect?! Of course not! Pheoby knew her when she was married to the second husband, when she was Janie Stark. Now, she's come back to that community without Tea Cake, and everyone wants to know EVERYTHING that has happened in the past two years.

Favorite quotes:
'Dat's you, Alphabet, don't you know yo' ownself?' (9)
Oh to be a pear tree--any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the place nor in her grandma's house answered her. She searched as much of the world as she could from the top of the front steps and then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up and down the road. Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made. (11)
Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman. (25)
Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them. (32)
It must have been the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things. (43)
Every morning the world flung itself over and exposed the twon to the sun. (51)
Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. She found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about. Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he could never fidn them. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them. (72)
All next day in the house and store she thought resisting thoughts about Tea Cake. She even ridiculed him in her mind and was a little ashamed of the association. But every hour or two the battle had to be fought all over again. She couldn't make him look just like any other man to her. He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom--a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God. (106)
The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the other in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (160)
No hour is ever eternity, but it has its right to weep. (184)
Have you read Their Eyes Were Watching God? What did you think?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) as of 1/14/2015 5:10:00 PM
Add a Comment
32. The Castle Behind Thorns (2014)

The Castle Behind Thorns. Merrie Haskell. 2014. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Sand woke, curled in the ashes of a great fireplace. Surprised to find himself waking at all, for he had no memory of falling asleep, Sand scrambled to his feet. Soot billowed from him in a cloud and sneaked up his nose. He sneezed four great sneezes that came back in lonely echoes from the vast room beyond the fireplace. Sand had never slept in a fireplace before. He never wanted to again. But he hesitated inside the fireplace, one foot suspended in midair, afraid to leave. In the room beyond, everything was broken. Every single thing.

I loved, loved, loved The Castle Behind Thorns. It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, I suppose. It puts a definite spin on it that is completely different from the original, but that is completely fascinating. Sand, the hero, wakes up in a fireplace in a castle that he's only heard stories about. The castle being abandoned quite suddenly when his own father was not yet grown. He finds himself very alone; he's the only living thing in the castle. (No growing plants, no bugs or insects, no birds, no mice, nothing). He keeps the panic to a minimum, in my opinion. Especially considering the situation! He's in an abandoned castle surrounded by hostile, vicious thorns. He explores. He plans. He mends. He learns and adapts. He's hungry and thirsty and tired. He finds a way to survive. In his exploring, he finds the family's crypt. He restores a body that had fallen, placing the young girl's body back gently and carefully.  Several days later, or some time later, readers meet the heroine Perrotte...

The Castle Behind Thorns is a beautiful story with memorable, well-developed characters. I enjoyed every minute of this one! The mystery is quite good! I would definitely recommend this one!

Read the Castle Behind Thorns
  • If you enjoy fairy tale retellings
  • If you enjoy good/great storytelling
  • If you like fantasy novels with a touch of magic
  • If you like mysteries 
  • If you like survival stories

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Castle Behind Thorns (2014) as of 1/13/2015 11:08:00 AM
Add a Comment
33. In The Kingdom of Ice

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. Hampton Sides. 2014. 454 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoy reading nonfiction. I do. The topic is polar exploration--the North Pole to be precise. (I've read more about the South Pole, by the way.) The good news is that In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette is fascinating and thorough. It is detailed and focused on personalities and contexts. (Two of the personalities explored are George Washington De Long and James Gordon Bennett, Jr.)

The trip is presented in great detail. Before the trip: how/when De Long became interested in polar exploration, finding financial backers for the trip, finding THE ship, finding men to go with him, finding resources and materials, doing the research, picking and choosing what research to rely on, planning and organizing, etc. During the trip: before the Jeannette got trapped in ice--what it was like on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, the dangers, the joys, etc., trapped in the ice on ship--what it was like to spend YEARS (I believe almost two years?) on a ship that's trapped in the ice, what it was like to be stuck with the same people in such close quarters for those years, trapped ON the ice with NO ship--what it was like in the final months as thirty-something men with limited provisions and supplies, men not in the best health, fought to survive and reach land and civilization. After the trip: what it was like for the survivors to encounter land and civilization again, who survived, etc.

Most everything is given context and brought to life. That being said, it doesn't mean every person is likable!

I enjoyed reading this one. I found it to be a quick read--just a day or two at most.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on In The Kingdom of Ice as of 1/12/2015 11:38:00 AM
Add a Comment
34. Millions of Cats (1928)

Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. 1928. Penguin. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman. They lived in a nice clean house which had flowers all around it, except where the door was. But they couldn't be happy because they were so very lonely. 
"If we only had a cat!" sighed the very old woman. "A cat?" asked the very old man. "Yes, a sweet little fluffy cat," said the very old woman. "I will get you a cat, my dear," said the very old man.
And he set out over the hills to look for one. 

Millions of Cats is a Newbery Honor book from 1929.

Premise/Plot: A very old man and a very old woman long for a cat. The husband goes on a quest to bring back a "sweet little fluffy cat" to please them both. Is his quest successful? Yes. A little too successful. For in fact he finds
Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.
How is he ever to choose just ONE cat from so many?! Especially since as he picks up or pets each one he sees, he finds it to be the prettiest cat. He can't bring himself to leave any of the cats behind. But it isn't practical to bring home hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, and trillions of cats. You can probably guess what his wife's response will be! Surely, they can't keep them all. For better or worse, he lets the cats decide amongst themselves. One scrawny cat remains, but, it may be the best one of all.

My thoughts: I loved this one growing up. I loved the repetition. I thought it was a fun story. I didn't--at the time--take the man's conclusion that the trillions of cats ate each other up literally. Is the book violent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. See for yourself.  "They bit and scratched and clawed each other and made such a great noise that the very old man and the very old woman ran into the house as fast as they could. They did not like such quarreling." This one might pair well with Eugene Field's "The Duel." (The gingham dog and the calico cat).

Have you read Millions of Cats? Did you like it? love it? hate it?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Millions of Cats (1928) as of 1/11/2015 12:28:00 PM
Add a Comment
35. Revisiting The Trumpeter of Krakow (1928)

The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

It was in late July of the year 1461 that the sun rose one morning red and fiery as if ushering in midsummer's hottest day. His rays fell upon the old city of Krakow and the roads leading up to it, along which rolled and rocked a very caravan of peasants' wagons. 

In the summer of 2011, I read and reviewed Eric P. Kelly's The Trumpeter of Krakow. I remember really enjoying it though I found it plot-driven instead of character driven. Because I had good memories of reading it, I thought I would reread it for Hope Is the Word's Newbery Through the Decades. Unfortunately, I didn't end up enjoying it as much as I did the first time.

I'm not sure if this was because I wasn't in the right mood for this one. Or if it was because since I knew how it ended there just wasn't enough to keep me reading.

The first time I read it: action, mystery, suspense, what will happen next?!

The second time I read it: this is boring, so boring, when will I get to the good part?

I was surprised by my own reaction this time since in my review, I wrote "There is never a dull moment in The Trumpeter of Krakow" and "The novel is exciting."
 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Revisiting The Trumpeter of Krakow (1928) as of 1/11/2015 9:50:00 AM
Add a Comment
36. Week in Review: January 4-10

El Deafo. Cece Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams. 233 pages. [Source: Library]
Audacity. Melanie Crowder. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]
Twelve Drummers Drumming. Father Christmas Mystery #1. C.C. Benison. 2011. Doubleday. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Eleven Piper Piping. Father Christmas Mystery #2. C.C. Benison. 2012. Delacorte. 474 pages. [Source: Library]
Ten Lords A-Leaping. Father Christmas #3. C.C. Benison. 2013. Delacorte. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
The Question of Miracles. Elana K. Arnold. 2015. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
It's The End of the World As We Know It. Saci Lloyd. 2015. Hachette Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Eva's Treetop Festival (Owl Diaries #1) Rebecca Elliott. 2015. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Glamourpuss. Sarah Weeks. Illustrated by David Small. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. 1938/1965. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
Meeting God in Mark. Rowan Williams. 2015. Westminster John Knox. 108 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Like a Flower in Bloom. Siri Mitchell. 2015. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How To Worship Jesus Christ. Joseph S. Carroll. Foreword by John F. MacArthur, Jr. 1984/1991. Moody Publishers. 90 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s):

I was surprised by how much I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED El Deafo. I think everyone should read this one. Even if you don't do graphic novels. Even if you don't do memoirs. Even if you don't do "kids books." It's just a GREAT book. 


Ask me if I like verse novels, and, I'll probably tell you: not really--only sometimes. Yet. I have read two GREAT verse novels this month. (I'll be reviewing the second later in the month.) This verse novel is historical fiction. It's set in Russia and America at the turn of the twentieth century. The narrator is a young woman who DREAMS of an opportunity where she'll be allowed to learn to read and write and speak her voice and have OPINIONS. I loved it so much more than I thought I would. Granted, I thought I would find it fascinating. And I WANTED to read it as soon as I learned the premise. Still, I didn't expect myself to get so swept up into it and FEEL it.


Another historical novel I was expecting to like but not especially LOVE was Siri Mitchell's Like A Flower In Bloom. I have no interest in botany or gardening. Yet there was something about this book that kept me READING. Perhaps it was the depth of the characterization? Perhaps it was the dialogue? I don't know, but it was just SPECIAL.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Week in Review: January 4-10 as of 1/10/2015 6:08:00 PM
Add a Comment
37. Seuss on Saturday #2

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. 1938/1965. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
 In the beginning, Bartholomew Cubbins didn't have five hundred hats. He had only one hat. It was an old one that had belonged to his father and his father's father before him. It was probably the oldest and the plainest hat in the whole Kingdom of Didd, where Bartholomew Cubbins lived.
Premise/plot. Bartholomew Cubbins gets into big, big trouble when he "refuses" to remove his hat in the presence of the king. The king gets more and more flustered as he sees the "insolence" of Bartholomew. To Bartholomew's credit, he is trying very hard to remove his hat. But every time he removes a hat, another appears on his head. What is going on?! What will the king do?!

My thoughts: I have only read this one twice. It definitely has more text than And To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street. And it also is written in prose. It does not rhyme. The story is just as over-the-top as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, but it definitely has a different feel to it. According to Wikipedia, it was received well by reviewers. What did I think? Well, it was silly. I think the key to enjoying it is in focusing on the king and his reaction to the "problem." Seeing the king and those close to him try to solve the problem. For example, at one point he calls in seven black-gowned magicians:
Low and slow, they were chanting words that were strange...
"Dig a hole five furlongs deep,
Down to where the night snakes creep,
Mix and mold the mystic mud,
Malber, Balber, Tidder, Tudd."
In came seven black-gowned magicians, and beside each one stalked a lean black cat. They circled around Bartholomew Cubbins muttering deep and mysterious sounds.
It's never fun to be frustrated yourself. But the king's frustration proves comical. There are no real questions answered in this one.  But the ending proves satisfying enough.

Have you read The 500 Hats of Barthomew Cubbins? Did you like it? love it? hate it? What age do you think it works best for?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The King's Stilts.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #2 as of 1/10/2015 12:56:00 PM
Add a Comment
38. Glamourpuss (2015)

Glamourpuss. Sarah Weeks. Illustrated by David Small. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a pillow sat a glamorous cat named Glamourpuss. Glamourpuss lived with Mr. and Mrs. Highhorsen in a giant amnion on the top of a hill where they were waited on hand and foot by a pair of devoted servants named Gustav and Rosalie.

I enjoyed reading Sarah Weeks' Glamourpuss. I thought it was a charming picture book about a fabulous cat who was sometimes selfish and sometimes sweet. Glamourpuss, the star of the book, does not like it when Eugenia and Bluebelle come to visit Mr. and Mrs. Highhorsen, her owners. She finds Bluebelle and her many costumes ridiculous. But to her surprise, all the adults seem to find Bluebelle precious and wonderful and even glamorous. Shocking! Can't they tell the difference between tacky and refined?! When Glamourpuss realizes that Bluebelle actually HATES wearing clothes and performing tricks, the two bond. Glamourpuss gives her real lessons on how to behave, how to take her bow-wow to WOW, just as Glamourpuss has taken her meow to ME.

I found the story cute and charming. But I think it was the illustrations that really persuaded me that this story was wonderful. I loved the many expressions of Glamourpuss. I did. David Small did a great job of capturing this cat's magnificent personality. I think some of my favorite illustrations were when she is teaching Bluebelle how to be more refined.

Definitely recommended for cat lovers!

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Glamourpuss (2015) as of 1/10/2015 10:20:00 AM
Add a Comment
39. Owl Diaries: Eva's Treetop Festival

Eva's Treetop Festival (Owl Diaries #1) Rebecca Elliott. 2015. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Tuesday
Hello Diary,
My name is Eva Wingdale. I live at Treehouse 11 on Woodpine Avenue in Treetopolis. 

 Plot/Premise: Eva, the owl, shares her diary. Readers learn about Eva, what she likes/loves, what she does NOT like/love. Readers get to know her and her family/friends. They also get to see Eva at school and home. Eva gets inspired to plan a big event--the Bloomtastic Festival. The diary shows day by day or night by night, I suppose, how that is going for her! Eva has some lessons to learn definitely!

My thoughts: The book just has a cute feel to it. It's cute from cover to cover. It's heavily illustrated. Which is a good thing, I think. Some of the text is narration: diary entries to be precise. But some of the text is dialogue in speech bubbles. This early chapter book is a fun choice for young girls.

The first book in the series releases this month. The second book releases in May.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Owl Diaries: Eva's Treetop Festival as of 1/10/2015 10:20:00 AM
Add a Comment
40. The Question of Miracles (2015)

The Question of Miracles. Elana K. Arnold. 2015. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Iris Abernathy has recently moved to Oregon, and she HATES it. Her parents are sympathetic and supportive. (Iris visits a counselor, Dr. Shannon, somewhat regularly. Not because of her angst about the move, but, for other issues.) Iris misses her old life and her old friends. Most particularly she misses her friend Sarah. Part of Iris thinks it would be impossible to ever be happy here,  to ever have another best friend. But this "impossibility" is challenged a bit in The Question of Miracles.

There were a few things that I liked about The Question of Miracles. I liked Iris's new friend, Boris. I liked the slow-and-steady progression of their friendship. I liked getting to know him. I think he was good for Iris. And I think Iris was good for him. I like how their friendship made them both stronger as individuals.

I also liked the families within the novel. I liked getting to know Iris' family and Boris' family. Overall, characterization of even minor characters was well done.

The Question of Miracles is at the very least a sad novel, perhaps a dark one. (By dark, I don't mean as dark as it could possibly be and without any hope or redemption.) How do you move on after losing a best friend? after witnessing her die in the parking lot? Life does go on, but, it feels like it can't, like it shouldn't. The Question of Miracles is about Iris' life after a big loss.

The Question of Miracles is one girl's quest for the answer to all her why questions. Does Iris get her answers? Adults are probably not surprised that she doesn't--not really. But she does come to accept her loss and begin living life again.

I didn't like everything about this one. There were a few things that bothered me--mainly bothered me as a Christian--things that may not bother other readers. (For example, her seeking out a psychic and trying to communicate with her friend's spirit.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Question of Miracles (2015) as of 1/9/2015 3:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
41. Audacity (2015)

Audacity. Melanie Crowder. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved Melanie Crowder's Audacity. It was a fascinating read focusing on the life and work of Clara Lemlich. It would pair well with Margaret Peterson Haddix's Uprising and Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too. Also Margarita Engle's The Lightning Dreamer and Andrea Davis Pinkney's The Red Pencil.

What did I love most about Audacity? I loved, loved, loved Clara herself. I loved her strength, her determination, her ambition, her loyalty, her persistence. Whether in Russia or America, Clara dreamed of one thing above all others: getting an education and making something of herself. She wanted to be able to read and write. She wanted to be able to think and form her own opinions and express them. She was raised in an environment, a community, where education was ONLY for men, the message that was reinforced over and over again (not specifically by her parents, but by the community) was that equated a woman going to school and learning with a prostitute. An educated woman brought shame to her family. It wasn't just that it was pushed aside or made a low priority. It was discouraged and forbidden. Clara wanted a voice of her own, and she wanted to be heard. There were many intense places in Audacity. Some within the Russia setting. Some within America. Some within her own home. Some outside the home. Audacity isn't a light-hearted read.

The novel opens with Clara and her family in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. After facing persecution--the Jewish community within Russia facing brutal persecution--her family emigrated to America. The focus remains on Clara: her dreams and her reality. For example, while her father and brothers stay home to be scholars, she works seven days a week in a mill. The conditions under which she works, under which all the women work, were horrible. She gives her paycheck to her family faithfully, dutifully. But not without some regret. Why must she be the one working so hard while others take it easy?! Much of the book focuses on her struggle: her struggle to hold onto her dreams, her struggle to hold onto dignity, her fight for right, to see justice done.

Audacity is a novel written in verse. It was powerful and compelling. The verse worked for me. It just wowed me in places! This fascinating book is easy to recommend. It's an emotional read, but oh so worth it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Audacity (2015) as of 1/9/2015 3:46:00 PM
Add a Comment
42. The Girl with the White Flag

The Girl With The White Flag. Tomiko Higa. Translated by Dorothy Britton. 1989. 130 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Girl with the White Flag is the story of the author's childhood in war-time Japan. It begins by giving the reader ample background into the time and culture and place.

One of the first events she shares with readers is the death of her mother. She then relates what life was like with her father, two older sisters, and her older brother. This portion is hard to navigate. I think in some ways it is just as hard for modern readers to understand the family life--the harshness, the strictness, the discipline, as it is to understand the monstrosities of war and soldiers and starvation. (Or maybe that's just my take on it.)

About halfway through the narrative, the father disappears. He was on his somewhat routine mission of delivering food to the Japanese soldiers, but on this occasion he never returned home. The four children are left to fend for themselves. The American soldiers have just begun their invasion, their battle to capture this island. The children become refugees and the fight to survive has begun. The children ranged in age from 17 to 6. Somewhere along the way, however, two things happen--big things--that make this event even scarier: 1) Their brother dies one night from a stray bullet. 2) Within a few days of burying their brother, our narrator--the six/seven year old girl becomes lost--separated--from her sisters.

The book recounts what it was like to be seven and alone and wandering in and out of danger. There was no safe place. Not really. Japanese soldiers weren't "safe." In fact, in her brief encounters with them she was almost killed. No, being near soldiers wasn't safe. The only "safe" soldier was a dead soldier. She did in fact scavenge around the dead soldiers looking for food.

Her will to survive was strong. Her stamina incredible in my opinion. The sights. The sounds. The smells. All surrounded her. Could have potentially traumatized her and paralyzed her into inaction.

If there is power in the Girl with The White Flag it is in its rawness, its simplicity, its boldness when it comes to being straightforward and honest. The story is incredible is powerful because it's true. Here is an eyewitness account of what it means to be seven and a refugee in a war zone. It can be brutal. It can be intense. But there is more to it than that.

I found The Girl with The White Flag to be an incredibly compelling read, a must-read for adults.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Girl with the White Flag as of 1/9/2015 3:30:00 PM
Add a Comment
43. It's The End of the World As We Know It (2015)

It's The End of the World As We Know It. Saci Lloyd. 2015. Hachette Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I like Saci Lloyd's It's The End of the World As We Know It? Not really. The book is described as surreal and hilarious. And. For some readers, I suppose it might read enough like Douglas Adams to pass as a good read. But overall, I was irritated and frustrated.

The book is science fiction and deals with alternate universes and wormholes. The particular alternate universe readers will experience in the book was created mostly by accident. The mad scientist, Xenron Deva, meant to do something, no doubt, but a strand of hair, leads to complete nonsense in the world he did create. The Deva Corporation did not even remain in power long, for at the time, our hero gets sent there by accident, the world is being managed or mismanaged by KAT. The world is strange and bizarre, which readers might expect and actually prefer. But the differences in spelling, in particular, drove me crazy.

Mikey Malone is the hero of It's the End of the World As We Know It. While trying to impress a girl, Caitlyn, he fakes interest in internet celebrity-hacker-spy GERILLR. Ultimately, he regrets this I think. Since it is during their time together waiting for GERILLR's program/broadcast that he is sucked into this alternate reality. (So is the parrot, Ubu).

Mikey soon finds himself in a strange, strange place: Silikon Valle. And it takes him a bit to adapt and make friends. (Only a few of his friends have names that are easy to type.) Conflict, the book has plenty of it. Mikey, of course, wants to find out a way to get back to his own reality, his own home. And that won't be easy. For not only is he clueless, he's also being hunted/attacked by bad guys. Teamwork can accomplish plenty, but, no matter how hard one tries, sometimes endings are imperfect.

I found the book annoying and unsatisfying. But you might find it entertaining. Especially if you don't mind endings that aren't proper endings.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on It's The End of the World As We Know It (2015) as of 1/9/2015 3:10:00 PM
Add a Comment
44. 2015 Challenges: Chunkster Reading Challenge

Host: Chunkster Challenge
Title: Chunkster Reading Challenge 2015 (sign-up)
Dates: January - December
# of Books: I'm aiming for 6
What counts: Any book (adult/YA, nonfiction/fiction) over 450 pages

1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on 2015 Challenges: Chunkster Reading Challenge as of 1/6/2015 2:43:00 PM
Add a Comment
45. Ranger in Time

Rescue on the Oregon Trail. (Ranger in Time #1) Kate Messner. 2015. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sam Abbott lugged another sack of bacon to the wagon and sat down to wipe his forehead.

Premise/plot: Ranger is a golden retriever who has been trained as a search and rescue dog. But he failed to graduate his training. Ranger wanted to let the humans know that in a real situation, he'd not be distracted by squirrels. But, of course, he couldn't make them get that. Thus he failed, despite his good intentions. But he's given a second chance, of sorts, when he digs up an old first-aid kit. This kit magically transports him BACK in time. Ranger suddenly finds himself in 1850 in Independence, Missouri. He finds a missing girl, Sam Abbott's sister, Amelia, and joins the Abbott family and the wagon train heading west to Oregon. On the way, Ranger will have PLENTY of opportunities to alert Sam and his family--really, the whole wagon train--of dangers on the trail. He proves himself trustworthy when it counts.

My thoughts: It's the first in a new series. I liked this one. I did. You do have to suspend your disbelief a bit, I admit. But once you do, it's just FUN. Time travel can be great fun after all. Readers learn facts about the Oregon trail AND meet a lovable dog. And since this is the first book in the series. Readers shouldn't worry about this dog-on-the-cover book. The book realistically portrays the dangers of trail life, but, not at the expense of the star of the book: Ranger.

Rescue on the Oregon Trail releases this month. And the second in the series, Danger in Ancient Rome, will release this summer.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Ranger in Time as of 1/7/2015 5:33:00 AM
Add a Comment
46. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups (2015)

Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups. Stephanie Clarkson. Illustrated by Brigette Barrager. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time four fairy tale misses, tired of dwarves, witches, princes, and kisses, so bored and fed up, or just ready to flop, upped and left home for a fairy tale swap…

I enjoyed this one for the most part. It is a cute and clever fractured fairy tale. It begins with a frustrated Snow White leaving the home she shares with seven dwarves. She's searching for a new place to call home. She comes across another princess who is a bit frustrated with her situation as well. They change places. Then she goes off to find someplace new…

It was a fun story starring Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. It has a fun and playful premise. The endings have all been adjusted as well. For better or worse. I enjoyed the style of the illustrations. I enjoyed the illustrations of Snow White the best. I loved her look!

I am not sure that I LOVED this one. But I definitely found it fun and worth reading!

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups (2015) as of 1/7/2015 7:31:00 AM
Add a Comment
47. Seuss on Saturday #1

And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Dr. Seuss. 1937/1964. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
When I leave home to walk to school, Dad always says to me, "Marco, keep your eyelids up and see what you can see."
Premise/Plot: While Marco is on his way home, he plans what to say to his father when he asks what he's seen. Marco really sees just a horse and wagon. But what he imagines he sees, well, it gets outlandish. What will he end up telling his father? a pack of lies? or the truth?

My thoughts: It's been years since I read this one. And it is a bit dated when you think about it. For example, as Marco gets carried away with his story, he imagines a reindeer pulling a sled. But he stops himself by adding,
Say--anyone could think of that,
Jack or Fred or Joe or Nat--
Say, even Jane could think of that.
Also of note, it includes a "Chinese man who eats with sticks..." and the illustration of course is not ideal. I'm not mentioning these things to say that the book is "bad" and doesn't belong in your child's library. Just noting that times have changed quite a bit since 1937!!!

Overall, I'd say I liked this one. Didn't necessarily "love" it. But I like it. How many picture books from the 1930s are still in print?! Well, I suppose there's The Story of Ferdinand, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Madeline, and The Story of Babar. There may be others as well.

Have you read And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #1 as of 1/7/2015 10:43:00 AM
Add a Comment
48. Week in Review: January 1-3

And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Dr. Seuss. 1937/1964. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Library]
Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups. Stephanie Clarkson. Illustrated by Brigette Barrager. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Rescue on the Oregon Trail. (Ranger in Time #1) Kate Messner. 2015. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. Katherine Rundell. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. [Source: Library] Mild spoilers.
The Perfect Place. Teresa E. Harris. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Bracelet. Dorothy Love. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups is a great choice to share with little ones that love to play princess. If you've got a little one who loves all things princess. Then this one is just a fun choice to share together. I really enjoyed the illustrations. For the record, this one will be eligible for next year's Cybils.



The Perfect Place is a great Middle Grade novel. I loved Treasure. I loved Great Aunt Grace. If you enjoy coming-of-age stories, this one is a great choice. For the record, this one will be eligible for next year's Cybils.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Week in Review: January 1-3 as of 1/7/2015 4:35:00 PM
Add a Comment
49. Meet Father Christmas

Twelve Drummers Drumming. Father Christmas Mystery #1. C.C. Benison. 2011. Doubleday. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Twelve Drummers Drumming is the first in the Father Christmas mystery series by C.C. Benison. Tom Christmas, the hero, is a vicar in the village of Thornford Regis. He's a widower with a nine year old daughter, Miranda. Both are still healing and adapting. Tom's wife was murdered. So why settle in Thornford? Tom and his daughter were visiting his sister-in-law and her husband about a year before the novel opens. There was a funeral in the village that day, but, the vicar was missing. Tom Christmas (Father Christmas as people can't help calling him!) stepped in and performed the funeral service. When the position became available, Tom wanted the job for keeps. But village or hamlet life isn't all cozy. There are a few mysteries to be solved. And since Inspector Bliss and Inspector Blessing aren't quick to solve cases, Tom's skills come in handy. Tom is good at observing things, and, it helps that people can't seem to help confiding in him and telling their secrets.

So there are two murders to solve in Twelve Drummers Drumming. I won't say a word about the crimes and the clues. I hate having mysteries spoiled! Just as important as the clues, if not MORE important than the clues are the characters. That I can safely comment on! I really enjoyed the depth of the characters!

Overall, I would say that Twelve Drummers Drumming is an entertaining and satisfying read. I enjoyed spending time with the characters. I would recommend it!

Eleven Piper Piping. Father Christmas Mystery #2. C.C. Benison. 2012. Delacorte. 474 pages. [Source: Library]

I think I enjoyed the second Father Christmas mystery even more than the first. Tom Christmas is the vicar of Thornford Regis. He is also the chaplain to a traditional Scottish pipe band, The Thistle But Mostly Rose South Devon Pipe Band. While Tom's daughter, Miranda, is having a sleepover, and his housekeeper, Madrun, is panicking about a failed yorkshire pudding, Tom Christmas is off--for better or worse--to the Burns Supper. But the weekend is problematic. The horrible weather--the blizzard-like conditions--means that half the band is unable to come, which leaves us with ELEVEN pipers piping. But while half the band is unable to make it through the storm, there is one unexpected guest that shows up at the local hotel where the Burns supper is being held. That guest is Judith Ingley, a retired nurse. Though usually women aren't allowed to attend, they don't turn her away in the storm.

Eleven Pipers Piping IS a murder mystery. So I won't share any details about the crime(s) or victim(s). I will say that the reader gets to spend plenty of time with Father Christmas as he interacts with the whole village before, during, and after the crime. I really enjoyed the setting very much. The characterization didn't disappoint.

Ten Lords A-Leaping. Father Christmas #3. C.C. Benison. 2013. Delacorte. 512 pages. [Source: Library]

I wish I could give a rating for the first half and a rating for the second half.

Ten Lords A-Leaping is the third book in the Father Christmas series. In Eleven Pipers Piping, Father Christmas brings up a fund raiser idea to help pay for repairs on the church building. It involves sky diving. Ten Lords A-Leaping sees the event through. It is NOT set in Thornford Regis, unfortunately. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been.

So. The novel opens with the sky diving. In his jump, Tom has a little accident in the landing with his ankle, an accident that changes his plans and prolongs his visit in that part of the country. He is asked to stay over at Eggescombe Park. First, he's stuck there because of his own injury, then, he's stuck there because of a murder.

I really found myself hating the first half of the book. The series has never been squeaky clean, previous titles in the series have had a few words now and then that keep it from being perfectly clean. Still, it wasn't enough to keep me from reading, from wanting to read on in the series. But Ten Lords A-Leaping turns smutty. And smut in a creepy, inappropriate way. To the book's credit, Tom ends up feeling disgusted by the end of the novel with his own experience. But still.

Even though I really disliked much of the beginning and middle, I kept reading. And the mystery aspects of the novel began to grow on me a bit. I can't say that I "liked" it better than the first two in the series. I can't even say that I "liked" the majority of the characters. There were plenty of despicable characters. I'd say there were more despicable characters than nice ones. But. That is part of the genre, I suppose.

I enjoyed this one enough by the end, but, honestly I was a bit disappointed with this one.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Meet Father Christmas as of 1/8/2015 5:21:00 AM
Add a Comment
50. El Deafo (2014)

El Deafo. Cece Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams. 233 pages. [Source: Library]

I put El Deafo on hold at the library not knowing it was a graphic novel. In a way, I'm glad I didn't know. I don' t read many graphic novels, there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. El Deafo is a coming-of-age memoir in graphic novel format. I loved it. I really loved it. It surprised me in all the right ways.

It begins simply, "I was a regular little kid. I played with my mom's stuff. I watched TV with my big brother, Ashley, and my big sister, Sarah. I rode on the back of my father's bicycle. I found caterpillars with my friend Emma. And I sang. 'We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine--' But then everything changed." A childhood illness at the age of 4--meningitis--leaves her deaf.

The memoir covers many years of her childhood, from the age of four through her sixth grade year in school. In a way it is about her growing up deaf, growing up different. But in many ways, it is about so much more than that: it's about family and friendship and belonging and struggling to belong. It is about her wanting and needing a 'true' friend. It is about her mishaps in friendships. There are a few untrue friends before there is the one that is true. It is very much about identity: how she sees herself, her struggle to be comfortable with herself, to accept and love herself. Another aspect of El Deafo which I very much enjoyed is Cece's first crush.

In her imagination, she's closer to being there, in that place. She imagines that she is a superhero, El Deafo, the super-hero self stands up for herself to her friends AND her family. Her super-hero self lets others know what she's feeling, when she's mad, when her feelings are hurt, etc. Her superhero self is brave and courageous letting others know that she doesn't need people to talk really loudly or really slowly. Her superhero self lets people know that she hates it when they call her "my deaf friend" or "that deaf kid."

El Deafo is set in the 1970s, I believe. There are plenty of cultural references to place it in that decade. I really enjoyed the scenes where she was watching TV.

So, yes, El Deafo is in my opinion about so much more than growing up deaf. This book is easy to love and oh-so-easy to recommend.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on El Deafo (2014) as of 1/9/2015 6:21:00 AM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts