How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Green Dolphin Street

This post is in honor of Elizabeth Goudge reading week. This wonderful author was born on April 24, 1900, and has written many soul-touching novels. Read more about her HERE.


Green Dolphin Street was an emotional roller coaster. I found it hard to write a review that doesn't give anything away, because it would be better for everyone to discover the unfolding petals of this book themselves. It’s like an opening rose; it was joy (and occasionally agony) to step across each petal until the center of the ending was reached, where everything came together, with all its full-blown fragrance.

Most books are add-ons to life: you read them and they capture your surface attention, but you’re always conscious of your real life. Green Dolphin Street: not so for me. It became a part of my life while I was reading it, and now that I’m finished, I miss it. I feel like I do when I return home from a great trip.

To start with, I’ll be using the original title, Green Dolphin Country, because it’s a better name. (Thank you to Lory at Emerald City Book Review for pointing this out!) If you read the novel, you’ll discover the idea of a “country” has far more relevance than just the street where the characters grew up.

Elizabeth Goudge has an incredible ability to immerse readers completely in the world of her novels, Green Dolphin Country no exception. You see and understand all the major characters, inside and outside. You see and sense their beautiful and powerful surroundings. You travel their spiritual journeys with them. And they always learn such profound things about God that you can’t help but be affected, too.

Green Dolphin Country follows the lives of three people, sisters Marianne and Marguerite Le Patourel and their friend William Ozanne, from childhood to old age, beginning in 1834. Marianne is strong, controlling, and extremely competent, creative, and intelligent. But she lacks love—and most of the fruits of the Spirit, actually. Her younger sister Marguerite is naturally happy and joyful, however. She loves life and people and people love her. William, whose age falls between the two, is loving, loveable, and easygoing. With their parents, Octavius and Sophie Le Patourel and Dr. Edmond Ozanne, and a raucous and long-lived parrot called Old Nick, they enjoy living on an island in the English Channel (Guernsey, I believe, though it’s never named). The sea is also a constant companion throughout the story: One of my favorites scenes is when Marianne and William visit a docked ship called the Green Dolphin and meet Captain O’Hara and his first mate Nat, who tell them about New Zealand.

Years go by and exact changes. Marianne and Marguerite both fall in love with William. William embarks on a Navy career, but because of an unfortunate occurrence in China (the only part of the book that even hints at sexual immorality, in case you’re concerned about that), ends up as a settler in New Zealand. In New Zealand several other wonderful characters are introduced—wild pioneer Tai Haruru (one of my favorites); zealous missionaries Samuel and Susanna Kelly; and Maoris Hine-Moa and Kapua-Manga. William writes home for one of the sisters to marry him and mistakenly asks for the wrong one. I didn’t read the back cover synopsis, so I didn’t know which sister he really loved and which sister he ended up with until I reached those scenes in the story. Talk about suspense!

Emotions run high in this book. A significant portion of the middle gave me heartache, but I was desperate to see how the characters got through it. Though Marianne was a challenge to like, I found her the most interesting character of all. She had gained my sympathy at the very beginning, as a vulnerable, self-conscious sixteen-year-old. The path she took to learn humility was the biggest character arc in the book. William and Marguerite had their difficult journeys, too. I was especially inspired by Marguerite’s life and how she learned to pray and “practice the presence of God.” From Marianne I learned the ugliness of self-will and how to give up control, and from William how to love, even when it looks impossible.

In certain situations I wished the Gospel was presented a little more clearly, but for readers who understand the Gospel message, what the characters discover is satisfying: humility leads to repentance leads to reconciliation with God. Something I really didn’t like, though, was the prevalent use of the d- swear word, but it wasn’t enough to banish any of my delight in the rest of the work.

One of my favorite things about Goudge’s writing is how skillfully she uses symbolism and repetition. Objects, situations, and lessons wrap around and weave in and out of this story, forming a weighty unit that captivates you from beginning to end and furthers the feeling that you’re living the characters’ lives with them. It reflects the fact that individual lives have patterns and cycles. Some of the novel is meditative, other is vividly tense (such as the Maori war!), but all of it is told in a descriptive and lyrical manner that is yet highly accessible. The length is perfect; I wouldn’t have it any longer or shorter.

If you’re in the mood for a rich, deeply involved, and transforming read that deals with all sides of humanity, beautiful and not-so beautiful, do yourself a favor and read Green Dolphin Country!

For a look at what the theme “Green Dolphin country” is about, please read this review by my Goodreads friend!

Have you ever read Green Dolphin Street? What did you think?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Print Launch Giveaway

Hey everyone! In honor of the release of E. Kaiser Writes' novels in illustrated print editions (see my post about it HERE), she is hosting a giveaway of fun themed prizes on her blog: Snow leopards, snowflakes, silver daggers, and more! Check out the giveaway post to find out how to enter HERE

Friday, April 22, 2016

E. Kaiser Writes Book Launch

I am privileged today to be participating in E. Kaiser Writes’ blog tour, which celebrates the release of all five of her novels in paperback, with illustrations by the author herself!


Jeweler’s Apprentice: On her first visit to the palace, sixteen-year-old Fia stumbles upon a court intrigue. To keep the secret safe, the Chancellor sends her off as apprentice to a famous, reclusive, mountain jeweler...
...And straight into adventure.
Discovering gems with deep secrets and new friends with the same, Fia learns a whole lot more than just making jewelry: when to trust a stranger, and when not to, why not to try stealing from gem thieves; what heroism is; what royalty ought to be; and that the mountains themselves can sometimes be the greatest danger of all.
Is the legend of the Sunlight Stone true?
Will peace ever come to the war-torn neighboring kingdom?
And what is the stable boy hiding...? 

Traitor’s Knife: Secrets. Sabotage. Murder. With Olayin House temporarily turned into a weapons factory, Fia is confronted with the care of three refugee children, an ill-timed visitor, a perplexingly brash messenger that she isn't quite sure what to think of, all while trying to keep her friend’s secrets safe. But when dangerous accidents start to happen, the young apprentice begins to tread a fine line of suspicion. Are saboteurs out to nix the weapons works... and is the incognito crown prince in mortal peril? Winter in the mountain house isn’t as cozy as her apprenticeship was expected to be.  

Winter’s Child: A barren king and queen pray for a child, and when in their loneliness, they make one out of snow, their prayers are answered in a special, and unusual way.
Sometimes, when we get what we wish for, we don't know what to do with it.
Combining elements from the Snow Maiden, Schneekind, and Snegurochka tales with those of the Snow Queen; Winter’s Child introduces a new series: THAW. 

Kindle eBook

Winter Queen: A slightly pampered girl allows her avoidance behavior to isolate her from the world... it's only when she takes the final step that she realizes the wall she's built in the name of safety is also the one that will hold her prisoner forever... unless she discovers how to destroy it.
The only one who can break a neurosis... is the one who has it.

Kindle eBook

Prince of Demargen: The whole world knows his guilt, and is absolutely correct about it, but how far can a man go to regain respect so swiftly lost?
Or is an honorable death the best a fallen star can hope for?
The only person who can help him... is the one he most deeply wronged.

Kindle eBook

About the author:
E. Kaiser Writes credits her nearly nomadic childhood for the vast reach of her fictional worlds; she has lived (and gotten to known the locals) in the Rocky Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, the plains, the deep forest, the searing Texas summer and frozen Minnesota north.

She wears many hats: writer and editor of ad copy, web copy, office correspondence, and fiction; a cowgirl, animal trainer, seamstress, jeweler, artist and... authoress! Find her on her website, blog, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

E. Kaiser Writes is one of my favorite contemporary authors. I also had the honor of helping her with editing and beta reading. Here are links to my reviews for her books:
Jeweler’s Apprentice
Winter’s Child
Prince of Demargen

On Facebook? Don't miss out on the Facebook release party tomorrow, April 23, 1:00-4:45pm!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Looking Forward...

This is a newsy post about two upcoming events in the reading world. First off is the release of E. Kaiser Writes’ five novels into paperback! She is one of my favorite contemporary authors, but so far I’ve only experienced her words on my computer screen. I’m really anticipating getting my hands (literally!) on her physical books. Two of the books, Jeweler’s Apprentice and Traitor’s Knife, have just gotten fresh covers as well. The official release date is April 22, so look for more information on my blog that day. 

If you have a blog and would like to help out an indie Christian author, HERE is a form where you can sign up for her blog tour taking place April 22-24. Last minute notification, I know, but it should be an easy post to put together!

And, if you’re on Facebook, check out the Facebook release party on Saturday, April 23, from 1:00-4:45pm. There’ll be lots of giveaways and other fun stuff!

The second upcoming event begins April 24: Elizabeth Goudge reading week! If you’ve never read this fantastic twentieth-century English author, the week of April 24-30 would be a great time to learn about her or try one of her many novels. Discover more about this author and her books on the Emerald City Book Review. I plan to post a review of one of her books that week, Green Dolphin Country.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Travel the World

One of the principle reasons I read is to learn about the world: I’m a curious person, and good books are miniature substitutes for experiences, because in one lifetime I cannot hope to learn and experience everything firsthand – and it’s impossible, too, because I’d never have an inkling of what it’s like to be, for example, an American pioneer in the West in the 1870s without reading Little House on the Prairie.

So when I decide on my reading list, many books I place there teach me something about other countries, other time periods, other kinds of people. I’ve even made a list I call “Book Geography” so I can keep track of the places I’ve visited by reading. I’ve even thought it’d be fun to label a map with book titles…but that’d be a daunting a task!

Here’s a glimpse of my list, showcasing some of the best, most evocative-of-place books I’ve read:

The U.S.A.
Alabama - To Kill a Mockingbird
Alaska - The Call of the Wild; White Fang
Illinois - So Big; Across Five Aprils
              Chicago - Twenty Years at Hull House
Indiana - Freckles; A Girl of the Limberlost
Kansas - Little House on the Prairie
Maine - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Massachusetts - The Scarlet Letter; Little Women
               Boston - Johnny Tremain; A Different Kind of Courage Minnesota - On the Banks of Plum Creek
Missouri - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
                The Ozarks - The Rose Years
Nebraska - My Antonia
New York - Farmer Boy; The Last of the Mohicans
                 New York City - The Chosen; All-of-a-Kind Family
Pennsylvania - Julie; I Am Regina
South Dakota - The Little House series, from By the Shores of Silver Lake to The First Four Years
Tennessee - Christy
Texas - Old Yeller; Wildwood Creek; Half Broke Horses
Virginia - Wish You Well; The Serpent Never Sleeps
Wisconsin - Little House in the Big Woods

Prince Edward Island - Anne of Green Gables series; Emily of New Moon series; The Blue Castle
Alberta - Loves Comes Softly
Ontario - The Incredible Journey

The Caribbean
Captain Blood

By Right of Conquest

South America
Ecuador - His Voice Shakes the Wilderness

England - The Scent of Water; The Hound of the Baskervilles; Lark Rise to Candleford; Our Village; Watership Down; Cranford; North and South; Wuthering Heights; All Creatures Great and Small; Jane Eyre; The Perilous Gard; The Secret Garden; The Pickwick Papers; My Love Affair with England; Notes from a Small Island
Scotland - Kidnapped; The Baronet’s Song; The Shepherd’s Castle; The Martha Years

The English Channel Islands - Green Dolphin Country
Austria - Mozart’s Sister 

France - The Count of Monte Cristo; A Tale of Two Cities; The Hunchback of Notre-Dame; Les Miserables
Ireland - In the Company of Others 

The Netherlands - The Winged Watchman
Romania - The Seamstress
Spain - Don Quixote
Switzerland - Heidi
Ukraine - Tevye’s Daughters
Ancient Rome - Beric the Briton

Israel - The Bronze Bow; The Zion Chronicles; Tongue of the Prophets; For the Temple
The Middle East - The Brethren; Shadow Spinner
China - The Good Earth (though I didn’t particularly like the book…)
India - Homeless Bird; A Passage to India (though I really didn’t like the book…)

Egypt - Mara, Daughter of the Nile; The Golden Goblet; Joseph Kenya - Out of Africa; Nine Faces of Kenya
Uganda - Kisses from Katie

New Zealand - Green Dolphin Country

The Sea
Moby-Dick; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

All Over
Around the World in Eighty Days; The Innocents Abroad; The Art of Travel (Alain de Botton); The Bright Empires series

As you can see, I have wide gaps in my armchair travels! (Though since I’ve only included about half the books on my list, the best of the best, there are different places I’ve visited through less evocative books.) I plan to fill in some of the gaps eventually:
War and Peace; Anna Karenina; Angel on the Square (Russia)
Cry, the Beloved Country (South Africa)
Journey to the River Sea (Brazil)
The Good Master (Hungary)
The Enchanted April (Italy)
And more as I find them…

Your turn! What are some of the best, exotically placed books you’ve read, whether fiction or nonfiction? Do you have any suggestions for filling in my map?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Nancy, Old and New

Nancy Drew is back:
I was excited to recently acquire a 1941 copy of a Nancy Drew mystery, Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion. For some time now (especially after reading Girl Sleuth) I’ve been immensely curious about the differences between the original Nancy Drews and the revised editions done starting in the 1960s. Why were they rewritten? What changed? Which would I like better? So I did some sleuthing of my own by reading the two editions of Moss-Covered Mansion back to back. 


I read the 1941 original first. I enjoyed it for the most part (its unconscious details of daily life back then, such as how cars and telephones worked, were helpful for my own story!). It involved an isolated mansion in the woods with shady goings-on, a missing heiress, and a hostile troublemaker. It had twists and turns and red herrings, and I was able to guess a couple of the solutions at the same pace as Nancy Drew, which is always fun. Nancy was clever and delightful. But the mystery plot didn’t seem very tight; Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s boyfriend, made a rather pointless, one-time token appearance; George and Bess, her friends, were paper dolls and completely interchangeable; and the sensibilities toward heritages other than white American were definitely pre-Civil Rights.

So I must admit I liked the 1971 revised edition more. The mystery was completely different – it hardly involved any of the same characters, and the only thing the two books really had in common was the mysterious moss-covered mansion inhabited by wild animals, which concealed two totally different things. (It was interesting to note a couple of “nods” to the original in the 1971, such as a fire, an airplane crash landing, and an impersonator.) It wasn’t the mysteries, though, that made up my mind, because both were good; it was more the characters, structure, and writing.

The newer Nancy Drew seemed more modest and approachable somehow – she’s the girl detective I grew up loving. She didn’t leave Bess and George so far in the dust; they really helped her, and each was a more defined character – bold, Judo-flipping George (I love George almost as much as Nancy) and timid, girly Bess. Having interesting sidekicks made Nancy herself more interesting because of their contrasting personalities. Ned Nickerson was a partner who served a definite purpose in solving the mystery. The story was shorter and more streamlined, and all the action seemed more to the point. No ethnicities were demeaned. I’m a lover of detailed, educational settings in novels, and this one was set in a real place – Merritt Island, Florida, which contains the Kennedy Space Center.

So there’s my honest opinion. In conclusion, this Nancy Drew nerd wants to say: The two are very different books and they each have their own charms – they’re time capsules of two different eras, after all! I’m very glad I read both. And I’m just comparing two editions of one mystery – every other pair will have to be considered in its own right. (Whether I’ll be able to do that myself remains to be seen!)

Have you read the two versions of Nancy Drew? Which do you like better?