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- Shanda, Sheila, Mindy, and Hillary

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare

"The Witch of Blackbird Pond"

Elizabeth George Speare

ISBN: 978-0-440-49596-3

Publisher: Yearling/Random House

Original Published Date: 1958

Paperback: 249 pages

FTC- borrowed from library

For October's bookclub, we wanted to do something "witchy", and since it had been MANY years since we are were in junior high, we decided to read this. I didn't remember much about it when I read it in sixth grade, so I was really excited to read it again. Well, come to find out, I didn't remember a thing about it, so it was like reading it for the first time. First of all, it's an amazing story. Kit arrives from Barbados to her extended family in Connecticut in 1687. Her grandfather that she lived with has died and she is an orphan, so she took care of the estate in Barbados and went to Connecticut to live with her mother's sister, Rachel. (Kit just never mentioned it to them that she was coming). On the Dolphin, she meets Nat, the captain's son. And John Holbrook who is coming to Connecticut to be a preacher. Those on the ship took her as strange. During the boat transfer, a doll of Prudence Cruff's fall into the water. Kit, tired of waiting for someone else to help, jumps in and swims to the doll. Goody Cruff, her mother, is not pleased and right away calls her a witch because she can swim. Not a good start for Kit.

After a long trudge up the river, she arrives in Wethersfield. Kit, who is a bit spoiled from her upbringing, finds the town very plain. She gets to her aunt's house, meets her cousins, and uncle. Matthew Wood and his family live a very pure life. And Matthew isn't happy with Kit's seven trunks and all the flashy dresses inside. Right away Kit is put to work, and wonders where the slaves are to help, but she adjusts and starts to get suitors from town. After one hard day, Kit runs off and finds a beautiful meadow. There she meets the witch of Blackbird Pond, Hannah. A wonderful woman, who is very kind, sweet, and also misunderstood. Being friends with her could get Kit in a lot of trouble.

If it's been awhile since you have read this, or even if you haven't, it's never too late. Wonderful story. There are some very funny, and sweet things that happen. And also some frustrating things. Crazy that the witch hunts really happened. I love the ending and the change in many of the characters. My favorite part is when a certain character comes back from war and what he does when he gets back...

4 stars of out five!

Happy Halloween...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fourth Nephite by Jeffrey S. Savage

  • Title: The Fourth Nephite
  • Author: Jeffrey S. Savage
  • Hardcover: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Deseret Book (2010)
  • ASIN: B003V2CKG6

Busted. Football star Kaleo Steele is caught under the high school bleachers with the wrong group of friends. Even worse, he's caught by his seminary teacher, Brother Mortensen. If Kaleo gets turned in, he'll be in jeopardy of missing the regional championship game.

It doesn't help that Kaleo has been cutting seminary class. But what's the point? Mumbo jumbo stories about angels and gold plates and Joseph Smith? Brother Mortensen decides Kaleo is ready for an extraordinary "field trip" - one that could alter the course of his life and his heart.

Reluctantly, Kaleo meets with Ladan - a mysterious old blind man - and unknowingly begins a quest through time, landing in Palmyra, New York, in the fall of 1827.

Soon, Kaleo and a nineteenth-century girl named Jennie are caught up in a battle between treasure seekers - led by Alistair Blackburn, a necromancer hired to steal the gold plates - and the young Joseph Smith, who has sworn to keep them safe.

In his quest to find a key that will send him back to his own time, Kaleo will have to decide for himself what to believe and who to trust. Before it's too late.

This is a great new book from Jeffrey S. Savage. LDS teens and their parents will love this book and so will adults who love YA books. I love the concept of going back in time, especially to meet the Prophet Joseph. This will be another wonderful series by Jeff. (At least I think this is going to be a series. If I am incorrect Jeff, let everyone know. It just seems to be something that would make a great series.)

I always read his books so quickly. He is an such an awesome writer. He knows how to create fantastic and realistic characters that you love to care about. The main character,Kaleo, learns a lot on his adventure. At first you think he is another sassy kid that just doesn't "get it". By the end of the book, his testimony grows and yours can't help but be strengthened by what Kaleo learns from The Prophet Joseph Smith. This is a book I will be sharing with my own children and my nieces and nephews.

Another note, I loved reading the author notes at the end of the book. They are so awesome! You will get a feel of what Jeff is really like; besides being a fantastic author,he is a really great guy with a super sense of humor. Just don't read the author notes first! You have been warned.

I bought my copy of this book at the Book Academy Writers Conference and had it signed there by the author.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Spotlight: Finding God in the Garden by Brent & Wendy Top

Title: Finding God in the Garden - Planting, Pruning, and the Plan of Happiness
Authors: Brent & Wendy Top
Publisher: Deseret Book (May 2010)
Softcover; 125 pages
Genre: Religious Non-Fiction
ISBN# 978-1-60641-230-5

For most areas of the country, the fall harvest is drawing to a close and we are enjoying the bounty of fruits and vegetables that are available.

I am not a gardener by any means. As soon as spring even hints that it's coming, my good gardening intentions come alive and I'm planning, planning, planning. Every year, though, nothing much comes of it. I'm just too intimidated by all that I don't know.

Even though I am pretty ignorant about gardening, it was easy to understanding the comparisons in Finding God in the Garden.

The beautiful photos were first to grab my attention, most of which were taken in the authors' own gardens. Colorful flowers in full bloom, fall leaves in orange and red, winter snow on berries and delicious-looking vegetables decorate nearly every page.

The contents of Finding God in the Garden are broken down into sections:
  • Spring-Cleaning
  • The Warmth of the Sun
  • The Eternal Process of Creation
  • "After It's Kind"
  • Light and Life
  • Bloom Where You Are Planted
  • Weed Whacking
  • Don't Spray Roundup on Your Tomatoes
  • Infinite in Variety, Unified in Purpose
  • A Wise and Loving Gardener
  • New Growth
  • Too Much of a Good Thing
  • Perennials
  • Patience and Impatiens
  • The Abundant Harvest
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Best-Laid Plants
  • The Promise of Spring
Two of my favorite sections were "A Wise and Loving Gardener" and "Patience and Impatiens." A quote from the latter follows:
"One of the best ways that we can cultivate patience is to more keenly observe and appreciate progress and direction rather than obsess about how far away we are from our eternal destination." - page 91
Though the gardening season is coming to a close and the rest of winter is just around the corner, there is still much to be appreciated in Finding God in the Garden. After all, Christmas is coming and this book would make an excellent gift.

And spring will be here again before we know it.

Rating: 3.5 stars/5

The content was nice, beautiful photos, quick read in one day or bit by bit in sections.

FTC FYI: received a review copy that did not affect my review.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Reading 10.23.2010

"Halloween is just a week away. Are you reading anything scary?"

Head on over to LDS Women's Book Review for the newest edition of Weekend Reading.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Limit - Kristen Landon

"The Limit"

Kristen Landon

Publisher - Aladdin

Published - September 2010

Hardcover - 291 pages

FTC FYI- borrowed from library

ISBN - 9781442402713

"The Limit" page 1-- An eighth grade girl was taken today.
Whispers and text messages flew through Grover Middle School. They slipped handcuffs on her and shoved her into the back of a van. They shot her with a tranquilizer dart in the middle of the lunchroom. She escaped and she's hiding in the library-right now-texting her friends.
The girl went to Lakeview Middle School. My cousin goes to Lakeview. He said they called her out of first period and she never came back. An eighth grader! Nobody could believe it. Up until now they'd only taken high school students.
Up until now we thought we were off-limits."

Imagine a society where the government decides how much money your family can spend. And when you go over your limit, you are faced with consequences you might not be ready for. That is what happens to Matt and his family. Matthew Dunston's family spent money without any care in the world. Or, without thinking of what could happen if they went over the limit. One day, all that changes. The limit is reached and Matt is taken to the FDRA (Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency). Sharlene Smoot comes to pick him up. She is a pretty lady, with a voice like honey. Matt, in his mind, calls her "Honey Lady". (She reminds me of the "mean lady" in the book "The Girl Who Could Fly", very nice on the surface, but look out if you cross her.) Sharlene explains to him why he is there and what has to happen for him to get to leave. Right away, he is tested and put on the floor that needs his abilities the most. Matt is smart, especially when it comes to numbers. He uses his smarts as a weapon and also to his advantage. Later on something happens that test his patience, not only with the system, but with his own family. The FDRA has a secret, and Matt is determined to find out what it is.

What I enjoyed the most was the bit of humor within such a series subject. The thought of kids being taken away to work off their families debt, even with our current society really doesn't seem too out there. Still scary though. However, Matt is a funny guy. Easy to like. I loved his pet name for people. Like: Honey Lady, Crab Woman, Gorilla Man... Clever. I really enjoyed the ending. It didn't end with all the debt magically going away, I liked that responsibility needed to be taken.

I enjoyed this book and give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I have not read her other book, but it's on my list!

Kristen Landon's "Life in the Pit" is YA. You can buy both books here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Review of, "No Going Back" by Jonathan Langford

  • Title: No Going Back
  • Author: Jonathan Langford
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Zarahemla Books (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978797191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978797195

  • Product Description
  • A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.

  • The issue of gay marriage and abuse of gay teenagers is a very hot topic right now. There are many heated feelings about the issues on both sides. This is why this novel is so timely and needed. The LDS church does not believe in gay marriage. There are many gay members of the church, that struggle daily with their same-sex attraction and "living" their religion . That means that we don't hate them, shun them or attack them verbally or physically. They need our love and understanding like any other member of our church.

  • "No Going Back" addresses the issue of a young, male, LDS member who comes out saying he is gay. Jonathan does a good job of showing the intense feelings and fears of the main character, Paul, and how others react to him. It was heartbreaking reading how the kids in his ward, the scout council and his own father, treated him once they found out Paul was gay. He also wasn't treated very well, by other gays,when they wanted Paul to leave the church and he would not leave. This is a novel full of many conflicts and not many of them are resolved during the book.

  • This is the way that Jonathan describes his book:
  • "Don't know if this will interest anyone, but my novel No Going Back is a coming-of-age story about a Mormon teen who is conflicted between his religious beliefs and his gay feelings.... I don't know if you'd call it a YA novel or an adult novel with a YA protagonist, but most of the book is written from the point of view of the 15-/16-year old protagonist and his (straight) best friend."

  • My recommendation is this, before having a teen read the book, an adult should read it first. There has been some concern about letting gay, LDS young people read this book. Again, the child and parent must make this decision. The concerns have been about this book influencing someone towards suicide. I think that is too strong of a statement for this book, not saying that this couldn't happen. I do feel that this book could be a good tool for families when discussing this issue; especially those families who have a teen who is dealing with same sex attraction

  • All of this is such a personal thing. Every teen and family will face this challenge differently. Jonathan Langford has shown us one person's story and how he dealt with it. I must also say, the story is very well written; especially the main character Paul and his compassionate Bishop.

  • There is strong language and discussions about same sex attraction that some people may not be comfortable reading. This novel is, as other reviewers have stated, "gritty, brutally honest and disturbing". I was touched by the story of Paul and Chad (His straight life-long friend) and how they came to value their friendship. It truly should not matter,when it comes to friendship, who others love. We can still be friends and not judgmental. Even though we may not agree with others beliefs or practices, we need to remain free from causing pain to others.

  • I know that others may not agree with me in this review, but I have seen friends struggle with same-sex attraction. I have seen them and the pain they have felt at others hands. I feel that this is the main message that can be found in , "No Going Back". Ultimately the choice is up to you how you perceive this novel. If you care about the topic or want to get a new insight into what it is like to be a gay LDS teen, read this novel by Jonathan Langford.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The Macki Bald Inn", a Review By E.A. Day

Title: The Macki Bald Inn
Author: E.A. Day
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: World Parade Books (June 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098171367X
ISBN-13: 978-0981713670

When ten-year-old Alex Cooper moves from a rural, tranquil Ohio town to the middle of hurricane row in Florida, he's not sure he'll ever fully adjust. But soon he finds hurricane row is a breeze compared to the mysterious, secluded Macki Bald Inn--a nearby inn owned by two ladies who seem to know everything about Alex before he even meets them. What secret does this inn and it's inhabitants harbor?

This is the first book by E.A.Day. It will have great appeal with readers aged 8-12 and many young adult readers. I liked the mystery that was revealed at the end of the book. The book is slow at the first, but picks up quickly as the main character, Alex (Lieutenant), makes friends with Miranda (Captain) and Ralph (Mate). They end up having great adventures with pirates from the past. There is
also a fun story line surrounding The Fountain Of Youth and the famous Ponce De Leon. You will also really like the parrot PDL.

This is a fast read at 123 pages. It will be fun to see what else E.A. Day writes next. I think that she should write a sequel, with these same three engaging children, having another great adventure.

E.A. Day is Emily Day, an old friend of Shanda and me. We were all in the same ward together. This is her first published book. We are so happy for her and also very proud of her accomplishment. I know that she has been wanting to attain this goal of a published book for awhile. I am so happy to share about her book with my blog readers.

You can purchase her book, "The Macki Bald Inn" from Amazon.com.

Here is some more information about E.A.Day.

E. A. Day was born in Spokane, Washington. However, because her father was in the military, she grew up all over. She has lived in the desserts of Texas, the green rolling hills of Kansas, a farming village in Germany and on the sandy shores of Florida. She draws upon her memories and experiences in these places for her writing. She's been writing stories in her head since she can remember (especially during boring high school classes) but didn't start writing them down until 2003. She had only one teacher tell her she should pursue creative writing (2nd grade, thank you Ms. Stadius!) and another that told her she shouldn't. So if you love to write but haven't yet won the junior Newberry award--don't give up! So far, her books have been for young adults and children but if she ever grows up, she might write something for adults (probably not). She lives now in Southern California with her wonderful husband and five enthusiastic children.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Big Change for the Whitney Awards!

An announcement was just made on the Whitney Awards site: it is now possible for a book to win in multiple categories.

Personally, I'm very excited about this change. It has been a lot of fun watching great books written by talented LDS authors being honored every year at the Whitney Awards. The level of excellence in writing that is published by LDS authors each year just keeps getting better and better. Allowing a book to win in multiple categories, if the large Whitney Academy indeed casts their votes to bring such a result, is another way of recognizing an excellent work of fiction.

Read the press release here: Whitney Awards Rule Change.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Books

Published: September 2010

Hardcover: 478 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

FYC FYI: Borrowed from library, but will be purchasing own copy.

I read the first three books in this series last year. The series is "The Mortal Instruments" and the books are "City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass". "Clockwork Angel" is the first of three prequels. The story is dark, and there is some violence, but that didn't stop me from reading and loving these books.

"Clockwork Angel" is set in London in 1878. Will and Jem are Shadowhunters. They hunt and kill troublesome demons and help protect mundanes (humans) and downworlders (warlocks, vampires, etc). Shadowhunters have "Marks" on their bodies, that help them fight stronger, heal them, and can even open doors with certain tools. Will and Jem are tracking a troublesome demon, and find a dead girl in the street. She was killed by a demon, and Will wants to find out why... That takes us to Tessa Gray. She is an orphan who's aunt has just died. Her brother, Nathaniel, sends her a ticket to London and right away, just off the stream boat, she is kidnapped by the Dark Sisters. Mrs. Dark and Mrs. Black promise her that if she behaves, they will take her to her brother. However, the Dark Sisters know Tessa is different. They know she is a shape-shifter. The sisters are training her to use her power and are preparing her for the Magister. Enter Will, who tracks down the pair and helps Tessa...

I've been thinking about this next thing a lot since I finished. I think in order to understand and appreciate the story, you should read "The Mortal Instruments" first. The author goes into more detail about the Shadowhunter world. Saying that, if you wanted to start with "Clockwork", you could. There are just more explanations of this different world in the first three, and I think the characters and this cool world would be understood more with some extra background. What I like most are the Shadowhunters. They are very cool and mysterious.

Cassandra Clare is an amazing author. She truly brings these characters to life and each character is so unique. I will read all of the books in this series, and I'm quite bummed that I have to wait two years for this series to be finished. "Clockwork Prince" will be released in September 2011, and "Clockwork Princess" in November 2012. Some extra good news to Shadowhunter fans... the fourth book in the "Mortal Instruments" series, "City of Fallen Angels" will be released April 5, 2011. (Great birthday present for me :)

Four stars for this book and four for the first three released.

To purchase, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Into The Gauntlet - Margaret Peterson Haddix

"Into the Gauntlet"

By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Published: August 31, 2010

Hardcover: 327 pages

ISBN 13- 9780545090681

FTC FYI: Borrowed from library

I thought since I reviewed 39 Clues #1, "The Maze of Bones", it would be fitting to review the last in the series. First of all, I really enjoyed this series. It's a great series for kids, and for anyone, adults included, who enjoy a fun, quick read.

Throughout this series, Amy and Dan Cahill have traveled all over the globe in search of the 39 Clues. In previous books, the kids find out what branch of the Cahill's they belong to, and in book nine, "Storm Warning", Amy and Dan learn what the true mission of the 39 clues is. The secret of the "Madrigals" is revealed in "Storm Warning" as well. The other clue hunting teams are still unsure of the Madrigals and what they could do them.

In the start of this book, Amy and Dan are discouraged and scared. They end up in London along with the Holts, Kabras, Alistair, Jonah, and a surprise team that we thought was taken care of earlier. And don't forget about the evil Isabel Kabra... How are Amy and Dan going to accomplish all that they need to and still try to win?

A couple of the books in series, I gave three stars. However, the last four received four. I really enjoyed how different authors wrote each book. With that we are able to get a fresh voice on the clue hunt. Also, there is a surprise at the end of "Into the Gauntlet" that leads to a whole new set of books. I will read those as well.

Happy Reading Clue Hunters: Purchase the series here