Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Nook Review: "Do Not Atempt in Heels: Mission Stories and Advice from Sisters who've Been There."

“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Those life-changing words launch new chapters in the lives of those with willing hearts, and when President Thomas S. Monson announced that the age requirements were being lowered for missionary service for young men and women, the response was overwhelming. Missionary training centers were flooded with eager youth, so much so that within twelve months of the announcement, the Church had the largest, youngest, and most inexperienced missionary force in its history.

While the Church prepared to meet the exciting challenges the change created, a new phrase emerged—“The home is the new MTC.” Material emerged to help parents ready a younger generation, and now there is a frank, inspiring tool especially for sisters by sisters who’ve walked the walk.

Do Not Attempt in Heels, Mission Stories and Advice from Sisters Who’ve Been There, compiled by Elise Habbel Hahl and Jennifer Rockwood Knight, each of whom also served, contains twenty-one personal accounts shared by ”rock star” sister missionaries who discuss the good, the bad, the sacrifices, and the exhilarating rewards of missions spent across a global Church area. Each experience is unique in its own way, but common themes emerge of personal, spiritual, and emotional, growth which blossoms as the fruit of hard work and obedience.

From the authors:

This new compilation of stories from sister missionaries covers everything from deciding whether a mission is right for you, to adapting to post-mission life. Experience a real look into the sacrifices sisters make, and learn about homesickness, companionship struggles, divine miracles, and the elation of helping save souls in the kingdom of God through the humor and faith of these dedicated sisters.

Take courage as you read about others who have gone and learn how you will change and grow in the Spirit with the many opportunities the mission field will present to you when you choose to serve.

You may knock on doors in Paris, France, or Paris, Missouri. But wherever you serve, do not attempt in heels!

While many of the contributors were recommended to Hahl and Knight by mission presidents because of their excellence in the field, each story is an honest admission of weakness as well as triumphs, and as a result, Do Not Attempt This in Heels elevates from a good read to   a powerful preparatory tool.

Endorsements for the book have been glowing, and come from respected corners of the LDS community. A personal foreword by Camille Fronk Olson speaks to young women considering a mission. She shares lessons and feelings from her own mission days that remain poignant and relevant to her, decades later. 

Clayton Christensen, author of the highly successful book, Everyday Missionaries, believes future elders would also benefit from the honesty embedded in Do Not Attempt in Heels. He said:

We shortchange any missionary who enters her or his service without reading this book first.

On a personal note, I wish Do Not Attempt in Heels had been available for me as a mom as we prepared two sons for foreign missions. It would have opened my eyes to needful conversations and preparations that may have reduced anxiety and naiveté.

The voice in each of the essays is as unique as the authors’ personal experiences, but they are each engaging and delicious, making for a great family read, or FHE spotlight.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that the mandate to love and teach one’s neighbors is not a call to full-time service only. All Church members will find humbling inspiration, meaningful direction, and positive examples to guide them as they too endeavor to serve their fellowman.

This widely acclaimed book is currently available for purchase at your local LDS bookstore and at any of these online locations:

Friday, April 25, 2014

It's The LDStorymaker's Writing Conference Time!!!

Hundreds of giddy writing nerds, (I proudly include myself in there), many of whom are commercially published authors, are converging in Layton, Utah for the annual LDStorymakers' Writers' Conference.

The generosity of this group never ceases to amaze me as dozens of volunteers log hundreds of hours to plan and organize this three-day masterful writing workshop.

The Storymakers' fundamental purpose is to instruct writers, promote talent, and to elevate to the quality of the written word. To that end successful, publishing experts teach the classes, sharing their insights and strategies for creating, publishing, and marketing great books. They'll share tips, war stories, and the sorrows of rejection, while encouraging and cheering the group on. It's awesome.

This little graphic made me laugh. It reminds us that writing is work, and we need to get or satisfaction out of the process, because outside praise can be thin and sparse.

Write on!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Nook Review: "A DEATH in the FAMILY" By Marlene Bateman

 A Death in the Family
Marlene Bateman

A good “whodunit” should leave you ruminating about murder suspects until the book’s end is in sight, and if it meanders here and there, adding several possible leads and misleads, along with a host of worthy suspects, then all the better.

And so it is with the second book in author Marlene Bateman’s new Erica Coleman murder mystery series, A Death in The Family. Bateman leads her readers along a variety of tantalizing plot twists, while dishing up a complex cadre of possible suspects and motives which builds until very near the end, and when the murderer is finally revealed, Bateman throws in another twist that keeps the reader flipping pages until the fat lady finally sings.

From the book’s back cover:

 In her debut mystery, Motive for Murder, gutsy private investigator Erica Coleman proved that when it comes to sleuthing, she takes the cake. Now, the fast-talking, food-loving heroine is back, and she's sure her next assignment will be as easy as pie...

Erica and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche's eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, enlists Erica's help in an investigation of her company, things quickly get sticky. Before the investigation can begin, Blanche's unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it soon becomes clear that Grandma's passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When Aunt Martha, Blanche's reclusive sister, becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues. As she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case—before she bites off more than she can chew. (There is one error in the back cover synopsis. Aunt Martha is Blanche’s daughter, not sister.)

On the night of her eighty-first birthday party, Grandma Blanche makes a passing comment to Erica about hiring her to investigate problems in the family business. When she is found dead the next morning, seemingly of natural causes, Erica enlists herself to fulfill Grandma’s last request, and to make sure no foul play is involved. She butts heads with local law enforcement and every family member, most of whom also work in the family business where greed and power grabs add to the list of possible motives.

When the majority of your suspects are members of your own a family, a murder investigation becomes particularly sticky, no matter how justified, as Erica soon discovers. Since most of the Coleman family members are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, religion comes up from time to time. In most places it is worked into conversations seamlessly, although such conversations felt a bit inserted in a few places.

The pace of the book feels a bit slow in the beginning, as the complex relationships of the large family are explained, but pay close attention as clues begin dropping, like chocolate drops, along the way.

A successful series requires a strong, extremely connectable main character readers can bond with and trust to guide them on these adventures. Marlene Bateman has achieved that in private eye Erica Coleman and her husband, David, a cop. Their repartee is sweet and loving, and their conversations are smart and savvy. David provides an able muse and sounding board for Erica, and their marriage and family life round out Erica’s characterization, giving her dogged professionalism that’s grounded in a strong marriage and family life.  

Bateman further intrigues readers by providing glimpses into the couple’s humor and deep friendship. Their conversations are sprinkled with quotations that somehow relate to the current topic they are discussing. This little game they play provides additional characterization and added depth to the individuals and to their relationship, which then makes it possible for David to come off sympathetically when he playfully correct Erica’s quirky OCD behavior.

Yes, Erica is a clean freak who loves animals but who can’t touch them or a car seat, or much of anything for that matter, without the use of latex gloves, (which she keeps handy in her purse and pockets) or sanitizing wipes which she also keeps in abundance.) This OCD behavior provides comic relief while also distracting Erica during case work, but her obsession with order also gives her a keen eye for detail, which helps her observe what others miss. Watching these details unfold made the second half of the book breeze by in a delightful flash.  

As if anything else were needed to make this book a winner, Erica is also an excellent cook, and the recipes for most of the culinary treasures featured in the storylines are included in the back of the book.

A Death In the Family, is a smart, complex murder mystery with charm and wit featuring a bankable heroine. Erica Coleman has staying power. This attractive, savvy cross between Monk and Jessica Fletcher, and her husband David, will appeal to men and women. It would make a great family read, and who knows? Maybe husbands and wives will start quoting the Coleman’s.

Covenant is the publisher of this charmer, and I’m happy to report that the book is available in all formats, including audio, so it can be enjoyed in the car or while snuggling on the sofa. I’ve nominate the book for a Whitney award. Yep. I loved it.

And take a moment to acquaint yourself with the author. Though A Death in the Family, is only Ms. Bateman’s second mystery, she is accomplished author of many LDS novels and uplifting books on gospel themes. Her story is as fascinating as Erica’s.

A Death in the Family can be found in any of these locations:

Seagull Book

Monday, April 7, 2014


Sweet Confections
Danyelle Ferguson
There's nothing like a great book to make a rainy, snowy Saturday perfect, and Danyelle Ferguson's Sweet Confections fit the bill wonderfully for me a few weeks ago, dishing up a sweet and clean romance with a mystery that fooled this super sleuth.
Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

According to Rachel Marconi chocolate heals all wounds. That and throwing darts at pictures of her ex-boyfriend. Burned by yet another bad relationship, Rachel decides to reprioritize her life, putting her dream to compete on a Food Network Challenge on the top of her list and dating at the bottom crossed out in red sharpie. But what's a girl to do when a certain sexy guy keeps asking her out?

Cue in Graydon Green, a former pro hockey player turned restaurant owner. After a lot of persistent and humorous teasing, he finally convinces Rachel to commit to a date. Just when things begin to warm up, threatening notes directed at Rachel arrive. When her bakery is vandalized, Graydon's protective streak goes on red alert. Is it her obsessive ex-boyfriend stalking her? Or maybe a challenger trying to sabotage the competition?

Either way, Rachel is definitely going to need more chocolate - perhaps drizzled over ice cream and devil's food cake.
Ferguson's characters were thoughtful and real, making it easy for readers to invest fully in the challenges and hiccups in their budding relationship. I especially enjoyed the heroine. Rachel Marconi is not a Barbie doll. Nearing thirty, and a few pounds above svelte from all that delicious baking, she proves that real women eat, laugh, love, work, and drive men crazy--even perfect 10s like Graydon Green.
Ferguson's dialogue is snappy and sharp, and flows with a realism that allows readers to wrap themselves in the story. Ferguson tosses in an added bonus by including sevedral of the delicious recipes the Sweet Confections Bakery ladies whip up in the book, delectibles like Hot Lava Sundaes.

This is a splendid before bedtime read, and a great girlfriend book, one you'll want to get for a friend who needs a spa-day, or a diversion to tuck into her purse or kindle to enjoy while waiting for soccer practice to end. I gobbled it up and closed the cover wishing for more.

Yep. It's that good.
You can get your copy through AmazonKindle, and and through  Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBookstore.

Giveaway Details


About the Author

Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and her work has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books.


Danyelle grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then she lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and family. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing and singing in the kitchen, and the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”
You can follow Danyelle here, and here, and here... (She's so nice. You really should!)