Monday, May 27, 2013

The Emerald Ring by Dorine White

The Emerald Ring by Dorine White
"Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus spends the last few days of summer anticipating middle school and helping her Grandma Dora around the house. Her ordinary life turns upside down when she discovers an emerald ring once belonging to Cleopatra. Touching the ring sends a lightening like zap through her system, while putting the ring upon her finger causes it to stick like glue.
Now strange things are happening to Sara. She has troubling visions, can understand animals and learns to transform herself into an Egyptain cat. However, the worst thing is the strange man that shows up in town. He is hunting for the emerald ring, and will not stop until he acquires it. With the ring stuck on her finger, Sara has no choice. She can be hunted, or become the hunter."
This book was so-so for me. It was a quick entertaining read that had a fun premise. Yet, it wasn’t everything I expected. The main character Sara spends a lot of time figuring out her powers, but mostly in a very passive way. Like by getting sick, or having dreams, or reading books in the library. I expected a little bit more action and a little less investigative mystery plot line. Though, I feel like the author did a good job in making Sara respond realistically to having developed magical powers suddenly. The author sets up the premise for a series quite nicely, but I felt like her bad guys were weak. They are a mysterious sect determined to bring back the glory of Rome by stealing Cleopatra’s magical jewels.

 I was really confused by the historical context of their founding and kind of wished their motives were more clear. I am kind of a History and Latin major though so I’m probably grading the author too hard on this, but frankly the sect was one dimensional and disappointing. They started after Cleopatra died so did they work for Augustus?  Were they getting the gems for him? Were they at the battle of Actium? More pointedly, I want to know how the gems influenced the battle. That’d be super interesting.  Did the sect think Augustus was usurping the power of Rome and were supporters of Antony? I mean there is so much historical baggage that goes with that time period and the author didn’t do a good job of making the sect apart of that history and helping the reader understand why they were so bad and formidable.  What goals did they have aside from bringing back Rome that were so horrible for the world?

I really am being too harsh. I really am but I was super disappointed that most of the information about Cleopatra was extremely general, very fictionalized, and left out huge and important parts of the historical record.  I am a history snob expecting too much out of a middle grade novel, but I can’t help asking these questions of a novel that uses history as its backdrop and then completely ignores it. So, if you don’t have huge history issues like I apparently do then this book really isn’t that bad of a read.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One Drop at a Time by M. Russell Ballard and Giveaway!

One Drop at a Time by M. Russell Ballard

I loved this conference talk when I first heard it delivered and it is wonderful to read it in this beautiful format.  Ballard speaks of the significance of the symbol of the beehive to the church. He compares us to honeybees. Each honeybee contributes an insignificant amount of honey by ounce to the hive in their short lifetime. Yet, with all the bees working together they make a large amount of delicious and healthy honey. This reminds us that even if we feel our contribution doesn’t make a difference if we all do our part we can transform our homes, communities, and the world. I love this message about service and it is beautifully illustrated with images of bees and flowers. This would make a wonderful gift for young women transferring into Relief Society in my opinion, but I think this book’s message can be enjoyed by women of any age.

So, Shadown Mountain asked me to do this review and gave me a second copy to give away. So if you would like to win a copy just leave a comment annd your email. On May 31st I'll pick names from a hat and announce the winner.

Friday, May 17, 2013

21 Principles by Richard G. Scott

21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit by Richard G. Scott
"As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles," counsels Elder Richard G. Scott. "Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances."In this exciting book, Elder Scott offers 21 principles distilled from his life experiences. These "concentrated truths" will help you understand more fully how to be guided by the Spirit. Elder Scott's brief explanations open the way for your own discovery and exploration."I bear witness that Jesus Christ knows you personally," Elder Scott writes. "He will provide answers to every difficult problem in your life as you trust Him and do all you can to understand and apply His doctrine and strive to live by the Spirit." 21 Principles will be a valuable tool in that quest." (deseret book summary)

This is short book written by Richard G. Scott. Each chapter is introduced by a statement about how we can live closer to the spirit. The statement is then discussed in a short essay by Elder Scott. I liked the fact that he shared several personal stories and wished he had applied more stories to the principles he discussed in the book. In particular I enjoyed learning that Elder Scott was a painter and how that enriched his life. In fact, the painting on the cover is his work, which I thought was pretty cool. So, this is a quick read that would be easy to break down into little lessons, devotionals, or study topics.

One of my goals this year was to read a wider variety of books and so when Shadow Mountain offered me a review copy I decided to go for it. It was nice to read something different.

Friday, May 10, 2013

All That was Promised by Vickie Hall and Giveaway

In 1847 Wales young Methodist Minister Richard Kenyon converts to Mormonism. Richard's newfound faith is put to the test as he faces down the anger of his former congregatin, his wife's indicisiveness, the betrayal of his brother, and the murderous intentions of misinformed villagers.

I have to say that I think this is probably the darkest LDS historical novel that I’ve read. One of the main viewpoint characters has the most depressing and dysfunctional family I’ve ever read about and culminates in the viewpoint character strangling his wife to death “on screen.” If this wasn’t enough another character by the name of John Morgan is also a piece of despicable abusive swine. There are multiple acts of violence upon members of the church as persecution against Mormons escalates in the area. So many things went wrong right after another that I was beginning to wonder how much historical accuracy the story had because the story was starting to feel contrived on the part of the author to create more tension. There was no historical note by the author at the end to separate the truth from fiction, which annoyed me. I kind of wanted to know what facts she based the story from and how much creative license she had taken.

 The story does contain some wonderful glimmers of the power of the gospel. The repentance process of Meredith, a prostitute who helped John Morgan persecute Mormon families.  I admired moral courage of Richard Kenyon, who followed his conscience even if it threatened his livelihood. His tender relationship with his wife is no doubt meant to counterbalance the dysfunction of his elder brother’s  family. There are miracles wrought by the priesthood, but overall I felt the book was sort of depressing.  The novel provides a riveting read that rushes from conflict to conflict, and does have some great storytelling. Perhaps, the book wasn’t exactly to my taste but the book does deal realistically with heavy issues and allows the characters to really struggle with those issues instead of having them all made better instantly when they learn about the gospel. I think some readers will find that sort of honesty refreshing.  

Author Vickie Hall Vickie is a native of Utah, but growing up, lived in the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Nebraska. When she's not writing, she's composing music, or shopping with her sister. She loves animals of all kinds and camping with her family. Her favorite pastime is watching old movies on TCM, and unashamedly has a crush on Cary Grant.
Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/26/13  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 3, 2013

Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears

Belonging to Heaven by Gale Sears

“Descended from the Hawaiian royal line, Jonathan Napela became one of the first—and most influential—converts to the Church in Hawaii. A man of intelligence, social status, and wealth, he used his considerable position to further the gospel in his native land. He developed a lifelong bond of brotherhood with Elder George Q. Cannon, helping to translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian and establish a gathering place for the Hawaiian saints in Laie, Oahu. But when his beloved wife, Kitty, was stricken with leprosy, Jonathan made the defining decision of his life. He would leave his life of privilege to become her caretaker and spend the rest of his life on Molokai, the island of lepers. To those who suffered similar heartbreak and banishment, Jonathan's self-sacrifice became their lifeline. Based on true story, this is an extraordinary novel of a man who chose love in the face of death.” (summary from author’s website)

Gale Sears’s newest historical novel Belonging to Heaven is about George Q. Cannon and his missionary service in Hawaii. While the focus of the book at the beginning lead me to believe that the book would continue to be about George Q. Cannon’s life he kind of drops out at the midpoint and the central character of the novel is revealed to be Jonathan Napala, a Hawaiian saint who helped cannon translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian. I enjoyed the story of Jonathan Napala despite the books wandering plot. I could understand if some readers had a hard time sticking with the story because of that, especially if they were not naturally interested in history, but I found the story fascinating and touching. I also loved how Sears wove the Hawaiian culture and language throughout the novel.  It was beautiful. I also loved how well Sears made us feel the connections of the characters to one another.  It is touching to read about how dear the Cannon and the Napala family held one another. I liked seeing how they were able to support one another through their hardships with the letters they shared.  I also loved reading about Jonathan Napala’s friendship with the courageous catholic priest, Father Damien de Veuster. I was brought to tears more than once by the faith, courage, and sacrifice these men showed in serving others in the leper colony. What a refreshing and exemplary example of true brotherhood.  Though, the plot was a bit loose this read was definitely worth the experience.  I can’t help but speculate what era of church history Sears will tackle next.
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