Book Review Series: Powerful Perennials

Review of Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist

Guest Post by Kalliope. Kalliope is a former college instructor in both written and oral communications courses. She earned an MA in Linguistics from BYU and recently began a PhD program at University of London. She has two naughty kitties that fill her days with glares and snuggles. You can read another post by her here

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens That Thrive in Any Climate


Powerful Perennials is a gardening book focusing on the needs of gardeners in hardier zones, and particularly focusing on the Intermountain West. Nedra Secrist hones in on the needs of garden lovers that live in this harsh, sometimes unpredictable region, which is high in elevation, short of growing season, and experiences sudden and extreme temperature changes.


This book organizes its topics with extremely useful categorizations, with sections dedicated to Cold-Hardy Perennials, Drought-Tolerant Perennials, and Wildlife-Resistant plants. All of these are vital considerations for gardeners in this region, where day-to-night temperature changes can vary by more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, summer months are a long march of blistering heat with the promise of a bit of rain in the autumn, and deer and other wildlife venture into suburban gardens to score a ready meal in the dark of night.


Like many gardening books, the first page dedicated to each species includes pictures, physical description, species name and pronunciation, zoning and light information, and more. But on the second page, each plant is given its own unique voice and introduces itself to the reader! Every plant takes a page to introduce the reader/gardener to its history, medicinal uses, the story behind its name, care instructions, and much more. It was not an approach I had seen before, and certainly not one I was expecting, but I found it truly charming.

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Book Review Series: Rhino Trouble

Rhino_Trouble_CoverPicture books are among my favorite books, so I was delighted when Spunky suggested I read Cedar Fort’s Rhino Trouble for Exponent’s book review series. I was even more delighted when I realized it was written by an old friend of mine, Grant Olsen. He is a truly good person, and that goodness shines bright here. The story itself was inspired by some village children Grant metGrant_Nepal while traveling through a Nepal jungle, and because of that/because of them, he is donating every penny he would otherwise make from Rhino Trouble to a nonprofit called The Umbrella Foundation, which helps vulnerable children in Nepal get housing and education.

Rhino Trouble begins with a young child explaining that his village is in trouble, because the rhinos come and eat all of their crops. Soon after, the boy’s father gives him and his younger brother sticks, and asks them to protect the potatoes. The child is nervous, because he and his brother are small, and the rhinos are big. The father is encouraging. He says, “You’re stronger than you think,” and tells them, “This is your chance to help the village.”

The boys try and fail.

The father responds with kindness. “I know you did your best.” He asks them to try again, this time to protect the radishes. He uses the word, “Please.”

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Book Review Series: The Cookie Companion, a Decorator’s Guide

cookie companion cover

I grew up learning that royal icing is something so impossible to deal with, that only the Martha Stewarts of the world should dare attempt it. I am decidedly not Martha Stewart. In fact, growing up as a Young Woman, I would always make my best friend, Kate, do my piece as well as her’s whenever there was a craft planned for the weeknight activity. It was just going to be cuter that way, and she could whip up two crafts in the time it took the rest of us mere mortals to make one.

So I approached The Cookie Companion with a bit of trepidation. The cookies featured in this book are “ADORABLE” as my five-year old exclaimed when she saw the book, and I’ll admit to dreams of grandeur where I make up my own cookie bouquet as a thank you gift (do you know how expensive cookie bouquets are?!).

Author, Georganne Bell, starts off with the sentence, “Cookies are kind of fantastic.” That easy-going and enthusiastic tone goes on throughout the book, which is good because when it came time for me to tackle the dreaded royal icing, I was able to stop and take a deep breath, channeling her wise words, “Getting the right consistency of icing before you start decorating will be the difference between things ending in tears and ice cream pity parties—and cookies that make you so proud you can’t help but throw open your door and show them to the world.”

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Book Review Series: The Throne of David, what Saturday’s Warrior & Da Vinci Code have in common, Mormon movies, my cute kids, etc.

The Throne of David

The Throne of David begins when teenage boys find a thirty-year-old, undelivered bag of mail. The authorities deliver the long lost parcels, including a letter to the prince of England. The contents of the letter spark a deadly chain of events on both sides of the Atlantic as the rightful heir to the British throne is called into question. The Throne of David is the first novel of Ann Farnsworth, a mother of ten who tells readers that “the stories that have been stewing inside my head as I washed dishes, cooked dinner and helped with homework these last 25 years are bubbling up and out of my fingertips.” But this novel is no reflection of the domestic life the author tells us she was living as she imagined the story. From the moment the teenage boys turn over the mailbag at the beginning of the first chapter, this novel becomes an adult adventure, much too harrowing for children, with characters chasing each other around the world, fighting for their lives, killing each other, and never washing dishes or cooking dinner.

I chose to read the Throne of David after reading some complimentary reviews at Amazon. One of the readers compared it to the Da Vinci Code. That piqued my interest. On her blog, Farnsworth says that the the Da Vinci Code is one of her favorite books, so perhaps she was influenced by it.  Personally, I didn’t feel like the books were similar, other than that both books have a lot of action (violence) and incorporate some elements of religious legend into the crime motive.

The Da Vinci CodeI don’t really enjoy reading violence, but I tolerate it when it is relevant to the plot and the plot is compelling. Maybe it is the compelling plot of the Da Vinci Code that inspired so many other books refuting its “truthfulness.” I read the Da Vinci Code because I was curious why so many people would busy themselves convincing the world that a work of fiction isn’t true. Isn’t that a given? Before I read it, I thought that maybe it was a novel written to appear like a history book, hence the confusion. Nope. It is a novel that reads like a novel. Over a decade later, I am still baffled by the Da Vinci Code controversy.

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Book Review Series: Christmas Bells and Hero Tails

Christmas Bells and Hero Tails


This book immediately appealed to me; I thought reading a children’s Christmas book together as a family would be a fun way to start getting excited about the holidays. My husband agreed, and we planned to read one chapter of this book a night with our daughters. This did not go to plan. After every single chapter, my ears met the most sincere and desperate pleas, “One more chapter, mum…. Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaassssse! I’ll be so good. I’ll share, I’ll eat my whole dinner….please just read one more chapter. I need to know what Buddy does next! Please, mum! Please?”


I had fantasies of my children eating broccoli without argument. Dare I try Brussels sprouts? But no. Although the story was excellent, it was not powerful enough to result in major broccoli-eating.  I didn’t even try the spouts (which is okay, because I don’t like Brussels sprouts). But it did improve in small broccoli bites, which was only one of the delights that came from reading this tale.

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Book Review Series: Ella

EllaGuest Post by Kacee. Kacee is preparing to adopt her 5th child in the next week. (November is National Adoption Month in the US!) She lives in a very rural area in Utah, where life is still simple. She likes helping at the school her children attend. She also enjoys being outdoors with her family. In her spare time she loves to craft, especially making hair bows for her 4 fabulous and amazing daughters.


I was able to attend the author, Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee’s, book launch for this book last weekend. The launch was absolutely wonderful and the author was beautiful, wearing her very own Cinderella dress. I hoped that the booked lived up to what everyone there felt that it would. It did and then some.


This book was very simple to follow, yet amazingly beautiful to read. Without sharing any spoilers, I’ll start: One thing I loved about Ella was how faithful she was to her parents, even though both of her parents had passed away. Ella’s father was a pure example of love to Ella up to the day he died. Ella followed his footsteps and did everything she could to make her father happy, even if it meant beatings and bitter anger towards her from her stepmother and stepsisters. Ella had nothing to remember her parents by. Her stepmother sold everything after Ella’s father died. Everything, that is, except for a small box that contained two items that meant the world to her. She did everything she could to do to keep these items safe from her step family.


I had the privilege to read this book with my daughter, who turns 13 next month.

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