I attended the LDS Storymakers conference at the beginning of May, and once again I had a great time. While I was not able to attend the Whitney Awards banquet, I was happy to find out that more of Segullah‘s favorites won this year than any other. I get attached to the ones I like, what can I say. You can read the entire list of winners here, and it’s a great place to start for summer reading. Also, I have to put in a plug for my two favorite books that did not win, The List and Not My Type, both by Melonie Jacobsen. Great romantic comedy–for me, reading The List was kind of like watching Sleepless in Seattle for the first time. I reread it the next day, which I’ve never done with a Whitney finalist before.

And I have a few other ideas, too. My favorite recent read is a great book called Dispirited. It’s published by Zarahemla, and written by Luisa Perkins, and I loved it. It’s about a boy whose spirit goes looking for his mother’s spirit after her death, and a girl who can see clearly.

Cathy’s clarity of vision is just one of the layers of truth that make up this story. There is no overtly Mormon content in it–they bless the food and go to church, but there’s nothing LDS mentioned, and it’s never preachy. Why did Zarahemla publish it then? For me, it was one of the most Mormon books I’ve read without any discussion of the Church, and I mean that as high praise. I want to talk specifically about the character of Cathy. The doctrine of clear-sightedness, discernment, is a crucial part of my gospel understanding. It’s an important aspect of temple worship. I think it’s also the essence of charity, the ability to see others and yourself truly. If you put someone who can see clearly at the heart of a ghost story, she will see ghosts, of course, but also be able to discern evil, see past surface appearances into someone’s heart, and see the way out of impossible situations. In addition to the ramifications of discernment, Dispirited also tells a great love story, and explores the vital importance of bodies and the enduring protection of family bonds. Highly recommended!

I also loved Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale’s companion novel to Austenland. I was so-so on Austenland–I loved the concept but I found the execution a little thin. But Midnight in Austenland felt much more layered and complex to me. Charlotte goes to Austenland to get away and have some truly deserved time to herself, She finds romance, solves a mystery and heals from her divorce too. It’s great fun. Okay, “heals from her divorce” doesn’t sound that great, but trust me. There’s a scene with her ex that is immensely satisfying. I wanted to cheer “Go Charlotte!”

Both Dispirited and Midnight in Austenland are on my books-to-nominate-for-next-year’s-Whitneys list. On my Whitney to-read list:

The Lightning Tree, by Sarah Dunster (reviewed here by Angela)
The Newport Ladies’ Book Club series (Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, Annette Lyon, and Julie Wright)
Edenbrooke (Julianne Donaldson)
The Hollow City (Dan Wells)

What have you been reading lately? And I know my to-read list is short–have you read any Whitney-eligible books lately?


  1. emily

    June 18, 2012

    Thanks for the recommendation of Dispirited. My patriarchal blessing talks about the fact that I have the gift of discernment, so I am always looking for ways to learn more about how to use it. Literature is a great way to learn about life.

  2. Mary

    June 18, 2012

    Can you give the names of the authors of The List and Dispirited? I’m looking but for some reason am missing their names.


  3. Melissa Y.

    June 18, 2012

    Dispirited sounds really interesting–thanks for the review!

  4. Emily M.

    June 18, 2012

    Hi Mary–The List is by Melonie Jacobsen, and Dispirited is by Luisa Perkins. I have summer scatter brain–sorry about that, and thanks for the reminder. You can find Melonie’s books at Deseret Book; I think you’ll need to go to Amazon or Zarahemla’s site for Dispirited.

  5. Michelle L.

    June 18, 2012

    I read Dispirited on Shelah’s recommendation and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Ghost stories aren’t my thing but Dispirited is a fascinating and well written book.

  6. Steph

    June 19, 2012

    I LOVED Midnight in Austenland. A rare, satisfying, well-developed story about a mom.

    Thanks for the other recommendations!

  7. Cheri

    June 24, 2012

    This is just what I need, Emily! Thanks.

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