Monday, December 15, 2008

Fool me Twice by Stephanie Black

Disclaimer: I just noticed after posting this that Fool Me Twice has already been reviewed on this site two times. Oh well. Here's MY review. The reminder will be worth it, especially if you haven't picked up this book already!

Fool Me Twice

By Stephanie Black
Covenant Communications, March 2008

Review by Heather Moore

Just as the title Fool Me Twice alludes, readers can expect twists and turns in the suspense novel that will keep them guessing. Identical twins, Kristen and Megan, haven’t been close for years. Now in their twenties, they hardly ever speak to each other. But Megan wishes it were otherwise.

When Kristen suddenly comes back into Megan’s life with a daring plan of how they can both get rich—legitimately—Megan eagerly agrees. She’ll do practically anything to be in her twin sister’s good graces again. Plus it will be her ticket out of a stagnant town and get her away from her ex-boyfriend. The only thing Megan has to do is spend a couple of months taking care of an elderly aunt who is terminally ill. To pull it off, Megan and Kristen switch places, and Megan assumes her twin’s identity. Simple, right?

But soon the guilt and confusion set in. Things are not as Kristen described them, and Megan discovers she really likes her new “friends.” Megan also realizes the last thing she wants to do it hurt the people who she's grown close to, let alone deceive her own aunt.

When Megan’s friend is violently kidnapped, Megan learns that beneath the carefully laid-out plan to gain a fortune, there is a web of deceit and lies. Much more than she ever bargained for.

I’ve read a lot of suspense, and most of the time I have the ending figured out at least half-way through. But Stephanie Black kept me guessing until nearly the end. There were several parts that were down right creepy, and I don’t think I’ll ever think of the name “Evelyn” the same again.

I enjoyed the way the author created the characters and effortless way she wove the tale of suspense, keeping me interested on every page. The writing was wonderful and the story tight and well-plotted. I look forward to reading what this author produces next.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All's Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon

All’s Fair
Covenant Communications, 2008

Review by Heather Moore

Bellon’s writing shines in All’s Fair, her latest political suspense novel. When campaign expert Kristen Shepherd discovers her fiancĂ© is transferring her personal funds to a terrorist organization in Iraq, her world falls apart, literally.

Kristen’s brother, Brandon, is a doctor serving in Iraq and coincidentally he is captured as a prisoner of war the same time Kristen uncovers her fiancĂ©’s fraud. To Kristen’s horror she discovers an underground operation that she never thought she’d be a part of—but now must come to terms with as she risks her life to discover her brother’s whereabouts.

At first when I realized I’d have to follow two story lines, I wondered if I’d become attached to the two different set of characters. But I was quickly caught up in the tale—a tale that mirrors real life both in the political arena and the military life in Iraq.

Bellon’s research was impeccable, and I felt that I was immersed inside the military perils of the servicemen in Iraq. I also loved how she brought sympathy and understanding to both sides of the conflict. She had one American doctor going to great lengths to save a little Iraqi boy’s life, and an insurgent sharing his religious feelings with an American soldier. As with any war, the losses are heavy—emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet Bellon kept the upperhand and gave dignity to the fragile conflict and the ensuing emotions that consume each side.

All’s Fair is a compelling read—and well worth your time. The book is available online or at any LDS bookstore. Visit the author's website here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Best Laid Plans. . .

Opening a new store is so much fun—and so much more work than I ever expected. We laid our plans, had all our ducks in a row, and then. . . several of our product shipments were delayed, including books for the author signings.

So rather than have our wonderful authors sitting at our store with no books to sign, we've decided to push back our Grand Opening by one week, to November 15th.

We will still be open this Saturday, November 8th, and the 25% off coupon is still good—and we'd love to have all of you drop by and shop. But our authors and the drawings for cool stuff won't happen until Saturday, the 15th.

Grand Opening of
Provident Book/Humdinger Toys & Games
changed to
Saturday, November 15th.

For those of you who've sent out email blasts and posted on your blogs, please update this information. There will most likely be updates and changes to the Author Signing schedule as well. Stay tuned.

I most sincerely apologize to everyone for this inconvenience.

*No, we won't have Christensen art in our store, at least not right now. But you can purchase it HERE.

Found (Missing Series Book 1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I have been searching for books that my 8 year old would enjoy, are appropriate for his age and challenge his reading abillity (he is a high level reader).

In the process of that search I came across this book and was intrigued with it. I set out reading it to make sure it would be appropriate for him and found myself engrossed in the story. It is a mix of sci fi and mystery with an adoption twist thrown in. It is also the 1st in a series of which none of the other volumes have come out. I will be waiting for the next volume and will read this one again. I will also be checking out Ms. Haddix's other series.

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adoped, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere—and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Bookstore Opening in Pleasant Grove, UT

This post is a little out of our usual scope, and if I'm out of line, Jennifer, you can delete it. But since we all love books, I thought you wouldn't mind if I told you about a new bookstore opening in Pleasant Grove, UT. Heather Moore, author of Abinadi and contributor to this site, will be doing a book signing at the Grand Opening this Saturday (Nov. 8th), along with over 30 other authors throughout the day.

If you want more information, including a printable coupon for 25% off any one item, visit my personal blog.


NOTE: Opening moved to November 15th.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Abinadi by H. B. Moore


by H. B. Moore
Covenant November 2008

Review by Anne Bradshaw

Heather B. Moore has written another winner. Her latest novel, Abinadi, is not only compelling reading from page one, but is also packed with excellent details of how life really was in those Book of Mormon days. Heather’s skills as a writer bring flavors of Eastern romance into an inspirational and edifying story.

Although the Book of Mormon’s account of Abinadi’s life (and encounter with Alma, the one person who listened to his message) is brief, Heather manages to fill in the gaps surrounding these important events with some intense adventure, and satisfying, though often traumatic, family details. Every character is finely drawn, believable, and unforgettable—including the wicked King Noah.

I highly recommend Abinadi as an engrossing read guaranteed to hover in the memory for a long time after the last page is turned. I feel like I’ve been to the ancient Americas, and absorbed the scent, scenes and sounds of historic events—an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

I asked Heather some questions about her writing to which she graciously responded. Her answers are below.

What made you choose Abinadi and Alma as subjects for your book?

I wanted to start planning a new series and was looking for a good place in the Book of Mormon that would be conducive to 3-4 historical volumes. Abinadi, Alma the Elder, and Alma the Younger all live in the same century. I actually wrote the first chapter for Abinadi in 2006. I think I was mainly interested in what would make a man, a prophet no less, walk into a situation where he’d undoubtedly be executed. As I started reading a little about him, I found several articles that typified Abinadi as a precursor of Christ—their lives had many similarities. Then I started thinking of how I’d create an entire story around it (the fiction side of things), and that’s when I started to question how old Abinadi might really be.

I asked my father (S. Kent Brown) if there was any scripture or scholarly information on Abinadi’s age. He said that no one knows his age and there is no scriptural indication of his age—although traditional LDS art depicts him as an aged man. The open-ended age question hooked me right there, and I decided to make Abinadi a young man—a man who has to give up not only his life, but a wife and a young family. Then of course Alma naturally came into the story because he was one of the high priests in King Noah’s court who heard Abinadi’s message—and believed.

As I began to write full force on Abinadi, Alma really became more of a main character than I intended him to be. I found myself trying to reel in Alma’s character so that we could still hear Abinadi’s story.

Are you planning on more books about Book of Mormon characters?

Abinadi is the first in a series that will cover several Book of Mormon prophets. The publisher didn’t give this “series” a series title, but the books will definitely follow one after another. Although in the opening chapters, I’m careful to “catch the reader up” just in case the reader didn’t read one of the previous books. There will also be a character chart in the volumes after Abinadi. So to really answer the question, yes, I recently finished writing book two in this series—Alma the Elder—and will turn it into the publisher before Thanksgiving (2008). The third book will be about Alma the Younger. Then a fourth book will most likely be about Helaman.

Where did you get all your inside information about life in Abinadi's day?

I have rows of books in my office—ones that I’ve purchased or borrowed. I used to get them at the library, then realized I needed them more than just three weeks. Even one year isn’t enough. Hence, the purchase cycle. I have books by John L. Sorenson on the Book of Mormon peoples in Ancient America, books by Joseph Allen about the sacred sites, and books on the Maya culture.

I also read doctrinal books on the specific Book of Mormon passages that I’m covering, written by authors such as McConkie and Nibley. Book of Mormon art has also been helpful—since most artists do plenty of research on appearances, characteristics, and clothing of the era. I also do a lot of internet searching to find tidbits about Mayan clothing, food preparation, medicinal practices, marriage traditions, crop patterns, etc. The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has also been very useful (produced by F.A.R.M.S, now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute). I’m constantly pouring over the newest insights published by Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican scholars.

Have you actually visited the places in your book, and if so when and why?

I’ve lived in the Middle East, so I had that advantage when writing the Out of Jerusalem series. But as we know, Lehi’s family arrives at the promised land—which is somewhere on the coast of Guatemala or El Salvador. So, specific to Abinadi, I haven’t been to Guatemala. I do have readers who edit my book before going to the publisher who have been to Guatemala. And those documentary films come in real handy when working on description.

Did you base Abinadi's character on anyone you know?

This is a hard question, because Abinadi is unlike anyone that I know. Yet, he has parts of many people that I know. When I set out to characterize him, I wanted him to be hard-working, yet not the complaining type. I wanted him to have some insecurities—asking himself, “Why me?” “Why did the Lord ask Me to do it?”

We all know those people who would rather be the secretary of something than the president of something. That’s Abinadi. He’s content with farming and caring for his aged mother. And only when he is “forced” out of the city, does he flee. In that way, I could compare him to Nephi or any other person of faith. A person who has tremendous perseverance. I purposely gave him what I call “light characterization.” This is because I wanted him to not be shackled with regret over this or that. I wanted him to be simple in the sense that he is not touched by the world as so many are. He not concerned with station or wealth. He sees life in whites and blacks. When he hears the Lord’s voice, he doesn’t doubt the Lord’s will or power, but he only wonders why he was the chosen one.

And it’s because of this very plain, simple, and even child-like faith, that Abinadi is willing to walk himself like lamb to the slaughter. I also wanted him to love and love deeply. Be it his mother, his brother, his wife, his son, or the Lord. I’m sure we can all think of people we know who have these attributes. Now, if you ask me about Alma, that’s a whole other story.

Now, that's too tantalizing to ignore. So how did you come up with Alma's character. Is he based on someone you know?

I guess I asked for it, didn’t I? By a whole other story, I mean Alma is quite different from Abinadi. There are some people who have a tough childhood and use it as a crutch the rest of their lives, where others—with a similar tough childhood—go out and change the world. Alma is the former, but makes an incredible transformation by the end of the book. I’d say that Alma is based after a man who’s had several difficult trials in life, and as a consequence, turned to the wrong sources in order to cope. Years later he makes a sincere turnaround.

I’ll be interested in hearing readers’ feedback on Alma’s character because I had some mixed responses during the editing process. I wanted him to sink to the very depths of sin and despair, and some have been uncomfortable with that. But in my mind, the Atonement is there for everyone, no matter what the transgression. I wanted this to be available to Alma. He is one of those guys with a chip on his shoulder and when the good-life is offered to him, he dives in head first. There’s some trepidation on his part in the beginning, but it’s easily dismissed when power and wealth is presented to him.

Dwelling at the very bottom enables Alma to truly rise to the top, with all the gratitude and devotion befitting a man who genuinely repents and tastes the sweet fruit of the Atonement.

How do your children feel about having a successful author for their mom?

Hey, that “successful” word sounds nice. The reaction from my children varies. My oldest (14-year-old boy) listened to the audio version of Out of Jerusalem last year. He came to me the first night after listening to a couple of chapters and said, “Mom, did you really write that book? Or did someone else?” He loved that series and has listened to them twice.

Now, my 11-year-old daughter won’t touch the books or the audios. She’ll sit in her room hour after hour listening to The 13th Reality or Far World, but nothing to do with Nephi.

A few weeks ago she asked why people don’t follow me around. I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, because you’re like a famous author.” I told her, “I’m not that famous.” If someone calls the house, and I’m gone to a book signing, my eight-year old daughter will tell them that I’m at a book signing because I’m so famous. We have to monitor when she answers the phone now. And my four-year old just knows that mom “works” in her office. Her favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Grace by Richard Paul Evans


By Richard Paul Evans
Simon and Schuster, October 2008

Review by Heather Moore

If you are a Richard Paul Evans fan, you know that you’ll probably need a tissue when reading one of his books, especially towards the end. Grace is no different. This book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list—and for a good reason. Heralded by Glenn Beck as Evans’ best book yet, readers will quickly find that this high praise is well deserved.

The book opens with a retelling of the well-known tale—The Little Match Girl. Of course with a precedent set like that, the theme of the story quickly comes to life. The reader is then thrown into the year 1962 in a poor neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Two brothers build a tree house—which becomes the place they spend almost every minute of their summer hours. With a working mother and a disabled father, they create their own entertainment by searching through the old junk in the garage.

When the main character, Eric, meets a runaway girl named Grace, he offers her a place to sleep in his backyard tree house. Little does Eric know, but Grace will be the one helping him, and changing his life forever.

But more than the story, and even more than the message, something extraordinary arises out of the pages. A mission from the author. Richard Paul Evans is a person who not only “talks the talk” but walks the walk. He’s launched a new project in conjunction with his charity, The Christmas Box International, called The Christmas Box Initiative. His goal? To help every youth in America who is aging out of foster care. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what a difficult road an eighteen year old has ahead of him with no parental support. Many of these youth simply become homeless. But The Christmas Box Initiative provides Christmas Box Lifestart Kits to the youths as they leave foster care. And that’s only the first phase.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brittany's Books

By Brittany Mangus

Lately I have been channeling my inner Edward. And I can now tell, from reading your minds that all of you have always wanted to know which books I love to read! This is a short list of my favorite church-related books (other than the scriptures) (and my book) (ha ha).

Mantle: A Windy Day in August, at Nauvoo by Robert G. Mouritsen. This is a relatively short book about the day that some say Brigham Young received the countenance (and some said even the voice) of Joseph Smith, proving to them that Brigham was his intended successor. It has a lot of excerpts from pioneer-era journals. It's very interesting to read, especially if you're about to travel to Nauvoo.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard L. Bushman. There have been a lot of biographies written about Joseph, but I really enjoyed this one (some of it I took with a grain of salt). It really attempts to paint a "cultural biography" of the prophet. After reading it, I now see Joseph as he was: a real person with an extraordinary and exemplary calling as the prophet who ushered in the restoration.
Symbols in Stone: Symbolism on the Early Temples of the Restoration by Matthew B. Brown and Paul Thomas Smith. I love anything by Matthew B. Brown, but this book has a special place in my heart. This was one of the first books I read about the temple when I was preparing to go. It gives a wonderful perspective on temple symbolism and explains the symbols on the outside of the Salt Lake Temple.
The Savior and the Serpent by Alonzo Gaskill. Also a great temple-related book. (It talks a lot about the Garden of Eden and eternal progression.)
Brigham Young, American Moses by Leonard Arrington. I love Brigham Young. To me, he was tough as nails (and of course, the "Lion of the Lord" nickname fits him). I love that he was one of the only people who never betrayed Joseph Smith. I love that he had both a testimony of Joseph Smith and a testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel. This book gave a great background on him. I recommend it.
Leaves from my Journal, Wilford Woodruff. This is a collection of excerpts from Wilford Woodruff's amazing journals. He of course is the source of many facts concerning the early history of the church.
Gospel Symbolism by Joseph Fielding McConkie. Another book I read while preparing for the temple. Read it even if you've already been to the temple. It really helps to open up another level of understanding concerning gospel principles and the Savior's atonement.
The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill. I use this more of a reference guide, it's like an encyclopedia.
Endowed from on High by John D. Charles. Another book I read when I was preparing for the temple. I read it again right after I received my own endowment. This book is one of the reasons why my first temple experience was so wonderful.
Brigham Young: Images of a Mormon Prophet, by Richard Holtzapfel and R.Q. Shupe. This is a coffee table book. (Err... hot chocolate table book?) It has lots of great photos of Brother Brigham and gives you another perspective on his life.
Joseph Smith: The Man The Mission The Message by Matthew B. Brown. Another... hot chocolate table book. Lots of great photographs of personal articles owned and worn by the Prophet and Emma.
Mafia to Mormon: My Conversion Story by Mario Facione. No, this doesn't have anything to do with that movie Mobsters and Mormons. This is an autobiographical account of Mario's life both before and after he left the Mob and joined the church. It's a quick read (105 pages) and I guarantee you'll read it again.

There are more of course, (like The Holy Temple by Boyd K. Packer, and Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage, etc.) but I know most of you have read those. I wanted to talk about books that maybe you haven't read before. Or maybe you have read some of the books I've mentioned? What are your thoughts? Were you upset because you thought I was going to talk about the Twilight series and I didn't? Talk to me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recovering Charles by Jason F. Wright

Recovering Charles

By Jason F. Wright
#1 New York Times Bestselling Author
Shadow Mountain, September 2008

Reviewed by Heather Moore

“Every life has a second verse” is the theme reiterated throughout Jason Wright’s latest novel, Recovering Charles.

When Luke Millward, a Pulitzer winning photographer, receives a phone call from New Orleans, his routine life is turned upside down. On the heels of Hurricane Katrina, Luke is told that his father has gone missing.

Estranged from his father for many years, Luke decides to make the journey and join in the search. But the search for his father turns out to be a discovery of the soul—both past the present for Luke.

Throughout the story, we learn about Luke’s mother who became addicted to prescription pain medication and his father who faithfully stayed by her side until her tragic death. We also catch a glimpse of Luke’s father and his descent into depression and alcoholism following his wife’s death. Luke moves on with his life after graduation, but he never forgets his upbringing.

This novel was a wonderful, compelling read. The writing style is fresh and even poetic in some places. The characters are vibrant and engaging—I was caught up in the plight of the main character as he was swept into the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and started to put together bits of his past together as he tried to find his father. Readers will be reminded of the devastation that occurred in Louisiana and will see it firsthand again through Luke’s eyes.

Recovering Charles is a great story that is universal in appeal—for anyone who believes in a second verse.

Book is available for purchase here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Light of Ancient America, Vol 1 & 2--by Gary T. Wright

Reviewed By Heather Moore

As a historical fiction author myself, I might have a unique interest in reading the two-volume set, The Light of Ancient America. Whenever I read historical fiction, I’m looking for an experience, unlike my modern-day life and usual concerns. I want to be immersed in a tale that is rich and filled with the sights and sounds of another era. I want to meet characters who were challenged in ways and experienced things that I can only imagine.

So with all of these usual expectations, I cracked open Signs and Wonders, the first volume of The Light of Ancient America.

The first thing that impressed me was the author’s Historical Notes. It gave an overview of the purpose and background of not only the book, but the events that occurred during this time period. I found this helpful—not necessarily for myself—but if I were to share it with someone who had little knowledge of the Book of Mormon, I would be assured that they would “get it” before diving into the story.

The first volume begins about five years before the birth of Christ. A time when there are many prophets on the earth prophesying of His coming, and many others who are denouncing His name. In the Book of Mormon lands, the Gadianton robbers are a force to reckon with, for both the Lamanites and the Nephites.

The main character is none other than Gidgiddoni and his brother Jacob—two sons from the same family with opposing beliefs. The story is primarily of two brothers and their rise to power and position within the city of Zarahemla. With it comes greed and jealously on Jacob’s part, and he is party in sending his brother into exile. But even in exile, and working as a mere slave, Gidgiddoni’s leadership skills rise above all others. He is rightly given the nickname of Jaguar, which he becomes known as all around the country. Jaguar quickly redeems his good name and much to the dismay of Jacob, earns his full commandership back and is even promoted.

As Jacob dives into deeper waters of treachery, he joins the Gadianton robbers and plots to murder the leaders who have the control he seeks—including his own father and his own brother. He succeeds in poisoning his father, but Jaguar makes a narrow escape, thanks to his wife.

By the second volume, Honor & Arrogance, the situation escalates as the people start to falter in their belief. Even after the great signs of Christ’s birth, many years pass before the sign of his death comes. During these years, Jacob gains immense power and influence, using the Gadianton robbers as his pawns. On the other side, Jaguar must use all of his resources and strategy to stay one step ahead. Trials and temptations continue to abound and at one point, Jaguar faith is put to the ultimate test. When the great and terrible signs of Christ’s death come to the New World, everyone’s lives are changed forever.

These historical volumes are full of rich detail and immaculate research. It will open the minds and hearts of the readers and bring them to a greater knowledge and appreciation of the greatest era of mankind to date. The era when Christ lived and reigned upon the earth.

More information about buying the book, and reader group discussion questions, can be found on the author’s website:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Star Shining Brightly, by Marcia Mickelson

Review by Brittany Mangus
Thank you again, to Marcia who sent me a signed copy of her book. This is a story of Lauren, an LDS actress who wins an Oscar. She grows up in Salt Lake, a member of the church, and then, right out of high school, heads to Hollywood in search of fame.

The book begins at the point where Lauren has had several failed relationships and two children, but she is having great success as an actress. Lauren doesn't go to church anymore and she ends up re-evaluating her life and she sets goals as to what she would like it to become. Do you have to give up your values to become successful in Hollywood? Can a balance be reached? If you wanted to change, what would happen to you, your friends or your career?

I enjoyed this perspective, and I couldn't help thinking about some of the real LDS actors and actresses and wondering how they feel about all the trappings of Hollywood and being LDS.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Spare Change by Aubrey Mace

Spare Change by Aubrey Mace, Review by Emily Beeson of Deliciously Clean Reads

I've had a bit of trouble keeping my reviews up lately (4 1/2 months pregged...), but I have been pleasantly surprised by a few review books I have received and want to make sure they get their moments of fame.

The first pleasant surprise is Spare Change, a perfectly clean grown-up romance.

Riley is sick of making New Year's resolutions she doesn't keep. So, when her mom forces the family (again) to make them, she decides to do something really easy. She'll simply gather her spare pennies throughout the year and do something fun with them at the year's close.

However, working at a cancer treatment center gives her a new idea. She'll donate the pennies to cancer research. Riley tries to keep her goal a secret, but pretty soon the whole town is contributing to her fund.

During the process, Riley finds love. Will it be the cranky bank teller or the mysterious poem-writing secret admirer?

Spare Change was a pleasant surprise for a few reasons. 1. It's perfectly clean, which, let's be honest, when you just pick up a random book with no previous knowledge of it, that is unlikely. 2. The characters are well-developed. 3. The story has multiple levels that come together to make a great, fun romance. 4. If it wasn't getting so cold already, I'd say it is a perfect pool-side read. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman

I'm not sure about recommending these books here because the recommendations on this site are usually pretty tame, but they were too amazing for me to not mention them. So when it comes to these books, reader beware! These books are appropriate for their subject matter--they are not gratuitous--but they are gritty.

The Holocaust is a difficult subject that has been taken on by countless authors, each author trying to add depth and breadth to a story that is already too big to be grasped. But no matter how big of a challenge the Holocaust presents, writers need to write about this--especially writers who have a direct connection to it.

In what is probably one of the earliest graphic novels, Maus and Maus II is the story of Art and his father Vladek and their struggles to understand the Holocaust. Vladek is a Holocaust survivor who always wants to tell his survival tale but can never quite bring himself to do it until his son starts asking him questions. Overwhelmed by Vladek's grief and idiosyncrasies--many of which grew out of the war--Art turns to the only medium he knows to express himself: comics.

As his sketches the pain and frustration that have been the driving force of both their lives, the Jews comes out as mice (maus is the German word for mouse) and the Nazis come out as cats. The simple cat and mouse metaphor provides the clarifying juxtaposition that Art needs to emotionally process and record his father's story.

The Pulitzer Prize winningMaus volumes are raw and real. Seeing the story documented through comics allows the reader to approach the Holocaust from another angle--making it both more immediate and more complex. Maus and Maus II are books that should not be missed by anyone searching to understand the Holocaust.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Her Good Name by Josi S. Kilpack

Her Good Name
by Josi S. Kilpack
Reviewed by Heather Moore

I’m a longtime fan of Josi Kilpack and her books rank among some of my favorite LDS fiction. Her recent suspense novels are just as good as anything written in the national market. Her last book, Sheep’s Clothing won the 2007 Whitney Award for Best Suspense by an LDS writer, and it was well deserved.

So you can imagine the anticipation that I had to read Her Good Name. I was caught up in the story right from the first chapter. Chrissy, a thirty-five year old member of the Church, risks another blind date (in a long line of disastrous relationships). The date with Micah is interesting, but she gets a phone call and has to leave early. Unbeknownst to her, the cashier makes a copy of her debit card and i.d.

Chrissy’s identity is stolen and sold to a professional organization that promptly takes over her credit and bank accounts. Chrissy is faced with the challenge of proving her identity and getting her credit restored.

The book is full of twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and the characters are colorful and lively. I found myself laughing out loud at the interactions between Chrissy and Micah—as Micah tries to help her restore her credit, and works his way into her heart.

At the end of the book are the author’s notes on how to prevent yourself from becoming an identity theft victim.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

This is a great book. I read it twice, David, my eight year old son read it and my 15 year old daughter, non-reader, read it. It is the only book my 15 year has finished in I don't know how long. And she enjoyed it.
David and I were able to meet (virtually) J. Scott Savage at the All Star Game and here is our interview:
Jennifer: Jeff it was nice of you to meet David and I here at Yankee Stadium for the All Star Game and to discuss your book Far World: Water Keep.

J. Scott: I’m excited to be here. The last All Star Game ever to be held here. Looks like the new stadium is coming along nicely though.

Jennifer: I am rooting for the National League what about you?

J. Scott: Uh, oh. I grew up watching the Oakland days back when they won three World Series in a row. So I’m kind of an AL guy. Sorry.
Jennifer: That's OK a little healthy compitition is good.

David: Where did you come up with the names Ishkabiddle, Bonesplinter, Frost Pinnois and everything else?

J. Scott: Making up names is one of the most fun parts of writing fantasy. You can really run wild. Some names are totally just made up. I just play with sounds until I find one I like. Others, like the Unmakers, Mist Steed, and Mimicker, are names that sound like what they are. With Ishkabiddle, there was a musician in the 40's who called himself Ish Kabibble which I understand is Yiddish for something like "What me worry?"

Jennifer: I read over on Inksplasher that the Ishkabiddle has received a clamoring of attention and your readers want more of her. David read the book before I did and I remember asking him if the Ishkabiddle is in any other part of the book. Why do you think a minor character is so popular?

J. Scott: I don’t really know. It’s makes me smile but it is so totally unexpected. It’s probably because I introduced her first thing in the book, so the reader gets an instant attachment. It’s funny. Originally she was just a plain old rabbit. But I needed it to be more clear that we were not on Earth from the start. So I invented the Ishkabiddle. And now look at her. She’s a rock star. Maybe we’ll have Ishkabiddle dolls one day. Huh?

J. Scott: I’m gonna go grab some hotdogs. Would you too like some?
David: Can I have three, please!

Jennifer: NL scores yeah!

J. Scott: Shoot. I knew I shouldn’t have left. Ten minutes away and my team gives up a run.

David: What gave you the idea of the scar on Marcus's arm?

J. Scott: That was actually a tough decision, because it instantly draws comparisons to HP. But it’s too important a part of the story to leave out. Not just how Marcus got the mark, but what it means.

Jennifer: NL scores again!

J. Scott: That hurts. Especially since it was an A’s pitcher. Hey, look a foul ball. David, get you mitt up. Nice catch!

Jennifer: Keep that ball David. What gave you the idea of referring to Harry Potter in this book? It does set the time period of the book as modern day.

J. Scott: Good question. No one else has asked me that. Some writers prefer to make their books “timeless” but not referring to pop culture. But my experience has been that things change so fast you can’t help but have your books take on a certain timeframe. Imagine, for example, that you had referred to a floppy disk fifteen years ago. At the same time, I also want realism, and in my mind if you told any kid today that there was “real magic” the first thing he’d think of is HP. So let’s do it.
David: I like that you brought HP into it.

J. Scott: Well so far the games been kind of quiet. But it was cool that David caught the foul ball. Maybe this is the NL’s year—finally.

Jennifer: AL scored two runs this inning

J. Scott: Heh. He. Just had to jinx your team a little by saying they were going to win. Uh, oh. That Mets fan over there is giving me the evil eye. I better get back to book questions.

Jennifer: Why is the magical world pre-technology? Even with magic it seems it would be easier to cook on a stove than a fire.

J. Scott: Another great question. In Farworld, magic is so prevalent that technology has really stagnated. If you can control how and where the fire cooks, and then keep the food warm days at a time through magic, why invent the stove. Magic is not infinitely powerful. For example you still have to tan a hide and cure it before you can add magic to the boots. But much of the manual labor is accomplished via magic. That’s why Kyja is such a total misfit there. It’s like having a girl on Earth who can’t use any machines of any kind. No technology.

Jennifer: Both teams scored now it is tied and the top of the 9th.

J. Scott: This is my kind of game. Hey, peanut guy! Two bags over here. Ouch! That guy’s got quite an arm. He should be playing right field.

David: Where did your original idea for Water Keep and the other Keeps come from?

J. Scott: When I first pitched my publisher on the idea of the elementals. They really liked that concept. It reminded Chris of a show called Avatar that his kids watch. Then I explained what the elementals really are and why they are, and it really blew him away. I’ve spent an inordinately large amount of time on the details of the elementals. All the way down to colors they prefer. I didn’t want them to just be the same thing but with fire instead of water. Going along with that, then, they needed different places to call home. And those places should reflect their natures. I originally called the home of the water elementals City Under the Water. But I really thought that was weak. When I came up with Water Keep, we all liked that.
David: I love Avatar and your book.

Jennifer: Extra innings here we come.

J. Scott: This could be a long night. Glad you came armed with lots of questions. Anyone for a giant #1 finger?

Jennifer: Any secrets about Elder Ephraim you would care to share? He certainly gives Marcus some good advice.

J. Scott: They may be more to him than we know. There are some interesting parallels between him and MT.

Jennifer: What an exciting inning (10th) bases loaded and no outs and the NL kept the AL scoreless, Wow

J. Scott: Yeah. I thought we had it won for sure. That’s not a voodoo doll your playing with over there is it, Jennifer?

Jennifer: When is the next Shandra Covington novel coming out and will there be any more after that?

J. Scott: Well, as you’ve probably heard, Farworld really slowed down Shandra. Only so many hours in the day. I’m hoping for a late 2009 Spring release. But it’s all on my shoulders at the moment. I think there will be at least one or two more books after this next one.

Jennifer: I am really looking forward to the next Shandra and am glad there will be more than one. What is happening with your horror novel?

J. Scott: Covenant has wisely told me to get Shandra done, then we can go back to the horror novel. It’s done, but it’s not the top priority.

Jennifer: Good finish Shandra first I'm not into horror novels though I will probably read yours. Drat the AL won but that was an exciting 15 innings. Thanks Jeff for joining David and I.

J. Scott: Thanks it was a blast. Now I just have to figure out where I threw my A’s hat in all the excitement. It’s got my address in it. You think someone will mail it to me?
Jennifer and David: Thanks Jeff.
Now for those of you who would like an ARC of Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. Leave a comment on this blog by Wednesday August 27th. One winner will be randomly drawn and will receive an autographed copy from J. Scott.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Surprise Packages

Surprise Packages

By Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, Carroll Hofeling Morris
(Deseret Book, 2008)

Once in awhile an LDS novel comes along that is completely refreshing. Surprise Packages will, you guessed it, surprise you.

Surprise Packages is the third installment of The Company of Good Women series. It’s a story of three women who met at BYU Education week, then became lifelong friends through thick and thin. The authors themselves have self-proclaimed themselves to be Crusty Old Broads—just as the three female characters in their books.

Deenie, Juneau and Erin live in different parts of the country and lead different lives. But they write emails, make phone calls, and get together on mini-vacations, keeping their friendship alive. Their challenges and triumphs mirror real-life situations, yet I found that the solutions they came up with to handle what came their way was many times truly inspiring. I found myself reflecting on the why’s and what’s of my own life, and where I can be better and make more of a difference.

Surprise Packages was truly a delight, surprising me time and time again.

Surprise Packages is available at Deseret Book.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, reviewed by Laura Craner

School starts for us on Monday. The transition is surprisingly mind-boggling. How to mark the change from sunny adventures and late bedtimes to structured classrooms and homework? The answer is obvious: a great book!

The Penderwicks, in case you haven't heard of it from your children's librarian or from all the awards it has received, is the tale of four wildly different sisters and their botanist father and the adventures they have during their summer holiday on the meticulously gardened grounds of Arundel Hall. The adventures begin when Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty (whose real name is Elizabeth--after their dead mother) meet Jeffrey, "a very interesting boy", and his mother, who seems to bring out the worst in each girl. They face down a raging bull, some lost bunnies,and a Garden Society Competition (hordes of old women in heels! yikes!), but the real trouble comes when they find out Jeffrey is going to be sent away to military school. What will the girls do? The solution pushes each girl to face down her fears and weaknesses and discover the real strength of family bonds.

My favorite thing about the book was how different each girl was and how integral she was to the family's happiness. It made the book positive and empowering. As I read I found myself hoping my girls would pick up some of Rosalind's dependable nature but hold on to Skye's feistiness too. I wanted them to be a part of Jane's dreamworld and the innocence of Batty's escapades. What really surprised me though, was when I realized I was hoping that I would incorporate some of those traits into my life too.

More than anything, this book was fun--a perfect summer read.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lucy, by Ellen Feldman

Reviewed by Brittany Mangus

I don't really remember how I stumbled upon this book, but I'm glad I read it. This is a biographical fiction novel about FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lucy Mercer Rutherford (Eleanor's personal social secretary and FDR's mistress).

It's written in the first person, from Lucy's (rose-colored) point of view. It takes place from 1914-1945, focusing mostly on the time period (1914-1918) when FDR met Lucy, which was before FDR was stricken with polio.

As a fan of similar period novels (The Age of Innocence, The Buccaneers, Ethan Frome, etc.) I was fascinated by this book; the characters exude the New England Victorian culture and Lucy mentions the strict social rules of the era. (For example, a patrician woman must never occupy a man's newly-vacated chair, for fear that his body heat may still be felt.) This book even weaves in some newly-discovered and very interesting information about FDR and another mistress, Missy LeHand.

I have read other biographies about former presidents so it was especially fun to read this "sort-of" biography in the form of a fictional novel. What was very interesting to me was how each chapter began with one or two actual quotes from people who knew FDR, Eleanor and Lucy. Often, they contradicted each other, which added a human element to the story.

FDR first met Lucy Mercer around 1914 when she was working in their home as Eleanor's social secretary. A not-so-secret romance blossomed. The affair was well-known to everyone in their social circle... everyone except shy, reserved, and repressed Eleanor.

However, in the fall of 1918, Eleanor discovered love letters from Lucy to her husband in his suitcase. Historians and this author agree that "the Lucy Mercer affair" was the catalyst that defined the great leaders who FDR and Eleanor herself would one day become. At the time, Eleanor forbade FDR from seeing Lucy ever again. Lucy, however secretly came back into the President's life near the end of it (the Secret Service gave her a code name "Mrs. Paul Johnson"), and was with him on the very day he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. What was not known until very recently was exactly when she re-entered his life. They now believe that it was much sooner than earlier thought.

It was interesting to compare the choices made by the women who loved FDR. Lucy married Winthrop Rutherford (a man 29 years her senior), whereas Missy never married and devoted her life to FDR. Daisy Suckley likewise never married and shared a similar expectation (with Lucy and Missy) that she would someday "retire" with FDR once his 4th term in office was over. Eleanor chose to remain married to FDR, despite accounts that she "did not act like a wife." (In fact, she frequently lived separately from him.)

There are many more secrets and interesting personality quirks and flaws that I will leave for you to discover. It is a fascinating novel about fascinating people- I recommend it!

"Lucy: A President, A Marriage, A Love Affair" By Ellen Feldman
Even though this book is about an affair, true to Lucy's patrician nature, there are no "details."
Biographical Fiction/Historical Fiction
304 pages
Published by WW Norton & Co. (2004)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grave Secrets by Marlene Austin

Grave Secrets, by Marlene Austin

Published in 2007 by Covenant Communications, softcover, 341 pages

I don't have a lot of mysteries in my life, and those that I do come across, such as who ate all my chocolate and why Legos gravitate towards my bare feet, are easily solved. This might be why I like reading suspense novels, where the mysteries are much less trivial and more life-threatening. Bethany Clarke, the heroine of the book Grave Secrets, has problems that are definitely greater than a lack of sweets and the migration patterns of plastic toys. Not only has her boyfriend Peter disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but her grandmother Amelia has up and died on her as well. Any chance Bethany might have had to form a proper relationship with the woman who brought her up, but who kept her at arm's length throughout her life, is now gone. Instead, as it says on the back cover blurb, it seems that the wealthy eccentric, and distant woman who raised Bethany has taken pains to torment her granddaughter even from the grave. Now, in order to claim her substantial inheritance, Bethany must meet the strange conditions stipulated in Amelia's will. She must spend a year at an abandoned house in Maine – and write a book.

Bethany starts to come to terms with her new life at the "hut" and is soon busy remodeling, planning her book, and researching the woman who first lived there, all the way back in 1640. The legend of the woman of Faunce Cove tells of a time when hostile Indians threatened her family and left her husband dead in the forest. She escaped by hiding in a cave on the coast, hollowed by centuries of ocean tides, which the Indians believed was the home of the Sea God and therefore did not dare to enter. Bethany is fascinated by this woman, whom she believes could have been named Patience, and begins to write her book about her. Patience's story is integral to Bethany's new life, especially when Bethany's idyllic existance is soon threatened by anonymous letters and incidents that might not be the simple accidents they seem. Soon, Bethany doesn't know whom she can trust, and even the actions of old friends appear suspicious now. When the threats become more physical, Bethany also ends up hiding in the cave of the Sea God.

I can't exactly say that this book was fast-paced, and yet there was almost always something that kept me turning the pages, whether it was scenes that served to confirm the suspicions that Bethany has of people she thought were friends, discoveries that shed more light on Patience (and Amelia,) or, best of all, thrilling action sequences where Bethany is trying to outmaneuver her enemies and escape the threats on her life. Although this book is a suspenseful thriller, there are also some threads of romance that definitely do not get woven into the pattern that the reader might expect, and are all the more satisfying for it. I also enjoyed seeing how Patience's experiences more than three hundred years before had a bearing on Bethany's life.

I particularly liked the development of Bethany's feelings towards Amelia throughout the book. At first, she's hurt and outraged when she finds out that Amelia purposely kept herself distant from her granddaughter. Her prayers and efforts to feel at peace about Amelia seem futile, and she doesn't feel any urgency about having Amelia's temple work done. In fact, the picture of the Boston Temple seems to mock her. The distant woman Patience seems closer, and her emotions more transparent, to Bethany than Amelia. But then Bethany meets people who knew Amelia in a different way than she did. One man in particular, who knew Amelia as a younger woman, gives Bethany the advice to think about Amelia's entire personality and her complete life, not just her relationship with Bethany. Bethany takes the advice, and when she has the opportunity to find out more about her grandmother's experiences, she can better understand why Amelia locked up her emotions and became cold and distant. With understanding comes a softening of her heart, forgiveness, and a happy determination to do the temple work, not just for Amelia, but for other ancesters that her research has helped her discover along the way. I liked the addition of this extra 'emotional' mystery and thought that it and its resolution added depth to the book.

The first time I read this book, I felt exactly like Bethany herself; not knowing whom to trust and who would turn out to be the good guy or the bad guy. The second time, I was able to see the clues that were there from the beginning, and thought that they were presented in just the right way, to keep the reader guessing, yet be convincingly explained at the end. I enjoyed reading this book both times, and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery or three.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fool Me Twice

Fool Me Twice, by Stephanie Black, is one twisty-turny book! It starts out with Megan O'Connor being bulldozed by her identical twin sister, Kristen, to take Kristen's place in caring for an aunt they never knew they had. Kristen tells Megan they're certain that Aunt Evelyn will leave all her money to them, and Megan's cut will come to half a million dollars. As the story goes on, however, the reader learns that Kristen has others plans – and so does "Aunt" Evelyn. Megan is suddenly caught up in the kidnapping of her new best friend and faces danger from a corner she didn't expect.

The story is fast-paced, especially towards the end, but doesn't skimp on characterization or description. Megan is shown right from the beginning to be a pushover, while her sister Kristen is ruthless. Megan has a conscience, whereas Kristen is lacking in that department. In the end, however, it is Megan's good and caring nature that helps her see that something's rotten in the state of Massachussetts, and by following her conscience, she can unravel all the evil snares that have been so painstakingly set up by many different people throughout the book. I particularly liked the way that Megan finally stands up to her sister at the end and is even starting to learn not to be such an easy touch by the conclusion of the story.

I also liked the little details that were scattered through the story, the mention of things that seemed so off-hand when I first read them, yet turn out to be significant later on, such as the mention of Megan's mother's car having been vandalized, or the way that Michael Drake prefers to pay a driver to chauffeur him around instead of doing his own driving. There are also scenes where details are left out, or rather, left to the reader's imagination. Later, it turns out that the scene was set up in such a way that the reader is left thinking that X must certainly have happened until the author reveals that actually, it was Y. I didn't feel cheated or frustrated in any way, however, because in the meantime, the author has filled in certain background information which helps the reader see that Y was actually the only possible outcome. An example of this is the prologue, where Evelyn comes into the house to find her husband dying after an attack by a burglar. The reader is left thinking that he does die because of the attack, but later, the true cause of death is revealed, and it's not the big shock it would have been if it had been spelled out right there in the prologue.

There were several different points of view shown in the story, which can be confusing for those of us with attention-deficit disorder, but the shifts from one person to the next were clearly marked. I only got lost once, between Trevor Drake and his brother Josh, because they were quite similar, but a quick re-read soon sorted me out. Aside from that, all the characters were so distinct that I had no difficulty in distinguishing them. I have no reservations about recommending this book to anyone who likes a good thriller.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forged in the Refiner's Fire by Candace Salima and Elizabeth Cheever

Recently I read Forged in the Refiner’s Fire—a compilation by Candace Salima and Elizabeth Cheever. I immediately found myself caught up in the stories of the trials and tribulations that others have gone through (some are well-known LDS names such as entertainer Merrill Osmond, author Tristi Pinkston, etc.). These are stories from the heart—stories that have changed lives. From an unwanted painful divorce, to a debilitating injury, to a childless couple—many walks of life are examined. Do these stories have good endings? Not necessarily—because they are true stories—about the ebb and flow of living a good life in spite of difficult challenges. About finding and maintaining faith against the odds.

An informational video can be found here on You Tube. In it, Candace Salima discusses the purpose and impact of the book.

Copies of Forged in the Refiner’s Fire are available on Candace's Website or on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Journey by Jewel Adams

Fans of Jewel Adams will enjoy her latest novel--one of making choices, finding love, and returning to what is tried and true. Something that resonates with all of us.

Ciran is on a journey--a journey in another world where she is tried and tested. But this is not any ordinary test. The fate of her homeland depends on her choices. When a charming man by the name of Ubal, asks her to dance at a party, she finds herself swept up by his charisma. But Ubal holds a secret, and when Ciran discovers it, she must face her true self and make the most important decision of her life.

LDS readers will find the theme of this novel familiar, though it is set in a "new world". This book is about making the right choices, even when we are unsure of our potential. For more information about her other books, please visit Jewel's website.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

This is the third book in the Fablehaven series and it is fantastic. I love all the new creatures especially the Nipsies. Brandon Mull pulls you in and keeps you reading.
Strange things are afoot at Fablehaven. Someone or something has released a plague that transforms beings of light into creatures of darkness. Seth discovers the problem in its infancy, but as the infectious disease spreads, it becomes clear that the preserve cannot hold out for long.

In dire need of help, the Sorensons question where to turn. The Sphinx has always given sound advice but is he a traitor? Inside the Quiet Box, Vanessa might have information that could lead to a cure but can she be trusted?

Meanwhile, Kendra and members of the Knights of the Dawn must journey to a distant preserve and retrieve another hidden artifact. Will the Society of the Evening Star recover it first? Will the plague eclipse all light at Fablehaven? Find out in Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ever by Gail Carson Levine

Ever by Gail Carson Levine
Review by Emily, head mama of Deliciously Clean Reads and ...whimsy...

Ever is a brand new fairy tale brought to you by the author of Ella Enchanted, Fairest, and many other great stories.Ever is told from both the perspective of Olus, god of winds, and the mortal girl he falls in love with, Kezi.

Olus lives a lonely life. None of the other gods are even close to his age. When he turns 17, he leaves the Akkan gods and seeks a life with the mortals. He becomes a goatherd for Kezi’s father. He watches Kezi and grows to care for her. The other gods tell Olus that it is a waste to care about mortals because they are soap bubbles. They are here one moment and die the next. But when Kezi’s life nears its end, Olus can’t stand the thought of it. He and Kezi embark on a hero’s journey to save her.

As I mentioned, Ever is an original fairy tale. The characters are fun and interesting, but I’m not sure they are as fleshed out as I would have liked. The plot is fresh. Seeing from each character’s point of view is intriguing, although occasionally confusing.

I definitely recommend Ever to teens and preteens who enjoy fairy tales. I didn't love it as much as Fairest and Ella Enchanted, but it is still worth reading.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The 13th Reality

Everything is boring to my 11 year old daughter. "Why don't you read a book?" I say to her. "Reading is boring." So when I picked up The 13th Reality, I was hoping she'd like it. Well, I found myself reading it with her, just as anxious to find out what happened next in the book. The characters are vibrant and endearing. Names like Atticus Higgenbottom, Norbert, Mistress Jane, Mr. Chu, still stand out in my mind. Strange letters, complex riddles, and the new reality were all captivating.

Author James Dashner has a fabulous imagination and a very enjoyable writing style. It's only a matter of time before it hits the bestseller lists. My 13 year old son recently snatched it. Looks like we'll need more than one copy because my 8 year old is dying to read it too. It's a hit at my house. For adults and children alike, The 13th Reality is worth every minute.

From Kirkus Reviews:
THE JOURNAL OF CURIOUS LETTERS A boy . . . a mysterious letter . . . twelve clues . . . a girl . . . a dad . . . two very strange strangers. These are just the basic ingredients in this adventure served up by Dashner in what is the start of a series that will capture the imagination of young and old alike. Atticus Higginbottom (Tick to all who know him) is smart, well-adjusted and something of a loner at school, preferring his family, the library and the Internet to his classmates. So he s surprised to receive a letter postmarked in Macadamia, Alaska, from someone he s never even heard of. But he s intrigued and makes a commitment to join with his correspondent to save many lives. Though there are chunks of text that are overwritten, the telling is generally laced with a strong sense of humor and a sure hand at plot; the author is plainly in tune with today s fan base. Let the adventure begin! (Science fiction. 10-12)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Farworld 2008 Blog Tour

Hey fellow bloggers J. Scott Savage (AKA Jeffrey Savage) is having a blog tour for his upcoming young adult fantasy series Farworld. If you would like to receive a ARC (advance reader copy) and are willing to blog about it go to J. Scotts site at Farworld 2008 Blog Tour for more information.

The Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook

Written by ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, this book talks about how even though America is at the zenith of its prosperity but American happiness has plateaued and, in some instances, even declined. Why is this? The answers, as any LDS reader might guess, go well beyond the old adage "money can't buy happiness." If you are looking for a light non-fiction read packed with good news and innovative ideas for enriching your life, this is a great place to start!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Help locating a book

This description was sent to me and I was wondering if anyone out there has heard of this series:

"O.K. I need a little help. I started reading a series of books but I can't remember the name or the author. I think the next one is coming out soon but I have no idea what it even is. Somebody mentioned it last fall It wasn't one we actually read. One of the books talked about How things were getting so bad that the church had people get girls camp places ready for families to live in and they brought everybodies storage together, toward the end they had sent everybody that would go to these camps to live away from the world. The government was putting chips in people's hand to do all the everyday things like bank and buy groceries. That's most of what I remember. If you have any idea what any of these books were called or the author I would be so happy. "

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Season of Sacrifice

Recently I finished reading Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston (critically acclaimed author of Nothing to Regret and Strength to Endure). I first based on the lives of the author’s great-great grandparents. At first I was a little nervous. Everyone has a great story somewhere in their family, but an entire novel’s worth? Diving in, I immediately liked how Pinkston put the location and date at the beginning of the chapters. I felt grounded from the beginning as the story opens in 1867 Wales.

Ben Perkins is a young coal miner who is saving his money to immigrate to America. But weeks before he’s set to leave, he courts Mary Ann, who he promptly falls in love with. He has to leave her behind but writes her frequently—through another person since he can’t read or write.

Almost three years later, Ben has saved enough to bring the rest of his family to America, including Mary Ann. What unfolds is a tender love story set against the background of the rugged terrain of Utah.

Next we meet Sarah, the younger sister of Mary Ann. Through several unfortunate hardships, her family makes the choice to leave Wales and travel to Utah—hoping for a fresh start and reunion with Mary Ann. In Utah, Sarah struggles to accept the unfamiliar surroundings and live in the Mormon culture (of which she has yet to convert). But her trials multiply when she agrees to travel to San Juan with Mary Ann and Ben and help establish a new Mormon settlement. When Sarah is faced with the prospect of becoming a second wife in a plural marriage, her faith is shaken to the core.

The story was exciting and kept me reading without hardly putting it down. When finished, I read the chapter notes and was very surprised at how little the author embellished the general events. Here was a true family saga that could be made into a novel, keeping a picky reader hooked until the very end.

This book is for sale several places on-line, but you can get an autographed copy through the author’s website:

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

I read this a while ago and just realized I never posted the review here.
Jessica Day George won a Whitney award for Best Novel by a New Author.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Review by Emily of Deliciously Clean Reads and whimsy

The difficult thing about reviewing is finding a balance between telling about a story and not giving anything crucial away. I am finding this balance particularly difficult with Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.
If I knew everyone would be intrigued enough to read it with a recommendation that simply said, "I love this book. If you enjoy YA fantasy, such as books by Shannon Hale, Robin McKinley, Patricia Wrede, C.S. Lewis, etc. don't pass this one by"...that is all I would write. I enjoyed the journey through this book, not having any clue about the story ahead of time. I have seen reviews since I read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow that gave away crucial elements of the story that I am glad I didn't know.
Having said all that, here is my review. I know. Finally.

The girl, aka the pika, lives in a place that is always winter. Her family is poor. The girl, though a teenager, remains nameless. Her mother was so upset at having another worthless girl, that she refuses to name her.
Legend has it, that nameless girls are often stolen by trolls...but it isn't a troll that takes the pika away from her safe home and beloved brother. It is an isbjorn, or ice bear. The great white bear takes the girl to live in an ice castle for a year, promising that her family will be wealthy.
Many girls have been taken by isbjorns in the past, but the girl has a special quality that distinguishes her from the others.
She can talk to animals, which certainly helps when you have been taken captive by a bear.
Jessica Day George loved this Norwegian fairy tale and decided to flesh it out into a full length novel. At LTUE, she said she chose the story because it had everything...adventure, trolls, castles, mystery, romance.

You can see a video interview with Jessica Day George here.