2015 Whitney Awards: General Fiction

In 2014, Stacy Lynn Carroll was a Whitney Finalist in the General category with her novel, My Name is Bryan, based on her father-in-law’s experiences as a  spinal cord injury survivor. This year, she’s back with another finalist, Shattered Hearts, which is based on her family’s experience with pornography addiction. Shattered Hearts opens with Sarah Dunkin discovering that her husband has been dealing with work- and family-related pressures by looking at pornography online. She’s devastated and throws him out of the house, and book follows the couple over the course of the next year as they work to repair their relationship. Carroll treats pornography as a serious addiction, and humanizes both the men and women whose lives are affected by it. It takes a lot of guts to write about a subject with so much potential to shame, and I give Carroll a lot of props for that. The writing, at times, can be somewhat didactic, but I think that Shattered Hearts could be a huge comfort to someone going through a similar situation, and it was an eye-opener for me.

Chris Pendragon is a young history professor from Gonzaga, on a summer holiday in Wales, when he witnesses a devastating car accident and something strange happens when he and an elderly man try to save a young girl. Somehow, the girl is healed, and Chris seems to be responsible for her healing. The elderly man reveals that his powers as a healer have been transferred to Chris, and Chris is suddenly more powerful, more vulnerable, and more reluctant than he has ever been in his life. The Healer is a book about the power of spirituality, not from a Mormon perspective, but in some ways it doesn’t surprise me that a Mormon wrote the book. Luke calls Chris a “lapsed Methodist” (teaching at a Catholic school?), yet one critic I read notes that he does the things religious people do (like praying on his knees each night). All in all, the book has a nice blend of a quickly moving, compelling plot and mystical/spiritual elements. It felt somewhat like The DaVinci Code in that respect, and I expect that Luke will revisit Chris Pendragon in future tales– The Healer is a story that is just beginning to be told. Continue reading 2015 Whitney Awards: General Fiction

Peculiar Treasures: Short and Sweet

baby-turtle-eats-strawberry-big

If you’re the competitive sort, and also the reader sort, you may like this 30 authors in 1 minute matching game.

If you are in the life of someone who reads, particularly kids and teens, this article explaining why boys should read “girl books” is compelling, and not a little unsettling.

Finally, a sweet little comic about a “Mom Knight”, who is asked by the king to slay a dragon. It is far from expected.

First Draft Poetry this week is by yours truly.

Scaled

Don’t seek after dragons-

their fey booty bodies

are far beyond your want-more.

Instead hunt for the roar

caged by your ribs –

let your pulse out to explore.

2015 Whitney Historical Finalists

The Whitney Award Winners will be announced Saturday, May 7 at the Whitney Awards Banquet. I will not be there, because I’ll be watching my beautiful daughter perform in BYU’s children’s creative dance recital. It’s a trade-off I’m okay with; watching her dance is one of the greatest joys I know. But as soon as I get home I will be checking Twitter to see who won. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the Historical finalists.

romeThe Rules in Rome, by A. L. Sowards

This is the next in Sowards’ series of WWII books. I haven’t read them all but I really enjoyed last year’s Whitney finalist, Deadly Alliance. The Rules in Rome begins with Bastien Ley assuming the identity of a dead Nazi officer, a dangerous but valuable undercover position. Her superiors assign Gracie Begni to work with him as a radio operator–she’s also undercover as Ley’s girlfriend. I like World War II settings, and this book was well-researched. I liked the romance as well, and I thought the Mormon elements were well done and not preachy. I did find myself wishing it had a few more layers to it, though–I recently read All the Light We Cannot See, another World War II book featuring radio operators–and I loved its resonance and depth. WWII radio as something that both saves and destroys–so much potential there, and I would have loved to have the author of The Rules in Rome tap into something similar and bring a little more meaning to a great story.

candleLight of the Candle, by Carol Pratt Bradley

When the Babylonians capture Daniel in Light of the Candle, he leaves behind Sarai, his betrothed. Daniel leaving behind a fiance is an interesting take on a familiar story. It works well. Bradley effectively explains the political situation of the day, giving just enough details to add depth to the story without getting bogged down in minutiae. (I’ve read other less successful historical fiction set in this time period, and I really appreciated Bradley’s approach). While I liked the romance and thought Bradley handled the dual points of view well, I especially enjoyed the relationship between Daniel and his father. It would have been an easier, safer choice to make Daniel’s father a more sympathetic character, but Bradley chose to bring some complexity and tension there, with a tender yet believable resolution. Well done. Continue reading 2015 Whitney Historical Finalists

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

My husband came in to the office where I was again trying to help one of my high schoolers work on a project. “Christian fell asleep downstairs. I put him in his bed. I’m going to bed too. Goodnight.” He kissed me as quickly as the internal sigh behind those words and left the room.

Another night without reading and cuddles and family prayer. The end of the school year is hard and with a graduating Senior and two other teenagers, my ten-year old was suffering from my lack of attention. I felt the disconnect between us. He was spending too much time in the evening playing video games instead of playing with me. I call Christian my “gift from God.” He is peaceable, pure, tender, funny, and smart. Kindness runs through his veins as his life force. I went in to his dark bedroom lit only by the nightlight that makes blue stars on his ceiling. He was buried deep as a sleeping turtle under the three quilts that stay on his bed, no matter how warm it is in the house. I touched his cheeks and his hair and kissed him and said a prayer. “Lord, I need to connect with my son. I have no time with him anymore. Help me to figure out a way to do this and have some alone time with him.” It was succinct and sincere.

I went to bed late and woke up early. The morning scuffle began and I got them all off to school with hearty lunches packed. I had a busy day planned – exercise, shower, a morning appointment, a visit with my grandmother, a grocery store run, and hopefully squeezing in a half an hour of writing before the 2:00 pick up began. I had barely gotten through the first two when the dreaded phone call came from Christian, “Mom, I’m sick. I have a headache and I feel like I’m going to throw up.” It’s the phone call that shatters all your plans.

I rushed to the school and accessed the situation, “Are you sure you can’t stay?” I asked, hoping. He could not. As we drove, he leaned his seat back and the fresh air cooled his face. I’m always struck by the beauty of his freckles. Color was coming back. Then, it hit me. Amidst all my selfishness I hadn’t seen the tender mercy. God had answered my prayers immediately. I had time alone with my boy. Time I would never have had without this sickness. All of the other plans for that day seemed completely insignificant. We went on a long drive. Miraculously, he seemed to feel better within an hour. We went to lunch. We laughed. We went on another long drive where I got to tell him about the birds and bees. For months, I had been trying to find a time that was perfect. That day it was handed to me by God’s large hand – a day filled with the fleeting plumpness of Spring, heavy with lilacs, lush grass, and snow-tipped mountains. I savored every moment. When I finished explaining and answering all of his questions, Christian looked up toward heaven, raised both hands and courageously said, “Goodbye Childhood.”

Yes, childhood, goodbye.

What are the moments you’ve savored lately with your children?
IMG_5376 (3) our selfie after lunch

2015 Whitney Awards: Romance

This year’s Whitney Award finalists in the romance category are mostly familiar names—all five of the finalists are experienced authors, and four of them are previous Whitney finalists. Their books cover a nice range of settings and characters, from medieval times to the present day. Like Shelah, I’m a recent convert to the world of romance books and I had a great time reading all five of these books. Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming a cliché when I spend a quiet Friday night reading a romance novel snuggled up on the couch with my cat and a mug of cocoa. Someday my prince will come, right? Until he shows up, I’ll just keep reading. Continue reading 2015 Whitney Awards: Romance