Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm a Fixator

Book Reviews: I'm a Fixator

Some authors don't read reviews of their own books. Others fixate on them. I'm a Fixator. probably because I've only written a couple of novels. I like to read nice things about my books. Five star reviews make my day. 

But there is grade inflation on how many stars a book receives. Your friends and family will award five stars because they love you. Other readers may not (they may or may not love you, and they may or may not award your book with five stars). But I really think that getting some negative reviews makes your book more balanced when both good and bad are posted on a review site such as amazon. To compare this to the traditional school report card, getting a "B" or even a "C" (which actually is/was "average" back in the day) brings us down to the real world, where some readers like a particular book and some don't. When I think of the great writers (Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.) and compare them to myself, I'd award them twenty out of five stars. Maybe more. 

I've seen websites where other authors offer to post five-star reviews on your books if you'll do the same for them. I suspect many of these books aren't actually read.They can read the back cover and pull up a few reviews or descriptions on, and that's all they need to write a credible review.  
When we purchased a car, the salesman made a point of telling us we would receive a survey, and---there it was in his those puppydog eyes---the pain and fear of not getting top marks. Seems his friend had bought a car from him at the dealership and had raced through the post-sale survey, rating everything as "Good," with no knowledge of the harm he was causing the salesman, who explained to us that it had taken him two years to "pull his grades up" and overcome the "Goods" in his file. Who knew that Good was Bad?

Waiters and cruise ship stewards will ask you for "excellents" too. Their livelihood may be at stake. I nod my head and reassure them that they'll get top ratings from us. I've come to anticipate that embarrassing little speech and cut it short with a quick "Yes, you'll get all 'excellents' from us." So I became a player in that game, too.

You never know what to expect in a review. I have to wonder if Very Sensitive (and kind) Readers will give five stars to just about anything they read, while Insensitive Readers won't. I reviewed books for one nationally-known website for several years, but stopped when their instructions were modified: If you can't award four or five stars, please send this book back to us and we'll give it to another reviewer (presumably one who gives lots of fours and fives). Sometimes they'd sent me books that needed a lot of work and weren't ready for prime time, and I'd tell them I couldn't give it a fair review.  But now there's no room for that kind of interchange. They are now a four and five star review site. Perhaps business has flourished.

But now, in my case, we come to some of the Bigger Guys: Foreword Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. They shoot straight from the hip. In their reviews, there are some mentions of my strong points as a writer and negative comments that make me squirm. Well, I read both Squirmy Reviews and did a little wincing, too, because I think most of the criticisms were accurate and fair. Plotting has always been my weakness and a good reviewer will take note of that. 

These two sites offer you the option, after you've read your review via email, to allow them to post it on their web page or to not post it anywhere (the term on their web page is "kill it"). If you go for the "publish" option, the entire review appears on the company's website and may be posted (or excerpted) elsewhere.That means, of course, that you can quote one flattering sentence and put it on your amazon page. By excerpting and only publishing the best parts of the review, you can make it appear that the reviewer loved your book when they didn't. It seems we're all players here.

So, Gentle Readers, there you have it. 

p.s. I do like such terms as "nuanced," "strong character development," "imaginative tale" and "Jensen takes a light touch..." if you ever write about my book. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Foreword Magazine's review

Gabriel's Daughters

Reviewed by 
Gabriel’s Daughters is a lovely and optimistic story about the uncrushable nature of women’s spirituality.
Janet Kay Jensen’s Gabriel’s Daughters is the imaginative tale of a young girl who breaks away from the expectations of her rigid religious community to live a life with more possibilities.

At sixteen, Zina knows that her artistic dreams will have to be put on hold soon so that she can marry Cyrus, a friend of her father’s. But Zina is resistant to the prescriptions of her polygamous Utah community and craves a future full of passion. Her ambivalence leaves her vulnerable to the sweet-talking of a handsome young Gentile teacher. At risk of communal exile, she flees into the wider world, where she must challenge all of her taught notions of right and wrong.

The narrative pits polygamist traditions against more welcoming Christian belief systems, from the emotive Protestant church where Zina first finds refuge to a more modern articulation of Mormonism than that she first knew. Zina is not the only woman from Gabriel’s Landing to question how she was raised; two sisters also resist the roles assigned to them. Moments devoted to their barrier-breaking are fascinating in the text, which openly celebrates women’s dreams without insisting that they must abandon all beliefs to pursue them.

But those optimistic explorations also lead to some less-than-believable moments in the story, which always seems designed to afford Zina a wealth of opportunities. Her fortunes are incredible: she finds work and shelter immediately, even as a pregnant, teenage runaway, and is able to complete school with ease. A friendly young man with an art-laden apartment shows up offering her a room, rent free, when she needs it; later she inherits millions from a woman whom she knew only briefly. Even her grand struggles dissipate quickly, including her resistance to the love of a kind man.
The lack of suspense is consistent, and sometimes at odds with the story itself, which takes many dramatic turns, including a brutal assault and a kidnapping. There is never much doubt that Zina and her family will prevail and that forgiveness is always at hand. Where the story concentrates on Zina as a vulnerable and growing young girl, it is a successfully sweet foray into women’s religious lives; where it strives for more incredible turns, it strains credulity, sometimes beyond reason.

Years pass quickly, and kind characters move in and out of the story with ease and gentle presence. Prose is both swift and self-consciously affecting. Characters are somewhat formulaic, particularly black and gay characters, who are subject to light, if nonhostile, caricaturing. The text works to celebrate differences, if it does not always do so with much depth.

Speeches around personal progress are preachy, but they also result in small, happy redemptions. Zina herself grows into a woman of presence, and other characters develop in a similar style, always emerging from their challenges as more well-rounded, and eternally hopeful, people. The result is a cast that is lovable and admirable, if not always believable. Happily-ever-afters are never much in doubt, but those who come to the tale for its spiritually cheerful core are likely to still find much about the conclusions in Gabriel’s Daughters to celebrate.

Gabriel’s Daughters is a lovely and optimistic story about the uncrushable nature of women’s spirituality.

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have his/her book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Review make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

charlie chaplin eating a shoe شارلى شابلن بياكل جزمة

The review is in from Kirkus

 Kirkus Review: Gabriel's Daughters

Questions of faith and family haunt a young woman fleeing from her isolated polygamist community.
In this follow-up to 2007’s Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, Jensen follows Zina Martin, the sister of the previous novel’s protagonist. Faced at age 16 with becoming a plural wife to an older man, Zina embarks on a doomed affair that leaves her alone and pregnant. Desperate, she abandons Gabriel’s Landing, her sheltered polygamist community in Utah. In the first of many fortunate plot points, Zina is picked up by an angelic African-American couple, who take her home to Chicago and treat her like a daughter. Zina slips easily into modern life: college degree, good job, an apartment of her own. But her past and the family she left behind still plague her. At one point, she tells a friend: “I don’t have one object, not one reminder of home. Not a picture or a letter or a quilt.” Zina especially wonders about her sister Louisa, who left Gabriel’s Landing to become a doctor. Zina’s quest to reunite with Louisa eventually connects the two books, and the sisters’ struggle to reconcile the worlds of secular society, conservative polygamy, and mainstream Mormonism dominates the book’s latter half. 
Jensen’s nuanced consideration of that struggle is the story’s greatest strength. She refrains from easy judgments, and her ability to present the Martin sisters’ genuine love for their home alongside its real pitfalls challenges readers to embrace the full complexity of polygamist communities. The rest of the plot, though, is less subtle and at times implausible. The ending seems predestined, and the difficult aspects of Zina’s story are rendered in an oddly unemotional fashion. For example, Zina undergoes a trauma shortly after arriving in Chicago, but the author quickly abandons that painful event and leaps months into the future. Jensen explains Zina’s sudden progress in bland, matter-of-fact prose: “Zina had been in Chicago for over a year. She had moved into an apartment with other girls her age, and learned to love the city and her job.” Secondary characters come and go with similarly little fanfare, often seeming more like plot devices than vibrant individuals. Such narrative distance and too-convenient plotting keep Zina and the other characters from becoming as compelling as the book’s broader themes.
A serviceable plot and characters bolstered by unusually sophisticated thinking about polygamy and its relationship to mainstream Mormonism.
Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-939967-19-0
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: July 13th, 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Have you written YOUR obituary yet? Consider the alternatives....

 Here’s mine, more or less, and a pox on any of my family who consider altering it. My reasons for authoring it were quite reasonable: names and dates and facts will will be accurate,  (some of the novels are nonexistent at this writing) and there is no suggestion of sainthood.

Janet Kay Craner Jensen passed away (actually, she died) on ___________. She was born April 3, 1951, a surprise, to Darwin Kay and Lorene Ethel Miller Craner, in Berkeley, California. Her first recorded sentence was “Me do it.” She was raised in several western states and graduated from Skyline High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1969, where she won distinction as a state champion in debate. After being accepted and then rejected by Brigham Young University, she attended Utah State University on a Debate scholarship, where she affiliated with Mortar Board and earned a B.S. in Communicative Disorders.

She met her husband, Miles Peter Jensen, at USU, where both were members of the Intercollegiate Debate Team. After some debate, they agreed to marry, and on August 19, 1972, they were sealed in the Ogden Utah LDS Temple, after which they continued to debate for the next -------- years. They honeymooned in Chicago, where both earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University:  Miles in Law and Janet in Speech-Language Pathology.

Janet was employed as a Speech-Language Pathologist for twenty years, beginning at Augustana Nursery in Chicago, Ill.; following with Cache and Logan (Utah) School Districts; and part-time faculty at Utah State University’s Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education and USU’s Center for Persons With Disabilities.

(You may skip the next two paragraphs. In fact, this is highly recommended.)

Janet's second career, as a writer, was noted by poems and articles that appeared in Healing Ministry Journal, Everton’s Family History Magazine, ByLine, Meridian, The Magic of Stories, Parables of Our Times and Intermountain Health Care’s Heart to Heart newsletter. A personal essay, Baking Day, won second place in a national competition. She co-authored The Book Lover’s Cookbook, Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages that Feature Them (Wenger and Jensen, Ballantine, 2003). Publication of this book was greeted with great surprise by friends who swore she could not cook. She published her first novel, Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys (Cedar Fort, 2007). This was read with great surprise by her husband, who did not know she could write. She went on to publish more novels, Gabriel’s Daughters (Jolly Fish, 2015), Come, Girls, Come (and listen to my noise); Grace Will Bring Us Home, O’Connor’s Honor, Chrissie, The Best is Yet to Be, and Drs. Birt, Hogg and Dube′.

Janet also won numerous awards from the League of Utah Writers, including first place in short story, humorous poetry, and personal essay. Her novels received several national awards, including finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award for New Fiction, Foreword Magazine’s Indiefab contest, and Southwest Book Design and Production Award. 

She served as president of the Cache Valley Chapter of the League of Utah Writers and was a member of the LUW State Board for several years. Other professional affiliations included The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, Women Writing the West, and USU’s Old Main Society. She was a tutor with Bridgerland Literacy for ten years and was proud to be honored as Logan Library’s Top-Fines Patron of the Year.

Janet was known to play practical jokes and was devoted to her family. She enjoyed travel and theater and had a passion for reading. After accidentally sipping fruit-flavored champagne on a Caribbean cruise, (which inspired many family stories), she remained alcohol-free for the remainder of her life. She served in many capacities in the LDS Church including Cub Scout Leader, Relief Society Instructor, Primary President, and Newsletter Editor. At the time of her death she was a member of the Lundstrom Park (Logan East Stake) Third Ward.

She was preceded in death by her parents and one grandson, Christian Jensen.

She also outlived numerous mixed-breed dogs: Chevy, Malibu, Molly, and Lita, and one large white rabbit, Harvey.

She is survived by her husband, Miles, of Logan; her three sons, who provided inspiration for many humorous poems and essays: Kevin Scott Jensen (Evelyn), Draper, Utah; Benjamin Paul (BJ) and Marica Jensen, Jyvaskyla Finland; and Jeff Cameron Jensen, Emeryville, California; two sisters: Anne Cloward, Portland, Ore.; Ellen Croft, Riverton, Utah; five remarkable grandchildren, and Gus, a BorderBeagle who was her faithful companion and partner in crime.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donation to the WalMart Where Did I Park my Car Club. Serious donors may contribute to CAPSA (Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse), Cache Valley Humane Society and Bridgerland Literacy.

Graveside Services will be highlighted by a rendering of "Amazing Grace"  by the USU Pipe and Drum Corps, and will be conducted by Bishop Tom Auga who was quoted as remarking, “Who knew being Primary President could shorten the average woman’s life span? Besides, Sister Jensen was anything but average.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Good news from Foreword Indiefab Contest

JULY 12, 2016

GABRIEL’S DAUGHTERS has been named a Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards Silver winner.

PROVO, UTAH—Today, JOLLY FISH PRESS is pleased to announce GABRIEL’S DAUGHTERS has been recognized as a Silver winner in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards.

Narrowed down from nearly 2,000 entries by a panel of librarians and booksellers, along with Foreword Reviews’ editorial staff, the winners in 66 categories are considered the year’s best books published by independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors. Foreword Reviews made the announcement in a live presentation at the American Library Association Annual Conference. A complete list of winners can be found at:

“Foreword’s INDIEFAB judges are the key to our winners selection process, and, in our minds, the most foolproof way to choose award-winning books,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “We work with a librarian and bookseller in each category to provide us with an insider’s perspective on what would do well on consumer and library shelves. Using industry professionals confirms the trade quality of a book.”

Jolly Fish Press hails GABRIEL’S DAUGHTERS as “an impressive work of literary fiction that accurately explores the struggles of being raised in a polygamous community. Jensen’s novel explores the unique strengths and weaknesses of the relationship in a polygamous family.”

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: We are Jolly Fish press, a publishing house based in Provo, Utah, which publishes trade fiction and select non-fiction books in the national and international market. We excel in exceptional cover design, worldwide online and brick-and-mortar distribution, expansive publicity and marketing campaigns, subsidiary rights representation, and most of all, our drive and ability to find exceptional, yet undiscovered authors, jumpstarting their careers with maximum exposure, sales, mentoring, and higher than industry average royalty rates."

About Foreword: Foreword Magazine, Inc is a media company featuring a Folio:-award-winning quarterly print magazine, Foreword Reviews, and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 170 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.
They are headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

Foreword Magazine

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What I learned on Old Main Hill

    Back in the day of the quarter (vs. semester) season, when finals were over in December, we did some sledding. The lack of sleds didn't pose a problem; a few cafeteria trays disappeared for an hour and then returned with stories to tell. 
     All flushed and breathless, I dropped by to see my favorite professor, whose office was in this wonderful historic building. He looked up from his desk and said in his quiet, Parkinson's-colored voice, "I have never had a student who's written with more insight than you. It was an honor to read this.” 
     Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is genuine praise. It won't hurt the budget at all. 

Introduction to Folklore 101, Austin E. Fife

Friday, September 18, 2015

The mother of all....muskrats

So...yesterday there was a great commotion in the back yard. Gus the BorderBeagle had cornered his quarry, which had taken refuge in a large plastic storm drain hose, about 4 feet long. I looked out to see Gus with his nose jammed into the hose, which he then held up in the air as he trotted around in the yard. If I hadn't been worried about the critter, which I assumed was a squirrel, I should have videotaped him. He looked like a circus performer.
Then he'd drop the hose and bark first at one end and then the other. I heard little squeaks and scratches from inside the hose. So I pulled Gus inside and waited for his prisoner to escape.
After about 20 minutes a little nose poked out and then pulled back in. After about half an hour, the whole thing emerged. It was either the mother of all squirrels or.....wait! It had a long scraggly tail! Gus had cornered a muskrat! It slowly made its way to what I hope was safety under the blue spruces. We've never had a muskrat in the yard in the 23 years we've lived in this home. I had to look it up on the internet to be sure. Poor Gus is very despondent that his hunt was interrupted. I had to let him lick the empty peanut butter jar for comfort.
And that was the most exciting event of my week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An honor for Gabriel's Daughters

Post Office Box 1285    Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504

 (505) 660-6357    Fax: (505) 983-0899

New Mexico Book Association is pleased to announce the
Santa Fe—06-27-2015--Here are the winning recipients of the 2015 Southwest Book Design and Production Awards, announced and presented on June 17 at the NMBA Gala and Membership Meeting. This is the sixth year that these coveted recognitions have been awarded to the publishers and creators of a few outstanding books produced during the past several months. NMBA is a not-for-profit organization and is pleased to offer this award program for New Mexico’s authors and publishers as well as to those in surrounding states.  SWBDA Coordinator James Mafchir and NMBA President Paula Lozar made the presentations.


Mysterious New Mexico:
Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment
University of New Mexico Press
Benjamin Radford, author

Spiritual Law: The Essence of Swedenborg’s Divine Providence
Rock Point Press, publisher
Joanna V. Hill, author


A Legacy in Arms:
American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800-1900
University of Oklahoma Press
Richard C. Rattenbury, author

Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth behind a World War II Fence
The University of Utah Press
Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey, author


A  Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette
University of Oklahoma Press
Andy Wilkinson, author

The Memory of Stone: Meditations on the Canyons of the West
University of New Mexico Press
Erv Schroeder, author


Clovis Caches: Recent Discoveries & New Research
University of New Mexico Press
Bruce B. Huckell and J. David Kilby, authors

New Mexican Folk Music / Cancionero del Folklor Nuevomexicano
University of New Mexico Press
Cipriano Frederico Vigil, author


Medicine from the Kitchen
Author House, LLC, Publisher
Jessie Emerson, RN, author

Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing
Rio Grande Books, Publisher
Slim Randles, author


Chasing Dichos through Chimayo
University of New Mexico Press
Don J. Usner, author

The Power of the Hebrew Alphabet
Gaon Books, Publisher
Gloria Abella Ballen, author


Ears of Corn:  Listen
3: A Taos Press, Publisher
Max Early, author

Poems from the Fields of Dharma
Blue Spruce Books, Publisher
Thomas Reidy, author


How Chile Came to New Mexico
Rio Grande Books, Publisher
Rudolfo Anaya, author

Gator, Gator, Second Grader
Five Star Publications, Inc.
Conrad J. Storad, author

Gabriel’s Daughters
Jolly Fish Press, LLC, Publisher
Janet Kay Jensen, author

Spiritual Law: The Essence of Swedenborg’s Divine Providence
Rock Point Press, Publisher
Joanna V. Hill, author


The Wastewater Gardener:
Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time
Synergetic Press, Publisher
Mark Nelson, author

The King and Queen of Comezón
University of Oklahoma Press
Denise Chavez, author

The Roque Lobato House, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Schenck Southwest Publishing
Chris Wilson and Oliver Horn, authors


Behind The Lines
Milbrown Press, Publisher
Jeffrey B. Miller, author


Southwest Art Defined: An Illustrated Guide
Rio Nuevo Publishers
Margaret Moore Booker, author

If you are interested in any of these books or would like to interview any of the winners, we would be happy to arrange it.

Please contact: Karen Villanueva 239-877-4248, email:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Healing Stone by Brock Booher

                        One boy's gift may be more than his town is ready for. 

Book Review: Healing Stone by Brock Booher

First, the cover: It is eye-catching and catches the spirit of the story. It has a dark background with beautiful contrast of the golden elements of stalks of wheat,  and the shading on the lettering is very effective. 

Stone Molony, age 17, is already a most unusual young man---insightful, mature, and wise beyond his years--- when he discovers he has the gift of healing, something so powerful and life-changing that a lesser character wouldn’t be able to cope with it. “The day I discovered my gift, I saved Rusty’s life, and then he saved mine,” Stone relates. Stunned that he was able to touch his gravely injured dog and restore his limbs and his health, he hardly has time to process this miracle before Rusty takes a snake bite intended for Stone and dies. 

Word of Stone’s gift spreads rapidly in his small rural town and a series of healings takes place. Within his own family, though, is a grave need that Stone cannot meet, and it is devastating. His older brother, Leck, suffered serious injuries in Korea and has come home embittered and hopeless. His parents don’t understand why Stone cannot heal his own brother, and Stone lives with their grief and disapproval.  But Stone has learned something very important about his gift: it is dependent on the faith of the sufferer.

From the publisher: “Set in 1955 Kentucky, Healing Stone explores the effects of racism and corruption hidden in a small town and the redemptive power of hope discovered in one unique boy.”

The plot is original and unpredictable, the characters well-drawn, and the language simply musical. The colloquialisms are vivid and often laugh-out-loud funny, as well as spot-on.

With hints of Huck Finn and Elmer Gantry, Brock Booher's Healing Stone is a compelling and uplifting read.

Brock Booher grew up on a farm in rural Kentucky, the fourth of ten children, where he learned to work hard, use his imagination, and believe in himself. He left the farm to pursue the friendly skies as a pilot, and currently flies for a major US carrier. A dedicated husband and father of six children, he began writing out of sheer arrogance, but the writing craft quickly humbled him. During that process, he discovered that he enjoyed writing because it is an endeavor that can never quite be mastered. He still gladly struggles everyday to improve his writing and storytelling skills

You can buy the book here: here

  • File Size: 758 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc (April 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 

  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled

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