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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. What the Moon Said (2014)

What the Moon Said. Gayle Rosengren. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed spending time with Esther in What the Moon Said. This book is oh-so-easy to recommend for young readers who enjoy historical fiction.

What the Moon Said is set in Chicago and Wisconsin in the early days (1930) of the Depression. When Esther's father loses his job, the family decides to move to Wisconsin and start a farm. They know that farming isn't necessarily an "easy" or "sure" way to make a living. But they are used to hard work, and her dad has previous farming experience. They'll be able to raise their own food, and, of course, to sell what they need. Esther makes friends in this small rural community; she even makes a BEST friend, a girl named Bethany.

Esther's biggest problem, and it's a problem no matter where they live, is her mother. Esther cannot figure out why her mother does not show any sign at all of loving her or appreciating her. Esther sees her mother acting affectionately and kindly to her siblings, but, when it comes to Esther, well, it's scold, scold, scold, ignore. The few times when Esther reaches out to her mom, to hug her, to kiss her, to touch her hand, etc. It does not go as she hopes. She wants so much for her mother to love her.

Her mother does seem to have some issues. For example, she's extremely superstitious. She lets signs, her reading of the signs, determine every thing no matter how big or small in the family's life, whether it effects just herself or her whole family. Poor Esther! At one point, she dictates to her daughter that she can no longer be friends with Bethany because she has a mole and is marked.

I may not have loved, loved, loved this one, but, I did enjoy it very much!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. 50 Children (2014)

50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany. Steven Pressman. 2014. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany is a must-read. It is incredibly compelling and, in my opinion, unforgettable. It tells the true story of an American Jewish couple, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, and how they diligently worked to save 50 Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1939. Why 50? Well. They faced obstacles. You might think the biggest obstacles they faced were in Nazi Germany, working with the Nazi regime/government. And no doubt the obstacles they faced when they actually traveled there themselves to do the paperwork and bring over the children were many. But. What might surprise you is how BIG the obstacles were in the United States that they faced. The truth: the United States knew about the ever-increasing risks and dangers facing Jews, they knew that it was a matter of life-and-death, but they did not care. They simply did not care. They did not want Jewish immigrants. Plain and simple. There were laws in place, and those laws were kept strictly, limiting the number of immigrants, of Jewish immigrants. And loopholes had to be found, in a way, to get even those fifty into the United States. Want to know another sad truth? The couple faced opposition from Jewish Americans, from Jewish organizations in America! The book tells how some Jews worried that by bringing MORE Jews into the country, it would increase prejudice and hatred towards them.

The book tells the remarkable story of the men and women involved in this rescue mission. It tells of their determination and stubbornness, their perseverance, how they would not stop until it was accomplished, how they would not quit and say well, we tried, but, there's nothing more we can do. No, they could not turn away from what they knew to be right and good. It's an inspiring, courageous story.

I definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Six 2014 Picture Books

I Pledge Allegiance. Pat Mora and Libby Martinez. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

On Monday when I get to school, my teacher, Mrs. Adams asks, "Did your great-aunt pass her test?"
"Yes!" I say. "She is very smart." I tell my class all about my great-aunt. She is eighty years old, and my family calls her Lobo, which means "wolf" in Spanish. (She calls us her lobitos--her "little wolves.")
Lobo studied very hard. She learned all about America. 

Inspired by her own aunt who became a citizen in her seventies, Pat Mora and Libby Martinez have crafted a lovely story of friendship between a young child and her great-aunt. While her great-aunt is preparing to become a citizen, to say the pledge of allegiance in a big ceremony, her young niece is preparing to lead the pledge of allegiance in her class. The two discuss what they love about the U.S.

I liked the focus on family. It was very sweet. A lot of the charm of this one is communicated through the illustrations.

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

Duck & Goose: Go To The Beach. Tad Hills. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

"Don't you love it here, Duck?" Goose honked. The two friends relaxed in the early-morning sun and listened to the hum of the meadow. Butterflies flitted and grass swished in the breeze. "Yes, I do," Duck agreed. "Let's never leave," said Goose. 
Suddenly, Duck jumped up. "You just gave me the greatest idea, Goose!" he quacked. "Let's leave! Let's go away!"

I enjoy Duck and Goose. I do. Perhaps I don't love these two as much as say Gerald and Piggie. But I definitely like this friendship. These two star in many books together. I can't say that Duck & Goose Go To The Beach is my absolute favorite of the series. (I enjoy others in the series more actually.) But it is a fun summer addition for Duck & Goose fans.

The book begins with Duck wanting desperately to go somewhere, to have an adventure. Goose is super hesitant. He likes home. He likes the familiar. Duck does persuade Goose to come along. By the end, Goose has definitely become more comfortable! But will Duck like where the adventure leads him?! He may not!!!

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

Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden. 2014. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Peppa Pig and her little brother, George, are playing at Grandpa Pig and Granny Pig's house. They love to help Grandpa Pig in the garden.

If you enjoy the show Peppa Pig, chances are you'll enjoy reading the series of books based on the show. I know I do! In this book, Peppa Pig and her brother George are visiting their grandparents. They work in the garden. They plant seeds. They play in the garden. They pretend to be snails, butterflies, and worms. When Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig arrive, they pick blackberries. If you've seen the show, you know that usually means trouble! In this instance, it is Mummy Pig who ends up making a mess of things! The book concludes with a nice family meal.

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

Peppa Pig and the Great Vacation. Candlewick Press. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Peppa Pig is one of my favorite children's shows. It is. I love Peppa Pig and her brother George. I enjoy her parents Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. I enjoy watching their adventures. The books which are based on the show can be great fun, but, they don't always match the quality or the charm of the show. I did enjoy Peppa Pig and the Great Vacation. But I didn't love it.

In Peppa Pig and the Great Vacation, Peppa and her family go on vacation. They do some hiking. They do some shopping. They have at least one picnic. (The family does love having picnics!) They go to the beach. Every day Peppa Pig calls home to see if Grandpa Pig and Granny Pig are properly watching her fish. Readers will see if they did a proper job by the end of the book!

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

Help! We Need A Title! Herve Tullet. 2014. Candlewick Press. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Hey! Someone's watching us!
Guys, come here. Look at this.
There are people here...and they've opened our book!
Hi there.
Who are you? What do you want?
You're very sweet. Wow! 
So, what now?
I think they would like a story.

The reader catches the characters by surprise in Herve Tullet's new picture book. The illustrations, the characters, are an unfinished mess. They are. They know they are. They do not have a story ready to tell the reader. They know the reader expects a finished product, an actual story. But they do their best. They talk amongst themselves. They talk about what a book needs to work. Characters. Backdrops. A story or plot. Possibly a villain. But they're amateurs. What they need is a real author to help them. So they team up and surprise one. The author they choose, of course, is Herve Tullet. His photo is blended into the illustrations charmingly. He is willing to help them if they're willing for his story to be short and sweet.

 This one is definitely creative and unique. I liked it. It was originally published in France.

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

Very Little Red Riding Hood. Teresa Heapy. Illustrated by Sue Heap. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Very little Red Riding Hood was going to her Grandmama's for a sleepover. "I go see Gramma with cakes," said Very little Red Riding Hood.
"Yes, my love, I know," said her Mummy.
"Off you go. Be gentle with Grandmama. And don't break anything!"
"Bye bye, my Mummy!" said Very little Red Riding Hood.
So Very little Red Riding Hood set off for Grandmama's house. She hadn't gotten very far when she met a Wolf.
"A FOXIE!" said Very little Red Riding Hood. 
She gave him a BIG hug.

As I hope you can tell from my beginning quote, VERY little Red Riding Hood is a young girl with a BIG personality. She is truly the star of this fun retelling! You won't find VERY little Red Riding Hood scared or intimidated by the wolf! Not in this story! I loved, loved, LOVED this one!!!

This retelling is very fun, very creative, just a joy to read and reread. I definitely recommend it. The only predictable thing about it is perhaps the little girl's homesickness that she experiences at her first sleepover. But with Grandmama and "Foxie" by her side, all is good. (This one was originally published in the UK).


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

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Do you know Jenny Linsky?

The School for Cats. Esther Averill. 1947/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

The School for Cats was originally published in 1947. It is part of a larger series of books starring the (black) cat Jenny Linsky and her friends. The School of Cats is not the first in the series, but, it is the first in the series that my library actually had. In this "Jenny's Cat Club" book, readers meet Jenny as she leaves her home in Greenwich Village to attend school in the country. She is very, very, very unsure about the whole school thing. But her master, Captain Tinker, wants her "to study cat lore in the country." There is definitely something of an adventure in this one when Jenny runs away from school. But it also contains a lesson on friendship and adapting to new situations.

I enjoyed this one. I look forward to reading others in the series.

Jenny's Moonlight Adventure. Esther Averill. 1949/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Jenny's Moonlight Adventure was originally published in 1949. It is part of a larger series of books starring Jenny and her friends. I did not like this book as well as The School for Cats. It is a Halloween adventure. Jenny must prove how brave she is both for herself and for her friends. She reluctantly accepts a job that only she can do. She is to carry a nose flute to a sick friend (another cat, of course). The job is "dangerous" because it requires her to be brave and clever enough to get past several unfriendly neighborhood dogs.

For readers who celebrate Halloween, this one might prove charming.

Jenny Goes to Sea. Esther Averill. 1957/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 140 pages. [Source: Library]

Of the Jenny Linsky books I've read so far, Jenny Goes to Sea is probably my favorite. In this chapter book originally published in 1957, Jenny Linsky and her two brothers, Edward and Checkers, travel the world with their owner, Captain Tinker. These three cats become very good friends with Jack Tar, the ship's cat. These three leave the ship in company with Jack Tar at many of the ports including Capetown, Zanzibar, Singapore, and Bangkok. Adventures come oh-so-naturally.

I definitely recommend this series to cat lovers of all ages.

Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories About Jenny Linsky. Esther Averill. 1973/2003. New York Review Children's Collection. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

Jenny and the Cat Club features five stories by Esther Averill. These were originally published in 1944, 1948, 1951, 1952, and 1953. The stories are: "The Cat Club," "Jenny's First Party," "When Jenny Lost Her Scarf," "Jenny's Adopted Brothers," and "How the Brothers Joined the Cat Club."

The Cat Club introduces readers to Jenny Linsky, a "shy little black cat" from New York City. Readers meet Jenny and her owner Captain Tinker. In this adventure, Jenny receives her signature red scarf, a present from her owner who happens to knit. This red scarf helps Jenny gain enough confidence to talk to other cats in the neighborhood. In this one, readers learn about the neighborhood cat club, they are briefly introduced to the other cats, and they learn that members of the cat club must be special.

Jenny's First Party is a story focusing on Jenny and her friend Pickles (the fire cat) teaming up and strolling the neighborhood. Both are looking for fun, fun, fun. But neither have money. (What cat has money?!) They stumble upon a groovy party and a great time is had by all. Readers learn that Jenny can dance a happy little sailor's hornpipe dance.

"When Jenny Loses Her Scarf" is about when Jenny's beloved red scarf was stolen by a dog. The dog, Rob the Robber, refuses to give it back. Jenny seeks help from Pickles the fire cat. Pickles is just the one to help her, it turns out, for justice is dealt out after all. The dog's hangout catches on fire! Pickles retrieves the scarf as he's putting out the fire.

"Jenny's Adopted Brothers" is about when Jenny meets two stray cats: Checkers and Edward. Checkers, readers learn, retrieves things. Edward, we learn, is a poet. Jenny meets these two, feels sorry for them, and introduces them to Captain Tinker. When these two are adopted by the Captain, Jenny feels very jealous! Will having two other cats in the house prove too much?!

"How The Brothers Joined the Cat Club" is obviously about when Edward and Checkers join the club. Jenny is hesitant to include her two new brothers at first. After all, she likes the idea that the club could remain her own little secret and her way to get away from them. But. Being the good little cat that she is, Jenny soon realizes that she could never really keep her brothers from missing out on the awesomeness of the cat club. She helps them discover their talents and introduces them to all her friends.

I liked this one. I did. I like meeting Jenny and the other cats.

The Hotel Cat. Esther Averill. 1969/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 180 pages. [Source: Library]

The Hotel Cat is an enjoyable children's novel by Esther Averill. It was originally published in 1969.

The Hotel Cat stars a cat named Tom. He lives at the Royal Hotel, an eight-story building in New York. It is on the older side. And the hotel isn't doing the best business. But all that happens to change during the novel. Tom who is used to having the place to himself, for the most part, at least in terms of CATS ON THE PLACE discovers that there are cats there with their owners. The first few cats he meets he is rude, very rude. But after Tom's owner, Mrs. Wilkins, talks to him, he decides to be more gracious and welcoming. It isn't long before he meets three cats: Jenny, Edward, and Checkers. And those aren't the only cats from the cat club he happens to meet. A difficult winter has resulted in a lot of broken boilers and frustrated cat-owning homeowners are staying at the Royal Hotel. How convenient!

Tom learns a lot about making and keeping friends in The Hotel Cat.

I liked this one.

Captains of the City Streets. Esther Averill. 1972/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 164 pages. [Source: Library]

Captains of the City Streets is a children's novel by Esther Averill originally published in 1972. Two cats star in Captains of the City Street. In this one, the author provides the back story for two cats who have been a part of essentially the whole series. Sinbad and The Duke. These two stray cats are best buddies. They haven't been "owned" by a human in what seems like a very long time by cat reckoning. They are street cats, traveling cats, going from city to city to city, seeing all there is to see, always seeking handouts, but never becoming dependent on any one human. The two travel to "old New York." They are looking for a place of their own, a safe place to stay. They find it. They also find one old man who dependably gives them food day after day on their own terms. He comes and goes leaving the food, never trying to approach the cats, never pushing a relationship. The two cats slowly but surely decide that maybe just maybe humans aren't all that bad. That is when they stumble upon the Cat Club. They learn that the kind human is Captain Tinker. The first cat they befriend is Macaroni. The two are invited to join the Cat Club, but, are hesitant. Do they want to stick around that long? Do they want the responsibility?

I liked meeting Sinbad and Duke. The stories that focus on Jenny certainly mention these two quite a bit, but, this is the first time that readers really learn about these two in detail. It is a fun book.

Jenny's Birthday Book. Esther Averill. 1954/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

Jenny's Birthday Book by Esther Averill was originally published in 1954. In this cat club book, Jenny Linsky, our star cat, our shy little black cat with the red scarf, has a special birthday with all of her friends whom we've met through the series. Pickles. Sinbad and The Duke. Florio. To name just a few. It is a lovely birthday. The book itself is sweet, simple, and charming. Especially if you like cats and vintage picture books. I think my favorite illustration is of all the cats dancing the Sailor's Hornpipe in the park.

The Fire Cat. Esther Averill. 1960/1983. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Own]

I enjoyed revisiting The Fire Cat by Esther Averill. I read this one many times as a child. But I had no idea it was part of a larger series of books, the Cat Club series by Esther Averill. The Fire Cat does not star Jenny Linsky. It stars Pickles. Pickles has been a delightful character in almost all of the other books in the series. He is probably one of Jenny's best best friends. In the Fire Cat, readers learn more about Pickles. Was he always a fire cat? Of course not! There was a time he was a hopeless cat that was a little bit bad and a little bit good. One of the firemen takes an interest in him and takes him to the fire station. He is hoping that the chief will allow Pickles to stay. Pickles most definitely wants to stay. He wants to prove himself worthy, so he decides to learn by example. He learns to slide down the pole, for example, he learns how to work a hose. The fire chief is definitely charmed, I imagine cat-loving readers are just as charmed. I certainly was! The Fire Cat is a feel-good read. Readers see Pickles transform from a slightly-naughty homeless cat to a brave and dutiful fire cat. He learns responsibility and compassion. Overall, it's just a good story.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Library Loot: First Trip in July

New Loot:
  • The Prince and the Guard by Kiera Cass
  • A Captain for Laura Rose by Stephanie Grace Whitson
  • The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson
  • The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Jenny's Birthday Book by Esther Averill
Leftover Loot:
  • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of The Night by James Runcie
  • Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie
  • A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
  •  A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson
  • The Attenbury Emeralds The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery by Jill Paton Walsh 
  • Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
  • Brazen by Katherine Longshore
  • A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection
  • War Dog by Damien Lewis  
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
  Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. Week in Review: June 29-July 5

From July:

Free to Fall. Lauren Miller. 2014. HarperCollins. 480 pages. [Source: Library]
The Year We Were Famous. Carole Estby Dagg. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Where The Rock Splits the Sky. Philip Webb. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
God's Double Agent: The True Story of A Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom. Bob Fu. Baker Books. 2013. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
How Can I Develop A Christian Conscience? R.C. Sproul. 2013. Reformation Trust. 76 pages. [Source: Bought]

From June:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Patricia Hruby Powell. 2014. Chronicle. 104 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

My favorite this week is the nonfiction book, God's Double Agent. This autobiography is an amazing read! I definitely recommend it. I would agree that it is "impossible to put down."

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. Reread #27 Umbrella Summer

Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

 I have been wanting to reread Umbrella Summer for several years now. I first reviewed it in October 2009. I remember having a good, strong connection with Annie, the heroine. Every single person in the Richards family is struggling with grief--with the loss of Jared, Annie's older brother. But it is Annie whom we come to know and love throughout the book. We see the parents handling of grief, of moving on or not moving on as the case may be. We see how they parent, if they parent, Annie. All this is seen through Annie's perspective. Annie's perspective is seen through a complex range of emotions: fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. For example, Annie has a hard time sympathizing with her friend, Rebecca, who has lost her pet hamster. Her response to Rebecca's strong grief is understandable, but, problematic for the friendship. He was just a hamster. It's not like you lost your brother. While the book is very much about grief, it is also a very good book about friendship, about what it means to be a friend, about building new friendships and restoring broken ones.

One of my favorite friendships in Umbrella Summer is Annie's friendship with their new neighbor, Mrs. Finch. Mrs. Finch is no stranger to loss, she has also lost someone close to her, her husband. Mrs. Finch and Annie both feel their losses strongly, yet, by coming together, by being honest with one another, by sharing the best memories, the best qualities about those they have loved and lost, they realize that they are beginning to heal a little, and that is a very good thing.

I also thought it was sweet that Annie and Jared's best friend have a special connection and come together as friends to truly celebrate Jared.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Free To Fall (2014)

Free to Fall. Lauren Miller. 2014. HarperCollins. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved Lauren Miller's Free to Fall. I enjoyed the mystery and conspiracy. I enjoyed the romance. I enjoyed the premise most of all. Is the book absolutely perfect? I wouldn't go that far. I'm not sure enough characters are fully developed to be near perfect. But in my opinion, the premise worked from start to finish. (I'd definitely say this is a plot-driven read.) I also enjoyed the themes and symbols of this one. (Hint: Paradise Lost)

Free to Fall is set circa 2030. Rory Vaughn, our heroine, is super excited to learn that she has been accepted to the oh-so-exclusive Theden Academy. It is only after she's been accepted that her father tells her that her mother also attended Theden Academy. (Theden Academy is a highschool, not a college). Before her mom died, she left something for her daughter. A note and a necklace. (It was conditional upon her going to Theden Academy.) Another girl from Rory's former school has been accepted as well. They will room together for better or worse. Her name is Hershey Clements.

Perhaps the less you know, the better. Since this one is plot-and-premise driven. Since this one is so focused on uncovering a BIG, BIG mystery. But. There is romance. And not the kind of "romance" that involves a love triangle! The hero's name is North, and, I definitely liked him! 

I would definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Where The Rock Splits the Sky (2014)

Where The Rock Splits the Sky. Philip Webb. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Where The Rock Splits The Sky definitely has a unique and intriguing premise: there has been alien invasion which destroyed the moon and altered life on earth forever. Some areas are more affected than others. There is "the zone" where anything and everything can happen: no natural rules or laws apply. This "zone" is in the new-old west. Yes, this science fiction has a very western feel to it. Outlaws and sheriffs. Horses and Stagecoaches. Of course, modern technology does not work in the zone. The good news, and this novel desperately needs good news, is that the heroine discovers that ALIENS are just as vulnerable INSIDE the zone as un-invaded humans. She doesn't know why, she doesn't particularly care about the why.

Megan, Luis, and Kelly set off into the zone. Technically, Kelly is a friend they pick up in the zone after their official mission has started. But. Kelly is probably the most intriguing character in the novel. I'm not sure she's meant to be. All three join together, but, all three have their own personal agenda. Luis wants revenge, in other words, he wants to kill some aliens. Kelly is looking for answers. Twenty years of her life is missing. She wants to know if any of her family or friends have survived. And Megan, the heroine, wants to find her father. Megan is the leader of the three, she is the one most in-touch with the zone, most sensitive to its strangeness.

Where The Rock Splits the Sky is not my kind of book. I'm allergic to westerns even if there are aliens it seems. I was hoping the science-fiction would overcome that. It didn't quite work for me, but, it might work for you.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous. Carole Estby Dagg. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely liked Carole Estby Dagg's The Year We Were Famous. This is historical fiction based on a true story, a true family story. It is fiction; liberties have been taken. Liberties that work in favor of a not-so-bleak ending.

Clara Estby is the heroine of The Year We Were Famous. She is the oldest daughter; she is seventeen. The family farm is in big, big trouble. Her mother, Helga, who suffers--and suffers understandably--from depression, works with her daughter to brainstorm a way to "save" the farm. Her daughter's careless comment about wanting to travel the world and be a journalist sparks an idea that can't be swept aside. Helga is determined to find sponsors, wealthy sponsors who want to test what women are capable of. She wants to make a deal. She and her daughter will walk across country, over three thousand miles, starting with no more than $5, if they reach New York City by the deadline, they will receive $10,000--more than enough to keep the farm. This is where the details are a bit fuzzy in reality because the journals and such were purposefully destroyed by the family. No one is sure *who* the sponsor was, if there even was a sponsor, the intentions of the sponsor, etc.

For over seven months May through December, these two women are on their own and on an adventure of sorts. It is dangerous and exhausting and overwhelming and a once in a lifetime opportunity. They meet new people almost every single day. They are sharing their stories with various newspapers across the country. They are speaking at suffragette events across the country. They are challenging themselves day and night...

I liked this one. It is set in 1896. I appreciated the fact that the author was inspired by her family history.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. June Reflections

In June I read 46 books.

Board books, picture books, early readers:

  1. Count on the Subway. Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. Miles to the Finish. Jamie Harper. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Baby's Got the Blues. Carol Diggory Shields. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Miss You Like Crazy. Pamela Hall. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Tanglewood Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! Anne Vittur Kennedy. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish. Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. E-I-E-I-O How Old MacDonald Got His Farm. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Matthew Myers. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]     
  9. Five Hungry Pandas. A Count and Crunch Book. Alexis Barad-Cutler. Illustrated by Kyle Poling. 2014. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Longest Night. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Catia Chien. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then. Harriet Ziefert. Illustrated by Karla Gudeon. 2010. Blue Apple Books. 40 pages. [Library]  
  13. The Story of Passover. David A. Adler. Illustrated by Jill Weber. 2014. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Patricia Hruby Powell. 2014. Chronicle. 104 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. James McMullan. 2014. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 113 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities.  Kent Rasmussen. 2014. Chicago Review Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. 11 Birthdays. Wendy Mass. 2009. Scholastic. 267 pages. [Source: Library book]
  7. Finally (Willow Falls #2) Wendy Mass. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. 13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. The Bell Bandit. Jacqueline Davies. (Lemonade War #3) 2012. HMH. 192 pages. [Source: Library]  
  11. The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  13. Between Two Worlds. Katherine Kirkpatrick. 2014. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.]  
  15. Wonders and Miracles: Eric Kimmel, editor. 2004. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. You Wish. Mandy Hubbard. 2010. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  17.  The Story of the Amulet. E. Nesbit. 1906/1996. Puffin. 292 pages. [Source: Bought]
  18. Harding's Luck. E. Nesbit. 1909. 164 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  19. The Lost Sun. (The United States of Asgard #1) Tess Gratton. 2013. Random House. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. The Law and the Lady. Wilkie Collins. 1875. 430 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  5. History of England. Jane Austen. 1977. 64 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]  
  6. A Child's History of England. Charles Dickens. 1851-1853.  390 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  7. Tendrils of Life: A Story of Love, Loss, and Survival in the Turmoil of the Korean War. Owen Choi. 2012. Princeton Falcon Press. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian fiction and nonfiction:
  1. The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt. Scott O'Dell. 1975/1988. JourneyForth. 182 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. God's Amazing World! Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Ideals. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. A Place In His Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2014. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms. Matthew Jacoby. 2013. Baker Books. 183 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. Wounded Tiger. A Nonfiction Novel. T. Martin Bennett. 2014. Onstad Press. 472 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Women of the Word. Jen Wilkin. 2014. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  7. 30 Days To A More Beautiful You: A Devotional For Girls. Kylie Bisutti. Tyndale. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Patricia Hruby Powell. 2014. Chronicle. 104 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell. I loved that this biography is told in verse. The book essentially looks at her entire life, not all biographies for young readers take the time and make the effort. By focusing on her entire life instead of just one or two moments where she shined or triumphed, readers get a greater glimpse of who she was and what she wanted. The book has highs and lows, of course, presenting many challenges that faced her throughout her life. The book sought to capture her spirit, her personality. I think it succeeded. The book also, in my opinion, gives readers a good sense of the times in which she lived.

I also loved the illustrations by Christian Robinson. I suppose you could even say I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. They add so much to the book! They seem to capture movement and fun. They definitely compliment the text well. Together they give readers a spirited look at the past.
 
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. Favorites So Far (January - June)

The Captive Maiden. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.

The Captive Maiden is a retelling of Cinderella. Like the movie Ever After, it retells the familiar story grounding it in reality without the magical touches. Our heroine, Gisela, and our hero, Valten (a duke) will get their happily ever after, but, they'll have to work a lot harder for it!


Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

It was oh-so-easy to choose Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. A contemporary retelling of Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Need I say more?! For those that love that funny and charming romance originally published in 1912, this one is a must! It may also be a must for those who love, love, love classic romances. Samantha Moore, the heroine, LOVES to read. (You've probably guessed that Jane Austen is among her favorites!) It's a very satisfying read.

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Library] 

This week it was much harder to choose a favorite. Should I choose a reread that I absolutely love, love, love? Three of the books I read this week were rereads: Sense and Sensibility, Doomsday Book, and The Merchant's Daughter. I can honestly say that I love, love, love all three. The Boys in the Boat is nonfiction. And it was LOVELY. I was absolutely captivated by the story. It was everything a book should be. But do I love it more than Doomsday Book?! And can it compete with Austen?! 

I chose The Boys in the Boat. People need to be reminded that nonfiction can be unforgettable and compelling and WOW-worthy!

Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Good Morning, Miss Dove was easily my favorite book this week. I've read the book; I've watched the movie. I will say the movie has a definite not ambiguous ending; the book, perhaps, less so. But I want to believe that the book is just as optimistic about Miss Dove's chances for recovery as the movie.  

Seven Stories Up. Laurel Snyder. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My favorite this week may just be my favorite of the entire month of January. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Laurel Snyder's Seven Stories Up. The novel opens circa 1987, Annie, our heroine, is preparing to meet her (dying) grandmother for the first time. They meet. It's a bit overwhelming--a mix of good and bad, perhaps. The love the grandmother has for the granddaughter that she's never met because of the horrible relationship she has with the daughter--well, it's heartbreaking. But I can see how Annie might not now how to take on that much emotion from a stranger. She goes to bed, she wakes up in 1937! Same room. Same hotel. (In the modern setting, the family-owned hotel had been closed awhile.) Annie meets Molly, a girl just her age. It isn't long before she realizes that Molly IS her grandmother...this one is OH-SO-MAGICAL. Loved every page of it!!!

Sword in the Storm. David Gemmell. 1998. Del Rey. 448 pages [Source: Library] 

My favorite book this week is David Gemmell's Sword in the Storm.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages. [Source: Book I Own] 

This week I chose To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it. I watched it. I listened to it. I would DEFINITELY recommend listening to the audio book. It is narrated by Sissy Spacek, and it is wonderful! So beyond wonderful! Over the course of a month, I became absorbed in the story. It is a story that just resonates. Loved all three formats for getting the story!
The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1940. 334 pages. [Source: Library] 
It is a hard choice this week. Do I choose The Long Winter a book I've read dozens of times? Or do I choose an almost book? A book that I almost love but not quite? I found The Eustace Diamonds to be mostly satisfying but slightly frustrating at the same time! Trollope is a delight to read, a pure joy. But then again so is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I choose The Long Winter!

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008. Random House. 274 pages. [Source: Library]

Another tough decision faces me this week! Do I choose The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? This is a reread that I absolutely love and adore!!! It's so very quotable. It is just a book that delights from cover to cover. OR. Do I choose The Second Confession by Rex Stout. This is a new-to-me book from a favorite series. I adore Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. And this is one of the best mysteries I've read this year!!! As much as I adore Archie Goodwin, I think I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society a tiny bit more! (It was oh-so-close!)

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm glad that not all weeks are this difficult! There are three books that could EASILY win almost any other week.
The Giver is one of my FAVORITE books. It's one I've read and reviewed again and again. But. People already know about The Giver.
P.S. Be Eleven was a GREAT read. I cared about the characters so much. It has a just-right feel to it which always deserves recognition.
Books set during World War II, especially children's books set during World War II, especially HOLOCAUST books have a special place all their own in my reading. I thought The Boy on the Wooden Box was EXCELLENT. I just loved it cover to cover. It's one that I think deserves more readers.
Though it wasn't easy, I choose The Boy on the Wooden Box.

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 

Pride and Prejudice may not be my favorite Jane Austen novel, but it is still my favorite read of the week. For the record, I do like Elizabeth Scott's Heartbeat a good deal, especially Caleb. And True Colors is a very good coming-of-age novel. But there is something about Pride and Prejudice that keeps me coming back!
Fair Weather. Richard Peck. 2001. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
I really loved Fair Weather by Richard Peck. 
In the Best Families. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1950. 272 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
There were two books this week that I absolutely loved, loved, loved. I have read Five Children and It a handful of times now. I just love and adore this children's classic. If you have not read E. Nesbit, this would be a great first choice! I also absolutely loved, loved, loved In the Best Families by Rex Stout. Rex Stout wrote many, many Nero Wolfe mysteries. In The Best Families is the last book in a trilogy starring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. (And Be A Villain and Second Confession are the first two. The Second Confession and In The Best Families should definitely be read in order. And Be A Villain is more of a stand alone.) Nero and Archie are two of my FAVORITE characters. I love them so much. And this is one of the best, best books in the series, that is why it is my choice for this week's favorite and best!
Lady Thief. A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Walker Books. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed the books I reviewed this week! Switched At Birthday was super fun! The False Prince is the first in what has become one of my favorite, favorite fantasy series. And Robin Brande's new book? Well worth reading! But since I have to choose just one, I'm going to go with A.C. Gaughen's The Lady Thief.

A few weeks I reviewed Scarlet. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it for its premise and its potential. It wasn't a perfectly-perfect book--for me. The second book in the series just wowed me! It had so much depth, so much intensity. And the characters, well, they went from one dimensional to being oh-so-achingly human. Characterization is one of the most important things to me, and, this novel excelled way beyond what I hoped and expected. For anyone who enjoys Robin Hood stories, this one is a MUST. 

The Runaway King. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2013. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy. I do. The Runaway King is the second in the series.  
The Shadow Throne. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2014. Scholastic. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This series is oh-so-wonderful.  

Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World's Fair. Robert Jackson. 2004. HarperCollins. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a very tough decision this week! I loved, loved, loved Melisande by E. Nesbit! I also loved The House of Arden. I wouldn't say I loved it as much as Melisande or as much as The Phoenix and the Carpet, but E. Nesbit is WONDERFUL. I also loved Kate Breslin's For Such A Time. This historical romance is set during World War II. It was quite the read! I highly recommend it! But. Meet Me in St. Louis is a GREAT nonfiction read. One of the few nonfiction books I've wanted to read again, again. I found it to be well researched and very fascinating. 

Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. Douglas Florian. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]   
This week was oh-so-easy. I love, love, LOVE Douglas Florian's Poem Depot!!! Yes, I enjoyed other books this week. I did. Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck is probably my favorite, favorite Peck title. But it is a book that I've read and reread. I've even listened to it on audio. Poem Depot is a new title, a deserving title that should be read by kids and adults who love kids books!
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

My favorite this week is the nonfiction book Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. I've read this one three or four times now. It never fails to captivate. It was interesting reading Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World and The Winter Pony so close together. Both books are set on Antarctica within a decade of each other. But they tell very different stories. With one leader, it is men first; men's lives are always worth saving. With the other it is all glory, glory, I want glory. 
The Chapel Wars. Lindsey Leavitt. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
I loved, loved, loved Lindsey Leavitt's The Chapel Wars. I enjoyed many other books this week. Overall, it was a very strong week! But The Chapel Wars is YA romance at its best!
Because of Winn Dixie. Kate DiCamillo. 2000. Candlewick. 182 pages. [Source: Book I bought] 

This week I choose Because of Winn Dixie as my favorite. I love, love, love this one! It's just a wonderful novel. Love the writing. Love the characters. Love the narration. It's just a book that stays with you.
 Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 1997/2005. Multnomah. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a hard decision this week. On the one hand, I loved reading McCormick Templeman's The Glass Casket. It had atmosphere, in my opinion, and it was oh-so-compelling. I read it in one sitting. It's not my typical genre. I don't really read horror at all. Not on purpose anyway. So the fact that it grabbed my attention and kept my attention says something. But is it truly-truly my favorite of the week? On the other hand, there is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a fantastic historical novel that I'd heard so much about. I've been meaning to read it for over five years! It has been sitting around my house for that many years! It did not disappoint. It has a definite message: it is a retelling of the book of Hosea. But it is probably NOT what anyone would expect a christian novel to be. It goes to dark, uncomfortable places. The heroine was sold into prostitution as a child. She's spent years of her life as a prostitute, and her journey to grace is not an easy one. If I'm looking just at themes or messages, then the choice would be easy. It would be Redeeming Love. It speaks to my heart. If I'm looking just at suspenseful storytelling or pacing, then the choice would be easy, it would be The Glass Casket. These two are so very different from one another!

The better cover? The Glass Casket. I can't say I'm a big fan of headless women on novels! And the cover of Redeeming Love is probably one of the reasons why it took me so very long to read!

Either book would easily win if reviewed in another week...

My choice is Redeeming Love. One of the reasons why I ended up choosing Redeeming Love is that I thought it had more reread appeal. I am more likely to reread this one than the Glass Casket.


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. 2014. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Why a picture book? Why not a picture book! I chose Meanwhile Back at the Ranch because I loved the crazy storytelling. Is a tall tale? Is it romantic comedy? Can a picture book even be romantic?! I loved the characters. I loved meeting the heroine, Tulip Jones. I loved the hero, Charlie Doughpuncher. I loved how the widow's friends (Linsey, Woolsey, and Calico) helped "save" the day by advertising for 1,000 brides! The storytelling was practically perfect! And the language was just so much fun!


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943/2006. HarperCollins. 496 pages. [Source: Bought] 

I enjoyed many books this week. I did. I really loved reading two very different "history of England" books. One by Jane Austen. One by Charles Dickens. I found Wounded Tiger to be a compelling World War II novel with unforgettable characters. But. One book stood out above the others: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. This classic novel by Betty Smith was just so WONDERFUL. Francie, the heroine, is a kindred spirit in some ways. I'm sure many book lovers can agree! On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived. 
 
Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I choose Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee.


Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]  

Frozen in Time is my pick this week. It isn't the only nonfiction on my list. Other favorites from this year include The Boys in the Boat, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. Frozen in Time is incredibly compelling! It was impossible to put down. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in June

New Loot:
  • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of The Night by James Runcie
  • Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie
  • The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
  • Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
  • A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Secrets of the Manor: Kate's Story by Adele Whitby
  • Secrets of the Manor: Beth's Story by Adele Whitby
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson
  • The Attenbury Emeralds The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery by Jill Paton Walsh

Leftover Loot:
  • A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
  • Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
  • Brazen by Katherine Longshore
  • A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection
  • War Dog by Damien Lewis  
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. Week in Review: June 22-28

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library] 
Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.] 
Wonders and Miracles: Eric Kimmel, editor. 2004. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
The Longest Night. Laurel Snyder. Illustrated by Catia Chien. 2013. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then. Harriet Ziefert. Illustrated by Karla Gudeon. 2010. Blue Apple Books. 40 pages. [Library] 

This week's favorite:

Frozen in Time is my pick this week. It isn't the only nonfiction on my list. Other favorites from this year include The Boys in the Boat, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. Frozen in Time is incredibly compelling! It was impossible to put down. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Reread #26 Doggirl

Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011.  Ryer Publishing. 269 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've been wanting to reread Robin Brande's Doggirl for years now. I first read it in June 2011 and it was LOVE.

Riley Case is the heroine of this coming-of-age middle grade novel. Riley and her parents have recently moved to the area. The "official" reason for the move is for her mom to take a teaching job at a college. The unofficial reason for the move, well, Riley was being bullied by some of her classmates, and her life had become misery.

Riley knows exactly what she wants out of life. She wants to be an animal trainer; her dream job would have her training animals for movies and/or television. She loves, loves, loves her three dogs. And she loves working with them daily and training them. And she has got incredible talent training them! Talent which doesn't really go unnoticed.

Riley decides to go outside her comfort zone and collaborate with the drama department for a play, for a competitive project. Riley and her three dogs are an almost instant hit with all involved on stage and behind the scenes.

In some ways, Riley is ecstatic with the changes in her life. The people she's met, the students, well, the way they all work together and fit together, there is something so delightful and inviting about being a part of something, of BELONGING. But. Riley has never really had the "belonging" experience before. She's thought she's had it, she has felt liked and accepted before ONLY to have the worst happen: pure humiliation, repeated humiliation. Of course, she WANTS friends, she wants to have found a group of friends to belong with, to be with. But she's hesitant to commit as well, to show that she wants it, if that makes sense. What if it is all too good to be true? What if they don't really like her? What if they're just using her for the competition?

Riley has some growing to do in Doggirl. I loved her character. But I also enjoyed getting to know her three dogs, and the students in the drama program. I especially enjoyed getting to know Nate!

There is something sweet and honest about the whole book, something that you don't find in every book.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. The Magic Trap (2014)

The Magic Trap. (Lemonade War #5) Jacqueline Davies. 2014. HMH. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Magic Trap is the fifth novel in Jacqueline Davies' Lemonade War series. Her newest book starring Evan and Jessie Treski opens in the month of May. It is almost summer once again, readers have almost spent an entire year with these two siblings.

Mrs. Treski is going on a business trip. She'll be gone a whole week. She's hired a sitter to stay with Evan and Jessie. But hours before she's scheduled to leave and just mere minutes after an unexpected knock at the door, she learns that the sitter has been in a car accident and needs surgery. While she'll be fine, there is no way she'll be able to keep two kids. The knock at the door? Evan and Jessie's father. He just happens to be in town for a day or two; he just happens to be in between stories for the moment; he's a war correspondent. He volunteers to stay with the kids the whole week. She is hesitant. After all, the last visit he stayed just a few hours. He is always in and out of their lives. He rarely stays around longer than a day or two at most. A whole week with the kids?! Is he capable of sticking around that long? Of putting his kids first? She isn't positive. But she goes.

Evan is working on a disappearing act of his own. Evan's new interest? Magic tricks. He's got a handful he's great at. He's working at mastering several more. He's found an old--really, really old--magic book. He needs help, and Jessie and his Dad are ready to help him out. Evan plans a big magic show and everything...

But life doesn't always go according to plan. And Jessie and Evan are about to be severely tested. All week long, their dad has been emphasizing over and over and over again how tough Treskis are and how they can do anything. Jessie and Evan will be given the chance to prove just that...

The Magic Trap certainly has its dramatic moments.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. The Candy Smash (2013)

The Candy Smash. Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade War #4) 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The fourth book in Jacqueline Davies Lemonade War series brings us to February in Jessie and Evan Treski's fourth grade year. Apparently after returning to school, Jessie decided to start a classroom newspaper. The Candy Smash is ALL about Jessie working very hard as a journalist and reporter as she tries to figure out the ethics of publishing. For example, if Jessie *knows* that someone like-likes someone, should she report it? Perhaps if Jessie herself were to have a crush, she'd know the answer to that one. But boys, well, they just don't interest her yet. Evan, on the other hand, well, he is definitely interested in one particular girl. (He has been since The Lemonade War!)

The Candy Smash isn't all about journalism. The teacher has started a poetry unit. While some students like hearing and discussing the poems each class day, Evan happens to love it. He tries not to let his love show too much, of course. But Evan's big secret: HE LOVES POETRY. And at home, behind his unlocked "locked" door (there's a sign on the door) he writes poetry of his own. For someone who has struggled with school, Evan's newly discovered gift with words is pure blessing.

The books have been getting more serious as the series progresses. In the Candy Smash, readers learn that Grandma has come to stay with them. I was very relieved to learn that she would not be left on her own. Also, Jessie has started thinking a LOT about her father whom she hasn't seen in over a year. Readers learn that HE is a journalist, that he travels all over the world. I knew, of course, that their mother is a single mom, divorced, but this is the first mention that I can recall revealing details about the dad.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. Week in Review: June 15-21

Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages. [Source: Review copy]
13 Gifts. (Willow Falls #3) Wendy Mass. 2011. Scholastic. 341 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Last Present (Willow Falls #4) Wendy Mass. 2013. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Between Two Worlds. Katherine Kirkpatrick. 2014. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. James McMullan. 2014. Algonquin
Books of Chapel Hill. 113 pages. [Source: Library]
The Law and the Lady. Wilkie Collins. 1875. 430 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
The Story of Passover. David A. Adler. Illustrated by Jill Weber. 2014. Holiday House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt. Scott O'Dell. 1975/1988. JourneyForth. 182 pages. [Source: Bought]
God's Amazing World! Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Ideals. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

I choose Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Library Loot: Third Trip in June

New Loot:
  • A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
  • Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
  • Brazen by Katherine Longshore
  • Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder
  • A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection
  • Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then by Harriet Ziefert
  • War Dog by Damien Lewis

Leftover Loot:
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
  • Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
  • Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
  • Captains of the City Street by Esther Averill
  • The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries. 

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Brat Farrar (1949)

Brat Farrar. Josephine Tey. 1949/1997. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

I definitely enjoyed reading Brat Farrar. Was it my favorite-favorite Tey novel? Probably not. But I enjoyed it so much more than Miss Pym Disposes and A Shilling for Candles.

In Brat Farrar, the reader is in on the secret. Brat Farrar is impersonating Patrick Ashby. Alec Loding "discovers" Brat Farrar's resemblance to the Ashby family. There were twin brothers Patrick and Simon. Patrick vanished when he was twelve or thirteen, and he was presumed dead. The note he conveniently left behind led everyone to believe it was suicide. Even though Patrick didn't seem the sort. Then again, Patrick would not have been the sort to run away for eight years either. Alec Loding is encouraging his new friend, Brat, to invent such a tale. BE Patrick. Inherit the family estate. He tempts him with horses. If there is one thing our hero can't resist, it's horses. His oh-so-special way with horses gives his life meaning. On the one hand, Brat is essentially a moral guy. He knows right from wrong. He is not the sort to be reckless and cruel for the fun of it. On the other hand, ALL THOSE HORSES. So he allows Loding to coach him, teach him, anything and everything he needs to know to BE PATRICK. (How does Alec know all these details? Sure, a family friend might know some stuff, but everything from the age of three or four on up?! Everything???)

So Patrick Ashby returns from the dead. He takes his place with his family. Everything seems to be off to a good start, but, Brat can't help wondering WHY Simon is so SMUG. Like Brat, readers pick up some clues...not firm, exact clues perhaps...but strong feelings that Simon is, well, the more evil twin.

I liked this one. It was a very quick read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. Frozen in Time (2013)

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]

I absolutely loved Mitchell Zuckoff's Frozen in Time. Nonfiction can be compelling and fascinating and oh-so-intense. True, most people when looking for an engaging, emotional read might tend to think of fiction, but, nonfiction can prove just as addictive, just as satisfying. Such was the case with Frozen In Time. I found this nonfiction book IMPOSSIBLE to put down!

In the first chapter, readers learn how 'obscure' Greenland became suddenly important to the world:
All of that changed on April 9, 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded Denmark. American leaders suddenly looked with fear upon the big island so close to North America. They shuddered at the thought of Hitler building air bases and ports in Greenland, from which they imagined he might strike at Allied planes and ships in the North Atlantic. Even more frightening, Greenland was then six hours by air from New York, well within the range of German bombers. Worst of all was a doomsday scenario under which the island would be used as a Nazi staging area and springboard for a blitzkrieg, or 'lightning war,' with a ground invasion of the United States and Canada.
More immediately, American officials worried that Germany would establish elaborate weather stations in Greenland. The weather in Europe is "made" in Greenland; winds and currents that flow eastward over the island give birth to storms heading toward Great Britain, Norway, and beyond. Whoever knows today's weather in Greenland knows tomorrow's weather in Europe. Allied planners feared that German weather stations in Greenland could guide Luftwaffe bombing runs over Great Britain and the Continent. The battle to control Greenland wasn't a war for territory, one American official said--it was 'a war for weather.'
Concern about Greenland also reflected the fact that some wars are lost not in the field but in the factory. If the Nazis ruled Greenland, Germany would gain control of a rare and unique resource that could help determine the outcome of the war. A mine at Greenland's southwestern coast, in a place called Ivigtut, was the world's only reliable natural source of a milky white mineral called cryolite. Cryolite, a name derived from Greek words meaning "frost stone," was essential to the production of aluminum, and aluminum was essential to the production of warplanes...At less than a mile from the water, the Ivigtut mine was vulnerable to sabotage or attack...(19-20)
That one chapter gives the reader some context for appreciating the whole. The book itself focuses on several plane crashes on Greenland in November 1942. The first plane crash was a C-53 Skytrooper. There were survivors. Radio contact was made. Other planes were sent to search for this missing plane. Unfortunately, one of the planes that went to search for the C-53 also crashed. This second plane crash was a B-17. All nine aboard survived--initially. But their continued survival was always a big question mark. After they finally make radio contact, and after several failed attempts at rescue by other means, another plane is sent to search for the B-17. The good news? They find the B-17! They are able to take two men aboard their plane and take them to safety. They plan to return the next day to rescue more of the men. The bad news? When they return the next day, it's a whole other story. They were not able to rescue more men. On their return flight, this rescue plane crashes. There are no survivors.

The whole book is about survivors and saviors and would-be saviors: lives lost and saved. Just telling the story simply makes for a harsh, intense read. The intensity of the cold and hunger and the physical pain make it so. Not to mention the emotional and psychological effects of being stranded in a very very harsh environment in the middle of winter! These men weren't arctic explorers out for glory and fame, these were soldiers and pilots who were unprepared for this kind of danger.

Half the book focuses on the past, set during the winter of 1942-1943. The other half focuses on the present, a team of men and women searching for the "Grumman Duck" the rescue plane that crashed around Thanksgiving 1942. Their hope was to find it and recover the bodies of the three aboard. Two of the men were from the Coast Guard.

While I found this one to be essentially fascinating from cover to cover, I won't lie and say that the past and present narratives were equally captivating at all times. Part of the present story was chronicling the raising awareness and raising funds, searching for big sponsors, pleading their case to anyone who would listen.

This was a wonderful read! It is not as bleak as you might expect. I would definitely recommend it!!!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant (1986)

Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant. Patricia Beatty. 1986. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Bought.] 

I acquired Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant from the library book sale a few years ago. Bethany Brant, the heroine, is a preacher's kid. The book is set near the turn of the twentieth century. And it's set in Texas. It felt like it could be a very good fit for me. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what I expected it to be.

The book opens with Bethany Brant visiting a fortune teller at a fair or carnival. Her parents are busy listening to live music; her brother, Abel, is off on his own. Bethany knows her parents wouldn't approve of her visiting a fortune teller, of her wasting her money on such a thing, of her giving so much of her time and thought to what the fortune teller says. But. Bethany Brant does, at least on this occasion, exactly what she wants.

The entire book is centered around what the fortune teller said. She was told at least three specific things: something bad was going to happen, there were elephants in her future, and that a one-eyed man would befriend her in her greatest need.

The book chronicles Bethany through all three "prophecies" (for lack of a better word.) It follows her for almost two years. A lot does happen to turn Bethany's world upside down. And in many ways, the book is just your average coming-of-age story.

I liked this one. But I certainly didn't love it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Brought to you by the letter "A"

I saw this meme at Stuck in a Book on Sunday. He was kind enough to give me a letter (randomly) so I could do the meme on my own blog. I got the letter A.

Favorite book: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. It seems like an obvious choice for the letter A. (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland also occurred to me.)

Favorite author: Jane Austen. Going with another obvious choice. I do love Austen enough to keep rereading her books.

Favorite song: "All You Need Is Love" The Beatles. It happens to be my favorite Beatles song.

Favorite movie: Aristocats.

Favorite object: This one was tough. I admit it. But I'm going with air conditioning.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. What's On Your Nightstand: June


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.

Currently Reading:

The Princess of Celle by Jean Plaidy
Does it count if I haven't picked it up in a week or two?! I have every intention of finishing it. But. I've been distracted lately. (Watching six seasons of LOST almost marathon-style will do it, I suppose!)


The Birth of Britain (History of the English Speaking People #1). Winston Churchill.
Some chapters I love. Some chapters, well, not so much. Some are very boring. I won't lie. This one ends around the time of Richard III. I want to finish it. I'm very curious to learn his opinions!






Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope
I haven't been faithfully reading this one either. I've been reading it since May! I only have a few hundred pages left. I don't want to not finish. But again with the distractions!

Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
I want to be in the mood to love this book. But I'm not quite there. It's hard to read current series where you have to wait a year between books, it's hard to get back into the story and the characters after so much time. I do want to finish before it's due at the library though.

Want to be reading:

Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
I always start out the year with an "Impossible Dream" idea of how many books I can read in a year. I had wanted to read all of E. Nesbit's books this year. I have read a good many, but, I need to get very busy reading if I want to finish this goal. This is the next book up.



An Autobiography. Agatha Christie.

This book is a chunkster. It is on my 2014 TBR reading challenge list. If I want to finish it this year, it would be best to start it now in the summer!

The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side. Damien Lewis.
This nonfiction book sounds fascinating!

Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
Another nonfiction book that sounds worthy!


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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