Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Books Read in 2008

The bolded ones are my favorites. What a fun reading year! The blog is offically a year old now. Yea!

1 Austenland by Shannon Hale
2 Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
3 Tangled Roots By G.G. Vandergriff
4 Extras by Scott Westerfeld
5 Forget me not by Michelle Ashman Bell
6. Tempest Tossed by Josi Kilpack
7. Yearbook by Alyson Condie
8. On Second Thought by Robison Wells
9. The Believer by Stephanie Black
10. 80 Miles To Nowhere by Melissa Alstock
11. Mummy’s the Word by Kerry Blair
12. When the Bough Breaks by Kay Lynn Magnum
13.A Love Like lily by Kay Lynn Magnum
14 A Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
15 Sheep’s Clothing by Josi Kilpack
16 Saboteur by Dean Hughes
17 Counting Stars by Michelle Paige Holmes 18 House of Secrets by Jeffery S. Savage
19 Time Riders by Sierra St. James
20 The 13th Reality by James Dashner
21 Upon the Moutains by Gale Sears
22 Flying Home by Rachel Ann Nunes
23 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznack
24 Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day Geroge
25 Sun and Moon, Ice and snow by Jessica Day George
26 Dragon Flight by Jessica Day Geroge (not reviewed)
27 Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
28 The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
29 His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik Random house
30 Forged in the Refiner’s Fire by Candace Salima and Elizabeth Cheever (non-fiction)
31 Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley
32 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Knopf
33 The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
34 The Sea of Monsters Rick Riordan
35 The Titan’s Curse Rick Riordan
36 Battle of the Labyrinth Rick Riordan
37 Ravens in the Winter by Bernd Heinrich (non-fiction)
38 Icing on the Cake by Elodia Strain
39 The Authurian Omen by G.G. Vandergriff
40 Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black
41 Our of Jerusalem by H.B. Moore
42 The Shakeress by Kimberly Heuston
43 Solider Boys by Dean Hughes
44 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
45 My Mom’s a Mortician by Patricia Wiles
46 Ben Franklin’s Almanac by Candace Flemming (non-fiction)
47 FarWorld: Water’s Keep by J. Scott Savage
48 The White Bedouin by Geroge Potter
49 Coffin House by Pamela Carrington Reid
50 Hunting Gideon by Jessica Draper
51 East by Edith Pattou
52 Two Road by Chris Crowe
53 Journey of the Heart by Dave W. Free
54 The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon
55 Serpent Tide by K.L. Fogg
56 Trouble in Palmayra by Rob Ficiur
57 Rescue the Prophet by Rob Ficiur
58 Dante’s Daughter by Kimberly Heuston
59 Renaissance Beauty by Heather Simonsen
60 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
61 Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
62 Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack
63 Widow’s Revenge by K.L. Fogg
64 All’s Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon
65 Facing the Enemy by Dean Hughes
66 As Wide as the River By Dean Hughes
67 Abinadi by Heather Moore
68 Time and Eternity by E.M. Tippets
69 Alcatraz Verses the Scrivener’s Bones
70 Minding Mama by Marilyn Arnold
71 Our Eleanor by Candace Fleming (non-fiction)
72 Christmas in Haggerty By Betsy Brannon Green
73 Christmas Rose by Robyn Buttars
74 Eyes of a Stranger by Rachel Ann Nunes
75 The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson(re-read) (not reviewed)
76 The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (re-read) (not reviewed)
77 Black Powder War by Naomi Novik (not reviewed)
78 Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (not reviewed)
79 Mississippi Trial 1955 by Chris Crowe (not reviewed)
80 Out of the Dust Karen Hesse (not reviewed)
81 The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (not reviewed)

Partials (that I still plan on finishing…)Biography of Alexander Hamilton
Team of Rivals the political genius of Abraham Lincoln

Top Five LDS
Counting Stars
Fool Me Twice
Sheep’s Clothing
Serpent Tide
Time and Eternity

Top Five YA
Ben Franklin’s Almanac
The Lightening Thief
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Shakeress

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fall Into Reading Wrap-up

I finally got around to doing this. Life has been crazy the last couple weeks after Christmas. I'm working 60 hours this week, no joke. Though I'm annoyed that I can't keep up on all of my new years goals, I'm feeling pretty grateful that I'm working at all. I hope you all have just as much luck.

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not?

No, some of them I didn't like and so didn't finish. Then I'm still halfway through the last one.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?

I mostly stuck to my original goals. Though, I really didn't change the list when I dropped some books out.

What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why?

Favorite - The Hero of Ages. So Awesome! My least favorite would have to be Life of Pie. I read the introduction and the first three chapters (which made no sense at all), realized it was literary experiment type novel and decided to abandon ship post haste.

Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them?
Well, I did really like Sharon Creech's novel, and have thought about reading more of her stuff. Other than that I didn't really find anything new. Though, I don't like literary stuff that exists just not to make sense, like Life of Pie. I like pretty writing, I do, and I like profound messages, I do, but I don't like them at the expense of clarity. Once a book starts to obscure its message with wierd tricks I'm out.

What was your favorite thing about the Fall Into Reading challenge?
I like the fact that you can list whatever books you want.

Would you like to participate in another challenge here this spring?
Yes, Please!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Christmas Rose by Robyn Buttars

The Christmas Rose by Robyn Buttars

Rosie has lived behind Pleasant Manor all of her young life. Her mother cooks for the old residents in the rest home, and Rose finds her place among them, being a friend and a special light at the end of their lives. Rosie’s best friend is a resident named Bessie, who is full of life and fun ideas. The decorate for Halloween, celebrate parties, and even plant a Christmas Rose garden together.

This little Novel isn’t exclusively about Christmas, but holds many stories from different seasons of the year about the light this little girl Rose brings to the life of her friends that live in Pleasant manor. Though there are some very memorable Christmas scenes contained within the story. Sometimes the chapters have a short story feel to them, concentrating only on the interaction between Rosie and a particular resident. Other times the chapters focus on Rosie and her dear friendship with Bessie, and they joy they bring to other residents. This was an interesting little read for the holiday season. I didn’t find it to be a “wow” book, but still intriguing, full of love and quiet cheer.

Visit Robyn’s Website:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Haggerty by Besty Brannon Green

Christmas in Haggerty by Betsy Brannon Green

Kate Iverson is having a hard time feeling the Spirit of Christmas. Her relatives seem to be welcoming new little ones to their family, and while she has two beautiful children, she mourns over the fact that her childbearing years are already over. Yet, in Haggerty there is much service to be done, and as she gets caught up in family history projects, baking, and Christmas pageants. Not to mention the fact that she must come up with an idea for the neighborhood door-decorating contest. Yet, she keeps dreaming about a little girl that needs her help, and ends up being of greater service than she could have ever expected.

This was an enjoyable little Christmas novel. I haven’t read the entire series that this little Christmas book is a spin off of, though I have read the first book, which I did enjoy. I sort of wish that the physical setting was described a bit more, but I think that it is probably set up well enough in the series that most readers familiar with it wouldn’t mind a bit. The town of Haggerty already lives in their heads. The characters were charming and lively, and gave the little town a quirky and enjoyable flare. I also enjoyed the fact that the book isn’t overtly sappy or sentimental, and yet still has meaning. Christmas in Haggerty is a quick and enjoyable read for the holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Eleanor by Candace Flemming

Our Eleanor by Candace Fleming

Earlier this year I read a “scrapbook” biography of Benjamin Franklin’s life written by the same author. This Biography is about Eleanor Roosevelt, and her tremendous life. I’m so glad I came across this book, and read it. It gave me a whole new picture of this revolutionary woman. I always knew that Eleanor was a unique figure in history, but this really made me understand her life and the influence she held in America at the time. I hadn’t known that she was the first woman delegate to the United Nations, or that she helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or that she was a huge leader in the Democratic party for many years.

The number of things that she accomplished in life is absolutely amazing, and it was for the majority centered around helping people in all walks of life, and in dozens of different places. Yet this biography also shows the human side of her, how her marriage wasn’t picture perfect, and her mother-in-law was controlling and overbearing. My favorite detail was the fact that she was a terrible driver. She got in car accidents all the time, complete with newspaper articles detailing what happened. This entertaining and informative biography really is a delight to read.

I really do love how this format allows the reader to view primary documents along with the narrative text, though I wished that some of the scanned documents had been larger and clearer, because I was squinting to read them. The book is full of pictures, documents, cartoons, articles, letters, and posters that make the book more fascinating. This was a really excellent book, and an excellent resource for young people interested in history. I would highly recommend this to all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Minding Mama By Marilyn Arnold

Minding Mama by Marilyn Arnold

Dorie Grimes didn’t expect the day of her mother’s death to come so soon, and now she is up to the task of transporting her body to Jericho, Utah from Atlanta, Georgia. The problem is that Dorie doesn’t have enough money to ship her, and so she wraps her mother in a quilt and heads off across the country in an old pickup truck, trying to get there before the stink sets in. Yet, she encounters unexpected obstacles, picking up a run away girl, a bum and his dog Petunia, and an abandoned baby were not part of the original plan, neither was running into a bank robbers, fraudulent evangelicals, or riding in a great white whale.

The initial crazy conflict of this book hooked me in immediately, the lady has to drive her mother’s dead body to Jericho, Utah? The book grows more charming and crazy still as the character Dorie runs into more interesting people than one could ever hope to meet in a lifetime. I love the unique voice and style of this novel; it has a rural southern vibe, and yet feels graceful and thoughtful. I wasn’t exactly sure where the novel was going after they got to Jericho, Utah, but ultimately the novel is about the relationships formed between this unlikely cast of characters, and where they end up. I enjoyed this read despite the strangness that could be off putting to some readers at first. I recommend you give it a try.

Author Biography:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson
The life of Alcatraz Smerdy changed the day his grandfather walked into his life and handed him his inheritance, and told him his incredible ability to break things was actually a talent. He’s supposed to meet up with his grandfather, who is late (as usual—that’s his talent), only to be chased down by some Librarians. He is rescued by his old friends, and discovers his grandfather has gone on a quest to find Alcatraz’s father. So Alcatraz leads the crew on an adventure in Library of Alexandria, which was not destroyed, but moved underground. Now Alcatraz has to find his grandfather, and avoid the curators, who are ready and willing to take his soul if he checks out library materials.
I think I liked the sequel more than the first book, though, I do have to admit the cover made me feel embarrassed to read it in public. I mean just look at it, plus it reminds me of science fiction and the book isn’t science fiction at all. Alas. The first book gets a little annoying with the whole tangent notes, but I don’t know if they were just cooler in this book or if I was used to them, but I liked them better. I thought they were also trickier, and a bigger audience could appreciate them. Loved the humor and the action packed story line. Just don’t try to explain this one to your co-workers.

“What are you reading?”
“A story about a boy who has a talent for breaking things and has to defeat a cult of evil librarians that steal your soul.”
Weird looks.
“It’s a funny book.”
“Yeah, funny.”
Then they would look at the cover, and I would think, don’t look at the cover don’t look at the cover. I promise I’m an intelligent adult.

Moral of the story: this book is way better than the cover and my sad summary implies and you should try it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time and Eternity by E. M. Tippetts

Alice O’Donnell is a new member of the church, and expects to be proposed to by her boyfriend Darren. He baptized her into the church, and everything seems to be perfect until he starts acting weird, calling her a “molly”, and being distant. In spite of that she has gotten inspiration from her prayers that she will find the one she needs to be with, which she assumes is Darren. Then he ditches her. Add to that her job is offering her a new position in another state, and her parents are going though and painful divorce and trying to put her in the middle of it.

Weaving her way through a singles ward is confusing, frustrating, and even lonely. Then Spencer takes an interest in her. He seems to be the catch of the ward upstanding, cute, and responsible. Plus, he’s looking to get married before he moves away. Alice tries to like him but can’t quite commit. Apparently, the lord doesn’t always give to us what we planned, or even thought he planned.

Let me give a girly squeal and say, “I loved this book!” It really is one of the best light romances I’ve read for a while. I even adore the cover. The style is a more crisp and tight then most LDS novels, which makes it a refreshing read. The author spends a lot of effort showing how complicated and drama filled a singles ward can be, and how the chase to find the one you love is full of wild twists and turns. This book will leave you with a smile on your face, and with a new love (or hate) for this charming(some not so charming) cast of characters. I would recommend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Abinadi by H.B. Moore

Abinadi by H.B. Moore

Each time Abinadi sees the beautiful Raquel he tells himself that he couldn’t tempt a beautiful woman like her. She is the daughter of Amulon, one of King Noah’s high priests, and yet he feels something towards her. Then King Noah asks for Raquel to be one of his many wives, and she decides to flee out of the city of Nephi. Abinadi convinces her to allow him to help her, though she is determined to take care of herself. They find that though they came from different background their desire to please God gives them something in common. When Abinadi is called to call the King Noah’s people to repentance they will be both asked to sacrifice much.

Alma finds that being a high priest in King Noah’s court has some perks, if only he could forget about the lessons his father taught him before he died. As he falls further into a life of sin he realizes how the wrath of King Noah affects those around him, including a woman he cares about, Maia. Then he hears Abinadi’s call to repentance and feels the power of God. Alma must look inside himself for the courage to escape from King Noah, and his former life.

This latest release from H.B. Moore tells the story of Abinadi’s life and death. She chose to portray Abinadi as a younger man with a wife and small child when he was killed. I really liked Raquel’s character, as a stubborn, determined woman, and really liked her conversion story. I also enjoyed how she portrayed Alma as a complex character, and related his change of heart realistically. She seemed to hit the balance between his evil choices and ultimate goodness of his heart and spirit very well. I found the portrayal of evil to be slightly uncomfortable, as is should be, but not offensive. King Noah really is evil in this book, and Amulon leaves his daughter in a compromising situation with him in which she has to escape in order to avoid getting hurt. So, if you are extra sensitive about that sort of thing be aware. There were a few scenes I felt were a bit melodramatic, but overall this book was really captivating, uplifting, and entertaining. I had a hard time putting it down when it was time to cook dinner, and it was well worth the read.

Moore's Website:

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Adventures of Young Joseph Williams by Dean Hughes

The Adventures of Young Joseph Williams by Dean Hughes

I recently read the two last books in Dean Hughes church history trilogy, As Wide As the River, and Facing the Enemy. These books chronicle the struggles of the Williams family during the restoration of the gospel. The plot line of the trilogy focuses mainly on the early Saints struggles in Missouri. It is similar to the Work and the Glory, but written on a level for the younger reader, and focuses more on character than on educating the reader on church history. I sometimes wished I had brushed up on my church history a bit more as I read these volumes, as they don’t take a whole bunch of time telling in the narrative or in copious historical notes about background details. Rather they show through the limited experience of the main character Joseph Williams, what a family might have encountered living in Missouri during the 1830’s.

In As Wide As the River Joseph and his family are still trying to recover from their expulsion from Jackson County by an angry mob. Joseph struggles with questions about religion, trials, and his personal dream to be a steamboat pilot on the Missouri River. His family has to build their life anew, while their father struggles to recover from the illness caused by effects of the mob in Jackson County.

Facing the Enemy continues the story of the Williams family, now settled in Far West. Joseph continues to struggle to do what is right while those around him are talking about fighting back against the mob. Joseph does his best to follow the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and to help the saints in the ways that he is asked, even if his aid missions often put him in danger of capture. Then he learns that his brother Matthew is a part of a band called the Danites, a group that goes around to burn mob members out of their houses. Joseph questions how these actions can be justified, and whether the Mormons are just as bad as the mob members persecuting them.

I enjoyed completing this little church history series. I really enjoy Dean Hughes, and how he lets his characters grow, make mistakes, and even doubt, but ultimately they find their place. I found the story line about the Danites to be interesting and unique. I had heard of them, but didn’t know much about them, and so it was intriguing to watch the character deal with the ramifications of their existence. This series isn’t a new favorite of mine, but I still enjoyed reading it, and think they are worth picking up.

Dean Hughes website:

Friday, October 31, 2008

All’s Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon

All’s Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon

Kristen Shepherd’s wedding day falls apart when she finds out that her fiancée tried to transfer funds from her bank account without her knowing, and she breaks things off until she can get some answers from him. Things get more awkward when she has to work with him to win a political campaign for her company. They used to work well together, but Kristen isn’t sure if she can believe her fiancées stories, especially when they include involvement in a possible terrorist group in the Middle East.

Ryan Jameson helps her when she arrives at her family cabin to get herself back together. Kristen tires to hide her old feelings for him since he has proven in the past that she can’t trust him. Besides, he’s now working on the staff of her client’s political opponent. Then terrorist forces capture her brother Brandon, who is serving as a doctor in Iraq. Brandon has to make a decision between following his morals, or potentially betraying his loyalty to his country.

Kristen uses all her contacts to organize a rescue operation for her brother, and explores the link between her former fiancée and his Middle East connections to see if they have any answers.

Sorry for lack of posts. I’ve been working 50 hour plus weeks for the last three weeks. I’m way behind on reviews of books I’ve read. This newest release from Julie Bellon is a fast-paced suspense that has clever plot twists and an enjoyable story. The characters were decent, but ultimately they kind of fell a bit flat for me. I liked them, and wanted to read their story, but I kind of wished for a little bit more depth and emotional complexity from the type of situations they were put in. I felt like Brandon decided far too quickly and easily how he was going to react to his ethical situation. The internal conflict there could have been more intense, and as a result more powerful. Still, an interesting read with a look into the war in Iraq, with a strong quick paced plot with two romance threads woven throughout. I think a broad audience of people will enjoy this one.

Julie's Website:

Blogs at:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Widow's Revenge by K.L. Fogg

Widow’s Revenge by K.L. Fogg

Wesley Mackey should be the luckiest boy ever. His father is the Snake Stalker on a famous television show, but that doesn’t make his life easier. Instead it makes him the target for bullies, and when he decides to fight back he gets suspended from school. So, Wesley is paired up with a geeky tutor, who used to be a Navy SEAL. Then his baby sister goes missing and it looks like his former “mom” is behind it. Imogene wants to make a swap--Wesley for his baby sister Emily. Being kidnapped is no picnic, but with the help of his parents and friends they may be able to bring the evil Imogene down for good. I’m very happy to report that this is an awesome sequel to the first book in the series. I didn’t like it as much as the first one, but still really enjoyed it. I liked how she developed new characters in the series, and developed stock characters from the first book into more fleshed out characters. The plot is adventure filled, and yet takes time to focus on character development, a combination I adore! I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series; the ending left me wondering exactly what will happen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack

Her Good Name by Josi S. Kilpack

Chrissy tries her best to be a good member of the church, a kind sister, and a hard working employee, and an honest person. So it doesn’t make sense when she doesn’t pass a background check for new employment, and suddenly has a fair credit score when trying to buy a new dishwasher. Chrissy is starting to get a clue that her identity has been stolen. Yet, this identity theft isn’t only looking for a quick buck, and Chrissy watches as her carefully constructed life begins to fracture apart piece by piece.

Micah, a man that she met during an awkward blind date, has also had his identity stolen, and when they find similarities between their cases they decided to work together to solve this crisis. Taking a piece of Micah’s advice to heart Chrissy decides to set out, and restore her good name.

I’ve been a fan of Josi Kilpack’s for a two years or so now. I love how all the main characters of her novels are so diverse and have such unique, yet realistic, worldviews from each other. I know I’m always going to get a taste of something new and unique whenever I pick up one of her books. Chrissy’s character does not disappoint in this newest novel, she is a strong, vivacious, single, Mexican-American woman, who doesn’t give up when the hard times hit. I had a hard time putting this book down when I had tons of stuff to do. The suspense of finding her identity “double” is intense, as Chrissy never imagined her identity stolen by such an evil woman, who was part of a violent and dangerous liberation movement in Guatemala. Yet, this villain has realistic motivations, and a goal that the readers can easily identify with. I thought it was a bit far-fetched that Chrissy would go so far to hunt down and break into the places that her identity double had been frequenting, but it was really fun to read anyway. This really is a fantastic book, and I would recommend it to all. The ending leaves enough loose ends that a sequel is very possible (and I sort of want one), but still has a satisfying ending.

Josi's website:

Josi's blog:

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech

The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech

Pia, a peasant girl and Enzio, her peasant brother, dream of going to live in the Castle Corona across the river and atop a sloping hill. They imagine often that they will go and live there to make their existence with their strict and demanding master more tolerable. Then their lives are interrupted one day when they see the royal guard chasing a thief through the woods, and they discover the treasure that he drops. Uncertain of what to do with the bag they keep it and wonder over its contents.

Meanwhile the royal family lives a luxurious life in their castle, but they are not satisfied with what they have. The king desires naps, softer clothes, and the answers to what has been stolen for his kingdom by a mysterious thief. The Queen desires a place to find serenity, and her very own hermit, Gianni wishes for the words to be a poet, Vito desires adventures, Princess Fabrizia—the tantrum thrower—wants to do something interesting. This full cast of characters is brought together through the actions of a mysterious and elusive thief, but what has been “stolen” brings reveals a secret that very few expected.

I enjoyed this book greatly, partly because the layout is so cool! It looks sort of like an illuminated manuscript on the inside, with pretty curly cues, and pictures, and bold letters. I’ve always loved illuminated manuscripts half because they are awesomely beautiful, and half because they frequently contain Latin. So, I love the quaintness that the style brought to the tale, and made it more fun to read. The writing is wonderful and smooth, and the characters are drawn with wit and humor. The plot is kind of sketchy, and I sometimes was wondering where exactly the story was going, but it fits with the story’s style, though, I kind of wish that the princes and princess had a little more plot line action. I wanted a sequel on account of the fact I felt like their stories didn’t really finish. The book really was about the characters and their little problems, and intrigues. Overall the book really was fun, interesting, and humorous to read.

Sharon Creech is an Newberry awards winning author, and you can find more information about her here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Ha-freakin'-zaah! I have a three column template! Take that evil code of doom!

Blog will be prettified shortly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Into Reading

So, I'm starting another reading challenge. Truly, having another cool image on my side bar was a mojor motivator to do this again. I'm a sad creature. Without futher ado here is my fall reading list. Also, if you want to join the fun just click the image on the right, which has a link to Callapidder Days, our host.

Peace Like a River by Leir Enger
Hero of Ages (Mistborn 3!) by Brandon Sanderson
Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack
Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
As Wide as the River by Dean Hughes
Facing the Enemy by Dean Hughes
Dragon's Bane by Barbara Hambly
Life of Pi

Summer Reading Thing

So, I did rather poorly on my Summer Reading Thing.
I read three out of the seven books I listed. (In my defense I read 19 for the Summer Book Trek.) Though, I did read part of Emma and I started the first chapter of Dragon’s Bane. The book I liked the most would have to be Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm because the story line really sparked my imagination, and left me wanting another story. The book I liked least was Emma by Anita Stansfield. I read about fifty pages into the book, and got more and more depressed about how I really wanted to like this book and just didn’t. I know I said before I didn’t like Stansfield’s style much anymore, but this was a so-so book for her. She can write better, but this one truly did read like a screenplay for me.

Didn’t really discover any new authors. I’d never read George Potter or F.E. Adcok, but I’m not going to go out and read everything they’ve written. Still want to read Barbara Hambly, and see if I like her. (I’ll confess, people, I reread Mistborn instead! The new book is coming out next month and I had to reread it! I’m obsessed! I haven’t been so excited for a book to come out since Harry freakin’ Potter!) Still want to read Jannette Rallison’s book; she really is a great author.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So, if you are coming to visit the blog over the next week then forgive the appearance. I'm currently experimenting with trying to figure out how to do a three column template. I'm not very good at code of any type and so a lot of trial and error is required.

Also if you haven't noticed recently posting is scarse, at least more scarse than my lovely three post a week splurge over the summer. I really would love to post more, but I'm working 40 hours a week, as opposed to not working very much during the summer. I'm starting to get back into the blogging thing as I figure out how to work my hobbies around my schedule, but all is not perfectly balanced quite yet.

I'm hoping to get some links up to other places that read, review, and discuss LDS fiction. I'll see if I can find similar places for Y.A., but that is a whole other huge ball park. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Gen claims to be the greatest thief ever, because he can steal anything. Then Gen messes up a job and gets thrown into the king’s prison to rot. There he stays until the King’s advisor Magus comes to him with a proposition. He wants Gen to steal an object for him in return for his freedom. This object, magically powerful is located in the land of Attolia. What more can Gen do than accept the job?

They travel deep into the kingdom of Attolia to an ancient temple that holds the powerful amulet they are looking for, but those who have entered before have never returned back out. Will Gen suffer the fate of those before him or somehow beat the odds and win the gods favor?

This book was so-so for me. Magus and his apprentices go on a long journey with Gen to find the object he is supposed to steal, and the journey got kind of boring for me, though I always enjoyed the characters. The main character is fun, solid, witty, and has a nice voice. I also really liked the world building, and the myths that the author made up about the world. It is very much a reflection of Greek history and culture, but the author made the setting and stories her own. I really enjoyed her creation myths. They are different from the Greek Myths, but have the same charm. I was really impressed, because they were very intriguing and fun to read. The ending also has a cool surprise twist that I wasn’t expecting at all. I had to go back and look in the book for clues, which was fun. A lot of the action is told in flashback after the fact, which makes it kind of flat. I guess my biggest problem with this book was that I wanted a bit more excitement out of it. I would still recommend it, and I plan on reading the next book because the set up for a sequel was interesting. Plus, I liked the characters, and wonder what happens to the little Prince Sophos.

Author's Site:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Renaissance Beauty Heather Simonsen

Avery Rose takes a trip to Italy with her grandparents after her high school graduation. They wander around Florence and while in the Uffizi Gallery falls in love with a painting of Lucrezia Panciatichi. On returning home from her trip to Italy she enters Relief Society, and starts college. Then the Relief Society president asks her to help Katelyn Jamison, who has become pregnant out of wedlock. Avery finds this assignment a challenge, as she and Katelyn didn’t really walk in the same crowds during high school, but as Avery explores the true meaning of beauty and love she learns to become the person she wants to be.

The beginning of this book was a little hard for me to get through. The writing was a bit choppy and some scenes awkwardly executed. I wasn’t sure that I would want to finish it, but then Avery’s trip to Italy ended and the book started to get more interesting. It was interesting to see Katelyn struggle with the decision to give her baby up for adoption, and to see Avery grow and become a better person despite her weaknesses. It was nice that the book didn’t make the adoption black and white, but treated the situation with the complexity that it deserved. There is also a really cute romance between Avery and her best friend Barclay, who has lived across the street from her. I wasn’t extremely into that part of the book, but I can see a lot of young girls swooning. I really wished the book was more polished, and didn’t like it extremely well. Though, I did end up getting into the story line and caring about the characters.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer Book Trek 2008 Wrap-Up

1. How many fiction books by LDS authors did you read?


2. Did you read more than you would have read if you hadn't participated in this book trek?

Well, I read more LDS fiction than I probably would have, but still would have read just as many books.

3. Did the reviews posted by other participants influence which titles you read? How?

No, not really, but I got some ideas for what I want to read next.

4. Did the Whitney awards influence which titles you read? How?

Well, Since Heather Moore got a Whitney award for her land of inheritance series I decided to read the first book.

5. Did the many, many virtual blog tours that happened this summer influence which titles you read? How?

Yes, I read farworld, and Forged in the Refiner's fire for the blog tour.

6. Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not, why?

Well, I was going to read Candy Shop War. I read the first chapter and wasn't interested in it and so I replaced it with another book. I probably should have given it more of a chance, but I wasn't in the mood to finish something I wasn't liking right off. So, it got axed from the list. Other than than I finished more books than I thought I would.

7. Did you discover any new authors whom you now love?

I did discover Kimberley Heuston, and I really like her style. I also really enjoyed reading Dave Free's Journey of the Heart.

8. Did you nominate any of the books you read for Whitney awards?

Hmm, I guess I could for a few of them. I'll certainly have to think about it, but maybe I'll wait until the end of the year for that.

9. Would you be interested in another LDS themed reading challenge either this winter, or next summer?

Yes. I would.

Dante's Daughter by Kimberley Heuston

Dante’s Daughter by Kimberley Heuston

Dante Alighieri’s daughter, Antonia, has a life that is full of upheaval and change. Politics forces their family to flee Florence and to split up. She lives with her uncle while her brother, mother, and father find refuge elsewhere. Then her father comes for her so that she can join him on a pilgrimage to Paris. She has to learn to get along with her father, and endure a long and often hard journey.

I enjoyed this book not as much as the Shakeress, but it still kept me intrigued. Once again the book really doesn’t have a clearly defined plot, but kind of wanders along with the character in the way that I kind of like. Though this time I did feel that the wandering did last a little bit too long.

Periods of hardship and darkness are tempered by times of extreme joy and happiness that comes from having a safe place and loved ones near. The book does have an annoying habit of throwing in Italian words without translation. The vocabulary of the book wasn’t as alienating for me because I lived in Italy for 6 weeks and visited Florence and Ravenna (I’ve seen Dante’s tomb! Both of them.) So, I kind of knew the setting and a miniscule amount of Italian. There are some sections of French without translation too. Most of the Latin was translated though, funnily enough, or given context at the very least.
It is a weakness and strength of the book that you kind of have to have a certain amount of background knowledge to fully enjoy it. It also has some vocabulary and concepts that relate to art that could be confusing if you don’t have background knowledge. So, yeah, kind of tough reading for Y.A. I’m sure some kids will be up to it though.
I enjoyed it for the most part, but could understand it not appealing to some people.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Trouble in Palmyra by Rob Ficiur

Trouble in Palmyra by Rob Ficiur

Tom and Becky Long are spending the next few days at their uncle’s Daniels house. He’s obsessed with church history, and whenever they visit they’re sure to hear a boring lecture. Then he tells them that he’s built a time machine, and of course they don’t believe him until it actually works! Tom and Uncle Daniel get separated from Becky while traveling to Palmyra in the year 1820. They try to find her, but have to follow several rules, no unusual contact with people in the past, and most importantly they have to stay away from the prophet Joseph Smith and his family. That cannot interfere with the timeline or so Uncle Daniel says. Yet, sometimes things don’t turned out as planned.

I really enjoyed this read. I thought it would be so-so but it kept my imagination active several days after I finished reading it. I really want to pick up the next book in the series. I guess I’ll tell you, Becky gets taken in by the Smith family until her Brother Tom and Uncle Daniel are able to find her. It is fun to see how the author portrayed the Smith family and their relationships to one another, and how they were such good people, though not perfect. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that I felt like there was some talking down in the book. Tom gets in trouble a lot, and gets lectured by his dad. When the time-travel adventure ends Becky and Tom give a summary of everything they learned to the Uncle Daniel, but the reader already knew all of this. So it was sort of awkward and just a bit too much. Despite this the characters are likable and the story enjoyable. I would recommend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Serpent Tide by K.L. Fogg

Serpent Tide by K.L. Fogg

[Summary from back cover of the book]

Wesley Vandergrift wonders why he isn't like the other boys in his coastal South Carolina town. It's not easy being the son of an eccentric billionaire mother. His life consists of big secrets in a big mansion and only one friend. Overprotected and insulated from the rest of the world, Wesley yearns for the kind of exciting outdoor adventures he sees on "The Snake Stalker"-his favorite TV program, starring the charming Jack Mackey.

Now through a twist of fate, Wesley meets someone who knows his hero Jack Mackey-a real-live relative. And soon Wesley finds himself in more of an adventure than he bargained for. Dare to take the plunge with Wesley on an exciting journey of shipwrecks, venomous snakes, and kidnappers. The legendary curse of the Serpent Tide will forever change Wesley's life-and, perhaps, yours.

The cover of this book mislead me, because I thought it was a middle-grade fantasy novel. The book is more of Y.A. realistic fiction novel. That doesn’t stop the book from having fantastic elements, but it is not speculative fiction, at least not what I would define it as. Despite discovering part way through the book did not meet my expectations I loved this book. The writing was superb, the characters awesome, hilarious, and engaging, and the plot fun and engaging. I love how the author added depth and dimension to her characters that is not often seen in LDS fiction without a whole lot of cheesiness. Though, I did feel that when Wesley found out that his mother Imogene possibly wasn’t his real mom that he believed it a bit too quickly, especially with so little evidence, but it isn’t a major detraction, just something that bugged me personally. I got the sequel as soon as I could and can’t wait to start it after I finish reading Dante’s Daughter for the Summer Book Trek. This book is truly a gem, and I would highly recommend it to all. It has romance, action, comedy, and a little bit of something for everyone. I made my hubby read it and he liked it too.

K.L. Frogg's series website:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

80 Miles From Nowhere by Melissa Aylstock

80 Miles From Nowhere By Melissa Aylstock

Lance picks up a gun in the salt flats of Utah, not knowing that the man who placed it there is going to track him down. His car has broken down and he’s staying in Magna, Utah with his new friends until he can get his truck fixed. Then he discovers that his new friend’s sister is missing, and he thinks that she’s been kidnapped. Will Lance be able to find her before the mean searching for this gun harms her?

I read the beginning of this book a while and mentioned it in my first impressions series. I really liked it then because it was so different from the typical LDS novel, with characters that lived in a tiny town, who liked to fix cars, and go shooting. Having read the whole novel I can say that it is not perfect. Sometimes the writing was pretty choppy, and took me out of the book. One of the main characters Enin, is annoyingly preachy. That’s her character, but it’s kind of annoying once in a while. The ending has a really strange twist that I didn’t expect. Overall, it was worth the read despite the flaws, and I enjoyed it.

Melissa Aylstock's Website:

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon

The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon

Ed begins a summer job at the movie store Reel Life Movies. He has to wear a old-fashioned usher uniform, and doesn’t even have his own name tag. Instead he wears an old tag that from a previous employee named Sergio. Ed’s friend Scout works with him and together they dream up a fantasy Sergio, who lived in Brazil, and had traveled all over the world. Then a beautiful girl comes into Reel Life, and Ed knows he doesn’t have a chance with her, but if he pretends to be Sergio, the fearless, well-traveled Brazilian he might have a chance. Scout wishes that Ed would notice her more instead of pretending to be Sergio for the pretty girl that comes in frequently. Now Quark, Ed’s brilliant science genius friend, is starting to give her long admiring looks. Could it be possible that he likes her? This strange and hilarious cast of characters experiences a fun and convoluted summer.

This was an extremely fun read. The author has such a fun and hilarious voice. The characters are unique and funny, and this is a really funny romantic teen comedy. I laughed out loud lots of times. It was refreshing to read a really great teen book that was humorous. The book has several Mormon elements, as Scout’s brother is on a mission in Brazil, which is one of the ways Ed finds out so much info about the country, so he can act like he’s from Brazil. Though it is not overtly LDS fiction. I would recommend.

For those sensitive to such things the book did have swearing in it. Though, it was on the mild side.
A.E. Cannon’s Website:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Journey of the Heart by W. Dave Free

Journey of the Heart by W. Dave Free

Jake decides that he doesn’t want to go on a mission, and finally comes out and tells his parents. The same day he skips school to go skiing, and gets in a serious accident. When he wakes up he isn’t in a hospital, but has been transported back to 1856, and he’s traveling with a group of saints on a train, who have just come over from England. He discovers that they are a group of Handcart pioneers, and he feels compelled to serve them, and help them survive. They have started out later in the season than the ought to have, but as Jake serves those that he is made tent captain over, he learns to appreciate the gospel in a whole new light.

This story has been done before in the market, but I haven’t seen this story line since Cheri Crane’s Kate’s Turn series. I don’t think they are around anymore(aka out of print). This really is a great book, in fact I liked it better than the Kate’s Turn series. I really was skeptical because the book cover isn’t all that great, and the publisher was really small, and this was a first time author. Yet, I really loved this book! I got way into it and couldn’t stop reading. The story on the trail was fascinating, and the writing was really good. Sometimes, I kind of felt that Jake’s personality was overwhelmed by all that was going on, but that’s kind of understandable, he had a lot of people to help. Jake’s parents felt a little off in the first chapter, but don’t let that stop you from reading the rest of the book. I was bored on a few pages when they go around and meet a lot of people in the handcart companies, but these things really are small when compared to the fact that I got way into the story and really enjoyed it. In the end you really come to know a lot of the pioneer characters in the company, and find out about their daily challenges, and you wish you could be just like Jake. Right there, cheering them one and helping where you can. It’s a great story of courage and faith.

There were a lot of typos and printing errors in my copy. Sometimes the first line of a chapter would be on the page before the chapter started. I would recommend this one to all! It really is one that you should try out if you like LDS Y.A. or pioneer stories. I’m already wondering what this author will write next.

Author’s website:

Also check out this free PDF file! It’s awesome. After Jake got back from his pioneer experiences he wrote all the stuff down he learned about in a notebook! Find out what happened to the people Jake became close to on the trek.

I tried to find a link to this on the author’s website, but didn’t. I had to re-look up the address in the back of the book. It has a cool notebook and post-it-note professional layout, and has the life history, and quotes of many of the characters in the book about their handcart experiences. It’s a really cool extra to read after you finish the book.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Two Roads by Chris Crowe

Two Roads By Chris Crowe

Jared Hill is a missionary for the LDS church, and still has nightmares about the car crash that changed his life. He looks back on his high school experiences and sees how they changed his life for the good, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t painful. He falls in love with a beautiful Mormon girl, Leslie. Leslie and Rob befriend him his Senior year of high school and become his best friends.

Jared realizes that as he gets to know Leslie and her family that he is drawn to the Mormon church. Rob, though a member, likes to drink and party, and one night he drives Jared and Leslie home. The drive home ends in a terrible accident. Rob and Jared have to learn to find strength, and make tough decision in the face of tragedy.

This is a relatively short read; I finished it in one afternoon. The story kept me interested and engaged, and the writing was pretty good. I thought that the story-line was a little cliché, and a bit cheesy, but still enjoyable if you don’t mind that sort of thing. If you are really craving an LDS Y.A. read then this is a good one to try out. I would have enjoyed this book more as a younger teen, now I enjoy more characterization. It is not as long or as emotionally wrought as a Kay Lynn Magnum novel, but still enjoyable.

Chris Crowe's Website:

Monday, August 4, 2008

East by Edith Pattou (or how do you like your fairy tales?)

East by Edith Pattou (or how do you like your fairy tales?)

East is another retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. If you recall I recently reviewed Jessica Day George’s Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, which is based off the same fairy tale. I thought it would be fun to tell you which version I liked better and why.
So, I guess in the retelling fairy-tale business there are two ways to go about it. You can turn the tale into a more realistic story so that it makes sense and take a lot of the random, confusing magical elements out of it, and rework them in clever ways to make them into things that make sense. An example is Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment (A good book, but one I wouldn’t recommend readily because I was offended by some content in it). In his retelling of a Russian fairy-tale he made Babba Yagga’s flying home with stick-legs, an airplane. Then there are the fairy tales that add characterization, stronger plots, but still basically keep the magical and wondrous tone of the fairy-tale.

I felt like East was a more of the realistic tone of fairy tale. It is about three times as long, and the main character, Rose, has a better motivation to go off with the Polar Bear than Jessica Day George's character, Pika, did. Yet the story is less magical, and takes the fairy tale symbolically instead of literally. There is a cool compass and traveler theme to the whole book that I really liked, but the four winds carrying the main character to the ice palace of the trolls doesn’t really happen per se. She does a lot of sailing to get there, which technically has to do with winds. Yet, in George’s book she personifies the wind and has the main character carried by each of the four winds, who have different personalities and characteristics.

Another difference is the destruction of the troll Queen, I felt like Rose was more passive, than Pika. In fact, I felt cheated by how easy it was to destroy the ice palace, and the trolls in East. Rose really didn’t have to do all that much, and she came up with a sort of plan, but it really wasn’t directly involved in destroying the troll queen. I felt like Pika used more of her cleverness and resourcefulness to free her prince, which made the plot and character a lot stronger.

So, the ditching of personifying the winds really does take a lot of the wonder element out of the story, but another thing that strengthened George’s book was her knowledge of the Norse Language. It increased the magical and wondrous tone of the book that gave it character in a way that mere repetitions of Norse mythology couldn’t do. There really is a very real power in language--a tone, a resonance, the whisper of a people’s story.

So, in the end I enjoyed Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow better, because the story had more of a wonder element in it that it so crucial to fairy tales, and the climax was better. East really does have some cool stuff in it, but I kind of disliked the trend toward making the fairy-tale make sense rather than making it more magical. Though, it does have character motivations that make more sense. I still recommend it, and found it very fun to see which one I enjoyed better.

So what about you? Which type of fairy-tale do you prefer?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hunting Gideon by Jessica Draper

Hunting Gideon by Jessica Draper

Sue Anne Jones works for the FBI in the National Infrastructure Protection Center. Everyday she hunts down bad guys in virtual reality with her cat avatar Sekhmet; she tries to sink her claws into hackers and identity thieves. Then comes along Gideon, a cyber terrorist, quoting scripture, and predicting the coming of the apocalypse. He reroutes supply lines, giving much needed food to the poor in rural areas; he destroys a car factory, and in the process kills a man. This do-good thief, modeling himself off of Robin Hood, is now writing threatening emails to Sue, and she worries that he might know her real identity and find her.

This book was confusing to me in a few places, especially the first few pages, but eventually I got the hang of the new version of the Internet called the V-net, which is basically now turned into a virtual reality experience. This makes the hunt for Gideon an intense trip full of action and visual images. I really love Sue and her relationship with Loren and the fun and witty banter they exchange with each other. They made me laugh out loud several times. I ended the book wanting to spend more time with the characters, and really enjoyed this read. I’ll be looking for more by this author. Other reviews complain that the book is too preachy, but it really didn’t bother me because it naturally fit the character. I would totally recommend this book!

Jessica Draper is also the author or the Seventh Seal series.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Coffin House by Pamela Carrington Reid

Coffin House by Pamela Carrington Reid.

Toni and her Father move to a new place in New Zealand, and she has to adjust to a new ward and make new friends. She has a hard time adjusting, but joins a basketball team and starts to make new friends. Then one night she sees that the house across the street has a light moving in the upper window. She learns that the house is haunted, and full of coffins that the local mortuary stores there. She tells her new friends Erana and Wiremu about what she saw, and later Wiremu confides a secret of his own. He thinks that he saw his dead grandfather wandering around the house. Wiremu and Toni decide to investigate the house and find out the secret behind his grandfather’s ghost.

This book was a so-so book for me. I didn’t particularly like it, but neither did I hate it. I liked the characters and thought they were fun. I liked that it was set in New Zealand, but would have liked to see a bit more culture, and description of the setting. There was a little bit, but not really enough to make the book stand out. I think the main reason why I didn’t like this mystery was because I knew the way it was supposed to end, and it ended exactly that way. The writing was good and I thought it was worth reading, but I’m glad I got it from the library and didn’t purchase it. I would have given it away to someone I thought would like to read it. So, decent read, but it didn’t really excite me. I’d be curious to ask a kid their opinion on it, since it is written for them that is whose opinion really counts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The White Bedouin by George Potter

The White Bedouin by George Potter

Jake Sorenson takes a summer internship in Arabia, and while there listens to a tale about the White Bedouin, supposedly an American man called Al-Mormon, who came to work for the oil companies in the early days of drilling. As Jake discovers more and more about his man, and his legend he thinks that he was a man named Stephan Markham, an LDS boy from Utah, who left behind a fiancée during the depression era. The records say that he died, but Jake is not convinced, and goes on a search for this man who reportedly defeated an evil genie in the “Empty Quarter,” and rescued several geologist acquaintances of his, good Samaritan style, after they were attacked by Arab Raiders in the middle of the desert.

This book is told from two points of view. The first point of view is from Jake Sorenson, and the second point of view, which constitutes the majority of the book, is Stephan Markham. I had several major issues with this book, the first being that the author really does need to stay true to his characters, and their historical time period. It drove me insane that Stephan Markham an LDS church member in the 1930's was basically predicting the coming of the Internet from a scripture. Then there was the moment that I realized that the author was going to make this book a pseudo FARMS article. That was not a happy moment, especially since the author repeatedly manipulated historical facts, made inaccurate assumptions, portrayed mere speculation as fact— supported with footnotes no less! This was not a book healthy for my penchant for historical accuracy.

Despite all these things that made me frustrated with the book. I read it and enjoyed many parts of it. I did not put it down for two days. The author does very well at portraying the fascinating culture of the Bedouin Muslim. The myth of the White Bedouin captured my imagination, and kept me reading. The character of Stephen Markham and his story really is interesting and compelling, almost mythical. So, if you can deal with mini far-fetched, though sometimes interesting, FARMS articles smashed into a compelling, unique story then you should think about picking this one up.

I couldn't find a website dedicated to George Potter's novelist career, but he is in charge of the Nephite Project, and his books are for sale there. Check it out here:

Friday, July 25, 2008

J. Scott Savage Interview

Hey Scott! Welcome to Gamila's Review. Today we are floating down the Avon river in an English canal boat.

Avon huh? We’re not going to meet with a bunch of women who will do our colors and sell us hand lotion in poodle-shaped bottles?

Were going to moor at Stratford-Upon-Avon. After visiting Shakespeare's house and enjoying the swans in front of the Royal Shakespearian Theater we're ready to cast off from Stratford and head through that creepy tunnel up at the top of the page.

Ahh, Shakespeare. Very cool. You have to like swans. They are the ultimate in cool animals. They should all be wearing sunglasses. They are just that cool.

All seems pristine and lovely heading towards the tunnel, but soon we will enter an ancient arch, damp and dark, made out of millions of rust red bricks. On the right we will see a wooden rail drilled into the brick with chain linked underneath where old barges on the river would take pull themselves through by hand. It's lovely that we have the luxury of a modern motor and can therefore discuss Farworld: Water Keep at our leisure. While we float through our creepy, English tunnel full of fog, I'll ask you a few questions.

Okay, so you’re not going to like kill me and dump my body overboard are you? Because you don’t want to deal with those Scotland Yard guys. They may look like Charly Chaplin, but they’re tough.

How do you like the setting of our lovely interview today?

Excellent. Very dark and moody. It gives the whole interview a certain gravitas. (Which should not be confused with the annual gravy toss, which is not nearly as serious but much more messy.)

Do long dark tunnels full of fog make you think of fantasy, mystery or horror stories since you seem to write them all?

Actually horror is just a sub-genre of fantasy. When I think horror, I don’t think of Texas Chainsaw, I think of supernatural beings with special powers. And when I think of fantasy, there is always a dark element lurking in the background just waiting to spring out.

Which writers that have influenced your writing the most?

I am a sponge when it comes to influence. Reading just fills me up with great ideas. You see something in one context and it opens a pathway to another idea.

How long does it take you to write a book? Specifically how long did you work on Farworld?

Less than three months to write the first draft. The story had been in my head for several years, but once I started writing it came incredibly fast.

How many drafts did Farworld go through?

Ten easy.

Where did you come up with all the names for Farworld places, creatures and people? I found the names to be interesting and clever.

I like to play with names and sounds until I find one I like. Some names, like the Unmakers, Mist Steed, and Mimicker, are names that sound like what they are. Some names are nods to other books or movies. Some are plays on words. Look up the name of the frog that leads Kyja and Marcus to Olden. One thing I try to avoid is having a lot of unpronounceable names like Lady Grkzhn, because you know readers will just skip over it and call her G.

What is the language that master Therapass and the Dark Circle use when they cast spells?

Two different languages. MT is calling upon the elements to do his bidding willingly. The DC corrupts the elements. It is taking them by force. It is the language of desecration. Like bring back the dead, it is an abhorrence on the land.

What scene was your favorite to write?

I really liked the Unmaker’s cavern. Creepy, fun, and tense.

That was my favorite scene! Cool! What is your favorite part of writing and the least favorite?

Royalties and the months in between royalties. No. That is NOT true. I don’t want anyone to think that writing comes down to the money, because there are a lot easier and surer ways to earn a buck. I love when I write a really powerful scene. It’s a great feeling to “know” that readers are going to love it. My least favorite is when the story just won’t come. Or when you have a great but you can’t seem to get it onto paper.

Tell us about your upcoming releases. I'm especially curious about this LDS Horror novel you've talked about on your blog. When is that coming out?

I’ve actually had to put things on hold a little because of Farworld. Shandra should be Spring. After that, we’ll see.

What was the last LDS or Young Adult novel that you read? Would you recommend it to our readers?

The last YA book I read was The Bartimaeus Trilogy. I would definitely recommend it. Last LDS was Season of Sacrifice, about the Apple Dumpling Gang. Okay, it was really about the Hole in the Rock gang. And they didn’t really even call themselves that. But I would recommend it too.

Ah, looks like we've made it through the tunnel. I'm glad to feel sunshine on the face again. Thanks for joining us on our canal trip today!

Thanks for having me. It was fun and I didn’t even die. I’m so . . . hey wait. Where’s my wallet? Come back here!

Farworld Water's Keep by J. Scott Savage

Farworld Water’s Keep by J. Scott Savage

Marcus Kanenas, a boy with a crippled arm and leg, lives in a school for boys. He never knew what happened to his parents, but an Elder Ephraim, who found Marcus as a baby, and named him Kanenas meaning nobody in Greek, keeps tabs on him until his death. Marcus finds that occasionally people notice that he makes weird things happen and he ends up being moved to a new state home. When he gets lonely or bored he often daydreams about a place called Farworld, full of animals who talk, and trees and plants that sing. He imagines that he has a friend there, a girl with brown hair and a strong personality.

Little does he know that the girl he sees lives in a real place and that their futures are intertwined by magic. When Marcus is magically transported to Farworld and meets Kyja, familiar to him because of his dreams. He learns that she grew up in Farworld, a place of magic, without a speck of magic ability. She introduces him to her friend and teacher Master Therapass, who tells Marcus that they are the key to saving Farworld and the Earth from a powerful, destructive forced called the Dark Circle.
Together Kyja and Marcus must find Water Keep and convince the elemental powers—air, water, fire, and earth—to combine together to save a world that they rule but care nothing about. They must get there before the Dark Circle destroys them and the worlds they both know and love.

I read the ARC edition of this book, and it will come out officially in September this year. J. Scott Savage is conducting a huge blog tour for the month of July to celebrate it’s coming out and getting the news out about the book. Most of the reviews I’ve read (I’ve kind of tried to ignore them so I wouldn’t be spoiled.) rave about how they couldn’t put the book down and how the story is awesome. I wasn’t as enchanted by the book, and found it kind of hard to get through. Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t bad at all. It has good writing, a unique (though typical) magical world, and a strong plot. I think younger readers, especially those who like fantasy will love it.

Thing is I’ve read a lot of fantasy and plot, action, and new world elements are fun, but aren’t really what make a book shine for me anymore, especially if they aren’t innovative. It really is the characters, and I felt the characters were kind of overshadowed by the larger plot in the book. Also, I had this feeling that throughout the book that the characters problems were solved too conveniently and predictably. Though, the unmakers cavern was a reversal of this trend and a really cool sequence of the book. Yeah, so I wish the characters internal conflicts had been fleshed out, and resolved alongside the main plot threads, instead of being there and for the majority looked over. That in my opinion is what holds this story back from being an incredibly stellar book.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ben Franklin's Almanac by Candace Fleming

Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life by Candace Fleming

But as I read Ben’s letters and essays, looked at pictures of his family, and uncovered Franklin stories and anecdotes, I began to see him differently. Innovative, vulgar, sometimes heroic, sometimes flawed, the incredibly complex Ban Franklin I discovered beguiled me, and I was no longer satisfied to tell his story in a ordinary way. I needed a form that would illuminate each of the many facets of his life—the vastness of his interests and accomplishments, and the deep commitment he made to each one….And like a scrapbook, the stories of Ben’s life has been centered around visuals—portraits, etchings, cartoons, and sketches. These images—most created long ago—will bring you face-to-face with history, and help you to connect with Ben the person, rather than just a name and dates. You will actually see Ben’s childhood home. You will see his electrical equipment, the faces of his family, the first pages of his most famous writings. And hopefully, like the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, these snapshots will come together and a whole picture of Ben Franklin will emerge.” ~Candace Fleming

This middle grade non-fiction biography of Ben Franklin’s life includes multiple, cartoons, pictures, images that come directly from Franklin’s own life. The Biography is not organized in a chronological form, but by chapter theme. Some chapter topics are: “Boyhood Memories,” “A Family Album,” “Tokens of Well-Lived life,” and “Revolutionary Memorabilia.” This book totals 120 pages, and includes a Year-by-Year look at Ben’s life, a bibliography, picture sources, and recommendations for books and websites about Ben for Younger readers.
The instant I opened this book I absolutely adored it! I seriously love this book! Each of the pages is typeset to looks exactly like a pamphlet, broadside, newspaper or almanac from the colonial era, except the print is far more legible. Most of the images or pictures are from the time-period, something the Ben would have printed, or seen himself during his lifetime. They are all black and white, and add to the illusion that you are reading from an old book. The book has fun little anecdotes and stories about Ben’s life, and illustrates his humor, wit, and intelligence. I wonder if the book should be for middle grade readers, since Franklin’s prose is a product of his time and a bit hard to understand at times. Still each page has a layout that looks like old newspaper articles, complemented with pictures. These little articles are small and approachable to read, and I can see myself as a small student browsing through and reading the small articles and looking at the pictures. Then as I became an older student going through and reading some of the longer passages and learning the more complex background behind Franklin’s life and inventions. This truly is an innovative and versatile scrapbook of Ben’s life that will bring entertainment to readers of all ages. The history major in me applauds.

This book is a James Madison Honor Book, and had won multiple other awards. The author has published several other scrapbook looks into the life of American Heroes and also writes fiction. Check out her other work at her website:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blogland wonders

There are some interesting things going on around blogland and so I thought I would let you know about a few of them.

First, Julie Bellon is celebrating her most recent release, All's Fair. The book is a contemporary novel that deals with the war in Iraq. She is hosting and drive to help soldiers over there called.
Skittles for Soldiers. Go check it out here:

Also, the Write Stuff is holding a writing competition for writers 18 and younger. So, if you are a young writer and want to win a free copy of Farworld: Water's Keep by J. Scott Savage go check it out here:

I'm still having fun reading. Though my trip to Chicago got me behind and I posted a review that I wrote a couple years ago. Hope you enjoy it. I'm going to post my Farworld Review soon. I just finished it this week! Yea!

My Mom's a Mortician by Patricia Wiles

My Mom’s a Mortician by Patricia Wiles

This story is about a boy named Kevin Kirk. On the day that his mother finally finishes her schooling in mortuary science they pack up their things and move to Texas. What Kevin doesn’t realize is that his family is going to live in the top floor of a mortuary. At first, he is disgusted but eventually he gets used to helping his parents run the mortuary. They organize a funeral for a man name Cletus McCulley, whose family is LDS and look at death in a very interesting way. Kevin feels a strange connection to this man, and feels that he is watching over him. Kevin learns important lessons about life and death in this book, how to make friends in a new place, and how to confront bullies. As, he watches his family heal from a tragedy that happened years ago, which caused his parents to leave the LDS church.

This book is delightfully funny at times and yet also able to deal with some serious themes. I love how the author mixes humor and seriousness at the same time. It makes the story light, but also lets you know that the author has an important story to tell. A huge theme in the book is death and how it affects the living. There is also a theme of healing from death and familial love and support. It has supernatural elements in it because of the “guardian angle” role that Cletus McCulley plays in the book. I think the author dealt with that extremely well, making the connection a little creepy, but never like a ghost story. This was a delightful read, and I would recommend this book without reservation.

The book won the AML Award for Middle Grade Fiction for 2004, and you can visit the author website here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.

Jarl Oscarson, a woodcutter, has a large family and little to take care of them with. His wife is angry when they have another daughter instead of a son. So this daughter remains nameless except for pika, the word for girl. When Pika’s oldest brother Hans Peter comes home from a treacherous five years at sea he gives her the name lass. Hans Peter and Pika quickly becomes close, and Pika wishes for a way to make the sad look in her brother’s eyes to disappear. A polar bear comes and asks her to live in a palace with him, and she goes because the polar bear promises to make her family rich and comfortable, and something inside her says she should go. Though the palace is strange and enchanted, and Pika keeps asking too many questions and the servants start to disappear. Pika discovers that troll magic is behind everything and defeating it will bring the answer to the mysterious enchantment and make her favorite brother Hans Peter happy.

I was way excited to read this book since I really loved reading Dragon Slippers. I was not disappointed although I thought that the beginning of the book was a little slow on plot, but it still had a very nice fairy tale type of feel. According to the inside cover the book is,” based on the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” But it is delightful that the author would add Nordic words and phrases that give the book charm and character. The cover also compares the book to Beauty and the Beast, but I was getting Cupid and Psyche vibes, which is a Greek myth. In fact, the stories are so similar that I am wondering if the Greek tale influenced the original Nordic tale or if they are completely separate. Though, the question would be how would the Greek myth get all the way up to Norway? It’s a mystery! I will stop with the random classics commentary now and tell you to go read the book for yourselves. It really is great! I'm now going to see if I can find the original fairy tale and read it. Hopefully, in English...

Jessica Day George's website:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

This is an older book, but I found it an old used bookstore and decided to pick it up. The story is about Mrs. Frisby, a mouse, and mother of four little mice children. They are getting ready to move because it is spring. They are living in the farmer’s field in a little buried cinder block, and soon the farmer will come through with his plow and dig up their house and plant the fields. If they do not move then their home will be destroyed and so will her family. Mrs. Frisby’s littlest boy, Timothy, gets sick with pneumonia and must stay inside where it is warm. If they move to a new summer home and spend those early, cold, summer nights outside, then her Timothy may never get well again, and may in fact die. Uncertain of what to do Mrs. Frisby looks for ways to save her Timothy, and turns to the rats to save her son. She discovers that these aren’t ordinary rats and they have a revolutionary plan.

I enjoyed reading this book, and had fun remembering the movie version that I watched as a child as a read through. Interestingly, the movie was scary and kind of dark, but the book is totally opposite in tone and mood. I liked the character of Mrs. Frisby and found that the story line behind the rats fascinated me. I thought it odd that a lot of chapters in a book are basically a rat telling the story of what happened to them, and why they are executing their plan, but it is a fascinating and wonderful tale to read about. I immediately wanted to read more about this world and the characters. It really does spark the imagination, and curiosity. So, I researched and found that O’Brien did not write a sequel, but his daughter wrote two. The first called Rasco and the Rats of NIHM, and the second R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIHM. I am now curious to see if she can write well in her father’s world, and may have to check them out.

I’d recommend this endearing middle grade classic to all fantasy and animal lovers.

Here is a link to nice biography:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday's Fabulous Book Covers

I'm in Chicago! I schedueled all the posts this week before I even left. I hope to add a book review on Friday, but if I don't here are some of my favorite book covers that I've seen recently. I especially adore the new cover for Jessica Day George's upcoming novel. I also got to say isn't E.M. Tippets the cutest chick lit name ever? I think so!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Book Review: Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes

Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes
Dieter is a young boy in the Hitler Youth, who wants to prove that his is strong and loyal to Germany. He works hard and soon is promoted to be the leader over 180 Hitler youth boys. He is even given a metal by the Fuhrer himself for his hard work. Even though he is a little young to go to war, he asks to be sent to battle. Germany has been suffering great defeats on the Eastern front, and now the Americans have entered the war. Dieter is proud to be a part of Germany’s last great offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. He believes that he is doing a great thing for Germany, but the realities of war and the depressing outlook of men around him start to wear that belief down.
Spencer, only sixteen years old, is eager to get in on the action in Europe, but he must convince his father to sign the papers to allow him to sign up early when he is seventeen. He wants to fight for his country and show his family and home town that he’s worth something. So, he goes to train as a paratrooper, and endures weeks of harsh training. His unit is finally placed to fight at the Battle of the Bulge. Spencer finds out that war isn’t what he thought it was going to be, and wishes he could have had one more year at home.
I picked this book up because when I was doing my student teaching I saw kids in my history classes reading it. I love Dean Hughes and never have read one of his young adult fiction books and decided to give this one a try. It was a quick and fascinating read. It really was interesting to see the way how Dieter thought and see how he had been kind of brain-washed. I also found it interesting that Spencer was from a Utah community and his family was Mormon. I hadn’t thought that national publishers were into publishing fiction with Mormon themes. It is odd that I reviewed two of them this past week, The Shakeress and now Solider Boys. There was one inconsistency in the book that I wondered about concerning Spencer getting a metal, but since it kind of spoils the ending to explain it. I’ll leave it at that.
Good read for the WWII and Historical Fiction buff, and I can say that high school kids enjoy reading it also.
Dean Hughes Website:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review: The Shakeress by Kimberly Heuston

The Shakeress by Kimberly Heuston

Naomi’s life dramatically changes when her family’s farm goes up in flames one night. Her littlest brother and her parents are now gone. The rest of her family, two brothers, one sister, are now living with their mean Aunt Thankful. When Thankful wants to send Naomi off to the mills to work, and separate them Naomi comes up with a plan.

She decides that she want to go live in the shaker community. They take in many orphaned kids since the community doesn’t believe in having children of their own. The change is good for her family and they are given a place to grow their talents. Naomi works in the gardens and helps Sister Martha with doctoring things. Naomi loves learning about plants and doctoring, but still feels that something is missing in her life: a real family.

She leaves the Shaker community to take care of an old lady bed-ridden with liver disease, but when she arrives, some Mormon missionaries have healed her. Naomi continues to live with the Snow family in Vermont, doctoring for their small community, still trying to discover how to fill that missing piece inside her. She may find that it lies with these visiting missionaries.

I stumbled across this book as I was looking for Dante’s Daughter by the same author. The premise of the book immediately intrigued me. A shaker girl converting to Mormonism? I’ve never seen that plot line before. So, I picked it up at the library, and really enjoyed it. The book is well-written and the history well presented. I love how the main character completes a realistic journey to find herself, and has to make hard and scary decisions to progress forward in her life. This would be a really great novel for teenagers because of that theme. There isn't a whole lot of plot, but I really loved the character of Naomi and wanted to know about her story. I really enjoyed reading Shakeress and would recommend it to all who love a really good historical novel.

This novel won an honorable mention in Young Adult Novel from the Association of Mormon Letters in 2002.
A biography of Kimberly Heuston is here:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Book Review: Of Goodly Parents by H.B. Moore

Out of Jerusalem: of Goodly Parents by H.B. Moore

This first novel H.B. Moore’s Out of Jerusalem series starts where any novel based on the Book of Mormon starts with 1 Nephi chapters 1-16. Moore explains that she does not want to replace the Book of Mormon account, but “to illuminate the events that took place…and perhaps add to the knowledge and possibilities that we as students of the scriptures entertain.” The work has very interesting historical notes at the back of the book for each chapter, and the author has obviously made an effort to portray the woman in the story as part of the scriptural account, but also as part of the culture at that time.

I have to say that I wasn’t really excited about reading this book. Part, of it was because I’ve read so many Book of Mormon historicals and novels. I’ve been reading LDS fiction for more than a decade, and I read voraciously in my teen years and could never get enough, and at that time I liked to read Book of Mormon novels. So, I’m kind of burnt out on the genre, and still haven’t recovered. Though, it may also be because no one has done anything dramatically new or fresh. Yet, I had heard that H.B Moore was an excellent novelist, and she had won the Whitney award. So, I perked up and decided to give the Book of Mormon novel another try. I have to be honest and say that the writing didn’t really impress me; the prose was simple and repetitive. The characters seemed to overreact to simple things or things that seemed unrelated. Plus, I felt that the author transitioned scenes in a very choppy manner.

That’s quite a list of things I didn’t like, but I decided to stick with it. In the end I really liked Isabel’s character, and her relationship with her sisters and Nephi’s mother. I thought that the romance between Nephi and Isabel was done really well, and that is probably where the book shines the best. I also was happy to discover the historical notes in the back and found them fascinating too. I’m not sure if it is fair to judge the rest of the series by H.B. Moore’s first published book, and I’m considering reading the later books just to see how the writing improves. She also has a historical series about the Queen of Sheba being looked at by an agent. Not sure when it will come out, but the whole concept of the series sounds so interesting to me that I’ll probably pick it up when it does.

Check out H.B. Moore’s Blog:
Here is her website: