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2023 Bookish Books Reading Challenge

My Progress:

4 / 30 books. 13% done!

2023 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- California (1)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho
- Illinois
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
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- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan
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- Vermont (2)
- Virginia
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- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.*


- Australia (1)
- Ireland (1)

My Progress:

11 / 51 states. 22% done!

2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

3 / 25 books. 12% done!

2023 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

Booklist Queen's 2023 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

15 / 52 books. 29% done!

2023 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

18 / 52 books. 35% done!

2023 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

12 / 40 books. 30% done!

2023 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

7 / 40 books. 18% done!

2023 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

4 / 25 books. 16% done!

2023 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

Book Bingo Reading Challenge

12 / 25 books. 48% done!

2023 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

19 / 109 books. 17% done!

Children's Book Reading Challenge...For Adults!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Want to Live Longer? Try Living Like A Mormon.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If the general population knows anything about Mormons, it's that we avoid certain substances: coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, etc.  It's an avoidance that definitely sets us apart, not to mention helps us live longer.*  Many people probably don't know the specifics behind why members of the LDS Church adhere to such a strict health code.  Scott A. Johnson, an LDS naturopathist living in Utah, would like that to change.  If non-Mormons followed the counsel given by the Lord to the prophet Joseph Smith (which is set forth in the 89th section of the Doctrine & Covenants) and Mormons paid stricter heed to it, he believes, all would benefit.  Anyone who's been through Primary knows that the so-called "Word of Wisdom" is a principle with a promise to all who follow it.  Johnson reiterates just what those promises are—good health, knowledge, energy, and the spiritual blessings that accompany obedience.  
Johnson doesn't expect readers (especially those who are not Mormon) to just take it on faith.  Not at all.  In his new book, The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health, he goes through the Word of Wisdom with a fine-tooth comb, giving scientific evidence to support the principles within.  He elaborates on many of the topics, including the dangers of eating too many animal products (including milk!) and the advantage of using herbal remedies to encourage the body's natural healing processes.  While Johnson focuses on parts of the revelation which aren't usually emphasized (herbs, for instance), he backs up what he's saying with science, scripture, and personal experience.  Still, Johnson's approach will no doubt feel a little radical to most of us.  While I think nothing of abstaining from coffee, tobacco and alcohol (which I've done all my life, with no ill effects), I balk a little at the idea of shunning convenience foods in favor of organic ones.  While I know it would be beneficial health-wise, it feels a little too granola girl for practical, uncomplicated me! 

Still, Johnson brings up some great points, which definitely make his case for eating more naturally.  What I feel is missing from his book, though, is practical solutions for busy individuals and families.  To me, the information he presented felt overwhelming instead of encouraging.  Plus, the book's written in a rather clinical way that makes it both very dense and a bit dull for the average reader.  Even though The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health is less than 100 pages (not including Appendices), my attention wandered every time Johnson slipped into scientist-speak (which was often).  Sometimes it felt like I was reading a Nutrition textbook, when what I really wanted was more of a handbook, with both basic information and ideas to help implement more healthful living into my daily life.  

Overall, I think the book is helpful, well-written and full of sound principles.  I just felt overloaded with information and under-armed with real-life solutions.  In other words, I believe in what Dr. Johnson is saying (especially since he's reiterating what was said in a revelation I believe came from God), I just don't know how to do it, if that makes any sense.  The book definitely made me think, though, and that's always a good thing.  

* According to demographic research referenced in the book (resource listed on Page 117), LDS males in Utah live 7.3 years longer than their non-LDS counterparts, while LDS females live 5.8 years longer than non-member females in Utah.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  G for nothing offensive

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health from the generous folks at Cedar Fort via the author, Scott Johnson.  Thank you!

Mormon Mentions: Barbara Taylor Sissel

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 

I recently finished Evidence of Life, a mystery by Barbara Taylor Sissel set in the Texas Hill Country.  According to Wikipedia, this region in Central Texas includes parts of San Antonio, Austin and surrounding areas.  In the novel, Dennis Henderson, the sheriff of Bandera County, is discussing the history of the region with the main character, Abby Bennett:
They were crossing a field when he asked her if she was aware that Mormons were some of the first settlers around.
Abby answered she hadn't heard that.    
- (Page 138; text taken from an advanced uncorrected proof)
If you grew up in The United States, chances are you learned about the Mormon pioneers at some point in your schooling.  A quick refresher:  Because of intense—and often violent—religious persecution in some portions of the U.S., early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were forced to leave their homes in search of a place where they would have true freedom to worship as they pleased.  Joseph Smith, who the people respected not just as the church president, but also as a prophet of God, revealed that place to be far away in the Rocky Mountains.  Between 1847 and 1869, an estimated 70,000 Mormon pioneers from all over the country and the world made the exhausting (and often fatal) journey to the Salt Lake Valley.

Within weeks of arriving in the valley, groups of settlers were sent to colonize the whole area.  According to The Pioneer Story at
Within ten years of Brigham Young's death in 1877, Latter-day Saint colonies ranged from Cardston, Alberta, Canada to northern Chihuahua, Mexico; from Laie, Hawaii and San Bernardino, California to southern Colorado. Today monuments to such settlements—many of them the first nonnative communities in the state—dot the western landscape, throughout Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California, Montana, Idaho, Texas, Wyoming, and Canada and Mexico.
As for central Texas, it appears (from a quick Google search) that it was settled by Lyman Wight, a disgruntled Mormon pioneer who left the main body of the church because of disagreements with Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor as president and prophet.  Along with about 200 of his followers (called "Wightites"), they arrived in Texas in 1845, where they established several colonies.

Not only are pioneers revered among their descendants (me included) for their great faith and bravery, but they're also recognized by historians for their hard work and perseverance in settling much of the country.  For more information on Mormon pioneers in general and their role in the settling of Texas in particular, please visit the following excellent sites:

The Pioneer Story at (the official church website)
"Mormons" at the Texas State Historical Association's page
Hill Country History from the Texas Historical Commission  

*Book image from Barnes & Noble; pioneer image from

New Novel of Suspense Not Very ... Suspenseful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Abby Bennett kisses her husband and 15-year-old daughter goodbye, all she can think about is all the quiet, alone time she's going to enjoy while their gone on a two-day camping trip.  Though she doesn't understand why, things between her and Nick, her lawyer husband, have felt tense.  Something's bugging him; he just won't tell her what.  Abby's hoping the little break from each other will give them both the space they need, that upon his return, they can finally talk about the concerns Nick's hiding behind his stubborn silence.  She's sure it's nothing too terrible—financial worries, work stress, or maybe the strained relationship between Nick and their college-aged son, Jake.  Whatever it is, Abby knows they can work it out, just like they always have.  But for now, she's looking forward to a nice, worry-free weekend all to herself.

As the duo heads for their campsite in the Texas Hill Country, Abby tries to erase her unease over a storm brewing in the area.  Nick's a safe driver, she tells herself.  He's got 4-wheel drive and would never take unnecessary risks with Lindsey in the car.  But when Abby receives a distressing phone call from Lindsey, she panics.  The connection's so garbled Abby can't understand what her daughter's saying—something about her dad—but she can hear the panic in her voice.  Something's wrong, very wrong.  Storm warnings are all over the news and Nick and Lindsey aren't answering their phones.  Abby knows she's crazy to try to track them down in dangerous weather conditions, but she has to try.

Her search yields nothing.  After days, weeks, months even, she has no answers.  In the aftermath of the violent storm that rocked the Hill Country, her husband and daughter have disappeared without a trace.  Did their SUV slip off into a remote canyon somewhere?  Or, is the media correct in their nasty insinuations that Nick ran off with an associate and a bundle of stolen money?  Abby can't imagine Nick doing anything so wrong, but, the more she learns about his recent activities, the more she wonders—did she know her husband at all?  

As unsettling as its premise is, I thought Evidence of Life by Barbara Taylor Sissel sounded intriguing.  And it would have been, had it been executed better.  To start with, none of the characters are fleshed-out enough to be truly knowable, let alone likable.  Abby won my sympathy to a point, but after 100 or so pages, her self-pitying, me-me-me attitude started to wear thin.  Couple weak character development with a slow-moving, clichéd plot; ho-hum writing; and no real surprising twists or turns and you get a suspense novel that's just not very ... suspenseful.  The novel offered some intriguing possibilities, it just didn't explore them well enough to keep my attention.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve)

Grade:  C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Evidence of Life from the generous folks at Harlequin/MIRA via those at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.  
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