Monday, November 30, 2009

An Angel On Main Street by Kathi Oram Peterson

An Angel On Main Street by Kathi Oram Peterson

I have so enjoyed reading Christmas books this past few weeks and this little charmer hits a home run. An Angel On Main Street is about young Micah Connors, who wants to do everything he can to save his younger sister, Annie, who is very ill with a life threatening illness. With he, Annie and his mom just moved to a new town after his dad had died in the Korean War, he is seeing someone mysteriously putting up a large Nativity set in the middle of town. Micah seems to be angered over Sheriff Anderson's interest in his mother, and doesn't want that to happen.

He gets worried as he sees more and more of the Nativity being set up, as he has promised to get the baby Jesus for his sister. He thinks he's got the needed money to buy a baby doll for his sister, but loses it before he really has it. It's not until he starts praying that things seem to fall into place and that a certain person is not who he appears to be, as looks and situations can be deceiving. Micah's sister had the faith to believe in the baby Jesus, and it would be that way for Micah as well. This little Christmas charmer will be a classic and should make a wonderful Hallmark film.

I received my review copy from Kathi Oram Peterson, my good friend from my own Forever Friends Google Group.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.

Published: October 2009


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Ball's In Her Court by Heather Justesen

The Ball's In Her Court by Heather Justesen

When I first read an excerpt of Heather's debut novel, just from the first paragraph, I knew I would love it and when I received my review copy, it surpassed my expectations. Denise DeWalt is a Computer Programmer who loves her job, her co-workers, friends and family, but is still missing something in her life. In her spare time, she works at finding the biological parents of adoptees, but is nagged by the ghosts of her past that trigger her to search for her mother, who had abandoned, neglected and abused her. Her roommate and best friend's cousin becomes her new boss and there seems to be some interest and since there's no fraternizing between employees, Denise decides to do something to change this.

Since Denise is bitter towards the foster care system, it's difficult to get through her fears of getting too close with any men, so when Rich Jensen won't give up fighting for her trust, she still pushes him away. With her prowess on the basketball court, she's able to keep up with the guys, even when she finds out something startling about her sister's fiance she plays 3 on one with at the gym.

When she has fears about locating her biological father and brothers and sister she didn't know existed, not knowing if she'd be rejected like her mother rejected her, she hides away from everyone who loves her. When she finds someone that is reacting the same way she has been reacting, it finally becomes a wake-up call for her. When she's finally able to face her mother again after fifteen years, she is feeled with hate and anger, but finally sees the futility in her feelings and comes to realize she doesn't hate her mother anymore, as it's her adoptive mother she loves more. She comes to realize she can move forward with her life once she leaves the bitterness and anger behind. Denise comes to realize the atoning that her Savior, Jesus Christ, did for her and for all mankind, to keep us from that sad, bitter life that some of us take on. Denise comes to realize just how very much she is loved and that she can really begin to heal and love others.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

I received my review copy from Heather Justesen and Cedar Fort.

Publisher: Cedar Fort
Pub. Date: May 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

In this Nicholas Sparks novel, we find Logan Thibault, a former Marine stationed in Iraq, who survives three tours all because of a photograph of a beautiful young woman he finds in the sand in Iraq. He posts the photograph on a bulletin board, but the photo is never taken. His best friend Victor keeps telling him the photograph is a good luck charm, even though Logan scoffs at this notion. A few years after returning from the war, he sets out to find the woman in the photograph, walking all the way with his wonderful companion, a German Shepherd named Zeus. He finds the woman in a place called Hampton, South Carolina, where he finds Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, along with her grandmother, who raised her, owns and runs a Kennel and Obedience Class for Dogs. Logan is immediately hired by Nana, but Elizabeth is suscpicious of Logan, as he doesn't talk much about his past and she's been very leery of men, esp. since her divorce from Keith, who comes from a very powerful family in town. When she finds her ten year old son Ben friends with Logan and Zeus, she starts finding she likes him more and more.

When Logan begins to wonder why he's been on a journey to find Elizabeth, he learns quite suddenly just how much destiny can play a part in changing our lives. When Logan finds evidence of a break-in in his home, he knows who and why and works to resolve the problem before it causes their lives to be changed forever. It takes an accident for Logan, Elizabeth, Ben and Keith to realize just how important a life is. I have read most of Nicholas's books and really loved this story. He tends to have a dog as a central character in some of his books and that I especially like.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: September 2008

Friday, November 13, 2009

Worldwide Ward Cookbook by Deanna Buxton

Worldwide Ward Cookbook by Deanna Buxton

I ordered this cookbook for our SIL for Christmas this year, as he loves to cook and collect cookbooks and I ordered it through Amazon and it came in the mail today. I spent a couple of hours going through this most amazing, wonderful cookbook. I loved everything about this book, especially the colorfulpictures, the designs on each page, the little stories behind the recipes, a few photos of the people who submitted some of the recipes to make the book more personal. This is the first of a few more cookbooks from Deanna. She just came out with the Christmas Worldwide Cookbook and hear there's a Mother's Day Cookbook soon to come out. Another added plus to these cookbooks, is they are spiral-bound, so you lay them flat.
Some of the different, moth-watering recipes are: Funeral Pototoes, Never Enough Guacamole, Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips, Gingerbread Pancakes, Navajo Fry Bread, Banana Applesauce Bread, Shrimp Tacos, Irish Pasties, Peruvian Stir-Fry, Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Southern Sweet Potato Casserole, Iraqi Rice, Taco Soup, Better-Than-A-Flue-Shot-Soup, Tortellini Salad, Cookie Salad, Orange Sherbet Jell-O, Fruit Soup, Peanut Butter Popcorn, Perusian Flan, Norwegian Porridge, Jewish Apple Cake, Whole Wheat Angel Food Cake and Pumpkin Fudge. There is one small section for our Prophet's recipes that is way cool. This would be the perfect gift to give at Christmas. The only minor problem I could see was the blue font for the submitters info was a tad bit hard to read.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published March 2009
Over 440 recipes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LDS Forever Friends Book Nook Interview With Jonathan Langford

Hi Everyone,
It's my pleasure to welcome Jonathan Langford, author of the new LDS novel No Going Back that I just reviewed here on the Book Nook.

1.   What caused you to write a novel about this type of topic?

Several years ago, there was a discussion on AML-List, the email discussion list of the Association for Mormon Letters, about the scarcity of fiction dealing with the experience of those who are LDS but same-sex attracted — especially those who are committed to living Church standards and staying in the Church. It was amazing to me that so little had been written in this area. Then a story idea popped into my head, and it wouldn’t go away...

Part of my reason for writing about this topic was my sense that it could be important for the LDS community. I felt there was a need.

2.  By using some graphic language, did you feel it needed that more realistic touch because teenagers were the focal point of the story?

I wanted the story to be as realistic as it could be, consistent with my goals of telling the particular story I wanted to tell and reaching believing LDS readers. If anything, the language used by the teenagers in the book is milder than what you encounter in basically any American public high school — or elementary school, based on my experience. (Among other things, I avoided any references to deity in swearing.)

The graphic language isn’t just there to make the story more realistic. Partly, the language is intended to show the influence of the world around the main LDS characters — a world that is not predominantly LDS. Chad, the bishop’s son (my main character Paul’s best friend), picked up a cussing habit a few years back when he was going through a rebellious phase after his dad was made bishop. He’s trying to get over it, but he slips back into it especially when he’s around his non-LDS friends. Sometimes Paul cusses too, but mostly when he’s really mad and wants to shock someone. The language issues reflect the kinds of conflict that the characters feel between LDS standards and what the world teaches.

I wrote a recent blog ( on why I felt it was so important to write a REALISTIC novel dealing with same-gender attraction. Basically, I wanted to show that the Holy Ghost could operate in the life of real-life teenagers living real-life experiences.

3.  What was the reason for the fictitious name of Arcadia Heights?

Mostly, I didn’t want to write about a real place and get it wrong! Or get it right, for that matter. “Arcadia Heights” sounded plausibly tree-ish (appropriate for western Oregon) and kind of like the name a developer might stick on a suburb.

4.  Why did you choose 2003-4 for the time period of No Going Back?

I wanted a fairly recent timeframe, and I’d already chosen western Oregon for the setting. Then I started researching and discovered the 2004 Oregon ballot initiative on gay marriage. I quickly realized that although the story wasn’t going to be primarily about gay marriage, the political campaign could be a source of external conflict to ratchet up the pressure for my main character. The rest of the timeline was built around those events.
5.  I felt the story was very realistic.  Why are some saying it was TOO realistic?

A former bishop of mine read the book recently. He told me that he thought it was worthwhile, but it had been very hard for him to read, just because it reminded him unpleasantly of what high school and being a teenager can really be like.

Part of the realism issue has to do with the cussing and other graphic language. I think more of it, though, has to do with the book not having a more positive ending. There’s no guarantee about what’s in Paul’s future — whether this challenge is something that might diminish over time, whether Paul will be able to be married someday, whether he’ll stay faithful to the Church.

That, for me, is highly realistic given that Paul is 16 when the book ends. I don’t think it’s a depressing ending, but admittedly he’s gone through some pretty tough times. He’s survived, and he’s stronger in some ways, but there are some lasting negative effects of what he’s been through as well. It’s a growing-up story — and growing up is tough.

6.  Do you feel non LDS will get as much out of No Going Back as active LDS members will?

LDS readers were my intended audience. Without an LDS background, I think it would be hard to follow some of the details and understand a great deal of what the story is centrally about.

Some stories can be written for a general audience. Other stories pretty much demand to be told to a narrower audience. This is one of the latter, I think. Someone without a believing LDS background would, I think, find it hard to identify with what the stakes are for Paul — what it is that he would be giving up if he decided to leave the Church, and why that’s so important to him.

7.  Why do you feel some LDS fiction readers tend to shy away from Zarahemla published books, when not  all their books are controversial? 

Part of it, I think, is that Chris Bigelow (owner/operator of Zarahemla Books) has been so eclectic in his publishing. You just can’t generalize about Zarahemla titles. That unpredictability makes some people wary, though I think it’s also a positive. I think he’d rather publish a title some people will love and other people won’t be able to stand, instead of a title everyone would agree is basically okay.

Chris also takes more chances than the Deseret Book/Bookcraft/Covenant crowd. He occupies a kind of middle position, where his goal is to be faith-affirming but he’s willing to go places where a lot of LDS readers may not be comfortable — though as you point out, some of his books, like Doug Thayer’s memoir Hooligan, aren’t controversial at all.

I also think some people want their LDS fiction to be safe. Even if they might read something that’s PG-rated or PG-13 from other sources, they feel betrayed when they encounter something like that with an LDS label. But I don’t know if that’s been a major factor in reactions to Zarahemla titles. Honestly, I think the biggest problem has been that the people who would like the books Chris publishes mostly don’t know they exist — something I’m finding quite frustrating at present...
8.   We are a Church that teaches us to love everyone, the same as Our Savior Jesus Christ, does.  Why do we tend to treat same-sex attraction this way, when some wish they weren't this way and attempt to live a righteous and morally strong life?

I actually think that on an individual level, we do pretty well at accepting people, though we also don’t condone same-gender activity. The problem comes when we talk and make statements without thinking about who might be listening.

I also think there’s a lack of understanding in the Church about how people can be same-gender attracted and still be a faithful member of the Church. I hope my book can help with this.

9.   Why did you portray Sandy, the Bishop's wife, as a gossipy type woman?  I don't see any Bishop's wife being that way.  lol

I first became acquainted with Sandy at the point when I started realizing some of the possibilities if Paul’s bishop were also his best friend’s dad.

Some of Sandy’s characteristics were determined by the part I needed her to play in the story. I needed her to blow her top over her son’s best friend being gay, but if you look carefully, her reasons have less to do with negative emotions about gay people and more to do with feeling left out of an important decision — reflecting her resentment of the stress her husband’s calling is putting on their family.

I don’t really see gossipiness as one of Sandy’s major determining characteristics. Much more important, to my way of thinking, is her unforgivingly rigid view of the gospel, which she applies just as strictly to herself as to anyone else. Sandy doesn’t really get the Atonement. She doesn’t think of herself as a good person, but she tries to do the right thing anyway. There’s something admirable about that, in a messed-up kind of way — but who of us isn’t messed up one way or another?
10.  Do you feel that a lot of our youth today believe they are gay because it's becoming more acceptable and are not really gay?

The whole issue of whether someone is “really gay” is a tricky one. From a doctrinal perspective, we as LDS are more or less committed to the notion that no one is “really” gay in an eternal sense. On the other hand, there seems to be a growing acceptance by Church leaders that some people have same-gender attractions that may not change in this life, for whatever combination of reasons.

I think that for youth who experience those feelings, there’s now a convenient label and growing societal acceptance that make it easier for them to decide they’re gay, while in earlier years they would have been more likely to try to deny it. I’m concerned that if all the stories they hear in the Church are about people leaving the Church because of this issue, they’ll decide that’s the only viable option for them as well — long before their parents and others even know this is something they’re dealing with. That’s another thing I hope my book can help with by generating more conversation about people experiencing this challenge but choosing to stay in the Church nonetheless.

11.  How did your Bishop and your ward members feel about you writing No Going Back and what was their reaction to your book when it was released?

I have a very tolerant ward. Our family has lived here for 12 years now, and people pretty much know who we are and what to expect from us — the good and the bad.

My current bishop hasn’t read my book, but he knows about it. A couple of members of my recently released stake presidency read the book and liked it. I worry that some of my ward members may read the book just because I wrote it, and then will find they don’t like it. So far, though, most reactions have been positive, and no one within my ward has reacted negatively to me for having written it.

12.  You were the moderator of the AML-List for quite some time.  Can you tell us what this online list was for?

It was an email list for discussing literature by, for, and/or about Mormons, with a lot of spillover into other Mormon arts, literature in general, and sometimes Mormon culture and thought — though as moderator it was my job to try to make sure everything had at least a theoretically literary tie-in. Back in its heyday, before the days of blogging, it was an excellent way to find out about Mormon literature and just generally have a good conversation, especially for those of us living outside the Mormon heartland. It still exists today, though due to a combination of factors it’s not as busy as it once was.

There’s a huge database of book reviews that have been generated on AML-List over the years at
13.  What are you writing now? 

I’m busy with a lot of non-creative-writing projects right now. I’m also trying to spend some time researching and plotting some fantasy stories that have been in the back of my mind for a while, though at the moment they’re taking a back seat to paid work, taking care of kids and family, and trying to promote No Going Back.
14. What do you do in your spare time?  Your family?  Any grandkids?  What's your calling in your ward and aside from writing, what do you do for a living?

Starting with the last... I’m a freelance informational writer and editor. Most of my clients are educational publishers or otherwise in the education field. It allows me to work from my home, which is good, since my wife Laurel teaches at our local university. We have three children — the oldest, Nathan, is 20 years old and currently serving a mission in Washington state. Our daughter, Rowan, is 14 and currently starting high school (and early-morning seminary — out the door by 5:45, ugh!). Our youngest, Michael, is 9 and in third grade.

Most of my spare time is spent at home. I like to cook and read. I like to garden, especially herbs, but we haven’t been here for the last several summers, so I haven’t been able to do much with that. I’m a ward membership clerk and was recently also called as ward Young Men’s secretary.

Well Jonathan, it's been a pleasure having you with us here on The Book Nook. If Jonathan has sparked an interest in reading his No Going Back, you can find it at Amazon and B&N and at your local LDS bookstore.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

For his debut novel, Jonathan has hit a homerun with this heartfelt, compassionately honest coming-of-age story of a fifteen year old's struggle with same-sex attraction. When Paul Ficklin realizes he's gay,he does come out to his best friend Chad Mortenson, whose been his best friend for many years. At first, Chad is livid and stays away from Paul.

When Paul tells his mom, he gets the love and support he needs, but when he is dragged to the GSA Club at his high school, he's torn about whether to continue to go or to quit going, as he is harassed by both straight kids and gay kids and even his LDS friends.

When Barbara, Paul's mom, confides to a sister in the restroom at RS, she isn't aware that someone overheard them talking and the sister spreads gossip to Sandy Mortenson, Chad's mom and the Bishop's wife. Sandy is upset that her husband has not confided in her about Paul's being gay and worried that Chad's friendship could cause problems.

Even though Paul is worried that too many kids and ward members will find out that he's gay, he still attends the GSA Club, then when an outburst from a student causes problems, Paul stops going. Paul has decided that his membership in the Church is more important and he attempts to tell the kids how he feels about being LDS and staying true to his baptismal covenants. At one time, he struggles with the attraction he feels for one guy in the GSA Club and confides in his bishop. When a student bashes him at school one day in front of the entire school, he feels shunned.

This powerful novel is about friendship, and how Chad comes to understand the importance of what friendships are all about, how a person can overcome temptation and be redeemed through prayer and scripture reading. I liked how the characters are not sugar-coated, like some LDS novels can be with super perfect members. Bishop Mortenson has problems communicating with his wife and vice versa, even with his co-workers he has issues with. My hat goes off to Jonathan for bringing this controversial topic to us in a more understanding light. As a Church, we need to treat everyone with love, kindness and compassion, no matter what the circumstance. Our Savior Jesus Christ most definitely does.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

My copy of No Going Back was a free review copy from Chris Bigelow, publisher of Zarahemla Books.

Zarahemla Books
Pub. Date: October 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber

In this new offering with Debbie's Christmas Angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, we find the three mischievous trio with new assignments and ready to have some fun and cause Gabriel some headaches, promising to have their assignments completed by Christmas Eve..

This Christmas, Mercy's assignment is to help Harry Alderwood, an elderly man with not much time before he dies and he wants to leave with some peace of mind that his dear wife Rosalie will be cared for when he's gone. Rosalie is a very stubborn lady, not wanting to move from their home to go into an assisted living facility. One night when Harry leaves his walker in a place he can't reach, he tries to wake up Rosalie to no avail, but sees a heavenly angel in Mercy, who helps him get into bed.

Goodness is sent to help Beth find true love, as she's been too afraid to really get serious with anyone because of a failed marriage when she was young. She has been addicted to playing an online video game and when she and her online partner start IM each other more frequently, they become more than just partners in a game. When they set up a meeting in Leavonworth, WA, things take a change for the worst and that's when Goodness steps directly into the fray to make things better.

Then comes Shirley's assignment of giving Carter his fondest Christmas wish of all and that is a dog. When Rusty comes into his life, this special dog seems to appear in the strangest places, but his parents can't afford for Carter to keep Rusty. But with a little help from Shirley, things do have a way of working out. When all is said and done, the three Angels make merry with some Christmas fun before heading back up to Heaven. For those who have not read Debbie's Christmas Angel books, these three special Angels have wings andc they are an absolute delight.

Forever Friends Rating 5 Stars by Teri
Until Next Time, See You Around The Book Nook.

Mira Books
Pub. Date: October 2007

This book I read from our Mid-Columbia Regional Library in Tri-Cities, WA