Monday, February 27, 2017


Lifers. M.A. Griffin. 2017. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It must have been quiet for him to hear the rattling.

Premise/plot: Lifers is a premise-driven science fiction novel for young adults set in Manchester, England. Since it's premise-driven, it's key to know about the premise before picking it up! A secret agency (society?) has found a new way to deal with young delinquents they want off the streets. The solution to send them BTV, beyond the valve. They send them underground, perhaps to another dimension? Regardless, it's a one-way ordeal. There's no coming back if you're a prisoner. Those sent BTV have not been prosecuted and found guilty; they've just disappeared from the system completely. Preston and his friend Mace are investigating very, very vague clues left behind by their friend, Alice, who has disappeared. Alice started investigating because one of her friends, Ryan, disappeared without a trace. And chances are Ryan started investigating because one of his friends disappeared. Curiosity is risky in Lifers. The greater the risk, the greater the reward? Possibly.

My thoughts: The premise was a little over my head. Okay, the premise was a LOT over my head. Much of it depends on world-building. And the author certainly did that. Unfortunately, for me, I really need a connection with the characters to enjoy a book and get excited about it. I didn't care for the characters much, and, wasn't that invested in who made it out of the valve and who didn't.

I do think reading is subjective. Other readers may connect with Preston, Mace, Alice, Ryan, Ellsworth, Shade, etc. and find it a super compelling read. For me, it remains an almost.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel. Charise Mericle Harper. 2017. HMH. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sammy is my best friend. He has four legs, really soft ears, and a tail that can wag slow, medium, and super-fast.

Premise/plot: June is looking for a new friend. She's looking for someone who is fun, friendly, and full of adventure. Sammy, her dog, will help her be a judge of who's got potential in the friend department. Sammy is a talking dog. (Does he really talk? Well, that's up to readers, I suppose. June is a believer that they speak the same language.) There's a new girl moving in next door that maybe just maybe has all three f's. Her name is Mae. In this one there's no such thing as instant best friends. Everyone in their class wants Mae's attention. And Mae isn't in a hurry to pick anyone to be her number one best friend. What makes this school-friendship adventure fun is the introduction of the Wonder Wheel. The Wonder Wheel is a present from June's grandmother...

My thoughts: This one is very cute. It has things like On-the-Ground-Disco-Dancing. The text is fun, lively, and quick. I would definitely be interested in reading more Mae and June books if this is a new early chapter book series.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dr. Kittycat #5 Nutmeg the Guinea Pig

Nutmeg the Guinea Pig (Dr. KittyCat #5) Jane Clarke. 2017. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peanut stood on his hind legs with his back against the clinic wall and stretched his whiskery nose as high as it would go.

Premise/plot: Dr. KittyCat, with her assistant Peanut, is giving check-ups in the morning and attending a birthday party at the park in the afternoon. In fact they are bringing the food--a picnic. The two are just about done with the exams when they get an emergency call. Nutmeg has collapsed at her own party! The two pack the food and the medical bag/kit into the vanbulance and head on out. Will they be able to diagnose her?

My thoughts: This early chapter book is set in the summer and includes tips on staying safe. I love, love, love this series. I enjoy Dr. KittyCat and Peanut. The illustrations are adorable. This would have been a series I adored when I was a kid.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews



Hickory. Palmer Brown. 1978. 42 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Halfway up the stairs of an old farmhouse, on the broad landing, bright with rose-patterned carpet, stood a tall grandfather clock, ticking time away.

Premise/plot: Hickory, a mouse, leaves his comfortable existence (in a clock in a house) and his family behind as he ventures to move outside into the country side following the example of the field mice. He becomes quite chummy with a grasshopper, Hop, as he makes a new life for himself. But life is fleeting, even more fleeting than he thought. Hop embraces life--every moment of it--fully aware that she'll not survive past summer. Hickory and Hop don't want to see summer come to an end--and set out on a quest to save her life by heading south.

My thoughts: Hickory is not cutesy animal fantasy. It isn't. This early chapter book is sad, bittersweet. The friendship between Hickory and Hop is wonderful to see. But opening the heart to love, to life, to friendship means opening the heart to loss and grief. Hickory will lose Hop. Death is certain and inevitable. How do you live life in face of coming death? How do you make the most of every day? These are heavy topics for an early chapter book. And the book is gentle, I suppose, in dealing with these philosophical questions.

I am so very glad I never read Hickory as a child. I am glad I read it as an adult.

Favorite quotes:
"All stories have their endings in their beginnings, if you know where to look." (10)
"Time is going, never staying, always flowing, ever saying: gone!" (41)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, February 24, 2017

Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey

Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey. Ginger Monette. 2017. 413 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Captain Fitwilliam Darcy narrowed his gaze as the steamer carrying Elizabeth faded into the twilight.

Premise/plot: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey is the sequel to a book I reviewed earlier this year, Darcy's Hope: Beauty from Ashes. Ginger Monette has created an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice set during 'the Great War' (World War I). While most of the first book was set in Europe--relatively near the fighting--most of this second book is set in England. The first book ended well with Darcy and Elizabeth happily together. The second book upsets their happiness a good deal. Elizabeth perceiving a dangerous, scandalous threat to Darcy if she stays in his life, leaves him--well, his estate--with the intention of setting out for America and a new life. But her plans don't go smoothly. And whatever plans Darcy may have had are completely disrupted when he's injured during a battle. He needs a kind, understanding nurse....enter Juliet Thomas.

Will Darcy fall in love with the woman taking care of him? Will Elizabeth ever get her happily ever after?

My thoughts: I liked the first book. I did. But I think I loved the second one even more!!! Perhaps because it didn't feel as forced to include little details to make it more like P&P. Also this one was less about spying--about trying to capture enemy spies--and more of a traditional romance. (It also helps that the world-building was taken care of in the first book. Now it's time to PLAY with the characters.) I really enjoyed the characters more in this one. I loved seeing John Thornton and Margaret Hale in this one!!!  

© 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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