Memorial Day is one of those holidays that gets a bit of attention, but a lot of people view it as a day to sleep in and maybe fire up the barbecue. While that’s fine, there is a much more important reason for the holiday. Memorial Day is set aside each year as a day of remembrance. All those freedoms we Americans enjoy? They didn’t come cheap. A lot of lives have been lost since the beginning of this great nation in an effort to preserve that freedom we enjoy each and every day.

So this Memorial Day, take a few moments to remember those who gave their lives so you could enjoy the day off of work. If you see a member of the Armed Forces, current or veteran, be sure to thank them. If you know a family who has a service member (current or former), thank them as well for the sacrifices they make to support their loved one in uniform.

Most importantly, take a moment to remember those who gave everything to protect our freedom. They are the ones this holiday is for.

photo of headstones at Arlington National Cemetary

Today is the 151st anniversary of the Mexican Army defeating France in the Battle of Puebla. The victory was more symbolic than anything, but today the fifth of May provides a good reason to celebrate your Mexican heritage (if you have any) and a good opportunity to learn more about Mexican culture. Or maybe you see it as a good excuse to eat tacos and listen to mariachi music.

Whatever your reason and method of celebrating today, enjoy Cinco de Mayo!

photo of Mexican dancers

By dbking (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_5269) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been listening to the news for a good portion of the afternoon, and one question keeps coming to mind. Why would anyone want to set off explosive devices at the Boston Marathon? If they wanted to create fear, they’ve certainly managed that. I’m sure they also created anger, determination, and resolve to catch whoever is responsible and see them brought to justice.

This shocking event has reminded me of something that I first recognized after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While this is a devastating and terrifying event, it will not break the people of the United States. We will recover from our shock, we will band together, and we will grow stronger and wiser, making it more difficult for future attacks like this. That’s the thing about Americans, we’re stubborn people who believe strongly in keeping our country safe. Terrorist attacks will not bring us down. They will only strengthen our resolve to stop terrorism and see those responsible for terrorist acts pay for their crimes.

This is difficult day, not only for Boston, but for the United States as a whole. Many countries will feel the effects of the events in Boston, but I have no doubt people will come together and stand strong. Tragic events tend to strengthen rather than weaken societies, bringing about change and determination to prevent such things from happening again.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Boston and everyone who has been affected by these explosions world wide.

Photo of the downtown Boston skyline

This is a day romance authors and readers love. Why? Because Valentine’s Day is all about romance and love, of course! Some people, women especially, might find this attention on romance somewhat depressing because they’re single. But you know what? You don’t have to have a significant other to enjoy the day. I’m single myself, but I always manage to find a way to enjoy Valentine’s Day, even if I don’t have a date. Of course, being a sucker for romance probably helps with that. :)

So today, if you’re in a relationship with someone, enjoy their company! Spend time with them and let them know how much they mean to you.

By Newone [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re single, know that you’re not alone. Check out these statistics I found this morning:

There are 119 single men (i.e., never married, widowed or divorced) who are in their 20s for every 100 single women of the same ages. Corresponding numbers for the following race and ethnic groups are:

  • Hispanics: 153 men per 100 women
  • Asians (single race): 132 men per 100 women (This ratio is not significantly different from that for Hispanics or non-Hispanic whites.)
  • Non-Hispanic whites (single race): 120 men per 100 women
  • Blacks (single race): 92 men per 100 women (The numbers of black men and women in this age group are not significantly different from one another.

With ratios like that, is it any wonder finding a significant other is so difficult? Of course, if you’re single by choice, that’s awesome too. And very brave in my mind, given the huge emphasis on dating and marriage in the United States.

Here’s a little Valentine’s Day treat for those of you who are feeling lonely:

By Amanda [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Merry Christmas!

Posted: December 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags:

I hope you’re all enjoying the day with family and friends. For those of you who can’t physically be with your families this holiday season, I hope you enjoy the day in whatever way you can.

Merry Christmas!

By Silar (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When I was growing up, I always heard people refer to December 7 as Pearl Harbor Day. Although I was born long after the end of World War II, I read firsthand accounts of the events of December 7, 1941. I have never forgotten those horrific descriptions. Those stories bring tears to my eyes even now. War is a terrible thing, and we should never forget those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy today.

In honor of those who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who lost their lives, I’m writing this blog post to help insure that day is never forgotten. Here are a few images from the day seventy-one years ago that drew the United States into the Pacific theater of World War II.

By USN (Official U.S. Navy photograph 80-G-32792.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Navy (photo 80-G-16871), Naval Historical Center photo NH 86118 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo # 80-G-6683 USS Arizona’s magazine explosion at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941

By United States Office of War Information. (United States National Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Romance Reviews is having a Year End Splash Party with a ton of prizes. I’m giving away a copy of Swim Partner to one lucky person who can correctly answer my Q&A today. Hop on over and check out Question #11 for your chance to win! http://www.theromancereviews.com/event.php

Note: You’ll have to log in to the site to enter, but the registration process is super easy if you’re not already a member of the site.

Wind Over Marshdale cover artI won a copy of Wind Over Marshdale by Tracy  Krauss a few weeks back, and I finally got around to starting it over the weekend. I just finished reading it a little while ago, and all I can say is wow.

*****

WARNING: Spoilers are included.

*****

It’s Christian fiction, which I’ve read quite a bit of; there’s romance, which I also read quite a bit. Honestly, I’m not sure how to classify the book because there is so much happening in it and so many subplots. There are quite a few points of view, including a teenager or two, but there are three characters whose eyes most of the scenes are shown through so it’s not that difficult to keep up. It did take a while to figure out how all the various people were connected and why some of them even had scenes in their perspective, but it all eventually tied together. Actually, the end tied everything up a little too nicely with salvation, redemption, returning to faith too long ignored, and a random flip from nasty to nice for two old aunties who are only mentioned once or twice in the book. I’ve seen this happen in other Christian fiction and romances, so it wasn’t too surprising that everything wrapped up in such a pretty little package, but it was a bit disappointing given the edgy tone of the rest of the book.

That tone is something that got to me from time to time. It seemed like the entire town of Marshdale was obsessed with sex. Now, don’t get me wrong. There aren’t any sex scenes and nothing graphic, but it seemed like a large number of characters (especially the heroine and the pastor, oddly enough) spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about sex. While not uncommon in a romance, after a while it began to feel like I was being taught a lesson on the dangers of immoral activity and impure thoughts. Considering this is a Christian novel, it didn’t really bother me.

What did bother me, however, was the character of Thomas Lone Wolf and how he was treated. The book started with such potential for Thomas, a Cree man with a rock-solid Christian faith who moved his two kids (a teen and a kindergartener) to the small prairie town of Marshdale. It’s never explicitly stated, but I think he’s an archaeologist, which is awesome. He’s involved with a nearby archaeological dig, anyway, that’s uncovered native artifacts. Throughout the story, he’s trying to convince the town to build a cultural center near the site of the dig, which has turned out to be more historically significant than originally expected. He runs into all kinds of believable and well done prejudice and roadblocks for his “Indian center,” as some of the more racist locals call it.

What got to me is the way Thomas is always talking and thinking about diversity, wanting people to accept and respect each other regardless of skin color, and speaking out against prejudice and racism (all of which are excellent and gave me great hope for his role in the story), but then at times he was just as prejudiced and racist, if not more so, than the whites who wanted him to take his kids and leave town because they “didn’t belong” there. Around the middle of the book, I would have thrown the book across the room if it had been a paperback instead of on my Kindle. Not because Thomas was being a hypocrite, but because of the heroine.

See, the heroine is attracted to both Thomas and a white man (the hero, Con McKinley)from the time she meets them. Pretty standard fare for a romance, so no big deal. She goes out with Thomas first and has a good time with him and is still attracted to him. Then she goes out with Con, and it’s obvious from the writing that she’s eventually going to end up with him. Okay, fine so far, since she obviously has to fall for one guy or the other. Then she has a disagreement with Con, and after a week of him avoiding her, she’s feeling lonely. She calls him, but gets his voice mail. So she calls Thomas, the guy she’s attracted to, feels sexual tension around, but doesn’t have the same warm fuzzy relationship feelings with that she has with Con. She coaxes Thomas into letting her come over to his place, making it clear she’s only interested in a booty call. After she’s there, he wises up long enough to realize sex would be a mistake at that moment and sends her home just in time. But then he gets farther and farther from the strong Christian faith he had at the beginning of the book, thanks in part to listening to the local witch, a woman he’s warned his children away from. At one point he decides to drop in on the heroine to pick up where they left off at his house (which ends with her asking him to leave before anything really happens), and what follows is a complete slide away from his faith and the decision that because his ancestors used a nearby lake as a meeting and religious place, it is his right to get the land to build his cultural center, connect with the native religion, etc. He does eventually realize the mistakes he’s made and straighten everything out in his life, with his friends, and with God, but the way the character and his flaws, temptations, etc. are handled rubbed me the wrong way.

Then there’s the heroine. She spends quite a bit of time thinking about sex and relationships with men, but then gets embarrassed whenever sex is mentioned, now matter how vaguely. At times she seems like an intelligent and worldly woman, but at other times she comes across as a naive, ignorant girl. For a teacher, she seems to know relatively little about how farming works, which could be understandable since she’s a city girl, but she shows her ignorance in the strangest places, such as not knowing that winter snows are important to the water table and the next year’s crops.

What Wind Over Marshdale comes down to for me is that it’s not a bad book, but it’ll never be one of my favorites. If you’re looking for Christian fiction set in a small town with all those small town issues and a rather complex storyline, you might enjoy Wind Over Marshdale.

It’s Veterans Day

Posted: November 11, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Happy Veterans Day for those of you in the US! If you see a veteran today (or any day) be sure to thank them for their service. Veterans of all ages have sacrificed in ways most of us can’t fully understand in the name of serving their country. I admire them for honorably serving this great nation and helping it to stay safe and free.

Thank you for your service!

photo of a young Marine and a World War 2 veteran

Yes, it’s true. I’m one of the few people who managed to stay away from the Harry Potter mania that swept through the U.S. (and other parts of the world, I’m sure) a few years back. I didn’t read the books. I didn’t see the movies. I didn’t buy any of the abundant merchandise. Yet in my pursuit of discovering what makes some books sell in the millions while others sell only a handful copies, I realized I was doing myself a huge disservice by  not reading the books our nation embraced and turned into a phenomenon.

With that in mind, I decided it’s about time I read some of the wildly popular books I haven’t picked up (although Fifty Shades of Grey is one I will never read). I decided to start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Honestly, I expected to be bored out of my skull and have to force myself to finish the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The writing pulled me in from the beginning and kept me interested until the very end. Rarely have I seen characters whose personalities are so clearly defined in just a few lines and shown in such a vivid manner for the entire book. I particularly enjoyed the ghosts (especially Peeves), each of whom has a unique personality, just like the living characters. Despite the serious events of the book, there was enough humor to make it fun to read. And the twist in the story… totally didn’t see that coming, but it worked perfectly. Well done, Ms. Rowling.

I must admit to experiencing a bit of disappointment, however. The beginning of the book, with its focus on clothing and behavior when describing people, gave me hop there would be a lovely mix of ethnicities and races at Hogwarts. Instead, the paleness of the student body is explicitly mentioned, although there is a token black student who appears during the first meal at the school and is never mentioned again. All things considered, this was a minor disappointment in an otherwise engaging book.

So, now that I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and enjoyed it more than I imagined possible, it’s time to choose the next wildly popular book to read. Should it be Twilight? The Hunger Games? What do you  lovely readers recommend?