Sep 012015

Janitors5 Heroes of the Dustbin (Janitors #5)

Author: Tyler Whitesides

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published Date:  September 8, 2015

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Hardcover/Audio/ebook: 416 pages

ISBN# 978-1-62972-065-4

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: Received a free Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (

Spencer knew that from the moment the Founding Witches had returned, the Rebel Janitors had begun disappearing. So many schools were defenseless now, the students’ minds rotting from Toxite breath while the janitors vanished without a trace. Then it became personal.

Although their enemies are powerful, their allies few, Spencer and his ream of Rebels are not giving up! But what chance do a handful of kids and one rescued janitor have against the combined evil of the Founding Witches and the Sweepers? Can the Rebels close the source of all Glop and stop the Toxites once and for all—or is the world doomed to fall under the control of the sinister Bureau of Educational Maintenance? This explosive series finale is a griping ride through conflicted loyalties and daring escapes, unexpected alliances and betrayals, and an ending you’ll never forget!


I remember the first time I met Tyler Whitesides, a few months before his new book, Janitors, was due to be released. He told me about his new book, the first in a series, and I thought it sounded like a fun and unique adventure. Fast forward to today, as I review the last book in the Janitors series, and I can honestly say it has been a lot of fun. A little gross at times for the germaphobic, but always an adventure.

Our characters are in dire circumstances as the story begins, reeling after the loss of mentors and the continuing disappearances of allies. Spencer and Daisy must decide whether to trust former enemies and bear the responsibility of rescuing their Rebel allies. Secrets are uncovered that change everything, and their situation seems impossible.

I sailed through the book, anxious to see what happened from chapter to chapter. Tyler did a great job of keeping the pace going, surprising me and, as usual, making me laugh. He knows how to include the details with enough entertainment to keep young readers (and adults like me) engaged in the story. The creative use of every day janitorial items is clever and I still really want a set of magic squeegees.

Spencer, Daisy, and Dez, while still the same characters we know, have also grown both in experience and friendship. They’ve learned to appreciate each other and make sacrifices. Well, at least Spencer and Daisy have, though Dez surprised me more than once. As the story ends, I believe there is hope for him yet.

I found Heroes of the Dustbin to be a fast moving and satisfying conclusion to the Janitors series, and I think other fans will as well. This series is perfect for engaging the imaginations of young readers. I know many middle grade readers have enjoyed Tyler’s books, and I hope many more discover this series as they explore the possibilities that exist in the world of reading.

**Visit Tyler’s website for information on the book launch and signing events on September 4th and 5th.

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Sep 152014

Janitors4 Strike of the Sweepers (Janitors #4)

Author: Tyler Whitesides

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published Date: September 9, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Hardcover/Kindle/Nook/Audio: 388 pages

ISBN# 978-1-60907-907-9

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: Received a free hardcover in exchange for an honest review

Summary (

The stakes have never been higher, and you’ve never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the Rebel Janitors find themselves chased by Mr. Clean’s new and terrifying half-breed Toxites—the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodem in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the Founding Witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education.


The Janitors series holds its own in the world of middle-grade novels, and this latest release strengthens that position. I read Strike of the Sweepers thinking this was the last book in the series, mainly because the nonstop action and dramatic events made me think we were heading to the big finale. Only at the very end did I realize how wrong I was. There is one more book in the series, and if it’s anything like Strike of the Sweepers, readers will be in for a wild ride.

I think fans of the Janitors series are really going to love Strike of the Sweepers. Tyler knows how to write in a style that appeals to middle grade readers, especially boys, though I know there are a lot of girls who love this series as well. Tyler’s experience in janitorial work at an elementary school adds a dimension to the story that makes the fantastical become possible in the imaginations of young readers.

This might be my favorite book in the series so far. It was fast-paced and held my attention. The descriptions were just right and I could easily picture the settings. I would give examples, but I’m trying to keep things spoiler free. All I will say is dust. You know what part I’m talking about, right, Tyler?

I love the fun and clever little touches that appear throughout the book, from the title of the first chapter (“Pink is not stealthy.”) to character names (Professor Dustin DeFleur), scary bad guys (made out of TP), and awesome defensive capabilities (trash cannon – yeah!).

I admit to being fascinated by Dez as a character. He’s both bad guy and good guy at the same time, annoying yet integral, a bully and selfish yet still somehow a part of the team. In this book, there is a big part of the story where the kids are on their own, dealing with problems and coming up with solutions by working together. I think kids reading Strike of the Sweepers will really enjoy that part of the story. After all, who wouldn’t want to drive a magical garbage truck?

There’s a twist at the end that I did not see coming. All I will say is that it’s going to make the last book very interesting. Also, I wish I had squeegees that worked like that.

Strike of the Sweepers is a fun read and a great addition to the Janitors series. I can easily recommend this book to middle-grade readers who love adventure and magic, and don’t mind a little gross here and there.

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Sep 022014

DeadlyAlliance Deadly Alliance (Espionage #3)

Author: A.L. Sowards

Publisher: Covenant Communications

Published: April 2014

Genre: Historical

Softcover: 317 pages

ISBN# 9781621086901

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: Received a free digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (Goodreads)

When Peter Eddy and his commando team inadvertently upset the Soviets during their most recent mission, they never imagined the diplomatic nightmares that would ensue. They have one chance to redeem themselves: tasked with destroying a bridge in Nazi-occupied Bosnia, Peter and his war-weary team reluctantly agree to drop behind enemy lines. The assignment should be a simple one—were it not for the fact that they are being deployed on a suicide mission.

Genevieve Olivier is devastated by the news of Peter’s disappearance. After all they’ve endured in this war, the determined OSS worker is unwilling to simply let go of the man she hopes to spend her life with. Desperate for information, her work as a courier soon escalates into a counterintelligence duel with a Fascist assassin—and Genevieve is his newest target . . .


Deadly Alliance, the third and final installment of the Espionage series, takes place during the final year of WWII. Peter and Genevieve are the main characters, who both have way more war and espionage experience than any young person should. Almost as soon as they are reunited, the war separates them. Their duties take them far from each other, and one circumstance after another makes it almost certain they will never survive, let alone find each other again.

Peter has several of his closest war buddies with him, but Genevieve is very alone. She stays busy at the hospital, but the war has taken too much for her to feel happy without Peter. He is determined to do his duty for his country and the men that are serving with him. While he hopes to be united again with Genevieve and live the rest of his life by her side, Peter knows that sometimes the only option is to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The story is told mainly from Peter and Genevieve’s points-of-view, with a large focus on events occurring in the fight between the Serbians and Croatians, the Partisans and Chetniks, located in Yugoslavia. The characters encounter several battle scenarios and devastated villages that show the face of war in that area of the world. The author’s style isn’t flowery or roundabout but straightforward, intended for an audience of men and women who enjoy reading WWII fiction and prefer a hint of romance.

Deadly Alliance takes the reader along as the characters move from one seemingly insurmountable circumstance to another. I haven’t read a lot of WWII fiction but I can see that Deadly Alliance and the other books in the Espionage series are well-researched. I follow A.L. Sowards on Goodreads so I see how many WWII books she reads. This knowledge comes through in how easy it was to slip into the time period each time I picked up the book.

I appreciated Peter and Genevieve’s devotion to doing whatever they could to end the war, even at the risk of their own lives. They go through some emotional experiences, however, they have been at war for some time now and witnessed many things no one should ever see. At times they are simply resigned to their circumstances, or hardened by previous events. I was anxious for both the war to end, and to find out what would ultimately happen with our heroes. Just when I thought all was said and done, the author threw in a twist that had me in some serious suspense.

Overall, Deadly Alliance is an enjoyable and satisfying conclusion to the series. I would recommend the Espionage series to anyone who enjoys clean, well-researched historical fiction, particularly WWII fiction. While LDS elements are present, it isn’t a major theme of the book. I look forward to more from A.L. Sowards, and can’t wait to see what she has in the works.

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Aug 112014

LivingintheMillennium Living in the Millennium

Author: Robert L. Millet

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published: August 2014

Hardcover/ebook: 160 pages

Genre: Religious Nonfiction

ISBN# 978-1-60907-914-7

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: Received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (

The Savior taught through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the time will come when “he that liveth in righteousness shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the earth shall pass away so as by fire” (Doctrine and Covenants 43:32).

What do we know about that day when Jesus Christ will come in glory to cleanse the earth? And what will life be like after He comes to reign?

In Living in the Millennium, the companion volume to Living in the Eleventh Hour, author Robert L. Millet opens the doors wide to show us what life will be like during and after the Millennium. Relying on the words of ancient and modern prophets, he shares what has been revealed about Christ’s preliminary appearances, His return in majesty and power, and His millennial reign—a thousand years of goodness and peace.

Filled with insights, this timely book helps us to understand more fully such eternal doctrines as the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the Judgment, and the many mansions of glory.

Living in the Millennium inspires us to live today as if the Savior were coming tomorrow.


Living in the Millennium is a worthwhile read for anyone who is curious about what life during the Millennium will be like for humankind. The book isn’t long–107 pages of reading followed by Notes, Glossary (which is educational reading itself), Sources, Scripture Index, and Subject Index–but it contains an encompassing overview of revelation regarding the Millennium provided by the scriptures and prophets, both ancient and modern-day.

There are three main sections: Before the Millennium, The Millennium, and Beyond the Millennium. The Atonement, the Second Coming, the Resurrection, Eternal Life, and more are discussed, with several scriptures and quotes, including revelation given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon regarding the degrees of glory.

I started out notating paragraphs of interest, but was soon pulled into the subject matter and forgot all about taking notes. I will definitely be reading it again to find those areas that provided both warning and hope to me. I think it is an excellent companion book to Living in the Eleventh Hour, and the more powerful of the two, at least for me personally.

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About the Author: Robert L. Millet, a former dean of religious education at BYU, is a professor emeritus of ancient scripture. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU in psychology and his PhD from Florida State University in religious studies. He has served as a bishop, stake president, and a member of the Materials Evaluation Committee. Brother Millet is a beloved speaker and the author of numerous books. He and his wife Shauna, are the parents of six children.

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Jul 142014

thepracticalprepper The Practical Prepper: A Common-Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies

Authors: Kylene and Jonathan Jones

Publisher: Cedar Fort

Published: May 2014

Paperback/Kindle: 368 pages

Genre: Nonfiction/Emergency Preparedness

ISBN# 978-1462113828

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: received a free digital review copy in exchange for an honest review

Summary (Goodreads)

Earthquakes, hurricanes, civil unrest, economic challenges – no one knows when disaster may strike. Will you be ready? The Practical Prepper is a common-sense guide to emergency preparedness and survival written for real people with real lives. This must-have reference book walks the reader through each step of emergency preparedness covering everything from cooking in a crisis, to home security and protection, to emergency water disinfection. You can be prepared for the challenges the future holds. The Practical Prepper will show you how.


The Practical Prepper accomplishes its goal of presenting practical ways to achieve a higher level of preparedness in a varying number of living situations. It begins with the basics then expands into more in-depth methods for long-term or extreme circumstances, providing a “line upon line” style progression for readers to consider and implement as they continue on their preparedness journey. There are several pages of sources in the “Notes” section at the end of the book for those who would like to read more on the subjects addressed in each chapter.

The authors are thorough and flexible in their coverage of needs and options to fulfill those needs. They respect each other’s different opinions on what is “enough” yet still consider the other’s requirements for feeling secure.They have experimented with several of the products, circumstances, and methods they discuss in their book. They are honest about their results as well, which I appreciate. They also link to several resources on their blog to help readers become more prepared for emergencies.

What you won’t find here are detailed lists of exactly what to store. The authors do give general recommendations and offer sources of where to find more information, but they know that there isn’t one perfect food storage or preparedness plan that will fit everyone. They aren’t rigid in their recommendations or forceful in their opinions. They are, however, emphatic about safety and doing whatever works best for the reader.

A first I felt a little overwhelmed and depressed at the long list of disasters that could happen and the direness of what my circumstances would be if any of them happened today. I know my family is far from prepared to survive for long if the worst were to happen.

However, as I continued reading The Practical Prepper, I started to feel more empowered to take steps to change that. I may not ever be as self-sustaining as someone who lives on a farm with a root cellar and a huge garden, but I don’t need to be to improve my family’s chances of survival.

I read this book cover to cover, curious about the suggestions the authors presented for each circumstance. I was inspired, shocked, and entertained by some of the examples given of how other people have planned for emergencies. (The Chunky soup and rice idea sure makes it easy to knock out at least one or two dinners a week in my emergency menu plan, though!)

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to be more prepared for an emergency. It’s a resource I think “preppers” of all levels will find useful. I am definitely more inspired to get my preparedness show on the road, and I thank Kylene and Jonathan for their efforts to educate others on how to not just survive, but thrive, in an emergency.

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May 292014

Lincoln Hypothesis_cover The Lincoln Hypothesis

Author: Timothy Ballard

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published: June 2014

Hardcover/Kindle/Nook/ebook: 264 pages

Genre: Religious Nonfiction

ISBN# 978-1-60907-863-8

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: free hardcover copy in exchange for an honest review

Summary (Deseret Book)

Abraham Lincoln became the sixteenth US president during a very dark time in America’s history. Author Timothy Ballard explores the crucial role that President Lincoln played to bring this nation closer to heaven. Readers will see Lincoln as a man inspired of God who invoked a covenant relationship between America and its maker—not unlike the national covenants invoked by righteous leaders in the Book of Mormon. In addition, The Lincoln Hypothesis reveals documented evidence that Abraham Lincoln did, in fact, check out the Book of Mormon as he struggled with making some of the most critical decisions of his presidency. Did he read it? Did it influence him? Was the Book of Mormon a key factor in Lincoln’s success and the healing of a nation?

The author states, “As you read, you will, like a prosecutor reviewing a case, or like a jury determining a verdict, identify valuable pieces of evidence that can be fully substantiated. You will also identify pieces of evidence that cannot. I ask you to consider all the evidence and weight it accordingly. Through this study, many questions regarding the interplay between the restored gospel and the Civil War will be answered. New questions may emerge that will not be so easily answered. Either way, in the end you will find yourself on a most exhilarating investigative journey.”


I finished The Lincoln Hypothesis in one sitting. Once I started reading, I was intrigued and didn’t want to stop. The author’s life experiences and study give him a unique perspective on the subjects discussed in this book.

While I am not a scholar of US history, I do enjoy reading about it. However, I have never before considered Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War quite this way.  I enjoyed the writing style and voice of the author. My curiosity and the presentation of events kept me interested to the end.

Obviously there is no way to know beyond a doubt whether Abraham Lincoln actually read the Book of Mormon, but the evidence, as presented by the author, is quite convincing. Whether he did or not, that Lincoln was a man of God is undeniable. It was worth the read for me simply to learn a little more about the man that lead our country during such a tumultuous time.

One of the places where The Lincoln Hypothesis held the most power for me was in Chapter 12: “Answering the Critics.” Here, the author makes some excellent points, especially for LDS critics of Lincoln. Due to the nature of his work, the author has no qualms about bringing the matter to a personal level and it makes a powerful impact.

He also gets down to the heart of things for us in current times. Below is only one of many quotes that stood out to me:

The people of Lincoln’s day learned the hard way what we Americans need to learn immediately, particularly as we continue to legislate and codify immorality in the land. They learned that things will turn out very badly if man attempts to amend or reinterpret the American covenant. One cannot employ darkness under the banner of God’s promised land.  –page 176

Perhaps the most important points made by the author are that we live in a covenant nation, these covenants were made by the early leaders of this nation, and we are responsible for honoring and upholding these covenants or we will bring upon ourselves the consequences of breaking them. Whether you believe that Lincoln read the Book of Mormon or not, Latter-day Saints know, through our study of the Book of Mormon, that this country is a land of promise and those nations who have previously broken covenants with God on this continent have suffered horrible and tragic fates.

I have been inspired to read more about Abraham Lincoln, and intend to do so with the prophesies of prophets like Isaiah, Mormon, and Joseph Smith in mind.  I recommend The Lincoln Hypothesis to anyone interested in history or curious about the parallels between Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln.

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