Conference Brings out Book-loving Saints
Reviewed by Jennie Hansen

Nothing else excites the LDS community quite the way General Conference weekends do. Conference itself is the main event, but events surrounding Conference add to the experience for those who assemble in Salt Lake City, surrounding communities, and at Stake Centers where the messages are broadcast.  Auxiliary displays, dinners, plays, concerts, ladies’ nights, and shopping all take on a unique flavor. 

General Conference always brings a flurry of book signings by LDS authors at LDS bookstores. Between and after sessions are great opportunities for conference goers to take a peek at new books targeted toward the LDS market.  Conference time is also a great time for writers to meet readers from far flung places.  While signing my own new book this past conference weekend, I made a number of observations I thought I’d like to pass on to Meridian readers.

Men and women both like books on CD to listen to on the long drive back home.

There are a surprising number of people who say they don’t read fiction, only doctrinal books, then proceed to talk about favorite movie or television shows as though they have no understanding that movies and most television shows are fiction.  Many would be surprised to discover how much church history and doctrinal concepts are clarified by reading LDS fiction.

There are still people who only buy books as gifts, never for themselves.  I’m happy to say this number has decreased a great deal in recent years.  Books make great gifts, but it really is all right for a person to buy a book for her/himself.

Avid readers run out of money before they run out of titles they wish to purchase. 

Parents who read and buy books usually have children who want books too.

Sometimes while personalizing a book for someone, writers discover delightful names to give characters in future books.

In talking to other authors, I’ve discovered a pet peeve of many is the person who says they never read LDS fiction because he or she read an LDS novel once and didn’t like it.  When asked what the person read, these people will usually name a title that was published many years ago, then go on to explain they don’t like romance or “it was too juvenile,” etc.  Today there’s such a wide selection of genres and authors in LDS fiction almost everyone can find something to like. 

Most book buyers are still women, though the number of men buying and reading fiction seems to be increasing.  Even if the husband is standing right beside her, it is usually the woman who decides which book to buy.  (Some husbands give really broad hints and clues to which books she should purchase.)  Though men don’t seem to buy as many books as women do, they read just as many and are becoming increasingly vocal about what they like. 

Whether listening to CD’s or reading the books, both men and women like the high action novels that seem to have replaced romance or history as the most popular genre.  Two new action novels by two relatively new authors which are garnering large numbers of readers are Time Will Tell by Julie Coulter Bellon and Perfect Shot by Sonia O’Brien.

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Time Will Tell pits a Canadian CSIS agent, Andrew Blythe against a terrorist organization intent on controlling the world energy market and launching a weapon of mass destruction.  While fleeing from a terrorist trap in London, he meets Ashton Carlson, who is mourning the death of her missionary son.  There’s just enough romance between these two to keep romance fans interested, but the strength of the novel is in the fast-paced action that keeps Andrew and Ashton racing between continents and cultures.

An interesting twist to this novel is the ages of the hero and heroine.  Both are older; he with an adult child, and she has lost an adult child.  The mountains of Turkey are not the usual setting for an LDS novel either, but much of the action takes place there with the cultural elements of that region adding international spice to the story.

Sister Bellon has avoided the long, drawn out story-after-the-story ending of her first two books, though she hasn’t completely eliminated it.  I would have liked to see the conversion element woven into the story better so that the reader could see the process or omitted altogether.  This is a fast, entertaining read that asks questions about choosing between career and family.  I readily recommend Time Will Tell to action readers.

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Perfect Shot is Sister O’Brien’s second novel and one that places her squarely in the ranks of the better action writers.  Her first novel, The Raging Sea, started out like a fairly average college age story, then turned into a fantastically well-written action story.  With Perfect Shot, she carries that high level of drama throughout the entire novel. 

Reegan Richards is a high school senior who discovers her mother has lied to her for years about her father.  During all the gypsy years when her mother has moved her from place to place she has believed her father to be dead, but now she knows better and wants to find him. The lie isn’t the only problem she is facing.  With moving so many times, she has been unable to maintain friendships, but for her senior year her mother decides to stay in one place long enough for her to graduate and she becomes involved with friends who chip away at her values.  A confrontation with her mother results in her running away, only to sneak back for supplies.  Her mother catches her and a different confrontation ensues in which she discovers both of her parents are in the witness protection program with all three of their lives on the line. 

Reegan’s father witnessed a horrible crime while taking photos for an art show.  The criminals involved have too much on the line to risk those photos ever surfacing and he separated himself from his family to give them a better chance at survival.  When his mother dies, he decides it’s time to assure himself that his wife and daughter are alive and well.  All three are anxious to resolve the situation so that they can live together and be active in the Church again.