The LDStorymakers Conference and the Whitney Gala are this weekend and I'm so excited to be going. My writing has sort of stalled out—once again. I'm starting to think I'll never write a complete book. Perhaps I'm a better editor/polisher, than I am a creator. Whatever. Anyway. I know this weekend will be totally inspiring and I'll come home determined to be a writer again.
Like last year, I read all the Whitney nominees. Unlike last year, it was a lot harder to choose winners. There were only a few books that I felt didn't quite deserve the nomination they received, but most of them were very, very good. In most of the categories, it was pretty easy for me to narrow it down to two books but then I was stumped because I could justify either one as a winner. In the Youth category, I wanted them all to win—in a five way tie!
However, after much, much deliberation, here are my picks, with short commentary:
Best General Fiction: My two favs were Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom and The Reckoning by Tanya Parker Mills. The Reckoning was a very solid book with a great story. Bound on Earth had a wonderful writing style, examining a family structure and the way their challenges bound them together. Although, in my opinion, it is more a collection of short stories, rather than a novel, I still went with Bound on Earth as the Best General Fiction.
Best Historical: I liked all five of the nominees. They each had a few little weaknesses I'd change, but then, I'm an editor and I was born to pick things apart. This category winner was a tough call. I loved Isabelle Webb's cleverness; I loved the strength of testimony and love shared between Abinadi and his wife; I loved Charlie Mae's spunk; I loved Marie's courage. But the one that really caught me up was the story of Jesus' "adopted" brother in Master by Toni Sorenson.
Best Speculative Fiction: Hands down, The Host by Stephanie Meyer. While I'm only a moderate fan of the Twilight series, I am a raving fan of The Host. I absolutely loved this book. It's on my list of all-time favorites. I loved the slow building romance, the story of two species colliding, and the examination of the human race through the eyes of its conquerors. Please tell me there will be a sequel.
Best Youth Fiction: Of all the categories, this was the hardest to judge and I'd really be fine if any one of the five nominees won. I loved every. single. one. The 13th Reality by James Dashner was fabulous. I loved how Tick has good friends and a stable family. Alcatraz vs. The Scrivner’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson was a fabulous story. The chapter beginnings were hilariously funny. Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (Book 3) by Brandon Mull had such good (but highly entertaining) lessons about good vs evil and the consequences of our choices. Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage has a handicapped main character, which alone is a huge plus. And the theme of the magic being inside was just great. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George was written in such a beautiful voice. All of these books had wonderful, interesting characters, solid and unpredictable plotting, great pacing, great dialog, great. . . everything! How to choose? How to choose?
Okay, I choose either The 13th Reality or Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow . Or Alcatraz vs. The Scrivner’s Bones. No, wait. I choose Far World: Water Keep. No, Fablehaven. No. . .aarrgh! I give up.
Best Mystery/Suspense: Another hard category. I liked all of them. I had to get nit-picky about these. First, I ruled out Above and Beyond by Betsy Brannon Green because I didn't think this sequel quite lived up to the first volume. I also ruled out Royal Target by Traci Hunter Abramson because I think it's first a romance, and second a mystery, and was mis-categorized. I really liked the basic idea behind Do No Harm by Gregg Luke but I felt it needed a little tighter edit. That left Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black and Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson—both of which I absolutely loved. But I chose Freefall because I'm saving Fool Me Twice for—oops! spoiler.
Best Romance: This is the category that I usually like least but I was even pleased with the selections here. They are what they are, and if you're looking for a good romance, I think you'll like all of them. If Royal Target had been in this category, it might have been a harder choice for me, but as it was, Seeking Persephone by Sarah Eden was the clear winner for me. It reminded me some of Jane Austen's work. It was charming and not completely predicatable. Loved it.
Best Novel by a New Author: Although I think Traitor by Sandra Grey will probably win, I'm choosing The Reckoning by Tanya Parker Mills. It was a great story that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It wasn't perfect, there were some issues with timing and the ages of the characters that I felt were off. But over all, I was impressed with Mills' handling of the realism, the strength of her characters, and the story line.
Best Novel of the Year: This was a very hard category. All of the books were so good. For me, it came down to Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. I loved them both. Fool Me Twice had a wonderful twisty-turny plot line that kept me totally engrossed in the story, the characters were great. I just couldn't put it down. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow had such a beautiful voice. It's my favorite retelling of this particular fairy tale, and one of my favorite retellings of a fairy tale, period. However, in the end, I went with Fool Me Twice because it just plain takes a genius to come up with something that twisted and warped.
And that's it for me. We'll see how close my predictions were on Saturday.