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


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale. Katherine Arden. 2017. 322 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was late winter in Norther Rus', the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Premise/plot: The Bear and the Nightingale is historical fantasy set in medieval Russia. For some, that might be enough to get you curious! For others, it will take a bit more work. I'm not sure my review can do the book justice, however. Where to start? With the two chapters of prologue that do a great job of setting up the story? Or do I jump right in and tell you about the heroine, Vasya?! I really feel the less you know the better.

Essentially, The Bear and the Nightingale is historical fantasy that draws on Russian folklore and fairy tales. The struggle is between the old ways and the new, the pagan and the christian. Vasya was born with a gift--a blessing or curse, as you will--she can see the 'pagan' 'demons' (gods and goddesses that inhabit the world (in the household, in the barn, in the forest, etc.) She is not afraid of them, and actually is on speaking terms with many. But. Danger is coming, and coming fast. The BEAR has been awakened, and, he's desperate to break the bonds that Lord Winter (Lord Frost, Morozko) placed on him long, long ago. The BEAR is eager to kill Vasya before she comes into her own, into her powers, before she realizes who she is and what she's capable of. Lord Frost passes along a talisman--a jewel--to help the girl survive...but he can't provide her with courage, strength, determination, fierceness. But that she has aplenty!

My thoughts: I like fantasy novels. I like historical novels. This one was an enjoyable read to me. My only complaint--and it's a small one--is that the chapters were a little on the LONG side.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Hiroshima. John Hersey. 1946/1989. 152 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sad down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asabi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimin for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb and these six were among the survivors.

Premise/plot: Hiroshima by John Hersey chronicles the dropping of the first atomic bomb. It was first published in 1946. Later editions of the book provided more up-to-date information on all six survivors.

The first three chapters closely follows events in August 1945. Through the eyes of six survivors, the reader bears witness to the unthinkable: the initial bomb, the wreckage left behind, the injuries, the fires, the floods, etc. The fourth chapter follows the first few months--or perhaps even the first year after the bomb. Again, through the survivors' accounts readers learn of the effects of the bomb. The day in and day out effects of the bomb on men, women, children, babies. If you're ill--very ill, perhaps even dying--how do you find work, keep a job, earn enough money to pay for food to feed your family? How do you recover your life--and have things return to normal? It's a learning process not just for victims but for the medical community as well. The fifth and final chapter was added to the book in the 1980s, this chapter serves as an epilogue. Readers see how the six managed to live for the next few decades after the bomb.

My thoughts: This one left me speechless. How can I do it justice? It is a difficult read--an intense one. Hiroshima would pair well with Alas, Babylon or Your Sins and Mine.
© 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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