Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Review: Shannon Guymon's "Taking Chances"

So I've read Shannon's books, Makeover (which I lost as I was about to do a review, so I didn't ever review it, but it was great--go check it out!) and Soul Searching. I enjoyed them both so much that picking up her latest offering, Taking Chances, was a no-brainer.

And as I began to read the book, there was no question in my mind why it was a Whitney Award finalist. Maggie Tierney is a quirky, strong-willed, life-loving, twenty-four-year-old artist whose father died of leukemia before she was even born. Luckily, she inherited a great deal of her father's talent for painting, and now each of her paintings sell for prices pushing half a million dollars.

Because her grandmother Palmer allowed Maggie's mother to be sexually abused by her stepfather, and because Maggie's Tierney grandparents blamed her mother for Maggie's father's decision to leave his chemo treatments and run away with his young neighbor, Maggie has never met any of her extended family.

That is, until her great-grandmother Tierney died and left Maggie her house in Alpine. Despite the fact that Maggie could have bought up the whole neighborhood for less than her last show sold out for, she figured, 'hey, free house,' and decided to spend six months living in Alpine before she made any decisions about selling it.

Along comes her next-door neighbor, Luke Peterson, a man who was still dealing with his fiancĂ©’s death. He takes one look at her muscling her boxes of painting supplies and easel from her car and decides she must be a PETA loving, tree-hugging, spoiled rich girl who would quickly convert the charming pioneer home into a Tuscan villa.

And much zaniness ensues.

Shannon's talent is so impressive. I got to the end of the first chapter (okay, it was only three pages), before I realized it was all exposition about Maggie's past while she is on the road to her new home. Her writing style is so fluid and fun I wasn't the least bored and disinterested in what was going on. That ability can't be natural. If it is, I might end up hating her despite her fabulous books.

I love the way Maggie and Luke interact from her deciding the buttoned up banker couldn't possibly be capable of fixing her easel, and his misconceptions, to their slow friendship and the way they keep saving each other from awkward situations (ie, his former fiancĂ©e’s sister who is determined to catch Luke now). I also love how just in the first seventeen pages we go from ready to hate her grandparents for ignoring Maggie all of her life, to thinking there must be something much more there.

And I love this bit on page 81, where she talks about how she's generally afraid of romantic relationships because of what happened to her mom. But, she says that if she gets any more comfortable with him, she's going to start seeing china patterns. His response:

". . . I don't want you to be scared of me. Because I've got to tell you, when I look at you, I see china patterns. All over the place."

The characterization, dialogue and plot were so interesting I stayed up way into the wee hours of the morning reading this book. I really can't wait until her next one comes out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Great Giveaways!

Vinyl lettering has soared in popularity in recent years, giving people a way to express their values and feelings in a classy, non-permanent way. My friend Danyelle is giving away a $15 certificate for a custom vinyl lettering job from Vinyl Expressions on her blog this week. Entering is easy, stop by and learn how. Also check out the Vinyl Expressions blog to see the great designs they have available. The picture below is just one of many cute designs!

Also, Anne Bradshaw is giving away a music CD--Debbie Coons' You Are Loved--on her blog.

Here's what the CD cover says, "Debbie West Coon's second project swells with songs of affirmation, validation and rich musical luxury. Recorded with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and a star-studded vocal cast, this new album brings the message of the title track, You Are Loved, resoundingly home to every heart. Vocalists include Justin Williams, George Dyer, and Freddie Ashby, with arrangements by Sam Cardon."

Check out her Youtube video from this album for a taste of this woman's talent! Then swing by Anne's blog to enter and learn more about Debbie Coons.


Monday, July 27, 2009

My latest adventures in cake decorating

I just thought I'd share my latest forays into cake decorating. All three are 8" round cakes, two layers deep. The first one I actually cut the layers in half lengthwise to create four layers, and then I filled it with cherry filling and topped it with cherry filling. It was super tasty! I took pictures on how to fill a cake and will post them on my parent's business blog next week. This one I wanted to play with my flower tip and swags. I used the little red buttons on the cake to measure the distance between swaps--but then realized they weren't all the same distance apart. Whoops! I also was celebrating because the night before I got my first IV in the back of an ambulance, which is totally cool. (No, I didn't get poked with an IV needle, I got to give someone else an IV). I'm still playing with my shells. I'm definitely not doing them quite right. I might have to harass my sister and have her show me how again .
This one I did this past weekend for a bridal shower. You can see the step-by-step on how I built the fondant roses and decorated it on my parents' business blog. This was fun because I'd never made fondant from scratch before or colored it or did anything but cover a cake in it. There's a recipe at the bottom of the link to my parents' blog. Super easy and it actually tastes good!

Now that I've had a chance to play with visual art for a change, I guess I'd better get back to editing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

What sportsmanship is all about

Someone from one of my e-mail groups shared this link with us today, and I was so touched, I had to share. In a world where professional players think bad behavior is their due, it's good to see these girls understand the spirit of sportsmanship.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review: "Life in the Pit" by Kristen Landon

Plain, normal Brittany has always lived in the shadows of her beautiful, popular friend Amanda. Amanda has a new boyfriend every week. Brittany doesn’t date. Amanda is the star of the school musical; Brittany watches from behind her cello in the orchestra pit.

But then, the hot lead in the play starts showing an interest in Brittany—and not because she’s Amanda’s best friend.

At the same time, Amanda and Brittany both get threatening anonymous letters. Brittany doesn’t know what to do: a guy likes her, and she and Amanda are in danger. Has the world gone insane?

Kristen Landon’s first novel, “Life in the Pit” about the production of a high school musical is a fun mystery for any age. The book states it is geared for readers 13 and up, but I’d pass this along to any of my adult friends and sisters as well. The characters are well developed, the mystery clues well placed, and the tension just right for a YA novel. It held my interest to the very end.

I love the voice of the main character, Brittany. This paragraph, for example:

“I couldn’t believe it. Amanda just received two of the most fabulous kisses imaginable—first hand, I might add—and now acted as if it were nothing. Acting. Maybe that was the problem. The kisses were part of the play. Enter stage left; cross to front center; kiss a beautiful guy.”

I'm sure nearly every girl who has ever been in high school can relate to Brittany, or knows someone like Amanda—and liked her anyway. Published by Blooming Tree Press, this book is 248 pages and available at Amazon.com.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great Quote

Just had to drop a note. I've been sorting books at work and loved the quote from the back of Diane Setterfield's book "The Thirteenth Tale," and had to share.

"My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie."--Vida Winter

This caught me so I had to read the blurb inside. I might just have to take it home to read.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A scrapbooker's dream supplies

Hey, my very awesome friend Kim Thompson is giving away over $100 worth of scrapbooking supplies on my friend Danyelle's blog. Kim is not only a totally great writer (if the first things I wrote were as good as hers is, I'd have been published ages ago--my critique group regularly threatens to do away with her for making us all look so bad).

Anyway, pop over to Danyelle's blog and enter because the contest ends tomorrow at five (Central time).

On second thought, don't enter, I can use all the scrappin' help I can get.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review: "Altared Plans" by Rebecca Cornish Talley

Caitlyn has her whole future planned. She's going to marry her high school sweetheart whom she waited faithfully for while he served his mission, go to BYU where they would graduate and then return to Santa Barbara. She would be a homemaker and raise their four children--two boys, two girls.

Then, on the day of her wedding, her perfect groom flies off to New York to propose to the woman he fell in love with during his mission instead of meeting Caitlyn at the temple.

After that, Caitlyn equates love with a broken heart and refuses to socialize when she returns to BYU. Then her bishop calls her to be the family home evening mom and her plans fly out the window. Travis--the family home evening dad in her group--is a charming cowboy whom she can't help but feel attracted to. Chase, also from her FHE group, has his own plans for dating her. Instead of being a social recluse, she finds herself with two suitors.

This is a fun story of college life with plenty of dating angst thrown in. Caitlyn's struggles and frustrations will be recognizable for most young women today.
The message about the importance of temple marriage is one I'd love all young people to understand. I'll definitely pass it along to my nieces.
Read a first chapter of this book on Rebecca Talley's Website, or check out her blog.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: "Loyalty's Web" by Joyce DiPastena

Ever since Joyce DiPastena's book "Loyalty's Web" was chosen as a finalist for the Whitney Awards in 2007 for best historial fiction, I've wanted to read it. So when she offered me the chance to get a review copy if I blogged on it, I jumped at the chance--and I'm totally glad I did. First, the back-cover blurb:

In Twelfth-century France, King Henry II of England has just finished crushing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his "Angevin empire." To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty.

Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot into the country of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Helene de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, she realizes that the only way to prove her loved-ones' innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Helene races against time--and dark secrets of the past--to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.

Fierce determination gives way to mutual attration as Helene and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction.

I found Joyce's book excellently plotted, with well-rounded, likable characters. The twists and turns along the journey kept me guessing right up to the end. She obviously did her research into the time period, but instead of feeling like she was showing off all of her knowledge, I felt immersed in the history and culture and the details felt like an organic part of the story. It was cleverly plotted, with a with an almost invisible writing style. Definitely two thumbs up!
To learn more about "Loyalty's Web," or to read about her new book "Illuminations of the Heart," which is now available to purchase online at Deseret Book, check out Joyce's Website, or her blog.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Winner!

Okay, I know it's technically July 4th, but with one thing and the other, well, you know. I used Random.org to select the winner of "Pickup Games." The winner is Nichole! You lucky woman you. I'll make sure you get it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All Kinds of Great Giveaways!

This week several of my friends are giving away some great prizes.

My friend Danyelle Ferguson is giving away an EZ View Desktop--the perfect way to organize your crafts. This is her giveaway for this week--she's giving something away every week this summer, so check back for more cool prizes.

My friend Anne Bradshaw is giving away a copy of Lynn Gardner's latest book, "Pursued" the second in the Maggie McKenzie Mystery series on her blog. She has a giveaway pretty much every week.

Nichole Giles, another of my writing buddies, is giving away this cute bracelet on her blog.

Joyce DiPastena is always coordinating drawings and things and is giving away a cute tote and a bunch of books this month on her blog.

And please, don't forget to enter to win a copy of Marcia Mickelson's "Pickup Games" on my blog this week--you only have until tomorrow to enter! Check out last Monday's post to learn how to enter--it's easy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book review: "Pickup Games" by Marcia Mickelson and Win a Copy!

I did mention in my previous post that I really enjoyed Reasonable Doubt, didn't I? Well, Pickup Games was even better. I thought the characters Mick and Cara had really great chemistry right from the start--even though he was a pretty serious jerk in the first scene. That was fine, though, as you soon learned why he was acting like that, and could see his character growth as the book continued. The banter between them which started mostly hostile, and then developed into grudgingly friendly and then to more was fun and lively. I also really loved the back and forth at the end of the games when they would bet whether the they would go into overtime or not.

It was really nice to have read Reasonable Doubt first, it added a little context to the story, but if you don't have access to it, don't let that be a reason to put off or skip this book. This story stands alone. Marcia's writing is fresh and witty, the storyline compelling, and it had me anxious to find out what would happen next and how they would deal with the troubles that came their way. I admit, I even teared up once--but they were good tears! I couldn't put this book down.


And now, don't forget you have the opportunity to win your own copy! Check my Monday post to learn how to enter--it's easy and I'd love to send out this book to you!