Let’s Review

This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in Friday’s drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!

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Chances are, you’re reading this post because you love Isabella Alden’s books.

From the time her first book, Helen Lester, was published in 1865, Isabella enjoyed success as an author.

By the late 1880s readers were buying over one-hundred-thousand copies of her books every year:

From The Brooklyn (New York) Standard Union, October 22, 1890.

When Isabella wrote her novels, there were no Internet sites like Goodreads or online retailers like Amazon for readers to post their reviews of Isabella’s books.

Instead, Isabella’s books were reviewed by literary editors in newspapers across the country.

When her novel Making Fate came out in 1896, a Boston newspaper declared:

Readers of all classes, from the serious to the frivolous, can read this story with entertainment and rise from its perusal refreshed.

The New England Farmer (Boston), August 1, 1896.

In 1901, a San Francisco newspaper reviewed Isabella’s novel, Pauline, and declared Isabella to be “a gifted writer.”

From The San Francisco Call, September 22, 1901. Click on the image to read the entire review.

Unfortunately, not all reviewers were so generous with their praise. One literary critic in a Pittsburgh newspaper wrote that Isabella’s 1902 novel Unto the End “is really not half a bad story in its way.” The critic goes on to classify Isabella’s readers among “those who ask from their literature nothing but that it shall not require them to think.” (You can read the entire review by clicking here.)

But reviews like “Pittsburgh’s” were few and far between. On the whole, Isabella’s novels were well received, and millions of Isabella’s faithful fans relied on those reviews to notify them when her new books were available for purchase.

Several times, in her stories and memoirs, Isabella mentioned keeping a scrapbook; it’s possible that’s where she kept clippings of her book reviews.

And if that’s true, she probably also kept reviews of the books written by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.

Grace’s writing career took off in the 1900s. When her novel The Best Man was published in 1914, The Boston Globe’s literary critic praised the novel, saying it was “full of thrilling moments.”

You can click here to read the full review, which includes a very nice publicity photo of Grace.

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How about you? Have you ever written a book review and published it in print or online?

How much do you rely on other people’s book reviews when deciding what books to buy?

14 thoughts on “Let’s Review

  1. I never used to write book reviews until I published my first book and realized just how important reviews were to authors. Now I review all the time! I rely on other people’s reviews when looking at interesting books as well, particularly in helping to screen books for content that bothers me. I won’t decide not to pick up a book because it’s gotten bad reviews, but if the reviews mention something I’m particularly sensitive to, I’m glad to have the warning before I waste my time.

    I had to laugh the reviewer who wrote the comment about Pansy’s book being the kind that did “not require them to think.” I haven’t read that specific story, but I can’t name another author who more consistently makes me *think* while I’m reading!

  2. Yes, I do write reviews! And I post them on Goodreads, and often on Amazon. Sometimes I’ll share them on my blog too.

    And yes, I do rely on other people’s reviews for books I don’t know anything about. I usually start with the negative ones first to see if there are issues such as language, or “adult” scenes or things that I know I will not like. If it’s just “I didn’t like the book” I’m more likely to at least try it. 🙂 But Pansy’s books I just read. 🙂 I KNOW I’ll like them.

  3. I write quite a few book reviews, but mine are only really long either when I really hated the book and must rant about it, or I really loved the book and must rant about it. 😂

  4. I use to write a lot of book reviews for a review website I was part of. Now I mostly review books professionally for Library Journal, but those are pre-prints sent to me. I can’t choose what to review. But I’d love to see more people introduced to Isabella Alden and Grace Livingston Hill.

  5. What interesting reviews. There was a time when Pansy books were looked down on and there would be statements in other books “all they had in their library was Pansy books” but once you start reading them you find interesting insights. I read Amazon reviews usually but sometimes not until after I read the book. Off the topic of reviews but related to Isabella Alden books a discussion of “pew rents” would be interesting.

  6. I have written a few book reviews for challenges on my fb page. I usually read reviews of Isabella Alden’s books after I’ve read them to see if others agree. I wish a “new” book would come out, although lately I’ve taken to re-reading some of those I have only read once and they seem strangely new.

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