Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon by Dennis Gaunt

Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon

By Dennis Gaunt

Deseret Book, 2011

Review by Heather B. Moore

I had a conversation once with another Book of Mormon novelist about characterizing the infamously “wicked” King Noah. The other author thought he was wicked through and through, with no redeeming value. Perhaps that was the case toward the end of his life, although we cannot truly know the deep motivations or potential of another. I considered the “why’s” and “how’s” of King Noah and his evil court. What had led him through the series of events that culminated in sentencing a true prophet of the Lord to a fiery death? (See Mosiah 17.)

Did King Noah have a lousy childhood while his father, King Zeniff, was busy running a nation and his mother attended to her vast queenly duties? Perhaps Noah was mistreated by a nanny who raised him; or perhaps he was the brunt of schoolyard jokes . . . Was he uncoordinated? Did he have a hard time making real friends? Was he a lousy hunter?

Whatever drove Noah to spiral down the path of greed, selfishness, and eventual destruction, one thing is clear: we can learn from his choices. They were certainly subtle in the beginning. Maybe he stopped saying his prayers, he chose the wrong friends, or he let his pride swell exponentially as he prepped to become the heir to the throne.

This same sentiment is echoed by author Dennis Gaunt in his non-fiction book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon. Reading about the villains of the scripture can teach us how to avoid the same pitfalls.

Gaunt makes an excellent case for learning the enemies’ strategy in the ever-escalating spiritual war—a war in which two sides are battling for our souls. If we want to win, we must think like a military leader. A successful military leader studies every move his enemy is making. Gaunt suggests that we plan our own counter-attack by educating ourselves on the “bad guys in the Book of Mormon. Let’s learn to be smarter than they are. Let’s learn their tactics. See what tricks they used. Peek at their maps and plans. Pinpoint their lies. Point out the holes in their arguments. Let’s see how faithful people just like you and me resisted and defeated them in the past. Let’s be ready to face the bad guys of today” (8).

I couldn’t agree more. I echo Gaunt’s petition that we must stay proactive, we must stay diligent, and we must stay educated and aware of the adversary’s power, so that, we can “rejoice and exult in the hope” of Christ (Alma 28:12).

I highly recommend this book to adults and youth alike. Gaunt is witty, humorous and insightful, sharing personal experiences in a highly readable and entertaining way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Only Way to Paradise by GG Vandagriff

The Only Way to Paradise by G.G. Vandagriff
O. W. Press, 2011
Amazon Purchase Link

Reviewed by Heather Moore

My Review:

Author G.G. Vandagriff returns to women’s fiction with a flourish by the release of her new series, The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood (2011). With several notable and award-winning works credited to Vandagriff’s name, readers will relish this first volume, as they escape alongside the characters and indulge in all things Italian. Every writer would love to travel to the destination of their novel, and G.G. has done just that, enabling her to integrate the hum of Italian life as few others have. Spending months in Florence over a period of a couple of years, she crafted The Only Way to Paradise, a thought-provoking novel that follows four women as they try to make sense of their failing group therapy.

Each of the four women has their own dark valley to cross, but they have one thing in common—their therapy group has become toxic in more ways than one. Dissatisfied with the non-results, they band together in an unprecedented move, and decide to travel to Florence together. Using Enchanted April as inspiration, Roxie asks her friends, “If Italy is so healing and therapeutic what are we doing in Ohio?”

Mother-figure, Georgia, embraces the idea and encourages the women to seek solace in Florence—to lose themselves in all things Florence—in order to discover what path to take in each of their twisting lives.

Florence might seem the ideal location for any woman to rejuvenate her soul, but some of the women have haunting ties connected to the vibrant city. Reservations have to be overcome as the four women form endearing friendships, serendipitously calling themselves, “The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood.”

Georgia fights her own battles as she reminisces about the recent passing of her husband until she reunites with a man from the past who wants to fill the corners of her future.

MacKenzie might be viewed as running from her two rebellious teenagers and failed marriage, but in truth, she is faced head on with all that she has neglected as both wife and mother.

Sara, a woman who gave up her most precious talents to follow the path her parents set, discovers that love might be a possibility for her after all.

And Roxie, emboldened by the vivacious culture surrounding her, finally lets down her guard, only to be funneled back in to the nightmares of her childhood.

As each of these women immerse themselves in their own Italian Renaissance, their lives become intertwined with the local people, new loves, and fresh possibilities. True to her nature, Vandagriff has a way of weaving a story rich with details, emotion, and quotable prose that makes for an enriching read beyond the average novel.

The Only Way to Paradise is a deeply layered book with characters that will touch your life and stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The List by Melanie Jacobson

The List by Melanie Jacobson
Covenant Communications, 2011
Amazon Purchase Link
Reviewed by Heather Moore

My Review:
A light-hearted read on the surface with more serious underlying issues that the main characters try to work through as they develop a relationship.

From the cover:
Ashley Barrett doesn’t want to get married. At least, not anytime soon. She doesn’t care how many of her friends and family members and fellow churchgoers had weddings before they finished college—the last thing she needs in her fun-loving twenties is the dead-weight of some guy. And that’s why she created The List. By the time she completes all twenty-five goals—from learning a language to skydiving to perfecting the art of making sushi—she’ll be more ready to settle down. Maybe.

This summer in California is a prime time for Ashley to cross two items off the list: learn to surf (#13) and have a summer romance (#17). And Matt Gibson, the best surf instructor in Huntington Beach and the most wanted guy in the singles ward, is the perfect man for the job. Ashley hatches a plan to love him and leave him before heading off to grad school in the fall (#4, get a master’s degree). But when Matt decides he doesn’t like the "leaving" part, Ashley’s carefully laid plans are turned sideways. Now Ashley faces an unexpected dilemma: should she stick to the safety of The List, or risk everything for a love that may tie her down—or might set her free?

Hazzardous Universe by Julie Wright & Kevin Wasden

Hazzardous Universe
Written by Julie Wright & Illustrated by Kevin Wasden
Covenant Communications, 2011
Amazon Purchase Link

Reviewed by Heather Moore

My review:

A high-action, fast-paced sci-fi story for middle-grade kids. Illustrations for every chapter make this an even bigger treat. Entertaining all the way around.

From the cover:

A guy who works in his grandfather's magic shop expects weird things to happen. But Hap Hazzard has never had a day like this. First, a freaky old man in a cape who calls himself "Torval" visits the shop and somehow makes a trash can explode. Then Torval delivers an ominous message to Hap's grandfather, upsetting the old man so badly that he yells at Hap for the first time ever. Next, this girl Tara shows up to apply for a job, and for reasons Hap can't understand, his cool magic tricks send her away in tears. But that's nothing compared to what happens next. Under orders to apologize to Tara, Hap searches for the girl. But he can barely say he's sorry before three spaceships appear, the biggest of the three looking like a burnt slice of pizza.

The weirdness only ramps up as Hap and Tara soon find themselves aboard the pizza-shaped ship piloted by a pair of aliens. Even though they were accidentally abducted, the two humans are now forced to join an out-of-this-world mission that includes razor-toothed multilingual beetles, a psychic queen bee, manic ape frogs, a coveted crystal, and a hundred other bizarre things that just might make sense-if Hap could only remember and understand Torval's cryptic message. Join Hap and Tara as they begin a fantastic journey into the far reaches of the universe.