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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.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sapphie Flute by Karen E. Hoover

Fantasy is one of my favorite areas to read, YA fantasy, even better. So I was happy to receive an ARC of The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover. It proved to be a fun and satisfying read.

A little about the book:

The world of Rasann is dying. The mages in the land have been working together to weave their magic into a net to hold the world in one piece, but those cords are breaking down. They need a white mage, the rarest of them all, to step in and take over where they are falling down, but there hasn’t been a white mage for over three thousand years. Their only hope lies in finding the magic keystones, long hidden, which will bind the world together.

Kayla has been given charge of one of those keystones, the Sapphire Flute, and been told not to play it. Another will come, destined to play the flute and bring the magic within it to life. She has never met this player, and has no idea where to find such a person.

In the meantime, Ember has discovered a secret – her father had the ability to shift himself into the shape of a wolf, and she has that gift as well. When she takes upon herself her new appearance, quite by accident the first time, she discovers a family she never knew she had.
Lurking behind it all is C’Tan, the sorceress. She wants the keystones for herself, and she will stop at nothing to get them.

In The Sapphire Flute we are introduce to two young ladies who hold a world of power without really knowing it. The themes encompass freedom of choice, consequence of choice and becoming the master of your own destiny. There are some sweet and valuable lessons to be had- in a very non-preachy form.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to wax poetically about Ms. Hooper’s first novel, but sadly my brain cells are failing me. So, here it is in a nut shell:

Hurray for a pair of strong heroines!
I love the fact that they aren't wishy-washy.
I love that they tend to save more than be saved.
I love that they stand up for themselves and their choices.
I loved the musical elements, as well. (I’m just that kind of person ;)
I loved that even when you thought you knew who the villains were, there was always something more about them, or their motivations, that wasn't quite so obvious. It adds just the right amount of suspicion and suspense.

I’ve read far too many books lately, some good reads, some not so much, that show the female characters as interesting and strong until the boy comes along, then suddenly she can’t be anything other than a swooning female moth dancing around the boy’s flame. Yes, there are a few elements of romance in The Sapphire Flute, but once again, it is reasonable and within the girl’s control. She has a definite say in the relationship. For me, Ember and Kayla are The Sapphire Flute’s strongest assets, as well they should be. It was a refreshing change and one I wish more authors would take note of.

Do I have any whines and complaints about The Sapphire Flute? A little bit. Maybe I was just too distracted when I opened it looking for an escape, but I had a slight hiccup in the first few pages trying to acclimate myself to the character names and the rules of magic in the world. There was an appropriate amount of suspense and lead- in with the introduction. It was just the names and understanding how the magical elements worked that gave me a moment’s pause. It took me a few pages to get in the groove. That was probably just me.

Second, is something the author has no control over. It's a case of "don't judge a book by its cover." While beautiful in its own right, the cover did not seem to match the book. Yes, it had all the right elements, but the images felt, well, a little juvenile for a YA book. It felt more like something I'd find on a middle grade. Depending on the type of consumer/teen reader you’re talking about, some may actually be put off by the cover instead of attracted to it. Again, just my own opinion and experiences. My 9 and 11 year old children saw the cover and asked what the book was about. I showed it to my teenage daughter asking if she would like to read it- she glanced at the cover and shrugged, not even curious if the subject matter was something she'd be interested in. I hope my own family’s weirdness doesn’t affect a larger audience and detract from the great things The Sapphire Flute has to offer, because Ms. Hoover has a talent for making female characters that really can be inspiring heroines and positive teen role models.

The Sapphire Flute is Karen E. Hoover’s first publication, and is the first of a series of seven. A new book in the series will be published each spring. Congratulations, Karen, you’re off to a great start!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good People Doing Good Deeds

I need to give a shout out about a few amazing women. These three ladies have new books out this month and they are celebrating by offering service. Is it any wonder why I love them?

First, Annette Lyon’s new book Band of Sisters, a book about military wives, will be launched tomorrow in a celebration with two other authors.
In conjunction with the message of this book, Annette is encouraging people to lend a helping hand to the Flat Daddy program. Sound weird? Nope, it’s actually a beautiful concept.

You can contribute to the Flat Daddy Program in three ways:
· Donate a monetary amount of your choice. It will go toward the creation of future Flat Daddies.
· Buy a Flat Daddy for an unknown family who needs one. They will be asked to send a thank-you e-mail saying what the Flat Daddy you gave means to them.
· Buy a Flat Daddy for someone you know. Enter their e-mail address, and a code will be e-mailed to them that they can use to claim their Flat Daddy at no charge.
To donate to the Flat Daddy Program, CLICK HERE then go to the "Give" tab at the top of the page.

Annette’s launch party will take place at University Village Deseret Book, Orem
Friday, March 12, 2010
6:00pm - 8:00pm

Another author participating in that book launch is doing a good turn of her own as well. Julie Bellon is now working a program called Water for Warriors. This is in addition to Operation Care and Comfort and Skittles for Soldiers which she’s been part of for more than two years.
It’s summer and time to provide our soldiers with a different type of treat, to celebrate her new book, Dangerous Connections. Sooooo-

In partnership with Seagull Book and Operation Care and Comfort, Julie is going to be collecting beverage items that will make the water taste a little better.

From now through the end of March you can drop off any of these suggested donation items at preferred Seagull locations on the Wasatch front.

Sweetened Drink Mixes (Gatorade, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid)
Hot Chocolate mixes
Cider Mix
Sugar or Sweetener Packets
Cup of Noodles (no pork)

When you bring in any of the suggested items listed you’ll also receive an entry to win a free autographed copy of Dangerous Connections.
You can find a list of drop-off locations here.

Third, is my amazing friend Tristi Pinkston, whose newest title- Secret Sisiters- debuts on March 16th, has been conspiring with her main character Ida Mae on another worthy cause. Idea Mae is a Relief Society President, you see. That means when she finds her councilor is knitting socks for a homeless shelter she wants to make sure everyone else can get in on the act as well- no knitting required.
Tristi has chosen to have a “sock-raiser” to help out a local shelter. Here’s her thoughts on how to help.
1. Bring your donation of new, packaged socks in all sizes to any Secret Sisters book signing. You can keep track of them here.2. Send a check directly to The Road Home or donate online by clicking here. I will not be collecting any monetary donations - if you wish to give money, send it directly to The Road Home.3. You may take your own donation directly down to The Road Home.4. If you aren't in the area, you may make a donation of money or socks at the homeless shelter nearest you.
Tristi is celebrating her book launch with a handful of other authors (and a live band) at Gateway Barnes & Noble Salt Lake City
March 16, 2010
6:00 p.m. to 8:30

Join these wonderful ladies if you can, and give them a hug from me.
Know of someone else with a creative mind and a big heart? Inspire me!

Summer in Paris by Michele Ashman Bell

Summer in Paris marks Michele Ashman Bell’s 20th published title. That should give you some indication of her level of knowledge in her craft. This sweet little book marks her national market d├ębut and I think it will prove a success for her.

In Summer in Paris we meet a teenage girl, Kenzie, who seems to have the perfect life, only to find out it’s not as perfect as she’d like. Life is full of ups and downs, and from the beginning of the book we’re thrown right into them with her. I personally think bungee jumping is an excellent way to start a book! ;)

A little blurb about the book:
Kenzie Williams feels like she has it all; wealth, friends, popularity and talent. But when her father tells her he has declared bankruptcy, her whole world in New York City turns upside down. Her parent's solution while they sort through their financial and marital problems is to send Kenzie to live with her relatives in Paris . . . Idaho!

I loved all the little scrapes and adventures Kenzie seemed to find her way in to. I loved that there were a lot of different stories being told from her view. It wasn’t just a romance, or a drama, or a mystery, or a comedy. Each little storyline showed you a different theme as well. It was all woven together very well to create a thoroughly enjoyable picture of teenage angst. There’s a little something for almost any YA reader within the pages of Summer in Paris.

Did I have any hiccups while reading? Well . . . I have to admit that, at first, I thought Kenzie was a little snot. I couldn’t relate to her at all. I know, I know, she’s supposed to be that way. Maybe it’s because I’m coming at it from a mom’s point of view, but all I could do was roll my eyes at her. Luckily, I stuck with Kenzie long enough to see her grow and begin to understand what was really important in life. She definitely grew on me as she grew in the story. Oh, and I was almost as disappointed as Kenzie was when I figured out the Paris I would be traveling to with her was in Idaho. Sigh.

I also think Michele deserves a shout out for showing the contrast of what a healthy, loving marriage looks like. I think that’s an important factor that often gets left out of the “my parents are getting divorced” books. Most YA books, even when they don’t have anything to do with the parent’s marital problems, tend to show dysfunctional marriages and incomplete families. Sadly, I recognize that is the norm, but I also think it’s important that young girls receive the message that love is work, but it can also be very, very lovely. Hurray for Kenzie’s parents who got to learn those lessons, too.

If you happen to live in Salt Lake, Michele will be signing copies of Summer in Paris March 16, 2010 at The Gateway Barnes & Noble in Salt Lake City from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I've Got Some Studying to Do

I noticed the other day that I have 278 books on writing in my "to read" file. I don't keep track of how many I've read, but I promise I've studied my craft.

Here's the thing though. I still feel jipped. See, I live on the wrong side of the United States.

I write for the LDS market. Where is the hottest base for that market? Utah.

I write fantasy. Where's the biggest pocket of writers and conferences for fantasy writers? Yep, you guessed it: Utah.

Where do I live? Michigan.

Are you getting the disconnect here?

While I'm sitting at home in MI, all of my friends are working together in critique groups who really "get" where they're coming from. They're going to scads of conferences to hone their craft. Then having the audacity to gush about how good it was and how inspired they are because of it. I blow raspberries in their general direction.
If that's not bad enough, life circumstances have dictated that I will also be missing the one conference I haven't missed in, um, 6 years.

Hence, I was overjoyed to find I actually could attend a little bit of those conferences.

Dan Wells has posted links to his presentation at LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) conference on Story Structure, both on live YouTube videos, and the powerpoint presentation he used.>
John Brown and Larry Correia have also posted videos of their class at LTUE on "How to Write a Story That Rocks"

Thank You!

I think I need to declare myself "on vacation" this weekend and hole up in my office watching writer's conference videos.

Inspiration For Even Your Down-est Days

My sweet friend Kerry Blair has had so many difficult struggles in recent years. But it's not her courage and strength in those trials that inspires me so much. It's her love. I have never known someone with so much love to give, even when things may seem very, very dark in her own world.

Now, while it pales in comparrison, I've been busy throwing a few pity parties myself. I needed Kerry's wisdom and love to remind me what they are good for, and what they are not good for.

Pop over, read her blog. I promise, you'll feel her love, and the Savior's, as well.

A Sneak Peak from Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Ann Nunes has just posted a sneak-peak chapter of her new release Imprints on her website. Go check it out.

I, for one, am interested to see what she does with this genre. Plus, any heroine who never wears shoes is just right up my alley. ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Love Your Body by Brooke Parker

Today, I'm privileged to be reviewing Love Your Body: A Diet-Free Approach to Balanced Eating by Brooke Parker. Take this book for just what the title implies. This is not a diet or nutrition book, it doesn't give you lists of good and bad foods, or suggest 20 quick and easy ways to lose 20 pounds. The topic is much more timely and crucial than any of these. It's about loving your body. Plain and simple. That's something I think every woman needs to understand and contemplate.

To present this material, Brooke Parker draws on her experience as a nutritional counselor for women with eating disorders. Don't discount the advice because you feel you don't have problem in this area. I don't know a single woman who couldn't benefit from the types of advice Ms. Parker gives. It's wholesome, sound and meant for every woman and girl who has ever looked in a mirror and felt uncomfortable with what they've seen.

Topics include:
· Finding a New Relationship with Food
· Honoring Your Hunger and Fullness
· Finding Your Own Healthy Balance
· Creating Healthy Expectations
· The Inner Dialogue
· Put an End to Worry
· Your Body Is a Gift
· Eliminating the Physical Triggers
· Destructive Thinking Styles
· Pampering Activities

Our bodies, our mortal experiences (including food) are supposed to be about bringing us joy and Brooke tries hard to remind us of that. We may not all experience the same intensity or the same thoughts, but as women we do tend to put a lot of undue pressure on how we look and how we think others see us. Nine times out of ten these fears are unfounded. If you've ever spent an evening berating yourself for that second piece of pie, reaching for the Ben and Jerry's on a bad day, or months depriving yourself of a certain type of food, this book is for you. Just as I mentioned, Love You Body is a message every women should come to understand. Even if you think you have no body image issues, I can almost guarantee that at least one woman you love does.

Ms. Parker does not expect you to take her word for everything. She has a few resources that she favors quoting, even drawing some of her specific messages from those texts. She gives them full credit, there in the text and does not try to hide the fact that she is introducing material that is not uniquely hers. To me, that was reassuring. I may not know Brooke Parker from Adam, oops, make that Eve, but I can acknowledge the usefulness of thoughts and ideas that have been studied and well documented then come to understand them through her use of them. Others may not see it that way. I can see some saying "Well, if I wanted to read so-and-so's book, I would have gotten that one not Love Your Body". I personally didn't think there was an issue, but I do read books for different reasons than some do. You'll have to judge that for yourself. I would suggest, however, that if the material in Love Your Body is ringing especially true look up those other resources and read them too.

Again, Love Your Body is not the source you want to turn to for diet and nutrition advice. That's not its purpose, and there are a million books out there that can promise you if you only eat this, or avoid that, or calculate and keep your numbers straight that you'll be healthy and happy. Good for them. But for me, I was thrilled to see someone actually address the thoughts and feelings we have behind reading such books. Love Your Body is the source to turn to for learning how to appreciate who you are, right here and now, and how to find joy in the blessings God has given us, namely a variety of good food and a body that is meant to bring us joy.

Pick up Love Your Body. It belongs on your shelf. It's a sweet, easy read that acts like a talk between good friends and leaves you with ideas, thoughts, and tools to tackle even the worst "why do I even keep that pair of skinny jeans" days.

Here’s a note from the publisher regarding a great give-away they’re hosting on Brooke’s blog tour. Make sure to get your entry into the pot!

We will be giving away 5 copies of Love Your Body: A Diet-Free Approach to Balanced Eating as part of the online book blog tour.

The contest starts February 17th and will close on March 5th atmidnight, MST.Entering the contest is easy--all you have to do is blog, tweet, follow, or comment and then fill out this little form here.

So exactly how do you blog, tweet, follow, etc. Here's how.

1. Become a follower of our reviewers blogs. You can follow one of our reviewers or you can follow all of them. Remember that each blog you follow gives you another chance to win, so why wouldn't you choose to follow them all? But what if we are already following them you ask? Well lucky you, because you get an entry for that too.

Walnut Springs Press

Brooke Parker RD

Of Writerly Things

Random-ish by Nichole

Queen of the Clan

Rachelle Writes

The Write Blocks

Tangled Words and Dreams

*Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author

Why Not? Because I Said So!

LDS Women's Book Review

Cami's Book

2. Post a comment on the reviews.

3. Blog about the contest or one of the reviews. Spread the word. Just remember that the blog post either needs to link to the contest or to one of the reviews.

4. Follow us on twitter. Maybe you use twitter, maybe you don't. But if you do, you should follow us.








5. Tweet about the contest or one (or all) of the reviews. Yep, 144 characters or less is all it takesto enter.

6. Become a fan of Love Your Body on facebook. Brooke is constantly updating her fanpage with articles, recipes, and helpful hints.

7. Post about the contest on Facebook.

8. Anything else you can think of that will spread the word. If you mention it on goodreads, shelfari, google buzz, or any other social media site, or make it your status on gmail chat, MSN or yahoo messenger let us know. We want to reward your creativity with an entry.

Remember that you MUST fill out the nifty little form Here to be entered.