Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Today I have an interview with fabulous author, Jessica Day George, at my blog. You can see the interview here. You won't regret it. She's hilarious...and happens to be LDS, too. I am also giving away a signed copy of her new book, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George is absolutely delightful.

The story begins with this great opening: “It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon. Not that she was evil, or didn’t care for me. It’s just that we were very poor, and she was, as we said in those parts, dumber than two turnips in a rain barrel.”

Creel’s aunt hopes Creel will come away from the dragon with a rich husband. Creel hopes to come away with gold from the dragon’s hoard. What she actually comes away with is something nobody expected…a pair of enchanted slippers.

When she escapes from the dragon’s lair, she can’t return home, so she makes the long journey to the King’s Seat in search of a job as a dressmaker. Of course, things don’t often turn out the way we expect. Many obstacles arise, but in the midst of her struggles, she finds love, courage, friendship, and the strength to pursue her dreams.

As you can probably tell, I highly recommend this novel. It is an original fairy tale full of dragons, princes, adventures, and laughs. Nothing pleases me more than a good fairy tale.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer, by Phyllis Gunderson

I got a package in the mail in early November, which included the book "The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer" by Phyllis Gunderson. I whipped through it in mere hours, only to get an e-mail from my mother on the following morning, saying that these books were part of my Christmas box. Whoops. But I certainly don't regret opening my presents early, and especially not this one. I love mysteries and thrillers with non-traditional heroines and a good dose of humour, and this book has it all.

Archaeologist Matt (Mathilda) Howard comes across a Buddhist monk who tells her a fascinating tale about "lights that do not die." As a child in the monastery, he came across a room full of technological wonders, and one of the masters tells him it is an ancient repository, a place where the lights have been shining for thousands of years. The monk wants to find out more about these lights, having heard that such things were mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh (which includes the Babylonian version of Noah's Ark.) Matt is intrigued, even more so when she hears another legend about glowing stones while on a dig in China, and yet another legend about the same things while on a dig in Brazil.

Matt is an engaging character. She's sixty years old, overweight, and has never been married, but has an adopted daughter who, as a teenager, developed a secret language of facial contortions to signal Matt whenever she was unorthodox and embarrassing. It doesn't seem to bother Matt all that much. Neither does her weight, come to think of it. Matt knows her limits, but only regrets her extra pounds when she's in the jungle and can't carry her own pack. She's upbeat and can definitely poke fun at herself. I particularly liked it when she was thinking, "I have a voice inside that tells me when I've been stupid after the fact, but no voice to stop me before the deed is done. Someday I'll complain to my programmer."

This book is light reading in every sense of the word. The book is 176 pages long, including the epilogue, and it's very fast-paced. Even when Matt is simply sitting and thinking, there's no slowing down. The narrative starts with a story about lights, and it ends with another one, with plenty of other "illuminating" encounters in between. I enjoyed the adventures of Indiana Joan, and I'd recommend it for readers who don't want anything overly deep and ponderous to get in the way of sheer fun.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Second Comforer: Convsersing with the Lord (Book Review)

Title: The Second Comforter: Conversing with The Lord Through the VeilAuthor: Denver C. Snuffer Jr.Publisher: Mill Creek PressGenre: InspirationalYear Published: 2006Number of Pages: 445Binding: Soft coverISBN: 10: 0-9740158-7-3Price: $23.99Reviewed by Rob FiciurThis book took me several months to read. Normally, that would mean the book failed to engage me as a reader. The opposite is true with this book. Denver Snuffer’s first book made me think. I cold only read a few pages before I had to stop and digest the material. In many ways this book was as spiritually enlightening as Stephen Covey’s books: Spiritual Roots of Human Relations and the Divine Center. I read Covey’s books 10 years or more ago – yet I still reflect back on the paradigm shifts that I gained from them. In that same way, I believe Denver Snuffer’s writing will have a long term change in how I view my / our potential relationship with our Heavenly Father.Who is Denver Snuffer? My son is serving in the Salt Lake South mission – and told us about this Brother Snuffer he met. When our son had to send some stuff home – this book – and Brother Snuffer’s second book – were in the box. Knowing only that my son was impressed by the spiritual insights of this High Councilman he met on his mission, I began reading. A key strength to this book is that Denver Snuffer writes it as an “ordinary” member of The Church. His emphasis is on how much more is available to us from the Lord if we seek him, if we ask. We don’t have to be a General Authority or have a "high calling" in order to receive revelation from our Heavenly Father.At the beginning of each chapter the author shares an experience in his life – that helps teach a lesson. Some of these lessons are positive – others spotlight the lows in his life. However, through it all the reader gets a sense of hope of how we “ordinary” members of The Church can have revelation as a routine part of our lives.I read through the book again a second time to get quotes I could put in this book review. In time I realized I had gathered too many quotes for one book review. What higher compliment can I give to a book than to say my book review was going to be 15 pages so I had to cut it back. (I guess the only higher compliment is to say that my son and I will be arguing over who gets to keep / read Denver Snuffer’s second and third books when my son returns from his mission – if I tell my son where the books are).Quotes:“Academic discussions have never been the primary tool the Lord has commended for his saints for following Him or discovering his truths.” (page iii)“Brigham Young said "I do not want to know things faster than I can obey. Everything that is received must be lived up to.” (page 13)“But faith is not the end. Though developing faith will save you, much more is offered if you are willing to receive it.” (page 59)“No Goliaths in your life will destroy you. Rather, God will destroy the Goliaths for you.” (page 75) “It requires that you look Goliath in the face and say he is God’s problem, nor yours. Your problem is to persist in faith.” (page 78)“You can still feel Him here anytime you are willing to do so.” (page 106)While in Law School, Brother Snuffer had the following experience:“My developing analytical abilities were applied indiscriminately to everything including the Church… [My friend asked me] 'Are you reading your scriptures?' “I replied ‘What does that have to do with it? To which he responded ‘I would be more convinced of your complaints if you were reading your scriptures.’ I was unwilling to abandon my criticisms and thought he was being obsuse. But to prove him wrong, I began to read the scriptures and tried all the while to keep up my complaints against the Church. What I found however was that I could not both study the scriptures and reflect on their meaning and retain a critical and judgmental attitude…. I was off the mark. Criticism is easy. Anyone can do it. Obedience is hard…” (page 107)“It is not Heaven’s responsibility to force upon us answers to questions which we do not ask.” (page 111)“Tradition can be a very unspiritual thing…[There are members of other churches who are not interested in the Restored Gospel because of their family’s religious heritage or tradition.] There is no difference between this form of religious commitment and the one that keep a Latter-day Saint, a member of the LDS Church whose ties are familial and traditional rather than spiritual and revelatory.” (pages 136-137)I close the book review with a new “doctrine” that I found in this book – the doctrine of Self Selection.Brother Snuffer went into some scriptural detail to show that the appearance of the resurrected Jesus Christ to the Nephites was almost a year after the great destruction scenes. (That was a new idea to me). Then he described those that had gathered around the temple at Bountiful as being strangers to the city because they were marveling at all the destruction that had occurred. These people had gathered at the temple in Bountiful to celebrate a Law of Moses festival that starts each new year.“The pilgrims who had come to Bountiful to celebrate the season despite the difficulty they encounter in the process. [Because of the great destruction that occurred in the land a year earlier]."They had come to the temple precinct to be present at the year’s end for some worthy observance…this audience for Christ’s coming is interesting to contemplate. It is comprised of people who *self-selected*. They came to observe their normal religious duties. As a result of that intention and commitment, they are present for a much greater event. [See 3 Nephi 11]“Doing the Lord’s every day work is more important than it may seem at times…They chose themselves by choosing the Lord, and so the Lord chooses them. There is a powerful lesson in this for us all. How the Lord finds you spending your time is important to whether He can visit with you or not.” (page 162-163)My son won’t be home from his mission until June, that should give me time to read Denver Snuffer’s second book “Nephi’s Isaiah: A Prophetic Look at the Last Days” before my son comes home.

Rob Ficiur