Book Reviews

Book Review: Parenting with Spiritual Power

Parenting with Spiritual PowerParenting with Spiritual Power by Julie K. Nelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know the old philosophy that parenting doesn’t come with a manual?
Well, it’s crap.
If you have The Holy Bible, you have one of the greatest parenting manuals in existence.

If you add to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the teachings of the living prophets, and you are still struggling as a parent, Julie K. Nelson has written this book just for you. I have been so touched as I have read this book: God has given us great stories to help us with the most important work we are called to do as parents. If you, like me, need help in applying those resources, then you need to get your hands on a copy of this book ASAP. It is truly an inspired parenting manual.

I have long studied principles of parenting and found many of the most important theories I’ve learned over the years in the pages of this book. Truth just oozes from the pages of “Parenting with Spiritual Power.” Oozes. As I read I found myself amazed at how many modern-day applications there are in the ancient scriptures. I know that sounds lame, but it’s true. I have learned a lot of these truths already in my own study, but to find them gathered together in such an easily applicable format is almost too good to be true: but it’s not. This book is full of truth in one easy-to-read resource.

If you want to learn more about depositing into your children’s banks of self-worth, setting reasonable boundaries, how to positively correct your children, live sacrificial lives, stomp out anger and develop greater charity as a family, and how to show faith in your children this book is for you. Like me, I believe you will be totally shocked at all you’ve been missing when studying the scriptures. I’ve had the handbook in my hands all along, I just didn’t realize that I needed Julie Nelson to translate it for me.

Thank you Julie. I recommend this book for all parents, even those that aren’t Mormon. What a wonderful and much needed resource for all of us.

You can buy the book for just $11.04 at Amazon or $13.99 at Deseret Book. After reading this book I can honestly say I would spend double that. Really, can we even put a price on better parenting?

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Book Review: Deadly Undertakings

Mr. Luke sent me a copy of this book
with no agreement for my review,
and that makes him really super cool,
and one of my favorite authors ever
along with Julie Ford.

My reviews are always honest.
This book is definitely one that you won’t regret buying.

Deadly UndertakingsDeadly Undertakings by Gregg Luke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gregg Luke has delivered once again. This creepy whodunit mystery about a serial killer who drains his 100+ year old healthy victims (yes plural) of their blood and the boyfriend/girlfriend police detective/assistant medical examiner duo who are trying to catch him is a perfectly blended half suspense and half love story. I love a good mystery especially when I can’t figure it out until the very end, but even more I am a big sucker for a good love story. Why does it always surprise me when a man can write romance? Nice job Mr. Luke.

Gregg is a fantastic author who knows how to pace a story just right to keep the reader engaged, masters in-depth characters, and draws us into his awesome imaginary worlds: even though you know they are fiction, Gregg Luke has a knack at making them seem very real.

I always love reading books that are set in Utah, but this one was so creepy it almost made me wish it was set somewhere else. The bad guy(s)were oh so bad and the good guy(s) were not just perfectly good but perfectly flawed as well. This story is a great reminder that even broken people can be brave and they especially need to stay vulnerable. I love when there are subliminal messages towards mental health hidden inside the pages of fiction.

I am torn between a 3 and 4 star rating,
I think this books lies perfectly safe at 3.5.

It definitely isn’t to be read when you are home alone.

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Winner for a Gaze Into Heaven

Saturday morning
I picked a winner
who was my
#10 commenter.
I find it interesting
that Norina is my winner.
She had a really hard
miscarriage years ago
and when she tried
to explain to me her
I didn’t get it.
At all.
Even though
I myself
had experienced
2 miscarriages
of my own
at that time
I just didn’t get
the longing that she felt
or the sadness
at what didn’t happen.
I get it now.
And even though
I still don’t believe
I will personally
be united
with any of my
four miscarriages
(even if this last
one was at 18 weeks)
I understand
others desire for that
and I will welcome
more children 
in the next life
if that is indeed
how it works.
I loved the part
in the book
that talks about
babies all
going straight to paradise
and being cared for by family.
There are no children
in hell.
And that is how it should be.
And that realization
has made my desire for
that much stronger.
I can’t imagine
a world
where there
are no children.
I can only imagine that
those reunions
are some of the
Congrats Norina.
I am so happy
to give you this book.
I think that,
like me,
you will love it.

Book Review: Gaze Into Heaven

I love this book SO much that I am giving away a copy. 
Leave me a comment with your e-mail address
and tell me which one of your family members 
you are most anxious to meet in the next life
and I will pick one VERY lucky person 
to get their own free copy.

Giveaway closes on Friday the 15th at 11:59 p.m.
Disclaimer: I received a book in exchange for this review
but my opinions are always true and 100% right.

Gaze Into Heaven: Near-Death Experiences in Early Church HistoryGaze Into Heaven: Near-Death Experiences in Early Church History
Marlene Bateman Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best book that
I have read in several years.
It has completely
changed the way

I view my mortal life.
I have sincerely
become a better
person just by
reading this book.

All of my Mormon friends
MUST READ this book.
And even you non-Mormons
will find this absolutely fascinating.

Gaze into Heaven is a book of complied true near death stories organized in a way that is easy to read. Each chapter is a piece of the after-life puzzle answering individual questions like what is a spirit body like and are there cities in paradise? What a wonderful compilation of early church (Mormon) history this is. The stories are eerily similar. Maybe eerily is the wrong word – I found it absolutely testimony building that all the accounts concurred with one another. “By the mouth or two or more witnesses” and witness they did.

These people who died and went to the other side and came back to tell us what they experienced did not know one another, but as I read their accounts I was stunned at the similarities. As I read the pages my life-long fear of dying dissipated. These Mormon pioneers described the freedom they felt as their spirits separated from their bodies, the joy they felt in the world with other kindred spirits, and the peace they felt in their passing and I found myself looking forward to the experience. For me that is a huge breakthrough. I cannot even explain my phobia of dying, its been debilitating at times. I am truly grateful to Marlene for writing this book and helping me have a greater understanding of my life now and into the eternities.

This book has power in its pages. After getting acquainted with just the first few chapters I felt like I was on hallowed ground just viewing the cover. I didn’t even have to open it to feel inspired although I did as frequently as was possible in receiving this balm to my soul. These stories are sacred like the temple and I am so grateful they have been shared.

Buy the book in the stores or online at 
Go to Marlene’s website to learn more about the author.
Here is one of Marlene’s favorite quotes in the book from the experience of Thomas S. Thomas. 
Thomas’ story was one of my favorites also.
Thomas describes what he learned in his near-death experience in the spirit world.

“All mental powers were restored. The fond memories of the past returned…your soul is endowed with wisdom and knowledge and filled with everlasting love…Distance is no barrier to transmit thought without instruments, or to travel under your own power. Your vision is magnified there; your future view is plain; desire for knowledge is inexhaustible; you are master of yourself  intelligence is the key to all realms which makes an endless trail to all advancement and is a place of satisfaction and joy to the soul… 

The grand greeting you first receive is from your closest of kin – father, mother, brother and sisters – and all that are near and dear to you who passed from earthly life and arrived in the Great Beyond before you. Your nearest and dearest friends and many others come to greet and converse with you. They ask about the conditions of their kin, those whom you were acquainted with on earth, and all are anxious to learn of their kin’s surroundings and conditions. You will find this a great meeting place of all souls, where information is eagerly sought, concerning earth’s conditions, by those who have passed from earthly life and are in this stage of existence. These souls are now busy, in the future existence, working in different habitations. Many are from different spheres. All souls are fully enjoying their positions and surroundings. You read from their cheerful countenances a condition of contentment..”

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Book Review: Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy TreeCold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding a book good enough to go into my most favorite of all time folder seems to get more and more rare the older I get, but this book made the cut. I absolutely loved it. I wish I still had a bookclub so I could discuss it with girlfriends. It was so emotionally powerful.

Will Tweedy is just a teenage kid living in Cold Sassy in the 1920’s. Yes, he’s fictional, but he is real to me, and will be to anyone else who reads this book. Written by Olive Ann Burns it’s more than amazing how she pulled off writing from the perspective of a Southern teenage boy. She nailed it. Not that I’m a teenage boy to know, but I feel like I could be now because Will shared so eloquently and honestly his feelings about everything.

And everything was the content of this book. From teenage fantasies, to soul-searching theology, suicide, farming, all the way out to a housewife’s cleaning regiment, and funny funny practical jokes and stories, Cold Sassy Tree touched on so many entertaining and thought-provoking subjects.

The author explored the hypocrisy of Christianity and brought to the light what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. Will Tweedy’s grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee, although non-religious and somewhat sacrilegious, was a man with sound character and a love for others and he became a real hero to me in my reading of this book. Funny that the books basis is the fact that Rucker married a Yankee hussy three weeks after the death of his widow: what an unlikely hero. But, a hero he is. And Will Tweedy told his story just right, especially by using all that southern tuh-wang in the writing.

Go back to this post for a reading of the book if you don’t mind a spoiler.

Book Review: Touch and Go

This is a paid review for BlogHer BookClub but all opinions are my bona fied own. 
Pinkyswear promise.

Join the BookClub discussion on BlogHer here.

Touch & GoTouch & Go by Lisa Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know you’ve found yourself a good thriller when a week after finishing it, your mind is still reeling and your husband is down for the count with his nose in your book. Needless to say, we both loved Touch and Go. {Warning to my very conservative readers: this book has some profanities that you won’t appreciate. Yet, it’s still a great book.}

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner is a suspenseful piece of fiction that tells a thrilling story of the kidnapping of an affluent Bostonian businessman, his wife, and daughter. The books explores the kidnapping from several angles: the wife of the businessman – Libby, the family business’ private investigator – Tessa, and a backwoods cop from New Hampshire – Wyatt. For me, reading from each of the three perspectives added rich background and a playful mind-jogging mood. “Well if he thinks that, then what about this? If this is going on there, then why doesn’t the investigator talk to..”

I’m so glad I read the book and I’m so grateful to Lisa Gardner for writing a story that took me into my fictional reading dimension, it’s one of my favorite places to be: inside a story that exists only on the pages of a book and in my mind. Yes, I personally figured out whodunit about halfway through but that is a talent of mine. My hubby didn’t figure it out until he read it for himself and even then he didn’t believe it. Great read. Highly recommend it. I plan to go and check out more of Lisa Gardner, especially the book titled Love You More that explores the character Tessa Leoni when she used to be a cop.

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Book Review: Before the Dawn

Before the DawnBefore the Dawn by Dean Hughes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I forgot how much I love Dean Hughes as an author. I haven’t read anything of his in quite sometime, but I am so glad that I found this book at the local library. It was so touching and inspiring.

This historical fiction book, even though focused on the LDS women’s organization called Relief Society, can be enjoyed by people of all faiths. The greater story told is the power of womanhood, and the importance of community: loving and caring for one another. Community works best when it consists of people who all want to give but are willing to humble themselves to take once in a while too.

I cried a lot while reading this book. I took an emotional journey with the fictional small Utah town during the Great Depression. I personally related to the main character: a hard-nosed independent stick her foot in her mouth Relief Society President. In the book she was described by a friend as a coconut: all hard on the outside but all milk/meat on the inside. I also related a lot to many of the other women in the book: the ones living in poverty, the ones living with means, and especially the ones living in desperation.

Mostly this book made me proud to be a part of the greatest women’s organization in the world: The Relief Society. It reminded me of so much good that is accomplished world-wide and it brought to the surface of my heart all the good that has been done in my personal life because of my associations with good women.

I highly recommend this book to be read by all women everywhere. I love how Hughes always ties in his historical facts so well. I mostly love how he masterfully tells stories of humanity. The characters in this book will stay with me for a long time. I hope they will whisper to me in the moments when I need to be reminded to let down my pride, to reach out and help others, and especially when I need to try and understand better my enemies.

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Book Review: 10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission

I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for my review, 
but like always I gave you my honest opinion.

10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission by Benjamin Hyrum White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little how-to book should be given to every perspective Mormon missionary long before they serve. It is full of nuggets of wisdom from the author (who also teaches seminary), church leaders, and scripture. It is a great guide that can be followed with ease. As a returned missionary, I absolutely agree with everything that is preached from its pages and I look forward to gifting my copy to my soon-to-serve nephew or niece, if I can stand to part with it. I may have to buy them their own copy and I am sure it won’t be the last. (Can I just input here how much I love how recent church policy changes have made it as likely for one of my neices in college to serve a mission as it is for my nephew who is a freshman at BYU?)

At $9 it would also make a perfect companion for that tie you already bought for your future missionary. The book can be useful for young people who need to hear what is expected of them: to be worthy to serve someday. It will also be equally helpful to those serving: reminding them of their great privilege and duty to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to really measure their success even if they never baptize anyone. And last but not least it contains helpful hints to the returned missionary: get a job, go to college, endure to the end.

I rarely give a 4 star rating to books that I’ve been invited to review, but this one absolutely deserves it. I assume that the market for this paperback is a little smaller than most being that it is written for LDS missionaries, so that means that I need to be that much more adamant in telling you that every missionary needs a copy (even those senior couples.) It really is full of great advice and one will feel the spirit of God testifying of its wisdom as they read. What more could an author hope for? Well done, Brother White.

You can purchase the book at Deseret Book,
Seagull Book (sorry Seagull couldn’t find a link), or Amazon.

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Here’s a little bit more about the author:

Benjamin Hyrum White was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He labored in the Colorado Denver North Mission and was employed at the MTC during college. Ben met his wife, Keenan, while they both were dancing with the International Folk Dance Ensemble at BYU. They each graduated from BYU with a degree in Family Science. Brother White is a seminary teacher and recently received his master’s degree in religious education from BYU, where he wrote the history of Preach My Gospel. Ben and Keenan reside in Orem, Utah, with their four children.

Book Review: The Willpower Instinct

This is a paid review for the BlogHer Book Club.
Go here to join the discussion.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of ItThe Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is my word one review of this book: fascinating. Absolutely fascinating.

Reading this book made me feel like I was being embraced at the smart kid table. Even though I only got a low 20 on my ACT it no longer mattered, the smart kids were more than willing to share with me their secrets. Even though I didn’t know it before I joined them for lunch, I really needed to know all their secrets. You see the smart people are the ones who get willpower. Because they ever so intellectually understand the research; they know what they have to do to drink milk not soda, avoid the desserts all together, and most importantly NOT say anything EVER that is going to be offensive. (Well, I guess I did kind of know I needed that last one.)

I would love to follow around the author of this book: Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. and a professor at Stanford. I want to watch her every move and I want to question her incessantly at how much of the information she uses from her research to guide her every day decisions. I laugh as I imagine the endless scenarios: Starbucks (are you getting that coffee just because you didn’t get enough sleep last night?), Checking e-mail (Are you checking it out of habit, is this what you really want to be doing right now?), Vending machine (Are you not getting the healthy option just because it’s there?). Read the book. You’ll quickly understand.

All kinds of interesting people find their own willpower by attending McGonigal’s seminar, and for the rest of us less-interesting folks who can’t afford to go to California, there is the book. I think I would prefer to attend the seminar, but the book sometimes just has to do the trick because it’s all we’ve got. I did a quick read of this book for this review, but the next time I pick it up (and there will be a next time) I plan to read it as it was originally intended: a self-guided master through a willpower challenge in my life. I think the book will be much more powerful when used a bit at a time towards a real-life obstacle, especially for those of us from the lower end of the IQ spectrum who (cough cough) have a hard time retaining all the amazingly fascinating information.

Great read and I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially those of us that are sick of fighting the same battles of willpower over and over again. And really, isn’t that all of us? Even the kids at the smart table had to learn this for themselves; they just did it before the rest of us suckers.

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Here is an interesting small workshop I found on youtube.