Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review: The Mark by M.R. Bunderson

Today's book review is The Mark by M.R. Bunderson. Here's the back cover blurb:

She's had it forever. A tiny mark on her hand. No big deal, right? But when Tori discovers that her ordinary freckle is really some kind of microscopic tattoo, she doesn't know what to think, especially after meeting Eric, a guy she feels strangely connected to--and not just because he has a mark too.

All too soon, Tori and Eric realize that their marks are only the first clue to a mystery that will change everything. And with each new discovery, Tori finds herself pulled deeper and deeper into a world she could never have imagined.

My Review

From the very first chapter, I was pulled into Tori and her story. As you can see from the blurb above, Tori discovers her birthmark is more than just a dark freckle. After that discovery she meets Eric, Amanda, and Miles - who all have the same mark. I thought each character's special abilities unique and fascinating as they discovered how to use them to help each other. After meeting Amanda and Eric, the trio are confronted by Sebastian and Marco, who are both from their birth land. One wants to help them return, while the other will do anything he possibly can to prevent anyone from their birth land of learning the teens are alive. Not only that, but the trio must find Miles, the fourth of the babies who were kidnapped, and keep him safe while they decide what to do next. The Mark has good elements of suspense throughout the book. I was glued to the last 1/4 of the book just waiting to see what was going to happen on their journey back to their birth home.

I thoroughly agree with an endorsement from the back of the book that says, "This thrilling debut from M.R. Bunderson is one part fantasy, one part mystery, one part romance, and all parts awesome." The Mark is the beginning of an excellent new series. I truly enjoyed it and hope the sequel comes out within the next six months!

For more info about M.R. Bunderson, visit her website.

The Mark is available on Amazon and LDS Bookstores.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures from Rob's Kindergarten Graduation

Yes, it is true. My little guy has graduated from Kindergarten. Next year, he will be a big first grader and at school all day long. I am going to miss his sweet laughter and smile around the house during the afternoon. Life just changes way too fast! Here are my favorite pics from Kindergarten graduation . . .
Yep, my little guy still sucks his thumb!



Anna enjoyed the graduation. She goes to preschool in the fall - can you believe that???

Mr. Graduate!

Mr. Explorer!

Rob & Mrs. Dawson

Now there's some silly kids!



Congrats to my little guy and all the Kindergarten graduates!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Isaac's Graduation Videos

Here are two of my favorite videos from Isaac's graduation!

video

Isaac walking across stage to receive his certificate. He was in a hurry because he didn't want to miss the pictures on the slideshow!


video

Isaac and his buddies posing for pictures. 5th grade boys are super funny! =)

Isaac's 5th Grade Graduation

Last week, Isaac graduated from 5th grade. His class, along with the two other 5th grade classes, decided on a Hollywood theme and to have a dessert buffet. It was an awesome night! Here are some of my favorite photos of the night . . .





Congrats to my awesome 5th grader and all his friends!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Treasure Hunt

I'm participating again in Joyce DiPastena's Summer Treasure Hunt. Last year it was so much fun - and there were so many awesome prizes! This year, there were even more donations and the summer contest runs through July. You can find out more information on how to enter here.

For anyone hoping to score a free copy of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel, you should definitely hop over. There are TWO chances to win - one in June and another in July!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer Survival Tips

Hi everyone! Today I'm a guest blogger over at the fabulous Christine Bryant's Day Dreamer blog. Come on over and check out my survival tips for summer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Reading List & Reviews

Well, I learned something important these last two weeks. It's not a good idea to schedule book reviews during the last few weeks of school. Life has been super busy and yes, I'm a week behind on my reviews. I will get caught up though! I did finish two books in the last few days. So while I'm burning the 5th grade graduation CD's, I'm going to take a few minutes to review what I've finished on my reading list.

Pocket of Guilt

The first book I read was Pocket of Guilt by Dora Lee Thompson. 
Here is the jacket blurb:

The Schulz family, each a member of the LDS church, is trying to survive in Germany, during and after WWII. When Hitler invades Poland and the war officially begins, the family is quickly feeling its strain, as they have less and less food to eat. Anna Schulz often stands in line for hours, only to find the market shelves empty. This becomes the least of her worries though, when, one by one, the men of the Schulz family head off to defend their country.

The story follows Dieter, the middle son, just 10 years old when the war begins, as he learns to cope with the war around him. Read about his stubborn streak and spontaneity, and how it gets him into trouble, how he defies Hitler’s law by giving aid to a Jew and subsequently finds himself in the biggest trouble of his life, and what happens when he has to decide between loyalty and love. Will Dieter ever be able to forgive himself for all of the things he has had to do to survive the war, or will he have to live with his guilt forever? 


My Review:

This is definitely a book for middle grade to young adults. The characters, events, and descriptions are developed just right for that age range. I liked following the Schultz family and found their situation interesting. If you know an older child or teen who enjoys history, Pocket of Guilt would be a book he or she would enjoy and learn from at the same time. You can purchase Pocket of Guilt on Amazon.com and at your local bookstore. It's also available for a Kindle purchase.





The Golden Spiral

The other book I just finished is The Golden Spiral by Lisa Mangum. I waited and waited for Lisa to get to the LDS Storymakers conference with her ONE box of books. The Golden Spiral had not been released yet and I knew she only had a limited number she was able to snag from her publisher. As soon as I heard the faintest whisper that they had been dropped off at the conference bookstore - I said "See ya!" to whoever I was chatting with and hightailed it right over to get my copy before they all sold out. And I just barely made it. Whew! The Golden Spiral is the sequel to The Hourglass Door. Here's a blurb from the back:

His eyes. His touch. His kiss. Dante was unlike anyone Abby had ever met. Now he s gone, and Abby will do anything to get him back . . . The hourglass door has closed behind Dante, sending him back in time to hunt down Zo, Tony, and V. Abby knows that Dante, as a Master of Time, is the only one who can stop them from destroying time itself. She also knows that he will need her help. But almost immediately, things start to change, and Abby's worst fears are realized when Zo begins targeting her past specifically. 

As Abby's world fractures around her, she must face a terrible truth: either Dante didn t make it through the door, or he is lost forever. So with Dante's blueprints in hand, she begins construction on a new door, a new time machine that will either save Dante or doom him. With each new change that ripples into her present, Abby's life continues to spiral out of control. Her relationships with Jason, Natalie, and even her family are threatened to the breaking point and beyond. Zo's power is greater than Abby ever imagined, but as she struggles to free Dante, she receives help from an unexpected and unlikely ally. The bank is eroding. The barriers are thinning. And time is running out.

My Review:

I have to say that honestly, this book went in a direction that was completely unexpected. I thought I knew a general idea of what was going to happen in this book. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was completely wrong. Sometimes when that happens, I'm really disappointed - and other times, I'm pleasantly surprised. Well, this time around, I was definitely happy with the twists and changes. I really enjoyed The Golden Spiral. But I must warn you, the very last sentence will leave you begging for more! And oh, how tortured I feel knowing the last book doesn't come out for another year! Ugh!

The Golden Spiral is available on Amazon.com and at your local book stores.



If you haven't read The Hourglass Door, it's a must read before The Golden Spiral! Here's the link to purchase:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

C.K. Brant . . . Come On Down!

I'm feelin' a bit like The Price is Right today. Man, I loved that show. I loved Bob, too!

Anyway, back to the task at hand. C.K. Bryant, you won a copy of The Thorn by Daron Fraley! Send me your snail mail address please!

So, today. Hmm . . . today was interesting. Emotional. First I was mad, mad, mad. Ticked off to the point that well . . . let's not go into that. Then I cleaned. At least there are good results when I get mad. My hubby loves it when I scrub the toilets - as long as he's not the reason I'm doing the scrubbing.

After the scrubbing, I talked/vented to my hubby. Cried. Cried a little more. Then I ate. Yep - that's the other side of being mad. I didn't over do it or anything cause my tummy was still too twisted up from crying. But I had a few pieces of Dove chocolate, which always soothes the soul. Then I had yummy tortilla chips with fiesta ranch dip. Yum. Not exactly a combination any would choose - except either a pregnant woman or one very upset chickie. FYI - I'm not prego.

About mid-afternoon, I was calm enough to move on with my day. I had finally removed the nasty, frustrated thoughts and was able to focus and be productive. My girlfriend, Heather Justesen, and I talked on the phone for about two hours, firming up our summer book tour dates and locations. Tomorrow we'll start booking the signings and posting them on our websites and blogs. I'm so excited! Yes - I've moved on to excitement.  A much better emotion, don't you agree?

Cities we are currently booking:
Phoenix, San Diego, the Los Angeles area, Sacramento or Bakersfield, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, the Salt Lake City area . . . and more!

And now I am going to post this and shut down my computer. We have quite the Kansas thunderstorm brewing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My New Life: A Message from Stephanie Nielson

I've followed Stephanie's story since her plane crash. This video is a beautiful testiment of her love of the Savior, her family, and her role as a mother. Enjoy!



You can read more about Stephanie on her blog.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The 2009 Whitney Awards

Before I start chattin' about the Whitney Awards, I need to announce the winner of the "Who's Those Mostly Bald Guys?" contest. The answer  is . . . 

John Ferguson & BJ Rowley!
The winner of the contest is Noble M Standing! 
Please email me your snail mail address.

The first time I attended The Whitney Awards was for the 2008 Awards. (If you don't know what the Whitney Awards are, go here to check it out.) As a wanna-be author, I sat in awe as I watched emotions play across the finalist’s faces – anticipation, disappointment, and a few who radiated joy as their books were announced as the winner in their categories.  In that aspect, this year’s 2009 Whitney Awards were no different. But there were a few changes that made this year stand out from years past.


This year’s gala was much more formal. This is me and my very handsome hubby in the lobby.




Attendees checked in at a ticket table hosted by two lovely women – Erin Wells and Danyelle Ferguson (um, yep – that’s me!).  In this pic, Erin & I are seated with my hubby & Crystal Liechty standing behind us.



Once tickets were in hand, guests were greeted by dashing ushers and gorgeous usherettes, one of whom led an attendee or group to their assigned tables and seats. Pictured above - Marion Jenson, Robison Wells, Crystal Liechty, Sheila Staley, and John Ferguson.

Below: Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland)



The award presentations were quite different as well. Last year, attendees found themselves chuckling and outright laughing at all the jokes the award presenters came up with. This year though, the presenters took a much more insightful and inspiring approach. Dan Wells’ speech introducing Dave Wolverton for the Outstanding Achievement Award had me and most of the room in tears, as he spoke of how Dave’s influence had spread and touched the lives of each person in the room. It made me (and hopefully other guests) think about how the things I do not only directly affect those around me, but are passed on to everyone they come in contact with as well. Dave encouraged all of the attendees to continue sharing and influencing the writing world for good. The 2009 Whitney Award Gala was most definitely both an entertaining and uplifting night for all who attended.


 Below: Elder Gerald N. Lund

Elder Gerald N. Lund was honored as with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He was quite funny and asked if this award meant that he was supposed to stop writing because he had accomplished his life's work in this area. He said he hoped not because he has a lot more stories to tell. I enjoyed hearing a bit about his writing journey and love for church history. It reminded me of when he was a fireside speaker when I attended LDS Business College.

As a member of the Whitney Committee, it was quite interesting to see the awards progress from reading tons of books, to narrowing down the nominees to five finalists in each category, and then the grand coup – the winners. The crème de la crème of each category. Some of the winners surprised me and others I had been hoping and crossing my fingers for their names to be called, then was elated to see them walk to the stage and accept their awards.

 Dan Wells, author of I am Not a Serial Killer
Whitney Award for "Best Novel by a New Writer"

But honestly, one of my favorite parts of the Whitney Awards Gala is when it’s over. Not only is the work done and the Whitney Committee breathes a huge sigh of relief, but most of the authors stay and visit.

Danyelle Ferguson, Jennifer & Daron Fraley, and John Ferguson


 Danyelle Ferguson, Mary & David Wolverton, and John Ferguson

If you choose to attend the Gala next year, be sure to plan for extra time to meet the finalists! They are each delightful in their own way and completely down to earth. 

 Lisa Mangum & Danyelle Ferguson

Danyelle Ferguson & Janette Rallison

Eliza Nevin (editor, Covenant Communications), Heather B. Moore, and Danyelle Ferguson

Although some nominees and guests, like Howard Taylor, are complete goofballs and tend to attract a LOL rowdy group. 

Julie Wright and Howard Taylor showing off what I call his testosterone power boots.

How is it I tend to find my hubby in the middle of all the silliness?
Dan Wells, John Ferguson, and Jessica Day George

Now, truly, Jessica Day George is a sweetheart. 
Now, if only I could have a sit down chat to talk about those goofballs she hangs out with . . .

It’s groups like these that come up with the most interesting picture poses – such as Julie Wright and her crowd of friends eating their consolation Chocolate Mousse pie.

Seriously - Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Julie Wright, and Janette Rallison had totally AWESOME books. Still scratching my head and wondering how they didn't win. Although Jessica & Janette were in the same category, so . . . Yeah. Well, they all deserve awesome rewards. I hope that pie was super delish!

And finally . . . our two James Bond wanna-be's

Howard Taylor and John Ferguson


So, did I have fun at the Whitneys? If you didn't figure it out already, the answer is HECK YEAH! Congrats to this year's Whitney Award winners!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: The Chronicles of Gan - Book One: The Thorn by Daron D. Fraley and a GIVEAWAY!

"I'm late!" seems to be my motto for this week. Sorry for being a day behind on getting this book review together and posted. =)  Today, we are going to talk about Daron D. Fraley's new series: The Chronicles of Gan - Book One: The Thorn. Here's the back jacket blurb:

Three tribes are at war on the planet Gan, unaware that the sign of Christ’s birth on an unknown world – Earth – is about to appear in the heavens. 
 
During a bloody skirmish with Gideonite troops, Jonathan of Daniel spares Pekah, a young enemy soldier, gaining his trust forever. These two distant brothers from estranged tribes covenant with each other to end the war being waged by a self-proclaimed emperor, and soon discover the intentions of a far more dangerous foe named Rezon – a sinister general bent on ruling those he can bring into subjection and destroying all others. In the end, Pekah’s selfless bravery is the means by which all the tribes are united. But there are dissenters, and Rezon escapes a well-deserved fate. 

When the promised heavenly signs appear, will there be peace at last, or will the malefactors once again threaten the safety of them all?

My Review:

I've actually read this book a few times. The very first time it came to be in my hands was when Daron contacted me to edit and review the manuscript. Even then and each time I've read it since, the concept of learning about what life might have been like on the "other worlds" Heavenly Father created and waiting for the sign of Christ's birth just fascinates me.

The book opens with Jonothan's city being attacked by the Gideonites. Jonothan's father urges his son to escape before the Gideonites find both Jonothan and The Thorn - both objects of their search. There's a lot of face paced action and the reader becomes acquainted with both the good guys and the bad guys right away. Later, Jonoathan sneaks back to find his father, only to discover him dead. He's once again forced to flee, and this time, he takes The Thorn with him.

There are so many emotions Jonothan deals with - grief, depressions, despair. After all, his father was killed and his birth city have just been destroyed. He's finally filled with determination to follow the Lord's promptings to do what he can to save the people who have been taken prisoner from his city. From there, you follow Jonothan through an adventure filled with trials, pitfalls, and triumphs as he seeks to fulfill his mission.

I personally really enjoyed The Thorn. I'm excited for the next book in the series to be released - and sad that since the first book just came out, that it will be probably a year before the second book hits the shelves. I'm ready for it now!  (Patience, I know . . . not my best virtue!)

For more information about Daron, you can visit his website and blog here.

You can purchase The Thorn on Amazon.com and your local bookstores.



The Thorn Giveaway:

Would you like a chance to win a copy of The Chronicles of Gan - Book One: The Thorn by Daron D. Fraley? It also comes with an autographed bookmark from Daron himself. Here's how to enter -

Leave a separate comment for each of the following items you do:

1. Follow my blog.

2. Follow me on Facebook.

3. Follow me on Twitter.

4. Follow Daron's blog.

5. Follow Daron on Facebook.

6. Follow Daron on Twitter.

7. Post on Facebook or Twitter about this contest with links back to this post. (one entry per day)

The contest ends on Monday, May 10th at noon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LDStorymakers Writers Conference 2010

A little over a week ago, I flew to Utah with my hubby for our annual LDStorymakers conference. We've attended this conference together for the last five years. Each year, we come away with new knowledge, a slew of new friends, and excitement to continue the writing journey.

Now, before I get much further into this post, I'm going to put up a picture for y'all. A little contest, if you will. I'll figure out a fun prize. I've got a huge box filled with books, scrapbooking supplies, and other gadgets just waiting to be given away.  The winner can choose their item of choice from the box. I'll take everyone who has the correct answer, then choose a winner from random.org. The answer (picture of the faces) will be revealed on Friday when I post about the Whitney Awards.

So tell me, who are these two handsome bald-headed guys?
(leave your answer in the comment trail!)

Now, back to the LDStorymakers fun!

THURSDAY

For my hubby and I, the parties started early. Thursday night, I was honored to attend the Cedar Fort Best-Selling Authors banquet with my girlfriend, Heather Justesen. We had a blast chatting with everyone and enjoyed the buffet. We sat with a bunch of goofballs at our table - Cindy Beck & her hubby Russ; Nichole Giles; Anne Bradshaw and her hubby; and Stacy Gooch Anderson. Ironically, everyone at our table wrote non-fiction except for Heather.  =) It was fun to watch (and cheer) as the book covers for the people at our table were projected onto the wall in front of us. Our table shared jokes, almost tinkled in our pants when I told Cindy Beck that Heather's little doggie (Jelly Bean) just had a hysterectomy. Yeah, yeah - I know it's called something else, but I seriously could not remember the animal terminology. But hey, Cindy knew what I was talking about and that's all that matters. Just a tip for all you writers out there - Anne Bradshaw is gathering stories about researching family history & the promptings and miracles that accompany our search. If you have a story to share, write it up and send it on over to her!

After the Cedar Fort banquet, Heather and I hopped into Nichole's Mustang Convertible - yes, it's red! Wipe that drool off your face, boys! - and went to the pre-Storymakers get together. Don Carey put together a social at the Provo Borders. In excited writers tradition - we were there until they kicked us out.  =) I didn't get my camera out early enough to take all the pics I should have, but here are a few from the social.

Nichole Giles, Heather Justesen, Darvell Hunt, John Ferguson, and Danyelle Ferguson
Nichole, Darvell & John are all moderators for the AuthorsIncognito group.
Danyelle (me!) is the AuthorsIncognito Event Co-ordinator.
And Heather is just awesome!

This was a totally fun moment!
Mormon Mishaps and Mischief was co-authored by Nichole Giles (center) and Cindy Beck (not pictured).
Heather and I both have stories included in this book. So it was fun to grab a few copies and get our pictures taken together. BTW - anyone who wants a copy, there's a link on my sidebar to order from Amazon or you can go to the Borders at the Provo Riverwoods where there may still be a few autographed copies left!

After a totally fun night at Borders - were seriously there were tons of people I didn't get pictures of - we all went back to the hotel to prepare for the first day of conference on Friday.

FRIDAY & SATURDAY

So, my totally cute hubby has one busy guy at conference this year. He - along with Darvell Hunt and Daron Fraley - taught a two-part series class on how to create an author website Friday. Plus, John was Mr. Techno Geek for the South Tower of the Marriott - which means he was in charge of making sure all the microphones, laptops, power points, and other electronics worked for all the classes held on that side of the building. And to illustrate what a true geek my hubby is - he had a total blast doing it! 

For me, Friday and Saturday was a mixture of fun and topsy-turvy emotions. I was late for most of my classes and even completely missed out on a few. No, I didn't flake out and just skip classes. This year was unlike any other year I've attended conference. Somewhere between 50-80 people (no exaggeration) came up to talk to me about my book. Some where church teachers telling me how excited they are for the book to come out. Some even said they told their stake about it and their stake ordered copies for in their ward building libraries as a resource for everyone in their congregations to refer to.  Many of the people who stopped me were parents. I was humbled as they shared their stories about their children with me. I had no problem missing out on classes to share these tender moments. Lots of hugs and tears were exchanged that weekend. I can only say the meekest of thank you's to each of you. You are all incredible parents and church leaders.

So, once again, I didn't get my camera out very often to take pictures. I did get a few fun ones though . . . 

Friday night was our AuthorsIncognito Mix & Mingle. Whew! I can't believe how much our group has grown! When John and I joined the group five years ago, there were about thirty of us. Now we have over two hundred members. Look how we filled up the lobby stairs!

AuthorsIncognito 2010
This is my totally fabulous online writers group - AuthorsIncognito (AI).
I can't believe how much our group has grown! AI Rocks!

Danyelle Ferguson & Lynn Parsons
After almost three years, I FINALLY got to meet my co-author, Lynn Parsons!!! And she's just as funny and awesome in person as she is over the phone and email. Whew! I'm so glad Heavenly Father put us together!

 Our Editing Queen
Lynn Parsons, Tristi Pinkston, and Danyelle Ferguson
Tristi is a awesome, fabulous Valor editing queen! She popped out of the AI Mix & Mingle to come meet Lynn.

LDS Women's Book Review
The ladies of LDSWBR interviewed Lynn & I together & Tristi off in another corner. Lynn and I talked about the writers conference, what we hoped to learn, and of course, about our book and how we met.
Front Row: Danyelle Ferguson & Lynn Parsons
Back Row: Shanda (LDSWBR), Tristi Pinkston, Hillary (LDSWBR), and Sheila Staley (LDSWBR)

Valor Girls
Saturday, Lynn and I had a chance to meet with Candace Salima (Owner of Valor Publishing Group). After we settled details for our book trailer interviews for that Monday, Lynn went off to spend some time with her daughter who came down to visit from college. It wasn't until after she left, I remembered I had my camera and wanted to get a picture with Candace. Some of the other Valor authors joined us. Here we are:
Andrea Pearson, Jenni James, Tristi Pinkston, Candace Salima, and Danyelle Ferguson

 
 Elizabeth Mueller & Danyelle Ferguson
It's so fun finally putting faces together with the names of people we know online. Elizabeth is one of the awesome people who come out and read my blog & also a member of my AI writers group. She's a total sweetheart. I really enjoyed chatting with her and becoming better friends.


One of the funniest moments of conference for me was performing in our annual AuthorsIncognito skit, called Good Morning, Storymakers hosted by Jessica Scott Savage and Jamie Dashner. This year, Jenn Wilks played the role of Jessica and I returned for a second year of Jamie Dashner love. Best of all, Jessica Scott Savage and Jamie Dashner had exciting news to announce about their newest releases!

Jessica recently had a lot of success with her Facebook application - Farm World: Keep Your Land. The online gaming network where you can raise cows, farm crops, and discover hidden worlds of elementals under the rutabaga leaves.


Jamie announced her new best-seller, The Marriage Runner. Here's a teaser:

The Marriage Runner is a fantasy romance about a group of young ladies who are taken in groups to a set of mysterious elevators. They don't know why and they have no idea where they are going. They’re just put in the elevators and taken away.

When the elevator doors open, they find themselves surrounded by a strange community with grassy fields and a maze of sidewalks leading in all different directions through large dark buildings. As the women take in their surroundings, they notice that up on the side of the mountain there's a great big Y.

Suddenly, they all know where they are. They know their mission. And as hordes of men come rushing down the sidewalks towards them, they whip out their combs, touch up their lipstick, and prepare to let the games begin.

I have tons more things I would love to share - like friends who told me about their book offers and contracts, agents who asked for partials or full manuscript requests . . . but I'll leave that for them to announce. There was so much GOOD stuff happening. So much EXCITEMENT and ENERGY! It was an awesome weekend! I'm already counting down the days until next year's conference!



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.