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 clichĂ©, 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.