Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Reflections

Favorite picture book: 
Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early reader:  
What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early chapter book: 
Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring. Rebecca Bond. 2017. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite poetry:
 The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Langston Hughes. 1996. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite classic:
The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite graphic novel: 
 Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Joseph Lambert. 2012. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite nonfiction:  
Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite biography: 
Joni: An Unforgettable Story. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite christian nonfiction: 
 Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1994/2010. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Steppin' Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Lin Oliver. Illustrated by Tomie DePaola. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Tim Bowers. 2012. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Review copy]
  3. Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Jan Thomas. 2009. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Antoinette. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Gaston. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. What This Story Needs Is A Pig in a Wig. Emma J. Virjan. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring. Rebecca Bond. 2017. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. A Mystery Comes Knocking (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Combing for Clues. (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. On the Right Track (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Up and Down the River (Fairchild Family #3). Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Deci Merwin. 1951/2009. 143 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Schoolroom in the Parlor (Fairchild Family #4) Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Decie Merwin. 1959. 145 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Fly Guy Phonics. Tedd Arnold. 2017. Scholastic. [Source: Review copy]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Wish. Barbara O'Connor. 2016. FSG. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc) all ages:
  1. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Up and Down the River (Fairchild Family #3). Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Deci Merwin. 1951/2009. 143 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Schoolroom in the Parlor (Fairchild Family #4) Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Decie Merwin. 1959. 145 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Audacity Jones to the Rescue. Kirby Larson. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Anna and the Swallow Man. Gavriel Savit. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Headed for Home. Mary Helen Brown. 2016. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. A Mystery Comes Knocking (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Combing for Clues. (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. On the Right Track (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Classics, all ages:
  1. The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Langston Hughes. 1996. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Washington Square. Henry James. 1880. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Kolyma Tales. Varlam Shalamov. Translated by John Glad. 1978/1994. 508 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Joseph Lambert. 2012. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
     
Christian fiction:
  1. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1994/2010. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything. Gloria Furman. 2017. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue. R.C. Sproul. 1990/2010. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Joni: An Unforgettable Story. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Here I Stand. A Life of Martin Luther. Roland H. Bainton. 1950. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Pursuit of God Bible -- NIV. 2013. 1587 pages. [Source: Gift]
  7. The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean For You. R.C. Sproul. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. The Cross of Jesus: What His Words From Calvary Mean for Us. Warren Wiersbe. 1997. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The God I Love. Joni Eareckson Tada. 2003. 368 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation. 1997. 244 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  11. Martin Luther In His Own Words. Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer, editors. 2017. Baker Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I Am Helen Keller

I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Helen Keller. When I was little, I was just like you. I loved to play. I loved my dog. And I loved seeing all the bright, beautiful flowers. I also loved copying people.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book biography of Helen Keller. It includes narrative--which I liked for the most part--and speech bubbles--which I could take or leave. Meltzer has Keller speaking directly to young readers--or listeners. "Close your eyes and block your ears. I couldn't see anything. Or hear anything. That's right. Nothing." That page is completely black except for the white text. The book celebrates teaching, learning, reading, and writing. Also THINKING. The concept of the braille alphabet is introduced and readers can feel the letters.
I may not be able to see, but I have vision. I may not be able to hear, but I have a voice.
My thoughts: This one is written in the first person, for better or worse. The message of the book is good. It's hard to argue with the positive, hopefulness of it. But I can't help comparing it to Helen's Big World. That picture book included quotes from the real Helen Keller. And it was beautifully written and illustrated. This one may pack a LOT of information, but, it is not beautifully illustrated. It bothers me that Helen stays the same size no matter if she's a year old, six years old, or fifty-six years old. Her face, her hair, EVERYTHING stays the same. It's just not REGULAR.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thunder Cake

Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On sultry summer days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy.

Premise/plot: A young girl (the author) is terrified of thunder until one day she learns how brave she is. The lesson comes from her Grandma. And it involves CHOCOLATE CAKE. As the two hear the storm approaching, the two prepare all the ingredients for making THUNDER CAKE. They gather eggs from the hen house; they milk the cow; they go to a storage shed in the WOODS for chocolate, sugar, and flour; they pick strawberries and tomatoes from the garden. At last when all the ingredients are at hand, the two bake the cake. By the time the storm arrives, the Grandma points out how brave she has been and is being. She is no longer scared of the thunder.

My thoughts: In 1997 or perhaps 1998, I took my first class in children's literature. The class read this book, and, for me it was LOVE. I've been enjoying Polacco's books ever since. Some have been like; some have been love. But this one probably remains my favorite. I love the bond between grandma and granddaughter. I love the baking and eating of cake too. I also love the fact that it's based on the author's childhood.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Share-a-Tea April Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
Currently reading:

KJV Reformation Study Bible. So far I've finished Genesis, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, Matthew, Mark, Romans, 1 Corinthians.

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Books I've finished and reviewed since March check-in:

Books I've finished but not reviewed yet:
  • Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Favorite quotes:
  • “it doesn’t take long to like a person — when once you begin.” Henry James
  • “The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the Doctor permitted himself to respond. Henry James
  • Wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions. Anthony Trollope
  • “We always lose when we evaluate ourselves according to someone else’s ideas or standards. And there are as many standards as there are people. A jock measures you by your athletic ability; a student by your brains; a steady by your looks. It’s a losing battle,” he said, striking a sour piano chord for added emphasis. “We have to forget about what people say or think, and recognize that God’s values are the only important ones.” Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Children have one kind of silliness, as you know, and grown-ups have another kind. C.S. Lewis
  • Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. C.S. Lewis
Favorite teas:
I'm still loving Stash's English Breakfast Tea. I'm still drinking away my green tea...and my white tea. I have tried two new teas this month.
I haven't drank sweetened tea all month. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Gosnell


Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It wasn't a homicide case--until it was. Originally the authorities weren't investigating murder, or even illegal late-term abortions. They were just trying to bust a prescription drug mill. But they wound up discovering something far worse.

Premise/plot: This true-crime nonfiction book focuses on the investigation, trial, and sentencing of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. It also brings to light the absence of the media's coverage throughout. No one it seems wanted to present abortion in a negative light. Or to be perceived as presenting abortion in anything but a glowing, empowering light. Question one abortion provider's practices--ethics, procedures, philosophies--and who knows what might be the result. Better to err on the side of caution and ignore the story.

The facts, I won't lie, are gory and disturbing. For example, Gosnell's collection of severed baby feet. Scores of jars of baby feet he kept in the office. (These were not part of the case, part of his charges.) Essentially there were several things going on: filthy, unsanitary, unsafe facilities; untrained, paid under the table employees that had no business dispensing medicine, or assisting during abortions, or overseeing patients after the abortions; an illegal side business of dealing out prescriptions for drugs; doing a lot of illegal late-term abortions (anything past twenty-four weeks is illegal in the state he was practicing in.) What should be shocking is that he was purposely, intentionally delivering babies alive and then killing them a minute or two afterwards. He was proud and happy that he was doing a service for the community. He was not treating the born-alive babies with dignity, or respecting their personhood. Waste, unwanted waste, to be put down the garbage disposal, or, to be stuffed in a kitty litter container. His motivation on all counts is money, money, more money.

My thoughts: Everyone should read this one. No matter if you're pro-choice or pro-life or some hazy position in between. I think the story is disturbing but worthy of your time. How should patients--white or black; poor or middle-class, young or old--be treated. What are a patient's rights? And who is looking out for patients best interests? Multiple government agencies or authorities knew about some of the violations--perhaps even most--and did nothing. Not their problem, not their neighborhood. Perhaps a generalization but some truth I think. No one wanted to step in and shut down this clinic. The authors point is even if you discount the babies or fetuses, how can you discount the dangers posed to grown or nearly grown women? No twenty-four waiting period, no counseling, no consultations with the doctor, drugs dispensed before, during, and after ineffectively or incompetently. Sometimes too much, sometimes too little. Also the conditions of the facilities: no working bathrooms, dirty blankets and chairs and floors, fleas everywhere because of the cats who had free range throughout, the repeat use of medical supplies that are one use only, the lack of training of the staff. How can you support women's rights and ignore the horrors of this clinic?
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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