Tuesday, December 30, 2014

BookLook Column January 2015

“Softly Falling” by Carla Kelly

Snowed in after Christmas with a stack of new books is a wonderful problem. I’m glancing out the window as Mark shoots snow into the wind with the snow blower and listening to Buble and Menzel sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.

I just finished reading “Softly Falling” by Carla Kelly curled up on the couch under a warm blanket in front of the fireplace. It was the perfect choice for a snowy day. When I contacted Kelly and told her I was enjoying her book, she offered to send me a hot rock for my feet.

The historical romance is set on a cattle ranch in Wyoming Territory during the terrible winter of 1886. Lily Carteret has been sent away from her uncle’s wealthy home, to live with her wayward father.  Clarence Carteret married Lily’s mother, the daughter of a slave and a Spanish settler, during the first of several failed attempts to manage his family’s businesses in the Caribbean, India, and Australia.  

After the death of her mother, 5 year-old Lily was sent to boarding school in England where she encountered prejudice and rejection as a mixed-race child. Miss Tilton’s school taught Lily how to close her heart and keep her chin up, but it didn’t prepare her for life on the frontier as a young woman.

The illiterate cowboy Jack Sinclair is the perfect partner for the well-educated lady Lilly. Sinclair is the ranch foreman and becomes her knight in shining armor. They support and teach each other as the novel progresses, and we admire their qualities of bravery and determination.

There is much to respect and love in Jack, Lilly, and the tight-knit cast of characters. Ranch hands and townsfolk have to come to Wyoming Territory from foreign countries and across America for a fresh start.

Since Kelly is a careful researcher, I know her historical facts are accurate. As she weaves them into the story, the authenticity of language and setting helps readers slip easily back in time and place. And isn’t this one of the reasons we pick up a book?

The only downside to reading a Carla Kelly book is that she quickly puts you into the story as a sympathetic observer. I felt cold and hungry until I turned up the thermostat, grabbed a left-over Christmas cookie and went back to reading on the couch.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Make Every Day Meaningful

Make Every Day Meaningful
Realize, Record, and Remember Life’s Grand Lessons
Author: Randal A. Wright

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” James M. Barrie (Peter Pan author)

I found it. A book that motivates me to improve my journal writing so I can have roses in December.

Writers are often too busy writing for deadlines to write their own story. We have perfected procrastination, harsh self-criticism, and we get writer’s block. Sound familiar? “I can’t write my personal history because I am too busy, I’m a terrible writer and I don’t know what to write.”

Make Every Day Meaningful is the book I found while searching for a book about gratitude to review for November. Sometimes a book chooses you.

The gratitude chapter titled, “Learn to Be Grateful Every Day” includes inspirational quotes, personal stories and encouraging words. Wright observes that less than ten percent of attendees express gratitude to speakers, teachers and musicians who serve them in Sunday church meetings.

In his travels as a speaker and author, he rarely sees those who have spent many hours in preparation and presentation thanked by those they serve. A Sunday School teacher told him that only a handful of people thanked her during her almost five years of teaching.

“Over the years, I’ve had the responsibility of asking hundreds of people to speak at forums held for LDS college students. During that time, I have watched on multiple occasions as not one person approached the speaker afterwards,” wrote Wright.

I recently received a letter from Springville Mayor Wilford W. Clyde thanking for the many years I have written news stories about the city. This brief expression of gratitude from a very busy man prompted me to send a note to someone I noticed quietly serving. Gratitude is contagious – it’s spread by mouth and hand to hand.

Each chapter in Randal Wright’s book encourages the reader to “realize, record and remember life’s grand lessons”. Many people do this with a gratitude journal or other small notebook they carry with them. Some spend a few minutes at the end of the day to record those observations and lessons.
“Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.” Spencer W. Kimball promised.

Many times I have wished my grandmothers had written their experiences and thoughts for me to read and share with my children. These fastidious little housekeepers even threw away precious letters from other family members and family photos! I have their jewelry and dishes but I don’t have their memories.

I appreciated the encouragement to write my autobiography - a work in progress, and keep a better journal, but what this book really gave me were some practical tools and suggestions. The list of 600 memory cues, and three word-word summary suggestions are more helpful to someone like me than quotes I've managed to ignore for decades.

 It’s not too late to start or start again. Your journal and your life story may not seem like a bouquet of roses but your memories and life lessons are priceless gifts to yourself and your family.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Rosefields of Zion
by Marilyn Brown

March 2014 BookLook column for Serve Daily Newspaper

Writing a book review column just once a month shouldn’t be a challenge for someone who reads as much as I do. My problem is I’m too busy reading to write reviews. I love to read because it makes me happy. Writing doesn’t cause that same blissful state – it feels too much like work. However, reviews are helpful to me when I choose a book so hopefully this BookLook column will help you when you are looking for some happy reading time.

I recently opened a new book by local Springville author Marilyn Brown titled, “The Rosefields of Zion”. Brown is the author of more than a dozen novels, five histories, two musicals for the stage and five books of poetry. She has won many state and local writing awards for her fiction.

“The Rosefields of Zion” is romantic novel set in historic Zion National Park and the St. George area of Utah. It’s definitely a book women will enjoy more than men or teens. It is written for the LDS reader, but could be enjoyed by readers not familiar with the religion or culture of the Mormons in 1920s Utah. I especially enjoyed the historical information and legends woven into the story of the fictional Rosefield family.

At the beginning of the book the author states: “This book is much more fiction than history.” Brown then identifies the historical figures for us and tells us that there was a real family who lived on the farm at the entrance to Zion National Park from approximately 1912 -1931 but they did not resemble the Rosefields. Their name was Crawford and they were finally forced to sell their land to the National Park Service in 1931 during the Depression.

I liked reading about how the park came to be named Zion. A Mr. Behunin, who had been a bodyguard to the Prophet Joseph Smith and suffered persecution in Missouri traveled west with Brigham Young. When he came to the safety of the red hills for the first time he exclaimed, “These are the temples of God, built without the use of human hands. A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as any man-made church. This is Zion.” I agree Mr. Behunin.

The story’s main character, Marissa Rosefield, narrates her family tale of tragedy in the shadow of the red rocks of Zion. The story begins in 1925 as the family prepares to attend the funeral of their mother. Things don’t get any better for the Rosefields as more trials and tragedies visit this small family.

The central conflict is between the family of farmers who want to keep their land and the government officials who want to use for a park visitors center. As tensions increase between the two groups, Marissa makes a disastrous choice. It’s the kind of decision where you yell out loud, “Don’t do it!” as you are reading.

I wish I had been in St. George in February reading this story instead of Iowa. Being right there “on location” would have been the perfect place to read and relax. If you want to take a book down to southern Utah for spring break this year pick up “The Rosefields of Zion”. It’s a page-turner and it will make you appreciate beautiful Zion National Park even more.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

BookLook January 2014 - with a few blog only changes

 Review of “Living the Healthy Life” 
by Springville author Randi Gerber

It’s January – the cruelest month of the year. The poet T. S. Eliot chose April as the cruelest month but he was wrong. In January we have to make New Year’s Resolutions! It's also the month with no chocolate holidays - the month between Christmas chocolate and Valentine chocolate. And apparently this is the month we take a good look at our lifestyle and make those tough resolutions to be healthier.

Where do we start with our resolutions? Read some good books and get informed. Searching for a new book to help set and keep healthy life-style resolutions, I opened the front cover of “Living the Healthy Life” by local author Randi Gerber and was intrigued by her introduction.

She wrote, “This book begins by establishing what disease is and what it means to heal naturally. It includes basic diet and lifestyle information designed to support he body in its natural healing processes. It also includes a chapter explaining the real secrets to hormone balance using a system I recently developed called Holistic Hormone Therapy.”

The author adds that although her holistic weight-loss and anti-aging tactics work, readers may need to work with a doctor to develop their specific natural treatment program. She also starts with the disclaimer that the book is for informational purposes and not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease since she is not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional.

Gerber almost lost me when she told me not to skip to the “Health Conditions Protocol” chapters without reading the preceding chapters. She knows that’s how we all read – go straight to the chapter on weight loss or zero in on our specific concern. Just give me the information, an easy plan and what I need to buy. This book however, is designed to educate first and offer solutions second so go back and start at the beginning after you peek at your chapter.

Back cover statements remind us of the suffering found in every family. “Autoimmune disorders plague up to 8 percent of the population and counting. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the US and continues to climb. Hormonal balances are epidemic and causing widespread suffering. Autism now plagues one in eighty-eight children.” Cancer, diabetes and mental illness are also included in the list.

Gerber is the mother of four children and has been gathering information for 15 years to keep herself and her family healthy. She is passionate about what she has learned and enthusiastic about sharing it. You many not agree with everything in the book, but read with an open mind and take advantage of her research which is well documented at the end of the book. You will a few changes to make, or a complete health makeover program.

If you don't plan on giving up chocolate completely, use January as the one month to give it up. I found a couple of other useful diet changes and some reminders like add lemon to my water bottle daily.