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.