This is my third year reading some of the Whitney finalists --but my first year reading *all* of the finalists. The Whitneys cover such a wide range of genres that, not surprisingly, I really loved some of the books; others I wasn't as fond of. Also, since there are now 40 finalists in 8 categories, this was a lot of reading!
I think my favorite categories from this year were the Middle Grade, Romance, General, and Historical.
In case anyone was wondering, here are my overall favorites from the finalists.
General: Dancing on Broken Glass was easily my favorite, though Night on Moon Hill has some lovely, lyrical passages.
Historical: Here, again, I had two favorites. I was impressed by Goldberg's Five Books of Jesus and his ability to make familiar stories fresh. That said, as a reader, I enjoyed Carla Kelly's My Loving Vigil Keeping the most (although don't read it if you're not prepared to cry!)
Romance: This may be too close for me to call. I loved Edenbrooke (I'm a sucker for regency romances), but I'm also a big fan of Melanie Jacobson and I enjoyed both of her entries.
Mystery/Suspense: Kilpack's books (see my review below) my two favorites.
Speculative: Dan Well's The Hollow City.
YA Speculative: Brodi Ashton, Everneath
Young Adult: I didn't have a clear favorite here--I liked all of them (although I didn't love Finding June). The Space Between Us was perhaps the most literary; V is for Virgin was fresh and new; The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back and After Hello were both clean and sweet.
Middle Grade: Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince was one of my favorite books I read last year, so naturally, this was my favorite. However, all the entries were good--this was possibly the most competitive of the categories, with four of the five books coming from national publishers.
I'll be interested to see how my favorites line up with the Whitney voters. Anyone interested can buy a ticket to the Whitney Awards gala (May 11, 7 p.m.) here.
61. Josi Kilpack, Tres Leches Cupcakes (Whitney finalist, suspense). Both of Kilpack's books this year were strong contenders and I enjoyed both of them for different reasons. I liked the character arc in Banana Split--it's not often in cozy mysteries that you find the main character evaluating herself and her life to the extent you see Sadie doing so in Banana Split. That said, I enjoyed the mystery of Tres Leches just a little bit more than Banana Split--Sadie is coming back to her old self, she's interesting and energetic, and I loved the little details about life in the Southwest that came through here.
62. Jokai Mor, Hungarian Sketches in Peace and War. Jokai is widely known as Hungary's premier 19th century novelist, and collections like this make it easy for me to see why. As an author, Jokai has such a wide range of topics--the sketches here range from the almost slap-stick comedic to the deeply tragic (I think I may be scarred permanently by the second story, which tells of the slaughter of an entire noble family during the reprisals to Hungary's 1848 revolution). I'm not sure that the writing style would appeal to all modern tastes, but I enjoyed many of them--particularly his attentiveness to details of ordinary life.