Monday, August 21, 2017

Skitterbrain

Skitterbrain. Irene Bennett Brown. 1978. 112 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Early dawn glowed softly across the harsh Kansas prairie outside the sod house where Larned "Larnie" Moran was just waking up.

Premise/plot: Skitterbrain is a coming of age novel set in Kansas in 1875. Larnie, the heroine, is responsible for the family's milk cow, Bessie. When Bessie wanders off, Larnie takes the family's mule and heads off after her. (She does not tell her mother or father where she's going or why.) Bessie is not an easily found cow. In fact, little of this search goes as planned. Bessie gets mixed up with other cattle in a cattle herd; Larnie's mule gets stolen; she's forced to decide how badly she wants this. Larnie thinks of only one thing: her mother is days away from having a baby. Her new baby brother--or baby sister--will NEED the milk from that cow to survive. Her mom is just not able. So finding this cow is a matter of life and death--as she sees it. Larnie proves her fierceness in this one.

My thoughts: It wasn't instant love. I can tell you that much at least. At first I was yelling at Larnie a lot. I just didn't understand why she didn't go to her Dad for help within minutes after discovering the cow was gone. Sure, he might have been upset. He might have called her "skitterbrain." But I still think that would have been the right thing to do--the responsible thing to do. I was also upset with the young thief whom Larnie ultimately ends up loving enough to bring back home to her parents saying, please adopt him. It wasn't just that he made one bad mistake; he kept on taking advantage of her time and time and time again. By the end, I was happy enough with how everything turned out. This book was a quick read, and I don't want my time back despite not loving it.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eight Hands Round

Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet. Ann Whitford Paul. 1991. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Patchwork is pieces of fabric cut into different shapes and sewn together into patterns. During the first one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, many women and girls--and even a few men and boys--sewed patchwork.

Premise/plot: It is an alphabet book, but it is an alphabet book for older readers. The goal isn't to teach little ones the alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet shares information about a particular quilt pattern. Information is included providing background on how people lived and showing that how they lived influenced the name of the pattern. (Churn Dash, Grandmother's Fan, Log Cabin, etc.)

My thoughts: My mom is the quilter of the family. She loves to sew quilt blocks by hand. She has books of patterns. She is always looking for new books on quilting at the library. I shared this one with her. I wanted her perspective. She had opinions! What we both loved was that we get to see in each pattern both the one block AND the whole quilt. Not all quilt books include this 'big picture.' There were some letters where she was, "I wouldn't have chosen that block for that letter...."

Overall, I liked it well enough.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week in Review: August 13-19


Princess Super Kitty. Antoinette Portis. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
School's First Day of School. Adam Rex. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Three Little Pigs. Michael Robertson, illustrator. 2017. Scholastic. 7 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mr. Moon. Michael Paraskevas. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Trucks. Byron Barton. 1986. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories. James Dean. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Louis Sachar. 1978. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. 444 pages. [Source: Library]
Hide and Seek. Wilkie Collins. 1854. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]
 
Where's The Giraffe. Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Where's the Ladybug? Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First Words Baby Signing. 2017. Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I'm Scared (My First Comics #4) Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2017. Random House. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sleepy Toes. Kelli McNeil. Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. 2017. Scholastic. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hey Diddle Diddle (Sing Along With Me) Yu-Hsuan Huang. 2017. Candlewick Press. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Happy Birthday (Sing Along with Me) Yu-Husan Huang. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. David Murray. Illustrated by Scotty Reifsnyder. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Return. (Amish Beginnings #3) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2017. Revell. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Godless. (Fatherless #3) James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2014. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
Psalm 119 #13
Psalm 119 #14

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Trucks

Trucks. Byron Barton. 1986. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the road here come the trucks. They come through tunnels. They go over the bridge.

Premise/plot: Trucks are useful, always working. This is a simple introduction to the working class of trucks. The intended audience is preschoolers or toddlers.

My thoughts: I like this one. The text is super simple. It is not text heavy. As a read aloud it flows well. The illustrations are bold and colorful. I'd recommend this to parents with truck-obsessed little ones. I do think that it could transition to an easy to read on their own book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. 444 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I shouldn't have come to this party.

Premise/plot: The Hate U Give is a thoughtful, intense, compelling, relevant, and timely book. The book opens with a party. When the party becomes violent, Starr and Khalil leave quickly hoping to avoid drama and danger. Unfortunately, their car is pulled over by a cop on their way home. The situation escalates within minutes; Starr will be forever haunted by the memory of a (white) cop killing her friend right in front of her. The book is about the aftermath of that shooting, and also of Starr's difficulties finding her voice and overcoming her fears.

My thoughts: What did I appreciate most about this one? I'd have to say the strong characterization of ALL the characters. Starr, her mother, her father, her siblings and half-siblings, her boyfriend, her uncle, her friends. A few words about Starr are perhaps in order. Well, she identifies closely with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Though she still lives in Garden Heights, she attends a mostly white private school. She feels stuck being "the black girl" in her class. Stuck may not be the right word. Then again, maybe it is. She doesn't feel safe being her absolute true self in that environment. She filters things. In her own neighborhood, she doesn't quite fit in either. Going to that school, that rich-person school, that white-person school makes her different, not in a good way. It is only at home that she's able to authentically be her whole self all the time. What led to her being sent to that school is the fact that she witnessed her best friend being killed in a drive-by shooting: they were both ten. Now violence has again turned her world upside down...but this time she's old enough to do something in response if she's brave enough.

Is the book issue-driven? Yes. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Not in this case. I think any person who has watched the news in the past few years can see that this book addresses real issues in an authentic way. I think for an issue book to work, it HAS to have strong characters. Since this one does, it works beautifully.

I will say it was a difficult read for me personally. The book has (understandably) strong language. It has a good bit of profanity. This profanity includes blasphemy. I am NOT saying the book is inauthentic, that the profanity is out of place or doesn't belong. The situations in the book are INTENSE and DRAMATIC. I am also NOT saying that the book is inappropriate for readers. I think in many ways this book is a must-read. I could see this one as being a great choice for classrooms and book clubs. Books should be judged for what they are, not for what any one reader wishes or hopes they were instead. I'd be surprised if this one isn't recognized with a few big awards.

© 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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