Thursday, May 21, 2015

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: The Moses Chronicles Vol. 1 by H.B. Moore


ABOUT THE BOOK


Moses has always felt like an outsider in his powerful Egyptian family, even though his close relationship with Ramses, the prince of Egypt, and their cousin Pentu keeps him entwined in the dealings of royalty. But when their youthful antics get them in trouble, the Pharaoh decides it’s time for all three of them to grow up and own their respective responsibilities. Now betrothed to a woman he cares nothing for, Moses wonders where his life is headed.

Miriam, a Hebrew slave, lives with a secret she cannot share with anyone. And though it has been eighteen years since she saved her baby brother, she is constantly getting in trouble for spying on him. In a desperate attempt to control Miriam, her older brother, Aaron, and her father look to find her a husband, something Miriam has never been interested in—until Caleb, a young, handsome man, confesses his feelings for her and asks her father for her hand in marriage.

When Libya advances on Egypt, Moses and Miriam are suddenly thrown together as the Egyptian royals and soldiers flee. Hebrew slaves are forced to defend the kingdom, and Miriam and Caleb are enlisted under Moses’s direction. Moses quickly sees there is more to this downtrodden people than what he’s been taught. When he witnesses the atrocities enacted against the slaves, he realizes he must leave—he must find out who he really is.

A gripping account of the events that lead to Moses’s flight into the wilderness, The Moses Chronicles: Bondage will take you back to a rich period of history replete with scandal, strife, love, and hope as God prepares a prophet to lead His chosen people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

HEATHER B. MOORE is the two-time Best of State and two-time Whitney Award winner for her historical fiction, the most recent being Esther the Queen. She is also the author of the nonfiction inspirational book Women of the Book of Mormon and the coauthor of Christ's Gifts to Women with Angela Eschler. Heather is a columnist for Meridian Magazine on LDS topics.

REVIEW

I'm usually pretty wary when I come across Bible-based fictional stories just because you never know how the author is going to interpret the people involved.  But I shouldn't have worried about that with Moore at the helm.  She has written many other scriptural-based fictional stories so she has plenty of experience at filling in the missing parts.  The story of Moses is a fascinating one as the man goes from a position of power and influence to living in hiding in the wilderness and then back to a position of power and influence but this time guided by God.  The images that Moore creates in her story help make Moses and Miriam and Ramses and the others all the more real.  Fictional stories like this can make it easier to see these people as real people with real fears and strengths and weaknesses. It was interesting to compare the two very different ways of life of Moses versus Miriam.  I can honestly say that I'm glad I didn't live then.  Once again, H.B. Moore has created an eminently readable biblical fiction story that draws the reader in and doesn't let go.  I'm eager to read the next book in the series.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CHRISTIAN FICTION: Shattered by Dani Pettrey


ABOUT THE BOOK

Piper McKenna couldn't be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed--but despite the evidence, Reef swears he's innocent. And Piper believes him.
Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he's also sworn to find the truth. Piper is frustrated with his need for facts over faith, but he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth may mean risking Landon's career.

With Piper waging her own search, the two head deep into Canada's rugged backcountry--and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

REVIEW

Dani Pettrey has written another nailbiter of a suspense story.  In this one, two old friends slowly begin to discover that their feelings for each have changed, but for Landon and Piper things get even more complicated when Landon is forced to arrest Piper's brother, Reef for murder.  And while things look pretty bad for Reef, Piper firmly believes in his innocence, so much so that she starts investigating on her own.  Landon tries to protect Piper from her own curiosity but when that fails he determines that the only way to protect her is to find the answers she is seeking.  The investigation takes them from British Columbia to California searching for answers to the question of who wanted Karli Davis dead and why.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially the investigation parts and the romantic parts.  If you enjoy Christian suspense with a good dose of romance, I can highly recommend this series.


Monday, May 18, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Mighty Miracles by Breanna Olaveson

Mighty Miracles

ABOUT THE BOOK

“We do have miracles today—beyond imagination . . . What kinds of miracles do we have? All kinds—revelations, visions, tongues, healings, special guidance and direction, evil spirits cast out. Where are they recorded? In the records of the Church, in journals, in news and magazine articles and in the minds and memories of many people.” —President Spencer W. Kimball

Elder Matthew Cowley witnessed and participated in countless miracles throughout his storied life. As an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 1945 until his death in 1953, Matthew Cowley was among the most spiritually powerful and well-known of the Lord’s servants. In this compilation of vignettes, taken from personal journals and correspondence, as well as the treasured memories of those who knew him best, the details of many of his most miraculous experiences, including healing the blind and witnessing the raising of the dead, are painted in vivid detail. From his early missionary work with the Maori people of New Zealand to his widespread influence as an Apostle, Elder Cowley blessed the lives of Church members around the world with his gifts of faith and healing. Sure to edify and uplift, this biographical portrait of one of the Lord’s elect will inspire readers to recognize the mighty miracles in their own lives.

REVIEW

The scriptures tell us that there are many different spiritual gifts and they all come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Matthew Cowley's life is full of examples of that truth.  From the time he was a small child until he died Cowley experienced miracles both small and great.  This book documents some of those experiences.  Elder Cowley clearly touched the lives of many through his years of church service, both as a missionary and later as a general authority.  Each chapter in the book shares one such story with the book organized in chronilogical order.  Stories of healing, speaking in tongues, and spiritual guidance fill the book.  I found the book a powerful reminder that miracles surround those who believe.  That isn't to say that the Lord answers all our prayers the way we desire because He doesn't, sometimes the answer is no.  For example, Elder Cowley and his wife long desired children and while he on several occasions blessed others to have children, he and his wife were unable to have children of their own.  Elder Cowley's life is an example of what the Lord can do when we turn our lives over to Him.

Friday, May 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: The Cokeville Miracle by Excel Entertainment

I had the privilege of attending a prescreening of The Cokeville Miracle by Excel Entertainment and was impressed with the spirit of the film.  Here's more about the movie which opens officially on June 5th:

ABOUT THE MOVIE

From T.C. Christensen comes The Cokeville Miracle, the remarkable true story of a town facing a terrible tragedy, and the Sheriff’s investigator who struggles with his faith as he gathers evidence that defies easy explanation.

Cokeville Wyoming, a town of just over 500 people that sits near the Utah-Idaho border, is not known for much beyond it’s strong family values, but in 1986 Cokeville made national headlines when a madman and his wife entered the elementary school with guns and bomb. They gathered over 100 children and teachers into a small room, and made a demand: $200 million dollars for the lives of the children—but then the bomb went off…

The Cokeville Miracle is not just the story of a hostage crisis, or a terror attack on American soil. It is not just the story of a bomb that could have destroyed an entire generation, and ripped a town apart. The Cokeville Miracle is about what happened instead. How did a bomb that should have leveled the room take only two lives that day, the madman and his wife? Each child, each adult who made it out of that room has a story to tell. Follow the Sheriff’s investigator Ron Hartley as he pieces together the evidence, including stories of prayer and divine intervention from multiple witnesses. Gather the evidence and decide for yourself. Do you see coincidence, or do you see miracles?

Check out the website for more information about the movie, including cast information and fun facts.

REVIEW

Society as a whole has gotten so used to high budget films with lots of high-priced actors and special effects that sometimes lower budget films get overlooked.  And while the acting and production don't particularly stand out, the story and the message does.  The spirit of the film is what really struck me.  The story is told through the lens of the small town sheriff who is having a crisis of faith.  As a cop he has seen some bad things and it has made him rather jaded.  Then the Youngs take over the Cokeville Elementary school leaving a lasting impression on the whole community.  No real reason is given for why the Youngs do this which is reasonable since they both died there is no way to really know what they were thinking.  All there is to go on is the fact that David Young was once the town sheriff who was fired for misconduct and a paper he left behind about believing he had found a mathematical way to reincarnate himself.  Both ideas are incorporated into the film but not dwelt on.

After the bomb accidentally detonates the town, including the sheriff is left to pick up the pieces.  As the investigation unfolds, the sheriff discovers that many in the community believe that a miracle occurred, allowing everyone to leave the scene alive, except for the perpetrators.  But the wounds run deep for the sheriff and he struggles to accept that heavenly intervention occurred.  But as he listens to different accounts from survivors, including his own children, he begins to realize that a miracle really did happen.

As I mentioned earlier, while the production itself was adequate it's the explanations of what did and did not happen that gave me chills and even brought some tears.  I recommend viewing the film simply as a way to remind oneself that despite the evil in the world, beauty can come from ashes.  I was especially touched by the fact that survivor photos were shown during the credits along with the survivor's and their spouses and children.  I have the privilege of knowing a couple of the survivors and the world really wouldn't be the same without them.  And while all the survivors were left with scars of one kind or another, it's clear that Heavenly Father heard and responded to the many prayers that were offered that day.  A wonderful feel good film that makes a good counter balance to the many dark, depressing films of today. Note: There is violence because of the nature of the story, please think carefully before taking your children to see this film.

Here are some photos from the film provided courtesy of Excel Entertainment:

David and Doris Young played by Nathan Stevens and Kymberly Mellen

 
Kids praying
Narrow escape!

This teacher  refused to leave the room until all the students were out.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Trouble in Paradise by Karen Tuft


ABOUT THE BOOK

Andy Kendrick has always dreamed of bigger things than tiny Eagle Bluff, Arizona. So when the opportunity arises to shake off the dust of his hometown and move to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, he grabs it. But he never imagined that a piece of his past would follow him to his new life . . . Kimberly Briggs has lived her life on the fringes of the crowd, timid and afraid since the death of her brother, but when she learns that Andy, her lifelong crush, is moving to Hawaii, she’s finally ready to step out of the shadows and take a risk. Kimberly is the last person Andy expected—or wanted—to see in Hawaii, but when fate incessantly throws the pair together, there’s little to be done but make the best of the situation. As the awkwardness fades and Kimberly begins to emerge from her shell, Andy realizes there’s much more to her than he realized. But even as they revel in the adventures of island life, drawn together by a growing attraction, an unforeseen peril threatens Kimberly’s life. Can the once-timid young woman now draw upon the inner strength Andy has helped her discover so the two of them can build a life together? Will Andy grasp that love knows no geographical bounds?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Tuft was born with a healthy dose of curiosity about pretty much everything, so as a child she taught herself to read and play the piano. She studied composition at BYU then graduated from the University of Utah in music theory as a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda honor societies. In addition to being an author, Karen is a wife, mother, pianist, composer, and arranger. She has spent countless hours backstage and in orchestra pits for theater productions along the Wasatch Front. She also has a 75 percent success rate when it comes to matchmaking and is a big believer in happy endings. Among her varied interests, she likes to figure out what makes people tick, wander through museums, and travel—whether by car, plane, or paperback.

REVIEW

I quite enjoyed Trouble in Paradise.  I liked both Andy and Kim and it was fun to see them discover each other, especially Andy.  It was ironic that Kim and Andy had grown up so close to each other but didn't really establish a relationship until they both moved to Hawaii.  For Andy it was because so many people pushed him in that direction and because he knew Kim had a crush on him and it made him uncomfortable.  Kim wanted a relationship with Andy but after he rejects her girl's choice dance request she's too humiliated to try further.  Luckily for Andy though she doesn't completely give up and when the chance to see him again comes along she takes it.  This story is a powerful reminder that persistence can pay off.  Along the way though Kim finds herself in trouble because of the choices of others around her.  All in all I really liked this read as both a fun introduction to Hawaii and a sweet romance with some suspense thrown in for good measure.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Extreme Measures by Michele Ashman Bell


ABOUT THE BOOK

Following the trauma of her estranged husband’s untimely death, Emma Lowell is happy with the life she has rebuilt for herself. She’s engaged to a wonderful man and anticipates a fresh start, free from her troubled past. Only one persistent obstacle remains: Margaret Lowell, her former mother-in-law. Margaret continues to be a demanding presence in Emma’s life, and her requests have become increasingly disconcerting. When Margaret asks Emma to accompany her on a sentimental journey to the family’s mountain cabin, the young woman reluctantly agrees. After all, her fiancé is out of town. No one will miss her. Emma could never have suspected the horror that awaits in the snow-bound cabin, for beneath Margaret Lowell’s elderly façade lies a sinister and terrifying nature—and a plot born of insanity. Alarmed by the dark plan that unfolds, Emma struggles to escape the isolated cabin in a chilling game of cat and mouse. As the danger escalates, and with little hope of rescue, Emma must engage in a battle of wills if she is to avoid becoming the final piece in Margaret’s twisted puzzle . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michele Ashman Bell grew up in St. George, Utah, where she met her husband, Gary, at Dixie College. They are the proud parents of four children: Weston, Kendyl, Andrea, and Rachel.

A favorite pastime of Michele’s is supporting her children in all of their activities, traveling both in and outside the United States with her husband and family, and doing research for her books. She also scuba dives. Aside from being a busy wife and mother, Michele is an aerobics instructor at the Life Centre Athletic Club near her home. Michele is the best-selling author of several books and a Christmas booklet and has also written children’s stories for the Friend magazine.

REVIEW

Emma's life is looking up.  She has a wonderful fiance and is looking forward to getting married and moving on with her life.  She wants to leave her difficult relationship with her former mother-in-law in the past, but Margaret Lowell has very different plans.  When Emma gets tricked into taking Margaret on a trip to the family cabin things go downhill fast and she is forced to find the courage to stand up to her mother-in-law in ways she never expected.  Luckily for her she has some good friends who sense something is wrong and come looking for her.

Bell has created an interesting and suspenseful read with Extreme Measures.  It's a fast read with just enough detail included to carry the story along.  The focus is on Emma overcoming the unexpected threat that her mother-in-law suddenly presents and facing her own fears along the way.  I quite enjoy these kind of stories where the main character has to grow and develop.  Margaret's obsession provides an interesting psychological aspect to the story that adds to the tension.  An enjoyable, clean suspense book that I can easily recommend.

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BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Crooked House by Marlene Sullivan


ABOUT THE BOOK



Someone is trying to kill Liz Johnson and it’s up to quirky private investigator, Erica Coleman, to find out who. Erica is no stranger to murder and mystery, which is why her best friend’s daughter, Megan, turns to her when unaccountable and potentially fatal “accidents” threaten her roommate’s life.

Once Erica arrives at the ramshackle old mansion known as Crooked House, matters go from disturbing to deadly as it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Liz.  As Erica begins to unearth secrets, she discovers a twisted web of love, money, greed, and deception. Although the police and friends sometimes find Erica’s OCD annoying, its those very traits that help her sift through evidence and see clues that others miss. Erica must draw upon her all her investigative prowess to keep Liz safe and unmask the killer before he can accomplish his deadly objective.

With a dash of romance and surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. As with all Erica Coleman mysteries, ten delicious recipes are included. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Marlene Bateman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan. Her hobbies include gardening, camping, reading, and enjoying her four cats and three dogs.

Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder—the first in a mystery series that features Erica Coleman, a quirky private eye with OCD. The next book in that line, (they do not have to be read in order) is A Death in the Family.

Marlene has also written a number of LDS non-fiction books under the name Marlene Bateman Sullivan. Those books include: Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, which is a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints, Heroes of Faith, and Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines. Marlene also wrote three books about documented accounts in early LDS church history when a person either saw or heard an angel; Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, And There Were Angels Among Them, and By the Ministering of Angels.

EXCERPT from Crooked House



“I’m scared.”
Erica’s heart turned over when she heard the quaver in her young friend’s voice on the phone.
Then Megan asked, “Can you come?”
 “Of course.” Erica’s reply was automatic. She would do anything she could to help. Although she often received emotionally-laden phone calls in her job as a private investigator, there was a difference when the call came from the teen-aged daughter of her best friend. The very fact that Megan—who was usually so calm and composed—sounded frightened out of her wits, put Erica on high alert.
“I think someone’s trying to kill my roommate, Liz,” Megan said.
“What makes you think that?”  Erica asked. “Has someone threatened her?”
“No, but Liz has had a couple of serious accidents lately—at least she says they’re accidents, but either one of them could have killed her.”
Erica made an effort to reel in her skepticism. “Tell me about them.”
“First, someone tampered with her car. The brakes went out and Liz ended up driving across someone’s yard and hitting a tree. Fortunately, she was okay. The second one happened downtown. Liz was on the sidewalk waiting for the bus when someone shoved her. She fell into the road. A truck was coming and if a guy hadn’t pulled her back, Liz could have been killed.”
Still, they could have been accidents, Erica thought, at least until the third one occurred—this time at Crooked House.


REVIEW

Marlene Bateman has written another fun mystery with lots of suspense.  I like these kinds of mysteries because as you read you can try to gather clues and try to figure out who's guilty.  It's even better when there are shocks and surprises along the way and the guilty one turns out to be someone other than who you thought.  That turns out to be the case here.  Early on something rather shocking and unexpected happens that really made me want to know what was going on.  Erica is a fun character who reminds me of Monk (the TV OCD Detective) except with fewer emotional issues.  She loves to cook as well as detect and her OCD ironically helps with the detailed nature of both of those kinds of tasks.  I found it easy to empathize with some of the other characters, such as Megan, Erica's best friend's daughter who brought her in on the case as well as her roommate Beth.  Liz, the seeming target of a killer, owns a cool old house that is falling down and may in fact be at the heart of the mystery.  Only by reading the book can you find out.  A great culinary mystery for those like me who love the genre, quite appropriate for young adults as well as adults.

OTHER ERICA COLEMAN BOOKS

Meet Erica Coleman: a gifted and quirky private investigator with a penchant for sleuthing and a passion for chocolate.

Erica imagined that her trip to Florida would be a slice of heaven—a chance to get away from it all and catch up with her best friend, Wendy. But a mere day into her idyllic vacation, all hope of fun in the sun is dashed with a shocking discovery: the body of an unknown man on the driveway. A failed second homicide attempt hits even closer to home when Wendy’s fiancé barely survives poisoning. There’s no way to sugarcoat it—a murderer is on the prowl, and no one is above suspicion.

Unsettled by the proximity of foul play, Wendy asks Erica to investigate. Erica is convinced that the near double-murder was no coincidence, so she accepts her friend’s request—with her skill, solving the mystery should be a piece of cake. But as she sifts through mounting evidence, one thing becomes clear: everyone had a reason for wanting both men dead. And as the plot thickens, it appears that Erica may have bitten off more than she can chew . . .



Erica and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche's eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, enlists Erica's help in an investigation of her company, things quickly get sticky. Before the investigation can begin, Blanche's unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it soon becomes clear that Grandma's passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When Aunt Martha, Blanche's reclusive sister, becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues. As she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case—before she bites off more than she can chew.

PURCHASING

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