Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Review: Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards

Today's book review is Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards. Here's the summary from the back jacket:

Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.

You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS paraody of the classic novel Jane Eyre. 


My Review:

I absolutely LOVE the book, Jane Eyre. I fell in love with it the first time I read it in my college English Lit class. Ever since, I've re-read it at least once a year. Because I'm such a huge fan of the classic, I was excited, but also a tad bit hesitant, about reading a contemporary telling of Jane Eyre. It was one of the books on my to-read list that I was going back and forth, trying to decide if I was going to get it or not. But then I was asked to review Chocolate Roses and simply couldn't resist.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well done the story was. I loved the quotes from the original Jane Eyre at the beginning of each chapter - it lent a feeling of connection between the classic and the new, and you could see how the modern day Janie felt connected to her favorite heroine, Jane. The Chocolate Roses heroine, Janie, was well-rounded. While reading it, I could see a lot of the same feelings about being an older single LDS chick that some of my former college girlfriends who are still single share. I really liked that. I thought the relationship/romance between Janie and Roger was perfect. From the very beginning, I just wanted to grab Roger and say, Look at her! The woman, not as an employee bagging your chocolate! I really liked how Roger moving next door Janie was woven into the plot. It was fun to see Janie's relationship grow with Roger's daughter. I have to stop here and mention that Janie has an awesome Great Dane, who is super funny at times.

One of the things I was hesitant about was the love triangle between Roger, his wife, and Janie. I wasn't sure how that was going to play out in an LDS book. I won't give away any details, except to say I was really happy with Roger's faithfulness to his wife vs the feelings Janie had for him and his family (and which you know Roger is aware of). I was also worried that I would feel like the author butchered the characters from one of my all time favorite novels. I'm happy to say, I didn't feel like that at all. The characters in Chocolate Roses have some traits of the classic characters from Jane Eyre, but they also have enough of their own individual characteristics to make them unique and very appealing to both readers who are fans of the classic or who have never read Jane Eyre.

Overall, I really enjoyed Chocolate Roses and most definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great summer romantic read!

For more information about Joan Sowards, you can visit her website. Chocolate Roses is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at your local LDS bookstore.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: Alma the Younger by H.B. Moore

Today's book review is Alma the Younger by H.B. Moore. 

As night falls, a scarlet-robed man emerges from the temple and a hush falls over the waiting crowd. Studying the hooded figure with enmity, Alma recognizes that this is the man who incites rebellion among the people of Zarahemla. This is the man who dares preach from the very place where King Benjamin uttered his final blessings upon the people of the church. Defiling the tower with his very presence, the man who embodies evil raises a hand to silence the drums, then calls to his followers through the eerie quiet. And that’s when Alma realizes the terrible truth: this man is his son.

Alma the Younger, son of the aging high priest, once was taught by the wisdom of prophets. Now the young man is a thief — ensnared by the wiles of strong drink and harlots; a bitter dissenter determined to overthrow the church, to lead the people into new “freedoms.“ He has gathered a strong army to create a revolution, which only begins with the desecration of the temple and will escalate to calamity once he captures King Mosiah’s daughter. But en route to his malicious mission with his royal henchmen, Alma is halted by an unexpected opponent: an angel of the Lord, a messenger of the very God he has sought to defame. And what unfolds is a story of miraculous redemption, a story building on the poignant Book of Mormon account to show how even the vilest of sinners can be transformed by the Savior’s amazing grace.


My Review

The past few weeks have been very stressful for me. I had some difficult decisions to make and knew my choice would not only effect me, but my co-author and others as well. With all of this weighing on my mind, it was interesting to pick up Alma the Younger and read about someone else who made choices - albeit not good ones - then learned how the consequences of those choices effected everyone he associated with.

Learning more about Alma the Younger and the type of man he could have been was fascinating. If this book is on your to-read list, I highly encourage you to read the Preface. In this section, H.B. Moore talks about all of the questions she asked to figure out who Alma the Younger was as a man, what type of person and characteristics he possibly had. When she talked about Alma being very intelligent and well educated, but not able to develop faith in something he couldn't see - it was like there was an audible "click" in my head. I've known so many people who struggle asking Heavenly Father simple questions because to them, the answer was obvious. Why ask Heavenly Father for approval? That's just wasting their time. Going along this course, H.B. Moore brought to life a man I could relate to today. I learned how Alma the Younger's life, his choices, the consequences he faced, and the change of heart that came over him is absolutely relevant to today's society. Not just my neighbors or youth I know who are struggling - but to me and every other faithful member of the Church out there as well.

Now, lest you think the book is sounding non-fictiony and dry, let me reassure you that it is just as suspenseful and filled with drama with a touch of romance as H.B. Moore's other books. Alma the Younger is very well done - excellent even - and an inspiring read that will stay with you long after you reach "The End."

For more information about H.B. Moore and her books, you can visit her website or her blog.

You can purchase Alma the Younger at DeseretBook.com, Amazon.com, or your local LDS bookstore.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing Life

Today, I was supposed to review Alma the Younger by H.B. Moore. After a very stressful last two days, I woke up with a headache that has continued to get worse and worse as the day continued. So I decided to share a funny video and head back to bed. My review of Alma the Younger will appear on Monday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Dance Recital Pics

I just got my dance recital pics from J. Todd Photography! Many of them turned out absolutely gorgeous! It was fun to see all the dances in still photography. MJ's tap and jazz dances didn't have the best pics, but her ballet dance - Wow! We got some beautiful pictures of MJ. I had fun editing some of them as well. Enjoy!

MJ is on the left in the back. This is her tap dance.

The end of the tap dance. MJ is in the middle of the back row.

The beginning of the ballet dance. The girls are waking up and rising from the floor.
MJ is on the front row, second from the right.














The finale dance. MJ is on the second row, second in from the right.

Here are some other pictures from the recital we really liked: 










This last one is the teacher's dance. MJ's dance teacher is the red-head on the right.  =)

We have thoroughly enjoyed our year at CYT and look forward to going back in the fall!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pierced Ears!

In our family, the girls have to wait until they are 8 years old before they can decide if they want their ears pierced or not. Now that she's 9 1/2, MJ has finally decided she really wants to wear earrings. So, I got out the good ol' ice pack, some rubbing alcohol, a new sponge, and of course, a needle and earrings. Yes, my friends - I pierced my own daughter's ears. It's really not that big of a deal. I, myself, still remember sitting in my neighbor's kitchen while Debbie (the mom) pierced my ears. Here are a few pictures of MJ getting her ears done.

MJ numbing her ear with an ice pack.

In goes the needle . . . 

Then I cleaned her ear with some more rubbing alcohol.
In goes the earring.

Voila! A very pretty pierced ear.
She's wearing a heart earring I gave my Mom one year for Mother's Day.

Repeat on the other side and we're all done!

Now, MJ's spinning hear earring and cleaning it three times a day. I bought her some of her own earrings and we switched to a nice silver ball for the next six weeks. She  loves her new earrings and says her ears are only a little sore. It was such fun to be a part of MJ's piercing. Man, she's growing up so fast!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Trapped by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Today's book review is Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen's newest release, Trapped.

A forged letter, a golden vial, an ancient curse...

Her expression remained somber, but excitement crept into her voice. 


"You are the Firstborn She...You must go to them." 

"You want me to act as bait?" 

"Not bait, Emi. A spy. Our Trojan horse."

When Emi Warrin wakes one night to find a thief in her mother's house, she has no idea the intruder has planted a trap - a mysterious letter that will change her life forever. Lured to the Austrian Alps with Daniel, the man she loves, Emi is thrown into a perilous, mafia-like world of feuding families and a devastating curse that spans generations. As the Firstborn She - the only firstborn female in hundreds of years - only Emi can free her family from the curse that will soon afflict her as well. But for Emi to break the curse, she must delve into evil designs.

As Emi struggles to understand her destiny as the Firstborn She, she learns that everything isn't as it seems and that all choices have consequences. Can Emi break the curse before it's too late?


My Review

After totally loving Ronda's first book, Missing, I was ready to dive into Trapped. I was so excited to see how her next book would turn out. Overall, I thought it was . . . okay. There were definitely things I liked and didn't like about Trapped.

The first two chapters pulled me in. The prologue with the premise of the story, the curse that was put on Emi's family, was excellent. I couldn't wait to get into the first chapter - which I also enjoyed.  After that, things slowed down quite a bit. I liked the setting in Austria. I was also happy to have gotten a few surprises - especially about who the Big Bad Guy turned out to be. I liked the fight climax and the struggle Emi had to go through, both emotionally and physically.

But for the rest, I was actually kind of disappointed. I wasn't as into the characters as I was with Missing and there were only a few moments I felt that "on the edge of my seat" feeling - or even much of a romantic connection between Emi and Daniel. There were a few scenes when I thought the reactions were unrealistic. One in particular, Emi - who we're told has been very sheltered and protected by her mother all her life - finds out her father is alive and in Austria. Her mother is in Greece at the time she discovers it. Emi texts her mother to say she's going to Austria to find her Dad - really in hopes her mom will come clean and give her more details. Instead, Mom texts back that she's had her travel agent make all the arrangements for Emi to fly to Austria and Mom will meet her there. To me, that doesn't sound like the kind of thing an over-protective mother would do - even if she did tell Emi that Daniel was going with her. If I were her mom and I knew the evil guys were tracking down my daughter, I most certainly would not send her into the the lion's den without me by her side and a whole heck of a lot more information and preparation.

The very last chapter of the book completely confused me. I've read through it three or four times since finishing the book. Emi has a vision, something that relates back to the first chapter, which supposedly clarifies things for her. But I didn't understand it at all. I couldn't figure out who a few of the people were in the vision and why it ended the way it did. So I'm still stumped on that.

Having said all that - it seems there's more negative than positive. But actually the book was pretty good. For me, it rated on an okay scale. I would be interested to hear how others liked the book. So please, if you've read the book, leave your thoughts here so my readers can get more than just my thoughts!

Would I read Ronda's next book? Yes, I would. I thoroughly loved Missing. So I'll still pick up her next book and hope it's as awesome as her first.

For more information about Trapped, you can visit Ronda's website. You can also read the first chapter there. Ronda's books are available in local book stores and on Amazon.com

Monday, June 14, 2010

MJ's Dance Recital

On June 5th, MJ's dance company, The Christian Youth Theater, had their annual dance recital. MJ was in four numbers - Jazz, Tap, Ballet, and the Finale. It was so much fun! MJ was super excited and did a fabulous job! John and I were very impressed with CYT. They have great christian values, modest costumes and modest dance routines. We've thoroughly enjoyed our first year with them and are looking forward to next year! Here are some fun pics. I tried to upload the dance videos, but blogger wasn't co-operating. Enjoy!

Sydney & MJ just before the recital's rehearsal.

Sydney, Miss Marissa, and MJ
Miss Marissa was their dance teacher all year.

MJ and Dad after the recital.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Timing

Sometimes blogging is really hard. If you're on my QOTC email list, then you already know the following news. It's so much easier when I can just type a few sentences and be done. But actually creating a longer post is . . . well, not fun.

So, has anyone checked out my side bar lately? Notice there's some information that's missing? My book launch has been moved. Well, not just moved. But put on hold - until, well, my publisher takes it off hold. And hey, ignore that little countdown clock thingy. I haven't removed it yet cause I need to find out from my hubby what I need to save so I don't lose it.  =)  Yep, I'm so not tech savvy - but that's not a surprise, right?

Thank you to everyone who has been emailing me and asking for (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. I would love, love, love to send you personalized copies of the book once it's printed and available. And yes, when I have a new release date, I'll let y'all know. I really appreciate all of your support and enthusiasm for my book! You guys are the best!

So, what now? That's what you're all thinking right?

This is where the whole timing thing comes in. I love the scripture that talks about a season for all things. Well, now that I won't be traveling all over the Western & Midwestern U.S., some really great things have opened up for me.

Currently, I am fine tuning the synopsis of a children's picture book I wrote called Sarah's Special Friend. It's a sweet story about Sarah, her Sunday School class, and Micah, a boy with autism. At first, Sarah finds Micah and the way he acts intimidating, but once she learns more about him, they become good friends. There are some fun quirky moments that make you giggle and some very sweet moments that warm your heart. Once I have the synopsis done, I can begin querying agents. I've done lots of research and have narrowed down the list. Keep your fingers crossed (I know mine will be!).

Once the querying gets going, I'll start writing on my romantic suspense novel, Rebound. I'm excited to begin work on it again. It's a story I really love!

I'm also working on some freelance editing. Right now, I'm reading for Heather Justesen and her latest work-in-progress. It's fabulous stuff, people! If anyone else is in need of a freelance editor, you can find out more about my services here.

Other than the changes in my travel plans this summer, I'm actually quite enjoying my time with my munchkins. Summer is such a fun time! We've been out playing in the sprinklers, taking trips to the park, and eating lots of ice cream. Which is not so great for my waistline. I'm hoping that the extra activity vs ice cream cancels each other out!  

Now, I'm going to head back to my netbook and finish editing for Heather. I hope y'all are enjoying your summer so far! BTW - I'll be posting MJ's dance recital pictures this later this week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: Rebound by Heather Justesen

Today's book review is Rebound by Heather Justesen. Here's info from the back jacket blurb:

With a successful husband, a gorgeous home, and a growing family, Lily Drake has it all. But when the FBI shows up, she realizes her husband is not the man she thought he was.


Meanwhile, Lily's friend Curtis is about to be drafted by the NBA, but he suddenly feels pulled to find his birth family, and no one is prepared for what he'll discover. With so many obstacles in their way, Lily and Curtis must learn to rely on each other if they're ever going to find peace and learn to love again.


In this heartwarming family drama, Heather Justesen, author of The Ball's in Her Court, weaves a stirring story of hope. Reunite with your favorite characters and discover how determination, love, and faith can overcome even the toughest trials.


My Review

I had the opportunity to first read about Lily and Curtis's stories when Heather was first writing the manuscript. After the first few chapters Heather sent me to edit, I was completely hooked and begging her to write faster so I could see what happened next. I'm so happy to have the complete final version!

My favorite parts of the book are (of course) the romantic ones. Heather Justesen most definitely knows how to write a kissing scene that makes your knees go all jello and you're heart melt while still keeping everything all nice and clean. But in this book, you won't find just a romantic tale. I admired Lily's strength and perseverance during the difficult trials she faced. Not only was her husband put in jail and convicted of fraud, but he divorced her while she was in the last stages of her pregnancy, which left Lily one very over stressed woman.

And no, she didn't just fall in love with the next guy who came along. She and Curtis are good friends - and have known each other for several years. They don't spend every waking minute together, but they talk about the things happening in each other's lives and support each other, as friends do for each other. It isn't until the last half of the book that their perspectives start to change and they begin to wonder . . . What if? It's at this point of the book that Curtis gets some solid leads to find his birth father and begins to earnestly search for him. And wow - the challenges he faces when he finally does find him.

I really enjoyed the balance of drama and romance in this book. There are even some touches of humor that just made me laugh out loud. Rebound is truly a story that grips you, pulls you in, and end with a sigh from your heart and a smile on your face. Definitely one of my favs!

You can purchase Rebound at Utah Costco locations, Amazon.com, or your local book store. Or you can get an autographed copy at her Utah County book launch tomorrow!

Thursday, June 3rd
South Towne Marketplace Barnes & Noble
10180 S State, Sandy
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Heather will be signing with Nichole Giles, Kimberly Job, and Tristi Pinkston. 
There will be goodies and giveaways!



Author Interview

I had the opportunity to poke, I mean um, interview Heather Justesen. We had fun chatting back and forth via email . . . and I found out some surprising things!

QOTC: As the author, what trait do you most admire about Lily?

HJ: I love how Lily handles all of her problems. She doesn't bounce back immediately, maybe, but she doesn't let everything that's happening to her stop her either. She regroups and keeps pushing on. I also like that she's willing to turn to friends and family for help when she absolutely has to. Sometimes it's hard to remember that we all have people rooting or us who are happy to help out where they can. We can't let them handicap us into not progressing, but together we can accomplish much more than we otherwise could have.

QOTC: What's your favorite scene between Lily and Curtis?

HJ: That's so hard to decide because I love so many of them!  I had to think about this for a few minutes because it's been a while since I've read the book, but the basketball banquet is definitely in my top few. There's just something about a guy who can dance.

QOTC: Do you think you'll write any books without basketball in them?

HJ: Oh yeah, I don't have any more basketball books in the near future! The next several titles in my lineup are very un-basketball related. I often have people ask me if I played basketball in school, to which I have to admit I have the athleticism of a stink bug. Apparently I'm intrigued by people who are way more graceful and athletic than I am.

QOTC: Who's your favorite basketball player of all time (other than Michael Jordan)?

HJ: Um, I could choose someone at random, but really, I never watch sports (I know, strange considering my books, right?). I guess I'll go with John Stockton since I have a nephew named Stockton (his parents swear he wasn't named after the basketball player, despite the fact that his father could probably tell you every stat about the Jazz since the beginning of time). Thankfully I have a sister and brother-in-law who were able to answer my innumerable questions and fix all of my assumptions about the sport.

QOTC: At a sporting event, are you a pizza, pretzel, or hot dog fan?

HJ: Do I have to pick just one? Okay, pizza--which is admittedly, the only thing I've ever gotten during a pro-sports game (which was baseball, actually) and though it looked like it should have been dried and not so yummy was totally fabulous. Maybe it was the excitement of the game and hanging out with other kids my age.

QOTC: If you as an author were a sports team, what would be your team name and mascot?

HJ: The Twisted Ankles (which is something I do often when I try to play team sports.) Oh, wait, as an author....The Empty Ink Cartridges

QOTC: One last question . . . who's your favorite writing friend/queen?  =)

HJ: You, of course! Thanks for having me today!

QOTC: Thank you for the interview, Heather! I can't wait for your next book to come out!


You can find out more about Heather Justesen and her books at her blog and her website.
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.