Monday, June 30, 2008

Winner: Forged in the Refiner's Fire Give Away!

My three-year-old chose the winner's name.

A big congratulations to . . .

The Thomas Five!

Please email me with your mailing address & Candace will get the book in the mail to you! Happy reading!

Book Review: Shades of Gray by Pamela Carrington Reid



I was so excited to read this book. The last (and only) book I've read by Pamela Carrington Reid was Something Familiar - which I totally loved. This time around, there were parts of the story I absolutely loved . . . and other parts I didn't like very much. Hang on to your seats, everyone. This is a very mixed review.

What I Liked:

I love Reid's vivid descriptions of New Zealand and Australia. Of course, that's where she's from, so she knows exactly what she's talking about when it comes to the land down under. I also love the way she writes. Every chapter just pulls me into the next one. I wasn't able to put this book down until it was finished!

Also, from a photographer's point of view, I really liked how she showed the photographer's love of the camera, composing the shot, and how he sees the world through in a whole new perspective when it's through the camera's lens. I think this was the first fiction novel I've read and genuinely liked the way photography was portrayed. It wasn't dull and lifeless - it was multi-dimensional and intriguing.

My favorite part was the romantic storyline. Is anyone surprised? I didn't think so. :) I completely related to Samara's confusion and indecision when it came to figuring out if Rick was really "The One". I'm sure there are lots of females out there who can relate. It's that part of the dating game when you think you've found Mr. Right, who is certainly Mr. Best Friend. But is he Mr. Forever? Or is Mr. Better-and-Forever still out there waiting to be discovered? That's where Samara is when you enter the book. And as she tries to figure it out, suddenly Adam (who introduced her to photography) reappears in her life. Could Adam be what Samara thinks may be missing in her life? I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!



What I Didn't Like:

The parts that bothered me the most, were the sections dealing with Samara's family's addictions. Not because such difficult issues were addressed in the book, but because I felt the difficulty of the addictions were glossed over. I have a lot of personal experience dealing with substance abuse; from an alcoholic father, to being a trained volunteer at a Women's Abuse shelter, to visiting teaching and working with a family who had drug addictions. You know how when you read a book and it's about something you know a ton about? Sometimes you're totally impressed with how well it was presented . . . and other times you're not? Well, in this case, I wasn't.

So, here's the breakdown of Samara's family: Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is addicted to prescription medication (happy pills). And her brother has recently become addicted to smoking marijuana. Any one of these addictions would be difficult for a family to deal with. But having all three very different addictions makes the family very complex (and certainly overwhelming for Samara).

Like I said earlier, as I read, I felt the difficulty of the addictions was glossed over. But the parts that really bugged me - to the point I almost put the book down - were these (warning: possible book spoilers):

Towards the end of the book, Samara confronts her mom and dad about their addictions. It's then revealed, that mom and dad blame their addictions on Samara. Why? Because when she was 14 years old, Samara came home one day to find her parents fighting. Her mother had just found out her father (who is a long-distance truck driver) has been living with another woman for months in another part of the country. While the parents work things out, forgive each other, and stay together - Samara never forgives her father and doesn't understand how her mother could have stayed with him. In fact, it seems that Samara doesn't know her mother actually forgave her father & that her father changed his ways because every time dad is home, mom starts over-dosing on her happy pills and dad drinks too much. Their excuse? Being around Samara her and her hostility, drove them to their addictions.

This makes me stop and think - So who were the adults? Aren't they supposed to be mom and dad? And as adults, why do they need to blame their bad choices on their heart-broken and traumatized daughter, rather than taking responsibility for their poor choices?

I also didn't like how the addictions are "resolved". Dad, who is not LDS, starts to discover the gospel, and suddenly alcoholism isn't a problem any more (or at least, that's how I felt it played out). Then, the comment is made TWICE, that mom and son can go on a "weekly date" to rehab. I really didn't like the "weekly date" comment. I also felt that it gave a too light-hearted tone to what a difficult path recovering from addiction really is like.


So there you go. A bit of what I liked and didn't like. I should say, another person without as much experience with substance abuse might now feel as strongly about these scenes as I did.

QOTC Rating: Three Stars

Friday, June 27, 2008

Blog Tour: Forged in the Refiners Fire & Book Give-Away



Today, I have the opportunity to review Forged in the Refiner's Fire by Candace E. Salima & Elizabeth A. Cheever. This book has been on my mind a lot this past week, as our family has been experiencing another of our own "Refining Fires".

A month ago, my husband's grandfather had a terrible stroke. As we visited him in the hospital, we were so impressed by his positive attitude and how hard he worked to regain his speech and writing skills. And he did! Then, two weeks ago, Grandpa was once again admitted into the hospital. At first, we were concerned about blood clots, but then discovered Grandpa was in the advance stages of lung cancer. A few days later, he went home to have family and hospice care for him.

Last Saturday, my husband and I traveled to Missouri and helped Grammy, his uncles, and mom care for Grandpa. I came home Sunday evening to pick up our kids from the babysitters, while John stayed behind. Early Monday morning, I had been dreaming. Then suddenly, my dream changed. I could see Grandpa lying in his bed, peaceful and calm. And I just knew. He had returned Home to Heavenly Father and Grandpa was saying good-bye. I woke up. It was 5:30 am - right on the dot. A little bit later, the phone rang. It was my husband, letting me know Grandpa had peacefully passed away around 5 am. From Monday to late last night, tears have flowed, but peace has filled the hearts of all our family members.

It was during this time, I thought off and on about Forged in the Refiner's Fire. We each have different trials we'll experience throughout our lives here on earth. Every trial effects us differently. One person may think a particular learning experience to be easy, while another may feel it's the most difficult thing they've ever faced. No matter what the trial is, I've learned it's ultimately our attitudes that effect the outcome. Did we lean on Heavenly Father and His Son? In moments of anger, frustration, sorrow, and pain, did we kneel and ask for help? Did we call a friend for support? Did we persevere and continue to care for our children? Or did we submit and let ourselves be overwhelmed, drawn into a dark pit of hopelessness, which Satan hopes we'll never be able to crawl back out of?

Forged in the Refiner's Fire is filled with true stories, written by a variety people - from the average, hardworking spouse, to caring parents, to celebrities. In each chapter, the author shares one of his refining trials, the divine guidance received along the way, and the outcome and lessons learned through his perseverance. The overall tone of the book is uplifting and inspiring, and leaves me with a feeling of humility and gratitude for my Father in Heaven - and with a renewed attitude of enjoying every day of life.

Today, just before posting this, I searched through the book and wanted to share a little gem that helped me this past week. This is from Chapter 18 by Donna J. Goff. Donna shares an acronym which has been running through my mind:

F.R.O.G.S.
Fully Relying on God's Son

What a simple way to remember our purpose every day - to rely on our Savior.

Also, here's a link to Forged in the Refiner's Fire book trailer. I previously posted it on QOTC. It includes an interview with Candace Salima.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in your home, at work, or down the road.

QOTC Rating: Five Stars



Forged in the Refiner's Fire Book Give-Away

Normally, I like to do something fun with my book give-aways, but because I just returned home from out of state late last night, this give-away is going to very simple. All you need to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post before noon on July 2nd. If you use the Anonymous option, be sure to include your full name.

2. On July 2nd, my one year old will choose a name from a hat. The winner will be posted that afternoon. Be sure to check back! The winner will need to contact me within 48 hours with their mailing address. Candace Salima will then send you an autographed copy of Forged in the Refiner's Fire. If the winner does not contact me within the time alloted, another winner will be chosen.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Monday, June 23, 2008

And The Winner Is . . .

The winner of the Heaven Scent contest is . . .

Cathy Witbeck!!!

Congratulations! Send me an email with your address info, Cathy and I'll get your book in the mail.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kitchen Remodel Update

It's been two weeks since we've started painting our kitchen . . . and it's still a work in progress.

Here are some pictures of the kitchen before we started:



The bay window - I absolutely love all the light that pours through all day long!



This extremely cluttered area is where we decided to put my new "office/work" area. We moved my mom's cabinet to the dining room. The new desk area will go from the bar across the area the cabinet was, to meet the wall where the bay window begins.







As you can see, the kitchen had a very gray and white theme going.

The new colors we chose are Grape Vine (a dark olive green color) and Grass Cloth (a pretty lime green). They sound really odd, but I saw a picture of them together in a Home Depot catalog and loved it. Grape Vine will be for the walls & Grass Cloth will be for the kitchen cabinets. All of the trim will be Polar Bear White.

Now, here are some pics of our progress up to Father's Day Weekend:



During the week before Father's Day, I gradually started painting the cabinets. I removed the doors off the first half I wanted to work on. Currently, the doors have taken up residency in my hubby's side of the garage. His poor car is stuck parking in the drive until this project is complete. After the doors were stowed away, I primered, then painted the first half of the cabinets. I was really worried about the Grass Cloth color cause it looked horrid next to the gray. During my writing breaks, I would go to the garage and work on the cabinet doors (which are about 3/4's done).



A huge portion got done during Father's Day weekend. On Saturday, we primered all the walls. The funny thing about that - we realized Home Depot put the primer labels on the wrong cans. The primer for the Grass Cloth had been a bluish-green - and the primer for the Grape Vine had been a limey green. Hmm . . . I wonder which should have gone with which?



Anyway, after primering on Saturday, the kitchen looked super slimey-green. Holy Moly! I couldn't wait to get the Grape Vine coat on, so . . .



Sunday, after church, we put on our painting clothes and got the first coat on the walls. Thank goodness, cause our kitchen was quite glaring before! Don't you just love the blue accent tape? :)



Our kitchen sat like this for another week. And today, John and I painted on the last coat of Grape Vine. Then we got to take down the blue tape, and voila! Our kitchen is about half way done!



I love how the Grape Vine gives the kitchen depth while the lighter Grass Cloth brightens the room.



About a month ago, I was taking my babysitter home and passed a yard sale with these bar chairs for sale - for only $25!!! They're in excellent condition. When the kitchen is finished, I'm going to buy new fabric and reupholster the chair seats to match the kitchen.



This picture really turned out super dark, but I wanted to show you the window with the white trim. Actually, all of the trim will be painted last - but I love the contrast of the darker Grape Vine color and the white.



So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback!

What's left to do? I need to finish the cabinet doors for the first half I've started. Then I'll start on the second half of the cabinets and doors. After that, there's the trim to paint. Not to mention painting, putting together, and installing the custom desk area. I'll be sure to post updates as we make more progress!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Summer Surprise . . .

Just before school got out in May, we got the older kids (and Mom) a little surprise . . .



Anna thought Rob's bike looked like lots of fun . . .



But then, Anna was a bit upset that Rob's bike didn't belong to her . . .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Call for Stories

From Teaching Special Spirits blog:

We are looking for stories and tips on the following subjects:

- blessings of having a sibling with a disability (maturity, loyalty, appreciate blessings, strong family bond, etc.)
- child had adult worries (what will happen to sibling as they grow up, etc.)
- positive things their parents did to help the siblings
- how parents explained disabilities
- good communications w/parents
- help with sibling relationships
- how they were able to follow their own path in life
- special times with parents


For the complete post & more info about submitting stories and tips, please visit the Teaching Special Spirits blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blog Tour: Heaven Scent by Rebecca Cornish Talley




From the back of the book:

"She'd wanted her father to pay more attention to her, and she'd wanted her family to be like it used to be. She hadn't wanted everything to change so drastically that she may not even survive it."

As Liza proves herself a basketball star, everyone - from college basketball recruiters to the gorgeous Kyle Reynolds - seems to take note of her. Everyone, that is, except her own father. While her father is busy at his law practice, Liza learns about a strange new religion from Kyle. Could Kyle's religion help her family? Or is it already too late for her father to make amends?

When yet another broken promise finally leads to tragedy, Liza doesn't know if she will ever be able to forgive her father. It will take a good friend, a new belief, and a miracle straight from heaven to help Liza see that she still has a choice. The compelling story of a high school basketball star, this is a novel every girl will want, and none will be able to put down!

QOTC Review:

As a teenager, this is exactly the type of book I would have picked up. Heck, even as an adult, I wanted to buy it! I mean really, look at the cover of this book. It's absolutely eye-catching and gorgeous. I know, you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover - but honestly, if a book's cover doesn't catch my attention, it's just going to sit there on the shelf waiting for another customer to walk past.

So the cover was one of the first things that grabbed my attention. The second was that the main character played basketball (which I love!) and had a not-so-great relationship with her father (which I totally related to).

I was intrigued.

Then I read the book.

The main character, Liza, and her younger brother reminded me of my own high school days. Their reactions, the way they talked, how they spent their time, and what they really thought about the stuff happening to their family. Rebecca got it all totally spot on.

On a more personal note: Looking back at being a teenager and losing my mom, then trying to rebuild a relationship with my dad, interaction with my younger brother, and a wavering relationship with my best friend - I see so many of my own thoughts and reactions in Liza. I totally connected with her.

There's so much more I want to share with you, but if I do I'll totally spoil the book! So all I can say is go out and buy a copy - or borrow a copy from a friend or the library. This is a fabulous summer-time read for both you and your teen.

My Rating: Five Stars!

Interview with Author Rebecca Cornish Talley & Book Give-Away!

After a week filled with severe thunder-storms, flooding, and tornadoes, I am just absolutely delighted to sit down on this bright, sunny day with my good friend, Rebecca Cornish Talley.



As you can see from the blog above, Rebecca's Young Adult novel, Heaven Scent, is in the middle of a blog tour. I bet you'd all like to learn more about Rebecca, right? Right!

QOTC: What was your favorite activity in high school?

Rebecca: Checking out the guys. Was there any other reason to attend high school? I did play basketball, but enjoyed the boys' games way more than my own.

QOTC:
Do any of your kids play basketball? Is that where Liza's love of basketball comes from?

Rebecca: My kids wouldn't know a sport if it came up and hit them in the nose. My kids are all performers, not a sports kid in the bunch. I wanted Liza to be the kind of player I wanted to be, but never was.

QOTC: What scent reminds you of your mom?

Rebecca: It's called Patchouli. I still have her bottle. It's a distinctive type of oil-based perfume that works differently with each person's body chemistry.

QOTC: What is your most memorable father-daughter moment?

Rebecca: My father died when I was four years old, but I have a vivid memory of walking along the breakwater, next to the harbor, in Santa Barbara, holding his hand and squealing when the sea spray splashed us. I take my kids there every time we visit Santa Barbara and tell them the same story and walk where my daddy and I once walked.

QOTC: Which of Liza's traits is most like you?

Rebecca: I've been known, especially in my younger days, to say things I shouldn't. And, I've given a few people quite a tongue lashing (well-deserved, of course). I have improved with age, though. Things still pop into my head, but I don't blurt them out as often as I used to.

QOTC: What is the one trick you've learned that helps you balance family time vs. writing time?

Rebecca: I don't know that there's a trick. I just write when I have a bit of time. My family comes before my writing so I'll always choose my family, but I try to sneak writing time in whenever I can. I've found that if I actually schedule time in my day-timer for writing, it usually happens because I'm very list-obsessed.

QOTC: What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Rebecca: Blue Bunny's Chocolate Seduction. With a name like that, it has to be good, right? Oops, maybe that's a line for Smuckers Jams and Jellies--ah, well, it still works.

QOTC:
Ooh, that sounds absolutely sinful! Why don't you grab a dish while I tell everyone else about the contest I'm having. Thanks for hanging out, Rebecca!



Heaven Scent Give-Away Contest

Da Rules:

1.You must correctly answer all questions correctly. Answers can be found on either Rebecca's website, QOTC blog, or the Internet.

2.All answers need to be emailed to me at: danyelle@familyclan.org by Monday, June 23rd at 8 am Central Time. My one year old will draw the winner's name from a hat. The winner's name will be posted by June 24th (my mom's birthday!). The winner will have 24 hours to reply with email and snail mail addresses.

3. The lucky winner will receive one copy of Rebecca Cornish Talley's novel, Heaven Scent.



Da Questions (some of which are totally random, cause I'm in a random mood!):

1. When Rebecca played high school basketball, what award did she receive?

2. What's "Milk's Favorite Cookie"?

3. How many kids is Rebecca raising?

4. What's Danyelle's new chocolate addiction?

5. Who illustrated Rebecca's children's book, Grasshopper Pie?

6. Who said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"? Hint: Check out Rebecca's website.

7. What's the next blog tour coming to QOTC?

Monday, June 16, 2008

My New Chocolate Addiction . . .

Oh my goodness. About two weeks ago, I was grocery shopping with my seven-year-old daughter. While in the cereal section, she pointed out all the cereals she wanted to try. I told her to pick just one. Her choice? Cocoa Krispies.



My first thought? Ugh! How disgusting - chocolate flavored cereal! But I did tell her it was her choice, so we got it. The next morning, my daughter ate THREE bowls! Not to mention that my three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter joined the band wagon, too. Then a couple days later we had a casual "eat whatever" dinner, and my seven-year-old asked for Cocoa Krispies. We finished that box up in three days!

Out of curiosity, I decided to see what all the hype was about. And let me tell you, that was the most delish cereal I've had in a long time! It even beat out my long time favorites Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms. Let me tell you, if you like hot chocolate like I do - then you'll really like Cocoa Krispies. This week, I made sure to buy four boxes of Cocoa Krispies . . . I wonder how long they'll last?

Here are some yummy recipes from the Kellogg's website:

Chocolate Marshmallow Crisps



Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 36
Ingredients
1 package (11.5 oz., 2 cups) milk chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup almonds , coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or raisins
2 cups Rice Krispies®
or 2 cups Cocoa Rice Krispies®

Directions
1. In 2-quart saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing until well coated. Spread mixture evenly in 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate. Cut into 1 1/4-inch squares. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS: In medium microwave safe bowl, heat morsels and shortening. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring after each minute. Follow Step 2 above.


Chocolate Marshmallow Madness

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 16
Ingredients
1 package (12 oz. 2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 cups Cocoa Rice Krispies®
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Directions
1. In 3-quart saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat. 2. Add KELLOGG'S COCOA KRISPIES cereal and marshmallows to chocolate mixture. Stir until well coated.

3. Spread mixture evenly into 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Chill until firm. Cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Extended Weekend . . .



Hey y'all. With Father's Day, my sister-in-law's graduation, family coming into town, & trying to paint the kitchen - I'm calling in sick and gearing up for the weekend. I hope y'all have a great one!

Speaking of Father's Day . . .



I hope all you dads have a great weekend. Try not to burn the house down or explode anything while cooking your favorites on the grill!

Miracles Really Can Happen



So, my hard drive crashed and died a brutal death. My hubby tried to save it, worked laboriously, sweat pouring down his face, with no success. The files, pictures, and data were all frustratingly irretrievable.

But then, a small glimmer of hope appeared. I was telling a friend from church what had happened. She said, "Oh! My husband knows how to do hard drive recoveries. He thinks it's fun. You should let him look at it."

Could it be possible? I was desperate to get something, anything, from that hard drive. So, I double checked with my friend's hubby who told me to bring it over that night.

Last night, he called to say he had recovered most of the files and data. I almost fell to my knees and cried, I was just so darn happy! And HUGELY thankful. Wow. I had just a teeny bit of hope - but this was like a miracle! I'm totally awed.

What a great end to a really odd day - and a great beginning for today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LDS Reader's Survey

Candace Salima is conducting a survey to find out what readers think of or how much readers know about the LDS Market. It takes about five to ten minutes. Please go check it out:

LDS Readers Survey

Fruit Snacks and Noses Don't Mix

My three-year-old just came up to me and said, "Mom, I have a fruit snack up my nose."

"What?" I replied.

"I have a fruit snack up my nose."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yep," he said.

"Are you really, really sure you have a fruit snack up your nose?"

"Yes."

"Well, why is there a fruit snack up your nose?" I asked.

"I wanted to see how high I could make it go," he replied.

Oh my. So I just called my hubby, who is now on his way home so I can take our nose-blocked three-year-old to the doctor to have the offending fruit snack removed.

How's your day going?

Writing for Charity

I "borrowed" this blog from good friend, James Dashner. He posted it on his blog & I thought the info needed to be shared!



This summer have unfettered access to professional children’s authors, all in the name of charity! Saturday, July 19, several local authors will host a Writing for Charity event in Salt Lake City, with all profits going to The Wheelchair Project. Come hear writers talk about their process, how to write for a young audience, storytelling tips, and the ins and outs of the publishing business. In addition, have your picture book text or first page of your novel (the most important page!) workshopped by professionals.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)

Event breakdown: 9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break out discussions in topic groups
11:30 - 1:00 -- Small group workshops

Authors include Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Mette Ivie Harrison, Ann Cannon, Kristyn Crow, Becky Hickox, Kimberley Heuston, Anne Bowen, Aprilynne Pike, Ann Dee Ellis, Mike Knudson, and Wendy Toliver.
Space is limited, first come first serve. To reserve your spot, mail in the $45 registration fee.

Mailing address: 1176 E 2620th N, Provo, UT 84604-4132
Make checks to: "LDS Philanthropies" (the organization that runs The Wheelchair Project) and write "Wheelchair" in the memo line.
Also include: Your name, age, phone number, and area of interest-- picture book writing, fantasy novel, or realistic fiction novel.

On the day of the event, bring 15 copies of the first page of your novel or picture book text (maximum word count: 300 words) for some hands on workshopping.

100% of the proceeds (after the nominal location fee) go to The Wheelchair Project, a wonderful charity that donates new wheelchairs to people in third world countries, many of whom have never had one. A wheelchair can completely change the life of a disabled person, offering mobility, increased independence, and a chance to go to school or find employment. Because this charity is administered by volunteers with LDS Philanthropy, there is no overhead and every penny donated goes directly to purchasing wheelchairs. This is not a religious charity--the wheelchairs go to the needy regardless of their faith. Thank you for supporting this extraordinary cause!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Make-Over for QOTC

Thanks to some help from Tristi, MorgueFile, and photographer Missy Red Boots; Queen of the Clan just got a makeover.

So . . . what do you think?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Book Review: A Modest Proposal by Michele Ashman Bell

This past weekend, I finished reading the first book on my Summer Book Trek list - A Modest Proposal by Michele Ashman Bell.



Blurb from the back of the book:

All my life I had dreamed of changing the ordinary girl’s world of fashion by designing modest formal gowns—ones that you’d actually want to wear. With my super-hero stitching I would save you mothers and daughters crying in dressing rooms over yet another “the straps are just too small” prom dress. Don’t worry, I even thought of a catchy tagline for my brand: “Modest Is Hottest.” I told you I was good!

So I moved to New York and am finally living that dream . . . well, almost. I am at one of the top fashion companies, and my designs are definitely modest—but let’s face it, when it comes to outerwear, would you want to buy a skimpy trench coat? Didn’t think so.

Even though I don’t have my dream job, my family is a mess, and my love life stinks, I have a feeling things are going to change. I mean, they have to soon, or I’ll be forced to marry Jace. I did promise to become his wife only if I turned thirty and was still single, but I honestly didn’t think it was possible. Now twenty-nine, I’m cutting it way too close. Right now I’m flying back to Utah for our Butterfly Girls reunion. And since it is the Mormon Mecca, I might find myself a modest proposal. Utah engagements can take mere weeks. Never mind, I’m not that desperate. Really.

But maybe the girls can help. We’ve been best friends since high school. We Butterfly Girls are not the typical Pink Ladies, although we’ve definitely had our share of drama. We’ll laugh and cry over memories, from pageant glory to tragic endings, but the ones stored inside our butterfly box will surprise you most. We only open it when we’re all together, and our lives never seem the same after.


QOTC Review:

So, this book is about Lauryn Alexander and her quest to become a modest fashion designer. When you start the book, you find her working for an excellent and very respected NYC fashion designer - designing outerwear. Yeah, you know, like jackets, trench coats, and rain coats. Even though Lauryn is frustrated and a bit discouraged, she keeps designing the dresses and clothing that truly inspires her and continues to hope her boss will one day see the potential in her dress designs.

While traveling, Lauryn meets some very influential women who fall in love with dresses Lauryn's working on. Then, a competitor design firm offers Lauryn an offer she can't refuse - her own dress line. But is it the right thing to do?

About this same time, Lauryn is getting ready for the annual Butterfly Girls reunion. But this year is special cause she just might get to reconnect with her former high school best friend (of the male variety), Jace. Is he still single? If so, will he want to keep their silly high school promise?

This book fascinated me. I love fashion. I can't resist cute clothes! So I loved the theme of someone trying to break into the fashion world with modest designs.

I also really liked the relationships of the Butterfly Girls. It reminded me of my best friend from high school (Ashley) and my best friend from college (Amy). We still keep in touch and get together whenever we are in the same state. But even though we live far apart and only contact each other a couple times a month (sometimes only a couple times a year!), we just pick right up where we left off and it's like no time has passed at all. We have this incredible bond of friendship that knows no limit of time or distance. The Butterfly Girls are just the same. I connected with them right away.

Of course, my very favorite part of the book was the storyline between Lauryn and Jace. (I know, I know - I just can't hold back the romantic side of me!) I loved the tension Lauryn felt while wondering if he was married or single, if he would remember their promise, and what in the world she would do if he actually showed up! I love the little parts of their relationship . . . and the surprises they both find along the way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's a perfect summer read for teens and adults alike.

My rating: Five Stars!

To go along with the theme of modest fashions, I'm including a bunch of modest fashion links I found online. Some are for formals, others are for every day. Enjoy!

Shabby Apple

Beautifully Modest

Latter-Day Bride

MikaRose

Divine ModesTee

Christa Taylor

Funky Frum

An Interview with Michele Ashman Bell



Today, I have the opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors and good friend, Michele Ashman Bell.

Michele's books were among the first I picked up when my reading interests turned from Harlequin romances to LDS romances. I can honestly say that several of her books were what addicted me to the LDS market. I finally found books that totally fulfilled the romantic side of me, without all the page-skipping smut. There are several very well-read novels by Michele on my bookshelf right now. Which books have been "loved" the most (aka - quite worn out from reading over and over and over and over):



Love Lights the Way



Without a Flaw

And now, what you've all been waiting for . . . my interview with Michele!

QOTC: How did you come up with the actual Butterfly Box for The Butterfly Box series?

Michele: After spending time at booksignings, especially at Women's Conference, I noticed how many women came in groups i.e., groups of friends, groups of sisters, groups of neighbors, groups from wards. For me personally, my sisters and my daughters are my very best friends, and without them I would probably become a mental case. Women develop wonderful bonds with other women, a support network, that helps them through the hard times, and shares with them the wonderful and good times. I love this element of being a woman and sister in the gosple. I love it! That's why I decided to write about a group of friends who stay close throughout their lives. I knew it was something other women could identify with.

QOTC: Do you have your own personal "Butterfly Box"?

Michele: Mine is my cedar chest that I actually made in a wood shop class in high school. It's pretty ugly, but it has all my treasures in it. Stuff from dances in high school, treasures from special vacations or gifts from loved ones. Things my kids have made for me in school, like their hand prints in plaster of Paris, and necklaces or pictures. Of course, there's weird stuff too, like I even have my wisdom teeth (along with all my kids teeth they've lost through the years). Most
of this stuff is junk to other people, but to me they are priceless treasures.

QOTC: What's your worst shopping-for-modest-clothing moment?

Michele: Sheesh! Which one. I'm serious. Taking a daughter prom dress shopping is definitely the worst experience of life. My oldest daughter has competed in a few scholarship pageants and we were trying to find a modest evening gown . . . ha! We finally gave up and drowned our sorrows in fudge covered ice cream sundaes. Consequently, we ended up getting a strapless gown and sewing on sleeves. The scene in the book where Lauryn ends up making modifications to her evening gown is taken from first hand experience.

QOTC: Can you give us some hints about the next Butterfly Box book?

Michele: The next book is Jocelyn's story. You may have noticed in the first book that she has a small box which she's put in the Butterfly box which she hasn't been able to bring herself to tell her friends what's inside of it. In the second book, Jocelyn will go on her own journey to heal from her past and hopefully find herself and love, and become strong enough to reveal her secret.


QOTC:
What do you kids think about having a popular author for a mom?

Michele: My kids would probably laugh if they read that question. To them I'm the person who drives them everywhere they need to go and stays up late helping with homework, or telling them to clean their rooms and put their dishes in the sink. I guess I lead a double life, although I don't think of myself as anyone special. Just a very lucky girl who gets to spend time in the wonderful world of fiction and imagination, writing stories, and have other people actually read those stories and
like them. I'm still amazed by that yet I worked dang hard to make it happen!

QOTC: How does your hubby steal you away from your computer for date nights?

Michele: Oh my gosh! These questions are cracking me up. We aren't really
that great at date night, we usually double date with our kids. My husband travels a lot so he is pretty good at letting me tag a long when he goes someplace fun. I rarely let him go to New York without me. (Hence the setting for A Modest Proposal) We love to travel together (he says because I'm a trooper and I don't whine). I always vowed that if I got published I would never let my writing interfere
with my family time. I have a hard time getting to the computer but it's worth putting my family first.

QOTC: What's your absolute favorite part of writing?

Michele: Research! I love doing research. Either traveling to a new place or learning about a skill or vocation I know nothing about. When I wrote my Viet Nam novel the research nearly killed me. I wrote part of it from a male perspective, about a war I knew nothing about, in a country I knew nothing about. Still, I loved learning about all of it. Each project allows me to grow in new ways. I even certified in scuba diving so I could write about it in a book. It seriously scared me to death and I wrote about my experience in the book, Finding Paradise. I still have nightmares.

QOTC: To end our interview, I've saved the one question each of your fans is dying to ask: What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Michele: I love pralines and caramel, but I also love raspberry frozen yogurt.

QOTC: Mmm . . . yummy!

A big thank you to Michele for stopping the Queen of the Clan and hanging out. We enjoyed getting to know you better!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Book Trek 2008



One of my favorite blogs, LDS Fiction, is hosting a Summer Book Trek. Since I'm a reading addict, I thought it would be totally fun to join in!

My summer book list:

Heaven Scent by Rebecca Cornish Talley
A Modest Proposal by Michele Ashman Bell
Farworld by J. Scott Savage
13th Reality by James Dashner
House on the Hill by Annette Lyon
Out of Jerusalem: Of Goodly Parents by H.B. Moore
Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen
Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham
The Moroni Code by Jack Lyon
The Independence Club by Rachel Ann Nunes
Sting! by B.J. Rowley
Shades of Gray by Pamela Carrington Reid

I only have evening and weekends to read, since I'll be finishing my Teaching Special Spirits manuscript. But I'm pretty sure I'll finish this list . . . and end up adding more!

Anyone else want to join in on the reading fun? You can pick any books you want to read. There's no limit (even one or two is fine!). You can be any age, too. I'm thinking of signing up my six-year-old. She takes after mom and reads, reads, reads. The best part . . . there are prizes and awards!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Holy Kadukah!



As you can see from the image above, it was not a computer-friendly weekend. As my eight-year-old would say, "Holy Kadukah!" And right now, he's totally spot on.

Friday: After re-formatting the chapters and outline to send to Lisa at Deseret Book, I started printing. Of course, half-way through I ran out of ink. Since I just bought the cartridge a few weeks ago, I was very surprised. Usually my cartridges last much longer than that. So, I ran to the store and came back to complete chaos - not to mention a get together I had completely forgotten about. So I put off finishing the print job.

Saturday: Isaac had his State Special Olympics tournament in Wichita. About an hour down the road, we received a phone call from our coach saying that the weather was horrible (hail and severe thunderstorms) and the meet was canceled. We had actually just passed the exit to go to John's brother's house. So we turned around and did a surprise visit (at 8:30 am!). We spent about two hours visiting, then stopped by another friends house on our way back home. We had a quick dinner, got the kids into the tub, had scripture study, then off to bed. It had been a long day!

Sunday: After church, we had Isaac's aide and her family over for dinner. We had a blast. That night, there were messages on our phone. I opened my laptop to check our online voice mail . . . and something funky was going on. It wouldn't start up quite right and was sounding really odd. John took it downstairs and started working on it. He pulled my Teaching Special Spirits stuff off, and then BAM! The hard drive crashed and the laptop went up in smoke. Not good.

Monday: John called into work and took the day off. He tried to recover stuff from my hard drive with no luck. That afternoon, we went shopping for a new system. We also decided it was a good time to put together a little office area for me to work from. So we stopped by Home Depot, figured out what the project would take and was pleasantly surprised that it was so affordable. So we ordered the supplies we needed, then came back home to set up the new desktop system.

Tuesday: John finished setting up the desk top. I finally printed off the remaining chapters for Deseret Book, then ran to the post office, and mailed them off. I spent the rest of the day setting up programs and working on some additional writing.

My, oh my. What a nutty couple of days! So many trials, but also many unexpected blessings. I am truly grateful for such a supportive husband. I'm still kind of dazed that he just called in to work and said, "Sorry guys. Gotta help my wife today." And that was that. He did everything he could to help me get back on track with my writing. He is just absolutely incredible.

So, here's to growing and learning - and to getting life back on track! Have a fabulous day, everyone!
Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.