Thursday, February 25, 2010

"In The Company of Angels" by David Farland

David Farland (who also writes under the pseudonym David Wolverton) is a former BYU professor, and has a varied career in Hollywood, writing Star Wars novels, and other original Sci-fi and Fantasy titles, in addition to this book about LDS history. He is the creator of the daily newsletter for writers, 'Daily Kick in The Pants," and speaks at lots of conferences all over the place.

He's currently in China working on a movie there--he can't give details about it right now, but I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the future. you can learn more about his books, his speaking engagements, and sign up for his newsletter on his website. His LDS historical book, In The Company of Angels has been getting great reviews.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Based on the true story of the Willie Handcart Company of 1856, In the Company of Angels unfolds the triumphant tale of pioneers who struggle against unendurable hardships—persecution, buffalo stampedes, rampaging Indians, lingering starvation, and the early onset of the coldest winter in US history—to find the gentle homeland of the soul.

David Farland’s moving masterpiece echoes the drama of Gone with the Wind and the glory of Ghandi, sweeping from the green fields of Denmark to the icy peaks of the Rockies in a saga that elevates and enriches those that it touches.

In the Company of Angels tells the story of three people Eliza Gadd, Captain James Willie, and Baline Mortensen.

Eliza Gadd is the feisty, sophisticated wife of a Mormon clergyman. When her husband answers his leader’s call to abandon his cottage in England and settle in the Rocky Mountains, Eliza’s world comes apart. She may help her husband pull a handcart with everything that they own across the plains of Utah, but she won’t bring herself to bow to a god she doesn’t believe in.

Stalled by setbacks, the pioneers find themselves forced to take their journey perilously late in the season. The lives of Eliza’s children hang in the balance. But how can she reason with people who believe they are in the hands of angels, and that their leaders, like the Apostles of old, have the power to raise the dead?

Captain James Willie has given a vast fortune, all that he owns, to bring “the poorest of the poor” Mormon saints from England to Utah. Yet as he watches his people starve and the tribulations begin to mount, he finds that his prayers begin to go unanswered and his faith is challenged like Abraham's of old.

Baline Mortensen is a nine-year-old girl fleeing the intense persecution of her home in Denmark. With a child’s pure love, her greatest hope is to learn to become a servant of god—speaking the words that the angels would speak, doing the things that a saint should do. Unexpectedly, she finds herself at the heart of a storm, becoming the glue that binds this band together.

"The Last Waltz" by GG Vandagriff

I already posted on H.B. Moore's book Alma here, so we'll move on to The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandagriff. I signed recently with G.G. at Barnes and Noble and had a chance to hear about the years of research and love she put into writing this book. G.G. is a multi-faceted writer with nine books in print including nonfiction books and a mystery series. You can learn more about her on her website or her blog.

In December 1913, the city of Vienna glitters with promises of the future for sought-after debutante Amalia Faulhaber. But life takes a dramatic turn when simmering political unrest escalates into the most deadly war the world has ever known.

Amalia is devastated when her fiance, Baron Eberhard von Waldburg, breaks off their engagement to return to his native Germany and obligatory military service. But she soon discovers that her passion for democracy in an increasingly fascist world has put everything she loves in danger.

Her family torn apart and improvished by the war, Amalia must now choose between an idealistic young Polish doctor, who shares her political views, and the wealthy Baron von Schoenenburg, an Austrian Cabinet minister who promises to provide safety and security in a violent, tumultuous time. Reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, this epic novel explores the nature of human character and the elusive seach for love and peace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gerald Lund's "Undaunted"

Gerald Lund, author of The Work and the Glory series is one of the most beloved authors of LDS historical fiction ever, so it's no surprise to see his book Undaunted among the Whitney finalists this year. This is available in hard cover, e-book and CD. Here's the blurb:

When it comes to creating spellbinding historical fiction, nobody does it quite like Gerald N. Lund. In The Undaunted, he transports readers first to the coal mines of Yorkshire, then across the ocean and the plains to the territory of Utah, where, even in 1879, there is pioneering to be done.

A little-known and perhaps even less-appreciated chapter in the Church’s history comes to life in this gripping story of a stalwart group of Saints called to create a settlement to serve as a buffer between the established communities of Utah and the lawless frontier of the Four Corners area. Their challenge will be enormous — but the biggest part of it just may be getting there in the first place.

Skillfully interweaving historical figures and events with fictional characters, Gerald Lund takes us through the Hole in the Rock and over miles of uncharted country that even today is impassable without all-terrain vehicles. His account of the adventure, romance, and sacrifices of these undaunted pioneers will resonate with readers who love a good story as well as those who want to better understand the incomparable legacy and unconquerable faith of those valiant Saints.

Lund is also being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Whitney Awards ceremony. e doesn't appear to have a website or blog, but there are links to podcasts and several reviews on his page on the Deseret Book website. Here's the book trailer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Tribunal" by Sandra Grey

Tribunal, by Sandra Grey is the first of the five finalists in Best Historical. This is her second book. Here's the back cover blurb.

Berlin, 1945 Major Rolf Schulmann lies close to death in a military hospital after enduring the horrors of a concentration camp. Revived from a coma through a priesthood blessing, he slowly returns to health as his fiancee, Marie Jacobson, tenderly cares for his deep physical and spiritual wounds.

Meanwhile Rolf 's best friend, SS Lieutenant Hans Brenner, begins to overcome the despair and depression of his postwar gutter-rat existence as he finds himself falling for Natalie Allred, a beautiful American nurse. But as the world's emerging superpowers race to obtain nuclear secrets, Hans becomes a pawn in the deadly game-and Natalie's freedom hangs in the balance. Rolf, unaware of their predicament, feels haunted by his Nazi past and seeks peace of conscience through the rigors of a military tribunal. Then, as tensions escalate between the United States and Russia, Rolf and Hans find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With vivid emotion, Tribunal explores the risks and rewards of loyalty and love in the bitter aftermath of world war.

I was unable to find a website or blog by the author, but I did find this great book review by Tristi Pinkston.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best Speculative Fiction Finalists

I've been going over and over this trying to decide what to do with these titles, because normally I wouldn't cover them on my clean books blog (maybe Wings, which I'm told you might hand to a twelve-year-old, depending on the kid). The other four books all have serious themes, some have a fair amount of violence, and I understand Warbreaker also has quite a bit of sensuality. (Again, I've read none of the books in this category, so I'm going on what I was told by another author who has read them.) Most of these books have had their movie rights optioned, which means that a production company paid them a chunk of money and called dibs (That's how Dan Wells explained it at LTUE last weekend), but they may or may not ever be turned into movies.

Since I'm highlighting Whitney finalists, I decided to do a single blog with a warning that most of these don't fall in the G to PG rating that I normally cover.

Blurb for Servant of a Dark God:

The launch of a towering new fantasy series introduces an elaborate new world, a strange and dark system of magic, and a cast of compelling characters and monsters. Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal from man and beast and become twisted by their polluted draws, know the secrets of this power. This land’s Divine has gone missing and soul-eaters are found among Talen’s people.

The Clans muster a massive hunt, and Talen finds himself a target. Thinking his struggle is against both soul-eaters and their hunters, Talen actually has far larger problems. A being of awesome power has arisen, one whose diet consists of the days of man. Her Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle. She has emerged to take back what is rightfully hers. Trapped in a web of lies and ancient secrets, Talen must struggle to identify his true enemy before the Mother finds the one whom she will transform into the lord of the human harvest.

I'm not going to post more about James Dashner's The Maze Runner, because I posted about that here, which includes the blurb, links to reviews and his book trailer. I'm told the trailer I linked is actually quite a bit more intense than the actual book, but again, I haven't read it yet.

Wings has gotten fabulous reviews, and I might have to go track a copy down myself! there are scads of reviews all over the Internet, including a bunch at Here's the blurb:

Laurel discovers she is a faerie, sent among humans to protect the gateway to Avalon. Thrust into the midst of a centuries-old battle between faeries and trolls, she's torn between a human and a faerie love, as well as her loyalties to each world. In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.

You can learn more about Aprilynne, her books, read her blog, and catch up on her latest news on her website.

I had to check about six websites before I finally found a back cover blurb for this book.

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.

Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.

By using
breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is actually a horror novel, so yes, there will definitely be violence, and according to the author himself, some of it is graphic. This book was released in England last year with a red cover, but is coming out in the USA with this cover very soon.

Here's the blurb:
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.

Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Dan Wells’s debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'The Chosen One" by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One is the last of the Youth Fiction category for the Whitney awards. Author Carol Lynch Williams has published ten other books and is no newcomer to the world or fiction.

I had trouble finding the backliner copy for this book at first, but most of it is in the book review below.

From Booklist: Taking a story “ripped from the headlines,” Williams looks inside a polygamist cult and the dangers it poses for one girl. Kyra and her father, three mothers, and 20 siblings live in an isolated community under the thumb of a prophet, who controls every aspect of his apostles’ lives. The most shocking intrusion of all comes when the prophet decrees that Kyra is to become the wife of her 60-year-old uncle. A secret patron of a local mobile library, Kyra knows there’s a world away from the compound she might escape to, but first she pins her hopes on her father’s ability to change the prophet’s mind.

Instead, her family is threatened, and the stakes for her refusal to marry are raised. The clandestine relationship Kyra is having with one of the compound’s teenage boys is a romance more convenient than convincing (everyone is carefully watched except this duo, it seems). Contrivances notwithstanding, this is a heart pounder, and readers will be held, especially as the danger escalates. Williams’ portrayals of the family are sharp, but what’s most interesting about this book is how the yearnings and fears of a character so far from what most YAs know will still seem familiar and close. Grades 7-10. --Ilene Cooper

As you can see, the book deals with some serious issues, so even though this is geared for 7th grade on up, please be aware of what your kids are reading, and be available to discuss it with them afterward.

The author has a website, but it is still under construction with very little information on it. Thanks to Lu Ann Staheli for pointing out Carol's blog address here. There is also a blog interview with her about this book located here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Bright Blue Miracle" by Becca Wilhite

When I saw this book in the Whitney finalist lineup I thought I hadn't heard of it before, but when I read the back liner, I realized it was familiar after all. Here's the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Leigh Mason is not sure she is ready to share her mom, her bedroom, and her little sisters with her new stepsister, Betsy. And she's definitely not ready to share her best friend, who happens to be a boy! Coping with a blended family is not easy for either Leigh or Betsy, especially during their senior year in high school. Each step brings them nearer to a crisis that will either send them running in different directions or bind them firmly together (which, let s face it, would take a miracle). Bright Blue Miracle is a new young adult novel that has everything a girl wants: a hero (more specifically, a really cute boy), a villain (who happens to be a stepsister), comedy, despair, pedicures, ice cream, love, hate, tennis, revenge, and, of course, a couple of surprises that might send you for some tissues.

Bright Blue Miracle is Becca Wilhite's first book, though her second one, My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsession is now available for pre-order on Amazon as it isn't being released for a few more weeks. I was happy to find out her book is at my library, so if I can squeeze in enough time before the April due date, I'll have to read the youth Whitney finalists too!

You can check out her blog to learn more about her, her books, and her thoughts on life in general.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"My Fair Godmother" by Janette Rallison

I love Janette Rallison's books--her characters are fun and well rounded, her story lines engaging, and there's plenty of fun and laughter. I'm actually quite shocked I didn't highlight this YA book on this blog already. She's another finalist for best youth book in the Whitney's.

Finding your one true love can be a Grimm experience!

After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy.

Check out Janette's website, which has links to her book trialers, information on each of her books, her blog, and other fun facts.

And here's her book trailer!

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Fablehaven IV: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary" by Brandon Mull

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series has been inspiring kids for years now, and is about to come to an end next month with book five is released. However, between now and then, you can turn your attention to the first four books, including the Whitney finalist Fablehaven IV: Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary.

Here's the blurb:

Brace yourself for a shocking secret.

Two hidden artifacts have been found. Three more remain unrecovered. More preserves face destruction as the Society of the Evening Star relentlessly pursues new talismans. Reading in Patton’s Journal of Secrets, Kendra learns the location of the key to a vault housing one of the artifacts. In order to retrieve it, the Knights of the Dawn must enter a death trap — a dragon sanctuary called Wyrmroost. The mission cannot proceed without stealing a sacred object zealously guarded by the centaurs. Anybody seen Seth?

Brandon's website is fun and filled with great information, games and video clips. It also contains extra materials for parents and teachers to help you teach your kids while they enjoy reading his books.

Also up for the title of Best Youth Fiction in this year's Whitney's is Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, Bright Blue Miracle by Becca Wilhite, and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. I'll get to the last three next week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Altered State" by Gregg Luke

Altered State is the last of the Mystery/Suspense finalists for the Whitney Awards. This is Gregg Luke's fourth published book, and he's expecting another one to come out this summer.

Homer and Morgan Winegar believe they may have finally found happiness in the quiet college town in which they have settled. Perhaps now in their new life together with Morgan’s nine-year-old son, they can each leave a troubled past behind.

But when Morgan’s psychology students begin exhibiting bizarre behavior, the couple quickly becomes entangled in an experiment headed for catastrophe. Someone is illegally administering a mind-altering drug to unwitting students. With the potential for millions of dollars in profits on the line, the pharmaceutical designers are more than willing to set aside morals to test the limits of the subconscious and mind control.

As the growing ranks of test subjects fulfill increasingly disturbing commands, Homer and Morgan race to discover who’s pulling the strings—and how they are doing it. But as the final stages of research point to a deadly calamity, events from the past threaten to shatter the couple’s fragile trust—just as they need it most. Will they be able to overcome the forces that threaten to pull them apart and find a way to stop the impending tragedy?

You can learn more about this author and his books on his website. Here's one review, you can find more on his website:

"Gregg Luke has done it again! What a fantastic read. I don't hand out those 5's too often, but this was definitely deserved! He has a gift of being able to make you love characters, give you a dynamic and interesting plot, AND give you an intense suspense- no way is it predictable or ordinary! Love it!!! -Hillary, LDS Women's Book Review

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Betsy Brannon Green's "Murder by the Book"

Betsy Brannon Green is one of the best-loved writers of mystery and suspense books in the LDS market. Author of at least seventeen titles, her latest is "Murder by the Book," another of this year's Whitney Award finalists.

Small-town librarian Kennedy Killingsworth thought that Midway, Georgia, was the dullest place on earth-until a fateful day that begins with a speeding ticket and ends with a suicide. The ticket comes from Kennedy's ex-husband, Deputy Cade Burrell, who seems desperate to find any reason to talk to Kennedy ever since his scandalous affair. And the suicide victim is Foster Scoggins, the leathery- faced resident who applied for a library card just hours before his gruesome death.

Rumors fly that Foster took his life after being jilted by a mysterious love interest. But as the investigation unfolds, murder becomes the name of the game, and anyone might be a player-including the four men who recently started competing for Kennedy's attention. Could the killer be Cade, who's been more interested in her since the divorce than he ever was when they were married? Drake Langston, the dazzling billionaire who needed Foster's cooperation to land a major development deal? Drake's construction boss, Sloan, whose powerful build makes him a perfect suspect for the crime? Or could it be Luke Scoggins-Foster's hazel-eyed nephew, the charming ex-Marine whom Kennedy just might be falling for?

In Murder by the Book, celebrated suspense novelist Betsy Brannon Green skillfully weaves a rich tale of intrigue and romance in a Southern town that-for the time being-is anything but dull.

You can learn more about the author, her books and what she's up to now on her website and blog.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Lemon Tart" by Josi Kilpack and links to other finalists

I just realized that in previous posts I already blogged on the rest of the Whitney romance finalists All the Stars in Heaven by Michele Paige Holmes, Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena, and Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace, and Previously Engaged by Elodia Strain (click any of the links to see those posts). So I'll be moving on to the Murder/Suspense category today.

And, lookee there, I've hit several of those as well. This is where I posted on Traci Hunter Abramson's book Lockdown, And here's is Stephanie Black's Methods of Madness. I did post on Josi Kilpack's second culinary mystery, English Trifle, but never mentioned the one that finaled: Lemon Tart, which was the first in her series.

First, the blurb from, and bonus recipe:

A recipe for murder!

  • 5 families living on Peregrine Circle
  • 1 flowered curtain tieback
  • 1 missing child
  • 1 body in the field
Mix with a long list of suspects and top with two very different detectives. Increase heat until only the truth remains.

Award-winning author Josi S. Kilpack introduces a new series of culinary "cozies" that is sure to tantalize mystery lovers. In this debut volume, cooking aficionado-turned-amateur detective, Sadie Hoffmiller, tries to solve the murder of Anne Lemmon, her beautiful young neighbor - a single mother who was mysteriously killed while a lemon tart was baking in her oven. At the heart of Sadie's search is Anne's missing two-year-old son, Trevor. Whoever took the child must be the murderer, but Sadie is certain that the police are looking at all the wrong suspects - including her!

Armed with a handful of her very best culinary masterpieces, Sadie is determined to bake her way to proving her innocence, rescuing Trevor, and finding out exactly who had a motive for murder.

Mom’s Lemon Tart
1 cup all- purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into smaller pieces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor or mixer, combine ingredients for crust. Pulse together until a dough starts to form in clumps. Press into tart pan, making sure to cover bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake until crust is a golden-brown color, approximately 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

5 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons—DO NOT use concentrated lemon juice)
2 large eggs
Zest from one lemon (get zest from lemon before juicing)

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese with electric beaters until smooth. Add sugar. Mix until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Stop and scrape bowl halfway through. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until smooth.

Pour filling into tart crust and bake on cookie sheet for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling is set. Let tart cool on wire cooling rack. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Use whipped cream as an optional topping. It can be piped on instars or served on top with each piece. For extra flavor in the whipped cream, add a teaspoon of lemon zest.

One interesting thing to note, Josi has a collection of testers across the country who help her try out and refine her recipes in her books, so you don't need to worry about them tasting yummy.

You can learn more about this talented and multi-faceted author on her website or blog. Her latest book in the Sadie Hoffmiller series, Devil's Food Cake has just been released and she's having a launch party this week--but you'll have to check out her blog for details.

Monday, February 8, 2010

2009 Whitney Award Finalist, "Counting the Cost" by Liz Adair

As you can see in my sidebar, the 2009 Whitney Award Finalists have been announced. You can get a full explanation for what the awards are here. But just as a quick explanation, the awards are for books written by authors who are LDS. Most of the titles were written with an LDS audience in mind, but there are many exceptions to this list, but rest assured, all titles are appropriate for LDS audiences. Over the next six weeks I'll be telling a little more about each of the books and authors so you'll be able to decide if the books are just right for you or someone you know.

Today's book is Counting the Cost, by Liz Adair. This is one of the Romance genre finalists. First, the blurb:

For handsome, hard-riding cowhand, Heck Benham, life is as solid as the New Mexico countryside he loves, as predictable as the annual spring roundup. Yet, that all changes when Mrs. Ruth Reynolds moves from back east into his homeland and into his heart.

The stark contrast in their lives is played out in a territory that is, itself, coming into its own. As Ruth and Heck face a trail of pivotal, life-changing decisions, their love is challenged at every turn. What will it cost them before they find what is most important in life?

With strong characters, true-to-life emotion, gentle humor, meticulous attention to detail and historical accuracy, Liz Adair paints a passionate tale of love and learning, of romance and redemption.

Liz is the author of six books, is a wife, mother, grandmother, former business woman, public speaker, seminary teacher, and family history enthusiast. You can learn more about her on her website, her blog, or her profile through Deseret Book.

Check out her book trailer!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Depth of Deceit" by Betty Briggs

Here's a book released last fall by author Betty Briggs that I just stumbled across. Sounds great doesn't it?

How does an intelligent woman find herself mired in a web of deception, abuse, and danger?

Stephanie Saunders is a lovely young attorney with a big heart, keen mind, and a trust in others that nearly proves disastrous. Her handsome and wealthy boyfriend strikes her as perfect, but is he too good to be true? Her boss hovers around her like a protector and friend, but is he? Stephanie’s work focuses on defending the indigent, and one client earns her trust and friendship, but why is he showing up at the oddest places? It seems that she can trust only the horses she trains and loves, magnificent beasts who remind her of life’s purposes and meaning.

In a dramatic turn of events, Stephanie must make a decision that will affect her life forever. While fans of the author’s earlier novels will be thrilled to discover a familiar character, this novel stands alone in plot and dramatic impact.

You can learn more about the author at her website. and take a moment to check out her book trailer.

This book was published by Sunrise Selections and can be purchased at The ISBN: 978-0965630757 and it is 352 pages, 5x8, softcover.