Friday, February 6, 2009


My house is filled with bookshelves and unfortunately most of them look like this. As many of you know, I write a review column for Meridian Magazine, an online LDS magazine that reaches a huge audience. I love writing reviews of LDS novels, but after a little more than seven years, the volume of books stacked on my shelves has gotten beyond reason. I have decided to start giving away books to you my readers. Here’s the way I’m going to do it.

Twice a month, I will post the picture of a book (or books)I’m giving away and either a link to the review I wrote concerning it or post a paragraph or two about it. I will also ask a question concerning something to do with that book’s theme, location, or some pertinent point in the book. I’m looking for your opinion on the topic, not the author’s. And to borrow a term from LDS Publisher, I will consider all thoughtful posts and eliminate those that are simply quick phrases, ditto marks, etc. (I’ll be the sole judge of what is a thoughtful response). At the end of the contest period I will put the eligible names in a hat and have a drawing for the winner of the book. I’ll post the winner’s online name and it will be up to the winner to contact me with your name and mailing address. Anyone is eligible to enter, but I will only ship the prizes to US or Canadian addresses. If you live outside this area and enter anyway, and if you win, you’ll need to send me a US address or pay the postage prior to shipment (approx. $10 to $12.00 US currency).

I probably won’t respond to every comment, but I will read them all and if you enter the contest by responding to the contest question and respond to another blog within the same contest period, I’ll put your name in the drawing twice. Also if you already have the book I’ve listed as a prize and would like a different one, please list three or four books you’d like as alternatives, and if I have one of them and it’s among those I’ve slated for prizes, I’ll send it instead. The contest starts now and ends February 14. I’ll post the winner on February 16.

Here’s the first prize I am offering, Promises to Keep, Diane’s Story by Dean Hughes. You can read my review below. The book was published in 2008. Hughes wrote this book in response to readers’ questions concerning the fate of “Diane”, a character in his popular Hearts of the Children series. He promised his readers more concerning this character and in this novel kept his promise. The novel also touches on how promises kept or broken affect lives. To enter to win this book, tell how a promise kept or broken has affected your life or of how important or unimportant promises are in today’s world.

Review of Promises to Keep as appeared in Meridian Magazine, Dec. 2008:

Promises to Keep, Diane’s Story is the keeping of a promise by Dean Hughes to his readers who constantly asked “What happened to Diane?” who left her abusive husband in Hearts of the Children to protect herself and her young daughter, Jenny. Hughes answers this question by picking up the story years down the road as Diane faces conflict with her daughter, now a teenager.

Both Diane and Jenny are impulsive and headstrong. Diane would prefer that Jenny have nothing to do with her father, but Greg woos the teenager with expensive gifts and subtle manipulation. Her desire to be loved by her father blinds her to the fact that Greg lives in a fancy house, takes expensive vacations, yet claims he can’t afford to make child support payments. Diane struggles to finish an advanced degree program so that she can become an administrator and earn more than she has all these years as a teacher. Jenny is sometimes as manipulative as her father and Diane still barges ahead without thinking situations through well. Their conflict eventually leads to Jenny leaving her mother to live with her father. Complicating matters farther is Diane’s relationship with Spencer, a man she cares about, but who is manipulated by his children to whom he doesn’t seem to be able to stand up. Diane has to come to terms with some serious questions concerning her future and the question of whether happiness lies within herself or does she need someone else to make her happy.

Hughes can be counted on to write interesting, thought-provoking stories. Even on the rare occasion when I don’t particularly care for one of his leading characters or can’t identify with him or her, I still find myself absorbed in the story. Such was the case with this book. For a supposedly smart woman, Diane was too argumentative, short-sighted, and self-absorbed for my taste. Still I could sympathize with her as Greg played on her weaknesses and made her a sucker over and over. The plot is handled well and the conflicting political views are consistent with today’s political environment.

This book has a great deal of appeal for both men and women, parents of teenagers, those who have faced divorce or troubled marriages, and Hughes’s legion of fans.


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

What a great contest, Jennie! I also love that picture of your bookshelf. That's how mine look. But I've recently put all the books in my house into one room and now it's called The Library. So all the disorganization is at least contained to one room.

Taffy said...

I got a chuckle out of your shelves since they were similar to mine. Until last week when I cleaned them out and put some on So I might still your contest idea and sell some on my blog. Is that ok??
For a long time I thought my parents did keep their promises of being good parents. But now that I am a parent I KNOW they tried to do their best.

OK. I just remembered a story of a friend when she was younger. She made a promise with the old "stick a needle in my eye." She broke her promise and did indeed stick a needle in her eye. She has a small, red mark on the white of her eye. It has served as a reminder of promises not kept.

Jennie said...

Nancy, I have seven book cases like that! Plus a few baskets, end tables, and various other boxes and repositories.

Taffy, since most of the books on my shelves were sent to me by publishers or authors, hoping I would review them, it wouldn't be ethical to sell them, thus the give-away. Besides I like to share books I've enjoyed and maybe even persuade readers to buy books they may have overlooked when they were first released. If you want to sell books you bought or received as gifts on your blog, you have the right and my blessing(if you want it) to do that. Hopefully authors will benefit from your advertising and your customers will use their savings to buy more books in bookstores where the authors will get royalties.

Stephanie said...

At BYU in the SWKT, there is a quote by Karl Maser thst says "I have been asked what I mean by word of honor I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is a possibility that in someway I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor, never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I'd die first!" That is what I think of a promise. Something that should never be broken. As strong as a oath back in "The Book of Mormon" times. I have had too many friends break their promise, which hurts, but I also have had many friends keep their promises, those are the ones I trust.

wordfromthezoo said...

Love this contest! Here goes... Three of my sisters in law have broken their promises to their husbands in the last two years and have had affairs. All three women chose to end their marriages. Two of them had been sealed to their husbands in the temple and had children. They broke their promises to Heavenly Father and their spouses. Their infidelity has effected everyone in our family. It has raised many questions of trust and commitment among other things. It has made it difficult some times to endure the trials in my own marriage, that most people face, when there are so many marriages ending around me and in some ways the women seem so much happier now. The temptation to give up is greater. The desire to stick with it and keep covenants and promises forever is SO much greater as I see some of the difficult consequenses to these broken promises. I think Satan is truly attacking the family and is succeeding in so many cases. It has also made me aware that one person's choices effect SO many lives.

Taffy said...

The books I cleaned out were ones I bought from the DI. I donated a few to the library. I've also donated some to LDSpublisher when she has contests. I've been trying to read more LDS authors before I go to the LDS Storymakers conference.

Jennie said...

I'm posting this for Deanna who responded by e-mail.

One of my favorite children's books is, A Promise is a Promise, by Robert Munsch. It helps teach children about how important it is to keep a promise when you make a promise to someone. In this story, it becomes a matter of life and death.

Even though our promises might not be of this magnitude, making a promise is a sign of our integrity - which is a character trait that is sometimes difficult to find in our society today. Unfortunately, the youth (and adults) in our country have seen several examples of dishonesty, deceit, and theft.

I grew up in a small farming community in eastern Idaho. My grandfather and father were known in the community for being extremely fair and honest in all that they did. No written contracts were needed to "seal a deal." A handshake was sufficient. I grew up thinking that most people were like that, only to learn that some people have no idea what integrity means.

I have tried to live by the value that a promise is a promise. Unless something happens beyond my control, I will try diligently to keep my promises to others. If I am not sure that I can keep a promise, then I don't make the promise in the first place. I learned this very quickly as a naïve, new mother. Sometimes I would make promises to my children that I later realized I absolutely couldn't keep. It concerned me that I would have to break my promise - and I assure you that my children were not happy about it either. I learned that instead of making a promise, I would say "I will do my very best to make this happen, but I can't promise." I wanted my children to learn the importance of keeping their word. As a member of the LDS church, part of my responsibility to others is to show integrity in all that I do.


Tristi Pinkston said...

I think some of the most damaging promises broken are those that are made off the cuff, without taking thought. When we make a promise, do we really stop to think, "Can I deliver on this promise?" I think of all the times parents say, "Stop fighting or we won't go to the park," and then they take the undeserving children to the park anyway. They promised a punishment, the punishment didn't take place, and the children are taught that Mom and Dad are pushovers. I think of the times we promise others that "nothing bad will happen" or "it will all look better in the morning" or "this won't hurt a bit." Those are things that aren't in control, and we shouldn't promise them when we can't deliver them. Instead, we should save our promising words for things we can control, things we have every intention of controlling, and things that are truly important. When we toss words like "I promise" out there like confetti, they lose their meaning. They should never lose their meaning. They're too important.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I break a promise to myself every time I have a day when I over-eat or eat too much sugar. It seems like it is easier to keep the promises I make to other people than it is to keep the ones I make to myself.

Gwenypooh said...

The shelves in our home also look much the same as your own. My mother and I both love to read and collect our favorites. I have especially loved your own Braclet series! Mom has jokingly told Dad that she needs him to build a shed out back in which to house all of her treasures, much as he does his tools. We has given many of our collection to the local libraries, but always seem to find a replacement or two for every one that we are able to part with.

My brother and his ex-wife were divorced about 10 years ago. They had two sons whome my brother has not seen for about 8 of those years due to the fact that he had to give up his parental rights. The break up of a marriage is a difficult thing for many people of which may not even be directly involved, (my parents have not seen their grandsons for about the same amount of time), but more than anyone else it effects the children involved and that is what breaks my heart.

Gma Banta said...

I enjoy the series type of books very much. I did wonder what happened to Diane, but never wrote to ask.
I waited to add a comment here until I had pondered about the review.
Promises are sometimes made in haste and repented in leisure!
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ never break a promise to us. Nor will they disappoint us, make us feel inferiour or less intelligent. We are the ones who make those judgement calls.
Promises made to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would be the best ones to keep, no matter what! I am happy that when we fall short we can repent and try again.
As an aside, I appreciate the book case Jennie - I have three just like it!
I like your idea of giving the books away in a contest. Maybe you need more to give away? I'll be glad to share with you! :)

Cheri J. Crane said...

My mother has an entire room filled with books, and I followed in her footsteps. =) I'm glad to see that my d-i-l is following suit. ;)

As for promises, I think they are important to keep, especially when it involves something confidential.

Melanie Goldmund said...

I've been trying to think of when a promise made or broken has affected my life, but I just can't remember any such incident. (No doubt one will occur to me after I finish posting this.) Instead, I find myself thinking of how many times I don't trust promises -- such as those made by policitians, or during advertisements, and things like that. If it's a person I know well, though, I'm more likely to believe them when they say "I promise." But again, I can't remember the last time I heard anybody say that, except my kids when they were trying to bargain for something. I don't think most promises are taken seriously very much anymore, certainly not like they were in Book of Mormon times. It's kind of sad, really.

Jennifer Ricks said...

The title of this book, of course, makes me think of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The speaker in the poem is attracted to the snowy woods and calm winter night, but "has promises to keep." Keeping those promises makes the speaker tear him or herself away from the inviting scene and move on to keep those promises.

Isn't life often like that? Although sometimes I just want to take things as they come (and especially enjoy them as they come), promises keep me focused and working towards important goals.

Amy Btw M said...

I so wish I had seven bookcases full of books. I love books, and I especially love to read my favorites over and over.

I am trying to think hard about promises. First off, I can't recall any big promises made to me that never happened. We work more in terms of possibilities of things happening around here. After having read the other comments, I myself have noticed my lack of follow through on promises of punishments to the kids. I guess I thought of them more as empty threats, but didn't realize that kids take to heart those little things. I think people "promise" things in the heat of the moment as a means to an end sometimes. I know sometimes I would do anything to get my son to eat more varied and healthy food.

Divorce has very far reaching effects, and even though my parents or I have never been divorced, some of my siblings have and I feel as though I have been affected by that in some way.

I share the sentiments of others in that I am glad that Heavenly Father keeps all his promises to us. This was actually the Primary theme in 2006 "I Will Trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ—Their Promises Are Sure."