Thursday, December 4, 2008

Abinadi by H.B. Moore


Most readers of the Book of Mormon seem to picture the prophet Abinadi as an older man, like we picture most scriptural prophets. Moore has put her own twist on the story and made Abinadi a young man in his twenties who still has a full life ahead of him. Throw in some romance, danger and impeccably researched details about ancient South American life and you have the formula for a great story.

By giving Abinadi a family and problems other than just preaching, the story becomes more rounded and the sacrifice Abinadi makes for his beliefs becomes more powerful. Moore also introduces us to other familiar characters, painting a detailed image of King Noah's court and the high priests and following the conversion of Alma. The fictional characters of Abinadi's mother, brother, and new wife add depth to the story and got me thinking about the sacrifice the families of prophets make.

I enjoyed reading this book. The characters were well written, the plot moved along at a brisk pace and the details of Book of Mormon life were fascinating. I also enjoyed the prologue which included chapter notes and references for her research.

This book would make a great Christmas present. You can learn more about H.B. Moore at her website and you can order the book here or pick it up at your local LDS bookstore.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Contest


(click on image to make it easier to read)

"January 11, 2005: A massive storm rages throughout the western states. Angry, churning water spills over the banks of the Virgin River, already at twice its’ normal capacity, resulting in what will become known in the area as the flood of the century.

When Carmen Anderson returns to the tiny town of Prosper, Arizona that she fled as a teenager, she has no idea that a devastating storm is on the way.

While struggling to get to her teenage daughter, who is stranded in the small town by flood waters, Carmen realizes that her biggest challenge lies in facing the secret that has been locked away in her heart for the past fifteen years –
a secret that has kept out a family who loves her, and the man who would do anything to be by her side."

Here is a fun and easy contest from new author Suzanne V. Reese. Her book sounds like an interesting read and I can't wait to get a copy and read it myself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sapre Change by Aubrey Mace

Riley is tired of making New Year's resolutions she knows she won't keep, so when her mother insists on each member of the family making their yearly resolution, Riley decides to keep it simple. She is going to save all her pennies for the year and use them to buy herself something nice. Her lavish dreams quickly scale down when she realizes how slowly the pennies add up. Soon she decides to donate the money to help with cancer research. When others find out about her resolution, the money begins to pore in. As she works on this project she meets Paul, a grumpy bank teller and starts receiving notes and pennies from a secret admirer.

Spare Change by Aubrey Mace is a lighthearted tale with something for everyone. The characters are well written and fun to read. Riley is a likable character with plenty of interesting quirks. The story moves along at a brisk pace, and even though Riley learns and grows through the story, the author manages this without getting preachy. I do wish the romance had been a little more developed but all in all, this was a fun book and a totally clean romance.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Authurian Omen by G. G. Vandagriff


"When a Celtic scholar finds a clue to a priceless fifth-century manuscript that will prove the real identity of King Arthur, she is brutally murdered. Determined to find the manuscript and avenge her sister's death, Maren Southcott begins a quest that puts her own life in danger. Overt and covert seekers weave in and out of the tale as she travels through the castles and monasteries of ancient Wales, seeking the document that could rival the The Book of Kells. Who are all these people? Which one is her psychopathic stalker plotting death and revolution? Which one wants her dead? Did the Celtic professor with the extraordinary eyes kill her sister? Can she risk death and find the manuscript before MI5, Scotland Yard, and impassioned Celtic scholars?"

G. G. Vandagriff has once again written an action packed novel. The Authurian Omen comes in at 89 chapters, but it is a quick read as most of the chapters are only a few pages long.
The descriptions of Wales were beautiful. The two plotlines wove in and out of each other and kept me guessing. The first murderer I figured out right away, but the identity of the second one left mein the dark until the very end. I got into the story right away, but soon found there were so many characters being added, it was difficult to keep them straight. I wish there had been more development of the legend of King Aurthur.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book with a great twist at the end. You can buy this book here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna VanLiere


"The woman I am has a great deal to do with that ninth year of my life. It started out as any other year, nothing extraordinary, but as each day unfolded it became remarkable in every way. There are times when I’m still amazed that we made it through. It has been said that every life has a story. This is my story, although it belongs to so many others, for I was never alone. They were always with me . . . and still are today." -excerpt from The Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna VanLiere

The Angels of Morgan Hill is a story told through the eyes of a nine-year-old, Jane Gable. On the day of her abusive father's funeral, she sees the first black family to move into her Tennessee town. The attitudes and people in town seem to change with the arrival of this family and Jane's life is directly affected as her mother befriends them. When tragedy strikes, Jane's family changes yet again, and she learns that love comes in all kinds of ways as she recognizes the angels in her life.

This is one of those books that distracted me from the huge pile of books I have that are begging to be read. I found it in the library and decided to take it home and give it a try. I am so glad I did.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with this book. The characters were so real and the story moved me to tears at times. I felt like I had actually visited the town of Morgan Hill and got to know the people just a little. The story made me sit back and examine my own attitudes towards the people that cross my path every day.

This is a great book to read with a book club and the author has included reading guides on her website to help promote discussion of the story.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Still Here

With the lack of book reviews lately, you may think I've fallen off the face of the earth, or at least forgotten about this blog. The truth is I haven't allowed myself much reading time this month. Usually I read an average of two books a week and according to the list I keep, I've read 83 books this year. But in the last month I've only read a few books.

I am just about finished a book which I will review next week and I came home with four new books to read after a visit to the bookstore last Saturday. So stay tuned, the reviews are coming. Now I'm going to go bury my nose in a book.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury

"Over the past six months, Rachel Forsythe's perfect life has descended from the ideal to the tragic. The younger of her two daughters is dying of cancer. Despite her standing as the wife of a respected Mormon bishop, neither God nor medical science has blessed her with a cure. Or has He?

"Milada Daranyi, chief investment officer at Daranyi Enterprises International, has come to Utah to finalize the takeover of a Salt Lake City-based medical technology company. Bored with her downtown hotel accommodations, she rents a house in the Salt Lake City suburbs.

"And then the welcome wagon shows up. Her neighbors perceive her to be a beautiful, intelligent, and daunting young woman. But Rachel senses something about Milada that leads her in a completely different-and very dangerous-direction.

"Rachel's suspicions are right: Milada is homo lamia. A vampire. Fallen. And possibly the only person in the world who can save Rachel's daughter. Uncovering Milada's secrets, Rachel becomes convinced that, as Milton writes, "all this good of evil shall produce."

"As the two women push against every moral boundary in order to protect their families, the price of redemption will prove higher than either of them could have possibly imagined."

Angel Falling Softly examines human nature at its most basic level. What lengths would you got to to save the ones you love? How strong is your faith when faced with the death of a beloved child? Rachel has to answer all these questions for herself when her daughter lies at death's door. She knows death is not the tragic event the world may make it out to be, but it doesn't change her desire to have her daughter around longer. She knows what she is doing is wrong and won't even talk to her husband about it. Milada also has to take a look at the direction her own life is going and how she got there.

The author didn't provide enough background for Milada and her sisters and it would have been nice if the virus that caused them to become vampires was a little more fully explained. It was a little confusing at times. I also found the sex scenes a little graphic for my taste. Compared to the national market, they were very tame, but still not something I enjoyed reading - especially the two scenes with lesbian overtones. In a book written by an LDS writer about LDS people, the scenes seemed horribly out of place.

As for the story, it was interesting and I thought the characters did change and develop over time. We all make decisions and have to live with the consequences. In the end, Rachel gets her wish, but at what price?

This book has good storyline and fascinating characters. It's just a story but it raises interesting questions about our behavior in extreme situations.

Unfortunately, even though I thought the plot line was interesting and the story brought up some good questions, because of the sexual content and some bad language, I won't recommend this book to my readers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

"One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself. Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach; not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience. Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same. But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change. Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep. The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all."

Every year I find a new Christmas book to add to my collection, so when I was asked to review this, I knew what the book would be for 2008. This story tugs at the heartstrings and gives the reader reason to look inside at their own feelings toward the holidays. The principles in the letters are timeless and something every family should take the time to review and remember.

As for the story, I was a little disappointed in the lack of anything other than the letters to drive the story forward. Everything goes along smoothly once the letters start arriving. The kids came across as a little too perfect, especially after suffering the loss of their father. I expected to see more conflict that had to be resolved. The letters seemed to take up a good portion of the book. It would have been nice to see more real conversation between the characters and more description of what the family did when the letters came. Much of the story seemed to take place in the letters and in Emma's thoughts rather than in the characters interactions with each other.

Despite this, the book is pleasant and is a good reminder of all the things we take for granted in our lives and would be a nice addition to any Christmas library.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage


"Magic is not just spells. The magic you see on the outside is but a tiny fraction of the power of true magic. The real power of magic lies within you. Who you are, what you do, and most importantly of all, what you may become."

Master Therapass, Farworld Book 1 Water

"Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place- Farworld.

"When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds.

"But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass's secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld's only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals- water, land, air and fire- and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

"As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them- Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S'Bae.

"Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers."

I've been looking forward to reading this book for some time and I wasn't disappointed. The characters of Marcus and Kyja are well developed and unlike some other books written for children, they seem to act their age. They both struggle with feeling inadequate in their world and have to learn to find the magic within themselves. This would make a great Christmas gift or a great bookto keep on your own bookshelf.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Surprise Packages by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris

"Fifteen years after meeting at Education Week at Brigham Young University, Juneau, Deenie, and Erin face new challenges. Deenie, now living in Gainesville, Florida, begins to question everything she has believed about herself as she sees her actions through others' eyes. Juneau's feelings of guilt come to a head when a secret from her childhood and the mystery of her great-grandmother, Letitia, combine to force her to confront her past. And Erin, whose painful divorce has made her cynical about love and marriage, must decide if she can take a risk when she has a second chance for love.

"Staying in touch through phone calls, e-mails, and periodic vacations together, the friends offer one another support, sometimes in the form of blunt feedback. But as they anticipate reaching their goal to become Crusty Old Broads, life takes a turn that puts their twenty-five-year pact in doubt."

Surprise Packages is the third book and final book in The Company of Good Women series. I was at a disadvantage as I started this book, since I hadn't read the first two books, Almost Sisters and Three Tickets to Peoria. Despite this handicap, I quickly became involved in the character's lives. The book is written in short vignettes and a series of emails sent between the three women.

I did find it difficult to keep the numerous characters straight as the story jumped from Erin to Juneau to Deenie. Despite that, the variety of problems and triumphs the characters encountered were interesting and made the story more real. Each of the 'Crusty Old Broads' grows through the course of the story, relying on their friendship for strength and support. It made me want a group of 'Broads' to call my own.

The authors took an interesting approach in writing this book, each author writing from a different character's point of view. They say: "The Company of Good Women is the story of three women in three different parts of the country and their quest to become Crusty Old Broads—written by three women from three different parts of the country who are self-professed Crusty Old Broads!" In the end I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to others, but only after suggesting they start with book one.

You can purchase this book here or visit the authors here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury


“With “Preparedness Principles” you are going to learn the solutions for practical, personal preparedness right where you are…in your own home.

The Goal: To teach you how to be more secure in dealing with future emergencies.

The Purpose: To provide the “know-how” for setting up a realistic, organized program of personal preparedness: suited to your circumstances, environment and budget.

The Attitude: Begin with what you have…where you are, on your budget. One step at a time. No need for doomsday, the world is not falling apart. You don’t need to stockpile arms nor head for the hills. You can be prepared in your own home.

The Experience: Barbara Salsbury has lived what she teaches. For the Salsburys being prepared has lessened the impact of many crisis. Barbara shares her invaluable insight.

The Motto: If you are prepared you can cope! Or to put it another way, you will be shown how to make most crisis more bearable!”

Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide is a book I’ve looked forward to reviewing. There have been many instances in my life when whatever level of preparedness we’ve had has helped get us through a variety of difficult circumstances. Before reading this book, I already had a firm belief in the importance of being prepared. As with a lot of people, I lacked some of the practical knowledge required to put a real plan into place.

So many people believe they will never need to use their emergency supplies and fail to even have the most basic supplies. Others don’t do anything about it because they have an all or nothing attitude. Salsbury says: “Preparedness is not an all-or-nothing thing. Something is much better than nothing, even if the something is just a little bit of something.” This book is a great place to learn how to start gathering that little bit of something.

Upon receiving this book, I was first impressed with the size and amount of information packed into it. Just reading the table of contents left me feeling a little overwhelmed. But Barbara Salsbury presents the information in an easy to read format. Her writing style is entertaining and informative.

As I read through the different sections I was impressed with how thorough the book is. The author writes about food storage, what to do in a natural disaster, and having a family plan should family members be separated during a disaster. The book is divided into five sections: 1) Essential Elements, 2)Principles for Surviving Worst Case Scenarios, 3) Principles of Provident Living, 4) Principles for Dealing with Disasters, and 5) Principles for Emergency Evacuations. The book also includes a large appendix section with detailed instructions for many of the ideas suggested in the book.

Every principle is accompanied with ideas on how to put it into practice. There are charts throughout the book and many experiences shared by those who have had to put emergency preparedness to the test. There is so much information in this book, but it is vital information everyone should learn.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Preparedness is being in control during out of control situations.” This book will help families take control. It’s a book every family should have and would make a great Christmas present.

Preparedness Principles can be purchased here and you can also visit Barbara Salsbury’s website for more information.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Caught in the Headlights by Barry K. Phillips


“We’ve all had those ‘deer in the headlight’ moments when we realize we’ve been chasing the wrong things. Caught in the Headlights is a frank, insightful look at 10 key goals most of us think we want – only to discover our eyes are on the wrong prize. Barry K. Phillips not only entertains, but also examines common values and us to the goals we should seek, what to do differently now that we know better.

From goals such as happiness, self-esteem, protecting our pride, or the perfect physique, Phillips takes a closer look at those aims prized by society and explores how we can pursue higher goals. A thoughtful, funny, and at times profound look into the real reasons we all have for the things we do, this book will entertain, enlighten, and inspire.”

Each of the ten chapters is accompanied by a comic to introduce the principle, a section on lessons learned and a poem to summarize. The writing is easy to read and Mr. Phillips uses humor throughout to make his point. He takes values society has told us are important and turned them upside down to discover what is really of worth.

I most enjoyed the chapters on Control and Success. From the chapter on Control, he writes:

“Combining worthy pursuits with a keen sense of discernment brings about or causes serendipity. It’s not just happenstance. These two elements in play bring about a state of mind where a person’s own awareness allows him to find something better than what he was looking for, a good thing he could not have planned but was aware enough to notice.”

And from the chapter on Success:

“Balance, perspective, service, and doing the most with what you’ve been given in all areas of your life is what success is all about. Success measured on those terms is harder to find but well worth the pursuit. My lesson learned was not that I didn’t want success, just that my definition was all wrong in the beginning.”

In this little 116 page book, there are so many gems of wisdom that I am looking forward to a second and a third reading. I recommend this book as an entertaining and enlightening read, especially to those looking for a new perspective on life.

This book can be purchased from Cedar Fort or from Barry K. Phillips website.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

In this third installment of the Fablehaven series, Seth and Kendra find themselves in more danger than ever as the mysterious shadow plague threatens the Fablehaven preserve. As the Sorensons try to decide if they can trust the Sphinx and wonder whether Vanessa should be released from the quiet box to give them important information the plague spreads.

Kendra travels to Arizona in search of an ancient artifact, returning to find her family in danger from the darkness that threatens all the creatures of the preserve. Uniting together with help from an unexpected source, they pool all their resources to try to defeat the shadow plague.

I've been looking forward to this book for months and was not disappointed. The writing was as good as ever and the story riveting. The 480 pages passed quickly and once again I was disappointed to reach the end. Mull allows his characters to grow and learn while still retaining some the personality traits that sometimes get them in trouble. He uses description well to help the reader picture all the mysterious creatures that Kendra and Seth run into. The plot has so many twists and turns I'm constantly surprised at where the story goes next. I do wonder what can happen next and how many times Fablehaven can be in danger before the readers want something new, but for now it works and works well.

The second installment in the series - Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star - won a well-deserved Whitney Award for the Best YA/Children's category. I recommend the whole series as a fun read for kids and adults alike.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen & Contest


Gather 'round, girls, and listen to my noise,
Don't you marry the Mormon boys;
If you do your fortune it will be,
Johnnycake and babies is all you'll see.
-- Old Western Folksong

"When Andy McBride met Louisa Martin, he knew he had found the girl for him. There was only one problem: polygamy -- a lifestyle that Louisa could not escape and Andy would not embrace.

"As medical students at the University of Utah, Andy and Louisa fall in love -- but can a mainstream Mormon and a Fundamental polygamist overcome the cultural barriers between them? Both realize that their choices will not only affect their own lives, but will also have an impact on their family, friends, and even their communities. Fearing that the sacrifices required of them would be too great, they go their separate ways.

"Yet for Andy in Kentucky and Louisa in Utah, life does not go as they'd planned. While Andy is serving as a country doctor and trying to bury his pain, Louisa is coming to terms with the fact that all is not as perfect in her tight-knit community as she'd believed. As doctors, each will have to choose between keeping the peace in their communities or doing what they know is right. And someday, both will have to face their past and decide if they can make the sacrifice to be together.

"Set in the red hills of southern Utah, the cosmopolitan center of Salt Lake City, the Smoky Mountains of Kentucky, and the lake-studded country of Finland, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is the heartfelt and engaging story about the power of love and acceptance in an ever-changing and often surprising world."

When I decided to read this book, I was intrigued by the concept of two people from two cultures with similar backgrounds coming together in a love story. Because polygamy has been in the news lately I wanted to see how the author handled the story. Halfway into the first chapter I was hooked. I expected a nice love story, I didn't expect to fall in love with the characters and the settings.

Jensen has created characters that are strong and likable. They overcome tremendous odds, from health problems, lack of family support, and the biggest one, an enormous difference in religious beliefs, and they do it in a believable manner. I also loved the smoky mountain setting and the quirky characters Andy meets there as he sets up his practice. Jensen also gave a good balance to the treatment of the two religions. Each had characters who were intolerant and close-minded, just as each side had characters who gave unconditional support of their decisions.

In the final analysis, I thought the subject of modern day polygamy was treated with grace. The writing was strong and the story was a compelling read. I can't wait for more from this author. Janet agreed to answer a few questions for me.

How much research were you able to do into the polygamist side of the story?

Janet: I have read quite a bit on the subject, including books by women who have left polygamy, newspaper series in the Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and a most interesting book by Jessie Embrey, who interviewed people who had grown up in polygamy. We have driven through Colorado City, a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, and that left lasting impressions. I also interviewed a former polygamist.

I was glad I researched the life of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female physician in Utah, because when my neighbor began reading the book, she called and said she was thrilled because her husband, also a physician, is a descendant of Martha Hughes Cannon, and they were present when her statue was unveiled at the Utah State Capitol building a few years ago. My neighbor is descended from the Kingsburys, so when the medical school graduation took place in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah Campus, she was pleased that her side of the family was mentioned. I had no idea of this connection, but was glad that my information was accurate. She bought eleven copies of the book to give to family members.

I also researched the natural herbal remedies Miss Carolina uses with her patients.

The natural remedies were great. I loved the parts that took place in the Smokey Mountains. Do you base any of the characters on real people?

Janet: Miss Carolina is based loosely on my husband’s aunt. She wasn’t a healer and she was raised in the west, but her personality was very strong and commanded instant respect. She also had a wonderful sense of humor. Initially, she was a minor character, but I liked her so much I had to give her more to do. Eliza R. Snow is based on my border collie mix, Lita. The other characters are composites of qualities in people I know, and pure invention.

Andy and Louisa were such compelling characters. Do you see them appearing in future books?

Janet: I am working on the sequel. It begins with the journey of Zina Martin, Louisa’s sister who disappears from home one night rather than marry into polygamy. Andy and Louisa are part of that story, too.

What are you working on next?

Janet: The sequel to Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, tentatively titled Gabriel’s Daughters, and Grace Shall Lead Us Home, a novel that deals with adult illiteracy, the overwhelming effect it has on people’s lives, and the great lengths they will go to in order to hide it.

What is your favorite writing tip?

Janet: This has been drummed into my head by Ken Rand, a writer and editor: Avoid the passive tense, watch for too many adverbs and adjectives, and be on the alert for words or phrases you tend to overuse.

You can purchase "Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys" here.

Janet is providing a book to give away with this review, so post your comments on this post. On Saturday I will take all the comments and randomly select a winner to receive a free copy of this book. Good luck.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All's Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon


"Political campaign expert Kristen Shepherd excels at staying cool under pressure, but this time she’s in over her head. After leaving her high-profile fiancĂ© at the altar, she uncovers the shocking truth about the man she nearly married — truth that could ruin her life. With the press on her tail, the only person she can trust is Ryan Jameson, her political opponent and former boyfriend.

Army doctor and LDS convert Brandon Shepherd shares his sister Kristen’s talent for keeping a level head, and his newfound faith gives him steady strength during times of turmoil. But when he and fellow doctor Rachel Fields are seized as Iraqi prisoners of war, he faces a crisis of personal integrity that may cost him his life."

I enjoyed Julie's other books and this was no exception. The characters were well developed and it was interesting to have a glimpse into the soldier's life in Iraq. I could tell she did a tremendous amount of research, spending a lot of time interviewing Michael Blair who served in Irag. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the military base. In the end, I wish the plot had been more developed. I enjoy the writing style and would easily have read another hundred pages. This is a good book especially if you are looking for one that is a fast read. I'll be interested in reading the next book by Julie Bellon.

I asked Julie a few questions about her book and her writing.

You often use foreign locations in your books and they seem authentic when I read them. What is it like trying to make foreign places seem real in your writing when you have never been there?

Julie: I have been to many of the foreign places I've used as settings in my books. I loved reliving my vacation memories for my story! For the places that I haven't been to, I do extensive research to make sure I have an accurate picture so people will feel like they are there. I love to travel, though, and hope to see many more countries and places before my life is over.

Tell us about "Skittles for Soldiers"? Have you had a good response so far?

Julie: Corporal Matthew Blair and the Nemesis squad are heroes to me, doing the best they can to protect others. These soldiers endure sandstorms that look like something out of the Mummy movies and rainstorms that sink trucks turret-deep in mud. They share meager meals with and have been hugged by Iraqi soldiers with tears in their eyes, and been cheered by villagers and schoolchildren who truly understand that the men and women of our country are there to give them freedom and keep them safe from fanatics. It is sobering to hear about, and made me appreciate their experiences in a way I never had before.

"Because of this, my book took on a special meaning and I really wanted to do justice to the men and women serving there. I took real experiences and incorporated them into my story, like the joy at receiving a care package from home that had something as ordinary as Skittles or a cup of noodles in it as well as the fear these men and women face in wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again. But then I took it a step further. I partnered with the charity Operation: Care and Comfort, (www.operationcareandcomfort.org) an organization, affiliated with the Red Cross, that sends care packages to military men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict regions. I really wanted to give back something---even if (it was a little something, to thank these people for the sacrifices they’ve made and this seemed to be the perfect way to do it.
I have had a great response to my Skittles for Soldiers campaign. I wish you could see my family room right now because it is practically overflowing with the donated items people have given for our troops that will be sent to them in care packages. I got involved with Operation: Care and Comfort during the research for my new book, All's Fair. Talking with the soldiers who were serving in Iraq really gave me perspective on how much something from home can mean to all the men and women who are serving overseas. I'm thrilled to be able to give something back to them and thank them for their service and sacrifice. For anyone who is interested you can find more information on how you can help at their website: www.operationcareandcomfort.org

What are you working on next?

Julie: I turned in my next novel about a French undercover agent who finds out about a plot that will potentially kill thousands of people, but before she can tell anyone, she is branded a traitor and forced to go on the run. She does meet up with a character from my current book All's Fair, and I had a great time exploring his story further. I'm just really excited about this book, and of course, having been to France, I loved having that beautiful country as my backdrop.

Now that you've published several books, give us one piece of advice you wish you had known as a beginning writer.

Julie: Well, before I became a published author, I was an editor at a publishing company and whenever I saw a manuscript it was generally obvious which writers had taken the time to put forth their best effort and had gone through and edited their manuscript and which ones had not. My advice to beginning writers is to find a writers group or at least a few people that can read your work and give you honest opinions on where you can improve your story, where your strengths are, and what they liked and didn't like. It is invaluable to have that kind of feedback before you submit because your revisions will make your story that much stronger which will hopefully get your work that much closer to publication. It's also nice to have the manuscript be as well-edited as you can get it, because when you submit it, those you are submitting to can really see that you believe in this project, that this is your best effort, and it's something they will want to look twice at.

I know you were raised in Canada, so what is your favorite Canadian treat?

Julie: Which treat is my favorite? That's a really hard question! I love Caramilk, Big Turk, Mr. Big, All-Dressed chips, and Shreddies cereal. But those are just a few. It's too hard to pick just one or two! I really miss Canadian food and am so grateful my mother is able to get care packages down to me every so often.

Thanks Julie. It was nice talking with you. You can order All's Fair here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George

"In far off Citatie, Prince Luka has made an alarming discovery: the southern country’s entire army is mounted on dragons, and they plan to attack Feravel. It’s up to Creel to gather her dragon friends and lead them south, first as spies, then as soldiers, in a battle against an unexpected enemy. But the Citatian dragons outnumber those from Feravel, and some of Creel’s friends are still recovering from the first dragon war. Will they be able to win this fight, and will they still have a home to return to even if they do?"

This is the sequel to the Whitney Award winning novel Dragon Slippers. I've been looking forward to reading this for some time and I wasn't disappointed. The story continues to follow Creel as she finds further adventures with the dragons. Even though Creel loves to create beautiful clothing, she will never be quite satisfied sitting at home in her dress shop. She also misses Prince Luka and wonders if their relationship will ever go further as she is just a commoner and he is a prince.

Creel goes with her dragon friends to help Prince Luka discover why the Citatians and their dragons are planning to attack Feravel. Creels discovery shocks her and the dragons and they must pool all their resources to save themselves, the country and the dragons.

I enjoyed this book. The story was engaging and I loved the quirky characters of all the dragons. Every time I thought I had the story figured out and the characters had the problems solved, a new twist would be thrown in and I would have to begin wondering again how the author would finish the story. I'm going to give these books to my daughter to read as she loves anything with dragons and I know she'll enjoy Dragon Flight and Dragon Slippers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Roses & Daisies by Anna Maria Junus

Laurel Tanner has everything - a loving husband and beautiful daughter. But when her daughter dies in a tragic accident Laurel doesn't know how to cope with the situation. Her husband Doug doesn't know how to handle his wife's pain and even though he tries, he can't show the emotion to help her believe he as touched by the tragedy as she is. The rest of the family does what they can for her, but she finally breaks and takes off on her own, driving across Canada.

While Laurel tries to escape her pain, the rest of the family struggles to figure out where she has gone. Through the mental connection she has with her twin brother, Linden, the family finally gets an idea of where she is. Doug and Linden fly across Canada to bring her home. Through the eyes and emotions of seven different people, the story unfolds.

I found Roses & Daisies to be engaging from the beginning. The emotions of a family dealing with a tragic loss are well portrayed. The characters were well portrayed and I really cared what happened to them. I didn't how each chapter jumped from character to character, each portrayed in the first person. There were only a few times where I had to return to the beginning of the chapter to find out whose viewpoint I was reading. Even though I don't usually enjoy books that jump this way, this one was well done, and it bothered me less than I thought it would. This is a book I recommend. It is an enjoyable read and I can't wait to read more from this author.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Flying Home by Rachel Ann Nunes

"What if everything you ever thought was true about your past, wasn't true at all?

Liana Winn has always felt like an outsider in her family. As a child she was adopted by relatives after her parents' plane accident in India, but now that she is as an adult, her disjointed memories--and nightmares--of the past continue to make it impossible for her to bridge the wide gulf she still feels with her adoptive family. She is plagued by questions about her parents' deaths and wonders if that event is the reason for her inability to form deep personal relationships. Although her adoptive brother Christian has become her greatest friend and supporter, she even has difficulty bonding to him. Needing someone means love, and losing those you love hurts too much.

When Liana meets the successful businessman, Austin Walker, who has risen above his own difficult childhood on a Wyoming farm, she is certain their business will not extend to friendship. Yet she cannot deny their powerful connection and the feeling of hope he offers.

But the ghosts of the past will not rest for Liana, and when she travels to India in search of answers, she makes a shocking discovery at her parents' gravesite that just might mean the end of everything she's ever believed."

I enjoyed this book by Rachel Ann Nunes. She builds the characters well and really makes the reader care about what happens to them. The mystery in the story kept me guessing until the end and I found the solution satisfying. Throughout the story I wondered why Liana found it so difficult to fit in, but her slowly revealed background explains the reasons. The author weaves a beautiful story and when I didn't want to reach the end. Lucky for the reader, the second book, Fields of Home is available.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

"Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves--Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love."

I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book at all. I've read all three of the books from Meyer's Twilight series and enjoyed them for the most part. The Host is a science fiction novel. I'm not crazy about science fiction to begin with, so I almost didn't pick this book up.

The characters of Wanderer and Melanie are strong and much of the book deals with conflict and learning to live together in one body. Wanderer learns to cope with human emotions and the humans learn to trust the alien "soul". The story gave me lots to think about and I hated to see it end. In the final analysis, I think I liked this book better than the Twilight books.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull


What would it be like to have magical candy? Nate and his friends find out in this fun book. Nate moves to town and is befriended by Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon. As the school year begins, the four friends begin working for Mrs. White at the new candy store in town. But she has more in mind for them than an after school job. Soon she is sending them on missions, armed with magic candy. But Mrs. White isn't the only magician in town and soon the kids are drawn into an adventure far more dangerous than they could have imagined.

I enjoyed reading this book as did my teenage son. It was full of action and surprising turns in the plot that kept me guessing what might happen next. My only complaint was with the characters. There were many times were I felt jolted out of the story when the kids would say something that didn't seem to fit. They were written as ten-year-old kids in grade five. Often, their conversation didn't seem to fit their age. The vocabulary they used and some of the things they talked about seemed to fit a teenager more than a child. Other than that, I really liked the book.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ripple Effect by Traci Hunter Abramson

This is the second book in a series that I am reading backwards since that is how I've been able to get a hold of the books.

Kylie Ramsey is a world-class swimmer who wants to train for the olympics. The biggest hurdle she has is the struggle to keep her identity hidden. The FBI put her in the Witness Protection Program to protect her from Judge Rush, but somehow her location keeps being discovered. She also runs into Matt again. He is the one person she can see herself spending eternity with, but his involvement with her puts them both in danger.

I enjoyed the story line and there was enough suspense wondering how Kylie and Matt would resolve things. The characters were well developed. I liked seeing how many of the characters changed through the story. And since I'm going this series backwards, I'm looking forward to reading the first book, Undercurrents.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heaven Scent by Rebecca Cornish Talley

Heaven Scent is the first novel by Rebecca Cornish Talley. The book is about Liza, a high school basketball star who is getting noticed by everyone except the one who's attention she want the most. Her father is busy with his law practice and rarely has time for the family. When her he misses her championship game, she decides things have to change. She never imagined the kind of change she would be faced with. As she faces a life much different than the one she planned, her friend Kyle introduces her to a new religion that might just help her troubled family in ways she never imagined.

This is a well written book that I enjoyed reading. The end left me hanging a little and I'm still wondering how Liza is going to handle her future. The book should have come with a box of kleenex or at least a warning, as there are parts that are real tear-jerkers.

Rebecca is joining me to answer a few questions about her book and her writing.

How did you get the idea of using the scent of perfume to help Liza?
My mother used to wear a distinctive perfume. She passed away when I was a young girl and during different times in my life, especially during trials, I've smelled her perfume. Sometimes, I've felt like she was so close to me, I could almost reach out and touch her. I wanted to write a story about the connection between heaven and earth and how our loved ones are never far from us.

I like how the story isn't totally resolved at the end. Are you planning on writing a second book about Liza?
I would love to write a sequel, but that probably depends on how well "Heaven Scent" is received.

You have a large family to keep you busy. How do you find time to write?
I just squish it in here and there. I try to write every day, but that doesn't always work. I've also discovered that trying to type with my 2 year old on my lap really doesn't work (he's deleted far too much of my writing). During the summer, it's much more difficult because all the kids are home and want to talk to me. I just do the best I can and accept I can't write as fast, or as much, as I would like at this season of my life.

Now that you have gone through the publishing process, is there anything you wish you had known before you started?
I wish I had known how important marketing/promotion is to the writing process. I didn't realize how much time an author has to spend on promotion. I love promoting my book, but I'd rather spend that time writing :)

What are you working on next?
I'm revising an LDS romance. It's a fun story about college life and the ups and downs of finding that one true love. I'm also working on an LDS women's novel about raising a large family. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for hosting my book on your blog. I really appreciate it.

Thanks, Rebecca. I'll be looking forward to your next book. Look for Rebecca's picture book, Grasshopper Pie as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede


Dealing with Dragons is a delightful book. In it we read the story of Cimorene, the youngest daughter of a proper king and queen and the sister of six proper princesses. But Cimorene is anything but proper. She is too tall, her hair is black instead of blonde, and she is stubborn. When her parents forbid her from taking lessons in the things that interest her - fencing, cooking, magic, economics, and Latin - Cimorene runs away to become a dragon's princess.

She becomes the princess of the dragon Kazul. She enjoys her days cooking and cleaning for the dragon and finally feels like she has found someone who lets her do the things she loves to do. But she still has to convince knights and princes she doesn't want to be rescued and voluntarily stays with the dragon. She also must deal with a witch, other captured princesses, a stone prince, a jinn, some conniving wizards, and of course, more dragons.

The character of Cimorene is strong and smart. She is the kind of heroine young girls will love. When she has a problem, she uses common sense to solve it and doesn't let anyone convince her it isn't the way a proper princess would act.

I loved the way the author wrote a book about dragons and princesses, but threw all the standard fairy tale conventions out the window. It was amusing to come across references to other fairy tales, and after I found a couple I started watching for them.

This book is the first in a series and is a fun book for young people. I'll be looking for the next books in the series, Searching for Dragons, to find out what happens to Cimorene next.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Blog Tours Coming Here

A blog tour is a great tool for authors to promote their books. The author will arrange for bloggers to read and review the book on a specific day. The author will then direct traffic to the bloggers site. I've participated in blog tours in the past and love doing them. Here is a list a blog tours on my schedule right now...

June 11 - Heaven Scent by Rebecca Cornish Talley

June - Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen

July - All's Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon

August - Surprise Packages by Lael Littke, Carroll Morris, Nancy Anderson

August - Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

Why am I here?

My other blog - Write Bravely - is dedicated to my journey as a writer. It holds a little of everything, slice of life, observations and my struggle to become published. It also has book reviews. But they tend to get lost amid all the other posts, so I am starting this blog as a way to review and keep track of all the books read in our household. Hopefully some of the reviews will lead you to new favorites and remind you of old ones.