Meet Annie

First off I want to introduce myself. I am Deanne Blackhurst (Annie), creator and owner of the website I’m a middle aged stay-at-home mom, from Pleasant Grove, Utah. I’m also an avid reader and have been for as long as I can remember with a wide range of taste in books.

The point in sharing this with you, is to explain that I am just an average reader. Not brilliant, not stupid just ordinary, but with a great love for the written word. I love nothing better than to curl up on the couch on a wintery afternoon and lose myself in an exciting adventure that some imaginative author has created for my benefit.

Sometimes I love the books I’m reading, sometimes not so much. But I can honestly say that I have never read a book that didn’t have several redeeming qualities even if I didn’t like it. And of course, the very best books are the ones that you can read and then reread again.

Over the past year I have been asked on occasion to review a new novel, and I have actually done a few. The trouble is, reviewing is so subjective and relies heavily on the tastes of the reader doing the reviewing. Is it even possible to judge a book without bringing in your own biases?

For example, I’m not a big romance reader. So if a story gets too heavy with the hot kisses and passionate glances, I get bored. On the other hand, I love a romantic thriller, where the thriller part is the potato and the romance part is the sour cream.

But not everyone has the same reading taste as I do. I have a daughter who always chooses the smallest baked potato and then drowns it in butter and sour cream. To me, that’s disgusting, but to her its heaven. And I have many friends who absolutely love the romance novels and can’t get enough of those broad biceps and toe curling passion.

Still, what is the point of a blog about books, unless I talk about books.

So, beginning next week, I will be sharing my thoughts on the books I am reading. And just so you know, I have developed a criteria for myself.

  1. All books will be written by LDS writers.

  2. I will not write about a book unless I have read it cover to cover. (There are some books that start out so-so and then improve with time, and other books that start out great and then fall short half way through.)

  3. I will do my best to keep my comments balanced with both good and bad points

  4. All comments I make are strictly my opinion, so please share yours.

I think this will be fun, and I encourage the writers of these books to participate as well.

Christmas Gifts Are No Laughing Matter

With Thanksgiving next week and Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about finding the perfect gift for that someone special in your life. If you’re like me, you want to find something the recipient will like and won’t cost you two months’ salary. It’s hard I know.

For years everyone in my family thought my dad loved chocolate covered cherry cordials. The kind that come in a box and are everywhere during the holiday season. Perhaps one of us had first given him a box as a child and he had responded with appropriate fatherly enthusiasm. For years after, we all thought these candies were the perfect dad gift. Then, a few years ago, dad announced that he hated chocolate covered cherries. He always had. And would we please stop giving them to him.

In the spirit of giving gifts that will be both used and appreciated, I’m going to share some of my book giving recommendations. This week I want to suggest books for that person on your list who loves to laugh.

So light the Yule log, pour yourself a glass of eggnog and let’s go.

Ryan Stoker has written four delightfully funny comic style books, each poking fun at some aspect of LDS life. For fifteen years his cartoons have appeared in the New Era magazine as well as other national publications, such as the Saturday Evening Post, Woman's World, Better Homes and Gardens, and the National Enquirer. His books include: So, You’re a Primary Teacher; So, You’re a BYU Football Fan; Mission Moments; and So, You’re an LDS Bishop. Each book is about 90 pages long and each sells for under ten dollars, some for under five.

Bruce Lindsay, a news anchor for KSL television has written a wonderful book called Hometown Weekly. Set up as articles from The Parley’s Progress a newspaper serving Utah’s 87th largest town, this book is full of down home humor that will keep you laughing and leave you with hope that there is still good news to be had in the world. This book (also available on an audio CD) sells new for about ten dollars. It would make a great gift for a grandparent or parent.

Released just last month, Arie Van De Graaff’s cartoon style book Mormon Life is bound to be a big hit with any of your LDS family or friends. Poking fun at such things as home teaching, scouting and food storage, Van De Graaff’s book hits the spot and will keep your recipient chuckling for months. The book sells for about fifteen dollars.

Now if you have a fiction buff on your gift giving list there are several humorous novels I would highly recommend.

Chicken’s in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley is a great story about a family of seven boys all under the age of eleven and the trouble they get into growing up on a farm in Utah. It’s a book that is so funny because it is so true. This book runs for about sixteen dollars and is also available in audio CD.

For a little romance with your humor try Bitten: A Romantic Comedy by Robert Ferrell Smith and follow young Trust Williams on his mission in Thelma’s Way, Tennessee. A missionary’s life is certainly not boring, but who knew it could be so funny. This book also sells for about sixteen dollars.

And last but not least, a Christmas story that will leave you snickering. Joseph Walker’s semi autobiographical Christmas on Mill Street. Nine year old Sam has just moved to Utah from Arizona, and in an effort to fit in with the other boys, has boasted that he will complete a task no other boy has ever done. Sled all the way down Mill Street without breaking his neck or being thrown. Only problem is, Sam doesn’t own a sled and has never even seen snow. This book sells on Amazon for around ten dollars.

For other books guaranteed to bring a smile, check out the Humor page on

Other World Fantasy: Part Three of the Three Part Fantasy Series

To some degree I think all writers are control freaks living in a world where they’re lucky to control their own breakfast, none-the-less their own life. Things come at them (as they do to all of us) from every direction, and so they turn to writing. In a story, the author controls the action, the plots and the characters. Now some authors will argue the point that their characters control the plot but we all know that everything starts in the writer's head.

Even so, most writers do not enjoy complete freedom in their craft, and are forced to comply with basic laws of physics and cultural norms. Unless of course they happen to write Other World Fantasy.

In Other World Fantasy, the story takes place in a reality different from our own. It maybe a world run by intelligent mice or inhabited by half dragon half mole like creatures. Perhaps citizens of this fantasy world can fly, read minds or get their children to bed at a decent hour every night. The sky is the limit… or perhaps it’s not.

Other World Fantasy is escapism in its truest form, and there are talented LDS writers who have mastered this genre.

Bron Bahlmann, sixteen-year-old author of Bone Warriors said the idea for the story came to him in a dream. And as you read about the sinister giants, colossal green jungle cats and undead monsters, one has to wonder if it was a dream or night mare. The story follows fifteen-year-old Derrick and his friend Tweaks as they fight the wicked necromancer in an effort to save their world and find their families.

BYU professor and fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson is known for his imaginative worlds and unusual plots. Author of over seven fantasy novels, Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is a combination of Starwars meets Oceans Eleven. It’s an epic adventure full of political intrigue and clever magical thieves determined to change their world.

‘Skylan Ivorson is a sea-raider of the Vindras’, and thus begins the product summary for Bones of the Dragon the first of the four volume series Dragonships of Vindras by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman. Skylan searches for the Five Bones of the Vektan Dragons, to save the old gods and his people the Vindra.

Choose your adventure and fly with your imagination.

Real Life Fantasy - Part Two of the Fantasy Series

The idea behind a good Fantasy novel is that it takes you to places where magical things are the norm, and adventure waits at every corner. Sure that isn’t surprising if you happen to be a medieval princess or live in an alternate reality, but it gets pretty darn exciting when you’re out weeding your lawn and suddenly you fall through a hole in the ground, turn up in a world of dwarfs, and you’re twenty-five pounds thinner to boot. Alright so maybe that last part falls more under Girl Fantasy, but you get the idea.

So basically, what I refer to as Real Life Fantasy is a story where our hero lives in the normal world and then something or someone leads them off the beaten track or endows them with strange and magical powers.

What I find most appealing about this type of story is the foil created when fantasy is set against reality. It leaves the reader with a glimmering hope that no matter how normal and unexciting their every-day life is, magic and adventure could be waiting to pop up at any moment.

We have some first class LDS writers who specialize in Real Life Fantasy, and like Girl Fantasy, these books are enjoyed by fantasy lovers of all ages. Just a note – any of them would make excellent choices as Christmas gifts.

M L Forman is the author of a wonderful fantasy series Adventurers Wanted. The first volume, Slathbog’s Gold, tells the story of fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor. Alex’s life is anything but adventurous. He lives in a pub with his step-father and step-brother. These aren’t bad step relatives, but Alex is looking for something more, and he finds it when he stumbles across Mr. Clutter’s shop window and a strange magical sign that only he can see. Thus begins an amazing adventure filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves.

In the Farworld series, writer J Scott Savage creates two unique heroes with everything going against them. Marcus is a severely crippled orphan who requires the use of a wheel-chair to get around, yet despite his disability (or perhaps because of it) he is smart and resourceful. He has to be. Earth is threatened by a terrible evil that he must defeat. But Earth isn’t the only place under attack. Farworld shares the same enemy. In Farworld magic is normal and everything from the flowers to the people posses it to some degree, except for Kyja. Kyja is a girl with no family and no magic, but with a burning desire to make a difference. Together, the two misfits must work together moving back and forth from Earth to Farworld to save their homes from The Dark Circle. Currently Savage has two of the five book series available, part one - Water Keep and part two - Land Keep.

In the first book of his series The 13th Reality, James Dashner introduces us to thirteen-year-old Atticus Higgenbottom (aka Tick) whose invitation to adventure actually arrives in the mail. A strange letter warns Atticus that he will receive a series of clues/riddles that he must solve. At stake is reality itself and a future that Tick can’t even imagine. Dashner released book one, Journal of Curious Letters last year, and The Hunt of Dark Infinity a few months ago.

Girl Fantasy - Part One of the Fantasy Series

I’ve been following with interest the increased number of fantasy books currently being published by LDS writers. Though most of these novels list themselves as middle grade or young adult fantasy, like the popular Harry Potter series, their fans include large numbers of adults as well.

According to Wikepdia ( the definition of fantasy is as follows:

Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Many works within the genre take place on fictional planes or planets where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three (which are subgenres of speculative fiction).

Looking over the many popular fantasy titles, I’ve found that they tend to be loosely grouped in one of three categories’. The first I’ll refer to as Girl Fantasy. In Girl Fantasy there is an element of romance associated with the adventure, intrigue and magic. Here are a few examples that have been published this year.

In Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George, twelve beautiful princesses are caught up in an evil curse that threatens their health and their sanity. When Galan, an ex-soldier and apprentice gardener falls in love with the eldest daughter of the King he becomes determined to figure out the mystery and free his beloved before it is too late.

In another Girl Fantasy, Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry, Lucinda has been forced to live with her Aunt after her parents are killed while attending a ball. With the use of her quick wits, charm and magical power, she is out to free herself, avenge her parents death and perhaps win the heart of a prince.

Janette Rallison’s book My Fair Godmother is touted as a YA romance, but there is certainly enough magic to qualify it as a Girl Fantasy. It’s been a rough year all around for Savannah. First, her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister. Then when the powers-that-be intervene and send her some magic help, Chrissy shows up. Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar is Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Chrissy, who is only fair as a Godmother, turns Savannah’s life upside down with one misguided wish fulfillment after another.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike, tells the story of a common girl who’s life becomes complicated when tiny wings begin to grow from her shoulders and she discovers that her destiny may be in the faerie realm. This Girl Fantasy has been picked up by a major studio to be made into a movie.

Next week, Other World Fantasy....

Summer Reads Your Kids Can’t Resist

The days are getting longer and the temperatures are rising. A sure sign that school will soon be out and summer vacation will officially begin. Like most mothers I look forward to this three month break with a combination of anticipation and dread. I love to have the kids home and available to share fun experiences and activities, but the extra house work and the constant whine of “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do,” could drive an angel to tears.

So during the summer I encourage my children to read as much as possible. It keeps their little minds active and learning and their bodies out of the kitchen and away from the TV. We are fortunate that some of the finest writers for youth are also LDS and produce books that are exciting, amusing and support the values we work so hard to teach our children.

Below are two of my favorite kid’s books. Remember, if you follow the links and order through, you’ll get the best prices around for new and used books and help LDSbookcorner continue to provide the free Daily Chapters and links to other free products by LDS artists.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison is a national best seller and the writer of some of the funniest and most imaginative books for girls on the planet. My Fair Godmother tells the story of a young teenager named Savannah who’s had a horrible year. Her boy friend dumps her for her older sister just before prom, the top of her bathing suit comes loose accidentally during a class swimming party in front of everyone, and now her sister and ex-boy friend are trying to set her up with Tristan, some guy from school she barely knows.

When Chrissy her fairy Godmother steps in, it seems like an answer to Savannah’s prayers. But it seems that Chrissy is only fair at her job. The fair godmother quickly turns Savannah’s life upside down.

Savannah finds herself in the Middle Ages living as Cinderella and then Snow White. But things get even worse when Chrissy sends Tristan off to fight the black knight and become a prince. Can Savannah save Tristan, and get them both home safely. And despite Chrissy’s help, will Savannah manage to have a date for Prom.

This book is delightful, and funny and romantic and sure to please any girl from ten to (well let’s just keep my age out of it shall we?)

Adventurers Wanted, Book 1: Slathbog's Gold by M L Forman

Slathborg’s Gold is the first in a series of Adventurers Wanted books. This is Forman’s first novel, but not his first published fantasy story. In an interview with Fear Knocks, Forman described his books as follows:

“Slathbog's Gold is a story about fifteen-year-old Alexander Taylor. Like a lot of teenagers, he's not happy with his life, but unlike others, he gets a chance to change it. Alex finds himself on a great quest, a quest to kill the evil Dragon, Slathbog the Red, and claim his horde. Of course, making his way to the dragon includes a lot of adventure as well. Alex will run into a three-legged troll, bandits, an oracle, and a lot of other people as he travels. He will learn about true friendship, honor, and that some things are worth risking everything you have for, even your life.” (

I liked Slathbog’s Gold because its approach was fresh and engaging. Alexander is a reluctant hero who isn’t sure he believes in magic or himself. Yet despite his misgivings and insecurities he finds that he has strengths and abilities he never dreamed he possessed.

This was a fun read, with great characters and a fast moving plot. It’s aimed at preteens who love fantasy. I found it great as a before-bed book for my son and I to share.

Check back in a few days for more summer reading recommendations. Or add a comment and recommend some of your own. Just don’t forget to check out for when purchasing your next book.