Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn

The first book took place primarily in the Magic Kingdom. This book ventures into the Animal Kingdom. Suffering a setback in the first book, the Overtakers are determined to foil Walt Disney's plans and ruin the Kingdom Keepers forever. The Overtakers are using the Kingdom Keepers' own technology against them; they have created DHIs of their own. The boundary between real and imaginatory is more difficult than ever before. Worse--if the Kingdom keeprs fall asleep, they can be captured by the Overtakers and trapped forever.

Finn and his friends must recruit the help of the mysterious Amanda to save the parks from their deadliest threat ever. But why is she so mysterious? What secret is she hiding? Who is she? As if their predictment was not already bad, Wayne has gone into hiding and can interact only a little with them.

The Kingdom Keepers must act on blind faith, skill, and wits. They must battle exhaustion. They must battle the invisible. If they do not act fast, the Overtakers will awaken the most terrible villain Walt Disney ever created--the all-powerful Chernabog!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark

I became a big fan of Ridley Pearson after I read Peter and the Starcatchers, which he wrote along with Dave Barry. But what really sold me to this book was the recommendation from my cousin Robin. After I read it, I had to buy the second book. It was very enjoyable!

Finn is an ordinary Disney-loving kid. He is one of five young people chosen to become a DHI--a Disney Host Interactive. They have holograms made of themselves in order to interact with the guests at Disney World. It seems like something innocent and cool. Their families get golden fastpasses. But Finn suddenly finds himself having strange dreams where he is in the park in hologram form. There he meets Wayne. Wayne tells him that he is the leader and he needs to unite with the other kids to fight a terrible threat. While they talk, Finn sees Goofy, Pooh, and Piglet. Wayne gets super excited. He cannot see them.

Finn returns with only two others the next night, all in hologram forms. They talk to Wayne again and learn that as DHIs, they can actually be part of our world, but also part of the animated world. While asleep, they can "cross over" and literally become their DHIs. As proof, Finn and his friends encounter Pirates from Pirates of the Caribbean. They are stealing cars from the Buzz Lightyear ride. When they fire a laser at Finn, it actually burns a hole in his shoulder, and is even there when he wakes up. Suddenly they realize how serious this DHI business really is, especially when Wayne tells them the whole truth.

When Walt Disney was making plans for Disney World, he knew that the power of belief was extraordinary. Things could actually come to life and exist if people believed hard enough. The problem can villains! Finn and his friends soon find themselves battling very real evil forces, fighting to preserve the park and the world. Will they succeed? Do they have what it takes to be the Kingdom Keepers? This book gets FIVE STARS from me!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The final volume in Cornelia Funke's trilogy offered everything that I could hope for. It was a great conclusion to the wonderful story that began on a dark night when three people were pulled from a book into our world. The story continues in the Inkworld as the night gets treacherously darker. The poor are oppressed more than ever and fear lives in the hearts of the people. Their only ray of hope is the White and Black hand of justice. The Bluejay and Black Prince live as gloriously as Robin Hood and his merry men, robbing from the rich to feed the poor. But their charade is quickly put to an end when the Piper, the silver-nosed villain, comes to the village and threatens to take away all the children to work in the deadly mines unless the Bluejay surrenders himself to the law.

Meggie and those she holds dear to herself are suddenly thrown in the face of danger again. More than ever loyalties are tried and tested. Betrayal roams among them like a deadly shark and they never know where it will strike. Who can be trusted? Does anything in this world really exist, or is it all just made of ink? At what point does someone's personal life become more important than the person's obligation? Or does it? Such questions are thoroughly explored throughout the book. It is masterfully written and extremely captivating. I would love to shake Cornelia Funke's hand and congratulate her for a very fine piece of work.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


After reading Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, which I loved (in case you couldn't tell from my earlier blog), I had to read the rest of the trilogy. This book was better, if that's possible, than Inkheart. It explored so many issues!!! What is real and what isn't? What are the limits for abusing power? Are our roles pre-determined, or do we choose what roles we will play in life? What is the true meaning of sacrifice? Where does dedication end?

I won't spoil too much, but read the following at your own risk.

After being pulled into our world, Dustfinger finally finds a way back into the world of Inkheart, which is sometimes called the Inkworld. He leaves behind Farid, which makes him disappointed, but he is soon able to adapt into what he thought would be his normal life. But, to his dismay, a lt has happened as a result of his, Capricorn's, and Basta's disappearance ten years earlier. Even one of his daughters has died.

His life only gets more complicated when Meggie reads herself and Farid into the Inkworld, and later when the Magpie and Basta bring Mo and Resa into the Inkworld. The Magpie shoots Mo and leaves him for dead. Fenoglio tries to write everything back in order, only to have everything take a turn for the worst as they face a greater threat than Capricorn ever was. Friendships are tested as they must face death itself to save everything that means the most to them.

I became so involved with this book that I had to stop reading it at night or else I didn't sleep well and just dreamt that I was in the story. When I finally finished the book, I was so sad that I had tears in my eyes. I wish I could thank Cornelia Funke in person for such a wonderful book!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Last Battle

This is the seventh and final installment of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. It is also one of my absolute favorites. Aslan has not been seen for centuries. Everything is just as it should be in the land until one day a very clever and sinister ape finds a dead lion. He skins the beast and puts the skin on a donkey and makes the donkey pretend to be Aslan. He then goes on to join forces with Narnia's enemies and combines Aslan with the god they worship to create Tashlan, an abomination since Tash basically represents the devil. They go about deceiving most of the people. When the King of Narnia resists, along with some faithful animals, they are captured or driven away. While captured, the king suddenly finds himself in a room filled with people. They were Diggory and Polly, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, Eustace, and Jill. All those who had been to Narnia (except Susan), were having a sort of Narnia reunion. When they see the king in the corner, they know they must get back to Narnia somehow. Before their plan can get into motion, Eustace and Jill find themselves in Narnia and are able to free the king. Everything leads to a great, terrible, last battle.

But when pushed through a door, Eustace and Jill (and the king) find themselves in a pleasant country, along with Diggory and Polly and the Pevensies (minus Susan). They are told to go upward and inward and as they do they begin to meet people they know. King Caspian, the Beavers, Reepicheep, even Mr. Tumnus. During their journey they meet a soldier that was an enemy to Narnia. But he tells them he is confused. All his life he served Tash and did all the good he could, only to find that Aslan was the real person to be worshipped. But then he tells them that Aslan found him and said that all the good done in Tash's name is really service to Aslan, whereas all the evil done in Aslan's name is really service to Tash. The soldier joins the party until they reach a beautiful scene. They see a world that is Narnia and England. It is everything good about both places with none of the bad. It is Aslan's country. It is a perfect world. A unicorn puts it best: "I have come home at last. This is my real country! I belong here."

Then they meet Aslan. Lucy gets tears in her eyes and Aslan says, "You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." Lucy responds, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." Aslan replies, "No fear of that...The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." What happens next can be said best only in the words of C. S. Lewis:

"And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

What a description of Celestial glory! What a description of the joyful reunion with all those we love! What a paradise! "The dream is ended: this is the morning." I long for that day! Whenever I read this book I have tears in my eyes. It is just so beautiful to me. What a masterpiece! Thank you, C. S. Lewis, for sharing this treasure with the world!

The Silver Chair

The sixth book of C. S. Lewis's series is the first book since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that does not feature any of the Pevensie children. This time Eustace returns to Narnia with his new friend Jill. They are sent to Narnia and Jill is almost immediately given an assignment by Aslan. King Caspian's son and heir to the throne has been kidnapped. They are to find him. They go off on their quest, but they are easily distracted multiple times. Jill was given four signs by Aslan and did not obey three of them. One night Aslan has to appear to her to remind her of her quest. She feels awful and almost ruins their entire mission, risking their lives in the process. At the end of the story, Jill again meets up with Aslan and is almost ashamed to meet him. because of all the mistakes she made. But then Aslan says to her, "Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia."

I love this imagery of the Savior. Throughout the book, Jill feels chastened for what she is doing wrong (or not doing what she should). But each time she was chastened, it wasn't to punish her. It was to put her on the right track. In the end, through the chastisement, Jill was able to do the work she was sent to do, and was lovingly received by Aslan. Each of us makes mistakes and we fall from the path. Fortunately God loves us and so He chastens us and helps us become better people. In the end, if we heed the chastisement and improve and learn to do His will, He will also welcome us into His warm embrace and say, "Well done. You have done the work for which I sent you to Earth."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The fifth book of C. S. Lewis's series was one of my absolute favorites when I was younger. In this book, they travel to various islands, each with something magical and dangerous. They meet up again with King Caspian, who is leading this voyage. Only this time, it is only Lucy and Edmund who come, along with their obnoxious cousin Eustace. Eustace is a horrible brat and a jerk. Then, one day on an island, he becomes a dragon. He quickly becomes sorry for his behavior and he longs to be with the rest of the crew, but they cannot take a dragon aboard. Then, one night, a Lion comes into the camp and tells Eustace to follow him. The Lion leads him to a pool of water. Eustace knows that if he goes in he will feel much better. But before he is allowed to enter, the Lion (who you must guess is Aslan) tells him to shed his skin. Eustace tries a couple of times, but can never shed enough. Finally Aslan offers to help. He digs his claws deep into Eustace's back. It is painful, but he rips off the skin and throws Eustace into the lake, where he then emerges as a boy again. The lesson? No matter how much we try to do things for ourselves, only the Savior can make the final difference.

Later on, the sailors are sailing through a pitch-black sky with horrible screams and nightmarish voices echoing across the waters. They are all terrified and about to give into despair. Lucy, always the most faithful, prays to Aslan for help. Suddenly a beam of light falls upon the ship and from it descends an albatross, which whispers to Lucy, "Courage, dear heart." She knew the voice to be Aslan's. By following that light and the path set out by Aslan, they are able to escape from that horrible place.

At the end, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace find themselves on the brink of Aslan's country. There they meet Aslan, who tells them that the way that they will enter in is from their world. Lucy asks if he will show them, and he responds, "I shall be telling you all the time." He then informs Lucy and Edmund that they will never return to Narnia. They are both heartbroken and cry out in despair. Lucy tells him that they won't miss Narnia so much as they will miss him. Aslan then says, "But you shall meet me there, child." Edmund asks if he is in our world too, and Aslan says, "I am. But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This is the reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me better here for a little, you may know me better there."

This is where we learn that Aslan really is a symbol for Jesus Christ. Everything he does teaches us about the Savior. That is why I love The Chronicles of Narnia so much. They ring with truth in every page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prince Caspian

The fourth book in C. S. Lewis's series has become better known since the movie came out. To me, this book teaches about faith in the Lord, even when you cannot see His plans for you. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are again called back to Narnia to save it from a race of men that is determined to destroy Old Narnia with all the beautiful creatures that Aslan created. The woods have become silent, the magical creatures have disappeared, and talking animals seem extinct. However, with the rise of Prince Caspian, Old Narnia has a chance to win the fight, but only if the great Kings and Queens of Narnia return. When Susan's ancient horn is blown, the four siblings are called back to the ancient castle at Cair Paravel.

During their journey to find Prince Caspian, Lucy sees Aslan and excitedly tells the others that they need to follow him. But since her siblings can't see Aslan, they don't believe her, with the exception of Edmund. They continue on their path, only to find it is a dead end. Having lost a lot of time, they must retrace their steps and follow the route Lucy originally suggested. That night, Aslan visits Lucy and chastizes her for not following him. When she protests that her siblings didn't believe her, Aslan growls and she humbly says, "You mean that it would have turned out all right-somehow?" But Aslan replies that nobody is ever told what would have happened. Then he tells her to wake the others. He tells her that the only way to find out what will happen is to do it and see. Her siblings grudgingly follow her. Then, slowly, one by one, they are all able to see Aslan.

This book teaches that the Lord has a way prepared for us. It may not seem like the most logical way, but it is the best way. We must have faith in Him and follow the course He has set before us. That is the only way that we can know what will happen; it is the only way to know what the Lord has planned for us. It requires faith, but just like the Pevensie children, we will eventually see that the Lord truly is leading us forward in our lives.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Horse and His Boy

When I was younger, this book bored me. I thought it was the weakest of all the books in C. S. Lewis's series. When I read it shortly after I returned home from my mission, however, my attitude changed completely! The book is about a boy named Shasta. He was raised by a fisherman who always treated him poorly. Shasta discovers a horse named Bree from Narnia and decide to run away together to Narnia. On the way, they encounter terrible threats. He spends a night alone among tombs with only a cat for company, while he hears the howls of jackals and the roar of a lion. The threats seem to mount continuously and he and his friend are even attacked by a lion while they are hurrying to warn a king about an upcoming attack. At one point, Shasta finds himself alone, riding a horse that couldn't talk in the misty fog. He is feeling very somber when he suddenly realizes that somebody, or someTHING is walking by him.

'"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.
"One who has waited long for you to speak."' replies the voice.

The THING then talks to Shasta, who exclaims, "I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!" and the THING instructs him to tell of his sorrows. "So he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them...

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.
"There was only one lion," said the Voice.
"How do you know?"
"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

I wish I could go on with the passage to the moment where Shasta has a sacred moment with the lion the reader must recognize as Aslan. I love how the many things that Shasta viewed as trials were actually blessings. The same is true for us. So many of our challenges are actually blessings. We just can't see the final result yet. But one day each of us will have a sacred moment with the Savior and He will show us everything. This reminds me of a Portuguese hymn called "Agora Não mas Logo Mais." Perhaps that will appear soon on my music blog. The point is, the Savior is watching over us and all of our experiences will work out for our good if we have faith in Him.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The second book in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series (but the first one that he actually wrote) is a timeless classic. It is also a culmination of Christian symbolism with the depiction of the Savior's Atonement. It all begins when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy enter the wonderful world of Narnia, only to find that it is under the control of the evil witch Jadis, who is now called the White Witch. She makes it so that it is always winter and never Christmas. Peter, Susan, and Lucy learn that they are to meet Aslan, who is coming to destroy the witch once and for all, bringing summer with him. Edmund, however, has allied himself with the witch, having become addicted to her food. He betrays them, but is eventually rescued by Aslan's army, just as the witch is about to kill him.

However, the White Witch demands that Edmund be returned to her. Traitors belong to her, just as sinners belong to Hell. The law demands that such be surrendered. Aslan, however, subjects himself to Edmund's fate, suffering in his place. He allows his mane to be shaved as he suffers humiliating treatment from the witch and her subjects. Then he is killed, much to the horror of Lucy and Susan, who are watching close by. Their sadness is turned to great joy, however, when Aslan resurrects in the morning. He has paid the price for Edmund, has conquered death itself, and now brings back with him others that have been killed by the witch (she turns people into stone). Returning with his glorious, resurrected army, Aslan encounters the witch's army and personally kills her. Likewise, Christ died for all sinners, but resurrected three days later, along with the fallen saints. He has conquered all. Upon seeing Aslan and embracing him, Lucy and Susan cry out, "You're real!" Jesus is real, and He is alive.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Magician's Nephew

Alright! Time to talk about my favorite books of all time! The next seven weeks I will talk about each book from C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I love these books so much, and I have ever since I first read them as a kid. The Magician's Nephew, while not the first book C. S. Lewis wrote for the series, is a wonderful introduction to Narnia, mostly because it is the book where Narnia is created.

C. S. Lewis includes a lot of Christian doctrine in his books. This book talks about the Creation and fall of man. The Savior is depicted by Aslan, the great and mighty lion. He creates Narnia by singing, and you've never heard of a voice so rich and beautiful as his. Once Narnia is created, he calls forth to him Digory Kirke, one of the two main characters of this novel. Digory has brought the evil queen and sorceress Jadis to Narnia, infecting the new world with evil at the dawn of its creation. Aslan says, "Evil will come of this evil . . . and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself." This is foreshadowing his sacrifice, symbolic of the Atonement.

I love the symbolism of Aslan and the Savior. Aslan talks to the Cabby who came with Digory and says, "Son, I have known you long. Do you know me?" The Savior has also known us long, and asks if we know Him. If we are like the Cabby, we will answer that we have not met in the ordinary way, and yet it seems that we have met before. After the Cabby is declared the first king of Narnia, Digory is asked to fulfill a quest that will protect Narnia from the witch for hundreds of years. Before Digory leaves on his quest, he bursts into tears and pleads, "But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?" Digory's mother at that exact moment was dying in her bed. I love the part that follows.

"Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at his face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself." Digory was focusing on the justice of the Lion (the Savior), but when he looked up to see his face, he found compassion. The Savior does not joy in our sorrow. He knows our sorrow. C. S. Lewis does a remarkable job of capturing the love of the Savior and how He knows each person intimately. Even though I have read these books several times, they still bring tears to my eyes as I read about the love the Savior has for each of us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Odds Are You're Going to be Exalted

This book by Alonzo Gaskill is a remarkable book that clarifies why the Plan of Salvation made each of us shout for joy when the Father presented it to us. We generally think that very few people will enter the Celestial Kingdom. Brother Gaskill says he cannot picture our Father saying, "I have a plan that will allow only a handful of you to return and the rest of you will be damned." He especially cannot imagine our reaction being shouting for joy. No, the Father presented a plan that would give us very good chances of returning to Him.

First, the author talks about those who die before they turn eight. As we know from the Doctrine and Covenants, any who die before the age of accountability are automatically heirs of the Celestial Kingdom. The author estimates that about half of the people ever born on the planet died before they turned eight. That means billions of people have automatically been guaranteed a return to our heavenly home. Then he talks about those who die without a knowledge of the Gospel. He uses scriptures and quotes from General Authorities to show that the majority of these people will accept the Gospel in the Spirit World and thus be granted exaltation as well. Indeed, the numbers are stunning of how many will be able to make it back.

The author then states that at times it might not seen fair to us. We didn't die before becoming eight-years-old. We know about the Gospel now. So how is that fair? That is where the Atonement comes in. God is so incredibly generous with His forgiveness and has made it so available that our part seems really small. The Savior has done most of the work for us. We just need to follow in His footsteps. He also argues that since, "Unto whom much is given, much is required," so likewise "Unto whom much is required, much is given." Because more is required of us than those who die early or without a knowledge of the Gospel, we are more abundantly blessed. Not only are we blessed in this life, but even in the next life we will have more experience to help us in our eternal progression. In the end, it all evens out. The majority of our brothers and sisters will indeed return to the Celestial Kingdom. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the way is paved before us and our own exaltation is highly achievable, so long as we strive to remain on the path and consistently repent of all our sins.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In His Steps

This is a book that every Christian needs to read. I don't care what denomination of Christianity you are from, Charles M. Sheldon's book will help you evaluate your life and your dedication to the Lord. This book explores the question, "What would Jesus do?" and takes it to a whole new level of meaning. The book begins with a pastor who is preparing his sermon. He is focusing so hard on what will please his congregation and make him look good, that he neglects to help a homeless man. This man arrives at his church the next day and speaks to the congregation before dying. His words have a strong impact on the pastor. At the next service, he issues a challenge to his members to always ask what Jesus would do and then do it. A select group take him up on his offer, and the rest of the book follows their choices. Some give up fame in order to serve. Others lose money. Many of them are rejected, ridiculed, and despised. Yet they continue in their quest to live as Jesus would have them live.

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine what Jesus would do because it is hard to imagine him doing modern things, such as watching TV, or going to Disneyland. This book succeeds in trying to put Him in a modern setting. For example, one of the people owns a newspaper. Now, I personally can't imagine the Savior printing newspapers all day long. But this man was able to think, "If the Savior were in the newspaper business, what stories would he print?" He then chooses not to include stories that every other newspaper was printing. As time went on, he began to publish more and more stories that recognized the good in the world. It helps me to think, "If the Savior were a custodian, what would He do? If He were an employee at Deseret Book, what would He do?" Following this will make me a better person. The book gives examples of many, many sacrifices that had to be made, but the people found a deeper happiness than anything else could have offered.

I hope that in my life I can do better to follow "in His steps" and live as Jesus would live if He were in my position. I highly recommend this book. It will make you think about your life in a way you've never thought of it before.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hard Times and Holy Places

All of us suffer from trials in this lifetime. Some suffer more than others. Kristen Warner Belcher has certainly had her share. In her lifetime, she has had to have both eyes removed and has also suffered from multiple medical complications. Although she does not deny that she has been through some very bitter times, she has learned how to turn her hard times into holy places. These holy places can be on a hiking trail, in a hospital bed, or in the scriptures. However, the holiest place of all is found in the Savior Jesus Christ.

Reading this book helped me realize just how small my trials are. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I was really touched when I read about the operation that led to the removal of her second eye. Going into the operation, nobody thought her eye would have to be removed. She last saw her husband, merely a silhouette, as she was being led into the operation. To her terrible dismay, she found out later that she would never see again. Without warning, she would never be able to look at her husband or two children. She was devastated. I would be as well if I were in her situation. However, through the love of the Lord, she has been able to learn to enjoy life again. Although she still has some down days, she has found ultimate peace from the Savior. She also acknowledges that although the Savior did not always heal her (though in some instances he had), He did give her the strength to endure the challenges.

The book is very easy to read. I almost felt like I just sat down with the author as she told me about her life. Her humor is also very evident in the book and I laughed at a couple of her jokes. I really appreciated reading about somebody else's trials and how I can improve my reaction to the trials I experience, which do not compare to hers. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Behind Every Good Man

This last week I finished John Bytheway's newest book: Behind Every Good Man. I actually started reading it because of the store meeting I had at Deseret Book last week. It sounded good and I like John Bytheway, so I picked it up. Even though I'm not yet married, I learned a lot from it that will help me while I am dating.

The book is geared to improve marriages and is mostly written for women. It is designed to help women understand how men think and how to help them progress without criticizing them or nagging them, since both methods are very ineffective. However, being a guy, I was able to learn more about how women think and react based on the issues that the author addresses. I also learned ways that I can improve myself.

My favorite part of the book talked about the need to see one's spouse through Heavenly Father's eyes. Sometimes we, as mortals, tend to focus on the negative and on the lack of improvement. We need to take a step back and see the value that the person has in our Father's eyes. The author suggests that the best way to do this is to read your spouse's patriarchal blessing. He quotes someone else who said that you will never find a patriarchal blessing that says, "I'm sorry. You're a loser." The author said that whenever he reads his wife's blessing he always thinks, "Wow! I married someone really special!" I really liked this part. Whether or not I am in a position where I ought to read someone else's blessing, I want to do better at seeing what the Lord sees in the person.

This book is very easy to read, has John Bytheway's typical humor, and is also very thought provoking. Whether your marriage is strong or needs improving, whether you are male or female, I think this book could prove to be very beneficial. Even as a single man, I still gleaned a lot from it to help me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Peacegiver

When I got home from my mission, my mom presented me with a basket of presents to make up for the Birthdays and Christmases that I missed while I was gone. (Did I complain? Of course not!) I got Darkwing Duck and Goof Troop on DVD, the soundtrack to Wicked, and The Peacegiver by James Ferrell. I read The Peacegiver about a month later as my family was driving down to California. I finished the book, closed it, and thought to myself, "Wow! That was good!" I opened it back to the beginning and read the entire book a second time before we reached our destination.

The book is a parable about the Atonement. It is about a man who is having an argument with his wife. As he goes to bed, he remembers his late grandfather and thinks of how much he admires him. As he drifts off to sleep, his grandfather visits him and takes him back in time to witness firsthand certain events in the scriptures, explaining how those events teach about the Atonement. The events from the scriptures (mostly from the Old Testament) are ones that are not usually mentioned, so it is neat to see how everything is meant to teach about the Savior.

One of the things that I enjoyed the most about The Peacegiver is that the main character is believable. After having this wonderful experience, he is not perfect. In fact, after trying to apply the principles he learned, he fails and quickly returns to the "natural man." Even at the end of the book, the main character is not perfect, but has the determination to do better. I really like this because that is the case for all of us, especially for me. But no matter how many experiences I have with the Atonement, I always mess up and need the Atonement again. But that is the beauty of the Atonement: it is always there to help us up again.

Another thing I really love about this book is that it talks not only about how the Atonement helps the sinner, but also helps the person sinned against. It is wonderful that it is able to satisfy both sides. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is very easy to read and understand, and I promise your heart will be touched by the Spirit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Only Alien on the Planet

People that know me well would not be surprised to see that I enjoy a book called Only Alien on the Planet. Kristen D. Randle's book, however, is not about a real alien. It is about a boy named Michael, or Smitty, as some people call him. Most just call him "The Alien." His teachers refer to him as absolutely brilliant, but nobody would ever guess for one simple reason: he doesn't talk. He doesn't interact. It's almost as though he really is from another planet.

But everything changes when Ginny meets him. She and Caulder are determined to "socialize" Smitty by asking for his help with homework, taking him to the movies, to parties, etc. But something very weird happens. Smitty leaves in the middle of the movie and runs back home. When Ginny catches him after one movie, she is shocked to see tears running down his cheeks. Smitty is not the emotionless alien everybody thinks he is. Beginning that night, Ginny is about to uncover a terrible secret that has isolated Smitty from the rest of humanity.

Even though I'm a guy, I am not ashamed to admit that this book brought tears to my eyes. Somehow Randle is able to capture emotions in the purest sense to the point where I, as the reader, felt the same emotions as the people in the story. That requires some very good writing. It was almost refreshing to experience those emotions so powerfully. I remember it was drizzling that day and after I read the book I just walked in the rain and pondered on what I read. It touched me that deeply.

Out of all the books I read this last semester, Only Alien on the Planet was one of the best. It is definitely in my top five favorite books of the semester. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

House of Glory

S. Michael Wilcox's book House of Glory is incredible. As you can probably guess by the title and by the picture, it is a book about the temple. What I love about it, though, is that I feel like most of the book is the author's testimony. Of course he is constantly quoting from the scriptures and from general authorities, but the book is also filled with his own experiences in the temple. After giving a history of temples, the author explores the meaning of the temple for him and for all of us. I was really impressed towards the beginning of the book when he mentioned that President Ezra Taft Benson never missed his Friday temple trip, choosing to miss other things instead (such as the inaugaration of the new BYU president).

My favorite part of the book, however, comes towards the end. The author is talking about experiences he has had doing family history work. He talks about learning the history of his ancestors and how he imagines their reactions for their temple work being done. The stories are really touching. But more than that, I love some of the quotes he has from general authorities, such as this one from Elder David B. Haight, "I believe that when you diligently seek after your ancestors-in faith-needed information will come to ou even when no mortal records of their livs are available." Elder Melvin J. Ballard said, "They [your ancestors] know where their records are . . . If there is anywhere on earth anything concerning them, you will find it."

This book really made me want to dedicate myself more to the temple. I have not made it a central part of my life as I should. But I know that if I immerse myself in the Gospel and in family history work, I would mourn if I could not go weekly. One last quote from the book comes from Wilford Woodruff: "If the veil were lifted off the face of the Latter-day Saints, and they could see and know the things of God as they do who are laboring for the salvation of the human family who are in the spirit world . . . , this whole people, with very few, if any, exceptions, would lose all interest in the riches of the world, and instead thereof their whole desires and labors would be directed to to redeem their dead." I hope to catch a glimpse of that vision. This book gave me a resolve to be more spiritually dedicated.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Farworld: Water Keep

What if there existed a world parallel to ours, where similar natural landmarks exist in the same places? What if magic in this parallel world was as natural as breathing and everybody was capable of it? What if this world's life depended on your own? What if someone sent an assassin to kill you? Sound intriguing? Then you had better grab Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage and be ready for a wonderful adventure! Farworld is one of the best books published by Shadow Mountain for young readers. In fact, I might only place Fablehaven higher. The story is told very well, the idea behind the story is brilliant, and the action and anticipation make the book very compelling. I first read Farworld while riding in a car down to California. I loved it immediately!

One of the great things about Farworld is that it appeals just as much to boys as it does to girls. It has two main characters, Marcus and Kyja. Both of them have very different capabilities, but they need to combine their efforts in order to survive. Unfortunately, neither of them can stay in the same world as the other for very long without becoming sick and dying. In order to stay together and fight the dark forces, they need to form a bridge between our world and Farworld. In order to create such a bridge, they need to get the help of the Elementals: Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. Unfortunately, these Elementals do not work together and nobody has ever seen them. In fact, they almost seem to be little more than legend. But Marcus and Kyja do not have much time before everyone they love is killed and the world destroyed.

One of the things I love the most about this book is how it describes the magic inside each of us. Both Marcus and Kyja are outcasts in their own communities because they are not like the rest. Yet both of them possess something that makes them capable of wonderful things. At times, this could be actualy magic. Other times, it could be the power of love and compassion, which sometimes can prove to be more powerful and more useful than any other force in the universe. The book deals with pride and trust. It deals with the critical importance of striving for success in the midst of fear of failure. If you like fantasy for young readers, I recommend you read this book very soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

It only came out on Tuesday, but by Wednesday night I had finished the fourth book in the Fablehaven saga: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary. Brandon Mull is my hero. He published Fablehaven and then just took off running. I have yet to read a fantasy book put out by Shadow Mountain that matches the brilliance of Fablehaven.

The Society of the Evening Star is an evil group determined to unleash a demon that has been trapped, whose freedom would wreak havoc on the entire world. Five magical items are needed in order open the prison. The Evening Star has one. The Knights of the Dawn have another. The race is on between to the two groups to find the other three. Kendra and Seth, brother and sister, have proven themselves valuable to the Knights of the Dawn in their bravery and determination to keep the world safe. Their enemies know their abilities and potential. The Society of the Evening Star is patient and cunning in its goals. Their main weapon is deception, and decption is certainly explored in this novel, as are the issues of trust and betrayal. As the world seems to be falling towards the influence of the Evening Star, who can be trusted? What about former traitors who seem repentant? Can they truly change? Can they ever be trusted again? Now is a critical time to make these decisions, because the latest book in the saga requires our heroes to journey to Wyrmroot, a forbidden sanctuary of dangerous creatures, such as basilisks, griffens, and of course, dragons! Bravery and skill will not be enough to complete their mission. They must trust each other, or there is no hope.

If you have read the other Fablehaven books and haven't picked up the newest yet, hurry and do so! I swear each book gets better than the last, even though I think it's impossible for the next book to be better. If you haven't read Fablehaven yet, shame! You are missing out! Hurry out and buy it, ESPECIALLY if you liked Harry Potter. Fablehaven is another wonderful story that appeals to all ages.

Also, as a side note, later this year Brandon Mull is publishing another book called Pingo. The advertisement for it says, "What happens when your imaginary friend turns into your imaginary enemy?" What a great idea! It's totally something I would have done. I'm anxious to buy it, even though it is a children's picture book. I can guarantee that when it comes out, it will have a place on this blog.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Hourglass Door

This book has not yet been released, but around June 16th, hurry to the nearest bookstore and buy The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum. I read an Advanced Reader's Copy from Deseret Book and I absolutely loved it! It was another book that I just could not put down. I read the entire thing in less than five hours. I don't want to give anything away, so I am going to be very careful about how I mention it.

The book is about a girl named Abby. She is a high school senior who has always had her life planned out for her, from her boyfriend to college. But she hates having things so predictable all the time. When she considers going to a different college, her best friend freaks out. When she mentions not going bowling for her birthday, her parents can't believe it. She wants something different! So she gets it. A new boy named Dante arrives at her school. He says he is a foreign-exchange student from Italy. But there is something mysterious about this boy. And what is his connection to the band "Zero Hour" that has arrived to play in town? And why, when she is with him, does time go berserk? Ah! I wish I could tell you, but you have to find out for yourself!

Both the writing and the storytelling in this book are superb. Honestly, I cannot believe that this is Lisa Mangum's first book. The storyline is intriguing with several twists and turns that made me laugh, go wide-eyed, and loudly whisper, "No way!" One of my favorite parts of the whole book was when I got the very end and saw an advertisement for a sequel. I was so excited that there is going to be more!!! Girls will love this book for the romance aspect, especially if they liked Twilight. Boys will like this book because of intriguing history, abilities, and science (and if you're like me, a little romance never hurts as long as it doesn't go too far). Stephanie Meyer, it's time to step aside and allow Lisa Mangum to take the stage. This book has earned her a very prominent and well-deserved position.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nick of Time

For anybody who loves Robert Louis Stevenson and/or historical fiction, I highly recommend Nick of Time by Ted Bell. The title of the book is appropriate in two ways. First of all, Nick has the tendency to come to the rescue or make important decisions in the "nick of time," as the phrase goes. However, the title takes on a whole new meaning when one day Nick finds a sea chest with a time machine inside. Nick literally becomes able to master time and thereby becomes "Nick of Time."

The story takes place in pre-WWII on the Greybeard Island in the English Channel. Nick's father is a spy for Winston Churchill and is keeping watch for Nazi submarines until the government becomes displeased with this "un-asked for" assignment and decides to relocate the entire family to the mainland. Just as this is happening, Nick finds a sea chest from the early 1800s in perfect condition on the beach. That same day he encounters pirates that look like they've come from the early 1800s as well. Only later does Nick discover the chest was sent to him by one of his ancestors, imploring him to travel back in time and save his ancestor's ship and warn Lord Admiral Nelson of the upcoming battle at Trafalgar. Suddenly, Nick and his sister are caught up in two different wars with two deadly enemies in two different times.

Nick of Time deals with the classic morals of honor and heroism. Because Nick has done a lot of reading, he has always imagined what it would be like to be a hero. As he is plunged into the heat of battle, he learns exactly what heroism requires. Heroism and honor both require tremendous sacrifice, especially when the sacrifice seems impossible. Reading the book made me think about my own honor and heroism and has given me the desire to live in an honorable and heroic way. A mark of a good book is one that makes you a better person by having read it. Nick of Time easily fulfills this qualification.

I don't want to give anything else away, but I will say that I could hardly put the book down. It is an adventure story that is extremely well-written and well-told. Again, Ted Bell is a modern Robert Louis Stevenson. His fantastic descriptions made me feel like I was in the heat of the battle as two ships waged war against each other. I could almost taste the gunpowder in the air and hear the sound of swords clashing and the screams of the dying men. Absolutely amazing! I cannot imagine anybody being disappointed with this book. I bought it on a whim and I must say that it has been my best purchase so far this year. It has earned its proud place on my bookshelf, though I can guarantee it won't have much time to collect dust before I decide to read it again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Slathbog's Gold

This week I finished the latest book published for young readers by Shadow Mountairin: Slathbog's Gold by M. L. Forman. The story of the book was very enjoyable. I have told my friends that M. L. Forman is a Tolkien for young readers. His book contains elves, dwarves, dragons, and even wraiths. Many of the adventures reminded me of similar adventures from Tolkien's The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think Slathbog's Gold would be the perfect introduction for young readers to get into Tolkien.

The book is about a teenager named Alex who enters a strange shop one day and immediately finds himself going on an adventure. He is now an Adventurer and he is going with a group of seven others to defeat the evil dragon Slathbog, who has terrorized the land. Alex can barely believe that any of this is real. what adds more to his amazement, when he goes into a shop to select a weapon, the shop owner tells him he qualifies for a staff, something only wizards are able to use. Such is the beginning of Alex's road to find his destiny.

There were only two problems I had with this novel. First of all, everybody laughs ALL THE TIME! Now, don't get me wrong. I love to laugh (Ha ha ha!--sorry, Mary Poppins moment there). But the laughter seems a little too unreal at times. I am glad that the eight people on the adventure are always so happy (except Tayo), but by the end of the book the laughter started to distract me.

My only other qualm is that the story went way too fast. On one hand, though, this could be a compliment on the book. It pulled me into the story so much that when I got to the end I thought, "What? It's already over?" The book says that the whole adventure takes a year, but I didn't feel like it because it went so fast. But again, I must remind myself that I have read Tolkien and this book is written for younger readers. Overall, the book was very enjoyable and it definitely deserves itself place among the other Shadow Mountain books that I love so much: such as Fablehaven, Farworld, and 13th Reality. I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in the fantasy genre.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Inkheart, written by Cornelia Funke, is a masterpiece! I enjoyed this book more than the first three Harry Potter books. The story is about a young girl named Meggie, who one night sees a stranger in front of her house. She tells her father, Mo, about the man and her father is suddenly very serious. The man is called Dustfinger and he calls Mo “Silvertongue.” Much later in the story, Meggie discovers that when her father reads a book out loud, he has the power to bring something from the book into our world. Years earlier, he had accidently read three characters from a book called Inkheart into our world. Besides Dustfinger, he brought Capricorn and Basta, two of the worst villains ever created. The book is about Meggie and Mo’s adventures as they deal with Dustfinger, who only wants to return to his world, and Capricorn, who is determined to rule the world. It’s a great book! I highly recommend it to anybody who likes Fantasy.


One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the book when Meggie and Mo meet the author of Inkheart. As a writer myself, I really enjoyed getting this character’s perspective. When our heroes mention Capricorn, the author says, “Ah, yes! He was the perfect villain!” To which they basically reply, “Yeah, we know. Thanks a lot.” It was fun to see the author’s reactions as he sees his creations come to life, comparing them with how he imagined them and also knowing their unwritten weaknesses.

Another one of my favorite parts of this book is that each chapter begins with a quote from a pre-existing book, such as Peter Pan or The Princess Bride. That quote has something to do with what happens in that chapter. It is absolutely brilliant! I cannot wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Graveyard Book

I guess my first review will be the book I most frequently read. Maybe I'll work backwards a little since I have read so much this semester, though I might interject a few books I've read in the past.

Anyway, my first review is of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It tells the story of Nobody Owens (he goes by Bod), a young mortal boy being raised by ghosts in a graveyard. While in the graveyard, he is capable of certain ghost-like qualities that do not work once he leaves (for example, the ability to walk through walls, or tombstones as the case may be). He is conflicted with the idea of staying in the graveyard or searching for the man named Jack, who killed Bod's parents when he was just a baby.

It is absolute brilliant work. My favorite part about it, though is when Bod is talking to Silas, his guardian about wanting to go out into the world. Silas warns him that the man named Jack is still searching for him, wanting to kill him. Bod replies, "It's only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead." Silas then tells him, "Yes . . . they are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You are alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone . . . That potential is finished."

A book about a boy raised by ghosts makes the reader ponder the meaning of life and all it has to offer. I loved this reflection. I highly recommend this book to anyone. I normally do not like books with ghosts and supernatural creatures, but The Graveyard Book is definitely the exception to the rule.