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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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1. Meet Inspector Barnaby

The Killings At Badger's Drift. (Inspector Barnaby #1) Caroline Graham. 1987/2005. Felony & Mayhem. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I checked out The Killings at Badger's Drift on a whim!!! It's always a good thing to browse in the library!

The Killings at Badger's Drift is the first book in the Inspector Barnaby mystery series. Readers meet Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy (his assistant). I definitely liked Inspector Barnaby!!!

The first character readers meet is Miss Emily Simpson, a spinster who stumbles upon something she shouldn't see in the woods. That knowledge will lead to her death...readers however are not told exactly what she saw--or WHO she saw...leaving plenty of mystery and suspense for the rest of the book.

Readers next meet another spinster, Miss Lucy Bellringer, Miss Simpson's best, best friend. She is convinced that her friend was MURDERED. And she is seeking out Inspector Barnaby. The doctor may not be convinced that there was a crime, but, she is out to convince Barnaby and Troy to investigate and see for themselves. (They do take the case).

Plenty of characters are introduced and described throughout the book, throughout the investigation. Most, if not all, are potential suspects. Some seem more obvious than others. But. All are flawed in one way or another...making it just plausible enough that they could be guilty...

I definitely enjoyed this one. It was a quick read. I definitely HAD to know what happened.

Death of A Hollow Man. (Inspector Barnaby #2) Caroline Graham. 1989/2006. Felony & Mayhem. 306 pages. [Source: Library]

Death of a Hollow Man is the second book in the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham. I definitely liked it, even though I had some reservations. Why? Well, I know I'm in the minority, but, I prefer my fiction to be on the clean side. It's not necessarily the content so much as the description involved--if that makes sense. That being said, I liked this one. I never once seriously thought of putting it aside.

Death of a Hollow Man is set in a small-town theatre world. Most of the characters--suspects and victim--are actors for their local theatre. (Inspector Barnaby's wife is among the actors--though not the list of suspects.) Amadeus. That is what they'll be performing. Over half the book occurs BEFORE the crime, setting the stage for the oh-so-dramatic on-stage murder. Lest you think I'm spoiling things dreadfully, it's mentioned on the jacket copy. I won't be mentioning WHO the victim is OR who the top suspects are. That would definitely be spoilerish. After all, I like my mysteries to stay mysteries.

I liked the writing for the most part. There are SO many characters. Some I liked, some I didn't like at all.

My library only has one more book in this series. But I've decided to start watching Midsomer Murders for more Inspector Barnaby fun.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. February Reflections

In February I reviewed 56 books.

Board books: 0

Picture books:

  1. Vegetables in Underwear. Jared Chapman. 2015. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Scrambled Eggs Super! Dr. Seuss. 1953. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. What If...? Anthony Browne. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Such A Little Mouse. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue. 2015. [March 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Monkey and Duck Quack Up! Jennifer Hamburg. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2015. [February 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  7. If I Ran the Zoo. Dr. Seuss. 1950. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Dr. Seuss. 1949. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose. Dr. Seuss. 1948. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. ABC Bunny. Wanda Gag. 1933/2004. University of Minnesota Press. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
Early readers/Early Chapter books:
  1. The Amazing Stardust Friends #1: Step Into the Spotlight! Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. All Hail the Queen (Anna & Elsa #1) Erica David. Illustrated by Bill Robinson. 2015. Random House. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Memory and Magic (Anna & Elsa #2) Erica David. Illustrated by Bill Robinson. 2015. Random House. 128 pages. [Source: Library] 
Middle Grade:
  1. The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands. Louise Borden. 2004. Illustrated by Niki Daly. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. The Cats in Krasinski Square. Karen Hesse. Illustrated by Wendy Watson. 2004. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Wanderville.  Wendy McClure. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Little Author in the Big Woods. Yona Zeldis McDonough. 2014. Henry Holt. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1937. 340 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6.  Rain Reign. Ann M. Martin. 2014. Feiwel & Friends. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Winterbound. Margery Williams Bianco. 1936/2014. Dover. 234 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. All the Answers. Kate Messner. 2015. Bloomsbury USA. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women. Cornelia Meigs. 1933/1995. Little, Brown. 256 pages. [Source: Library]  
  10. Thimble Summer. Elizabeth Enright. 1938/2008. SquareFish. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Debby. Siddie Joe Johnson. Illustrated by Ninon MacKnight. 1940.  Longmans, Green and Co. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]
  12. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. illustrated by William Low. 1932/2008. Square Fish. 302 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. The Graham Cracker Plot. Shelley Tougas. 2015. Roaring Brook Press. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Boundless. Kenneth Oppel. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library] 
  15. Best Kept Secret. (Family Tree #3) Ann M. Martin. 2014. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young Adult:
  1. Tesla's Attic.  (Accelerati #1). Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. 2014. Disney-Hyperion. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Entangled. Amy Rose Capetta. 2013. HMH. 336 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Beyond the Parallel. Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 348 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Adult Fiction:
  1. The Lilies of the Field. William Edmund Barrett. 1962/1988. Grand Central Publishing. 128 pages. [Source: Gift]
  2. The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. (Perry Mason #9) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1936. 189 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness #1) Rhys Bowen. 2007. Berkley. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Hard Times. Charles Dickens. 1854/1992. Everyman's Library. 336 pages.  [Source: Library]
  6. Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. 1863. 403 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Sleep in Peace Tonight. James MacManus. 2014. Thomas Dunne Books. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust. Flavia de Luce #7. Alan Bradley. Random House. 392 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Dying in the Wool. (Kate Shackleton #1) Frances Brody. 2009/2012. Minotaur Books. 368 pages. [Source: Library]  
  10. Medal for Murder. (Kate Shackleton #2) Frances Brody. 2010/2013. Minotaur Books. 432 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. Murder in the Afternoon. (Kate Shackleton #3) Frances Brody. 2011/2014. Minotaur Books. 400 pages.  [Source: Library]
Adult Nonfiction:
  1. Shadows of the Workhouse (Call the Midwife #2) Jennifer Worth. 2005/2008/2013. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers. Margaret C. Sullivan. Quirk Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian Fiction:
  1. The Trouble with Patience. (Virtues and Vices of the Old West #1) Maggie Brendan. 2015. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Crimson Cord: Rahab's Story (Daughters of the Promised Land #1) Jill Eileen Smith. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Where Trust Lies. Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan. 2015. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian Nonfiction:
  1. Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]  
  2. First Love: The Joy and Simplicity of Life in Christ. John MacArthur. 1994. Victor Books. 191 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Tyndale's New Testament. Translated by William Tyndale. A Modern Spelling Edition of the 1534 Translation with an introduction by David Daniell. 1996. Yale University Press. 466 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe To Believe. Tom Doyle. 2015. [March 2015] Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. Joe Rigney. Foreword by John Piper. 2015. Crossway. 272 pages.
  6. What Every Christian Needs to Know About Passover: What It Means and Why It Matters. Rabbi Evan Moffic. 2015. Abingdon Press. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Wycliffe New Testament 1388: An edition in modern spelling, with an introduction, the original prologues, and the Epistle to the Laodicieans. William R. Cooper, ed. 2002. British Library. 528 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Chiseled by the Master's Hand. Erwin Lutzer. 1993. Victor Publishing. 153 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Unexpected Jesus. R.C. Sproul. 2005. (AKA Mighty Christ in 1995). Christian Focus. 142 pages. [Source: Bought] 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Week in Review: February 22-28

The Lilies of the Field. William Edmund Barrett. 1962/1988. Grand Central Publishing. 128 pages. [Source: Gift]
The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought]
Shadows of the Workhouse (Call the Midwife #2) Jennifer Worth. 2005/2008/2013. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1937. 340 pages. [Source: Library]
The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. (Perry Mason #9) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1936. 189 pages. [Source: Bought]
Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness #1) Rhys Bowen. 2007. Berkley. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Tesla's Attic.  (Accelerati #1). Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. 2014. Disney-Hyperion. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Scrambled Eggs Super! Dr. Seuss. 1953. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

What If...? Anthony Browne. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Amazing Stardust Friends #1: Step Into the Spotlight! Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
First Love: The Joy and Simplicity of Life in Christ. John MacArthur. 1994. Victor Books. 191 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Trouble with Patience. (Virtues and Vices of the Old West #1) Maggie Brendan. 2015. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

I'd say The Lilies of The Field and The Warden!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Seuss on Saturday #9

Scrambled Eggs Super! Dr. Seuss. 1953. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I don't like to brag and I don't like to boast,
Said Peter T. Hooper, but speaking of toast
And speaking of kitchens and ketchup and cake
And kettles and stoves and the stuff people bake...
Well, I don't like to brag, but I'm telling you, Liz,
That speaking of cooks, I'm the best that there is!
Why, only last Tuesday, when mother was out
I really cooked something worth talking about!
Premise/Plot: Peter T. Hooper is bragging to a girl, presumably his sister? presumably named Liz? that he is the best cook ever, and that he recently made the best scrambled eggs ever. Of course, his scrambled eggs weren't ordinary. His eggs didn't come from ordinary hens. His eggs didn't come from a store. He sought out extraordinary birds--both big and small--and spared no expense or effort. He even recruited helpers to help him collect the most exotic bird eggs. 

My thoughts: Like If I Ran the Zoo, this is all about the rhyme. This is classic Seuss coming up with silly, bizarre yet oh-so-fun words to say.
Then I went for some Ziffs. They're exactly like Zuffs,
But the Ziffs live on cliffs and the Zuffs live on bluffs.
And, seeing how bluffs are exactly like cliffs,
It's mighty hard telling the Zuffs from the Ziffs.
But I know that the egg that I got from the bluffs,
if it wasn't a Ziff's from the cliffs, was a Zuff's.
The book is definitely silly and over-the-top. And Seuss is definitely beginning to develop his style.  Is it my favorite? Far from it.

Have you read Scrambled Eggs Super? 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 Horton Hears A Who!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. What If...? (2014)

What If...? Anthony Browne. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Joe was going to his first big party. It was at his friend Tom's house, but Joe had lost the invitation and didn't know the house number. "It's OK, Joe," said Mom. "Tom lives somewhere on this street. We'll find it." So they set off.

Premise/Plot: Joe is anxious about attending his friend's party. Not just anxious about finding his friend's house, but about the party itself. He's worried about who will be there, what kind of food there will be, what games he'll be expected to play, etc. He's not sure if he'll want to actually stay at the party. (If his mom wasn't insistent, Joe might even not go to the party to begin with.)  He is walking to the party with his mom, and, together they are looking into the windows of each house trying to find the party.

What If...? got starred reviews in Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly.

My thoughts: I could relate to Joe's anxiety. So I wanted to like the book. But it was just a bit too odd for me to actually like it. What didn't I like? Well, the illustrations. They look into the windows of many houses on the street. These window scenes are illustrated in detail. And the scenes are just weird and slightly disturbing at times. It was hard to take them seriously. And since Joe's anxiety was real, I thought the illustrations were off. (In one scene, there's a man and woman sitting together reading. If you look closely, he's got antennas on his balding head. In another, there's an elephant in the house. In two more scenes, it looks like their are crimes being committed. Since readers are given two glimpses of each house, one from a distance, one up close, one is supposed to conclude that Joe's anxiety is getting the best of him perhaps and his imagination has run away with him. But I'm still not sure. I just don't like the illustrations.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Step Into The Spotlight (2015)

The Amazing Stardust Friends #1: Step Into the Spotlight! Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Marlo's mom has just joined the circus: joined as a chef. Her and her mom will now be living on a circus train. There are several other children for Marlo to get to know: some are performers themselves, some are children of employees and/or performers. Marlo really wants to become friends with the three Stardust girls: Allie, the acrobat, Bella, the animal trainer, and Carly, the clown. She's been told she can join the Stardust Parade IF she can come up with an amazing act of her own. She has just TWO days until the next performance. She's very determined and quite ambitious. Perhaps she can learn to be an acrobat? or a clown? or work with animals? Or perhaps not. Can Allie, Carly, and Bella help Marlo find her own way of being amazing? And will Marlo become a Stardust girl too?

This is an illustrated chapter book. I liked it. I did. It's a fun book with a playful premise.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Lilies of the Field (1962)

The Lilies of the Field. William Edmund Barrett. 1962/1988. Grand Central Publishing. 128 pages. [Source: Gift]

There is a young legend developing on the west side of the mountains. It will, inevitably, grow with the years. Like all legends, it is composed of falsehood and fact. In this case, the truth is more compelling than the trappings of imagination with which it has been invested. The man who has become a legendary figure was, perhaps, of greater stature in simple reality than he ever will be in the oft-repeated, and expanded, tales which commemorate his deeds. Here before the whole matter gets out of hand, is how it was...
His name was Homer Smith. He was twenty-four. He stood six foot two and his skin was a deep, warm black.

 If you love, love, LOVE the movie--or if you only like it--you should treat yourself and read the book. How does it compare with the movie? Is it as wonderful? as magical? as perfect? I'm not exactly sure it's fair to compare the two. I can easily say it's well worth reading. I loved meeting Homer Smith. I loved meeting all the nuns. I loved seeing Homer at work. I loved his interactions with the sisters, especially seeing him teach them English. There are so many delightful and wonderful things about the book AND the movie. The book isn't better than the movie, in my opinion, but it is at least as good as the movie which is saying something. (My expectations for this one were very high!)

So in case you're unfamiliar with the movie starring Sidney Poitier, here's the basic plot: Homer Smith is a man who likes his independence. He's traveling the country in his station wagon, and, he's a handy man of sorts. He stops when and where he likes and he finds work. He does a few odd jobs for some German nuns. One of them feels that Homer is God's answer to her prayers. She feels that Homer has come specifically to build them a church. Though they don't have enough money or enough resources, they have faith that it will happen and that Homer is the man for the job. Can one man build a chapel?!

So Homer Smith is a delightful character. And the book is a great read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Her Royal Spyness (2007)

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness #1) Rhys Bowen. 2007. Berkley. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I wanted a quick, light read: light on history, light on mystery. I was satisfied enough with Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Why "satisfied enough"? Well, the book moved quickly for me. I was interested in the time period it was set. (England, spring of 1932) I was also curious about the "royal" aspect of it. (The heroine is 34th in line to the throne.)

The premise of this one is simple. Lady Georgiana (Georgie) may be royal, but, she's also young and poor. Being royal makes her eligible for making a good marriage, perhaps, most likely an arranged marriage. But it keeps her from getting a regular job and earning her own way. To escape a social event designed to match her to someone she doesn't want to marry, she lies to her family and arranges to go to London. Her brother is allowing her to stay at his place--the family's residence--but he's not allowing her to take any servants or providing any money to hire her own once there. She'll be completely on her own for however many weeks she chooses to escape. She'll get reacquainted with some people, meet several new people, etc. She'll also socialize with the queen on occasion. (The queen wants her feedback on the married American woman, David is infatuated with.) One of the people she meets is a potential fling. His name is Darcy. The two could have some light fun together. But. She's uncertain about him and if she even wants to have a fling.

So. The mystery. A body is found in the bathtub. A dead body, of course. (I kept thinking of Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers). She discovers the body, and since it's in her brother's house, well, she fears that everyone will conclude that her brother "Binky" did the crime...

I found it entertaining enough. I didn't find it to be the perfect read, however. In terms of characterization and dialogue and description. It kept me reading at the time, but, I'm not sure it's one that will stick with me.

Still, I think I will read one or two more in the series to see if it improves.

ETA: I have read about three or four chapters in the second book. Enough to know that I don't think it will suit me after all. It's just not a good match for me. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Case of the Stuttering Bishop

The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. (Perry Mason #9) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1936. 189 pages. [Source: Bought]

I love watching Perry Mason. I do. It's one of my favorite shows. Do I love reading about Perry Mason as much as watching Perry Mason? Maybe not quite as much. But I certainly enjoy it. I find them easy and satisfying. The Case of the Stuttering Bishop is one of the better ones I've read. It was adapted for the show's second season--which explains why it felt so very familiar while I was reading it.

The book opens with a bishop going to Perry Mason for advice. What Perry and Della find most disturbing about this visit is the fact that this bishop from Australia stutters. His stuttering leads them to believe that he may not be who he claims to be, that the whole case he's presented them with may be filled with lies. Curious they are, no doubt, which is why they get Paul Drake on the case.

Clues come out with each chapter, the story unfolds bit by bit. Perry Mason, Della, and Paul work together to try to find out the real story, to determine who is lying and who is telling the truth. I won't go into any of the details or specifics here. Details in reviews spoil mysteries often.

If you enjoy watching Perry Mason, chances are you'll enjoy reading this one.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. What's On Your Nightstand (February)


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:

Devil at My Heels. Louis Zamperini. 
I'm taking my time with this one--for better or worse. I just keep renewing! I loved Unbroken last year when I read it, and, I *do* want to read this one as well.

Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson.
I don't typically seek out "Civil War" books to read. (Like I do books set during World War II). But I love Stephanie Grace Whitson, and, I'm finding this one a great read!

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.
I've read book one and two of this so far. I hope to stick with it and finish it this spring. I'm not sure at this point if it's manageable!

Venetia. Georgette Heyer.
I'm rereading this one. It's one of my favorite Heyer romances. 

Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins
This was the first Wilkie Collins novel I read, and, I read it several years ago now. I am enjoying rereading it. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sir Patrick :)

Planning to read:

By the Shores of Silver Lake. Laura Ingalls Wilder.

These Happy Golden Years. Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I'll have reviews in March for several in this series: By The Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. March will be focused on the Newbery winners/honors of the 1940s.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Tesla's Attic (2014)

Tesla's Attic.  (Accelerati #1). Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. 2014. Disney-Hyperion. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

Nick was hit by a flying toaster.

Tesla's Attic is certainly different. I haven't decided yet if it's different in a good way or a bad way.

On the one hand, I loved the beginning. I thought it was fun, relatively fun anyway. Nick and his family (his dad and younger brother) have recently moved to Colorado. The move happened primarily because of a house-fire, a fire that killed the mom. No one in the family wants to stay and deal with starting over there, so the cross-country move is welcomed by everyone in the family. Nick discovers tons of junk in the attic at their new house. He decides to hold a garage sale. It happens to be raining. He doesn't expect much of a turn out, not with the weather being what it is. But surprisingly, it's a big hit. Not only are people buying things, they're insisting on paying a lot of money. By the end of the day, he's made some money but is feeling like he's in the twilight zone. Something is not right, he knows it. But what? The premise of this book is that the items in the attic were the creations, the inventions, of Nikola Tesla. The "junk" in the attic is not junk at all. It may look it. But each item does something unexpected. Like the reel-to-reel tape recorder that records WHAT YOU'RE REALLY THINKING AND NOT WHAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY SAYING. So recording conversations is interesting to say the least. The premise was unique and relatively satisfying.

On the other hand, I didn't love the ending so much. That is, by the end of the book, there were a handful of things about the book--the plot--that were bothering me. I found myself enjoying it less and less as I continued reading.

Overall, I would say this is a premise-driven novel with some entertaining scenes, but, it isn't wonderful at characterization and having depth and substance. It is an entertaining enough read, but, it isn't a great read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Shadow of the Workhouse

Shadows of the Workhouse (Call the Midwife #2) Jennifer Worth. 2005/2008/2013. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I still haven't read the first book in the Call the Midwife series, but, I have seen most of series 1 and 2. I love, love, love the show. And I've seen the episodes adapting all these stories found within Shadows of the Workhouse. Do I recommend reading the books? Yes!!!

Shadows of the Workhouse is the second book in Jennifer Worth's memoir trilogy. The first part focuses on Workhouse Children. In this section, two big stories are related. First, readers meet Jane. Her story has a happy ending, but, it's an emotional struggle making the happy ending all that more triumphant. Second, readers meet Peggy and Frank. Again, these two grew up in the Workhouse. Their story is emotional and complex and not nearly as happy. The second part focuses on The Trial of Sister Monica Joan. (She's accused of theft and put on trial.) The third part of the book focuses on 'The Old Soldier.' Readers meet an old man, a lonely man, Joe Collett, whom Jenny treats daily/weekly. The book focuses on telling his story. Again, there is plenty of heartbreak.

I loved Jane's story. I did. I loved, loved, LOVED it. I thought the whole book was wonderful and thoughtful. Would definitely recommend.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Revisiting The Warden

The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought]

I make no secret of the fact that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Anthony Trollope. The Warden is the first in his Barchester series. And, I believe, it was the first Trollope novel I read. I first read and reviewed it in the spring of 2009.

I loved rereading it. I loved going back and visiting with these characters particularly the character of Mr. Harding. As much as I enjoy the other characters, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mr. Harding. He's such a dear old soul.

Reasons you should read The Warden
  • As one of Trollope's shorter novels, it's a great introduction to his work.
  • It is the first book in a series, his Barchester series, which is FANTASTIC.
  • It is all about the characters and relationships between characters. Sure, there's a plot, but, it's not an action-packed plot. It's all about ethics. Is it right or is it wrong for Mr. Harding to receive the salary he does?! 
  • The writing is delightful. 
 What is it about?!

It's about one man, Mr. Harding, and his family: two daughters, one married, the other quite single. It's also about Harding's neighborhood and circle of friends. It's about the necessity of having a good reputation and a clean conscience.

Eleanor is the apple of her daddy's eye. Susan is married to an Archdeacon (Grantley). Because of his eldest daughters good fortune in marriage, Mr. Harding, has been named warden of Hiram's Hospital (alms house). The 'enemy' of Mr. Harding (and the suitor of Eleanor) is a young man named John Bold. When we are first introduced to these characters, we are learning that Bold is encouraging a law suit against Mr. Harding. He feels that Mr. Harding is in violation of the will. (Way, way, way back when (several centuries past), a man left his (quite wealthy) estate to the church. The church followed the will for the most part, but as times changed, they changed the way they carried it out. They were following it through in spirit in a way: still seeking to take care of twelve poor men (bedesman) but over time the salary of the warden increased.) Bold has stirred up the twelve bedesmen into signing a petition demanding justice, demanding more money, demanding 'fairer' distribution of funds.

The book presents this case through multiple perspectives: through two Grantleys (father and son), a few lawyers, Mr. Harding and Mr. Bold, of course, and through a handful of the twelve men involved that would profit from the change. There is one man whose voice seems louder than all the rest. And that voice comes from the newspaper, the Jupiter, one journalist writes harsh, condemning words directed at Mr. Harding--he assumes much having never met Harding personally. These words weigh heavy on the heart and soul of Mr. Harding. (And they don't sit easy on Mr. Bold either.)

Can Mr. Harding get his reputation back? What is the right thing to do? Is he in violation of the will? Is the church? What is his moral responsibility in caring for these twelve poor-and-retired men? What is his responsibility to the community?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Revisiting On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)

On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1937. 340 pages. [Source: Library]

I love Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. I do. And On the Banks of Plum Creek, while not my absolute favorite--that would be The Long Winter or possibly These Happy Golden Years--is worth rereading every few years. One thing I hadn't noticed until this last reread is that the Ingalls' family celebrates three Christmases in this one book!

Plenty of things happen in On The Banks of Plum Creek:
  • the family moves into a sod house
  • the family moves into a wooden house with real glass windows
  • the family gets oxen and horses
  • the girls start school
  • the family attends church
  • crops are planted and lost
  • Pa leaves the family behind twice to go in search of work
  • hard weather is endured
  • Laura gets in and out of trouble (she almost drowns in this one)
The book is enjoyable and satisfying. I love the illustrations by Garth Williams. I remember them just as well as I do the text itself.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. February Short Stories

February's Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
  • Ace Diamonds "The Grey Woman" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
  • 3 Hearts "At Five O'Clock in the Morning" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  • 10 Diamonds "Mr. Cosway and the Landlady" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
  • Jack Spades "A Day At Niagara" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
"The Grey Woman" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
  • Premise/Plot: Readers learn the story of Anna Scherer and how she became "The Grey Woman." It's a story revealed through Anna's own letter to her daughter, a letter that has been passed down through the generations. The narrators of the story take shelter during a rain storm, see a portrait, ask about it, and are given a letter. In this letter, she's confessing to her daughter--telling her the whole truth. The story has a very gothic feel to it.  This is a great read!
"At Five O'Clock in the Morning" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  • Premise/Plot: Murray lacks tact but gets the girl--most likely--anyway. I can't say that this story wowed me. It's not one of L.M. Montgomery's better short stories--there are so many that are GREAT. It's a mistaken identity, miscommunication, courtship story.  
"Mr. Cosway and the Landlady" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
THE guests would have enjoyed their visit to Sir Peter's country house—but for Mr. Cosway. And to make matters worse, it was not Mr. Cosway but the guests who were to blame. They repeated the old story of Adam and Eve, on a larger scale. The women were the first sinners; and the men were demoralized by the women.
  • Premise/Plot: Readers learn of an unpleasant house party. The guests have not had a happy stay particularly. Soon EVERYONE just *has* to know the history of Mr. Cosway. What has happened in his past? There has to be some reason, some explanation for his strange-to-them behavior. The mystery is solved when a news story is shared. The story in the paper is about a boat accident: two women and a man have drowned. When Mr. Cosgrave learns the names, well, he gets REALLY excited: almost jubilant. Mr. Cosgrave's friend later tells the guests why. You see, Mr. Cosgrave as a younger man was TRICKED into marrying a landlady. The story is cleverly told. I enjoyed it.
"A Day At Niagra" by Mark Twain, from the Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, this particular story was published in 1903, I believe.
NIAGARA FALLS is a most enjoyable place of resort. The hotels are excellent, and the prices not at all exorbitant. The opportunities for fishing are not surpassed in the country; in fact, they are not even equaled elsewhere. Because, in other localities, certain places in the streams are much better than others; but at Niagara one place is just as good as another, for the reason that the fish do not bite anywhere, and so there is no use in your walking five miles to fish, when you can depend on being just as unsuccessful nearer home. The advantages of this state of things have never heretofore been properly placed before the public.
When you start out to "do" the Falls you first drive down about a mile, and pay a small sum for the privilege of looking down from a precipice into the narrowest part of the Niagara river. A rail- way "cut" through a hill would be as comely if it had the angry river tumbling and foaming through its bottom. You can descend a staircase here a hundred and fifty feet down, and stand at the edge of the water. After you have done it, you will wonder why you did it; but you will then be too late.
    • Premise/Plot: This is a comic piece. The narrator is relating to the reader his experiences at Niagra Falls. One thing after another after another leads him to regret his visit
    Here I followed instructions, and divested myself of all my clothing, and put on a waterproof jacket and overalls. This costume is picturesque, but not beautiful. A guide, similarly dressed, led the way down a flight of winding stairs, which wound and wound, and still kept on winding long after the thing ceased to be a novelty, and then terminated long before it had begun to be a pleasure. We were then well down under the precipice, but still considerably above the level of the river. We now began to creep along flimsy bridges of a single plank, our persons shielded from destruction by a crazy wooden railing, to which I clung with both hands-- not because I was afraid, but because I wanted to. Presently the descent became steeper, and the bridge flimsier, and sprays from the American Fall began to rain down on us in fast increasing sheets that soon became blinding, and after that our progress was mostly in the nature of groping.
    • But the worst he brings upon himself in a way. He starts jabbering complete nonsense to three different "Native Americans" in the gift shop, I believe. The people dressed up as Indians, readers learn, are not the real deal. (They are all Irish.)  And they don't appreciate his ridiculousness. You can't really blame them for their response, perhaps.
    "Is the Wawhoo-Wang-Wang of the Whack-a-Whack happy? Does the great Speckled Thunder sigh for the warpath, or is his heart contented with dreaming of the dusky maiden, the Pride of the Forest? Does the mighty Sachem yearn to drink the blood of his enemies, or is he satisfied to make bead reticules for the pappooses of the paleface? Speak, sublime relic of bygone grandeur-- venerable ruin, speak!'

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    16. Library Loot: Third Trip in February

    New Loot:
    • The Time In Between by Maria Duenas, translated by Daniel Hahn
    • Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters by Daniel Pool
    • A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
    • Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
    • By The Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
    Leftover Loot:
    • The Beatles: All These Years: Volume 1: Tune In by Mark Lewisohn
    • Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould
    • Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher by Kerry Greenwood
    • Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood
    • A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody
    • Bridge of Time by Lewis Buzbee 
    • Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
    • The 8th Continent by Matt London
    • Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys
    • Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini
    • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
    • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
    •  Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
    • A Great and Glorious Adventure by Gordon Corrigan
    • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
    • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    • Socks by Beverly Cleary
    • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
    • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
    • On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
    • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
    • If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
    • A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
    • My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary
    • Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
    • The Foundry's Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.    

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    17. Week in Review: February 15-21

    Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers. Margaret C. Sullivan. Quirk Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
    Hard Times. Charles Dickens. 1854/1992. Everyman's Library. 336 pages.  [Source: Library]

    Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. 1863. 403 pages. [Source: Bought]Such A Little Mouse. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue. 2015. [March 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    If I Ran the Zoo. Dr. Seuss. 1950. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
    Wanderville.  Wendy McClure. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
     Rain Reign. Ann M. Martin. 2014. Feiwel & Friends. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
    Winterbound. Margery Williams Bianco. 1936/2014. Dover. 234 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Sleep in Peace Tonight. James MacManus. 2014. Thomas Dunne Books. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
    Entangled. Amy Rose Capetta. 2013. HMH. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
    The Crimson Cord: Rahab's Story (Daughters of the Promised Land #1) Jill Eileen Smith. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Tyndale's New Testament. Translated by William Tyndale. A Modern Spelling Edition of the 1534 Translation with an introduction by David Daniell. 1996. Yale University Press. 466 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe To Believe. Tom Doyle. 2015. [March 2015] Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. Joe Rigney. Foreword by John Piper. 2015. Crossway. 272 pages.

    This week's recommendation(s):

    Jane Austen's Cover to Cover is oh-so-easy to recommend this week!

    I also loved Jill Eileen Smith's The Crimson Cord.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    18. Seuss on Saturday #8

    If I Ran the Zoo. Dr. Seuss. 1950. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

    First sentence:
    "It's a pretty good zoo,"
    Said young Gerald McGrew,
    "And the fellow who runs it
    Seems proud of it, too."
    "But if I ran the zoo,"
    Said young Gerald McGrew,
    "I'd make a few changes.
    That's just what I'd do..."
    Premise/Plot: Gerald dreams of all the changes he'd make if he ran the zoo. He wouldn't dream of having ordinary animals that you could see at any zoo. No, he wants fantastic animals that have never been seen or heard of. His animals have strange names and come from faraway places. His animals still need to be discovered, hunted, captured. The zoo he dreams up will be something.

    My thoughts: This one is silly enough. It is ALL about the rhyme. Making up ridiculous-yet-fun sounding names for animals and countries. For better or worse, sometimes the text and/or the illustrations don't quite hold up so well.
    I'll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant
    With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant,
    And capture a fine fluffy bird called the Bustard
    Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard.
    and
    I'll go to the African island of Yerka
    And bring back a tizzle-topped Tufted Mazurka,
    A kind of canary with quite a tall throat.
    His neck is so long, if he swallows an oat
    For breakfast the first day of April, they say
    It has to go down such a very long way
    That it gets to his stomach the fifteenth of May. 
    In the last example, it isn't so much what is said as to how it is illustrated. 

    Have you read If I Ran the Zoo? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to hear what you thought 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 Scrambled Eggs Super!

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    19. Jane Austen Cover to Cover

    Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers. Margaret C. Sullivan. Quirk Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

    Love Jane Austen? You should read Jane Austen Cover to Cover. The book is about Jane Austen, her books, her book covers--a history of their many publications over the past two hundred years. For the most part, the book follows a certain chronology providing readers with context. (For example, covers with teens or tweens in mind differ from covers with adult collectors in mind differ from covers with scholars in mind.) Each edition has a spread. And it's just a joy to see all the covers. There are great covers. There are horrible covers. I liked it best when Sullivan talked about the horrible covers!!! I laughed out loud so many times reading this book!!! [See also: "5 Ridiculous Jane Austen Book Covers, Explained in Hilarious "Deleted Scenes."

    I definitely recommend this one. I read it all in one sitting. It was just so satisfying--a real delight. If you want a preview of sorts, read this Guardian piece. And for more book cover fun--specifically P&P--this NY Times slide show is fun too.

    You should read Jane Austen Cover to Cover
    • If you are a fan of Jane Austen
    • If you have an interest or fascination with book covers
    • If you have an interest in publishing, book design, illustration, or book collecting
    • If you like to laugh
    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    20. Entangled (2013)

    Entangled. Amy Rose Capetta. 2013. HMH. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

    On the one hand, I didn't end up connecting with the characters, and, I found much of the book to be confusing and/or too bizarre for my liking. But on the other hand, I found it compelling enough that I wanted to read it through until the end so that I could see if Cade 'finds' her 'entangled' missing half, Xan.

    Entangled is YA Science Fiction. It's set several thousand years in the future long after Earth itself has been destroyed--by asteroid, I believe. Humans haven't done a good job colonizing space. In fact, they've done an AWFUL job of it. They're not thriving, and, at best are merely surviving. Humans are the lowest of the lowest of the low. All alien races seem to despise humans as nobodies.

    Cade is the book's human narrator. She's a teen musician trying to make sense of her noisy existence. Music is the sole way she copes with her life. Her music seems to help those around her cope better with their own lives too. Even the spacesick humans who have lost their sanity completely. (The spacesick seem to have a need to touch and be touched, to connect with anything and everything outside themselves.)

    Soon after the novel opens, Cade is visited by someone--or a remnant of someone. She learns that she is special, that she is 'entangled,' that she has a second-half, Xan, who is in danger, that Xan and Cade together could be the saviors of the human race. It's a lot of information to absorb. But. She takes her visitor seriously and begins a task that seems--at least to her--impossible. Finding a way off the planet and onto a space ship, traveling to the planet, Hades, where Xan is being held prisoner.

    It would be a very short and unsatisfying book if Cade didn't find a way off the planet at least. And, as you might have guessed, Cade does in fact make friends with the people she's traveling with. She informs them of her mission, and, they decide to help her. Not that they offer help immediately and without reservation. But. Eventually relationships--friendships--are formed. And Cade begins to feel a little less alone and a little less overwhelmed.

    There are a handful of world-building scenes throughout the novel. I'm not sure why they didn't quite work for me. I just failed to engage with this book and the characters within it. I wanted to know what happened. But I didn't necessarily "like" or "enjoy" the characters or the journey. Some characters I liked more than others.

    This one may work for you. It didn't quite work for me. But as I said, I at least cared enough to finish it.
    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    21. Sleep in Peace Tonight (2014)

    Sleep in Peace Tonight. James MacManus. 2014. Thomas Dunne Books. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

    Sleep in Peace Tonight was a great read. It is set, for the most part, in England in 1941. Harry Hopkins, FDR's adviser, is being sent to England to speak with Churchill. He'll spend many months talking with Churchill and writing to Roosevelt. He's there because of the war, of course. Popular opinion in the U.S. at the time being that war should be avoided at all costs no matter what--no matter what Hitler was doing in Europe or England, no matter how desperate the situation was growing. Churchill and many others, of course, were advocating the U.S. to become involved, saying that it was the obviously right thing to do. Hitler is bad news. Hitler must be stopped. Political tension. This book is essentially all about political tension. Tension within the United States. There being isolationists and even Nazi supporters within the U.S. Tension between Britain and the U.S. Tension between two personalities, of course. There being a whole lot of he says this but means this. The setting and atmosphere is well-developed. One gets an idea of what it was like to live in a topsy-turvy world with nightly bombings, and the only certain thing being that life is short and death could come anywhere, anytime.

    Sleep In Peace Tonight is more than a historical novel, however, it is also a romance. Did I love the romance? Not particularly. On the one hand, it introduces a character, Leonora Finch to the story. She is patriotic and smart and oh-so-capable. She's doing her part for the war. Her storyline reminded me very much of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Her role in this novel is a bit underdeveloped in a way. I wouldn't have minded if more had been her story. Or if she got a book of her own. (That being said, I found Hopkins' story to be compelling for the most part.) But do I love Harry Hopkins and Leonora Finch as a couple? Do I think this is a compelling, oh-so-romantic, moving love story? Not so much.

    Overall, I liked it very much.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    22. Rain Reign (2014)

     Rain Reign. Ann M. Martin. 2014. Feiwel & Friends. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

    Rose Howard loves her dog Rain. She probably loves Rain more than homonyms and prime numbers. Maybe. It would be hard to know for sure. These are just a few of the things readers should know about Rose. Oh, I almost forgot rules. Rose Howard loves rules, loves living by rules, loves holding other people to high standards of abiding by rules. Which doesn't make her many friends among her peers, or, even the adults in her life. For example, she's no longer allowed on the bus because the bus driver couldn't take it anymore--the constant criticism of her driving. To help facilitate her needs in the classroom, she has an aide assigned to her. This helps. It may even help a great deal. Rose has worked with an aide for a year or two, I believe, but even so Rose's behavior in and out of the classroom is far from perfect. I'll qualify that. Her behavior is still not good enough, not perfect enough, not "normal" enough to please her father. I think there are enough indicators in the text that show that others in Rose's life are more forgiving and accepting. (Rose has Asperger's syndrome and OCD.)

    So what is Rain Reign about? It's a story about a girl, a dog, a hurricane, and a brave act on Rose's part. There are some things Rose will tell readers from the start. I don't consider these facts to be spoilers. 1) There is a storm, a hurricane. 2) Rose's Dad puts the dog out of the house in the midst of the storm. 3) Rose doesn't know why her Dad did this.

    I liked Rose well enough as a narrator. I did. But I think for me, the big surprise perhaps, was how much I loved her uncle. I think Uncle Weldon was my favorite part of this novel.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    23. Winterbound (1936)

    Winterbound. Margery Williams Bianco. 1936/2014. Dover. 234 pages. [Source: Bought]

    Did I love Winterbound the same way I loved Margery Williams' Velveteen Rabbit. NO! I want to be honest about that from the start. Winterbound is not nearly as charming and lovely and wonderful as The Velveteen Rabbit. But with the right expectations, Winterbound could work for some readers.

    Winterbound is about four siblings living on their own in a rented house in rural New England with both parents away. The father is an archaeologist,  if I'm remembering correctly. He'll be gone for a year or two. The mother's absence is more sudden. She goes to take care of a sick relative in New Mexico.  The family--three girls, one boy--were raised in the city. This is their first time 'experiencing' country life. This is also their first time being independent. The two oldest are nearly-grown--upper teens. Kay. Garry (short for Margaret). Caroline. Martin.

    Is the book about anything? Yes and no.

    It is a coming-of-age story for both Kay and Garry, in a way. Both are learning who they are as individuals: what they like, love, want, need, etc. Both are thinking ahead, thinking about the future: who they want to be, what they want their lives to look like, how they plan to earn money, etc. I think it's good to approach this one as an "Am I ready to be an adult?" book.

    It is a book about family and friendship. All of the siblings make friends within the community. And, of course, there's always their relationships with each other. The sections when they're spending time with their best friends are always enjoyable. Plenty of storytelling.

    It is a book about rural life, seasons, and nature. When you see the title don't think LONG WINTER, that isn't fair to this book at all. This book isn't so much about winter, as it is about all the seasons. Yes, the four face a difficult week or two when they're isolated because of too much snowfall, a blizzard perhaps. But that's just a tiny part of the book as a whole. It's just as much about all four seasons.

    It is a slower-paced book, I admit. Not every book has to be action-packed and full of adventure and drama. But I wouldn't say that nothing happens. The focus is on the ordinary.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    24. Wanderville (2014)

    Wanderville.  Wendy McClure. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

    Wanderville is the first in a new historical series for young readers. The book opens in the year 1904. Readers quickly meet a group of 'orphans' destined to head west to Kansas on the 'orphan train.' Jack is not an orphan. But his parents have decided to place him out. This decision, in part, is based on overwhelming grief. Jack's older brother died in a factory fire. Jack escaped death, but, he had to jump out an upper story window to do so. Readers also meet siblings Frances and Harold. These three children meet on the train. The children on the train have different reactions: some are excited and hopeful about the future, some are all nerves and worries. There have been rumors--horrifying rumors. So Jack, Frances, and Harold come to an agreement at some point during their ride, they will NOT stay on the train, they will not be placed out as orphans, they will not face the risks. So. They jump off the train, and, the three of them find a runaway orphan named Alexander. He is a DREAMER. In his mind, the nearby woods are a dream come true. Wanderville. A place where all children longing for freedom and independence find sanctuary....

    But this 'free' life comes with risks of it own. Yes, the children are free from authority, but, they essentially survive by a combination of stealing and living off the land. Alexander is a persuasive talker, but, he's also a thief on the run from the law. (The sheriff of the town knows that something is going on.)

    Wanderville is a quick read, and it's enjoyable enough. I can't say it was love. But it was entertaining enough for an afternoon's read.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    25. Such A Little Mouse (2015)

    Such A Little Mouse. Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue. 2015. [March 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Way out in the wide world there is a meadow. In the middle of the meadow, under a clump of dandelions, there is a hole. And way down deep in the hole lives a mouse. Such a little mouse, with his smart gray coat with his ears pink as petals, with three twitchety whiskers on each side of his nose.

    Such a Little Mouse is a concept book about seasons. It stars a little gray mouse. Readers learn what the little mouse does each day in spring, each day in summer, each day in autumn to prepare for each day in the winter. It is a simple nature-focused book. It is very descriptive, which is a good thing. I liked some of the details and descriptions. It provides a certain perspective of the world. The mouse is aware of his surroundings, and enjoys exploring and working.

    I thought the illustrations were very well done. Especially of the mouse. I definitely enjoyed this one.

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

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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