Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thoughts on Marriage

Yesterday morning the Supreme Court made decisions on two bills focusing on gay marriage with reckless disregard for the will of the people and thousands of years of precedent. The term gay marriage is an oxymoron, since the relationship between two people of the same gender will never be a marriage in the true sense no matter what it is called.  Marriage is a relationship ordained by God and has little to do with the legal definitions set out by people.  It's those man-made laws and definitions that need to be examined and in many cases corrected.  When two adults, not related by blood and whether or not there is a sexual relationship between them, live together for an extended period of time, share living expenses and provide moral support to each other, they should be entitled to certain rights if both parties so desire.  In my opinion if they're in an openly committed relationship they should be entitled to the same inheritance or survivorship rights as heterosexual couples, just don't call their arrangements  marriages. 

Society and government's interest in marriage has historically been based on protecting name and inheritance through the legitimacy of offspring and providing for the support of a dependant wife.  During periods when wives generally didn't collect pay checks or have the same educational benefits as their husbands, laws were enacted to protect them when they became widows with no means of support.  Divorce laws were written to recognize the years a woman spent raising her children and running her husband's home.  Society has changed and not many women aren't eligible for their own Social Security or inheritance benefits now and most can or do receive paychecks for their employment.  Perhaps it's time to re-examine laws concerning spousal dependency rather than change marriage.  

The worse bullies I've ever had the misfortune to have to work with were gay.  Yet one of the most competent and capable editors it has been my pleasure to work with was also gay. Several people I care deeply about profess to be gay and live a lifestyle that appears empty and shallow to me, but I see plenty of heterosexuals throw their lives away on meaningless pursuits as well. Competence, talent, and intelligence are not restricted to or absent from either homosexuals or heterosexuals. 

I've felt great compassion for two different young boys whose lives were made a sad circus by overbearing lesbian mothers more interested in forcing a political statement than the welfare of their children.  Two women I know who made big productions of coming out a few years ago, claiming to be lesbians, made me chuckle.  A year after their big announcement one married a man and was pregnant at her wedding. She now has nothing to do with her former partner.  The other one ended the long term relationship with another woman she was in, but remained long distance friends with her partner, who moved to another city.  A few years later she married a man who had been a friend for several years.  Gay couples don't hold a monopoly on arrested development or a lack of parenting skills. We all know heterosexual individuals who are immature, selfish, and poor parents.   

Most of what we hear from either the gay lobby or from the general public, psychologists included, is just hype meant to sway opinion one way or the other and is based on few facts.  There is no gay gene, some homosexuals can change if they want to, a rare few people are born with dual genitals (I knew a seven-year-old child with this problem years ago and I'm convinced no one deserves the hurt and embarrassment she went through before her parents agreed to surgery to remove the unneeded equipment.), there's no positive proof whether homosexuals are born, made, or choose to be gay (I suspect all three), but what we do know is that all people are God's children and as such should be treated with respect.  I'm tired of the accusations that anyone who doesn't support gay marriage is a bigot who hates gays.  Not so.  Most people I know, including me, have friends, co-workers, and family members who are gay and we certainly believe they have a right to careers, to buy homes, to rent apartments, and to patronize the same stores anyone else does. We love them and sympathize with their desire for acceptance. I also believe they are entitled to the same legal and financial benefits as anyone else. Rather than hate them, most people are more prone to pity them. 

Where we differ is in our willingness to set aside God's commandments concerning marriage, chastity, and establishing a stable environment for bearing and raising children.  Marriage isn't a right; it's a privilege, one granted by our Creator with strings attached.  Families in our society are under enough pressure today and face increasing problems.  Liberalizing and devaluing the marital relationship does no one any good. We should be working on stabilizing and supporting families, strengthening individuals, and becoming more obedient to God instead of promoting social divisions, undermining families, and creating judicial chaos.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Recommendations and a Review

I spend a lot of time reading and not every book I read works out for my review column.  I don't review YA but if anyone is looking for a really good book featuring teens but with a lot of appeal for adults, try Lair of the Serpent by T. Lynn Adams.  If you like books that make you laugh and say "been there, done that" take a look at Fatherhood the Manliest Profession by Matthew Buckley.  I wanted to review this one before Father's Day, but since portions are from an earlier book and I already had a review written for that week, so I didn't do it.  I still loved the book.  One more book that caught my fancy, but has no LDS references, so I reluctantly decided not to review it is The Knight of Redmond by Jennifer K. Clark, a medieval romance. I completely recommend all three of these books.

Here's another review I've had ready for awhile.  Tristi Pinkston's Till Death do us Part features Ida Mae Babbit's wedding preparations.  Being Ida Mae, of course there's a mystery involved.

Till Death Do Us Part by Tristi Pinkston 

Reviewed by Jennie Hansen


Tristi Pinkston is ending her Secret Sisters Mystery series with Till Death Do Us Part.  That title bothers me; shouldn't it be 'til not till?  Whatever, it's a fun read and as usual, features Ida Mae Babbitt and her friends, Arletta and Tansy. 

Ida Mae is surprised and excited by widower George Gilmore's proposal.  She met the gentleman in a previous book at a nursing home where he was a temporary patient.  She's also anxious to learn whether her nephew, Ren, or the young journalist, Kevin, will win Arlette's granddaughter, Eden's heart.  George springs one more surprise on her by requesting they get married in two weeks while his children who are visiting are still in town and that they get married in his back yard.  She agrees, but begins a hasty scramble to plan the wedding. On a hasty shopping trip before meeting with George and his family to work out details of the wedding, she discovers the perfect dress.  

Ida Mae is stunned to discover George's home isn't some simple little house with a tiny back yard, but a three story mansion in the most exclusive part of town.  The back yard is a carefully maintained formal garden. George's children don't seem too anxious to welcome her into the family and one daughter seems determined to take over the wedding plans, turning it into a major society event.  When George and Ida Mae escape to the roof for a breather marks the beginning of disasters.  First Ida Mae finds herself locked in an elevator, the dress she picked for her wedding is slashed to shreds, then what appeared to be intimidation turns to life threatening. 

Ida Mae isn't quite as brash in this volume as in the earlier books, but she's still a magnet for mystery and trouble.  She seems a little more mature and cautious too, though she doesn't hesitate to stand up for herself or to go looking for answers.  

Part of the fun of reading a mystery is the element of discovery, picking up on clues that eventually lead to the guilty party.  There aren't a lot of clues scattered through the story which leaves a lot of explaining following the denouement.  Since this is the final book in this series it leans heavily toward wrapping up the continuing story line that carried through the series from Ida Mae and her friends being released from their ward's  Relief Society due to skating a little too close to the law, the triangle relationship involving Eden, Ren, and Kevin, and the strained relationship between Ida Mae and her children.   

Tristi Pinkston is the author of fifteen published books.  She and her husband live in Utah with their four children where in addition to writing, she is a popular blogger, editor, and she frequently presents at various writers' conferences. 

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TILL DEATH DO US PART by Tristi Pinkston, published by Walnut Springs Press, 245 pages. soft cover $17.99, available on Kindle.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


A long time ago I taught a genealogy class that focused on writing personal histories.  I remember advising the various classes I taught to write about those little memories that keep coming to mind , not just the big, significant events.  It's important to include in a personal history facts such as when you were born, baptized, married, schools attended, etc., but it's also important to include memories of smaller events and occasions.  If a memory keeps rising to the surface, even if it seems unimportant, there's a reason and it should be written down.  Last night I had trouble falling asleep and half forgotten memories of some of those long ago minor happenings kept playing through my mind. Today I'm writing them down. 

Mama had a black box camera and because developing film was expensive, she didn't use it a lot.  But I remember one occasion when she lined up me, my sisters, and a little brother beside the house to take our picture.  It took too long and I wet my pants. It was a tragedy then, but I laugh every time I see that picture now. 

The farmer who lived on one farm before we did, raised radish seed.  My older sister and I found radishes growing along the ditches, in the hay field, and in other unexpected places that spring. Our play house, mud pies, and even the dinner table was well supplied with radishes. I'm not sure why I think of those radishes at odd times all these years later, but perhaps it's a reminder that seeds scattered to the wind will grow in unexpected places. 

My older brothers teased me a lot and one day one of them pinned me to a clothesline.  I was stuck until Mama noticed and came to my rescue. 

Colleen, my cousin, and I were crazy about horses.  Riding double on Flicka one day, we had a difference of opinion with the horse when she decided to evade a flock of sheep being herded through the barnyard by going inside the milk parlor.  A low hanging wire over the door that separated the milk parlor from the main part of the barn caught us under our chins, scraping us off the horse and onto the cement floor.  Colleen was scraped up, but I was knocked unconscious.  When I woke up I was in my bed and my cousin and her family had gone home.  I didn't even get to tell her it wouldn't have  happened if she hadn't insisted on holding the reins and steering the horse! 

When I was thirteen I became the owner of a huge Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Someone owed my dad money and couldn't pay him, so he gave him the bike as payment. Daddy didn't want the bike, but he knew it was the only payment he would get, and since I was impressed by the huge bike, he said I could have it.  I never rode it; I couldn't even stand it up, but it was mine--until we moved again and Daddy left it behind in a shed. 

It was the first year my husband and I had a full size Christmas tree instead of a small table top tree.  My brother cut the tree on his in-laws' farm.  We appreciated the gift, but we didn't have enough ornaments for it and no money to buy any.  Thinking I was being practical, I baked sugar cookies and my small daughter helped me decorate them.  We hung them on the tree and thought our tree was beautiful.  The next day we had to be gone all day and when we returned home we found the tree lying on its side with the cookies smashed beneath it and all over the room.  I was never sure if the weight of the cookies toppled the tree or if the cat had something to do with the tipped over tree. 

One summer day a Monarch butterfly adopted me.  Each time I stepped outside the door the butterfly would land on my arm and stay perched there until I went back inside the house.  My children and the neighbor children playing with them were so thrilled they begged me to stay outside, so I took a holiday from cleaning house, writing, and cooking to stay outside and play with the children--me and the butterfly. 

My son-in-law, Rich, and I like to fish.  Our family had journeyed to a favorite reunion ranch near Challis, Idaho, when one evening the two of us set out for a nearby stream for a little fishing without the kids.  We stopped at a bridge and cast in our lines.  He had a bite, then I had a bite.  Soon we were reeling in trout as fast as we could release and rebait. In twenty minutes or so we caught fourteen fish, most of which we released.  (We usually only keep the ones from which we can't remove the hook without injuring the fish.) Those fish barely let our lines hit the water before they bit. It was a fisherman's dream and struck us as funny.  We laughed and joked about those fish wanting so badly to be caught we could hardly stand up. 

I awoke in a strange bed in a motel room in another state to the whimpering cry of a baby.  My exhausted daughter slept through his cries, so I crept out of bed to gather him up from the crib the motel had provided for us.  My husband and I and our daughter had been up most of the night before frantically arranging early morning flights to an unfamiliar city to collect the infant our daughter and her military husband had been waiting for for ten long years.  Her husband was deployed so it was my husband and I who accompanied our daughter on that momentous trip. I took the baby back to my bed where I cuddled him and fed him a bottle, letting his new mommy sleep. Something happened as I held that baby and watched his little face in the dim light.  He became my grandson, not through shared blood, but through an invisible link from my heart to his that I knew was destined to last forever. 

Though it's the big occasions that are immortalized in photos and noted on diplomas, certificates, and news clippings, it is the little moments that make up a life.  It isn't the names, places, and dates with which we fill in the blanks on forms that sum up who we are as much as it is the memories, the unplanned moments, and the small things that string our days and years together.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Here's another review from my backlog of reviews. 


ESTHER THE QUEEN by H. B. Moore, published by Covenant Communications, 217 pages, soft cover, $15.99, also available on CD and for e-readers. 

Confession time!  I've always cringed a bit when it comes to fictionalized accounts of scriptural stories.  Most feel a little on the sacrilegious side to me and I have a strong preference for sticking to the scriptural account without the make believe drama and supposed inner thoughts and feelings of a biblical or Book of Mormon character added.  I make an exception for H.B. Moore.  Moore writes a great fictional romance, but it is her attention to historical detail and doctrinal accuracy surrounding her fictional tale that I find impressive. 

Women are definitely in the minority in the scriptures, but every little girl who ever attended Sunday School grew up admiring Esther, the Jewish girl who became a queen and saved her people from annihilation.  Moore whose previous scriptural historical novels have been centered on the Book of Mormon, chose to base her most recent book Esther the Queen, on the beautiful, young Jewess girl who became a biblical heroine.

Yes, she invented a charming love story for the Persian King Xerxes and Esther wherein they meet through a Cinderella-like story and he goes in search of the beautiful girl who caught his eye during the unexpected encounter, vowing to make her his queen.  But it is the details concerning the Jews precarious position in Persia, the year long wait in the palace harem before the wedding takes place, and the intricacies of Persian politics, religion, and law that make the story particularly fascinating.   

Esther is a story of courage.  It's the story of a young woman who chooses to leave her familiar world not because she lacks faith, but because she feels it is what God wants her to do.  Knowing her predecessor was divorced for refusing a request made by her husband, Esther knew approaching him when and where she did was a serious step that could cost her life.  She knowingly chose to try to save her people at the risk of her marriage, her comfortable life, and possibly her own life. 

Though it's a familiar story, Moore instills a new vitality to the story, making it easy for the reader to get caught up in the plot.  In her hands Esther and Xerxes both become warm and real.   

Heather B. Moore who writes historicals under H.B. Moore is the recipient of numerous awards.  She not only writes scripturally based historical fiction, but is the author of a couple of non-fiction titles, and has recently made a foray into romance and women's fiction. She manages Precision Editing and is a BYU graduate.  She, her husband, and their young family live in Utah.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

E-Books and Editing

With the increased use of e-readers more and more of the books I review come to me electronically instead of as paper books.  I love to read and I'm not too fussy about which way I  read a book.  I've always loved the look and feel of a real book in my hands and because I've always depended on a partially photographic memory, paper books hold some definite advantages for me as a reviewer.  I can easily turn to a page or section I wish to quote or paraphrase without making copious notes.  Unfortunately my poor brain thinks all pages look the same on the e-reader.  Still I like the convenience and the portability of the e-reader.

I'm fairly tolerant of the occasional error in the books I read for possible reviews.  Usually I'm more concerned with content, story structure, character development, and overall appeal than with typos.  Even paper books from really good publishing houses often have a few errors, but in recent years I've seen an increase in the number of typos, misspelled words, and even grammar errors in books from even the top publishers, but this is a drop in the bucket compared to what I find in the novels I read on my e-reader. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder if the author even went to school.  I've grown accustomed to seeing this problem on Face Book, but it seems to me that books someone pays money to obtain on their e-readers should be proofread better.  

Too many e-books are self-edited.  Being your own editor is a lot like being your own attorney; you have a fool for a client.  That's not to say a writer shouldn't go through his/her manuscripts and at each stage of the editing process with extreme care, but going it alone isn't wise.  Another set of eyes is needed to produce a quality product. At this point many writers hire the cheapest freelance editor they can find.  Some freelance editors do a great job, but some don't.  I've read books edited by one well known freelance editor who repeats the same word usage mistakes in multiple books by different authors.  As soon as I see pour for pore, tenant for tenet, or muscle for mussel, I can guess who the author used for an independent editor.

I just finished reading a book which had a great story, sympathetic characters, and in a genre I enjoy, but on the second page was and were were interchanged.  As I got further into the story I found other grammar errors, several instances where a main character's name was changed, messy formatting, and an instance where a word was used that is similar sounding to the one meant but entirely different in meaning. 

I thoroughly recommend that writers go with a reputable publisher with real editors, but with the shortage of qualified copy editors these days smart writers need to go back to Grammar 101 and learn to proofread.  Those who decide to self publish in the e-reader market, keep in mind that you need two kinds of editors; one that analyzes content and knows how to help you produce the best story possible and one who understands the grammar, spelling, and typos maze.  Errors tend to stop the action and spoil otherwise perfectly good stories. 

Twenty years ago a writer told me her editor at a national publishing house went through her manuscripts with a purple pen, marking every misspelled word or grammar error, then a set amount was deducted from her royalties for each purple mark. I was careful to never submit anything to her publisher, but with some of the error riddled and badly formatted e-books I've read in the past two years since I got an e-reader, I've developed a great deal of sympathy for the publishing house.  Sadly I don't see the situation improving until we insist our schools do a better job of teaching grammar and spelling, until writers take the initiative to clean up their own work, and until readers refuse to pay for shoddy work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Historical Novel Review

It's been a year since I started a painful summer followed by three major surgeries and all of the therapy and life changes that brought about.  During that time I've read a lot of books and stacked up more reviews than Meridian Magazine can handle so I've decided to post some of those reviews here on my blog beginning with this one:
MATTIE by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., 238 pages, paperback $10.31, kindle $6.99 .
Mattie by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer is an historical novel based on the diaries of her grandmother who lived in the early 1900s in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. It begins with the death of Mattie's father when she was eleven years old. She'd been close to her father though he was an old man with three wives.  His death was the beginning of her struggle with faith. 

George Washington Sevey's first wife had stayed in Utah with her grown children when George moved to Mexico with his two younger wives to avoid being sent to prison and having his property confiscated by the federal government because of his plural marriage status. After one of the younger wives died, the two families were combined and Mattie grew up one of twelve children in the household. The first part of the book deals with her friends and activities in the small, dusty town, including her friendship with Alonzo who makes no secret of his feelings for her.

The story abruptly shifts to Arizona where Mattie goes as a young woman to live with an older sister and her family.  She works as a waitress and falls in love with a handsome, charming man who isn't the man he claims to be.  The experience leaves her shaken and she eventually travels to Monterey, California to marry Alonzo.  There she lives with another sister for a time until a violent earthquake changes her life dramatically and she returns to Mexico without marrying her childhood sweetheart. 

Life in Mexico has become turbulent and dangerous.  The Mormon settlers are often attacked and murdered.  She marries a young man she considered almost an outsider when they were children and is among the women and children who are evacuated by train to El Paso when the warring Mexican factions threaten the colony.  One of her sisters, with Mattie's assistance, gives birth to a baby on that nightmare journey.  They finally reach Elm Paso and are treated graciously by the people there, but she is anxious to return again to Mexico to be with her husband who is running a freight business and trying to stay neutral between the many warring generals battling for control of the country.  She gives birth to two daughters during that turbulent period and faces many frightening experiences. 

I had mixed feelings while reading this book. I found the historical events and background fascinating.  Much of the day to day life and the mixed loyalties of that period are presented from a fresh viewpoint.  However, I had difficulty with the abrupt and unexplained time and place transitions.  Some of the events are breathtakingly realistic and well-written.  Other parts read like a rough draft.  Even with its rough spots this is an unforgettable novel and well worth reading. 

Mattie is an interesting character.  She is stubborn, a little shy, but determined once her mind is made up, she's a bit judgmental, has a great deal of courage, but doesn't always make wise choices, and she struggles with faith in God.  With time and experience her faith grows and she learns to rely on God though she still occasionally questions. The author is at her best when she describes the everyday events of that era and she does a great job detailing Mattie's doubts and spiritual growth.  The plot works well and follows the actual events of that turbulent period in history. 

Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She left there at the age of nine and lived in Peru for ten years.  She then moved with her family to Tucson, Arizona.  She and her husband now live in Pasco, Washington, and are the parents of five children and count thirteen grandchildren. 

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MATTIE by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., 238 pages, paperback $10.31, kindle $6.99 .