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Results 1 - 25 of 694
1. An Impartial Witness

An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

An Impartial Witness is the second book in the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. I love that the series is set during World War I; An Impartial Witness is set in 1917. Bess Crawford is a nurse, and, she's nursing wounded soldiers both abroad and at home. (Bess spends a good amount of time in this novel in France, very close to the front.)

The book opens with Bess arriving in London on leave for thirty-six hours. She's just spent time on a convoy with a wounded soldier--a pilot with severe burns. He keeps holding on because he loves his wife. Her photograph is something he always has close by. She would recognize his wife anywhere she's seen it so often the past few days. But she didn't really expect to see her--this wife--at the train station seeing another soldier off. The scene was VERY emotional, and quite inappropriate if she's the wife of another man. The scene haunts her.

And with good reason, it turns out! For she soon learns that this woman--this wife--is found murdered that evening. She tells what she saw at the train station--several hours before the crime. She describes the man--the soldier--with her. That might have been all...except that she can't stop thinking of the case, of the tragedy of it, and she keeps talking with Scotland Yard about what she learns...

A man is arrested. But is he guilty? She doesn't think so. She really, really doesn't think so. For could she be falling in love with him?! Michael Hart isn't capable of murdering the woman he was supposedly in love with for years, is he?

Can Bess find the real murderer?!

I love, love, love this series. I love the characterization. I love the historical setting. I love the mystery itself. It's just a fabulous read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Book of Lost Tales, Part One

The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading The Book of Lost Tales, Part One? Yes and no. I'll try my best to explain why. First, The Book of Lost Tales traces Tolkien's writings about Middle Earth from the very beginnings. Many of these stories and poems (yes, poems) date from around the first World War. Tolkien sets up a framework for his fantasy stories. A man, Eriol, stumbles across The Cottage of Lost Play, and, meets a bunch of storytellers essentially. Tolkien's mythology is at its earliest and in some ways its weakest. It was interesting to read these early pieces, in a way, to see the origins of what would become a great fantasy. And a handful of these stories can be seen--to a certain degree--in what would be published as The Silmarillion. I'll be honest though, I preferred the more-polished stories of The Silmarillion. One does learn that Tolkien kept working and working and working and working on some of these stories. That this mythology was always a work in progress. From the first version of the story to the latest version of the story, they'd be BIG changes. Other stories he edited or rewrote perhaps only two or three times, and then almost sort of forgot about. Some stories he never finished at all. I believe there is at least one unfinished story in The Book of Lost Tales. Since I've started reading the introduction to the Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, I might be slightly confused. But. Generally speaking, what readers are being "treated" to is fragments, captured moments of his early writings.

In addition to reading Tolkien's own work, one also is privileged to read Christopher Tolkien's commentaries on the stories included. At first I had my doubts that commentaries would be interesting. But I can say that without the commentaries, the stories themselves wouldn't make much cohesive sense. So I was quickly proven wrong!

But as interesting as I found it. (And I didn't mind the poetry, by the way) I can't say that I "loved" it or found it wonderful or thrilling. I'm undecided on if I'll continue on with Book of Lost Tales Part Two.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. The Children of Hurin

The Children of Hurin. J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 2007. HarperCollins. 313 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading The Children of Hurin? Yes! Very much! After reading The Silmarillion last week, I wanted more new-to-me Tolkien, and The Children of Hurin was an excellent choice. And a very reader-friendly excellent choice I might add. This is a longer version of a story contained in The Silmarillion. (I believe Tolkien wrote several adaptations or versions of this story. Perhaps one or two poetic form. But this one is prose. I'm relieved that it is.)

So Turin is hero--tragic hero--of Tolkien's Children of Hurin. And this reads like an Greek tragedy. A hero doomed because of a fatal flaw, one that is almost fundamental to who he is. It isn't a happy-happy read in other words. But it is full of spirit and adventure and love. It features several strong and brave women who love with all their hearts and minds and who will truly do anything to stand by who they love. There's a fierceness to the friendships as well. One thing I can confidently say, Children of Hurin is not boring.

I won't share many details. But you should know that it is about the ongoing battle between good versus evil. And it does feature a dragon.

I definitely liked it. I'm not sure if it was LOVE. But I definitely enjoyed it more than Book of Lost Tales Part One.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Hatchet

Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I still can't say that I love this cover of Hatchet, but, avoiding the book because of the cover was a bit silly of me. So did I enjoy reading Hatchet? Yes, for the most part. Hatchet is a survivor story starring Brian Robeson. (It is a Newbery Honor book). Brian is on the way to visit his Dad after the dramatic divorce. (Brian knows something his father doesn't. This SECRET haunts him throughout the book. He's definitely not over the divorce.) But the single engine plane taking him to visit his Dad never arrives. The pilot has a heart attack, and Brian must land/crash the plane himself. He survives the crash, but will he know how to survive in the wild until he is rescued? Fortunately, his mom gave him a hatchet before the trip. And it's a hatchet he wore on the plane, on his belt, I believe? So it's the one thing he has with him that may enable him to survive until help comes...

Brian has adventures and misadventures. He manages to survive, but, never to the point where it becomes fun and amazing. These aren't adventures he'd ever choose to have.

I definitely am glad I read this one. Have you read it? What did you think?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Seuss on Saturday #30

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]

First sentence: At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...is the Street of the Lifted Lorax. 

Premise/Plot: Readers hear about the Lorax from the Once-ler. It's a story of lessons not learned in time, a story of an environment abused and wasted. It is a heavy tale for a picture book. Perhaps the heaviest of Seuss' picture books.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
 My thoughts: The Lorax is my least favorite Seuss book. I won't lie and say it is the only Seuss novel with a moral or lesson, it's not. Many of Seuss's books have a moral in them. Some are subtle. Some are in-your-face obvious. I prefer the subtler moral. I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny Han. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I wanted to reread the book because the second book is finally available. I wanted to reconnect with Lara Jean and Peter.

Did I enjoy it as much the second time around? Probably not. Oh, I still liked it a lot. I did. I loved some scenes very much. I like having Peter hang out with Lara Jean and Kitty and her Dad. And the Christmas cookie scene is still very fun. But I noticed myself being more intolerant and less forgiving of some of the other characters. For example, Lara Jean's friend, Chris. For some reason, I was annoyed by every single scene with her in it. And I don't remember feeling that annoyed the first time around! Josh also annoyed me more the second time around.

So I am glad I read it. But I didn't find it as delightful and surprising as the first time around. Some books are like that though. I am still looking forward to reading the second book.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Meet Bess Crawford

A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Bess Crawford is a war nurse during 'the Great War.' One of her dying patients, Arthur Graham, asked her to give a message to his brother, Jonathan. The message made little sense to her personally. Something about him being sorry for having lied, and, how it was to protect their mother. She doesn't know for sure if he'll understand it either, but, a promise is a promise. So several months after his death, and, just a little bit after her own close call--the ship she was on sank--she sets out with her message to visit the Graham family.

I loved, loved, LOVED A Duty to the Dead. I loved it for so many reasons. I think Bess Crawford is a great heroine--narrator. She's sympathetic, patient, and observant. She has a way of seeing right into people, and, not jumping to conclusions in the process. Always one to give the benefit of the doubt, I suppose. She has seen a lot, heard a lot that's for sure. But Bess isn't the only reason I loved the book. Far from it. For having a good "detective" only takes you so far. What I appreciated was the depth of the characterization of the other characters. Primarily of the Graham family, but, also of others in and around that community and her own. We briefly get an idea of what her own family is like. How much she loves her father, and, appreciates a close friend of the family, Simon.

So. The mystery itself I loved. It begins, of course, with her delivering the message to the Graham family. But that is just the start. She doesn't deliver the message and go, no, it turns into an at-times-very-awkward social visit. Soon Bess finds herself piecing together all the clues of a HUGE family secret. And she can't leave it alone because it's so outrageous...

The writing was excellent. I loved the setting and tone. I appreciated the characterization even if some of the characters were super-creepy. It is a great start to a series I'm eager to read all of!!!

Have you met Bess Crawford? I'd love to know what you thought!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. The Prestige

The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library]

It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier. 

I saw the movie first. I think there are some benefits to having seen the movie first. It's impossible not to compare the two--the book and the movie--especially since I finished the movie and rushed to put the book on hold at the library. So this "review" will talk about both the book and the movie. I will try my best to keep it spoiler free, especially the opening paragraphs!

The book is different than the movie. The book has a contemporary framework. Andrew Westley, the narrator, has received a magic book from a stranger, the hint being that it was written by one of his ancestors, an Alfred Borden, a Victorian magician. Andrew was adopted, and he knows nothing at all about his Borden relatives. He's manipulated into meeting a woman, Kate Angier. She has much to tell him, for, she believes him to be Nicholas Borden. The two met when he was three, just before he was adopted. He, of course, remembers nothing. And the idea that there is a historic feud between the Borden and Angier families doesn't really intrigue him all that much. But he stays to hear her out.

The book consists of several stories: Andrew's story, Kate's story, Alfred Borden's autobiography, and Rupert Angier's diary. (Andrew's narration opens and closes the novel.) By the end of the book, a fantastic, strange story has been told.

At its simplest here is the plot: Alfred Borden and Rupert (Robert) Angier are rival magicians ever in competition with one another to be the best, to be recognized as being the best. Both the book and the movie convey this. It is HOW it is conveyed that allows for such big differences between the two.

The movie is more dramatic than the book. It makes the rivalry more intense, more personal, more life-and-death. From start to finish the movie is all about REVENGE and LOSS and doing WHATEVER it takes. The book is quite different. For example, in the movie, Angier blames Borden for the death of his wife who drowned during a performance in a water tank. In the book, however, Angier becomes angry with Borden when Borden disrupts his seance and reveals him to be a fake spiritist. Quite a difference! Especially since the "loss of family" angle is huge in the movie. But in the book, Angier has a family: a wife and three children, I believe. That is the only difference I'll mention in the review since I do want it to remain mostly spoiler free.

The Prestige has plenty of twists and turns in the plot. Especially the movie. But also in some ways the novel. Though if you've seen the movie, then, the book will be essentially spoiled. I think you could say the same if you'd read the book first: the movie would be spoiled.

Which did I prefer? I enjoyed both. I did. I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was great. I watched it twice in one week. I read the novel in one day. There were sections that were quite compelling. My favorite probably being Alfred Borden's autobiography. And then perhaps Angier's diary. I wasn't as drawn to the contemporary story of Kate and Andrew. Though it does intensify the creepy factor greatly. The Prestige would be PERFECT to read for Carl's R.I.P. challenge in the fall.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it. If you've seen the movie and read the book, which would you recommend first to others?


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Wish Girl (2015)

Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. 2015. Penguin. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
 The summer before I turned thirteen, I held so still it almost killed me.
Did I enjoy reading Nikki Loftin's Wish Girl? Yes, very much. It does have its melancholic moments: Peter is a troubled boy--the victim of bullying--and he becomes close friends with a girl dying of cancer. But overall, the focus is on the magical properties of friendship, art, and nature.

Peter and his family have recently moved to Texas. The dad is out of a job, and, his parents are fighting A LOT. But part of the tension in the family comes from everyone worrying about Peter. Why they are so worried about him remains a mystery for much of the book, though adults may guess early on.

It's true enough that Peter is troubled. But for Peter it was never just the fact that he was physically bullied in the past--and the present. It was the fact that he felt he was never heard, never understood, never appreciated for being who he is, accepted as is. It's this feeling out of place--even at home--that leads him into depression and despair.

So Peter may not be thrilled about every aspect of the move, but, he discovers a special place, a valley, I believe, that changes EVERYTHING in his mindset. It is in this place that he meets the wish girl for the very first time. And being a bit clueless, he doesn't catch on that she's got cancer and is in fact dying. But eventually, these two strangers become very close friends... and in that process he learns more about himself, how to be true to himself.

 I liked this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Seuss on Saturday #28

I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today: I can lick thirty tigers today! Well... Maybe twenty-nine. You! Down there! With the curly hair. Will you please step out of the line. I can lick twenty-nine tigers today...

Premise/plot: Another Seuss title about boasting. The narrator of this one boasts that he can 'lick' thirty tigers? Can he actually lick even one? Probably not. The illustrations reveal just how intimidated he becomes as the tigers come closer and closer. It's not so easy to keep a big ego when you're face to face with a couple of tigers!

My thoughts: I liked this one fine.  How does it compare to The Big Brag or Scrambled Eggs Super other Seuss stories with bragging or boasting? I probably like this one more.

First sentence of King Looie Katz: Way back in the olden, golden days (In the Year One Thirty-Nine) A fancy cat named Looie Was the King of Katzen-stein. King Looie was a proud cat, Mighty proud of his royal tail. He had it washed every morning in a ten-gallen golden pail.

Premise/plot: This story is so silly and oh-so-predictable. Looie has to have someone start carrying his tail, and then his tail-carrier has to have someone carry his tail, and then his tail-carrier has to have someone carry his tail, and on and on it goes. It's a relief when one cat says NO and stops the nonsense.

My thoughts: I wasn't a big fan of this story. But it was okay.

First sentence of The Glunk That Got Thunk: A thing my sister likes to do Some evenings after supper, Is sit upstairs in her small room And use her Thinker-Upper. She turns her Thinker-Upper on. She lets it softly purr. It thinks up friendly little things With smiles and fuzzy fur. 

Premise/plot: The sister gets in BIG, BIG trouble when her Thinker-Upper thinks up a Glunk. This Glunk is TROUBLE and then some. She really tries to un-think him, but, she learns you can't unthunk a glunk.

My thoughts: I liked this story the best of the three. It was silly and over-the-top, but I really liked it.

Have you read I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! And Other Stories? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought 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 Mr. Brown Can Moo.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

I've read Sarah, Plain and Tall several times, but, I can't find proof that I've blogged about it. So. Sarah, Plain and Tall won the Newbery in 1986. It is historical fiction for the youngest of readers.

Anna is the heroine of Sarah, Plain and Tall. Through her we meet Caleb, her brother; her father; and Sarah, the woman who may become her step-mother if all goes well. The children want this very much, a new mother.

Sarah comes to visit the family for one month. Will she come to love them? Will they come to love her? Will they belong together? Is this meant to be? Or will Sarah miss her old home and her old life too much to stay?

This is a sweet novel full of innocent longing. I loved all of the characters. There is something so simple and pure about it. Definitely recommended.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. The Truth According To Us (2015)

The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm tempted to say that The Truth According To Us would have made a better book than a movie. Or perhaps just that I would have been more likely to appreciate the story as a movie than I did as a book. I found the book to be long, a little too long. And the characters? Well, while they all started out with the potential for me to actually care about them, ended up falling short. Of course, you may feel differently.

Here is what the story is about:

1) Willa Romeyn is a child who has decided to become observant of the adults in her world. She's determined to be a people-watcher and find out secrets big and small.

2) Jottie Romeyn is Willa's aunt and probably primary caretaker. She lives with her brother, Willa, and Bird (her other niece). She runs the town's boardinghouse. She has a tragic back-story that perhaps is supposed to be the big mystery of the entire novel? Regardless, there are so very many flashbacks from her point of view, specific recollections of conversations and events.

3) Layla Beck is the new boarder at Jottie's boardinghouse. She thinks she's all grown up and independent. And in a way, she is. But she has SO MUCH to learn. The book is perhaps weighed down--in my opinion--by all of Layla's correspondence. Letters from Layla to her family and friends, even her ex-boyfriend. Letters to Layla from the same. Her job, her first-ever job, is to write the town's history. (The town is Macedonia, West Virginia.) The history will be for the Federal Writers' Project. She spends most of her time falling in lust, I mean "love" with Willa's father. But also, of course, interviewing residents of the town.

4) There are other characters, of course, like Sol and Emmett that readers get to know. Sol was a childhood friend of Felix (Willa's Dad) and Jottie. (Also there is Vause.) These characters mainly connect with Jottie and Layla.

There were so many characters competing to be the narrator in this one. I didn't properly connect with Jottie, Layla, or Willa. If the story had been from one perspective, perhaps I could have made a good, strong connection. Willa's story could have been about the threat of her father remarrying and life changing and general coming-of-age angst. Or Jottie's story could have been about her troubles, her struggles, to raise her brother's children while living under his control and dominance. Her love/hate relationship with him. Or Layla's could have been about her new independence, her struggle to be as grown up as she wants to be perceived, her not knowing what she wants, her love life, etc. But because the book was just a taste of all of the above, I didn't really care.

I do think it would make a better movie however. I think seeing flashbacks is almost always better. I think SEEING Vause and Jottie in their youth would have made a big difference in my impression. Movies tend to be more concise as well. A great soundtrack would also help!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Fat Cat

Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Robin Brande's Fat Cat. I did. In some ways, it was just as good as I remembered. For example, the romance between Cat and Matt. I remembered this one had romance in it, and, it was giddy-making. And I do still love Matt. So what do I like about Fat Cat?

Well, I liked that Cat is fully developed. She loves science. She loves cooking. She loves swimming. She always makes time for her friends. She's a good daughter, and a great big sister. She is a work in progress, she's constantly learning and growing and becoming. She felt like a real person.

I liked that this novel about weight--about losing weight--isn't a "problem" novel. I like that never once do we get numbers. Readers have no clue what Cat's start weight was. Readers have no idea how many pounds she's lost at any given time. We have no end weight either. Readers watch Cat step on the scales, now and then, but never once do we get her private information. I think, perhaps, this makes it easier for readers to relate to Cat. Yes, I was curious at times. Mainly because it's so tempting to want to compare. But I think it's best we don't know.

I liked that one of the messages of the book is stressing the importance of knowledge and awareness. For example, knowing where your food comes from, and, what it may contain. The book does come across as taking a stand against some foods--meat, for example--but it does this relatively fairly. (For the record, I can't remember the book questioning vegetables, how they're grown, if they've been treated with various chemicals, how they've been modified, etc. And it would have been nice to have some balance, perhaps. Not to mention wheat and grains. Part of me wishes Cat had gone gluten-free.) I do think knowledge/awareness is critical and essential when it comes to changing your life and making big and small decisions. This book obviously can't give readers ALL the information out there about what to eat and how to be healthy. That would be silly to think it could. But it might possibly inspire readers to ask their own questions and start seeking answers.

So overall, I liked it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Seuss on Saturday #29

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Dr. Seuss. 1970. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Oh, the wonderful things Mr. Brown can do! He can go like a cow. He can go MOO MOO. Mr. Brown can do it. How about you?

Premise/plot: Mr. Brown knows so many wonderful noises. But do you? Mr. Brown shows little readers all the noises he can make, and, he challenges them to copy him.

My thoughts: I have to admit that Mr. Brown can Moo! Can You? is one of my favorite Seuss books. It is. I do have to say that the board book is very, very different from the original. I'm not saying to avoid the board book, mind you. Just be sure that you introduce little ones to the real Mr. Brown Can Moo! when they get a bit older. I don't know WHY they had to edit the board book edition so heavily. Sounds they eliminate in the board book:
  • eek eek = squeaky shoe
  • choo choo = train
  • blurp blurp = horn
  • slurp slurp = big cat drinking
  • sizzle sizzle = egg in a frying pan
  • grum grum = hippopotamus chewing gum
  • pip = goldfish kiss
Have you read Mr. Brown Can Moo? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought 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 Lorax.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Seuss on Saturday #24

Fox in Socks. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Fox
Socks
Box
Knox
Knox in box.
Fox in socks.
Knox on fox in socks in box. 

Premise/plot: Straight from the cover: This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out just how smart your tongue is. The first time you read it, don't go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox. He'll try to get your tongue in trouble. I couldn't really say it better than that. The main characters are the fox and Mr. Knox. Can Mr. Knox outfox the Fox?!

My thoughts: I love, love, love Fox in Socks. This is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. It's just so silly, so over-the-top, so memorable. Do you have a favorite scene or two?
New goo. Blue goo.
Gooey. Gooey.
Blue goo. New goo.
Gluey. Gluey.
Gooey goo
for chewy chewing!
When tweetle beetles fight,
it's called
a tweetle beetle battle.
And when they
battle in a puddle,
it's a tweetle
beetle puddle battle.
AND when tweetle beetles
battle with paddles in a puddle,
they call it a tweetle
beetle puddle paddle battle.
AND...
Those are two of my favorites scenes.

Have you read Fox in Socks? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought 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 I Wish That I Had Duck Feet.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. I Will Take A Nap

I Will Take A Nap. Mo Willems. 2015. Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am tired. And cranky. I will take a nap! I like to nap. I am happier when I am rested.

Premise/plot: Gerald, the elephant, is TIRED and CRANKY. What does Gerald need? A nap, of course! Will Gerald get a nap, a PROPER nap, that is?! Or will Piggie keep him from getting the rest he so desperately needs?!

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. Of course, I always like Gerald and Piggie very much. I adore this series so much. I liked it for all the reasons I like Elephant & Piggie. I like the relationship between Gerald and Piggie, their friendship. I like how these two balance each other out. They just make a great team. I like Gerald. I like Piggie. But together they are better. Together they are perfect. But one of the strongest reasons I like the series so much is how expressive the books are. I love the illustrations. Gerald and Piggie are drawn with such expression--such emotion--on every page. And these expressions are oh-so-easy to relate to! For example, I love Gerald's expression when Piggie wakes him up on page 12! And Gerald's expression when Piggie is doing all the snoring?! Loved it! That one is on page 34.

Have you read I Will Take A Nap? Did you like it? love it?

Do you have a favorite book in the series?


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Stella by Starlight (2015)

Stella by Starlight. Sharon M. Draper. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Nine robed figures dressed all in white. Heads covered with softly pointed hoods. Against the black of night, a single wooden cross blazed. Reflections of peppery-red flames shimmered across the otherwise dark surface of Kilkenny Pond. 

Stella by Starlight is set in Bumblebee, North Carolina, in the fall of 1932. What can I say about this one? I could say many things, but, I'll start with this: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT.

I loved the narration. I loved the heroine, Stella, she makes a remarkable narrator. I loved her voice and her spirit. I loved the characterization--it was rich. I loved meeting Stella and her brother, Jojo. I loved her parents. I loved getting to know her neighbors. I loved that we get a real sense of community and place. It was the kind of novel that is completely absorbing--compelling. I loved the drama and the intensity. Stella by Starlight is what happens in one community after three African-American men decide to register to vote. The book captures why the men chose to act, what voting meant to them, what it represented. The book captures what it meant to their families and the community as well. Stella knows, for example, that it is a courageous act for her father, and, a necessary one as well. She's proud of her father for doing what he feels is right--knows is right. But Stella also knows a healthy-fear of the KKK. The book captures that uncertainty, that fear, it brings the community together as one. I also loved the religious/spiritual aspects of this one: how central the church is, how central the Christian faith is in the community. It celebrates faith, and shows it to be a powerful force. Stella by Starlight is beautifully written. I highly recommend it! 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Gone Crazy in Alabama (2015)

Gone Crazy in Alabama. Rita Williams-Garcia. 2015. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

Vonetta, Fern, and I didn't sleep well last night or the night before. There's something about preparing for a trip that draws my sisters and me closer together than we already are. Maybe it's the planning and excitement of going places or seeing who we're going to see. 

Gone Crazy in Alabama is the third novel about the Gaither sisters. The first two are One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven. I really LOVED both previous books in the series, so my expectations for the third book were HIGH.

In the third book, the three sisters travel on their own to visit relatives in Alabama: they will be visiting their grandma, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Varnell, the one who stole from them in P.S. Be Eleven. (Also they will be spending time with Jimmy Trotter their older cousin).

I was not disappointed with Gone Crazy in Alabama. I loved it for much of the same reasons as I loved the previous novels in the series.

I loved the characterization. All three sisters--Delphine, Vonetta, Fern--and their extended family are wonderfully, believably flawed. The tension between the family members feels genuine and not forced. The family from the first book through the third book just feels oh-so-believably-right.

I loved the writing, the storytelling. I loved the dialogue too.

I loved the setting. Gone Crazy in Alabama is set in Alabama in the summer of 1969. Among other things, the book features the family gathering around the television and watching the Apollo 11 moon mission. But the book isn't just about that memorable moment, far from it. Most of the drama in Gone Crazy in Alabama is FAMILY DRAMA. Drama between the sisters' great-aunt and great-grandmother (a family feud) and drama between the three girls themselves. Relationships will be tested...

Gone Crazy in Alabama is a great coming-of-age novel.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Return to Gone-Away (1961)

Return to Gone-Away. Elizabeth Enright. 1961/2000. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake. I didn't enjoy reading the sequel nearly as much. Was I not in the right mood? Perhaps. I hope it was just a mood thing. It felt like the magic--the energy--was gone.

The book features many of the same characters, and tells of their further adventures in the spring and summer the following year. Their adventures AFTER they have purchased the old-and-crumbling house.

Portia, the heroine, reconnects with Julian, her cousin. Foster, Portia's younger brother, reconnects with the friends he's made in the community. All the children enjoy spending time with Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Payton. Adventures are to be had in their new house that requires fixing-up in every room and then some. Adventures also to be had outside in nature. Each chapter focuses on some mini-adventure that one of the children is having.

While I found myself connecting and caring with the characters in the first book, I didn't with the second.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Seuss on Saturday #26

I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 59 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I was real happy and carefree and young
And I lived in a place called the Valley of Vung
And nothing, not anything every went wrong
Until...well, one day I was walking along
And I guess I got careless. I guess I got gawking
At daisies and not looking where I was walking...
And that's how it started.

Premise/plot: The narrator tries and tries to avoid having trouble in his life. That is one reason why he is trying to get to Solla Sollew in the first place. He's heard that in the City of Solla Sollew 'they never have troubles, at least very few.' But can he ever get there? He faces one challenge after another in his attempts to get there... If he gets there, will he truly find a trouble-free existence awaits him?

My thoughts: I don't remember ever having read I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew before. I liked it, I did. It was oh-so-easy to relate to the narrator. And the narrator makes some good observations. For example, "And I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind." The illustration of our poor narrator trying to look out for trouble in back and in front is something. Did I like the ending? Yes and no. I agree that you do have to face the troubles that come your way, but, the narrator's solution is that all you need to face those troubles is a big bat. (I think it works in his situation especially.)

This one might pair well with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst which was first published in 1972.   

Have you read I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought 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 Foot Book.
 
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Follow Your Gut

Follow Your Gut. Rob Knight with Brendan Buhler. 2015. Simon & Schuster (TED) 128 pages. [Source: Library]

Just how much microscopic life dwells inside you? If we're going by weight, the average adult is carrying about three pounds of microbes.

Follow Your Gut is reader-accessible science. The book is packed with information--what we know for sure, what we think we know, how much we just don't know quite yet, what we still need to spend time researching. The focus of the book is on microbes: the microbes living in us and on us. How every individual has their own unique combination of microbes. Our microbes can tell scientists where we live and how we live. Most of the book focuses on the microbes living in our guts. The book seeks to convey HOW VERY, VERY, VERY important it is to have good microbes in our gut. How essential gut health is to overall health, but, especially brain health.

Table of contents:
  • The body microbial
  • How we get our microbiome
  • In sickness and in health
  • The gut-brain axis
  • Hacking your microbiome
  • Antiobiotics
  • The future 
The book is packed with (basic) information. And I think it's information that should be more well known. I think knowledge is the first step, a good solid step in the right direction. I do wish the book was slightly more practical. Yes, it's good to know what microbes do or might do. But which strains of microbes are best for dealing with specific health issues? And how can one add/change one's microbes?!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. The Great Good Summer (2015)

The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

God is alive and well in Loomer, Texas, so I don't know why Mama had to go all the way to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to find him, or to find herself, either.

The Great Good Summer reminded me, in a way, of Because of Winn Dixie. Ivy Green is almost as lovable a heroine as Opal herself. Her narrative voice is certainly strong throughout. Ivy's narration made the novel work well for me.

So Ivy's story, on the surface, is simple: her mom has recently left them (her and her dad) without a word as to where she's going and if she'll ever be back. Ivy and her Dad struggle with their new reality. Some things remain the same: Ivy's babysitting, weekly attendance at church; but some things are VERY different: her mom being gone, her never-subsiding-ache of wanting her mom back, her new friendship with a boy, Paul Dobbs, who most decidedly does NOT believe in God.

One of the book's greatest strengths is in the writing itself:
But the thing is, ideas are my talent. My only talent, really. My voice isn't right for singing, I freeze up in the spelling bee, and I can't shoot a basket to save my life. If I stop coming up with ideas, I'm not gonna have anything left to do or talk about. (5)
Personally, I think if you're an only child, you should automatically be issued a dog when you're born, as a consolation prize, but my mama and daddy disagree. (6)
"Daddy, what are we gonna say when people ask us about Mama?" I stir my bowl of milk. Daddy's right. I'm dawdling. "The truth, baby. They're church folks. Church folks understand other church folks." (23)
Paul isn't a redhead like his mama and sister, and he isn't exactly distinguished-looking either, but he is nice to look at. For a boy that I'm always getting a little mad at, I mean. (44)
I do find it interesting that faith in God is such a big part of this book. Not every character even believes in God. As I mentioned, Paul doesn't. And he challenges Ivy in several scenes, for better or worse. Why do you believe in a God you can't even see? Why do you think there is a God in the first place? How do you know he's real? Why aren't you more skeptical? But there are a handful of characters that do believe in God that do define themselves by their faith in God. And Ivy herself as emotional as she is, as angry as she becomes, does still believe in God.

Does the book get Christianity right? That's hard to say in a way. If your impression of Christianity is that it is a do religion: a do this, this, this, and that religion--a religion defined by things you do and things you don't do--I'm not sure there is enough gospel, enough grace, in The Great Good Summer to change that impression. If you (rightly) hold that Christianity is a done religion: what Christ has done for us, on our behalf, the price he paid to redeem us, to deliver us, then there aren't any passages that scream out heresy either. Though this passage makes me sad:
I hope you can forgive me sometime, Ivy. In the meantime I have to work on forgiving myself. And then it's up to God. That's the really awful thing about this whole mess--I was just trying to get closer to God, which makes it even bigger shame that I messed up as badly as I did." (183)
There were so many things I wanted to say to them both. Like it isn't about trying: trying to be better, or trying to do more. It's about trusting in what God has already done. It's about trusting that Jesus is enough. That God could not love you more than he already does. That he could not love you less either. That he really and truly has paid it all. 

I didn't quite love, love, love this one. But it certainly was worth reading.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Lost in the Sun (2015)

Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

It's funny how the simplest thing, like riding your bike to the park the way you've done nearly every summer afternoon since you ditched your training wheels, can suddenly become so complicated. If you let it.  

Lost in the Sun reminded me of Speak in some ways. Trent Zimmerman is a disturbed sixth grader who has trouble dealing with something traumatic that happened in his past. He uses art--a journal--to express his feelings, for art comes easier than words. His art is disturbing, violent. Trent feels undeserving. He doesn't deserve friends, so he thinks. He doesn't deserve to be happy. Which, for Trent, means that he shouldn't be playing sports. He feels he owes it to the past--to what happened--to be miserable and to feel the pain of that moment every moment after. Trent also has some major anger issues with his Dad.

Lost in the Sun is a good read, a serious one. My favorite thing about Lost in the Sun was the friendship between Trent and Fallon Little, 'the girl with the scar.' Fallon and Trent are so good for one another. The movie club was such a cute element of this one. As was his watering plants for the teacher that he hated oh-so-much at the start of this one.

I thought Lost in the Sun was well written. It's a compelling read that felt realistic. I think if you like sports--baseball especially--then this one will have any more appeal. (I'm not a sports fan, but, I enjoyed it anyway).

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (2015)


Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pete the Cat is going to visit his grandma. He gets to ride on a train. Pete's mom buys three tickets. She gives one to Pete and one to his brother, Bob.

Premise/plot: Pete and his family (his mom and his brother) are on their way to visit Grandma. They are traveling by train, of course. Will Pete have a great time on the train?!

My thoughts: I do love Pete the Cat!!! And train books are always in demand it seems! So the combination should prove appealing. I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps not as much as Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons or Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes. This book does not have a song like the earliest Pete the Cat books. But Pete is a lovable character that I still adore.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Seuss on Saturday #27

The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Left foot
Left foot
Right foot
Right
Feet in the morning
Feet at night
Left foot
Left foot
Left foot
Right
Premise/plot: Does The Foot Book have an actual plot? Probably not. It's a rhyming celebration of all sorts of feet, I suppose.

My thoughts: Probably not my favorite Seuss title. Not that I actively dislike it, mind you. It's just not going to make my top thirty.

Have you read The Foot Book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought 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 I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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