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?

The Old Church Organ: A Jigsaw Puzzle for You

It gave Joseph a curious sensation to hear his verse sung over and over again by the choir, the great organ rolling out the melody and seeming to him to speak the words almost as distinctly as the voices did. (A Dozen of Them, by Isabella Alden)

Church organs were often mentioned in Isabella Alden’s books, but they looked nothing like the organs we frequently see in churches today.

So here’s a jigsaw puzzle for you to solve that will reveal the type of church organ Isabella probably had in mind when she wrote her novels.

Just follow this link to solve the puzzle online. Start the puzzle by clicking “Okay,” then just drag and drop the individual pieces in the order you choose.

Once you’re done, be sure to return here to the blog (or visit Isabella’s Facebook page) and tell us how you liked solving this jigsaw puzzle.

Remember your comments enter you in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card, which will be awarded on Friday, September 7, 2018!

Meet Myra Spafford … and a New Free Read!

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


Isabella Alden’s father Isaac Macdonald is often credited with instilling in her a love of writing. He gave her a journal when she was very young and—to teach her to pay attention in church—he encouraged her to take notes during Sunday sermons so they could discuss the minister’s message later in the day.

“A Writer” by William Adolphe Bouruereau, 1890.

But it was probably Isabella’s mother, Myra, who taught Isabella to be a great story-teller.

At a young age—even before she could write—Isabella’s mother encouraged her to make up little stories about things.

“Make a story out of it for mother,” she would say; and out of those beginnings, Isabella began to develop the writing skills that would serve her as an adult.

Myra was herself a story-teller, and often entertained her six children with stories of her own younger years.

Myra’s father was Horatio Gates Spafford, a well-respected author and New York newspaper editor, so she developed her own writing skills at a very early age.

Isabella credited her mother Myra with teaching her how to weave a story centered on a well-loved Bible verse. It was Myra’s habit to gather her children—and later, her grandchildren—around her in the evening to tell them stories that were entertaining and and helped make sense of a Bible verse or Sunday-school lesson.

Her stories always contained a practical lesson in walking daily with Christ—a theme Isabella adopted and perfected in her own stories.

When Isabella’s father Isaac Macdonald died in 1870 Isabella and her husband Ross made certain Myra came to live with them. Although Ross’s career as a Presbyterian minister caused them to move regularly from one town to another, Myra made her home with the Aldens for the next fifteen years.

Myra’s entry in the 1880 Cincinnati directory shows she resided with the “Rev. G. R. Alden’s.”

They were living in Carbondale, Pennsylvania when Myra died at home in 1885. Isabella was 43 years old when her mother passed away, and she missed her terribly.

At that time Isabella was editing The Pansy magazine; and since she and her family members—including Ross, her son Raymond, her sister Marcia, and Marcia’s husband Charles—were all contributing articles and stories to the magazine, Isabella and Marcia found a way to pay tribute to their mother in the pages of The Pansy.

The cover of an 1891 issue of The Pansy.

They began publishing short stories for children in The Pansy under the pseudonym “Myra Spafford.” The stories were reminiscent of the kind of stories Myra told her children and grandchildren.

In 1887 Isabella published Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six O’clock in the Evening. The book is a fictionalized account of those tender and loving evening story-times Myra had with her children and grandchildren.

You can read Grandma’s Miracles for free!

Click on the book cover to read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read, print and share it as a PDF document on your computer. Just click on the book cover to start reading now.

 

It’s Our Blogiversary!

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been blogging about Isabella Alden and her books for five years!

And to thank you for your support and encouragement, we thought we’d throw a party . . . a party that lasts the entire month of September!

Please join us every weekday in September for fun and games, weekly Amazon gift card drawings, and plenty of Free Reads!

See you there!

Jenny, Nancy, and Susan