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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And the Winner Is. . .

Okay, that was seriously fun. Note to self: book giveaways are extremely good for my ego. I’ve never felt so popular! :)

On to the winner of Under a Lakota Moon by Deborah L. Weikel:

Marcia Mickelson



And to those of you who didn’t win: take it up with my 8yo. But I’m warning you, he bites when provoked. His brother has the scars to prove it.

Just remember, I’m participating in three different blog tours in September that all come with nice book giveaways. Stop by and leave a comment here to be entered in the drawings. Stop by multiple review/interview stops on the blog route and be entered additional times for every comment you leave.

September 2: Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

September 4: The Route by Gail Sears

September 11 and 24: Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

Check my sidebar or their blogs for details. ;)

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Strange Sort of Keeping Up With the Jones

I guess every neighborhood has some sort of Jones family and those that scramble to keep up with them. My neighborhood is no different.

I live in a very small neighborhood. There is a circular road with 13 houses and a dead end street with another 10 houses. I live on the dead end street and this is mostly a tale of these 10 houses and our strange affair with the Jones.

Some years it's innocent enough. Like the year half the adults decided they needed bikes to ride with their children. Then, there was the spring of re-done flowerbeds. There was also a, "let's plant a tree" phase that was pretty. The, “let's have garage sales” summer was kind of a bust, but most of the time it's all innocent idea stealing.

Not this year. It started out about the same. Spring started with a two week, "gee we'd better cut down those dead trees" festival. The boys loved watching them all come down.

Then, the Jones virus left our area to spend some time among the houses on the circular road. They had a wave of serious illnesses and death. We don't envy their domino effect at all.

But, by summer “Jones” was back on the dead end causing trouble. I blame a friend almost at the end of the street. She and her husband decided enough was enough: this would be the summer they would replace the roof. Now this is distressing news in our household, because if they replaced their roof ours would win the "worst looking roof in the neighborhood" award hands-down. We'd been trying to put it off a few more years.

So, we watched with interest as they made their roofing choices and began to prepare. Then quickly decided there was no way in the underworld we were touching our own roof this year. It played out like this.

No sooner did they buy all the supplies and have them delivered than their well dried up. Stop construction to drill a new well. . .

Then, they tore off the old shingles and dutifully put up the giant tarps until the weekend.

Enter several torrential rain storms. The tarps did not hold up. They now have to replace most of the ceiling in their garage and multiple patches within the rest of their house. A new set of tarps went up.

They were finally able to start installing their new roof and another neighbor's well started bubbling up all over the yard. . .

And so it continues to circle through the neighborhood leaving havoc in its wake until this latest adventure. Currently, if I look out my front window, I can see not one, but two, power lines dangling in my neighbor's front yard. Yes, they are live. We know this because they dutifully went "zot-zot, pop-pop-pop" before breaking lose and landing there.

For the next hour we got to watch the local police officer, the fire chief, someone from the electric company, and a few other people we never knew what they did, walk up and down our road in saying "yep, it's a wire" before quartering off most of my neighbor's yard with caution tape and driving away. I wonder what they plan to do when it rains tomorrow. . .

As for our household, we're holding our breath. That Jones virus is due to settle on our house fairly soon and there is no telling where it will attack. Couldn't we have stuck with bikes and gardens?

I think all the men are having jealous fits. The circle's Jones virus for the summer is go-karts. They all turn green with envy (from their dutiful spot on roofs and dirt pits that used to be wells) when they go up and down the road.

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

This is a little different from most book reviews I do. How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt doesn’t earn a universal recommendation from me. I’ll explain later. But, it did give me something very valuable to think about amidst a good story.

How to Build a House introduces us to Harper (love that name, btw) who has signed up to spend her summer in Tennessee building a home for a family who was displaced by a tornado. She’s a sweet girl who really is interested in helping, but she’s also a sad and bitter girl who is doing everything in her power to escape her own home life. In the process of learning to build an actual home, Harper learns a lot about what it takes to build a family. It’s an interesting journey that I was glad to take with her.

So, why the warning rather than my usual recommendation? I try very hard to only discuss books that I could recommend to my own mother. Trust me; she’s the biggest prude you’ll ever meet. In other words, if I’m gong to endorse it I want it to be squeaky clean. While How to Build a House is not exactly promiscuous, there may be some who are offended by the casual inclusion of teenage sexual activity and underage drinking.

Personally, I was not offended. I found it to be a pretty accurate portrayal of today’s youth without glamorization. There were characters who engaged in more casual sexual relationships, those that were more serious, and those that chose abstinence. There was a very satisfying aspect in which Harper begins to understand that there is a big difference between having sex and being in a relationship where you feel secure and beautiful for just being who you are. Well done, or not, be aware that these aspects are present and you might want to preview the title before recommending it to your own teenager.

Now, what about How to Build a House won it a place in my book reviews? It gave me a few beautiful moments of contemplation. One statement, in combination with the story context made me think about something that hadn’t been on my mind very much lately. It was a reminder I sorely needed.

The statement: Take off your shoes.

Not much, but think biblically for a moment. Moses was asked to take off his shoes before approaching the burning bush. He was entering a sacred space and needed to be reminded of that. Though How to Build a House does not mention Moses it leaves a very clear message:

A home is a sacred space. It is build with love and relationships and should be honored as such. Take off your shoes.

Now, I’ve heard of a lot of different reasons for taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home. This is by far my favorite. My family is not the take off your shoes at the door type. Sure, we run around barefoot most of the time but we kick off those shoes where ever we feel like it. (And hope we remember where that was the next day.) Still, it was nice to spend a few moments contemplating the sacred space of my home. Was I honoring that? Do I bring my best self whenever I enter into my home? Do I leave as much of the world outside as I can? More often than not, the answer is no.

So, that’s why How to Build a Home makes my “Worth the Read” list. I needed to be reminded to pause just a little more often on the threshold of my home, and take off my “shoes”. I need my house to be that kind of sanctuary and I’m the one who can build that kind of home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yippee!!! A Free Book

I have here, in my cute little hand, . . . okay, not literally- that would make typing a little difficult.

Ahem, where was I? Oh! I happen to have an extra copy of Under a Lakota Moon by Deborah L. Weikel that is itching to find a new home. Since you poor saps actually read my blog it can belong to one of you!

Here's all you have to do:
Enter a comment on this blog post before midnight August 26th, 2009 telling me why you like to read romance novels and the title of the best one you've read in the last year.

That's it! Easy as pie and you could win a free book. I will have my children randomly select one name from those who commented and announce it here on the 27th.

Happy Commenting!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Happy Announcement

We interrupt our regularly scheduled book review to bring you a happy announcement:

Alison Palmer’s first LDS fiction title, The Prodigal Son, will be appearing on bookshelves everywhere in April 2010!

Yes folks the fanatical nonfiction writer has finally broken out of her shell.

It became official this morning when I signed a new publishing contract with my friends at Valor. (Thanks, Judy, for the excellent foreshadowing. What an awesome touch!) I am really excited about it and they seem excited, too. They like me, they really like me! ;)

I’ll be working over the next few months to make sure all of my renegade commas have been taken care of. If you know anything about me it should be that I can’t spell and I have this “thing” about commas. They show up where they don’t belong and forget to show up where they should be. It’s a conspiracy I tell you.

We expect my new baby to show his beautiful face just in time for me to show him off at the LDStorymakers’ Conference. (Insert cheesy grin)

The Prodigal Son is the first in a new series I’m stretching my wings with. We’ll see how it goes. Each book in the series will be a modern retelling of the scripture parables we all know and love. The Prodigal Son is, of course, the story of a wayward son and a mother who must learn to love him, even when he doesn’t want to be loved. I hope it will be a tale of inspiration and comfort for all those who have ever felt the pain of watching a child struggle with serious life choices.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress and hope you enjoy this new adventure of mine as much as I am.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So Proud I'm Bust'n My Buttons

A short while ago a friend of my announced the launch of her new publishing company. The news got even better when I heard some of the names she would have working with her. This is woman with steamroller determination and the connections it takes to put together something that is awesome. I have no doubt she will take Valor Publishing to great heights.

Now, Valor is announcing its debut title. It’s everything I’d expect from such wonderful people. As a favor to my friends, and in support of their awesome endeavor, I’m posting their announcement here and letting you in on the special offer. Happy Reading!

Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s ground-breaking new novel, “Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story” is now available for preorder at a reduced price.

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

You can order your sale-priced, signed and numbered limited edition copy of “Am I Not a Man” by visiting http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com before Labor Day. There are only 5,000 copies of this special edition being printed and once they’re gone, they’re gone … and the sale price ends on Labor Day. You can request that Mark personalize your inscription, and your book will be mailed to you before the stores even get their copies. For more information, visit http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Under a Lakota Moon by Deborah L. Weikel

I just had the pleasure of reading Deborah Weikel’s first novel, Under a Lakota Moon. This is a book you want on hand when you need a good feeling and a little bit of an escape, but not so much that you don’t notice when the kids are out for each other’s blood. I could read, keep the plot in my head, and yell at my kids all at the same time. Trust me. That’s easier said and done.

Under a Lakota Moon fits solidly in the historical romance genre. I don’t consider myself an expert in the genre but it seemed to fit in the niche some call “formula romance”. It follows a very simple, predictable pattern. It’s straight forward, and easy to predict. There is no doubt from page one who is supposed to end up together and why, there are no real obstacles thrown in their way outside of their own self-doubts. It’s just a clean, sweet love story. Some may not like that, but billions of book buying women do. I think that’s part of their appeal, actually. This one is doubly appealing because it’s also squeaky clean. Intimacy is explored as something sacred and wonderful but the bedroom door is still firmly shut. Yippee!

I loved the strong sense of right and wrong that Rosalyn possessed and every woman deserves a little bit of Lone Wolf in their life. That said, I did get a little annoyed with Rosalyn for making assumptions early on that things would always go her way. And, Lone Wolf seemed to lack depth for me, or maybe I just prefer my men flawed. ;)

Me, personally, I’m not a straight romance person. So, my favorite part came after Lone Wolf got shot (in the last quarter of the book). I liked the last little glitch Deborah threw in the best. That had me thoroughly engaged and interested in figuring out the short who-dunnit element.

My other favorite piece? Lone Wolf’s first oral prayer. It was something I really needed to be reminded of at the moment I read it. Thanks, Lone Wolf, for reminding me what really makes my world complete.

What will you find in Under a Lakota Moon? Romance, faith, lessons in living without prejudice, family values, and more romance under a Sweetheart’s moon in the 1870’s version of Minnesota. If those things are up your alley and you need a book that doesn’t make you think too hard during this last stretch of summer, it’s probably worth getting your hands on a copy of Under a Lakota Moon.