Friday, November 13, 2009

Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart

"Born in 1805 on the Lewis & Clark expedition, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was the son of the expedition’s translators, Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau. Across The Endless River evokes the formative years of this mixed-blood child of the frontier, entering the wild and mysterious world of his boyhood along the Missouri. Baptiste is raised both as William Clark’s ward in St. Louis and by his parents among the villages of the Mandan tribe on the far northern reaches of the river.

In 1823, eighteen-year-old Baptiste is invited to cross the Atlantic with the young Duke Paul of W├╝rttemberg, whom he meets on the frontier. During their travels throughout Europe, Paul introduces Baptiste to a world he never imagined. Increasingly, Baptiste senses the limitations of life as an outsider; only Paul’s older cousin, Princess Theresa, understands the richness of his heritage. Their affair is both passionate and tender, but Theresa’s clear-eyed notions of love, marriage, and the need to fashion one’s own future push Baptiste to consider what he truly needs.

In Paris, he meets Maura Hennesy, the beautiful and independent daughter of a French-Irish wine merchant. Baptiste describes his life on the fast-changing frontier to Maura, and she begins to imagine a different destiny with this enigmatic American. Baptiste ultimately faces a choice: whether to stay in Europe or to return to the wilds of North America. His decision will resonate strongly with those who today find themselves at the intersection of cultures, languages, and customs."

Though the years Jean-Baptiste spent in Europe are largely undocumented, the author does a good job of filling in the blanks and helping us imagine what it may have been like to be this young man stuck between two worlds. The descriptions in the book are enjoyable and paint a vivid picture. Even though the author seems to know the history and the facts he fictionalized still fit with the story, the book plods along for 300 pages with almost no plot. Nothing every really happens and we see so much of Jean-Baptistes world as if he was just an observer. I began to wonder why the author bothered to write a book about this young man at all.

In the end, I did enjoy Carhart's writing and his beautiful descriptions, but the characters fell flat for me and in a story like this, the characters just have to shine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Holy Bible and Mormonism by Christopher Mills

"Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints often use selective passages from the Holy Bible to assert that Mormons are not Biblical Christians. 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. Other individuals do not even realize that Mormons use the Holy Bible.

This book explains how Latter-day Saints controversial beliefs are Biblical and also examines the references used by the critics and puts them into proper context. After all, proper interpretation of Scripture comes from collective verses rather than selective verses. Christopher Mills has chosen topics that he has personally been confronted with and shares his experiences. He also includes his testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ."

This is a great little book that would be an asset to any home. Mills quotes passages from the Bible to explain Latter-Day Saint beliefs. He uses easy to understand language to discuss topics such as baptism, the nature of God, temples, eternal marriage, prophets, and more. He does this in a straight-forward and non-argumentative manner.

Mills doesn't aim to prove any other religion wrong, only to explain what the Mormons believe using familiar scriptures from the Bible. This book would be useful in family home evenings, for Sunday school teachers, and just as a resource to use when non-LDS friends have questions. The book can be purchased here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

"As a public defender, Caitlin McLoughlin dreams of someday locking the bad guys in prison instead of defending them. But prosecuting jobs are scarce, and Caitlin’s future seems bleak. When her current client is about to walk away from a brutal crime, she risks her career to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else. Yet what if her choice means sacrificing her career and the means care for her mentally disabled sister?

Then Caitlin meets Parker Hathaway, charged with kidnapping four-year-old Madeline. Just another criminal, another job, Caitlin thinks.

But Parker tells a far different story. Can Caitlin believe him, as her heart urges? Is she willing to put everything on the line to defend her client—a man who claims to be protecting the child he loves? Or is her trust better placed in the handsome deputy district attorney with his undefeated record in court? Caitlin’s pursuit of the truth swiftly thrusts her into a maze of unanswered questions and unexpected heartache.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Madeline. If Caitlin doesn't find the proof she is looking for soon, there may not be a future for any of them."

Inspired by real life stories, Rachel Ann Nunes new novel Saving Madeline takes us inside the legal system and the lives of Madeline and her parents through the eyes of Caitlin, a public defender.

From Rachel: "Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse.

Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse.

All charges against the father were eventually dropped. Sadly, this is not the only story of a child becoming the victim of a parent’s drug use. In my research, I found many more instances, some of which I’ve written under the Author Comments for the book on my website at Though these true-life experiences do not appear in my book, the events inspired me to explore what might have happened in a similar instance. Questions I asked myself include, "Can the ends justify the means in some circumstances?" and "How far would a parent go to save a child they love?"

It was an interesting look at how the legal system doesn't always know what's best and how the choices of parents so seriously affect children. There were several ethical and moral questions raised in the story, and in the end it left me wondering what I would do if faced with similar choices. The characters were well rounded and each of them struggled with their own demons. Of course, the romance in the story was well written and I kept wondering how Caitlin would finally find love with all the other things she was trying to balance.

I recommend this book and know it will have me thinking for a long time. For more information go to Rachel's website. The book will be released mid-September.

If you want to win a copy of this book, comment on this post. Rachel will put all commenter's names into a draw to win a copy of Saving Madeline at the end of this blog tour.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang

Laura Berman Fortgang has written a timely book that I enjoyed reading. She discuss the process of making life changes and finding the life you really want in a concise way that has inspired me to take a new look at my own life. Using the same methods that have worked for hundreds of clients, she helps the reader take a step by step approach to discovering what is missing in your life and then what steps to take to realize your dreams. I read the book quickly for this review, but I'm starting it over again and following the steps she outlines. The following article by Fortgang summarizes some of the ideas in the book. Enjoy.

10 Tips to Creating a New Life Direction
By Laura Berman Fortgang,
Author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction

1. Make a list of all you can't stand about work/life
Those who are really stuck may complain that they don't know what they want. Not true. Make a list of all you do not want or like about your current situation and you will find on the flip side, something you DO want! Write it down.

2. Recognize that ALL change (good or bad) means loss
The 'evil' we know is sometimes less scary than the 'evil' we don't know. It is normal to be afraid to make a change because of what you stand to lose. However, the only way is forward, so you might as well accept whatever perceived loss of status, money or identity and realize that more happiness awaits. In fact, if everyone else is telling you you are crazy for making a change, you are on the right track!

3. Reframe 'I can't!' to 'I can!'
"I'm not good enough." "I'm too old." "I'm not qualified." NOT TRUE! Look for examples in your life, your surroundings, in the media or in books of people who have done things against the odds and use those examples as symbols of what's possible for you. Change your vocabulary and watch your results change.

4. Understand how the past got you stuck today
Many of us make vows when we are young that get us stuck as adults. "I'll never be like my parents!" "I won't be poor!" "I'll show them!" Whatever it is, the motivation you chose at some early point worked but is no longer working now. Determine what your old motivation for your life was, decide if it still serves you and if not, CHANGE it. Fast!

5. Realize that discovering your 'purpose' does not have to be hard or grand
Many people, when searching for direction in their life may also be putting their life's purpose into question. Most make the mistake of thinking they have to have a Mother Teresa-level of purpose to rate. It's just not true and that likely keeps you stuck or suffering. Who you are everyday and what you do naturally (whether it fits your job description or not) is your purpose. How you affect others positively is your purpose. What you contribute that is uniquely you is your purpose. It's right under your nose. Recognize it and try to make it central to whatever you do next.

6. Gain a criteria for happiness
Most people know they are not satisfied but really lack clear criteria for what will make them happy. Humans feel satisfied when their needs are met and they don't have to compromise their values. Write down what you truly need (emotionally, not financially) and value. Do you need stability? Honesty? Recognition? Do you value spirituality? Adventure? Education? These are not optional. Get purposeful about getting these things in your life and new directions become clear.

7. Research ALL that interests you
List all fields, jobs, careers, or areas of interest. Choose no more than three at a time to research. Besides the internet, try to talk to people who will let you have an informational interview or give you the real scoop on the areas you are interested in. A process of elimination will begin and one particular area may get traction through luck and coincidence that starts to feel like the front-runner.

8. Tell the truth about your money life
Money is usually the first thing that stops people from pursuing what they truly want. Don't let it stop you. Get straight with your money. Even if it's painful to see, know what you have and don't. Don't let it stop you. Moonlight, borrow or barter to move toward your new direction.

9. Put Yourself in Opportunity's Way
It's time to push the envelope. Take risks, get out of your comfort zone and get out there. See opportunity where it is -- everywhere -- and don't be shy about asking for favors or things that seem pushy. There are great rewards out there when you put yourself on the line.

10.Create a Plan and Get Support
Make a timeline for how you are going to cross over into something new. It usually takes 1-3 years to fully transition into a new direction. Don't fret. Make a monthly plan and get plenty of cheerleaders around you. No naysayers! Hire a coach or get a group of like minded folks around you and you will be settled in a new, satisfying direction before you know it.

And note: Unbearable situations seem more bearable when you know you are on your way out. Hang in there!

©2009 Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction

Author Bio

Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction, is a pioneer in the life-coaching profession. A renowned speaker and the president and owner of InterCoach, Inc., a full-service life-coaching business that works with individuals, small businesses, and corporations, she is also the author of The Little Book on Meaning, Living Your Best Life and Take Yourself to the Top. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

You can find the book here.

For more information please visit

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. -(from the book cover)

Sarh Ockler has a beautiful writing style that drew me in from the first page. She drew believable characters and threw them into a situation where they each had to experience grief in their own way. I especially liked Anna who grieved for Matt, but didn't feel like she was allowed to express her grief. The emoptions in the book were well expressed and really pull the reader into the story.

My enchantment with the book started fading when Frankie comes up with the challenge of finding 20 boys over the summer. It seems innocent enough until Frankie starts referring to Anna's virginity as something that is holding her back from enjoying life. The rest of the book seems to focus a lot on this, and as well written as it was, I couldn't imagine recommending it to my teenage daughters.

What I found most disturbing was how lightly the whole subject was treated. As the girls sneak out of the house at night and Anna spends intimate time with her summer boyfriend (nothing graphic), I kept waiting for some sort of consequences. But there was nothing. Anna even says, "Somewhere beneath my newly tanned skin I know I should wait, that it should be special, that it should be with someone I can wake up with in the morning, tomorrow and always." These girls go through their summer lying to their parents and worse, even watching their friendship fall apart, and yet at the end of the book, all this is put behind them, the parents never find out, and the friends come back together as if nothing ever happened.

This book did reaffirm my belief that I need to read everything my kids read so I will know the kinds of things the world is preaching to them, and help them pick appropriate literature. I'm still a firm believer that a great book can be written for teenagers without having to bring sex into the picture. Even though I enjoyed the writing style and to some degree, liked the characters, I won't be recommending this book to anyone still in high school or younger.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston

"Shannon Tanner has it all a perfect family, a perfect job, and a perfect boyfriend. Or so she thinks. What Shannon doesn t know is that her boyfriend, Mark, is stealing money from her father and making millions doing it. When Shannon learns Mark s secret, he turns on her, and Shannon s life abruptly goes from perfect to perilous.

"In an effort to protect Shannon, the FBI assigns their only female agent to go undercover as her personal bodyguard. But when the agent is injured the day before the assignment, they turn to the next best thing: their top agent, Rick Holden in a dress.

"Life seems safe again for Shannon with Rick by her side and Mark apparently gone for good. Then Shannon gets word that her best friend has been kidnapped, and it becomes clear that Mark isn t going to stop any time soon. Shannon realizes the only way to save herself and her friend and stop Mark once and for all is by sending Rick, her only source of protection, away. Can Rick save Shannon before it s too late?" (from the back cover)

This book is a real departure from Tristi's other historical novels, but an exciting departure. Since we know who the bad guy is right from the beginning of the book, the suspense lies in figuring out what he will do next and how he'll do it. Unlike many supsense novels, this one had a nice touch of humor which I enjoyed.

My only complaint was the length. It was over too fast. I wish there had been more development of Shannon and Rick's relationship.

I'm hoping Tristi will continue to write suspense as I did enjoy Agents in Old Lace and will recommend it to my friends. It is a quick but fun read. Be sure to add it to your summer reading list.

You can read more about Tristi here or follow her blog here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Reading Thing 2009

LDS Publisher is hosting a Summer Reading Thing. Since I do so much reading in the summer I decided to take part. The rules are simple. You make a list of books to read during the summer - as many or as few as you want. They have to be by LDS authors. You also have to post at least one review on your blog. The rest of the rules can be found here.

This list is just the beginning. I'm sure I'll add to it as the summer progresses.

1. Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston
2. Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack
3. The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
4. The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner
5. The Golden Verses by Barbara Miller
6. Recovering Charles by Jason F. Wright
7. Eyes of a Stranger by Rachel Ann Nunes
8. Princess at the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere

When I was asked to review Donna VanLiere's new book, I eagerly agreed. Finding Grace is her memoir, detailing the discovery of grace in her life. Like all children, she had hopes and dreams. The world spread out before her, promising great things. But the wonderful future disappeared when a neighbor boy molested her as a young child. Like many victims, she blamed herself and kept her secret for many years. As her dreams were denied she questioned why God would do this to her.

Through a painful struggle with infertility, Donna discovered grace in her life. She explains her discovery that God denies some of our dreams because He has better things in store for us. Even though it may seem He has abandoned us, in reality, He sees the bigger picture and knows each one of us personally and will guide our lives in directions we never thought possible if we just let Him.

I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Grace. Donna's writing is warm and inviting. She tells her experiences with tact and humour, and with this telling, invites each of us to recognize the hand of God in our own lives. This book is an uplifting reminder that it is possible to put pain behind us and move forward with hope.

Donna VanLiere is the author of The Christmas Hope series and The Angels of Morgan Hill. I recommend all of her books. You can read more about Donna VanLiere at

Friday, May 1, 2009

2008 Whitney Award Winners

I've been slow in posting the results of the Whitney Awards for 2008, but my sister reminded me that she always comes to my blog when she is looking for a good book to read, so here they are.

2008 Best Novel of the Year

2008 Best Novel by a New Author

2008 Best General Fiction

2008 Best Historical

2008 Best Speculative Fiction

2008 Best Youth Fiction

2008 Best Mystery/Suspense

2008 Best Romance

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brass Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

"Never start a conversation with a brass dragon--it might never end! In another volume of the companion series to A Practical Guide to Dragons, orphaned baby brass dragon Kyani ventures out into the desert to find something to eat, and finds a gnome named Hector instead. Hector is not so sure he wants a chatty, hungry brass dragon following his every move. But several groups ready to go to blows over the marvelous invention Hector guards with his life, he may need the help that only a fun-loving brass dragon can provide."

Rebecca Shelley, writing as R.D. Henham has once again delivered a fast paced interesting book. I invited my youngest daughter (let's call her J) to help me review this book. J read Red Dragon Codex and loved it. When she heard about the Brass Dragon Codex, she couldn't wait to get to the book.

She said the book is full of adventure and interesting characters.
The characters grow in the book and learn the importance of truly listening to others. I think it is a wonderful story and lots of fun to read aloud with the kids. I asked J to come up with some questions to ask Rebecca.

J: How did you come up with the interesting names?
Rebecca: Krynn is a shared world. The Dragonlance books have been around since I was a kid, so there are a lot of characters and places that existed long before I got a chance to write in this fun world. Many of the characters that appear in Brass Dragon Codex originated in other Dragonlance books.

We have the author Dan Willis to thank for the names (and the wonderful characters) Mudd, Heira, and Hector and, I think, the name of the gnome town, Haggersmoore (introduced in Dragon Well and Dragon Knight). The author Stephen D. Sullivan came up with Syndall, Connal, Ariana, Amber, Shara, Shem, Goldmane, the Bronze Giant, and the city Kaal, and town of Purespring (appearing in the Goodlund Trilogy).

I could go on with many other authors and what they've contributed to this world, not the very least of which are Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman who wrote the original Dragonlance Chronicles and brought the Dragonlance world into being, but that's probably enough on this subject.

It is fun to write in such a deep and rich world and add my small part to it. I came up with the name Kyani (tumbleweed). In the Practical Guide to Dragons it shows the baby brass dragons as a tarnished brass color (a somewhat greenish black with flecks of lighter brass.) that is similar to a mineral called Kyanite. So that's where I got his name. Here are some links to images of Kyanite.

Of course a dragon can't go telling everyone his true name. It's said that if someone knows your true name, they can have power to command and control you. So, since he lived in the desert, I thought the name Tumbleweed would be appropriate, especially since he tends to wander around aimlessly like a tumbleweed.

The captain, Peyote, also has a desert plant name. The peyote is a kind of cactus. I thought that would fit since Peyote is kind of prickly in the story.

J: Why did you make the brass dragon so talkative?
Rebecca: Great question. Since the dragon codex books are companion to the Practical Guide to Dragons, I got to make my brass dragon fit what it says in the book. Here's what it says in the Practical Guide: "The brass dragon loves to talk, and it often ensnares unsuspecting travelers in a bout of long-winded conversation. . . . like its elders the wyrmling is born with the gift of gab. It will talk on and on and on, at times about seemingly nothing. It will talk to animals that can't talk back. It will even talk to itself if no one is near."

I can't wait for you next book. What are you working on now?
Rebecca: Right now, I've just started a book tentatively called The Elves of Lincoln Junior High. We've seen so many books about vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards in school, I thought it was high time the elves got a chance to shine, or at least get to blow things up in some seriously fun North vs South type action with a little romance thrown in along the way.

J: What other books have you written?
I've written the Red Dragon Codex, which started the dragon codex series. In addition, I've written a number of other books that have yet to be published. Here are three that are currently being looked at by publishers.

Take Monkey, a literary genius with flatulence; Bean, a science and math guru with a dangerous bug collection; Vinny, a computer whiz who can't keep her mouth shut; and Art, an artist who can shoot a basketball like a pro, confront them with a mess of fourth grade trouble, and watch the fun explode in the Smartboys Club, a chapter book series.

Mist Warriors is a retelling of "Chylde Roland and the Goblin King" aimed at a middle-grade audience. When Robby Chylde's sister, Ellen, rollerblades around the church and vanishes into the mist, Robby sets out to find her. His search leads him into the Goblin Kingdom where he discovers a goblin plot to conquer the Faerie lands. Now it's up to Robby to battle savage goblins, defeat the Goblin King, free Ellen, and save the Faerie Kingdom.

In Screepy and the Egyptian Curse, Screepy witnesses another girl killed in a car crash with a vehicle carrying relics from King Tut's tomb. An artifact damaged in the crash releases the spirits of ancient evil priests and plunges Screepy and the ghost girl into a three thousand-year-old mystery, which they must solve before the priests take control of the city and enslave its inhabitants.

J: Those all sound fun. One last question. What is your favorite mythical creature?
Rebecca: It's a tie between dragons, elves, and fairies.

Thanks Rebecca. This book can be found here and visit Rebecca's site here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pillage by Obert Skye

"When fifteen-year-old Beck Phillips travels by train to the secluded village of Kingsplot to live with his wealthy but estranged uncle, Beck discovers some dark family secrets. A buried basement, a forbidden wall, an old book of family history with odd references to. . . dragons? Beck's life is about to be changed forever in this suspenseful tale about the destructive nature of greed and the courage to make things right. Pillage is filled with Mr. Skye's signature humor as well as some very intense moments, including a surprise ending, that will keep readers young and old engrossed and entertained."

This book is a fun read right from the beginning. Beck is always getting into some sort of trouble and when he moves in with his mysterious uncle, that doesn't change. Beck starts to notice he has some strange power over plants and when the servants at the house warn him to stay away from certain parts of the house and the grounds, he can't resist. There is always something happening and the story moves forward at a brisk pace. Some great plot twists keep things moving in unexpected directions. I enjoyed reading this and will definitely recommend it to my kids.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

"Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass has always felt estranged from her family, who struggle to make a living in the windswept north. So when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out and promises that her family will be provided for if she accompanies him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the great white bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle. Slowly the Lass unravels the mystery of the bear’s enchantment and the spell connecting him with the strange symbols carved in the castle’s icy walls. But on a journey to a place where the four winds fear to travel, the true horror of the bear’s spell is revealed, and the Lass’s courage—and love—will be tested."

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is a re-telling of the Nordic fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." The Lass is an interesting character with an interesting family and I especially like the relationship between her and her oldest brother Hans Peter. Even though she makes mistakes, she always works at solving the problems her mistakes create. The writing was beautiful and had a nice flow to it. I love stories based on old fairy tales, legends and myths and this book is no exception. I enjoyed this book and look forward to sharing it with my daughters. You can learn more about the author here and purchase the book here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

"After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy."

I've read and enjoyed several of Janette's books but this one added a new twist by throwing the characters into the middle of a fairy tale. Each time I thought I had the story figured out, a new problem would get me thinking again. Many girls dream of a fairy godmother to solve their problems but the one sent to help Savannah is a great twist on the classic character and not what anyone would hope for in a magical helper. Throughout the story, Savannah learns to think outside herself and consider others as she tries to put to rights the wishes that her fair godmother messes up.

The thing I love about Janette's books is that I can give them to my daughters knowing they will love the story and also knowing I'm not handing them something filled with bad language and inappropriate content for teenagers. It is refreshing. This twisted fairy tale is a great fun. My Fair Godmother will be released tomorrow and I'll be first in line to by copies for the girls in my family.