Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Okay, I’m trying to get all of the Whitney Finalists read. I had a headstart since I’ve already read all of the finalists except the Young Adult and the Speculative. I’m not sure why they’re considered separate genres, they’re both comprised of speculative fiction only, which I consider kind of sad because there were some great YA novels published in 2008 that don’t fall into the speculative category. Reading speculative fiction is a bit of a challenge for me since I find most of it pointless and I have little time to read anything other than LDS fiction for possible reviews. (To be eligible for a Whitney award, a book doesn’t have to have any connection to LDS standards or beliefs. The only requirement is that the author must be LDS; he or she doesn’t have to be active or even believe the tenants the Church teaches, just have his or her name on the records of the Church and be nominated by at least five people).
To be honest, I found a few of these books to be excellent and I enjoyed reading them. They’re the ones who follow the same guidelines for good story telling that good non-speculative fiction follows. There’s a strong beginning, identifiable characters, choices based on growing moral strength, realistic dialog, and a satisfying ending. Many of the YA finalists also reveal a keen sense of humor that adds to their appeal.
Others are merely a series of sickening incidents, an extreme suspension of belief, and end with little or no resolution. I don’t understand the appeal of watching relentless torture. I don’t understand the suspension of moral values. I don’t understand spending hours poring over evil, unrealistic characters, and their morbid actions. I understand the basic premise behind science fiction/fantasy of creating an alternative world with its own rules and morality; I just find myself too interested and too involved in the problems of this world to find pleasure in a totally imaginary and unrealistic world.
Now before speculative fiction fans unite to lynch me, let me add I also have a strong commitment to choice in reading. There are those who consider historical fiction a waste of time since the past is dead and gone. The romance genre has long been the object of public ridicule though it is the most read and biggest money-maker in the book selling market. Many readers wouldn’t touch a social issues drama with a ten foot pole. Others say spare me anything sports-related. Humor writers get their share of criticism as do action, mystery and suspense writers. There are even those who consider all fiction an immoral waste of time; a subject for another blog.
Growing up, I read anything I could get my hands on. My family didn’t own many books, especially after our house got caught in a flood that destroyed my mother’s collection of children’s books. And our family income wasn’t such that we could buy a lot of books. I also faced the problem many rural children did then; libraries were only available to people who lived within the city or town limits. Consequently, I never worried much about genre. If I could get my hands on a book I read it. As time and circumstances changed I found I gravitated toward certain types of books, but maintained a curiosity and interest in many types. Yes, I went through a fairytale and mythology phase between the third and fourth grades of school and devoured the Martian Chronicles in junior high. My library work led me to read many of the top selling science fiction and fantasy novels, but they rarely captured my interest or left me feeling satisfied. In twenty-one years of buying and checking out fiction to thousands of readers, I noticed a few odd similarities between obsessive romance and obsessive science fiction/fantasy readers. The first was volume. It isn’t unusual for a rabid romance reader to check out forty or more paperback romances a month. The most gung ho sci-fi readers would load up with a stack four feet tall of thick hardbacks. The next thing I noted was that quantity mattered more to each group than quality. Being a smart aleck, I concluded some people need more to do in real life. Even as avid as I am about supporting reading, I believe people need to experience real life in order to appreciate and recognize good fiction.
If you’re wondering if I have a point to all this, I promise I do. Read! Your tastes don’t have to match mine and I don’t have to like or even approve of your choices in reading material, but remember just as “what you eat is what you are,” what you read is who you are. Our American belief, along with that of other countries who value liberty, is strong on exploring new ideas and differing concepts and acknowledging the right of others to ascribe to different tastes and views. That is part of the freedom we revere. Nowhere more than through the printed word do we gain the ability to sift and evaluate, to form our own opinions. As we read, we can ask ourselves if the author is attempting to cram his/her views down our throats. Can I accept the values put forth in this tale? Is this entertainment or indoctrination? Is reading making my life better or is it a mere obsession? Is the hero/heroine of this book someone I can admire? Life is short, is this book worth the chunk of that life I’m giving it? In this country we can be slaves to political correctness, we can be bigots, we can be wishy-washy or we can chart our own course, choose to follow God, or make our own rules as long as they don’t infringe on those same rights of others. Nowhere more than in our choice of leisure reading do we identify who we are and what we stand for.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
In Finding Faith by Terri Ferran, Kit Mathews discovers new surroundings and a generous helping of culture shock. Kit Mathews is content with her life in California, but her dad’s new job lands her along with her family in Logan, Utah, the land of Mormons.
Today’s political and economic realities may have us wishing for a different time as well as place. Historical fiction and time travel can provide an alternative time period, but there’s no guarantee it will be better, only that the journey will be fascinating and possibly change the focus of our concerns. Heroes of Glorieta Pass by Brad E. Hainsworth and Richard Vetterli take the reader back to the American Civil War period but not to the Eastern United States. This book takes us to the American Southwest where one of the few western battles of the war was fought. Also with a Civil War twist is Love Beyond Time by Nancy Campbell Allen that takes a modern twenty-first century doctor and an overworked contemporary accountant on separate journeys back to a military battlefield hospital where they join forces to unravel an old mystery and to find their way back, hopefully together, to the present.
Yes, it’s time for another contest. The prize is your choice of the three books pictured above. This contest begins now and ends February 27. The winner will be announced March 2. The rules are simple.
1. Give a thoughtful response to the question at the end of this blog. I’ll be the sole judge of whether or not your response is “thoughtful.”
2. Everyone who responds thoughtfully will have her/his name placed in a drawing. The winner will be announced two days after the contest closes. The winner must then contact me within five days with a mailing address (must be US or Canada unless you send me advance payment for postage).
3. Winners of one contest are eligible to enter the next contest.
I was so impressed by all of your responses, I printed them to add to my journal. You each made an insightful comment on the subject of promises and I enjoyed reading them. The next contest will start in a few hours; I'll post the details after I eat breakfast which my husband is threatening to throw out if I don't get downstairs now.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Exciting news! The Whitney finalists were announced this week and I'm one of the finalists for the Historical Fiction category for my novel The Ruby. You might think I'm getting disproportionately excited over being a finalist, but the competition is pretty formidable and I feel honored just to be counted among the ranks of Heather Moore (Abinadi), Nancy Allen (Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel), Toni Sorenson (Master) and Sandra Grey (Traitor). These are some of my favorite authors and they're pretty awsome people as well as being great writers. Pick up any of their books and see how right I am about how tallented they are.
The opening of the new Draper temple is just a month away and already we're feeling the loss of all those wonderful temple workers who will be transferring to the new temple from Jordan River Temple. Out of the more than four thousand people who serve in the Jordan River Temple about 1300 will be in the new temple district. They have an exciting time ahead of them, but it will be hard to get along without them. In just four months the openhouse for the new Oquirrh Mountain Temple will begin and the Jordan River Temple will lose another 700 workers--and I'll be among them. I'm excited for the new temple, but I hope volunteers will step forward to fill the gaps at Jordan River that will be left from so manypeople leaving. Also 700 is only about half the number that will be needed at the new temple so volunteers are needed. See your Bishop.
You've heard me complain about a pesky hawk that has hung around my back yard for the past couple of years, making meals out of the little birds that visit our birdfeeders. Yesterday three hawks showed up! (I know, Kerry, hawks have to eat too.) Two of them are about the size of a magpie, but the third one was closer to the size of a chicken. I don't know enough about birds to even know what kind they are and I'll admit they're fascinating to watch, but I can't help feeling a twinge of sadness when they kill one of the cute little birds I've been feeding all winter.
My daffodils and crocuses are starting to poke through the snow, so maybe there's hope for spring afterall.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Twice a month, I will post the picture of a book (or books)I’m giving away and either a link to the review I wrote concerning it or post a paragraph or two about it. I will also ask a question concerning something to do with that book’s theme, location, or some pertinent point in the book. I’m looking for your opinion on the topic, not the author’s. And to borrow a term from LDS Publisher, I will consider all thoughtful posts and eliminate those that are simply quick phrases, ditto marks, etc. (I’ll be the sole judge of what is a thoughtful response). At the end of the contest period I will put the eligible names in a hat and have a drawing for the winner of the book. I’ll post the winner’s online name and it will be up to the winner to contact me with your name and mailing address. Anyone is eligible to enter, but I will only ship the prizes to US or Canadian addresses. If you live outside this area and enter anyway, and if you win, you’ll need to send me a US address or pay the postage prior to shipment (approx. $10 to $12.00 US currency).
I probably won’t respond to every comment, but I will read them all and if you enter the contest by responding to the contest question and respond to another blog within the same contest period, I’ll put your name in the drawing twice. Also if you already have the book I’ve listed as a prize and would like a different one, please list three or four books you’d like as alternatives, and if I have one of them and it’s among those I’ve slated for prizes, I’ll send it instead. The contest starts now and ends February 14. I’ll post the winner on February 16.
Here’s the first prize I am offering, Promises to Keep, Diane’s Story by Dean Hughes. You can read my review below. The book was published in 2008. Hughes wrote this book in response to readers’ questions concerning the fate of “Diane”, a character in his popular Hearts of the Children series. He promised his readers more concerning this character and in this novel kept his promise. The novel also touches on how promises kept or broken affect lives. To enter to win this book, tell how a promise kept or broken has affected your life or of how important or unimportant promises are in today’s world.
Both Diane and Jenny are impulsive and headstrong. Diane would prefer that Jenny have nothing to do with her father, but Greg woos the teenager with expensive gifts and subtle manipulation. Her desire to be loved by her father blinds her to the fact that Greg lives in a fancy house, takes expensive vacations, yet claims he can’t afford to make child support payments. Diane struggles to finish an advanced degree program so that she can become an administrator and earn more than she has all these years as a teacher. Jenny is sometimes as manipulative as her father and Diane still barges ahead without thinking situations through well. Their conflict eventually leads to Jenny leaving her mother to live with her father. Complicating matters farther is Diane’s relationship with Spencer, a man she cares about, but who is manipulated by his children to whom he doesn’t seem to be able to stand up. Diane has to come to terms with some serious questions concerning her future and the question of whether happiness lies within herself or does she need someone else to make her happy.
Hughes can be counted on to write interesting, thought-provoking stories. Even on the rare occasion when I don’t particularly care for one of his leading characters or can’t identify with him or her, I still find myself absorbed in the story. Such was the case with this book. For a supposedly smart woman, Diane was too argumentative, short-sighted, and self-absorbed for my taste. Still I could sympathize with her as Greg played on her weaknesses and made her a sucker over and over. The plot is handled well and the conflicting political views are consistent with today’s political environment.
This book has a great deal of appeal for both men and women, parents of teenagers, those who have faced divorce or troubled marriages, and Hughes’s legion of fans.