Monday, April 12, 2021

37. Why Longfellow Lied


Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. Jeff Lantos. 2021. [August] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: In the twenty-five years between 1856 and 1881, if you wanted to send a letter to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all you had to do was put his name on the envelope, and the letter carrier would deliver it to his home at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

First sentence from the prologue: In the days, weeks, and months following Paul Revere's daring midnight ride, no one, it seemed, wanted to cheer about it. Heck, no one even wanted to acknowledge it.

Premise/plot: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Turns out, he lied! But why did he lie? Why did he twist history to suit his own poetical fancy? Jeff Lantos explains all as he works through the famous poem stanza by stanza telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (Well, mostly, you get the idea!) It seems that Longfellow left out some bits that are crucial to understanding and appreciating the story--Lantos has added those back into the story.


My thoughts: After a brief introduction, the book opens with the full poem. If you haven't revisited the poem since your school days, it's well worth taking your time: reading and savoring the rhythm of it all. Lantos' book does a couple of things. First, it tells the true story of Paul Revere and his 'midnight ride.' It separates fact from fiction. Second, it places the poem into context. The poem was published in 1860. The country was on the brink of another war. Lantos seeks to examine Longfellow's CRAFT. Why did he make the choices he made? Stanza by stanza, Lantos highlights the author's workmanship and examines the question WHY.

It is packed with detail. I learned so much! It's a compelling story whether your interest is in HISTORY, POETRY, or writing. I enjoyed the main narrative. But I also loved the side bars!

I loved, loved, loved everything about this one! I loved the layout. It was beautiful work. It looks absolutely nothing like the nonfiction texts available when I was growing up. The text itself was well written--backed up with research and notes--but the narrative itself was compelling. Far from dry. I love that this book encourages readers to question, to dig deep into a text.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, April 11, 2021

36. Sixteen Scandals


Sixteen Scandals. Sophie Jordan. 2021. [May] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: She was going to die here, crouched beneath a table on a dirty tavern room floor with bits and crumbs of food that predated the Magna Carta surrounding her. Glass shattered nearby, and she flinched, shrinking into herself as tiny shards sprayed her and the pungent scent of sweat, ale, and wine soaked the air. If this was to be it, then it was an ignominious end. She had always imagined there would be more to her life. She had simply imagined there would be . . . more life.

Premise/plot: Primrose Ainsworth wakes up on her sixteenth birthday convinced that her REAL life is about to begin. You could even insert a Disney-like "I want" song at this point and you wouldn't be wrong. Her hopes are soon dashed. Not only is her family not planning to celebrate her birthday, they're not planning to celebrate her year. She won't be coming out this year, OR, in other words she won't be getting her season. She'll still be "in the nursery," if you will.

Primrose, well, isn't PRIM. And she won't just take this INCREDIBLY BITTER news calmly and rationally. If her family won't celebrate her day with her and recognize her entry into womanhood, then she'll celebrate with her best friend. And what better way to celebrate than to sneak out of the house and literally go to the MOST DANGEROUS place in LONDON: Vauxhall Gardens.

If she survives the night--with her purity intact--and can make it home before she's discovered to be missing by the servants or her family, then it may just be the best night of her life. (Of course, she's not worried about her purity! It doesn't occur to her that any trouble whatsoever could ever befall her).

Of course, her plans, well, her plans get off to a shaky start and then completely flop and flail. But do they? Could the most unexpected night filled with unexpected-to-her dangers still end up being the best night of her life?

The thrills begin when she is separated from her friend and finds herself on her own...but not for long....

Enter Jacob.

My thoughts: Expectations. I would suggest beginning the novel with low-to-medium expectations. It may just surprise you if you start low enough. I found Sixteen Scandals to be a contradiction that probably shouldn't work but probably does for many, many readers--myself included.

Yes, it is predictable. There is nothing original or unique about it. Not the characters. Not the plot. Not the steamy scenes. Not the tied up with a bow ending. But here's the thing, depending on the genre, or sub-genre, or sub-sub-genre, predictability can be an asset. It can be a strength in the hearts and minds of the readers. Of course, not every single reader predictably likes predictable.

The characters. What can I say about Primrose? She was incredibly annoying, full of angst, selfish, naive, full of herself, and foolish. She reminded me of a preschooler with lipstick smeared across the bottom of her face, standing in her mother's high heels shuffling around telling everyone she's off to work. I mean Primrose is so obviously out of her element all the while she's proclaiming complete, full, total independence. What she is saying contradicts how she is behaving. And Jacob?! Well. I think Jacob reminds me of a Disney prince OR a twelve-year-old's ideal boyfriend. I think so much of what makes Jacob, Jacob, is found in the imagination. He's just about perfect in every way.

Primrose's family--well, in some ways it's stretching it to say they are cardboard cut-outs. I don't think they are even that well fleshed out. They are a means to an end. How can we introduce a problem so it can be overcome magically and usher us straight into a fireworks exploding happily ever after???

In some ways Sixteen Scandals is no more ridiculous than Disney's A Little Mermaid.

The steam. Sixteen Scandals offers some steam. Probably not enough for older readers; maybe just maybe a little too much for younger readers. It is neither clean nor graphic.

I saw one review criticize the book for "being written for twelve-year-olds." And I'm not sure I'd label it exactly that. But it probably does read babyish for adult readers who read adult romances. And perhaps even for a young adult audience who is used to more depth, substance, and graphic-ness in their romances.

I mentioned A Little Mermaid, but, maybe that isn't the best fit. Maybe more ENCHANTED.

In the end, I found it silly but charming. I can read criticisms and technically agree most of the time, but, I still liked it.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, April 09, 2021

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

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

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

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

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

Sunday, April 04, 2021

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

Saturday, April 03, 2021

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:

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

6) 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

32. The Historians


The Historians. Cecilia Ekback. 2021. [January] 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Clicking typewriter keys, muttering voices, shrilling phones . . . the barrage of noise in the office was constant. Whenever Laura left work, the echo in her ears made her feel for a while that she had gone deaf. Jacob Wallenberg, Laura’s boss, mentor, and Sweden’s chief negotiator with Germany, walked through the room and they watched him, to see whose desk he would stop at, so they could try to guess the latest twist.

Premise/plot: The Historians is a historical thriller set during the Second World War in Sweden. There are two primary narrators--Laura and Jens. But the book alternates between THREE focuses. (I'm sure that makes NO sense whatsoever. But the third pov isn't really so much one person as one location--a mountain with a mine--with shifting perspectives. In many ways it's a murder mystery, but, there's definitely some suspense/thriller vibes as well. Laura and Jens' lives are in danger almost the whole time as they try to get to the bottom of what's going on.

My thoughts: The Historians is historical FICTION. It flirts with the idea that Nazi Germany wasn't the only ones to do experiments on humans. Jens and Laura are on the hunt to figure out Sweden's secrets--secrets that apparently are costing people their lives if they ask too many questions. I think it is important that readers know this is fiction. 

I liked this one well enough. I did. I found it a compelling enough read. The more the three shifted into one big story the more I liked it. If there was one thing I didn't quite like about this one, it was that the ending just felt a bit too abrupt. Like you've invested hours into the book and then that's the ending?!?! It is definitely an ending with some ambiguity. I don't know if there's enough to make a sequel though. 

I do feel it was a premise-driven book examining how IDEAS and BELIEFS shape people, motivate people, lead to decisions, etc. For better or worse, one of the ideas is related to race and how 'the pure' Scandinavian race is superior to all others that have been tainted by mixing.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, April 01, 2021

31. Ordeal by Hunger


Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party. George R. Stewart. 1936. 392 pages. [Source: Online]

First sentence from the preface: The misadventure of the Donner Party constitutes one of the most amazing stories of that land of amazing stories, the American West. It is worthy of record as a historical document upon what human beings may achieve, endure, and perpetrate, in the final press of circumstance. This account is intended for a full and critical history of that ill-fated band of pioneers, and has been made possible by the remarkable preservation of detailed records. It is strictly factual, based upon the evidence of the sources and upon reasonable deduction from that evidence; it is not fiction.

It almost goes without saying that the Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party won't be for every reader. It is a nonfiction account written in 1936 by George R. Stewart. 

To put the book into a little context, there were two survivors of the Donner Party still living--Naomi Pike and Isabella Breen--when he began his first draft of this nonfiction narrative. Both died before the book's publication--one in the spring of 1934 and the other in the spring of 1935. 

Stewart stresses that this book is nonfiction and not a fictional treatment of the Donner Party. That his narrative is derived from factual accounts. He drew from contemporary letters and journals, works written and published soon after 1847 (including oral testimonies), and works written and published after 1870 (including autobiographies and memoirs). 

The book opens with a decision--a decision to take a shortcut recommended by a fellow named Hastings--that would increasingly prove fatal. It is here with this decision that "the Donner Party" came into existence. These were the wagons that broke away from the main wagon train--who were also going to California but by a different route. 

His narrative provides an overview of the tragic events in 1846/1847. Sometimes his narrative focuses on specific individuals and perhaps may be said to reflect a more personal account of those events. But overall I wouldn't say his narrative style is personal or intimate. His account doesn't so much focus on feelings and emotions--trying to put the reader inside the minds of those who lived and/or died that winter--but on the actions and deeds. 

Contemporary readers may fault Stewart a couple of things. One that his narrative focuses almost exclusively on men (and boys). The narrative doesn't ask if the women were equally heroic, brave, determined, hard-working, and/or strong as the men. Occasionally, he does shift his focus to the women--briefly, very briefly. But honestly the women, for the most part, weren't the decision makers on this trip (or any trip). What choice did a woman have if she disagreed with the decisions? It's not like she could abandon the wagon train, her family, her supplies and set off cross country on her own to try to find a better way to California. 

In the case of the Donner Party, it wouldn't be completely unfair to say it was like the blind leading the blind. They didn't have an actual, physical guide guiding them along the route. They were following some pretty sketchy written guides that didn't exactly prove all that accurate. The decision makers were making best guesses or not-best guesses as the case may be. But they had no way of knowing--after that one big decision coming at the beginning of the book--if their decision would be WISE or FOOLISH. They had no way of knowing/predicting the future.

Another thing that may prove difficult for modern readers in Stewart's text, is his treatment of other races--specifically Native Americans and Mexicans. This mindset when you think about it isn't all that unexpected. He is writing an account of settlers and pioneers traveling in 1846/1847. Manifest Destiny. The West is yours for the taking. It is yours if you want it, if you work for it. COME, COME, COME. That the settlers themselves felt entitled to it, well, it shouldn't be surprising. Many of his sources would have had this perspective or bias. Stewart was also writing in the 1930s. Perhaps western films and shows weren't in their golden era just yet--but if not yet, it was still coming. Now his descriptions of events--the way he phrases things beyond telling the bare facts (which can't be changed, can't be erased, can't be cancelled)--is cringe-worthy and offensive.

Quotes:

If in the story I have told much which is unpleasant and much which the actors themselves would have been glad to let be forgotten, I may at least plead that I have told all in charity. I blame none of the emigrants for their acts during that winter, any more than I should blame a man for his acts during a  delirium. Upon controversial points I have honestly considered  both sides, and have given each a chance to speak, in the notes if not always in the text. 

A microcosm of humanity, to be tested with a severity to which few groups of human beings in recorded history have been subjected, destined to reveal the extremes of which the human body and mind are capable — and yet to the eye of the trapper or wandering Indian merely one more emigrant train going west.  

From the very journey which they made they must indeed be called pioneers, but they cannot be called frontiersmen. They were merely country-folk and townspeople of the middle-west, not mountain-men...By now they had adapted themselves to the routine. To the mere hardships of the life they were inured, used as they were at best to but few of the comforts of civilization. But this was not the life to which they were accustomed. 

Worst of all, they were playing — and they knew it — against Time, and they had lost the first game. 

Hatred and inhumanity walked beside the wagons. 

But in the game which the emigrants were playing against Time, the score could not be evened by a rifle bullet, and it stood heavily against them. During those last days of October snow fell as they moved along. The cattle had to nose through it for grass. On the distant mountains it lay white upon the pine-branches. Winter was in the air; it was bitter cold, and the sky was bleak. 

Sensing the crisis, some of the emigrants urged a bold push forward, but most of them were too exhausted to make a further effort. So they prepared to spend the night as best they could upon the snow. They gathered about the fire, and had something to eat. Then they laid blankets and buffalo-robes on the snow, put the children to bed bundled up as well as possible. The men and women huddled about, some making themselves beds, and some sitting crouched by the fire. They were too weary now; they would cross in the morning. Then it began to snow. 

Back across the lake, as they looked through the darkening atmosphere of the short winter afternoon, they could see the solid rampart of the pass, a mass of snow unbroken except where bare precipices stood darkly out. It was November 4th. The trap which had clicked behind them at Fort Bridget had closed in front. 

Every week now was making a perceptible difference in the emigrants. Beaten upon by blizzards, half starved, they now had more and more difficulty in cutting and dragging firewood through the deep snows. They began to suffer from the cold. About this time they must have begun to notice what afterwards seemed to them so astonishing. The women stood the strain better than the men did. Whether food was apportioned by individuals rather than by size, whether the men did more physical work and therefore expended more energy, whether the constitution of a woman is more enduring than that of a man, whether merely in these individual cases the women were hardier — these questions cannot be surely answered. Most likely several of these factors were at work, but certainly, with some exceptions, the men failed sooner. 

When men abandon a sinking ship, so the stories go, they at first conduct themselves with some degree of steadiness and order. But as the ship lurches more heavily, they feel the tension, and the rhythm quickens until the last moments are a wild running about the decks. Then the boats go down with a run; men leap overboard; and the vessel dips to the final plunge. So the rhythm seems to quicken in the rescue of the Donner Party. Glover’s men had doggedly pushed ahead in a spirit of calculated audacity; Reed’s party had been more hurried; and now Eddy and Foster with their two aids seen by comparison to run, as if they felt the ship settling beneath them.

A little after midday they came to the cabins. They found no one alive. Around them lay a scene of filth and mutilated corpses, even worse than that which earlier relief-parties had been forced to witness. The seven men stood speechless and awestruck, and as the intense silence of the forest seemed to sweep in upon them, even Fallon, the mountain-man, felt the creeping horror. 

Probably the best way to feel the actuality of the story is to travel through its setting. For the country is tangible and solid, now as then. And for this reason, I have in the telling often stressed the scene until the reader has, I hope, come to feel the land itself as one of the chief characters of the tale. 

The very fact that it may be called spectacular should warn us, however, against the fallacy of considering it typical. It is no more typical of the wagon-journey to California than the last voyages of the Titanic and the Lusitania are typical of the trans- Atlantic passage. Emigrants ordinarily suffered hardships along the Humboldt, and had a difficult struggle in getting over the Sierra, but they also had some good times upon the road, and often got through to California in good enough health and spirits.

One turns naturally to the question of what caused the disaster of the Donner Party. It was of course the direct result of their taking the so-called cut-off advocated by Hastings. But who was responsible? I have found widely spread a tendency to blame the emigrants themselves, to consider that they, or at least their leaders, were a pig-headed, ignorant lot who thought they knew more about matters than other people did and who by blundering ahead brought upon themselves pretty much what they deserved. As I have tried to show in the first chapters of this book, such an attitude is not well based.

I do not maintain that the men, or even the women, of the Donner Party were faultless, that they always made the right decisions, or that they were immune from the ordinary human shortcomings, including that of common stupidity. I do not believe, however, that they had more than their share of such weaknesses. And I object strongly to the smug conviction that because they starved to death we of a later day knowing only very different conditions can conclude that it was all their own fault. 

Nevertheless, the cannibalism, although it might almost be called a minor episode, had become in the popular mind the chief fact to be remembered about the Donner Party. For a taboo always allures with as great strength as it repels. 

The story of their ordeal is not pleasant. Few, I fear, will find it always easy reading. But after all, the merely pleasant It is thin and bloodless; a picnic in the park scarcely gives humanity a chance to show of what it is capable. Not of that sort, all will agree, is this adventure in the snow. Here, if anywhere, we see men and women and children put to the final strain of body and spirit. Yet suicide finds no place in the story. And since these too in great part endured, others in evil circumstance may be encouraged to fight boldly. By this, their story may even be said to meet the demands of some that literature should serve an extraneous social purpose. For though despair is often close at hand, it never triumphs, and through all the story runs, a sustaining bond, the primal force which humanity shares with all earthly creatures, the sheer will to live.



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

March Reflections


I read a total of thirty-six books in March 2021. Twenty-six of the books were review copies. Nine were books I bought or owned prior to blogging. One was a gift. Seven of the thirty-six were rereads. 

I read some amazing books this month! I reviewed most at Young Readers.

One of my favorite things was participating in a Facebook group read of Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

21. A Captain for Caroline Gray. Julie Wright. 2021. [March] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
22. Surviving Savannah. Patti Callahan. 2021. [March] 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]
23. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. Kate Moore. 2017. 479 pages. [Source: Review copy]
24. Real. Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard. 2021. [February] 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
25. Belinda. Maria Edgeworth. 1801. 544 pages. [Source: Bought]
26. A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. 1859. 446 pages. [Source: Review copy]
27. Far from the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy. 1874. 433 pages. [Source: Bought]
28. Triple Jeopardy. (Daniel Pitt #2) Anne Perry. 2019. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
29. The Vines. Shelley Nolden. 2021. 391 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30. A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice. Jasmine A. Stirling. Illustrated by Vesper Stamper. 2021. [March] 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

23. Luna's Yum Yum Dim Sum. Natasha Yim. Illustrated by Violet Kim. 2020. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
24. Board book: Leo Loves Mommy. Anna McQuinn. Illustrated by Ruth Hearson. 2021. [March] 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
25. The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep. Adam Gustavson. 2021. [June] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
26. Bracelets for Bina's Brothers. Rajani LaRocca. Illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat. 2021. [April] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
27. Board book: Baby Loves Political Science: The Presidency. Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki. 2021. [April] 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
28. Board Book: Baby Loves Congress. Ruth Spiro. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki. 2021. [April] 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
29. 13 Ways to Eat A Fly. Sue Heavenrich. Illustrated by David Clark. 2020. [December] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30. Ways to Grow Love. (Ryan Hart #2) Renee Watson. Illustrated by Nina Mata. 2021. [April] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
31. Sydney and Taylor and the Great Friend Expedition. Jacqueline Davies. 2022. [February] 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
32. Billy Miller Makes a Wish. Kevin Henkes. 2021. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
33. Board book: Black Panther (My Mighty Marvel First Book) Marvel. 2020 [December] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
34. Board book: The Incredible Hulk (My Mighty Marvel First Book). Marvel Entertainment. 2021. [January] 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
35. Bubba and Beau, Best Friends. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2002. [Source: Bought]
36. Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2003. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
37. Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives. Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. 2004. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
38. Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Stephanie Baudet and Arthur Conan Doyle. 2021. [October] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
39. Cat Tales: True Stories of Fantastic Felines. Penelope Rich. Illustrated by Isabel Munoz. 2021. [April] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

14. Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: a Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes. 2021. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
15. Trusting God in the Darkness. Christopher Ash. 2021. [April] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
16. Christians Get Depressed Too. David Murray. 2010. Reformation Heritage. 112 pages. [Source: Gift]
17. R.C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen J. Nichols. 2021. [March] 371 pages. [Source: Review copy]
18. The Amish Quiltmaker's Unexpected Baby (The Amish Quiltmaker #1) Jennifer Beckstrand. 2021. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
19. Help Your Kids Learn and Love the Bible. Danika Cooley. 2021. [June] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
20. Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
21. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. 228 pages. [Source: Bought]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

2. Geneva Bible 1560. God. 1560. 4305 pages. [Source: Bought] 

Totals:

March
Number of Books36
Number of Pages10798

2021 Totals
Books92
Pages25066

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, March 22, 2021

30. A Most Clever Girl


A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice. Jasmine A. Stirling. Illustrated by Vesper Stamper. 2021. [March] 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jane loved stories--long ones, short ones, worn and new. 

Premise/plot: A Most Clever Girl is a picture book biography of Jane Austen. The narrative has a specific focus: how did Jane Austen find her voice? or to word it a different way, how did Austen find her own unique narrative style? The book focuses on her love of READING and WRITING and sharing stories with family and friends. Along the way, readers learn a bit more about Austen's family and the times in which she grew up.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Probably my favorite thing about this picture book is that it includes Austen quotes throughout the narrative. The words that appears in italics are from Austen herself. (Adults can find the sources for these quotes in the back matter.) I also appreciated how this picture book provides context for reading and appreciating Austen's novels.

Is it really written for children? Or is it written for adults? I think that's a fair enough question. I do think there are plenty of adults who love, love, love Jane Austen who have daughters (and sons), granddaughters (and grandsons), nieces (and nephews). I could see this appealing to Austen fans regardless if they have children in their lives.

I am not someone who thinks that picture books are ONLY for children. I'm not. I think readers of all ages can read and enjoy picture books. I think you never outgrow a good story.

Have you read this one? What did you think about it?

 

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

29. The Vines


The Vines. Shelley Nolden. 2021. 391 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A thick keloid encircled the young woman's throat like a noose, ready to seize her last breath. 

Premise/plot: The Vines is suspense novel with paranormal vibes. The setting is North Brother island in New York. One thread of the story is set in the "present day" of 2007/2008. The other thread of the story is set in the past beginning circa 1902.

As for the story itself, well, how much is too much for readers to know BEFORE they pick it up? If I say too little, you might not be curious enough to seek it out. If I say too much, well, you might enjoy it less if some of the piecework has been done for you. 

So my one sentence teaser:

One family plays god with repercussions that are felt for generations to come.

My thoughts: I am so completely torn on how I feel about Shelley Nolden's The Vines.

On the one hand, it is a haunting, atmospheric read that will certainly appeal to some readers. The plot is like a tangled, convoluted knot with a few strands for the main character, Finn, to start pulling. Readers have a benefit over Finn in some ways because they are privy to the PAST sections of the book. Finn isn't working with all the pieces--and readers may not have all the pieces either--and sometimes the harder Finn pulls, the more knotted it becomes. 

Can characters be despicable without being developed and fleshed out? Maybe. Maybe not. I honestly don't know. I do know that I hated almost *all* the characters in this one. (Then again, I doubt readers are meant to *like* the characters.) So in that the author succeeds.

Motivations. This one takes a very long--almost four hundred pages--look at motivations. Do the ends justify the means? Is anything permissible  so long as some good can come from it? If great good can come from great harm, then is that okay?  The book also looks at the excuses we try to use to justify our actions, our decisions, our choices.

Two other questions that come to mind: 

What can you live with?

What can you live without?

On the other hand, The Vines felt tedious. I'll try to clarify. Despicable actions are shown repetitively--think decades worth of repetition of EVIL, despicable, horrible actions. It is unimaginable to think of how it would actually feel to live this fictional life out. Cora, the main character, is definitely the last person you'd ever want to be.

When a book is so dark--even if it is a haunting, atmospheric read--and is so bleakity-bleak, and when a book is peopled with such MONSTERS, then it is hard for me to say wow what a great book I loved every minute of it.

I found it both compelling and wearisome. I know it seems impossible a book can be both. I would have thought so too before reading The Vines. It was compelling because I was always kept curious enough to keep turning pages. It was wearisome because it was so heavy and dark.

I do think some readers will find it worth their time. I don't think it will be for every single reader.

There were two things that I didn't quite like.

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o

i

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I didn't like how the author felt the need to push this one into being COVID-19 related. In the author note she mentions this was a work in progress before COVID and how she reworked elements of it to make it tie into the current pandemic. I felt it strains the novel a bit. Other readers may disagree. But I almost feel like it is making the claim that the pandemic is man made and intentional. That may not be the author's intent, I do not claim to know her intentions and thought processes.

I also didn't like the cliff-hanger ending. Being as torn as I am about the book, I really don't want to have to read another four hundred pages or so to find out what happens.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

28. Triple Jeopardy


Triple Jeopardy. (Daniel Pitt #2) Anne Perry. 2019. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: DANIEL RANG THE doorbell, then stepped back. He realized with amazement that he was suddenly nervous. Why? This was his parents’ home, the house he had grown up in. At twenty-five, he still returned quite often for dinner, for news, for comfort and pleasure in conversation. What was different this time?

Premise/plot: Triple Jeopardy has our hero, Daniel Pitt, taking the lead in his first serious court case. But the court case is anything but simple. In fact, in some ways it's convoluted. Philip Sidney, a British diplomat, has been charged with embezzling small amounts of money throughout the years. The case is silly--why spend so much time, energy, effort when the theft was so small--the alleged theft. But Pitt fears the answer: Sidney is being set up. The trial exists as an excuse to bring up larger all-circumstantial crimes that couldn't-wouldn't stick. Sidney has many enemies, it appears, and it will take some DIGGING to find out why those enemies want Sidney's reputation completely ruined and smeared.

Daniel Pitt once again teams up with Miriam Blackwood to solve the mystery.

On a lighter note, this mystery sees Daniel reuniting with his sister, Jemima.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I didn't love it--at least not love, love, love. But it was pleasant enough. The second half definitely picked up the pace. It was slow going at first. If it had taken Daniel much longer to start putting pieces together, I might have started yelling at him. But he turned his eyes in the right direction just in time.

I do love to see Daniel working side by side with Miriam.

Quotes:

If you pricked me, I’d bleed tea.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, March 18, 2021

27. Far from the Madding Crowd


Far from the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy. 1874. 433 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

Premise/plot: Poor Bathsheba! She can't leave the house without some man falling in love with her. Far From the Madding Crowd is the story of three such men whose lives are forever changed--for better or worse--by knowing and subsequently loving (or "loving") Bathsheba.

Readers first meet Gabriel Oak. He loves her at first sight--even though he isn't quite sure what to make of her. Next, readers meet William Boldwood and Francis Troy. Boldwood loves her madly--emphasis on mad. Bathsheba loves Sergeant Troy madly. In both cases, the love seems something not entirely in anyone's control. It is a love without reason or even against reason. (Though I suppose there are reasons for and against in each case.) In at least two of the three cases to fall into love is to fall into a sort of madness.

My thoughts: I am not a big Thomas Hardy fan in general. But perhaps I just hadn't found the right Hardy to read. I didn't hate Far From the Madding Crowd. And though it has its tragic, melodramatic moments, it is not as DARK and BLEAK as some of his other novels which I have read.

What I liked best about the novel was the dialogue. In particular the dialogue between Gabriel and Bathsheba.

This is their first meeting:

“My name is Gabriel Oak.” “And mine isn’t. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so decisively, Gabriel Oak.” “You see, it is the only one I shall ever have, and I must make the most of it.”
“I always think mine sounds odd and disagreeable.” “I should think you might soon get a new one.” “Mercy!—how many opinions you keep about you concerning other people, Gabriel Oak.”

And soon after he makes his interest known:


Bathsheba went on. “I haven’t a sweetheart at all—and I never had one, and I thought that, as times go with women, it was such a pity to send you away thinking that I had several.”

“Well—that is a tale!” said Oak, with dismay. “To run after anybody like this, and then say you don’t want him!” “What I meant to tell you was only this,” she said eagerly, and yet half conscious of the absurdity of the position she had made for herself—“that nobody has got me yet as a sweetheart, instead of my having a dozen, as my aunt said; I hate to be thought men’s property in that way, though possibly I shall be had some day. Why, if I’d wanted you I shouldn’t have run after you like this; ‘twould have been the forwardest thing! But there was no harm in hurrying to correct a piece of false news that had been told you.” “Well, what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by herself, I shan’t marry—at least yet.”

But there is also something about the narrative itself that works for me.

It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail. 

But a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.

 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

26. A Tale of Two Cities


A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. 1859. 446 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Premise/plot: A Tale of Two Cities is very much a novel of love and sacrifice. But would the sacrifice be necessary if bitterness, rage, anger, hatred, despair, and a thirst for vengeance didn't abound? A Tale of Two Cities begins and ends in France. And not a happy period in French history, one of the darkest perhaps. Charles Darnay, our hero, escapes France once, but, he may not escape it a second time. Same can be said of our heroine, Lucie Manette, and her father, Dr. Alexandre Manette. So why do they return to France and risk it all--knowing the country is uneasy, unsafe, topsy-turvy? Well, duty, honor, and nobleness? Of course it is their very nobleness--one understanding of the word--that leads to everyone wanting them to die.

So the very basics for those not in the know: Lucie Manette loves Charles Darnay; the two are married and have a daughter. They both adore her father who has had a very rough time of it--physically, mentally, emotionally. Lucie Manette is beautiful (of course) and practically perfect in every way (of course). So Charles Darnay is not the only one who is head over heels in love with her. He is the one who has her heart, body, soul. Mr. Sydney Carton was also head over heels in love with her; he loves her still.

The trouble begins when Charles Darnay receives a letter from France and decides to return there to see if he can help. His family follows after him risking all.

My thoughts: I found A Tale of Two Cities to make little sense. Hold on before you start hating on me, perhaps this is intentional. France is a chaotic mess; an upheaval in progress; everything right is now wrong and everything wrong is now right. It is almost as if logic and common sense and decency has been thrown out altogether. The characters--particularly the French ones--seem to be corrupted thoroughly. There is little room for kindness, compassion, the benefit of the doubt. It is like the masses have been given permission to run wild: to be violent, to seek vengeance, to let all the rage out; punishments don't fit the crime--not here, now now. A Tale of Two Cities reflects how HORRIBLE mob mentality is. Violence and mob-rule never lead to lasting peace and justice. In their quest for "justice" all the mob could do was injustice. There is nothing just about any of the mob's actions.


Perhaps fear of sympathizing with those on the wrong side of the mob led to little kindness, sympathy, empathy, compassion, or speaking out for truth and justice. The mob could turn on you; you could be next if you spoke out in defense of the "guilty."

Regardless, I found A Tale of Two Cities to be senseless. But I think it's an intentional senseless that reflects the time. There are no good answers for WHY.

It is in contrast to all this CHAOTIC evil that Sydney Carton enters the picture. 

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
I do appreciate this one more the second time. I found it a brutal read the first time.

Favorite quote: 

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. (11)



 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Movie Review: When Lions Roared


When Lions Roared AKA Then There Were Giants (1994). This is a two part mini-series from 1994 starring Michael Caine as Joseph Stalin, Bob Hoskins as Winston Churchill, and John Lithgow as Franklin Roosevelt. 

The film gives an overview of the Second World War. It isn't a thorough, all-absorbing overview of all aspects of the War. It is like a refresher course on the Second World War, offering highlights to the war as a whole. If you have never, ever read about the war--or watched documentaries about the war--and were completely clueless about the war, then you might find it overwhelming and hard to keep up with the fast-moving pace.

The focus isn't so much on the war itself--the various fronts, operations, battles, victories and losses--as it is focused on the relationship between the three world leaders: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. The film highlights their differences--for better or worse--and shows them always seeking and straining to work together for the better good.


In other words, this film is very much about the politics of war, the politics of peace, and the POWER of words. 

 It almost felt like a three-man stage play for me. 

For me, what I enjoyed most were the snippets of Churchill's speeches. He is without compare as far as I'm concerned when it comes to speechifying. 

It was amusing to see John Lithgow--as FDR--make so many disparaging comments about Churchill and his speeches--then went on to play Winston Churchill in The Crown.

It is available to watch for free on iMDB TV.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, March 12, 2021

25. Belinda


Belinda. Maria Edgeworth. 1801. 544 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Mrs. Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in that branch of knowledge which is called the art of rising in the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the highest company. She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily, that is to say, upon having married them to men of fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried—Belinda Portman, of whom she was determined to get rid with all convenient expedition.

Premise/plot: Will she, won't she? I wouldn't say the whole plot revolves around the question will Belinda marry or not. But if you change it to the whole plot revolves around WHO Belinda might marry if she marries, then it works. So Belinda, our heroine, has essentially been farmed out to London to live with Lord and Lady Delacour. Lady Delacour is a social butterfly with abundant wit (but does she have common sense?) who will help Belinda find "the one." But will Belinda's "one" be one of Lady Delacour's cast offs? Will she get a hand-me-down lover? 

So one of the gentleman lining up to see if they get a rose--figuratively speaking--is Clarence Hervey. He doesn't like Belinda at first--he takes her to be scheming and manipulative. But that is because either he is a) assuming that Belinda is like her aunt (Mrs. Stanhope) or like Lady Delacour (whom he claims to be absolutely crazy about) or b) he isn't working with a full deck of cards. It might be the latter. Maybe.

 Another gentleman is Mr. Vincent. He comes oh-so-close to getting the final rose.

What can I say about Belinda? Well, she's VANILLA and everything sugary sweet. She always does everything exactly right and in the right way and manner. If you find fault with Belinda, well, it is saying more about you than her. (Hint: LADY DELACOUR AND CLARENCE HERVEY, I'M LOOKING AT YOU.) 

What can I say about Lady Delacour? Well, to be honest she's super entertaining and a hoot. She spends most of the book being a terrible wife and a terrible mother...but...as a narrator I couldn't help loving her the most. (You made me love you, I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it).  I cared more about Lady Delacour's drama in personal life and social life than I did about Belinda.

What can I say about Clarence Hervey? WELL. He features rather largely in one of the book's sub-plots inspired by Thomas Day. Meeting Belinda, well, it confuses him thoroughly because unbeknownst to the reader he's been training up a wife-to-be for years. He's just waiting for her to come of age.

My thoughts: It was entertaining enough most of the time. It isn't flawless and amazing. But it made me laugh and smile some of the time. I can't say Clarence Hervey is my ideal husband, but, to each their own.

Quotes:

Clarence Hervey might have been more than a pleasant young man, if he had not been smitten with the desire of being thought superior in every thing, and of being the most admired person in all companies.

He had been early flattered with the idea that he was a man of genius; and he imagined that, as such, he was entitled to be imprudent, wild, and eccentric.

Miss Portman at first imagined that Lady Delacour dreaded the discovery of her cosmetic secrets, but her ladyship's rouge was so glaring, and her pearl powder was so obvious, that Belinda was convinced there must be some other cause for this toilette secrecy.

"Not at all too late, my dear," said Lady Delacour; "never too late for women to change their minds, their dress, or their lovers.

I have much to say, as people usually have when they begin to talk of themselves.

I am no hypocrite, and have nothing worse than folly to conceal: that's bad enough—for a woman who is known to play the fool is always suspected of playing the devil. But I begin where I ought to end—with my moral, which I dare say you are not impatient to anticipate.

I can tell you that nothing is more unlike a novel than real life.
 
All fashionable historians stop to make reflections, supposing that no one else can have the sense to make any. 
 
"Life is a tragicomedy! Though the critics will allow of no such thing in their books, it is a true representation of what passes in the world; and of all lives mine has been the most grotesque mixture, or alternation, I should say, of tragedy and comedy. 

 A stupid man cannot readily be persuaded out of his senses—what he sees he sees, and neither more nor less; but 'tis the easiest thing in the world to catch hold of a man of genius: you have nothing to do but to appeal from his senses to his imagination, and then he sees with the eyes of his imagination, and hears with the ears of his imagination;

"We learn the value of all things, but especially of friends, by experience," said Lady Anne; "and it is no wonder, therefore, that those who have little experience of the pleasures of friendship should not be wise enough to know their value."

"But it is so difficult to get at facts, even about the merest trifles," said Lady Delacour. "Actions we see, but their causes we seldom see—an aphorism worthy of Confucius himself: now to apply.

Prudence, whether in trifles or in matters of consequence, can be learned only by experience (which is often too dearly bought), or by listening, which costs nothing, to the suggestions of those who have a thorough knowledge of the world.

"You read, I see!—I did not know you were a reading girl. So was I once; but I never read now. Books only spoil the originality of genius: very well for those who can't think for themselves—but when one has made up one's opinion, there is no use in reading."

You know it is a ruled case, in all romances, that when a lover and his mistress go out riding together, some adventure must befal them.     The horse must run away with the lady, and the gentleman must catch her in his arms just as her neck is about to be broken. If the horse has been too well trained for the heroine's purpose, 'some footpad, bandit fierce, or mountaineer,' some jealous rival must make his appearance quite unexpectedly at the turn of a road, and the lady must be carried off—robes flying—hair streaming—like Bürger's Leonora. Then her lover must come to her rescue just in the proper moment. But if the damsel cannot conveniently be run away with, she must, as the last resource, tumble into a river to make herself interesting, and the hero must be at least half drowned in dragging her out, that she may be under eternal obligations to him, and at last be forced to marry him out of pure gratitude."

 Our reasonings as to the conduct of life, as far as moral prudence is concerned, must depend ultimately upon facts. Now, of the numbers of people in this world, how many do you think have married their first loves? Probably not one out of ten. Then, would you have nine out of ten pine all their lives in celibacy, or fret in matrimony, because they cannot have the persons who first struck their fancy?" "I scarcely know an idea more dangerous to domestic happiness than this belief in the unextinguishable nature of a first flame. There are people who would persuade us that, though it may be smothered for years, it must break out at last, and blaze with destructive fury.

The woman who marries one man, and loves another, who, in spite of all that an amiable and estimable husband can do to win her confidence and affection, nourishes in secret a fatal prepossession for her first love, may perhaps, by the eloquence of a fine writer, be made an interesting heroine;—but would any man of sense or feeling choose to be troubled with such a wife?

 "Perhaps the appearance of virtue," said Belinda, "might, on many occasions, succeed as well as the reality."

I can listen tolerably well, when I don't know what people are going to say; but when I know it all beforehand, I have an unfortunate habit of not being able to attend to one word.

Angry people, who express their passion, as it has been justly said, always speak worse than they think. This was usually the case with her ladyship.  

  

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews