that blog post about Elsie Dinsmore

Ever since Olivia wrote her rant about the Elsie Dinsmore series, I’ve thought about writing my own post on the same subject.  I don’t know how much of a rant it will be since I wasn’t personally affected by the books (spiritually or emotionally speaking).  I guess this post will be more of a ‘my personal story of Elsie Dinsmore obsession’ mixed with problematic stuff I’ve since discovered in the series.

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I don’t even know where my dad found five antique Elsie Dinsmore books (the first five) but he did.  My mom read the first two or three aloud to me when I was about ten…and I was hooked.  I read and reread those five books a million times. (Well, it was more like four books because the first one went missing for the longest time.  But anyway.)  And then we found the sixth book, Elsie’s Children, and I devoured that one as well.

I would read all six books, wait a few weeks or months, and then read them again.  It was literally an obsession.

Why?  Well, for starters, I found the concept of a series where each book built upon the last one very cool and satisfying. (Up until this point my experience with book series had been Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.)  I honestly felt like the Dinsmores and Travillas were my second family, I had spent so much time with them.  Secondly, the books are super interesting.  New, bad stuff is always happening to Elsie.  Lol.  And thirdly, there are a few (very few) good things about the books. (More on that in a bit.)

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A family friend eventually gifted me all the books (minus one or two later ones).  I remember reading Elsie’s Widowhood on my school lunch break and literally sobbing.  Like, tears streaming down my face sobbing.  MR. TRAVILLA DIED.  IT’S SO SAD.

Which brings me to my first knock against the books.  Mr. Travilla’s relationship with Elsie is creepy.  He’s, like, late twenties (at LEAST) when he first meets her and he moons about her so much.  Always.  Like, from when she’s eight and up until, BOOM, she turns twenty-one and he can suddenly propose.  I didn’t think anything of all that when I was younger, but in hindsight…ew. (Though they were a pretty sweet married couple. *ducks flying tomatoes*  They were!  I still have some good feelings for this series.)

Then there’s the racism.  Yes, the ED books were a product of their time.  But that doesn’t make the racism right.  One of the scenes that sticks out to me the most is that priceless moment when Elsie has another baby and her kids say “I’m so glad it isn’t yellow like the babies down in the Quarter.”

Um.

Yeah.

(We won’t get into the whole ‘yellow’ means ‘mulatto’ and there are only, like, two white guys on the place.  That includes Mr. Travilla.)

(Though kudos to Martha Finley for portraying the KKK as wrong.  Though she glossed over the Reconstruction completely.)

And then there’s the character who, like Olivia, I term ‘the literal worst’: Horace Dinsmore, Sr.  He is truly awful!  I was reading some bits from Elsie’s Holidays and he’s so controlling and domineering and horrid.  He improves somewhat after his conversion, but the difference is negligible.  He’s still proud and cold and stern. (Just not in a cute, shy Mr. Darcy way.)  He still banishes Elsie at one point in the series (after his conversion) which is NOT the way you treat someone you ‘love’, regardless of what they’ve done.

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Elsie herself is unbelievable.  She’s a saint of a child, constantly bursting out in ‘an agony of tears and sobs’, and thinks herself the vilest sinner on earth.  She’s also the perfect wife and mother.  And drop-dead gorgeous. (Also, what about that literal resurrection scene???)  The only book where I think she achieves some humanity is Elsie’s Girlhood.  There, Elsie falls in love with a handsome fortune hunter and because of that, she seems real.  Her struggles to not give up on the guy, even when presented with all sorts of evidence of his Badness, shows she isn’t perfect. (Barely.)  I feel that she’s the most relatable in that book.

Like I said, there are a few things I enjoy in the series.  Elsie’s children are actually good characters, probably because they don’t inherit their mom’s perfection.  I also like a few other characters.  And Walter Dinsmore is the best in the series.  He reminds me of Walter Blythe. ❤ 

I think the series gave me a taste for historical fiction, so that’s awesome.

But other than that…no.  I’ll still reread the books for entertainment, nostalgia, and to revisit a few favorite characters and scenes.  But I wouldn’t recommend them (unironically) to anyone.

Have you read the Elsie Dinsmore books?  What do think is the most problematic area in the series?  And who is your favorite character?

Eva

P.S. I also had Elsie Dinsmore and Millie Keith paperdolls.  I loved them.

P.P.S. I’d like to read the ‘Life of Faith’ editions of the books.  I’ve heard those are better.

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five reasons why I’m super excited for Nadine Brandes’s newest book, ROMANOV

(This post will extremely gushy but it is not paid for/sponsored by Nadine Brandes or her publisher or anything like that.  Nobody knows I’m doing this.  Except, of course, by the time you read this everyone who hops on my blog will know.  But this is all out of my own head.)

It’s Anastasia.  And historical accuracy. (At least more than the animated movie.)  And FANTASY.

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I recently became a huge fan of fantasy stories (I think it was because of Fawkes, another one of Nadine’s books) and I’ve always loved historical fiction, so HISTORICAL FANTASY FICTION???  Sign me up!  Right away!  And as much as I adore Animated Anastasia, it’ll be great to get a bit more historical accuracy. (Though I’ve heard that Nadine portrays Rasputin as nice and helpful?  Kinda not sure about that, but we’ll see!)

I can’t wait for my pre-order goodies to arrive.

Before 2018, I had no idea that there were such things as pre-order campaigns where you could get all sorts of cool swag just for pre-ordering a book you were already dying to read. (Again, Fawkes was my guide.)  There’s a completely cool pre-order campaign going on for Romanov and, trust me, you NEED all this stuff. 😉  Every single person who pre-orders the book before May 7th and fills out this form will receive annotated sections of Romanov (really excited about those) and a printable recipe card for Nadine’s borscht recipe.

A limited number of people will also receive physical goodies like an exclusive (gorgeous) bookmark, a quote sticker, and a bookplate.  I don’t know if that number has been filled yet, but it’s worth a try!

You can pre-order Romanov pretty much anywhere, but I’ll leave the Amazon link here for starters.

I like crying over books.

Weird reason, I know.  But the story of Anastasia is so tragic and Romanov’s plot blurb literally says that Anastasia (‘Nastya’) is going to be on the wrong side of a firing squad…with a guy she likes on the other side.  AHHHHH.  Even if some things turn out well, I know this book is going to move me to tears.  Probably more than once.

It’ll be great.

Nadine Brandes has a great track record.

I’ve gushed quite a bit about the Out of Time series and Fawkes.  I’d wanted to read the OoT series for years when a friend unexpectedly (and wonderfully) gifted the set to me.  Those three books challenged me in my spiritual walk and helped me see that Christian dystopias can be done well.  And I know that not everyone loves Fawkes, but I do.  I really do.  It’s book with an intricate plot (spies! rebels! true love!), a beautiful allegory, and a *cough* super emotional ending.  So I have no worries about loving Romanov…I know I’m in good hands.

That cover.

picture taken from Nadine’s author website.

It always comes back to the cover.

But honestly, who wouldn’t want to have that gorgeousness on their shelf?

Are you excited for Romanov’s release?  Have you pre-ordered it yet?  Did you enjoy Fawkes as much as I did?

Eva

mini book reviews {#5}

Edit: After publishing this post, WordPress informed me that this is my 500th post.  Which I think is awesome. 🙂

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Inside Narnia by Devin Brown – I’m a bit obsessed with Narnia right now (in case you couldn’t tell) and this is the best nonfiction book I’ve read about the Chronicles so far.  Yes, the author focuses on TLWW but he talks about all the other books too.  It’s a super interesting book and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading about Narnia.

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Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon – I don’t care for Jimmy Fallon but I saw this book in a bookstore and read it in, like, two seconds (it’s a board book).  I was surprised by how cute and sweet and heartfelt it was.  Would definitely buy for a baby’s first birthday (or their actual birth).

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Live Without You by Sarah Grace Grzy – I had high expectations for this book and they weren’t really fulfilled.  The author is an excellent writer and LWY was beautiful formatted (the chapter headings are so gorgeous – as well as the cover) but the characters didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped.  Still, die-hard fans of contemporary romance will probably enjoy it.

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The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis – I need to read more of Lewis’s nonfiction.  He was such a clear, thoughtful way of putting things which is a joy to read.  I don’t agree with all his views but he truly is one of the greatest Christian apologists of all time.  I really need to read Mere Christianity now.

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Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk – This book is almost exactly what I love.  Ancient Rome, gladiators, great characters…the only thing I didn’t like (actually hated) was the romance.  It was insta-love and it cheapened the story.  But I did truly enjoy everything else.

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I hate the girl on the cover though.  She looks soooo modern.

What have you read recently?  Any great books?

Eva

book review: character carved in stone

(I requested this book before I decided to stop featuring ARCs on my blog – it just got here recently because the mail was slow.  So don’t worry.  I’m not going back on my resolution.)

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When I started reading this book I was afraid that it would be a dry, slow, boring read. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even though I’m not an American, I’ve always been fascinated by American history and felt a certain kinship to Americans (my mother is one, so yes). Character Carved in Stone contains story after story of brave, true Americans who risked everything to give others freedom – and it made me want to cheer.

From famous generals like Omar Bradley to little known heroes like Michael Collins (the third man on the Apollo 11 mission), Pat Williams unpacks the virtues that make West Point what it is through engaging, informative true-life stories. My only complaint was that the chapters tended to end on a “you can do all the things” guru-style note that was tiring (and not half as inspiring as the stories).

Character Carved in Stone is a great book nonetheless and one that I’d recommend for fans of history and heroes.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

series review: the chronicles of narnia

In chronological order (as opposed to publication order) because that’s how I read the series and I personally think it’s The Best Way.

The Magician’s Nephew

“Awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”

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I didn’t know what to expect, going into this book.  I’ve heard TMN spoken of quite disparagingly online and all I knew about it was that it’s Narnia’s origin story.  Anyway, I read it because I made a goal this year to read all the Chronicles.  And you know what?  I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  Prequels are my thing (Monsters University, Heartless…) so I enjoyed that aspect of it.  And I think I connect with Digory the most of all the children in the series (Susan too, but in a different way).  His relationship with his mom, with Aslan, with the truth…it speaks to me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

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You couldn’t have the Chronicles of Narnia without the first book ever written – and it’s so good.  Not my favorite in the series, but it definitely deserves all the love.  I think it’s awesome that C.S. Lewis had this image of a faun and a lamppost in his mind and finally decided to find out what that was All About.  And it gave us Narnia!  Edmund’s redemption arc is brilliant and moving.  And Lucy’s instant friendship with Mr. Tumnus is the sweetest thing.

The Horse and His Boy

“Do not dare not to dare.”

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Someday I want to read the Chronicles of Narnia in true chronological order – stopping just shy of the end of LWW, reading this book, and then finishing LWW.  It’s so cool, seeing a different culture (well, more than one) besides only Narnian culture.  “The bolt of Tash falls from above!” is probably the funniest bit in the whole series.  I love Susan and Edmund’s relationship in this book (plus the ‘even a traitor may mend’ line) and the whole book is one thrilling adventure. (I think Aslan is at his best here, though it’s so hard to tell.)

Prince Caspian

“Things never happen the same way twice.”

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While Caspian is a bit immature in this book (because he’s so young) he’s one of my absolute favorite characters in the series.  He makes mistakes (don’t we all) but he’s courageous and gentlemanly…not unlike another favorite character: Reepicheep. (REEPICHEEP IS THE ACTUAL BEST.)  I’ve heard people criticize this book for being a repeat of LWW (putting a good royal on the throne of Narnia) but I don’t see it that way.  Peter’s battle with Miraz is heart-pounding and Lucy seeing Aslan and not doing anything about it…it’s all so good.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Courage, dear heart.”

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Okay, so this book did get a wee bit repetitive (basically: go to an island, discover something interesting/frightening, leave, repeat) but I still loved it.  Caspian really shines in this book (oh my WORD, when he to go back and not go to the end of the world… *dies*).  Eustace gets the second best redemption arc in the series (I love me a good redemption arc) and Edmund, Lucy, and Reepicheep are splendid.  The Dawn Treader is gorgeous, btw.  I love how it has one sail, a deep purple one, because deep purple is my favorite color. ❤

The Silver Chair

“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.”

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TSC is regarded by many fans as the best Narnia book and while I don’t personally think so, there’s plenty to enjoy in it.  First of all, I love how matter of fact Jill and Eustace are.  They aren’t siblings, so they don’t have the bond that the Pevensies do (though I think they get it by the end of this book), so they fight quite a bit.  But they still stick up for each other.  PUDDLEGLUM IS AS AWESOME AS REEPICHEEP. (Well…almost.)  Prince Rilian is a dear (goodness, the whole thing with him being under an enchantment – it got my heart pounding almost as much as the first time I read the book) and everything with King Caspian made me cry.

The Last Battle

“But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”

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This book…disturbs me.  It’s very, very good.  But between Susan’s desertion of Narnia (though I firmly believe she gets back in), the end of Narnia itself, the parallels between TLB and the book of Revelation, and all the other depressingness, I can’t quite bring myself to love it.  It’s a little weird, too.  But I do love King Tirian (if he had to be the last king, he was one of the best) and Emeth and seeing all the dear characters from previous books at the very end.  It’s a great conclusion to a great series – just, disturbing to me on a personal level. (I can’t quite get over that everyone DIED and Susan is left over, especially since I relate to Susan quite a bit.)

What Narnia book is your favorite (I can’t decide, but it might be Dawn Treader)?  Do you disagree with my opinion of The Last Battle (or any of the books)?  Let’s debate and fangirl in the comments!

Eva

macbeth, my grandpa, and me

This post is part of We Love Shakespeare Week.

Shakespeare Book Covers by Chris Hall, via Behance

After I graduated from high school I started taking college-level courses with my grandpa.  We studied worldview science, regular science (think: Answers in Genesis), and literature.  We started with really ancient texts like Sophocles and Homer and Aeschylus and then moved on from there.  The textbook we were using had Macbeth as the Shakespeare text to study and, while I’d heard Grandpa quote from it before, I’d never read it.

Well, I read it.  Not all at once. (I believe the textbook just included excerpts.)  But eventually I did read the whole thing.  I still wasn’t a huge fan (this was schoolwork, after all) but my interest was piqued.  We watched the Ian McKellen version (#disturbing and #weird) and a recorded performance from the college that produced our textbook (there was some bad acting).

Even though I didn’t particularly love Macbeth yet, it was rapidly becoming the thing that Grandpa and I really shared.  He loved to quote the “double, double toil and trouble” and “Is this a dagger that I see before me?” with great gusto. (In earlier days, Grandpa was in a few plays – including Taming of the Shrew – so he knew how to project his voice and really say the lines.)  We had good times laughing over all that.

It was actually amazing. ❤

Then, on July 7th, 2016, I saw Macbeth performed live in Stratford. (Ontario, not England.  Psych!)  It was with both my grandparents (though my grandma doesn’t particularly like the play) and, oh man, it was fantastic.  I fell in love with Macbeth right away.  The actors were brilliant, Shakespeare’s lines lived and breathed in my ears…I can’t even.  I particularly remember that Lady Macbeth looked really young and innocent, but her performance was chilling. (As it should be.)  And Banquo (my favorite character in the play) suddenly appeared at the banquet – his ghost, rather – it was terrifying.

(The trailer for the show is here.  There are some disturbing images.)

I came out of the show in a daze – and as a firm fan of Macbeth and Shakespeare himself.  It’s still in one of my top three favorite Shakespeare plays.  And it will always remind me of Grandpa.  It’s a special thing we share…and I’ll never forget that.

23 Jokes And Memes About Shakespeare Plays That'll Make Smart People Laugh
I just had to.

So do you have a movie, book, or TV show that you and a friend or relative consider ‘yours’?

Eva

my top ten favorite retellings

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Did you know that there are more retellings out there than just fairytale retellings?  It’s true! (And probably doesn’t surprise many of you, tbh.)  I’m writing a retelling of the Apostle Paul’s life – and a western retelling of Hamlet – neither of which are fairytales. (Far from it, haha.)  Taking a classic story and making it new is one of my favorite past times…and retellings happen to be one of my favorite genres.  So let’s get into the list!

~Emmeline by Sarah Holman – A 1920’s take on Jane Austen’s Emma.  One of the sweetest books I’ve read in a while.  Updating Harriet’s character so that she’s a German working girl gave her depth and strength that the original Harriet lacked.  And Emma/Emmeline and Mr. Knightley/Frederick are as great a couple as ever.

~Cinder by Marissa Meyer – I have nothing but admiration for Marissa Meyer’s skill with retellings.  Each book in the Lunar Chronicles is excellent (including Fairest and Stars Above) but I think Cinder is my favorite.  Yes, Cinderella retellings are a bit overdone these days, but I still love them.  And Meyer’s nods to the original story are so clever!

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~Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken – I didn’t expect to love this quiet, gentle retelling of Emma as much as I did…but I did. 😉  The parts that retell Jane Austen’s original story seem a bit rushed, but all of Jane’s backstory is super interesting and the whole thing is written in pitch perfect ‘Austen-ese’.

~Dancing & Doughnuts by Rachel Kovaciny – Western fairytale retellings for the win!  I’ve read several, by a few different authors, but Dancing & Doughnuts is something special.  From the unique, upbeat narrative voice of the protagonist – Jedediah Jones – to the cleverness of the retelling itself to the fun characters…Dancing & Doughnuts is a sweet delight to read. (My other favorite Kovaciny retelling is The Man on the Buckskin Horse, which can be found in the anthology Five Magic Spindles.)

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~A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher – This is a retelling of Les Miserables and it came this close to being a five star read on Goodreads (and those are super rare for me).  I had a bit of trouble connecting to the characters (which is why I only gave it four stars), but oh my word, the writing is GORGEOUS.  And the story is appropriately bleak and sad (considering the source material).  Highly recommended to fans of both the book and the musical.

~Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – One of my favorite books so far this year!  It has moments of comedy, yes, but overall I found it to be a far more serious book than I was expecting.  Ella and Char’s growing relationship actually had me, y’know, shipping them.  And that ending…so emotional and sweet!  I liked how it was kiiiind of a retelling of Cinderella, but still very much its own story.

(Also, the movie is trash.)

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~Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange – I usually enjoy Grange’s Austen-inspired stuff (though not everything she’s written) but Colonel Brandon’s Diary is definitely the best of her work.  She has to fill in a lot because Sense & Sensibility doesn’t give too many details about him, and it works beautifully.  Two thumbs up.

~Hawksmaid by Kathryn Lasky – I feel like Robin Hood retellings aren’t really retellings because the ‘original stories’ are basically retellings themselves.  There’s no one definitive version of the legend. (Though from what people have said Howard Pyle probably comes pretty close.)  Anyway, Hawksmaid is a spirited, rich retelling of Robin Hood’s story.  Highly recommended.

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~Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – A straight-up retelling of Sense & Sensibility, set in Texas.  If you’re an Austen fan, you NEED to read this.  Lodge doesn’t try to copy Jane Austen’s style but there’s a delicacy and straightforwardness about her prose that echoes Austen’s work.

~Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – Despite the title, this is a retelling of Daddy Long Legs, not a Jane Austen book.  I will say that the book’s heroine, Sam, is spectacularly unlikable for a long stretch of the story.  But I still loooove this novel.  It’s gripping, real, and full of hope and grace.

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So, that’s my list!  Do you spot any of your favorites on it?  Also, I’d like to mention that Once, a collection of six fairytale retellings, is perma-free on Amazon!  I knew some of the authors and, trust me, if you’re a fan of fairytale retellings, you’ll definitely want to snap this deal up.  Let me know what you think once you’ve read it. 🙂

Eva