Favorite Poems of Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson. 1978. 160 pages. [Source: Family copy] First sentence: Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed. Premise/plot: This poem collection features some of Dickinson's poems originally published ...
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"Becky's Book Reviews" - 5 new articles

  1. 35. Favorite Poems of Emily Dickinson
  2. 34. Stan Lee: How Marvel Changed the World
  3. 33. Pride, Prejudice, and Poison
  4. On Reading Reviews
  5. 2021 Reading Challenges: MAY 1900-1950 Readathon
  6. More Recent Articles

35. Favorite Poems of Emily Dickinson

Favorite Poems of Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson. 1978. 160 pages. [Source: Family copy]

First sentence: Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed.

Premise/plot: This poem collection features some of Dickinson's poems originally published in Poems (1890) and Poems, Second Series (1891). It was edited by her two friends Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson. There are four books: "Life," "Love," "Nature," and "Time and Eternity." Most of the poems are short.

The Mystery of Pain

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

My thoughts: I read this in one sitting. It is a book that I've seen about the house for as long as I can remember but have never read. It has my mom's name in it; but if she has been a lover of poetry, she's kept it a pretty good secret.

I like some poems some of the time. Poetry isn't my go-to genre. There are poets that I do tend to love. But more often than not, poetry just doesn't move me, move me like it's supposed to do.

There were definite phrases in some of her poems that nudged me, that made me think. But usually by the end of the poem, I was like I *thought* for a brief flash I was getting the poem and understood it, but then I blinked and lost it.

I think this collection does showcase some of her most famous poems. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


34. Stan Lee: How Marvel Changed the World

Stan Lee: How Marvel Changed the World. Adrian Mackinder. 2021. [May] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence (from the prologue): Face Front, True Believer! Of all Stan Lee’s many catchphrases, this one is perhaps the most revealing. During his time as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, back in the 1960s, he used it wherever he could. Be it in a caption within the pages of a comic book story itself, or as part of regular editorial feature ‘Stan’s Soapbox’; ‘face front, true believer’ was a rallying cry for the ages.

First sentence from chapter one: To understand what makes a person tick, you need to wind back the clock. Our past informs our present, and what came before illuminates who we really are. Ask any storyteller. To relate to a character, you need to understand where they’ve been. There’s a reason we talk about life’s ‘defining moments’. There’s a reason we think the struggles and challenges we’ve endured in life ‘build character’. One of the reasons the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise has proved so successful is because the filmmakers took their time introducing their central characters before they became who they were destined to be. 

Premise/plot: This book is a biography of Stan Lee. It focuses a bit more on his career than on his personal, private life. (But I don't have a problem with that.) The subtitle really says all you need to know: How Marvel Changed the World.

It is one part biography of Stan Lee. And probably two parts the history of comic books, super heroes, and the translation of comic book super heroes onto television, film, and product lines (toys, etc.) It isn't just Stan Lee's story. It is the story of multiple publishing companies--including DC--over DECADES. It is the story of writers and illustrators. It is a story of collaborations and disagreements. It is a story of the fans--the readers and collectors. It is a story about public relations. Stan Lee marketing himself from a very young age as the face (and sometimes voice) of MARVEL. The last few chapters do focus on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a story of ups and downs. It wasn't only happy-happy-good times behind the scenes. Mackinder does a good job (in my opinion) of presenting multiple sides of an issue.

Do you need to be a super-dedicated fan to enjoy reading this biography? I wouldn't say SUPER fan as a requirement. But I think some interest in the Marvel Universe probably is a must.

It is detailed. But it is not as detailed as it might have been. It isn't marketing itself as an encyclopedia. I thought it gave enough information and detail to always provide context for understanding the bigger picture.

My thoughts: I definitely found this a compelling read. It isn't a traditional biography perhaps. I would say at least two-thirds of the book focuses on MARVEL--those who worked there, the characters created both heroes and villains, the story arcs, etc--and Marvel's place within the world. It seeks to provide not only an origin story for Stan Lee himself (Stanley Martin Lieber), but to provide an origin story for COMIC BOOKS and their place in publishing history. It is hard to imagine a world without super heroes--whether Marvel or DC.

I didn't find it dry. As I mentioned earlier, I found it compelling. I wouldn't be surprised if some chapters held more interest than others for readers. But overall, I do like this one! I learned so much!

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


33. Pride, Prejudice, and Poison

Pride, Prejudice, and Poison. (A Jane Austen Society Mystery #1) Elizabeth Blake. 2019. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a husband,’” whispered Farnsworth Appleby.

Premise/plot: When one of the members of the Jane Austen Society is murdered--POISONED--the small village of Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire is turned upside down. Erin Coleridge, the owner of a used bookstore, takes it upon herself to do her own investigating. It's not that she doesn't trust the police inspectors or detectives, but, with almost all her friends and acquaintances present at the scene of the crime--she herself was present--she wants to catch the murderer and protect her closest friends.

My thoughts: I enjoyed Pride, Prejudice, and Poison. It was a well-fleshed out mystery, in my opinion.

What did I like about it? Well, I liked the characterization and the plotting. I LOVED getting to know the characters. Blake has peopled a small village or community. And it feels lived in. The relationships seem complex--the work of years, decades, of knowing one another. Erin has lived there for years--but even she doesn't know *everything* there is to know about her neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. I loved the focus on genuine friendships among women. And it was lovely to see all the Austen quotes woven into the dialogue.

The plotting/pacing. I really enjoyed this one. I LOVED that I was kept guessing and that the list of suspects was LONG. I didn't feel the murderer was super-obvious from the get go, from the moment the body is found. (I *hate* when I guess who did it before the body even has a chance to cool.) I loved the steady-supply of clues and the increasing suspense that builds because everyone knows the murderer is still on the loose. There were times when Erin was about to eat or drink something and I was like ARE YOU SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO DO THIS?! WHAT IF THIS PERSON SMILING AND OFFERING YOU FOOD IS REALLY THE MURDERER?

I did guess the murderer--in the last seventy-five pages or so. But even then I wasn't 100% sure--just mostly-mostly sure. So she kept me hooked throughout. I didn't find this mystery tiresome.

I would say that I did feel it was a little tricksy to put a cat on the cover of this one when cat(s) didn't really play any role in the book. (One character did own multiple cats, I believe, but the cats weren't really present for most of the book. There were a few scenes maybe? And if I remember correctly the cats had Austen-related names.)

This one offers a little romance. But the romance never takes center stage. (Not really.)

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


On Reading Reviews

This isn't a post on writing reviews. This is a post on reading reviews--other people's reviews. I guess the two don't have to go hand in hand. You could love/like to WRITE reviews yet never read reviews yourself. You could love to read other people's reviews yet never write any yourself. But as for me, I love to read reviews. 

There are two times I seek out reviews. First, I sometimes seek out reviews BEFORE reading a book. I'll clarify, there are times I'm COMPLETELY ON THE FENCE if I want to give a book--an author--a try. I will read reviews to help me make a more informed decision.

For example, let's say I'm browsing Kindle's daily deals and I come across a book title. I think to myself I *might* find that book interesting/good/entertaining. But I don't know if it will really be a good fit for me. I might browse a *little* on Amazon, but really I trust GOODREADS more. I don't just read five star reviews, I want to read one star, two stars, three stars--essentially ALL the stars. Ideally the reviews that help me most are the ones that focus on the book itself--what the story is and how the author crafts it.

Second, I almost always, always, always read reviews AFTER I write my own review a book. I try not to read too many before writing my own review. What I look for in a review of a book that I've already read is different--for better or worse. Again, I seek out reviews from ALL THE STARS. I want to read the one, the two, the three, the four, the five. I want a wide range of reactions. I like to see just how/why/where opinions/experiences/reactions differ from my own. Sometimes reviews that contrast my own--overall in opinion--give me food for thought. And food for thought is a good thing. Sometimes I am not persuaded. Sometimes I'm more amused than persuaded. But I don't usually regret the time spent reading reviews.

There are plenty of times I'm confused--HOW COULD WE HAVE READ THE SAME BOOK?!?! 😂😅

Sometimes I do wish I could have discussions with other reviewers about a book. But I'm also super-super shy, so I'm not likely to leave a comment on a review post at GoodReads.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


2021 Reading Challenges: MAY 1900-1950 Readathon

Hosted by Books and Things a book tuber on YT. Here's the video link to her announcement vlog.  And here's the GoodRead's Book Group.

May 2021 

---The challenges--- 

1. Read a book published 1900–1950 from the country you’re from 

2. Read a book published 1900–1950 from a different country 

3. Read a genre classic, published 1900–1950 (such as classic crime, classic sci-fi, classic fantasy, historical fiction, etc) 

4. Read something published 1900–1950 that isn’t a novel (such as non-fiction, plays, poetry, short stories, etc) 

5. Read a work of literature published 1900–1950 set during or exploring WWI or WWII 

Bonus challenge: Read a book from every decade of the period (1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s)

Books Read For the Reading Challenge:







© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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