This Week in Mormon Literature, March 18, 2011

The Association for Mormon Letters conference is going on next weekend, who will win the 2010 AML awards? This week also sees the release of the first volume of Brandon Mull’s new Beyonders series.  Three plays written or adapted by Mormon authors will be playing on Provo stages by the end of the week. Also, I noticed that Ryan Little’s (Saints and Soldiers, Forever Strong) new movie The Age of Dragons was released in the UK earlier this month, to horrendous reviews.  

Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Columns and Articles

 Marvin and Sam Payne to keynote AML conference (Deseret News)

 Annette Lyon on whether books need a rating system

 BYU film students can be Jimmers of animation, Hollywood, Walden Media president Micheal Flaherty says (Deseret News article.  Flaherty, whose company made the films Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, tells BYU students to use values to inspire.  Kudos to the devout Catholic to include several LDS metaphors and references in his talk.)

The Joke’s on Us — 2: Artemus Ward: A Mormon Romance (1866 humorous “Mormon romance”, at Keepapitchinin)

Book Reviews

Crossfire, by Traci Hunter Abramson (Shelah at Shelah Books It, mixed)

Abish: Mother of Faith, by K. C. Grant (Jennie Hansen at Meridian Magazine, mostly favorable)

Murder by Design, by Betsy Brannon Green (Shelah at Shelah Books It, favorable)

Winning Mr. Wrong, by Marie Higgins (Sheryl Jonson, favorable)

Secret Sisters, by Tristi Pinkston (Kari at Reading for Sanity, 4 out of 5 stars)

The Abominable Gayman, by Johnny Townsend (Ben Christensen at A Motley Vision, favorable about this short story collection, compares it to John Bennion’s Falling Toward Heaven)

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World.  Long, well-thought out, favorable review)

Cross My Heart, by Julie Wright (Shelah at Shelah Books It, favorable)

Reviews of Brandon Mull’s A World Without Heroes: (One of the “Best Books of the Month”). “An addictive blend of fantasy, humor, and heroic quest.

Booklist: “Headlong adventure scenes, inventively conceived creatures, and surprising plot twists all figure into the mix  . . .  Readers seeking character-driven fiction should look elsewhere, but those drawn to long, action-filled fantasies may want to try Mull’s latest.”

Publisher’s Weekly: “Death and betrayal often dominate the plot, but Mull moves his story at a brisk pace, preventing the tragedies from overwhelming the adventure, while offering ample action and feisty dialogue to keep fantasy lovers entertained.”

Common Sense Media: 3 stars out of 5.  “Overly long start to fantasy series is heavy on violence . . . Parents need to know that this fantasy novel is darker than most fantasies targeted to kids . . . Mull’s writing lacks flair . . . Female fantasy fans may get frustrated that Rachel gets left behind so often . . . Still, the story will keep readers biting their nails.”

Los Angeles Times: “For avid readers of fantasy, Lyria will feel familiar, populated as it is with wizards and brutish men skilled in the arts of hunting and swordplay. But Mull elevates the genre, pairing humorous and imaginative scenarios with intelligence and well-written dialogue . . . Mull has taken the tried-and-true quest genre and reinvigorated it with a dense but extremely well-written follow-up to his bestselling “Fablehaven” series.”

Deseret News Feature story on Brandon Mull.

New Books

Hearts Through Time by Marie Higgins. Walnut Springs, time-travel romance.  A female ghost visits a male private detective, romance blooms, and then he is whisked back to 1912, where he needs to stop her murder.  Higgins’ third novel, all published by Walnut Springs within the last year.

The List by Melanie Jacobson. Covenant, romantic comedy. College girl has a list of things she wants to accomplish before marriage, but the surf instructor at the singles ward might change her mind.  First novel.

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull. Aladdin, middle grade fantasy.  First volume in a new series.  Mull’s Fablehaven was published by Shadow Mountain, with the paperback published by Simon and Schuster. This new series is fully a Simon and Schuster project.


Persuasion started a couple of days ago, The Plan opens tonight, and WWJD opens this coming weekend.

Eric Samuelsen’s The Plan debuts at the Covey Center in Provo, March 18-April 2 2011.  Here is Daily Herald preview of The Plan.  The play explores the LDS plan of salvation through the stories of Old Testament women and men, Ruth and Boaz, Jacob and Leah, Adam and Eve.  Through six short conversations, the play examines agency and adversity, choices and the consequences of choices, pain and difficulty and joy.  Samuelsen said it is “a feminist look at the Old Testament”, and “my entire testimony is in that play”   The first part, “Gaia”, appear in the 2010 collection Out of the Mount. Eric P. Jepson says of that section that it makes “stereotypes of downtrodden Mormon women ring ever more hollow” as a pre-mortal Eve stands down Lucifer and proves her strength and worthiness to be the mother of all living only shortly before the days of Eden.” The script was published in Sunstone, July 2009, #155

Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  Adapted for the stage by Melissa Leilani Larson. BYU Pardoe Theater, March 16-April 1. Directed by Barta Heiner.  Daily Herald preview.  And here is a Deseret News preview.  Too bad the DN misspelled Melissa Larson’s name through much of the article.  Marcus Smith interviewed Larson, Heiner, and Aspen Anderson (founder of the Utah Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America), for the March 14th KBYU Thinking Aloud radio program

There is also a community theatre production of Melissa Larson’s Martyrs’ Crossing being done by Rising Star Productions in Kelso, WA, March 22-26, 2011. The play, about the angels who appear to Joan of Arc, has been around in some form since at least 2004.  It had a full production at BYU in 2006 (when it was called Angels Unaware) where it was named by the Deseret News as one of the best Utah Valley productions of 2006.

Next week will be the stage premire of WWJD. March 24, 25, 26, 28, April 8, 9, 11, at the Provo Theater.  Written by Anna Lewis, produced by the New Play Project, directed by Tony Gunn.  “Wash your dishes? Ride your skateboard? What would Jesus do anyway? Playwright Anna Lewis asks the question in this new comedy about a group of college students and their unexpected house guest.”  The script (which you can read here) was Anna Lewis’ BYU  MA thesis in August 2008.  NPP director Davey Morrison has said he hopes to adapt the production as a feature film, to be shot in May 2011.  The play previously was workshopped at the BYU Writers/ Dramaturgs/Actors Workshop in 2007. 

Anna Lewis essay on writing about Jesus.

Anna Lewis on “The Difference Between Social Work and Creative Writing,” Part I and Part II

Here is an interesting 2007 AML-list discussion thread about depictions of the divine on stage, which began with a comment by Eric Samuelsen about the BYU WDA workshop performance of WWJD.

BYU Young Ambassador’s new stage show “Harmony’ The Music of Life (Deseret News preview). The show is a mix of Broadway songs and five new songs written specifically for this show, including LDS composer Steven Kapp Perry’s “The Way of Things.”

Kevin Barney article on Parker and Stone’s Book of Mormon musical at the Chicago Tribune.


Age of the Dragons is a fantasy thriller film, based on Moby Dick (with dragons instead of whales), which lots of Utah/Mormon people were involved in making. It was released in the UK on March 4th. It does not have a release date in the US yet (and, from a look at the reviews below, almost certainly will be direct-to-DVD).  It was directed by Ryan Little (Saints and Soldiers, Forever Strong). McKay Daines (The Dance, Heber Holiday), was a producer and wrote the screenplay, Stephen A. Lee (has often worked with Ryan Little), was another producer, and Anne Black (Pride and Prejudice) was one of the co-writers of the story. It was funded by the UK company Metrodome and Park City company Koan Productions.  The film reportedly had a $5,000,000 budget.  It stars Vinnie Jones and Danny Glover. Larry Bagby, a Utah actor, has a part. Shooting began in Utah Valley in February 2010, and locations included the Castle Ampitheater and Halestorm’s Stone Five Studios.  It has also been known as Curse of the Dragon and Dragon Fire.  Rated 12A in the UK, which appears to be akin to a PG-13. The preview shows some strong violence and what appears to be a topless woman, but apparently she remains only “nearly topless” in the film.

Here are some reviews from the UK:

The Guardian (1 star out of 5) “A textbook lesson in how not to adapt a literary classic – though it’s so spectacularly bad, it could well achieve mythical status of its own . . . The deadly serious tone just makes it funnier; there’s not a whale in sight but this movie blows.”  Also a Guardian piece mocking the trailer.

The Observer.  “This crude picture, shot in snow-covered Utah, where the Pequod becomes a battle engine on large wooden wheels, is unamusingly ridiculous.”

Variety “Generic dialogue and dull incident. Shoddy CGI indicates a production budget that’s fatally inadequate for the task at hand.”

Obsessed With Film (1 out of 5 stars) “A mostly mindless act of misguided reinvention, a melange of risible special effects, shoddy acting and direction that, without exaggeration, staggeringly manages to make Uwe Boll seem semi-skilled. Proof that no novel, no matter how accomplished, is free from a gawdy cinematic molestation, director Ryan Little has managed the incredible feat of pipping the likes of Season of the Witch and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son to the post for 2011′s worst film thus far!”

 The Film Pilgrim “An early contender as worst film of the year . . . everything about Age of the Dragons stinks of low budget . . . The acting is absolutely dreadful.”

Total Film (1 star out of 5) “Sadly, any car-crash appeal is undercut by the cardinal B-movie sin: dullness.

Radio Times (2 stars out of 5) “Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover, complete with milky blind eye and waxy make-up, doesn’t put enough passion or menace into his role as the bitter Ahab, while Vinnie Jones sleepwalks through his performance as Ahab’s chief harpoonist. In a predictable script, there’s also a romantic subplot involving Ahab’s adopted daughter Rachel (Sofia Pernas), who has to choose between loyalty to her father and her attraction to the dashing Ishmael (Corey Sevier). Canadian director Ryan Little fails to inject any excitement into all the derring-do, while the CGI dragons vary wildly in quality.”

Little White Lies  (1 star out of 5) “While ropey CG monsters, half-baked stabs at drama, awkwardly-choreographed action sequences and wooden acting are all part of the fun, neither the script, nor Little’s direction revel enough in camp or B-movie thrills to give Age of the Dragons true schlock value . . . This pittance fails to make Age of the Dragons anything more than disposable. Expect to find it wedged among the ‘Two for £10’ DVDs in a year’s time, tantalising you with the promise of a so-bad-it’s-good quickie. But beware: here be dragons.”

Best Sellers

New York Times Bestseller lists, March 20th

Hardcover Fiction

#30.  TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (18th week). ↔

Trade Fiction Paperback

#10. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (41st week). ↔  Staying pat on the main paperback list.  #30 on the Combined Hardcover and Paperback Fiction list, fell off the E- book Fiction list.  #31 on the Combined Print & E-book Fiction list, down from #23.  

MATCHED, by Ally Condie, fell off the Children’s Chapter Books, Hardback, after 13 weeks.   

Children’s Paperback:

#10 HUSH, HUSH, by Becca Fitzpatrick (23rd week).  ↓  Down from #6.

Children’s Series: 

#7 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephanie Meyer ( 187th week). ↔

FABLEHAVEN, by Brandon Mull, fell of the Children’s series list after 14 weeks.

Deseret Book LDS Fiction Bestsellers this week

1 Blackberry Crumbleby Josi S. Kilpack  ↑

2 The Book of Malchus by Neil Newell, William Hamblin  ↔

3 Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 1: The Wanderer by Anita Stansfield

4 Vengeance by Clair M. Poulson  ↑

5 The Silence of God by Gale Sears

6 The Kingdom and the Crown 3-Volume Set by Gerald N. Lund  ↓

7 The Great and Terrible Six-Volume Set  by Chris Stewart

8 Midway to Heaven  by Dean Hughes  ↔

9 Mark of Royalty by Stephonie K. Williams, Jennifer K. Clark NEW

10 Smokescreen  by Traci Hunter Abramson

News and events:

A new Brandon Sanderson Mistborn novel coming in November.

Write That Novel Seminar on April 8-9, 2011, given by Dave Wolverton

Novel Rewriting Workshop on April 18-22, 2011, given by Dave Wolverton

Professional Writers’ Workshop on June 6-11, 2011, given by Dave Wolverton

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2 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, March 18, 2011

  1. Just received an email about a “First Line Contest” from Carol Lynch Williams, so am posting the URL with information:

    I’ll also put it in the Arts and Literature Events Calendar sidebar.

  2. Th. says:


    I forgot to tell Andrew that this weekend is the Sunstone West Symposium in Cupertino. I’m presenting on Mormon comics, but it’s probably too late for you to do anything about it now…..

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