Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Wooden Prince

The Wooden Prince. John Claude Bemis. 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 312 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: By the time Pinocchio arrived in the village of San Baldovino, he was bursting with impatience to get free. Being locked in a trunk shouldn't have bothered him. He was an automa, after all.

Premise/plot: Think you know the story of Pinocchio? Think again! Bemis asks readers to join him on a fantastical journey. In the original story, Pinocchio is almost always unlikable; he is always rebellious and disobedient; he is more an object lesson than a 'real boy.' In this new novel--the first in a series--Pinocchio has a chance to be THE HERO.

My thoughts: Bemis has created a complex fantasy world. I wish I'd known about the glossary sooner. But reading the glossary after I finished the novel helped answer a few remaining questions I had. I really liked the world he created. Perhaps I wouldn't have loved this new fantasy world so much if I hadn't been drawn in by the characters as well. But what I loved most of all is his spin on the original, there are elements that do feel familiar. But everything has been spun about--and all for the better. There are still moral elements in this one. But instead of feeling like a lesson on how not to behave, a lesson about the consequences of disobedience, it has become more a series of lessons on how valuable life is and how essential friendship is. I loved seeing Pinocchio in a whole new light.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Can Read

You Can Read. Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Mark Hoffmann. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You can read in the classroom. You can read in the park. You can read on a mission under cover in the dark.

Premise/plot: You Can Read celebrates reading books anywhere and everywhere. It rhymes, and in a good way.

My thoughts: The text of the book is in all-caps. I found this very annoying to read. But even more annoying is the disturbing lack of periods. There is not a single period in the whole book. (I couldn't help adding periods into the text I quoted above. I just couldn't present it the way it is in the book.) (Two sentences end in exclamation points.) If this book were getting graded by a first grade teacher, it would lose a lot of points. (The students in the first grade class might love it because of the illustrated underwear.)

That being said, the text of the book itself isn't bad. The message is a good one. I LOVE books. (Everybody knows that I love books.) I wanted to love, love, love it. The illustrations were not my style at all.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 1 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Verdict of Twelve

Verdict of Twelve. Raymond Postgate. 1940/2017. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Clerk of Assize had to have some way of relieving the tedium of administering the same oath year after year.

Premise/plot: Verdict of Twelve is a classic mystery originally published in 1940 in Britain. This mystery has four parts. In the first part, readers meet the twelve jurors. Backstories--some quite detailed--are given for all members of the jury. In the second part, the crime is laid out for readers. This isn't the trial itself. This is a behind-the-scenes glimpse just for readers. In the third part, I believe, the trial occurs and the jury deliberates. The fourth and final part is an epilogue revealing if the jury got it right or wrong.

A young boy dies of poisoning. His aunt stands accused of the crime. Is there enough reasonable doubt to rule her not guilty? That is the question. The defense will argue that four people equally had motive, means, and opportunity. The aunt, the two servants, the boy himself. (The aunt and two servants would inherit a good bit of money if he died. All of the people in the house had access to ivy dust from the ivy plants. All had opportunity to mix ivy dust into the salad dressing.) The defense targets the boy himself--the victim. They argue the boy was trying to murder his aunt, but wasn't smart enough, clever enough to pull it off successfully.

My thoughts: This one was a fascinating yet troubling read. There are scenes from this mystery that may haunt me for years to come. I definitely liked it and would recommend it. While the focus is closely on the twelve jurors, it is a very different type of read than Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not. Ellie Terry. 2017. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I open my dresser drawers, find them empty, empty, empty.

Premise/plot: Calliope June is the young heroine in Ellie Terry's Forget Me Not. This middle grade novel actually has two narrators. Calli's narrates in verse while Jinsong narrates in prose. Here's what you need to know about Calli: a) she HATES moving; b) she HATES having to introduce herself to her classmates; c) she struggles to make friends; d) she wishes her mom would grow up; e) she has Tourette syndrome. Here's what you need to know about Jinsong: a) he LOVES baseball b) he's popular; c) he like-likes Calli; d) he's afraid to be friends with her in public; e) he cares too much about what others think of him; f) he's self-aware enough to know he's being a big jerk and a coward.

My thoughts: I found this to be a quick, compelling read. I enjoyed the characterization. Readers really only get to know Jinsong and Calli, but, these two are well developed in my opinion. The relationship that tortured me the most was between Calli and her mom. I really wanted Calli's mom to grow up and get the help she needed. I hated that Calli's life was being turned upside down every few months because of her mom's love life. The ending leaves me worried. I think Calli has matured a great deal, but, her mom is still a big, big mess.

Does this one "need" to be a verse novel? I'm not sure it does. The verse isn't spectacular poetry. Calli could have told her story in prose just as well. I am glad Calli's story got told. I like her as a narrator. And being in verse does make it go quicker because there are fewer words.

Do we "need" Jinsong's narration? I'm not sure we do. But I am conflicted on this. His narrative does allow readers to see Calli from a different perspective, an outside perspective. We see most of the bullying from his perspective. He's a mostly silent bystander. He does some much-needed growing up in this one.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, September 18, 2017

Train I Ride

Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The train I ride is sixteen coaches long.

Premise/plot: Rydr is our young heroine. After the death of her grandmother, she finds herself on a train heading east to live with her great uncle. Readers learn what happened before in a series of flashes, memories. The novel ends when she arrives in Chicago; it ends before she meets her new guardian. So readers are left with a bit of uncertainty. Rydr's story is revealed as she interacts with fellow passengers on the train--both children and adults.

My thoughts: I didn't expect to love, love, love this one. But I did. Rydr is a vulnerable young girl with a big heart. Her heart may not be trusting, and, she may have more than a couple of schemes always in place. Yet how could you say she isn't compassionate?! I'm thinking of the scene where she spends what little money she has--five dollars--buying a hand-made bracelet from a young girl who is just as desperate for money as Rydr is. I have many, many favorite scenes in this one. I loved Rydr's friendship with Tenderchucks, a young boy scout. These two are so good for one another. Another relationship I loved to see develop through the course of the novel was that of Rydr and Neal.

What I loved about this one: the writing, the coming-of age elements, the relationship-building, the characterization.

Favorite quotes:
If a poem is using words in a way that isn't quite what you're accustomed to, don't think that there's something wrong with you or your ability to understand them. They're just art objects painted with words. Sometimes they look like things you recognize, and sometimes not. (65)
"We should make a pact," he says. "A non-cruelty pact." "Between us?" "Between us. And everyone we meet. Until it extends to everyone." (93)
The people sitting at the table with me feel like a family. My family. If I could choose my family they'd be just like this. (113)
Carlos folds and unfolds his hands. "The best kind of people are people who feel, and who hold hope in their hearts. Even if it sometimes means being hurt and disappointed. Even if it means always being hurt and disappointed." (161)
© 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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