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.