A Papa Like Everyone Else. Sydney Taylor. 1966. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [mg historical fiction; j historical fiction; children's classic]. First sentence: Gisella sat very still, her pale green eyes round with wonder. Again the miracle was ...
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"Becky's Book Reviews" - 5 new articles

  1. 160. A Papa Like Everyone Else
  2. 159. Shattered City
  3. 158. Rewind
  4. 157. The Blonde Identity
  5. 156. Anne of Avonlea
  6. More Recent Articles

160. A Papa Like Everyone Else

A Papa Like Everyone Else. Sydney Taylor. 1966. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [mg historical fiction; j historical fiction; children's classic]

First sentence: Gisella sat very still, her pale green eyes round with wonder. Again the miracle was happening! She had seen it many times before, but always her pulse quickened with the mystery of it. 

Premise/plot: A Papa Like Everyone Else is set in Czechoslovakia circa 1918/1919. Szerena and Gisella long for a 'papa like everyone else' since their papa is far away in America. He went a year before the war started to find a job, to get established, to earn enough to bring his family over. The world war changed plans significantly. But now the war is over and the family hopes to be reunited soon. Meanwhile, life on the farm in the farm village continues on. This is a 'slice of life' glimpse at a rural Jewish family from the time period. There isn't "action" or major plot points so much as it is just capturing the 'old world' life as experienced by one Jewish family. (There is at least one chapter with some excitement. But mostly just flavor of life, normal, ordinary, routine.) 

My thoughts: I didn't enjoy this one as much as All of A Kind Family. But I liked it well enough. I am very glad I was able to read it. I've always wanted to read more Sydney Taylor. 

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


159. Shattered City

Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery. Janet Kitz. 2010. 351 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My interest in the Halifax Explosion began in 1980, sparked by research for an anthropology paper at Saint Mary's University.

Premise/plot: Shattered City is a nonfiction book for adults about the Halifax explosion (which occurred on December 6, 1917). It starts off by explaining the research process and project. Talking about the ways information for the book was gathered and collected, what resources were examined. It then begins chronicling the event. The section of the book that chronicled the day of the disaster was intense yet intriguing. It was packed with what appear to be firsthand accounts. This section is where there is a human element. It isn't so much that there's a consistent cast of [real life] characters to follow, but even spending a few paragraphs with a family is something more personal. The 'aftermath' section which is "the road to recovery," is perhaps less personal, less human-interest, more facts and statistics. (Though not always.) For example, reading about the reconstruction of houses, streets, neighborhoods is less personal and more matter-of-fact. Or reading about the weekly allotment of financial assistance to buy food and how that was determined. But there were also updates on schools for the blind and how adults and children were learning or relearning necessary skills for beginning to live life again. So there were occasional moments of high interest. 

My thoughts: This book should NOT be confused with a movie with the same name. That is how I came across this book. It is not the author's fault--nor the book's fault--that the movie about the Halifax explosion shares the same name. The movie chronicles ONE family and a small cast of characters. It builds up to the explosion over several days. You get attached to the characters. There is intensity and suspense. There is heartbreak. It is super-absorbing and compelling. This book....isn't. The first part is definitely more interesting than the second part. But it is also very technical. I'm not expressing it in the right words. Human interest. This one doesn't always stay focused on a 'human interest' perspective. The facts may be of great interest to the right reader. But if you care more about people than supplies of food or lumber...then you might find yourself a bit bored now and then.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


158. Rewind

Rewind. Lisa Graff. 2023. [August] 256 pages. [Source: Library] [MG Speculative Fiction; Time Travel]

First sentences: In most ways, Gap Bend, Pennsylvania, was just like any other small town. 

Premise/plot: Gap Bend, Pennsylvania, has a tradition of hosting a 'Time Hop' community event. McKinley O'Dair is super excited. This year the Time Hop will be celebrating all things 1993. She realizes--foreshadowing--that 1993 was the year her father was her age. 

After an explosive argument with her father--in which she runs away at the Time Hop--she finds herself traveling back in time. She's IN the "real" 1993. Her father is her own age. And she is clueless as to how to return to 2018. 

My thoughts: I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't love it. I will try to share why I personally didn't love this one so that you can make up your own mind as to if this is one you'd be interested in picking up and reading for yourself.

What I liked: I liked the premise of time travel. I LOVE the premise of time travel. I seek out time travel books like they're candy. I was super excited about the premise of this one. The fact that she'd be able to "get to know" her father when he was her own age was intriguing. It had potential.

The chapter titles are song titles. I wasn't familiar with most of these songs, but, it could make a good side project for those that love music OR that love quests in general. Not having listened to these songs, I'm not sure if the song lyrics themselves have anything at all to do--themes? tones?--with the plot of the book. Perhaps they do. Maybe they don't. I will say that the characters themselves don't really talk music--artists, songs--all that often (if at all). (And when they do bring up a song title, I *think* it was a song actually released in 1997. Granted, perhaps the Backstreet Boys only covered "Hey Mr DJ Keep Playing That Song". But any internet search showed that the Backstreet Boys as the artist and the 1997 as the year it released.) 

What I didn't like: I found almost all the characters (except McKinley's grandma) insufferable. I truly found them so incredibly annoying and obnoxious. The characters in 2018 and the characters in 1993--both were so unlikable that even the premise of time travel didn't really keep me loving the book. McKinley, our main character, was SO full of it. I just couldn't stand her smugness. And I don't think she was purposefully written to be smug. She wasn't the only annoying character, but, she was the one readers never got away from.

One thing that definitely bothered me was that every single character was disrespectful, rude, unkind, bully-ish. All the conversations McKinley and Jackie had in the past were SO rude and obnoxious. The way they treated others. The way they treated each other. 

I also didn't like the fact that the fashion descriptions felt a LOT more like mid-to-late 1990s--than 1993. Again, every adult who lived through the nineties might have a different recollection of the details. So perhaps it's just me that thinks it's a tiny bit off. You can decide for yourself. Maybe 1993 was all about Doc Martens, silver spaghetti strap dresses, white baby doll tees, lace choker necklaces, butterfly clips, and denim vests. I wouldn't let the fashion descriptions keep you from picking up the book. If that was the only thing that annoyed me--slightly--I would still have enjoyed the book. It was mainly the characters being annoying. Again--totally subjective.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


157. The Blonde Identity

The Blonde Identity. Ally Carter. 2023. 304 pages. [Source: Library] [spy thriller; adult fiction; adult romance]

First sentence: Here's the thing about waking up with no memory in the middle of the night, in the middle of the street, in the middle of Paris: at least you're waking up in Paris. 

Premise/plot: The Blonde Identity is a premise-driven spy thriller with a dose of romance. The main character, Zoe, finds herself waking up in the middle of a Parisian street injured. She's discovered soon after, by "Hot Guy," aka Sawyer. He thinks that Zoe is Alex, at least for a few seconds. He soon realizes that Alex--someone he knows very well--must have an identical twin sister. Alex may be an agent and able to take care of herself, but, Zoe seems vulnerable, unable to take care of herself in this new reality. The BAD GUYS are after Alex and want her dead. Zoe's life is in danger...at least until Alex turns up again...maybe longer than that. So Sawyer decides to help her--but is he trustworthy? Will Zoe ever get her memory back?

My thoughts: Imagine two book manuscripts from two different genres being shuffled together. The good news is that I think fans of adult romance novels will probably find it to their liking. It is very rom-com. Sawyer and Zoe in dozens of different scenarios--having somewhat enjoyable banter back and forth. There's insta attraction and lust. (Though some restraint.) Circumstances keep throwing them together into compromising positions. It is super predictable. I think it is more romance than some readers might prefer. Maybe. Again, I'm just one person. I liked this one okay.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


156. Anne of Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea. L.M. Montgomery. 1909. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A tall, slim girl, "half-past sixteen," with serious gray eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil. 

Premise/plot: Anne Shirley, a YOUNG Anne Shirley, assumes the responsibilities of school teacher and big sister while resuming her roles as kindred spirit, best friend, and daughter. At the end of Anne of Green Gables, Gilbert gallantly offers the Prince Edward Island school to Anne Shirley so that she can remain closer to home so she can care for (an aging) Marilla while she saves money for college. Anne of Avonlea chronicles about two years. She's a teacher...with some memorable students, notably Paul Irving. She's a friend...Mr. Harrison, a grumpy neighbor, is one new friend. But most importantly perhaps, she becomes a "big sister." Marilla takes in TWO children--twins--Davy and Dora. Davy is a HANDFUL and delight. Never a dull day with his troublesome, mischievous adventures/misadventures. Dora is a saint. By the end of the novel, Anne Shirley is ready to head off to college....

My thoughts: I really LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. Is it as good as the first book or last book in the series? Probably not. Is it as good as Anne of the Island? Well. It's a toss-up. Because as much as I love and crazy love and adore aspects of Anne of the Island, Anne of Avonlea is just MARVELOUS. And Anne of the Island has its duller moments. Definitely less comedic. 

Mr. Harrison about Mrs. Rachel Lynde:

"I detest that woman more than anybody I know. She can put a whole sermon, text, comment, and application, into six words, and throw it at you like a brick."
"I never was much of a talker till I came to Avonlea and then I had to begin in self-defense or Mrs. Lynde would have said I was dumb and started a subscription to have me taught sign language."
Fun with Davy:
"Anne," said Davy, sitting up in bed and propping his chin on his hands, "Anne, where is sleep? People go to sleep every night, and of course I know it's the place where I do the things I dream, but I want to know WHERE it is and how I get there and back without knowing anything about it...and in my nighty too. Where is it?"
 "I wish people could live on pudding. Why can't they, Marilla? I want to know."
"Because they'd soon get tired of it."
"I'd like to try that for myself," said skeptical Davy.
Paul Irving to Anne:
"I've prayed every night that God would give me enough grace to enable me to eat every bit of my porridge in the mornings. But I've never been able to do it yet, and whether it's because I have too little grace or too much porridge I really can't decide."

Favorite quotes: 
"You're never safe from being surprised till you're dead."
“One can't get over the habit of being a little girl all at once.” 
“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
“Anne had no sooner uttered the phrase, "home o'dreams," than it captivated her fancy and she immediately began the erection of one of her own. It was, of course, tenanted by an ideal master, dark, proud, and melancholy; but oddly enough, Gilbert Blythe persisted in hanging about too, helping her arrange pictures, lay out gardens, and accomplish sundry other tasks which a proud and melancholy hero evidently considered beneath his dignity. Anne tried to banish Gilbert's image from her castle in Spain but, somehow, he went on being there, so Anne, being in a hurry, gave up the attempt and pursued her aerial architecture with such success that her "home o'dreams" was built and furnished before Diana spoke again. ”
“…I think,' concluded Anne, hitting on a very vital truth, 'that we always love best the people who need us.” 
“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts...it's like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.” 
“It takes all sorts of people to make a world, as I've often heard, but I think there are some who could be spared,' Anne told her reflection in the east gable mirror that night.” 
"If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don't you think? Then friendship would be the most beautiful thing in the world." 
"In this world you've just got to hope for the best and prepare for the worst and take whatever God sends."


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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