Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hurray for the Whitney Finalists!

The Whitney Award finalists were announced Tuesday. It's always fun to receive recognition from one's peers for a job well done and I certainly think Josi Killpack and her assistants deserve a pat on the back. They undertook a massive task and carried it off in great style. I've been a judge for at least one category every year since the Whitneys began and this year I got to judge Historical. We didn't have as long a list to read and choose from as some of the other categories did, but we certainly got some of the most outstanding novels of the year to read, including those that did not become finalists. You can find a complete list of the finalists here.

The next round of voting will be by a larger group of people including members of Storymakers, publishers, book store staff, etc. They will narrow the finalists down to one winner in each category--except speculative. That category has been divided into an adult and a youth category. There will also be an overall novel of the year chosen by a smaller group of readers, those few people who manage to read all 35 finalists or who have the nerve to lie and say they did. Actually I've read and reviewed 20 of the finalists and only found a couple of those disappointing. Sorry, but I just can't bring myself to read ten speculative novels, so I won't be voting in Novel of the Year category this year. There will also be an award for the top novel by a first time author. Yes, it is possible this year to get one of the overall awards and place first in a genre as well.

Every year there is considerable debate over which genre or category some novels should be placed in, or even if they should be considered at all. A book only needs to be written by an LDS author to be eligible; it doesn't have to have any connection whatsoever with the LDS Church or its beliefs or standards. Sometimes the line between genres is very thin, making category placement difficult for the contest committee. Last year the novel that placed first in Romance wasn't even a Romance, but it was an outstanding novel that deserved recognition--just not in that category. I must say I'm more comfortable this year with the categories each finalist was placed in, more so than any other year. There are also fewer books left off the finalists lists that I think should be there. There are always a few that touch me or another reader in a particular way that just doesn't have the same impact on someone else so they don't make the finals, but they're still great books.

I'm pleased to see that in the four categories I'm most interested in, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Historical, and General Fiction, the finalists are not only well written, but well-edited and for the most part, reasonably copy edited as well. If I have time, I'll read the General Youth Fiction finalists. Several books in that category sound interesting. Anyone just looking for a good book to read could pick up almost any book on the list and have an enjoyable read.

Congratulations to all of the finalists. Reaching this point is no small feat. Books that reach the finalist stage have already been screened for quality and have already proved their worth.  The next level of judging will be much harder because merit won't be as big an issue as personal appeal and luck. There will only be one winner in each category, but in my book, you're all winners.

Are any of these books your personal favorites for 2010?  Are there any books among this 35 titles you think don't deserve to be there?  Which outstanding books were left off of this list?


Rachael Renee Anderson said...

Well put, Jennie! As usual, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thank you!

Mindi said...

Hmmm... I think Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah Eden should have been on there. I love her books and couldn't put that one down! I wish I had been able to read more of the books that did make it.

Heather B. Moore said...

Kiss of a Stranger is a 2011 release, so it will be eligible for next year. I've read 16 of the books so far and agree that most of them are Finalist quality. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

I've finished 12 so far, and I'm mid-book in two others. Not sure I'll have time to read them all, especially since Brandon Sanderson's book alone is over 1,000 pages! But I will try to finish a few categories where I already have a good start. Speaking of a good start, Mindi you can pop over to the Whitney page and nominate The Kiss of a Stranger for next year's awards. I've already sent in a nomination for Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull which I got to read from an ARC. I'm halfway done myself with Kiss and I'm pretty sure I'll be adding a nomination for that one as well.

Britt said...

Wow. I actually have not read a single finalist this time. Crazy.

I must rectify that.

Jennie said...

Mindi, everyone else already explained about Kiss of a Stranger and they're right. Nominate it for next year. In my opinion it's much better than the one that made the finalist list for this year. I've already nominated The Pharaoh's Daughter by N.C. Allen. And Britt, that's not like you to have failed to read anything on the list! You better get busy reading. lol

Annette Lyon said...

I'm surprised, Jennie--you're the first person I've come across who didn't adore Courting Miss Lancaster. In fact, today I saw an old friend, and she said her copy is making the rounds in her neighborhood. I hear that kind of thing a lot.

Maybe Regency is sort of like Speculative for you--just not your cup of tea. :)

Jennie said...

Annette, actually, I do like Regency, but that particular one felt forced and much ado about nothing. I like her new one much better. Sarah has come a long way and I wonder why she doesn't go with Harlequin where she would find a much larger market for a well written Regency. She's certainly good enough.

Annette Lyon said...

That right there is the irony--she did approach many national publishers. She got the same response everywhere: we love your work and will publish it if you add smut.

Current Regency has really gone to the gutter (which of course isn't remotely historically accurate), and Sarah wouldn't go there. That's why she self-published at first--and why she's thrilled to be with a publisher she knows will never ask her to add a bedroom scene to spice things up.

Jen plus 5 said...

I really liked the books I have actuallt read out of the finalists... to name a few,
Imprints - Rachel ann Nunes
Murder by Design - Besty Brannon Green
Courting Miss Lancaster - Sarah M Eden (this one made me really wish I could read the book before, Seeking Persephone, but I think it is out of print at the moment)
Luck of the Draw - Rachael Renee Anderson

At least 9 of the other finalists' books are on my "I want to read this someday" List. I can't think of any that should be on this list and are not, and having not read them all I can't say if any shouldn't be there.
Authors did a great job in 2010, it makes me very much anticipate what is in store for us this year!

Jen plus 5 said...

Jennie, your website says you have a new book coming out. Do you have the release date yet?

Jennie said...

Jen Plus five, my new book If I should Die, is tentatively slated for next January. I know; that's a long time and I wishit were sooner. I keep hoping they'll push it forward a bit, but I'm not counting on it. In the mean time, I'm taking a really large book I submitted a couple of years ago and dividing it into two separate books per my publisher's request. As one book it was too busy, but as two books, neither section is quite a whole book. It's historical/western.

Sara said...


I love reading your blog, and your books. I haven't commented before, but I just was wondering if you know of any books that are LDS oriented that a 7 year old would like. She reads all the time, and reads on a higher level than 7, but most youth LDS books I've found are for teenager aged. You seem to know a lot of the different books. If not, no worries, thanks for your time!

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Thanks for the great post, Jennie, especially the high-fives to Josi and her committee. What a daunting task.

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Thanks for the great post, Jennie, especially the high-fives to Josi and her committee. What a daunting task.

Jennie said...

Sara, since I don't write or review children's books and I don't have small children, I'm probably not the best person to ask about Children's books. I remember Sian Bessey wrote one I really liked several years ago. I'll have todefer to others to help you out. Any suggestions, anyone?

Annette Lyon said...

It's not in stone, but if all goes well, I should have at least 2 historical novels out in August (think American Girl-style but Mormon Girl in 1860s St. George).

My test readers from that age group have loved them.

It's a hard audience for LDS publisher to cater to--they can't afford to produce mass quantities, which other companies (like Scholastic) can--which then allows them to sell books for $1.99 in a book order. Tough to compete with prices like that and not take a loss.

But Jen, if your daughter is reading above grade level, she might really enjoy Jeffrey S. Savage's The Fourth Nephite. I read it aloud to my kids, and my 8-yr-old loved it to pieces.

Sara said...

Thanks for your help! I looked up Sian's books, and found them. I love her books, and didn't realize she had a kid series. Annette, I will try Jeffrey Savage's and look for yours! Thanks again!!

Elizabeth Morgan said...

My favorites are Crossfire and Paranormalcy.

Jolynn_Reads said...

It took me awhile to figure out where to find the list of finalst's.
Your post said the list of finalist's could be found here. Where? I was lost, then I found it.

I haven't read any of the finalist's books yet. I have a Big pile of books by my bed that I'm still trying to finish.
Alot of the author's I've read and enjoyed in the past.
I love most of the names of the title's. Do the author's or publishers decide the names of the titles?