Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Delicious Conversation, by Jennifer Stewart Griffith - A Review

Chick-lit sounds like choc-late, and this chick-lit is about choc-late. Before I go any further, I have to state that we all know that chick-lit romances are lite fare (and no one knows better than I, because I’ve written a couple). They are fluffy avenues through which readers (harried mothers and stressed-out employees--or bosses, for that matter) can escape to an assured happy ending. Within those parameters, Delicious Conversation performs well.

The story is about Susannah, a successful economist or accountant, or something to do with numbers, who is thrown out of work when the company she works for goes into bankruptcy. Unwilling to commit to another soul-sucking position in a large corporation, she opens a chocolate shop. At the same time, her nonexistent social life blossoms to include the city’s most eligible bachelor and an old flame. Oh, and her house is condemned. When it seems that nothing else can happen to complicate her life…well, you’ll just have to read it and see.

Jennifer Stewart Griffith has a light, breezy style. She has written a likeable, self-depreciating heroine, as well as the requisite sterling fella and the handsome-but-secretly-slimy fella necessary in every romance. She gets off some good one-liners and creates a couple off-the-wall situations which she manages to make believable.

Jennifer Griffith names each chapter after a decadent chocolate dessert, and at the end of the chapter you are rewarded with the recipe. I gained three pounds just reading the book.

Delicious Conversation is a cute book. It has an underlying message (not a requisite for chick-lit) about seasons and choices, and would make a nice little, blood-pressure-lowering escape from daily cares. Tuck it in your purse to read while you’re waiting at the dentist’s or at piano lessons, or those odd little pockets of time. You’re guaranteed a happy ending.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Loyalty's Web, by Joyce DiPastena - a Review

The cover of Loyalty’s Web designates it as a historical romance novel. I expected the emphasis to be on romance with some soft-core sop to the period—maybe a reference to a tapestry here or a roasting spit there. I didn’t expect to be immersed in a living, breathing medieval world. Joyce DiPastena has done a masterful job of setting time and place, and she is at her best when motivating her characters through the historical exigencies of the era. Set in the time of Henry II when Richard is gathering support against his father, life is tenuous because friends and allies can suddenly turn into liabilities with the swiftly shifting political tides. Hence the title, Loyalty’s Web. One’s loyalties can certainly land one in a lot of trouble.

Helene de Merval first meets the Earl of Gunthar as he arrives to be betrothed to her sister, Clothilde. It is a marriage of political convenience, a tool to cement de Merval’s allegiance to Henry II, and Helene feels the unfairness of it particularly, because it was the Earl of Gunthar who laid siege to her castle home the year before and utterly defeated her father in battle.

When Helene’s old childhood friend tries to kill the Earl at the betrothal feast, not only is de Merval’s loyalty called into question, but it appears there may be an uprising afoot. As the plot unravels, with twists and surprises to the very end, Helene and the Earl of Gunthar find themselves falling in love with one another. However, loyalty is a sticky web there, too, as the king has commanded the Earl to marry Clothilde, and to disobey would be treason.

A good prep for reading this novel, if you’re not up on the history of that period, is to watch two movies: The Lion in Winter and Becket. Peter O’Toole plays Henry II in both of them, and it will set you up for the issues and flavor of the time.

Loyalty’s Web is an excellent first novel and I was delighted when it was a finalist for the Whitney Award. I look forward to Joyce DiPastena’s next.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Enjoying the Journey, by Jaime Theler & Deborah Talmadge - A Review

I’m such a story-based writer that I usually can’t get involved in a book that doesn’t have a good story line, so I didn’t expect to like Jaime Theler and Deborah Talmadge’s book Enjoying the Journey so much. My husband reads the deep (read: dry) books in our household, and I read the frivolous ones.

Enjoying the Journey isn’t frivolous, but neither did I find it dry. It’s very readable and has plenty of down-to-earth examples and personal anecdotes to hold the interest of readers like me. I love it when Jaime Theler confesses, “I may not be famous or glamorous or possess widely acclaimed skill or talent. I am just a normal, often frazzled, stay-at-home mom, but I am a normal, often frazzled, stay-at-home mom who is the daughter of a Heavenly Father who dearly loves me.” I can identify with that.

The book is laid out in a way that flows from one subject to another in a logical progression that is persuasively positive. The Table of Contents gives good clues to where it takes you, beginning with “Finding the Path” and ending with “Reach for Your Destiny”. Along the way, the book visits “Resolve Your Identity Crisis”, “Clear Away the Clutter,” and “Be Proud of Peculiar”, as well as eight other intriguing chapter titles.

Enjoying the Journey is a book that needs to be read in pieces to allow for pondering in between times. It would be great for a morning devotional, because it will brighten your whole day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Journey, by J. Adams - A Review

My maiden book review on this blog is J Adams’ young adult fantasy, The Journey, and what a way to begin! They say you can’t tell a book by its cover, but with this book you can. The cover promises beauty, danger, and things—good or ill?--hidden from view, yet to be discovered.

The book was all of that. Much as C. S. Lewis did with his The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, creating an allegory of The Atonement that can also be read simply as an intriguing fantasy, J. Adams has written a beautiful allegory based on one of the most basic Latter-day Saint gospel principles.

Because I am not the target audience of this book, I asked my granddaughter Kjaisa to read it and then come and sit down with me and talk about it. A very mature twelve, she loves to read and was glad to do it.

When I asked her what she thought of The Journey, she said she really liked it. “I found a lot of depth in the book,” she said. “It’s a book that I would definitely recommend to my friends.”

This was a good beginning. I asked who her favorite character was, and she said it was Orion, because he reminded her of a leprechaun. Her favorite part, she said in answer to my question, was at the end. I won’t quote her, because that would be a spoiler, but she said the revelations during the time they were fighting were really amazing. These were revelations that harkened back to the beginning when the main character, Ciran, asked questions about her mother. Kjaisa said it was totally cool.

I didn’t mention to Kjaisa the second level of meaning, not wanting to put her on the spot, but when I finished writing notes on what she had said and turned away from the computer, she said, “Grandma, I don’t know if you wanted me to talk about it, but there was one other thing….” She had got it, completely, and she went through the allegory, detailing what the story meant to her.

I asked her when she discovered the second meaning, and she said it was when Ciran met Ubal.

“Did it make a difference?" I asked. “Did it bother you to have the story turn out to be an allegory?”

“No,” she said. “It made the read better. It’s kind of like an inside joke. You have to know about the Gospel to really get that.”

I’m with Kjaisa. The Journey is definitely a book that I would recommend to my friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And Thus We Begin

I've resisted having a blog where I chronicle the steps leading up to the publication of my next book, believing that there can't be anyone in the universe that would be even remotely interested, but I do need a forum where I can redeem my promise to review books, so I created this blog.

And, yes, I will update the steps sto publication. Stay tuned.