Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Seventeen Second Miracle

Review by Heather Moore

The Seventeen Second Miracle is a book I’ve already recommended to many people. As with all Jason Wright novels, I walked away having learned something and more determined to be a better person. If you doubt that small acts of service have a lasting effect on a person’s life, you need to read this book.

Just today, I was at a movie theater and in the bathroom I found an over-sized gaudy ring that is popular among teens—worth maybe $5.00. I thought about leaving it on the counter, with the chance that someone might come looking for it. But then I thought about what Rex Conner (or his son, Cole) might have done. I took the extra time, even though it meant missing more of my movie, and delivered it to the manager of the theater. Perhaps it will sit in lost and found forever, or perhaps it will be recovered by a grateful teenager. But taking the extra time, be it 17 seconds or several minutes, to do something that might make a difference to someone else, helps me become a more compassionate person.

In The Seventeen Second Miracle, Rex Connor leaves behind a legacy—a legacy that began when he made the worst mistake of his life—one that forever changed him. His son, Cole, is determined to continue sharing the life lessons he learned from his father by holding Discussions with groups of high school teenagers.

Each year, the local high school principle selects teens to become part of the Discussion group. This year, only three are selected, but it proves to be the most impactful group yet as they struggle to face the realities of life and make the right choices despite significant roadblocks.

The Seventeen Second Miracle is one of those books that make you think about all aspects of your life. Its insightfulness touches the heart and delivers a message that is simple, yet profound. A message that is universal and essential in order for us to co-exist in harmony and has the power to literally change lives.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pieces of Paris by GG Vandagriff

Pieces of Paris
By GG Vandagriff

Shadow Mountain, September 2010

Review by Heather Moore

Every marriage is a web of complication with many aspects that go into weaving the fine interlocking threads. Our genetic makeup as well as our childhood years and past relationships combine to create the role we play in the give-and-take of a marital relationship.

When we first meet our spouses-to-be, we might be wearing rose-colored glasses so to speak. We might fall in love with the person we “think” they are. We might share our backgrounds, including our past relationships, but none of our personal history matters much to the person we are in love with. We have connected. We have become soul mates. And everything from this point on is just about us, just about our two-person universe, and nothing from the past can ever intrude.

Until the flashbacks start.

Annalisse has been married for several years to Dennis. They have a young boy and another child on the way. When Annalisse first met Dennis, she saw him as her saving anchor to root her into a stable reality, opposite of her previous stormy relationship. She clings to him as a boat in stormy waters relies on its anchor. She wants a change—a massive change, and that includes locking her past away.

Dennis knows he’s met someone unique and special when he is set up with Annalisse. A past relationship has broken his heart, but Annalisse is vastly different. She is stoic, she is trustworthy, and she is everything he needs to heal his heart. There is no question that they are meant to be together, and Annalisse will always be his one and only.

Their relationship collides when Annalisse starts to experience painful flashbacks into her past, crippling her from being content with her current married life. The pain is so intense, it threatens to pull Annalisse from all that she loves. She is too afraid to confide in her husband—sure that it will destroy their relationship. While Dennis is trying to understand his wife’s changed behavior, he is fighting against an industrial firm that is trying to cover up a toxic waste dump.

GG Vandagriff once again explores the intensity of human emotion, delivering a powerful story of second chances, the gift of forgiveness, and the depth of true love. This well-crafted story is absorbing from page one and the characters powerful and relatable.

Pieces of Paris
is a literary symphony, a cacophony of words that delves into the hearts of all of us, as Annalisse and Dennis fight to reestablish the rhythm of their marriage. An emotionally-engaging and unforgettable journey.

Pieces of Paris available HERE.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Stone Traveler by Kathi Oram Peterson

The Stone Traveler
By Kathi Oram Peterson
Covenant Communications, 2010
Review by Heather Moore

Sixteen year old Tag is trying to fit in with a new group of kids at school. Problem is they are troublemakers. When his cousin, Ethan, rats Tag out, he gets in real trouble with his mom and ends up at his Grandpa’s mountain cabin for the summer. Tag immediately makes plans to run away, but a bizarre set of events, including meeting three strangers and discovering a glowing stone, takes him to a new world. The new world turns out to be an ancient world set in Book of Mormon times.

Sabirah is a nineteen-year old militia leader with one goal in mind: to rescue her father and brother. Her father is the scripture legend Samuel the Lamanite, and he’s promised Sabirah that she’ll receive help on her quest in the form of a visitor, a wayfarer.

When Tag’s present collides with Sabirah’s world, he discovers his time travel mission was prophesied, and he is the wayfarer. Tag lands in the middle of a battle, assists Sabirah’s injured companion, and from there he’s caught up in an adventure that threatens his life as he tries to save others.

I was caught up in Tag’s character from the beginning. Despite the poor choices he was making, it was easy to sympathize with him, making his character very relatable. The descriptions and world-building were excellent and brought the various settings to life, whether we were in modern-day or Mesoamerica. The Stone Traveler is a compelling read with plenty of action, intrigue, and most importantly, an ending that will touch your heart.

Website HERE:

For a chance to win a Kindle, visit Kathi’s blog

To purchase online visit Deseret Book

Monday, September 6, 2010

Random Thoughts about The Fourth Nephite

Oh, dear, I came here to post my review of The Fourth Nephite, and I see there's already one up. Well, I'll just call my review Random Thoughts, then, which is probably closer to the truth anyway.

I'll admit it, when I first read the title, I imagined a kid going back in time to the age of the Three Nephites and becoming their young sidekick for a while. I was a bit surprised to find out that the protagonist of this story goes back to the time of Joseph Smith -- but I wasn't disappointed. This book is unique in its premise; instead of having Kaleo Steele go back in time by accident and flounder around until he finds his way home again, he's deliberately sent there with a quest to fulfill before he can return. He's on a journey of faith, trying to gain the knowledge that he needs, and this knowledge, or at least the opportunities of getting it, are symbolized by the parts of the key that he must collect and fit together before he can open the door that leads back to the future.

I really liked the character of Kaleo, the way he's so focused on football at the beginning of the story. Although he goes to seminary, his heart isn't really in it, and he's more inclined to think of the entire Book of Mormon thing as some kind of fantastical fairy tale. He's a good athlete, yet shy around girls, becoming tongue-tied when faced with one close-up. Each chapter starts with some of his wry observations, many of which made me smile. His football skills help him out when he runs into the gang of ruffians that are after Joseph Smith and the golden plates, but he also has weaknesses along with his strengths. I think teenage readers of both sexes will be able to identify with him -- I know I certainly could, even though I'm much older and I don't even like football.

I personally wasn't in much doubt about the ultimate ending, but I certainly enjoyed Kaleo's journey of getting there. I liked the inclusion of Sally Chase and her peepstone, and sinister Alastair Blackburn, both showing the true nature of the forces working against Joseph Smith. Jennie was also a great character, and I think the author showed us an accurate portrait of both Joseph and Hyrum Smith as well.

There was a little Savage-style cliffhanger at the end of each chapter to keep you wanting to read more, and although the book itself was a relatively fast and easy read, I didn't think it was too skimpy when it came to details or characters.

The signs on the walls with different sayings reminded me a little of the library organization system from Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Those sayings might seem random now, but I'm sure that there must be some kind of code behind them. But what I really liked was the way that the lights changed as Kaleo went down the tunnels to the wooden door, fluorescent lights giving way to single bulbs and then gas lights. I thought that was a great and subtle touch of showing Kaleo going back in time.

Although the story itself was gripping and expertly done, and I have nothing but praise for it, on further reflection, I find that it's the "set-up" that really interests me. This system of tunnels under Salt Lake City -- who made them, and why? Kaleo sees all kinds of household items from the 1800's, such as handcarts, coins, and butter churns, but would someone else see items from a different time? No, probably not, as the girl is thinking about how long she's studied history and learned about the people who helped restore the gospel. But who is this girl in the tunnels, the one who works with Ladan? What's her backstory and why did Ladan ask her to work for him? Why doesn't she need the door? Will her wish to go through it ever be fulfilled, will she ever be rewarded for her diligence? For that matter, who is Ladan? I don't remember that name from the Book of Mormon, so I'd guess that he isn't one of the original Three Nephites. I've come to consider him as a kind of Faith-Promoting Mastermind here, able to travel through time and space and organize a complicated paper trail for doubters to follow. Actually, this sounds like some kind of program that's been going on for years, with everything all planned out beforehand and scheduled like a military operation. Although, if Ladan is the one going back through time and setting it all up, what exactly does the girl do? I wonder if Brother Mortenson had a similar experience with Ladan and time travel, earlier in his life? I think he must have, and that was how he knew Ladan could help Kaleo. Who will be the friend that Kaleo brings back, the one that needs the door even more than Kaleo did? Is it somebody we've already met in the first chapters of this book, such as Jeff Greene, Crush Carlton, or Terri? Or somebody completely new? I'm already eager to find out, and hopefully, the last line of this book will foreshadow the coming of the next one, making it appear "much sooner than you think."

Thank you for the review copy, Jeff. Getting a free book did not influence my opinion in any way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Fourth Nephite by Jeffrey S. Savage

The Fourth Nephite
By Jeffrey S. Savage
Published by Deseret Book, August 2010

Reviewed by Heather Moore

A story of a Mormon teenager, Kaleo Steele, who is about to play the biggest football game of his high school career. College scouts will be in the stands, watching and deciding if Kaleo is good enough for a scholarship. But the night before the game, he gets invited to an after-school party, where some temptations seem too hard to resist. When his seminary teacher catches him doing something that jeopardizes Kaleo’s ability to play in the football game, they strike a bargain--a bargain that will change Kaleo's life in remarkable ways.

The Fourth Nephite gave me a fascinating insight into the life of the prophet Joseph Smith as a young man. When Kaleo enters a time portal and finds himself right in the middle of the controversy surrounding the unearthing of the gold plates, I was caught up in the vibrant word created by Savage. I found myself looking at the life of the prophet through different eyes, and thinking about the incredible courage he had. Some of Kaleo’s questions about the gospel have been mine at one time or another, and I loved the way that Savage unobtrusively guided the learning curve that Kaleo went through. Great research, an exciting plotline, and superb storytelling combine into a book worth every minute. I’m now reading it for a second time with my teens.

**Jeff Savage is the author of the YA Farworld series (under J. Scott Savage), as well as the Shandra Covington mystery series (under Jeffrey S. Savage). Visit his website HERE.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hanging by a Thread by Donald B. Anderson

Hanging by a Thread

By Donald B. Anderson

Reviewed by Heather Moore

Although this book is plainly a “first book”, I appreciated the passion of the subject matter which clearly comes through the weft and warp of the story.

Hanging by a Thread is a fast-paced action thriller set in modern-day Salt Lake City, Utah. Colton, a young employee at the Utah State Capitol building, inadvertently discovers a top secret document which outlines a major conspiracy that has been operating for more than ten years. The goal of this group: To take over and control the United States. Their name: The Thread.

Colton shows the strange document to his friend who works in security, and it doesn’t take long before they realize that the information is incredibly important—they just don’t know how important yet. As they join forces with a BYU professor and Colton’s uncle, light is shed on the cryptic information. Through a massive infiltration of media and communications systems, Colton and his group are falsely accused of being terrorists. They go on the run, literally for their lives.

The decisions that Colton makes will not only affect lives, but possibly determine whether or not the United States maintains the freedoms it was built upon.

What ensues is a high-action adventure with many twists and turns, brought to life by careful attention to detail of the inner workings of government agencies, the police force, and the massive coordination it takes to prevent catastrophes. The intriguing plot will keep you turning pages quickly and guessing until the last pages, with an ending that has a compelling impact.

Hanging by a Thread can by purchased on Amazon.

Visit the author's website HERE

Monday, June 14, 2010

Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes

Review by Heather Moore

Autumn Rain is far from normal. She has a dangerous gift, at least one that can bring danger to her. Touching an object that is important to a missing, or even dead, person brings flashes of memories. But sometimes they are too disturbing for even Autumn to handle.

When a woman goes missing, her parents are desperate for help. Autumn gets caught up in the events, even when it means bringing danger to herself and those she loves. Although Autumn has the power to read imprints, she doesn't always rely on those who are the most honest.

Author Rachel Nunes paints an intriguing character in Imprints. A story that deviates from Nunes' usual array, I thoroughly enjoyed the characterization and ambiance of this novel. The plot is far from predictable and takes several surprising turns. Suspense, romance, and a touch of paranormal rolls into one enjoyable read.

Kudos to the publisher, Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain, for printing a paranormal story that it clean and uplifting.

Imprints is available HERE.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Devil's Food Cake by Josi S. Kilpack

Review by Heather Moore
Sadie Hoffmiller is at it again! But of course it's not her fault she just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bestselling author, and former resident of Sadie's hometown, Thom Mortenson arrives to give a presentation for the library fundraiser. When Thom's manager is mysteriously shot while getting the microphone ready on the stage, Sadie is right there to uncover all of the clues.
No, she didn't actually see the shot blast because she was savoring--eyes closed--a delicious bite of her very own Devil's Food Cake. But that fact would never deter Sadie's spry involvement.
As the whirlwind night unfolds, Sadie is drawn into a complex web of information, each turn more surprising than the next. But the only caveat is that she must follow the trail of clues without the police, which takes a bit of navigation on Sadie's part.
Sadie Hoffmiller is a delightful character, quirky, funny, and never fails to disappoint. Devil's Food Cake is another Kilpack classic, and like the other books in this culinary mystery series, the "whodunit" comes at a surprise.
If you haven't read any of Kilpack's Sadie Hoffmiller series, you need to catch up! Previous volumes are Lemon Tart, and English Trifle, with Key Lime Pie coming Fall 2010. They are fun to read in order but not entirely necessary!
Visit the author's website HERE.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright

The Cross Gardener

By Jason F. Wright
Berkley Books, March 2010

Reviewed by Heather Moore

The Cross Gardener is wonderful book to add to your collection, especially if you’re a Jason F. Wright fan. Wright is the New York Times bestselling author of Christmas Jars, The Wednesday Letters, and Recovering Charles.

Wright skillfully paints John Bevan as a character with incredible depth. John’s life starts out tragically. Right from birth, death is an ever-present part of his life when his mother dies in a car accident that instigates her labor. At the age of four, John is adopted by a single man who runs an orchard. Only then does he learn what unconditional love is.

John’s journey in life applies to all of us as he faces the death of his wife. As a young widower, with a six-year-old daughter, John doesn’t know how to heal the gaping hole in his heart. His orchard business suffers, he isolates himself from his in-laws and friends, and no matter how much time passes he can’t seem to exist beyond the moment of his wife’s death.

John becomes obsessive about visiting his wife’s gravesite and the location where she was killed. During one of his daily visits, he encounters a strange man who calls himself the cross gardener. A friendship slowly forms between the two men until John learns to open up to the stranger. The cross gardener teaches John how to listen, how to lighten the burdens of his past, how to savor the world again, and how to add meaning back into his relationships.

The Cross Gardener is a book teeming with emotion, truth, and insightfulness into the human heart. A story of hope and healing that brightens the dark corners of despair, simultaneously offering the reader a gratifying journey.
To order The Cross Gardener visit HERE.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dangerous Connections by Julie Coulter Bellon

Dangerous Connections
By Julie Coulter Bellon
Covenant Communications, March 2010

Reviewed by Heather Moore

It isn’t often I read a book that reminds me of why I’m a bookworm. Dangerous Connections is exactly that type of book. To be transported into another place and to meet characters who are involved in a life that you can only guess out, is the perfect remedy for an average person like me (about the most daring thing I’ve done is drive from California to Utah with a nursing baby).

Bellon has a way of writing an international thriller that is straight-forward, yet exciting at the same time. Dr. Tyler Winthrop, war veteran from Iraq, goes to Paris on vacation to meet his father. From the moment he arrives, he’s thrown into a web of danger. His father is missing and in his place is a strange note telling him to return immediately to America. Tyler takes a gamble and remains in Paris, trying to contact anyone his father might have known. When he finally tracks down an acquaintance, Tyler discovers that his father’s disappearance is linked to an intricate terrorist plot that threatens to kill thousands of innocent soldiers who are fighting the war on terror.

About half-way through the book, I flipped to the acknowledgments and discovered that Bellon had spent time in France researching the novel. I was impressed with the accuracy of descriptions and the subtle blend of French culture into the characters.

Dangerous Connections is a great escape and will have you guessing the outcome until the final chapters. The characters are well-defined with excellent depth, from the main characters of Tyler and Isabella to even the most minor character. Trés bon Madame Bellon!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Need Thee Every Hour by David P. Vandagriff

I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in Everyday Life
By David P. Vandagriff
Covenant Communications, 2010

Review by Heather Moore

I Need Thee Every Hour, by David P. Vandagriff, is the type of book that you’ll need a pencil handy as you read. There were many many places I marked that contained profound insights.

Vandagriff introduces the topic of the Atonement by saying “The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not only for your last breath and the last day of your life, but it is also for every day of your life, every breath of your life” (p 1). Yes, this is something we might inherently know, but I love the way Vandagriff lays it out in a simple-to-comprehend style. As a former bishop on two separate occasions, Vandagriff has been the witness to the continuing effect of the Atonement in many people’s lives, including his own.

The Atonement is individual. To illustrate, Vandagriff gives a poignant example of a BYU student who shares her artistic talent with a group of elderly women in nursing home. The Atonement is service, as demonstrated in the way that Christ teaches the Apostle Paul. The Atonement is both vertical and horizontal. Vertical from ourselves to the Lord, as we reach up, the Savior reaches down to us; and horizontally: from ourselves to others.

Through touching examples from Vandagriff’s years of service in the Church, he brings to life the amazing application of the Atonement. He offers many examples, including one where his ward was able to help children who struggled with school in his area. On a more personal level, Vandagriff also shares his own personal trials. Trials that he didn’t plan for or expect, but trials that taught him the infinite nature of the Atonement and how, through grace, he could keep his vision steady as his dependence on the Savior became complete and utter.

Despite personal trials, Vandagriff was called into positions of leadership, which continued to teach and refine his natural man. He was put in positions of trust to counsel with those who had broken commandments and subsequently came into his office to start the process of repentance. In his book, Vandagriff outlines the significant steps of sincere prayer, scripture study, and drawing closer to the Savior, in order to complete the process of true repentance.

Vandagriff also explains why bad things happen to good people, how the Savior truly knows each of our trials, and how He experiences our individual pain and sorrows. But most importantly Vandagriff outlines how we can endure trials that come, whether attributed to sin or to circumstance. Vandagriff offers an explanation in the way of King Benjamin, who taught his people to serve each other. “Serving others because we love Christ will help us maintain and develop the vital characteristics of patience, humility, and charity” (p 128).

Even though Vandagriff has served in Church positions where he was blessed with frequent communication and inspiration from the Spirit, he still struggled with receiving answers of a personal nature, including a monumental question in his professional life. And until he learned to humble himself and take worldly desires out of the equation, did he finally receive the answer the Lord was all the while waiting to give him.

Finally, Vandagriff explains the purpose of the Atonement for every man, woman and child. Just as Vandagriff believed he could fly as a young child, tried and failed, we cannot truly fly without the Atonement. No matter how intelligent or talented or righteous we strive to be, we cannot reach our divine potential without the Atonement’s finishing touches.

As insightful as the title conveys, Vandagriff outlines ways to apply the Atonement to our day-to-day lives, as he combines uplifting personal experiences and insights by Church leaders and prophets. Vandagriff has not led the perfect life, and he willing shares his trials and the steps to growth as he continues on life’s path. Well-written and compelling, I Need Thee Every Hour, is a useful and encouraging guide for our days of light and our days in which we feel we are wading through the mists of darkness.

For more information about the author and his other publications, visit his website here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Too Precious for Earth by Amy C. Maddocks

Too Precious for Earth
By Amy C. Maddocks

Review by Heather Moore

Amy Maddocks’ heart broke on the day that she held her infant son in her arms as he struggled with his final breaths. Her son, Connor, had been a miracle. Amy wasn’t supposed to be able to have any more children, but then she miraculously became pregnant. After all the precautions were taken and all the risks made, she and her husband eagerly prepared to welcome a new child into their home.

In Too Precious for Earth, Amy provides a rich and detailed telling of her journey into becoming a mother for the second time. Although an unexpected journey, she rearranges her life so that she can be healthy physically and financially provide for her son.

Just as Amy is finally allowing herself to believe that even the most impossible dreams can come true, she develops a serious pregnancy complication. Her son, Connor, is born twelve weeks premature. As Amy struggles with her own slow and painful recovery after a cesarean birth, little Connor begins to fail.

A beautiful but heartbreaking tale of a mother and family who overcome the depths of grief and despair and learn to embrace life again. Amy forges through her trials, learns the meaning of true friendship, embraces the miracles that she has been witness to, and triumphs as she uses the miracle of Connor to change and bless hundreds of lives.

Too Precious to Earth will take you on a raw and poignant spiritual journey you’ll never forget.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gravity vs. the Girl

Gravity vs. The Girl
by Riley Noehren

Review by Heather Moore

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended this book—a friend who I pretty much take her word for a book that she loves, I’ll love as well. I ordered it from Amazon, and finally had a chance to start reading it last night. I have no time to be reviewing books, but I really wanted to mention this one. Gravity vs. The Girl is an astonishing, thought-provoking novel. Funny, definitely quirky, but to fall-in-love with.

Who’s Haunting You?

From the cover: Samantha Green has just spent an entire year in her pajamas, and she is beginning to regret it. What's more, she is haunted by four ghosts that are former versions of herself. First up is the overachieving and materialistic attorney, who is furious with Samantha for throwing away the career she worked so hard to build. Second is the lackadaisical college student who is high on life but low on responsibility. Next is the melodramatic teenager, who is consumed with her social standing, teal eyeliner and teased bangs. Finally, there is the scrappy six-year old, whose only objective is to overcome gravity so that she can fly. Samantha's ghosts alternate between fighting with each other, rallying around Samantha's budding sanity and falling in love with a string of good-for-nothing drummers. Despite her reluctance to do so, Samantha must rely on these spirits from the past to repair the present and ensure her future.

Gravity vs. the Girl can be purchased through Barnes and Noble, etc. .