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 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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Book Review Series: Teaching Your Children About Sex Using the Temple As Your Guide

Teaching Children About Sex: Using the Temple as Your Guide

As I was reading this book, I did a quick informal poll of some of my Mormon girlfriends: did your parents ever talk to you about sex?  If so, did they talk to you about more than once?  About one-third said that their parents never discussed sex with them, and over 75% said that they only discussed it once.  For this reason alone, I am grateful that Cherri Brooks has written this book – more Mormon parents need to be talking to their kids about sex, and often!

This is a book meant for parents – it’s not the book that you hand to your kids and hope that they’ll reference if they have questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask their parents (although Brooks does provide an excellent appendix of resources at the end of her book, which includes some books of this nature).  It’s meant to help parents understand the values behind teaching their children about sexual behavior and sexuality, and to add an LDS perspective to the diverse resources available to parents who want to have these important conversations.  She grounds her book in the notion that our bodies are temples, and that we should treat them positively and with reverence.  To quote the book, “A temple is a sacred, holy structure where events of eternal significance take place. Our bodies are also sacred, holy structures where events of eternal significance take place.”

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Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt

Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt


Planted-smallIn Planted, author Patrick Mason represents what I love most of the LDS faith: a focus on community and Christ with flexible boundaries that stretch to include everyone. His journey through topics many find troublesome will give those in the LDS faith who feel certainty, greater certainty. But, Planted also offers lessons for enhancing the capacity of LDS Church members to hold space for those who doubt.


In the spirit of Eugene England or Chieko Okazaki, Planted teaches empathy and the gift of mourning with those that mourn. It is a must-read for the faithful and doubting alike (with a caveat that it might not be the best fit for those that no longer entertain the possibility that central LDS truth claims have any validity).


Mason argues for an inclusive body of Christ that is stronger and more redemptive through the diversity of faith among the members. He relates examples from his own lived experience as to how he has connected to others through unifying applications of the teachings of Jesus Christ that cherish diversity. Mason also balances his male perspective to some extent with experiences of women. My favorite was the treatment of Mother Teresa and her struggles for connection to God. I was shocked to learn how a woman so fully devoted to the work of God, anguished throughout her life in seeking a spiritual witness that never came.

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Book Review Series: Doing No Harm

Doing No HarmGuest 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


Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly is a historical fiction following the exploits and adventures of a recently retired Royal Navy surgeon desperately seeking fewer exploits and adventures. The surgeon, Mr. Douglas Bowden, gets unexpectedly drawn into the needs of Edgar, a small Scottish village by the sea. He befriends many residents, and most especially on Miss Olive Grant, proprietor of a tearoom and overall saintly, spunky spinster.


This book dealt with some themes I did not expect, but greatly appreciated. I admit that I was expecting a fairly standard historical romance: boy and girl meet… boy and girl hate each other… but it was all a misunderstanding… so now boy and girl love each other. But that wasn’t this book at all. Both Douglas and Olive gave themselves in service to their neighbors and it is through that path that they find each other – while they are caring for the destitute refugees from the Scottish highlands driven from their lands and dumped on the shores of Edgar by crass, capitalistic landlords. This was unexpected, but appealing to me. I really liked how the main characters worked with each other to cajole the townspeople into taking better care of each other. This, to me, was far more the focus of this novel than the romance was – the idea that working together and sharing together and giving freely makes everyone wealthier, in more than in just money.

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Book Review Series: Count It All Joy

Guest post by Quimby. You can read some of Quimby’s previous posts here, and here

Count It All Joy: Finding Peace in a Troubled World

I live in the Australian bush, in a log cabin surrounded by trees.  I love where I live.  I love the gentle contours of the land.  I love the trill call of the cockatoos as they fly overhead in deafening flocks.  I love the laughter of the kookaburra as it wakes me at sunrise.  I love the lizards, which flit in and out of the cracks in the mortar.  Most of all I love the trees – the towering sycamores, the hardy blackwoods, and the spindly gum trees.  I especially love the bark of the ghost gum, its blue-pink-brown-grey trunk like a haphazard paint by number.  In the summer, the sun heats the oil in its leaves, and when it rains, the scent is released, diffused in the air like some sort of heaven.  When there is a summer rainstorm I open all the windows and breathe deeply.

Summer also means bushfire season.  We are poised, always ready to run at a moment’s notice, to flee the smoke and heat and fire and find refuge elsewhere.  A few years ago, the fire came to within half a kilometre of our house.  Several dozen homes and outbuildings were destroyed.  Ours was spared.  When we returned days later, we saw the blackened earth, the charcoaled trees, and marvelled at the destruction.

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December Young Women Lesson: What is Zion?


City of Zion Taken Up

For the teacher

(link to lesson outline

The word “Zion” has many meanings in our vernacular.  The original Zion was the city of Enoch, whose citizens were so righteous and pure that they were taken up to God’s bosom without tasting death (translated.) Since then, it is used throughout the scriptures to describe “the pure in heart” or to refer to the Lord’s people. It can mean the state of a person’s heart, and the unity of a community. Early Mormon pioneers used the term “Zion” to refer to the place where they could finally gather together and worship God in peace — eventually Utah. Oddly, there sprung up a retail shop, Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Inc. (ZCMI), a bank – Zions Bank, and a National Park – Zion National Park, all using Zion in the title. (Whether or not they are the pure in heart, I cannot say.) It is also used in the scriptures to refer to Ancient Jerusalem and “New Jerusalem” (in connection with the second coming of Jesus Christ.)

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