Book Review #41: “Love and Loyalty: A Felicity Classic 1”

Love and Loyalty

Image Credit: American Girl

I was a little apprehensive when I first learned that Felicity was being re-released under the BeForever line. She was originally archived in the spring of 2011. That’s quite a while!

However, I was pleasantly surprised when Al bought my Volume 1 and Volume 2 for my birthday earlier this month. Reading them has brought back so many childhood memories!

If you’ve read the original six-book “Central Series” before, you’ll notice that Volume 1 covers roughly the first three books. In this case, this includes Meet Felicity, Felicity Learns A Lesson, and Felicity’s Surprise.

I easily connected with Felicity’s character, mainly because her stories are set in Williamsburg, Virginia, during colonial times. Having grown up just a stone’s throw away from the historic city (About 45 minutes), Felicity was fairly popular among my friends in elementary school. When we celebrated Colonial Days, I saw many girls dressed in the period clothes that American Girl sold – I felt incredibly jealous!

The “new” Volume 1 opens in 1774. At nine years old, Felicity Merriman is the oldest child, with a younger sister and brother behind her. Her mother is the homemaker, while her father runs one of the most popular shops in the city. He imports many goods from Great Britain, and it quickly becomes evident that tensions are rising between the Loyalists and the Patriots.

Like the other American Girl books, the historical accuracy blew me away. I felt like I was on the streets of Williamsburg alongside Felicity, as she spends time with her family, makes deliveries for her father with his apprentice, Ben, and makes a new friend, Elizabeth. I could easily feel the heat between her Grandfather, a Loyalist, and Ben, a strong-headed Patriot. Felicity herself deals with complications, as Elizabeth and her family are from England, and are devoted to the king.

Rumors of revolution begin to develop, and the theme of freedom runs throughout. Felicity fights to free Penny the horse from her abusive master. Ben wants to be a member of the militia, but knows he’s obligated to Mr. Merriman for seven years of service. One character is jailed, and the families come together to attempt to set them free. The people of Williamsburg are upset with the oppressive taxes, and set out to begin to declare their independence.

As Christmas approaches, Felicity deals with love, loss, and hardship. She learns to be less impatient and more thoughtful. She begins to grow and blossom, and develops a greater appreciation for her family, and for the events surrounding her and her city. She deals with a lot of conflict, but in conflicting times, she perseveres.

Although I miss the beautiful illustrations from the old books, I greatly appreciated the attention to detail. I felt like I was in 1774, and it was hard to come back to 2017!

My review of Volume 2 is coming soon!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #40: “The End of Everything”

The End of Everything

Image Credit: Amazon

A couple of weeks ago, I found this book while I visited 2nd and Charles with a dear friend of mine. They opened a new location across the street from my office last year – They have every type of book, DVDs, Blu-ray, vinyl, CDs, toys, games, and more. Some things are brand-new, still in the packaging! It was only $5.00, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I immediately recognized that Abbott is the author of other books such as You Will Know Me (currently on my TBR). I was intrigued by a combination of the cover and the synopsis on the inside. And, I can’t really turn down a hardcover book for $5.00!


I found myself reading multiple chapters per night, and I ended up finishing the book after less than a week.

In the 1980s, Lizzie and Evie are finishing up eighth grade, best friends since childhood. They’re attached to each other’s hips, but they appear to be going through their own paths and struggles. What 13-year-olds don’t?

Lizzie’s dad left years ago, but her mom looks like she’s been having a man over to the house recently. Evie appears to be living in her older sister, Dusty’s, shadow, but also excelling at soccer while trying to figure out what happens next.

Then, mere weeks before eighth-grade graduation, Evie Verver suddenly vanishes. As her family and the police investigate, Lizzie proves to be invaluable, finding multiple clues and helping assemble the complex puzzle. Everyone is desperate to get Evie back, although different characters are going through different emotions and handling the situation in different ways. One suspect, from their own neighborhood, looks promising, and the intensity continues to increase.

The book weaves together the complex topics/subjects of a child abduction, painful childhood memories, blossoming sexuality, and the relationships of parents with their children. The setting was the 1980s, and Abbott stays faithful to it the entire time. She also does a good job with balancing tragedy with triumph in her writing.

The only major complaint I had was that Abbott focuses so much on the relationship between Lizzie and Mr. Verver, and then tries to also explain/develop the relationship between Dusty and her father. The lines started to blur, and it was hard to tell sometimes who Abbott was referring to, and to figure out what exactly was going on.

It was challenging to differentiate between the two, and I felt a little creeped out by the end of the book. Mr. Verver appeared to be the sweetest, least-pervy of the fathers in the book, but some of the allusions that Abbott was making, absolutely made my skin crawl. Part of me didn’t want Lizzie, Evie, or Dusty to be taken advantage of, but part of me knew that the setting was also a different era (in a way), and parent-child relationships can still be taken too far, if you catch my drift. It makes me shudder just writing it.

Abbott is a great writer overall, and I look forward to reading more of her books! I just hope this one is just a fluke.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #39: “The Lady’s Slipper: A Melody Mystery”

The Lady's Slipper

Image Credit: Amazon

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the other reviews of Melody’s books before checking out this one:


This is Melody’s first mystery story, and I was just blown away. I read this entire book in one sitting this past Saturday night – Something that hasn’t happened in a very, very long time.

The book is set in May 1965, and Melody is going through something that we all have struggled with – Maintaining old relationships/friendships while trying to be nice and make new friends. We see her trying to keep up her relationship with her 12-year-old cousin, Val, but also admiring 14-year-old Leah, wanting to be friends with her, too. Val gets really jealous because she starts to become the third wheel, and Melody is caught in the middle. But, there’s a mystery to solve!

Melody starts to suspect that Leah is keeping several secrets, particularly about her grandfather, Dr. Roth. Slowly, Melody learns Dr. Roth escaped Poland and the Nazis during World War II. As a botanist, he wanted to save as many plants as he could. Along the way, Melody gets an education about the Jewish faith, Hebrew, and the horrors of war. She makes a connection with Leah around family, and Melody learns that she can balance time with family as well as friends.

All of these secrets are coming to light while Melody’s Poppa is busy preparing for the Belle Isle Flower Show at the breathtaking conservancy. Several mysterious and suspicious events occur while the exhibition is being set up, and Poppa is targeted because he’s the only black man in the show. Are there other suspects? Will Poppa be arrested?

This book was a bit complex, but I was very impressed in how it all pulled together. I was floored by the amount of historical detail the author packed into this book! She expertly weaved together the worlds of Europe and the United States, as well as the worlds of African-Americans and Jewish people during those time periods. And to make it all make sense, that’s impressive to me.

I hope more Melody mysteries are published – I want more!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #38: “The Runaway: A Maryellen Mystery”

If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out my other reviews on Maryellen’s books before reading this review:


This new mystery featuring Maryellen, her family, and friends, takes us from Daytona Beach, all the way to Cape Canaveral!

Scooter is the Larkin family’s beloved daschund. Maryellen grows angry with him one day after tripping over him, and sends him out of the house. Hours later, Scooter simply disappears! Maryellen is heartbroken, convinced it was her fault that Scooter ran away.

Things start to become fishy when Maryellen and her friends notice other dogs in the neighborhood have vanished. Soon, multiple suspects are coming out of the woodwork. Can Maryellen and her friends solve the case? Will Scooter return?

I finished this book, all 232 pages, in just two nights. I think it took me about 90 minutes total to read it. I love these new mysteries with the BeForever characters. I want to read them all!

A fair warning – This book may be upsetting to some who are passionate about dogs and animals, but it’s an important book to read. I’m glad that American Girl is touching on tough topics (I won’t give anything significant away here), and the historical accuracy and explanations are superb. They cover a lot of ground in this one book, showcasing how dogs and other animals have been, and still are, used for science and scientific purposes. They also tie in the space race with the Soviet Union!

I’m planning to read Melody’s (1964) latest mystery next!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #37: “The Unknown and Impossible: How a research facility in Virginia mastered the air and conquered space”

The Unknown and Impossible

Image Credit: Amazon

“I am proud to be part of a species where a subset of its members willingly put their lives at risk to push the boundaries of our existence.”

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson


Mike Holtzclaw is a good friend of mine from church and our blood drives. This year, he’s also a co-author of this amazing book. He, along with Tamara Dietrich, and Mark St. John Erickson, are all employees with the Daily Press. All part of the News division, Dietrich is the Senior Reporter – Science and Environment, Holtzclaw is a Senior Reporter, and Erickson is the Senior Reporter – History.

Mike took to Facebook a while back to make the announcement that the book was being published. I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered it. I was impressed – It arrived earlier than expected!

Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop! Having worked for the student newspaper of Longwood University, The Rotunda, I immediately recognized the vast amount of research, interviews, and collaboration that went into writing this book!

It’s such a quick read, but it’s jam-packed with over 100 years of history, and a look into our future. I thought I knew a lot about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Langley, but boy, was I wrong!

It’s fitting they published the book during the 100th anniversary of Langley Research Center, as well as the 25th anniversary of the Virginia Air & Space Center (The NASA Langley Visitor Center), both located in Hampton, Virginia. I remember taking many trips to the Air & Space Center as a kid, having grown up across the water in Chesapeake. I was always in awe of the exhibits and the history there. However, this book has helped me truly understand how significant Langley has been to the development of the space program, training the astronauts, and making both aviation and space travel better.

If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, just do it. It’s not only an impressive movie, but it also shines a nice spotlight on both Hampton and Langley. I want to read Margot Lee Shetterly’s book as well. Katherine Johnson is one of the many profiles in the book, and she’s 98 years old!

I greatly appreciated the dedication to historical accuracy – The authors clearly demonstrated that. They used a vast array of sources, resources, and interviews. Thanks to their work, I now have a much better appreciation of Hampton as a city, and this great research facility that started out so small, and unappreciated. I always smile when I see the NASA logo directing people to Langley on Interstate 64 West on my way to work every weekday!

In addition to historical accuracy, I loved seeing all the photos! I loved how they were set within the text, and each one of them added something to the words on the page. Plus, the profiles of the pioneering people at the end of every chapter was really awesome to see and read, recognizing their talents and contributions from 1917 forward.

If you want to learn about how NASA came out of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), how a tiny corner of southeastern Virginia was one of the first places to pursue and develop groundbreaking research in aviation, how aviation development gave way to the space program, and what the future may behold – Absolutely, definitely read this book.

It’s a refreshing, fascinating read about 100 years that truly shaped our skies, our planet, and our future. Here’s to leaving more footprints on the moon, Mars, and more.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #36: “The Lost Symbol”

The Lost Symbol

Image Credit: Target

If you’re curious about other books involving protagonist Robert Langdon, here are my previous Book Review posts:


Dan Brown has done it again!

Like Angels & Demons, this book was really long – Over 500 pages. However, I didn’t mind that it was so long. It was action-packed, and I learned so much about Washington, D.C.

However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to read this book in one sitting. It’s so dense, I found myself taking multiple breaks, sometimes days at a time, in order to process all of the information. It wasn’t necessarily a turn-off, but it was a challenge. The longest stretch was a few nights ago, when I read Chapters 78 through 112. I needed a day-long break before starting again. Luckily, reading through Chapter 112 brought me closer to the end – I finally finished last night, around 10:30 p.m.

Langdon’s adventure this time is set primarily in Washington, D.C., with a few scenes in Maryland and northern Virginia. If you’ve ever been curious about the Masons and their history, this is a good book to learn about them!

For once, I greatly appreciated the lack of a romance aspect. This book appeared to focus on the various mysteries surrounding Langdon, especially since these 500 pages are set, for the most part, within just one night in the characters’ lives. I’d be happy to eventually see Langdon and Katherine end up together – I think they have a lot in common – but I was excited that the book primarily focused on solving the mysteries!

Again, like his other books, I really liked and appreciated Brown’s attention to detail and historical accuracy. It was incredible to see just how much history is jam-packed into Washington, D.C. Reading his books has taught me so much about our world’s various secret societies and great mysteries!

This book was a great mix of an intense thriller and historical novel. When I was able to wrap my mind around everything that was happening, I found myself flying through the pages. I think Brown is clever to mix up the length of his chapters – Some were long, some were a few pages, and a handful were either one page or a half-page. It’s a great way to keep the reader interested and wanting to read “just one more chapter” before turning out the lights.

Following the chronology of Robert Langdon’s character, I now need to find a copy of Inferno (2013). Hopefully, I can read that one right before Origin is released in early October!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

Book Review #35: “The Man in the High Castle”

the_man_in_the_high_castle_c4

Image Credit: Catspaw Dynamics

Finally! This is one book that I was hoping to finish a LONG time ago. I almost finished it in the fall, but the two-week window from the library closed so quickly. It was bugging me, for months. I hate not finishing books, unless it was so insufferable that I couldn’t stand to finish it.

This book was not one of those insufferable ones. I got it from the library two Saturdays ago, and I just made the deadline. Hooray!

It was an intriguing book. In a sentence: Imagine if the Allies lost World War II.

Think about that. If Germany, Japan, and Russia had won, what in the world would happen?

Philip K. Dick is (was) a very interesting writer. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction, but alternate reality has recently captured my attention. I’ve even considered using it in some of my own writing.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m excited to see what Amazon has done with their TV series of the same name.

Trying not to give away a lot (The book is only a little over 200 pages), it’s 1962 and the U.S. has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. Mr. Dick creates multiple characters as they try to live their lives under seemingly oppressive rule and challenging times.

Mr. Dick also creates “a novel within a novel.” This is something that I don’t see very often, but I usually enjoy. The novel within the book shows details of what would happen if the Allies HAD won the war, though it’s different that what actual history has shown. Regardless, it was fascinating. I appreciated how the author carefully wove it into the plot.

In writing this post, I started looking at other books that employ alternate reality or history. One that made me raise my eyebrows was Bring The Jubilee (1953) by Ward Moore, about an alternative Civil War. You can bet I’m adding this one to my TBR.

This was not a hard read, at all, despite my previous reservations / hesitancy about science fiction. It flows easily, and I enjoyed learning about the different characters. Through his words, it was frighteningly easy to imagine what life could like if the Allies had lost and Germany and Japan swiftly took over everything. The characters attempt to make the most of what they have and what they are living with, but I imagine that life would be pretty miserable. I found myself reading at least one chapter per night, unless I was completely exhausted.

This book made me think about how wars affect everyone and everything. Unfortunately, several countries in our world are suffering under dictatorships and oppressive rule, and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it!

Seeing what Mr. Dick created made me shiver. I’m curious to see what else he wrote in his short time on this Earth (He died in 1982 at age 53, from a stroke).

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂