Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LDS NONFICTION: The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl Givens & Fiona Givens


Faith is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So what happens when a person has doubts?
Questioning is not the problem, according to authors Terryl and Fiona Givens. “After all,” they write, “the Restoration unfolded because a young man asked questions.” The difficulty arises when questions are based on flawed assumptions or incorrect perceptions, which can “point us in the wrong direction, misdirect our attention, or constrain the answers we are capable of hearing.”
This insightful book offers a careful, intelligent look at doubt—at some of its common sources, the challenges it presents, and the opportunities it may open up in a person’s quest for faith. Whether you struggle with your own doubts or mostly want to understand loved ones who question, you will appreciate this candid discussion. You’ll come away feeling more certain than ever of the Lord’s love for all of His children.


ERYL GIVENS holds the James A. Bostwick chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond and the author of several books. His writing has been praised by the New York Times as “provocative reading” and includes, most recently, When Souls Had Wings, a history of the idea of premortal life in Western thought; a biography (with Matthew Grow) of Parley Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (winner of the 2012 Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association); and Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought.

FIONA GIVENS is a retired modern language teacher with undergraduate degrees in French and German and a graduate degree in European History. She is now an independent scholar who has published in several journals and reviews in Mormon studies, including Journal of Mormon History, Exponent II, and LDS Living. Along with Terryl, she is the author of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. Terryl and Fiona are the grandparents of five—fonts of delight; and the parents of six—sources of intellectual challenge and inspiration.


I had hoped to have this review up today, but circumstances have made it so I just haven't read enough of the book to do it justice.  But from what I've read, it's a thought-provoking book designed to help the reader move past his/her preconceptions about the world and open themselves up to the various ways that God can teach us.  The authors point out that there is more than one way of knowing something.  We can know something in our mind or our hearts or our conscience, or in the beauty in the world around us.

Sunday, September 28, 2014



A horse breeder by trade, Corbin Jonquil is more at home in the stables than in the ballroom of his sprawling estate. Corbin is the quietest of the Jonquil brothers and has always faded into the background, contentedly unnoticed. When a mysterious young widow, Mrs. Clara Bentford, moves into the neighborhood, however, Corbin quickly comes to realize that being noticed has its advantages. But how to catch the eye of the lady?

According to his brothers, Corbin need only make a few simple changes to transform himself into the object of any woman's desire - dubious advice, indeed. Following a series of misadventures, Corbin and Clara slowly lower the facades behind which they've been hiding, leaving Corbin shocked by the horrors that haunt the woman he's coming to care for so ardently. When the menace of Clara's past threatens to tear them apart and tensions mount, will the couple have the courage to fight for the promise of forever?


SARAH M. EDEN read her first Jane Austen novel in elementary school and has been an Austen addict ever since. Fascinated by the English Regency era, Eden became a regular in that section of the reference department at her local library, where she painstakingly researched this extraordinary chapter in history. Eden is an award-winning author of short stories and was a Whitney Award finalist for her novels Seeking Persephone and Courting Miss Lancaster. Visit her at www.sarahmeden.com.


Another fabulously great clean romance from Sarah Eden. No wonder she is one of my two favorite romance writers.  Once again we meet the Jonquil brothers with all their quirks.  This story focuses on Corbin, the brother that raises horses for a living.  Corbin's quirk is his extreme shyness that often comes across as arrogance.  Which is exactly how Clara sees him when they first meet.  But as Corbin teaches Edmund about horses as well as about being a man, Clara starts to realize there is more to Corbin than she originally thought.  Clara's past experiences with men have been negative so she is slow to trust.  As she grows to care about and trust Corbin and his family, she starts to hope for a better future, until a nightmare from her past shows up to destroy it.

I really, really love Sarah Eden's books. Not only are they well-written, with great characters, interesting plots, and beautiful settings, but they are clean!  Clean romances can be hard to find these days, so it's very refreshing to me to find romances that have depth of feeling, some good kisses, and plenty of feel good moments.  There always seem to be moments that I want to cheer when I read Eden's books and I always seem to laugh.  If you enjoy those sorts of things as well, you may love this author's books as well.

Friday, September 26, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz

Strength of Ballerinas blog tour


All Kendra wants to do is dance for the Manhattan Dance Company. So when her family’s forced to move to California, her dreams of auditioning are shattered. Still determined to dance, Kendra faces social isolation and family pressures in her new home. But when she’s diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Kendra must decide which dreams are worth fighting for.


Nancy Lorenz currently teaches as an English adjunct at several colleges. She worked in publishing, public relations and in network television. She studied ballet in New York City at numerous studios, including open level classes at American Ballet Theater in the 1980’s, and continues to study ballet for the sheer love of it. She recommends that you love what you do, but also to branch out to the many subjects out there yet to discover. The more you learn, the more you can bring back into your art.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CHRISTIAN FICTION REVIEW: Tried & True by Mary Connealy


Saddle up for a wildly fun ride with the Wilde sisters!

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister—and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It’s a risk—they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as “boys”—but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.

Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?

Mary ConnealyABOUT THE AUTHOR (see Bethany House website)

Mary Connealy is an award-winning, bestselling author known for her fun and lively historical romances. An author, teacher, and journalist, Mary lives on an eastern Nebraska ranch with her cowboy husband and has four daughters and two grandchildren. Learn more at www.maryconnealy.com.


I fell in love with Kylie and Aaron right off the bat.  I immediately felt sympathy for Kylie who wants to be a woman but is pressured by her father and sisters to pretend to be a man in order to establish a homestead.  After her experiences in the Civil War dressed as a man, she wants desperately to be a woman again, living in a civilized area, not a homestead on the frontier.  When Aaron, the local land agent, recognizes her as a woman, she is pleased to be able to act like one again.  But when she is attacked and made afraid in her own home, she wonders if pleasing her father is worth it.  And while she likes Aaron she isn't sure it's wise to get attached when he plans to settle on a ranch further back in the mountains.  But events take on a life of their own and Kylie and Aaron are forced to make decisions quickly that may or may not work out as expected.

I really enjoyed this book.  The characters are great, each with their strengths and weaknesses.  It's also an interesting look at the roles of men and women at the time and the different perspectives that Kylie and her sisters (who are also pretending to be men) have about their roles in their society. Kylie and her sister provide an fascinating contrast in their attitudes about being women and the limitations that their society tried to put on them because of it.  I look forward to reading Shannon's and Bailey's stories (Kylie's sisters) because I have a feeling their will be plenty of fireworks, especially Bailey who is bound and determined to maintain her freedom and independence.

Monday, September 22, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Star of Deliverance by Mandy Madson Voisin

Star of Deliverance blog tour


Born a slave and outcast, the young healer Emi discovers an ancient disease spreading among her people. Desperate, she races to the Capital for a cure and unwittingly finds herself in a competition to win over the Crown Prince’s heart. Staying in the game provides time to search for a cure, but it may cost Emi her life—or her heart.


Mandy Voisin is a wife, marketer, and author. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English. Her parents told her she’d never make a living with an English degree, so she’s dedicated the rest of her life to proving them wrong. She loves poetry and babies and her sisters. Mandy currently resides in Phoenix, Ariz., with her husband Kevin who is a sleep deprived medical student with a heart of gold and the world’s best smile. Together they chip away at their dreams.


When I heard this book was a retelling of the Esther story from the Bible, I was immediately interested.  The Esther story has long been one of my favorites.  The story did not disappoint. Emi is a great character who sets out to find a cure for one person and ends up working for her entire people who someone in the castle is determined to destroy.  Ending up in the castle as one of the possible matches for the Crown Prince was not part of the plan, but it might give her the opportunity she needs to help her people. Emi sacrifices a lot to help her people which is admirable and very risky, including leaving her mentor, who is getting on in years, alone to help the sick.  The Crown Prince turns out to be very likable as well, especially as Emi helps open his eyes.  An interesting story that is well-presented and quite enjoyable.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Focused by Noelle Pikus Pace


Where are your choices leading you? Regardless of our circumstances, each moment presents us with decision to make. It doesn't matter what question, trial, or success we experience—each traces back to a choice. At any given moment, we can choose to doubt, fear, worry; to be prideful, angry, depressed, or miserable—or we can choose to move forward. We can choose to be a light. We can choose to be happy. The choice is always ours, and each choice can be a step forward on the path of life we want for ourselves.

The life lessons learned by Olympic athlete Noelle Pikus Pace can equip each of us to turn daily choices and challenges into opportunities for growth. In her warm and relatable style, Noelle shares touching personal stories and teaches how these experiences can help us keep a healthy perspective on the things that matter most. She helps us to see that though all of our goals and trials are different, we each can choose to become the best versions of ourselves one day at a time.

Covering topics from letting go of expectations and pressures to finding a healthy life balance, from standing up for ourselves to standing for righteousness, world champion Noelle Pikus Pace infuses readers with the enthusiasm and confidence to get a little closer to their goals each and every day.


NOELLE PIKUS PACE became the first American woman to win the Overall World Cup Title in skeleton in 2005. After playing a variety of sports through high school and college, her exceptional strength in skeleton made her favored to win the gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics. An unfortunate accident prevented her from competing, but the following year she came back to win the World Championships by the largest margin in the history of the sport. Noelle competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics and was the top U.S. finisher, placing fourth.

She retired after the Olympics to spend more time with her family. Following a miscarriage in April of 2012, Noelle and her husband, Janson, decided that she would try one last time to earn an Olympic medal, on the condition that the family would all travel together. Competing in 32 national and international competitions over two years, Noelle finished on the podium 29 times and concluded her career by triumphantly winning the silver medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and jumping into the stand to share the moment with her family and the world.

Noelle earned a bachelor’s degree in 2005 and a master of business administration degree in 2007. Noelle and Janson have two children, Lacee and Traycen.


A wonderful book full of inspiring stories of persistence in the face of loneliness, discouragement, and tragic accidents.  Noelle Pikus Pace thrilled a lot of people including herself when she won a silver medal in skeleton at the Olympics in Sochi, but it was a long difficult road to get there.  In this book she describes some of the key experiences she had a long the way that helped her land on that podium.  I found the book to be warm and heart-felt and easy to appreciate.  The stories helped me to consider carefully some of the choices I'm making in my own life that I might want to change to help me become the person I want to be rather than settling for who I already am. A truly wonderful book that I can recommend whole-heartedly to anyone who wants to read not only some really interesting stories about some of the experience's Pace has had as an athlete, but some of her struggles and successes as a person.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CLEAN ROMANCE REVIEW: Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden

Jonquil Brothers #2
by Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60861-569-8
Clean Regency Romance
Source: Purchased
All opinions expressed are solely my own.


When her father dies and leaves her completely destitute, Marion can think of only one thing to do--make a new life for herself. Commencing a life of duplicity, Marion transforms herself into Mary Wood--governess. In possession of a forged letter of recommendation and cloaked in the anonymity of her new identity, she enters a life of self-imposed servitude as teacher and caretaker of young Miss Caroline Jonquil of Farland Meadows. Her idyllic daydream vision of life at the Meadows is dashed when she finds a child desperately in need of hope and a cold and sorrowful home haunted by the past. With her characteristic sunny disposition, Marion casts her spell upon the household and slowly brings to life the long-forgotten joy of those within.

Layton Jonquil is a man tormented by the lies surrounding the death of his late wife, but he cannot deny his growing attraction for the beautiful governess whose goodness and optimism have touched his dormant heart. Their connection grows ever stronger, and despite the impropriety of harboring feelings for a servant, Layton's heart whispers that this is the woman he's destined to love. But when Layton's fears about the past become too much to bear and the falsehoods in which they are entangled threaten to shatter his and Marion's blossoming attachment, will true love conquer all?


SARAH M. EDEN read her first Jane Austen novel in elementary school and has been an Austen addict ever since. Fascinated by the English Regency era, Eden became a regular in that section of the reference department at her local library, where she painstakingly researched this extraordinary chapter in history. Eden is an award-winning author of short stories and was a Whitney Award finalist for her novels Seeking Persephone and Courting Miss Lancaster. Visit her at www.sarahmeden.com.


Sarah Eden is one of my all time favorite authors.  Not only does she write clean romance, but she writes it very well.  Her characters are flawed human beings with plenty of challenges making them easy to relate to, but they also have the values and character traits to keep going even when life is really hard.  I think one of the things that I especially enjoyed about this one, (besides reading about the Jonquil brothers again) was the way the characters dealt with some painful secrets.  Secrets can be so destructive and they definitely play a major role in the story; secrets between family members, secrets between employer and employee.  These secrets cause major problems in the relationships between the different characters.  And yet despite the painful secrets, it's also sweet to see the difference that one person can make in the lives of others, in this case, Marion arrives at Layton Jonquil's home and quickly realizes that it's not a happy place.  But with her own natural optimism and tender stories she finds a way beyond her own painful memories to help Layton and his daughter find healing and peace.  A beautiful love story, but not just romantic love, also parental love, brotherly love, and the way that love helps bring healing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Believe--Soccer Movie

by Excel Entertainment


The family drama “Believe”, is set in 1984 and inspired by true events. The film is a funny and touching tale about Sir Matt Busby, legendary Manchester United football manager, who helps a wayward boy fulfill his dream. An act of petty crime by 11 year old Georgie becomes a collision of fate as Sir Matt tracks him down, only to discover that the boy is an extraordinarily gifted footballer and captain of a team of unruly talents. Having lived with football all his life and survived the tragic 1958 Munich plane disaster, in which eight of his young players were killed, Sir Matt is still committed to continue his work of ‘training lads for life’ and so begins a thrilling adventure as Sir Matt Busby, comes out of retirement to transform a young group of boys into a dream team.



EXCEL ENTERTAINMENT is the preeminent independent film distribution company in Utah, and though largely known for its Mormon-themed films (God’s Army, The Work & the Glory series, 17 Miracles, Pride & Prejudice, etc.), Excel has also had success releasing films with non-Mormon themes and stories (Forever Strong, Saints & Soldiers, etc.).
Although the technology and means by which audiences consume films is changing rapidly, the demand for highly creative storytelling that motivates us to live up to the light that each of us has been given is as high as ever. We feel a deep obligation to not only bring stories of hope to the world, but to promote films with high standards of craftsmanship reflective of a belief in a divine and benevolent creator.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

LDS NONFICTION: Visions from Beyond the Veil by Lee Nelson

Visions from Beyond the Veil blog tour


For those who believe, it’s no secret that this life is not the end. Learn for yourself what awaits us all in these inspiring true accounts from Latter-day Saints who have been shown a glimpse through the thin veil between this life and death. Sure to uplift any reader, this beloved book, compiled from the previous Beyond the Veil series, is a must-read—a true testament to the eternal nature of God’s plan.


Lee Nelson was a public relations and advertising copywriter before his first book was published in 1979. Lee is best known for his Storm Testament series historical novels (nine volumes), and his Beyond the Veil series (four volumes). Lee is well known for his authentic research, which includes killing a buffalo from the back of a galloping horse with a bow and arrow, crossing the murky waters of the Green River many times on horseback, and riding with Mongolian nomads while gathering research for an upcoming book.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LDS CHILDREN'S: Girls Who Choose God by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding


From Eve to Esther, from the Samaritan woman at the well to the widow with her two mites, many women in the Bible have made courageous choices. All through the ages, women have chosen to help, to solve problems, to stand up for others, to strengthen families, and to follow God no matter what.
Girls Who Choose God invites young readers (and those who love them) to make important choices of their own, following the examples of great women in the scriptures. With breathtaking illustrations, beautifully told stories, and insightful discussion questions, this delightful book is perfect for sharing, reading aloud, and drawing children into the scriptures.
*In buying this book, you support educational and employment opportunities for LDS young women around the world. All of the authors' proceeds will be donated to Interweave Solutions. For more information about the organization's good work, visit interweavesolutions.org.
MCARTHUR KRISHNA inherited her grit from her Utah pioneer great-grandmothers. With a master’s degree in communications from BYU, she co-owned Free Range, an award-winning marketing business focused on telling social justice stories. In 2011, she moved to the Magic Land of India and started writing books. More of her stories can be found at mcarthurkrishna.com
BETHANY BRADY SPALDING likes to stir things up in the kitchen and in the community. She has founded programs to promote health and nutrition in the USA, South Africa, and India. Bethany currently leads a regional coalition in Richmond, Virginia, to create a healthier food environment for at-risk children. She loves to cook and climb mountains with her husband, Andy, and their three adventurous girls.
KATHLEEN PETERSON has illustrated twenty books, mostly for young people, on topics ranging from world religions to Hawaiian legends. Her art can be found in galleries throughout the West and at www.kathleenpetersonart.com. She and her husband, Steve, live on a farm in Spring City, Utah.
Girls Who Choose God is a wonderful book about the power of making the choice to follow God in the face of difficult and even life-threatening circumstances.  Each four page spread shares a brief telling of the experience of the girl(s) including an explanation of the choices she/they faced, the following pages explain what the girl(s) choose and the results.  I especially liked the inclusion of a question at the end of each section that encourages the reader to apply the same principles in his/her own life.
The illustrations are beautiful and add a really nice touch to the story.  They help create a sweet, peaceful atmosphere in the book.  The following stories are included: Eve, Miriam, Mahlah and her sisters, Deborah, Esther, Mary (the mother of Jesus), the Samaritan Woman at the well, Mary and Martha, the widow with the two mites, the woman with the blood disease, and Mary Magdalene.  It's so nice to see some of the women from the Bible highlighted.  So often the focus is on the great men of the Bible and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's nice to see the woman being honored for their important choices as well.  
A wonderful source both for enjoyment and for teaching during Family Home Evening and other times. Highly recommended.
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