23 Kasım 2012 Cuma

Telling the truth

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About a month ago, I was sitting in a Marriott ballroom trying to explain to my husband that although he had been so sweet to fly up to Provo just to be with me for the Whitney Awards, and that although I had two finalists in the romance category, and that although I was eligible for three awards that night, he would not be hearing my name called.
I'd read all the books. I knew exactly who would win. I'd known from the minute I hit the halfway point in Carla Kelly's novel Borrowed Light that it would win. And I was right. 
So I've had a month to process the loss. Want to know how I feel about it?
A hundred percent fine. The woman who won the Whitney Award for Best Romance has studied and honed her craft over a couple of decades in the national market. It's obvious when you read Carla Kelly's book that she's got a clear grasp of storytelling, a deep love of history, and she marries those two things here to write an utterly enjoyable novel.
The reality is that my first two novels ever published were chosen as two of five finalists from a crowded field of romance novel nominees. That felt amazing. I admit that the only thing that bummed me out about losing is that I feel like Not My Type is one of the best things I've ever written, so if it didn't win then I'm not sure anything I do in the future will ever have a shot of winning, either.
But here's the thing: I was bummed for about a day. And by "bummed" I mean that I eventually consoled myself with an extra piece of chocolate and that pretty much cured me. It's hard to be bummed when you agree with the outcome of a decision. Borrowed Light deserved the win.
And just so you know, there are at least two dozen people who can tell you I was on record as saying it would win weeks before that awards ceremony ever happened, so this isn't me trying to be a good loser.
However, the whole experience just affirmed for me how much I appreciate what the Whitney Awards does in recognizing great fiction from LDS authors, and specifically for me, LDS fiction, which is sometimes a hard genre for a newcomer to navigate when trying to figure out who to pick up and read. It's not a perfect process: There were a couple of head scratchers, and I think a couple of categories were weaker than they should be, but that's utterly subjective. Who's to say that those books aren't all excellent but I just don't care for the genres, you know? So many of the finalists this year knocked me right out with how good they were.
Anyway, reading books for the Whitneys consumed all, and I do mean ALL, of my reading time from Thanksgiving until the beginning of April. But now I've had two months to pick up books I like all on my own and I'm about ready to make some nominations again for books that I believe deserve consideration in this year's nominating process. 
Which is all to say that I'm fixing to tell you about some good books I read, and that you should check them out. Also, if you've read something great from an LDS author then you can and should nominate them here. It's about a ten second process.
Also, this is a list based purely on what I've been able to get to so far, so no friends of mine better be getting in a snit about not seeing their books. If it's not here, I haven't read it yet, so chill RIGHT NOW.
In the always crowded YA category, here are some great contenders:
Becoming Bayley wins the award, hands-down, for the author who I could not for the life of me figure out why she wasn't published yet. Susan is a dang good writer, and this is a great story that I fully expect to see as a finalist this year in the YA general category. Strong, imperfect, lovable main character. Soccer. First love. Hard choices. Doing the right thing. Being bone-headed sometimes. Learning. Hot soccer guys. Really, what else do you need to know? Not going to lie: I don't do scary well. Hate scary books. Hate scary movies. And when Luisa Perkins asked me to blurb this book and I had to read it, I was like, CRAP. Because she's a friend and I couldn't say no, you know? And I'll be honest, I read Dispirited only in broad daylight and usually at the park where nothing could sneak up on me without me seeing it coming. And I can't even really describe this book but I'll say this: it does a great job of being creepy without being terrifying. I didn't have to sleep with my light on, but I thought about it often when I wasn't reading it. So what's it about? Er . . . k, try this: a kid mourning his mother figures out how to slip out of his body and let his spirit roam to find her. And then something awful locks him out of his body. For years. And then there's this new family with a sweet girl. And a mysterious disappearing and reappearing house. And her sense that something isn't right. And she's brave. And . . . all right, I can't explain it. It's an eerie, haunting, awesome read. 
If your 8 to 13-year-old hasn't discovered this series by Julie Wright and Kevin Wasden, let me do you the enormous favor of recommending it to you. My 12-year-old son loves these books and I jumped all over the chance to review this book because it's so FUN. Great illustrations and a wonderful story of kids traveling through space on a quest. I love the plot, the creatures, the adventures, the resourceful kids AND the present, trustworthy, COMPETENT adults who help them (such a rarity in middle grade fiction, it feels like). Seriously, your kid, boy OR girl, will love these books.
And now, for the grownups:For the grownups, here's another debut author to keep your eye on. Krista writes with so much heart. This novel, like mine, is a bit escapist. But where my books are kind of citrus-y meringues on the dessert spectrum, this book is . . . oh, come on: look at the cover. This book is CHOCOLATE. It's not an airy confection like my work tends to be, but it's not one of those choke-a-horse death-by-chocolate-cake-slices either. This is a premium milk chocolate book. Which is to say it's about a girl (but a grown one) who has some unexpected people drop into her life, like an ex-flame and a wayward sister and a love-her-on-the-spot baby niece, and bad guys--drug-dealing bad guys, no less--and a dad who tried but didn't get it right but maybe he will now. So read this.
If you like mysteries, then you need to discover Josi Kilpack's Sadie Hoffmiller series if you haven't already. My mother-in-law loves them. But so do a bunch of my friends around here. And Banana Split takes Sadie on a hard emotional journey where your heart breaks for her. It's a different flavor than her other Sadie stories, but in my opinion--and I'm right about this, btw--it's Josi's best work in the series. And that's saying something because the rest of the series is great.
There's a growing list of books I haven't read but already suspect will be finalists this year too. And I'll get to them, believe me. Obviously, I focused in this post on releases this year from LDS publishers. I'll have to do a future one about stuff I'll be reading in the next two months that's non-LDS fiction by LDS writers. I imagine you're going to want to keep an eye out for work from authors like Jolene Perry and Jennifer Shaw Wolf and Kristine Tate.

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