The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Today, I’m going to be writing a review in a more freestyle format. I read this book for school, and I kind of enjoyed it … and kind of didn’t.

Title: The Child from the Sea

Author: Elizabeth Goudge

Genre: biographical historical fiction

Era: 1600s

Setting: England, Holland, and France

Source: own a copy

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

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Mercer Street by John A. Heldt

Title: Mercer Street

Author: John A. Heldt

Series: American Journey, #2

Genre: Time Travel Romance (Science Fiction)

Era: contemporary and 1938 (pre-WW2)

Setting: United States (Princeton, New Jersey)

Publisher: John A. Heldt

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars (1 star removed for content)

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April 2017 Mini Reviews

AprilMiniReviews

Well, it’s time for another round of mini reviews! 😀

Amazing Grace by Faith Blum

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3/5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. First, the timeline was confusing. There were flashbacks (which, to me, are usually a no-no), and it started before the last book ended, which was quite confusing. I also felt like the actual plot ended and the book just kept going on. However, it was very sweet. I really liked Rachel and Caleb.

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Only Children Chase Sawdust by Willowy Whisper

Title: Only Children Chase Sawdust

Author: Willowy Whisper

Genre: Christian Historical Adventure

Era: Pioneer-era (maybe early 1800s? Mid-1800s?)

Setting: United States

Publisher: Willowy Whisper

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 4/5

Only Children Chase Sawdust by Willowy Whisper

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Their whole life turned to sawdust and blew away . . .

Please don’t leave me, Jacob. I need you. I know you’re grieving. Maybe we all are. But you’re chasing something you’ll never catch . . . and we both know you won’t come back alive.

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I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel when I first began it. The author doesn’t really even offer us a synopsis to go off of! However, I read it in an afternoon. It wasn’t the best story I’ve ever read, but it was really good.

Plot: 4.5/5

This is the tale of a young couple who must recover from an Indian massacre during which most of their loved ones were killed. Jacob, the husband, leaves Annie in the care of some military men to go preach salvation to the Indians.

The plot does seem to rush or slow down unnecessarily in a couple places, but I really did enjoy it. It was both sweet and heartbreaking. There were times when I was close to tears, which is rare for me.

Characters: 4.5/5

Jacob: I was really skeptical of his choices from start to end. I knew it was the right thing to do, but like Annie, I just wanted him to stay!

Annie: *breaks out the tissues and comfort food* My heart is broken. I may never recover. *sobs* Also, Annie and Jacob were so cute together. Just sayin’.

Akando: his development happened too fast, but he was a great character nonetheless. I just wish a little more time could have been spent on his development.

Obadiah Clark: oooh, I could kill this man! I really wish I could. Except that would be wrong. But he’s a fictional character, so … *considers the jail fines for killing a fictional character* *realizes I have killed several fictional characters* *shrugs*

There were several other characters, but I won’t mention them because I don’t want to write an overwhelmingly long review. They all seemed well-developed to me, however.

Setting: 3/5

This is the real failing-place of the book, in my opinion. There just wasn’t enough focus on where we were. It made no impression on my brain if the time or place were ever mentioned.

It might have been nice to see dates at the beginning of the chapter or something similar. Just so my mind would know where it was supposed to be.

Writing: 5/5

I really enjoy Willowy Whisper’s writing style, and this was no exception.

Theme: 4/5

I really did enjoy the themes of forgiveness and spreading the Good News (even to your enemies), but occasionally it seemed like the Christian content was a little bit forced. Still, great themes. I wish I was as brave as Jacob!

Content: 3/5

Language: n/a

Violence: a massacre and Indian torture methods are described in some details,  people die or almost die, murder (apart from the massacre) is attempted

Sexual: kisses between a married couple, mentions of pregnancy and childbirth (few to no details), a man pushes himself on a woman repeatedly (not as in rape or anything like that, but as in persistent courtship which is almost inappropriate)

Also some drunkenness, few details. Rated PG-13 for violence.

Overall: 4/5

This is a great book, and I’d recommend it to any lover of Christian historical adventures. There were a few short-comings, but they weren’t overwhelming and in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

~Kellyn Roth~

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Emmeline by Sarah Holman

Title: Emmeline

Author: Sarah Holman

Series: Vintage Jane Austen (multi-author series)

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction (light romance/classic retelling)

Era: early 1930s (Great Depression)

Setting: a small town in Pennsylvania (United States)

Publisher: Sarah Holman

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Emmeline by Sarah Holman

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What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

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I am a hard-core Austenite. However, as always with Jane Austen retellings, I forced myself to get into the mind-set of Emmeline being its own book before reading it. Otherwise, I’d be continually comparing the author to Austen, which just isn’t fair.

With this one, though … I let myself get a wee bit disappointed with the way the characters were portrayed. I put this book aside for a while and forced myself to look at it as not a retelling of my precious Emma, but as a completely different book with random scenes from Emma in it. 😉

Other than that, it was a fairly decent book, but not an amazing one. All my friends  will probably kill me, but I just didn’t like it!

Plot: 3/5

All the scenes from Emma interpreted in a 1930s setting were fantastic. I enjoyed a lot of the little twisted and turns, and it was overall pretty enjoyable.

However, towards the end it really rushed, and I was disappointed with the whole plot twist with Morgan. I was like, “Uh … no. I’m sorry, I just can’t do this now …” More my fault than the book’s, of course. I just liked Morgan more than I should have … always have … though not Morgan, I suppose, but Frank Churchill.

Characters: 3/5

Emmeline: whoa, that was a sudden turn-around! If all it took for you to change your wicked ways was for Fredrick to yell at you, why didn’t it work earlier in book? I’m confused. She was a good Emma, though. It’s hard to write this character without having her come across as selfish and overbearing. It was easier to see her self-deception, though. I was never fooled as one can be when reading Emma. Of course, that’s another unfair comparison.

Fredrick: I know this is an interpretation, and the author can change whatever she wants, but … I wish Fredrick didn’t go out without his hat and looked messy and stuff. He also came across as far more stuffy and preachy than Austen’s Knightley, which was disappointing. And a bit of a paradox. He was amusing, though, and his relationship with Emmeline was adorable.

Catarina: awwwww. ❤ This girl is such a sweetheart! And her being a German immigrant? Yes. Just yes.

Geraldine: Miss Bates is young, doesn’t talk a lot, and is redeemable? Eh, no. It’s a cool idea … but no. The boarding house and the falling-from-wealth twist was awesome, though. It was also cool how she was kinda old-fashioned.

Morgan: I liked him, but I was a little disappointed as to that whole plot twist at the end. I just wanted him to be merry and charming and clever, not evil. Why couldn’t he just be merry and charming and clever?!

Evelyn: awwwww, again. Really sweet. But … as her own character, not as an interpretation of Miss Fairfax.

Jack: *growls* But he was perfect.

Doris: I disliked her (everyone loves disliking “Mrs. Elton!”). But I also thought she had a point. She went overboard, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dancing or with nicknames or with … quite a few other things. You’re right, Dory. It is a ‘quaint’ little town … *raises eyebrows*

Setting: 2/5

This is where the book really disappointed me. I felt like half the time the characters still spoke like they were from the 1800s … except for random slang words tossed in. Usually by the villains. Um …? The whole feel of the book was vintage, yes, but a little too vintage. It was also lacking in description in several places.

And … I understand the need for historical accuracy, but the Christians in this book came across as stuffy, preachy, and annoying. They won’t dance. They won’t go to picture shows. And they’re not even accepting of those who do! And yes, I understand why, but it really made me dislike them none-the-less!

Besides, the “ball scenes” were greatly missed, as Mrs. Edmonton points out. I think this (and the overall preachy feel) was my biggest problem.

Writing: 3/5

This was an ARC copy, so I won’t mention typos and such. The writing was good overall, but it was a little too old-fashioned for the 1930s at time.

Theme: 4/5

Sometimes the Christian content (of which there was a lot) seemed thrown in, as if it didn’t really belong. However, I did enjoy Emmeline’s character arc, despite it being rushed and crowded at the end. It was a new and cool way of show her change at the end of the book.

Content: 2/5

Language: n/a

Violence: mentions of WW1

Sexual: talk about dancing being inappropriate, Morgan makes a couple kind of inappropriate comments, some super clean romance

Overall: 3/5

Not a bad book, but not a good one either. I didn’t enjoy it much at all, and probably wouldn’t recommend it to any lover of the ’30s or Jane Austen. However, if you enjoy light historical reads with a little romance (but not much) and a lot of Christianity, this might be the book for you.

~Kellyn Roth~

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The Paratroopers by John Emmert

Title: The Paratroopers (A Novel of the 82nd Airborne Division)

Author: John Emmert

Series: Airborne Trilogy, #1

Genre: Historical Adventure

Era: 1941-1943 (WW2)

Setting: United States, North Africa, and Italy

Publisher: John Emmert

Source: borrowed from a friend of mine who owns it

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Paratroopers by John Emmert

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Steven Weaver’s life as a college student was active. If he wasn’t studying, he was playing varsity football or basketball. Now, with the coming of war, his first months in the Army lacked activity until he was given a unique opportunity in the summer of 1942 to join a group of air deployed combat infantry looking for athletic volunteers. Little did he know what would be asked of himself and his faith under fire.

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I honestly wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this book too much, but I decided to read it anyway because a friend of mine gave me a physical copy, and I was tired of reading on Kindle.

I admit I didn’t really enjoy it too much at first, but once it got going, I liked it. It isn’t my favorite kind of book to read, but there were some parts that were very interesting and even exciting.

Plot: 3/5

Like I said, this isn’t really my favorite kind of story to read, so that may account in part for its rating.

However, I did find the start and several places in the middle to be a little slow even when the content was interesting. I’m not really interested into football – at least not watching or reading about it – and the introductory scene didn’t really catch my attention. Unless you care about the characters, only a die-hard sport-lover can really get into a scene like that. 😉

Also, it took a while for Steve to sign up for the army and then get the transfer to the paratroopers after which the action really began with his intense training.

The account of the training was interesting. I don’t know a lot about WW2 except what I’ve learned from historical fiction, movies made during that time (like a hundred … I’m a huge classic movie fan), and basic history, so I had several, “Whoa, seriously!?” moments. I mean, I knew they’d do a lot of physical training … but to me that just seems crazy! But yep, it was probably necessary and made them top-notch and all.

Characters: 3/5

To be honest, the only ones who really stood out were Joe and Martin! Joe … he was amazing. He was really well-developed. Martin was just a fun guy. However, I found Steve to be a bit of a Gary Sue and none of the other characters really stood out to me. I forgot who they are and got them confused. However, Joe … wow. I just love Joe so much. Such a goof. 🙂

Setting: 3/5

This novel was obviously thoroughly researched. He knew everything there was to know about the paratroopers and their training methods and their guns and just about everything else. However, the dialogue didn’t really feel ’40s-ish to me, and there were a couple things that didn’t feel socially accurate.

For instance, all Steve’s fellow paratroopers were disrespectful of his religion. To me, that was ridiculous. I might be wrong, but I’ve always been taught and observed that, during the ’40s, people were very respectful of Christianity.

I can see one or two of the paratroopers being skeptical, but they probably would have at least kept their mouths shut unless they were complete jerks with no manners. Maybe I’m wrong … I seriously doubt people would have teased Steve about praying and reading the Bible.

Writing: 2/5

Needs work, but there’s potential. A lot more historical detail than I like, but for a WW2 scholar, this book would be great.

Content: 2/5

Language: n/a

Violence: it’s set during a war and there are several deaths, many wounded and disfigured, etc. Nothing overly gory, but the facts aren’t hidden. A couple fistfights.

Sexual: a couple mentions of pregnancy/children being born (no details). A group of soldiers attempt to grab a lady on the streets, but Steve and his friends stop them so nothing happens.

Overall, nothing that bugged me. Very clean. Recommended for 12+.

Overall: 3.5/5

A great adventure story for anyone who loves learning about all the little details of WW2.

~Kellyn Roth~

Be Thou My Vision by Faith Blum

Title: Be Thou My Vision

Author: Faith Blum

Series: Hymns of the West, #2

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction (light romance)

Era: 1880s, I think? Approximately?

Setting: United States

Publisher: Faith Blum

Source: got the series as a whole in a giveaway

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Be Thou My Vision by Faith Blum

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“The church was empty when I dragged myself out of the pew and headed out the door. As I opened the door, the corner of my eye caught a flicker of movement which I chose to ignore. I walked down the steps and was nearly bowled over by two wild boys. With arms grown strong and quick from man-handling two brothers growing up, I grabbed the two boys before they had a chance to escape me. ”

Anna Stuart is comfortable with her life. She may be a 30 year old spinster, but she has her routine and enjoys taking care of her father and older brother. One letter shatters all her routines, comfort, and enjoyment. After learning of her brother’s death, Anna feels like her life will never be the same again.

Then she meets two motherless boys. Did God place them in her life to lead her to a new vision of life? Can she trust God to give her the desires of her heart before she even knows what they are?

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As you know, I didn’t really enjoy A Mighty Fortress, so I was a little nervous when I began this book.

Lots of my friends on Goodreads really like this series, so I was going, “I hope I don’t offend anyone …” I even know the author to a certain extent … and I really do hate giving bad reviews regardless. I decided I would just start the book, and if I didn’t like it, I’d put it down and say I didn’t finish it.

But, long story short, I did end up really enjoying this book. It had some ups and downs, but there were mostly ups.

Plot: 4/5

Very good. I was captivated in some places, and it never slowed down too much. The story as a whole really appealed to me.

The only thing I find somewhat unbelievable is that the whole church was unwilling to welcome Anna and insisted upon believing she was trying to ‘ensnare’ Miles. Surely there’d be one or two true Christians in a whole town, right? Why would everyone believe that terrible gossip? Makes no sense to me.

Also, you’d think someone would think to help out the pastor with his little boys after his wife died.

Characters: 3/5

I think the book actually would have benefited by adding in a couple more people from the church/town, but otherwise, the characters and character development were fairly good. My take on a few of the characters …

Anna: really a sweet girl! It’s cool how she sought out God without any encouragement from her family … or anyone else, really. However, her transformation happened very fast … and after it she was an amazing Christian. How did she do that so fast?! I want to know her secret to insta-Christianity.

James: so sweet. ❤

John: isn’t he the awesomest little troublemaker? 🙂

Miles: such a good guy! I really enjoyed his sense of humor. A time or two he moved to slowly for my taste, but he eventually did what I was trying to convince him to do the whole book long.

Setting: 2/5

The setting did need a lot of work. I would have liked to see more description of the characters and of the area around them. I was rarely sure about what stuff looked like. I had to use my imagination a lot, though, which is an upside. 😛

Writing: 3/5

My only nit to pick is the POV switches. Most of the book was in first person, Anna’s perspective. However, occasionally the author would switch to third person in a different character’s perspective. This was confusing and made the book feel a little choppy. Otherwise, it was well-written.

Theme: 4/5

Loved it! Strong Christian content is oftentimes missing in contemporary fiction, so it was great to see this here. I admit I did skim through some of the overly-long prayers and Bible quotations, though. I know I should probably read the Bible more (even reading through the Bible in a year as I am, I can skip days), but that’s just not the way to get me to read it, apparently. 😉

Content: 2/5

Language: n/a

Violence: mentions of Mr. Stuart being cruel to Jed and beating him. Mentions of outlaws, thievery, murders, etc. No details. John gets in a fight with one his schoolfellow at one point.

Sexual: people claim that Anna is pregnant and that’s why she and Miles are marrying. It’s briefly mentioned that Anna’s mother died in childbirth.

Good for all ages. Parental guidance suggested for children under 12 because of the gossip about Anna.

Overall: 4/5

A great book with just a few things that lowered the rating one star, Be Thou My Vision is a great story for upper middle graders and teens alike.

~Kellyn Roth