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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: library book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 612
1. Meet Inspector Barnaby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. What If...? (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Shadow of the Workhouse

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Tesla's Attic (2014)

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

Nick was hit by a flying toaster.

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Her Royal Spyness (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. The Boundless (2014)

Boundless. Kenneth Oppel. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Three hours before the avalanche hits, William Everett is sitting on an upturned crate, waiting for his father. The town doesn't even have a name yet.

If you love historical action-adventures with danger and mysteries and secrets and murders, then The Boundless might be a very good fit for you, especially if you love children's books, or circuses, or trains.

The first chapter serves as a prologue. It introduces the hero, of course, Will Everett, and many of the other characters as well. Readers learn that Will loves to draw. Will meets a mystery-girl that mesmerizes him, that will continue to mesmerize him for over three years. Will meets Cornelius Van Horne, the manager of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Will gets invited to go along on a train ride. His father, James Everett, works for the railroad, they'll meet him at the end of the line. He'll meet several people on his journey. He'll hear things, see things. For example, he'll see the plans for the Boundless, and hear of this man's visionary idea for train travel. Things happen that will change his life forever.

The rest of the novel is set three years later and covers a short span--perhaps a week. In that week, much will happen. Will, the hero, will face DANGER and have to prove himself again and again and again. Will is many things, talented, for example, but courageous not so much. He is forced to risk much, to face many different kinds of threats and dangers. He also spends much of his time thinking and pondering.

Will has one idea of his future: what he wants, what he needs. His father has another idea. The two are opposites essentially. Part of him wants to completely reject his father's plans for him. Another part is scared. So when he's not actually at risk of dying, Will ponders the future.

I liked this one. I didn't love it. But I think for those that like action-adventure, this one could prove appealing.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Seuss on Saturday #7

Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Dr. Seuss. 1949. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
They still talk about it in the Kingdom of Didd as The-Year-the-King-Got-Angry-with-the-Sky. And they still talk about the page boy, Bartholomew Cubbins. If it hadn't been for Bartholomew Cubbins, that King and that Sky would have wrecked that little Kingdom.
Premise/Plot: The King is in a grumbling-complaining mood. He's angry at the sky for only sending down rain, snow, fog and sunshine. He sends for his magicians commanding them to make the sky produce something new. The magicians, well, they mumble a few words and promise to deliver something called 'oobleck.' Only Bartholomew is wise enough to predict that this means TROUBLE, big, big trouble. He is diligent in warning people to beware and be careful. But his words, well, aren't taken all that seriously. Or. In some cases, his words come just a little too late. The king has brought down trouble on his kingdom. How can the kingdom be saved?! Are there MAGIC WORDS the king can say to make the oobleck go away?!

My thoughts: I'd never read Bartholomew and the Oobleck before. I really liked it. I think I liked it even better than The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. The King is just as silly and ridiculous. And the situation is even more out of control. I like that the 'magic words' that save the kingdom are "I'm sorry" and "It's all my fault."

Have you read Bartholomew and the Oobleck? Did you like it? Did you love it? Did you hate it? How do you think it compares to The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is If I Ran the Zoo.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Hard Times (1854)

Hard Times. Charles Dickens. 1854/1992. Everyman's Library. 336 pages.  [Source: Library]

'Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, Sir!'

Did I like Hard Times? Did I love Hard Times? I'm not sure which--like or love--at the moment. I can only say that I was surprised that I found this book to be so quick and entertaining. I'm used to spending weeks with Dickens, not a day. Yes, I sped through this one. Not because I had to, but, because I wanted to. I found it easy to follow, but, I'm finding it difficult to summarize.

Readers meet Mr. Gradgrind and two of his children whom he's bringing up on facts: Louisa and Tom. On the surface perhaps, the book is about how this philosophical upbringing works out for them as adults. Or how it doesn't, as the case may be. Louisa marries one of her father's closest associates, Josiah Bounderby, who is several decades (at least) older. Tom goes to work at Bounderby's bank. If you've read Dickens before, you know to expect plenty of characters and side stories. This is also the case in Hard Times. Readers also meet: Sissy Jupe, Mr. Sleary, Stephen Blackpool, Rachael, Mrs. Sparsit, Bitzer, James Harthouse, and Mrs. Pegler. There were characters that I really liked, and there were characters that I really didn't like at all!

I liked this one very much. I liked the writing style. I liked the pacing. I liked the characterization. I liked the dialogue. I'm so glad I've made a friend of Dickens! This definitely was not the case when I was in high school and struggling with Great Expectations!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Entangled (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11. Sleep in Peace Tonight (2014)

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

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

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

Overall, I liked it very much.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Rain Reign (2014)

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Wanderville (2014)

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Seuss on Saturday #8

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

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

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

Have you read If I Ran the Zoo? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Scrambled Eggs Super!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. The Art of the English Murder (2014)

The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely' liked. But overall, I found the book to be worth reading and informative. Plenty of "I didn't know that?!?!" facts were included. I always enjoying learning as I read. I believe this is the book companion to a BBC documentary A VERY BRITISH MURDER. I'm curious how the two compare. If it's better to read or watch.

So the premise of this one is simple: how did the British become so interested, so entertained, so fascinated by murder: murder in real life and murder in fiction. It even looks at how real life crimes influences/inspires fictional crimes. (Think Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to name just two.) So on the one hand, it looks at real cases that got plenty of press, and stayed in the news, cases that became, in a way, part of the culture (think Jack the Ripper), and, on the other hand, it looks at fictional cases. (Think Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) The last few chapters focus on the "Golden Age" of mystery writers. And the very final chapter, I believe, focuses on Alfred Hitchcock.

As I said, this book has plenty of details. For example, it talks of how puppet shows--for the most part traveling puppet shows--were for adults. Puppet shows often depicted famous murders. So there would be puppets depicting murderers and their victims. And the audience would watch the crime unfold in front of them. The book notes that at times, the murder would be (could be) encored several times. So it does go into 'melodrama' and the theatre. I found the chapter on the stage version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fascinating!

This book is oh-so-easy to recommend!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Infinite Sea (2014)

The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.

First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.

Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.

Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!

Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.

The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.

Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.

Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.

Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!

Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.

Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.

Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!

Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?

Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Station Eleven (2014)

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. 

Did I love Station Eleven? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I'm almost sure of it. Only rereading it a year or so from now will answer that question definitively. But regardless of if it was love or LOVE, Station Eleven is a fascinating, absorbing read. It isn't exactly chronological in its storytelling, yet, I found it easy enough to follow. Its storytelling--the form of it, almost reminds me of LOST. It tells both the story of civilization's collapse and civilization's rebuilding. Readers meet a handful of characters then and now.

The "then" sections perhaps center around the character of Arthur Leander, an actor, a celebrity. Chapters focus in on significant, dramatic moments of his life. Not necessarily in chronological order. And not always from his point of view. Readers meet two of his three ex-wives, his son, his (former) best friend, his lawyer, etc. The novel actually opens with Arthur's death on stage. One young witness to his death is a young girl, Kirsten. Another is a former paparazzi turned paramedic.

The "now" sections center on the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten is one of the actors/performers in The Traveling Symphony. The group travels--horses pulling trucks, I believe--from place to place (town to town) performing. They perform music. They perform Shakespeare.

As I said, the focus is on the collapse of society and civilization. What life might be like if 98% of the population died from a terrible plague/disease within a few weeks. In this book, it's the "Georgian flu." What would life be like without modern conveniences--gas and fuel, electricity, telephones, television, internet, etc.

The book is beautifully written. I liked the world-building. I especially liked Miranda's creation of the graphic novels Station Eleven. I liked what little description we get of Dr. Eleven and his situation. I wouldn't have minded more. It actually would be a graphic novel that I'd want to read if it existed. I liked what the two graphic novels meant to Kirsten.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Seuss on Saturday #5

McElligot's Pool. Dr. Seuss. 1947/1974. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence:
"Young man," laughed the farmer, "You're sort of a fool! You'll never catch fish in McElligot's Pool!"
Premise/Plot. Marco, the young boy in the story, is fishing at McElligot's Pool. Though the farmer warns him that the pool is just where people throw junk, the young boy claims he's not foolish or wasting his time fishing there. He tells how the pool could be--might be--connected to the sea itself. And how right this minute even all sorts of fish might be making their way to the pool for him to catch. He describes hundreds of fish, giving his imagination room to shine. But is the farmer convinced? Are readers?

My thoughts: It is nice to see Marco again. (I'm assuming that this Marco is the Marco of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, which was published ten years previously.) Marco's imagination is going strong.

Even though I don't like fishing. I liked this book about fishing. I liked it more than I thought I would.
I might catch a thin fish,
I might catch a stout fish.
I might catch a short
or a long, long, drawn-out fish.
Any kind! Any shape! Any color or size!
I might catch some fish that would open your eyes!
and
Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
This one won a Caldecott Honor. Half the illustrations are in black and white. Half the illustrations are in color.

Have you read McElligot's Pool? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I would love to hear what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Meet Kate Shackleton

Dying in the Wool. (Kate Shackleton #1) Frances Brody. 2009/2012. Minotaur Books. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I love Dying in the Wool? No, not really. I had hoped to love it since it's a cozy mystery set in England in the 1920s. But I merely liked it instead of LOVING it.

The novel introduces the private detective, Kate Shackleton. She's a widow; her husband was a soldier who died during the war. Since the war, she's helped--usually without a fee--people find out what happened to their missing loved ones. Her other hobby is photography.

In Dying in the Wool, Kate Shackleton has her first paying case to solve. Her friend--her acquaintance--Tabitha is getting married in a month or two. Her father, a mill owner, disappeared in 1916. Some people strongly feel he's dead--likely suicide. Other people feel strongly that he's just ran off, probably with a woman to start a new life. Tabitha wants answers. Are the people in the village of Bridgestead keeping secrets? And can Kate and her ex-policeman partner (Jim Sykes) get people to talking? Will this case be easy or difficult? Is it dangerous to ask the wrong questions even after all these years?

I liked the setting just fine. I did. I liked Kate Shackleton and her partner, though I wish we'd had more of him. Would I have liked this one more if I'd found more of the characters likable? Perhaps. Probably. I really just felt this one had so many despicable characters in it. I hardly liked anyone! And it is NOT a clean read. I was hoping it would be a bit cleaner. That probably kept me from loving this one too.

Medal for Murder. (Kate Shackleton #2) Frances Brody. 2010/2013. Minotaur Books. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I love Medal for Murder? I think maybe I did. At the very least I liked it so much more than the first book in the series. (I think I might have not been in the right and proper mood to enjoy/appreciate Dying in the Wool.)

Kate Shackleton and Jim Sykes have been asked by a pawn shop owner to investigate a robbery, and to discreetly visit the owners of the stolen (pawned) items. Sykes visits some. Kate visits some.

But Kate's passion isn't with finding missing things, it's finding missing persons. And within a day or two of her arrival, she does indeed have a person to track down.

I may have liked this one more because of its theatrical themes. The missing girl--woman, I should say--is an actress. She disappeared after the last performance of the play at the local theatre. Her disappearance wasn't the only strange and unhappy event that night....

I really did enjoy this one very much. It was a quick read! I really started to like the characters, especially Kate and Jim and Inspector Charles.

Murder in the Afternoon. (Kate Shackleton #3) Frances Brody. 2011/2014. Minotaur Books. 400 pages.  [Source: Library]

I am definitely enjoying this mystery series. I may have started the series hesitant, but, by the third book, it is love. I've enjoyed each book in the series a little bit more.

Mary Jane Armstrong comes to Kate Shackleton early one morning begging her to help find her missing husband. Her daughter, Harriet, had found him dead on Saturday evening. However, by the time she'd returned with an adult--the body was gone. NO ONE in their town/village had believed her. "She's just a girl after all...and everyone knows that girls make up stories for fun." That's the logic that Kate Shackleton is up against. Kate does believe Harriet's story. And though she has the mother's support--seemingly strong support--in the case, she's having a hard time of it since no one in the community wants to talk to her about the supposed crime.

But as readers can imagine, things are not as they appear. Danger remains so long as the murderer remains free.

This one is a nice addition to the series. Readers learn more about Kate's background. And Inspector Charles is definitely coming to be a love interest!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Little Author in the Big Woods

Little Author in the Big Woods. Yona Zeldis McDonough. 2014. Henry Holt. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

I expected to love this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It did not disappoint even slightly. It is written for an audience ready to appreciate the Little House novels. That was a nice touch, I thought. For children who already love the original Little House books, this book is great for telling more of the whole story. Readers can see for themselves the similarities and differences between the books and her real life. There were details she left out or changed. There were periods of her life she didn't write about. Readers also get a fuller story for her whole life birth through death. Some details, of course, I'd read before, but, there were a handful of things that I'd not read before, or, that I don't remember reading before!

It is a quick read. It is an interesting read too! I love the subject, of course, I must have read the books dozens of times growing up. (Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years are my favorites in the series.) I also love the cute title of this one!!!

It is easy to recommend this one! It just says, read me! read me!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Cats in Krasinski Square

The Cats in Krasinski Square. Karen Hesse. Illustrated by Wendy Watson. 2004. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

The cats come from the cracks in the Wall, the dark corners, the openings in the rubble.

The Cats in Krasinski Square is an incredible read: a picture book written in verse about the Warsaw ghetto in World War II. Readers meet a young girl, a Jewish girl, who escaped the ghetto and is trying to survive by passing as Polish.
I look like any child
playing with cats
in the daylight
in Warsaw,
my Jewish armband
burned with the rags I wore
when I escaped the Ghetto.
I wear my Polish look,
I walk my Polish walk.
Polish words float from my lips
and I am almost safe,
almost invisible,
moving through Krasinski Square
past the dizzy girls riding the merry-go-round.
But she can't forget--won't forget the Jews still "living" in the ghetto. She wants to do her part to help them. She hears through an older sister, I believe, about a project to smuggle food into the ghetto. But the Nazi's have also heard something. It might take a miracle for the food to reach the Jews now...or it might take hundreds of CATS.

I loved the story, loved the storytelling. The illustrations are great.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. The Greatest Skating Race

The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands. Louise Borden. 2004. Illustrated by Niki Daly. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Louise Borden's The Greatest Skating Race. Though the book has been out for ten years, I'd not come across it before. It is a wonderful picture book for older readers. I've only read a handful of picture books with a World War II setting. I'm on the look out for more. So if you know of some, please let me know in the comments! I'll try my best to review them.

Readers meet Piet, a young Dutch boy, in The Greatest Skating Race. He loves, loves, loves to skate. It would be odd if he didn't love to skate. He loves to dream about competing in the Elfstedentocht--a famous skating race, the "Eleven Towns Race."  Readers learn details about the race throughout the text. But the race itself is not what this one is about. It is about the German occupation, and the ever-increasing threat to Jews.

One day, Piet's grandfather gives him a big, big task to accompany two Jewish children across the border and to their aunt's house.
Today you must be the best skater that you can be.
You must be as brave as your father...wherever he is.
You must be as brave as Pim Mulier!
You must skate the main canal to Brugge,
straight as an arrow to its mark.
And you will need to race against today's sun
to get there before dark.
I want you to skate as fast as you can,
but you must look like an unimportant schoolboy.
You will take Johanna and Joop Winkelman
and help them find their Aunt Ingrid's house.
We think this is the safest way to escape from those
who may wish these friends of ours harm. (16)
It will be a demanding journey--physically and mentally--and perhaps a dangerous one as well. There will be soldiers and checkpoints. And they'll have to find their way to the aunt's house--a place they've never been before. So they'll have to remember the directions carefully, and not let fear confuse them.

The book is good! I'd definitely recommend it.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. The Graham Cracker Plot

The Graham Cracker Plot. Shelley Tougas. 2015. Roaring Brook Press. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Most of The Graham Cracker Plot is a notebook or journal written to Judge Henry. The heroine, Daisy (Aurora Dawn) Bauer, though twelve, has gotten into trouble with the law. When the novel opens, Daisy is convinced of one thing. It is ALL Graham's fault. By the novel's close, will she have accepted responsibility for her role in 'The Graham Cracker' plot?

Will this review have spoilers? It depends. I tell no more than what the opening sentences reveal on the jacket flap. Actually, I reveal far less than the jacket flap does. In my opinion, this particular jacket flap reveals EVERY detail of the book. But the whole format of the book is an after-the-fact perspective of events.

So what is the Graham Cracker plot? Well. Daisy's father is in prison. She calls him the Chemist. (To my recollection, readers don't learn his real name.) She visits her father once a month with her grandmother. That is, she's supposed to be allowed to visit him once a month. Actually, Daisy loses her privilege of seeing him because of her behavior, her privileges are suspended for either three months or six. She loves the Chemist. And she hates to see him in prison. Not that she hates going there and seeing him. She feels she needs to see him in order to be okay. But she hates that he is in prison at all. She strongly feels that the Chemist is innocent and doesn't deserve to be in prison at all. The Graham Cracker plot is about breaking him out of prison and fleeing to Canada. It is the work primarily by two (troubled) children: Graham Hassler and Daisy herself. They get another person involved--Ashley. From start to finish, the Graham Cracker plot is a complete mess, a cringe-worthy failure of a plan. No matter what happens, however, Daisy and Graham want to carry on and keep on going.

Readers already know that the plan goes horribly wrong, and that Daisy is being 'punished' in some way for her involvement.

What I liked best about The Graham Cracker plot was the development of Daisy's character. The Daisy we meet at the beginning of the novel, is not quite the same Daisy readers are left with at the close. Some maturing has occurred. Which is a good thing, in my opinion. This one does have cringe-worthy moments. Moments where the characters are making horrible decisions--embarrassingly bad decisions.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Seuss on Saturday #6

Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose. Dr. Seuss. 1948. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Up at Lake Winna-Bango...the far northern shore...
Lives a huge herd of moose, about sixty or more,
And they all go around in a big happy bunch
Looking for nice tender moose-moss to munch.
Premise/plot: Is Thidwick your typical moose? Yes and no. On the one hand, he loves to munch moose-moss. On the other hand, he's the only moose that would put up with THAT MANY guests living in/on his antlers. Thidwick is a "big-hearted" moose who hasn't learned to say no or speak up for himself. He's ever-so-polite. But his "guests" well, they're pesky pests who lack consideration. The guests just keep on multiplying page by page.

My thoughts: I'd never read Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. I suppose I should have predicted that hunters would see him and chase him--wanting his head and antlers to mount. But I didn't. So it came to me as a shock, as did the ending. (Think Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat.) I can't say I loved this one. But it was okay for me.

My favorite quote:
Well what would YOU do
If it happened to YOU?
Have you read Thidwick The Big Hearted Moose? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Barthlomew and the Ooblecks.



© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. ABC Bunny (1933)

ABC Bunny. Wanda Gag. 1933/2004. University of Minnesota Press. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:

A for Apple, big and red
B for Bunny snug a-bed
C for Crash!
D for Dash!
E for Elsewhere in a flash
F for Frog--he's fat and funny
"Looks like rain," says he to Bunny

Premise/Plot: The plot is minimal. Though simple might be a better word. After Bunny is woken up suddenly, this alphabet book follows his adventures. This one won a Newbery Honor in 1934, so obviously the text was thought worthy! But it is an alphabet book. It is a beautifully illustrated alphabet book no doubt.

 My thoughts: I love the black and white illustrations. The illustrations are very detailed. I found them oddly mesmerizing. (I love the illustrations of the porcupine and the squirrel). This is an enjoyable book. I don't remember reading it as a child--that is I don't remember having it read aloud to me as a child. (I have very strong memories of reading Millions of Cats). But this is a lovely book. I wish my library had more of Wanda Gag's books.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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