Friday, April 28, 2017


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


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Can You Guess My Name?

Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the introduction: Many of the world's folktales resemble one another in surprising ways, as anyone who hears them or reads them soon discovers.

Premise/plot: Judy Sierra has collected fifteen folktales from around the world. There are five sections (with three stories apiece): "I'll Blow Your House In!" "Just the Right Friends," "Can You Guess My Name?" "I Married a Frog," and "The Scary House in The Woods."

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book very much. While I can't say that I loved each story and each section equally, what I loved I really LOVED. My favorite story, without a doubt, was "The Three Geese" (Italy). IN a way, it reads like The Three Little Pigs, but, it stars geese not pigs. And it ends with a fabulous line: "and there they ate macaroni and lived happily." Another story I enjoyed was "Medio Pollito" (Argentina).
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kolyma Tales

Kolyma Tales. Varlam Shalamov. Translated by John Glad. 1978/1994. 508 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: How is a road beaten down through the virgin snow? One person walks ahead, sweating, swearing, and barely moving his feet.

Premise/plot: Kolyma Tales is a collection of short stories and essays; what these short stories and essays have in common is a shared setting--Kolyma, a forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union. The stories are not connected to one another; there are no main characters. Some stories are long; some stories are short. All of them are bleak though perhaps some are bleaker than others. The style throughout is matter of fact, almost like there's no extra emotion to spare to dress up the stories. The edition I read has five sections: "Kolyma Tales," "The Left Bank," "The Virtuoso Shovelman," "Essays on the Criminal World," "Resurrection of the Larch."

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one, or at the very least really like it. I almost wish it had been a novel, novella, or memoir. I think I would have connected more with the text if it had not been short stories. Each story was a variation of a theme; each story was the same, yet, not the same. Like no two snowflakes are supposed to be identical, yet snow is snow is snow. There are no words--were no words--for how bad conditions were. Yet here's a whole book of words that makes the attempt.

I am glad I read this one. I don't regret my time by any means. But I would have felt more if they'd been a greater connection. I didn't want to get to know a hundred or two hundred characters a little bit. I wanted to get to know three or four characters really, really well.

Knowing how to live is a real skill. (260)
Death was replaced not by life, but by semi-consciousness, an existence which had no formula and could not be called life. Each day, each sunrise brought with it the danger of some new lurch into death. (285)
Oh, how distant is love from envy, from fear, from bitterness. How little people need love. Love comes only when all other human emotions have already returned. Love comes last, returns last. Or does it return? Indifference, envy, and fear, however, were not the only witnesses of my return to life. Pity for animals returned earlier than pity for people. (287)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (April)

The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Good news! I finished the NIV Tozer Bible, The Three Clerks, Oliver Twist, Here I Stand, and Gosnell. All of these books appeared on March's nightstand post.

Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

Ginger is helping me out once again in introducing my newest Bible reading project. This is my fourth Bible to select as project this year. I am LOVING it. You can read about my initial impressions at Operation Actually Read Bible.

Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought]

I was looking for something to walk to and put my Nero Wolfe series in the DVD. I fell in love with Archie Goodwin--swoon--almost immediately. I questioned WHY I had ever taken a break from reading and rereading this series. OR watching and rewatching the series. I might be tempted to reread all the ones I own.

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 522 pages. [Source: Bought]

Yes, I'm still tackling Anthony Trollope chronologically. This is a re-read.

Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am really excited to start this series. I've only read the last in the series (Williamsburg is the name of the series), and that was in high school--twenty-something years ago. (It was the only one in the series the school library had.)

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]

Still enjoying this one. I try to read a sermon or two per week.

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've been reading this commentary since February. I am making some progress. I think I'm around Matthew 16 or Matthew 17. So I'm hopeful that another month will see it done. If I can stay consistent!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Headed for Home

Headed for Home. Mary Helen Brown. 2016. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tommy Austin getting killed by the angel was the first strange thing to happen that summer, but it certainly wasn't the last.

Premise/plot: Enjoy Southern fiction? Enjoy coming of age stories? Enjoy mysteries with a touch of the supernatural? Enjoy family dramas? Headed for Home might be the best book that you've not heard least not yet. Speedy is the narrator of this small-town charmer. Speedy's sister, affectionately nicknamed SISTER, is home for the summer and she's brought some college friends with her. They aren't taking the summer off, however, but are instead working collectively on a research project.

They are doing research on their hometown (Rowja, Texas), on their families, on local folklore, etc. All but one of the girls have definite connections to the town's past--for several generations. But one doesn't. She thinks there is a slight chance than a great-uncle might have visited the town based on a photograph or maybe a postcard. The background is Rowja's courthouse, I believe. But she doesn't really know anything at all about this distant relation. Just that he disappeared around the time of World War I and never communicated with the family again.

Speedy will be staying with Sister and her classmates at the Big House. On their first night of "research," they have a seance of sorts and hear from a spirit identifying himself as Tom. He was murdered. He's buried. The girls--young women--think it would be compelling--good for their grade--if they used this angle to make their research more interesting. At first, no one actually believes that Tom is a disgruntled spirit--ghost--trying to communicate with them. But by the end, most everyone does believe.

My thoughts: On the one hand, I loved it. Mary Helen Brown's short novel is super-entertaining and the characters are so developed and fascinating. The little details have a just right feel to them. The way she writes--the way her characters talk--feels authentically Texan. I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. On the other hand, I really didn't love it. There were spiritual "danger, danger" signals going off now and then. I did not like the seances, or the use of Ouija boards. While I wanted Tom's story to be told, the facts to be discovered, I just wish the clues they'd followed hadn't been received the way they had. Because it is a matter of faith--and reading is subjective--I went with a full five stars. My objection to the book's content in that one area is completely subjective. Another reader may think the mystery is amazing. And the writing was so strong, so good.
© 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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