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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: library book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 891
1. Five Children on the Western Front

Five Children on the Western Front. Kate Saunders. 2014. 318 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The sand at the bottom of the gravel pit shifted and heaved, and out popped the furry brown head of a most extraordinary creature.

Premise/plot: For any reader who has read Five Children And It by E. Nesbit (and its sequels) will want to consider picking up Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front. The book opens in 1914 with the oldest, Cyril, heading off to the Great War. Robert, Anthea, and Jane are grown up as well--mostly. Old enough to be away to school for their final years of education at least! Still at home are Lamb (aka Hilary) and Edie (Edith). On this life-changing day, Edie and Lamb discover (again) the Psammead. Lamb has no memory of the adventures his older siblings had, though he has grown up hearing all about the magic. There is a very happy reunion of sorts. If his being cranky and sarcastic doesn't take away the children's happiness. Soon, however, they realize that something is very wrong. He lacks strength and magical power. He has even lost the ability to be invisible. Edie, his primary companion, makes it her mission to get the answers he needs.

This mission takes most of them to London to visit Old Nurse and their friend the Professor. The Professor has a new, young assistant Ernie Haywood, a soldier who has returned home because of injuries. Anthea is quite smitten!

The book covers the war years.

My thoughts: Wow! Not disappointed at all. Not even a little bit! Loved Edie, the heroine, and loved the "humbling" of "Sammy." It was wonderful to spend time with the Pemberton family yet again. If there is a flaw, it is that we still don't really get to know the parents. Is that a flaw? Perhaps. I personally just loved the kids so much, I didn't care. I think readers are in on the secret--the magic--and the parents aren't and never will be.

Is the book sad? Yes in the same way that Rilla of Ingleside is sad and happy at the same time. In fact, that is the only book that really comes to mind. Both books star characters from series that readers would have grown up reading and loving. Both books cross into the ugliness of war, interrupting a blissful innocence. L. M. Montgomery was brave in that she tackled the subject herself so very soon after the war ended. E. Nesbit was older, and most of books were published before the war. Saunders did a splendid job with this sequel.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. March: Book Three

March Book Three. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. 2016. 246 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Y'all better hurry along, now. Sunday School's nearly over, and the main service'll be startin' soon.

Premise/plot: March is the graphic novel autobiography of John Lewis. So far, there are three volumes in this autobiography. Today, I am reviewing book three. It opens in Birminham, Alabama, September 15, 1963, the bombing of a church. This one covers the rest of 1963, 1964, and 1965. The 'past' story line concludes with the 1965 Voting Rights Act becoming a law. The 'current' story line concludes with him deciding to do a graphic novel autobiography.

My thoughts: From start to finish, I personally found this compelling. Not just start to finish book three. Though that is certainly true enough. But start to finish all three books in this autobiography. Even though this third book was longer than the previous two, it didn't feel weighed down by unnecessary elements. If it was weightier in substance--darker, more depressing perhaps--that is for one good reason: it reflects what was happening. The book definitely captures the ongoing struggle of the non-violent fight for freedom: the spirit of determination, the bravery and courage, the stubbornness of men and women and even children taking a stand for something they believed in heart and soul and mind. Yes, this book is violent and bloody, perhaps much more so than the first two volumes even. But it shows readers--of all ages--that this "civil rights movement" was not quick and easy. That it was something that took years--decades even. That it was exhausting. That it took not just a few dozen big names, but hundreds, thousands of people. One can't learn "everything" there is to know about the "civil rights movement" by reading one or two books. This book series showed you how BIG everything was.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Speaking American

Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide. Josh Katz. 2016. Hougton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Drawing on work from the Dictionary of American Regional English, the Harvard Dialect Survey, and suggestions from friends and family, in the fall of 2013, I set out to develop an online survey to gather date on how Americans talk. The maps that follow are a product of that survey--which collected more than 350,000 unique responses. Enjoy.

Premise/plot: This one is a VISUAL GUIDE to "American" English. Expect maps, maps, and more maps. It is divided into five sections: "How We Live," "What We Eat," "How We Sound," "Where We Go," and "Things We See." Sprinkled throughout the book, there are special profiles for different cities and states. Unfortunately, none of them focus on Texas.

There is plenty of information in this one though. It has plenty of 'did you know' facts to delight skimmers and readers.

For example, 28% of the U.S. says "Y'all;" 10% say "You all;" 10% say "You;" 50% say "You guys;" and less than 1% say "Yins." (30% of people in Pittsburgh would say YINS).

For example, 17% say "Coke," 59% say "Soda," 18% say "Pop," 6% say "Soft drink."

My thoughts: This one was interesting--intriguing--for the most part. It was a very fast read. But I'm not sure how thorough and complete it is. I think it is still missing some gems. This one doesn't really focus on unique phrases and how locals talk in different regions. It's more comparing/contrasting. Like TRASH CAN OR GARBAGE CAN, SNEAKERS OR TENNIS SHOES.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Falling Over Sideways

Falling Over Sideways. Jordan Sonnenblick. 2016. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm waiting in the wings, watching all of the fathers dancing onstage.

Premise/plot: Falling Over Sideways chronicles Claire's eighth grade year in a way that only Jordan Sonnenblick can. Claire is upset that a) her friends got promoted to the next dance class level, and she didn't; b) most of her teachers previously taught her older, oh-so-perfect brother, Matthew; c) her home room and most of her classes have more bullies than friends; d) her father has had a major stroke and has lost the ability to talk, write, read. Mid-September family life gets way complicated. All of the complexities of life make for a great coming of age story.

My thoughts: Sonnenblick is one of the best contemporary writers when it comes to characterization. (The one exception might be the mom in this one. Though that might be a case of me not getting her personality.) Claire's relationships with everyone--from her perfect brother to the former-friend turned enemy (Ryder)--are so well done! (I appreciated the fact that he didn't try to squeeze in a romance. This middle grade read was perfect without rushing ahead.)

I really loved this one. It might pair really well with The Seventh Wish. Both heroines are into dance, focus on friendship, and feature a family in crisis coming together.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. The Plot to Kill Hitler

The Plot to Kill Hitler. Patricia McCormick. 2016. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The Gestapo would arrive any minute.

Premise/plot: Patricia McCormick tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for elementary-aged readers. It is subtitled pastor, spy, and unlikely hero. Young people likely haven't heard of him at all. So this is a great introduction. The prologue starts at the climax. The first chapter takes us back to his childhood days where we learn that he is a thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent dreamer. This one is very family-focused for the conspiracy to kill Hitler involved many of his family. Year by year, readers learn the how and the why. Notably, readers learn of many opportunities that would have kept him safe and out of the war and the dangers and risks of being in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer rejected the easy way out believing that no action was still an action. In other words, failure to rebel and speak out against Hitler was to support him. Silence and escape were unthinkable.

My thoughts: I knew of him as a Christian writer and thinker. I have read The Cost of Discipleship. I knew he died during the war at a concentration camp, I did not know that he was there not just for preaching and proclaiming against the regime, but was in fact an actual spy and co-conspirator. So I learned something!

This one was a quick read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. They All Saw A Cat

They All Saw A Cat. Brendan Wenzel. 2016. Chronicle. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...and the child saw a CAT, and the dog saw a CAT, and the fox saw a CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.

Premise/plot: Have you ever wondered how a mouse sees a cat? how a dog sees a cat? how a fish sees a cat? how a bird sees a cat? Brendan Wenzel's picture book plays with young readers' concept of perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. Each spread is unique and interesting. Each reveals how a creature--a flea, a bee, a skunk, a bat, a child--sees a cat. Though it is the same cat, ever creature "sees" a different cat. I'll be honest, the illustrations steal the show. That plus the premise. I would definitely recommend this one.

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mr. Utterson, the lawyer, was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile;

Premise/plot: What if the 'dark' inside you was fully released and realized?!

My thoughts: What an interesting book to read after reading John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Tempation! Dr. Jekyll has a secret 'dark' side that he struggles to keep concealed. Only a few come to learn his BIG, BIG secret: he has found a way of satisfying his dark side in the personality of MR. HYDE. But the more he gives into temptation and becomes Mr. Hyde, letting Mr. Hyde loose in the city and country, the harder the struggle is to return to being Dr. Jekyll. There is a battle going on over his body--if you will--but it isn't a battle of good versus evil, just slightly evil with totally evil.

This is a very short read that is easy to recommend.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. You Can Fly

You Can Fly. Carole Boston Weatherford. 2016. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: No matter that there are only 130/ licensed black pilots in the whole nation. Your goal of being a pilot cannot be grounded/ by top brass claiming blacks are not fit to fly./ Your vision of planes cannot be/ blocked by clouds of doubt./ The engine of your ambition will not brake/ for walls of injustice--no matter how high.

Premise/plot: You Can Fly is a collection of poems--all written in second person, to you--about the Tuskegee Airmen. Readers can potentially learn a lot about flying and airplanes, the second world war, and race relations in the 1940s.

The perspective is unusual. But it oddly works for me.
You are in Class 42-C under all white command./ Your first lesson: to "Yes, sir!"/ and "Sir, no sir!" your officers.
The poems are still able to communicate a lot of details: names, places, dates, statistics, etc. Yet the poems are not dry and boring.
You love Hershey's bars,/ but letters from home are sweeter./ Hearing your name during mail call/ is like being lifted by a prayer.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I spent several years editing interviews for the Women Airforce Service Pilots. So while there are definite differences--big differences--between the two groups, it did give me an understanding or appreciation for training and flying at that time. My love of World War II is what led me to this one, not specifically the poetry. But the poetry is lovely I have to say!

It is a short, compelling read. It made me wish that MORE history subjects were covered through poetry. (Though not just any poetry would do, I suppose!)

I love the fact that it is just eighty pages. I do. In school, when I was on the younger side, when assigned to read a "nonfiction" book to give a report, I always looked for the SHORTEST book no matter the subject.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. The Singing Bones

The Singing Bones. Shaun Tan. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There are stories, honed by the retelling, simplified by the people who recorded them and transmitted them, old stories, with the edges rubbed off them, like the pebbles on a beach, each story the perfect size and heft to send skimming over the water, or to use to strike an enemy. Folktalkes are like jokes: If they had a beginning, it is lost to us.

Premise/plot: The Singing Bones is a collection of photographs and one-page 'retellings' of Grimm fairy tales or folk tales. The photographs are of sculptures made by Shaun Tan. Gaiman, who wrote the introduction, probably says it better than I ever could: "They [the sculptures] feel primal, as if they were made in a long-ago age of the world, when the stories were first being shaped, and that perhaps the sculptures came first."

There are dozens of photographs. They do take center stage in this book. The words being almost like a brief but necessary interruption. The text does not summarize the fairy tale. The text is definitely on the literary side. The reader has to work to make connections and "see" the bigger story that both photograph and text tell.

My thoughts: I didn't actually love this one personally. But. Just because I don't love, love, love something doesn't mean that I don't recognize ART when I see it. This is a weighty 'literary' book that is definitely interesting and quirky. I think those who love it will really LOVE it.

This quote by Neil Gaiman was fabulous:
People need stories. It's one of the things that make us who we are. We crave stories, because they make us more than ourselves, they give us escape and they give us knowledge. They entertain
us and they change us, as they have changed and entertained us for thousands of years.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Secrets of Wishtide

The Secrets of Wishtide. Kate Saunders. 2016. Bloomsbury. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a bright, windy October morning, and Mrs Bentley and I were down in the basement kitchen making a rabbit pudding.

Premise/plot: Laetitia Rodd is the heroine of Kate Saunders' newest book. Who should seek this one out? Those who love historical fiction, particularly those who enjoy books set in Victorian England. Those who love reading mysteries, particularly those who enjoy COZY mysteries. Mrs. Rodd is a widow who supplements her income by during detective work on the side, her brother helps "find" cases for her to solve. In this book, the first in a possible new series, she's hired by a very wealthy family to investigate the background of a woman, Mrs. Helen Orme. The son of her client has fallen madly, deeply in love with this woman. She'll be posing as the family's new governess....

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I'll be honest: I was in the PERFECT mood to read this one. I was craving a cozy mystery with a Victorian setting. I love historical fiction. I love mysteries. I love Charles Dickens. And the fact that the author was inspired by David Copperfield--and shares my love of Dickens--just made my day. Not every reader will have the background of loving David Copperfield. And I'm not sure you need that either.

This one might be best saved for a time when you're truly *needing* a good mystery to lose yourself in for a day or two.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Won Ton. Lee Wardlaw. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2011. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Nice place they got here. Bed. Bowl. Blankie. Just like home! Or so I've been told.

Premise/plot: Won-Ton (not his *real* name) is a shelter cat who's been adopted by a young boy. The book tells--in verse--what happens next. If you love cats, then this one is a real treat. For example:
Your tummy, soft as/ warm dough. I kneed and kneed, then/ bake it with a nap.
or
I explained it loud/ and clear. What part of "meow"/ don't you understand?
or
Sorry about the/ squish in your shoe. Must've/ been something I ate.
My thoughts: I do love cats. (Even though I'm allergic.) And this picture book alternates being cute and funny. I definitely enjoyed it.

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




© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. The Royal Nanny

The Royal Nanny. Karen Harper. 2016. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Of course I'd been out on the for-hire steam launch on the Thames my father captained, but in the railway carriage, I felt like I was flying.

Premise/plot: Charlotte Bill is a young woman hired to be an under-nurse (nanny) for the royal family. The book opens in 1898, and when she first meets David and Bertie, they rename her Lala. The York family keeps growing, and growing up. Little ones don't stay little forever. And tutors and governesses take charge as they do grow up. But these are the 'children' that she cares for as the royal nanny: David, Bertie, Mary, Harry, George, and John. Johnnie, the youngest, is practically HERS from birth to death. Johnnie is the strong-willed, naughty child beset with epilepsy. The royal family wants to keep him as hidden away as possible, once the fact that he's "not normal" is apparent. (That is THEIR perspective.)

Most of the book focuses on Lala's relationship with the children, with her relationship with their parents and grandparents which gives readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous. The 'action' essentially covers 1898-1918. There is a brief epilogue that has Lala meeting David in the late 1950s after he's abdicated the throne.

But readers also catch glimpses of her private life. I imagine here is where the most speculation is taken. (Charlotte Bill was a real person; she really was the royal nanny). Her romance is complicated at best. It adds a couple of more layers to the book.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I find British history fascinating. Almost always have! And books about the royal family, draw me like few others. I would much prefer to read about this period of history than the 80th book about Henry VIII!!!


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. March: Book One

March: Book One. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. 2013. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Can you swim? No. Well, neither can I--but we might have to.

Premise/plot: March is the graphic novel autobiography of John Lewis. So far, there are three volumes in this autobiography. Today, I am reviewing book one. Lewis gives us an incredible behind-the-scenes glimpse of the civil rights movement. This one also has a built-in framework: it is set in 2009, and he's reflecting on his life before attending the Inauguration.

My thoughts: Dare I say this one is a must read? I'm tempted, really tempted. (And if you follow me on the blog and know my tastes inside and out, then you know that I don't usually read graphic novels.)

What I like best about this one is that it is engaging, compelling, emotional, personal, and above all else cohesive. It gives you a truer sense of the 'big picture' of the civil rights movement than any other book I've read--that I can remember at least. (When you read 400+ books a year, I'll be the first to admit that you don't necessarily recall most of them with much detail.)

I also love the amount of detail. (For example, that he used to preach to his chickens!)

I've read the first two books now and I'm excited to begin the third.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. March: Book Two

March Book Two. John Lewis. Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. 2015. 189 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: January 20, 2009. Brother John--Good to see you. You ready?

Premise/plot: March is the graphic novel autobiography of John Lewis. So far, there are three volumes in this autobiography. Today, I am reviewing book two. Lewis gives us an incredible behind-the-scenes glimpse of the civil rights movement. This one also has a built-in framework: it is set in 2009, and he's reflecting on his life before attending the Inauguration.

My thoughts: I can't imagine anyone reading the first book and not wanting to continue on with book two. My guess? They'd want it IMMEDIATELY. This second book picks up the story of the civil rights movement in November 1960. (The 'present' day story is still January 2009). This second volume is even better, in my opinion. It covers almost four years: the rest of 1960, 1961, 1962, and 1963. OH THE INTENSITY. I don't know how it is both possible to stay big-picture and yet include so many details, but, the writing is so wonderful, the art is so wonderful, that it just really puts you right there and keeps you engaged.

Definitely would recommend book one and two. I'm excited to start book three soon!


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. Rich Kienzle. 2016. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Would he or wouldn't he show up?

Premise/plot: The Grand Tour is a biography of George Jones that seeks to balance a focus on his life and on his music. The author takes on the role of music critic and biographer. In the prologue he explains his approach, "Jones's life and music are inseparable. The music often triumphed even during his worst personal moments. His evolution from twangy imitator to distinctive new voice, from influential vocalist to master of his craft, is as important as his personal failings. Exploring that musical side--how he found songs and recorded them; the perspectives of the public, those involved in creating his records, and Jones himself--is pivotal to understanding the story. I've attempted to take the long view, examining not only his life and the events that shaped him from start to present, but simultaneously exploring his immense musical legacy, all in a clear chronological context." (13)

My thoughts: I started listening to George Jones' music this summer. And what I loved, I really, really LOVED. So I was curious to pick this new biography up at the library. I picked it up as a new fan and not an expert, so perhaps keep that in mind. But I enjoyed this biography very much. I think I might have appreciated aspects of it even more if I was familiar with more of his albums, more of his songs.

The prologue of this one had me hooked. Here is how the author describes Jones' voice: "The voice was raw nerve put to music...Yet above all that was his consummate ability to explore pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and emotional desolation." (9)

It was an often absorbing read full of highs and lows. I would definitely recommend it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009. 536 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.

Premise/plot: The Ask and the Answer is the sequel to the Knife of Never Letting Go. To refresh your memory, these are the first two books in the science fiction Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. In the first book, readers met Todd and Viola. Todd is the conflicted hero who can't decide if he's willing to kill in order to "become a man." Viola is the newly arrived colonist whose parents died in the crashing of the scout ship. She puzzles Todd because she does NOT have noise. All the men, all the animals have noise. Women are mysteriously noise-free. Their thoughts cannot be heard by others. (Women can and do read the thoughts of men. And MEN hate this so very much). The Knife of Never Letting Go ended in a horrible place. Our two had spent over four hundred pages racing to reach a town called Haven only to arrive and....

Viola spends this book worried about Todd--they are separated for most of the book--and worried about what will happen next. Will the women (led by Mistress Coyle) war with the President's army? The women are THE ANSWER. The army (mainly if not exclusively men) are THE ASK. Both seemed determined to defeat the other no matter the cost. Both seem short-sighted and not really thinking about what is best for the planet, best for humanity. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle seem to be two peas in a pod--stubborn, selfish, dishonest.

Todd spends this book worried about Viola--as I said, they are separated for most of the book. He will do his duty and do whatever the Mayor (the PRESIDENT) says if he promises to keep Viola safe and allow them to see each other and be together again. He'll bide his time following orders--always kept close by the Mayor's son, Davy--until an opportunity comes along. Todd doesn't like being in the army. He doesn't like working with the slaves--the SPACKLE. He doesn't like banding the slaves or the women. But unlike the women of The Answer he doesn't physically rebel and become violent. He's still conflicted.

Mainly the book is about the skirmishes between The ASK and THE ANSWER...and the lies and broken promises of Mistress Coyle and President Prentiss. Todd and Viola are sad, lonely, angry, confused. More than anything they want to be TOGETHER and live in a peaceful community. This seems impossible.

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one the first time I read it. I can't say the same the second time I read it. Perhaps because you can only be surprised by the story and characters once. One thing that really surprised me the first time was the character arc of Davy Prentiss. The ending of this one is SOMETHING especially the first time I read it.

I would still recommend this series with a few reservations. First, I think you have to read all three books in the proper order, and, close together at that. I think the books will have the biggest impact on readers if they're read back to back. Second, I think that the series isn't for all readers. You have to be fine with a moderate amount of profanity and really enjoy science fiction set on another planet. If you don't enjoy science fiction, then this series probably won't seem all that good.
"If you ever see a war," she says, not looking up from her clipboard, "you'll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning." "War makes monsters of men," I say, quoting Ben from that night in the weird place where New World buried its dead. "And women," Mistress Coyle says. (102)
Everyone here is someone's daughter," she says quietly. "Every soldier out there is someone's son. The only crime, the only crime is to take a life. There is nothing else." "And that is why you don't fight," I say. She turns to me sharply. "To live is to fight," she snaps. "To preserve life is to fight everything that man stands for." (215)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. The Last One

The Last One. Alexandra Oliva. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The first one on the production team to die will be the editor.

Premise/plot: What if a virus/plague destroyed life-as-we-know-it in the United States while a survival-themed reality TV show was being filmed? What if the twelve contestants didn't know what was going on in the outside world? What if they stumbled upon the truth but didn't believe it, clinging to the fact that the reality show has a big budget and a cruel sense of humor? Well, I don't know about "they," but Zoo whose perspective we share is the LAST ONE to know the truth.

My thoughts: Didn't care for this thriller. I didn't find it as compelling as 'a thriller' should have been. Zoo--and all the other characters--are minimally developed. And the action/adventure aspect of it lacked suspense because while Zoo may have been the last to know that all the dead and decaying bodies were real, readers were never in the dark. Readers are smarter than Zoo for about 90% of the book. Since Zoo wasn't fully fleshed out as a character--with depth and substance--I didn't get much from her chapters. Though I preferred her chapters--the "now" chapters--to the "then" chapters which focused exclusively on the television show and the twelve contestants. There was no reason to truly keep reading--other than stubbornness (I have plenty)--since there was no suspense.

I think it comes down to this: if I can't have character-driven fiction (my favorite favorite) then give me ACTION with suspense, lots and lots and lots of tension and suspense. Force me to "enter into temptation" and contemplate peeking ahead to the end. Keep me focused on what may or may not happen next. Throw in twists and surprises, if you want. Keep me guessing about the motivations of this character or that character. But somehow, someway engage me. I don't personally think it's suspense when readers know it's real from page one and the main character is the last one to know just about everything there is to know.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Why'd They Wear That?

Why'd They Wear That? Sarah Albee. 2015. National Geographic. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

Sarah Albee's Why'd They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History is a (relatively) quick and entertaining read. Why 'relatively' quick? I read it in one sitting and found it fascinating. Other readers might not find it so.

This book seeks to do so very much: to expose readers (young readers--upper elementary through young adult) to dozens of cultures over the last ten thousand years and ultimately answer WHY DID THEY WEAR THAT? Think HORRIBLE HISTORIES only with a slightly refined focus on fashion.

Is the focus on fashion? Yes and no. Yes, in that fashion is basically discussed on every page. No, in that it is HISTORY that takes center stage. This book is all about building context. Answering the 'WHY' of the title. (It is not focused on WHAT they wore as to possible reasons WHY.) I also saw connection opportunities for linking to art appreciation or even archaeology. 80% of the book is illustrated by artwork not photographs.

I definitely liked that this leaned more towards focusing on history and culture than strictly on fashion. I definitely liked the sidebars. But unfortunately disagreed with the designer who thought it was a good idea to have black text on dark blue. Couldn't read a word of those sidebars.

What I liked best about this one was the amount of detail and research that went into the book.
Perhaps because so much skin was exposed to the drying sun, Egyptians used liberal amounts of oil on their bodies, made from animal fat, olive oil, and other plants. Hair could be conditioned with a paste made from gazelle dung and hippopotamus fat. At dinner parties slaves placed cones of perfumed animal fat on guests' heads. Over the course of the evening, the fragrant grease melted and ran down the hair and neck, scenting and conditioning the hair and bathing the wearer in fragrant grease. Scent cones were not just for the wealthy. Musicians, dancers, servants, and children all wore them as well. (17)
Being a fan of Horrible Histories, I looked for connections. I found plenty!


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Mustache Baby Meets His Match

Mustache Baby Meets His Match. Bridget Heos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Baby Billy was born with a mustache.

Premise/plot: This is the sequel to Mustache Baby. In this second book, Baby Billy is mostly at odds with Baby Javier, a bearded baby. The problem? Baby Javier and Baby Billy both want to be THE BOSS and tell the other what to do. Also both babies want to be THE BEST. Can these two learn to be friends and get along?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I don't know that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it like I did the first book. But I liked it. The illustrations make this a clever read. It's the little details--often in the illustrations--that bring a smile. For example, when the two compete at running for President.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Weighed in the Balance

Weighed in the Balance. Anne Perry. 1996. 373 pages. [Source: Library]

Out of all the William Monk mysteries that I've read so far, Weighed in the Balance was the one that has proved the hardest going. In other words, I found it dragging from almost start to finish. I'm not sure if it was my mood, or, if possibly it was the case, or perhaps even a bit of both.

Sir Oliver Rathbone has accepted a new case, for better or worse, and it's a matter of slander. He's defending a woman, a foreigner, Countess Zorah Rostova on a slander change. She has accused someone (Princess Gisela) of murder, and, won't back down even though there isn't a bit of evidence against the woman. Not that anyone looks until Rathbone hires William Monk to investigate. But still.
The case is frustrating and loathsome to him. Even after the trial starts, he is clueless as to what to say in her defense. He can't possibly win this case. It's a matter of how big a fool he wants to appear. Should he try to build a case that it is murder, or was murder, but that his client was mistaken in WHO did the crime? Or should he try to hush up the murder-aspect of it? Does he himself believe there was a crime committed? Can he work up a believable motive?

One character I appreciated more than the others in this one: Hester Latterly. I didn't have to yell at her even once while reading this one. I did, I must mention, have to yell at William Monk more than once. Rathbone, well, he always does the honorable thing, and rarely needs yelling at.

Hester has nursing duties in this book. She's tending a young man after an injury, and, he'll likely never walk again. She brings a young woman into his life, a woman first introduced in A Sudden Fearful Death. I do enjoy how the series works. It's a whole world the author has created, and, characters are always reappearing as they carry on their lives. It's nice to see. And it's not something you often see in a mystery series.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Another Day As Emily

Another Day as Emily. Eileen Spinelli. 2014. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mrs. Harden nearly died today.

Premise/plot: Suzy, the heroine, becomes jealous of her younger brother, Parker, when he saves Mrs. Harden's life by calling 911 and becoming the town's "little hero." The situation continues perhaps because Suzy's mom can't resist supporting, encouraging, enabling the hero-complex--cape and all. Suzy's friend, Alison, is good for her, for the most part. But Alison doesn't love to read, and, doesn't really enjoy going to the library for tween-time. Suzy, likewise, doesn't really want to be an actor and audition for a play--but she does anyway. So--perhaps unrealistically--the library's tween program meets weekly (or even several times a week?) and has a theme of the 1800s. This library program has homework too. And not even reading club type homework--reading and discussing the same book. Suzy's project is Emily Dickinson. And in light of failure--as she sees it, she did not get a part in the play--she decides to become a recluse for the summer. She only wants to be called Emily; she only wants to dress in white; she will no longer do technology. This phase is worrying to her parents and friends. Will Suzy ever want to be Suzy again?

My thoughts: Out of all the elements in this one, I think I like her friendship with Gilbert best. Though that isn't quite fair. I also like Mrs. Harden very much. This verse novel is a quick read. Suzy's emotions are up, down, and all over the place. She just doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin most of the time. That part is certainly easy to relate to, I think, for readers of the right age. I don't necessarily "like" verse novels. But at least verse novels are quick reads.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Turtle in Paradise

Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 177 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.

Premise/plot: Turtle, our heroine, is sent to live with her aunt and her cousins in Key West, Florida. The novel is set during 1935. And the Great Depression is one of the reasons why she's sent. Her mother is a housekeeper, and her new employer does not like children...at all. She needs the job so she sends her daughter away to live with her sister. Turtle's arrival is a surprise! She arrives before the letter does. Turtle brings with her one cat, Smokey. Her cousins are Bean, Kermit, and Buddy. The friends she hangs around with? The Diaper Gang.

My thoughts: What did I love most about this one? Practically everything. I loved Turtle's voice. I loved getting to know her. I loved getting inside her head. I also loved the setting and atmosphere of this one. One definitely gets a sense of time and place and culture. I also loved the characterization and the relationships. Seeing Turtle get to know her grandmother was priceless. Not because the grandma was sweet and lovely. But because she was just as fierce as Turtle herself.

I reread this one because I was excited about Full of Beans. I thought that Full of Beans was a sequel. It isn't. It's a prequel. It's set in 1934. It stars Bean and his family and friends. It's a great book. But I still wish I knew what happened next to Turtle. I don't doubt that Turtle will survive and find a way to thrive--that's who she is--but I do wish to spend more time with all of them.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. I Am A Story

I Am A Story. Dan Yaccarino. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am a story. I was told around a campfire, then painted on cave walls. I was carved onto clay tablets and told in pictures. I was written on papyrus and printed with ink and woodblocks, then woven into tapestries and copied into big books to illuminate minds.

Premise/plot: The story's autobiography. The concept of 'story' is personified and communicated in very simple, basic terms that readers of all ages can appreciate.

My thoughts: LOVED it. Loved, loved, loved, LOVED it. It's so simple yet so brilliant. Would recommend to anyone and everyone who loves stories and storytelling. It's not just for people who love books and libraries, but, for anyone who celebrates storytelling and communities.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. The Dark Talent

The Dark Talent (Alcatraz #5) Brandon Sanderson. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So there I was, standing in my chambers on the day before the world ended, facing my greatest adversary to date. The royal wardrobe coordinator.

Premise/plot: The Dark Talent is the fifth book in the Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson. Alcatraz Smedry, the self-confessed coward, is the hero of this one. Alcatraz and his team (including his grandfather, Leavenworth, and his Uncle Kaz, not to mention his MOTHER,) are heading to the Hushlands, to the Highbrary (aka Library of Congress) for a final stand. Readers will finally come full circle: So there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians. But what makes for an amusing first sentence in the first book makes for a devastating scene in the fifth and final book.

My thoughts: I'm really torn with this one. I do not want to spoil the book in any way. But it's like pushing through the last chapters of Gone With the Wind after Bonnie's death. You don't want to leave it unfinished. You don't want to be a coward and have to put the book in the freezer. But you almost dread turning the pages because you know what's coming. Because, let's face it, you've either read the book a dozen times or seen the movie a dozen times. You know that FOG is coming closer and closer and closer. The question is not will Rhett leave Scarlett, but, will you--the reader--pull it together enough to be there with Scarlett when the end comes.

Last books in series carry a lot of weight. For better or worse. They can set in stone your thoughts about the series as a whole, about characters, even authors. (I have to admit that I lost my faith in Stephenie Meyer as a writer after reading Breaking Dawn.) I wouldn't go so far as to say I think less of the series after reading this book. That would be too melodramatic of a response. But I can easily say that this one is not my favorite of the five. There is a sadness in this one--almost cover to cover--that humor can't displace.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Duck, Duck, Porcupine

Duck, Duck, Porcupine! Salina Yoon. 2016. Bloomsbury. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is the perfect day for a picnic, Porcupine!

Premise/plot: Duck, Duck, Porcupine is the first book in a new early reader series starring Big Duck, Little Duck, and Porcupine. There are three short adventures in this one. The first is "A Perfect Day for a Picnic." Little Duck is the first to notice that it will soon be RAINING. But will a little rain--or a lot of rain--spoil the day completely? It may not be a perfect day to EAT outside, but, it may be a perfect day to PLAY outside. The second is "I Think I Forgot Something." Big Duck is CLUELESS. Little Duck tries to help Big Duck remember what she forgot. (Holding up a present, holding up a birthday invite, bringing out a calendar, etc.) Will she remember in time that it is Porcupine's birthday?! The third is "The Campout." Little Duck may not be ready to WRITE out a list of what is needed on a camping trip. But make no mistake, Little Duck KNOWS that marshmallows are essential. (I have the idea that they'd not be item #100 on *his* list).

My thoughts: Loved this one. I definitely liked the characters. Characterization is brought about by little details. And this one has plenty both in the text and in the illustrations! Definitely worth reading more than once.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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