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Friday, January 29, 2010

Of One Heart: Being Single In The LDS World By Valerie J. Steimle

I have been reading one of the most fantastic books! It is on being single and gets to the heart of what it is like. The author of this book is Valerie J. Steimle. She has lived the hard life of being a single Mom, after her husband died in his sleep, and left her to raise their nine children by herself. After reading that in the first chapter, it made my burden feel so light, in that I am only single parenting two children instead of nine.

Here is a good synopsis for the book found on the back of the book.

"In the LDS world (or the world of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) most adults are married with children. It has only been in the last ten years that bein
g single in the church has become much more common. Unfortunately, marriages are failing everywhere and there are now one third of the adults at church who are single.

Whether by divorce, death of a spouse or never married at all, there are challenges to being single in a predominately married wo
rld. Challenges I had never realized until I became single myself when my husband of 25 years suddenly passed away leaving me with nine children at my charge. A daunting task to say the least.

This book was written to help all those who are single, all those who have single friends and all those priesthood leaders with single members under their jurisdiction. I have written this book to help others understand what it is like to be single and included writings from other singles on how they feel about being single. "

From the beginning of this book I felt like...Valerie "gets it". Another thing I want to say, is that this book was not published by the big companies that normally publish LDS books. This is a good thing, because I feel that Valerie was able to be more open and honest than if this book had been published by one of them. For example, she writes one whole chapter on "A Note to the Priesthood". Basically, she outlines for Priesthood leaders things they should know and how they should learn to understand their role in helping the singles in their ward. This is done respectively, but bluntly. The number one things that most people don't understand is this point she brings out, "Understand that many worthy single adults feel uncomfortable at Sunday meetings because of their situation." I still feel this way at times. I was once a part of a couple and now I am alone sitting there with my children. The weekends they are with their Dad, I feel even more uncomfortable sitting there. I have appreciated those who have put forth the effort to make me feel wanted and sat by me or asked me to come sit with them and their family.

Another aspect that I needed to read and sink into my heart was this advice. It is about how to cope with being single.

-Make sure to pray and have scripture /reading study. We must keep the spirit with us always regardless of our circumstances.

-Attend your church meetings every Sunday. Valerie says,"Even if you just sit and feel the Spirit, that time helps you for the rest of the week and it will refill your emotional cup."

-Church Service: Ask your priesthood leader if you want a calling and do not have one yet. It does feel good to serve others and this takes your mind off or your own problems.

-Support the singles program: this is something that I should do more of. Truthfuly, I just haven't had much time to do many things besides parenting, teaching full-time and reading. ;)

-Keep a Song in Your Heart. I just love what Valerie said here,"When experiencing great tribulations and having to take one day at a time, it is so very difficult to have joy; in fact many times it is painful. Whenever you can: remember that Heavenly Father loves you. There are many looking down on you that love you and want you to keep a song in your heart."

I feel that every member of the church, male and female should read this book. This book was written for those church members, who are single and over thirty years old. It was also written for those wanting to know how to help their friends and family members who are single. She has included as much information as possible, to help others understand, life from the single perspective. I also liked how Valerie pointed out one more reason all members should read this book.

"As my stake president so wisely counseled: 'Everyone will eventually be single sometime in their life.' Whether you are taken and leave a spouse behind or your spouse is taken and you are left behind; whether you have never had the chance to marry, or find yourself divorced:Everyone will be single."

I wish that I could share more from this book because it has given me such strength to carry on in my single life. Valerie list many resources, helpful websites, articles and books about coping with single life and single parenting. This book was needed in my life. It speaks to the world in ways, we singles would like to but sometimes can't express, but gives us a voice to share our lives and struggles with others.

I am grateful for Valerie listening to promptings of the Spirit that she should write this book. This book needed to be out there. I appreciate her sending me a copy to review; but I am more grateful for her sending the book to lift me up and increase my faith and not lose hope.
This book is available at Amazon.com. I recommend that every Priesthood & Relief Society leader in the church read this book. If you know someone in your family who is single, buy this book for them. (Read it first though, so you understand how you can help them through this trial.) If you are single, especially raising children on your own, you must have this book in your life. I promise you, that it will bring amazing light and knowledge in your life and you will not feel so alone in your journey.

I also highly recommend you visit Valerie's website here. It is called, "Strengthen Your Home" and you can read about another wonderful book she has written called, "Home is Where The Heart Is". This book gives you 60 articles about the strength of the family. There are many aspects of life that affect the family and Valerie J. Steimle touches on the strengths and distractions of what is so great about your family.

Have you ever asked yourself what is missing in your life? There is much commotion in the world and people are looking for fulfillment. Families are so important. They are what stabilizes us. We become so distracted with finances, work, entertainment and government that we don't pay attention to what is really important: our families.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Missing Pieces

Hello my darling friends!

I SOOO apologize for my not getting my Tuesday Teaser on yesterday! It was my b-day and it got really busy!

Anyway- this week I read "Missing Pieces"- by Jeni Grossman

Though not Jeni's first book, it is the first one of hers I have read. Jeni hails from Arizona, however she did live in Turkey for two years while her husband was conducting research for work. It is clear from her detail and descriptions that she is familiar with the areas and customs.

This is a modern day fiction, murder/mystery taking place in Iraq and Turkey. Jeni tells the story of Dulcey Moore, a CNN reporter who gets herself tangled in politics, terrorists and a family mystery of both her own and of her local guide (I hope that didn't give too much away!).

The book was in no way predictable as it involves the inner workings of a country whose traditions and customs are way outside of my little realm here in Utah. I really enjoyed how Jeni tied in interesting cultural information and traditions I wasn't familiar with. I especially liked how she brought in the treatment of women in modern day Muslim into the picture. Very interesting and in parts, sad. The underlying theme of the book centered around honor. Dulcey, as a modern woman, has a hard time understanding how and why the people treat each other the way they do. It is not until the end that she fully understands the context of honor, when she is placed in both dangerous and difficult situations. I felt that Dulcey was a good main character. It would have been nice to see more development of back story with her and her husbands' relationship as that never really feels resolved in the story. Dulcey says it was resolved, it's just hard for me to feel that. I recognize part of that was because she had a hard time being ABLE to contact her husband.

Other characters in the story were well developed and likeable. I especially liked "Frank" her lovable fill-in-dad. He seemed to keep her together. She also showed the dangers of the country for Americans through other characters which really makes me want to ask Jeni about her own personal experiences in that area.

Overall, I would say that the book was/is well, written, enjoyable and a great way to get an insiders look at the mid-east area.

FYI-FTC -from publisher

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Shanda's Teaser:

"Interrupting the silence, she questioned without thinking. 'Hey, Brax, other than your father, why don't you have any pictures of your family up?' She studied him curiously.

He had to give Kennedy some credit. She definitely didn't miss much, and she wasn't afraid to speak her mind."

Divinely Designed by Rachel Renee Anderson, page 61

Sheila's Teaser:

"I see dead bodies all the time in the mortuary," I said, "and I think that that's fine- Mom and Margaret have worked there for years, and they're not serial killers.So I see lots of live people, and I see lots of dead people, but I've never actually seen a live person turn into a dead one. I'm...curious."

"And the scene of the crime is the closest you can get without committing a crime scene yourself?"

"Yes," I said.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Leave your teaser in the comments!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Counting the Cost by Liz Adair - Book Review

Title: Counting the Cost

Author: Liz Adair

Publisher: Inglestone Publishing

Published Date: 2009

ISBN#: 978-0-9778814-6-8

From the cover: "A love story as poignant as it is beautiful."

Liz Adair, author of The Spider Latham Mystery series and The Mist of Quarry Harbor, has written a memorable story, inspired by her own family history, about two people willing to give up what they know for love.

Counting the Cost is a fitting title at the beginning of the book, and even more so by the end. It is the story of Heck and Ruth, their lives and their love.

Heck Benham's simple and steady cowboy life is disrupted by the arrival of the lovely Mrs. Ruth Reynolds. Heck does his best to stay out of her way, but after a violent incident involving her husband, Ruth leaves with Heck, both of them knowing that their actions will cause them to be shunned and outcast. After the death of Ruth's husband, she and Heck marry and live happily until circumstances make each of them aware of what they have given up to be together, and what more they will have to sacrifice to stay together.

Liz has told an endearing, honest story. Her characters have depth and feeling, and are easy to care about. The tale flows in a natural, believable course through the characters' lives, including the full spectrum of events from the mundane to the blissful and tragic. The reader learns about the history and geography of the New Mexican locales through conversation and description that never feels forced or lecturing.

While I didn't find Counting the Cost to be an intense page-turner, I looked forward to picking the book up again every time I had to put it down.

Well done, Liz.

What worked for me: I loved Heck right away with his laid-back cowboy style and thoughtful ways. All of the characters were well written, including the minor characters that were present for short times throughout the story. Sometimes I wished Ruth didn't want so much, but having experienced a more "advanced" lifestyle I could understand her desire to have certain things in her life. Sometimes I wished Heck wouldn't sacrifice so much of himself, but I could understand how much he loved Ruth and what it is to have someone love you that much. I cried twice; and not just a tear or two, either.

What didn't work for me: I almost wish there was a short epilogue or summary at the end of the story so I could know a little more about how things ended up in the future.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (definitely left an impression on me)
Would I read it again? Eventually, once I feel like my heart could take it
Would I recommend it? Yes, just keep a couple of tissues handy
Would I read more of Liz Adair's books? Yes. I thought her Spider Latham Mystery series was enjoyable, too

FTC FYI: The copy of Counting the Cost that I reviewed was borrowed from my local library.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Lightning Thief

I have just discovered, along with my almost 12 year old daughter a new series. It is called "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" The first book is called, "The Lightning Thief" and it has been made into a movie which will be out this February 12th. I went to the website of the film company that made the move to watch the long trailer. The movie looks phenomenal!! (go here to watch the long trailer.)

Here is a synopsis of the first book...

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school . . . again. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to stay out of trouble. But can he really be expected to stand by and watch while a bully picks on his scrawny best friend? Or not defend himself against his pre-algebra teacher when she turns into a monster and tries to kill him? Of course, no one believes Percy about the monster incident; he's not even sure he believes himself.

Until the Minotaur chases him to summer camp.

Suddenly, mythical creatures seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. The gods of Mount Olympus, he's coming to realize, are very much alive in the twenty-first century. And worse, he's angered a few of them: Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy has just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property, and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. On a daring road trip from their summer camp in New York to the gates of the Underworld in Los Angeles, Percy and his friends–one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena–will face a host of enemies determined to stop them. To succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of failure and betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

The first book in the series first came out in 2005. The good thing is that book 5 was released last Spring so if you pick up the series now, you won't have to wait for more of the books to come out to finish the series.

The appeal of these books is Greek Mythology. My daughter has been fascinated with Greek Mythology for quite some time now. For Christmas, a friend gave her a great book that she
Cover Image loves called, " Mythology" a part of the "ology" books for example, "Dragonology, Monsterology, Pirateology etc. We love these books at our house.

Getting back to the main subject,( I hate when I interrupt myself) my daughter was looking for new books to read and she found The Lightning Thief. She read this book so fast! This series will appeal to readers ages 9-16...or adults like me that love a good YA fantasy.

Many people have compared this series to Harry Potter; they both are about "half-blood" kids that go to a special school and find out that they have special powers. From there, it is different to me and you have a very fast-paced, action filled adventure starting with chapter one. If you have a reluctant reader, especially a boy, you must get these books for him. Like I said, these books do not only appeal to boys, because my daughter and her friends also love them.

If you plan on reading the book before you see the movie, get moving and reading. Move over Harry Potter, there is a new kid in town...Percy Jackson!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shadows of Eden

Hello Friends- Your favorite Hillary here- (You know it's true. There aren't a whole lot of Hillary's out there :)

Today I bring you- drum roll please- "Shadows of Eden" by Timothy Bone

The premise of this story is a Harvard scientist/researcher suddenly goes missing and a cop calls in a favor to Del Price P.I. Del is LDS (but not preachy), quick-witted (one of my favorite characteristics) and charming. Oh, and a good, honest P.I. He is hired to find this scientist and finds a sinister plot along the way.

This is Timothy Bone's first novel published by Cedar Fort just this last year. He hails from both BYU and Boston University. I haven't seen a new author write like this. Ever. Dorothy Keddington is close, but still not like this. To describe this book as eloquent would be an understatement. Usually I can finish a book within a few days. This one took me a full 7+ days to read. Not because it was boring, therefore hard, but because it was eloquent and I had to think/concentrate about what some of the words meant or else I got lost.

Now, when I say eloquent I mean a paragraph like this:

"Jared Timmerman was an anglophile and as with most such that meant Victoriana, in this case the scientific paraphernalia of that age mingled with small objets d'art and knickknacks. Shelves had been put up against two of the walls of his office to display the plethora of turned bronze apparatus, microscopes, and calipers for every occasion. On another wall in a gilt frame hung a small painting of bucolic sterility of the type that was attractive only in direct ration to the frame of the artist." (pg 34)

WOWZA. I still don't know what "bucolic" means.

I had to really slow down my reading to make sure I was following this guy. That being said, when I kept up, I laughed myself silly on lines like this:

"I find news from the BBC to be more trustworthy than it's state-side counterparts because it's delivered in a formal British accent." He (Del Price, the main character) goes on to say to himself "...How does one implement this linguistic uplift? Exclusive schools in Maryland? An upbringing by eccentric aunts? Certainly we shared the conviction that contemporary language has degenerated into a tired mush of imprecision, flabbiness, and profanity, a communication mudslide." (pg 35)

What I also found was that Del THOUGHT like this, but didn't necessarily talk like that. He talked "normal" (mostly) and acted "normal" just thought linguisticly uplifting:) (I don't think linguisticly is a word...)

Just to forewarn, there is some swearing in the book, not overly done, but it is there. There are no inappropriate actions, unless you count murder- but hey it's a murder/mystery in fact, Timothy- we need to talk about how to write a good kissing scene. I will not deny that this is in no way a romance, but "It was a good kiss and long enough" (pg 165) just doesn't cut it for the romantic in me :) Not that it needs to be drawn out, but c'mon!

Overall, I thought it was a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery/suspense and a thoughtful, intelligent, unrushed style of writing. Just be prepared to have to think a bit more than usual. It felt more realistic to me than some P.I. books I've read because of the laid back/non-stressed nature of Del, and I liked that about this book. Seemed like a realistic process for solving a crime!

For those that don't know my husband- well that would be nearly everyone, he is actually reading this now too. He's self- allergic to books.

Well done Timothy! I look forward to future work!

FTC FYI- Library

Totally Tardy Teaser Tuesday - January 19, 2010

Okay, so this was supposed to go up yesterday, but I was working on my book review and didn't get it up in time. Here is our Teaser Tuesday post for yesterday-

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Shanda's Teaser:

"The way you're acting. You seem like you're in--"

Caitlyn reached over and planted her hand across Brittany's mouth. "I'll take my hand away if you promise not to say it."

Brittany nodded so Caitlyn took her hand away. "Love." Brittany shouted it and then ran toward the hospital doors.

Altared Plans by Rebecca Cornish Talley, page 96

Sheila's Teaser:

" 'Was it possible Monica's death wasn't related to anything else that had taken place that week? That the threats were red herrings and Monica was the random victim of a robber or a kid high on drugs? You're stretching credibility ten feet past the breaking point. You just want to believe that there's no threat to you-that Monica was the one harassing you and that now that she's dead, you're in no danger.' "

Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black, page94

Hillary's Teaser:

"You know, Mitch, now that I'm dying, I've become much more interesting to people."

"You were always interesting"

"Ho." Morrie smiled. "You're kind."

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Share your teaser with us in the comments!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mission 2 B :) by Michael McLean - Book Review

Title: M2B:) (Mission to be Happy)

Author: Michael McLean

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published Date: November 2009

ISBN#: 978-1-60641-203-9

Hardcover, 88 pages, full-length CD included

It's hard to NOT feel happy looking at that cover.

Author/singer/songwriter Michael McLean, well known for his
Forgotten Carols, has written a handbook for those who are ready to go on a Mission 2B:) with him. Not only has he written the handbook, he has also composed a number of songs to go with it.

So many things are working to bring us down these days - poor health, economic problems, environmental issues, relationship troubles - and Michael McLean offers a bit of br
ightness with his short encouraging chapters and the upbeat music included with the Mission 2B:) handbook. He's also started a blog, missiontobehappy.com, to document his experiences on his own "mission."

The book is slightly larger than a standard jewel case, an ideal size for slipping into a purse or briefcase. The hardback cover ensures durability and provides a place to store the CD.

Michael McLean was kind enough to do an email interview with me, and I'm glad to be able to share it with you below. My review and a sample song from the CD follow the interview:

SHANDA: Once you decided to write the M2B:) handbook, how long did it take you to complete the project?

MICHAEL: I started consciously pursuing the idea of M2B:) back in February of 2009. While waiting for the songwriter bailout package (which never arrived by the way. I only got a note from the government that said I, unlike Chrysler and AIG, was NOT too big to fail) I wondered what kind of an “Inspirational Stimulus Package” I could offer myself and my friends to get through difficult times. My first draft of the book and the corresponding collection of songs was submitted on June 11th, and then there was tweaking through the summer with the goal of an early release in time for the FORGOTTEN CAROLS tour, and then a full blown released starting January 1, 2010.

SHANDA: Did the subject/chapters for the book or the music & lyrics for the songs come first?

MICHAEL: The title track and a few of the other songs were written and scattered about without being given any particular focus until I started writing the book in earnest. Then, with the idea firmly in mind for a handbook, I mapped out chapters that begged for songs to accompany them. As I wrote more I found new ideas for songs and as I explored songs I’d been thinking about they would often inspire chapters. What I love about the CD that accompanies the book is that after reading the book (and it’s a short read) all of the songs are put in context SO when you’re jogging or driving or sitting on a plane somewhere the songs can remind you, over and over again, what the book was trying to communicate.

SHANDA: Which song did you have the most fun writing?

MICHAEL: All the songs were fun to write because I needed them to help me get over some of the obstacles a middle aged, clinically depressed, type 2 diabetic faces. I chose fun, upbeat, toe tapping, make-me-smile-knowingly or laugh-out-loud songs to make the point. The song WITH PAUL AND JOHN was a hoot to write and even more fun to record because we tipped our hat at all the Beatle-esque signature production ideas. I still crack up when I sing the “ooohs” in concert.

But the TOODLE-OO song and the PILLS song were super fun as well.

SHANDA: Which chapter or song holds the most meaning to you personally?

MICHAEL: Since every chapter in the book comes from a very real chapter in my life they ALL have deep personal meaning EVEN WHEN it’s approached in a light hearted tone. Read between the lines and the real power of the book reveals itself. But as of this writing I believe Chapter 6 on FAITH and the song I DON’T NEED A SIGN THIS TIME would be my answer. Next week might be different. That’s the joy of creating a handbook that needs to be adaptable to your life as you life. (or maybe I should say “your M2B:) as you experience it”)

SHANDA: What do you feel is the most important message for readers to come away with after reading Mission 2B:)?

MICHAEL: I hesitate to answer this because I gave the first copy of this book, hot off the presses, to a friend of mine and asked for his feedback. He wrote me back after a week of listening and it was clear that what he got out of it was very meaningful and profound BUT NOT what I thought to be the most important message. His big “ah ha” moment and song were so meaningful for him at that moment that I’m glad I hadn’t defined for him what I wanted him to receive.

I can tell you that one of the things that motivated me to see this project through was my own experience of “missing” so many great moments in my life because I believed the real happiness I desired was going to happen sometime in the future. I’ll be happy when (this or that happens)…or…I’ll endure this challenge so sometime in the future I’ll get a great reward….or….Won’t it be easy to find happiness when I’ve got more money, when we get through this crisis, when my meds kick in, when I’ve lost 10 pounds, when I write that big hit song, when my musical makes it to New York, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The happiness, the real, authentic happiness, has got to be in this moment. If I can’t find it in writing you these words, expressing myself and answering your questions right now then I’m never going to find it because this moment is all I’ve got. If I think that my joy will come AFTER I write you these answers and maybe you share my answers as part of something you’re writing and then somebody reads it and they decide to check out the missiontobehappy.com website and maybe take a chance and buy the book and CD and listen to it and it’s something they love and so they write me a thank you email THEN, maybe then, I’ll be happy. If that’s how I’m living (and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done that too often in the past) then I’m missing it.

What’s happened to me since I’ve tried living this way is that I’m finding joy in the process as I never have before, and taken the time to celebrate the unexpected joys that manifest themselves in my life everyday.

Plus, for the first time in my life, I’ve got a CD of my own songs that I love to work out to.

Thanks Shanda for the questions and your willingness to help people discover my

SHANDA: You're welcome. Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions and for sharing your talent with us!

Here is the title track from the CD. You can find the rest of my review below:

What worked for me: As I read the book for review, Chapter 7- "Your Happiness, Your Way" stood out to me. It's a chapter about deciding who we will allow to influence us, as well as trusting in Heavenly Father. I really liked one sentence in particular: "He invites us to worship Him because He knows we become like what we worship, and He wants us to share in His incomprehensible joy."

I also like that there are journal pages provided for recording personal experiences.

A song that quickly became my favorite is #4 on the CD, titled "You Don't Know (How Long This Thing is Gonna Last)" - with vocals by Rick Logan; produced by Michael McLean and Guy Randle. It's headed straight to my playlist.

What didn't work for me: My first time through the CD, as I followed along with the lyrics in the book, I wasn't sure it would be something I would listen to repeatedly. But as I listened to the CD again in preparation to write this review, more of the songs started to really grow on me. The upbeat rhythms and tone of the music is pretty catchy- exactly what Michael McLean was aiming for, I'm sure.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (I appreciate the positive messages)
Would I read it again? There are a few chapters I wouldn't mind revisiting from time to time.
Would I recommend this book? Yes; especially for those who need encouragement from someone who can relate.
Would I read more of Michael McLean's books? Sure.

FTC FYI: LDSWBR received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. It did not affect my review of the book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book Trailers - It's a Love/Hate Thing

I have a
love/hate relationship with book trailers.

I think the concept is great and I'm all for it. By all means, sell me on why I should read your book. Just make sure that if your viewers are laughing, it's because your book is a comedy.

I've seen a number of book trailers, most of which are
mainly "okay." I saw one that was so cheesy there were mice coming from my neighbors' homes looking for dinner. Tonight I saw one that was just right.

I haven't read the book yet, so I don't even know if it's my "thing" or not. I haven't personally met the author, but Sheila has, and from what I know about
Rebecca Talley from Sheila, I respect her. And I really like her trailer for Altared Plans.

I don't know how the whole make-a-trailer-for-your-book process goes. Does the author have any say or is it all up to the publisher? In any case, if you're going to consider a book trailer for your book,
please, I BEG YOU, take care.

I don't mind having a face assigned to the character for me rather than using my imagination. I prefer photos and words in a simple yet classy interaction moving across the screen, but live action scenes are okay, too, if they're well directed.
Beware with dialogue. Keep it brief. Show the interaction between characters, but please don't try to recreate entire scenes.

I'd really like to read your book, but if all I can see is that campy re-enactment every time I encounter the cover of your book, I'll never be able to seriously consider it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review of "Haunts Haven" By Joan Sowards

"Haunts Haven" includes on it's front cover, "An LDS Ghost Story". You wonder how the LDS and Ghost story can mix? Well, Joan Sowards does it in a very clever and surprising way. I missed the twist that came in the middle, though I should have seen it coming. I am getting ahead of myself here.

Let me give you a brief overview of the story of "Haunts Haven"...

"When Callie Wilford inherits a century-old inn in southern Arizona, locals tell her of a ghost who "guards" the inn. But Callie doesn't believe in ghosts, and she plans to turn the inn into a bed and breakfast. Then things start to happen - strange, spooky things - and she begins to wonder if there is some truth to the ghost stories. If that weren't bad enough, Callie discovers a mysterious grave in the cellar. As she confronts the inn's tragic secrets, she also faces her lonely past and learns to embrace her heritage. But it takes a handsome cowboy and a charming rancher to prove that Callie's long-guarded heart can love again."


This is the first published novel for Joan Sowards and I was very impressed by her wonderful storytelling. I loved the very bright and somewhat colorful characters found in this book. The book seemed to have a nice flow to it, so it is an easy read. I really liked the main character, Callie, who was written so "real" you could relate to her.

I also really liked how Joan was able to weave several smaller stories, into the big story, without it being confusing. I also mentioned earlier about a twist. It is a great twist that simply surprised me and delighted me at the same time. I will not say more because I do not want to give anything away.

I know, if you want to read a different kind of love story filled with mystery and suspense, you will enjoy "Haunts Haven". I look forward to reading more of what Joan writes.

You can purchase this book at Amazon.com and now at Deseret Book.

I want to thank Amy Orton at Walnut Springs Press for the complimentary copy of this book. This one is a keeper and will be read again and again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Means Justify The End"

Hello Friends!

I decided for my book review today, I would review the book "Means Justify The End", a book that was sent to us from the author, Rick Avery. I reviewed it briefly on one of our podcasts, but it was near the end, and I don't feel like I did it justice:) So here you go!

Rick's book is in first person and is written about his life experiences, growing up in a family which made sure that he learned about God and believed in Him. He writes interesting life stories and thoughts about his childhood regarding the concept if the means justify the end. His point is how by having the right attitude he made his life better, and by having the wrong one, his life was more challenging.

One of the saddest, yet poignant chapters I liked was about how his sister married this guy, who was perhaps not the best choice for her. They decided to take her little brothers camping. The boys, including Rick, were under 9 years old. They found a place to camp, left Bonnie, his sister there to hold the spot, then try to drive around to get a good place to park the car. Unfortunately, the brother in law didn't have the greatest amount of common sense, or sense fo direction and basically killed the car in the wrong area. By this time it had gotten dark. They started on foot to find Bonnie, carrying their sleeping bags. The brother-in-law got angry and would swear at them with them for keeping a slow pace (hello! they were little!!) until finally the boys decided to say a prayer to ask for help. Sure enough, along came a police officer who had been looking for them because Bonnie had flagged him down to ask for help. Rick learned an important lesson "My mom taught us all to pray, and I thank my Father in Heaven for a mom like mine. I find it interesting that [brother-in-law] Jack used the Lord's name in vain , and all it did was make things worse. We called upon the Lord in praise, and it made everything right". Interestingly enough, Bonnie divorced him and married a good man.

I liked this and quite a few other stories he tells in his book. I think it is a good, quick to read book that both men and women would enjoy reading. It also gives a good message and gives you things to think about. It is easy to find online and would be worth the read!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays - January 12, 2010

See our teasers below!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Shanda's Teaser:

"Ruth Reynolds was dressed in a navy voile dress with a Quaker collar of white lace and a white picture hat with a brim that turned down to mask her eyes. She tilted her head to look up at Heck as she extended her hand to him, aware from the crooked smile on his lips and the glitter in his eyes as they met hers that tonight he was not going to break and run."

Counting the Cost by Liz Adair, page 82

Sheila's teaser:

"A long moment of silence passed, broken only by the crackling fire. Master George closed his eyes. No one in the room doubted who the culprit could be. But if Reginald Chu had finally decided to use his significant technological powers to branch out and cause trouble in other Realities, then they were all in for a great deal of trouble."

The 13th Reality: The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner, page 119

Hillary's Teaser:

"There has likely been a day in your life, perhaps more than one, when a change crushed your bones. The longer we live the more of these we face. 'I could handle anything but this,' we think... right up until the moment we are forced to handle it."

Change It Up by Amanda Dickson, page 45

Don't forget to share the links to YOUR Teaser Tuesday posts in the comments below. If you don't have a blog, post your teaser directly into the comments.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Organize Now! by Jennifer Ford Berry - Book Review

Title: Organize Now!

Author: Jennifer Ford Berry

Publisher: North Light Books

Published Date: 2008

ISBN#: 978-1-60061-108-7

Hardcover, 240 pages

From the Cover: "A week-by-week guide to simplify your space AND your life"

During our Christmas Gift Suggestion podcast (LDSWBR Episode 39), I told our listeners (okay, I gushed on and on) about a book I'd checked out from the library called Organize Now! by Jennifer Berry. Jennifer is a professional organizer and speaker, and she's owned her own organizing business for about 8 years.

The first thing that caught my eye with this book was it's size (about the same as a good sized organizer/planner) and that it's just so pretty! I love the happy, brightly colored pages and graphics. It's almost as if the pages themselves are cheering me on in my efforts.

The next thing I noticed was the very thing that sold me- neat, concise and clear checklists for each week. No lecturing paragraphs or recounting of every client she's ever helped. In fact, Jennifer states specifically she didn't want to overwhelm the reader with paragraphs full of information- something I appreciate greatly.

What worked for me: I love that Jennifer's initial focus is "Organize Yourself." Week One is Organize Your Mind, where she encourages the reader to get at least seven hours of sleep and to start each day with a To Do list, among many other useful things. Each week she recommends weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals or To Dos to help keep the reader on track with their organizational goals. I really like how she encourages focusing on what needs to be done now while at the same time laying the groundwork for success in the future. Jennifer leaves plenty of space for note-taking as well.

What didn't work for me: The only shortcomings to speak of are my own- but this book can only help that :).

Rating: 5 out of 5 (I LOVE this book!)
Would I read it again? I have, and I will- again, and again, and again- every week :)
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, to anyone (guys might not care for the lime green cover and flowery graphics, but then again, most guys aren't that concerned about organizing either)
Would I read more of Jennifer's books? Yep!

Jennifer's website: Organize This Life! and her BLOG.

FTC FYI: My hubby bought this book with his own money as a Christmas gift for me from the kids.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps...my review

biggest loser simple swaps book
Simple Swaps, the latest book from The Biggest Loser.

It is that time of year again when we all think about losing a little weight. Some of us think about losing more than a little weight. The reasons for losing weight have changed for me through the years. Yes, I still want to look nice and fit into cute clothes. The main reason though, is that I want to be healthy.This is the message I always get from reading the Biggest Loser books.

The newest book from the series of The Biggest Loser books is called, "Simple Swaps: 100 Easy Changes to Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle". I love what it says on Amazon.com to promote this book....
"The road to a healthier lifestyle starts with small decisions and better choices. Now, with The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps, you can get healthy by simply swapping your old food, habit, and lifestyle choices for healthier versions every day. With 100 simple swaps that cut calories, save money, and provide better nutrition as well as more than 30 mouthwatering recipes that put these swaps into action, getting fit and healthy has never been easier"

Some of the chapter titles are basic things that we should all know, but we don't.

They are:
-Calories: You Can Count on Them
-Planning Regular Meals and Snacks
-Eat Your Vegetables
-The Power of Protein
-Don't Go Against The Grain
-Fat Can Help You Get Thin
-No More White Stuff
-Eat, Don't Drink, Your Calories
-Moving Right Along
-Creating A Game Plan For Life

The thing that I like the most about these books are the simplicity of the layouts. They are easy to read. If you only have five minutes to read something while you are eating your breakfast, this is your book. This book is like having many short little articles revolving around one main subject. I also really like how every Biggest Loser book gleans from the knowledge of former contestants: the Winners and The Losers; who frankly are all winners.

Simple Swaps not only gives the reader the ideas about what should be done, but it also lays out the plan on how to accomplish and meet your goals. I also really appreciate the fact that these are real people, like me, that are and have struggled with their weight for a long time. It is so motivating to see people actually "Doing It"...losing the weight and keeping it off.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Hate It When Exercise is the Answer by Emily Watts

Hi Friends!

Hillary here! I am excited to have Wednesdays to review what I have been reading. Some weeks it's quite possible that all you will see is a smiley face :) some weeks you may see a gianormous (sp?, wait- word?) review. Either way, I will do everything I can to make sure I post. And maybe, just maybe I might eventually create my own blog to attach to this one too. You just can't have enough of me! Well, yes you can. ANYWAY, not the point!

The point is, I have just finished reading Emily Watts' new book, "I Hate It When Exercise Is The Answer." As a non-fiction junkie I would have to say this is a very good book. Emily writes short, informative, yet entertaining chapters that really make you think, with the "exercise" being at the end of the chapter. I love how she ties exercise in to be more of the non-sweaty kind. I thought it was very clever and well done. I must admit though, I am a fan of the sweaty kind of exercise, and I was curious to see if she had written an exercise book :) The irony in my life, is that I love to exercise, yet can't EVER remember how to spell it. I had to double check for this post :)

One of my favorite chapters was an "exercise in perspective". I loved how she said a way to look at challenges: "Is this really as bad as it seems? Chances are, this challenge isn't really as big as it feels. It's just closer to my heart right now." She followed up with hymn #115 which in part states "Earth has no sorrow that Heav'n cannot heal." I love that. It gives such comfort.

In all there are 31 "exercises". You can read them one at a time, a day or two at a time, or read it all in one setting. It's a quick, enjoyable read! I think Emily did a fantastic job and I am really a big fan! Thanks!

FTC FYI: LDSWBR received a free review copy of I Hate It When Exercise is the Answer by Emily Watts courtesy of Deseret Book.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays - January 5, 2010

Sheila, Hillary and I have decided to participate in Teaser Tuesdays and we're pretty excited about it! If you'd like to participate as well, visit Should Be Reading for more information. And don't forget to either link directly to your Teaser Tuesdays post in the comments or, if you don't have a blog, add your teaser to the comments below so we can be teased by what your reading, too! See our Tuesday Teasers below:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Shanda's Teaser:

"He stopped as the quiet air without the door splintered with a thundering curse. The next instant, the door banged open and Triston stood on the threshold, a reddish glow in his eyes and his nostrils flaring like some primitive beast preparing for the kill."

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena, page 175

Sheila's Teaser:

"Reflecting a prism on the wall before him was a diamond tip. How this detail had escaped him thus far was a mystery. As he examined the diamond tip he marveled at the size of the protruding, rounded gem."

Alvor by Laura Bingham, page 97

Hillary's Teaser:

"Phillip absently held the receiver in his hand for a long time after Jim Perrett disconnected, and he stared at the far wall. The conversation with the Utah rancher had disturbed him, leaving him with more questions than answers."

Dead Wrong by Clair Poulson

Don't forget to share your Tuesday Teasers in the comments below!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn - Book Review

Title: Family Feasts for $75 a Week

Author: Mary Ostyn

Publisher: Oxmoor House, Inc.

Published Date: September 2009

ISBN#: 978-0-8487-3296-7

Paperback, 304 pages

From the Cover: "A Penny-Wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill."

Written by the author of the popular Owlhaven blog, Family Feasts for $75 a Week addresses the subject of how to save money on your food bill while still feeding your family good meals. As a mother of 10 children ranging from 5 years to newly married, six of whom are adopted from Korea and Ethiopia, Mary Ostyn has plenty of real-world experience to share with readers.

I've read a few books about saving money on groceries in the past and I learned a lot from them. The biggest difference between those books and
Family Feasts is survival- Mary knows what works best because she's had to learn it. Some of the tips she shares I was familiar with from past reading, but a large number of them were both new and very useful to me.

At the end of the first few chapters the author shares "Action Points" that summarize the directions and suggestions she gives throughout the chapters. Included in one of these early chapters is a quiz to help the reader determine what area of the book would be most useful to them. Scattered throughout the first section of the book are handy charts containing information such as what fruits & veges are in season during what months to allow for the most frugal produce purchases, a list of pantry staples, meat cost per serving, how long produce stays fresh, and more.

Mary also shares instructions on starting a price book and how to create a basic meal plan with "two times five"meal planning. The recipe section begins on page 78 of the book. I thought the tips and advice would end at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the money saving ideas and preparation tips continue to appear with each recipe. And there are a lot of recipes- the kind you would actually feed your family.

What worked for me: I found the various information charts very useful, as well as the "action points" at the end of the first chapters. I really like the "two times five" meal plan idea and I can't wait to give it a try, especially since meal planning at my house lately consists of standing in front of the fridge at 5 PM and saying, "Hmmmm." I've also learned a few handy cooking tips from the recipe section.

What didn't work for me: Taking Family Feasts back to the library!

Doubling our children from two to four in less than two years has left me scrambling to regain the footing I used to have at meal time. I appreciate the advice and experience Mary shares in
Family Feasts for $75 a Week. One might assume that the information in this book is directed only at those with large families, but it can actually be applied to any size family. Even a single person could adapt and use the advice offered in this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (I really liked it)
Would I read it again? Absolutely. Not only would I read it again, but it's going on my "books to buy" list.
Do I recommend this book? Definitely, especially to busy moms with kids
Would I read more of Mary's books? Yes! In fact, I plan on reading her previous book, A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family.

FTC FYI: The copy of this book that I reviewed was borrowed from my local library.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Five books from our Countdown to Christmas 2009 Contest have remained unclaimed, and having no way to reach the previous winners without their email, I'm drawing five more names. Some of the previous winners might get a second chance to win! Ready? Here we go:

1- Hidden Branch by G.G. Vandagriff: Rebecca Irvine

2- Shudder by Jennie Hansen: Taffy

3- Dawn's Early Light by Laurie (LC) Lewis: Heather Justesen

4- The Fairy Thorn by Dorothy Keddington: Krista

5- Girl in a Whirl by Victoria Gunther: Robin

Congratulations to the new winners!