Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Highlights Videos

I got my hubby a Bloggie for Christmas. He's had a blast playing with it ever since. Here are two videos he edited and put together to show our Christmas highlights.

 





I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Who's at the Door: A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries by Dan Harrington

Today, my friends, you are in for a treat. I'm delighted to share with you the new book, Who's at the Door: A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries by Dan Harrington. Before you roll your eyes and think, "conversion story" and switch to check out another blog - let me tell you, there is no baptism. Dan Harrington is a man who finds comfort and peace in attending mass at his local Catholic church. 

So why did a member of the Catholic church write a book about meeting the LDS missionaries?

Aha! Right there is the question that makes you want to keep reading and find out more about this book.


I'm going to be honest with you and tell you right up front that Who's at the Door was a heartwarming, funny, and insightful book that I totally loved. Here's some more info from the back cover blurb (then I'll get into my review!):


"Can you tell me what a prophet is?"

The question came from one of the two young men sitting on my clay colored sofa. Dressed in white shirts, black slacks, and conservative ties, they were easy to identify even without the name tags--Mormons. 

Right now, thousands of people across the world are meeting with the more than 50,000 Latter-day Saint missionaries. You've seen these young "elders" on the streets, in your neighborhood, and even outside your home. But have you ever wondered who they are? Dan Harrington did.

Who's at the Door? A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries is one man's experience with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Maine. Not just another tale of conversion, this book is about seeing life from a new perspective, gaining respect for another faith, and finding friends in unlikely places. Find out who's at the door and what can happen when you open it.

My Review

So, you already know I loved this book. Now I'm going to tell you why. It isn't just because it's heartwarming, or that I laughed along with him as I remembered my own questions when I met with the missionaries. No, it's because of this one simple truth Dan learned from his Catholic priest. 

When Dan went to his church to search for answers, he talked to his priest and told him he was learning about the LDS church. And his priest gave such a wise and loving answer I wish more people understood and embraced. He said:

There's room for everyone at God's table.


I absolutely 100% agree with this wise Catholic priest. Dan also goes on to make a good point. Most people are not theologians. When they are searching for a church, they want to find somewhere they feel loved, comforted, and welcome. They also want to be able to embrace the teachings of the church, but some of the first impressions they have of if a particular congregation will fit or not, is how welcome and friendly the members are.

Many of my dear friends - and almost all of my family - are not members of my church. They have all at one point or another during their lives gone searching for a new church congregation. Just this past year, two of my girlfriends and their family's went "church hopping" (their words, not mine) until they found a new congregation where their children actually wanted to attend. Their new congregation makes them happy because they've met new friends, really enjoy their pastor, and most of all - their daughters are excited to attend Sunday School. 

Something that I enjoy about living in Kansas is that while my friends belong to many different churches - each of which have some different beliefs or traditions - but that we all love God and embrace each other for our love and devotion to our Heavenly Father. We don't put labels on each other. Instead, we love and respect each other. 


And that is something Dan Harrington shows so well in Who's at the Door. He shows that there's more than just a suit, tie, and name tag to those two young men knocking on your door. They are real people who share similar growing up experiences as you and your children. The difference is that you're meeting them during a time when they have chosen to take a two year break from college to serve a mission for their church - to teach people that they are beloved children of God.


Dan also talks about how his appreciation of God and his gospel grew from taking his life-long teachings from the Catholic church, and the teachings from the LDS church. He gained a new perspective on his life and purpose on Earth, and even though he chose not to join the LDS church, he has made life-long friends with all the different missionaries he met with and members of the local LDS congregation. 


Who's at the Door is an excellent example of looking past the names on the signs in front of your local churches and instead respecting and supporting each other. I will always remember that wise phrase: There's room for everyone at God's table.

Learn more about Dan Harrington at his blog
Who's at the Door: A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve, Awesome News, and a Spine Tingling Book

It's Christmas Eve morning. My hubby is pulling the turkey out of the refrigerator so we can figure out how long it needs to cook and I'm strategizing my "kitchen plan" in my head. You know what a kitchen plan is, don't you? For me, when to make each dish, so they'll all be ready (and hot!) when it's time for our big dinner tonight, as well as how to keep the kids happy and out of the kitchen while I get it all done.   =)

I love Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is all about fun and playing together as a family, but Christmas Eve is full of all the anticipation, giggles and squeals, and teasing about what kind of presents we might get tomorrow. Sticks and rocks, mud scented play doh, and Santa just might bring a big box of coal, too. The kids enjoy the teasing just as much as we do, laughing and teasing us right back. Later this morning, we'll pull out a puzzle to work on and play a couple of board games. Then we'll pop on some fun Christmas DVD's for the kids while we cook up our turkey and all the trimmings.

My three-year-old just came up to tell me that our turkey is taking a bath. LOL! It's in the sink finishing it's final defrost before being put in the over. I'm drooling while thinking about all our yummy food for tonight. My hubby is excited about the apple cranberry pie I bought yesterday. It looks totally delish!

Aside from the food (I just love holiday food!), I'm also looking forward to telling the Christmas story tonight as a family. We get out my mom's ceramic teddy bear nativity and use the pieces to tell the story. The kids are old enough now that they each hold their own pieces and come in to play their parts at the appropriate time. After the telling of the Christmas story, we'll all sit on the couch together, turn off the lights (so much better to admire the Christmas tree), and sing carols. Then we'll have family prayer and get all the munchkins to bed (so much easier said than done!).

Yes, I love Christmas Eve and can't wait to dive into it today. Most of our munchkins are still sleeping, hence the opportunity to blog this morning.  =)

I also have some awesome news to share. My publisher, Cedar Fort, emailed yesterday to say that the release date for (dis)Abilities and the Gospel is May 2011. Horray! Only five months away! I'm so very excited. Lynn and I will have our very first book signing at the LDS Storymakers Writers Conference during Mother's Day weekend. If you're attending the conference, you'll get first dibs on the book as it most likely won't be on book store shelves yet.

I'm rather emotional about our first signing for a couple of reasons. The first of which is that the Storymakers conference is where my hubby sent me to get me back into my writing after many years of setting it aside to help our son with his autism therapy. It was at that first conference I attended when I realized that my love of writing could turn into the reality of a book selling in book stores. Each conference that followed continued to teach my the writing craft. The support of the Storymakers and friends I met at the conference nurtured and encouraged me all year long. This writing journey has been an incredible experience - and I think it's so neat that the organization who encouraged me to work to realize my dreams, is where I'll hold my book and sign it for a fan for the first time. Amazing how it's all working out, isn't it?

The other reason having our first signing at the Storymakers conference is because last year's conference was when my co-author Lynn Parsons and I met in person. Yes, we wrote a whole book together, but never once met in person. We talked on the phone, emailed and wrote through Google Docs. Our friendship was created and sealed through modern technology. I still remember how excited I was to wrap my arms around her for the first time at last year's conference. We even teased each other that we were both wearing similar outfits - which was totally not planned at all. It's fun to see how our writing journey together is coming full circle. We're both rubbing our hands in anticipation of the new year and jumping into the excitement of marketing, promotions, and our book tour. Wow. It's definitely a Merry Christmas for Lynn and I. 

My kids are starting to make appearances, so I just want to chat about one more thing. The book I read last night. Once the kids were in bed, I decided to take a nice hot bath and enjoy a good book. I picked up Cold As Ice by Stephanie Black, sunk into the bath tub and dived into the first chapter. So much for relaxing in my bath! There's a reason why Stephanie Black has won two Whitney Awards for her suspense novels. They pull you in, freak you out, and make it so you can't put the book down until you know how it ends. I was barely able to put it down after the water turned cold so I could jump out and get dressed for bed. But once I hurried through that, I was snuggled into my bed and right back into the book.

My favorite thing about suspense novels is trying to figure out who the bad guy is before the end. Cold As Ice is a book where I kept guessing. It's this person because of this, this, and this. Wait no - I think it could be this person because of blah, blah, blah. I went through this at least four times . . . and I was still wrong at the end! During those last fifty pages, I was so, so tempted to flip to the end just to see who the killer was. I seriously stopped a few times and fingered the pages, debating about whether to skip ahead or not. But I made myself read through. And yes, there were spine tingles and gasps and when the killer was revealed a "No way!" as everything sunk in together and got wrapped up. So, if you like suspense and spine tingles, I highly recommend Cold As Ice. Now I need to read the rest of her books - which are actually on my bookshelf but I've never read because, you know, I'm a romance chick. Well, I'm now a Stephanie Black suspense fan and will be reading all of her books as soon as they come out now.

Well, it's time to wrap up this post. I'm looking out our bay windows and see that it's started snowing outside. My kids will be thrilled if we have a white Christmas, so hopefully it won't all melt and go away.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, love, and thoughts of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner

Today's book review is Perilous by debut author Tamara Hart Heiner. From the back jacket blurb:

Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year-- to make the honor roll and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who just moved into town. What Jaci doesn't plan for is catching a notorious robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.



My Review

I liked this book. The plot and characters pulled me in. Some parts freaked me out a bit, but overall, I couldn't put it down. The biggest problem I had was that the end of the book didn't feel wrapped up. I didn't feel like there was enough closure for the girls. I got to the end and was like, "That's it?" I heard there is going to be a second book to finish up the story, but even so, I felt like it needed a bit more tied up before leading into the next book.

If you have teens who like freaky and suspenseful books, they would enjoy Perilous - as would many adults who like to read in the YA cross-over into adult mainstream fiction type books.

Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner is available on Amazon.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review: Sun Tunnels and Secrets by Carole Thayne Warburton

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I'm finally starting to catch up on all my book reviews. BTW - have you heard my happy news? If not, go check out this blog post!

Today my review is Sun Tunnels and Secrets by Carole Thayne Warburton.

Here is the back cover blurb:

On a trip to the Sun Tunnels in the Utah desert, Norma and her sisters find a body on the side of the road. But this awful discovery turns out to be the least of their problems. Norma's husband just passed on, and she learns he kept a secret from her for sixty years. LaRue is keeping a secret from Norma. The sisters' young friend Tony is keeping a secret about his famous father, and Tony's mother is keeping a secret of her own. Tony is secretly in love with his friend Kelli, who recently escaped from a polygamist cult. And who is the mysterious young car thief with whom Norma feels a special connection? Everything converges in Grouse Creek at the Fourth of July celebration. Will secrets prove everyone's undoing?

My Review

I actually really enjoyed this book. I loved the three old sisters - Norma, Mabel, and LaRue. They cracked me up. Their reactions to the crimes and their bantering was very fun. I also like the romance between Tony and Kelli. And man, if you're looking for a book that has twists and turns and conflict all over the place, this is the one for you! As a writer, I'm seriously impressed the author was able to keep track of it all, keep it believable, and even wrap each thread before the end of the book. Now here's someone I'd like to take a writing class from and figure out how she plotted everything out and kept it organized.

This isn't a book I think teens would be especially interested in, but definitely college age through older adults would find Sun Tunnels and Secrets an intriguing read. It's definitely worth checking out!


Sun Tunnels and Secrets is available on Amazon.com or at your local LDS bookstore. 


Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Official!

Lynn and I just received contracts from Cedar Fort to publish (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: A Guide for Parents and Teachers. This is the official title. It will be out early this summer.

We're so excited!
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.