Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God's Smuggler

Reviewed by: Emily
Author: Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Autobiography
# Of pages: 255
Publisher: Chosen Books
Year of Release: 2007
Rating: 3, for violence (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: In this suspenseful, awe-inspiring narrative, Brother Andrew relates his thrilling story of evangelism behind the Iron Curtain. Called by God to encourage the struggling Christians behind the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew risks his life again and again to provide his fellow Christians with the two things they need most– fellowship and Bibles.

Review: Brother Andrew’s story will leave you amazed at the power of God. The book is well written, infused with humor and sincerity. As you read, it feels as if Brother Andrew is in your living room telling his story to you. Throughout the book, his deep, passionate love for God shines through. In addition to being spiritually uplifting, the story is just plain exciting. Brother Andrew moves from one dangerous situation to the next, compelling you to read just one more page to find out how God delivers him. This is a book you will want to have in your personal library so you can read it again and again.

Rating: 3, for violence

Positive: Brother Andrew has a wonderful relationship with God. With his great faith and willingness to devote his entire life to God’s service, he is an excellent role model. His excitement for reading the Bible, prayer, and serving God is infectious. Love for family and friends, frugality, and generosity to the less fortunate are continuous themes in the book. While presenting the story of a courageous man of God, first and foremost God’s Smuggler draws attention to God’s power, goodness, and love.

Spiritual Elements: The entire book centers around Brother Andrew’s relationship with God as well as the amazing work God did through and for Andrew and his fellow missionaries. Andrew also describes the negative opinion he held of God before he became a Christian. Other religions such as Islam are addressed.

Violence: Young Andrew and his friends hitting each other with their wooden shoes. During the Nazi occupation of Holland, young Andrew plays practical jokes on the soldiers involving fireworks. Andrew also describes his experiences in the army, including the horrors of battle, in some detail. He performs surgery on his pet monkey twice, once after a fellow soldier brutally abused the animal.

Language: None. When people swear in the book, it is noted, but the actual words are not included.

Sexual Content: At the chocolate factory where Andrew works, some girls make bawdy jokes. Andrew describes his relationships with his first girlfriend and his wife, but not on a sexual level.

Recommendation: I heartily recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up. The suspense, violent scenes, and other mature subject matter may not be appropriate for younger children.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Healer (The Brides of Alba)

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Healer
Author: Linda Windsor
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult – 16+
Genre: Christian Historical Romance/Fantasy
# of pages 384
Publisher: David C. Cook
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a series If yes, 1 of ?? (Brides of Alba)
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with reservations (for an older audience)

Description: In the time of King Arthur, two families are at strife, the Gowrys and the O’Byrnes, driven by the greed and bitterness of one man, Tarlach O’Byrne. But, even his oppressive reign cannot stop the prophecy that his family will be divided. For twenty years, Brenna of Gowrys has been in hiding with her lone companion, a wolf. She has been waiting for the day the two clans will be reunited, and she can openly use the gift God bestowed on her, the gift of healing. When she finds a man of unknown origin injured and left for dead presumably by one of her own she uses her gift to nurse him back to health. But, an unexpected thing happens…she falls in love. Will their love be enough to fulfill the prophecy of peace before evil overtakes them all?

Review: Windsor did her homework thoroughly on researching the Medieval period and King Arthur, who also appears in the story. She provides definitions and character bios at the end for further reference. She does a remarkable job of storytelling using rich descriptions and building the characters of Brenna and Ronan as both well-rounded and enduring. The violence is fierce at times reminding us of the brutal spirit of the time period. The characters are passionate in love and conflict. But, however blessed and in God’s will Brenna and Ronan’s romance is within the story, it is still one for an older audience. Please use caution with those under age 16.

Rating: 2 for mature situations and violence

Positive: Brenna chooses to put God first and seeks Him in her decisions. Even though Tarlach, Ronan’s father and king of the O’Byrne clan, murders her family, she only shows him the love of Christ. Through her actions, God uses Brenna to change the lives of others.

Spiritual Elements: The Gowrys believe in and worship the one true, God. The Gowry women, Joanna and her daughter Brenna, are accused of witchcraft when in actuality they have the gift of healing, using only natural medicine and working miracles through the Holy Spirit. They also posses the gift of prophecy, hearing God speak to them through dreams and visions.

Many in the O’Byrne clan are superstitious and worship other gods including Tarlach’s daughter-in-law, Rhianon. She and her maid use dark magic to obtain what they want. Their dealings end up causing several to be possessed with demons. The other gods and the One true God are at odds with each other in the story. Scripture flows throughout.

Violence: The story begins with bloodshed as a jealous and vengeful Tarlach and his warriors come to claim what he believes is his, Joanna, queen of the Gowry’s clan. Tarlach beheads her husband and kills every other person that stands in the way. He even brings his young son, Ronan, to witness the massacre, which haunts Ronan for many years. In addition, there are suicides, burning of villages, and more blood shed.

Language: H*ll, d**n, by the gods.

Sexual Content: The O’Byrne brothers joke about Caden (the middle brother) and his wife Rhianon’s, reputation of being loud lovers. Sex is implied throughout the story but not described. Brenna is taught by other healers about the physical difference with men. As Brenna takes care of Ronan alone, she must deal with his nakedness maturely. She uses herbs to make him impotent in order to keep herself from harm since she doesn’t know if he is friend or foe yet. As he returns to health, they joke about this, but he is unaware that she has drugged him. They do fall in love but marry before anything happens between them.

Other: There are several mentions of ale, wine, and drunkenness, Caden goes into a drunken rage and fights Ronan.

Recommendation: The book deals with mature content. The scene with Brenna taking care of Ronan is a fairly long sequence. His anatomy is referred to on more than one occasion even though the author does a fine job of using descriptive yet not crude wording. It’s a coming of age story that deals with sexuality, and younger readers will probably not be ready for the subject matter. I think the book can be enjoyed more fully by an older audience, 16+.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shoot the Wounded

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Shoot the Wounded
Author: Lynn Dove
Primary Audience/age group: 13+
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction
# of pages 147
Publisher: Word Alive Press
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a series Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: Leigh and Veronica (aka Ronnie) have been best friends since childhood but their relationship grows strained as they enter high school. Ronnie begins spiraling down a wrong path, and Leigh isn’t quite sure what to do. They both befriend the new guy in town, Jake. But, even though he appears to be a nice Christian boy, he’s hiding a dark secret from his past. All are faced with tough choices that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Review: Shoot the Wounded is very indicative of what high school life can be for a teenager. The book deals with some very relevant issues and shows how the choices teens make even in high school can affect them for the rest of their lives. I like how the author portrays “real-life” dynamics in two very different Christian households and how parents can have a good relationship with their teenaged children even if they haven't had one before.

Rating: 3 for mature themes: teenage pregnancy, domestic violence

Positive: We see the dynamics of two families and how the relatioships the parents have with their teenaged children affect their children. Leigh’s parents are more restrictive than Ronnie’s, and Leigh comes to realize that they set boundaries for her own good. Ronnie sees the difference between her relationship with her parents and Leigh’s and envies what she doesn’t have. Many other topics are covered within the book including gossip and how damaging it can be, teenage pregnancy, and domestic violence, all issues that teenagers may face.

Spiritual Elements: Leigh, Ronnie, and Jake all attend church (or at least did at one point), but Ronnie starts down a rebellious path. Leigh tries to live a godly lifestyle and has the support of her parents to do so. Her mom prays with her. Jake moves into a mentor role for Ronnie as she’s struggling with the consequences of her choices. He is shown as having faults but tries to rely on God and His word to be a better person.

Violence: Ronnie is rejected and verbally abused by a guy she's been seeing. Jake smacks Ronnie when she threatens to kill herself.

Language: none

Sexual Content: See other

Other: Ronnie gains a rebellious reputation and is considered a “sleaze.” She sneaks out of her home, smokes, drinks, and is seen making out in a car at school.

Recommendation: Since the book deals with more mature themes I feel it is most appropriate for ages 13 and up. I think it would be an excellent book to read together with your teen and discuss some of the major themes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: Solitary
Author: Travis Thrasher
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Christian Horror
# Of pages: 392
Publisher: David C. Cook
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: From Amazon:
“His Loneliness Will Soon Turn to Fear….

When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces—and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together.

Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town itself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room or his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.

This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin—and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see.”

Review: Chris and Jocelyn are both searching for a faith that neither possess. Chris has rejected God as he believes that his father’s faith is the cause of the breakup of his parents’ marriage. Jocelyn knows of the faith of her parents and seeks reassurance from a God that she doesn’t know. She feels that there is something sinister at work in the small town of Solitary and has felt that evil has been stalking her ever since her parents died in a car crash when she was six.

The story moves quickly, with much of the action taking place in Chris’s mind. You can feel the frustration that Chris experiences as no one will talk about what is going on in the town, and Chris concludes that he can trust no one. The mysterious warning notes that show up in his locker, the unearthly cold that surrounds him in the woods around his house, the strange deserted cabin in the woods and the feeling that he is always being watched all serve to put him on high alert. There is hope, as Chris considers the Bible that his father gave him before the move…Maybe that is where to find the answers… The questions abound and answers are elusive…even at the end, which leaves plenty of loose ends to be tied up in a sequel…
Rating: 3 for violence

Positive: Chris is very respectful of his mother’s feelings and is very protective of her. He has made a pledge to himself to always respect girls. Chris also has a protective instinct which comes to the fore when he steps in to defend a younger student whom he doesn’t even know who has been set upon by bullies in his high school. Chris is totally dedicated to Jocelyn and completely loyal to her.

Spiritual Elements: Much Satanic activity was implied even though there was no overt reference to Satan. The smell of sulfur, a demon dog with glowing eyes, the total absence of any indication of the celebration of Christmas, the strange message from the pastor that counsels “Don’t fear darkness…Fear the light that tries to burn it out.”, a group of people wearing red robes attending a bonfire at night…all indicate a satanic presence. The faith of Chris’s father is a thorn in Chris’s side throughout the book, but in troubled times, Chris considers what he knew of his father’s faith and wonders if it might provide some guidance. Jocelyn’s parents were Christians before their deaths and Jocelyn is comforted by that fact. She also finds answers in the Bible that Chris gave to her.

Violence: There are repeated incidents of bullying throughout the story, even to the extent that Chris is knocked out, gagged, tied up and dumped in the hole underneath an abandoned cabin in the woods. Chris is attacked and bitten by a “demon dog” when trespassing on a neighbor’s property. Jocelyn is physically abused by Wade, a “step-uncle” with whom she lives. He slaps her across the face and she shows up later with a bruised face from a beating she received at his hands. There is another incident where Wade attacked her, tearing her blouse, and hinting at attempted rape. She denied that she had been raped.

Language: None. There is the mention of hell, but in reference to the place, and not used as a profanity.

Sexual Content: There are a number of times when Chris and Jocelyn kiss and one incident of Jocelyn reaching for Chris’s belt buckle, but he rebuffs her. Jocelyn’s aunt lives with Wade, who refers to himself as Jocelyn’s “step-uncle”, but is not married to him.

Other: Chris’s mother drinks heavily on a number of occasions, to the point of being incoherent or passing out. Chris and Jocelyn attend a party after a school dance where students are drinking beer.

Recommendation: I would recommend for high school and up due to the subject matter.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Case for Faith (Student Edition)

Reviewed by: Emily
Author: Lee Strobel (with Jane Vogel)
Title: The Case For Faith (student edition)
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: non-fiction
# Of pages: 95
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2002
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description (from book jacket): If God is loving, why does He allow so much suffering? If God is merciful, how could He torture people in H*ll? If God made the world, how do you explain evolution? It's not easy to believe in Christianity when questions like these tug at your heart–unless, of course there are answers... sound answers that don't just scratch the surface but satisfy you down deep... Lee Strobel knows how important it is to find answers that ring true. With his background as an award-winning legal journalist, asking tough questions has been his business... Join Lee in a fascinating journey of discovery. You'll gain powerful insights that will reshape your understanding of the Bible. And you'll read stories of people whose experiences demonstrate that faith in Jesus not only makes excellent sense, but a life changing difference.

Review: This is a fabulous book. Strobel concisely addresses many of the objections to Christianity, providing clear, logical explanations of why they need not destroy or prevent one's faith. He speaks in engaging language that can be easily understood by junior high and high school students. The book is rich with helpful charts and visuals, quotes from Bible scholars, philosophers, and scientists, and real life stories of God's work in people's lives. Strobel also encourages readers to put their faith in God and live their lives for Him. I have read this book a number of times at various points in my life, and been blessed by it each time.

Rating: 3, for brief discussion of the violence of 9/11 and one man's sexual sin.

Positive: Strobel provides clear logical evidence for the validity of the Christian faith. He provides many examples of the blessings individuals have reaped by placing their trust in God, as well as the good God has caused to come out of terrible situations. Strobel encourages readers to consider their own spiritual standing, in light of the evidence he presents, and decide to trust God, allowing Him to change their lives in amazing ways.

Spiritual Elements: In addition to discussing Christianity and quoting Bible verses, Strobel briefly discusses the beliefs of other major world religions and superstitions.

Violence: In discussing human suffering, Strobel describes some of the experiences of the 9/11 terrorist attack. While touching on some pretty graphic scenes, Strobel speaks with the objectiveness of a journalist and does not spend inordinate amounts of time describing the gruesome details.

Language: No inappropriate language.

Sexual Content: In describing a life of sin, Strobel mentions a man who is committing adultery.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend The Case for Faith(student edition) to anyone, junior high and above, that is considering a faith in God, struggling with doubts, or wants be prepared with answers when others challenge the validity of the Christian faith. The book is a valuable resource for Christians.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beween God & Me: A Journey Through Proverbs

By Reviewer Leeann N. Cronk
Author: Vicki Courtney
Primary Audience/age group: Girls ages 9-12
Genre: Nonfiction
# Of pages: 150
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? No (although other “issues” are available)
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description (from Amazon Product Description): Vicki Courtney speaks timeless truth to school-age girls in a modern language they understand. Her TeenVirtue and TeenVirtue: Confidential releases won ECPA Christian Book Awards while Between (for ages 8 to 12) landed on the industry’s young adult best seller list. Now, Between God and Me hits the “tween” scene with social talk that’s rooted in chapter-by-chapter wisdom from Proverbs. Amidst the cool, magazine-style photographs and colorful Q&A’s, kids will discover what’s not so cool about hanging with the wrong crowd, gossiping, being lazy or selfish, or having a bad temper. Girls will have all kinds of fun as they begin to understand that God has a greater purpose for their lives—even at this age

Review: I thought this was an engaging and thought-provoking book for pre-teen girls. It is an excellent Bible-study of the book of Proverbs that relates Old-Testament wisdom to modern day life. The publication tries to come across as “magazine-style”, but it really wasn't. The graphics and lay-out strive for this, but in reality I feel it is best read chronologically from front to back (unlike a real magazine with multiple articles and blurbs that can be read in any order). Additionally, the terminology “in this issue” is used (because there are other “Between” publications) which led me to further expect a traditional magazine-style read. When I began reading, it took me a while to get over the fact that it wasn't really a magazine – at least not the kind of magazine I was used to. Once I realized I was dealing with a Bible-study for young girls and started viewing it through that lens, I was able to appreciate it for all that it has to offer. I feel the lessons and thought provoking questions were excellent and that it had a lot to offer for girls in the upper-end of elementary school and into middle-school or junior-high. Girls who enjoy reading and answering questions on their own will probably get into the format and get a lot out of it. For less self-motivated girls, it would be an excellent tool to use in group settings.

Rating: 5

Positive: This book is full of positive, Christian-based encouragement for young girls. Every idea presented is Biblical, and it is an excellent resource for parents and/or teachers.

Spiritual Elements: This publication is full of spiritual insight that is based strictly on Biblical principles.

Violence: None

Language: None (unless you're offended by the term “poopy turds”. The author used this term to describe a disgusting habit her dog has).

Sexual Content: None

Other: Real-life situations where people do not live up to God's standards are relayed, but always against the conversation of what God wants us to be doing instead of what we might actually be doing

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to girls between the ages of 9 and 12. It would be especially useful in a Sunday-school or Bible-study setting.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Asking for Trouble

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Asking for Trouble
Author: Sandra Byrd
Primary Audience/age group: 10+
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 2 (London Confidential)
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: Fifteen year old Savvy has recently moved to London from America and finds that her new home is quite different: fashion, culture, and “proper” English. When a position on the school newspaper opens up, Savvy thinks this is just the right place for her to belong. But, without the experience, she has to come up with a way to show the very cute editor that she has the right stuff without making a spectacle of her American self. But, will she be able to stick to her Christian principles and still fit in?

Review: Asking for Trouble is a light-hearted read that shows how 15-year old Savvy is able to adjust to life as an American teenager in London. She struggles with being the outsider in a new country and with leaving her old friends behind at first. But, God leads her through these struggles and grows her in her faith along the way. One of my favorite aspects of the book is when Savvy learns some new “proper” British terms. It was fun to see the two cultures collide. All in all, Savvy is a very likeable character who is able to do the right thing in the end.

Rating: 5

Positive: At first Savvy lies about her writing experience in order to be on the newspaper but is given the opportunity anyway to prove herself. She seeks God’s guidance on the Advice Column she’s writing and is even able to sneak tidbits of Bible truth into her responses.

Spiritual Elements: Savvy prays to God for wisdom, and she uses the Bible as a guide for writing her articles.

Violence: none

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other: none

Recommendation: I would recommend this book as a fun, light read. Even though Savvy’s character is older, I think younger children would still be able to identify with her and enjoy the book. I recommend ages 10 and up.

Monday, September 13, 2010

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
Author: Lynne Rae Perkins
Primary Audience/age group: Middle school and up
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# Of pages: 352
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. This pretty much sums up the start of 16-year-old Ry’s summer. As Ry is on a train heading for a summer camp program in the middle of the Montana wilderness, he comes across an unopened envelope from the camp marked “Urgent” which he had simply stuck in his luggage and forgotten. Upon opening it, he finds that summer camp has been cancelled. He tries to call his grandfather who is dog sitting in their new home in Wisconsin while his parents go off on a Caribbean vacation. Of course there is no reception on the train, so when a mechanical problem delays the train he steps off to see if he can get through to him. As he seeks a spot where he might be able to make the call, he notices that the train appears to be moving…and indeed it is, leaving him in who-knows-where Montana. One catastrophe after another ensues with virtually every character (even the dogs) in this novel, leaving the reader somewhat breathless, and highly entertained. Will Ry ever be reunited again with his family?

Review: This book was fun to read. The point of view changes as we follow our hero through his wild adventure across the United States and to the Caribbean. Even his dogs put in their two cents worth... but the dog version of what is going on is done in pictures. (What? You thought dogs could read and write??) Although the coincidences in the story are totally unbelievable, it doesn’t make you shake you head in disbelief and toss the book aside. It’s way too entertaining for that.

Rating: 4 for mild language

Positive: Ry learns a lot from his rescuer, Del. Del tends to be the white knight that comes to the rescue whenever needed and will literally give you the shirt off his back. He is not afraid to work with his hands and displays an optimistic attitude about pretty much everything. Ry picks up on this and by the end has found satisfaction in helping out wherever he can. It’s a good lesson in “love your neighbor”.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: None

Language: There were some mild language issues in this book.

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: Even though Ry was 16 years old, I would not hesitate to recommend it to middle school and up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Reviewed by: Rachel
Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Primary Audience/age group: 12 and up
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 398
Publisher: Scholastic
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series?: 3 out of 3 the Hunger Games Series
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? No

Review of Hunger Games (Book 1) and Catching Fire (Book 2)

Description: After surviving the Hunger Games twice, Katniss takes part in a rebellion against the Capitol and becomes “The Mockingjay” the symbol of the uprising. She struggles as she tries to unite the districts and give them the passion they need to fight no matter what the circumstance. With every step things get harder, people get hurt and die, and she starts to lose hope, beginning to ask herself if the rebels can really bring down the Capitol.

Review: The first two books captured my interest, and I couldn’t stop reading them. This book, however, was really slow and was about one thing- war. Either they were talking about war strategy or they were in war. Katniss ends up in the hospital so many times that after her first four visits the reader just hopes that she will stay in there because she is going to end up back in a hospital bed anyway. It wasn’t like the first two books at all, and I have to say I was really disappointed at the lack of Peeta- Katniss moments.

Rating: 2 for violence

Positive: Katniss loves her family and her friends and they are willing to do anything for each other. District two doesn’t join the rebellion at first and a few people just want to blow them up but Katniss refuses, telling them there has to be some other way. She cares about human life, and doesn’t want unnecessary losses.

Spiritual Elements: none.

Violence: Unlike the first book where Collins keeps the violence to a minimum, there is a great amount in The Mockingjay. People are decapitated, burned alive, stabbed and shot… oh and blown up. A bunch of planes come by and bomb a hospital full of men, women, and children. They all die. President Snow uses hundreds of children as a human shields. Without any hesitation, the rebels blow up the children and Collins says that the streets are littered with human body parts and blood. Many people are tortured. The book doesn’t describe this in detail, but we know that one girl was soaked and then they would pulse electrical charges through her body. They also torture one boy by cutting off his fingers and toes. At one point a characters legs are blown off, and he dies soaked in his own blood. Katniss is so depressed that a couple of times she contemplates suicide. At one point she even makes an attempt to kill herself.

Language: none

Sexual Content: There is a little bit of kissing, but not as much as in the other books. It is said that after the Hunger Games, if the winner is good looking, the Capitol would sell “their bodies” to people. Finnick admit that this is what happened to him.

Other: Haymitch is still a drunk and at one point drinks himself unconscious.

Recommendation: I do not recommend this book. There were parts were I grimaced at the violence. Of course war is violent, but Collins doesn’t try to save us from the gore like in the other books. Spoiler: It was very depressing and so many of the characters died that you are sad by the time you are done reading it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Earth Is Not Alone

Reviewed By: Angi
Title: Earth Is Not Alone
Author: John Knapp II
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 13+
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 500
Publisher: Ephemeron Press
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes, part of The Emryss Chronicles
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: After a terrible tragedy, a parent-teacher-student confrontation leads to the discovery of two new worlds. This occurs in the "Susquehanna Territory" in northeastern PA in a future time in the 21st century when EMP has mysteriously destroyed all electrical power--presumably worldwide. To survive, with circumstances much better in a rural area, a "wall" has been built to keep away outsiders as mayhem occurs everywhere. There's a strong suspicion of some encounter with another world. Atheistic honor vies against Christian honor in the P-T-S confrontation, and the role Christian faith plays, and the "missionary" responsibility (if any is appropriate) has to be carefully considered. Curious old stories must be investigated and set alongside the Bible. Several young romances occur, and life-and-death decisions can't be avoided. The possibility of a one-way trip to another world looms. If you could go, would you? And what would you say? What would you do? Such affect the choices that two high school seniors must make.

Review: I love the premise of this book, EMP destroys life as we know it and life goes on in a much different way. Earth Is Not Alone is a clean read for teens and adults who like science fiction and stories of other worlds, or the possibility there of. There is much to consider when reading the story and possibilities are far-fetched, but being science fiction – I find it allowable and thought provoking.

Rating: 5

Positive: Good morals and Christian ideals are promoted throughout the book.

Spiritual Elements: The author is a Christian whose desire is that you daily read the Bible and follow God in every part of your life. Jesus as God’s Son is spoken about frequently and a few of the main characters try to get one skeptic to take a step of faith and believe.

Violence: None

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Recommendation: Earth Is Not alone is an interesting and clean book that I can recommend to all readers. I feel that it is better suited, due to the complexity of the material to those 13 and older. It is a creative book and was very interesting and full of adventure. However, I did not particularly enjoy the authors writing style. I found it to bogged down with excessive details, choppy writing going back and forth from back story to current time often, with the author even having to write notes to the reader to explain what is going on.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saffy's Angel

Reviewed by: Emily, 16
Title: Saffy's Angel
Author: Hilary McKay
Primary Audience/age group: 8-12
Genre: realistic fiction
# Of pages: 152
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series?: yes (but it can stand alone)
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, but with reservations

Description: The Casson children, Caddy, Saffy, Indigo, and Rose, live a exciting, somewhat eccentric life with their artist parents. When Saffy (the third Casson) makes a startling discovery, her life is changed. She feels lost, unsure of whom she is. After the death of her grandfather, who she was very close to, Saffy, with the help of her new friend Sarah, sets out to find "her angel" Grandad left her in his will. On her quest for her angel, Saffy also finds herself.

Review: I loved reading this book. The characters are endearing and kept me laughing throughout the book. The story flows well and keeps the reader interested. Overall, I thought it was excellently written and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4

Positive: Family is portrayed as very important in the book. Caddy, Indigo, and Rose are supportive of their brothers and sisters always encouraging, helping, and looking out for each other. Many of the characters go to great lengths to help one another. Saffyís friend, Sarah and her family try not to be limited by Sarah's physical disability. Indigo courageously attempts to overcome his fears. Caddy starts to take school seriously and works very hard.

Spiritual Elements: Spirituality is at a minimum. Saffy is on a search for her mysterious angel, left to her by her grandfather. Her mother suggests it could be a real angel, her guardian angel. One character mentions that someone told her squirrels go to heaven. A funeral is held in a church.

Violence: Mild. Most of the violence in the book comes from Caddy, who is struggling with learning how to drive. Saffy is also run over by a wheel chair, but is not seriously injured. Saffy throws sandwiches at a taxi. Small arguments provide the only other violent content.

Language: One use of "Crikey" (euphemism for Christ)

Sexual Content: Saffy's 18 year old sister Caddy and Caddy's driving instructor are romantically attracted to each other. Their relationship never gets physical. They don't go beyond calling each other "darling" and Michael admiring Caddy's looks. However, it is mentioned that Caddy buys a very tight and very, very short dress to wear to her driving lessons. Briefly touched on is the fact that no one knows who one of the character's father is, implying an inappropriate relationship. Another character's father teaches them to play an inappropriate game involving rating backsides on a scale from one to ten, but this game is labeled as inappropriate in the text.

Other: I greatly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it, with some reservations. While a beautifully written and hilarious book with a number of positive themes, Saffy's Angel has two major drawbacks. The character of Saffy's father loves his family, but is portrayed as somewhat insensitive and often absent. Additionally, deception is common amongst the characters, mostly the children, but also some of the adults. This deception is not always marked as a wrong. These issues are subtle (younger readers may not pick up on some of them), but they are there. (In some of the books companion novels, the negative themes are more obvious). Although it is recommended for 8-12 year olds, I think it can be enjoyed by, and indeed may be more appropriate for children on the higher end of this age group, as well as teenagers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood

By Reviewer: Dianne
Author: Jame Richards
Primary Audience/age group: Middle School + up
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 289
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes!

Description: (From the book cover) Sixteen-year-old Celestia vacations with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the superficial cheer and sly judgments of the society crowd, she much prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret - her parents would never approve- and when companionship turns to romance, it’s a love that could get Celestia disowned.

These affairs of the heart become all the more wrenching on a single, tragic day in May, 1889. After days of heavy rain, the dam fails, unleashing twenty million tons of water onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the valley below – the town where Peter lives with his father.

Told by multiple narrators, Jame Richards’s searing novel in poems explores a cross-class romance, the random hand of disaster, and a tragic and indelible event in American history.

Review: This is a gem of a book. Written in verse, this historical fiction captures the feeling of the times as well as the emotions of the characters. I came to care about each and every one of them.

High society tended to be a snobbish lot and spent a lot of time looking down their noses at anyone that did not have the credentials and deportment that they deemed necessary to fit into their social class. Thus Celestia’s family was on the lower fringe of their acceptable list, and was always susceptible to gossip mongering and condescending looks. Celestia compounded the problem by not caring about being accepted into their clique. She found the company of Peter, a hired hand at the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, much more intriguing than the members of polite society that regularly vacationed there. A romance ensues that is promptly nipped in the bud by her parents, but not before tongues start wagging. A greater tragedy tears this family apart and yet brings it closer as a failing dam wreaks a disaster of devastating proportions on an unsuspecting valley below.

Rating: 4

Positive: Although Celestia’s family appears to be solely interested in maintaining outward appearances, it becomes evident that the welfare of their daughters is really the most important consideration in their lives. Celestia has a deep love for her sister, even though they are very different.

The folks in the valley are hard working, family loving characters that go out of their way to lend a helping hand to others.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: The violence in this book is that wrought by the flood.

Language: None

Sexual Content: Celestia’s sister, Estrella becomes pregnant by a high society scoundrel who frequents the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club. There is no elaboration of their relationship, but her pregnancy is an integral part of the story.

Other: Whiskey is mentioned in passing.

Recommendation: This book was a gentle and fascinating look at a difficult time, intertwined with a winning romance story. I would recommend it to any fan of historical fiction, especially if you are also a fan of poetry. It is entirely appropriate for middle school and up. 12+

Friday, August 6, 2010

Boyfriends, Burriotos, & an Ocean of Trouble

By Reviewer Carol
Author: Nancy Rue
Primary Audience/age group: 13-17
Genre: Realistic fiction
# Of pages: 222 p.
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 2 of 4 (Real Life series)
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Taken from the review published in Christian Library Journal, August 2010

Description: In Boyfriends, Burritos, & an Ocean of Trouble, Bryn has been good at keeping secrets, even about her boyfriend’s abusive behavior. When a car accident reveals the truth and unleashes trouble as her friends don’t believe her, her world unravels. Her grandmother arrives to help her live through the process of going to court and teaches her how to surf and make Mexican cuisine. She also finds a mysterious book that could hold the secret to riding out the tidal wave her life has become since the car accident

Review: I liked the book. The author presents a teen series dealing with real-life issues while providing a wholesome alternative to popular literature. Realistic dialogue and narrative help the reader empathize with Bryn’s struggles. She starts as a lonely teen, because she has presented a façade to the world around her. The other characters are also flawed, facing their own personal troubles. She loses some “friends” when she decides to tell the truth about her boyfriend but gains a new life. This is the second book in the series, and I have enjoyed passing them onto several girls, both middle school and high school age.

Rating: 4 due to mild language, some drinking by teens (not Bryn), and some violence (abuse)

Positive: The books end on a hopeful note for Bryn as she gains a new maturity and spiritual grounding through the discovery of Yeshua (Jesus).

Spiritual Elements: The spiritual tone is a gentle one, and readers will not find themselves being preached at as they follow along in the girls’ journey.

Violence: None, except Bryn has been abused by her boyfriend in the recent past. She ends up in the hospital (opening chapter) and decides to bring charges.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None. The dating relationship was essentially over when the accident happened.

Other: Tough issues are mentioned in these books: abusive relationships. It is presented in a matter-of-fact way, allowing the reader to put themselves in their shoes.

Recommendation: for 13-17 year olds to read and pass on to their friends. Recommended for all middle school and high school teens, ages 13 to 18.

Motorcyles, Sushi, & One Strange Book

By Reviewer Carol
Title: Motorcycles, Sushi, & One Strange Book
Author: Nancy Rue
Primary Audience/age group: 13-17
Genre: Realistic fiction
# Of pages: 222
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4 (Real Life Series)
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Taken from the review published in Christian Library Journal, August 2010

Description: In Motorcycles, Sushi, & One Strange Book, fifteen year old Jessie deals with her own ADHD and her mother’s bipolar disorder while trying to determine how her long-lost father now fits in her life. He wants to be a part of her life, and her mother is seeking treatment and unable to care for her. So she has to make new friends while adjusting to life with her father who lives in another state. She also finds a mysterious book that seems to echo her thoughts and helps her sort through the issues of her life.

Review: I liked the book. The author presents a teen series dealing with real-life issues while providing a wholesome alternative to popular literature. Realistic dialogue and narrative help the reader empathize with Jessie’s struggles. She starts as a lonely teen, because she has presented a façade to the world around her. The other characters are also flawed, facing their own personal demons.

Rating: 5

Positive: The books end on a hopeful note for Jessie as she gains a new maturity and spiritual grounding through the discovery of Yeshua (Jesus). Tough issues mentioned in these books: unwed pregnancy, mental illness, ADHD, and abuse. They are presented in a matter-of-fact way, allowing the reader to put themselves in their shoes.

Spiritual Elements: The spiritual tone is a gentle one, and readers will not find themselves being preached at, as they follow along in the girls’ journey.

Violence: None

Language: None

Sexual Content: None. Jessie starts to date a boy but it is a more slow-moving friendship than a romantic relationship, which is appropriate as she works through things.

Other: Tough issues mentioned in these books: unwed pregnancy, mental illness, and ADHD. They are presented in a matter-of-fact way, allowing the reader to put themselves in their shoes.

Recommendation: for 13-17 year olds to read and pass on to their friends.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


By Reviewer Sarah, 18
Title: Beast
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Primary Audience/age group: 14+
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 260
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2000
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? No

Description: (from book jacket) Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.

Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own redemption.

Rating: 3 for violence and sexual content

Positive: Although Prince Orasmyn becomes well, animal-like, once he becomes a lion, we are able to see from the beginning of the book that he does have a kind heart. The “foolish choice” he makes is only to save a stable boy from punishment. When a spirit comes to punish Orasmyn, he takes the punishment willing, only wanting to save the stable boy’s innocent oversight from being discovered. Orasmyn’s parents are devastated when their son disappears and prepare a room for his return in Persian fashion. Their care for him is touching. Belle has a very kind and patient heart and enjoys giving things to others – even the wild beast who took her from her home.

Spiritual Elements: Orasmyn’s home is Islamic – so the Five Pillars, Qur’an, wudhu, rakat, and other Islam traditions (as well as some ancient Persian beliefs) are frequently mentioned and performed by Orasmyn. There is a small chapel in his castle (where he stays as a lion). Belle’s father prays there in Latin, and Belle follows suit when she comes. After observing Orasmyn, she also performs the rakat with him.

Violence: As a human, Orasmyn despises violence. When he becomes a lion, though, he must hunt to survive. There are several descriptions of taking down prey, tearing them

Sexual Content: After becoming a lion, Orasmyn meets and mates with two lionesses. I understand Napoli wanted to show the stuggle between his human and animal nature, but Belle rides him to town and he mentions how the “heat of her legs” intoxicates him. He knocks her to the ground during a playful water fight but restrains his animal nature. There are several other mentions to his flesh being aroused. A pair of lovers sneaks into his castle to make love, but run away when he roars.

Recommendation: I love fairy tale retellings and was excited when I saw this one. This book is well-written, portraying the struggle that goes on inside Orasmyn. A prince of high character who carefully follows the Islamic religion, he is unsure what to do when his new mind as a lion takes control. This struggle makes the story (and as Christians could be a metaphor for our struggle against our sin nature).

However, since the book is written from Orasmyn’s view we are allowed into his debased thoughts. The sexual references were un-necessary. When he mated with the two lionesses, that was too much for me. There are better fairy tale retellings – as well as “Beauty and the Beast” retellings – out there. I would recommend picking up "Beauty" by Robin McKinley or "Belle" by Cameron Dokey for an enjoyable summer read and as an alternative to this book.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Would Die for You

By Reviewer Leeann N. Cronk
Title: I Would Die For You: One Student's Story of Passion, Service and Faith
Author: Brent & Deanna Higgins
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adults/Adults
Genre: Biography
# Of pages: 224
Publisher: Revell
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4  (View Scale)
Recommend? Absolutely!

Description (From Book Jacket): BJ Higgins loved God with everything he had and worked passionately to bring God's love to the whole world. He believed in using the opportunities God gave him and boldly shared the gospel wherever he went. BJ's life on earth ended after a six-week battle with an infection contracted on the mission field.

He was just fifteen years old.

I Would Die For You tells the extraordinary story of an ordinary young man. BJ's journals and blogs, along with testimony from family and friends, reveal a young man whose short life left an impression on many – including Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe, who wrote and recorded a song to honor him.

BJ put the cause of Christ above his own personal comfort. This powerful true story will amaze, inspire and challenge you to live every day making a difference for God.

Review: This is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Many stories are “inspiring”, but I found this one actually inspired me to be a better person. Reading about BJ and his heart for God showed me how much further I have to go in my walk with Christ. He was such a young person who had such an exceptional desire to seek and listen to God's will for his life. The book is written by his parents with lots of excerpts from BJ's personal journals (which really showed his heart for Christ), interviews with friends and families, blog posts and even an IM chat. Periodically this format made for slightly choppy reading, but was probably the best way to share the full story with readers. BJ is my favorite kind of person – one who would do anything to bring another person closer to Christ. While he was living, BJ indicated that he would gladly give his life to further the Kingdom of God, and that is exactly what he did. God chose to use this young man in many ways throughout his short life and God is not finished with BJ's story. Through his death, BJ's inspiring faith is shared with the readers of this book. The song by the same name performed by MercyMe was inspired by BJ and has also touched many and encouraged them to - like BJ - really assess what it means to live your life for Christ.

Rating: 4 for violence.

Positive: BJ and his family are such positive, Christian role models. They are not without flaws and openly shared these flaws with others, but their overwhelming desire to bring others to Christ is tremendous.

Spiritual Elements: Most of the members of BJ's family were involved in Christian ministry in one form or another. His grandfather was a pastor, his dad was a deacon and was eventually called into the ministry, his mother taught at a Christian academy and the entire family did a lot of mission work. BJ's most powerful experiences occurred on mission trips to Peru.

Violence: BJ's sickness, time in the hospital, and eventual death may bother sensitive readers, but I thought it was handled very well.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to further their own walk with Christ. It is a very engaging and inspirational story that challenges each one of us to truly live our lives for Christ and put Him first in everything we do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of the Survivors

By Reviewer Dianne

Title: One of the Survivors
Author: Susan Shaw
Primary Audience/age group: Middle School
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# Of pages: 199
Publisher: Margaret K. Elderberry Books
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, but with reservations

Description: Joey Campbell endures survivor’s guilt when he and his best friend Maureen are the only two to survive a disastrous fire that swept through their history class during the last month of his high school freshman year. To complicate matters, other students accuse him of setting the fire since he “knew” to get out of the classroom. He becomes the target of taunts of “murderer” and suffers rocks and garbage being hurled at his house until his father resorts to building a fence around the property. He retreats, becoming a prisoner in his own house and only releasing his emotions in a journal and through his art work.

Review: Although this novel seems to target young teens, the writing and dialogue tend to be more appropriate for a much younger audience, yet I would not recommend this to anyone younger simply because of the subject matter. The protagonist is fourteen years old, but I had a hard time thinking of him as being any older than eleven or twelve.

I found this to be a rather disturbing story, with descriptions of Joey’s dead classmates as they were brought out of the burning building.

Rating: 4 for mild language

Positive: Joey and Maureen hold a fierce loyalty to each other. Joey works through his past experiences and struggles with the memory of his mother’s death in a fire in the recent past to emerge a stronger and more stable person. He eventually is able to convince others through his artwork that he had nothing to do with the fire. In the end he has grown strong enough to go back to his same high school.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: Most of The violence takes place in the form of harassment and mental cruelty. There is one incidence where Joey is surrounded by a number of students who have plans to beat him up (or worse).

Language: The history teacher swears, using the word “h*ll” a couple of times, which Joey remarks on…that his mother would not approve.

Sexual Content: None

Other: Joey mentioned that he tried pot once. It made him sick and he avoided it after that. Joey did sneak cigarettes from time to time.

Recommendation: There is nothing so wrong with this that I would say to avoid it, but there isn’t anything compelling that would make me suggest it to a young reader either. If a young teen was dealing with the issue of survivor’s guilt, it might be a compelling read, but the mixed issues of age appropriateness might make it difficult.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer

By Reviewer Carol
Title: Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer
Author: John Grisham
Primary Audience/age group: 10-16 years
Genre: Mystery
# Of pages: 263
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of ?
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes!

Taken from the review published in the Christian Library Journal, August 2010.

Description: Theodore Boone is the 13 year old son of lawyer parents. Theodore (or Theo as he is sometimes called) knows every judge, police officer, and court clerk in town. He dreams of being a trial lawyer someday. Theo finds himself unexpectedly in the middle of a sensational murder trial, where he is the only one who knows the truth about a key witness. Without that witness, the killer will go free. But there are complications to bringing that witness to court.

In the meantime, others – friends, classmates, even adults Theo knows – come to him for legal advice and referrals because of his in-depth knowledge about the law and his connections to other lawyers. One is his friend since kindergarten whose divorcing parents are fighting over her custody; another had a brother who was picked up for drug possession, and another whose house was being foreclosed and the family was facing eviction.

Review: Grisham, a well-known author in legal mysteries, has crafted a plot and characters that draw in the reader. Theo is a likeable kid who wants to see justice served and the truth known. He knows the limits and boundaries of the law.

Readers will enjoy the twists and turns, as they try to solve the mystery in this legal thriller. Plot twists and plenty of action make this an excellent choice for readers in fifth grade and up.

Rating: 4 due to mention of drug use by the brother of a friend and mild violence (the murder),

Positive: Theo wants to help his friends and stays within the law to do so. He struggles with protecting the identity of a witness, knowing if the witness testifies, the witness is at risk for deportation. He wants to see justice done and the truth to prevail. He knows that if the witness doesn’t testify, a killer will go free.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: None – there is a murder but it is only mentioned, not described in detail.

Language: Clean

Sexual Content: None

Other: Theodore Boone, kid lawyer is the first work by well-known author John Grisham into young adult literature. It is a wonderful legal drama for younger readers with the characteristics of his other works: a legal thriller with suspense told by a skilled storyteller

Recommendation: Recommended for 10-16 years old. Boys and girls should like this new mystery series!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Heretic's Daughter

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Primary Audience/age group: Adult
Genre: Historical fiction
# Of pages: 332 (plus extra features)
Publisher: Back Bay Books (Little, Brown)
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, for mature teens

Description: (from book cover)”In 1752, Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter, revealing the secret she has closely guarded for six decades….Her story begins more than a year before the Salem witch trials, when nine-year-old Sarah and he family arrive in a New England community already gripped by superstition and fear. As they witness neighbor pitted against neighbor, friend against friend, hysteria escalates – until more than 200 men, women, and children have been swept into prison. Among them is Sarah’s mother, Martha Carrier. In an attempt to protect her children, Martha asks Sarah to commit an act of heresy – a lie that will most surely condemn Martha even as it will save her daughter.”

Review: I don’t like the description of this book on the cover because it tries to give a “mysterious” slant to the story, like there’s some huge secret that is key to the plot. (Spoiler) There’s not. But that doesn’t make this book have less impact on the reader. It is a straightforward, moving account of what it would have been like to be on the receiving end of the witch hunt hysteria in Salem, and of how a family tries to hold together despite circumstances. Kent is a descendant of one of the women hanged as a witch, and this novel gives good insight into an unhappy period in American history.

Rating: 2, for violence and a little sexual content

Recommend: Yes, for mature teens

Positive: Sarah’s parents have great love and respect for each other. Even when he knows his wife is condemned, Sarah’s father won’t try to rescue her because he respects her decision to maintain her innocence rather than falsely admit guilt to save her life. That family devotion extends to the siblings as well. Tom, especially, shows himself to be a rock of the family.

Spiritual Elements: Sarah’s parents don’t agree with the Puritan establishment. Although they attend meeting because it is expected in the social structure, it’s clear to the community they are dissenters. Naturally, there is mention of Satan’s influence on the women who were accused of being witches and their victims.

Violence: Sarah, at age 10, spends several months in terrible prison conditions. A reader who is squeamish won’t much like the details of those conditions. There is also description of some of the torture methods the courts used to get people to confess to being witches, and I found that disturbing, especially knowing this isn’t something Kent made up for the book. Several people – and two dogs – are hanged as witches.

Language: There are a few instances of vulgar language, but not a lot.

Sexual Content: Sarah is exposed to sex through living on a farm, so there are a few mentions of her becoming aware of humans doing what the animals do. Most of the sexual content comes through the subplot of a servant who is trying to seduce Sarah’s brother so she can trap him into marrying her (and therefore raise her social status). When she (falsely) tells Sarah’s mother she’s pregnant, Sarah’s mother insists on examining her to know for sure. I found that scene sort of gross, but not to the point of being offensive.

Other: Sarah’s family has a chip on their shoulders toward outsiders. Her mother is very sharp-tongued, and gets into conflict with neighbors by refusing to budge on her position. Everyone is afraid of Sarah’s father because rumor says he was the executioner of King Charles I. Sarah herself is stubborn and vengeful at times, which leads to enmity with some local girls that later comes back to haunt her. I can’t help thinking their story might have had a different outcome if they had used a “soft answer [to] turn away wrath.”

Rating: 2, for some sexual content and violence

Recommendation: Yes, for mature teens