Monday, March 30, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Sacramental Reflections by Truman G. Madsen


These devotional reflections from the heart of Truman Madsen can help bring you face to face with yourself as you prepare to meet Christ at the sacrament table each week. Each page explores a separate idea pertaining to the sacrament and gives insights into the events surrounding the Last Supper, the Atonement, and the Crucifixion.

There is a feast awaiting the honest guest who accepts the Lord's invitation to bring to the altar a "broken heart and a contrite spirit." Alma promises it will "begin to be delicious" (Alma 32:28) and that "ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled" (Alma 32:42). Brother Madsen helps us to access these blessings.

Find new meaning in the sacrament and new resolve as you reflect upon and participate in this sacred ordinance.


TRUMAN G. MADSEN received graduate degrees in philosophy and the philosophy of religion from the University of Utah and Harvard. He served as the director of the Judeo-Christian Studies Center at BYU and as director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. He is widely recognized as an expert on the life and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Brother Madsen, who passed away in the summer of 2009, was a prolific author who is also known for his memorable audio and video presentations on a variety of gospel subjects.


Partaking of the sacrament is a very important part of worship in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It's a time of reflection and re-commitment to the Savior and his gospel.  The short sections of this book are wonderful for helping to guide one's pondering.  Divided up into sections such as The Atonement, The Prayers, Sabbath, Fasting, Emblems, Effects and Influences the book looks at many of the different aspects of the Savior's life and the importance of the ordinance of the sacrament.  I found this to be a wonderfully inspiring book full of great doctrines and events to think about.  The stories and experiences shared by the author do a really nice job of highlighting ways to make the sacrament a more meaningful experience, allowing the reader to connect on a deeper level to Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 27, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Real Moms by Lisa Valentine Clark


I didn’t have gold shoes, and I didn’t have time to go shopping, but I thought I could just spray-paint some heels I owned that I never really wore. I spray-painted them and tried them out for three hours at church where they held up perfectly. I felt pretty good about myself. “Suckers who buy gold shoes when they could just spray-paint them,” I thought, congratulating myself for my frugality and my foresight for testing them out.
As moms, we improvise. We get along. We make things word. And we make a lot of things up as we go along because, let’s face it, no manual is ever going to cover all the bases a real mom needs to touch. But if laughter and perspective and a renewed energy to face the day are what you’re after—if you too are a “real mom”—this is the book for you!


LISA VALENTINE CLARK graduated with a B.S. in English from Brigham Young University. She was part of the sketch/comedy troupe "The Garrens" in Provo from 1995 to 2000, and co-founded the theater-as-improv troupe "The Thrillionaires." She has done a variety of voiceover and acting work in independent features, including "Gracie" in the award-winning webseries Pretty Darn Funny," which she also writes and produces. Lisa spends most of her time in Provo with her husband, Christopher Clark. They are the parents of five children who seem to make up a unique comedy troupe all their own.


I've long considering motherhood to be one of the most challenging and rewording things that a woman can do.  Once begun there is no going back and it's a 24/7 job.  And yet it's often a job that gets heavily criticized.  I know few mothers who feel completely adequate.  Clark takes a look at this and shares her opinion on the matter.  She shares some of her experiences as a mother along with her attitudes about motherhood and why it's okay for mother's to do things in their own way.  Even though I am not a mother, I was surprised by how many things that the author discussed also apply to life in general.  Especially related to the way women see themselves and how easily we fall into the trap of judging our weaknesses against others strengths. It's clear that Clark has a great sense of humor and has learned to laugh at some of the curve-balls that life throws at us.  I think what I appreciated the most was her explanation that it's fine to do things in your own way to benefit the children.  A book that I highly recommend, especially to those mother's who get so tired of being told they aren't doing enough.  There are some great thoughts in this book (no advice though since the author doesn't give any ;)).

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Coming May 1, 2015 - Saving Marilee by Annette K. Larsen

 SAVING MARILEE by Annette K. Larsen 

Marriage wasn’t bliss—not for Marilee. Instead of finding contentment with the handsome son of a sovereign duke, she found betrayal and neglect. And fear. A fear that finally lifts when her husband dies, freeing her from his domineering hand. But freedom alone can't give her peace, and she must battle to regain her love for life, rebuild her happiness, and reclaim the ability to trust. When her charming neighbor intrudes on her quiet life, offering his friendship (and a dog, of all things), she must determine whether his interest is genuine, whether he is a friend or foe, and whether he deserves the fragile bit of trust she has managed to scrape together. 

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I was born in Utah, part of a crazy, fun family of nine. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ and St. Louis, MO before striking out on my own college adventure in Virginia. I decided to try my hand at writing novels after I was married and living in Idaho. I write clean romance because it’s my favorite genre, but often difficult to find.

I have Charlotte Brontë to thank for the courage to write novels. After being bombarded with assigned reading about women who justified abandoning either their families or their principles in the name of love, I had the great fortune of reading Jane Eyre. And that was it: finally, a heroine who understood that being moral and making the right choice was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but it was still worth it. After rereading it several years later, I realized that if I wanted more books to exist with the kinds of heroines I admired, then I might as well write a few myself. My books are about women who face hard choices, who face pain and rejection and often have to face the reality of sacrificing what they want for what is right. The consequences are often difficult or unpleasant, but in the end, doing what’s right will always be worth it. I believe there is no substitute for good writing or good chocolate. Fortunately, one often leads to the other.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Amazed by Grace by Sheri Dew


What is grace? What difference can grace make in our lives? How does the Savior make His power available to us? And what must we do to gain access to that power?

In Amazed by Grace, Sheri Dew discusses each of those important questions, exploring a topic that she describes as being central to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. "The most compelling, most life-changing message of all time," she writes, "is that Jesus Christ has already triumphed over sin, death, hell, temptation, and every kind of misery."

As we come to more fully understand the majestic doctrine of grace, our faith will increase. We will see how the Savior keeps His promise to make weak things strong. And we will believe the truth that "His Atonement makes available all of the power, peace, light, and strength that we need to deal with life's challenges."


Sheri Dew is a native of Ulysses, Kansas, and a graduate of Brigham Young University. She has authored several books, including the biographies of two presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and Ezra Taft Benson. Her most recent books are God Wants a Powerful People and Saying It Like It Is. Sheri was named the president and CEO of Deseret Book Company in March 2002. She also serves as a member of both the BYU Marriott School of Management’s National Advisory Council and the President’s Leadership Council for BYU-Hawaii. In March 2003 the White House appointed her as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls at the United Nations.


Grace is a topic often misunderstood as well as under appreciated. In a beautifully bound book, Sheri Dew explains what grace is, what it is for, and how to access it.  Sometimes I think that humans just naturally make things more complicated than they need to be.  Sister Dew talks an important topic and explains the essentials of it for the lay reader.  Both those who understand LDS church doctrine and those who don't can appreciate the beauty in the words that the author shares with the reader.  A wonder book that can be read again and again and appreciated anew each time. This book is based around a talk that Sister Dew gave at BYU last year which can be found online, but I prefer reading it in a more permanent form.

Friday, March 20, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Yesterday, Today, and Forever by M. Russell Ballard


The scriptures proclaim that "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Mormon 9:9). In his latest book, Elder M. Russell Ballard attests to the truth of that statement by combining his words with teachings from his grandfathers, Hyrum Mack Smith and Melvin J. Ballard. What makes this combination unique is that all three of these men have served as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"In preparing this work," writes Elder Ballard, "I have seen anew that the course of the Lord truly i 'one eternal round' (Alma 37:12) and that the doctrine of the gospel is timely and timeless. It is forever relevant to disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ."

These never-before-published talks from Elder Ballard, paired with doctrinal statements from his grandfathers, will be a valuable resource for readers and a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.


ELDER M. RUSSELL BALLARD was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1985. Prior to that, he served in the first Quorum of the Seventy and in the presidency of that quorum. A successful businessman, he has engaged in various enterprises, including automotive, real estate, and investments. He has also served as a bishop twice and as president of the Canada Toronto Mission. Elder Ballard and his wife, Barbara Bowen Ballard, are the parents of seven children and grandparents of forty-three.


This previously unpublished talks are truly inspirational.  The inclusion of the quotes from Elder Ballard's grandfathers reinforces and adds to the doctrines and ideas he discusses.  To me it was a powerful reminder that gospel doctrines haven't changed, the God truly is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever'. The topics covered include: faith, anchoring ourselves to Christ, the importance of each soul, building understanding, building better homes, the law of sacrifice, the purpose of trials, being happy now, and keeping an eternal perspective.  All topics that I find very important.  So if you are looking for an inspiration, well-written book about important gospel topics, I can heartily recommend this one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

BLOG TOUR REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: Murder at Tophouse by Clair M. Poulson


Officer Mike Denton can't shake the feeling that something isn't right. Since the shooting that nearly killed him, Mike has attempted to piece his life back together. Just when he thought things were starting to look up, false allegations leveled by his partner, Cal Granberg, have led to his suspension, and Mike begins to suspect that Cal may have played a role in the deadly attack. He has only one clue: a conversation he was never meant to hear involving guns in New Zealand.

Suspicious that he may have stumbled on an illegal gun trafficking plot, Mike sees his suspension as an opportunity to conduct an independent investigation into the shady actions of his ex-partner. He prepares for a month-long "vacation" to New Zealand to find the proof that would clear his good name—but what he couldn't prepare for is lovely young New Zealander Skylie Yates, a woman with her own troubles. A dangerous enemy believes that Skylie is the key to finding a hidden fortune. The problem: Skylie claims to know nothing about the money. Now, Mike must set aside his own quest for evidence in order to discover who's behind the threats to the woman he's coming to care for. But when hsi two investigations collide and Skylie's life hangs in the balance, Mike finds himself in a race against time to unearth a corruption far deeper than he could have imagine ...


Clair M. Poulson retired after twenty years in law enforcement. During his career he served in the U.S. Military Police Corps, the Utah Highway Patrol, and the Duchesne County Sheriff's Department, where he was first a deputy and the the county sheriff. He currently serves as a justice court judge for Duchesne County, a position he has held for nineteen years. His nearly forty-year career working in the criminal justice system has provided a wealth of material from which he draws in writing his books. Clair has served on numerous boards and committees over the years. Among them are the Utah Judicial Council, and FBI advisory board, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Utah Justice Court Board of Directors, and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Other interests include activity in the LDS Church, assisting his oldest son in operating their grocery store, ranching with his oldest son and other family members, and raising registered Missouri Fox Trotter horses. Clair and his wife, Ruth, live in Duchesne and are the parents of five married children. They have twenty-two grandchildren.


One thing I can always say about a Clair M. Poulson book is that it's never boring.  Another thing I can say is that they always suck me in right from the beginning.  And Murder at Tophouse is no different.  After reading that prologue I was immediately feeling indignation in behalf of Detective Mike Denton.  After everything he goes through just in the prologue, he gets struck another blow in the very first chapter.  But his determination to fight for himself and to do it the right way had me cheering for him.  Maybe it's Poulson's own background that helps him provide such great detail in his books or maybe he's just a great storyteller, or more likely it's both, but whatever the case may be he writes books that are hard to put down.  I especially appreciate the fact that his books are clean despite the often nasty topics that are addressed in them (murder, gun smuggling, etc).  And there is even some romance mixed in with the plot.  Another great read from one of my favorite writers.


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Thursday, March 12, 2015



Ashlyn Carter feels as brittle as the lifeless roses that border her new house. A year after the tragic death of her husband, the young widow discovers a horrifying secret. Heartbroken and humiliated, she resolved that no one could ever know. Now, back in her hometown with her three-year-old daughter, she's ready for a fresh start. But Ashlyn is unprepared to find that an embarrassing memory, buried deep in her past, is about to resurface. . .

Ryan Anderson was the last person Ashlyn expected to see. After the unexpected kiss they d shared years earlier, she assumed she'd never see him again. Though she tries to avoid him at all costs, Ashlyn finds herself running into her former flame far more often than she'd like. Between her uncomfortable history with Ryan and the series of well-meaning suitors pursuing her, Ashlyn finds herself disenchanted with dating altogether. Yet as she and Ryan slowly become reacquainted, she feels her resolve to avoid a relationship slipping. But when moving forward with Ryan means revealing the secrets he's worked so hard to keep, will Ashlyn have the courage to leave behind her late husband's legacy of deceit and learn to love again?


I found Heart of Gold to be a very sympathetic read.  Ashlyn is a sweet character who is struggling not only with her husband's death but some things she discovers afterwords.  Thanks to her daughter Katie, she's still going through the motions but finds it easier to avoid the emotions that plague her.  Until that is, Ryan Anderson reappears in her life and raises all kinds of emotions that Ashlyn isn't ready to deal with.  Ashlyn's daughter, Katie provides some humor adding to the sweetness of the book.  I enjoyed traveling with Ashlyn and Ryan and their journey to love and trust.  A powerful story about learning to love again and even forgive someone who has hurt you. For me, the highlight of the book was the relationships between Ashlyn and Ryan as well as with her daughter and family.  This is LDS fiction so there are references to the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as church practices and beliefs.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WORDS OF THE SAVIOR Review and Giveaway


Jesus Christ is the Master Teacher. What better way to learn eternal truths than by studying His words? This beautiful book pairs the timeless and poignant teachings and parables of the Lord Jesus Christ with stunning images that bring the Savior's words to life.

Distilled from the writing of the New Testament, Words of the Savior highlights selections from the Messiah's mortal ministry as He walked, taught, and healed among the people.

Some of His teachings were delivered as softly spoken invitations to "arise, and be not afraid" (Matthew 17:7), while others were presented in parables and discourses to devoted disciples and travel-weary followers as they walked the roads of Jerusalem and Galilee. Through seemingly simple appeals, thoughtful parables, and words of warning, the Savior taught essential lessons that are as applicable in our lives today s they were in the meridian of time. Each page of this inspirational book presents an opportunity for pondering and reflection on how better to pattern our lives after the words of the Savior.

With full-color, artfully-designed pages, this exquisite, inspirational book is the perfect gift for every occasion and makes an excellent addition to every gospel library.


This beautifully illustrated and designed gift book reminded me of the powerful words that the Savior spoke during his life on earth.  The very appropriately chosen images that accompany the scriptural quotes provide a powerful reminder of the lessons and vision that the Savior seeks to teach his disciples both ancient and modern.  Not just a book of pictures and words but a truly touching compilation of doctrines that all of us need to remember and practice every day.


1 print copy thanks to the publisher
US only

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Monday, March 9, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: To My Friends by Jeffrey R. Holland


"If you need a burden lifted, I want you to imagine I am in a personal, private, closed-door chat with you. I want to help you if I can." With those words, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland invites every reader of his latest book to become a friend, to receive instruction and encouragement, counsel and comfort.

Elder Holland addresses these powerful messages "to my friends who love the Lord," "to my friends who want to change," "to my friends who face opposition," and more. Each chapter begins with a beautifully designed quotation to help convey the message in an artistic way, making the book a lovely gift for friends to share. Throughout, Elder Holland's powerful witness of the Savior shines through, for, as he writes, "I am grateful for the greatest friend any of us could ever have, in time or eternity, the Lord Jesus Christ."


JEFFREY R. HOLLAND was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in June 1994. A native of St. George, Utah, he received bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University and a master's degree and PhD in American Studies from Yale University. In 1974 he became dean of Religious Education at BYU and two years later was named Church Commissioner of Education. In 1980 he was appointed president of BYU, where he served until he was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1989. Elder Holland is the author of several books, including Broken Things to Mend and Christ and the New Covenant. He and his wife, Patricia, have three children and thirteen grandchildren.


Elder Holland has long been one of my favorite speakers.  He shares gospel doctrines in such a personal, easy to understand way.  While this is a collection of past talks, they are collected in a beautiful hardbound book that for those like me who prefer this format, will be delighted to read. Many of these talks were given in general conference or other public occasions and can be found for free online.  But in my opinion, Elder Holland always seems to speak to the individual, so the book's format addressed "To My Friends" works well.

There is a great deal of tender advice here that is well worth reading multiple times and I plan to do so.  Elder Holland speaks so beautifully using scriptures, stories, and explanations to help the reader or listener feel and think about what he is saying.  In my opinion, this is a book well worth owning and treasuring for the beautiful design as well as the important words contained within.

Friday, March 6, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: This is Jesus w/ artwork by J. Kirk Richards


The life of the Savior is portrayed in stunning fine art pieces by award-winning artist J. Kirk Richards. These striking new images were created by the artist exclusively for this book. Accompanied by a harmonized account of the Savior's ministry, Atonement, and Resurrection, these exquisite paintings reflect a deep reverence for Christ's mission and sacrifice. Each page is beautifully designed to complement the unique style of the artist. A perfect reminder of the true reason we celebrate the Easter season, this handsome volume will be treasured by the entire family for years to come.


Figurative artist J. Kirk Richards is known for his accomplishments as a painter of Judeo-Christian subject matter. While not all of his work is overtly religious, the majority of his themes stem from spiritual ideas and narratives. His paintings exhibit a love for the human figure, use of symbolism, and an emphasis on lyric composition. His original paintings can be found in private and public collections across the country.


This book is a beautiful gift book that combines scriptural references with gorgeous paintings by J. Kirk Richards.  The focus here is on Christ and his earthly mission including healing, teaching, and completing the Atonement.  I found the use of mostly neutral colors and incomplete faces an interesting touch.  It allows the viewer/reader to fill in the details.  I appreciated that the paintings of the crucifixion and Gethsemane were powerful but not graphic.  The one of the Savior in Gethsemane I found especially powerful.  Sometimes pictures really are more powerful than words, but in this book the reader gets the best of both worlds.  The book provides a powerful reminder of who Jesus is and what he did which is something well worth reviewing on a regular basis.

Monday, March 2, 2015

LDS BOOK REVIEW: A Generation Rising by Gerald N. Lund


The strongest steel is forged in the hottest flames. From master storyteller Gerald N. Lund comes a new blockbuster series chronicling the lives of two families who will face some of the most turbulent times in history as they are tried to their very cores. Will they be tempered and strengthened by the hammering blows, will they bend to the point of breaking, or will they completely shatter?

As volume one begins, life could not be more promising for the Eckhardts. They finally have a son, Hans, the male heir they have longed for and a child of such brilliance and promise that his success seems certain. But as youthful Hans’s ambition takes him away from his family and their small Bavarian village, the winds of unrest in Europe are about to erupt into the greatest war the world has ever known.

Kicking off a story that will cross generations—and continents—the Eckhardts must brace themselves to weather the storms and turmoil that lie ahead. Only through sheer determination and fortitude will they be able to pass through the refiner’s fire and come out stronger and more united than ever before.


Elder Gerald N. Lund received his B.A. and M.S. degrees in sociology from Brigham Young University. He served for thirty-five years in the Church Educational System, and he served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 2002 to 2008. He is a prolific and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction and is best known for his historical novels, including The Work and the Glory series, Fire of the Covenant, The Kingdom and the Crown series, and The Undaunted. He and his late wife, Lynn, are the parents of seven children.


Gerald Lund tackles more recent history in this new book, A Generation Rising.  The story starts in Germany around the turn of the last century.  This book is intended to be the first of a new series revolving around two families, one German, and one American whose lives intertwine at some point.  I appreciated the time Lund took to explain some of Germany's history as this volume focuses on the German family.  While I've read a great deal about Germany during World War I and II, I knew very little of its history prior to that, so it was helpful to have the author explain some of the history.  It helped me better understand why Germany behaves the way it does.  And of course this history comes into play in the lives of the Eckhardt family as they find themselves caught in some of the most turbulent times in history.  As always, Lund places the reader in the forefront of the action as the Eckhardt's face change on all sides.  A book I thoroughly enjoyed and a series I look forward to continuing.