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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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Hidden Sun by J. Lloyd Morgan

The Hidden Sun by J Lloyd Morgan is an enjoyable story of a woman facing her destiny for being queen with a difficult decision. As the new queen, she is required to enter into an arranged marriage and the person who has been chosen for her leaves her nervous and uncomfortable. Things have been slightly off in his corner of the kingdom for many years but it is unclear what is really happening. She’s worried for her kingdom and worried for her heart. It’s not bad enough that she is supposed to enter into a marriage she does not want but doing so would require her to put aside the love she feels for a man who has proven himself good and true.

It’s an interesting and compelling journey to take with the characters. I enjoyed my time within The Hidden Sun’s pages very much. And bonus: I loved the naming conventions of many characters. Some people might find them a little cheesy but for me they were plain fun.
So, what did I find to grumble about? The editing could have been better; the copy errors were a bit distracting. And, the story was told from many different perspectives. It was sometimes hard to tell whose head I was in and why. I think I would have preferred a few less characters telling the story.

I could easily recognize that this was a first novel. J. Lloyd Morgan is no stranger to good storytelling, but writing a novel was a new venue for him. It does show a little, but I expect a little of that from most new authors. Mostly, I judge a story on its ability to engross me as opposed to whether or not the author has mastered all the rules of the craft. Heck, I can’t place a comma correctly to save my life, so who am I to judge the polish of another storyteller’s craft? It’s a journey for all of us. I’ll definitely be interested to see what comes of the sequel Mr. Morgan is working on.

I actually think that The Hidden Sun’s best quality comes in the form of the moral message woven into the story, mainly: the differences between right and wrong and the long-term consequences of both. While the logical choices of right and wrong may be clear enough, in every situation you’ll find multiple shades of grey that make it hard to see where such choices could lead. Morgan’s approach is to take the stand that wrong choices, even when you feel they have been justified by good reasons, will have far reaching consequences which are rarely good.

The story is engaging and enjoyable, with the added layer of a “moral of the story”, this might be a good choice if you happen to have a teenage child on the verge of life and finding themselves getting a little lost in the mists of life. The truly rebellious element will probably see right through it and recognize the story as an extended lecture. But, those who have a good understanding of the gospel or just find themselves struggling a little will find a great story that lets them see the consequences of someone’s actions from a safe distance. It allows them to look at their own choices with a different perspective.

For this aspect alone, I would recommend The Hidden Sun find a place on your family’s bookshelf. Pick up a copy and see what little messages you can find hidden in it that seem to speak directly to you and your life’s journey.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trapped by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

The first pages of Trapped by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen caught me by the throat and took several pages to loosen their grip. Who among us hasn’t woken up at one point or another convinced someone was in the house who shouldn’t have been? Ms. Hinrichsen did a great job of turning those feelings in to a believable experience. I was right there with Emi, the description pulled me right in and made me thankful I was reading in public in broad daylight.

What made the book finally loosen its grip on me? Hmmm, I can’t be sure. Perhaps it was the switches in story focus. I’d have a hard time deciding what genre to place Trapped in. The story was an interesting melding of mystery, mystical, adventure, suspense and romance. I knew what to expect from reading the back cover, but I still found myself—not pulled out of the story, necessarily—more like that feeling that something has changed and you have to shift in your seat to compensate for it. I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense, but rest assured when I figured out how to put it all back together again, Trapped did a good job of holding my attention. If you’re a fan of books that weave several elements together, Trapped could be right up your alley.

Trapped has good descriptions that really let you see what you’re reading in your mind’s eye. I liked the twists and turns trying to figure out who the good and bad guys were. I had to second guess myself several times on who Emi should trust and who she shouldn’t. That’s always a nice aspect in a book. I don’t like knowing exactly how things will end from the very beginning when I’m dealing with mystery and suspense.

So, do I have any of my famous sniveling complaints? Truly, the mixed genres didn’t bother me, I like books that can mix things up a little bit. It just took a little getting used to. But, there was one character trait that made Emi Warrin someone I had a hard time relating to. I am a very independent person. Always have been. For me, a 23-year-old girl who pretty much lets her mother dictate and control everything in her life was just not believable. I’m sure there are such people out there, but it was something I found I had no patience for. Every time she stated “I am an adult. . .” I wanted to laugh. She sounded like a five-year-old throwing a tantrum. Had I been in her shoes there would have been extreme rebellion by the time I reached age 15.
If I could put her actual age out of my mind and assume she was just a teenager I had a much better time getting into her head. All in all, I was glad for the time I spent enjoying Trapped by Rhonda Gibb Hinrichsen. Looking for a book that provides a little spice and variety? Give Trapped a try, it just my fit your tastes and be a satisfying read.

On a larger scale, I’m interested to get my hands on Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen’s first title, Missing, to see how it compares. It will be interesting to see what kind of niche Ronda is carving out for herself.

Here’s the back cover blurb and information on the blog tour contest- get yourself a free book!

A Forged Letter, A Golden Vial, An Ancient

style="font-size:100%;">Filled with family secrets, intrigue, and romance
the blog tour
(August 9-August 24) for href="http://www.amazon.com/Trapped-Ronda-Gibb-Hinrichsen/dp/193521764X/ref=
pd_sim_b_3">Trapped by href="http://thewriteblocks.blogspot.com/">Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen will
have it all.

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
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.
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?

We will be giving away THREE autographed copies!

All you
have to do is leave a comment (along with your email address if it isn't
on your blog profile) and answer the following question.

Which Austrian city would you most like to visit?style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(255, 102,
102);font-family:arial;font-size:130%;" >

style="font-family:arial;">The more blogs you comment on the more entries
you'll receive.
All comments must be left by midnight MST
on August 27 to be eligible.


August 9
Heather Gardner

August 10
Jewel Adams

August 11
Mary Greathouse
Teri Rodeman

August 12
Lynn Fowlstone
Christine Bryant

August 13
Valerie Ipson
Sheila Stayley

August 16
Deanne Blackhurst

August 17
Connie Hall
C.S. Bezas

August 18
Kimberly Job
Tristi Pinkston

August 19
Karen Hoover
joan-sowards-and.html">Nichole Giles

August 20
Alison Palmer
Jessica Williams

August 23
Joyce DiPastena
Laurie Lewis

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hometown Girl by Michele Ashman Bell

Hometown Girl is the second book in the Butterfly Box series by Michele Ashman Bell. The first book, A Modest Proposal, introduces us to a group of friends as they begin to experience changes in their lives that pull them in different directions. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants without the naughty stuff.

Hometown Girl focuses on the life of Jocelyn—an art teacher who has lost a little of her enthusiasm for life and art. Her grandmother passed away several years ago and left her house to Jocelyn. When she learns that the town’s mayor has declared her grandmother’s home a town eye-sore that needs to be fixed at all costs, Jocelyn’s friends convince her to take a leap of faith and move into the home. Jocelyn is looking for a fresh start, but she’s not really sure she has enough faith in herself to make it happen.

I enjoy the characters embodied in the “butterfly girls” and, specifically, getting to know Jocelyn better in Hometown Girl. I could relate to Jocelyn’s dilemma in moving to a new place. Starting over is never easy and circumstances certainly seemed to be stacking up against her. It was frustrating to experience through her eyes and try to understand what I would do in the same situation. Her responses were realistic and heartfelt. Jocelyn was a very well-rounded and relatable character.

On the other hand, even though the move was hard I wish everyone could find a ward like the one that greeted Jocelyn upon her move. What a beautiful example of how the gospel is supposed to work among its people. Sure, there were quirky people there, too. No ward is without them, but the way the ward members responded to each other and to Jocelyn won a place in my heart.

The romance was realistic and not overwhelming to my practical sensibilities. I'm totally in love with Jack. I didn't really know what to make of him at first, just like Jocelyn, but trying to break through his barriers and figure him out was intriguing and rewarding.

I also loved the way Jocelyn was able to find the strength to conquer her fears, past, present and imagined, to create a new life for herself. Hometown Girl offers a fun, fulfilling sense of hope for the reader.

Any sniveling complaints? Well, Michele threw in a tidbit a little more than half-way through that I found interesting and really wanted to get to the bottom of. It really propelled me into “must read” mode with this story. Sadly, it was just set up for the next books. The story of Jocelyn comes to a satisfying conclusion but there are several other aspects that the reader is left to wonder about. This is a perfectly acceptable technique when writing a series. It gives overall plot themes that pull things together very nicely. I just happen to be a little spoiled and like getting all of my information in one place at one time. Now I have to wait for the next book to find out what happens in other facets of the story. Maybe that's it: maybe I'm just impatient. Oh well.

It’s definitely best to get into this book with the knowledge that it’s part of a series. While Hometown Girl can make a satisfying stand-alone read for you, there is just enough dropped in here and there to make you curious about the back story from A Modest Proposal and just as curious about what will come next. Reading these titles really is a series commitment- you won’t be able to just dip in a toe and walk away. That’s both a good thing and a frustrating thing. Great job, Michele, pulling all of it together and making an intriguing series, but I’m still choosing to whine about having to wait for another book to get some more answers. *Sniff*

Oh, and I have to figure out how to get my hands on a moon flower bush. I love the fun little tidbits I get to learn about it books!
Be sure to pop on over to Michele’s blog and get yourself entered to win a $50 gift card- Woohoo!