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.
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.


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 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

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.


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.

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.