Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Two Souls Are Better Than One

Here's the blurb:

Jeremy James Johansen has more than his share of problems. His father has disappeared without a trace, he’s just been suspended from school, and he has the ghost of a dead mage sharing his body. His search for answers will take him across the boundaries of reality, and into another world—a world that has invaded his own small town.           

Christmas morning.  All the presents were unwrapped, the children blissfully playing with new toys, and I decided it would be the perfect time to start Karen Hoover's new book. 

Flash forward four hours.  I am still reading.  Thirteen relatives have arrived to share the wonderful meal that I forgot to put into the oven and I am telling my husband to feed everyone and leave me alone so I can read.

The book seriously sucked me in.  Much like J.J. was sucked into the body of an aged wizard in another world.  See how I did that?  Now that I have brilliantly transitioned into my review, I'll tell you how much I enjoy Karen's writing.  I said the same thing when I reviewed her Wolf Child book.  She is amazing when it comes to character.  I felt a connection with the characters from the first few pages.  I could read dialog and know who was speaking without any tags.  This takes serious talent and Karen has it!

I could imagine reading this book aloud.  It is told in the POV of the main character who is a teenager.  He is hilarious.  I love his character.  I loved the story and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was completely surprised.  The ending was satisfying and at the same time not predictable. 

I would totally recommend this book  for anyone--especially a teen reader.  They would love it.
Great Job, Karen!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2012, Here we come!

Time for a New Year's resolution that I will actually be able to stick with after January 10th.  I'm joining Book Chick City's 100 Books in a Year contest.  If you would like to join with me, just click on the link in the side bar.  Happy reading!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Season of Sacrifice

Here's the blurb:

Sarah Williams is a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark "Hole in the Rock."
Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience. Will they make it through?

I'll admit I was a bit hesitant about this book at first.  Very often, biographical novels tend to drag as the reader is weighed down with facts instead of story.  However, Tristi did an amazing job of bringing these characters to life.  The story was exciting as the group struggled to reach the San Juan valley through the harsh land in Southern Utah.  It was touching as characters fell in love.  Heartbreaking when doing what was right was a sacrifice.  Fascinating when I realized that these were real people and they actually lived these amazing lives.

It was so well done that I read the whole book in a sitting.  I could feel the love Tristi has for her ancestors through the hours and hours of reasearch that she undoubtedly had to do in order to make this account so accurate.  It was truly a "labor of love." (That's a direct quote from the author)

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, especially Mormon history, or to anyone who just wants a great, uplifting read. 

Here are the purchase links--you can even get it in e-book form.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Faithful, Fit and Fabulous


 Want to get control of your life? Get organized, get fit, get finances
together? In Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Connie E. Sokol shares
simple-to-use practices with solid gospel principles to tidy up your
life—not to perfection but to a smoother 80% in key life areas.

   As a mother of six, Connie E. Sokol shows you how to tweak your life
to get more joy. Discover how to successfully create small but
significant changes in eight areas: Holy Habits, Personal Life Plan,
Fit & Fabulous, Joy in Womanhood, Balance in Motherhood, Healthy
Relationships, Home Organization, and Savvy Finances.

   Filled with humor and "I can relate" life experiences, Faithful, Fit
and Fabulous is the ideal life boost—no guilt, no feeling overwhelmed,
and no reaching for that pan of brownies. Read it for fun and let the
concepts simmer. Or, jump in and create life changes right now with
eight goals in eight weeks. Faithful, Fit & Fabulous shows you each
step of the way.

   Through gospel principles combined with everyday practices, you can
finally focus on priorities while enjoying the process. Life-improving
has never been more enjoyable or rewarding!

Faithful, Fit and Fabulous is not your typical self-help book.  I dread those with their,"It's not that hard to be perfect.  I have eight kids, a perfect job, perfect house, perfect body, etc. etc."  Connie's book is nothing like that.  She divides our lives up into eight areas and gives ideas for small, manageable goals in each area.  So, ideally, after eight weeks, we have strengthened ourselves in a well-rounded way.

Here's why it's awesome...We've all set crazy New Year's resolutions or started a major diet or whatever and we get pumped up about them, right?  So, if you're like me, after about a week and a half of dieting or trying to coordinate your children's intricate job chart or have an hour of meaningful scripture study every day, or whatever, you fizzle, right?  Then, it's worse than it was before you even started because, not only do you still have the extra weight, no scripture time or disaster of a house, now you have guilt attached to it, because you couldn't handle it.  Does any of this sound familliar?
What Connie does in her book is help set small "baby step" goals that are totally reasonable.  In each area, she gives room for the goals and why we want them.  The chapters are filled with facts, quotes and personal stories (not the kind that make you feel like a loser, more like the kind that make you think, "Oh, she HAS been there) So, a week, we can all handle that, right?  I mean there's an end in sight which makes it sooo much more do-able.

Then, here's the best part: the reward.  When you've reached your weekly goal, you get to treat yourself to something--a bubble bath, movie, whatever your thing is. 

Sounds simple, right?  Well, it is.  Since I got the book a few weeks ago, I have been able to give it a try.  My first try was "Relationships."  I have a little guy here who seems to always get into trouble.  He is just that kid who's a little trying right now.  So, I tried for a week to make an effort to speak positively to him.  And it was like a light switch went on in him.  He's a completely different kid.  Was I just trashing him before?  I don't know, but making it a goal to speak positively to him changed my relationship with him. 

The next week, I tried to make my personal prayers more meaningful.  It has been a wonderful experience as I have found myself growing spiritually for that week.  Hopefully, that is one that can stick.

So, since you are reading this to find out about this book, and not my personal problems, here's the deal-e-o... Faithful, Fit and Fabulous is a motivating, uplifting book for you or to give as a gift.  Two thumbs up!

Here's the purchase link:

And check out the website:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cold River

Here's the blurb:
Mandy Steenburg thinks her doctorate in education has prepared her to run any school district - until she tangles with the moonshine-making, coon-dog-owning denizens of a tiny district in Pacific Northwest timber country. She's determined to make a difference, but the local populace still looks to the former superintendent for leadership. When Mandy lands in the middle of an old feud and someone keeps trying to kill her, instinct tells her to run. And though she has to literally swim through perilous waters, she finds a reason to stay and chance the odds.

Oh honey, if there's one thing I love, it's a good romantic suspense. I love the wondering--will they? Won't they?  Come on!  Can't you see that he's perfect for you?  Lives in peril, Prince Charming coming to her rescue, the smoldering glances, trembling kisses, That sort of thing. 

Liz Adair nailed it.

Cold River has an unlikely heroine.  Truthfully, I wasn't sure I would like her.  School District Superintendent?  That definitely had the potential to cut down on my smoldering glances and trembling kisses.  But, it didn't!  Even with her tons of education and even more uptight, suit-wearing, 'I know how to run a school district' attitude, Dr. Mandy Steenburg turned out to be quirky and fun-loving and hilarious.

There were four--did I get them all?--different potential love interests in the charming northwestern town that Mandy moves into and I held my breath until the very end hoping that she'd pick the right one.  And hoping that he'd pick her.  It was touch and go there for a little while, but there's nothing like attempted murder, a raging river and music to bring two people together.  Sigh.

Oh, and if you're wondering, this book is totally clean, it shines with good Mormon values, so yes, you can give it to your Granny or your teenager and not worry.  Also, they'll love it.

Purchase link:
Liz's blog:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bitter Blessings

Here's the blurb:
Megan has the perfect life, but when her mother dies in an accident, everything spins out of control. With the rest of her family falling apart, Megan must confront her past to uncover the truths that will keep everyone together. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this book shows that even in times of trial, you can often find blessings.
Megan lives with her mom, two younger sisters and her grandma.  As the story opens, we find out that her mom was just killed in a car accident.  Megan is forced to shoulder much of the responsibility for  taking care of her family and when she talks to her friend's father about insurance, they find that her mom was hiding a devastating secret.

Bitter Blessings is one of those stories where you keep thinking, "Okay, it can't get any worse."  But then it does and does and does until finally Megan finds that there is nowhere she can turn but to the Lord.  It was written mainly with an LDS audience in mind, but I didn't think it came across as too "churchy" like some LDS fiction does.  You could get it for a non-LDS friend and I think they would enjoy it, too.  It is a sweet, uplifting and realistic story with a twist that I didn't see coming.  I liked it a lot and I would definately recommend it if you are in the market for a clean, feel-good, well-written novel.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Big World Network

Logo imageCheck it out!  Free books.  Need I say more?  Well, I'm gonna anyway.

You can listen to audio chapters or read installments of different books directly downloaded to your kindle FREE on  The site launched today and I can't wait to get reading. 

It's kinda like watching episodes of your favorite shows every week, except you get to use your imagination and nobody stands in front of the TV or whines, "Mom. What's for dinner? What are you watching?  I don't want to watch this.  This is boring.  Who is that guy?  Why did he say that?  How much longer?  I want to watch the Upside Down Show...etc.

(dis)Abilities and the Gospel

"Disabilities and the Gospel" is by Danyelle Ferguson and Lynn Parsons and published by Cedar Fort.
     Here is the blurb from the website:
Each day, parents and Church leaders struggle to teach individuals with special needs. Using real-life stories and a touch of humor, this inspiring book guides you to teach effectively, overcome communication barriers, and build strong relationships with people of all ages with disabilities. Discover each person's ability to learn and grow as you help them feel like a valuable part of your life.

Non-fiction is really not my thing, but I found that I was fascinated and touched by this book.  It is helpful and informative for parents, but I think it should be required reading for anyone who has a child with special needs in their quorum or class.
(dis)Abilities and the Gospel is formatted in such a way that it is so easy to navigate.  If you want to read straight through, the different sections progress in a natural way; from Primary and through the auxillaries to adult callings.  If you have a specific area of concern, it is easy to find what you are looking for.

The advice that is given is applicable not only to teachers or friends of people with special needs, but to any parent, friend or primary teacher.  There is also advice on how to help your kids to be a better friend to a child with special needs and even to help people know how to approach that child's parents or siblings appropriately.  The authors have such a sweet and positive way of describing problems and their solutions, and present them with stories and examples.

Various websites and resources are given throughout.

I felt like this book could be beneficial to so many people--I have a better idea of how to help some of the kids in my own Primary, and a better understanding of why they act the way that they do.
There were a few sections that I found to be particularly interesting to me.  The first was the Primary section.  I love the ideas to make sharing time better for kids with special needs.  Simple strategies as easy as where the kids sit or pre-teaching some topics are so do-able.  There were also some great ideas for FHE and scripture study.  It was eye-opening to learn about some of the problems that these special kids face.  A particular example that stood out to me was that a child with autism may not understand 60% of what you're saying.

My very favorite part of the book was at the end where some short testimonies were shared by parents and siblings of special needs kids.  They were so touching and written with so much love.
This book is written so beautifully, and would be appropriate for any church leader or parent.  There is so much practical advice as well as examples of faith.  It is well written and I would (and will) recommend it to anyone.  In my ward, I am the Primary President and I have a little guy whose teacher is getting a copy of this book from me.  We're going to develop a plan because even though he's tricky and feisty and hard to communicate with, this boy has touched all of us in the Primary with his spirit and especially his testimony of Jesus.

Thanks ladies for letting me read it. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

No Holly for Christmas

No Holly for Christmas by Julie N. Ford

Here's the blurb:
Widowed, practically penniless, and banished to an Alabama rural community, ex-socialite- turned social worker Holly Cavanaugh Winter is dreading the approaching holiday season. However, her angst is not due to her husband's untimely death last December 25th, but because of a secret, one she keeps locked deep in her heart, that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid Christmas.
  On special assignment for the DA, defense attorney, Brian McAlister has all but given up on relationships when his path unavoidably crosses Holly’s. But love at first sight quickly turns frigid when Holly gets pulled into a manhunt for an accused murderer who now has his sights set on her. With his case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe, while bringing an assassin, and the powerful man who hired him, to justice.

I think that the most important element in a romance is that the couple has to be something to each other that nobody else can be.  Each needs to fill the other's need in a way that nobody else can.  Julie does this better than any romance I have read in a long time.  The thing that she did so well in this book is show their needs while the characters themselves don't even realize that they are the perfect ones for eah other.  AAh, Just get together, already!! frustrating, right?  Perfect!  I loved it!  The conflict is great.  I loved the characters.  There were great bad guys and great good guys.The story is unique and unpredictable.  And the physical tension was steamy.  I would definitely recommend this book!
Here's the purchase link:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nourish and Strengthen

I got the chance to review Maria Hoagland's book, Nourish and Strengthen. 

Here's the synopsis from her website:

Taylor has the perfect life: a model’s figure, a husband who adores her, three healthy children. So why does she feel so much less than perfect?

After losing forty pounds, Chloe Taylor is finally happy with her body. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s not the one in control.

When Chloe is called as the Primary president, she discovers that managing the highs and lows of a chronic illness may be easier than the ups and downs associated with family, friends, and church callings. Consumed by her own challenges, Chloe fails to recognize the issues her friends are facing and is in danger of losing their friendship.

As Chloe strives to develop Christ-like love for herself and those around her, she learns that outer appearances are far less important than inner peace and spiritual strength. But is she strong enough to face her most difficult trial yet?

Maria does a fantastic job of describing the struggles of a Latter-Day Saint woman as she learns to handle the added challenge of diabetes to her already busy life.  This book resonated with me because as a mother and a woman, I face so many of the same insecurites: body image, comparing myself to others, trying to do my calling in a way that I feel is right, balanced with the ever pressing need to make others happy. 

The book covers a year in this young mother's life.  By the end, Chloe has gotten stronger.  She is able to cope with her disease and develop a more understanding heart toward people who seem to constantly make her life harder. 

I really like Maria's writing.  There are many sweet as well as hilarious moments with Chloe's kids, giving a good balance to the more serious struggles that she and her friends are dealing with.  I learned so much about diabetes and the daily challenge it is.  It is a great book for any woman.  Very uplifting.  I really enjoyed it.  Thanks, Maria for letting me review it!

Here's her info:
Smashwords for all eBook versions:
Createspace for paperback version:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here is the Synopsis from Karen's Facebook Page:

Ember has been accepted into the mage academy, but not without cost. She has gained a new enemy, ancient and dark, whose entire purpose is to destroy all white magic and her along with it. After nearly losing her life in a brutal attack, DeMunth is assigned her guardian, and the keystone he wears, The Armor of Light, begins the transition that will make it a true power.

Kayla has lost most everything of importance to her—the people, the prestige, and all she fought for the past ten years. With nothing left to lose, she continues her search for the birthplace of The Sapphire Flute and the Wolfchild she believes to be its player. Her journey will take her to strange, foreign, and often dangerous places, and everything she had thought to be true will be proven wrong.

In a showdown full of betrayal and heroic loss, Ember and Kayla finally meet on the battlefield, fighting a war on two fronts—against C'Tan and her people, and the mysterious enemy bent on destroying all magic—the shadow weavers.

The story is full of power, betrayal, hope, and love. The elements of the universe are coming together, and none can know who will stand in the end.

The Armor of Light picks up where The Sapphire Flute ends--with a world on the brink of destruction and one girl with the power to unite the magical forces that can save it. 

Just like the first book, AoL is told from the POV of three different women.  Ember has to learn how to control her potentially dangerous powers.  She has been accepted at the Mage Academy, but who is qualified to teach her.  And what will she do about the undercover traitors in her midst?  Can she trust anyone?

Kayla is learning how to use the Sapphire Flute.  She attracts the attention of Sarali's handsome brother, much to Brandt's dismay.  She is disgusted by the two men's attempts to win her heart.  There are some hilarious moments as they fight over her.  Kayla also has some lessons she has to learn the hard way, and the cost is devastating.  Will she ever recover from the mistakes she has made?

C'Tan, the villain is so deliciously tortured. She is a myriad of contradictions and that makes her such a compelling character. She is determined to destroy Ember and all who stand with her and to gain control of the keystones for her evil master. She has sent spies to the Mage Academy.  Will they remain loyal to her?  Will they be discovered?  Will her master continue to turn a blind eye to her failures?

DeMunth becomes a knight in shining armor--literally--charged with the responsibility of protecting Ember.  He doesn't seem to mind his new job, in fact, you'll have to read to find out just how much he enjoys it. (wink, wink)

The story moves forward at an exciting pace.  There are scary bad guys, action scenes, romance, friendship, betrayal, heart breaks, monsters, true love...(Is this a kissing book?) Everything I look for in a novel. 

Karen is a master of Character.  From the first page of the Sapphire Flute, I felt a connection with the people I was reading about.  Truthfully, I procrastinated reading for the last few days because I knew I was getting close to the end.

So, to sum up, if you haven't become a fan of the Wolfchild Saga, what are you waiting for?

Thank-you , Karen for letting me preview this book.  It is fantastic.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Welcome to the October Blog Hop, where you can visit new blogs, enter to win prizes, and have a great time!

At the bottom of this post, you'll see a list of participating blogs. Just click on each link, check out the prize, and follow the easy instructions to enter. You can enter on each blog, so it's possible to win multiple times. It's frighteningly easy.

On this blog, you can win ...a $15.00 gift card.

To enter, all you need to do is:

1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Leave a comment on this post and tell me why you'd like to win this prize. If your e-mail address isn't visible through your Blogger profile, please also leave it with the comment so I can notify you if you win. You can enter until midnight MST on Saturday night, October 15th.

That's it! You are now entered. Now please go visit all my friends on the list below. It's almost like trick or treating!

October Blog Hop Participants
1. Tristi Pinkston
2. I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
3. Bonnie Harris
4. Michael D. Young
5. Misty Moncur
6. Debbie Davis
7. Mandi Tucker Slack
8. Mary Ann Dennis
9. Deanna Henderson
10. Laura Bastian
11. Kristy Tate
12. Kristy Wilson
13. Jennifer Debenham
14. Jenny Moore
15. Elizabeth Hughes
16. J. Lloyd Morgan
17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
18. Billy Boulden
19. Scott Bryan
20. Maria Hoagland
21. Shirley Bahlmann
22. Shelly Brown
23. Marcy Howes
24. Lynnea Mortensen
25. Jaclyn M. Hawkes
26. Diane Stringam Tolley
27. Gail Zuniga
28. Betsy Love
29. iWriteNetwork
30. Canda's InkBlast
31. Stacy Coles

Learn more about October Blog Hop here.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Look who I hung out with tonight! How lucky am I?

Is that famous author, James Dashner? Why yes. Yes it is.
I was so lucky to be able to go to an event tonight where James Dashner, Matthew Kirby and Brandon Mull were doing a question/answer panel. It was fantastic. They talked about their books, of course. But the thing that really made an impression on me was when they all talked about how many times they were turned down by publishers. Brandon said that he worked for four years to get Fablehaven published. I know it's easy for them to talk about it now, in retrospect, but it was still so great for someone like me to hear. They were funny and full of encouragement and advice for writers who are just starting out.
Another topic that they discussed was 'critique groups.' I read Josi's classes on this subject on W.I., too. I really think that a group is such a useful tool to improving your writing. It has been invaluable to me--even though I've had to grow some thicker skin.
All in all, it was a lovely evening and I was thrilled to be able to rub shoulders with some great writers that I admire. I guess it's hard to technically rub shoulders with someone so tall, but you know what I mean.
On a side note, the other handsome devil in this photo is my son, James who is an avid reader and turning out to be a pretty creative writer. I'm so proud!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's in a name?

How important is a character's name? Obviously, we've all read books where the character's name is unforgettable: Frodo Baggins, Dagney Taggert, Nick Carraway, Mr. Darcy, Roland of Gilead.
But what if you picked up the sequel to a book you read a few months ago and some of the names were changed? Would you notice?
I read "Salem's Lot" about 6 months ago. I remember the characters pretty well. There was an author. He was brave, disciplined, used a typewriter, and liked to take walks. He fell in love with a girl he met in the town. There is nothing unusual about her character. I liked her. She was a reader--that's how she knew the author, and beautiful. There was a boy--he was intelligent and spoke like an adult. Then, of course there was a vampire and his servant.
So, here's the thing. I don't remember any of their names. Not one. The priest reappears in another of Stephen King's books, and I still don't remember his name--Father (something Irish, I think, McCulloch? Callahan?)
If the illustrious Mr. King were to write a sequel to "Salem's Lot" and assign all of the characters new names, I probably wouldn't notice, as long as the characters were the same.
So, here's my point... Do I really have one? I think my point is that the characterization is more important than the name you give your character-- in this example anyway.
A friend of mine is about to publish a sequel to her first book (Just so I don't give too much away about the plot of her next book, I'll keep her anonymous, but it is still probably pretty obvious)
Anyway, some of the characters need to go under cover and in order to protect their identities, they are given new names. So, for the rest of the story, they go by these new names.
Some of the people in our critique group think this is too confusing--now, who is this again? We even discussed how many times is appropriate for the author to remind the reader of which names were changed. Seriously, the more I think about it, the less important the actual names are. I really think as long as her characterization is on the mark, readers won't be too confused. We naturally read more carefully when we critique instead of just enjoying the story.
Another book I've been reading is Karen Hoover's "Armor of Light." Her main character is called different things by different people, and she isn't the only one. There are other characters who use secret names for each other, and without her overly explaining it, I haven't been confused once.
So, just to play devil's advocate, I'll go back to Karen's book to support the opposite view. Her main character, Ember was given her name to conceal her identity as she and her mother started a new life. She was named after the fire that killed her father. Her name is way important. If I picked up the sequel to this book and she wasn't called Ember or Shandae, I would totally notice. No matter how well her character was written (and she is such a great character!) Just like I would notice if Edward Cullen had a different name in Breaking Dawn. How do I remember every name of every character in Harry Potter? Would I still throw my book against the wall with a scream if it was Steve Jones that told Scarlett O'Hara that frankly he didn't give a damn?
What's the answer? Are some names just more memorable? Are some characters just written so well that their name doesn't matter? Does it depend on the book--like if it is more literary, their names may represent their character, their destiny, their allegiance, or their darkest secret?
Could all these answers be right?
Would Jane Bennett by any other name still seem as sweet?
Tell me what you think.
By the way, I think the vampire's name is Barlow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Roll ipad Contest

Just in time for Fall, it's Josi Kilpack's latest book in the Sadie Hoffmiller series. If you've never read a cullinary mystery, they are stories that creatively incorporate food and recipes and Josi does it like a genius. Her books are clever and funny with just the right amount of sentimentality. Josi is a wonderful person and author. I should know because she's been one of my closest friends for over twenty years!

Sadie is not your typical heroine. She is adorable, middle aged, a little crazy and a super cook who seems to stumble onto mysteries wherever she goes. With her unorthodox and slightly hilarious methods, she is able to crack the case.Anyway, I'll be getting myself a copy to add to my collection. Look at that darling cover. You can go ahead and judge the book by it. It won't dissapoint.Oh, yeah...leave a comment and you're automatically entered to win an Ipad 2! More info on