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Jennie Hansen
Monday, April 27 2009

Rich Harvest of Books Awaits October Readers

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Rich Harvest of Books Awaits October Readers
By Jennie Hansen

It's been a year since my last book was released so I'm happy to announce that The Ruby , the concluding volume in " The Bracelet" historical series is now on bookstore shelves. Of course, I can't review my own book so I'll simply announce that it is now available and that it is the story of Charlie Mae Riggins, the young daughter of one of the mobbers who drove the Saints from Nauvoo. It concludes the "Bracelet" series, but because the series followed the bracelet and not particular characters, it can be read as a stand-alone book.

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Her Good Name by Josi S. Kilpack is as timely as today's headlines. Chrissy and Micah meet on a blind date that doesn't go well. Little more than twenty minutes into dinner, Chrissy gets a call from her niece begging her to come get her. Micah assumes the call is a pre-arranged brush-off. Consequently Chrissy leaves before eating her dinner and insists on paying for her order herself. Micah finishes his dinner and leaves a short time later. Months pass before they discover their credit cards and driver's license information have been stolen. What follows is a tense and absorbing race to prevent a total meltdown of their private lives.

Micah's loss is annoying and costly, but after a couple of weeks he has the situation mostly resolved. Chrissy's problem is more serious. A terrorist, who is both clever and dangerous, assumes her identity, and costs her far more than money. A mutual friend asks Micah to help Chrissy and they meet again, beginning an awkward relationship. Chrissy has been burned before and Micah has responsibilities to his children that can only be complicated by a relationship with a woman.

Identity theft is one of today's most common crimes, and one where proving identity and clearing up the victim's credit, reputation, and the accumulated debts are extremely difficult. Kilpack does an excellent job of showing the ease with which thieves can steal an identity and the dangerous paths that theft can lead to. Her Good Name is well-researched and written in a blunt, readable style that while providing great entertainment also educates the reader to this serious problem.

Some readers may wish for more details at the end, but I found the conclusion true to life and appreciated the subtle reminder that there are still identity thieves out there, terrorists too, and that life is seldom wrapped up in neat bundles of perfect answers. Not only is this book filled with valuable information about an issue that can affect any of us, but it is also an exciting adventure that will keep teens and adults glued to its pages.

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A lot of people, including me, have been waiting anxiously for the second volume in Betsy Brannon Green's military suspense series. Above and Beyond won't disappoint readers. Rosemary Ferrante comes to Savannah seeking help to escape from her controlling father, none other than the man who kidnapped Savannah 's young daughter in Hazardous Duty . Though Dane and his select team are reluctant to take the case, they want Ferrante badly enough to agree, or so they let Savannah believe.

Ferrante is a challenging opponent with connections in high places. Dane is uncommunicative and though he takes steps to ensure Savannah's daughter's safety, he doesn't share much information with Savannah, leaving her uncertain whom she can trust and wondering if her lack of information is for critical reasons pertinent to their case or if it's merely Dane's perverse way of keeping her at arm's length.

The action spreads from Colorado to New Orleans and several other points between Belvoir Army Base and Louisiana . Savannah is largely a sympathetic character, but there are moments when she behaves a little immaturely. Some of Dane's team members are excellently drawn characters. Dane is a strong, positive character, but sometimes he behaves a little immaturely too, though his prior imprisonment and betrayal by someone he trusted gives him an excuse. Trust is a major issue in this story, especially for the two leading characters who have reason to have trust issues.

The timing is excellent; the plot will keep readers riveted to the book, and the cliff-hanger ending tells us there's more to come - mid-spring, I believe. One research error bothered me and may annoy others familiar with military bases. There are several references to Fort Lewis that don't fit. Fort Lewis is in Washington state and is nowhere near Washington D.C. and Fort Belvoir in Virginia or Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland . I also noticed two copy errors, which is extremely minimal in this age of electronic publication. Those wondering about the slight hint of romance in the last book will have to wait a little longer for a resolution on that score.

Both men and women, adults and older teens, will enjoy this intense suspenseful novel. I highly recommend it.

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It has been awhile since Susan Evans McCloud produced a new novel. An early pioneer of LDS fiction, McCloud has maintained a firm fan base for thirty years who range across a broad spectrum of ages. Throstleford, her latest novel, will be welcomed eagerly by her many fans.

Two American missionaries arrive in the English village of Throstleford in the early 1840s, bringing a book and a strange new religion. Esther Grey, the local pastor's daughter, becomes caught up in the changes that come about because of the new religion.

With the change of loyalties of many parishioners, her father's withdrawal from their close relationship, and her own curiosity about the Book of Mormon, her world becomes less secure and she longs for a way to comfort and help her father. Suddenly there are deep rifts between her and the young man who has been her closest friend since childhood, some of the villagers become mean and seek to harm those who join the new church, and she is drawn into a strange friendship with the squire's dying oldest son and his second son who has been called home to take his brother's place.

Throstleford is not the kind of book one reads while sitting on the edge of a chair rapidly turning pages to see "what happens," but is meant to be absorbed slowly. It carries the reader back to an earlier century that is filled with the precise, fascinating details of daily life that differ greatly from the rushed era in which we now live. The emphasis is placed on thoughts, feelings, and the gradual internal changes that occur as Esther learns of the gospel, seeks answers to her questions, despairs for her and her father's future, and matures from girl to woman. It explores too the physical and emotional changes that occur in the lives of the villagers who choose to leave the two village churches to be baptized into the new church.

Though this book moves at a slower, statelier pace than I generally favor reading, it held my attention from start to finish. I found the huge cast of characters a little confusing at times, but enjoyed the brief slices of life they represented and the many conflicting dilemmas those early converts faced. There is a kind of poetic beauty in McCloud's writing that invites the reader to savor her words. Throstleford will be enjoyed by thoughtful readers of any age.

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Against the Giant by Christy Hardman is a fictionalized retelling of the Biblical story of David and his life leading up to his confrontation with the Philistine giant. It is written in a simple straightforward style, which can be understood by a reader of almost any age and would be an enjoyable book for a family to read aloud together.

The story begins with ten-year-old David and his interaction with his family and his trials as he learns to be a shepherd. His older brothers go off to war and are swept up in a movement to end government authority invested in judges in favor of having a king. The Prophet Samuel plays a prominent role in the story as he points out the pitfalls of a monarchy, but the will of the people prevails and Saul becomes king. This unwillingness of the people to follow the prophet becomes a major theme of the novel and sounds a warning for our own time.

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Jason F. Wright has a new book out called Recovering Charles. This is a national release with no real connection to the Church, but because Wright is a member of the Church, many of those who read LDS fiction consider his books LDS as well. He is well known for writing sentimental stories that tug at the heartstrings, a genre I'm not particularly fond of, but I enjoyed this story far more than his previous two books. It's not only better written, but I found it better researched and edited.

Against the backdrop of one of America 's most tragic natural disasters, the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, is the story of a man who hasn't fully come to terms with the devastation to his own family through personal disaster. His easygoing mother couldn't face the loss of her mother and turned to prescription drugs until they claimed her life. His father, unable to cope with his wife's death, turns to liquor, becoming an embarrassing alcoholic who can't hold a job or support himself.

Tired of his father's endless begging for money, Luke tells Charles not to call him anymore. But during the days immediately following Katrina, Luke receives a call from a man in New Orleans who tells him his father played with a musical group at the man's club in that city, but that Charles is missing. He pleads with Luke, an up and coming photographer, to come to New Orleans to help in the search for Charles. Reluctantly Luke finally decides to go. His search for his father leads him to unexpected discoveries.

The first part of the story is somewhat confusing, with the overuse of flashbacks and backfill. Luke isn't a particularly sympathetic character even though we can sympathize with the tragedies in his life and his reluctance to look for his father is even understandable. Other supporting characters are much easier to identify with and more likable.

The descriptions including small personal details of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that resulted from the levees' failure is poignant, real, and superbly well done. The tie-in of music, an heirloom saxophone, and jazz suit the story and the setting well. Both adults and teens who enjoy stories that deal more strongly with emotions than plot will want to read this one - as will all those who found themselves glued to their television sets as the events of this catastrophic event took place three short years ago. This book will strike a chord with many who gave up on someone too soon, those who have faced great pain and picked up their lives and gone on, and those who have learned to have faith that in life, like in music, there is a second verse.

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Clear as the Moon, the final volume of "The Great and the Terrible" by Chris Stewart, has his numerous fans rushing to the bookstore to find this compelling conclusion. As I turned the last page, it was with mixed feelings that I looked back at this volume. I wanted the Church to play a stronger role and I had expected the series to end where it began, with the characters united beyond the veil. I found one event a little too contrived and convenient, but I can't discuss that point without spoiling the ending for those of you who haven't read it yet.

I loved seeing women finally playing really strong roles and I liked seeing strong, patriotic, moral leaders who were both members and non-members of the Church. I was completely hooked on the fast-paced action and feel a little sad that this series has ended. For all those who prefer to wait until a series is complete before starting to read it, go purchase volume one, and begin. This is a highly satisfying series and though I wasn't enamored of volume one, the succeeding volumes have proved to be one of the most exciting series around.

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Please take time to nominate your favorite 2008 novels for the Whitney awards. Nominate all of your favorites at http://www.whitneyawards.com/nominations.php

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The Ruby by Jennie Hansen, published by Covenant Communications, Inc., paperback, 329 pages, $16.95

Her Good Name by Josi S. Kilpack, published by Deseret Book, paperback, 342 pages, $17.95

Above and Beyond by Betsy Brannon Green, published by Covenant Communications, 251 pages, $15.95

Throstleford by Susan Evans McCloud, published by Deseret Book, Trade paperback, 376 pages, $19.95

Against the Giant by Christy Hardman, published by Bonneville Books, paperback, 265 pages, $16.99

Recovering Charles by Jason F. Wright, published by Shadow Mountain , hardback, 280 pages, $21.95

Clear as the Moon , Vol. 6 of "The Great and Terrible," published by Deseret Book, hardback, 360 pages, $22.95

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