Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Horizon #1. Scott Westerfeld. 2017. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Next question," Molly said. "How many miles of wire are in this airplane?"

Premise/plot: A plane is on its way to Japan and goes down over the Arctic circle. There are survivors--eight, I believe. But of the survivors, none are adults. Four of the survivors are the members of a school team on its way to a robots competition. The others are strangers to Molly, Javi, Anna, and Oliver. Yoshi is on his way home to his father. He doesn't really get along with either parent. And the fact that he's returning something--a sword--he stole from his father's house during the last visit doesn't make him that thrilled to be on the plane. Caleb is the odd one out. Two young girls, two sisters, speak Japanese and French but no English: Kira and Akiko. The other passengers--hundreds of them--were sucked out of the plane--seats and all, I believe--when the ceiling was ripped open. The crash site is strange. It's a JUNGLE, a jungle with strange animals and plants. Within hours of the crash, the kids stumble across a remote control device with alien-like symbols. This remote control does strange things to the law of nature. For example: changes the law of gravity.

My thoughts: In some ways it's all action and mystery and science fiction. In other words, a lot like LOST. (Well, if you switch out the fog monster with killer birds and killer vines. Also no flashbacks so far!!!) But this place is strange and unpredictable. It is a place that invites millions of questions but provides very few--if any--answers.

There is a game--an app, I believe, for readers who get really invested in this survivor story.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Ugly. Robert Hoge. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Imagine you're in art class. The teacher drops a lump of wet, sticky clay on the bench in front of you. "You've got thirty minutes to sculpt a newborn baby's face," she says.

Premise/plot: Ugly is a memoir by Robert Hoge. This very personal story is about growing up 'ugly' or 'different' in Australia in the 1970s and 80s. Readers learn about his life at home and at school. The focus is on his family, his friends, his classmates and teachers. Not everyone was nice....or accepting. But. He made a way, found a way, to be comfortable in his own skin. His journey included some surgeries, but, not as many as you might expect. (I loved, loved, LOVED the ending.) His journey also included sports. 

Perhaps readers have heard the phrase, "He has a face only a mother could love..." Well, in Hoge's case, his mother had a hard time accepting him--and his face--at first. For the first month of his life, she refused to take him home from the hospital and didn't want anything to do with him. She later became loving and accepting--a true supporter--but at first she struggled.

My thoughts: What I appreciate most about it is its warmth AND truth. He tackles a subject that could be very melodramatic and emotional, perhaps even manipulative. You'll be moved, but not with pity. At least I was. I loved, loved, loved the writing. He has a way with words that won me over from the start.

Favorite quotes:
I'm the ugliest person you've never met. (3)
I knew I was ugly. But everyone is uglier than they think. We are all more beautiful too. We all have scars only we can own. (200)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, March 20, 2017

Strega Nona

Strega Nona. Tomie dePaola. 1975. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In a town in Calabria, a long time ago, there lived an old lady everyone called Strega Nona, which meant "Grandma Witch."

Premise/plot: When Strega Nona hires Big Anthony to help out, she warns him NOT to touch the pasta pot. Human nature being what it is, Big Anthony instantly NEEDS to get a hold of that pot. He watches Strega Nona while she's using the pasta pot. He thinks he knows its secret. That's only partially true. When she leaves town for a few days, he brags all about this pot and what it can do. Which leads to TROUBLE. Will Big Anthony regret his disobedience and his boasting?

My thoughts: HOW VERY FUN! I can't believe I am only now discovering this one. I loved the pasta pot. And seeing pasta practically take over the town was awesome! I would pity Big Anthony his tummy ache, but, he did have no business meddling with magic.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology. Neil Gaiman. 2017. Norton. 299 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology. You will meet quite a few of them in these pages. Most of the stories we have, however, concern two gods, Odin and his son Thor, and Odin's blood brother, a giant's son called Loki, who lives with the Aesir in Asgard.

Premise/plot: Norse Mythology is a collection of fifteen stories starring Norse gods and goddesses. These are traditional stories lovingly crafted by Gaiman for ultimate enjoyment. The stories are: "Before the Beginning, and After," "Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds," "Mimir's Head and Odin's Eye," "The Treasures of the Gods," "The Master Builder," "The Children of Loki," "Freya's Unusual Wedding," "The Mead of Poets," "Thor's Journey to the Land of the Giants," "The Apples of Immortality," "The Story of Gerd and Frey," "Hymir and Thor's Fishing Expedition," "The Death of Balder," "The Last Days of Loki," and "Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods."

From "Before the Beginning, and After"
Before the beginning there was nothing--no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning. (29)
From "The Mead of Poets"
Do you wonder where poetry comes from? Where we get the songs we sing and the tales we tell? Do you ever ask yourself how it is that some people can dream great, wise, beautiful dreams and pass those dreams on as poetry to the world, to be sung and retold as long as the sun rises and sets, as long as the moon will wax and wane? Have you ever wondered why some people make beautiful songs and poems and tales, and some of us do not? It is a long story, and it does not credit to anyone: there is murder in it, and trickery, lies and foolishness, seduction and pursuit. Listen. (127) 
From "Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods"
Until now I have told you of things that have happened in the past--things that happened a long time ago. Now I shall tell you of the days to come. I shall tell you how it will end, and then how it will begin once more. These are dark days I will tell you of, dark days and hidden things, concerning the ends of the earth and the death of the gods. Listen, and you will learn. (269)
My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this one. I loved the storytelling. I loved the drama, the action, the humor. I loved the characters. I loved Thor and Loki. They are so different from one another. Without Loki would the stories be as entertaining?! Yet Thor and the others are needed to keep Loki under control!!! My top three were "The Treasures of the Gods," "Freya's Unusual Wedding," and "Thor's Journey to the Land of the Giants." All of the stories were good. I loved, loved, LOVED some of them and merely loved others. But all are worth reading and rereading.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Cat Named Swan

A Cat Named Swan. Holly Hobbie. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Then he was alone. Where was his mother? What had happened to his brothers and sisters? They were gone. The streets were a place of constant danger. Yet day by day, he found enough food to eat. Day by day, he managed to elude the threats that surrounded him. He survived. One morning, though, he did not escape the peril that came down on him.

Premise/plot: A kitten from the streets is taken to a shelter and then adopted by a loving family.
After many days had passed, he learned that the house was his house, the yard was his yard. He learned that the people were his people and he was theirs. He belonged to them and they belonged to him.
My thoughts: A Cat Named Swan is a sweet picture book about a family adopting a cat. It is a story of belonging and family. The text is just as adorable as the illustrations. I love, love, love the illustrations. My favorite illustration was the last one. Swan all nestled up in a bowl.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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