Sunday, December 27, 2009

Before the Season Ends, by Linore Rose Burkard

Before the Season Ends, by Linore Rose Burkard, was given to me as a Christmas gift this year (along with its sequel, The House in Grosvenor Square) and I spent most of Christmas Day and half of the next day reading it. I couldn't put it down at any point. It's being billed as "Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul" which made me particularly intrigued, as I love both the Victorian and Regency Time Periods (Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors), and Inspirational Romance is often what I write.

Before the Season Ends begins with Ariana Forsythe's family sending her to London to escape a suitor they consider unsuitable (for good reason), hoping some culture (museums, theatres, the ballet) will help round out Ariana's education and take her mind off her suitor. But, her aunt (and now her chaperone and guardian in London), Agatha Bentley, has another idea: marrying Ariana off to a rich and elegant bachelor of the highest rank. When Ariana first hears of Phillip Mornay, she decides he is perhaps the least likely candidate for a husband because he is ill-tempered and too rich to associate with anyone beneath his own station, besides being incredibly handsome. However, Before the Season Ends, Aunt Bentley is determined to make the match possible. What ensues can be scandalous, comical and laugh-out-loud delightful, especially considering Ariana, while endowed with the ability to be graceful and charming, has a tendency to let her temper flare and her outdoor manners run wild.

One of the important facets of Before the Season Ends is Ariana's devotion to God, and the role He plays in her every day life. Of course, she wants her future husband to feel as close to God as she does, but Phillip Mornay is not known for any pious inclinations, which makes his suitability, in her eyes, impossible.

If you have any leanings toward Jane Austen, the Regency Era, or just plain fun reading, you've got to read Linore Rose Burkard's book. I thoroughly enjoyed Before the Season Ends, and recommend it heartily. Thanks, Linore, for a joyful and captivating read!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thoughts on Christmas

As I prepare to celebrate the holiday season with my sweet husband, I am reminded of one particular Christmas more than 2000 years ago when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. What a day it must have been for Mary and Joseph! What a choice experience to parent the Christ Child! Who could have guessed that from such humble beginnings as His birth in a lowly stable amongst the animals we would receive the greatest exemplar ever to walk upon the earth?

Jesus was more than a mere man, he was a promoter of peace, compassion, empathy, divine power and humility. He taught hope, peace and kindness to all mankind; He was a shield and a protector of our own everlasting happiness; He promised us eternal joy if we would but follow Him. He counseled us, "Fear not."

In today's world of commercialized Christmas, of disbelief in the Savior of the world, and the notion that keeping Christ in Christmas is a politically incorrect idea, perhaps it is time to step back and assess the impact Jesus Christ has had upon our own lives. He has taught us it is better to forgive than to harbor ill will, better to give than receive, better to choose kindness and patience than to allow anger into our hearts, better to look after those around us, to help and protect those less fortunate than us, and to walk in righteous pathways.

The Christ is so powerful and dynamic that mankind has even gauged time around His humble birth in Bethlehem. The sun rises and sets under His command, the stars sparkle, the moon shines, the tides ebb in and out, the earth orbits, the animals and plants obey . . . all Heaven dashes about in answer to His command.

If time, space and all forms of matter respond so eagerly to his beck and call, why is it only humans who disobey or deny Him? We would be nothing if not for the Savior's power and His eternal plan for us.

As for my part, I will declare to the world that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God, and it is right that we should celebrate the birth of such an exemplar as the Savior was and is and remains forever. Joyfully, I would sing with the angels in Heaven, "Joy to the world! The Lord is come!"

I pray each of you will have a Merry Christmas, and remember the true reason for the season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Journey by J. Adams

When Ciran, princess of Krisandor, is sent from her father's kingdom to Havenwood, her journey begins and her faith is tested. I was instantly reminded of the pre-existence and our own journey here on earth. Quick to point out during Ciran's sojourn that each choice has a consequence attached to it, the analogy to earth life is poignantly detailed in Jewel Adams book, The Journey. The battle is being waged in every life, and each person is accountable for his or her choices . . . so The Journey teaches. This tale of love and loss, flattery and deceit, is as endless as time, itself. There will always be trials that lead us to choose either good or evil, but Ciran's story will touch you in ways that will make you want to choose wisely. The Journey is an interesting, absorbing read and one you might enjoy, too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace

I should have known from the very beginning. I mean, what reader gets taken in so easily? Oops! It was me. I have to confess that Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace, sucked me in too quickly, left me laughing too long, and that I should have known from the very first sentence that I was destined to thoroughly enjoy Santa Maybe. After all, how many books begin by explaining, ". . . I fell in love like most people change their socks." Every day? I asked myself. Yet Aubrey manages to explain it all so deliciously (pun intended -- my only regret was the recipes were missing).

Who would expect Santa to actually leave a man under the Christmas tree for Abbie, even when she asked for one? Abbie's situations are just too funny! And, Ben's reason for being under Abbie's Christmas tree . . . almost unbelieveable until the twist, then totally understandable, and all the while endearingly comical.

If you want a really good bout of the chuckles this holiday season, you won't miss reading Santa Maybe. Oh! And, if you're single, you might think of sending Santa your letter, asking him for a man for your Christmas present. You never know what might happen if you do! After all, it happened to Abbie.

Santa Maybe is one Christmas story you won't want to miss! Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shudder by Jennie Hansen

Tackling the often hidden issue of spouse abuse, Jennie Hansen shines in her latest novel, Shudder. When two young women, Darcy and Clare, are separated by the devious manipulation of Clare's fiance, Blaine, it seems their lifelong friendship comes to an abrupt end. But, Darcy is devoted to Clare and becomes her lifeline in a relationship that answers the age-old question, "Who can say where love will be found?" In addition to Darcy's concern for Clare, she is unknowingly thrown into an intricately woven web of fear and danger . . . a rippling effect put into play by the skillfully controlling Blaine. If it were not for David's entrance (the romantic interest) into her life, Darcy might have been maimed or killed several times over. This is one story that kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. Regardless of the subject content and the many twists of plot involved, Jennie Hansen holds true to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in her engrossing story Shudder. I would heartily recommend Shudder to teens and adults alike. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

ALMA by H. B. Moore

The first use of natural rubber latex (NRL)came, as near as can be determined, in 1600 BC by the Ancient Mayans. According to Wikepedia, "They boiled the harvested latex to make a ball for sport." Having NRL allergy, one would think I knew this fact already, but when I read about a child playing with a rubber ball in H. B. Moore’s latest book, Alma, I was surprised to learn of latex’s origins in Middle to South America. In modern society, we often think NRL originated in Malaysia, but this is not the case. Such minute attention to details (such as the rubber ball) is found throughout Moore’s outstanding novel, Alma, so much so that I would highly recommend it for reading to anyone ages sixteen and up who is already well-versed in the Book of Mormon’s account of Alma. I was sucked in immediately and found the story difficult to put down.

It is interesting to me that H. B. Moore shows a variety of scenes from the woman’s point of view, giving the story depth and appeal to women, as well as showing the POV of several male characters, lending strength in its appeal to men also. Diversified as Alma is, one cannot help but wonder what really went on in the minds of our beloved Book of Mormon heroes, and H. B. Moore goes a long way toward resolving those questions we often ask ourselves.

I applaud the author’s gracious endeavor to bring such characters as Alma, Helam and Amulon to life in ways we cannot always see from the scriptures because so few verses regarding these men are available to us. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and see these heroes and their enemies in their own reality. Fortunately, H. B. Moore gives me a way to do that in Alma.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

90 Minutes in Heaven

Baptist minister, Don Piper, writes an engaging account of his 90 Minutes in Heaven as co-authored by Cecil Murphey. Following a terrible auto/truck accident that occurred 18 Jan 1989, Don Piper spent 90 minutes in a Near Death Experience (NDE) before finally being rescued and taken to appropriate medical aid. While the first chapter deals with incidents leading up to the accident, chapters four through eighteen deal with the pain and horrendous aftermath of that accident. That leaves only two chapters which actually tell about his 90 Minutes in Heaven, so I felt the title was a little misleading. I was expecting him to dwell more on those 90 minutes and less on the months and years afterward that led up to his finally telling his story. The front cover states there are more than four million copies in print, so the book has been very successful in terms of financial success. The two chapters which I enjoyed most were, of course, those dealing with Mr. Piper's NDE, as I have had a keen interest in this topic all my life. The chapters following the NDE, I have to confess, were a little graphic and, on occasion, apparently embarrassing for him to tell. The humiliation he suffered as a result of being unable to do anything for himself following the accident was felt keenly, and this agony comes through powerfully upon the pages of his book. The good that came from Mr. Piper's experiences are manifested in his learning to accept the assistance of others, in his realization of his own limitations, and the strengthening of his character in terms of human kindness. It was an interesting story and kept my interest. That said, I wish he had spent a few more chapters on his NDE and less on his numerous humiliations. A mere fourteen pages included the brief account of his NDE while one-hundred-ninety-one pages were devoted to his agony and overcoming the obstacles of recovery. I would have liked to have read ninety pages of his NDE, as it was a singularly unique experience. However, the parable of gaining strength through adversity shows through admirably, giving readers a glimpse into the human condition that most of us, prayerfully, will never know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Twilight Series and The Host

With New Moon coming out in theaters this fall, and Eclipse in full production, I felt it was time I made a few comments about The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. While the four titles in the series kept my attention, as did The Host, another of Stephenie's absorbing reads, I was disappointed at the anticlimax reached at the conclusion of the series (as well as in The Host). With such interesting characters as the Cullens, Jacob and Bella, it was disappointing to see the series end in a brief standoff with the opposition backing down (or as in The Host with not a whisper about what happens with Melanie and her friends after Wanda's "choice").

Stephenie has the power to pull her readers into the story and keep their interest well. She has an active imagination and I can certainly understand why she has such a good following.

That said, I have to confess that I only started reading The Twilight Series when my teen granddaughters encouraged me with, "Grandma, you have to read them!" I had no intention of reading about vampires and such, prior to their insistence, and now that I have read the series, I find myself ambivalent. While I admire the Cullens for their fortitude in giving up human blood, I find myself unwilling to fall into the vampire cult so easily. I found Edward's love and respect for Bella quite charming, but I also found his eagerness to watch her sleep a little unsettling, as I did their spending the night together (her sleeping/him watching). Indeed, as a mother and grandmother, I find the whole idea that teenagers find this behavior acceptable (whether in humans or vampires) completely astounding.

Critics of this particular muse will say, "But, nothing happened." My stance remains the same. My response, "But, it could have, and allowing a teenager to believe that spending the night with her boyfriend, in the same bed (even if nothing happens), is opening a door to temptation that no unwed person should open." In today's society of open sexual relationships, I draw the line and say, "No." It takes a person with real courage and conviction to do the same.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Host, and felt the storyline moved along quickly and kept the readers' fingernails well-bit. I would have enjoyed it more if Wanda had watched the "revolution" gain ground before . . . Well, Wanda had a choice, and her choice left this reader wanting. If a sequel were planned, giving Melanie's view of the revolution, then I could accept the conclusion.

Would I recommend The Twilight Series to others? In light of my opinion on avoiding scenes that would encourage the temptation of promiscuity, no. If Stephenie had avoided writing those few scenes in the first book, I see no harm in a little make-believe with the Cullen vampires and their "higher ethics" than the normal vampire.

Would I recommend The Host? Yes. It is an interesting read, the premise of a higher lifeform (which is also a lower lifeform) than we humans was quite interesting, and while I was disappointed by the ending, I do not see that as any reason not to recommend the story to others.

Would I read other novels by Stephenie Meyer? Of course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Famous Family Nights by Anne Bradshaw

Famous Family Nights, by Anne Bradshaw, is one of the best books I've ever read on Family Home Evenings. It's an excellent book for parents of all ages! I laughed, I cried, I read several entries over and over and out loud to my hubby. The stories within its pages are so much fun to read. Amazingly, many parents felt their family home evenings were disastrous, which reminded me of some rather catastrophic Family Home Evenings we had in our own home, as well! You'll find stories about measuring lint in belly buttons and stylishly modeling newly-washed clothes over . . . whatever. Many of the stories touched on eternal issues, listening to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and learning to stretch beyond what is expected. Others point out simplicity and directness and honor in following the Family Home Evening pathway. The entire book is a profound statement of love and devotion to family. Famous Family Nights is a great reminder to parents everywhere that the Lord never expected us to get it perfect, He just expected us to do it! The blessings far outweigh the challenges is one of the many themes that run through these beautiful stories. Anne Bradshaw, Famous Family Nights is one book I will read many times over. Thank you so much for your faith and fortitude in bringing such inspirational stories to the world!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Far World: Water Keep, by J. Scott Savage

Far World: Water Keep is one of the best books for middle-grade readers and early teens around. I was particularly impressed with the message in the book, "Keep going, no matter what the obstacles." This is one book parents can let their teens and pre-teens read (and read to their older children) with no worries. It's gripping, won't let you out until the very last word, and makes you almost desperate for the sequel. I loaned my copy to my eleven-year-old grandson because of its high standard, fast-paced action and engaging tale. J. Scott Savage has triumphed over all his past novels with Far World: Water Keep.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's time

It only takes a few seconds to decide it's time. It's time to change. It's time to commit. It's time to improve. It's time to take a desired path. But, life isn't about deciding, it's about doing. All the decision-making in the world will not improve upon the process of action. Like New Year Resolutions that we agonize over making, if we don't act upon resolution, it won't get done. My life has been all about decisions lately, and very little about "doing." For me, it's time to do something more than merely make a decision and say it's time. It's time to do. I hope you will hang out with me as I struggle beyond my own failings and plunge myself into the reality of action. My father once taught me "Sorry is an action word." Erroneously, I thought he meant it was a verb and, grammarian that I had become at fifteen (ha!), I knew he was wrong. As I've dwelt on the deeper meaning behind his statement, I've realized that action is spurred on by feelings of regret. I didn't do something I should have done (or I did something erroneously) . . . I felt sorry . . . I sought change . . . I change . . . I do! That's what Dad meant: sorrow for past actions means nothing without future action upon past behaviors. Deep thinking. Rare for me. Now, onward!
Over the next few months, I hope to post my thoughts on books I've read, books I'm writing, memories of special value to me, encouragement I've received, discouragement I've overcome, a few musings I may have over contemporary and earlier issues. Join me as I ramble along with Miller's Musings . . . .