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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. Number the Stars (1989)

Number the Stars. Lois Lowry. 1989. (Won Newbery in 1990) 137 pages. [Source: Bought]

Number the Stars was probably one of the first fiction books I read about the Holocaust and World War II. (I know I also read The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank, but both of those are nonfiction.) What did I remember about Number the Stars after all these years? Well, I remembered that it was about a young girl who had a Jewish best friend. I remembered that the girl's family helped the friend and her family get out of Denmark. I remembered the intense scene where German soldiers come to her house looking for hidden Jews. But most of the details had faded away. So it was definitely time for me to reread.

Annemarie is the heroine of Number the Stars. I loved her. I loved her courage and loyalty. Ellen is Annemarie's best friend. I love that readers get an opportunity to see these two be friends before it gets INTENSE. I also love Annemarie's family. I do. I don't think I properly appreciated them as a child reader. One thing that resonated with me this time around was Annemarie's older sister, her place in the story. The setting. I think the book did a great job at showing what it could have been like to grow up in wartime with enemy soldiers all around. In some ways it was the little things that I loved best. For example, how Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti (Annemarie's little sister) play paper dolls together, how they act out stories, in this case they are acting out scenes from Gone with The Wind. I think all the little things help bring the story to life and make it feel authentic.

For a young audience, Number the Stars has a just-right approach. It is realistic enough to be fair to history. It is certainly sad in places. But it isn't dark and heavy and unbearable. The focus is on hope: there are men and women, boys and girls, who live by their beliefs and will do what is right at great risk even. Yes, there is evil in the world, but, there is also good.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. March Reflections

In March I reviewed 58 books.

Board books:

  1. Board book: Little Blue and Little Yellow. Leo Lionni. 1959/2011. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Board book: Hide and Seek Harry On the Farm. Kenny Harrison. 2015. Candlewick. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Board book: Hide and Seek Harry At The Playground. Kenny Harrison. 2015. Candlewick. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Board Book: Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems To Love With Your Baby. Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Alyssa Nassner. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 44 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Audrey's Tree House. Jenny Hughes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Horton Hears A Who! Dr. Seuss. 1954. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. On Beyond Zebra! Dr. Seuss. 1955. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. If I Ran the Circus. Dr. Seuss. 1956. Random House. 58 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Cat In the Hat. Dr. Seuss. 1957. Random House. 61 pages.  [Source: Library]
  6. The Princess and the Pony. Kate Beaton. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Hoot Owl Master of Disguise. Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Jean Jullien. 2015. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Les Miserables The Epic Masterpiece by Victor Hugo, Retold and Illustrated by Marcia Williams. 2015. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. The Octopuppy. Martin McKenna. 2015. [March] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Follow  Follow. A Book of Reverso Poems. (Companion to Mirror Mirror) Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2013. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. Noah's Ark. Linda Falken. Illustrated by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2015. (April 2015) Harry N. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Early readers/Early chapter books: 0

Middle grade:
  1. The Case of the Cursed Dodo: A Jungle Noir (Endangered Files #1) Jake G. Panda. 2014. Wooly Family Studios. 180 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. The Case of the Vanishing Emerald (Maisie Hitchins #2) Holly Webb. 2013/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. The 100 Dresses. Eleanor Estes. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. 1944/2004. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  4.  Space Case. Stuart Gibbs. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. By the Shores of Silver Lake. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1939. HarperCollins. 291 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1940. 335 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Little Town on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1941. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. These Happy Golden Years. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1943. HarperCollins. 289 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library]   
  10. Emil and Karl. Yankev Glatshteyn. Translated from the Yiddish by Jeffrey Shandler. 1940/2006. Roaring Book Press. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  11. How To Catch A Bogle. Catherine Jinks. Illustrated by Sarah Watts. 2013. HMH. [Source: Review copy]
  12. The Zoo at the Edge of the World. Eric Kahn Gale. 2014. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition. Daina Kalnins. 2008. Lobster Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Book of Earth (Bradamante Saga #1) Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 395 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Adult fiction:
  1. Ayala's Angel. Anthony Trollope. 1881. 631 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Ella Minnow Pea. Mark Dunn. 2001. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Sparkling Cyanide. (Colonel Race #4) Agatha Christie. 1944/2002. HarperCollins. 288 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. Pioneer Girl. Bich Minh Nguyen. 2014/2015. Penguin. 296 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Poems. Christina G. Rossetti. 1906. 428 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. The Accidental Empress. Allison Pataki. 2015. Howard Books. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. The Midwife of Hope River. Patricia Harman. 2012. HarperCollins. 382 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Ship of Brides. Jojo Moyes. 2005/2014. Penguin. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. The Killings At Badger's Drift. (Inspector Barnaby #1) Caroline Graham. 1987/2005. Felony & Mayhem. 272 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. Death of A Hollow Man. (Inspector Barnaby #2) Caroline Graham. 1989/2006. Felony & Mayhem. 306 pages. [Source: Library] 
  12. The Rector. Margaret Oliphant. 1863. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]
Adult nonfiction:
  1. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times. Jennifer Worth. 2002/2009. Penguin. 340 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Farewell to the East End. (Call of the Midwife #3) Jennifer Worth. 2009/2013. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Devil at My Heels. Louis Zamperini and David Rensin. 1956/2004. Harper Perennial. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Determined. A. Avraham Perlmutter. 2014. Mascherato Publishing. 172 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. A Great and Glorious Adventure: The Hundred Years War and the Birth of Renaissance England. Gordon Corrigan. 2013/2014. Pegasus. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. The Last Jews in Berlin. Leonard Gross. 1982/2015. Open Road Media. 343 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. Daughter of the Regiment. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2015. [Late March] Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Anna's Crossing: An Amish Beginnings Novel. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2015. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian nonfiction:
  1. To The Glory of God: A 40 Day Devotional on the Book of Romans. James Montgomery Boice. 2010. Baker Books. 183 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. Barnabas Piper. Foreword by N.D. Wilson. 2015. [July 2015] David C. Cook. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Why Believe the Bible? John MacArthur. 1980/2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine. A.W. Tozer 1948/2006. WingSpread Publishers. 70 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  5. Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Joe Thorn. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. No Little People. Francis A. Schaeffer. 2003. Crossway. 239 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture. Josh McDowell. 2015. (April 2015). Barbour. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Saint Patrick. Jonathan Rogers. 2010. Thomas Nelson. 143 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. The Daring Mission of William Tyndale (A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles). Steven J. Lawson. 2015. Reformation Trust. 184 pages. [Source: Bought] 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Book of Earth (2015)

Book of Earth (Bradamante Saga #1) Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 395 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bradamante knelt in the mud and cut away all of her hair. Rain peppered her bare scalp. The wind shoved at her in gusts, plastering her wet clothes against her skin. It was stupid, she knew, to kneel here in the storm--even in summer the combination of wet and wind could prove deadly. Her fingers were already wooden from the cold. But she continued working, pulling each new section of hair taut and slicing it away with her hunting knife.

Did I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Robin Brande's Book of Earth? No. I didn't LOVE it. Did I love it enough that I'd want to read more in the series? Yes. In fact, I probably would enjoy them more.

The main focus of Book of Earth is on world-building and introducing the characters. Both are important, essential even. But it had a prologue feel to it, like the real story had yet to begin. That's not to say that the book lacks action or suspense. But most of it comes towards the end.

Bradamante is the heroine of Book of Earth. Is she weak? Is she strong? Is she decisive? Is she impulsive? At the start of the novel, Bradamante has perhaps taken the first step towards her future. Her decision to cut her hair may seem small, but, it's life-changing. That night she has her first vision. (This first vision reminded me of Samuel's calling in the Bible. For those that are interested, you can read about it in 1 Samuel 3.) In the vision, she sees a teacher, Manat, and an older-stronger-wiser self. I believe at the time of the vision, she is twelve, but her older self, her "warrior" self is in her twenties. She listens to what Manat has to say. She's at a crossroads of sorts. She can choose what direction her life will take. She can choose to commit to the warrior-path knowing that it will be difficult and demanding and require tough sacrifices, or, she can remain where she is and take a more passive  role. (I hesitate to use the word "victim" here, but, in some ways it might apply. Since most readers can guess this will not be her choice, I'm not sure if it matters.) Bradamante chooses to become a warrior: to begin her training. But this training is unique. For it occurs NIGHTLY in her visions. She's training for the future while she sleeps. She wakes and plays instructor for her brother, Rinaldo. I'll be honest: these visions add strangeness to the novel. I wasn't sure, at the beginning, who Manat was, if she was a real person, or a spirit. Her brother also had some doubts about "Manat." Is his sister crazy? Why is she suddenly having all these strange dreams or "visions"? How does she know what she knows? Bradamante's biggest fear--at first--is that her new life will take her away from her brother. She is hoping that it WILL take her far, far away from her mother, however. But in her reckoning, the perfect life would take both of them far, far away, and they'd be together and both strong warriors.

Things don't go as Bradamante would wish. To say the least! And there's a dark, cruelty to the world Brande has created in Book of Earth. There were definitely scenes that brought the Bible to mind once again. (Genesis 19 and Judges 19). I'm struggling with how much to reveal--in general. How much is too much in a review? I will add this perhaps. There comes a time when Bradamante's training moves from nightly visions to reality. In other words, she begins to physically train and do battle with other would-be warriors. She continues to learn from Manat, Samual, and others. Not just how to do battle or how to survive, but, more meaning-of-life, philosophical, spiritual stuff.

The world Brande has created definitely has a spiritual side to it. But it isn't exactly a spirituality that one would recognize or distinguish as being "Christian". There isn't one God. In fact, lower-case "g" throughout. And all the talk is of each person finding and listening to their god. There isn't any one message to be spread or taught either. In fact, in quite a few places, it's stressed that what happens between a person and their god is private and personal and just for them. That being said, Bradamante's message from her god comes almost straight from the Bible--Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart. That is the message Bradamante's god gives her along with: Do not be afraid. I have called you to this life. Do not be afraid. Be strong in body. Strong in mind. Strong in heart. And know that I am with you.

Book of Earth kept me reading. Even if I didn't always "like" a particular scene. (Intense scenes can make me uncomfortable in the moment. I want to know what happens, if characters get out of a situation. But until they do--I have an almost hate-to-look reaction.) For the most part, I cared about the characters and thought they were well-developed. (Jara and Astolpho are other characters I came to care about.) The world she created was interesting. Not one I'd like to visit, mind you, but interesting all the same. I do want to know what happens next.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Nutrition

YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition. Daina Kalnins. 2008. Lobster Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

YUM is an informative nonfiction read for upper elementary and middle grade students. Its focus is on teaching young people the basics of nutrition, on how to be more aware of what they're putting in their bodies.  It is not a diet book, a how to lose weight book. If nothing else, the book will teach readers HOW to read food labels and basic definitions of key terms. 

In the first chapter, the focus is on macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein.  In the second chapter, the focus is on micronutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, and Sodium. In the third chapter, the focus is on how the body digests food. In the fourth chapter, the author provides sample menus and recipes for breakfast, lunch, supper, and morning and afternoon snacks. In the fifth chapter, the practical advice continues on how to make changes and establish good habits. This last chapter covers a little bit of everything: food safety (how long to keep food, how to tell if food has gone bad, etc), grocery shopping, eating out, etc.

The book is written for kids and with kids in mind. The advice is specifically for what growing, active children need to be eating to be healthy.

Nutrition books can become dated quickly, this one isn't as up-to-date as I'd like. But it still has some good, basic information.  One thing that makes it continue to be relevant is how reader-friendly it is.

My favorite chapter is probably the one on micronutrients. I loved learning what each nutrient does in the body, and which foods you should eat to get that nutrient.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. March Short Stories


March's Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
  • 9 Spades "The Story of the Bad Little Boy" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories 
  • 3 Diamonds "Six Weeks at Heppenheim" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories 
  • 8 Spades "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories 
  • 2 Hearts "An Adventure on Island Rock" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906 
  • 5 Clubs "Second Chance" by Orson Scott Card from Worthing Saga
 "The Story of the Bad Little Boy" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
  • Premise/Plot: A Parody of 'religious fiction' of the day written to "motivate" children to behave. His character is bad and nothing horrible ever happens to him, he does what he wants no matter how wrong or bad, and he has a very good and long life. 
Quote:
But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn't get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday, and didn't get struck by lighting. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.
"Six Weeks at Heppenheim" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
  • Premise/Plot: A very entertaining and satisfying story. The hero is on a European tour of sorts, he gets sick, and is tended to/nursed at a local inn. During his stay, he gets to know the family and the servants. There is a romantic element to this one. (The narrator is not involved. He's a witness nothing more to this sweet story). 
"The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain from Complete Short Stories
  • Premise/Plot: A funny story about a man who gets "caught" by a man who talks WAY too much. Can he escape the man's acquaintance, or will he have to listen to this man go on and on and on forever?! 
First sentence:
 In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless to me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.
"An Adventure on Island Rock" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  •  Premise/Plot: A dog, Laddie, saves a young boy, Ned, and is saved in the process from being sold by "mean" Uncle Richard. Ernest, the dog's best friend, is overjoyed. 
"Second Chances" by Orson Scott Card (1979) Printed in Capital and Worthing Saga
  • Premise/Plot: Abner Doon is in love, but, he won't be getting a happy ending. For the woman he loves is duty-bound to care for her parents. Both are in horrible health/condition. Conveniently, he convinces her for a few short hours, that she deserves a chance to be happy, to be with him. During these brief hours, he convinces her to get her mind taped (or bubbled?). (This is tied in with the drug, Somec, and preparing to go to sleep.) But she changes her mind. Decides that she couldn't possibly be happy with him if her parents were miserable and alone. This time the decision is final, or is it? What happens years later, when she's lost both her parents. Will they get a second chance?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. The Rector (1863)

The Rector. Margaret Oliphant. 1863. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Rector is a short novella set in the town of Carlingford. Readers meet Morley Proctor, the new rector. Is he the right man for the job? Only time will tell for sure. But his own doubts grow as he gets acquainted with everyone in town, and he realizes the expectations that everyone has of him.

For example, he's expected to pay pastoral visits, to sit and comfort and counsel the sick and dying. He's partly disgusted and partly ashamed. For he hasn't a clue what to say to anyone. He's asked questions and he doesn't have a clue how to talk to people, how to minister or shepherd. He realizes that he has no idea HOW to do his job. He realizes that he's better off as a scholar, keeping his head in books, and away from the practical needs of the people.

I read Miss Marjoribanks first. I'll be reviewing that one in April. This is the first in the series. It is short and not nearly as engaging or satisfying. But I am glad I read it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Week in Review: March 22-28

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library] 
Little Town on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1941. 374 pages. [Source: Library]
These Happy Golden Years. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1943. HarperCollins. 289 pages. [Source: Library]
Sparkling Cyanide. (Colonel Race #4) Agatha Christie. 1944/2002. HarperCollins. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
 Space Case. Stuart Gibbs. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A Great and Glorious Adventure: The Hundred Years War and the Birth of Renaissance England. Gordon Corrigan. 2013/2014. Pegasus. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Follow  Follow. A Book of Reverso Poems. (Companion to Mirror Mirror) Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2013. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The Cat In the Hat. Dr. Seuss. 1957. Random House. 61 pages.  [Source: Library]
Board book: Little Blue and Little Yellow. Leo Lionni. 1959/2011. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ella Minnow Pea. Mark Dunn. 2001. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
To The Glory of God: A 40 Day Devotional on the Book of Romans. James Montgomery Boice. 2010. Baker Books. 183 pages. [Source: Bought]
Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. Barnabas Piper. Foreword by N.D. Wilson. 2015. [July 2015] David C. Cook. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Why Believe the Bible? John MacArthur. 1980/2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s)

I'd definitely recommend Follow, Follow even if you don't "like" or "love" poetry.

I'd also recommend Lois Lowry's The Giver. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in March

New Loot:
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  • Kept for Jesus by Sam Storms
  • Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R. Trueman
  • 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-up in History by Andrew Morton
  • Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary
  • Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
  • Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
  • "B" is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
  • Back to School with Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
  • Betsy and the Boys by Carolyn Haywood
  • Betsy and Billy by Carolyn Haywood
  • The Wheel on the School by Meindert De Jong
Leftover Loot:
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Christine Donougher
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
  • Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
  • Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks
  • Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
  •  The Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie, translated by David Henry Wilson
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  •  The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  • Game Changer by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  •  Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
    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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9. Seuss on Saturday #13

The Cat In the Hat. Dr. Seuss. 1957. Random House. 61 pages.  [Source: Library]

First sentence:
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
Premise/Plot: Sally and her brother can't find ANYTHING fun to do on a rainy day until a strange cat comes to their house, invites himself in, and turns everything topsy-turvy. This rhyming book also stars a fish, who knows that the Cat in the Hat's fun only leads to trouble, and Thing One and Thing Two.  (One of the games they play is up-up-up with a fish. Another is fun-in-a-box.)

My thoughts: I've read this one dozens of times. It's so familiar, so fun. It's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to read it for the first time. I've also heard the audio book read by Kelsey Grammer. Is this my FAVORITE Seuss book? I'm not sure that it is. But it's so fun and silly.

Have you read The Cat in the Hat? 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 reading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Follow Follow (2013)

Follow  Follow. A Book of Reverso Poems. (Companion to Mirror Mirror) Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2013. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, LOVED reading Marilyn Singer's Follow Follow. If you love fairy tales, you MUST read Follow Follow. If you love good poetry, you MUST read Follow Follow. If you're new to reverso poems, to the concept of this form of poetry, you should really read Follow Follow or its companion Mirror Mirror. I love how the form itself is so engaging. It takes poetry to a whole new level for me! (It may do the same for you. I hope it does!)

Author's note:
The reverso, a form I created, is made up of two poems. Read the first down and it says one thing. Read it back up, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it means something completely different. When you flip the poem, sometimes the same narrator has a different point of view. Other times, there is another narrator all together.
The poems:
  • Your Wish Is My Command (Aladdin)
  • Birthday Suit (The Emperor's New Clothes)
  • Silly Goose (The Golden Goose)
  • Ready, Steady, Go (The Tortoise and the Hare)
  • Will the Real Princess Please Stand Up (The Princess and the Pea)
  • The Little Mermaid's Choice (The Little Mermaid)
  • Panache (Puss in Boots)
  • Follow Follow (The Pied Piper)
  • No Bigger Than Your Thumb (Thumbelina)
  • Can't Blow This House Down (The Three Little Pigs)
  • The Nightingale's Emperor (The Nightingale)
  • On With The Dance (The Twelve Dancing Princesses)
I think I LOVED almost all of the poems. There were a few that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED however.

The Little Mermaid's Choice

For love,
give up your voice.
Don't
think twice.
On the shore,
be his shadow.
Don't
keep your home
in the unruly sea.
Be docile.
You can't
catch him
playing
"You'll never catch me!"

You'll never catch me
playing
"Catch him."
You can't
be docile
in the unruly sea.
Keep your home.
Don't
be his shadow
on the shore.
Think twice!
Don't
give up your voice
for love.

Reading these poems is just a JOY. I love how engaging it is. How it makes you think and reflect on the familiar stories. I love how the poems play around with voice and perspective!!! So very clever!

Read this book!!!


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. These Happy Golden Years (1943)

These Happy Golden Years. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1943. HarperCollins. 289 pages. [Source: Library]

Why is it that reading These Happy Golden Years makes me giddy? Could it be my actual favorite of the series after all? Perhaps. It has been such a treat for me to reread these Little House books this past month. I've enjoyed visiting with Laura and her family. I've enjoyed watching 'the romance' unfold with Almanzo in Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years.

In These Happy Golden Years Laura has accepted--for better or worse--that she is all grown up. In this book, she teaches several different schools. Each teaching term is short--a few months here, a few months there. Her first teaching position lasts eight weeks, and, it is mostly a nightmare for her. She's rooming with Mr. and Mrs. Brewster. And Mrs. Brewster must be suffering from some mental illness. I feel sorry for Mr. Brewster and their baby, Johnny. There's a helplessness in the situation. Laura realizes how blessed she's been for a happy home life. The opening chapters dwell on her homesickness and gratitude. And she owes much to Almanzo Wilder. For HE comes to "rescue" her from the Brewsters every single weekend no matter how cold the weather. And it all comes as such a surprise to her that she'll get to spend her weekends at home.

When she's not teaching school, she's attending it. Every few months, it seems, she receives an opportunity to teach and earn money, and she'll take a teacher's exam, and get another certificate. But teaching isn't the only way she's able to earn money. She really, truly wants to earn money, not for herself, but to help keep Mary in college.

Most of the book focuses on the courtship of Laura and Almanzo. How he comes to take her sledding or for buggy rides. Laura does love his horses.

I love this book! I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Little Town on the Prairie

Little Town on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1941. 374 pages. [Source: Library]

 I enjoyed rereading Little Town on the Prairie. Is it completely perfect in every way? Probably not. (The idea of Pa joining in a minstrel show performance still doesn't sit well with me. Just like I don't like the dialogue of the Native American in The Long Winter--when he warns them of the winter ahead. But other than that, I don't have any real issue with the book). In this book:

  • The family moves back to their homestead for the summer and fall
  • The Ingalls get a cat AFTER Pa's hair is "cut" by mice in the night!
  • Laura gets a job assisting a seamstress
  • Laura and Carrie and Pa go to a fourth of July celebration; lemonade is involved
  • Blackbirds come and threaten numerous crops; some of the corn is saved and will be dried for winter consumption
  • Mary goes away to college
  • The family moves back to the town for the winter
  • Laura and Carrie attend school
  • Nellie Oleson is one of the 'country' girls attending school
  • Nellie becomes teacher's pet; the new teacher is Eliza Jane Wilder
  • Laura gets her first ride behind Almanzo's horses (she's running late for school, she had to order name cards)
  • A Literary Society (of sorts) is formed in town for the winter
  • The book actually covers TWO winters in town, but, we barely learn anything about the spring/summer/and fall in between the winters.
  • Laura attends several revival meetings and Almanzo asks to see her home each night!
  • Almanzo hints that he wants to take her sledding.
  • Laura gets her teaching certificate
Plenty of lovely things happen. I love the progression of the series. This book just makes me smile as I'm reading it. I often forget just how much I like this one since I love, love, love THE LONG WINTER, and I always associate These Happy Golden Years with having THE romance. I don't give this one enough credit for being OH-SO-GOOD.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Sparkling Cyanide (1944)

Sparkling Cyanide. (Colonel Race #4) Agatha Christie. 1944/2002. HarperCollins. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

It's been a while since I've last read Agatha Christie. Though this one did not star Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, I ended up LOVING it. Though I should add that my 'favorite' Christie mystery is usually--though not always--one of the ones I've most recently read. It's not unusual for my 'favorite' to change frequently.

Rosemary Barton is the victim. That isn't a spoiler. She's been dead almost a whole year when the novel opens. Sparkling Cyanide is written from multiple perspectives: six, I believe. Readers know that one of the six could in fact be the murderer, or at the very least know the murderer and are keeping quiet.

One other thing. Rosemary Barton's death is officially a suicide. It was never taken on as a murder case. Until....

There is so much I CAN'T say about Sparkling Cyanide. I love reading mysteries. I do. Vintage mysteries especially. And Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors to read. But I can't say I love reviewing mysteries. It's such a tricky thing to attempt. Because spoilers ruin mysteries more often than not. So, I'd definitely recommend Sparkling Cyanide. (It was originally titled Remembered Death in America.)


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Space Case (2014)

Space Case. Stuart Gibbs. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Dashiell Gibson lives on the moon with his family. The community on the moon is small--super small. And there are only a handful of kids in the community (Moon Base Alpha). That being just one of a hundred reasons why Dash absolutely hates his life. By the end of the book, readers could list dozens of reasons. The top two would probably be the HORRIBLE food and the HORRIBLE bathroom facilities. Going to the bathroom in space--on the moon--is a nightmare. And eating horrible tasting food that makes you have to go urgently is the WORST. Dash finds himself in a situation in the first chapter putting him in just the right place to overhear something he had no business hearing. Dr. Holtz was also in the bathroom in the wee morning hours. He was talking to someone about a life-changing DRAMATIC revelation. Our hero doesn't hear the details of Holtz's discovery, just the fact that this HUGE announcement will be made at breakfast. But hours before breakfast, Holtz has an accident. Or "accident" as the case may be. Dashiell believes that Dr. Holtz was murdered...but it won't be easy to convince the adults to investigate. Can Dash and his new friend help solve the case?!

Space Case is a middle grade mystery that I definitely enjoyed. I'm not sure I loved it exactly. But I love the idea of loving it. It's one of those potentially satisfying mysteries for younger readers. There are plenty of suspects and plenty of clues. For better or worse, the plot was a bit more developed than the characters. Plenty happens in this one. And it's a very quick read. But the characterization is light, in my opinion.

Space Case is the kind of book I enjoy reading once, but, maybe not one I see myself rereading again and again.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. What's On Your Nightstand (March)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Currently Reading:

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated and with notes by Christine Donougher. 2015. Penguin. 1456 pages. [Source: Library]

This is my third year (in a row) to reread Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. How could I not want to read a new translation of it?! And the introduction in this "deluxe" edition was great. I have finished the first volume of it (Fantine) and have started the second (Cosette). (The volumes are titled: "Fantine," "Cosette," "Marius," "Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet," and "Jean Valjean.")

 Lady Thief. (Scarlet #2) A.C. Gaughen. 2014. Bloomsbury. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Another reread. But I *have* to reread this one because the third book, Lion Heart, is releasing soon! This series is a retelling of Robin Hood. I loved, loved, LOVED this one last year. I hope the reread is just as wonderful.

Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1024 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've read Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back but I've never read Mary Poppins Opens the Door and Mary Poppins in the Park. I look forward to reading all four books this spring.

Man and Wife. Wilkie Collins. 1870. 652 pages. [Source: Bought]

Another reread. This was my very first Wilkie Collins novel that I read. It's been more than a few years since I read it. I started this one in February, I believe, and I'd love to finish it up. (I'm more than halfway through.) It's just hard for me to make this my priority book.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. A Great and Glorious Adventure

A Great and Glorious Adventure: The Hundred Years War and the Birth of Renaissance England. Gordon Corrigan. 2013/2014. Pegasus. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

A Great and Glorious Adventure was a sometimes fascinating read on the Hundred Years war. (Did England have a rightful claim to France? to rule certain domains in France? to the whole country? Corrigan explains why so many monarchs thought they did.)

The opening chapters fill readers in on British History from William the Conqueror to Edward III. However, most of the book focuses on the reigns of Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. (The author has his favorites.)

I would say a love for British history is an absolute must for this one. That isn't to say that every history lover will love this one. Yes, it's about history, but it's more military history, war, and battles. (So much detail is given for so many different battles and/or conflicts.)

So the book is about England's ongoing conflicts with France, Scotland, and Wales over several centuries. Readers also learn a little bit about the Black Death. (But only a little bit).

It is sometimes fascinating. I won't lie. There were chapters I enjoyed. But it is sometimes less than fascinating. There were chapters I just didn't enjoy all that much.

If you enjoy reading about the War of Roses, and would like a better, stronger foundation for understanding it, then this one would be worth reading.



© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Revisiting The Giver

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library]

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

My fifth "review" of Lois Lowry's The Giver. What more could I say that I haven't already said several times before? Feel free to read my reviews from 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Why did I reread The Giver this year? For two reasons. One. I watched the movie adaptation of The Giver. I watched the movie first, and, then started the book soon after. How do the two compare? What did I think of the movie? Well. The two certainly have a few differences. Jonas is much younger and even more innocent in the novel. But there was something about the movie that just worked really well. So I definitely didn't hate it! And I may have even loved it. I would never say I liked it "better" than the book. But on its own, it's a great movie. I loved many things about it. I loved how it was able to perfectly capture a few scenes from the book including the one where Jonas asks his parents if they love him. I also loved Jeff Bridges as The Giver! I love how both the book and the movie are thought-provoking.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Do you like the book or movie better? Is it ever fair to compare books and movies?

The second reason I reread The Giver is because I'm participating in the Birthday Month Reading Challenge. Lois Lowry's birthday is in March, so, it seemed a good fit for me! 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Little Blue and Little Yellow (1959)

Board book: Little Blue and Little Yellow. Leo Lionni. 1959/2011. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: This is little blue. Here he is at home with papa and mama blue. Little blue has many friends but his best friend is little yellow who lives across the street. 

Premise/plot: Little blue and Little yellow are best, best friends. One day Little blue goes over to play with Little yellow. He wasn't home, no one was home. He worries. He must find Little yellow! Luckily, he finds him. He was just around the corner. They hug. That's when something happens...Little Blue and Little Yellow turn green. Oh no! What will their parents say?

My thoughts: I had no idea that this book was first published in 1959! I love this sweet story of family and friendship and blending colors. The story is simple, yet full of emotion. The art is simple, but bold. Have you read it? Did you like it? love it? I'd love to hear what you thought of this one!


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. The Long Winter

The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1940. 335 pages. [Source: Library]

Out of all the Little House books, I probably reread the Long Winter most. There is just something about it that I love. The book opens with the Ingalls family preparing reasonably for the coming winter. Their plans don't take into account an early winter, a long winter, and a hard winter. Once there was a touch of winter in October, it was there to stay. The "good" weather being merely not-currently-in-a-four-day-blizzard. Some days the Ingalls and their neighbors are blessed with two days in between blizzards.

So, to begin back at the beginning, the Ingalls family moves to town after the first blizzard in October. It becoming obvious to Ma and Pa that they likely would not survive if they stayed at their claim. They take what provisions they've got, and everyone moves to town. But the provisions that they've got, that they've carefully planned and prepared won't be enough under these conditions. No one foresaw that there would be no trains coming to town during the winter months bringing food and fuel and such. Every person in town feels the stress of it. How will they survive? Will they survive?

This is the book where Laura and Almanzo first meet.

I love the intensity of this one. It's a book you experience. The cold. The hunger. The angst. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. The Princess and the Pony (2015)

The Princess and the Pony. Kate Beaton. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In a kingdom of warriors, the smallest warrior was Princess Pinecone. And she was very excited for her birthday. Most warriors get fantastic birthday presents. Shields, amulets, helmets with horns on them. Things to win battles with. Things that make them feel like champions. Princess Pinecone got a lot of cozy sweaters. Warriors do not need cozy sweaters.

Premise/plot: Princess Pinecone wants a pony for her birthday. The pony she wants is different than the pony she gets. The pony she gets is short and round and--depending on your point of view, either cute and adorable or ugly. She certainly can't imagine riding the pony, especially not into battle. The pony isn't very warrior-ish. But the pony has a way of charming the other warriors and even Princess Pinecone herself.

My thoughts: If pony farting books are your thing, then The Princess and the Pony may be just right for you. (I believe it got a starred review from Kirkus). Unfortunately,  I am not the right reader for the book. I found it odd and not charming enough.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Seuss on Saturday #12

If I Ran the Circus. Dr. Seuss. 1956. Random House. 58 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
"In all the whole town, the most wonderful spot
Is behind Sneelock's Store in the big vacant lot.
It's just the right spot for my wonderful plans,"
Said young Morris McGurk, "...If I clean up the cans."

Premise/Plot: A young boy imagines the circus he could have if only he cleaned up the vacant lot behind his favorite store. What a circus, he'd have. The best, BEST circus ever. He shares his plans for all his sideshow acts and for all the acts under the big tent too. Page after page, readers see one fabulous act after another.

My thoughts: Loved it. I wasn't expecting to love it. No one quite does rhythm and rhyme like Dr. Seuss. His books are fun to read, but, they're even better read aloud. He makes it look so simple and easy. To write in rhyme, to entertain young ones with a fun, imaginative story. But the thing is, it isn't that easy at all. So. I am definitely enjoying reading and rereading Seuss this year! I can't believe I never read this one growing up. But it's NEVER TOO LATE.

Have you read If I Ran the Circus?  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 (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Cat in the Hat.

Bonus: How The Grinch Stole Christmas was published in 1957. I reviewed this one in December of 2014.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Audrey's Tree House (2015)


Audrey's Tree House. Jenny Hughes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Your house is getting too small for me," said Audrey one morning.
"You do look much bigger than you did yesterday," said Dad. "But where will you go?"
"I haven't decided yet," said Audrey.

Premise/plot: Audrey has "outgrown" her house, or, so she thinks at the opening of this delightful picture book by Jenny Hughes. Audrey and her Dad go outside looking for a house--a new house--that is just right for the bigger-than-yesterday Audrey. They decide to build a treehouse. Side by side, they spend the day. But when evening approaches, well, Audrey realizes just where she belongs, where she'll always belong.

My thoughts: Loved, loved, loved it!!! Cute premise, cute illustrations, lovely text. This one just works really well for me!!! My favorite illustration is of Audrey in her Dad's sweater with the cat following along behind her.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Week in Review (March 15-21)

Ayala's Angel. Anthony Trollope. 1881. 631 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Long Winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1940. 335 pages. [Source: Library]

Devil at My Heels. Louis Zamperini and David Rensin. 1956/2004. Harper Perennial. 292 pages. [Source: Library]
Determined. A. Avraham Perlmutter. 2014. Mascherato Publishing. 172 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Zoo at the Edge of the World. Eric Kahn Gale. 2014. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Pioneer Girl. Bich Minh Nguyen. 2014/2015. Penguin. 296 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Audrey's Tree House. Jenny Hughes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
If I Ran the Circus. Dr. Seuss. 1956. Random House. 58 pages. [Source: Library]
The Princess and the Pony. Kate Beaton. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Poems. Christina G. Rossetti. 1906. 428 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine. A.W. Tozer 1948/2006. WingSpread Publishers. 70 pages. [Source: Bought]
Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Joe Thorn. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
No Little People. Francis A. Schaeffer. 2003. Crossway. 239 pages. [Source: Bought]

This week's recommendation(s)?

I loved, loved, loved Ayala's Angel.

I loved, loved, loved Audrey's Tree House.

I loved, loved, loved reading "Goblin Market" from Christina Rossetti's Poems.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Library Loot: Third Trip in March

New Loot:
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Christine Donougher
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
  • Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
  • Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks
  • Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
  • Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
  • Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie, translated by David Henry Wilson
  • The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman
Leftover Loot:
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  •  The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  • Game Changer by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  •  Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
    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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25. Ella Minnow Pea (2001)

Ella Minnow Pea. Mark Dunn. 2001. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

It has been years since I first read Ella Minnow Pea. For better or worse, my original review was more of a teaser, I didn't record what I *felt* about the book after reading it. The sad thing is, I was tempted to go that way this time as well. The premise is probably the most interesting thing about the book.

Ella Minnow Pea is set on a fictional island called Nollop located a dozen or so miles off the coast of South Carolina. The people of Nollop supposedly "worship" Nevin Nollop, author of this not-so-little sentence: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. When the letter tiles start falling off the statue/memorial, the High Council decide it's a sign from Nollop the Supreme Being. It's oh-so-obvious to them, though not particularly to the average citizen, that Nollop is telling them to STOP using the fallen letter. One by one the tiles fall--over six months or so. The penalties for speaking or writing one of the forbidden letters is severe: a matter of life or death if you persistently rebel. But you don't even have to be defiant or rebellious. A crime is a crime no matter if it's accidental or intentional.

How does this effect life? at school? at home? at work? Will this turn neighbor against neighbor? Or will it somehow bring it closer together?

Readers meet a handful of characters through letters. But characterization isn't one of the novel's strengths, in my opinion. All the characters tended to blend together.

The plot, well, it comes a bit later in the novel. A challenge is issued at some point by the council, if and only if, someone can write a new pangram--a sentence using all twenty-six letters, and for the purposes of this challenge limited to thirty-something letters, then the council will bring back all the forbidden letters and life will go on as it did before. The last third of the book is about trying and failing to write the pangram by the deadline.

The premise is the novel's strength. And depending on your mood, the novel may prove worth reading even if it's just for the premise alone. It is a unique idea, in my opinion. And epistolary novels aren't all that common.

What I didn't comment on in my initial review, so I have no idea if it bothered me then or not, is the WORSHIP aspect of this one. How the island has built a cult, of sorts, around Nollop, and talk as if he is actually a supreme being instead of another human. There are elements of this one that are just so over-the-top. I am not sure if it is innocent humor, or hit-you-over-the-head symbolism.

Did I love it? No. Probably not. Did I like it? Well, I read it twice. And it isn't like anyone forced me to pick it up again. It was a quick read and pleasant enough for the most part.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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