Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The speculative fiction category in the Whitney Awards is divided into two categories--an adult section and a youth section.  This is not my favorite area and I tend to avoid the books in this area as long as possible.  I found the adult section pretty much the same as in other years with only one new author, but I was pleasantly surprised by the youth category.   

Science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, occult, horror, last days or afterlife, pre-history, fairy tales, and all of the other sub genres that fall under the umbrella of "speculative fiction" are highly popular with many readers and LDS writers contribute heavily to this type of novel.  All of these writers write well and are exceptionally talented at holding an audience. Here's the list of adult finalists: 

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson

I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells

No Angel by Theresa Sneed 

I didn't take very good notes on these books, but I did jot down a sentence or two on each. Instead of giving a brief synopsis of each I think I'll share my brief notes with apologies to the authors and their many fans. Did I mention I'm not a fan of speculative fiction? 

The Alloy of Law -  A Western? No, same old story of people running around chugging down copious amounts of drugs called metals.

I Don't Want to Kill You - Continuation of self-absorbed, bratty, rude kid with fascination for dead bodies

The Lost Gate - More YA than adult, new series, intriguing

A Night of Blacker Darkness - unedited rough draft?

No Angel - not my idea of the afterlife, but interesting and almost believable.  Original, even fun in spots 

Okay, before I get myself in more trouble I'll move on to the Youth portion of this contest. To my utter shock I enjoyed all of them and ranking them for the contest was as hard as ranking the Mystery/Suspense category.  Here's the list: 

My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison - Tansy is caught with a can of spray paint in her hand at an awkward moment.  Her fairy godmother comes to her rescue in her own inept way, tossing the teenager back to the middle ages and into the middle of the Rumplestiltskin story. 

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins - A foster child who is in trouble is shipped to a new foster home to finish the last few months of her senior year of high school. Trouble follows her.  She discovers she has the ability to change into an animal, someone knows her secret and is trying to kill her.  

Slayers by C. J. Hill - A unique group of teenagers are drawn to a summer camp where they learn they each have special powers, dragons are real, and only they can stop the takeover of the country by the man who controls the dragons.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - This fast paced adventure has a different twist. The castle is the main character with magical powers. Children left behind while their parents the king and queen make a state visit find themselves struggling to keep the kingdom out of the hands of usurpers while they wait for word concerning the fate of their parents who don't return when expected. 

Variant by Robison Wells - Students at an unusual boarding school find they are actually prisoners.  Some are determined to escape and some are equally determined not to invite retribution by attempting to escape.  The various factions fight each other and no one knows who can be trusted or why some students who break a rule mysteriously disappear.  As usually happens in dystopian novels, there's always a new disaster waiting around the corner.

This is the last of the Whitney finalists.  Rank them one to five with one the highest or just leave a comment concerning the ones you've read.  You can go back and add comments or ranks to previous posts and each comment will be counted as an entry in the contest.  Same rules as previously stated.  The contest runs until midnight Saturday, March 31.  I'll post the winners on Monday, April 2.

Monday, March 26, 2012


It didn't take long to read all five of the books for the Youth General Fiction Whitney Awards category, though I'll admit two of them seemed like they'd never end. Another two were fantastic books I'm glad I read, though I probably wouldn't have picked them up if I hadn't been trying to read all of the finalists.  The fifth book?  Sort of mediocre, on a par with other books by this author, neither really good nor really bad.  All of the titles are kind of sappy, but the authors can't be blamed for that.  Titles and covers are the brain childs of the authors' publishers and if the publishers go overboard for cutesy that's just the way it goes. So here's the list:

Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler
Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
Pride and Popularity by Jenni James
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

Girls Don't Fly is the story of a teenage girl who goes to work at a bird refuge along the shores of the Great Salt Lake and meets someone who teaches her to take responsibility for her own life.

Miles From Ordinary introduces us to a young girl who longs to escape for just a few hours from the pressure of caring for her mentally ill mother.

Pride and Popularity features a high school student who insists she isn't going to fall for the most popular boy in school no matter how much he flirts with her.

Sean Griswold's Head is the story of a girl with problems at home and school who is instructed by the school counselor to find a focus object to concentrate on. She picks the  head of the boy seated in front of her. Soon her focus shifts to much more than his head.

With a Name Like Love takes us away from the typical high school scene to an itinerate preacher's daughter who would like to stay in one place and have a home.  Their usual three day stay and revival meetings are interrupted when the girl befriends a boy whose mother is in jail for killing his father and she learns the whole town has already judged her guilty.

Okay, what do readers think of these books?  I don't read a lot of YA; I didn't read it often when I was a teen even--I went straight from Anne of Green Gables to Exodus, Gone with the Wind, and The Far Pavilions.  Most of the YA novels I've read were read as an adult, so I don't consider myself a qualified judge of young adult fiction. I took a college class on Young Adult fiction and I read many of the books my children read when they were teenagers.  A few of these books were memorable, but most were quite forgettable. So I'm anxious to hear what others think of these five finalists.  You can rank them one to five with one being the best or just comment on the ones you've read.

Remember this is the last week of my contest to give away two copies of my newest book, Heirs of Southbridge. Of course if a winner already has my new book or would just like another book, I have a formidable stack of books from the many books I read for reviews to choose from.  Every comment, unless it is in deplorable taste, counts as an entry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


All I'm going to say about the Mystery/Suspense category is that I loved every last one of the finalists in this category and I feel honored to be counted among such fantastic writers.  I'm anxious to hear what readers have to say about these books.  Rank them if you like or just comment on the pros and cons of the ones you've read.  Same rules as before, each comment on my blog will count as an entry to win a copy of my new book, The Heirs of Southbridge, or any of the many other books I have if you prefer a different book or already have my new one.

Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry
Bloodborne by Gregg Luke
If I Should Die by Jennie Hansen
Rearview Mirror by Stephanie Black
Smokescreen by Traci Hunter Abramson

Monday, March 19, 2012


There were almost as many Romance nominees as there are Whitney finalists in all categories combined this year. I read every last one of them.  My favorite didn't make the finalist cut, but the five that did make it are definitely among the best nominated.  Same rules as with the last two categories.  Tell which ones you read.  You can rank them one through five with one being the best, or if you can't decide between a couple of titles it's okay to assign them the same rank.  If you don't want to rank them just tell us what you liked or disliked about the ones you read.  Here are the finalists:

Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly
Captive Heart by Michele Paige Homes
Count Down to Love by Julie N. Ford
The List by Melanie Jacobson
Not my Type by Melanie Jacobson

I'll be giving away two copies of my new book The Heirs of Southbridge, one each to the two winners of this month's contest. 

I have two book signings scheduled for this month.  This coming Saturday, March 24, I'll be at the Redwood Seagull Book Store located at 1700 South Redwood Road in Salt lake City from 9 to 11 a.m.  A week later, March 31, I'll be signing  for Ladies Night, 6 to 8 p.m., at the Valley Fair Mall Deseret Book Store.  I hope to see you there!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whitney Historical Nominees

I find the Historical nominees a little puzzling. Of the five nominees three are outstanding, one really belongs in a YA category, and one is a romance. The romance is a Regency so I guess it's fair to stretch the definition of historical to include it, though it's far more an established type of romance than one having historical merit. That's not to say these two books aren't good books; they just don't seem to me that they belong in the Historical category. Perhaps it all evens out; a few years ago a Historical novel, Counting the Cost by Liz Adair, certainly an award deserving novel, took first place for Romance. It isn't unusual for me to disagree with the placement of some novels, though I think the genre placement is the best this year of any year since the contest began.

Here are this year's finalists in the Historical category:

Daughter of Helaman by Misty Moncur
Fires of Jerusalem by Marilyn Brown
Isabelle Webb: The Pharaoh's Daughter by N.C. Allen
Letters in the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears
Miss Delacourt Has Her Day by Heidi Ashworth

Daughter Of Helaman places a young woman among the 2000 stripling warriors of Book of Mormon fame.

Fires Of Jerusalem is set in Jerusalem during the contentious period when the prophet Jeremiah foretold the destruction of the great city.

The Pharaoh's Daughter is part of a mystery series featuring a former Pinkerton female detective following clues that lead her through various countries during the latter half of the nineteenth century. This time to Egypt.

Letters in the Jade Dragon Box is the touching story of a young woman who has grown up in Hong Kong without an understanding of why her mother smuggled her out of Mainland China. Only when Mao Tse-tung dies does she receive a legacy of letters from her mother detailing her past and the rich legacy destroyed by the communist leader.

Miss Delacourt Has Her Day takes place in London during the Regency period and is part of a series. It deals with a young couple's efforts to overcome the dictates of titled family and society to marry.

Though a large number of people looked at my last post concerning readers' evaluations of the General fiction category, few people voiced an opinion. I'll try to simplify. There are several ways to do this. Take each of the five nominees in this category and assign them a number 1-5 with one being the best. If you haven't read all five of these books, that's okay, just rank the ones you have read (only the judges have to read all of them). If you find two or more are equally great books, give them each a one or whatever number you think they deserve. Whether you rank the books or not, you're invited to share what you liked or didn't like about any or all of the five nominees. Until the end of the month comments are welcome on any of the Whitney categories, my new book, or LDS novels in general. At the end of the month I'll draw two names from all those who leave comments during March and send each of the winners a copy of my new book,
The Heirs of Southbridge. And yes, you can comment and be entered to win more than once.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Do Readers think?

Members of LDStorymakers, publishing staffs, writers, reviewers, and book store people are currently in the process of choosing which books to receive Whitney awards for 2012.  The Whitney awards are sort of the Academy Awards of the LDS publishing world.  I'm one of those people referred to as the Whitney Academy, or in other words, a judge.  I'm even a nominee in one category.  However, I find myself wondering which books the buying public and library users would choose to award if they were the ones doing the choosing.  In a sense readers are the true judges since they vote with their hard earned dollars.  Over the next few weeks I'm going to post the final nominees in each category and ask for readers opinions on the nominees.  If you've read them all in the listed category, please sort them in the order of your preference.  If you've only read one or two or however many, just say whether you think each is award worthy or rate it one to five with one being the best. 

Okay, here's the first category:  General Fiction by an LDS Author

Before I Say Goodbye by Rachel Ann Nunes
Evolution of Thomas Hall by Keith Merrill
Gifted by Karey White
The Walk: Miles To Go by Richard Paul Evans
The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright

Responses will have no bearing on how I vote, but will count as entries in my giveaway contest with two copies of my new book The Heirs of Southbridge to be awarded as prizes.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Here!

My new book, The Heirs of Southbridge, arrived today!  It's always so exciting when a new book is released.  It should show up in bookstores any day now! I'll be a nervous wreck waiting to hear what readers think of it.  Don't forget you can win a free copy here or on LDS Publisher.
I really like the cover; it's even better on the book than the photo copy I've seen up until now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Contest Ends; Something Different for March

Congratulations to Mindi and Lori, February Wish List winners.  Contact me with your address and wish list before March 8. 

This month's contest will be sheer self-indulgence and promotion of my new book, The Heirs of Southbridge.  You can read the first chapter here.   Or if you just want to read the back-liner blurb,  here it is:   

When tragedy strikes Southbridge plantation, young Clayton and his brother, Travis, are forced from the only home they've ever known. Fleeing the drunken rage of their grandfather, with bounty hunters and horse thieves thick on their trail, the boys and their father try to eke out a lonely life as fugitives and cowboys. As Clayton nears adulthood, his greatest desire is for a strong and stable family, but his father's death and his brother's departure leave him more alone than ever. Seeking for roots, Clayton visits Southbridge en route to college and kneels on his mother's grave, only to be accosted by a gun-wielding girl named Lucy, whose father will stop at nothing to make the plantation his own. Can Clayton realize his deepest desires of marrying the woman he loves, having a family, and reclaiming the plantation that is his rightful heritage? 

Everyone who comments on any of my blog posts here, on V-Formation, or my Meridian reviews during the month of March will get his/her name in the drawing.  If you don't want to make a comment, but would still like to be in the drawing, send me a note with your name and email addy to jhansen22 at msn dot com. You can get your name entered as well by commenting about Heirs of Southbridge or any of my books on a social site like facebook or in person to a friend or family member, or even by mentioning my book on a blog or review site, but you must come back to this page and tell me what you said, including when, where, or provide a link.  Of course I'd love for everyone to buy a copy of my book, but purchasing a book has no bearing on this contest.  Anyone over 18 can enter.  I'll give away two copies of The Heirs of Southbridge through a drawing consisting of names of those who enter this contest.  The contest will be open all through March and will end at midnight, March 31.  I'll announce the winners on April 2 and they will have one week to contact me with their mailing addresses. 

Shopping Horrors

My daughter says I should shop on line.  That's too much like the catalog shopping my family had to do when I was a kid.  Nothing looked or fit quite the same as it did in those pictures.  Unfortunately, I don't seem to do much better wandering through malls. 

Take Saturday as a case in point.  I set out to find a dress to wear to my grandson's wedding which is coming up in a little more than a week.  I tried all of the big stores, Dillards, Nordstrom, Macy's, Sears, Penny's, some place that has initials for a name, and several smaller shops.  What I found were shirts masquerading as dresses, flimsy tissue thin fabrics, plunging necklines, ugly colors, rude sales people, and very few actual dresses.  It seems jeans and shirts are the only women's apparel most stores stock. The few dresses available are incomplete.  The buyer must buy something to go over or under each dress to avoid being charged with exhibitionism. 

I have bad knees and enclosed malls have become an uncomfortable place to shop.  It's not just the miles of long corridors to wander along, but the crowds of unruly, loud people who clog the area making freedom of movement difficult.  The more open malls have fewer crowds of people just hanging out, but it's just a nuisance to keep finding and moving my car. 

I miss my mother, for many reasons, but especially when it comes to clothes.  She could sew anything and as a child I had cute dresses made from flour and feed sacks.  As I got older we picked out fabric together, then she added inches where needed and eliminated inches where not needed, making my clothes fit and feel comfortable.  I can sew, but I don't like to and it's a guaranteed way to turn me into a frustrated wreck.  Unfortunately I can't afford a personal tailor.  

Some of the ridiculous things I discovered  was the same dress at one of the high end stores as I found at Sears.  It was $32.00 at Sears and $189.00 at the other store.  I wanted a drink, preferably water; coffee was easily found in several places, soft drinks at a couple with huge long waiting lines, but no water.  I saw people walking around with Dasani bottles, but never spotted anyone selling it.  Just a simple drinking fountain would have been welcome.  There were more people milling around in the mall hall than in the stores, making me suspect most people don't go to malls to actually buy anything, but just to be part of some kind of mob action.

Okay, I'll admit it; shopping just doesn't appeal to me.  I've always been the sort that if I wanted something, I just went in, bought it, and got out.  That doesn't work too well any more. I may have to take a second look at online shopping--or maybe I can convince my daughter-in-law to shop for me.  She's good at it and she actually likes it.