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.