Saturday, July 22, 2017

How To Babysit a Grandpa

How to Babysit a Grandpa. Jean Reagan. Illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Babysitting a grandpa is fun--if you know how.

Premise/plot: A grandson shares all his personal how-to tips for babysitting his grandpa. Some of his tips include what to feed a Grandpa, what to play with Grandpa, how to entertain a Grandpa, how to get a Grandpa to take a nap, etc.

My thoughts: I liked it okay. I did. I have a feeling that there are millions of ways to babysit a Grandpa, and that each grandchild has their own unique way of doing so. This book is universal by no means. (Though hopefully LOVING to spend time with your Grandpa is universal.) I love, love, love the end papers of this picture book. I love the kid drawings.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, July 21, 2017

How to Track a Truck

How to Track a Truck. Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by John Rocco. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If you want a pet truck--and who doesn't?--you've come to the right person! I've got two dump trucks and a fire engine myself. I think everyone should have one! And that's why I wrote this book. By the time you're done, you'll know everything you need in order to track, catch, and tame your very own pet truck.

Premise/plot: How To Track a Truck is a follow-up to How To Train a Train. This book is all about TRUCKS. The premise is that you--that everyone--really, really wants a truck for a pet. The story is wonderfully absurd. If you enjoyed the first book, then this one might be worth your time!

My thoughts: I liked it. I didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it like How to Train a Train. But it is fun and crazy and unique. Here's one of my favorite parts:
Now the fun part: catching it. Wait until the truck notices you, and then lay down a trail of orange cones. Trucks can't help following orange cones.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Thursday, July 20, 2017


Skunked. (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet #1) Jacqueline Kelly. 2016. 106 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: None of the terrible things that happened need have happened at all if the skunk hadn't drawn attention to itself by ripping up our garden and stealing a bunch of vegetables. And if Father hadn't told the hired man to set a trap and kill it. And if the skunk hadn't turned out to be a mother with a baby hidden in a den nearby. And if my younger brother Travis hadn't heard the hungry baby crying and stopped to investigate.

Premise/plot: Calpurnia Tate stars in a new series of early readers. (This is not a younger Calpurnia Tate.) Callie LOVES science, her grandpa, and her younger brother, Travis. In this one, Calpurnia and Travis find an orphaned baby skunk. Together they will "save" it. But their rescue mission isn't without challenges!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I like Callie as a character. (Callie also stars in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.) The two previous books are for older readers. I'm not sure why the switch in audience, but, I don't mind it particularly. I like the Texas setting. I love historical fiction. The family atmosphere is great.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Movie Review: Camille (1984)

Camille. Directed by Desmond Davis. 1984. 100 minutes. [Source: Library]

Marguerite Gautier is played by Greta Scacchi. Armand Duval is played by Colin Firth. Duval (Armand's father) is played by Ben Kingsley. Prudence is played by Billie Whitelaw. Count de Noilly is played by Denholm Elliott. Gaston is played by Patrick Ryecart.

This was a made-for-television adaptation of Alexandre Dumas fils' novel/play Camille. There's a great line of dialogue in this one: "Love me less, or understand me better." It's something that Marguerite is saying to Armand. That simple phrase says so much about this story.

The movie opens with a plea of sorts: a dying Marguerite is writing in her journal, confessing everything to Armand, pleading with him to understand her.

One of the first scenes of the movie shows Marguerite with her abusive father. At the very least he is verbally abusive, but, I lean more towards physical abuse as well. Regardless the movie opens with a very young Marguerite deciding to LEAVE HOME--for better or worse. She makes her way to Paris with just the clothes on her back. No money, no food, no place to stay, no plan on how to survive. She's desperate. Perhaps sensing her desperation, an older man, an Impressionist painter, offers to pay for a meal if she'll sit and pose for him. She eagerly accepts. In fact, she devours the food as if she hasn't eaten in days. But the painter has more than a sketch in mind. To be blunt--and this takes place offscreen fortunately--he rapes her. At first she scorns the idea of staying with him, she looks at him with hatred and disgust. But she realizes that her body is her commodity. With it, she has a way to get food, wine, clothes, jewelry, a place to stay. She still doesn't like him--but she realizes that they can use each other for a while. She'll hopefully find someone richer, someone better to take his place. She's definitely on the look out. She's "discovered" by the Duke de Charles. He finds that she looks like his now-deceased daughter. He is looking for her to take the place of his daughter. He wants her off the street; he wants her cleaned up; he wants her to stop selling herself to men. He's willing to treat her like a princess, gifts of money and jewels, an unlimited amount of credit it seems. But there are strings attached. She's to be a good girl.

Armand Duval is introduced early in this adaptation. Viewers first see him with his father and his sister celebrating life. His father seems to be encouraging his son to be YOUNG and to LIVE IT UP in Paris while he can. Armand becomes close friends with the wealthy Gaston. And the two seem to like women and booze. Like might not be a strong enough word. Let's just say the two are lusty young men.

So how do these two meet in this adaptation? Prudence spots Gaston at the theatre. Gaston tells Armand that Prudence was his first lover, that as an older, much-experienced woman she was a great teacher. Gaston and Armand go home with Prudence that night. Prudence is Marguerite's neighbor. When Marguerite invites Prudence over, she says she has two guests. Marguerite says COME WITH YOUR GUESTS AND RESCUE ME FROM THIS SUPREME BORE, the Count. For Armand, if you believe in such things, it's love at first sight. For Marguerite, however, she's not wanting to fall in love with any young man. Especially a poor one.

The rest of the story follows the other adaptations for the most part. Though Armand seems very much a jerk in this one. For example, his father tells him: do you know that by being with her you are ruining your sister's chance for marriage? Do you know that her wedding could be called off? And he's like MY SISTER LOVES ME AND I'M SURE SHE'D RATHER SEE ME BE HAPPY. Also, there were a few times at least when Armand crossed the line into abuse--in my humble opinion. He tells her IT'S ONLY BECAUSE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH THAT I ACT THIS WAY. And her response is: LOVE ME LESS OR UNDERSTAND ME BETTER. I think those are wise words indeed under the circumstances.

The characters are oh-so-human in this adaptation. Neither comes across as a saint.

Overall, I am definitely glad I watched this one. It is more of an interpretation of Dumas' work than an adaptation of it.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert

Les Miserables: 10 Anniversary Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Directed by John Caird and Gavin Taylor. 148 minutes. [Source: Library]

Features Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Philip Quast as Javert, Ruthie Henshall as Fantine, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thenardier, Alun Armstrong as Thenardier, Lea Salonga as Eponine, Michael Ball as Marius, Judy Kuhn as Cosette, Michael Maguire as Enjolras....

Premise/plot: This film is not a production of the musical itself but a concert featuring the music from the musical. One disc is the concert. The other disc is the special features. The special features include two documentaries that are well worth watching.

My thoughts: I have seen the 2012 film adaptation of the musical. I have very mixed feelings about the film. I really do. I think it is almost torturous to watch in places. It definitely is not a film that I'd ever say "again, again, again" after viewing.

I LOVE the book. It's one of my FAVORITE books of all time. I think the musical only makes sense if you've read the book OR if you've watched a better film adaptation.

So what did I think of this concert? Well, I found myself liking it much more than I thought I would. I liked the concert aspect of it--especially seeing the orchestra behind them and the ensemble cast. The ensemble cast wore Les Miserables t-shirts. The main characters were in costume.  (Probably two dozen or so were in costume.) Valjean and Eponine were my FAVORITES.

I though the singing was EXCELLENT for the most part. I also love watching orchestras.

My favorite songs:

I Dreamed a Dream, Fantine
Who Am I, Valjean
Fantine's Death, Fantine and Valjean
One Day More, Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Eponine, Enjolras
On My Own, Eponine
Bring Him Home, Valjean
Epilogue (Finale), Valjean, Fantine, Cosette and Marius, Ensemble

© 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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