Monday, September 28, 2009

The Maze Runner ARC Give Away - Contest

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is set to be released soon, but one of you lucky people could get your hands on it sooner.   My review of The Maze Runner can be found here.

To be eligible you need to:

1.  Leave a comment with your e-mail address.

  If you become a follower of my blog you'll receive a second entry.
Those who are already followers will receive two extra entries. Also those who promote the contest on their blog and let me know they did it, will get another entry.

Contest open only to those in the U.S. or Canada

Contest is closed

Winner will be announced tomorrow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You Can Never Go Home Again

As a teenager I dreamed of the day I could leave my home town behind, choking on my dust.    And at the ripe old age of 18 I did.   Sure I came home from college for holidays and summers, but it wasn't the same.  I mostly didn't care because I was on to bigger and better things so the family and friends that I had left behind became less and less of a priority.  Then of course I got married to someone outside of my hometown which severed the home ties even more.   I try to go home  to visit my mom and sisters once a month, but every time I go, there is something new.  The town has transformed so much that it is almost unrecognizable.  My mom no longer lives in my childhood home either.  So the home I try to visit is not the one I knew.  My aunt now lives in my childhood home and I can visit it any time I like.  Guess how often I go there?  It's disturbing to walk through the rooms of a house that I knew intimately and barely recognize now.  The pictures that hang from the walls are not of me and my brothers and sisters.  They are of my cousins.  It's almost as if I never existed.   

Now 16 years after leaving home, the one constant I could always count on is gone. Yesterday I spent the day at my grandpa's house and he wasn't there.  A yard sale was in progress in order to sale off the unwanted items of his life.  I walked through the rooms of the home that he had built himself over 40 years ago, searching for something.  I'm not sure what I was hoping to find as I looked through rooms bereft of his things.  Several of the rooms had already been gutted and painted in preparation for someone new to inhabit them. My one constant is gone and I am left feeling adrift.

Grandpa and Me

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cannibal, Mysterious, Rain, Generous, Cat, Fire

What do these six words have in common? 

In writers group last night we used these random words to create 3 unique snippets of stories.  Here are the results:

The icy rain tumbled down in never ending sheets, and all the world was wet.  My fire was low and refused to give enough heat to warm my frozen hands.  I sighed.  As a traveler, I had grown used to these things.  I glanced around the cave, my temporary residence.  It was small, dark, dank and musty, but it provided shelter from the weather and a defense against the cannibal tribes living in the valley.  It really was a stupid idea to take a short cut through this place.  From the top of my bag, my agitated cat meowed.  I stroked his head.  Looking at the way he watched the rain I wished I could read his mysterious thoughts, but alas, I could not.  Tomorrow, I would move on.  Hopefully the people living in the next village would be more generous.  -  Tawnni

"The Donner Party became cannibals?" Jake asked his teacher incredulously.  He wondered to himself whether they had been able to at least make a fire out there in the cold, so they wouldn't have to eat each other raw.
Maybe I'd eat a cat, but a human is going way to far - he thought to himself.  The teachers voice droned on in the background as Jake's attention turned to the window.  It had begun to rain, and off in the distance a mysterious covered wagon emerged from the hills.  - Jenny

We watched, mesmerized as the rain began to extinguish the giant flames of fire, bursting from the mysterious island  floating in the mist.  My sister had warned me there had been rumors of cannibals in these waters, but if you were generous and presented the chief with a gift, they might let you pass unscathed.   Sheltered by a small lookout on the deck, I nervously stroked the soft fur of an orange striped cat, content and purring in my arms.   Suddenly I wished I had not made friends with our generous gift.  - Mary

Writers are often asked where they get the ideas for their stories.  I wanted to write for years, but I didn't because I thought I didn't have anything to write about.  I was so wrong.  I learned that I just need to write.  It doesn't matter if it's stories about your cat or your children or whatever.  Just write.  The ideas will come.   If anyone would like to try our experiment using these words - please do so and leave your results in the comment section or post them on your blog and let us know that you did it.  Happy Writing!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Author Spotlight - Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr is a Utah resident and I try to read local authors as much as possible.  Unlike most Utah authors, Sara Zarr is not LDS, which is definitely not a bad thing especially since it has only been recently that I have started reading LDS fiction again (the writing and the writers have improved exponentially.)

In her own words:  

"I live in Salt Lake City, UT, with my husband, and a parakeet named Peanut. We came here from San Francisco in 2000, thinking we’d give it a couple of years and predicting we’d be high-tailing it back to CA soon after. The place kind of grew on us, and it’s home. For now.
My life is pretty unexciting, in a good way, full of normal things like cooking and cleaning and movie-going and reading and procrastination and lunch dates and good days and bad days and stupid days and boring days. I say this because before I was published I had this idea of what a published author’s life was like, and it’s not. At least, mine isn’t. But, I’ve got great friends and amazing colleagues and a close family. I’m blessed with a good, full life, and am pretty happy with my job."

Sara Zarr has written two YA books called Story of a Girl and Sweethearts.


In the three years since her father caught her in the back seat of a car with an older boy, sixteen-year-old Deanna’s life at home and school has been a nightmare, but while dreaming of escaping with her brother and his family, she discovers the power of forgiveness.

My thoughts:

This is one of those books that is written so realistically with emotion so raw that it's almost impossible to put down.  The story is told from the point of view of 16 year old Deanna Lambert and is set in Pacifica, California.  When she is caught with her older brothers friend at 13, she is labeled by the whole town and her father can barely look at her.  An amazing look at the struggles that teens face.  Deanna is gritty and courageous.  Sometimes I didn't like her and sometimes I loved her -  sort of the way I feel about myself.  Deanna's character is so well written, you will  almost feel that you lived the story yourself.

I have difficulty recommending this book to people because of the sexual content - which isn't overtly graphic, but it is there.  The "F" word is also used a few times and I hate it when books have that word.  Reading it is so much worse than hearing it.
Awhile back I e-mailed Sara and told her how much I liked her book, but felt uneasy about recommending it to people because of the language.  She wrote back and assured me she understood what I meant and that she felt the situation warrented it.  The word is like a slap in the face and that is what she wanted to portray in that scene.  Possibly she is right - I still hate reading it though. So just know it is there before you read. 


When Jenna Vaughn’s childhood sweetheart unexpectedly comes back into her life during her senior year of high school, she is forced to confront her troubled past. This is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

My Thoughts:

I identify with the character of Jenna so much in the way she loses weight before high school and tries to reinvent herself.  Even the childhood friend she had that moved away and she can't forget.  I often think about my friend and wonder what he would be like now and what would have happened if he came back.  Sara wondered the same thing and wrote a very compelling story.   I enjoyed this book a lot, but I'm not sure I like the ending.  I also like how this book is set in Salt Lake City, Utah so the places are familiar to me.  It gives an interesting look at kids who are not members of the LDS faith and how they cope with that.  Jenna attends a private school where none of the kids are members of the LDS church and that is something I didn't realize some kids do.   This book I don't have a problem recommending to people.  Their isn't any language that makes me uncomfortable and the sexual content is minimum.

Zarr's new book - Once Was Lost is debuting October 1, 2009. Can't wait to read it.
For a more in depth look at her books and life - you can find her blog here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tawnni's Bookshelf

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite books with you all. Please mind that in order to save space, I'll write the summaries in my own words.

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry- After the appearance of a strange woman with a strange jewel in her uncle's shop, Lucinda is sent off on a journey that will relieve not only the secret behind the fabled Amaranth Witch, but also reveal secrets behind the mysterious death of her parents.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson- First a sailor shows up at his parents' inn, then Jim Hawkins finds a map to Treasure Island, where the pirate Captain Flint hid his treasure. He and other treasure hunting sailors set off to find it, but can they beat some bucaneers to it?

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne- It was just a piece of paper in a book, but that paper sent Axel and his uncle, Professor Lindenbrock, on a journey to see what lies at the center of the earth.

The Thief Queen's Daughter by Elizabeth Hayden- After receiving an assignment from the king, Ven and his friends journey into the depths of the Gated City, the legendary city of theives. Everything was fine until one of them goes missing and they fall into the hands of the thief queen.

The Beast of Noor by Janet Lee Carey- What really haunts the woods at night? That's what Miles wants to find out. His determination to halt the curse of the dreaded Shriker once and for all ends up leading him into the Shriker's realm.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Something is killing off the Baskerville heirs and now Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the case. With only one heir remaining, can they solve the mystery in time?

Zorgamazoo by Paul Robert Weston- Katrina thought the shadow in the subway was just her imagination. Wrong. Shortly after meeting the maker of the shadow, Morty the Zorgle, the two of them set of to find the lost zorgles of Zorgamazoo on a journey that sends them to... the moon?!

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George- Princess Rose and her eleven sisters (11?!?!) always needed new dancing slippers. The reason: they are condemmed to dance each and everynight for the King Under Stone and his twelve sons. All they want is for the curse to be broken and to their rescue is... a gardener.

See one you like? Give it a try!
"My best friend is a person that will give me a book I have not read." -Abraham Lincoln

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bringing Scripture To Life - Review of Alma

I have often wondered why it is the Book of Mormon gives us very little information about the women living at that time.  In fact there are only three women who's names are even mentioned.  Sariah - the wife of the prophet Lehi, Abish - a Lamanite servant and a harlot named Isabel.  There is not an absence of women - in fact the men are often inspired to do great things because of their mothers and wives, but unlike the Bible their is an absence of heroines and romance.  This oversight is what I believe has driven many LDS women authors to write historical novels that help to breath life into the prophets of old by adding a little spice of romance and give women inspiring heroines they can identify with.
Don't misunderstand me, I know that the Lord had a purpose for the Book of Mormon being written the way it was.  I know that it is divine scripture and has been preserved for us in the latter days, but sometimes, as inspiring as the Book of Mormon is, I still hunger to know about those women behind the men.  What were they like?  How did they deal with the trials in their lives?  These are questions that Heather Moore not only wondered about, she took it to the next level.  With her vast knowledge of the scriptures and her incredible imagination, Moore has brought the men and women to life in a creative, page turning adventure.

ALMA - is the second installment of what I believe is going to be a trilogy.  The first novel is Abinadi, and the third that she is now in the process of writing will be called Alma The Younger.  Three great prophets from the Book of Mormon. 

Events move quickly in the 2nd book. King Noah is thundering with rage. On Amulon’s watch, the former high priest Alma disappeared from the city of Nephi, and every night more believers manage to escape. The king threatens certain punishment unless Amulon recaptures Alma—a seemingly impossible task. But Amulon has a plan. An equally valuable prisoner is at his fingertips: Noah’s wife, Maia, whose newfound faith means bitter humiliation for the king and an opportunity for Amulon to seize power.
Amulon’s disavowed daughter Raquel is making plans of her own. Alma and his followers are building a colony by the waters of Mormon, and she’s determined to begin a new life there despite the deep grief she suffers daily as Abinadi’s widow. Abinadi’s watchful brother Helam deems the journey to Mormon too risky, but when Lamanites plunder and burn the settlement, Raquel has no choice but to flee with her young son.
Drama and danger escalate as Alma the Elder organizes the Lord’s church and baptizes its members, bringing an outpouring of divine grace and power. But even as they rejoice, the believers have profound and perilous trials to face, from the outward threat of Amulon’s treachery to the inward threat of pride and disobedience. With poignant emotion, gripping suspense, and rich inspiration, this new epic story from H.B. Moore vividly brings the Book of Mormon to life. - Goodreads

I have to confess that I haven't actually read Abinadi - the first book in the trilogy.  I meant to, but for reasons beyond my control(we only have one car right now) I have difficulty getting to the library or a bookstore.  If you're familiar with the Book of Mormon, it isn't absolutely necessary to read the first one, but I recommend it.  Moore changes point-of-view a lot and it took me awhile to feel invested in the characters or the story.  So reading the first book would have probably helped with that.  The scene that finally drew me in had to do with the noble character of Maia who is in love with Alma.  Here is a qoute from the book that brought on the tears:

Maia -  "I am but one woman--no lives should be lost over mine.  In the name of peace for my people, I accept this assignment."

To find out why she says this and what is going to happen to her, you'll have to read the book.  Trust me you won't be disappointed.

I became familiar with Heather B. Moore and her books when I attended the LDStorymakers conference in the spring. Moore is the award winning author of the Out of Jerusalem series:  Of Goodly Parents, A Light in the Wilderness, Towards the Promised Land, and Land of Inheritance.   She won the 2007 Whitney Award for best historical fiction for the Land of Inheritance and also won the 2008 Whitney Award for best historical novel for Abinadi.
To find out more about her you can check out her blog here.  She is also an editor for Precision Editing.  Precision Editing has a very helpful writing blog called Writing on the Wall and you can find that here.

Heather was very kind in offering to let a nobody like me review her book by sending me an autographed copy - she is awesome!

First book in the Trilogy

Friday, September 11, 2009

May We Never Forget

My eight year old and I were talking about 9/11 today. I was sharing with him my experience of that terrible day and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.  I had forgotten how horrified and shocked I was by everything.   Many changes had come into my life.  I was a new mom, my firstborn was only 4 months old and I had become a full time homemaker.  My husband had just started a new job and he had left for work that morning just after we watched a 2nd plane hit another tower.  I remember holding my sweet little boy, tears pouring down my face - terrified by what his future might hold.
Everyone has their own story of what they were doing on 9/11, but I was very saddened today, eight years later, when I realized that I was forgetting -  and I am ashamed.
So, this post is written in honor of all those who died on that day and for all of those who have died since, fighting to keep us free.

May God bless all of those who have lost loved ones in this fight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Author Spotlight - Chaim Potok

In book club a few years back I was introduced to an author that opened up to me a previously unknown and fascinating world.  The book was called:

The Chosen was published in 1967 and is a story of two Jewish boys and the friendship they form, though they are from two different worlds. The setting is 1940's Brooklyn, New York.  The story is told from the point of view of Rueven(Robert or Bobby) Malter who is a Modern Orthodox Jew and the turmoil that comes when he forms a deep friendship with a Hasidic Jew named Daniel(Danny) Saunders.  The story takes place over a period of three years, beginning in 1944 when the protagonists are fifteen years old. It is set against the backdrop of the historical events of the time: the end of World War II, the death of President Roosevelt, the revelation of the Holocaust in Europe, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel.
Rueven is the son of a writer and scholar. He is intelligent, popular and has a head for mathematics.  His father wants him to be a mathematician when he grows up.
Danny is brilliant and has a photograhic memory.  He is fascinated by psychology, but feels trapped by his Hasidic traditions.  He especially feels trapped by the fact that he will have to succeed his father as the next Rabbi.  - Wikipedia

This book was so interesting to me. The friendship between the boys is beautiful and poignant.   Learning about the Jewish culture and the differences between the Jewish sects and how they view each other was fascinating.  Learning of the history and the politics of the time was also very interesting.
The Chosen has a sequel called The Promise.  I'm pretty sure I read it, but it must not have had the same impact because I don't remember the details of it now.

After The Chosen I moved on to another great book called:
My Name is Asher Lev was published in 1972 and also takes place in 1940's Brooklyn, New York.  Asher Lev is the narrator and main protagonist and he has incredible artistic ability. He is a Ladover Hasidic Jew and the book follows his growth from a four-year-old boy until shortly after his college graduation.  During Asher's childhood, his artistic gift brings him into conflict with the members of his devoutly religious sect, who value things primarily as they relate to their faith and who consider art not related to Judaism to be at best a waste of time and possibly a sacrilege. It brings him into particularly strong conflict with his father, a man who has devoted his life to serving their leader, the Rebbe, by traveling around the world bringing the teachings and practice of their sect to other Jews, and who is by nature incapable of understanding or appreciating art.  -wikipedia

Also a very fascinating book.  The turmoil that his art brings to the sect and the conflict it causes between his mother and father is very provocative.  Asher's gift won't be denied and he constantly pushes against the barriers of his religious traditions and his fathers authority until he finally paints a scene that is so heinous in the minds of his sect that he is forced to leave.  The conflict is riveting.
Their is a sequel to this book called The Gift of Asher Lev and it is also very good.

The final book from Potoks fictional work I will review is called:
Davita's Harp was published in 1985 and is the only one of Potok's novels to feature a female protagonist. In New York City of the 1930s, Ilana Davita Chandal is the child of a mixed marriage: a Polish Jewish immigrant mother and a Christian father from an old and wealthy New England family. Both of her parents are haunted by bitter and violent memories from their youths, and both have, in consequence, turned their backs on their pasts in order to become active members of the Communist Party. Ilana's early childhood is fraught with mystery and struggle as the neighbors eye the Chandal family with suspicion. - wikipedia

Fascinating book on the way religion can shape our lives for good or ill. Everything is written from the point of view of a little girl(Davita) and her struggle to understand her parents and her world is very intriguing. Also the disillusionment and insight that comes when something we believed to be true is exposed as a fallacy is deftly explored. The political events that shape their lives(WWII and Stalin signing a nonaggression pact with Hitler) is also very interesting.

Potok may have planned a sequel to Davita's Harp, but he never wrote it. Davita reappears in the collection of stories called Old Men at Midnight. - wikipedia

Chaim Potok was born February 17, 1929 and died on July 23, 2002.  He was an American Jewish author and Rabbi.  You can find a more in depth look at his life and writing career here