Friday, December 7, 2007

Flying Home by Rachel Ann Nunes




Since this book's release, I was interested to read it. I've read several of Rachel's book, but this one is written for the national market--published by the Shadow Mountain imprint by Deseret Book.

Compared to her other novels, Rachel really delved into the characterization in this book (which I really like). I think many LDS genre books are way too short--too short to hold an intriguing plot and too short to fully develop more than one character.

The story is about a woman, Liana, who was adopted as a child by her relatives. She doesn't why she continues to have nightmares and flashes of memories about her childhood. Her parents were both killed in a plane crash in India.

At first glance the premise was interesting, but I wondered what could really be so shocking when she goes to her parents gravesite. Well, I was very surprised and didn't see the twist coming.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the country of India--in fact Rachel did all the descriptions very well, from Las Vegas area to a farm in Wyoming.

There are no obvious LDS characters in this book, no conversion story to God, but it is one woman's story of coming to grips with her past and finally accepting where she came from.

Hunting Gideon

My first impression of Hunting Gideon when I got it in the post was “Scrawny!” It is indeed a thin book, only 175 pages, but the typeface is smaller and the lines are closer together than on the pages of the average Covenant product. That’s because Hunting Gideon is not your average Covenant product, having been published by the newer and smaller Zarahemla Books. No worries, though, the reading experience remains comfortable for the eyes. And my second, lasting impression, by the way, is “Fast, funny, and fervently recommended!”

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book. I couldn’t put it better myself, so I’ll just copy it here.

Tracking hackers and crackers for the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center looks like a vivid video game to an outsider, but the outcome of the play is deadly serious. Through her online feline avatar, Sekhmet, Sue Anne Jones stalks the V-net, the ultimate virtual-reality interface, in pursuit of evil in all its online forms. Her partner, ex-cracker Loren Hunter, provides synical commentary along with his expertise in the V-Net’s shadier alleys.

Their days of busting routine identity thieves and insidious corporate spies end when they get a new assignment: Hunt down a cyber-terrorist calling himself Gideon. Gideon has infiltrated the financial system, rerouted supply lines, and murdered the supervisor of an automated factory. Now Gideon is sending taunting messages, quoting scripture, and warning Sue that she must join his crusade or suffer – along with the rest of the virtual world – when he takes total control of the V-net.

Written by the author of the Seventh Seal last-days adventure trilogy, Hunting Gideon is a near-future cyberpunk novel with an optimistic Mormon twist. Incorporating elements from the hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, and postmodernist prose, much of the novel’s action takes place online in cyberspace, blurring the borders between actual and virtual reality. Hunting Gideon sends Sue and Loren on a wild chase as they scramble to avert the ultimate online disaster.

I’m not exactly a computer geek, to put it mildly. I can turn it on, use Word, find my favourite websites, and occasionally access some of the other features available online. (This last consists mostly of trial and error along with tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth.) So I was amazed at how easily I was able to follow the action in this story from the very first paragraph. My mother, on the other hand, who occasionally dusts off her home computer without ever actually switching it on, said she needed a few pages to get into the book, but then she was caught up in the action as well. And speaking of action, there’s definitely a lot of it in this book. A lot of it is shown on the V-net through Sekhmet’s eyes. “I let out a yowl as I was abruptly jerked through the back of the cabinet. I made a three-point landing, all claws extended, my free hand brandishing a tangling to entrap an opportunistic assailant.” Who would have thought the net could be this exciting? But Sue’s life in the real world isn’t boring, either. “I leapt out silently and whacked him with the rolling pin, substituting self-defense enthusiasm for finesse.”

My favourite combination with action is humour, and there are plenty of things to grin or even laugh out loud at in this book. For instance: “Aarrggghhhh,” I said, or an exclamation to that effect – gutterals are so difficult to spell.” Or when Sue is thinking about the Sunbeam class that she teaches on Sundays. “They’d quite liked my earlier lesson on lies, which included getting tied up in soft clothesline. Pity I couldn’t work that into more lessons.”

I like Sue. She’s got a touch of attitude, but wisdom to go along with it. I like the way she’s attracted to her partner Loren, even though he’s not a member and they often spar about God and the scriptures. At one point she tells him, “We’re saved by grace after all we can do – though sometimes it probably looks like we’re saved in spite of all we do,” and then she follows it up with, “And by the way, you’re not fooling me one bit – if you truly didn’t believe in God, you wouldn’t get so mad at him.” I like the way she does Tai Chi and watches television at the same time, although she knows her sensei frowns on it. “Fact is, I’ve never been able to concentrate on something as profoundly dull as exercise without something else to distract me.” I like her attitude towards the subconscious. “I’d always pictured it more as the conduit to extra processing power, the part of the soul that doesn’t have to use logical or rational methods to find answers. It was the part of my brain that went deeper than the monkey mind chattering away on top and the part that could hear and understand God’s Spirit, if I put myself in the right attitude and stayed quiet enough to really listen.”

The character of Loren is complex and fascinating. At the beginning of the book, Sue describes him as “the Black Knight brought out of Darkness to serve the Light,” and that’s exactly what he is. He was brought up Catholic, an orphan, and “had devoted his considerable smarts and skills to finding and exploiting the holes, bugs, and hidden features in the complicated software that ran the worldwide V-net itself.” Once caught, however, he was given a choice between being charged with a felony and joining the “evil empire” of the FBI. Sue had a special part in helping persuade him to choose the right, and they’ve worked together ever since. After Sue told him about the church, he’s been half-interested and half-sarcastic about it. “Is that an example of what you learned in the last mini-class at Home / Personal / Community / Social Propaganda Meeting – how to diagnose antisocial personality disorder over e-mail?” Sue knows that he can be a rascal, but she’s also sure that he cares too much about fairness and people in general to actually carry out any of his cyberthreats. Because of his past, and some of his actions in the present, not to mention his knowledge of the scriptures, Loren becomes a suspect in the Gideon case.

I was fascinated by the depiction of the V-net in this book. It had detail in such depth that I truly felt the author was describing an actual thing, and not just a speculative future. For all I know, there is such a thing already, or perhaps Jessica Draper is creating it in her free time when she’s not writing. According to the “About the Author” page, she has an extensive background in the wired world. There, I also read the statement that there will be a prequel to this book coming soon. Because I enjoyed Hunting Gideon so much, I’ll be keeping my eye on the Zarahemla Books website, looking forward to any news of Dancing with Eddie D’Eath. In the meantime, I can heartily recommend Hunting Gideon to any reader who will not be put off by the “cyberpunk” tag, but who likes adventure, mystery, sly humour, and that kind of male/female banter that signals slow but sure movement down the road of romance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's a Mall World After All





Review by Emily, Head Mama of Deliciously Clean Reads
Emily's other blog: Whimsy Books


There's a good chance you read the title of this book and had similar thoughts to mine...sounds like cheesy chick lit. Well, maybe it kind of is, but it is written well, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, I read it in about a day.

I strongly recommend IT'S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL if you like clean teen romances. Similar movie flicks would include A Cinderella Story, High School Musical...you know, the fun, innocent high-schoolish romances.

Charlotte, a tall-and-pretty klutz, works at the mall as a perfume spritzer for Bloomingdale's. From the entry of Bloomingdale's, she watches life at the mall, often spying on classmates. However, sometimes spying can get you into trouble. A funny series of events unfolds. I honestly laughed out loud, which I rarely do, while reading.

Besides being an active member of NHS (the National Honor Society), Charlotte loves to head up service projects, but being a klutz, something always goes wrong. During the course of the story, she finds a way to help disadvantaged kids for a Christmas project.

It is pretty obvious who Charlotte likes and how the story will end, but does that matter? Most chick flicks are predictable. That certainly doesn't stop me from loving them. If you don't like predictability, IT'S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL may not be for you. However, if you love a quick-n-funny chick flick now and then, like I obviously do, read this one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark


Great mystery. It keeps keeps you on your toes with all the twists and turns. Very enjoyable read.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Ten-year-old Liza Barton shoots her mother while trying to protect her from her violent husband — Liza's stepfather. While the death is ruled accidental, the tabloids still compare Liza to the child murderess Lizzie Borden.

Liza's adoptive parents change her name to Celia and try to erase all traces of her past. Widowed after a brief marriage in which she had a son, Jack, she remarries a young lawyer. Celia is happy until, on her birthday, he presents her with a gift — the house where she killed her mother. On moving in, they find the words LITTLE LIZZIE'S PLACE - BEWARE painted in red letters on the lawn. When the real estate agent who sold the house to her husband is murdered, she becomes a suspect. As she struggles to prove her innocence, Celia and her little son are being stalked by the killer.

Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston


I love a well written historical fiction novel and this did not disappoint. From the eyes of a Japanese American we see what it was like to live in America during a time of hatred and people being scared. I hate racial prejudice (I have an Asian son and a Black son) so his book hit home with me.
BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Ken Sugihara was a student at Berkeley at the time of Pearl Harbor. He is shocked to hear about the attack, but even more shocked when he discovers that all people of Japanese ancestry in the United States, especially those living on the West Coast, are now considered suspects in the attack. He and his parents are taken from their home and sent to a relocation center in the Utah Desert.

While living in Topaz, Ken's old friend Colonel Beaumont comes to see him, and asks him if he will go on a mission of espionage to Japan to hunt down information on Japanese aircraft. Ken is reluctant at first to serve the country that wrongfully imprisoned him, but realizes that he has a chance to make a difference, and agrees to go. The experiences he has change his life forever.

This is a story of prejudice and acceptance, dignity under the worst conditions, and the power of the Atonement to heal us all.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull


This was a fun read with some very important messages. While this is a children's chapter book I really enjoyed reading it. It is a book I would like all my children to read as the message about who you can trust was very good. Also, the children in the book were able to correct their mistakes. The cover of this book was an added bonus - it sparkles!!
BOOK DESCRIPTION:
What if there were a place where you could get magical candy? Moon rocks that made you feel weightless. Jawbreakers that made you unbreakable. Or candy that gave animals temporary human intelligence and communication skills. (Imagine what your pet would say!) Four young friends, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon, are befriended by Belinda White, the owner of a new candy shop on Main Street. However, the gray-haired, grandmotherly Mrs. White is not an ordinary candy maker. Her confections have magical side effects. Purposefully, she invites the kids on a special mission to retrieve a hidden talisman under Mt. Diablo Elementary School. However, Mrs. White is not the only magician in town in search of the ancient artifact rumored to be a fountain of youth. She is aware that Mr. Stott, the not-so-ordinary ice cream truck driver, has a few tricks of his own.

Towards the Promised Land by H.B. Moore


This is the third book in H.B. Moore's Out of Jerusalem series. It was a wonderful book that gave me some real insights into what life must have been like for Nephi and his family in the wilderness. I had never realized just how long eight years in the wilderness could be. I am looking forward to getting the forth book in this series.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Every muscle in Nephi's body tensed. Now was the time to tell his brother-regardless of Laman's certain temper. Nephi took a deep breath. "A ship," he said, almost inaudibly, then his voice gained strength. "I'm making tools to build a ship."

The ends of Laman's mustache twitched, but his eyes remained devoid of any real surprise. "You plan to fish in the deep swells?"

Exhaling, Nephi shook his head. "The Lord has commanded me to build a ship to take us to the Promised Land."

Laman stared at Nephi. "A ship to take us where?

It is time for Lehi's family to leave the place Bountiful for the Promised Land. But Nephi's older brother, Laman and Lemuel, believe they are already living in a promised land. Why should they leave their newfound abundance? Challenged with following instructions from the Lord while keeping peace within the family, Nephi forges ahead to build a ship that can cross oceans-but storms at sea are nothing compared to the turbulent relationship between Nephi and his older brothers.

With characters you will both love and loathe, H.B. Moore streams one suspenseful scene after another as she weaves well-researched facts with a wealth of imaginative detail. More than any other work of fiction, Out of Jerusalem brings the journey of the prophet Lehi's family to life in a way that will forever move your soul.

After Goliath by Liz Adair


I really enjoyed this book. Liz Adair writes a great mystery that keeps you turning the pages.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A property dispute between two brothers takes a deadly turn in After Goliath. Money and fame may have bought prestige for country music star Rocky Ridge when he moves his family back to Panaca from Las Vegas, but they can't keep him from being murdered. Can Spider find the killer before he becomes a victim himself?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass


Review by Emily from Deliciously Clean Reads and Whimsy Books
I'm a little bit torn about this book. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. It's funny, meaningful, creative, compelling, thoughtful, realistic, and hopeful. It's a teen version of the "miracle books" I've talked about before, like The Wednesday Letters, Letters for Emily, and the Blue Bottle Club.
There is a difference, though...and, despite how wonderful Jeremy Fink is, and how well written, I admit that this difference is bothering me a bit.
The adult miracle books I have mentioned all incorporate God into the meaning of life. To me, God and the meaning of life go hand-in-hand and cannot exist without the other.
There are a couple brief mentions of religion in Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life...but these almost make it worse. I think the story would have been better without addressing religion at all than the way it was done. Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy, have some time to kill and wander into a church where they are healing people. They leave more confused than ever but don't really talk about what was confusing.
Anyway, the book was wonderful. I just feel like it is missing something. God. It still has a great message (enjoy every moment of life), but, in my opinion, lacks the bigger picture. I certainly don't think all novels need to talk about God. I read more regular fiction than Christian fiction, but I feel that talking about the meaning of life without God is a little bit...empty.
So, you may be wondering why I am reviewing it at all since I don't review books I'm not excited to share...well, I AM excited to share this one. I just want to be upfront about what you are getting into.
Jeremy Fink is almost thirteen when a package arrives for his mother. Encouraged by his best friend, Lizzy, he opens the box to find another box. A beautiful wooden box engraved with the words, "The Meaning of Life, For Jeremy Fink to open on his thirteenth birthday." The ornate box is accompanied by a note that says the four keys (one for each side) have been lost.
As you can imagine, an adventure begins. Jeremy, who is afraid of subways, has a mutant candy collection, and sweats peanut butter, is the ultimate fun character. Wendy Mass has nailed his voice. He takes us on his quest to understand the meaning of life. He wonders what is wrong with himself that he never pondered the meaning of life before.
The journey takes Jeremy and Lizzy to a fortune-teller, a Natural History museum, a comic shop, an abandoned law firm, and even to a makeshift police office.
Despite my one minor reservation about it, I am recommending Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Check it out. I bet you'll love it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale




Review by Emily, Head Mama of Deliciously Clean Reads
My other blog: Whimsy Books


I believe Princess Academy was my first experience with Shannon Hale's books. I expected a typical novel about a normal girl who falls in love with a prince, becomes a princess, and lives happily ever after. I was wrong.


What I discovered, instead, was something fresh and unique, something different than all the other princess books I had ever read.


Miri wishes to be helpful in her small mountain community, but her father will not let her work. Miri assumes it is because she is so small. The people of her community work very hard in the quarries to make a meager living.Soon, their whole world is turned upside-down. The king's priests determine that the prince's bride will come from their little town of Mount Eskel. All eligible girls are sent down the mountain to a makeshift princess academy, where they are to learn how to become princesses. At the end of their training, the prince will choose a bride from among them.


Miri has mixed feelings about the whole thing. Does she want to be the princess? Fierce competition ensues, but Miri is still battling with herself as well. At the academy, Miri finds herself, and, at the same time, is able to save the girls and the whole village.


I think what makes Princess Academy so different is the setting. A beautiful world of light fantasy that feels completely realistic. You won't find mystical creatures in Princess Academy, but you will find magic, magic that stems from the people of Mount Eskel and the mountain itself.


Miri is a well-developed strong female character. She is small in size, named after a tiny mountain flower, but big in heart and inner strength. Her relationships with her father, a mountain boy, her best friend, and the prince are complex and realistic.I recommend this Newbery-honor book to readers of all ages. It was a pleasant surprise for me, and I have become the kind of fan that reads each new Shannon Hale title as soon as it is released.



At my blog, Deliciously Clean Reads, we are celebrating our 100th review by talking ALL Shannon Hale ALL week. Today I posted an interview, which you can find RIGHT HERE.


PS...Don't forget to leave a comment on any (or all) of the Shannon Hale posts this week at Deliciously Clean Reads to be entered into the drawing for one of two signed Shannon Hale books!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me: About Life and Wealth




I've read a lot of financial planning books and I consider myself pretty well-educated in matters of finance. I've even published articles on managing finances. So I wondered if this book had anything new to offer. In concept, it doesn't, but in presentation it does. And any time you take a moment to evaluate the health of your finances, I think it's time well spent.

Of course knowing that Richard Paul Evans is a self-made successful author and businessman, I was even more intrigued.

I read a couple of chapters, then went in search of a pencil. Doing that means there are things I don't want to forget. One of my favorite chapters is titled, "Keep a Portion of Everything You Earn." I tell my kids constantly. "Do you want to spend your birthday money on making the PlayStation2 Executives even richer by purchasing a $50 game? Or do you want swap games with your buddies?"

One of the quotes in the book really struck me. "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." I'm raising my hand, because I am guilty.

I also loved Evans' example of how to win within the margins. I think that's what impressed me the most. Of course we all want to use our talents and skills we already have to expand our financial net, but Evans gives some excellent examples of how to do exactly that.

I highly recommend this book because of its simplicity, its undaunting brevity, and its structure based on tried and true principles.

Monday, October 22, 2007

BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter




Review by me, Emily
Deliciously Clean Reads


Joyce Moyer Hostetter sent me a copy of her book, BLUE. Now, I get a lot of books for review. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes they don't really resonate with me for one reason or another. BLUE is one of those books that took me by surprise (because it was so wonderful) and shook me to the core. I laughed. I cried. And you know what? It doesn't even have any fantasy elements in it. My favorite books are almost always fantasy. This is a book about Ann Fay Honeycutt, and what it was like to be a young teen in the forties. Wow.


Here's the description from the jacket flap:


"When her daddy is sent off to fight Hitler, Ann Fay Honeycutt puts on the blue overalls he has given her. Now, at thirteen, she's the "man of the house," in charge of tending the large vegetable garden and watching out for her younger sisters and brother. It's hard work, but Ann Fay is managing until a polio epidemic strikes. At first she relies on the newspaper for information about the disease, but all too soon she knows its devastating effects firsthand. As the challenges grow, Ann Fay's resourcefulness and toughness grow as well."


When I finished reading BLUE, I wasn't ready for the experience to end, so I asked Joyce Moyer Hostetter some questions about it. To read the review, please visit my blog, Deliciously Clean Reads.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spires of Stone




Spires of Stone is the third book in Annette Lyon's "temple series". Ironically, this book takes place chronologically before her other temple books. Fans of House on the Hill and At the Journey's End will love the cameo appearance of Abe Franklin--as a young boy.

In the author notes, Lyon mentions that the plot is loosely based on the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing. So I went to her website to see if she expounded on it. And of course she did. It doesn't follow the play precisely, but there are fun elements that you will recognize.

Spires of Stone is centered on the building of the Salt Lake Temple. It's filled with rich historical details of both a slice of time in the temple-building process (remember it took 40 odd years to complete) and an epilogue scene that ties everything together so the most avid historian will be satisfied.

But what I liked best were the characters. Essentially there is a romance thread between two brothers and two wome--who happen to be sisters. Most fascinating is the Ben and Bethany match. They absolutely despise each other in the beginning because of a terrible misunderstanding that took place before Ben's mission. The second pairing is really a love triangle (one of my favorite plot elements in any romance) between Hannah, Claude, and Phillip. Will the good guy get the girl in the end? I'll let you read it to find out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright


You know those novels that are about miracles? Not magic, but realistic miracles that happen every day around the world? The kind of miracle where someone needs a second chance in life and gets it?

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright is that kind of miracle book.

During his entire married life, Jack wrote to his wife every Wednesday. Upon Jack's death, the family reads the letters. The letters take the family through a rollercoaster of dreams, expectations, family, love, secrets, betrayal and forgiveness.


I enjoyed this novel. It is an easy read that left me uplifted. If you enjoy it, you may also like Christmas Jars by the same author, For One More Day by Mitch Albom, and Letters for Emily by Camron Wright.


You can read the rest of my review at Deliciously Clean Reads.


Review by Emily

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Specials by Scott Westerfield

Specials by Scott Westerfield is the final book in the Uglies trilogy. I loved Uglies, liked Pretties, and had high hopes for Specials. It did not disappoint.

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she's one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn't better than anything she's ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

But it's easy for her to tune that out—until she's offered a chance to stamp out the revels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carryout the mission she's programmed to complete. Either way, Tally's world will never be the same.

Specials are scary beautiful, very strong with reflexes so fast they're almost unbeatable. Tally and co. are sent to bring down the New Smoke and almost start a world war in the process. But as they hunt down the location of the New Smoke, the wild works its magic on Tally again. It changed her once; it's changing her again.

We revisit the cycle of friendship and betrayal between Shay and Tally, explore the relationship between Tally and Zane, catch up with David, and visit another city that is very different from Tally's.

I love this trilogy. For a more in-depth review, visit my blog.

Oh wait. Did I say trilogy? There's a fourth book out now. Look for my review coming soon.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

At the Journey's End by Annette Lyon



This is Annette Lyon's second historical temple book. The story begins in Snowflake, Arizona where we meet Maddi Stratton and are reintroduced to Abe Franklin. This book centers on the St. George Temple, and while it's already completed when the story opens, we learn some of the legendary events that surrounded its construction. At the Journey's End carries over a character from her previous book, House on the Hill. I'm so glad she wrote this book because I really wanted to follow that particular character.

Maddie Stratton has undergone tremendous heartache. She lost her beloved finance and doesn't know if she'll ever find love again. Considering a marriage of convenience and security, she meets Abe Franklin. They become friends, but Maddie can't let herself feel anything more for him because of a great divide between the two of them. She is a devout Mormon, and he doesn't know if he believes.

A romance, an adventure, and a tale of love and loss . . . all rolled into one. I'd recommend this to YA readers and Adult readers alike.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Light In The Wilderness by H.B. Moore


I really enjoyed this second volume of the Out of Jerusalem Series. While it is historical fiction it did give some insights into what could of been happening with Lehi's family while they journeyed in the wilderness for eight years. It also helped me to realize that eight years is a long time and we really don't know much about what happened to the family in that time.
DESCRIPTION:
The exhilarating tale of Lehi and his family continues in A Light in the Wilderness, the second volume of the acclaimed Out of Jerusalem series. As they travel toward the promised land, dangers and tempests beset Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families, until the unthinkable happens: a marauding tribe abducts Lehi’s daughter, Elisheba. Nephi and his brothers vow to bring their beloved sister back safely. But as months stretch into years, can they?

Fast-paced and carefully researched, best-selling author H. B. Moore delivers a heartpounding and thought-provoking novel that is sure to delight fiction and history lovers alike.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Please, no zits! by Anne Bradshaw



Recently I read Anne Bradshaw's latest release: Please, no zits! a collection of short stories. The stories are about LDS youth and the many challenges they face. I enjoyed each story, from fifteen-year-old Gabe participating in a Primary Nativity much to his chagrin, to Cody who faces the consequences of cheating, to Kimberly who finds a useful way to spend her time while “waiting” for a missionary.

Unique to these stories is the setting. They take place all over the world: Scotland, England, Utah, Connecticut, Ireland, etc. The author has a great writing style (being from England herself) and has a talent for developing characters that draw you in immediately.

Without being preachy or hitting you over the head with moral advice, Please, no zits! is a great read for teens and adults alike. The stories are inspiring and true to life. I love the frank way that the author approaches difficult topics like a non-member boyfriend, a non-supportive father, and coming back from drug-addition. You’ll find lots of humor, some sadness, and plenty of inspiration.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Macady by Jennie Hansen



This is the first book of Jennie Hansen's that I have read and I very much enjoyed it. I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

DESCRIPTION:
Macady Jackson has never been in so much danger. When she saddled up her horse, she never could have imagined that her pleasant ride would end up with someone shooting at her. But unknown to Macady, she had wandered into a forbidden zone -- a drug runner's airstrip.

When deputy Aaron Westerman hears the gunfire, he knows the risk involved in the investigation of the remote area has suddenly spread beyond just him. Scanning the valley, he sees someone clothed much like himself. He was supposed to be the target! Now it's up to Aaron to keep the innocent stranger alive. But he soon finds out that the "stranger" is someone he hasn't seen in years --and their accidental meeting has resurrected feelings he had thought were long dead. Can two people who have both been deeply hurt by love learn to trust again? A romantic mystery where the heroes aren't all good and the villains aren't completely evil, Macady has enough twists and turns to grip you from beginning to end.

Monday, September 3, 2007

House on the Hill by Annette Lyon



Annette Lyon is one of my favorite LDS authors, so of course I've read all of her books. She has written a historical temple series of a sort (although you can read each book seperately). Her first temple book is House on the Hill. The story takes place in the 1870's, Logan, Utah. Part of the story centers on the building of the Logan temple, so the reader learns all kinds of interesting facts.

The main character is Lizzy Sullivan. As the story opens, Lizzy is doused in the refiner's fire, literally. Her house burns down, and it seems no matter how much faith she tries to muster, her little brother keeps getting sicker and sicker. Her family has to move in with another family until they can get back on their feet. During this time, Lizzy meets a young man--not of her faith. But, her best friend from her childhood tries to court her, and suddenly Lizzy is confronted with the most difficult choice of her life--choosing between the two men she loves.

I love historical fiction, but even more, I love it when I'm so pulled into the story that I don't realize I'm reading "historical" fiction. This book has some romance, some history, but most of all, solid characters that draw us back into a time where we might think life was more simple.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Protector, The Healer and The Rescuer by Dee Henderson




These are the last three of Dee Henderson's O'Malley series. All are wonderful crime novels with no garbage to get in the way of the story. This is the second time I have read the series and just loved it.
THE PROTECTOR (O'Malley #4) Jack O'Malley is a fireman who is fearless when it comes to facing an inferno. But when an arsonist begins targeting his district, his shift, his friends, Jack faces the ultimate challenge: protecting the lady who saw the arsonist before she pays an even higher price…
THE HEALER (O'Malley #5) Rachel O'Malley works disasters for a living, her specialty helping children through trauma. When a school shooting rips through her community, she finds herself dealing with more than just grief among the children she is trying to help. There's a secret. One of them was there. One of them saw the shooting. And the gun is still missing...
THE RESCUER (O'Malley #6) Stephen O'Malley is a paramedic who has been rescuing people all his life. His friend Meghan is in trouble: Stolen jewels are turning up in interesting places and she's in the middle of it. Stephen's about to run into a night he will never forget: a kidnapping, a tornado, and a race to rescue the woman he loves.

Terracotta Summer & Chamomile Winter by Anne Bradshaw





Terracotta Summer, the first book in Anne Bradshaw's series about the British O'Shea family, is a very interesting read. I love to learn about other cultures and countries, so it was intriguing to read about the LDS O'Shea family--their struggles and triumphs are universal. The characters are very fresh and I immediately liked them. The family starts out in Manchester, England, then life disperses them to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and America.

Of course after reading Terracotta Summer, I wanted more of the story, so I was happy to learn about the sequel, Camomile Winter. This novel focuses on Patrick, who gets mixed up in the Irish Republican Army. I found the political insights very interesting, and I also enjoyed the continuation of Rosie's story--and how she finds closure to her troubled childhood.

The most compelling aspect of these books are the way they are written--in true British style. The different language usuage and culture idiosyncrasies are quite fascinating. From what I understand, these books have been out for awhile and the best place to find them is from Amazon.com or the authors site: www.annebradshaw.com

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Austenland by Shannon Hale



I really enjoyed this book. Shannon Hale is a well-known middle-grade author, having won a Newbery Award for her book, Princess Academy. Austenland is Hale's first book written for adults. If you're a fan of Jane Austen, specifically of Pride and Prejudice (the book or the movies), I guarantee you'll find Austenland delightful. Publisher's Weekly had some not-so-complimentary things to say about the depth of characterization, but I picked it up anyway. And I was pleasantly entertained.

So on to the story. Thirty-three year old Jane Hayes, is seriously addicted to Mr. Darcy, more specifically Colin Firth in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Upon the death of a wealthy aunt, Jane inherits a trip to Pembrook Park, Kent, England, to a resort where guests pretend to live in Jane Austen's era. From the conversation, the mannerisms, the dress, the food . . .

Jane Hayes is looking for her Mr. Darcy. Ready to give up on dead-end relationships altogether, Jane struggles with overcoming her personal obsession and finding a "real" relationship in the twists and turns of Austenland.

This novel is unpredictable and quite funny, with a main character who's quirky at times, but easy to relate to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Truth Seeker by Dee Henderson


Number three in the O'Malley series and just as gripping as the rest have been.
DESCRIPTION:
Women are turning up dead, and Lisa O'Malley has a habit of walking into crime scenes, curious. She's a forensic pathologist, and mysteries are her domain. U.S. marshall Quinn Diamond has found loving her is easier than keeping her safe. Lisa's found the killer, and now shes missing too.

The Guardian by Dee Henderson


Another great Dee Henderson book. This is #2 in the O'Malley series.

DESCRIPTION:
A federal judge has been murdered. There is only one witness, and an assassin wants her dead. U.S. Marshall Marcus O'Malley thought he knew the risks of the assignment . . . but he was wrong.

Idle Playgrounds by Sheralyn Pratt

Rhea Jensen is determined to put her career as a private investigator behind her, but her best friend, reporter Kathryn "Kay" McCoy, is just as determined to keep Rhea in the detective business. Rhea ends up on the trail of a mysterious group of daredevils, a case which makes her the target of an age-old secret society. Rhea's gutsiness is matched by her vulnerability; her confidence and brilliance when it comes to her work contrasts with her confusion and self-doubt when it comes to personal relationships. Mystery, action, romance--this book is great fun.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Negotiator by Dee Henderson



Another great read by Dee Henderson. This is the 1st book in the O'Malley series and kept me hooked from start to finish (for the second time).

DESCRIPTION:
FBI agent Dave Richman from Danger in the Shadows is back. He's about to meet Kate O'Malley, and his life will never be the same. She's a hostage negotiator. He protects people. He's about to find out that falling in love with a hostage negotiator is one thing, but keeping her safe is another.

Introducing the O'Malleys, an inspirational group of seven, all abandoned or orphaned as teens, who have made the choice to become a loyal and committed family. They have chosen their own surname, O'Malley, and have stood by each other through moments of joy and heartache. Their stories are told in CBA best-selling, inspirational romantic suspense novels that rock your heart and restore strength and hope to your spirit.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer


I'm sure someone will review Eclipse, so I might as well get New Moon in first. If you read Twilight, you'll enjoy it's sequel, New Moon. As a YA read, it's easy and fast-paced. Bella is faced with a new challenge, this time involving something nearly as menacing as vampires, and threads that are introduced in the first book are carried through in New Moon.

It's hard to review this book without giving spoilers . . . I can't talk about any main plot element without giving away something . . . so I'll just tell you some of my favorite things:

1. Bella goes through a period of depression. When she gets to the depths of despair, the months pass without her remembering them. The author tracks the passage of time with the name of each month on a blank page. Very creative.

2. I loved the Romeo and Juliet tie ins--they were a fun addition. Some reviewer somewhere will probably criticize this as being cliche. But it was perfectly fitting to the story and perfect for the genre.

3. The ending leaves you questioning (and hoping) that the two main elements of the first two books in the series will be tied up in book three.

4. Read the author's acknowledgements at the end. It's great to catch such a personal glimpse.

5. This is my own warning: When I read New Moon, I decided to read Twilight again. It was better the second time because I wasn't racing through it to find out what happens at the end. I was able to enjoy all the foreshadowing to New Moon and really appreciate the obsessiveness between Bella and Edward.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson


This is the 2nd time I have read this book and it kept me just a hooked as the first time, I finished it in less than a day. "Danger in the Shadows" is a crime novel with no foul language or graphic scenes. It is an intense story that captures you from page one. This is the prequel to the O'Malley Series.
DESCRIPTION:
Sara's terrified. She's doing the one thing she cannot afford to do: fall in love with former pro-football player Adam Black, a man everyone knows. Sara's been hidden away in the witness protection program, her safety dependent on staying invisible - and loving Adam could get her killed.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Trouble in Palmyra by Rob Ficiur


This is a children's novel but I really enjoyed reading it. Traveling back in time and experiencing the First Vision from the perspective of a teen from the 21st century was very enlightening. I look forward to getting my kids to read this book.
DESCRIPTION:
When teenagers Tom and Becky Long learn they must spend a few days with their brilliant but eccentric Uncle Daniel, they are less than pleased. They wonder how they will ever survive his long, boring tales and stale facts about Church history and early pioneers. Little do they know that Uncle Daniel has recently perfected a machine capable of transporting people into the past. Now Tom and Becky are off for the adventure of a lifetime as they accompany their uncle back through time—and come face-to-face with young Joseph Smith, Jr., and his family. Trouble in Palmyra is the first volume in the exciting Time Travelers in Church History series that takes young readers on a rollicking ride through some of the most fascinating events of the last two hundred years.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Secret Journal of Brett Colton by Kay Lynn Mangum


I really enjoyed this book. Getting into Kathy Colton’s mind was enlightening and thought provoking. Following her development through the story arc was totally absorbing. I found myself reading when I should have been writing or sleeping. In fact, this book is two for the price of one because the story of Kathy’s dead brother, Brett, came alive for me even though told through journal entries. I thought that might be boring, but it’s the opposite—tender and so real.

I put this at the top of my YA book list so far this year, and can’t wait to read more of Kay Lynn Mangum’s work.

Book Description from Amazon.com

Kathy Colton can’t stand her brother, Brett. Her family talks as if he were perfect! All Kathy knows for sure is that Brett is dead. He died of leukemia when he was sixteen and she was only two. But when Kathy turns sixteen, she discovers her brother’s hidden journal – a journal written especially for her - and learns about the brother she never knew. At the same time, Kathy is mortified by an assignment to tutor the popular high school quarterback Jason West, a football jock who, even worse, is a Mormon. Author Kay Lynn Mangum brilliantly weaves the dual stories of a dying brother and a coming-of-age sister who learn the importance of loving our family and our friends and nurturing our faith.

On Second Thought by Robison E. Wells


I really enjoyed this lighthearted romance. It was fun to read and hard to put down towards the end.
DESCRIPTION:
Until now, fate has been laughing at Walt Stewart. Unable to settle upon a single meaningful direction for his life, success has eluded him. Then, one day, just as his fiancĂ©e walks out of his apartment and into the arms of his roommate, the phone rings and everything changes. Walt is offered a job that takes him to Alamitos, New Mexico, a town beset with colorful, offbeat characters and a mystery that is begging to be solved. As the head of personnel for a tomato-growing greenhouse, Walt finds himself drawn to the weird happenings at a local observatory. Watch out however—deception lies up ahead, and danger, too. But the rewards for staying the course are great: true love and a GOLDEN opportunity that could change Walt’s lackluster life forever.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter has been out for a week now so it's time to see how fast everybody read it and how they felt about it.
I finished it about 10:30 pm on Sunday evening and I loved the book. I loved how it ended (though sad that this is the last book). It is amazing how J.K. Rowlings is able to twist and turn the plot and keep you absolutly engrossed in the book.
DESCRIPTION:
Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling's spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart--such revelations, battles, and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong. Fear not, you will find no spoilers in our review--to tell the plot would ruin the journey, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling's fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not offer one small suggestion before you embark on your final adventure with Harry--bring plenty of tissues.
The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission--not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man--and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.
A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix's flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience. --Daphne Durham

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chaos by Jeff Downs

Book Review by Rob Ficiur

Title: ChaosAuthor: Jeff Downs Publisher: Covenant CommunicationsGenre: MysteryYear Published: 2007Number of Pages: 247Binding: Soft coverISBN: 978-1-59811-158-3Price: $15.95

I read this book in a week, while I was away from home. My home away from home was a university dorm room on a very quiet campus. Why am I giving these seemingly insignificant details – read on.

The novel begins on an ordinary day when teacher Jason Harrington picks up his school mail. He almost dismisses an odd note that said “I found you, Musor. Now you will die.” When Jason arrives home he found his apartment had been trashed. Was it a robbery? A phone call told him it was something worse. “I am the one who destroyed your place and when the time is right I will be the one who kills you.” The phone call concluded with an ever more sinister announcement. The mysterious caller had framed Jason in the killing of four policeman – call the law won’t get Harrington the help he needs.

Jason took off, not knowing where to go – except as far away from his home as he could. Once Jason was on his own – there was no one he could turn to for help. The police will stake out his parents and friends. How can he prove himself innocent when he doesn’t even know the evidence against him?

Eventually Jason phones the only person he can think – his ex girlfriend Kelly. After splitting up with her two years ago he had met up with her at a gas station last week. They had arranged to have dinner to catch up - now he needed her – because he knew the police would not be monitoring her.

The plot thickens as Jason and Kelly try to escape the rogue agent of the Russian mafia and try to prove Jason’s innocence. The rogue agent was the ultimate terrorist taking pot shots at Jason (and Kelly) whenever he could – knowing full well he could finish them off whenever he wanted to.

Whenever I took a break from reading and wandered down the quiet corridor of the nearly deserted university dorm – I began to look over my shoulder. There aren’t any rogue agents here are there? Make sure the door is locked and dead bolted. Is it safe to take a shower – what if a secret agent comes upon me I will be utterly defenseless?

The sign of a great book is if the reader feels like they have been there. Jeff Downs succeeded (probably more than I really wanted considering I was alone in a far away city…)

With less than 100 pages to read I had to finish the book before I went to sleep – hoping it had a happy ending and that I could go to sleep knowing that Jason and Kelly were not longer being chased by the agent.
I would encourage anyone who likes a fast paced mystery to read this book – if you want to really experience the book do it in a strange city where anyone you see could be a rogue agent looking

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Since this is a book referral site, and not a book review site, I've only posted about books I really like. But I came across this one that is getting a lot of hype and positive review because it's being released as a movie in December, and I really feel a duty to post a warning about it.

You can read my full review here, but the thing I'm most concerned about is that this is advertised as a children's book/movie. In my opinion, it is definitely NOT for children. It is dark and brutal, features violence against children, has a very detailed description of a fight between two humanized bears, and then it goes off on a religious tangent that is both ridiculous and disturbing.

I'm not saying don't read it, because it has some good writing—but be prepared. And definitely read it before letting your children and teens read it or watch the movie.

I'd be interested to hear if others who've read it feel the same way as I do, or if they have a different perspective.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld is book #2 in the Uglies trilogy. (Read Heather's review of Uglies here and my review here.) Again, the theme is that pretty on the outside doesn't guarantee pretty on the inside, and sometimes you have to really fight for what you want—in this case, freedom. It also takes a look at what jealousy, betrayal and power can drive people to do and to become. Here's the back of the book promo:

Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun—the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom—is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life—because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.
Pretties ends with another cliff hanger, making you want to run right out and buy the next one. Overall, I liked the book. Looking forward to seeing how Westerfeld wraps it all up.

For a more in-depth review, visit my blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock


I greatly enjoyed this book. It did get a little preachy but as a Christian novel that is to be expected. Towards the end I couldn't put the book down and had to find out what happened.

DESCRIPTION:

Two bodies, one spear gun, and a murder suspect. But did Morgan Cleary's husband really kill her parents?

A brutal double-murder has struck fear into the heart of the peaceful Cape Refuge community. The crime weapon belongs to the victims' son-in-law, but Police Chief Cade remains unconvinced that his best friend took the lives of Thelma and Wade Owens. The Owens' ministry, a halfway house, shelters individuals far more questionable than Jonathan Cleary. Now people are concerned that it may house a murderer who could strike again.

Shattered by her parents' deaths, Morgan Cleary struggles to keep Hanover House running while her husband sits in jail. Her sister, Blair, is no help. Blair wants no part of her dead parents' ministry or their Christian faith. She wants to sell the house -- until her determined search to find the true killer uncovers some startling findings. A lethal race against time ensues for Morgan, Blair, and Cade, with far more than Hanover House at stake.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Final Farewell by Patricia Wiles

Review======Title: The Final FarewellAuthor: Patricia Wiles Publisher: Covenant CommunicationsGenre: Fiction / YouthYear Published: 2007Number of Pages: 246Binding: Soft coverISBN: 978-1-59811-353-2Price: $7.95Reviewed by Rob FiciurBefore beginning this book review, I must admit to a personal prejudice. As the father of five sons I often felt disappointed that there wasn’t more available in the LDS market that boys would read. Having taught school for 19 years, I believe that a well written fiction novel can teach truths and concepts in a way that an article or talk cannot.The highest compliment I can give "The Final Farewell" is that I gave the book to my sixteen year old son at 2:00 pm on Sunday and before the day was over he came upstairs and tried to tell me all about the book. I had to stop him. “Don’t tell me all about the book – I want to read it!” I covered my ears. He stopped long enough for me to uncover my ears before he continued to tell me the things that happened to Kevin Kirk in the last of the four book series, "The Kevin Kirk Chronicles."In the previous three novels we follow the school years of young Kevin Kirk. Kevin’s parents own a funeral home. Part way through the first book, Kevin finds out that his parents were once baptized into the LDS church. Through the next two books Kevin’s parents become reactivated as Kevin deals with the issues many youth do growing up."The Final Frontier" begins as Kevin and his friends enter their Senior year of High School. In the first chapter, Kevin’s good friend Melonhead moved away – promising to stay in touch as he prepared to go on a mission. That left Kevin and Dani Carter (the Branch President’s daughter) as the only seminary students in the branch (and the High School).Dani, who had always been the one encouraging Kevin to take his religion more seriously, began to cut corners. She was in love with Hunter Rockwell, one of the school’s football stars. Dani did anything she could to be with Hunter. She began sneaking off to inappropriate parties and dressing immodestly. When confronted with these issues, Dani dismissed Kevin’s concerns -- she just wanted to fit in. When Dani attended seminary she was more preoccupied with her finger nails than the lesson. Before the year was over, Dani had quit going to seminary and church.Kevin faced different challenges than Dani. One of Kevin’s former teachers put through the necessary paper work for Kevin to get a four year university scholarship. Kevin now faced the same question every 18 year old young man does – do I go on a mission or not?The book deals with real issues that teens face through their school years. At one point Kevin decided that since the scholarship came without any effort on his part, it must have been the will of the Lord that he go to school and not on a mission. Only after a deep personal struggle did Kevin gain a conviction that he should go on a mission.Dani’s choice of friends leads to consequences she did not expect. She changed her standards. Dani later apologized to Kevin for her rudeness to him as she focused only on her new friends.We are often told that it takes a village to raise a child. In this book, Kevin’s village encouraged him to find his answers. Brother Conrad and his wife took Kevin fishing one last time. This retired brother knew Kevin well enough through the years that he could speak plainly without offending the struggling teen. After Kevin explained his confusion about going on a mission, Brother Conrad said, “It doesn’t make sense because you don’t want it to.” “Saul was afraid of the truth…The truth is lapping at your feet boy. And you’re scared to death of what will happen if you let yourself get pulled into it.” Brother Conrad was there for Kevin and touched him the way members of our ward family can reach our children.Missionary work was a theme throughout the book. As Kevin was pondering whether or not to go on a mission – he went with the full time missionaries to visit an elderly woman. Though this lady was the least likely candidate for conversion, her heart was touched. When Kevin flew to Salt Lake on route to the MTC, he got lost in the airport. When another missionary found him, that Elder turned out to be Chuck Stiller, the bully who regularly beat Kevin in Book #1. Situations change – the one least likely to listen to the discussions was now going out to teach them.Through the book Kevin and his friends experience the trials that real High School students face. As a parent I was grateful that my son could “experience” Kevin’s trials through this book – and gain from his experiences – knowing that some day my sixteen year old will be eighteen, facing his own trials and challenges as he makes his Final Farewell to the High School scene.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Be a Whitney Sponsor!


By now, I hope you've all heard the announcement of the Whitney Awards, a new awards program designed to celebrate and encourage excellence in fiction by LDS authors.

The LDS Booksellers Association Convention, scheduled for mid-August, is fast approaching. This is the biggest event of the year for LDS publishers and retailers, and this is the time when we need to roll out the Whitney Awards in a big way to attract the attention of industry professionals.

In order to do this, we need funds. If you feel the Whitney Awards are a valuable program that will benefit LDS literature, we would appreciate your help. Donations of any size will be gratefully accepted. Even a donation of a couple of dollars can buy a handful of convention buttons.

Donations can be made via PayPal to admin@whitneyawards.com or via snail mail to:

Whitney Awards
PO Box 468
Orem UT 84059-0468

You donations will go a long way toward helping launch the Whitneys this August and making this program a success. For details about the Whitney Awards, including the official rules, FAQ, and a nomination form where you can nominate your favorite books released in 2007, visit the Whitney website at www.whitneyawards.com.

Thank you so much!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull



This is the second book in the Fablehaven series and it is even better than the first. This is a children's novel that adults will also enjoy as I couldn't put it down. Volume three is due out in 2008 and I will be in line to get it.



DESCRIPTION:

A New York Times Bestseller!

At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble? Can they overcome paralyzing fear? Find out in book 2 of this bestselling series.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Secrets in Zarahemla by Sariah S. Wilson

In Sariah S. Wilson's Secrets in Zarahemla, suspense and romance mingle in an intriguing tale. I particularly liked the way Wilson kept the story moving at a brisk pace. The heroine, Kiah, was both strong and vulnerable, and Kiah and hero Jeran worked together to help each other, with Kiah sometimes rescuing Jeran and Jeran returning the favor. They needed each other and respected each other and their romance was believable.

Wilson skillfully depicts the villain, Corahan, as a man who didn't intend to plunge into evil like he did, but whose greed, moral weakness and lust for power (and for Kiah) lead him deeper into darkness until by the end he's lost all humanity. I also enjoyed the character of Shabana, Kiah's sister-in-law, opposite and nemesis.

Wilson has obviously studied her Central American setting in great detail; she paints vivid images of the city and the jungle surrounding it and gives readers a fascinating picture of life in Book of Mormon times. I recommend Secrets in Zarahemla.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Of Goodly Parents by H.B. Moore


This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading the story of Lehi and his family going into the wilderness in a fictional sense, with thoughts and feelings. This is the first book in the "Out of Jerusalem" series. As of now there are three books out in the series. I am looking forward to reading book two.

DESCRIPTION:
In the silence of the morning, Nephi knelt on the hard desert floor. He bowed his head and closed his eyes tightly, as if to make his prayer more sincere. "O Lord," he said, gripping his hands together, "I know my father is a righteous man. I know that Thou hast spoken to him, guided him, and protected him. Above all else, I am grateful for the safety Thou hast given our family." His voice cracked. "But, I want to know for myself, Lord. I want to feel what my father feels and to know without a doubt."
Experience a new the timeless story of Lehi and his family as you explore the complexities of human emotion. Gain new appreciation as you journey with this deeply divided clan in their courageous flight from Jerusalem toward a promised land-a land that to some seems forever out of reach. Meticulously researched and told with vivid detail and passionate energy, this sacred story brings to life the people, places, and events of the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes



At the beginning of the summer I read Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes. It's billed as an LDS romance, but really it's so much more than that. The main character is Jane, who just turned 30. She's single and has had up-and-down relationships with men. But the story is not just about girl meets boy and falls in love, it's about real life, family, forgiveness, survival, romance . . . well, the back cover says it best:

Jane was hoping for a date---maybe even a boyfriend. What she wasn't expecting was Paul Bryant's completely original and sincere pick-up line: Hi. I'm Paul. I have terminal cancer. My wife was killed in a car accident, and I'm looking for a woman to raise my children.

It was never Jane's plan to fall in love with a dying man and his two infants. But her seemingly simple decision to date someone outside her faith leads to one complication after another. With the stakes this high, is choosing to help Paul a choice to be alone forever?

And how can Paul feel so confident that this woman---who's never managed to keep a checking account for more than six months---should be the one to raise his children?

How can something that seems so unbelievably insane feel so completely right?

Sometimes love is found in the least likely places, and the greatest blessings are discovered while counting stars.


Try out this new author, I know you'll love her book like I did.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond


I found this great deal (brand new for $2.99) in the Salt Lake City Barnes & Noble the other week, so am guessing it might be a summer reading special in all their stores. Perfect for stocking up on good youth books--if they are avid readers.

The display in Salt Lake carried several similar books--all award winning in previous years. A String in the Harp, by Nancy Bond, won a Newbery Honor, and several other awards in its time. It was first published in 1976. This latest edition was published by Aladdin Paperbacks in May 2007. It was written for ages 9 - 13.

I suggest the need for avid readers because the book tends to be a little long winded in places when compared with today's material. Having said that, I have to admit I’m engrossed. Mind you, it is set in Wales, UK--a hop and a skip up the road from Caernarvon, the town where I was born, so I guess I am a little biased.

When I was young, my family often traveled the long coastal road from Aberystwyth alongside Cardigan Bay on our way to a Welsh holiday destination. I can see in vivid detail every description Nancy writes.

The story tells what happens to three American children, unwillingly transplanted to Wales for one year, when one of them finds an ancient harp-tuning key that takes him back to the time of the great sixth-century bard, Taliesin.

To quote from the book blurb, “When fifteen-year-old Jen Morgan flies to Wales to spend Christmas with her family, she’s not expecting much from the holiday. A year after her mother’s sudden death, her father is preoccupied by the teaching job that has brought him and Jen’s younger siblings to Wales for the year. Her brother, Peter, is alternately hostile and sullen, and her sister Becky, misses Jen terribly.

"Then Peter tells Jan he’s found a strange artifact, a harp key that shows him pictures from the life of Taliesin, the great bard whose life in six century Wales has been immortalized in legend. At first Jen doesn’t believe him, but when the keys existence – and it strange properties – become known to the wider world, the Morgans must act together against a threat to the key and to their family."

I recommend this book because it not only transports the reader to another country and brings the place to life, but it also dives back in time and turns an adventure into a fascinating history lesson in disguise. And it's clean, to boot.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sheep's Clothing by Josi Kilpack



Recently I read Sheep's Clothing by Josi Kilpack. The main character, Kate, was someone I could relate to and that's probably why it made the story a little eerie. When her daughter, Jesse, starts to chat online with a child predator, things start escalate.

What parents wouldn't be horrified if they found out their child was being solicited by a 40+ man posing as a 13-year old girl?

The book takes you through 16-year old Jesse's journey of insecurity and how she turns to a friend "Emily" who she meets online. We also catch a glimpse of Kate, Jesse's mother, who is trying to be the "all" for her six children, her husband . . . but essentially falls short when she doesn't pay close enough attention to the changes in her daughter's life.

Of course it can happen to anyone. And it does. So that's why I really appreciated the Author Notes that Kilpack added at the end of her book. They detail resources that parents can use to help prevent internet predators from infiltrating their homes.

I definately think Sheep's Clothing is an excellent book for parents and teenagers to read together. It will open up the line of communication of becoming educated about internet predators.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Chaos by Jeff Downs

I recently read and enjoyed Chaos, by Jeff Downs. Chaos is the story of Jason Harrington, a junior high school teacher whose peaceful life gets ripped to shreds in the course of a few hours when a mysterious antagonist frames him for the murder of four police officers. Innocent of all charges but helpless to prove it in the face of the evidence mounting against him, Jason doesn't dare turn to the police for help. He flees. A former girlfriend, Kelly Nicholls, assists him in what seems like an impossible quest to elude an assassin out to kill Jason for reasons he can't understand and find evidence to prove Jason's innocence to the police.

Chaos is a fast and exciting read. Downs plunges you straight into the action and keeps up a brisk pace throughout the novel. The characters are sympathetic and Jason's dilemma will set your mind spinning as you wonder why anyone would target this nice-guy junior high teacher and how Jason is going to get out of this alive.

I'm a fan of Jeff Down's work and am always intrigued when he releases a new novel. Chaos is an excellent book--in fact, my favorite of Down's books so far. I'm looking forward to his next novel.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mummy's the Word by Kerry Blair


Very funny and intriguing at the same time. Kerry Blair has a way of keeping you twisting and turning and wondering what is going to happen next. Book includes a crossword puzzle with clues at the end of each chapter.
DESCRIPTION:
When Samantha Shade is offered the opportunity to run Nightshade Investigation, her uncle's private detective agency, she literally jumps at the chance. It has always been her dream to work at the famously quirky firm. But when a wealthy, eccentric client hires Nightshade to protect a priceless artifact, and the relic is almost immediately stolen from right under Samantha's nose-her dream turns into a terrible nightmare.

With a long list of suspects, and a short supply of experience, Samantha must accept the help of an antagonistic and reluctant policeman and the eclectic staff at Nightshade to solve the case and keep her uncle's beloved firm from disaster.

Filled with the twists, turns, and thrills of classic detective novels, along with a generous helping of humor, readers will enjoy sleuthing the crossword clues in this exciting, frothy mystery.

Peter and the Starcatchers


Scrolling through the Children's Literature section, I saw several other Peter Pan stories. I haven't read those, but I enjoyed reading Peter and the Starcatchers this past weekend.

It's by two authors, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I haven't read anything by Pearson, but I've enjoyed Barry's humor columns over the years. At the beginning of the book, Pearson thanks his daughter who asked the question: How did Peter Pan meet Captain Hook?

And of course everyone's question: How did Captain Hook lose his hand? You'll have to wait until the end of the book to find out, but in the meantime Peter and the Starcatchers is a fun adventure. It opens with an orphan boy names Peter, who is sent away from England on a ship. He meets a girl, Molly, and they become friends. But Peter soon learns that Molly is no ordinary girl and she holds a fantastic secret. And it all has to do with a mysterious trunk that was loaded onto the same ship.

Unbeknownst to Peter, some pirates have learned about the treasure inside the mysterious trunk, and the chase begins.

If you or your children enjoy pirate adventures, this is a great summer book. It's a fun read and as I read it, I thought it would be a great book to read aloud to my children. The descriptions and setting is vivid--definite material for a movie.