April Books for Spring Shower Days
By Jennie Hansen

An exciting mixture of stories landed on my doorstep during this past month, beginning with one that raises an unusual question. Just what did happen to the stones that provided light for the Jaredites’ passage to a new land? There have been stories of unexplained lights in “divers places” throughout much of the world’s recorded history; could some of them be explained as The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer?

With a master’s minor in ancient scriptures from BYU and a background of extensive travel to far-flung lands, Phyllis Gunderson has written a tale of an archaeologist, Mathilda Howard (Matt to all who know her) who becomes fascinated by stories concerning mysterious lights that never die. She finagles her way onto various digs and exploration ventures where one piece of information seems to connect to the next, further whetting her curiosity.

Along the way, a young archeologist gives her a book she at first thinks ludicrous and refuses to read. Eventually, she does read the book and as a possible answer to the lights unfolds for her she finds herself in a precarious position. Acceptance of the Book of Mormon places all she values in jeopardy; her career, her reputation, and the love of her daughter. She also must face the ethical question of whether to ignore the stones and agree with what is scientifically acceptable or to speak out against the established norms and tell the truth.

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The Lights of Mohonri Moriancumer is not only based on an interesting and unusual question, but it raises questions of truth and ethics. It is well written and can honestly boast of the cleanest copy editing I’ve seen in some time. This one is a winner for those interested in an unusual heroine, an original plot, and an intriguing mystery.

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The suspense heats up with Evidence, the latest mystery/suspense novel by Clair M. Poulson. Poulson is at his best when a small town sheriff, Vince Hanks, with the assistance of Deputy Kara Smith, attempts to unravel the kidnapping of the teenage son of a leading citizen of the small community. Murder complicates the plot and rearranges the list of suspects. There are suspects and motives aplenty, broken hearts too, leaving the reader guessing right up to the end.

Poulson’s style is a natural byproduct of his years in small town law enforcement, giving credence to the way he entwines the lives of his characters to give them a folksy realness. Fans and new readers alike will find themselves caught up in the twists and turns of a master storyteller. There are minimal copy errors, though the most glaring one appears on the backliner when the deputy is called Peggy instead of Kara. I wouldn’t recommend starting this book when you don’t have time to finish it right away.

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Chick lit often collects laughs at the expense of men, conventional women, and old-fashioned standards. Not so for The Icing on the Cake by Elodia Strain. This delightful, sometimes wacky story has all of the quick rejoinders, the fashionable name dropping of high-priced designer apparel, the ridiculous situations, and quirky humor of chick lit, but it’s never mean. It goes beyond zany to a gentle lesson on being oneself.

Annabelle goes to great lengths to please her boss and further her career by driving two hundred miles to buy a particular kind of cake he requests that she bring to a company party. It is her hope he’ll reward her with an opportunity to write instead of remaining a “gofer” girl.

There she meets a photographer, Isaac, who sets her equilibrium in a dither. When Isaac shows up at the food and fine dining magazine where she works, she goes all out to be the woman she thinks he wants her to be. The green-eyed monster appears in the form of her old high school nemesis, the gorgeous man stealer Rona, who takes a bit too much interest in Isaac and who manages to spend an inordinate amount of time with him.

The story is filled with madcap adventures, a creepy troublemaker with an inflated ego, touching gestures of kindness, and it raises some serious reflections concerning loyalty to friends, misunderstandings, courage, and integrity.

This book will appeal primarily to young women and those who are young at heart. It is a fun, fast-paced, well written story with endearing characters. The large number of typos is a slight distraction, though taken separately they are minor errors consisting primarily of the omission of short words such as “a”, “is”, or “the.” Overall, I would say Strain is a refreshing new author worth watching.

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Remember The Serpent Tide? K.L. Fogg has produced a sequel, Widow’s Revenge, a non-stop adventure that will keep young readers (and many not-so-young) glued to its pages. Inside its passionate purple cover with a prominent black widow spider is a roller coaster ride featuring secrets, a villian from the past, a bully, a thirteen-year-old leading man, revenge, betrayal, greed, and family loyalty. As much as I enjoyed The Serpent Tide, I liked Widow’s Revenge even better.

Against the Odds is a romance by Jewel Adams featuring a divorced black model who falls in love with a white ranch foreman. This is a story of one woman’s discovery of her own identity, which is not measured in race, wealth, power, and fame, but in trust, simplicity, and honor. This is an enjoyable read for fans of love stories with a social edge. The use of one expletive may offend some readers, but the story is clean and carries an uplifting message.

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Against an Amber Sky by H. R. Holm is a nostalgia piece with each chapter written as a mini-sermon. Though set in the 1970s, it is more reminiscent of the 40’s or 50’s. It features an idealized family in a rural setting with each chapter dealing with a separate challenge, leaving the impression of reading a series of short stories. Though the main character is a fifteen-year-old girl, the overall impression is more of a “Father Knows Best” type of book.

I don’t usually mention non-fiction books in this column, but with Mother’s Day approaching the book stores are filled with books meant to appeal to those purchasing gifts for Mom. This year there seems to be a particularly large and appealing selection, but two very small, inexpensive books deserve mention here as they include short personal essays by well-known LDS fiction authors.

The first is Of Infinite Worth by Anita Stansfield, Kerry Blair, Sariah S. Wilson, Lynn C. Jaynes, Marilynne Todd Linford, and Joni Hilton. All of the essays are excellent, but the ones by Anita Stansfield and Kerry Blair particularly touched me. The other small volume is a tribute to her mother written by Sherry Ann Miller called Mama’s Lemon Pie. I was impressed by the way Miller’s mother’s turned large and small incidents in her children’s lives into teaching moments. This book includes recipes for lemon pie.

The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer by Phyllis Gunderson, Published by Cedar Fort, 180 pages, $13.99

Evidence by Clair M. Poulson, Published by Covenant, 278 pages, $15.95

The Icing on the Cake by Elodia Strain, Published by Cedarfort, 295 pages, $14.99

Widow’s Revenge by K. L. Fogg, Published by Covenant, 355 pages, $15.95

Against the Odds , by J. Adams, Published by iUniverse, 167 pages, $13.95

Against an Amber Sky by H. R. Holm, published by Cedarfort , 214 pages, $14.99

Of Infinite Worth by various authors, published by Covenant, 25 pages, $4.95

Mama’s Lemon Pie by Sherry Ann Miller, published by Granite Publishing, 49 pages, no price listed