Defensive Tactics, A Thriller by Steve Westover

I’m pleased this week to review an exciting book Defensive Tactics from a talented new author Steve Westover. Westover writes this exciting suspense thriller, my favorite genre, with the skill of a long time author. His characters walk the narrow line between the expectations of the FBI and their standards as members of the church.

This is a tricky balancing act in this kind of a novel. If the writer gets too churchy then the thriller aspect of the FBI doesn’t work, but if they get too deep into the darker world of crime and violence you lose the uplifting aspect of the gospel. Westover’s characters manage to be believable both in their careers and in their spiritual life. Well done!

Paul, a career FBI agent out of the Kansas City office has everything going for him. He’s good at his job, has a really nice apartment and is dating a beautiful new girlfriend.

Like Paul, Emily works for the FBI as a field agent and is an active member of the church. She is asked to participate with a group of agents’ that are investigating a judge suspected of illegal activities. Her job is to use her looks to seduce and trap the suspect – especially challenging considering her values as a member of the church. But things get dangerous quickly when it’s discovered that someone on the inside is passing along vital information, information that could cost Emily her life.

Jimmy has endured a horrible family tragedy that has pushed him away from the church and his life. Paul and he were friends in high school and he approaches Paul using their previous association to get a free bed for a couple of nights. However things turn out a little different than he anticipated and Jimmy gets more than he bargained for in several ways.

In between mysterious information leaks, shoot-outs and double crossing agents, Westover manages to teach some profound lessons about the atonement and repentance. Yet, as I said before, he does so in a way that feels natural rather than something one has to trip over in before returning to the plot.

Definsive Tactics is a great read for both male and female readers. There is a definite romantic aspect but it blends well with the twists and turns of the suspense. Westover knows his stuff when it comes to keeping his readers on the edge of their seat. I really enjoyed this book and I think you will too.

ps We will be running Defensive Tactics by Steve Westover in the Daily Chapter next week!

Some Secrets Hurt, A Story of Healing by Linda Kay Garner, Illustrated by D Brandilyn Speth


I don’t usually review children's books for several reasons. First off, they are always so good. It’s like movie reviews for Disney films are almost guaranteed a five star rating. Secondly, LDSBookcorner doesn’t carry children’s books and the Daily Chapter doesn’t spotlight them. However, when I read Some Secrets Hurt, A Story of Healing by Linda Kay Garner, I decided to make an exception

There is nothing more frightening to a parent than the thought that someone might be physical or emotionally molesting their child. And unfortunately, no matter how many times a mom or dad sit down and try to teach the importance of sharing such crucial information, it’s not at all unusual for a child to suffer in silence.

As horrible as the thought is of a molested child, the idea that they might feel alone with the burden or guilty themselves is almost unbearable. Which is why Garner approached such a serious topic in a child’s picture book.

Despite the subject matter, this is not a threatening or graphic book. In simple easy to understand language Garner explains and teaches the importance of letting parents know when something bad is happening in a way that is both reassuring and empowering.

D. Bradilyn Speth’s beautiful water colors illustrate most of each page. Maggie, the main character is a charming child and the “stranger” that Maggie knows and trust is tastefully depicted as a dark human shaped shadow.

Years ago, when I was working in a church children’s organization, it came to our attention that one of the children from the neighborhood had been displaying behaviors that could signal abuse. We spent hours coming up with a presentation that could not only approach this problem, but also warn the other children under our care. How I wish Some Secrets Hurt had been available at the time.

Garner does school visits from Preschool up to High School and her thoughtful presentations have been well received by both students and teachers.

If you are a parent, a grandparent or have a child that you love, this book has got to be a part of their personal library.

Visit Linda Kay Garner at her website Some Secrets Hurt.

Trapped is a Captivating Summer Read

Last year I had the opportunity to run a novel by new author Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen on the LDS Bookcorner Daily Chapter. It was a book titled Missing and told the story of a young BYU student on tour with one of the schools performing choirs when she spots a young girl who’s been missing for months. I knew then that we would be seeing good things from this author.

Earlier in the spring, Hinrichsen released a second novel. Trapped is an interesting combination of fantasy and mystery. Set first in Florida and later in the mountains of Austria, this book takes you on a ride that includes romance, treachery, and other worldly magic.

Emi Warren awakens to a burglar prowling through the condo where she has been staying by herself. She manages to take refuge in the house of her elderly next door neighbor, but once the police arrive we realize that this was no common break in. The intruder wasn’t so interested in stealing valuables as setting up strange little shrines in various rooms of the house, and leaving a letter that would shatter Emi’s world and lead she and her friend Daniel half way around the world to uncover a secret curse that has haunted her father’s family for generations.

The settings, especially those in Austria were authentic and well written, and her bad guys were evil and slightly unhinged. Emi makes a strong female heroine who, despite her own insecurities and weaknesses, manages to solve the mystery and rise to the occasion when quick thinking is necessary.

It took me awhile before I realized the fantasy element in the story, and I wished I’d gotten that sooner, but the story was impelling, and I was drawn into the building suspense.

At 293 pages, this is a great summer read for women and girls of all ages. There is plenty of romance but it doesn’t over power the story. And Hinrichsen manages to keep the twists and turns coming, so hang onto your seat.

Click here to purchase Trapped through

A Forged Letter, A Golden Vial, An Ancient Curse...

Filled with family secrets, intrigue, and romance.

The blog tour (August 9-August 24) for Trapped by 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 horse.

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.

As 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?

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
Nichole Giles

August 20
Alison Palmer
Jessica Williams

August 23
Joyce DiPastena
Laurie Lewis

The Fourth Nephite by Jeffrey S Savage


Jeffrey S Savage is a talented writer with multiple books under his belt. He’s the writer of the Shaundra Covington Mystery Series, of which the third book was released earlier in the summer and will be spotlighted on the Daily Chapter next week. He’s also the author of a middle grade fantasy series Farworld (Water Keep and Land Keep) under the name of J Scott Savage that has a large and faithful following. However his newest book which will be released the end of this month, combines the best of both his mystery and YA skills with a dose of church history tossed in.

I recently received an advanced reading copy of The Fourth Nephite to review. And I was curious. An action packed, faith promoting, young adult thriller (with a little romance thrown in) is not the easiest book to write and I was anxious to see how Savage would handle it.

The story begins with Kaleo Steele a senior on the football team with high hopes for a future that includes football scholarships and perhaps a career in the NFL. What his future does not include is a mission. It isn’t that Kaleo doesn’t want to take two years out of his life; it’s that he doesn’t believe the church is true. He’s convinced that there were no golden plates and that the Book of Mormon was a creation from the imagination of Joseph Smith.

The night before the big game, Kaleo is spotted with a beer in his hand on school property by his seminary teacher. Despite the fact that he didn’t drink any, that’s a guaranteed ten day suspension which would not allow him to play before the college scouts the next day.
Brother Mortensen offers him a way out. If Kaleo will go into Salt Lake and look up a guy by the name of Ladan, Bro. Mortensen won’t say anything to the school authorities.

Thus begins an adventure like none other. Kaleo eventually finds himself in Palmyra, New York in the fall of 1827, a point in history where tensions are high. Joseph Smith has retrieved the golden plates but must keep them safe from the evil men who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get their hands on the “treasure”.

Savage uses his modern day protagonist to bring a fresh perspective to a familiar time in church history. I found the pace exciting grabbing me right from page one and not letting go till the very last page. The characters are complicated, and the antagonist is a very frightening man who’s evilness seemed to jump off the page. As Kaleo searches for a way back home, he’s also trying to discover what he believes. There is nothing preachy about this book as the reader follows along the path of Kaleo’s self discovery.

This is a great book for any reader, but especially for the pre-teen and teen set. So if you’ve got a gift giving occasion coming up, you can’t go wrong. It’s also a wonderful book to read together as a family at FHE or before bed. I am neither a pre-teen nor a teen myself, but I loved it.


Welcome to the Chocolate Roses Blog Tour

This is the second opportunity I have had to participate in a blog tour. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a blog tour is a devise used to spread the word about a new book. Boggers, such as myself, are invited to participate by reviewing a certain book and posting those reviews at about the same time. For more information about the blog tour and the opportunity to win some cool prizes, check out the details at the end of this review.

Chocolate Roses. When I first heard the name of Joan Sowards newest book I knew I wanted to read it. It sounds decadent and sweet and romantic. And when I saw the cover, a partially opened box of chocolates, well I was hooked.

This sweet inspiration is an LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Janie Rose Whitaker is a chocolatier, a candy artisan and an expert in all things related to cocoa. In her shop Chocolate Art Forever, Janie controls everything about her creamy concoctions, from hand roasting and grinding the beans to designing the clever molds that make her confections so unique. By far their most popular offering is the single chocolate rose, resting in a long tissue filled gift box just like a real long stemmed rose.

It is, in fact, the chocolate rose that brings Roger Wentworth, a handsome man without a wedding ring, into the shop every Tuesday morning.

Janie is single, and has, over the past few months, fallen head over heels in love with Roger. But despite her ardent feelings, she has yet to start up a conversation with the man who orders a single chocolate rose each week to be delivered to the mysterious Winnie at the local mental institution.

If you’re familiar with the original story, you can take it from there.

Soward adds a lot of fun characters her version. Take Flo for example, a huge Great Dane who shares Janie’s single apartment. And all the employees of Chocolate Art Forever who are unique and full of personality. And if Jane Eyre had been LDS her relief society would have been very much like the one in the nosey ward Janie attends.

Chocolate Roses is a fun read, just like Soward’s popular ghost mystery Haunts Haven that came out last year. The novel runs 225 pages, and packed with humor, suspense and romance. Plus there is the chocolate. In fact, I recommend you make sure you have some on hand before you even open the first page.

Love chocolate? Love Jane Eyre?

Then you're going to love the blog tour (July
26-August 6) for Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards.

Janie Rose Whitaker's world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie's. Anyone would think Roger fit the mold of the "perfect" guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger's complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.

You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.

We have two great prizes up for grabs!
Win either a copy of the book (2 winners) or this fabulous apron created by Joan!

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.

What's your favorite type of
chocolate: white, dark, or milk?

The more blogs you comment on the more entries you'll receive.

All comments must be left by midnight MST on August 8 to be eligible.

July 26
Nichole Giles--Random-ish by Nichole
Joyce DiPastena--JDP News

July 27
Deanne Blackhurst--Annie Speaks Her Mind
Tristi Pinkston--*Tristi Pinkston

July 28
Taffy Lovell--Taffy's Candy
Alison Palmer--Tangled Words and Dreams

July 29
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen--The Write Blocks
C.S. Bezas--For the Love of the Written Word

July 30
Sheila Stayley--Why Not? Because I Said So!
LDSWomen's Book Review

August 2
Kerry Blair--Now & Here
Marsha Ward--Writer in the Pines

August 3
Kaylee Baldwin--Kaylee Baldwin
Amy Orton--Amesbury Reads

August 4
Anna del C.--Anna del C. Dye's Blog
Laurie Lewis--A View from the Other Side

August 5
Valerie Ipson--Of Writerly Things
Anna Arnett--Insights and Ramblings from Anna Arnett

August 6
Lynn Parsons --Danyelle Ferguson--Queen of the Clan

Chocolate Roses can be purchased
from Deseret Books, and of course your local LDS bookstore.

All's Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon


It’s funny how sometimes when you meet someone you know right off that they are someone you will have an instant connection to. Julie Bellon is one of those people.

I met her at a book signing and learned that she lives within walking distance of my house. We both have large families, we both write books and we both even have birthdays a few days apart in November. However she is evidently still in her twenties while I am pushing the big half century mark.

Visiting her website at I was amazed at even more similarities. Julie was born in Canada and married an American. I also married an American. Julie has travel extensively throughout the world with one of her favorite destinations being Athens. I'm sure I would love Athens. Julie met Princess Diana and I watched Princess Diana’s wedding on TV from my college apartment at three in the morning. She loves to read and take bubble baths. Hey… me too!

Julie is the author of six books and specializes in the genre of international thrillers, including All’s Fair the book I’m reviewing today and her most recent release Dangerous Connections. I once asked her how she came up with such sweeping plot themes covering multiple countries and thier governments. Julie explained that she teaches college classes in journalism, a subject she’s always been interested in. Following the news as closely as she does gives her the opportunity to watch patterns and trends, then ask the question… what if?

All’s Fair is like reading two novels packaged into one. Novel one is the story of Kristen Shepherd, daughter of well known General Shepherd and a political campaign expert in her own right. Hours before her high profile wedding to the son of a wealthy and prestigious family she learns that her fiancĂ© has been trying to transfer money from her bank accounts to the Middle East. Her attempt to unravel this mystery throws her into the path of Ryan Jameson, her first love and her first heartbreak.

Book two is set in Iraq where Kristen’s brother Dr. Brandon Shepherd, an Army doctor, has recently converted to the LDS faith. In an emergency mission to save two wounded soldiers before a sand storm overtakes them, Brandon finds himself and beautiful fellow doctor Rachel Fields prisoners to a group of zealous terrorists. His faith and courage are put to the test as he is forced to make a decision that could change his life and the fate of the war.

All’s Fair is the perfect summer read at a little over one hundred and eighty pages, and every page packed with excitement. The plot moves quickly, abd Julie has done her homework, so the story is fresh and accurate. There’s enough romance thrown in to spice things up, but it doesn’t interfere with the suspense.

A lot of couples are discovering the benefits of reading a book out loud together, and this is a book that would appeal to both men and women.

Finally, if you’re a family that likes to listen to a book on CD while driving, this is your book too. I recommend All’s Fair which can be purchased at Amazon for about $4.00 by clicking here.


Just One Wish by Janette Rallison


I always love to read Young Adult novels despite the fact that I am long past qualifying for that age moniker. I enjoyed the Harry Potter books as much as my children did. A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite, and one summer I read everything I could find at the library by its author Madeleine L'Engle. There is something fresh about authors who write for the young and young at heart. And considering they are in competition with video games and movies on demand, these authors have to bring a lot to the table to stay in the game.

I discovered Janette Rallison two years ago when I read her book My Fair Godmother. Her characters were so believable and the plot so exciting, I read it in one sitting. My Fair Godmother wasn’t her first book by any stretch of the imagination. Rallison is the author of more than ten YA books. Most recently My Double Life which was lately spotlighted in Seventeen Magazine, and is on my must read list for the summer.

Just One Wish is a story of seventeen year old Annika Truman’s quest to fill the wish of her younger brother Jeremy who has cancer. Jeremy wants to meet Robin Hood from the hit TV series Teenage Robin Hood and Annika has less than a week to make it happen.

With her best friend in tow, Annika heads out to Hollywood to track down Steve Raleigh the hearthrob actor who plays Robin Hood and talk him into return to her home in Henderson, Nevada. She is willing to do just about anything to make her sick little brothers wish come true.

This story is laugh out loud funny, with Annika managing to get herself into and out of some zany situation. Steve is everything one would want in a celebrity heart throb and his Hollywood girlfriend is as superficial and stuck up as any ambitious starlet on Entertainment Tonight.

This is a great read for those both young and old, but would make a particularly fun ‘read-together’ book for a mom and daughter. There’s nothing objectionable and a whole world of great bonding fun perfect for these long summer evenings. I whole heartedly recommend Just One Wish.


The Quick Silver Project by J A Lightender


The technology associated with the internet has trickled down into many different areas changing the way we do things. When my husband and I were first married we bought an expensive set of encyclopedias. An investment in our children’s future the salesman told us. Less than five years later, these books were so useless, we had them propping up furniture. Who needs to haul out a heavy leather bound volume when at the touch of a few key strokes, all the most up to date information in the world can be staring out a monitor at you.

The book industry is no exception.

For years and years, reading a book required three things, a – a book, b – the ability to read and c – a few minutes of quiet time. Not anymore.

The advent of books on cassette was exciting, until the bulky players were replaced by CD players. You could actually exercise with one of those in your pocket. Except for when you jumped too hard and they skipped. Then the MP3 came along. As small as a pocket watch, and no bump problems.

In the mean time Amazon introduced its Kindle, followed rapidly by almost every other major electronics company and cell phone manufacturer. A small tablet size electronic devise could hold hundreds of your favorite books and allow you to read them in bed or on the plane without the bulk of a hundred books.

A third type of book currently available is known as e-books. These are books written for and published on the internet. Often in a pdf format, these offerings are usually much cheaper than traditional hard and soft cover books and can be read right off the computer or printed up. Authors of various genre’s are hopping on the e-book bandwagon and readers are following in ever increasing numbers.

One e-book reader made the switch during a week of heavy storms last winter. Unable to leave her house, she was able to find books online, purchase them with her credit card and download the text in a matter of minutes without stepping foot into the cold.

E-books aren’t just for adult genres but many talented children’s writers are using this same method to more effectively reach their target audience. Take J.A. Lightender whose new series Forbidden Portals is available at Jewel’s World website for $3.99.

Her first book, The Quicksilver Project follows Renny a thirteen year old boy who receives an unusual gift for his birthday. Lou is a beautiful Dalmatian with one rather extraordinary feature, he can talk. Lou is on a mission to save pets everywhere and in order to do it he needs the help of Renny and his new friend Quinn.

What follows next is an exciting adventure that leads the trio through a very strange pet store, into hidden alley’s in the city and ultimately to a magical island.

The Quicksilver Project is a book that will tempt the most unenthusiastic reader. The pace is fast and the characters are easy to relate to. Lightender manages to pack a lot of excitement into a book with a length that is perfect for a middle grade reader.

If you’re looking for a fun summer book for your kids, consider The Quicksilver Project.

Review of Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes


I’ve always had a taste for the unusual in my fiction. I like authors who can come up with a twist on a common genre and make it fresh and unique. For national writers, there’s a lot more freedoms to experiment but within the LDS market, the boundaries are fairly rigid. Certainly there are good reasons for this. Vulgarity, sexually explicit scenes and bloody violence have become the norm in much of the world’s fiction. We don’t want those same vices to taint our LDS novels, however, there are other ways to shake things up without lowering the quality or spirit of the fiction we all love.

Rachel Ann Nunes, author of over twenty novels recently published a book that is something of a first for LDS readers. Nunes calls Imprints a Paranormal Women’s Fiction, I call it a fast paced romantic thriller with something extra. However it may be labeled, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

The heroines name is Autumn Rain. The adopted daughter of charming hippie parents, Autumn is raised as a child of nature. She runs an herbal shop/antique store, refuses to wear shoes and will not allow anything into her mouth that isn’t natural and organic. Oh and one other thing… when she touches objects, belongs that mean something to their owners, she gets visions.

These visions aren’t always pleasant nor are the emotions connected with them, yet as word spreads of her gift, people searching for lost family members come to her, begging for help. One such situation pulls Autumn into a commune where things are not as they appear. Danger is everywhere and soon Autumn is fighting for her life against an enemy who will do anything to protect his secrets.

I loved the addition of this psychic power into a genre that is hugely popular with LDS audiences. It adds kind of a fantasy twist that is both exciting and intriguing. A luscious love triangle accents but doesn’t take over the story or slow down the suspense.

If you’re looking for something a little different to read this summer, then Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes is your book.


Gravity vs. The Girl by Riley Noehren


Next week LDSBookcorner will be running 2009 Whitney Award winner Riley Noehren’s book Gravity vs. The Girl. Noehren’s book tied for Best Novel by a New Author with Dan Well’s book, I Am Not A Serial Killer.

I find that some of the most unique and intriguing books by LDS writers tend to fall into the Whitney’s General Fiction category, and this year was no exception.

Though the cover of Gravity vs. The Girl is relatively simple, the title caught my attention immediately, and it was the first book I read after the finalists were announced last winter.

The premise is distinctive as well. Samantha Green has just spent the better part of a year in her pajamas sleeping away her life after going through an emotional breakdown. It’s time for her to wake up and get on with her life, but she is still traumatized and weak. To assist in the healing Samantha encounters four ghosts, phantoms of her former self. A young child who’s just lost her mother, a teenager trying to figure out who she is, a collage aged young adult with a rebellious streak and a thing for drummers and a high powered lawyer who doesn’t want to let go of her massive shoe collection and beautifully decorated condo.

As Samantha slowly creeps back to life, dealing with the powerful and often poignant influences from her former selves, it’s clear that her future will be a lot different than the past she’s left behind, but how and in what way remains to be seen.

I loved this book. I found it fascinating to read in a strange and sort of hypnotic way. Noehren pulls you into a world where there are no sign posts, and no sense of direction. Yet despite that confusion, the reader can’t wait to dive in deeper. There are profound truths hidden in these lines and a perspective of life I hadn’t considered before. At the same time I was highly entertained.

The characters feel very real, and the pace is quick enough to keep the reader's interest. There is a tendency for books with a message to get a little preachy, but this is not the case with Gravity vs. The Girl. Instead it is revealed through the characters, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

I would highly recommend this book, especially to those readers who are looking for a little depth and sophistication in their summer time fiction.

A Must Read This Summer - Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis


What could be more appropriate for a long hot summer afternoon then curling up with a book set on the beach front at Anna Maria Island in Florida? Even the cover looks cool and refreshing. Like most readers, I put a great deal of stock in book covers. If I haven’t read the author before, I usually study the cover and then flip the book over and read the teaser on the back.

On first read, the back cover text was confusing. It talked about a family vacation spot in Anna Maria Island and then in the next paragraph referred to the family’s waterfront condo in Baltimore. Further down colorful characters from the Ringling’s Ca d’Zan mansion was mentioned, and I’m thinking clowns, acrobats in sequin costumes and maybe a lion tamer. None-the-less I was intrigued and anxious to see how author Laurie Lewis could actually pull all this together.

This isn’t Lewis’s first book. She’s the author of a historical series called Freemen and Dreamers, a series of novels based around the time of the American Revolution. However, Awakening Avery is a complete departure from that genre.

Awakening Avery reminded me of an LDS version of the Shell Seekers by Rosemund Pilcher. It has that same sense of realism, with characters that are complex and a plot that is sweeping in its emotional honesty. It’s a book that entertains, inspires and makes one stop for just a moment and consider the fragility of life… before going back to being entertained.

Avery, the main character is a woman in her late forties. She’s a successful writer, the mother of two sons and one married daughter, and recently widowed by the death of her husband after a long battle with health issues resulting from years of unchecked diabetes. She is angry, depressed, lost and like a typical LDS woman, she’s doing her best to hide it from everyone, especially her children. But it isn’t working, and they feel that they are losing her as well.

The family owns a condo in Baltimore, Maryland, near Avery’s family on the east coast, and Avery decides to travel from her home in Utah, to the condo and sell it, thus erasing another painful memory of happier days. Upon arriving she meets Teddy and Rider, an x-rodeo couple who are now successfully running a real estate business.

Avery and Teddy become close friends and it is through them that she learns of Gabriel, a man on Anna Maria Island who is looking to trade his house for the summer with someone who lives near Washington DC.

Anna Maria Island was a favorite family vacation spot, and Avery imagines it might be just the place where she and her family can heal.

Gabriel, a widower of many years has messes of his own he’s trying to deal with. Two beautiful but headstrong daughters have become dependent on him, refusing to take responsibility for their own lives. He’s hoping that by forcing them out of the nest, so to speak, they will find their own wings.

When I read a book, I want to feel like I’m walking beside the characters, seeing what they see, smelling what they smell. On the other hand, I don’t want pages of unnecessary description to stop the flow of the plot. Lewis has done an excellent job of balancing the two. From the water taxi in Baltimore, to the overwhelmingly opulent Ca d’Zan mansion, once home to the famous Ringlings, and now a museum, I not only felt like I was experiencing these places first hand, but that I wanted to actually go there myself.

The story caught me up right from page one, and was difficult to put down. At 344 pages it wasn’t a straight through read, but it was one of those stories that stayed with me, urging me back to the characters and the plot every chance I could get.

This book has humor, inspiration, romance and heart break, but it does not have any lion tamers. It does have a great recipe for fruity pancakes with a surprise ingredient… but if you want to get the recipe… you’re going to have to read the book.

The Whitney Award Winners Are Announced


Part One

Last Saturday, April 24th, the third annual Whitney Awards Gala for 2009 was held at the Marriot Hotel in Provo, Utah, with some of the top LDS writers in attendance both as finalists and as presenters.

The Whitneys are an award program set up to encourage excellence in LDS writers. The organization was named after Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS church who prophesied “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.”

Readers are invited to submit their favorite novels published during the current year for consideration as possible Whitney Award Finalists. Five finalists are chosen in each of the following five categories: General Fiction, Romance, Suspense/Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Youth Fiction, Historical, Best Novel of the Year, and Best Novel by a New Author.

This year’s winner for Youth Fiction is The Chosen One by Carol Lynn Williams. It tells the story of a 13-year-old girl growing up in a polygamous community where the prophet has decreed that she must marry her 60 year old uncle. This novel is the kind of book that you can’t set down, yet makes you angry. Williams pulls you into her world and keeps you prisoner there until the very last page.

This year’s winner for Speculative Fiction Servant of a Dark God by John Brown. Servant of a Dark God is the first book in a gripping fantasy series. Full of dark magic, strange creatures and monsters, this book tells the story of a land where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought and stolen. An epic tale of good versus evil, this book is a must read for any true fantasy fanatic.

The winner for Romance this year is a wonderful book that we ran a few weeks back by >Liz Adair called Counting the Cost. A romance set in the ranch country of New Mexico, Adair manages to keep a gritty air of realism to her story while at the same time weaving in the tender strands of romance. This book is well written and engaging from page one.

The best Suspense/Mystery award for 2009 went to Stephanie Black for her thriller
Method’s of Madness
. Incidentally Black also won the 2008 Suspense/Mystery category for her first novel
Fool Me Twice
. Black has skill for weaving a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, with more twists and turns than a mountain road. Its fine writers like Black that keep the bar high for LDS mystery writers. If you’re looking for an exciting and intense suspense novel with a touch of romance, then this is the book for you.

More next week

Crossfire, a novel by Traci Hunter Abramson


I discovered Traci Hunter Abramson a year and a half ago when I bought and read her book Royal Target. Tracy has been writing since 2004 and has at least seven thrillers to date, but it wasn’t till I was browsing in an LDS Bookstore and noticed the gold crown on the pink cover of Royal Target that I became aware of her as an author. Turns out she lives in Virginia, down the street from a good friend of mine from college… it’s a small LDS world isn’t it?

Abramson is an ex-CIA employee who uses her years in the agency to give her thrillers a biting edge of realism. Last year I read her novel Lockdown and though I thought it was good, I found the romance seemed to overshadow the plot. Then at the beginning of the year, Crossfire was released and I fell in love with Abramson’s style all over again.

Both Lockdown and Crossfire are Whitney Award Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense catagory and feature a group of LDS Navy SEALs known as the Saint Squad. Lockdown is set at a college campus and featured Tristan Crowther a member of the Squad and Riley Palmetta a woman who lived through a tragic college mass shooting.

Crossfire is set in the Caribbean where a powerful terrorist group is plotting a huge strike on the US. Vanessa Lauton has infiltrated the powerful crime family behind the plot posing as a family member, but when her CIA handler has a sudden heart attack, the Saint Squad is called in to find her and stop the threat.
Seth Johnson has a personal interest in this case. He dated Vanessa when they were younger and would have married her, but he wasn’t a member and she wanted a temple marriage. Six years has past and Seth has since joined the church, but it may not matter. The situation had turned deadly and Vanessa and Seth are balanced in a life and death struggle.

The pacing was perfect. Abramson keeps the suspense high on both the thriller side and the romance side, not allowing either to overrun the other. She has created characters that seem real both as government trained SEALS and as Latter-day Saints. Not an easy thing to do.

I had a hard time putting this book down until I got to the explosive climax. This is a true romantic thriller and a must read for anyone like me who loves a good suspenseful novel.

Elodia Strain's Previouisly Engaged


One of the first things I liked about Elodia Strain was her name. It’s unique, fun to say and in fact sounds like a name for a romance writer. Then I saw her photo.

Is she cute or what?

After reading her book Previously Engaged a 2009 Whitney Award Finalist in the Romance category, I thought her picture and her writing style match perfectly.

Strain’s website, all pinks and purples with a really cute bouncing bridal bouquet, says that she was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, her favorite color is pink, she could live on chips and salsa for the rest of her life and her dream car is a 1967 Ford Mustang.

Published by Cedar Fort, Previously Engaged is her second novel and a follow up to her first book, The Icing on the Cake which was also published by Cedar Fort in 2007.

Previously Engaged follows Annabelle Pleasanton a young women with a good heart and a penchant for getting herself into unbelievably funny trouble. Consider the predicament she finds herself in after entering a contest for a free cake and instead winning a $50,000 dream wedding. Sounds perfect except for just one tiny little problem, her boyfriend Isaac hasn’t actually proposed yet.

To complicate matters further, her handsome, single and now rich ex-boyfriend Alex drops into her life unexpectedly, while Isaac’s family has their heart set on sexy former model Chloe as his future wife.

Annabelle, like all the characters in this book, is well developed. She’s the type of girl that would drive you nuts as your daughter, but would make a fun best friend. And the romantic conundrums kept me on the edge of my seat till the very last moment. The plot was fast, and the style clever and light.

If you love romance and want to enjoy a good laugh, then Previously Engaged by Elodia Strain is the perfect book for a spring afternoon of light reading or a fun Mother’s Day gift.


Murder by the Book by Betsy Brannon Green



It may be my imagination but I think Betsy Brannon Green get better with every book she writes. And I’m not the only one. Author of over fifteen novels to date, Green was chosen as a finalist for the 2008 Whitney Awards in the category of Best Mystery and Suspense. Her book Murder by the Numbers, published through Covenant Communications in 2009 is also a finalist this year.

If the title Murder by the Numbers, doesn’t clue you in to the fact that this is a murder mystery, then the cover riddled with gunshot holes and dripping blood is a dead giveaway (Get it… DEAD giveaway…) There are a lot of things about Green’s writing that I like, her unusual settings, her imaginative plot twists, but I think where Green really shines is in her characterizations. When you open the cover of a BB Green book you are walking into a world peopled with unique and believable characters so real you feel like they might live down the street or work at the post office where you buy your stamps.

In Murder by the Book, Green creates a very complex heroine by the name of Kennedy Killingsworth. Kennedy has just divorced her philandering husband and runs the local library in Midway, Georgia. Granted the facility consists of two trailers, but Kennedy (who lives on Pepsi and cookies) has dreams of expanding into four one day.

When Foster Scoggins the old unkempt patriarch of the Scoggins brood and owner of the local salvage yards brings his grand-daughter Heaven (who is nothing like her name) into the library, little does Kennedy know that within a few hours the man will be dead.

Rumors fly around Midway that old Scoggins killed himself over a love affair gone sour, but Kennedy doesn’t buy it. People who are ready to leave this world don’t apply for library cards and what woman in her right mind would have gotten anywhere near the smelly old coot?

Miss Eugenia of nearby Haggerty, agrees with Kennedy. You may remember this clever matronly crime solver from former Green books. With encouragement from her elderly friend, Kennedy pushes for answers and finds more secrets and motives than she ever imagined and almost as many possible love interests.

I love a good mystery and Murder by the Book fits the bill. Green creates a perfect balance of clever humor and romance while never dropping the suspense ball. The pace is quick, the clues are plentiful and the author keeps her readers guessing right up to the climax.

This book will not disappoint.


Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes


Rachel Ann Nunes is something of an icon in LDS writing. Author of over twenty-nine novels, including the well known Ariana series, Nunes has broached a broad variety of subject matter and settings in her books. In Flying Home, Nunes’ main character flies home to India to confront her past. The Ariana series is begun in France, and The Independence Club deals with the lives and loves of five very different single women.

Rachel’s newest novel coming out in April 2010, Imprints, deals with a heroine who can read the emotional imprints left on treasured objects and uses this paranormal gift to try and help find missing loved ones.

I recently had the opportunity to read Saving Madeline, published in September 2009 by Shadow Mountain. Saving Madeline was inspired by the huge problem of young children being raised in and around the dangerous world of drug abuse.
On her website, Nunes’ explains the issue like this:

“States seem to be losing the battle against methamphetamine addiction. Child welfare, law enforcement, substance abuse, and treatment systems are overloaded. Some estimate that over 8.3 million children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse issue. Nearly 2 million child abuse cases each year are investigated and a half million of those have enough evidence to act on. Some 200,000 children are removed from their homes each year.

But what about the cases that aren’t proven? What about the children who fall through the cracks, but are still at risk? To what lengths might a non-custodial parent be compelled to go in order to protect a child from danger?”

Saving Madeline tells the story of Parker Hathaway , a non-custodial father who fears for the life of his four-year-old daughter. Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend are heavily into drug use and sales, but smart enough to keep their activities below the radar of the local police. In frustration, Parker makes a daring attempt to kidnap his daughter, but is eventually caught, and his daughter returned to her mother.

Caitlin McLoughin is a public defender, who’s getting tired of defending the bad guys. Assigned to Hathaway, she is hesitant to believe that his concerns have any truth. But as she investigates the situation it soon becomes clear that young Madeline’s life may very well be in danger if something isn’t done soon.

This story combines a strong love story aspect with a very well written and suspenseful plot and the pace was fast enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Nunes’ creates characters that are interesting with unusual aspects and quirks. And although this is a book that an LDS reader would be comfortable reading, it does not overtly mention the church itself or its teachings.

For those readers who like the excitement of mystery with the romance of love discovered, you won’t be disappointed in Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes.


Josie Kilpack's Culinary Mysteries



Josi Kilpack is no stranger to LDS fiction. The author of more than seven novels, Kilpack has a way consistently producing plot lines that are both current and unique. Last year she came out with the first in a series of Culinary Murder Mysteries titled Lemon Tart.

Lemon Tart featured the adorably quirky Sadie Hoffmiller, a middle aged widow with a talent for cooking and a penchant for solving murders. (Think Jessica Fletcher meets Rachael Ray).

In this mystery, Sadie’s single mom neighbor turns up dead in a field near their homes. The victim’s young son is missing and nearly everyone in the neighborhood is a suspect.

Toward the end of last year, Kilpack followed up her successful Lemon Tart with the second in the series, English Trifle.

Sadie and her daughter Breanna are on vacation in the English countryside visiting Southgate, the huge English manor and home to Breanna’s boyfriend Liam. Within the first few pages Sadie and Breanna discover a dead body impaled to the wall of the sitting room by a fireplace poker. And as if that weren’t strange enough, the body disappears before anyone else has seen it.

Last January book three in the series, Devil’s Food Cake was released and featured Sadie's son Shawn. When bestselling author Thom Mortenson returns to his home town for a special library benefit, guess who’s in charge of dessert? Naturally Thom’s manager ends up murdered on stage, and Sadie is ready to jump into the investigation with both feet.

Kilpack’s books are packed with adventure, humor and delightful characters. And this in and of itself would make them worth recommending, but then there is also the food. In Lemon Tart, Kilpack includes a wonderfully refreshing Lemon Tart recipe that was easy to make and quite popular with my family. Her recipe for Alfredo sauce was to die for.

The English Trifle recipe from the book of the same name got rave reviews from my son-in-law when I made it at Christmas, and the Chicken Tikka Masala (an Indian curry dish) was delicious.

Book three is on the way to my house from even as we speak, but according to Kilpack’s website:

It includes such delights as:
Devil’s Food Cake, with Sandra’s Chocolicious Frosting
Tina’s Turtle Cookies
Melinda’s French Chocolate
Angel Snow Ball Cake
Classic Cocoa Mix
And the list goes on…

The other day I ran into a woman shopping in our local LDS bookstore for a fun light novel to read while her husband was out of town for the weekend. I recommended Kilpack to her and I recommend her to you.

One warning. You might want to copy the recipes out of the book before you actually make them. Otherwise, like my copies, your books will have nice butter and sugar stains on the recipe pages.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Like everyone else in the world I am a huge fan of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice as depicted by A&E staring Collin Firth. What’s sad is that this movie was really my first introduction to Austin’s writing. I think I got turned off of The Classics after being forced to read them throughout my school years, generally in a very hurried fashion the night before the test. So unfortunately, Austin remained a hidden treasure until the first night A&E began their classic mini-series.

Since then, I’ve been hooked.

There’s something about that formal world, where every possible situation had a prewritten and appropriate response. And humor was delivered with a quick mind and a clever use of words. (Compare that with the R or worse rated comedians of today!)

So when I learned that Shannon Hale had written a book about a woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy and the world of Jane Austin, I knew I had to read it.

Shannon Hale is a first rate writer and an excellent representation of the talented authors we have in the LDS Church. The New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newberry Honor Award, has written six young adult novels, two graphic novels (which are not books with lots of sex and language, but a type of book told with both words and comic book like graphics) and two adult novels.

Last year LDSBookcorner ran Hale’s latest adult novel called The Actor and The Housewife, which followed the unlikely friendship between Mormon house-wife Becky Jack, pregnant with baby number four and super sexy, world known heartthrob Felix Callahan.

Austenland published in 2008 by Bloomberry, tells the story of Jane Hayes a woman in her early thirties who is obsessed with the above mentioned version of Pride and Prejudice, and specifically with Collin Firth’s Mr. Darcy.

Jane has a list of ex-relationships that are scary enough to make any girl give up men forever. (Hale recounts these various love encounters as headings for many of the chapters.)

The manor is everything promised and more. Jane finds herself dressed for the time period, following the customs, and even learning the steps to the minuet. She is surrounded by actors playing the part of handsome and eligible young suitors or mistress and master of the house. It’s easy to slip into her role as an Elizabeth Bennett type heroine.

But as the weeks move on, the line between fantasy and truth becomes blurred, and it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

This was a wonderful read. Hale’s sense of humor is sharp and edgy. Her characters are believable, and her heroine is perfect as an often a confused and awkward woman trying to find herself. There are a couple of kissing/necking scenes, but nothing that made me uncomfortable. And the plot kept me guessing right up until the last few pages.

Amazon sells it for under $5.00 new and has plenty of copies. I would highly recommend it and give it five stars.

Annie Talks About Havng Hope by Terri Ferran

This week I just finished reading Having Hope by Terri Ferran. Having Hope is Ferran’s second novel and is the sequel to her first novel Finding Faith. It was published in 2009 by Bonneville Books and is available at Just click on the title links above.

Kit Matthews, baptized just a little over a year before, has waited two years for her missionary to come home. Now that Adam Bridgers is back, something happens to turn Kit’s world upside down. She receives a strong undeniable prompting that she is to travel to Romania for the fall semester and volunteer as a worker in an orphanage there. A handsome Romanian medical student she works with and an aggressive female back home who wants Adam, add to the challenges Kit faces as she sees the world in a whole new way.

Ferran’s book caught my attention because it deals with volunteers working in a Romanian orphanage. Like many of you, I have had my heart strings tugged by the plight of babies and young children around the world being raised in orphanages that are too often short on both money and staff. And I’ve wished there was something I could do to help. Because of this, I began this book with the anticipation of experiencing second hand the adventure I’d often imagined.

Having Hope didn’t let me down.

Sometimes books set in foreign locals or different time periods fall short in the authenticity department. This was not the case with Having Hope. Ferran‘s descriptions and knowledge of her material were so spot on, I was certain she’d actually been to Romania herself. As it turns out, her daughter Brianna spent time as a volunteer in a Romanian Orphanage. Ferran drew on her daughter's journals and first hand experiences to craft this story and it shows. She captures the bitter sweet experience of working in such a hopeless environment and, as the title suggests, learning to find hope even there.

Reading Ferran’s novel felt like sitting down on the couch with my best friend and listening to her recount a major, life changing experience. There was that sort of intimacy in the novel. I liked the fact that she moved through the story in a very linear manner so that I felt as if I was experiencing the culture shock of Romania right along with Kit.

On the other hand, this style did lend itself to running a bit long, particularly in the portion of the story between Kit’s inspiration to volunteer and her arrival in Romania. Once Kit arrived at the hospital and orphanage in Romania, the story picked up and moved along at a much quicker pace.

Characterization was excellent not only with her main characters, but also with her minor characters. Kit had both strengths and weaknesses which made her easy to relate to. And her hero’s reaction to life in a totally different environment was right on the ball.

I would have liked to see a little more descriptive prose to set the scene a little clearer. And the plot was good but could have moved a little faster.

All in all I would give this book 4 stars out of 5 and I would recommend it to anyone, especially those who like stories set in unusual locations.