Apr 072014

FortuneCookie Fortune Cookie

Author: Josi S. Kilpack

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published: March 2014

Softcover/Kindle/Nook/Audio: 356 pages

Genre: Culinary Mystery/Mystery-Suspense

ISBN# 9781609077877

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: received a free hardcopy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary (Goodreads)

Sadie Hoffmiller has always liked things to be just so. A place for everything and everything in its place. Order over chaos. And of all things Sadie should be able to control, her own wedding is at the top of the list. With the big day just three weeks away, Sadie is busily adding the perfect final touches to her wedding plans. But the arrival of a mysterious letter that bears a San Francisco postmark and no return address could change everything. The only person Sadie knows in San Francisco is her older sister, Wendy, whom she hasn’t seen or heard from since their mother’s funeral nearly fifteen years ago. Sadie has faced off with murderers and crooks in recent years, yet the potential of her sister reentering her life is both overwhelming and frightening. But, as Sadie soon discovers, the letter is just the beginning. Wendy’s world turns out to be a place of unanswered questions, twisted truths, and more than one motive for murder.


In Fortune Cookie, book eleven in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series, readers join Sadie in San Francisco, her sister’s place of residence for many years. My husband and I honeymooned in San Francisco, so it was great to revisit the city with Sadie and Pete.

Sadie never got along well with her sister. Wendy left home when Sadie was twelve, and other than a handful of interactions, there wasn’t much of a relationship between the two women. It was interesting to get to know more about Sadie, her childhood, and her family. She isn’t the only one struggling with difficult issues though. With only three weeks to the wedding, Pete finds himself facing some situations he didn’t expect as well. My heart was aching for both he and Sadie.

I love that, even after so many books, I feel like I am still getting to know Sadie. Josi’s hard work keeping characters interesting and plots mysterious pays off every time. I really had no clue who was going to be the bad guy until it was revealed, though I had a running list that changed often, sometimes from chapter to chapter. This series is one of the few I’ve read where I haven’t figured out who the villain is well before the big reveal.

What I appreciate even more than an unguessable antagonist are well-written characters. More than just description and dialogue, each character’s interactions, concerns, weaknesses, efforts, and motivations are relatable and believable, even those we only meet briefly in the course of Sadie’s investigation. The reader can’t help but feel the emotion and suspense the story is designed to evoke.

The Sadie Hoffmiller series is one of my absolute favorites. As sad as I am that it is winding down, I’m looking forward to Wedding Cake, the last book in the series due to be released in Fall 2014. There is a cliffhanger chapter from Wedding Cake at the end of Fortune Cookie that’s going to keep me on edge all summer. Thanks a lot, Josi. ;)

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Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 4/30/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Mar 252014

TheHusbandWhisperer The Husband Whisperer

Author: Kevin Kinckley

Publisher: CFI/Cedar Fort, Inc.

Published: March 2014

Paperback: 144 pages

Genre: Religious Nonfiction/Marriage

ISBN# 978-1-4621-1384-2

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: free digital PDF copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review


Manipulation, threats, and anger only lead to harm and hurt feelings. Horse whisperers know that the best way to communicate in relationships is with a touch of gentleness. In The Husband Whisperer, Kevin Hinckley (MEd, LPC) shows women how to use their divine nature and to listen to the Spirit in order to bring peace into their marriages.


Horse whispering has always fascinated me. I love watching horse whisperers at work. They have immense amounts of patience (which I don’t have) and a deep understanding of horses (which I also don’t have). They seem to know the animals better than the horses know themselves. They put themselves in the horses’ place, opening their hearts and minds to the needs and fears of some of God’s most beautiful creatures. In order to do what they do, they must love the horses, and put the animals’ concerns and feelings before their own desires to get the job done and get it done quickly.

Read that first paragraph again, substituting the word “husband” or “children” for horses, and you will understand where I was before reading The Husband Whisperer.

While I received encouragement to keep doing what is working in my marriage relationship, I was even more inspired to apply these principles to other relationships in my life, particularly my children–especially my teenagers. In fact, I believe a more appropriate title for this book would be The Family Whisperer, or even The People Whisperer.

When I first started reading The Husband Whisperer, I expected it to be more of a specific and detailed situational how-to book. For example, when your hubby does this, this is what he was thinking, and now you understand him better. In actuality, it is more personal and inspiring to me than that formulaic example. Through an easy-to-read, personable writing style and a touch of humor, the author strives to help women recognize their value and worth. He encourages women to see their divine nature and understand that their role is equally important in marriage as their husband’s role.

I appreciate how he explains, in scriptural context, that the term “preside” as used in The Family: A Proclamation to the World means to “watch over” rather than be the big boss man (my words, not the author’s).  I love his example of a fortress with two leaders of equal rank. One is charged with maintaining the outer defenses and watching for dangers, the other is responsible for the care of the people and supplies inside the fortress. Both stewardships are equal in significance, neither role is less important than the other, each requires a different yet essential set of skills, and they cannot effectively fulfill their assigned roles without each other.

There is so much more here than marital counsel, which felt like a smaller though still important part of the book. The author focuses on spiritual subjects such as heavenly communication, forgiveness, self-image, having convictions, seeking the Spirit, and listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. All of these aspects play an integral role in how we see ourselves and how we interact with others.

The Husband Whisperer is not heavy on marital advice. It certainly isn’t a book on husband manipulation. Instead it encourages women to recognize their spiritual talents, their divine worth, and their immense influence on those around them. By developing the spiritual attributes in which women are physiologically designed to excel, we can exemplify love and strength. We can teach our children with conviction and with the Spirit. We can be husband whisperers, children whisperers, family whisperers, people whisperers.

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Mar 172014

PowertoBecome Power to Become: Spiritual patterns for pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ

Author: David A. Bednar

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published: March 2014

Hardcover: 194 pages

Genre: Religious Nonfiction

ISBN# 978-1-60907-859-1

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: received a free hardcover review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary (Deseret Book)

As followers of Christ, our desire is to become like Him. In fact, we have been commanded to do so. But how?

In Power to Become, Elder David A. Bednar explores how the Savior makes possible His divine commission, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).

Chapters in this thought-provoking book highlight the importance of the Atonement, the spiritual gift of personal peace, the importance of priesthood ordinances, and the responsibility we have to obey willingly and endure valiantly.

“As we increase in learning about the Savior and His gospel,” Elder Bednar writes, “as we strive with ever greater consistency to act in His doctrine, ordinances, and covenants, then we are blessed with power through His Atonement to increasingly become like Him.” Power to Become introduces vital tools we all can use to invite these eternally significant blessings into our lives.


Power to Become expands on the principles taught by Elder Bednar in his previous books, Increase in Learning and Act in Doctrine, but readers need not have read these first two books to be inspired and taught by this one.

Power to Become is formatted to be studied section by section, with large margins for notes, questions to consider at the end of each chapter, and pages for documenting the reader’s questions, answers, thoughts, and inspirations. At first I hesitated at the thought of writing in this beautiful book, but soon I was putting my pencil to use. Nearly every page is marked with underlines, stars, brackets, and comments in the margins.

I love Elder Bednar’s approach to learning and studying the gospel. It is plainly spoken and easy to understand. I have been focusing on obedience the last few months, so “Chapter 3: Power to Become, Priesthood Ordinances, and Willing Obedience” is the most heavily marked chapter in my book. Elder Bednar speaks of finding peace, having faith in Christ, praying for strength to endure rather than to be spared our trials, and enduring valiantly, as well as the importance of priesthood ordinances and covenants.

There are relevant quotes and hymns shared in each section, and the questions Elder Bednar asks after each chapter made me ponder and take time to seriously consider my answers. They would also make great discussion questions for family time around the dinner table or in Family Home Evening with older children, couples, or groups.

I appreciate the new perspective and the strengthening of my testimony that have come from studying this book. I highly recommend Power to Become, as well as Increase in Learning and Act in Doctrine, as a way to better understand the gospel and grow closer to the Savior.

Watch Power to Become video discussions at http://seek.deseretbook.com/ldspowertobecome

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Feb 252014

LongingforHome_HopeSprings Longing For Home: Hope Springs

Author: Sarah M. Eden

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published: February 2014

Softcover/Kindle: 416 pages

Genre: Historical Romance

ISBN# 978-1-60907-810-2

Reviewed by: Shanda

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

Summary (Goodreads)

All is not well in Wyoming. Katie Macauley gave up her life-long dream of returning to Ireland in order to make a home for herself in Hope Springs, but her future has never been so uncertain. The town is more divided than ever, with both the Irish and the Reds stealing property, burning buildings, and endangering lives.

Katie’s heart remains sharply divided between her love for playful Tavish and steady Joseph, a decision she feels ill-prepared to make. In the midst of the growing unrest, temperatures drop quickly, too quickly, and Irish nightmares of famine and cold resurface as the little Wyoming town struggles to beat the harsh winter.

Katie makes one sacrifice after another to keep the peace and help see her loved ones through the difficult days ahead, but will it be enough? Can the town make amends before their hatred consumes them all? And will Katie find the love she has been searching for as well as a home to call her own?


As with the first book, Longing For Home, I feel inadequate to express how much I enjoyed Hope Springs. I devoured every word of it. The wait to read the conclusion of Katie’s story was bittersweet for me. I longed to know how things would turn out for her, yet I didn’t want my time in Hope Springs to end.

I was pulled into the story from the first sentence. The townspeople’s struggle with pride, resentment, hate, compassion, and forgiveness makes this more than a good romance. I don’t remember turning any pages except for the last one because that meant it was over. Things ended as I hoped they would, even if the journey was more difficult and heartbreaking than I expected.

Hope Springs is a satisfying conclusion to a well-loved series. If I could have one wish, it would be to visit Hope Springs again in the future through another character. The Longing For Home series has become an all-time favorite of mine and I highly recommend it.

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Feb 242014

TheOrchard The Orchard

Author: Krista Lynne Jensen

Publisher: Covenant Communications

Published: April 2013

Paperback/Kindle/ebook: 245 pages

Genre: LDS Contemporary Romance

ISBN# 978-1608611454

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: purchased my own copy with my own money at LDStorymakers 2013

Summary (Goodreads)

On the idyllic shores of Flathead Lake, Montana, Alisen Embry finds purpose and comfort tending her late mother’s cherry orchard adjacent to the family’s beloved lake house. Though pained by the loss of her mother and her father’s estrangement, it is Derick Whitney—the man she fell in love with four years earlier—who truly influences Alisen’s view of her future . . .

Derick and Alisen wanted nothing more than to spend eternity together; however, intolerance and secrets forced Alisen to make a shattering choice between her family and the man she loved.

But destiny always has a way of setting things right . . .

Now the Embry family has found themselves hopelessly in debt, and they realize renting the lake house is the only hope of saving the cherished orchard and family home. When Alisen discovers the new tenants have a connection to her past, her life takes an unexpected turn. Will fate find a way to reconnect what was broken so many years before?


I might as well start out by saying that Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. It’s not perfect (especially not the movies — that’s for another post), but…that letter. I mean, wow. It sets my heart aflutter, though not as much as The Orchard did. My, oh my.

Honestly, I had forgotten that The Orchard was based on the basic story of Persuasion but recognized it soon after I started reading. That made me doubly excited. Not only was I finally getting to read the long-awaited book that had been staring at me from my bookshelf, but it was based on PERSUASION!

The Orchard starts off with the budding romance of Alisen and Derrick, something we don’t get to witness with Anne and Captain Wentworth. There are some lovely romantic moments between them and everything is moving along exceptionally well. That is until certain events, as well as her widowed father and a family friend, complicate matters and Alisen is forced into a heartbreaking decision.

When her family’s financial situation becomes desperate a few years later, Alisen and Derrick come face to face once more. The tension and chemistry is running high between Derrick and Alisen, easing only a little as circumstances continue to throw them together. They discover they have both changed–grown–since that summer years earlier. The question is whether these changes will bring them close once again or drive them further apart.

Even if Persuasion isn’t your cup of herbal tea, you’ll want to read The Orchard. Great romance, thoughtful writing and a touch of humor have earned The Orchard a place on my Favorite Romances bookshelf. Next up — Falling for You, which is signed and waiting as motivation for me to finish another category of Whitney reading.

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Feb 172014

LivingInEleventhHour Living in the Eleventh Hour

Author: Robert L. Millet

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published: January 2014

Hardcover/Deseret Bookshelf: 146 pages

Genre: Religious Nonfiction

ISBN# 978-1-60907-409-8

Reviewed by: Shanda

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

Summary (Goodreads)

Just as the scriptures teach us that the Second Coming of the Lord will be “at midnight” (Matthew 25:6), so the signs of the times teach us that “midnight” is close at hand. In Living in the Eleventh Hour, author Robert L. Millet points our minds and hearts toward the future-to the glorious day that lies ahead. This encouraging work not only assists us a Latter-day Saints to recognize and better understand the signs of the times but also reminds us of our individual responsibilities as we prepare ourselves and the world for the much-anticipated return of Jesus Christ. Filled with uplifting quotations from Church leaders, insightful scriptural texts, and engaging personal experiences, this timely book inspires us to live today as if He were coming tomorrow. Brother Millet’s faith-building message is clear: Steadfastly doing the small things that allow us to live each day with faith, rather than fear, builds our trust that the Savior’s return to earth to rule and reign will be a glorious and welcome event.


Living in the Eleventh Hour is a fairly quick read. There are several quotes and scriptures cited that I found inspiring in living a more Christ-centered life, which is relevant no matter the dispensation or how near the time of the Second Coming. The author also speaks on establishing Zion wherever we are currently living, beginning inside our own homes. Also, working to share the gospel and save the souls of our spiritual brothers and sisters should be of great importance to us, and accomplishing this work to the best of our ability is the only way we can affect the events of the last days.

We might well ask ourselves, “Our Lord and Savior is coming. What do I need to do today to prepare myself for tomorrow? What efforts can I make now to ensure that when he does come he will see my face with pleasure?”   -page 52

While the message of Living in the Eleventh Hour is inspiring and a good reminder to prepare now and keep our focus on Christ, it touches only lightly on events and details leading up to and surrounding the Second Coming. Those who do a fair amount of gospel-related reading will probably not find much new or eye-opening here. It is an uplifting read, but anyone looking for a more piercing or detailed message related to the Second Coming might find themselves disappointed. Not every book discussing the Second Coming needs to pierce the soul or be detail-specific, however, and readers who appreciate an encouraging read they can finish in a Sunday will enjoy Living in the Eleventh Hour.

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