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My Review: A House Divided by Diane Stringam Tolley

About the Story:
She thought reaching the Promised Land would mean an end to her problems, but it was only the beginning. With her loved ones divided and her people in danger, Hannah’s faith is now faltering more with each passing day. Can she find the courage to stand by her convictions? Or will the conflicts from their past lead the Nephite people into a war against their own family?

The men moved close and carefully picked up the young man, who, such a short time before, had been full of life and promise.It was a saddened group who began to make their way back to the village.Nephi had risen to his feet and was staring off into the trees.Hannah paused beside him. “Is that all there is to this life, Brother Nephi?Pain and suffering?”He looked at her. “There is pain, yes, Sister Hannah. And suffering to be sure.It is sad that we need the opposition to remind us of our duty. To turn our hearts to our God.” He sighed. “But much of our suffering is brought on by the choices of men. The evil choices of men.

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About the author: Diane Stringam Tolley

Raised on a ranch on the great Canadian prairies, where normal life included–but was not limited to–a loaded civil war cannon used as a counterweight on the garage door, and at least one headless chicken, Diane Stringam Tolley has been penning stories since Mrs. Hainsworth’s grade six class. Her working life as a journalist was spent writing other peoples articles and stories. Now, in retirement, she writes her own. A House Divided is her 11th novel.

My Review:
A House Divided is easy to pick up and hard to put down. It starts with a surprising hook and the action keeps going until the end. But the story has deeper meanings which I found uplifting. The story is based on characters found in the Book of Mormon. There is LDS content, which I find clean and enjoyable. Although there are battle scenes and action, they are all tastefully well done.

A House Divided is the second in a series, and a Whitney Nominee which is listed as Christian, historical, and a romance. The first book in the series is Daughter of Ishmael: Promised Land, Broken Heart. Although the reader’s experience would be enhanced by reading both books, A House Divided is well written and can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Diane has a gift for keeping the story moving at a fast-pace while creating believable characters and complicated relationships. Although the main character, Hannah, faces insurmountable odds the reader learns the power of faith, how a Prophet leads his people, and why obedience, love, and forgiveness lead to unexpected miracles. Diane does a skillful job of creating a fascinating picture of the past that drew me in.

I enjoyed the story of survival and the interactions between the characters.  There are some priceless quotes, which I will let you find, rather than spoil the wonder of Diane’s beautiful thoughts. I always want more romance, but the story was inspiring and I sincerely enjoyed this Sunday afternoon read. I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Author Interview:

1-Who or what inspired you to become an author?

Raised in a large family of storytellers, I caught the bug like one would a cold. One learned to participate out of self-defense. And living on a Boer War era ranch provided no end of grist to my storytelling mill.

2-Who are some of your favorite authors? Do these authors inspire your own writing?

One of my favorites is Madeleine Brent. Her stories always featured strong female leads—each with a unique ability that eventually ‘saves the day’. Because of her, the women in my books are strong without being hard. An important difference.

3-What inspired you to start writing biblical fiction? 

I love the scriptures. The stories are unparalleled still, even with the plethora (real word) of works that are published every. Single. Day. But because the scriptures are told largely from a male point of view, I always wondered what the women were doing. I love a background story and there is no one more ‘background’ than the women behind these great men of the scriptures.

4-When you are not writing, what other “hats” do you wear?

Oh, golly. Wife. Mom. Grandma. Seminary teacher. Playwright. (Also children’s theatre director and/or referee.) Writing mentor. Blogger. Promoter (more wishful than actual at the moment). Musician. Biking companion/confidante. And chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. (Gotta wash those bottles!)

5-What inspired the idea for A House Divided?

Have you ever wondered if anyone regretted their decisions? I mean the major, life-changing-and-not-for-the-better decisions? I pictured the wife of Lemuel and wondered if she ever had regrets about her husband’s (and by association—her) decisions to follow Laman. Did she sit by a fire in her later life, watching her children dance about it painted in blood, and have regrets? Or imagine might-have-beens? A House Divided was Hannah’s chance to make the different decisions later in life. Still not easy. But right.

6-What do you want readers to take away from reading A House Divided?

I want readers to know that making the major, good decisions is seldom (almost never) easy. That great sacrifice comes first. And even after one sacrifices, the rewards don’t always look like you pictured. But are always—ALWAYS—worth it.

7-What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it?

I’ve just finished working on the story of God’s Tree. A take-off on the Tree of Life.

If it was discovered by a small boy.

And if he had the faith—and courage—to do something about it.

Learn more here:
Buy A House Divided on AMAZON


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Seaside Christmas Traditions or Shannon goes crazy at Christmas


Over the years my little family of 8, now 8 plus spouses and 9 grandkids have lived in a little town called Seaside about a block from the Pacific Ocean. When the sun shines, family visits us, coming in and out like the tide.  Then in winter snowy mountain passes keep visitors away.

I want to share some of our Seaside Christmas traditions with you. As a young mother, I wanted my kids to have great Christmas memories and so I chose a few traditions we have maintained over the years. These silly traditions are now part of the glue that brings us back together each year.

Christmas on the Coast

Christmas pajamas from the Elves:

Christmas pajamas from the elves is a tradition I borrowed from my belove Aunt Joann Sappenfield. On Christmas Eve the elves “magically” deliver new pajamas to the kids. They put them in their stockings. This is a brilliant tradition for two important reasons.

  1. The kids get all excited about the most practical gift I buy them – Pajamas!
  2. The kids look great in all the family movies and early morning pictures. When my son Joseph grew to 6 feet tall at age 10 he was sleeping in a onesie with the feet and arms cut off. Boy! I was so happy to see him in pajamas that fit Christmas morning.

Treat Tables

Early in the morning on Christmas Eve I sneak downstairs and set up 4 or 5 little tables around the house. I decorate them all with bright Christmas colors. I make a batch of cinnamon rolls and keep them on the kitchen table.

  • One table has hot Wassil or my recipe for “Stephanie’s Cider,” in the crock pot with mugs.
  • My favorite table has my great aunts Chex mix by the gallon with paper cups.
  • There is a table with veggies and dip, cheese balls and summer sausage.
  • Then I mix in some small tables with homemade sugar cookies, peanut brittle, fudge, and other treats.

The gift to my kids is a whole day and a half without me telling them what to eat or when to eat. The gift to me is letting go. Paper everything and no dishes. The house is ready for friends to stop by and the kids all get their favorites.

Stephanie’s Cider:

  • 1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Allspice
  • dash of cinnamon

Simmer for 20 min – place in crock pot on warm with floating orange slices

The Nativity

On Christmas Eve we open the packages from Grandma Bev and Granpa Jeff, but not before we are grateful. Annually, we dress up in sheets, towels, and wings to act out the Nativity. I wish I could say I sewed amazing costumes, or that we sang in harmony, but this is a Seaside Christmas and we spend our money on wetsuits and kayaks – not costumes.

As the years passed, everyone settled into their roles. Now new generations join in and we have to get creative. A few years ago I heard one of the kids tell the missionaries who were celebrating with us, the only role left was a donkey. And so she rode him around with her doll as Baby Jesus.

The Symonds are a silly bunch, who laugh a lot when they are together. However, year after year, even the toughest of the Symonds can’t help but feel the spirit when we read the Nativity. Even if we wear old sheets and towels. It truly is the greatest story ever told and our testimony brings the brightest spirit to our paupers play.

From Blessings

After our first meager and difficult Christmas, when all the toys were brought by someone else, I realized what a great blessing it was to have Christmas at all. We began my favorite tradition. The toys and packages left on Christmas all say, “From Blessings.” Even though we let the kids believe in Santa, we could never take credit for a single gift under the tree or give the credit to Santa. We recognize where our blessings come from and in our house, Santa does too.

We are grateful

Before we open a single gift Christmas morning we have a prayer of gratitude.

I don’t want you to think we are perfect. We are most definitely not. Over the years some of our little family has had their own struggles. Some go to church and a few choose not to. But they have all told me they recognize their blessings. I am grateful we have kept this tradition. It may not seem like much, but it is my favorite. It is a sweet moment in the midst of holiday chaos.

The Christmas Elf

When we were a new family, we weren’t able to buy many gifts. This tradition began as a way to make the moment seem a little sweeter. One person wears the elf hat and passes out the packages one at a time in order of age, youngest to oldest. The bonus to this tradition is I can actually see what all 6 kids and their kids think of their gift and take a few pictures!


We don’t have a lot, and yet every year we manage to find a small way to serve. This year we are focused on the light the world campaign. I have shared a few giving traditions. But the best gifts, are given in secret. #lighttheworld

804 Chex Mix




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