Thursday, January 19, 2017

ADULT NONFICTION REVIEW: The White Cascade by Gary Krist


In February 1910, a monstrous, record-breaking blizzard hit the Northwest. Nowhere was the danger more terrifying than near a tiny town called Wellington, perched high in the Cascade Mountains, where a desperate situation evolved: two trainloads of cold, hungry passengers and their crews found themselves marooned. For days, an army of the Great Northern Railroad's most dedicated men worked to rescue the trains, but just when escape seemed possible, the unthinkable occurred—a colossal avalanche tumbled down, sweeping the trains over the steep slope and down the mountainside. Centered on the astonishing spectacle of our nation's deadliest avalanche, The White Cascade is the masterfully told story of a never-before-documented tragedy.


I have this strange attraction to books about natural disasters.  I think this is for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm always in awe of Mother Nature's power and second, I'm always interested in the ways people respond.  Almost always there are courageous people who help others unselfishly, and usually there are others who are pretty self-centered, but most people fall somewhere in between.  Krist does a fantastic job of setting the scene for the disaster by describing some of the people involved as well as giving background on the railroad and how they managed to build a line through the Cascades in the first place.  As one might expect, there was plenty of blame to go around, but nobody could have predicted the severity of the storms that moved through leading the the numerous avalanches that stranded the trains in the first place.  Despite the best efforts of the area train superintendent and his crews, they just could not keep up with the amount of snow that accumulated and then slid blocking the tracks in both directions several times.  Experiences like this one almost always lead to changes in policies and procedures and this disaster was no different.  And of course lawsuits and other things happened afterward as well.  Krist is careful to cover the aftermath as well as the disaster itself, giving the reader a chance to see the changes that disasters bring about.  Krist has written a very engaging book about a horrible event.

Cover reveal for Sarah M. Eden's newest novella!

From the USA Today Bestselling author of the Longing for Home series, a new romance set in the beloved world of Hope Springs: MY DEAREST LOVE, coming July 2017!
Add to your Goodreads list

by Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press
July 11, 2017

From the USA Today Bestselling author of the Longing for Home series, MY DEAREST LOVE is a new romance novella set in the beloved world of Hope Springs.

Alone in the world and far from home, Biddy holds out little hope of lasting happiness. Ian, loving her silently from afar, dreams of one day capturing her heart.

I love Sarah Eden's books and I'm excited to be returning to the world of Hope Springs!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: The Decision that Changed My Life by Ganel-Lyn Condie

The decision that changed my life


Whether making life-changing choices or considering seemingly small day-to-day decisions, to choose oftentimes means to take a step into the unknown.

In The Decision That Changed My Life, author Ganel-Lyn Condie explores some of the life-altering choices made by sixteen notable and everyday Latter-day Saints and the chain of events that followed those decisions that affected other people's lives. From the broad impact of Janice Kapp Perry's course-changing decision to pursue music to the significance of Chris Carter's converting to the gospel as a young boy, each story demonstrates the potential ripple effects of our decisions. While following the promptings of the Spirit without a full understanding of the outcome requires great faith, sometimes making that one decision has the power to change our lives—and the world.


We all have times in our lives when we are required to make decisions that will we know will have a significant impact on our lives.  Often these are decisions that we really struggle with for whatever reason.  Do we take that promotion, what do we major in, do we date that person or this person?  All of these questions and the decisions we make in relation to those questions leave a mark on our lives.  This book takes a look at the experiences of people relating to those types of decisions and the consequences that came from those decisions.  And the book goes beyond the effects in our own lives to the effects in the lives of others around us.  The book focuses on the good and right decisions people made with the Lord's help that changed their lives as well as the lives of others.  I enjoyed reading these stories, both because the stories are inspiring and because it made me feel not so alone to read of other people's struggles and questions.  If you need a book that is both informative and inspiring and encouraging I can highly recommend this one.


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/GIVEAWAY: Color of Love by Anita Stansfield


England, 1857

The British aristocracy is an inflexible judge. And for Amala, a lovely young Indian woman, that judgment is most keenly felt. Raised from a child by the wealthy Hepworth family following the murder of her parents, Amala grew up alongside the Hepworth's own daughter, Katarina, and was loved as both sister and daughter. The family is part of the charmed circle of the upper class, but Amala's place in society is tenuous. As an Indian woman, her life is marked by a sense of otherness and voices of prejudice. So when she embarks upon a sweet acquaintance with Henry Breckenridge, a white Englishman, Amala is both elated and terrified. She knows first-hand the opposition that an interracial couple would face, and courtship with Henry could destroy his standing in society.

Determined to spare the reputations of both Henry and her sister Katarina, Amala flees England with the hope that an extended trip will allow her time to heal her broken heart. But she never imagined the repercussions of that decision, and the heartbreak awaiting her. For when she returns to England, she finds those she holds dear facing unparalleled devastation. And now it is her love that holds the key to healing a broken family ...


Anita Stansfield began writing at the age of sixteen, and her first novel was published sixteen years later. Her novels range from historical to contemporary and cover a wide gamut of social and emotional issues that explore the human experience through memorable characters and unpredictable plots. She has received many awards, including a special award for pioneering new ground in LDS fiction, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Whitney Academy for LDS Literature. Anita is the mother of five, and has two adorable grandsons. Her husband, Vince, is her greatest hero.


I've read a lot of Regency & Victorian era romances, but somehow Anita Stansfield has found an aspect of the time and place that I haven't read about before.  As with all her other works, Stansfield presents the reader with lovable characters facing really difficult situations with grace and heart. 

Amala has spent much of her life in England with her adoptive family, but English society never lets her forget that she doesn't really belong.  Amala is a native Indian (India) and as such is seen as inferior by almost everyone around her, except her family.  So she is shocked when she meets Henry Beckenridge, an Englishman, who promptly falls in love with her.  Having accustomed herself to the idea of never marrying, Amala can't quite accept her good fortune, and when her fears get the better of her she rejects Henry and leaves England all together.  But family difficulties bring her home again where she discovers that one can't really run from life's challenges. 

I found myself immediately captivated by Henry and Amala, as well as Amala's adopted family.  As with many of the books that Stansfield has written, I was unable to predict the way the story worked out, but found myself empathizing with the characters, even when I didn't like the choices they made.  This is not only a charming romance, but also a hard look at the repercussions of interracial romance and the challenges it brings, especially at this time and place.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Saints at Devil's Gate: Landscapes Along the Mormon Trail


A beautiful art book from the Church Historian's Press, publisher of The Joseph Smith Papers.

From 1846 to 1869, some 70,000 Mormon pioneers traveled the Mormon Trail, the 1,300-mile route from Illinois and Iowa to Salt Lake City. In 2011, three award-winning Mormon painters decided to visit sites all along the historic route and capture the landscapes in oil. This full-color art book, featuring 52 landscape paintings, presents the fruit of their five-year project. Each painting is paired with journal entries or reminiscences from pioneers who made the journey. Essays by the authors and an artist interview illuminate both the art and the history of the trail.

The book gives written and visual context to the pioneers’ experience of the trail, bears witness to the land as it exists today, and links the experience of pioneers to the challenges of today.

Note: This book was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. Therefore, distribution of the book has been limited. Copies are available at the museum gift store, at, and at some independent bookstores in Utah.


The journey of the Mormon pioneers across the plains of the United States has been well-documented.  But I haven't seen a book quite like this one.  This book is a compilation of paintings that show some of the locations that the Mormon pioneers saw as they traveled cross country to the Salt Lake valley.  The work of three artists is included along with brief quotes from the journals and memoirs of a variety of pioneers.  This book is intended to highlight the gorgeous paintings that John Burton, Josh Clare, and Bryan Mark Taylor have completed.  There is an accompanying exhibit at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.  I loved looking at the amazing artwork as well as reading the quotes that helped me imagine what it might have been like to witness these settings with the pioneers.  As I imagined what it might have been like to travel through what was then mostly wilderness, I got a feeling of profound loneliness.  These people sacrificed a great deal to be there and then struggled through sickness, accidents, exhausting walking, and cleaning and cooking.  When problems arose there was no 911 to call or cell phone to pull out, they only had themselves and the Lord to rely on.  I found it rather inspiring to read and look at this book and think about the challenges the pioneers experienced.  But it also inspired me with the wild beauty of some of these places.  And some of the quotes make it clear that the pioneers weren't blind to the beauty they saw around them.  Saints at Devil's Gate is a beautiful book that I can highly recommend to anyone interested in the landscapes that the pioneers found themselves passing through on their journey to Utah.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Lady of the Lake by Josi S. Kilpack


Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.

Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and passionate temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?

But as every poet knows, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and on a windy morning in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.

Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?


Josi Kilpack does such a great job writing historical romances.  Her Sadie Miller culinary mysteries are great as well, but this historical romance based on the life of Sir Walter Scott comes together so beautifully.  The prologue, told from Walter's point of view, introduces the reader to his first reaction to the young Williamina Belshes, later Stuart.  He is smitten from the very first time he lays eyes on her.  Walter is determined to win Mina for his wife, but of course has to wait for her to reach the appropriate age as well as develop a strong enough income to buy a house.  During those intervening years, Walter and Mina write to each other, expressing their feelings as well as their interests.  But when they meet up again, Mina isn't as sure as Walter of the future of their relationship.  Especially after her father pressures her to marry someone who can boost the family's prospects (his prospects really).  Mina isn't sure she really knows what he wants.  And when Walter meets and befriends Charlotte, a young Frenchwoman who as just become independent from her British Guardian, his feelings also become conflicted. 

I think one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book is the realistic nature of the relationships, how they develop and fluctuate as the characters struggle to understand what they are feeling and what they really want.  I also couldn't help falling in love with the Scotland that Kilpack (and Scott himself) portrays so clearly.  While there is romance here, there is also the realities of messy relationships and the challenges that come when fantasies turn out not to work in reality.  Kilpack has created a wonder novel exploring the nature and difficulties of love.  The notes at the end make it clear what parts of the story are known or inferred to be true, and where the author took some literary license in order to create a story that flowed.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

DVD REVIEW: The Christmas Dress by Covenant Communicatiobs


It’s Christmas Eve, and Leland Jeppson’s hope is gone. Struggling to get by in their rustic homestead, he had at least wanted to give his family a special Christmas. But with a blizzard blowing in and the train bearing their gifts nowhere in sight, it seems Christmas is just one more thing they’ll have to do without. But as dusk falls, the Jeppsons’ packages unexpectedly arrive at the post office in the not-so-nearby town. Half-blind Postman George Schow is hesitant to brave the storm, but his son, Sidney, will stop at nothing to bring Christmas to the Jeppsons—and ask their daughter, Ellen, to the New Year’s Eve dance. Now it’s up to father and son to battle fierce elements in an attempt to deliver a Christmas miracle. Don’t miss this heartwarming reminder that while God helps those who help themselves, sometimes He does so through others.


Short and sweet is how I would describe this brief story about a Christmas miracle.  The Jeppson family waits anxiously for the arrival of some packages sent by Mary Jeppson's sister in Idaho, but as of midnight Christmas Eve the packages had not yet arrived.  The parents are sad that their children's hopes of Santa coming are going to be disappointed.  Ellen, the oldest child, is well aware that without these packages, there will be no Christmas.  When her mother reminds her to have faith and hope, she sneaks off to the bedroom to look at the mended dress she'll have to wear to the upcoming New Year's dance, and sheds some tears.  Unknown to the Jeppson family, their packages have arrived but George Schow thinks their delivery can wait until after the snow storm has passed.  But Sidney, Schow's son knows that the Jeppson's will have no Christmas without these packages and urges his father to deliver them immediately.  But as the storm worsens, it's going to take every ounce of faith, hope, and prayer, these two families can muster to make this Christmas miracle happen. This short video is a reminder that God helps those who are willing to help each other, and that the real meaning of Christmas is in the joy of service.  This is a movie that would make for a great addition to Christmas Eve programs or activities.
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