Reviews

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

Reviews

A Mighty Fortress by Faith Blum

Title: A Mighty Fortress

Author: Faith Blum

Series: Hymns of the West, #1

Genre: Christian Historical Adventure

Era: 1870s

Setting: Montana Territory, United States of America

Publisher: Faith Blum

Source: received as a prize/gift

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

A Mighty Fortress by Faith Blum

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Joshua and Ruth Brookings are traveling by stagecoach to finally join their parents in Montana. Attacked by murderous outlaws, the teens barely escape with their lives and must survive in the barren Wyoming and Montana territories and escape the man who’s hunting them.

Seven years ago, Jed Stuart ran away from home and joined Tom’s gang. Jed is tired of the lawlessness and wants out. The only problem? He is the boss’s right-hand man and will never be able to leave. And what’s one more stagecoach robbery, anyway?

Can Joshua lean on God’s strength to keep himself and his sister alive until they find a town? Will Jed be able to face his anger or will it consume him completely? All three are running–the hunter and hunted. What will happen when they meet?

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This was one of those books I just had to slog through. I was determined to finish it, but I really didn’t want to. I didn’t enjoy it. However, it wasn’t all bad, and it may be for some people more than me.

Note: the author has improved so much since writing of this book, and I really have enjoyed her more recent works.

Plot: 3/5

It started out pretty well, but towards the middle it dragged on and on. Also, when dealing with the dual story lines of Joshua/Ruth and Jed, it skipped all over the place. One moment we’d be a month ahead, the next we’d be two months behind, the next we’d be a year ago, and so on.

Characters: 3/5

There were quite a few characters towards the end, but I easily kept them separated in my head. I didn’t really like Ruth (I found her to be a bit of a Mary Sue) or Joshua (same). They both seemed judgmental to me.

I did like Jed, who was presumably the antagonist. I looked forward to seeing what happened next to him. He made me want to write a Western. I don’t know why, but I just find the outlaws and sheriffs and such of the old west to be fascinating. Probably too much John Wayne …

Setting: 3/5

The description was pretty good. I really do want to visit Montana someday. I didn’t really see anything missing in this aspect. The dialogue was sometimes a little too modern.

Writing: 2/5

This book probably needs a little more editing. The worst problem was probably the head-hopping. I never knew whose head we were in, which was confusing.

Theme: 3/5

I normally love reading Christian fiction … but in this book, I found the Christian content a little bit preachy. It was hard to get through the paragraphs of Bible that seemed put in at random. Almost everyone in this book was a Christian or became a Christian (usually remarkably easily), which I didn’t find very realistic.

However, the overall theme of redemption and forgiveness was a good one – despite my not liking the portrayal of it – and I did appreciate that.

Content: 2/5

Language: n/a

Violence: robbing, outlawing, and even several murders. Never detailed, always treated as (very) wrong.

Sexual: Jed supposedly raped a girl at one point. It all happened off-screen and was dealt with pretty tastefully.

Overall: 2/5

Not my favorite book. I didn’t really like it and wouldn’t recommend it. However, later works by the author were much better.

~Kellyn Roth

Reviews

The Innocent by Willowy Whisper

Title: The Innocent

Author: Willowy Whisper

Series: Hills of Innocence, #1

Genre: Historical Mystery/Romance

Era: probably late 1800s (Old West)

Setting: the Old West

Publisher: Willowy Whisper

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 4/5

The Innocent by Willowy Whisper

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“I wonder who would shoot a girl so young…?” The question haunted him as he left the river and her grave behind.

Harvey West is given a month. One month to prove his innocence. As the evidence points him to the gallows, he fights to find the enemy of the beautiful Elsie Roselind. Someone wanted her gone.

Someone destroyed the evidence. Someone had to kill to keep her from coming back…

And the someone isn’t afraid to kill again—no matter what the cost.

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The Innocent by Willowy Whisper is a great mystery/suspense novel set in the Old West. I really enjoyed it, and read most of it in two days (though I technically took longer because I read the first chapter then put it aside for a while due to busyness and a reading slump).

Plot {4/5}:

This novel had an exciting, intriguing plot. I admit I figured out the ‘mystery’ pretty early on, mostly because I wasn’t willing to suspect [SPOILERS] Brock, because I could see how he loved her [END OF SPOILERS]. I also felt from the beginning that [SPOILERS] Clyde wasn’t sincere [END OF SPOILERS]. At times it did seem to go on, especially at the end when we’d discovered who the murderer was. However, after I read on a little, I understood why the author was taking her time (HARVEY AND ABIGAIL OH MY GOSH!!! They’re so great for each other …) and forgave a temporary drag. 🙂

Characters {5/5}:

The characters were well-developed and interesting. I especially liked Harvey (such a good guy!), Brock (adorably sweet), and Jimmy (also adorably sweet … in a different way). Joe was interesting, as well, and Clyde was [SPOILERS] evil, of course. But still well-developed. I admit she fooled me about him at first! [END OF SPOILERS] I was a little irritated at Abigail once or twice. I was like, “Do you have handsome, sweet, understanding cowboys walk into your life and spend weeks trying to discover who killed your sister every day? No? THEN BE NICE TO HIM FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!” But I understand why she acted the way she acted, and I forgave her. Besides, I am even more stubborn than she is, so … what am I complaining about? It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

Setting {4/5}:

There wasn’t really a lot of room for improvement here. I wish there could have been a little more description, however. I’d like to know about how every character looked like, what the houses look like, etc. Description can be sneaked in almost anywhere without massive blocks of it, and I think it would have added to my mental imagery. I’d also like to know what Rascal looks like. I’ve been imagining him as black or bay. Am I close, Willowy?

Writing {3/5}:

So, this is really the only place where I feel like the book could use major improvement. 3/5 is my ‘it was okay’ rating. Honestly, I felt like the book could have used a little more editing. There weren’t a lot of mistakes (no typos and the punctuation and spelling were good), but a lot of sentences were awkward and some things were repeated more than they needed to be. I think Willowy Whisper is an amazing writer, but it could have been a little more polished here. On the other hand, I’ve read more recent stories by her, so it could be that she’s just improved a ton since writing this one. 🙂

Content:

No language. There was violence and thematic elements, though nothing super graphic. A murder and a lot of talk about that (they were trying to solve it, after all), gunshot wounds, talking about the pain from the gunshot wounds, fist-fights, bleeding, people were almost burnt alive once, and illnesses/recovering from wounds. Some parts were pretty intense/suspenseful/even a little scary.

As far as sexual content, there were quite a few kisses/mentions of kissing. A couple were described (mostly just talking about emotions). Some of these kisses (not the described ones, though) were between a man and woman who didn’t end up getting married.

Not recommended to children under 12 (upper PG). However, after that, I wouldn’t have an reservations (unless you’re sensitive to that kind of thing).

Overall {4/5}:

An amazing story that I couldn’t put down in places with sweet characters and a suspenseful plot. It’s really a great book (despite my criticism on certain points … sorry, I can be very harsh!) and I hope to read more by the author (and about these characters) in the future.

~Kellyn Roth

Reviews

This Hostile Land by Willowy Whisper

Title: This Hostile Land

Author: Willowy Whisper

Genre: Historical Fiction (Western)

Age-Range: 12+ (upper middle grade-young adult)

Era: 1911

Setting: Wyoming (cattle country …)

Publisher: Willowy Whisper

Source: author (in exchange for free review)

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Content: 2/5. Violence. Didn’t bug me at all, but then, violence never bothers me.

Cover: 5/5! Oh my goodness gracious it’s so beautiful!

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