My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy.
I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).
Hi, there! I’m so glad you decided to stop by Stephanie’s Ninth Suitcase! This is an eclectic website, part portfolio (showcasing my freelance writing), part puns (for your groaning pleasure), part personal reflection and part random question/ conversation starter. My current emphasis, however, is Book Reviews.
Why I Review
As a voracious reader and a library professional, I have had the opportunity to gain insight into the current publishing climate.
And I’m more than a little troubled by the content I see lining the shelves, even in the Children’s and YA’s section. In a time when walking through a library (one of my very favorite things to do) can feel like strolling through a minefield, my goal is to point readers toward content that is wholesome and truthful.
What I Review
The grand majority of the books I review are explicitly Christian, as I have found that the probability of a book containing questionable content goes way up, if a book is not Christian. (I have observed this, sadly, even in children’s books.)
- As a reader and reviewer, my first objective is purity. Regardless of how well a book is written or how interesting it is, I will not be recommending titles that glorify sexual impurity (i.e., premarital sex, homosexuality) or that feature a lot of graphic romantic content.
- While I’m happy to recommend a light, clean romance, I am especially looking for books that also minister God’s truth! Jesus taught in parables and I learned, from a young age, that one of the key ways He speaks to me is through stories, particularly allegory.
How I Review
For each review I post, I provide a recommendation status.
Oftentimes, the recommendation status includes a “reservation” or “content” note. If a book is recommended with a reservation, it may be because I did not agree with all of the arguments the author made, or because of some slightly questionable content. If I recommend a book with a reservation, I provide context in the Content section, to help readers make an informed decision.
Because Content I Flag (see below) is very specific to me (social justice is very important to me as is purity), most books will probably have some content flagged. Less content/ nature of the content will determine the score I give.
- Highly Recommended (5 stars)
- Highly Recommended books tend to be lower on objectionable content, or I feel that the content included does not change my recommendation. These books tend to be both well-written and (what I consider to be) wholesome.
- Recommended, Reader Discretion (4 stars)
- Four star books are most likely higher in flagged content, and/ or I may feel that the books message/ writing do not compensate for the content included.
- Overall, I am more likely to “ding” a book for questionable content than for quality of writing. However, if a book has a lot of typos, I will not award it five stars.
- Reader Discretion (3 stars)
- Titles that are marked only as “Reader Discretion” are not books that I would actively recommend. A book may receive this rating due to numerous instances of flagged content, questionable overarching themes or a lack of Christian content (since I look for Christian books, not just clean books).
- As a note, for books in the 3-4 star range, there is a good chance that I would recommend these books by comparison. That is, I would likely recommend these titles over books that are not Christian, particularly to readers who are not Christian. These are also quite likely books that I did enjoy reading. However, because purity is the main emphasis of my blog, I am really looking for titles that I feel confident recommending to others, bearing in mind that different people have different levels of comfort.
- Not Recommended (1-2 stars)
- These are books that I quite possibly did not finish, due to unexpected inappropriate content. This may be based on either repetitive content or one specific scene. If I rate a book this low, I cannot recommend it even by comparison.
Content I Flag
As someone who values purity, I occasionally start reading a book, then have to stop because of unexpected content. My goal, in flagging content, is to reduce/eliminate those unsavory surprises. With that said, I do my best to avoid spoilers, whenever possible. I may make a note about an event in the plot, but I won’t flesh it out unnecessarily.
I consider a book to be “clean” if kissing is minimal/ not described in intense detail. I will flag content that is more intense than light, innocent kissing, although I will also factor in whether a behavior is being praised or critiqued. If a book’s romantic content makes me “feel gross,” I will not be recommending that book.
On a similar note, I will be flagging instances of objectification (male and female) when they stand out to me. The Lord convicted me about objectifying men (which I describe in my blog post “The Value Game”) and I think the objectification of men by women is more likely to slip under the radar..
Racial/ Oppressive Content
I will flag content that perpetuates racial injustice, including content that praises our nation’s oppressive origins (i.e., content that praises colonization and conquest, or that suggests that systemic injustice is a thing of the past.)
Use of the Lord’s name in vain
I will flag this content, even colloquially.
This is a bit subjective, but I may flag content that seems inappropriate / questionable for its intended age group. (This applies to books in the children’s/ middle grade age range, as I probably won’t be finishing books that are not appropriate even for a YA audience.)
I plan to flag LGBTQ content, as I do uphold the biblical definition of marriage. As a note, I will not intentionally read books that affirm these lifestyles (i.e., through the inclusion of major characters/ romantic plotlines). If this plays a significant role in the plot, I will not finish. I will note minor references that occur within a plot.
I’m not reading books as an editor. However, if I notice multiple obvious typos, (and I read the final book, not an ARC), I do feel the need to mention typos, as I do not feel comfortable endorsing a project that feels unfinished.
Books that I Don’t Recommend
If I read a book with the intention of reviewing it but cannot in any way endorse the title (1-2 stars) I will either not review the book, or I will make it clear that I do not recommend the title. My first choice would be not to review, but there are certain instances where I am agreeing to review the book, even negatively, by receiving a copy. Therefore, book reviews do not necessarily constitute an endorsement.
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