Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Christmas List

Review by Heather Moore

This is something I've always wondered about. What will my obituary say?

In Richard Paul Evan's latest book, The Christmas List, James Kier is about to find out. Another man by his name is killed in an accident, and the newspaper reporter mixes up the identities. For a few hours, James’ loved ones believe he is dead. But when the comment section to the on-line posting starts to fill up, James discovers what people really think of him.

The Christmas List is an intriguing, as well as poignant about a ruthless business man who refocuses his life and tries to get his priorities back on track.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whitney Awards

This is the third year for the Whitney Awards. To nominate your favorite novels by LDS writers that have been published in 2009, go to the Whitney Award website. There are several fiction categories. Deadline to nominate is December 31, 2009.

LDS Publisher blog keeps a running tally of eligible books. I've posted the list below and bolded the ones that I've read so far!

2009 Fiction by LDS authors

Abish: Faith Among the Lamanites – Brenda Andersen
Actor and the Housewife, The – Shannon Hale
Adventures of Hash Brown Winters, The – Frank Cole
Agent in Old Lace – Tristi Pinkston
Alcatraz vs the Knights of Crystallia – Brandon Sanderson
All the Stars in Heaven – Michele Paige Holmes
Alma – H.B. Moore
Altared Plans – Rebecca Talley
Altered State – Gregg Luke
Alvor – Laura Bingham
Am I Not a Man – Mark L. Shurtleff
Amaranth Enchantment – Julie Berry
Babylon – Wendie L. Edwards
Balls in Her Court, The – Heather Justesen
Best of Times, The – Anita Stansfield
Beyond the Mask – Kae D. Jacobs
Bone Warriors – Bron Bahlmann
Bones of the Dragon – Weis & Hickman
Brass Dragon Codex – Rebeccan Shelley (aka R.D. Henham)
Briana, My Brother and the Blog – Jack Weyland
Bright Blue Miracle – Becca Wilhite
Burning Wild – Christine Feehan
By Love or By Sea – Rachel Rager
Chaosbound – David Farland
Chosen One, The – Carol Lynch Williams
Christmas Jars Reunion – Jason F Wright
Circle of Souls, A – Preetham Grandhi
Clone Betrayal, The – Steven L. Kent
Code of Honor – Betsy Brannon Green
Cold Creek Homecoming, A – RaeAnne Thayne
Counting the Cost – Liz Adair
Crimson Frost, A – Marcia Lynn McClure
Dark Slayer – Christine Feehan
David & the Bear Lake Monster – Linda Weaver Clarke
Dead Wrong – Clair Poulson
Deadly Treasure – Jillayne Clements
Dragon Spear – Jessica Day George
Dragon War Relic, The – Berin L. Stephens
Dragons of the Hourglass Mage – Hickman & Weis
Elena, Woman of Courage – Linda Weaver Clarke
Elfs in a Conquered Land – Anna del C Dye
Eliza's Field of Faith – Rachelle Pace Castor
English Trifle – Josi S Kilpack
Everything Is Fine – Ann Dee Ellis
Execution Dock – Anne Perry
Eyes Like Mine – Julie Wright
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary – Brandon Mull
Farworld: Land Keep – J Scott Savage
FOB Bible, The – Eric W Jepson, et al
Forest Born – Shannon Hale
Forgotten Warrior, The – Kathi Oram Peterson
Fortune's Woman – RaeAnne Thayne
Freaky Flyday – David Farland
Gathering Storm, The – Brandon Sanderson (Robert Jordan)
Gravity vs the Girl – Riley Noehren
Green Dragon Codex – Clint Johnson (aka RD Henham)
Haunts Haven – Joan Sowards
Having Hope – Terri Ferran
Heart's Desire – Steven D. Nielsen
Heavenly Surrender, The – Marcia Lynn McClure
Hidden Branch, The – G.G. Vandagriff
Hidden Currents – Christine Feehan
High Country – Jennie Hansen
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
Hourglass Door, The – Lisa Mangum
How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini – Heather Horrocks
Hunt for Dark Infinity, The – James Dashner
Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick
Illuminations of the Heart – Joyce DiPastena
Immortal Sins – Amanda Ashley
In the Company of Angels – David Farland
Just One Wish – Janette Rallison
Last Waltz, The – GG Vandagriff
Lemon Tart – Josi S. Kilpack
Leven Thumps & the Ruins of Alder – Overt Skye
Light Above, The – Jean Holbrook Mathews
Lockdown – Traci Hunter Abramson
Maze Runner, The — James Dashner
Methods of Madness – Stephanie Black
Missing Pieces – Jeni Grossman
Missing – Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
Murder by the Book – Betsy Brannon Green
My Fair Godmother – Janette Rallison
My Fairy Grandmother – Aubrey Mace
Mystic Cipher, The – Dennis Mangrum
Night's Pleasure – Amanda Ashley
No Going Back – Jonathan Langford
On the Jericho Road – K.L. Morgan
One Last Chance – Jerry Borrowman
Phoenix, The: Firestorm - Joseph Allen
Pickup Games – Marcia Mickelson
Previously Engaged – Elodia Strain
Princess and the Bear, The – Mette Ivie Harrison
Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George
Princess of the Sword – Lynn Kurland
Pursued – Lynn Gardner
Reiyalindis – Cory Poulson
Return of the Outlaw – Craig Curtis
Rift – Todd Robert Petersen
Right Click – Susan Aylworth
Rise of Zion, The – Chad Daybell
Route, The – Gale Sears
Samaritan Bueno, The – Jack Weyland
Santa Maybe - Aubrey Mace
Saphyre Snow – Marica Lynn McClure
Saving Madeline – Rachel Ann Nunes
Second Chances – Linda Chadwick
Servant of a Dark God – John Brown
Shackles of Honor – Marcia Lynn McClure
Shadow Dragons, The – James A. Owen
Shadow Hunter – Galli & Galli
Shadows of Eden – Timothy F. Bone
Shelter from the Storm – Anita Stansfield
Shudder – Jennie Hansen
Silence of Snow, The – Anita Stansfield
Sister Pact, The – Cami Checketts
Slathbog's Gold – M.L. Forman
Soul Alliance: The Thorn of Gooze – Charles Streams
Taken by Storm – Angela Morrison
Ties That Bind – Kristen McKendry
Till There Was You – Lynn Kurland
Torn Apart – Diony George
Tower of Strength – Annette Lyon
Trail of Storms – Marsha Ward
Tree House, The – Douglas Thayer
Tribunal – Sandra Grey
Trigger – Todd Durrant
Uncut Diamonds – Karen Jones Gowen
Undaunted, The – Gerald N Lund
Under a Lakota Moon – Deborah L. Weikel
Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson
Winds of Hope – Anita Stansfield
Wings – Aprilynne Pike
Within the Flame – LeeAnne Hanks
Wordsmith 1: The Veil of Heaven – Michael R. Collings
Wordsmith 2: The Thousand Eyes of Flame – Michael R. Collings

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

By Rachel Ann Nunes
Shadow Mountain, 2009
Reviewed by Heather Moore

Caitlin McLoughlin is a talented public defender, assigned to cases where she finds herself defending the bad guy over and over. But in her position, she doesn’t mind when she loses a case—because that means the criminals go to prison where they belong.

But then a four year old is abducted from her home and when the police find the kidnapper, it’s the girl’s father, Parker Hathaway. When Caitlin is assigned as his public defender, she is eager to wrap up the case, until she discovers Parker’s motivations.

Saving Madeline has an intriguing plot that follows Caitlin McLoughlin through the twists and turns of the legal system, explaining why some criminals get let off and some don’t, and how the prosecutors and defenders are held to the specifics of procedure.

As Caitlin’s professional life collides with her private life, she uncovers those who are worth having in her life and those who aren’t. She also wrestles with giving love a second chance. She makes every effort to keep her personal feelings out of her current case with Parker, but it proves to be difficult as time is running out for both Parker, and his daughter, Madeline.

An enjoyable, unexpected journey of ethics and love with a dynamic plot that will keep you guessing! I consider Saving Madeline as one of my favorite Nunes book. Readers will be pleased with this new novel and Nunes' fresh endeavor.

Rachel Ann Nunes is the bestselling author of many books. Visit her website here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christmas Jars Reunion by Jason F. Wright

Christmas Jars Reunion

By Jason F. Wright
Shadow Mountain, October 2009

Reviewed by Heather Moore

If you haven’t read Christmas Jars, the New York Times bestselling book by Jason F. Wright, you’ve missed out on a classic Christmas story that will change how you view the season of giving. Its sequel, aptly titled Christmas Jars Reunion is reminiscent of the first.

Across the country, a phenomenon has begun to unfold. Since the release of Christmas Jars, hundreds of readers have contacted author Jason Wright and shared their Christmas Jar stories, and thousands of Christmas Jars have been given away across the country. Individuals and families are setting out an empty Mason jar to be filled with spare change throughout the year. Then anonymously, the family gives away the jar around Christmas time to a person in need.

In Christmas Jars Reunion, the story that began in Christmas Jars continues. Yet, this story stands on its own, bringing the reader once again into Hope’s Jensen’s remarkable life. The author includes a quote from a Christmas Jar recipient at the beginning of each chapter. One reads, “I’ve often wondered how a person repays kindness. I know now . . . with a Christmas Jar. As if a year full of blessings wasn’t already enough, God blessed me again tonight. And tomorrow? A new jar begins. –Patricia” (CJR, 60).

But even Hope Jensen needs to learn what the spirit of selfless giving is truly about. When Clark Maxwell re-enters her life, she must decide if she can allow him into her heart once again, and discover that loving someone might just be worth the risk.

Hope sets the lofty goal of distributing 1,001 Christmas Jars in honor of Chuck, deceased owner of Chuck’s diner. But in the process, the importance of the original Christmas Jar is lost.

It will take a stranger, a young girl, and an interview of a lifetime to bring back the true meaning that the Christmas Jar was intended for. Christmas Jars Reunion is a story that will inspire you to look closer at your life and remind you of the significance of selfless giving.

To read personal experiences or share your Christmas Jar story, visit here.

Other books by Jason F. Wright: Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle, The Wednesday Letters and Recovering Charles.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the Company of Angels by David Farland

by Guest Reviewer, Robyn Heirtzler

New York Times best-selling author David Farland has done it again, created compelling fiction with unforgettable characters in his newest novel, In the Company of Angels.

Based on the true story of the Willie Handcart Company, Farland has beautifully captured the trials, fears and hope of these pioneers. He seamlessly pieces the thoughts and actions of the feisty Eliza Gadd, Captain James G. Willie and young Baline Mortensen into a compelling story that’s difficult to release. Led by Captain Willie, the company encounters countless tragedies that delays their trip across the plains, eventually resulting in numerous deaths from exposure and starvation.

Indian wars rage as they march across the plains, carrying their sick and injured in handcarts built from scraps of wood. Companies ahead of them report nearly constant threat of the raids and the discovery of corpses along the trail does little to ease their fears.

This heartbreaking account takes the reader to Eliza Gadd’s side as she watches her family collapse around her and culminates as Baline Mortensen gives the ultimate sacrifice…

In the Company of Angels is a story for all faiths and all people. It’s a historical recollection of fact combined in a novel that makes the reader believe he’s walking beside these brave pioneers.
From the prologue: “…Fifteen people are buried there in a circle, laid out toe to toe. In 1856, they tried to cross a continent, hauling all that they owned in handcarts, and were caught in an early storm. Most were men who died struggling to save their families from the brutal blizzard, but others were children, weakened by starvation. They are but a few of those who died along the trail.

“Their story is not a common tragedy. Theirs is a story of courage, hope, and heroism that may be unparalleled in the American West.

“Few have tried to tell their tale. It is not an easy one to tell. Though survivors, and even many of those who died, left biographical accounts, it is an odd tale—a story of revelations, of angelic visitations, of people struggling to find religious freedom in a harsh world.”

David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author with nearly fifty novels in print. While most of his novels fit into other genres, Dave felt deeply touched by the story of the Willie Handcart Company, and so began to study it with an eye toward writing the tale. He spent two years in the process, reading from numerous biographies, pulling handcarts, and traveling along the Old Mormon Trail.

The novel can be purchased here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Shudder, by Jennie Hansen

The ending of this book made me mad -- furious, in fact! I'm mad that -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me describe the entire book first.

Shudder, by Jennie Hansen, is a multi-faceted book; it's a suspenseful thriller, but it also features a storyline about abuse, along with themes of friendship and romance. The two main characters, Darcy and Clare, grew up together, and at the beginning of the book, they share an apartment. But while Darcy was always surrounded by a large, loving and supportive family, Clare only had an ill, demanding mother who later died. When Blaine, a young attorney, came into her life, she was flattered by his self-confident personality, and a little relieved to let him take over much of the load of responsbility that she had carried around by herself for many years. But Blaine's personality can also be described as "forceful" in more ways than one, and the book opens with Clare coming home with a broken wrist, which he caused. It's an event that only serves to make Darcy even more suspicious of Blaine; she's never liked him, but now she's starting to see what Clare cannot; that he is abusing her friend both physically and mentally.

Meanwhile, Darcy is having her own problems. When Blaine insists on moving in with Clare even before they're engaged, Darcy feels morally obliged to move out. Unhappy circumstances bring her together with David, a young, single LDS coach at the local high school. David is not only the exact opposite of Blaine, but he also helps Darcy find a new place to live, in the home of a woman, Karlene, who is recovering from a severe car accident. Karlene, however, is convinced that it wasn't an accident and that her car was deliberately forced off the road. Soon after Darcy moves in, the house is almost broken into, then a fire is started directly outside, and finally, the house is blown up deliberately -- fortunately at a time when both women are out. It seems that someone is looking for evidence of a crime that Karlene accidentally captured on film, and they will stop at nothing to find and destroy it. When Karlene goes into hiding, Darcy is the only connection to her that the villains have left.

The story contains many threads that are skillfully intertwined; the thrills, spills and romance of Darcy's storyline are a good balance to the increasingly abusive behavior of Blaine towards Clare. The pacing is fast, but not break-neck, and there's always something that will keep the readers turning the pages to see what happens next. Along the way, the reader also discovers much about the behavioral patterns of abusers -- not in the form of the dreaded info-dump, but carefully woven into the story. Because many of Blaine's actions are described from Clare's point of view, the reader is also shown what she is thinking and feeling, and how she doesn't recognize her relationship at first for what it really is. Clare is so in love, for instance, that it never occurs to her that Blaine deliberately hid her cell phone; she thinks she herself slid it into his briefcase by accident. She believes that he is truly too busy and forgetful to add her name to their "joint" account, and she even takes the blame for many of his aggressive outbursts, chiding herself for not recognizing and avoiding his triggers. I personally liked the way that Jennie Hansen showed us enough of Blaine's unhappy background that we can approximate an understanding of why he acts the way he acts, although I'm sure that the roots of abuse are much more complicated than we mortals can ever know. The best parts of the book, however, show the theme of friendship; how Darcy doesn't give up on Clare despite the obstacles that Blaine throws (sometimes literally) in her way, how friends can be found in unlikely places and with unlikely people, and best of all, how seemingly small acts of friendship can have so many positive outcomes.

All this talk about abuse makes the book sound preachy, but I assure you, it's not; it's entertaining and suspenseful right up to the end, with lots of good action scenes and two delightful romances (one major and one minor.) The scene with the snowmobile and the chase at the beach were particularly tense. And while a spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, this book is not just syrupy sweetness overcompensating for a bitter pill. The message isn't completely disguised -- it's not supposed to be -- but it is divided into small, easily digestible portions, and wrapped up in a hearty, satisfying meal that will make you glad you ate the whole thing.

Now, as I said at the beginning, the bittersweet ending of this book, or more specifically, of Clare's plotline makes me mad. I'm furious at the fact that it's the victims who have to run and hide, often for the rest of their lives, if they manage to get away at all. I'm mad that the perpetrators are often allowed to go on living as though nothing's happened, free to continue their abusive behavior, when they are the ones who should be forced to live in fear, looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives and worrying that their pasts will finally catch up with them. It's the sad reality of to-day, but books like this will help raise awareness of the problem so that things can change. I hope that this book in particular will go beyond mere entertainment, that its subtle messages will inspire who are in an abusive relationship to realize what's going on and get help, and inspire others who are outside of those relationships to reach out and give that help in the moment that it's needed.

I'd recommend this book to those readers who want more depth to their thrillers, who want to be entertained and yet left pondering at the same time. I also think this book would be appropriate for older teens.

If you'd like to win a signed copy of Shudder, go to Jennie's blog. She'll be holding two contests during the month of October and all you have to do to enter is make a thoughtful comment on any one of her blog posts during that time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Hidden Branch by G.G. Vandagriff

The Hidden Branch
By G.G. Vandagriff

Review by Heather Moore

Attention Mystery lovers: The Hidden Branch by GG Vandagriff is the final installment in the Alex and Briggie mystery series—a rollercoaster ride of genealogist sleuthing at its finest.

Meet Alexandra Campbell (Alex) and her sidekick, Briggie, who are hired to solve a mystery in Southern California. Paul Mardian has been murdered, his priceless artifacts stolen, and he's left billions behind in his will to unsuspecting estranged relatives--or are they? Join Alex as she and her cohorts interview various family members, uncover deep family secrets, and find themselves on the wrong side of the law. In The Hidden Branch, Vandagriff has created a wealth of unique characters, a dangerous plot, combined with snatches of humor. Not many authors can do this, but I found the secondary characters as charming as the main characters—Vandagriff certainly has a talent for characterization.
** To be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Hidden Branch, make a comment on this blog post.

After reading this book and having enjoyed GG Vandagriff’s other books, I thought I’d ask her some interview questions to go along with my review. GG graciously agreed to answer my questions. Thank you!

Heather: The Hidden Branch is your last in this mystery series. Tell us what readers can expect to see next from you.

G.G.: At this point all depends on the grace of Deseret Book, however the projects I am working on for 2010 are: a.) Embracing Abundance, a non-fiction gift book about gathering spiritual abundance through a personal relationship with the Savior; b.) another Shadow Mountain offering that I have been working on for about twenty-five years, The Only Bright Thing, about a couple married nearly five years who make the surprising discovery that they don't know each other at all. I call it a "romance within a romance" and hope it will offer readers the same satisfaction as Waltz. c.) We are leaving next week for Florence where I will be researching for the first book of my "Crazy Lady" series about four women in therapy together, all single for different reasons, who decide they can solve all their problems by going to Florence together (a la the movie Enchanted April).

Heather: I've had sneak peaks at these manuscripts, and I'm really excited for all three of them! Back to your newest release--The Hidden Branch. I love the name Briggie--I don't think I've ever heard it before. Tell us where you got this name.
G.G: Briggie is short for Brighamina. My great grandmother was named Johanna Brighamina Poulson, and I've always gotten a kick out of it. Brigham Young was prophet when she was born. Like my fictional Briggie she was a great fisherwoman and I have a newspaper clipping of her holding up a fish as tall as she is. She was also intrepid.

You've characterized Briggie perfectly in the book. You write in a few different genres. Is your writing process different with each genre, historical fiction vs contemporary mystery vs non-fiction?
G. G.: Yes. a.) Non-fiction comes easiest to me, because you can say what you mean. Also, it never surprises me. I just sit down and write it. I always experience inspiration during the process, and it is very satisfying. b.) Mystery or suspense fiction is the most difficult for me, because it is like getting on a bucking bronco. You have to give your life to it. You daren't let go of the reins, because you'll get thrown off and lose the story. The Arthurian Omen was particularly difficult because it was so tremendously complex. However, looking back, I'm not as satisfied with it as my Briggie and Alex books because I didn't develop the characters as well. My Briggie and Alex series has been fun to write. I have a basic mystery plot in mind, but my characters always surprise me, and things happen that I have no advance notice of. Those books are as character driven as it is possible for them to be, given the restraints of the basic plot. I never, ever intended for Alex to fall in love with Charles, however. That was a complete surprise. c.) My very favorite writing is my "literary" fiction which can be entirely character driven. It is very difficult. It takes me a long, long time. I do many drafts, adding layers and layers to my characters and their relationships. I've lost count of how many times I've rewritten Waltz and The Only Bright Thing. They change completely between drafts, as I dig deeper into personalities. I'm hoping that I can get it right a little sooner with Crazy Ladies. I'm only giving myself a year, hoping that I have developed a little more skill as a writer.

Heather: I think your skills are already developed. But I know what you mean, it seems with each manuscript a writer reaches new depths. Speaking of writing, tell us about your writing day and how you work in normal life and all the promoting with your newest book.
GG: Balancing promoting with writing is extremely difficult, as I'm sure you know. Promoting can be fun and creative, but it takes lots of time and is basically a left-brain activity. It tends to run away with your time, the more ideas you get. I am going to be hiring a "virtual" assistant to do much of the work for me in the future, because writing is more important to me, especially if I keep trying to publish two books a year. Also, I love helping promote my fellow writers and being part of a writing community, but sometimes I have to drop out for a while.

When I'm in the writing phase, I have to start first thing in the morning to get my best "creative time." I don't shower or dress, I just sit down in my p.j.s and write for as long as I can. I learned a long time ago that "first thoughts" are the freshest and most original, so that's why it's so important to write or rewrite early in the day. I sometimes go all day. Most often it's about 4 or 5 hours. By afternoon my brain is usually mush, so I do promoting or blogging or e-mail. My children are long gone, now, but when they were home, I worked during naps and when they were at school. I held that time inviolate, and hired people to clean my house, even if it was just teenagers.

Heather: I love your "first thoughts" advice. Thanks so much GG! To visit her blog, go here.

** Remember--To be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Hidden Branch, make a comment on this blog post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The long awaited sequel to The Hunger Games is out and just as terrifying and intriguing as the first. Warning: This is the second in a three book series and you are left hanging just as you were at the end of The Hunger Games.

Book Description:
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Farworld: Land Keep by J. Scott Savage

Farworld: Land Keep
By J. Scott Savage
Release Date: October 2009 (Shadow Mountain)

—Reviewed by Heather Moore

Category: YA Fantasy

“Water. Land. Air. Fire. Together, the balance of Farworld they keep.” Kyja and Marcus are on a quest to outdo the Dark Circle by convincing the four elementals of Farworld to work together. In the first book of the Farworld series, Water Keep, Marcus and Kyja were able to get the water elementals to cooperate, but now they have to travel to find the land elementals. Problem is, no one can tell them precisely where they are since they’ve been missing for thousands of years.

In this second installment, Land Keep, the captivating adventure continues. Marcus—a boy with magical powers, and Kyja—a girl who wants magic more than anything. The two soon find out that they each have to trade what’s most dear to them in order to survive.

Since Marcus’s birth, sacrifices have been made in his behalf that he is only now beginning to realize. But the longer he stays on Farworld, the faster his health declines. In a race against time, the characters must outsmart the Keepers and determine who is really on their side.

The plot is far from simple, but the complexity is rich and satisfying as questions proposed in Water Keep are answered in Land Keep. A clear picture of this new world emerges as the characters discover that things are not necessarily as they seem. Land Keep is highly visual, fast-paced, with multi-layered intrigue. But most importantly, the characters breathe life into the pages, pulling us into a magical realm. One that is truly powerful.

To preorder, go here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black

Methods of Madness
by Stephanie Black
Covenant Communications, Aug 2009

Reviewed by Heather Moore

2008 Whitney Award winning author, Stephanie Black, is back with another fantastic mystery. This suspense novel is not what you'd expect. There's not one, but two murders to solve, and a strange disappearance that continues to haunt Emily Ramsey.

Even years later, after the death of her sister and the disappearance of her fiance on the same night, she still struggles to overcome her fealings of guilt. What if she hadn't held the bridal shower at her future in-laws? Then her sister wouldn't have been outside tying balloons to the mailbox where she was fatally hit by a car. Or what if she'd leant her more reliable car to her fiance, and his car didn't break down at the shopping center, only to never be seen again?

But a second chance has presented itself in the form of Zach Sullivan. The relationship grows slowly between Zach and Emily, but it is as real as anything she's known for a long time. yet, it seems that almost as soon as they announce their wedding plans, things go awry. Threatening letters are sent to Emily and she can only assume they are from Monica, Zach's former girlfriend, who is suddenly interested in Zach again.

Just like Black's previous novel, Fool Me Twice, it took me until nearly the end to discover "who-dunnit". The story was tightly-plotted and the characters intriguing. I congratulate the author for another job well done.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Holy Bible and Mormonism

Review by Heather Moore

In his introduction Christopher Mills clearly states that he is not an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his work is for the express purpose of explaining to members and non-members how to “understand Latter-day Saint beliefs . . . from a Biblical standpoint.”

What follows is a selection of topics that often come under criticism from those outside of the LDS faith. Most members of the LDS Church know the answers because they have learned them throughout Primary, Sunday School and Gospel Doctrine classes. But I found that putting them into a single volume and walking through the relevant scriptures in the Biblical text brought the message and the explanation of the doctrines to a very manageable level.

Topics such as why the LDS people believe that faith and works are inseparable, and why we are baptized by immersion are clearly outlined. The chapters are compelling and not to be read in one sitting. The chapter on the LDS beliefs about eternal marriage was especially interesting, since I’ve found myself in similar conversations with non-member friends.

The chapters on the Priesthood and the Prophets and Apostles are fervent reminders of the importance of the restoration of the Church in the latter days.

Overall, the tone of the book is diplomatic and matter-of-fact. The author is careful to share both sides of the argument, then explain how LDS doctrine, does indeed, fit into the scriptural text found within the Bible. An interesting compilation and a helpful reference for any student of the gospel.
To order this book, visit Christopher Mill's website.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This was an absolutely fascinating book. It was terrifying but intriguing all at the same time. I couldn't put it down. The worst part about it was the sequel doesn't come out until September 1, 2009 (I originally read this about 6 months ago).

This book is advertised for young adults and I would recommend they be mature young adults. There is violence and death along with the goodness that is shown.

If this were a movie I would have to rate it PG-13.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hazardous Duty, Above and Beyond, Code of Honor by Betsy Brannon Green

Loved this series, especially now that it is done. For those of you that haven't started it just get all three books because you won't be able to put them down.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review of Anna Jones Buttimore's book, Easterfield

Easterfield is a historical romance set in Lancashire, England in 1850 and tells of the challenges that come into the life of a well-to-do family when they encounter one of the first LDS missionaries. Anna has an Honors Degree in English literature, and the story was inspired by her love of Jane Austen’s novels, as well as the work of the Bronte sisters and WM Thackeray, and her realization that these classic works were set around the time the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. What, she wondered, would happen if an LDS element were introduced? Easterfield is the answer.

The novel is carefully written in the elegant and expressive language of the period, and involved a great deal of painstaking, but fascinating, research. Nineteenth-century life, especially for higher-class families, was often slow-paced and uneventful, but Anna worked hard to build intrigue, dilemmas, and painful choices to keep the story moving and keep the reader engaged. British English spelling and idiom has been retained for authenticity, and Meridian reviewer Jennie Hansen called it “a tight, well-written story with charming, versatile characters [which will] become a classic favorite of women of all ages.”

SYNOPSIS: When Mr. Wilson, a Mormon missionary, arrives in the rural English town of Easterfield, Lancashire, in 1850, Catherine Waters finds herself intrigued by both the message he brings and his relationship to her reclusive and aristocratic neighbour. Through Mr. Wilson, Catherine is drawn into the strange world of Easterfield Hall, where both her cousin and sister find forbidden love, and Catherine uncovers secrets that change her entire outlook on their peaceful life. After Mr. Wilson is called back to Utah, the dashing Dr. Davenport is on hand to offer love, security, and help in piecing together Catherine’s fragmenting life. As she experiences gut-wrenching fear, hopeless love, and the loss of all she once thought important, she learns that the things that really matter are eternal.

If you like Jane Austen, you'll love Anna Jones Buttimore!

Review of Christopher Mills' The Holy Bible and Mormonism - Understanding the Mormon Faith

I recently discovered a great little book that deserves to be in every home, LDS or otherwise. The Holy Bible and Mormonism, by Christopher Mills also deserves to be near the top of every Church teacher’s pile of reference books. I'd keep it within easy reach when teaching teenage family home evening discussions, too.

This book does not cause offense to other religions in any way. Neither does it set out to prove anyone right or wrong. However, Christopher Mills does explain in clear and simple terms what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed LDS or Mormons) believe, using collective verses (as opposed to those taken out of context) from the King James Version of the Holy Bible. He uses the words of Joseph Smith (1938, 121) to explain further:

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into Heaven; and all other things that pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

Christopher Mills also says, “Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints often use the Holy Bible to assert that Mormons are not Biblical Christians by misinterpreting and, in some cases, misquoting scripture. Some critics simply do not understand how Latter-day Saints can use the Bible as a source for spiritual guidance and hold beliefs that other Christian churches do not. Others do not even realize that we use the Holy Bible.”

A few of the subjects covered are as follows: Pre-mortal Existence, Baptism, Baptism for the Dead, Resurrection, Temples, Polygamy, The Nature of God, Priesthood, and False Prophets.

As Christopher says, “Once I discovered the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I gained a deeper understanding of the Holy Bible and I wanted to share it with others. I have a special interest in sharing the gospel with those who are confused by LDS beliefs. This interest, along with the recent flood of anti-Mormon material, has sparked a number of discussions and an inescapable need to write my first book, The Holy Bible and Mormonism."

It is my opinion that this book is definitely a gem worth reading.

Title: The Holy Bible and Mormonism
Author: Christopher Mills
ISBN: 9781589825215
Publisher and Size: American Book Publishing 232 pages, 5x8 inches
Website: Christopher Mills
Purchase: Bookstore

Review of Eric Shuster's Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest

I would love to have read a book such as Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest by Eric Shuster during various stages of my own life. First, as a young adult inquisitive about religion to such a degree that I tried out many different churches (including Catholic) before I was twenty-one. Second, as an investigator and convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age twenty-two. Third, as a wife and mother to four children who deserved enough information about the Gospel of Jesus Christ to sustain their budding testimonies. Fourth, as a Seminary teacher actively seeking all the knowledge I could find. And fifth, as an empty nester longing to buttress family faith from a distance.

Eric Shuster’s book has enough answers to cover all the bases. It is beautifully written – concise, straightforward, personal, and heartfelt. I give it ten out of ten from every aspect, and recommend it to anyone with a sincere desire to find truth. I appreciate how Eric never knocks the Catholic Church, but explains their doctrine in a straight-forward manner that is fair and revealing, while at the same time loving. His treatment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ belief is equally evenhanded, and his testimony of the Savior comes shining through it all.

Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest is the captivating story of Mr. and Mrs. Shuster’s conversion from Catholicism to Mormonism with comparisons of 40 key doctrines between both religions that drove their life-changing decision. The book delivers a unique journey of how they were able to retain the spiritual roots from their Catholic upbringing, while enriching their lives with a harvest of peace and joy that comes from a closer relationship with Jesus Christ as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—hence the title of the book.

In Mr. Shuster’s own words, “Being raised in the rich and beautiful traditions of the Catholic Church, my wife a former Franciscan nun with a degree in Catholic theology and me an active lay minister, we were curious when introduced to the LDS faith—the supposed restored Catholic Church. At the time we wanted to learn about those who may have journeyed from Catholicism to Mormonism, while yearning for a text to help us quickly understand the doctrines of both churches for comparison and study. Not having such a work to draw from, we tarried through an extended investigation of the Church and finally entered the waters of baptism, realizing we gave up nothing and gained everything in doing so. Not long after our baptism I committed myself to producing a book that would share our story and help the searching Catholic understand what we learned during our own journey to the restored gospel: that the roots of Catholicism make for an excellent Mormon harvest.

“As the years passed, I learned that every Latter-day Saint had one or more Catholic friends in the same boat we were, who had the potential to make the same journey we did, and could benefit from reading our story and the doctrinal comparison work we labored upon. Latter-day Saints would gladly purchase such a book not only to help their Catholic friends, but for themselves to learn and understand more. While the market appears huge for this book, the love and joy I felt in my heart for each and every struggling Catholic drove me to make the book a reality.”

Mark L. McConkie, son of Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Professor of the University of Colorado, had this to say about Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest:

“This is not just the story of Eric and Marilyn Shuster’s religious journey; it is the story of the journey of all devout truth seekers. Written in a sincere and gentle style, filled with friendly humor, this book gives the details of an intimate and deeply sincere inquiry and of the answers—and new questions—to which this inquiry led. In these pages you will meet these two people, share their laughter and their tears—and perhaps a few of their conclusions. In any case, you will be enriched by your reading, and strengthened in your own quest, wherever it may take you.”

Eric Shuster is the fifth of six children born to George and Patricia Shuster. He is a graduate of Saint Lawrence Catholic College Preparatory School and has earned a Bachelor of Science degree from San Jose State University and a Masters of Science degree from the University of Phoenix. Following a distinguished career in the technology field, Mr. Shuster founded IntelliClear in 2004—a market research and business consulting firm based in Colorado Springs. Eric is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Christian Studies (FCS), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, teaching, and practice of Christianity (

Eric has held numerous ecclesiastical positions in stake and ward leadership, auxiliaries, and teaching. The Shusters have three children and reside in Colorado where Eric enjoys writing, community service, and hiking. He is also a musician and former recording artist.

To purchase this book, contact any area store or order online at You may also contact Bevan Olsen for booking author appearances, interviews, or to obtain further information. Bevan may be reached at; by calling 1-800-sky-book; or by mail at 2373 W. 700 S., Springville, UT 84663.

Review of H. B. Moore's Forthcoming Book, Alma

Heather B. Moore has done it again! As I finished reading a preview copy of her latest novel, Alma, I groaned. The book was so good I wanted to keep reading for another few hundred pages – and that was after soaking up some three hundred already.

I admire the way Heather brings scripture alive in her books, and adds a third dimension to familiar stories. Alma is no exception. Characters I met and loved in Abinidi grow and mature in Alma as they endure trials and afflictions that test the strongest faith to its limits. It’s heart breaking to witness the burdens these people carry, yet satisfying to see how prayers are answered and right prevails.

Even though I’m familiar with Alma’s story in the Book of Mormon, reading about him in Heather's fiction—which maintains scriptural accuracy, by the way—is like seeing everything open up in real time. Heather’s writing is masterful. Her descriptive passages employ all the senses, taking me into the heart of the story, letting me see, feel, hear, and smell my surroundings as though I was actually there in ancient lands.

The love stories weaving through Alma are so believable and touching, that from now on I know I’ll have a hard time putting them into the “fiction, not fact” compartment of my brain. I certainly have a much greater appreciation for Alma, the great warrior prophet, thanks to Heather’s book.

In my personal Book of Mormon daily read, at the same time as I finished Alma, I reached the Mosiah chapter seventeen account where Alma is writing up Abinadi’s words in secret after being hounded out of the city. What a happy coincidence that was. My scriptural Alma suddenly became so vivid I wanted to tell him not to worry, millions would one day read the things he was writing, and to keep up the great work as it was vital information for future generations.

I give Alma by H. B. Moore ten out of ten, and am already looking forward to her next work, Alma the Younger.

Below are a few of the many glowing endorsements for Alma, which comes out September 2009.

Alma has it all: vibrant characters, danger, spiritual challenges, and bittersweet joy. Moore has created an epic tale that’s simply impossible to put down.”—Jason F. Wright, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Wednesday Letters

“H.B. Moore brings the remarkable characters to life through well-researched detail, a hard-to-put-down storyline, and scripturally accurate counsel that reflects the author’s own deep understanding of the scriptures. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and the way in which the books cause you to ponder the scriptural accounts.” –Al Rounds, Artist

“In a pattern that has become warmly familiar, H. B. Moore crafts a page-turning yet well-researched story of the challenges that a Book of Mormon personality faces when trying to lead a colony of believers to safety, not once but twice. Alma the Elder, who begins his life in debauchery, becomes the respected adviser to a king and the leader of his church, and more. On a personal level, this man becomes the model for all of us who seek to arrest a wasted life and turn it into something grand and meaningful.” -S. Kent Brown, emeritus professor of ancient scripture, BYU

Monday, July 13, 2009

Eyes Like Mine by Julie Wright

Eyes Like Mine by Julie Wright

Review by Heather Moore

A book that makes you think.
A book that makes you grateful.
A book that strengthens your faith.

Through a time-travel phenomenon, Constance Brown is transported from the pioneer trail into the life of her great grandaughter, Liz King. What unfolds is an incredible story as both women must find their destiny, together.

The last several chapters were just brilliant. This is a great YA novel and the characters were true-to-life. If you've read Julie Wright's other novels (especially My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life), you know she has the knack for getting inside the angst of the teenage mentality. She combines humor, heartache, romance, and great storytelling into a terrific read.

Visit Julie's Blog Here!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

All the Stars in Heaven by Michele Paige Holmes

Reviewed by Heather Moore

Whitney Award Winning author Michele Paige Holmes' newest novel All the Stars in Heaven is a fantastic read. As a companion novel to Counting Stars, this new book tells the story of Jay as he turns his life around and goes to Harvard law school. There he meets a talented musician, Sarah, the trouble is that her father and her cousin will do anything to keep a man out of her life. Literally.

In this book, romance blends with a fast-paced suspense plot. I also loved the details surrounding the campus and life in this historic town.

You will love the characters--the perfect summer read!

Visit Michele's blog here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston
Cedar Fort, 2009

Reviewed by Heather Moore

Fans of Tristi Pinkston will be delighted with her new venture in fiction: a cozy mystery. Agent in Old Lace is a far cry from Pinkston’s award-winning historical fiction books, but there’s not a disappointed reader here.

In fact, I can picture the author sitting with her hands poised over the keyboard, chuckling at the banter between her two main characters—Shannon and Rick, aka Aunt Anita. They are truly funny when together.

I must confess, I read the first couple of chapters with a bit of a sigh. I didn’t want this book to be a carbon-type mystery where the girl is kidnapped, escapes, then has to go undercover, etc. etc. But from the moment FBI agent Rick Holden entered the scene dressed as a woman, I was hooked.

Agent in Old Lace is full of humor, intrigue, and a down-right good mystery. Although I was sort-of able to predict a few things, most of it was unforeseen. For a quick, entertaining summer read, you’ll enjoy this novel.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George

Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2009

Reviewed by Heather Moore

Dragon Spear is a delightful third installment of the Dragon Slippers series. In book three, Creel and Luka go on a mission together to the new colony of dragons—the Far Isles. If you’ve read the other books in the series, you’ll know that Creel has a special relationship with the dragons. And although the creatures aren’t welcome everywhere and reasonably feared by most humans, Creel has managed to become their closest friend.

Yet, when the queen of the dragons is abducted by a warring dragon faction, Creel heads after them. In the wake of her adventures to free the queen dragon and her collection of newly hatched eggs, Creel must sacrifice something most precious and dear.

Young readers will find this series light-hearted and endearing, as well as older readers like me. Other books by Jessica Day George include: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford

Reviewed by Heather Moore

I live about 70 miles from the former site of Japanese internment site, Topaz (Delta, Utah), which locked away thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Across the western United States ten miniature cities rose out of the dust as American citizens with Japanese heritage were rounded up and forced to relocate, leaving behind professions, homes, friends, and belongings. It was the worst of times.

What fear drives an American president to lock away hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women or children? For their protection? For the country’s protection? In my grandparents home in Salt Lake City, Utah, there are hammer marks on the walls in the basement where my grandfather pounded the walls in rage when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor. He was “too old” to serve in the military, but served in various capacities on the home front.

Years later, in the late 1980’s, my cousin served a two-year mission to Japan. Impressed with the culture, he returned to study and work, eventually marrying a Japanese woman. So my family knows a little about the dynamics of bringing two cultures together—two cultures that were enemies not long ago.

In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry is a twelve-year old Chinese boy growing up in Seattle. The city is a melting pot in its own right, and Henry lives in Chinatown near the Japanese district. Forced to wear a large button by his father that reads, “I am Chinese,” Henry attends an all-white school on scholarship. Each day he’s faced with bullying from the other kids, one boy in particular named Chaz. But this is not the typical coming-of-age story of a kid facing persecution in one form or another. As Henry serves on cafeteria-duty to pay for his scholarship, another student it assigned to the kitchen. But it’s a girl. And she’s Japanese.

Henry’s father is Chinese through and through—and continues to be a bitter enemy to all who are Japanese because of the on-going conflicts back on Asian soil between the two peoples. Henry’s immediate reaction to the Japanese girl, Keiko, is contempt. But he soon learns to take back all previous assumptions, and they form a friendship of a lifetime. Of course, you can see it coming—and Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp. But the majority of the novel is filled with surprises, and breadth of questions that stir emotions.

Poignant and beautifully written. A book that is complex, yet masterfully simple.

Ford will certainly be a contender for the 2009 Whitney Awards. Readers who are interested in a fictionalized account of the internment camp, Topaz, will enjoy Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pursued by Lynn Gardner

Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery
By Lynn Gardner
Covenant Communications, June 2009

Reviewed by Heather Moore

I must confess, this the first book I’ve read by Lynn Gardner. Pursued is the second installment in the Maggie McKenzie Mystery series. Like all good series writers, Gardner catches up the reader on past events in natural snippets throughout the book. I didn’t feel lost for information, or that I was missing out on something.

Lynn Gardner has an impressive list of published books, and from reading her author bio, she has some great real-life experience to base her chosen locations and plot ideas. During a family history trip to England, she took notes on locations as she traveled to put into her work in progress. The research and details are amazing. And I was impressed with the knowledge she shared with us in an unobtrusive way.

The plot is interesting, and gives a whole new twist on family history research. Maggie McKenzie is on assignment to cover a series of travel articles. Problem is, just before she boards the plane to London, she has a literal run in with a terrorist. He crosses in front of her as she is snapping a picture. Around the world, he is wanted for organizing a series of bomb attacks. Determined, Maggie continues her trip, blending it with seeking out her two brothers who were “given up” at birth. The intricacies of her family relations come to light as she meets each member of her newly discovered family.

The terrorist plot moves closer to home and Maggie finds that she is carrying a piece of information that could either save several major cities . . . or destroy them. But the trouble doesn’t end there as she realizes that someone in her family might be the head culprit.

Because I haven't read Gardner's previous books, I don't know if the constant shifts of point of view within scenes is part of her style or book-specific to Pursued. Yet I did find it distracting, as I did her tendency for a character to ask several questions in a row without letting the other character get a breath in. But all of this is fixable through editorial.

Overall, I think Gardner has built herself some nice credentials.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Review by Heather Moore

Wings, debut novel by Aprilynne Pike, should be well-received by the YA market. Of course, it has the usual storyline of new girl at school, who is found attractive by hot guy (but isn't this what all teenagers want to read about anyway, right?). Although this book is clever in its own right. The main character is a faerie, although she doesn't know it at first, and her faerie-ness is unique from other YA books with fey characters. I really enjoyed the biology explanations and the world which Pike created to accomodate fey and human alike.

I liked Laurel's character for the most part, but wished David contained a deeper persona. Yet for a first book, I certainly have to give kudos to the author. The writing style is nice--not overly gushy and not overly descriptive--which give the story a decent flow. I'm looking forward to the next installment and seeing the author's literary development.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Brandon Sanderson comes to Zeman Elementary School

Brandon Sanderson came to my son's school last Friday. And it just so happens that it was where Brandon attended elementary school. David was so excited as he had recently read both Alcatraz books. It was a great presentation and all the kids and staff really enjoyed it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

When Hearts Conjoin by Erin Herrin & Lu Ann Staheli

When Hearts Conjoin

By Erin Marie Herrin with Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

RPE Publishing, May 2009

“Some people believe angels are real. Some believe they walk among us. On August 7, 2006, on the fourth floor of Primary Children’s Hospital, angels were there to comfort me on the scariest day of my life.”—begins the remarkable true story of the conjoined Herrin twins in the long-awaited memoir, When Hearts Conjoin. The account of Kendra and Maliyah’s birth and subsequent separation has appeared in magazine articles and newspaper articles around the world. So it was with eager anticipation that I read an advance copy of When Hearts Conjoin—the real story, as told by their mother, Erin Herrin.

From the first page, I was swept into the life of Erin and found myself reading the entire book in one day. The rollercoaster of emotions that she and her husband experienced left me breathless and in tears many times. Her pain was my pain, and her joy became my joy. At times, the reality of what Erin underwent in a physical sense and what she and her husband experienced emotionally and spiritually were overwhelming. I could barely comprehend experiencing one of their trials—let alone the combination of a miscarriage, the pending divorce with Jake, a father with stage four cancer, a father-in-law rapidly deteriorating from Parkinson’s, making the decision between the life and death of two children, a series of critical surgeries, a kidney donation, and finally the decision to separate the conjoined girls.

How could Erin and her husband endure all this and still keep their family together? The answer may seem inexplicable: Faith. Yet it was the only way. Their faith, combined with prayers from every corner of the world sustained them through the deepest valleys of despair.

In order to tell her story, Erin Herrin had to revisit the past, oftentimes painful memories, some of which she kept tightly locked in her heart. In a recent interview, co-author, Lu Ann Staheli said, “Probably the most difficult thing about [writing] this book was that Erin had tried so hard to shut out all the fears and bad memories from the past that she had almost blocked out some of the very details we needed to make this story alive enough to touch the hearts of the readers.”

I must wholeheartedly agree with the foreword penned by Richard Paul Evans, “I’m honored to introduce this amazing experience of sacrifice, faith and tender moments of quiet determination that can only come through the purest love. A mother’s love. A mother’s story. This is Erin Herrin’s journey to claim her family and keep them close to her heart.”

You will not be the same person after reading this book. It will change you. It has changed me. For continual updates and photos, or to order a copy of the book, visit the Herrin Family website:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon

By Brittany Mangus

Below is my interview with author Annette Lyon about her wonderful new historical fiction novel Tower of Strength. I love historical novels and was very thrilled to read Annette's latest creation! I was so excited to read Tower because I went to Snow College and loved the Manti area. Anyway, because of that, I thought I would include some of my own photos in this interview.

Q: Spires of Stone was a take on Shakespeare's Much Ado. Was there a book or play that inspired the storyline of Tower of Strength?

A: The storyline for Tower of Strength grew organically after researching the Manti area and the temple. One day as I was blow-drying my hair, Tabitha appeared in my head. I knew her background and even that she hated being called, "Tabby." Then as I wrote the book, I felt a bit like an archaeologist uncovering a story that was already there. The process was very different than with Spires of Stone, where I went into the book with a pretty clear framework.

Q: This is the fourth book in your temple series. (The other books have centered around the Salt Lake Temple, the St. George Temple and the Logan Temple.) I have ancestral ties to the early pioneers who helped settle the Bear Lake Valley and who helped build the Logan Temple. What draws your interest or inspires you in the historical aspect of the early Utah temples and the Mormon pioneers?

A: My original fascination began solely with the Logan Temple, which has some family connections for me. I wanted to write about it, so I did. Then I decided that it was such a rewarding experience that I wanted to learn more about other temples and write about them. Both sides of my family came into the Church relatively recently, so I personally have no pioneer blood. Writing about the Saints who settled Utah and Arizona has made me feel connected to Church history in a way I never did before. I also have a greater appreciation for temples than I used to.

Q: I love names. How did you choose the first and last names for your characters in Tower of Strength? Do they have a special significance? At any point were they changed?

A: Tabitha showed up with her own name. Will's name changed at one point after my critique group debated on whether his original nickname fit the period, but I don't think anyone else had a name change.

I keep a running list of names from the 1800s that I've found in either old records or on headstones from that era. When I need a first or last name, I consult that list. One name I picked deliberately was Wilhelmina--it sounded a bit abrasive and uptight, so it seemed to fit her character.

Q: Did you have a working title for the book that was not Tower of Strength?

A: This may sound odd, but I don't usually have working titles. The marketing department picks the title, and it's almost never what the author submitted a book as. For me, it's hard to call a book something and then have to rename it, so I just refer to manuscripts along the lines of, "my Manti book." I was pleased with the title they picked--the towers are under construction during the story, so the title can refer to the temple, but it also refers to a major theme with Tabitha, who's had to be a major tower of strength in her own right just to survive.

Q: Margaret Mitchell famously wrote the last chapter of Gone with the Wind first. Did you know how the story would end before you finished it, or, while writing it, did the story take on a life of it's own and dictate its own ending?

A: I pretty much knew the basic story arc from the beginning, although I did discover a lot along the way. I didn't know exactly what the final scene would be and even played with the end in revisions even though I knew what would happen with all the major characters, including Mantia.

There's a significant scene near the end between Tabitha, Samuel, and Mantia that I knew about very early on. It was one of the first parts I wrote.

Check out the book trailer! Manti is interesting... (if you learn to ignore the turkey smell).