The Selection by Kiera Cass

Title: The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection, #1

Genre: Dystopian Romance?

Era: futuristic

Publisher: HarperTeen

Source: from library

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

The Selection by Kiera Cass

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For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

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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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Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

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Is Structure the Hidden Foundation of All Successful Stories?

Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this new guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will discover the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will help you to not only perfectly time your story’s major events, but will also provide you with an unerring standard to use in evaluating your novel’s pacing and progression.

Structuring Your Novel will show you:

• How to determine the best methods for unleashing your unique and personal vision for your story.
• How to identify common structural weaknesses and flip them around into stunning strengths.
• How to eliminate saggy middles by discovering your “centerpiece.”
• Why you should NEVER include conflict on every page.
• How to discover the questions you don’t want readers asking about your plot—and then how to get them to ask the right questions.

Story structure has empowered countless bestselling and classic authors. Now it’s your turn!

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Rating: 4.5 stars

This book changed the way I look at story structure. It’s changed the way I look at the dramatic arc. At the books I read and the movies I watch. At the way I outline and write and revise.

Structuring Your Novel is a nonfiction book about writing … more specifically about story structure. It starts with a detailed look at the structure of a novel. It shows you the entire story arc in a new way, giving tips for writing each tiny little detail of the dramatic arc. This was very useful, even as someone who knows the dramatic arc fairly well.

Next, it moves on to scene structure. I’d never really thought much about scene structure, so this was an eye-opened for me. I read this section through more than once! It was very informative.

The only thing I didn’t find useful was the chapter on sentence structure. It didn’t really help me, mostly because I learned most of that in grade school and the rest from noveling blogs, other writing books, and practical experience. Still, it may be useful to other people.

K.M. Weiland writes in an entertaining style, but she also grinds the facts into your head in a way that really makes them stick with you. Her examples from popular fiction (old and new) were very useful in helping me grasp the concepts she introduces. But don’t worry if you don’t read a lot (shame on you; why are you trying to write?!). Even if I hadn’t read the books/watched the movies (which I didn’t with two of them), I would have understood, which was nice.

I’d recommend this book to any writer who wishes to improve their craft. It’s definitely worth your time!

~Kellyn Roth

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~

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes

Title: The Ugly Teapot: Hannah

Author: Fred Holmes

Series: The Ugly Teapot, Book 1

Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure

Era: contemporary

Setting: United States and the Middle East

Publisher: Fred Holmes

Source: from the author (in exchange for an honest review)

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes

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Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.

She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.

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I honestly don’t know how to rate and review this book. I thought I’d wait a while after reading it to see if my thoughts organized themselves, but they haven’t, and so I guess I’ll just do my best to give my honest opinion.

Honestly, it’s an emotional journey, and emotions boggle me a little. I laughed and cried and was both disturbed and happy.

Plot: 3/5

The plot was really one of the cleverest I’ve read in a while. If you’ve read the blurb (^), you probably have a pretty fair idea as to what goes on, but it still surprised me. I think the only thing I didn’t appreciate was pausing the adventure to return to V’s life every once and a while, though when the ending came I understood why it was necessary.

The ending was a bit disturbing. I didn’t quite know what to think about it at first … and was a little disappointed, too. However, after I thought about it for a while, I decided it was really a cool twist … and totally unexpected! Still, it was disturbing and, in my opinion, sudden.

Characters: 4/5

There were several characters who held prominent parts besides Hannah, but I always had them kept straight in my mind. A few things did confuse me (for instance, it wasn’t explained until the very end of the book why Griff has the ability to communicate with Hannah telepathically; we were just expected to accept it like all dogs communicate with their masters like that), but overall, I found them all well-developed and interesting.

Hannah was a sweet little girl (well, “little” is a broad term …) looking for her father. Stories with grieving people in them always get me even though I’ve never lost anyone really important to me.

Griff, Hannah’s dog, was a fun character. He can communicate telepathically with Hannah for much of the book, and he has a fun sense of humor.

Hannah’s father … well, something seemed wrong with him from the beginning, and so I was pleased with Hannah’s realization towards the end. Sure, he was a fun dad … but a good one? Eh. Not so much.

Vivian (V), Hannah’s mother, was a great character. I loved her growth and the growth of her and Hannah’s relationship. It was also cool how she’s this steady person who is always there, even if Hannah didn’t think her decisions were always the best.

Gus was my favorite. He was just so hilarious! Every word out of his mouth had me in stitches, and that whole thing with the treasure chest … and his relationship with Hannah’s father was the best. 😛

Ahmed … wow. Insta-crush, huh, Hannah? *glares at Hannah* Okay, okay, I know, you’re fourteen and he’s this awesome exotic gentleman … but still.

Ahmed’s parents I actually liked … until the end. At which point I kinda got frustrated with them. I still don’t know about that little lie to Hannah’s father. What was that about?

The Magician, we all hated. Well, at least I did. He was so cruel and evil and wicked and awful … and other words that are near-synonyms to each other. I hate him! And yet he’s a “good” villain as villains go (as in he is good at being evil).

Setting: 5/5

The description and setting were both very good. I always had a good idea as to where we were. I especially loved the descriptions of the treasure chamber and the Sheik’s house.

As far as settings, we started in a small town in the United States in Hannah’s bedroom and went halfway around the world to Baghdad and then some mountains (I’ve forgotten which) and back to Hannah’s house. All vividly described without too many words.

Writing: 4/5

Excellent! I especially enjoyed the punchy dialogue and, of course, description. The best thing about the writing was the humor. I laughed aloud several times.

However, I did find some sentences to be a little complicated or overthought.

Theme: 3/5

I felt like the theme could have been worked a little better. The ending and resolution were somewhat sudden, as I mentioned before, and the main character was kind of in denial before that point. V’s point of view helped decrease that shield Hannah put up a little … but not much, especially as V had no idea what was going on until the end.

Content: 3/5

Language: “oh my god” several times and then stronger euphemism such as “crap,” etc. 10+.

Violence: lots of this, I’m afraid. Many, many people were killed during Hannah’s adventure. There was lots of blood and death and scary situations. It never got extremely gory, but it was mildly gory in several places. 13+ at least.

Sexual: n/a (although Hannah develops a crush on a boy she’s traveling with)

Other: the world is assumed millions of years old. Hannah is suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and delusions. The ending is kinda of disturbing. 10+

I’d say 13+ at least for violence, disturbing themes, and mild language (taking the Lord’s name in vain). Parental guidance suggested for more the more sensitive.

Overall: 3.5/5

A fairly decent young adult novel with a great beginning and middle. The end was a little sudden, but for those who are good at sorting details out, it won’t make any difference. I really enjoyed the humor and the adventure (though it could be a little gory or disturbing at times), and the character were well-developed and interesting.

A great story for any upper middle grade or young adult reader who loves a character-based adventure with magic elements.

~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