Tuesday, April 8, 2014

He's Getting So Old!

Joe turned fourteen this week. This means a lot of things. It means my youngest is going to be gone before I know it. It means I'm getting older. It means I don't have any little kids anymore. It means his voice has changed and he sounds like a man, both when he talks and when he sings. It means he got taller than me this year. It's still not by much, but he's got the edge (unless I brush my hair out). It means I'm a little melancholy, missing my little buddy. But mostly, it means I'm reflecting on a pretty amazing boy and the man he's becoming.

Joe is a good kid. Even when he's been faced with cruelty and mistreatment by others, he's handled it with quiet dignity and hasn't retaliated or cowered. He's kind to people and tries to make sure no one is left out. Recently, when a boy in his deacon's quorum had an unfortunate mishap in front of the entire congregation, Joe's first thought was to be sure the boy was okay and didn't feel embarrassed or alone.

Joe is funny. He's witty and clever and regularly makes us laugh. He's got a great laugh and uses it often. He has a great sense of humor. We went to Cheesecake Factory for his birthday and he set new rules for us--we all had to order something we'd never had before. It was fun and it was typical Joe.

Joe has courage and character. He does the right thing even when it's hard and isn't afraid to ask for counsel or help. He doesn't get defensive, but listens and works hard.

He's talented, smart, good-looking and so many more things parents hope for.

Sorry I'm bragging, but once a year, when we celebrate that he was born and that we were blessed enough to have him come to our family, I think it's okay.

I love you, Joe, and I'm thankful every day for you.

Halfway There - Righting a Wrong by Rachael Anderson

Righting a Wrong, the third book in the Ripple Effect Romance Series, is out, which means half the books are now available. 

If you read Silver Linings, you might have left feeling bad for Jace. Luckily, he was in the capable hands of Rachael Anderson and I don't think you'll be disappointed with how his story turns out.

Seven years ago, Cambri Blaine fled her small hometown of Bridger, Colorado after her senior year ended in a fiasco. Only Jace Sutton knew the real reason why—that she was a spineless coward. Now, seven years later, her father's been in an accident and needs help, and Cambri has no choice but to return home. So with trepidation, she takes a leave of absence from the landscape architecture firm where she works and boards a plane, hoping against hope that Jace is no longer around and that the past can stay where it belongs—in the past. 

If only life worked that way. 

Jace never expected to see Cambri again. After she’d led him on, bruised his heart, and left town without a backward glance, he was forced to pick up the pieces and try not to hate her for it. Eventually, he put it behind him and moved on, creating a life for himself in his beloved hometown. But now that Cambri is back and looking more beautiful and sophisticated than ever, some of those old feelings resurface, and Jake instinctively knows, for the sake of his heart, that he needs to avoid her at all costs. 

If only it were that easy. 

MY REVIEW:

I always enjoy Rachael's books and this was no exception. She creates such well-rounded characters and I was cheering for Cambri and Jace. The dialogue is quick and sharp and entertaining. One of the book's strengths is that the supporting cast were interesting and likable, as well, and I enjoyed watching Cambri's relationship with her father evolve.

Another great part of this book (in my humble opinion) is that you're going to be introduced to Lydia, Jace's sister and the main character in my book, Lost and Found

I have to say, this was such a fun project to work on and I'm really proud of it. In my first book, Gifted, one of the central themes was that our lives matter and they effect the lives of those around us--sometimes in small ways, sometimes in more significant ways. That's also the central theme in this series and the authors I was fortunate enough to work with, put together some really lovely stories.
 GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO

The rest of the books will release as follows:
Book 4 - Lost and Found by Karey White - April 21 (YAY)
Book 5 - Second Chances 101 by Donna K. Weaver - May 5
Book 6 - Immersed by Jennifer Griffith - May 19

Remember, while each story could be a stand alone, we do recommend reading them in order so you aren't spoiled, since they are linked.

Missed what this unique series is all about?
"Like a pebble tossed into calm water,
a simple act can ripple outward and have a far-reaching effect on those we meet,
perhaps setting a life on a different course—
one filled with excitement, adventure, and sometimes even love."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Music & Food - What More Could You Want? - Two of My Favorite Things Lately


What better way to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior than with beautiful, spiritual, soaring music? The music on this CD is gorgeous. I can imagine the angels of heaven celebrating the miracle of His resurrection. This CD is a treasure.

Warning: This CD might cause your heartrate to increase and tears to spring to your eyes.

I'm sending this to Veronica in Seattle. She's going to love it.


I love cookbooks. I have a real weakness for them. With the internet (and especially Pinterest), cookbooks might seem like a relic from the past.

I guess I like relics. I'm a weirdo, but when I'm watching what I eat (the D word), I like to look at cookbooks. When I'm fasting, I like to look at cookbooks. Would that be the same as lusting in my heart? Does that mean I'm sinning? Hmm. Never thought of that before.

Anyway, when I had the chance to receive a copy of A Year With Six Sisters' Stuff, I jumped. And I'm glad I did. First of all, the book is beautiful. Love the colors, the layout, the nice paper. The pictures inside are gorgeous. And by the way, this reminds me of a thought I have whenever I see a cookbook without pictures. Why? Why bother? It's the pictures that make you want to cook, right? Or is that just me? 

There are 52 menus - each with a main dish, a side, and a dessert. (Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Loin, Brown Sugar and Bacon Green Beans & 5-Minute Creamy Key Lime Pie, for example) There are pictures of everything and I plan to make everything at least once over the next year.

Along with the recipes, there's a home storage acquisition guide that's actually do-able, simple craft and organization ideas, and more.

This is a cookbook worth investing in.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review - Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist


A breathtaking literary debut, Love Letters of the Angels of Death begins as a young couple discover the remains of his mother in her mobile home. The rest of the family fall back, leaving them to reckon with the messy, unexpected death. By the time the burial is over, they understand this will always be their role: to liaise with death on behalf of people they love. They are living angels of death. All the major events in their lives - births, medical emergencies, a move to a northern boomtown, the theft of a veteran's headstone - are viewed from this ambivalent angle. In this shadowy place, their lives unfold: fleeting moments, ordinary occasions, yet on the brink of otherworldliness. In spare, heart-stopping prose, the transient joys, fears, hopes and heartbreaks of love, marriage, and parenthood are revealed through the lens of the eternal, unfolding within the course of natural life. This is a novel for everyone who has ever been happily married -- and for everyone who would like to be.

My Review:

Wow! 

Wow!

I'm not sure how to wrap my words around this review, except to say that Jennifer Quist has written a literary book that should be the text for  classes. In fact, if I were to teach a high school or college literary class, I would use this for a unit. The writing should be studied and analyzed and appreciated.

It is achingly beautiful and haunting. It is sad. I cried when I finished it and I'm crying now as I write the review. 

There were times as I read it that I wanted to cry because of Quist's use of words and how she conveyed mood and feeling and connection.

This is the kind of book that stays with you and squeezes your heart and molds a lump in your throat. It's a beautiful and unconventional love story. So much in romance, it's about the meeting and the build-up to marriage. This is different. It starts in the marriage and shares snatches of the romance and everything that came after--everyday experiences that bind people together.

I loved it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review - The Light We Share by Harriet R. Uchtdorf

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; abd that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 As I have watched and observed many wonderful sisters around the world, living in very different but often very challenging circumstances, writes Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, I have marveled at the magnificent women in this Church who radiate such peace and joyful confidence. wmen have an instinctive ability to influence and lift others as they radiate the light of the gospel. In this charming, small-size book, Sister Uchtdorf reflects on the power of heavenly light in her own life and recalls the joy it brought to her family during a dark and difficult time. It was like a miracle, she explains as she describes how hope came back into their lives. Discover how the light we share can make a life-changing difference to those whose lives we touch--as women, family members, leaders, teachers, friends, and sisters in the gospel.

My Review:

If you're looking for a lovely little book to give as an Easter gift or for Mother's Day, this would be a great choice. Profound in it's simplicity, this book touched me with its personal stories and sweet testimony of light and love. It made me think about what I can do to give light to those around me. The pictures are beautiful. It's a wonderful, little book.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Am I in Business with God or Satan?

Today I run the risk of sounding like I might be a little crazy, but a couple of weeks ago, after a sobering conversation with a friend of mine, I was hit with an epiphany that has sat perched on the edge of my mind ever since. At the time I thought I should write about it, but as I pondered how I'd address the topic, and realized how hard it would be to explain, and how much I'd have to reveal about some of my beliefs, I put it off. But the epiphany still sits there, swinging its legs back and forth and refusing to be ignored. So at the peril of sounding like I'm crazy or nonsensical, I'm going to do my best to share the thoughts I've had.

To preface this, I need to explain a few of my core beliefs. I believe in God and I believe He knows each of us. I also believe He loves each of us. Evidence of that can be found in the instructions He's given us--love your neighbor, don't bear false witness, bridle our tongues, blessed are the peacemakers... I could go on and on sharing the instructions I believe He's given to encourage us to be kind, loving, peaceable, respectful.

I also believe in an adversary. I believe in Satan. I believe he's a miserable creature who tempts us and desires our destruction. I believe he wants us to be miserable like he is. I believe that he cheers at our failures and wants us to hate and hurt each other.

All my life, I've been taught that God knows our hearts and minds. He's omniscient, all knowing. But Satan isn't. He doesn't know our thoughts unless we vocalize them. He didn't know Job's heart and he doesn't know mine. He wouldn't know about my insecurities or the places I'm vulnerable unless I vocalize them. He wouldn't know of my heartaches, pain, or inappropriate thoughts, unless I vocalize them. If I'm strong and turn to God, He'll give me power over Satan and I'll be able to avoid his temptations and dark and depressing thoughts. God said Satan would have power to bruise my heel, but I'd have power to crush his head.

I hate gossip. I'm not going to say I haven't been involved in gossipy situations before because I have. I can think of specific instances where I've been annoyed, frustrated, or hurt and my reaction has been to have a full-fledged gossip-fest. Every time I do, I feel like garbage. I'm ashamed of myself and I feel dirty and disappointed.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me about a hurtful situation that had broken her heart and had been the pivotal event that caused her to relocate her family.She'd been the target of unkind gossip--some true, some misunderstood and some completely false. My heart ached for the suffering that had been inflicted on her and her family and I hoped her new neighbors would treat her and her family with more kindness. 

I remember a few years ago being at the heart of a similar situation. A disagreement with a neighbor I'd considered a friend, escalated into an ugliness that shocked me and I soon discovered that while I'd considered it a disagreement between the two of us and thought it could and should be remedied with an apology on both sides, turned into a feeding frenzy. Suddenly people I hardly knew were looking at me strangely or asking me questions that proved that the version they'd heard was full of exaggerations and hatefulness. I was shocked and hurt and soon discovered that apologies on my part would never heal the wound because once she'd entrenched herself in her hateful spreading of the story to others, there was no turning back for her.

As I thought over the experiences my friend had with gossip and my own experience, I had a realization. I believe Heavenly Father has instructed us not to bear false witness, (I interpret that as spreading hatefulness, rumors and GOSSIP) because it not only destroys the love he wants us to have for each other, it also arms Satan with ammunition to use on our neighbors. If I talk about So-and-So and spread around what I see as their shortcomings, I'm giving Satan the tools to know how to work on So-and-So. I might say to my friend, "She's so lazy. Have you seen her house? She must spend all day sitting around wasting time," or "She's such a slut. Have you seen the way she dresses and carries herself?" or "He has no business talking to her like that when he's married. Is he looking to have an affair?" but I'm not just being a horrible friend and neighbor. I'm aiding and abetting Satan as he tries to destroy people.

I might get my gossipy kicks by sharing a juicy tidbit with a friend and I'm done. But Satan won't stop there. He'll take my hurtful little dagger and he'll patiently and cruelly, dig and twist and carve with that little dagger in an effort to destroy someone.

I don't want to help Satan in his cunning plan. I'm pretty sure none of us do.

So how do we avoid being his unwitting partner? We love each other. We give people the benefit of the doubt. We walk away when others are gossiping or better yet, if we have the courage, we speak up and put an end to it. We follow Thumper's mother's advice and if we can't say somethin' nice, we don't say nothin' at all. We shut up when we're tempted to sully someone's name or reputation and we speak up when someone needs a kind word.

We become more like our Savior. I'd rather be partners with Him.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Ripples Go On - Book 2 Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin

Drew Westfall wants nothing more than to forget what he had to do in the name of "smart" business. Cutting off all ties with his parents—including handing over the entire contents of his trust fund to a charity—he takes off for Bridger, Colorado where his best friend has an extra room for him. It doesn't take long for him to realize that his business degree won’t do him much good in a town as small as Bridger, but he's broke and has nowhere else to go.

Eden Torresi has every reason to wallow. Not only did she have to sell her house to pay for her mother’s medical expenses, but she had to drop out of school and is in a relationship with a guy unwilling to commit. But Eden isn't the wallowing type. Instead, she spends most of her time taking care of the seniors at Silver Linings Assisted Living. When she learns that her boyfriend's new roommate is down on his luck, she reaches out to offer what help she can. But the more time they spend together, the more complicated things get, especially when the seniors of Silver Linings decide to play matchmaker.

My Review:

I loved this story. Kaylee has written a beautiful book about responsibility, sacrifice, friendship and love and I loved it. The two main characters are good people. Drew is stumbling around trying to figure out what he should do with his life now that he took a stand and did the right thing, a choice that left him with no inheritance and no direction. Eden is so focused on doing the right thing for everyone else that she doesn't even consider what's right for her. Thank goodness for all the meddling, adorable old folks at Silver Linings Assisted Living facility. They were awesome and hilarious.

This is a wonderful book. And it's available today. Enjoy!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review - Power to Become by David A. Bednar


Power to Become by David A. Bednar

I LOVED this book!

The stories and examples and doctrine were wonderful and life-affirming. They made you feel like you could accomplish great things and they gave me a new perspective. The layout of the book is perfect for personal study and goal-setting. There is room in the margins for taking notes as well as room at the end of each chapter to set your own goals and fine-tune the steps you'll take to reach them. I liked the layout of the book so much.

Elder Bednar took simple principles like compassion, obedience to commandments and the role the family can play in our own personally progression and presented them in a way that made me want to do better, to be better. I planned to read ten or so pages each day, but there were a few days I found myself reading twenty or thirty pages.

I'd highly recommend this book for its inspirational quality as well as its readability. It's a profound and uplifting book.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Ripple Effect Romance Series Begins - Home Matters by Julie N. Ford

Let me tell you a little bit about how this series came about. Before my first novel (Gifted) was published, I attended a writer's group that included Rachael Anderson. I knew who she was because my daughters and I had read her books. Little did I know that she hadn't attended the group for long and wouldn't attend it again after that first meeting I attended. I went three more times, hoping she'd be there again. Unfortunately, we never attended another of those meetings together. But it was enough to get acquainted and when she started another writer's group (that was equally short-lived), she invited me to attend.
 
None of these groups were meant to be, but luckily they were enough for a friendship to form. We've been bouncing ideas off each other, reading each other's work and helping each other for awhile now and I'm grateful we've become friends.
 
At a writer's conference last year, I met Kaylee Baldwin, another author I'd read and enjoyed. We hit it off and had a nice visit.
 
Rachael, Kaylee and I have the same goal in mind--to provide people with wholesome, fun, romantic romances that are free of graphic content. It was because of this goal that we decided to write this series. We knew we wanted it to be longer than three books, so we reached out to three other authors who also write clean romance. And that's how I ended up with the privilege of working with Julie Ford, Donna Weaver and Jennifer Griffith.
 
I am so excited about what we've come up with. I've read all of the books and I love them all. The first, Home Matters by Julie N. Ford comes out today. The others will be released every two weeks until all six are out. Julie really starts it out with a bang.
 
 
 

Home Matters by Julie N. Ford

According to her mother, Olivia Pembroke was born to be a star. But how is she supposed to be famous when she can't even get a decent acting gig? Her lucky break comes when she lands an audition for a wildly popular home improvement show. Even though she has no design training and has never held a power tool, she refuses to let that stop her. She's confident that her destiny is finally within reach.

When her affections are torn between her heartthrob co-host and the irritating, yet somehow endearing lead contractor, does she continue to reach for the stars? Or does she design a new happily ever after? One that leads not to the fading lights of fame and fortune, but to a love that will burn forever.

My Review:

I love Julie Ford's writing. I first learned of her when her book Countdown to Love  was nominated for a Whitney award. I thoroughly enjoyed that book. As she has before, Julie creates strong characters and a great storyline. I love a book where the main character grows and gets to know herself and Olivia certainly does. It's a fun book and a great way to start our series. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review - One Little Match by Thomas S. Monson Illustrated by Dan Burr

A new, illustrated picture book with an invaluable lesson for children. Thomas S. Monson told the story about his time as a young boy spending the summer at his family's cabin in Vivian Park. He and his best friend, Danny, decided to clear a field so they could gather with their friends and have a
campfire. The tall, stubborn weeds would not pull out easily. So Tommy had the idea of using one little match to burn the weeds. He knew he shouldn't use matches without permission from his parents. But he ignored the prompting warning him of the danger and set the parched June
grass ablaze. The consequence of his disobedience nearly endangered the entire forest and almost burned down neighboring cabins.

I learned several difficult but important lessons that day. Perhaps the biggest lesson was the need for obedience. Rules and laws are created to keep us safe. When we obey those rules, we can avoid the dangers that can come from something as small as one little match.


MY REVIEW:

I loved the story in this book when President Monson gave it in conference and I love it even more in this format. I could hear President Monson's voice and when that's combined with the gorgeous illustrations, it gets even better.

This is a wonderful book for everyone. I plan to use it for Family Home Evening. I read it to my little nieces that were staying with us. It's messages is profound and important and it's told in such a beautiful, simple way.

I have a children's Christmas book that at some point will need an illustrator and after seeing the pictures in this book, I've decided I'd be lucky to have the talents of Dan Burr.

I highly recommend this book. It's beautiful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Restless

I'm restless.

After five pleasant days in Hawaii with my husband, I should feel settled and ready to write, clean house, return to my routine.

I don't. And it's not that I want to return to the sunshine and water and good food.

I don't. I'm glad to be home. I'm happy to be back with my kids, back to the mountains. I want to be motivated and productive and focused.

I'm not. My arthritis hurts. I'm stiffer than I've ever been. Sometimes I feel like an old woman, but I'm not. If I were an old woman, my children would be through with school.

They're not. And I hate school more as a mother than I did as a child and I'd never have imagined that was possible. But I'm torn because as much as I'd like school to be over, I don't want my children to keep growing up. I'd put up with another dozen years of school to have my little kids again.

But I can't. And I really don't want to because as they grow up, they're becoming people I'm proud of, people I admire, and people who are good friends.

Sometimes I think I want to move. I'd like to live closer to my extended family and a house with less stairs would be heavenly. But I like the north part of Provo a lot. And I like some parts of Salt Lake. And every time I drive home, I can't believe how beautiful it is where I live and I like looking out my back windows. I have a really nice view. And sometimes when I take the stairs and it really hurts, I get to the top and I feel proud of myself.

I miss Veronica. I sat in the Seattle airport Saturday morning and wanted to walk outside, rent a car, and go searching for a beautiful sister missionary in Carkeek Park.

But I didn't. I sat there and said a prayer for her and then got on the plane.

Sometimes I miss Bruce and Savannah and Joe even though they live with me right now. Because I know in the blink of an eye, they won't.

I have so many stories in my head. I think of a new idea and I write it down. Some of them are ideas I want to run with, but I have stories I'm working on and if I ran with it every time I have a new idea, I'd have a dozen works-in-progress. Sometimes finishing what I start stinks. Why does it take so long to write a book?

Why is laundry never finished?

It's not, you know. I can focus and move the loads through and fold them and even put them away and then I look down and see that my jeans are dirty.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review - The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier


http://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Blogger-Ryan-Rapier-ebook/dp/B00EIL90U8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392748548&sr=8-1&keywords=the+reluctant+blogger#_
I'd heard some good things about this book and so I moved it to the top of my reading list. I'm glad it didn't get buried. It was a really enjoyable book.

Todd knows he is in a bad place. That’s why he went to a therapist in the first place, and that alone took a lot of doing. So when Dr. Schenk threatens to stop their sessions unless Todd puts in more effort, he grasps at the last available straw: a personal blog that will force Todd to confront his demons.

Ever since he lost his wife, Todd has not been the same. He’s been forced to Single Adult activities at church, and everyone seems to expect him to just forget Marci and get married again—especially when he meets Emily, who makes him smile and starts to bring him out of his depression. But dating again is hard when Todd has three kids of his own, not to mention an overbearing father and friends with their own problems.

This beautifully woven and emotional tale is both heartbreaking and humorous. Championing friendship, love, and family, Ryan Rapier deals adeptly with the everyday struggles we face as well as the strongest ties that keep us together. You’re sure to fall in love with this magnificent tale of redemption, forgiveness, and new beginnings.


The Reluctant Blogger is one of my favorite books of the last year. It has believable and well-developed main characters as well as a great supporting cast. I loved Todd's family and friends. The story is touching without being too sentimental. It's a great combination of sad, happy, frustrating and funny. Just like life.

This book has it all, love, loss, second chances, busybodies, disappointment, forgiveness, compassion and heart. I had trouble putting it down. I look forward to more from Ryan Rapier.

I was surprised and disappointed that The Reluctant Blogger wasn't a Whitney Finalist. I'm not sure what the judges are looking for, but when books like this and A Different Blue by Amy Harmon aren't finalists, the awards lose some credibility and that's sad.