Monday, August 31, 2009

Gallagher Girls Series

I've really got to stop reading series until ALL the books are out. :) Maybe I am the only one that feels this way, but once I start a great series I don't want to wait until all the books are out to see find out what happens. But on the other hand I do love the whole feeling of anticipation that comes. (The HP books were the one exception, those I loved looking forward to every couple of years)

I've really enjoyed the three books in this series. The girls are smart (yah for smart girls), they are mature for their ages (hate whinny teenager girls--Bella for example), and they are spies (how cool is that? I wanted to be a spy when I was younger).

On the outside, The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Woman, looks like a typical posh all-girls school. But looks can be deceiving. The Gallagher Academy IS an Academy for Excepetional Young Woman--they are all brilliant, smart and spies in training.

I'd Tell You I'd Love You, But Then I Had to Kill You
Is the story of Cammie Morgan, her best friends Bex and Liz, and her recent roommate Macey. Cammie Morgan, 15, chameleon. As a second generation Gallagher Girl and daughter of the current head mistress, Cammie has spying in her blood. Cammie has spent most of her life within in the wall of Gallagher Academy and when CovOps begins that year, Cammie find for the first time in her life she becomes visible when on her first CovOps assignment she meets Josh. Cammie soon learns that she may be a spy in training, but she knows nothing about boys, romance and life outside of Gallagher Academy.

Cross my Heart and Hope to Spy
This book picks it up soon after the end of the I'd Tell You I'd Love You. Cammie thinks that after distraous events involving boys the year before, she would be safe from their influences for the next school year. But that wasn't to be. For the first time the all girls school is involved in operation Blackthrone aka boys in the school. As she studies and works alongside these boys, especially the suave Zach, Cammie has a feeling that her new schoolmates may be hiding something. When a major breach in security happens and threatens to expose the school for what it really was and Cammie is blamed, Cammie and her friends must work to clear her name.

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover
This book is by far the best of the three.
Just before the start of her junior year Cammie is in Boston with her roommmate Macey, as her roommates dad accepts the nomination for VP. But when Macey and Cammie find themselves in real danger as they are almost kidnapped. The kidnapping plot brings changes to Gallagher. Macey now needs secret service, and Cammie's little seen Aunt Abby, is assigned to guard her. But there is no reason apparent reason why Macey was target, and as Cammie and her friends try to figure it out Gallagher Girl secrets and secrets from Cammie's past are revealed.
Plus Cammie, can't stop thinking about Zach who keeps showing up at the oddest places. Is he good, bad?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Singles in the Church

I constantly am asked why those in the YSA program aren't getting married and why they are so fearful and why they don't have enough faith. (I'm going to have to save my soapbox on this subject for another time).

This Church News article gave an interesting and unique look into some of the fears that plague YSAers. I have to admit that after reading the article, I agree. I see all three of the reasons he gives evident in my ward and have heard a variation of these three reasons from people as to the reason why they aren't married. I hope those that read this article get a better understand of the reasons why people aren't getting married and are more aware of the struggles and loneliness that singles face.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Route Blog Tour

Zipping along life’s highway . . .

Fifty makes you think. Thirty makes you morose, and forty makes you panic, but fifty makes you think. Half a century, and what is my life? Does it resemble anything I dreamed at sixteen, or expected at twenty, or hoped at twenty-five? What am I doing here? . . . I thought of climbing to the top of a high mountain in Tibet to consult a wise man, but I like vacations where there is indoor plumbing and vegetation.

Since I already attended church, I thought perhaps I could pay closer attention. Maybe I’d been missing a great fundamental truth. Well, come to find out, I had been missing something. . . .
(Excerpt from The Route)

Doesn't that paragraph makes you want to read Gale Sear's new title, The Route?

Well if that doesn't, the fifteen great reviews from the online blog tour should convince you. Every day a new review/author interview will be posted on the following blogs. Be sure to check them out!

As part of the blog tour there will be a contest for an autographed copy of The Route. All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on the reviews to be entered. Even better you can increase your chances of winning by commenting on multiple reviews.

August 24
The Book Nest

August 25
Mormon Hermit Mom's Book Habit

August 26
Boojoos and Aprilcots

August 27
Of Good Report

August 28
Blog the Day Away
Hey bloggers,

August 31
Reading for Sanity

September 1
Lu Ann's Book Review

September 2
*Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author

September 3
Amesbury Reads

September 4
Tangled Words and Dreams

September 7
Labor Day

September 8
Not Entirely British

September 9
Jewel's World

September 10
Rebecca Talley

September 11
Of Writerly Things

September 14
Walnut Springs Press

Check out Walnut Springs for additional information and be sure to check out Gale Sears' blog. and

And if you want to buy it, purchase it here
or here Desert Book

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Book Got You Hooked

What Book Got You Hooked? Is a national campaign that I came across and with reading such an integral part of my life I had to pause and think about which book it was that made me really enjoy reading.

I remember vividly a number of picture books, The Real Mother Goose, Horton Hears a Who, Madeline, A is for Annabelle, Make Way for Ducklings, etc., but I think the first book that got me hooked was The Boxcar Children books. Maybe it was because I had a first grade teacher that made me read three sentences over and over again nightly, and I HATED the exercise. I still have very vivid memories of sitting on the couch refusing to read them. Seriously don't know how that didn't turn me off of reading for life! But that book opened up a new world for me. The I wanted to be Violet. I wanted to live in a boxcar and I wanted to solve mysteries. I loved where those books took me, from lighthouses, to the south seas, and the revolutionary war.
My copy of the Boxcar Children Mystery with my name scrawled in my first grade hand writing is a treasured possession.

Since then, there have been other books that have truly shaped my life. Books that I've turned to when I've had a bad day, books that have inspired, and ones that have made me think. There are those that I need to read every year and those that I've read so frequently that I have the page numbers of my favorite parts memorized. There are heroins I've wanted to be like, and countless boys that I've fallen in love with.

So look forward in the coming months for reviews on books that have shaped my life- because I think that everybody should read them, and hopefully more than once. :)

I would love to know what book got you hooked or what books have shaped your life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Illuminations of the Heart

Illuminations of the Heart
by Joyce DiPastena

I was so excited to get my hands on Joyce DiPastena's second novel, Illuminations of the Heart. I throughly enjoyed reading her first, Loyalty's Web, and had high expectations that not only did she match, but exceeded. The first line "Donna Siri, cover your head" drew me in and I found myself just devouring the pages. What originally started out as an hour before bedtime read turned into a "I have to finish this before I can sleep read." Somewhere in the early morning I did, only to begin it the next day. I will only read books I love a second time. In fact I would put this book in the top ten of books I've read this year, and as I read 3-5 books a week that is saying a lot.

Illuminations of the Heart focuses around the story of Siriol "Siri" de Calendri and Triston de Brielle.

After the death of her brother, Siri, is sent from Venice to Poitou to be placed in the guardianship of her brother's closest friend, Triston, who has been given the charge of arranging a marriage for Siri. Siri believes that she will be welcomed at Vere Castle, but when she is meet with whispered stares and a hostile guardian, she is confused until she finds out that she bears a striking resemblance to Triston's beautiful, late wife Clothilde.

When Triston kisses her the first time, Siri's heart is lost. Known for her extreme beauty, Siri wants to be loved for herself and not for her resemblance to Clothilde. Trained in the art of illuminations, Siri sets about trying to establish herself as an illuminator, while Triston tries to marry her off to one of the local Lords because guilt over the death of his late wife keeps him from be willing to open his heart to Siri.

As circumstance from Triston past threaten to destroy them, Triston must decided if he can let her go, or if he has learned to look past her resemblance to Clothilde and see Siri for herself and the vibrant soul she is.

By the end of the book, I found myself falling for Triston as all of his good qualities become more apparent and cheered Siri on as she fights to remain true to herself.

While this book is billed as a romance it is so much more. It has intrigue, mystery, revenge, political rivalry, as well as the moment of laughter and tenderness that will appeal to any reader looking for a well written story. Joyce effortlessly weaves in historical detail that adds another level of depth and richness to the plot. If readers are anything like me, they will come to the end of the book with mixed emotions. On one hand they will be happy to see the story of Siri and Triton end so well, but it will be bitter sweet as they will want to read another story by Joyce. Until her next novel, I will have to be content with rereading Illuminations of the Heart.

Click on any of the links below to purchase the book online.

The following is an interview I did with Joyce about Illuminations of the Heart.

1. How did you start writing?

It was a very evolutionary process. I never thought of myself as a "writer". I admired "writers" too much to think I could ever aspire to be one myself. I always seemed to have these stories bouncing around in my head, though, and round about junior high school, I started jotting some of them down. I viewed it more as "dabbling" than "writing. I continued to "dabble" through high school on various projects I never finished, then when I started college, I began a new "dabbling" project set in the Middle Ages. That one seemed to catch my fancy more than any other of my stories had ever done, and I dabbled away on it through four years of undergraduate and two years of graduate school, until at the end of the process, I realized I had a full-fledged novel on my hands. At that point I guess I kind of realized I was a "writer" after all. (And in case you're wondering, no, that first novel has never been published, so don't waste your time going to look for it. ;-) )

2. What is your typical writing process when writing your book? Do you know how the book will end before you write?

Unfortunately, I'm a very "messy" writer, as my latest work-in-progress is reminding me. I have a general idea of the direction I want to go with a story, but I never know how I'm going to get there when I start a new book. I've tried outlining and it just doesn't work for me. I never end up sticking anywhere near my outline. I stumbled across my original outline for ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART recently, and laughed my head off at how wildly different the story had actually turned out. The only purpose that outline served in the end was helping me to name the characters in my book. Once I put them on the page, they all ran off willy-nilly and did their own thing. When I wrote the outline, I thought ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART was going to be a murder mystery. Anyone who reads it will discover that it's anything but! So while I do have an idea of some of the ending scenes I'm shooting for when I start a book, I've finally learned to just sit back and let my characters figure out their own way to get there.

3. Are your characters drawn from people you know?

Not unless it's subconsciously. I don't have any "real" people in mind when I'm writing my books.

4. I know that you fell in love with the Middle Ages while in college from reading THE CONQUERING FAMILY, by Thomas B. Costain, and it was in high school, what other books would you recommend to people interested in learning more about the Middle Ages?

You mean for researching the Middle Ages? Some of the best starting titles for that time period are written by the husband-wife team, Joseph and Frances Gies. Three of their titles that I've used the most are LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CASTLE, LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CITY, and WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE AGES. They're all great starting points for people who are interested in writing, or simply reading, about life in the Middle Ages. You can find other, more specialized research books that I've used to help write my novels by visiting my Medieval Research with Joyce blog at

5. Who has been your greatest writing influcence?

I'd have to say in all honesty that it was Regency romance author, Georgette Heyer. I loved her writing and books so much that apparently I subconsciously absorbed a bit of her style early on, even though I wanted to write about the Middle Ages, not the Regency period. When my sister read that first book I wrote back in college, she (also a Georgette Heyer fan) accused me of having written a Regency-Medieval romance. LOL! Thankfully, I've developed my own writing style since those early days. But I've always wished I could write humor as well as Georgette Heyer did.

6. What is your favorite book or author?

I suppose after what I just said above, I'd have to say "Georgette Heyer" here. One of my favorite titles of hers is called THESE OLD SHADES. (Hmm, as far as favorites go, I also have to put a plug in here for THE THREE MUSKETEERS and TWENTY YEARS AFTER, by Alexandre Dumas.)

7. If you could go back to live in the Middle Ages, would you do so?

And give up my indoor plumbing, air conditioning, sanitized water...not to mention my car? No way! I find it extremely romantic to read and write about the Middle Ages, but I'm very happy living in the 21st Century, thank you!

8. Which person from the Middle Ages most fascinates you?

King Henry II of England, without a doubt. There's just something about his personality, as described by his contemporaries, that makes me absolutely love the man. Not in a "romantic" way, for he wasn't a "romantic" figure, the way his son and successor, Richard the Lionheart was. But I admire him so greatly, the good that he did for his country, the fact that he wanted to be a good king and would rather have been trying to solve problems and improve England than fighting all the wars he found himself caught up in during his life. But he was also so delightfully flawed, so wonderfully human. If there's one person I'd like to meet in the next life (I'm counting on a "next life", you know), it would have to be Henry II. (Okay, so there are some other people I'd like to meet as well, but from the Middle Ages, Henry II is definitely at the top!)

9. If you could travel to one place where would it be?

England, to visit all the medieval castles for myself. And maybe France, since Henry II spent a lot of his time there, too. I'd like to see the places he lived and that influenced his life.

10. I know you are working on your third novel. Will we see any characters from Illuminations of the Heart or Loyalty's Web in it?

You can pretty much bet that some characters from both books will be popping up in my new WIP [work in progress]. (And those that don't are already slated for my fourth. ;-) )

Visit Walnut Springs Press, for updates on reviews and Joyce's next novel.

PS if you leave a comment on this post you will be entered in the contest to win either an autographed copy of Illuminations of one of three $10 online certificates to Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Deseret Book. I would HIGHLY recommend you do so. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Den of Thieves

Den of Thieves
Julia Golding

In Den of Thieves, once again we find Cat in the middle of another adventure and she and her friends search for justice in the underbelly of London. As the story opens, we find Pedro in trouble and Cat must save him. Pedro's old slave master has returned to claim his "property," but he didn't count on Pedro's friends giving him up without a fight. A fight is exactly what they give, but in the process Cat finds herself into trouble and must go into hiding disguised as boy at the aristocratic Westminster School where she learns that the school isn't what it seems. Before long, Cat has to flee the school and seeks protection, in one of the local street gang, from not only Pedro's old master, but from the evil Billy "Boils" as well. With us as her companion, Cat takes us on an ride full of adventure, mystery, suspense, as she tackles the issue of slavery, what it means to be property, and gives readers a wonderful glimps of what the sentiments, on both side, of 1790 London were like.

Goldings wonderful storytelling and beautifully written words make this book a thoroughly enjoyable read. This book was written in such a way that it could be read as a standalone work, but readers will find greater satisfaction in the tale if they have read The Diamond of Drury Lane.

Illuminations of the Heart Blog Tour

I'm thrilled to be part of an online blog tour for Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena. Every day a new review/author interview will be posted on the following blogs. Be sure to check them out!

As part of the blog tour there will be a contest for one of FOUR fabulous prizes, either an autographed copy of Illuminations of the Heart, or one of three $10 gift certificates to Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Deseret Book.

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on the reviews and even better you can increase your chances of winning by commenting on multiple reviews.

August 10
Mormon Hermit Mom's Book Habit
August 11
Amesbury Reads
August 12
Heather Justesen
August 13
Rachelle's Writing Spot
August 14
Cami's Books and Fit Mommas
August 17
Jewel's World
August 18
Of Writerly Things
August 19
Frespa Fan
August 20
Of Good Report
August 21
Rachel Rager
August 24
Boojoos and Aprilcots
August 25
Musings from an LDS Writing Mom
August 26
Queen of the Clan
August 27
Write Bravely
August 28
Dreams of Quill and Ink
August 31
*Tristi Pinkston
September 1
September 2
Tangled Words and Dreams
September 3
Random-ish by Nichole and LDSwritersBlogck
September 4
Seriously… and latterdayauthors
September 7
Lu Ann's Book Review
September 9
Reading for Sanity
September 10
Taffy's Candy
September 11
The Write

September 14
Why Not? Because I Said So! and LDSWomensBookReview
September 15
Ink Splasher
September 16
Romance Old School
September 17
Blog the Day Away
September 18
Walnut Springs Press

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cybele's Secret

I loved Wildwood Dancing and after reading Cybele's Secret couldn't decide which of the two I liked the most.

Several years have past since the end of Wildwood Dancing, and scholarly seventeen-year-old Paula is about to accompany her father on his trading voyage to Istanbul where she will act as his assistant in his mission to purchase a rare artifact--the gift of the ancient pagan goddess Cybele to her followers. This artifact is the only remnant of a lost pagan cult. As Paula and her father embark on the search, it soon becomes clear that they are playing at a deadly game. A colleague is murdered and whisperings of the cult be revived in Istanbul swirl. But most telling of all is that signs have begun to appear to Paula. Signs that can only be coming from the Other Kingdom, signs that urger her to unlock Cybele's Secret. Paula is in a strange land and isn't sure who she can trust and before long finds herself drawn to two very different men: one a smooth and dashing pirate or her quiet bodyguard. As Paula begins to unravel the puzzle, she realizes that at stake is not only her life, but the life and happiness of her sister, the unfulfilled debt of a friend and possibility of true love. Paula must solve the puzzle before an unknown, but deadly, enemies catch up to her.

With the vibrant backdrop of the Ottoman empire, Marillier effortless weaves the wonderful fantasy into the sites and sounds of Turkey. Multiple plots filled with pirates, adventure, love, questioning of 16th century belief are all twisted together in such a way that we are left guessing right up to the end how it will all turn out and if our predictions were right. Once the puzzle is solved, wraps up, readers will not be disappointed. One of the things that I liked most about this book, which was also something I enjoyed from Wildwood, was that Paula is a strong character. She doesn't hide or diminish the fact that she is smart and wants to be seen as more than just “curves and smiles, blushes and modest speech.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Cat Royal Adventures

So I'm trying to decide if I should give each book in the Cat Royal Adventures it's own post, or if I should post them all together? Well I'll start with the first one and see how I feel when I finish it. :)

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

The Diamond of Drury Lane is the first book of the Cat Royal Adventures. I just found out that there will be nine adventures total and I can't wait. While the next five books are in print, I've only read the next two because they are the only titles available in the US.

This enchanting story is set in 1790's London (for those that know me, I'm not recommending it based on that fact alone :, but it was the reason I picked up the book in the first place)and where we meet the fiesty and resourceful 12-year-old Catherine "Cat" Royal, whose red hair matches her bravery and spirit. Cat, was left on the steps of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane as a baby and has called the theatre home ever since. Cat loves the workings of the theatre and views all of the stagehand, actors, etc. as her extended family. So when Cat overhears that there is a diamond hidden somewhere on the premises, Cat vows to protect it and keep it safe. The only problem is that she doesn't know exactly where the diamond is hidden and the boss of one of local street gang, Billy Boils wants to get his hands on it, and if he can't do that then Cat will have to do. The story is fast paced, with numerous twists and turns as Cat and her friends, Pedro, a former slave violin virtuoso who Cat's wonders if he is trustworthy, the butcher Syd who has sworn to protect her from Billy, Jonathan, the theatre prompter who may be part of an insurrection, and the nobs Lord Francis and Lady Elizabeth who befriend Cat and in doing so get more than the bargained for. Golding weaves the tale by taking us from the backstage of the Theatre Royal to the filth of the city streets, combined with with her liberal use of 18th-century language adds charm to this tale. One of the things I enjoyed most about this tale is that Cat is smart and is able, most of the time, to rescue herself. While every girl needs to be rescued every once in awhile, I get sick of girls who are weak and can't think for themselves. This book has the perfect amount of action, humor, and mystery, to keep you guessing and in the end leave you very satisfied.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review of The Hunger Games

Over the past couple of months, I've seen glowing reviews for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. While I put it on my list of books to read, I didn't give it priority--a huge mistake. From the first page I was hooked. Which kind of surprised me since before I started the book I found the whole premise of the book a little disturbing. As I started reading, I found the book to be so well written, the characters not only likeable, but human as well with flaws and weakness with a plot that is as engaging plot as it is disturbing, and found myself flying through the book, trying to anticipate the twists and turns, and hoping that everything would turn out ok.

The story takes place in the future where the United States is a thing of the past. Instead there is a country called Panem, which consists of a rich and powerful Capitol and twelve poor districts. At one point there were thirteen districts, but the Capitol destroyed one just to show how powerful it is. As a reminder of their power, each year the Capitol host the "Hunger Games" in which one boy and one girl from each states is sent to fight each other until there is only one person is left standing, bring fame, fortune and food to their state. The story is told from the viewpoint of sixteen-year-old Katniss, who has volunteered to go in place of her twelve-year-old sister, Primrose. Also joining Katniss in the "Hunger Games" is Peetra, who confesses on live TV that he has been in love with Katniss since he was five. Katniss is first skeptical of his announcement and views it as a ploy to gain favor with the audience, especially when he forms an alliance with a group that is determined to kill Katniss. But when the rules are changed half way through the game so that two tributes from the same district can win if they are the last two left standing, Katniss seeks out Peetra and nurses him back to health from an injury he sustained in keeping her safe. As her friendship with Peetra grows, Katniss is faced with new decisions about love, loyalty, sacrifice, and the reason she is fighting to stay alive.

While I had been told that there was a sequel, I got so caught up in the reading of it that I forgot that was the case and reached the end of the book wanting more. :)

This book is sure to please everybody. It's nail-biting suspense, star-crossed lovers, and the promise of redemption will have your fighting for the characters and willing them to survive.

I'm counting down the days until the second novel, Catching Fire, is released.