Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book Review: The Book of Mormon

It's been a while since I wrote a book review, but this book.

The Book of Mormon is a compilation of accounts written over the span of thousands of years that tells of three groups of people who were driven from their homeland due to religious persecution. Eventually, all three groups found refuge somewhere in the Americas: the people of Lehi--who split into the Nephites and Lamanites, the people of Zarahemla--who eventually joined the Nephites, and the Jaredites--who we read about briefly in the book of Ether. Comprised of books written by ancient prophets, the purpose of The Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ. The book was translated by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830 and is available free to anyone who wants to read it. (Details at the end.)

I've read The Book of Mormon before, but one of the things that struck me this time as I read more rapidly than usual was the different voices that came through in the many books. You can tell especially in the first seven books (1 Nephi through Words of Mormon) that each author has his own pacing, his own way of describing things, and special words and themes he uses more frequently. For example, Nephi focused a lot on his trust in the Lord to be obedient to his commandments. His faith was unwavering as he was led time and again to do things he never would have done except that he was commanded to do so. His absolute trust in the Lord was apparent in all his writing. Nephi tells us that his people are a branch broken off from the twelve tribes of Israel.

After the first six books, we are introduced to Mormon, who abridged most of the remainder of the book from other records. Born around AD 311, Mormon served as narrator to tie together the stories found in the book. He includes many passages of direct quotes from other prophets through the years, such as King Benjamin, King Mosiah, Alma, Samuel, and many others.

After Mormon dies, his son, Moroni, takes over. Moroni includes a brief glimpse into a more ancient record he has access to that tells of another group of people, the Jaredites, who lived and died many centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. His abridgment is taken from a record written by Ether, the prophet who witnessed the destruction of the Jaredite nation.

This action/adventure book has it all: wars, journeys, intrigue, angels, destruction, salvation, and love. A few of my favorite stories include the following:

  • Nephi's wife faces down his bully brothers to plead for his life.
  • King Benjamin teaches his people to love and serve each other if they want to serve God.
  • Ammon and his fellow missionaries give up 16 years of their lives to bring a message of salvation to their enemies. 
  • The people of Ammon suffer death rather than lift a sword against their enemies. 
  • The mothers of the stripling warriors under Helaman's care imbue their children with so much faith that they cannot be destroyed in battle. 
  • God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of everyone who ever has and ever will live on earth. 

The entire book points to a single event in 3 Nephi when Jesus Christ visits these people on the American continent. Over the course of several chapters, he teaches the people as he did in Israel. He tells them, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" (3 Ne. 11: 10). He ministered to them, healing their sick, blessing their children, and allowing them to feel the nail prints in his hands and in his feet. He showed them, and they testify to us, that he lived again after he died, that he still lives, and that he atoned for our sins. That we, through him, can live again.

This book changed my life once again.

You can get a free copy of The Book of Mormon or read it online here.

A few of my favorite scriptures from this book (how can I choose?):

1 Ne 3:7 I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, . . .
2 Ne. 25:26  We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, . . .
2 Ne. 32:3 . . . feast upon the words of Christ . . .
Mos. 28: 3 . . . they could not bear that any human soul should perish; . . .
Alma 14:26 O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance.
3 Ne. 11:10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
3 Ne. 17:17 . . . no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
3 Ne. 17:21-24 . . . and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
Mormon 7:5 . . . believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, . . . in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
Moroni 10:32 . . . come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; . . .

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I Signed

Recently some events have transpired that have compelled me to closely examine my core beliefs and where I stand regarding the writing and publishing industry. I choose to stand with some of my fellow authors on the side of civility and respect. There is a link to the blog that contains our statement and signatures at the bottom of this post.

What happened?

A publishing company accepted a YA book coauthored by two men. The book was set to go to press earlier this month. In reviewing the materials before the book went to press, one of the authors noticed that his bio had been changed. He asked that it be changed back. The publishing company refused because they took issue with something one of the authors had mentioned in his bio. (I'm being purposely vague here, stick with me.) The author refused to change it. Ultimately, the deal was cancelled, the publishing company refused to publish the book and gave the rights back to the author.

I believe publishing companies have the right to choose the books they publish. So what's the problem?

1. If a publishing company has a problem with an author, they should let them know as soon as the issue comes to light. They should NOT change the bio without the author's knowledge. In this case it seems like they were trying to sneak in the change instead of being open about what they took issue with.

2. Communication should be handled in a respectful and professional manner. If all reports are accurate, that did not happen in this case.

3. I get that when we sign a contract with a publishing company they own the work. They are the ones going out on a limb monetarily. They can (and do, believe me) change things to suit their vision and to increase marketability. However, they cannot change who we are.

I've heard stories of LDS (Mormon) authors being turned down because no one will buy a Christian book authored by a Mormon. Some authors have been asked to leave their religion out of their bio, and even where they are from if it's Utah. I'm certain there are other reasons out there that authors have been turned down not based on their ability to craft a great story, but because of who they are.

So I've signed the document. I'm taking a stand. For better or worse, please judge my writing based on how I write, not based on my race, religion, gender, physical abilities, or sexual orientation.

To read our statement, please visit:

Mormon Writers Blog

The blog contains links to the news stories that prompted the statement.

Thank you,
Marilyn Bunderson

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ah, the Life

One of the perks of being a member of LDS Storymakers is that we have the opportunity to vote for the Whitney Award winners.

Ahem, maybe I should rephrase that. It's a responsibility, a duty, and not fun at all. I mean, what book lover would choose to spend time reading some of the best books of the year? Who has time to read? I hear it all the time, actually. No one has time to read anymore. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

There are those of us who find reading as necessary as breathing. If I don't read me a good book at least every week people. will. not. be. happy. Luckily, I live in a family of readers (mostly). Between us we devour a lot of books. We're talking thousands of words a week. I've generally got 3 books going at once--minimum. That way I can pick up the one I'm in the mood for at the time. I'm currently chawing my way through Les Miserables. I'm wearing the thing down. Finally made it past Waterloo!

My 13-year-old is not as hot on reading. She does love to re-read her favorites over and over. She's read the Eregon series about 5 times. My 17-year-old probably reads more than the rest of us put together. On vacation days she's been known to read two books a day. 

In case any of you are interested in a list of really good books, you can find the Whitney Finalists here:

There are 5 books in each category.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Kindling, by Braden Bell

Homework? Of course. Crushes? Sure. But who knew seventh grade included superpowers?
From the cover:
Loud shrieks sliced the air, followed by the smell of burning cloth. Conner looked over in time to see Geoffrey jumping up and down, yelling and shrieking. Smoke poured from the seat of his shorts while blue and yellow sparks snap-crackle-and-popped all around the heater.
All thirteen-year-old Conner Dell wants to do is pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens. He didn’t mean to set anyone’s gym shorts on fire or make school lunches explode. But now that the strange powers inside him have been ignited, Connor’s normal teenage life is about to go up in flames!
This fast-paced novel is non-stop fun for kids and parents alike. With characters you can’t help but root for, a plot that keeps you guessing, and plenty of humor, it’s a guaranteed thrill ride from cover to cover!
My Review:
I will be buying this for my 11 year old son and 12 year old daughter to read. The 14 year old will probably read it too.
End of review, what more needs to be said?
Well, maybe a few more words.
What kid doesn’t love reading about getting a little back from the bullies and using super-cool new powers to fight adults? Detention takes on a whole new meaning when teachers can blast balls of light from their yardsticks!
In a world where light engages dark in a battle of epic proportions, siblings Conner and Lexa, along with their friend Melanie must learn to wield their newfound gifts of light as they are forced to fight to defend their families. They have to learn to control what they are doing fast, because someone is after them. The problem is; they’re the only ones who can see their sinister stalker.
Burning shorts, flying pizzas, evil motorcycle-riding darkhands, and one pretty vicious unicorn--what's not to love?  With a battle in Disney’s It’s a Small World ride, followed by a lunchroom food fight to end all fights, you won’t want to put this book down until the final page is turned. (Oh, and you’ll never look at pizza the same again.)

This is a great book to cap off your summer and jump into school mode! And if things start happening that you just can't explain? . . . let's just say it's always best to be prepared.
You can buy the book on Amazon or directly from Braden.
If you want to read the story behind The Kindling, you can go here.
You can watch some awesome book trailers here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Depth of Deceit, by Betty Briggs
Purchase Depth of Deceit here

Blonde and beautiful, fledging attorney Stephanie Saunders vows to protect the innocent even though as indigent defense attorney her clients rarely are. Does that include Josh Durrant who seems to be following her? Stephanie is dismayed when her peers begin calling her “Prom Queen” as her boyfriend, Todd Saxton, often does. Desperately trying to prove her worth, she falls prey to those who steal her innocence. Although she plans to forgive Todd for his ultimate betrayal, she is never given the chance. Her boss, Attorney Charles Connelly, offers solace, but is Stephanie’s welfare, or his own, top priority? The only thing that keeps Stephanie sane in her insane world are the horses she loves but does not own, especially the abused mare, Riskie Business, whose example helps Stephanie make the most difficult decision of her life. Relying on wit and courage, Stephanie must save herself and another during the final showdown where she proves a loyalty of which she never knew herself capable.

2010 Winner of the Silver Quill for second place in the Fiction category for the League of Utah Writers Publication Awards.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book.

I certainly didn’t expect to love it.

But I did. I couldn’t put it down.

Stephanie Saunders is tired of being given all the worst cases at her law firm, but as the lowest man on the totem pole she’s left with no options and is stuck trying to prove herself with repetitious indigent defense cases. When she’s assigned to defend the irritatingly good looking Josh Durrant she has trouble maintaining an impartial attitude. She’s sure he’s a bully, though her job is to defend him. She also keeps getting distracted by his polite manner and apparent genuine concern, which are in definite conflict with the fact that he seems to be stalking or her.

When things turn out badly with Stephanie’s boyfriend she falls apart and her kind boss, Charles, is there to pick up the pieces. In her vulnerable state she finds herself thrown into the position of looking after an abused expectant mare, Riskie Business. She identifies very strongly with Riskie as the two of them move through their difficult times together. All the while Josh hovers in the background, in one minute an empathetic friend and the next a creepy stalker—though he continually denies the allegation.

Just when Stephanie starts to find some backbone, things explode and she finds out that she’s been on the edge of disaster without even knowing it. There’s danger at every turn and she’s got to pull it together to survive.

I was irritated by Stephanie’s weakness on two counts. First, her boyfriend was a jerk. He never treated her well but she stayed with him anyway. He seemed to be all about her appearance rather than who she was. I would have liked her to send him packing. Second, she relied too heavily on her boss to help her through her tough times. It didn’t work for me that a smart, driven, young women, who has pulled herself through law school under difficult circumstances would fall apart so completely that she couldn’t even live on her own for several months. However, those two irritating character defects didn’t keep me from devouring the book. Inconsistencies in character are all too real.

My favorite part of the story was the confusing relationship she had with Josh Durrant. Evil stalker or empathetic friend? Well done.

Depth of Deceit keeps you hooked until the end, wondering which players are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys. The characters are well developed and enjoyable. I’m so glad I was introduced to this book, and I look forward to more from Betty Briggs in the future.

Once in a Lifetime

I recently returned from a glorius Senior trip with my daughter, Sam. We starated a tradition with our oldest son, to take our graduating Senior on a trip sometime during their Senior year. Bruce took Jason to England. I took Sam to Italy. We couldn't really afford it but what the heck, it's only money.

The trip didn't start out under the best of circumstances. In order to actually graduate, Sam had to finish her two online classes before we left. She made it, barely. We flew without incident to NYC, but then stalled. Our plane hit another plane on the runway and we were stuck.
You can watch a video of our little "accident" here:

We eventually made it to Venice, Italy--after running for two flights (we didn't make either) and arriving a day later than expected. We even made it to the cruise before it pulled out of port. Bonus.

From Venice we traveled down to Bari, Italy, then Corfu, Greece, and then Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was a lot of fun, although a bit nippy. We managed to lay out on deck one afternoon. I've never been on a cruise before where they put out blankets next to the towels on deck.

The blankets were more high demand than the towels.

The best thing about the trip? Spending time with Sam before she moves out for good. I'm going to miss her piano playing. It was so much fun to see her experience a trip to Europe. It can be startling when all of the chatter around you is in various other languages. We noticed that each country had it's own "look." From the red tiled roofs in Bari, to the gray stone buildings on Corfu, and the high fortress walls of Dubrovnik, the views were spectacular.

Venice was unlike any other city I've been to. Delta Airlines was gracious enough to change our flights so we could come back a day later than planned to make up for the day we lost in NY. The buildings go right down into the water. Seriously, you can't see the ground. I assume there's some dry (ish) land somewhere under all those buildings. Here's a picture,

and another

The thing most apparent to me on this trip is not very politically correct, but what the heck, here it is. I first noticed when a family was pulled aside after we left the plane in Venice. Most of us were in a lemming line to go collect our baggage. One family was pulled aside by police and they were talking. The family, consisting of a mother and father and two small children, looked like they were from a Arab country perhaps. I wondered at the time if they were pulled aside due to racial profiling.

I noticed it more on the cruise and various ports. There were many languages spoken but Sam and I were sized up for a moment and then spoken to in English. No one ever tried to speak to us in French, German or Italian. I began to notice what people looked like when others spoke to them in Italian, or another language. Italians LOOK Italian. German's have a look about them. Even the French, kind of. I would look around the dining room and everyone in the room could have been American, but we really wouldn't all have been Italian, or German, or French. Then I thought back to the family at the airport. I don't think they would have been singled out in America--there would probably have been an outcry if they were. But in Italy (or Greece or Croatia) you can kind of tell by looking where a person is from.

In the United States you can't tell. AND I LOVE THAT. I love that about our country. It's our differences that make us the nation we are. If you tried to judge someone by their appearance here you would more than likely be wrong. We get our strength from those independant and strong individuals who gathered themselves to the land of the free, mingled with those who were already here and those who were forced to come.

On the ship and in all the ports we heard more American music than native music. We did hear a bit of Italian, but not much. We were in a bus in Bari, taking a city tour, and the tour guides had Train playing. Sam and I smiled as one of the other passengers sang along. English was obviously not her first language and some of the words were more approximated sounds than anything. But she knew the song. The common language was English. Why? England is a pretty small country and the US is on the other side of the world. But mostly we heard American English, not British. I had worked on my Italian but hardly needed it. It was unexpected, the American influence I mean.

And now some quick pictures of Bari, Italy; Corfu, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Corfu, at the old fort.

Dubrovnik, the wall goes all the way around the old city and we walked the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Contest with author Laura Bingham!

Visit Laura Bingham's blog and enter her contest with tons of cool prizes (mostly books, yay)!

I loved reading Laura's first book, Alvor and can't wait until NEXT month when her long awaited sequel, Wings of Light, comes out. Twins Erin and Bain have become ELVES and continue their quest to find their mother.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little Women, The Opera

I went to the opera last night with my husband and 3 of our 4 little women. (The 15 year old really, really didn't want to dress up and listen to people singing all night.) It was better and worse than I expected.

They started with Laurie coming back from France married to Amy. Jo became upset with how things change and turned back time a few years. They didn't cover the younger years but picked up where John Brooks has taken Meg's glove and will soon propose to her.

First favorite, the way Mr. Brooks was portrayed was great. He became almost a romantic figure instead of the awkward, half developed character I never liked in the book. He was never really a problem in the book--I just never liked him much. In the opera he sings a sweet little love song and captures Meg's heart.

I also liked the insight into the relationship between Jo and her Aunt March. There's not much time spent on it but there is a well defined connection that makes sense when Aunt March leaves Jo Plumfield.

Negatives, they left out two of the best lines in the book. First, the one where Beth is dying and says she gets to be the brave one for once and go first, and second, Mr. Behr's proposal.

Also, confession, I didn't love the music. It was fine, and probably wonderfully modern, and there were parts I enjoyed, but I really would have liked to come away with some tune in my head I could hum. (Sorry for the run on sentence, that's how I think.) It was moving and did a great job evoking emotions--which is the point I think, but a couple of memorable melodies would have been great.

Grades from the kiddos:
18 year old-enjoyed it
12 year old-okay
11 year old-wished she hadn't come (but I'm glad she did)
I very much enjoyed it and so did my husband.

Hmm, maybe I like the opera. Who knew?

Secret Sisters

"Ida Mae Babbitt didn't know what kind of cookie to serve with bad news."

With an opening line like that you know it's going to be great--and Tristi Pinkston doesn't disappoint. I LOVED this hilarious book. Here's the blurb from the back:

Ida Mae Babbitt, president of the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society, didn't mean to become a spy. But when visiting teaching stats are low,andshe learns that one family under her care is in financial trouble, she'll do whatever it takes to make sure they have what they need. If that includes planting surveillance cameras in their home and watching them from a parked car in the woods . . . well, isn't that what any caring Relief Society president would do?

With the help of her counselors, Arlette and Tansy, Ida Mae soon learns that there's more to the situation than meets the eye.

But it's all in a day's work for the Relief Society.

The zany antics of this well-meaning grandmotherly wanna-be detective keep the story moving as Ida Mae works to uncover what's going on at the Dunn's house. She's helped along the way by her nephew and her two counselors. There are also other important happenings in town and Ida Mae's got her work cut out for her trying to keep everything organized and everyone fed.

This is a great read.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Open Letter to My Daughter

Dear Sam,

You’re off to spend a fun, exciting week at Jr. Miss.

I am proud of you, I love you, I miss you . . . and I worry about you. To be honest, I worry about all of the girls there. How will you/they come away from your week? There are not enough prizes to go around; some will walk away with nothing. What would that do to you—to walk away with nothing after all your hard work and time spent? What will that say about you, to you?

Here’s what I hope for.

Please know that your worth is not dependant on your talents or how good you make a dress look. It is true that every girl there is talented and beautiful and beloved to her family. But the girls back home—the ones who didn’t make it to State or who never even tried—have just as much worth as each of you beautiful and talented girls. You have to understand that your importance as a human being does not depend on how you look or what you can do. It’s inherent, simply because YOU ARE.

Now don’t get me wrong, what you do with yourself, how hard you work to improve yourself and develop talents is very important. You are in the process of creating yourself and who you can be. Your hard work will create of you a masterpiece, but really, it will all be for naught if you can’t recognize the beauty inside yourself and everyone around you. It is our differences that make the tapestry of humanity so interesting and perfect.

It is one girl’s privilege to walk away as the winner at the end of the week. She will have scholarship money and many responsibilities—that each of you, no doubt, would happily accept. But 33 of you will walk away with less. Less scholarship money, less responsibility, fewer pats on the back, but hopefully not less in your feelings of self worth. I believe it is one girl’s destiny to walk that path, but for the rest of you, your path will be different. Some will walk away with nothing . . . but the memories of your great experiences and hopefully a greater appreciation of who you are and who you can become. The feelings you walk away with are entirely up to you.

Make a lot of friends, enjoy your experiences, learn to interview well and balance your life, learn to appreciate and serve those around you, and bring your changed self home to bless the lives of those around you. Enjoy this experience that few will have, and learn to see the beauty in every person, no matter what talents they have, how much money, how they look—and sometimes even how they behave.

I would say this on behalf of every mother of every girl there this week: We love you and are proud of YOU—for what you have accomplished but also for who you are. Have a GREAT week, no matter what happens at the end of it.



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Basketball Madness

My life right now is completely submerged in basketball--and I love it. I have two daughters on basketball teams, and I'm running an ongoing basketball tournament for 10 teams of girls through our church. I also play on a team on Wednesday evenings.

I got wind of a comment that was made today by a father to his daughter as they were leaving the game. He told her to be more aggressive and that the level of her aggressiveness would be determined by the officials. He was telling her to do whatever she could do to dominate.

Here we go, I feel a good rant coming on.

I still play basketball as often as I can. When I was introduced to a couple of new players last week they said, "This is Marilyn. She always calls her fouls." We don't play with refs, and I don't mind playing hard, nor do I mind being fouled, but if I feel myself commit a foul I call it.

In our girls program, we call them young women, the refs are volunteers. Most of them don't know as much as they think they do about officiating a basketball game. The most common issues:
  • Blow the whistle loud, don't be afraid of it.
  • Tell the scorekeeper who made the foul and/or what violation was committed.
  • You've got to call the foul quickly or the moment is gone.
  • Figure out how the possession arrow works.
  • A made shot is a live ball (no substitutions).
  • Three seconds, five seconds, ten seconds. Always counting.
  • A foul can be committed without even using the hands.
That said, I'm very grateful for our volunteer refs and I take what I can get. I myself am not such a great ref--not a fun job. I always encourage the girls to play with integrity. If they knocked the ball out of bounds, admit it. If you're called on a foul, take the call. Don't fight with or talk back to the refs. Don't complain about the calls or lack of calls. We're all doing our best.

I was saddened that a father would undermine his daughter's integrity in such a way as to tell her to get away with as much as she can. It goes against how I feel the game should be played both on and off the court. Maybe you could justify it with more experienced refs and I admit that I often up my play according to how my opponents are playing, but nobody likes a dirty player. And that certainly should not exist in this basketball program with young inexperienced players and refs. Teach them integrity on and off the court. To be honest, that's how these girls play naturally and I love it. Here's what I hear on a regular basis:
  • "Oops, I hit it out."
  • "Sorry, did I hurt you?"
  • "Oh, was that a foul? Sorry!"
  • "My bad."
  • "Let me help you up."
They have a lot of fun and help each other. They sometimes cheer when the other team scores (if the scores are vastly uneven.) Please, fathers, please don't take that away from them.

I'm probably overracting, but from where I stand these girls are just out to have a little fun. I'll be talking with them this week about integrity on the court and balancing that with playing hard and having fun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Oh, Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis

I was recently given the opportunity to review Oh, Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis. This is the fourth book in her Free Men and Dreamers series. I have not read the preceding books . . . yet, but after this one I really want to go back and read those first three! There were a couple of spots where I wanted to know more of the history of some of the richly drawn characters, but the story was well crafted to stand on its own.

Here's a teaser:
Though the capital smolders, the battered Constitution and the presidency have survived. But the British left the struggling government no home. Gone are the symbols of America--the Capitol Building and the President's House, and nearly every relic of the infant nation. Britain's next target is the port city of Baltimore, but has the raid on Washington stiffened the Americans' backs? As the Willows women mourn their absent men - gone to war, or wounded, or captured - they await the birth of a blessed child. Miles away, attorney Francis Scott Key embarks on a diplomatic mission that will leave an everlasting mark on America. Proving that the pen can indeed by more powerful than the sword, Key records the fears and hopes of his embattled people. His epic poem soon set to music and titled "The Star-Spangled Banner," rallies a shattered nation to rise from its knees to claim the dream of "one nation under God" during the closing hours of the War of 1812.

L.C. Lewis has the remarkable gift of being able to create three-dimensional characters who step into incredibly detailed and accurate historical accounts of real-life events. I can’t say it enough, the detail was excellent. I read on a blog interview, here, that she was motivated to write about these events as historical fiction because, there are people “who learn history best when it is personalized and wrapped around a compelling storyline.” Okay, true confessions—that would be me. I know, I know, I should read biographies and non-fiction and good for me stuff, but the books I can’t put down are all fiction. What can I say, I have no will power when it comes to books, and I’m always drawn to a good romance.

Sooo, for those of you worried about the factual stuff—don’t. There’s plenty of romance and storyline for those of us who need relationship development to pull us along. And for those, like my husband, who love the story of the war and real-life events, there’s plenty of that as well. L.C. Lewis has developed a character driven, historically accurate story that pulls the reader into early America and the War of 1812, highlighting Francis Scott Key’s experiences that compelled him to write the poem Defense of Fort McHenry, which later was put to music and became The Star-Spangled Banner. Oh,Say Can You See? is a beautifully written tale of the heroic defense of a brand new nation and the struggle to survive as free men.

This was the first book I’ve read by L.C. Lewis—but it won’t be the last. She’s a talented writer and masterful storyteller, and I can’t wait until the fifth book comes out in March. She also writes under the name Laurie C. Lewis and has two books out under that name, Awakening Avery and Unspoken.

It's blog tour time for

Set against the War of 1812 and the penning of "The Star Spangled Banner," Oh, Say Can You See?, the latest novel in the FREE MEN AND DREAMERS series by L.C. Lewis, brings this often overlooked period to life.

THREE people will win a copy of Oh, Say Can You See? One GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win this beautiful patriotic necklace!

Blog tour runs from December 13th--December 22nd.
It's easy to enter.

1. Visit the fabulous reviews and leave a comment letting us know why "The Star Spangled Banner" means so much to you. Remember to include your email address.

2. If you tweet about the blog tour, or post about it on your blog or facebook, leave the link in the comments section and you'll receive an additional entry.

Good Luck! Entries close at midnight (MST) on December 31.

December 13
Braden Bell

December 14
Marsha Ward

December 15
Rachelle Christensen

December 16
Anna Del C. Dye

December 17
Stephanie Abney

December 18
Lynn Parsons

December 20
Susan Dayley
Marilyn Bunderson

December 21
Liz Adair
Valerie Ipson

December 22
Kathi Oram Peterson

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Taken by Storm and Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison

Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

From the back of the book:

Leesie Hunt’s Unbreakable Rules:

No Kissing (at least not of the French variety) . . . No Sec (hah! Not even close to happening anyway) . . . No Dating Outside the Mormon Faith (what would be the point?) . . . ABSOLUTELY No Falling in Love with the Wrong Boy (would ruin everything)

Leesie thinks she has her whole life planned out: get into the school of her dreams, write her poems, meet the perfect guy, and settle down. Then she meets Michael—a boy whose parents were killed in a diving accident during a terrible storm.

Michael is drowning in tragedy. And all Leesie wants is to save him. With each day, her heart hurts more. Could it be perfect Leesie is falling from grace? Or is she just falling in love?

But if Leesie gives in to temptation, who is going to save her?

My Review:

I have never read a book like this. Leesie and Michael take turns telling their story through Michael’s dive logs and Leesie’s poems and chatspot conversations. The dual perspective propels the story forward while allowing the reader to understand both sides of the relationship. Michael is struggling to come to terms with the storm and the loss of his parents. Leesie’s trying hard to reconcile her beliefs and upbringing with the passionate feelings she has for Michael. His emotions are raw and poignant. When she reaches out to him she becomes the air for his drowning soul.

On top of their personal struggles, they constantly disagree on how their relationship should play out. Leesie believes that love means more than the physical part and has made a commitment to save herself for marriage. Michael doesn’t understand her need to wait and thinks that her rules will kill the growing love between them—that the only way to truly love is to share everything with each other. Sprinkled throughout the book are Leesie affirmations of her strong religious beliefs as she reinforces her will and occasionally preaches to Michael in an honest attempt to help him heal.

At this point I have to say that the content is definitely PG-13. It’s listed as a book for age 12 and up but I think it depends on the 12 year old. For someone confronted with similar issues at school and in their own personal relationships, this is a great book on finding your limits and exploring the pros and cons of premarital sex. For other teens who are perhaps more sheltered, this book delves pretty far into passions with frank sexual talk and discussions. On a personal level, since my three teenage daughters are more on the sheltered side, I will not be recommending this book for them to read. However, if I felt one of them were dancing a little close to the lines, I might pull it out and have them read it.

The writing is perfection; the story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Angela does a masterful job of developing her characters. I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it for the right audience.

Check out Angela’s website: You can read the first chapter and see a trailer for this book. You’ll also hear the beautiful song she wrote for her book SING ME TO SLEEP.

Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison

From the back of the book:

Against all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers.

And they just can’t leave each other alone.

Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one directin their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michakel is and wants to be.

Can she change for him?

Can he change for her?


My Review:

Written in the same format as TAKEN BY STORM, UNBROKEN CONNECTION picks up the story of Michael and Leesie’s romance. Even though they are on opposite sides of the world (symbolic of how incongruent their beliefs and behaviors are) they can’t suppress the passion that pulls them together. The questions that keep coming up challenge their relationship. Can they find a way to make it work or will they have to give up too much or who they are? How important are core beliefs in the face of all consuming love?

Once again, I enjoyed the book and the growing relationship between Leesie and Michael. I can’t wait until I can read the third book, CAYMAN SUMMER. If anything, this book was more passionate than the first so I must add the same strong cautions. This is a great book for the right audience.

Check out Angela’s website: You can read the first chapter and see a trailer for this book. You’ll also hear the beautiful song she wrote for her book SING ME TO SLEEP.

Author Interview with Angela Morrison

I recently had the opportunity to do reviews on two of Angela Morrison's amazing books, TAKEN BY STORM, and UNBROKEN CONNECTION. She was also nice enough to let me interview her. If you want to learn more about her after reading her interview, visit her website:

1. Your characters are very well developed and a joy to discover. How do you create such strong characters? Are they based on people you know?

Revision, revision, revision. It took me so long to finally sell TAKEN BY STORM, so I had YEARS of listening to Michael and Leesie talk in my head. I got to know them better with each rejection and consequent revision. I think that's the key to creating strong characters--listening to them. Are they based on people I know? I have to laugh when people ask me that. I put Leesie in my high school and she lives in the farm house where I lived from junior high through high school. I even made her the only Mormon girl in the school. Then I started giving her all of my worst high school experiences. It was great catharsis, but lousy fiction. I had to cut a lot of the me, so she could be Leesie. I gave her my sister's long, beautiful hair, another sister's mad driving skills, and a retro suede leather jacket one of my son's friends wore. I still had difficulty conveying her motivation until my daughter gave me a recording of Kelly Clarkson's, "Beautiful Disaster!" That song is exactly Leesie. I'd listen to it whenever I drove kids to school and then be in the perfect mood to come home and revise some more. Leesie truly came into her own when I let her speak through poetry.

2. What led you to make the decision to use dive logs, chat records and poetry to tell the story?

Desperation. An editor at Candlewick said she'd look at my manuscript a second time if I revised it all from Michael's point of view. I'd do anything for Candlewick, so I tried it. She missed the suspense created from Leesie discovering Michael's situation. She asked me to revise again, bringing back the dive logs that I used to tell Michael's part of the story, and replacing Leesie's first person narration with third person. I tried it. Bleck. She said it was stiff. Yup. At that point, I looked at my manuscript, and it was broken. I asked myself, "How do I want to tell this story?" I'd just returned from a workshop with Markus Zusak and read THE BOOK THEIF. He is so inventive with all the pieces he brings together to narrate the story. I'd also recently read Tobin (M.T.) Anderson's OCTAVIAN NOTHING: TRAITOR TO A NATION, Kelly Bringham's SHARK GIRL, and Ellen Yoeman's RUBBER HOUSES. Tobin's book uses Octavian's journal entries interspersed with letters and other items from other narrators. He lists himself as the compiler. Kelly and Ellen's books are both exquisitely crafted poetry novels. Kelly introduces letters to round out the narrative.

I studied my past three or four revisions with Markus Zusak's advice to "keep the gems," ringing in my ears. Michael's dive logs were the best thing I had. I could use those to tell Michael's side of the story. I'd already incorporated chats into the novel, but I used them like dialogue. I decided to take them out and insert them as transcripts, but what about Leesie? She'd been a poet from the start. Her poem about her grandmother was one of the first things I wrote. And her and Kim's relationship was all about writing poetry. I tried a few of Leesie's scenes as free verse poems and was excited about the result. Poetry is my dessert, so I was excited about getting to write lots of poetry. This form is called a collage novel. I love it, but it's challenging. It fits Michael and Leesie. I'm not sure if I'll use it again.

3. Do you use an outline when you write and if so, how detailed is it?

Outlines make me grimace, shudder, run away crying. I do use a calendar (you can see it on my blog) to keep track of what's going on. When ideas for the story come thick and fast, I scribble them down into a rough plot summary. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP under contract, and I had to come up with a fairly detailed story "pitch." I'm getting better at that, but it's a learned skill. Plans always get changed when characters get involved. I'm a hero's journey writer and highly recommend Voegel's, THE WRITER'S JOURNEY.

4. What character do you connect with the most?

Probably Leesie. I divested her of a lot of me, but there's still some in there haunting the poor girl.

5. How long did it take you to write your first novel? Has the time frame changed any now that you are an experienced writer?

I wrote the first draft of TAKEN BY STORM over the course of my first two semesters studying for my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (Incredible program, writers check it out!) I remember how amazed I felt when I wrote the last scene and knew I'd actually written a novel. I revised it off and on for two more semesters, but also started writing MY ONLY LOVE, an historical novel that required zillions of hours of research. After I graduated, I marketed STORM for three and a half years before I sold it. And then we did major revisions to get it in shape for Razorbill's audience. That's almost six years of effort, rejection, faith in this story, and never giving up. I didn't work on it full-time, but consistently through those years. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP in three months--and only had a few weeks for my editors changes. Good thing she didn't ask for a lot. I was in a panic to meet my deadline and wrote so much I hurt my hands! Now, I average about six months for a novel--but I know I can do it in less if I have to.

6. Is there any message you have for your fans?

I'd like to invite you all to read TAKEN BY STORM and UNBROKEN CONNECTION and then join us over at where I'm blogging Michael and Leesie's last book as I write it. I love getting readers input along the way and there's a big contest running, too. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ski Utah!

I took my four youngest skiing/snowboarding on Saturday. I figured if we live in Utah, they had better learn to ski. I signed them up for lessons at Park City and the older three were excited to go. The two who took snowboarding lessons had been skiing before and loved it and were excited to try something new. Park City has this deal for locals who are first time skiers, very inexpensive.

My youngest was not excited--to put it mildly. He spent his first 8 years in Taiwan, and though he loves snow he gets cold very quickly. I told him he had to try it one time, so I layered him up with snow pants, a warm coat, gloves, hat, and hand warmers. I think he ended up putting the handwarmers in his pockets because he didn't need them. I even bought him goggles to keep the wind from his eyes. He looked a little nervous when I dropped him off but he was a good sport.

The three girls were a bit more enthusiastic.

When I picked him up three hours later he was all smiles. He loved it and couldn't wait to go again. So glad. Can't wait to go again--maybe I'll take some snowboarding lessons myself.