This Week in Mormon Literature, October 23, 2011

One Sleepy Hollow play finishes its run in Utah, while another one begins.  That is just the start of all of the theatrical news. Lots of new books this month, as well as some older books from the small publishers (WiDo, Parables, Walnut Springs) that I had not noticed before. Kristen Chandler’s second YA/environmental novel received glowing reviews, and the conclusion of James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy racked up good reviews and great sales. Three new films go straight to DVD. Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Articles, news, and podcasts

The Utah Book Awards for 2010 were announced.
There were two books by Mormon authors among the winners:

For Children’s Literature: Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale
For Young Adult Literature: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten were also announced and included three LDS authors.

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Matched by Ally Condie
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

LDS Fiction: The Minor Leagues?  By Don Carey, at Writing Fortress.

Nominations are now open for the 2011 Whitney Awards for best fiction published by a LDS writer in 2011.

An Early Mormon Poet, by Kent Larsen, at A Motley Vision. Kent profiles Thomas Ward, a British saint who edited the Millennial Star in 1842-1846, and whose poetry often appeared in Mormon periodicals in that period.

Tyler Chadwick is running daily comments on the poetry from the upcoming anthology Fire in the Pasture. Featured authors include Mark Bennion, Marilyn Bushman-Carlton, Neil Aitkin, and Susan Elizabeth Howe.

LDS Publisher answers reader questions. Where Do I Submit a Story with a Taboo Topic?, How Do I Get a Book Review?, Did You Just Call Me a Dinosaur?!? (about self-publishing and editing), and Facebook Ads. Also, NaNoWriMo: It’s Time to Step Up and Accept the Challenge by Danyelle Ferguson, Prepping Your Family for NaNoWriMo by Danyelle Ferguson, and Writing Devices by Rebecca Talley.

One “Long” Record of Failure: A Review of Jana Riess’s “Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor” by Scott Hales at The Low-Tech World.  “At 179 pages, Flunking Sainthood is a breeze to read. Which is good news for people who have the attention span of a dog or who inhale books like helium. In each chapter, Riess introduces her spiritual practice-of-the-month and then chronicles her failure through droll anecdotes, moments of profundity, and the occasional foray into her past . . . Mormon readers will note, for instance, that Flunking Sainthood is not about them.  In fact, nowhere in the memoir does Riess let on that the church she keeps talking about, or her conservative “faith tradition,” is of the Mormon persuasion.  This is not to say that Mormon readers won’t see themselves between the lines in the book . . . At any rate, I enjoyed Flunking Sainthood—even though it ended much too soon. Riess not only has written a memoir that is as fun as it is thought provoking, but she has also avoided the self-absorbed hall-of-mirrors pitfall that tends to plague the genre.”

Dan Wells interviews Rob Wells about Rob’s new book, their background, Rob’s recent medical problems, etc.

There are three recent interviews with Eric James Stone. This one, at Science Fiction Writers of America, about his Nebula award writing background, this one, at Odyssey Workshop, a writing workshop that Stone participated in, and this one, at Diabolical Plots.

The Appendix Podcast.  34: Speculative Fiction. 35: Becoming and Editor, and Serials.  Both Episodes with Covenant Communications Editor Kirk Shaw.  Although all the people around the table are Mormon and are involved in the Mormon literature market, the podcast is created for the general writing community, so they make no specific mention of Mormon literature.  That is true for the Wordplay and Writing Excuses podcasts as well, which are both run by a mixture of Mormons and non-Mormons.

Wordplay Podcast Episode 7: Kiersten White, Beginnings, and Dialogue. The podcast, run in part by James Dashner and Scott Savage, welcomes guest Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy & Supernaturally. They discuss how to make your story beginning more gripping and what makes dialogue work. Writing Excuses Podcast 6.20 is entitled “Endings”.

Daily Herald feature article about author Jenni James and a Weekly News Journal (Southern Idaho) feature article on author Lisa Dayley.

News books (or ones I have just noticed), and their reviews

Liz Adair. Cold River. Walnut Springs, Sept. 29. Romance/suspense.

C. David Belt. The Unwilling. Parables Publishing, Aug. Paranormal.  Ebook only for now, coming soon in paperback. First novel. When Carl Morgan witnesses the murder of his sister and police can’t locate the killer, he takes matters into his own hands. But his search for justice costs him everything. Carl is unknowingly transformed into the world’s only unwilling vampire, damned to an eternity of darkness, until he meets Moira, a repentant vampire searching for redemption she’d feared was impossible. Suddenly there’s hope.

R. William Bennett. Jacob T. Marley. Shadow Mountain, Oct. 12. Christmas novel, imagines a back story for the A Christmas Carol minor character. Bennett, an executive at Franklin Covey, and other companies, has done at least one (self-published) Christmas novel before.

Library Journal: “This message-heavy retelling of Dickens’s classic tale reminds the reader that it’s never too late to mend your ways. Of limited interest; only for fans of Bennett’s The Christmas Gift.”

Tim Ballard, AML. “Bennett clearly possesses that Dickensesque flair to turn a phrase, to pull the reader in, and to leave the reader, alternatively, joyful, sad, giggling, remorseful, and awestruck—all within a few short pages. For example, note how he cleverly describes Nephew Fred: “Rather, the more he was pushed down by Scrooge, the more his joy seemed to flow out of him. It was like the light of a lantern assaulting the early evening dusk, when the dark only seems to strengthen the beam. But Bennett’s wonderful literary flair informs only a fraction of the reason his book is truly a masterpiece. The real value of the story is found in its powerful ability to change lives.”

Chamber Four. “Despite it occurring on a Christian holiday, I’ve always read A Christmas Carol as largely, like much of Dickens’s work, more about social contract and free will than any sort of lesson in piety. But Marley, and through him this book, seems more concerned with Scrooge’s eternal salvation. Scrooge’s redemption as Dickens wrote it was not a Christian repentance. He reforms his ways for the betterment of man, and finds personal reward in that offering. Bennett’s tale offers more of a trickle-down morality scheme, a golden-rule, pay-it-forward kind of thing. The didactic tinge that gives me this feeling is not so potent as to ruin the book, but it’s certainly noticeable enough for me to recognize I’m not the ideal reader here. But that’s not really a criticism of the book so much as a warning that this is for a certain readership. If that’s your cup of tea, you will really like this book. Bennett is an above average writer and pulls off a more than decent approximation of Dickensian style. The book is well structured and paced. And I admit I got drawn into it, feeling excited for what I knew was going to happen (funny how retellings always manage to at least tap that vein). If you like Christmas books, or just really like A Christmas Carol, this book is a good pick up. If you’re looking for an easy Christmas gift for a grandparent or holiday book to stick in a guest room this winter, this is a good choice I suppose. If you’re really into Dickens but not so much into God, you should probably pass.”

Elizabeth Petty Bentley. A Wandering Star. Parables Publishing, Jan. Romance? Ebook only for now. Alyssa and Nolan are about to be married when Nolan’s best friend, Zeke, arrives. He’s an enigmatic figure, rumored to be excommunicated and to have failed to complete his mission for the Church. Alyssa sensibly marries Nolan, who is good-looking, devout, sensitive, and loving, but conventional. Unfortunately, being married in the temple doesn’t help Alyssa put aside her attraction to Zeke.

Stephanie Black. Rearview Mirror. Covenant, Oct. 12. Mystery/suspense.

Based on a True Story blog. “One thing I love about Stephanie’s writing style is her realistic characterization. If her characters use profanity she shows that without the reader having to read any of it. That impresses me so much . . . Stephanie manages to get through this aspect of a character without making a big thing of it. The reader doesn’t feel the scene fell flat for them. Issues with infidelity and adultery are also handled tactfully. She is a really great writer. ”

Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card. Laddertop, Volume 1.  Tor/Seven Seas, September 27. Science fiction manga. Emily is OSC’s daughter, she created the Jane Austen Fight Club video.

Kirkus Reviews. “A high-octane outer-space adventure slated to be the first in a twosome . . . The main characters in this volume are largely female, strong and intelligent, a wonderful departure from male-dominated extraterrestrial offerings. Ibardolaza’s muscular art blends manga and Western aesthetics. An intriguing beginning; readers will clamor for the follow-up.”

Deseret News.  “A compelling first volume of a science fiction series that will appeal strongly to young adult readers — specifically young women, since the protagonists of the book are two 11-year-old girls . . . It’s a fun read, aided by the dynamic artwork of illustrator Honel A. Ibardolaza, which will appeal to young readers but may disorient some adult readers who are not familiar with the manga-type graphics.”

Herald-Examiner. “As is the case with many good YA-aimed works, the middle-school characters still appeal to an adult audience with their intelligence, humor, and strength of will . . . The illustrations flow well, giving the pages a sleek futuristic feel; though if you aren’t familiar with manga, it might take a little bit to get used to the style. Honoel A. Ibardolaza is the illustrator, and does a superb job of bringing life to the characters and the environments, both alien and earth-bound. Even the character sketches at the end are fun to flip through, just to get a closer look at the details. While it might be a bit different than the usual genre selections gracing your shelves, Laddertop deserves your attention. And those parents looking for stories to read to/with their kids should also give it a closer look.”

Kristen Chandler. Girls Don’t Fly. Viking Juvenile,  Oct. 13. Young Adult general/environmental. Set in Utah and the Galapagos Islands, the female protagonist is seemingly not Mormon, but her ex-boyfriend is.

Kirkus Reviews: “Kept grounded by her overworked parents, her very pregnant sister and four rambunctious younger brothers, Myra yearns to stretch her wings, but when presented with an opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands, she is not sure she has the courage to fly so far from home . . . A familiar premise—girl realizes her boyfriend is a jerk and then meets someone infinitely better—is made fresh with quirky particulars. Readers will relate to Myra’s simultaneous desire for life to be different and exciting and fear of change. Chapter titles defining avian terms provide a narrative framework. A sweet story that will appeal to romantics and birders alike.”

Deseret News. “Kristen Chandler’s second young adult novel, “Girls Don’t Fly,” is about changing and adapting — both personal and Darwinian . . . Chandler writes with a wry sense of humor and a style that shows an understanding and love of the teenage condition. Myra is an honest, moral and very refreshing young woman. The story, told in first person through Myra’s voice, moves along quickly and gives a glimpse into how a high school senior in a small Utah town might be thinking and feeling.”

VOYA: “As Myra navigates from one trauma to the next, we know she is a princess in a scullery maid’s disguise. Her cast of supporting characters is equally entertaining: sniveling Erik, sarcastic Melyssa, rough and tumble siblings, and, of course, Prince Charming, incognito as a graduate student. Funny, sensitive, loyal and endearing, Myra is a heroine to remember.”

James Dashner. The Death Cure. Declacorte, October 11. 3rd and final volume in The Maze Runner series.

Kirkus: “Dashner again displays his mastery of the action sequence, making readers turn pages even as they become further invested in the well-developed characters. Heart pounding to the very last moment.”

Deseret News: “The book isn’t all bangs and explosions, and has a mysterious quality that leads the reader to discover with Thomas, exactly what Wicked is up to, and who Thomas can really trust. It is apparent that Dashner’s greatest strength is writing action sequences that will make your heart pound or stop completely at intervals.”

Deseret News feature on James Dashner.

L. A. DeVaul  Roxanne in La La Land. WiDo Publishing, Ebook version released Aug. 24, 2011. Chick lit. Liesel Autrey DeVaul is an editor at WiDo, and a member of the Gowen family which runs the house.  Has no specific Mormon content.

Mette Ivie Harrison. Tris & Izzie. EgmontUSA, Oct. 11. YA contemporary fantasy. High school love, a magic love potion, and supernatural creatures who attack. Based on Tristan and Isolde story.  Harrison has written several fantasy novels, this is her first set in the present day.

Booklist: “After an opening involving contemporary teen issues such as high-school pecking orders, best friends, and young love, Harrison’s latest takes a surprisingly satisfying turn into fantasy. Izzie’s mother is a witch, and when Izzie tries to use her mother’s love potion on her best friend, she accidentally administers it to both herself and the school’s handsome new hunk . . . Harrison’s ethical and moral questions reach to even the smaller characters (as do snarling two-headed dogs and stinking giants). There are a few bumps of incredulity in the behaviors of adults here, but overall this works well as a riff on the magic of romance.”

Refracted Light: “None of the characters in Tris & Izzie feel whole. They are extremely one-dimensional, which is somewhat surprising given that the book is written from Izzie’s first person perspective and therefore the reader is given the benefit of knowing her better through her internal dialogue. Izzie herself comes off as flighty, shallow, and disingenuous, although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t how the author is trying to portray her . . . In conclusion, Tris & Izzie was an unfortunate disappointment for me on so many levels. Another reminder that a gorgeous cover doesn’t necessarily reflect the story within.” Also, there are many poor reviews on Goodreads.   

Jenni James. Pride and Popularity: The Jane Austen Diaries. Walnut Springs, August. Vol. 1 of a series.  First published novel.  [I mistakenly listed this as self-published in the last column].

Kimberley Griffiths Little. Circle of Secrets. Scholastic, Oct. YA General/Fantasy. Again set in the Louisiana Bayou. Girl’s mother walked out on the family, now years later the girl needs to move back in with the mother. Magical realism, ghosts, secrets, family, and faith.

Kirkus: “The author serves up the setting well, evoking the sights, sounds and smells of the humid, tangled bayou. She fares less well with the regionalisms, which are delivered inconsistently and sometimes jar. The gently spooky ghost angle is handled nicely with some religious overtones. A very dramatic climax leads to a sweet, satisfying ending with some surprising twists and with reconciliation occurring for several characters. For readers who like their ghost stories more friendly than terrifying.”

Mike McPheters. Lit Fuse. Cedar Fort, Oct. 8.  Suspense. Pakistani immigrant children as Al Qaeda sleeper agents. Raised to be suicide bombers, but then they meet Mormon missionaries. Second novel.

J. Lloyd Morgan. The Hidden Sun. Walnut Springs, Aug.  YA fantasy. First in a series. It was  self-published in 2010, then Walnut Springs picked it up.

Brandon Sanderson. Infinity Blade: Awakening. ChAIR Entertainment Group, Oct. Fantasy. Ebook-only novella, based on an ipod/ipad game.

Gale Sears.  Letters in the Jade Dragon Box.   Deseret Book, Oct. 12. LDS historical fiction. Based on a true  story of a former general in the Chinese army who became one of the first converts to the Church in Hong Kong. Shows the horrors of the Chinese communist regime, like her last novel did with the Bolshevik regime.

Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine. 5 stars. “Sometimes when a particular book touches me deeply, I find it difficult to write an impartial review.  Such is the case with Letters in the Jade Dragon Box . . . Jade Dragon Box is a complex story with complex characters.  It is written in deceptively simple language that carries nuances and whisperings of the past like music on the wind.  I love the way the characters grow and develop in this story.  I also appreciate the author’s ability to write of a dismal and painful piece of history without allowing the message of the book to be gloomy and depressing-or to degenerate into mere backfill.  It’s a tremendous tribute to man’s ability to endure and hope for a better tomorrow.”

Obert Skye. Wonkenstein: The Creature From My Closet. Henry Holt & Co., Sept. 27.  Middle grade humor.

Kirkus: “Skye adds another Wimpy Kid to the growing bandwagon. Sounding almost too nerdy to be true (“I’m kind of like a backup singer in the song of life”), 12-year-old Rob relates his tale in the now-requisite mix of block-print–type prose and line-drawn cartoon figures with punch lines or commentary in dialogue balloons . . . Likely to be lost in the crowd, but comfy antics for readers who don’t probably much like reading—which, one thinks, is exactly the point.”

School Library Journal: “Written in a journal/comic format from the perspective of an underachieving narrator, this book owes an obvious debt to the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. The drawings don’t pack a big comedic punch, but the writing is quite funny and has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. And while the format and the protagonist might not be inventive, the idea of a hybrid Willy Wonka/Frankenstein character is original and hilarious. This book will be a hit with kids who can’t get enough of the Wimpy Kid.”

Magazines and short stories

The new October 2011 issue of Sunstone (#164) is out.  It contains Levi Peterson’s new short story, “Return of the Native”.

Provo Orem Word, October 2011 issue is a special Hispanic Heritage issue. The issue includes two short stories, Sylvia Torti’s, “The Scorpion’s Tail” and Mary Lucy Garcia’s, “El fantasma de la biblioteca” (The Library Spirit).

Reviews of earlier books

Traci Hunter Abramson. Obsession. Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine.  5 stars.  “This review begins with a friendly warning.  Don’t start Traci Hunter Abramson’s new book, Obsession, late at night if you aren’t into staying up all night.  She hasn’t left any good places to stick in a bookmark, set it down, and wait until morning to finish it . . . Secondary characters are also well drawn and distinctive.  The plot is gripping; the clues are all there, but even long time mystery fans will be left wondering who the killer is almost as long as Charlie. The romance is satisfying and low key.”

D. M. Coffman. The Hainan Incident, Deseret News.

Sarah Eden, Seeking Persephone, Deseret News.

Collen Houck. Tiger’s Quest. Bookworm Nation.  4 out of 5.

Jenni James. Pride and Popularity. Karen Hamilton, AML.

Josi S. Kilpack, Pumpkin RollBlogin’ ‘bout books. C. “I found that I liked this new installment much better than I liked the first two books in the series. Why? Because it’s a little different, a little more complex. I still don’t love Sadie’s character and I definitely think the books in this series could be trimmed down by at least 100 pages each, but Pumpkin Roll engaged me more than others in the series have. I’m not saying the book’s not predictable – it is – or that the characters couldn’t use some major development – they can – I’m just liking the improvements I’m seeing as this series goes on.”

Josi S. Kilpack. English Trifle. Blogin’ ‘bout books. C-.  “The plot seemed stale and contrived, the characters cliche, and the finale predictable. With about 100 pages more than it needed to have, the story dragged, getting especially dull in the middle. I did appreciate the fact that Kilpack fleshed her heroine out a lot more in this installment than she did in Lemon Tart – I’m not sure if I like Sadie, the overbearing do-gooder, but she’s definitely getting more interesting. Not interesting enough, though, to carry this novel. In the end, I found English Trifle bland and disappointing. Rather like English food – or so I hear. ”

Josi S. Kilpack. Pumpkin Roll. Deseret Book. “In this story, which is a little darker than previous Kilpack mysteries, there’s a psychopath out there and the real possibility that the supernatural world is playing a part . . . It makes for a light, entertaining read, but don’t look too closely or some of the strategem may fall apart.”

Josi S. Kilpack. To Have and to Hold. Framed and Booked. 3.75 out of 5.

Lael Littke, The Keepers of Blackbird Hill, Deseret News.  “An easy-to-read story with a rich message of the importance of family history and preserving the past. The protagonist’s journey to self-discovery through the eyes of her ancestors is one replete with wise advice. However, while the message is strong and timely, the story itself lacks depth. The characters are likable but emotionally superficial, and the plot is predictable. Littke’s writing is clean but lacks uniqueness, the descriptions often a bit hackneyed.”

Gregg Luke. BloodborneReading For Sanity.  3 stars. “Bloodborne is fast-paced, but occasionally feels contrived, especially in regards to characters, dialog, and certain plot points.  I’m trying to vague this up a bit, because I don’t want to spoil things, but several of these areas lacked adequate explanation, background detail, and/or depth.  I really liked the structure of the story, the overall outline of the plot, but felt that the writing could have been better.  Fans of LDS fiction are more likely to enjoy this novel than those who regularly read literary fiction.”

Kristen McKendry. Garden Plot. Shanda, LDSWBR. “I give Garden Plot 4 stars out of 5 because it was an entertaining read that kept me turning pages (I couldn’t put it down) and it made me laugh out loud. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with LDS characters (references to the religion but not preachy at all).”

E. J. Patten. Return to Exile. Deseret News. “Once “Return to Exile” gets your attention, it’s a heart-stopping adventure perfect for a Halloween read.”

Andrea Pearson. The Key of Kilenya. Mindy, LDSWBR. “The Key of Kilenya struck my interest and got me excited about the story from page one.  I appreciate a great fantasy book that I can pass onto my kids without hesitation.  I love this unique world that the author creates . . . 4 out of 5 stars.  This book very enjoyable and is an action packed adventure story for all readers.”

Mandi Tucker Slack. The Alias. Shanda, LDSWBR. “I really like they way the cityscape and landscape from the two main locations are blended together on the front cover. It caught my eye. The story caught my attention as well, and I had no problem turning pages because I wanted to see what would happen. I believe this is the author’s debut novel, and if so, she did a great job on her first published novel . . . I found The Alias to be an enjoyable read and give it 3.5 stars out of 5.”

Theater

Mahonri Stewart’s Zion Theatre Company performed Stewart’s Legends of Sleepy Hollow from October 7th to the 15th at the Caste Outdoor Ampitheatre in Provo.  Steve Dunford at Utah Theater Bloggers reviewed the show, and had some criticism towards the experience of seeing a play sitting on the uncomfortable outside ampitheatre hillside.  He went on to criticize the script and direction. He concluded, “Overall, I feel there was definite devotion, however misguided, from the performers.  A casual observer would likely enjoy the evening.  I don’t think I would recommend a friend see this particular show, simply due to the fact that given the location and the weather you really have to commit to this viewing experience and in this case, for me, the payoff just wasn’t there.  I think that the rigid schoolmaster himself, Mr. Crane, would likely grade this production as a C-.” The review is followed by a vigorous discussion and counter-reviews in the comments section.

Next up for the Zion Theatre Company is Stewart’s Jinn and other short plays, playing November 17-18 at the Off Broadway Theatre, in Salt Lake City. Additionally, the Zion Theatre Company just announced its ambitious 9-play season for 2012.  The plays will run in three separate series, at the Off Broadway Theater in SLC, the Little Brown Theater in Springville, and the Castle Ampitheatre in Provo.

Not to be confused with Stewart’s Legends of Sleepy Hollow is the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s production of the musical Sleepy Hollow, at the Davis Center for the Performing Arts, Centerville Utah, October 17 through November 12. The book and lyrics were written by Weber State University Theater Program Director Jim Christian, who also directs the show, and the music was written by Tom Edward Clark. Both Christian and Clark appear to be Mormons. A previous Weber State production of the musical in 2009 was awarded the national Musical Theatre Playwriting Award by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.  Deseret New feature article on the production.

Deseret News review: ““Sleepy Hollow” receives a truly handsome staging by CenterPoint Theatre. Beautifully sung ballads and a marvelous performance by the lead actor are the hallmarks of this presentation, the show’s first by non-student actors. The book writer and lyricist, WSU’s Jim Christian, also helms the production and shows strong directorial skills and a precise attention to detail . . . The songs are a refreshing-to-hear blend of operetta flourishes and traditional musical theater to make “Sleepy Hollow” an intriguing show. Ensemble members have solos or a choral work to shine and the newly recorded orchestrations are lush and full . . . It is the storytelling where the show is at its weakest. The audience understands that a witch has cursed the hamlet, and Sleepy Hollow is haunted by supernatural ghosts who have killed a few villagers. But less clear are the details of how the curse is reversed.”

Backstage Utah review by Megan B. Pedersen. “I was very impressed with the vocal talent found among all actors in this production.  Frederickson, Bradford and Winegar were all very impressive.  While Winegar has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard, I found the connection to her character lacking.  Unfortunately, when she wasn’t singing, I felt she was simply reciting lines.  I didn’t feel a range of emotion or depth . . . As for the sound and music – I’m not sure how I felt.  Other than the opening scene, the sound system was great.  At times, the orchestrations were beautiful and sounded great.  At other times, I found actors coming in too early or late or pausing to wait for the music to catch up.  I feel the music and the show in general can afford to tighten up this area quite a bit … Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this production.  It is very family friendly, but perhaps a bit slow at times to hold a young one’s captivated interest.  Again, I am itching for a copy of the soundtrack and am excited to see what comes next for the creators, cast and CenterPoint.”

Paul & Patrick Gibbs’s Knight for a Day is playing at the Draper Historic Theater, October. 7-29. Playwrights Paul and Patrick Gibbs wanted to craft a stage work in the feminist spirit and fight the tide of traditional gender roles, which prompted “Knight for a Day.” Their tale of Princess Ariana is an adventure story set in medieval times, and takes a turn for heroics when Ariana decides she would rather don fighter’s garb to help her father, King Cedric, than waste time with dollhouses. The Gibbs brothers, who also are filmmakers, have created several comic Mormon plays in recent years, including the superhero spoof MorMAN and Star Ward.  A 2009 Deseret News article about Paul Gibbs receiving a kidney from his actor friend Ryan Poole can be found here.

Utah Theater Bloggers review by Russell Warne: “The biggest strength of the script is the ideas that the play teaches: allowing children to pursue their interests, giving girls and women the opportunities and respect that men have, and the importance of family harmony. I also think that the playwrights have infused the script with a lot of humor, which makes the final product an enjoyable action-comedy. The acting throughout the evening was pleasant and consistent, and I never felt like any of the cast members were particularly weak. Bertrand delivered an excellent performance. I don’t think that the role of Ariana would be very easy; Bertrand was required to kick butt and take names (mostly by swordfighting) but not lose her femininity or come off as a 21st century feminist. I thought she pulled off the lead role well and certainly had the stage presence necessary to drive most of the scenes that she appears in . . . the Gibbses’ script has some notable flaws in it and I believe it needs some reworking. The biggest flaw is the tendency to tell the audience about characters’ traits, instead of letting those traits manifest themselves through the characters’ actions . . . Overall, I had a nice time attending Knight for a Day. It wasn’t a perfect show, but it was good. More importantly, it was sincere. I truly feel that the directors and actors were sending me a message that they all believed. If one of the purposes of community theatre is to give voice to locally important ideas, then Knight for a Day was a success.”

Backstage Utah review, by Megan B. Pedersen. “I was certain that would mean I was in for an evening of poorly executed slapstick, corny puns, and a thinly veiled moral delivered by an overacting heroine. But Knight for Day is none of these things. Draper’s debut of the original, family friendly play by Paul and Patrick Gibbs is charming, delightful and full of heart. While the performance I saw had its share of flaws, the show’s solid cast, witty dialogue and feel good message left me enchanted and uplifted . . . The cast is all around very solid, but the clear standout is Rosalie Bertrand as its head. Ms. Bertrand is spirited, hilarious and all around delight to watch. She is equally as confident in playing jokes about cute boys as she is wielding a sword in a floor length gown. Her energy lit the theatre, and she created a wildly entertaining heroine whose insecurities made her sweet, and whose sincerity resonated . . . The play featured a huge amount of sword fighting, which was impressive both in its bulk, creativity and precision . . . The play featured a huge amount of sword fighting, which was impressive both in its bulk, creativity and precision.”

Bill and Marilyn Brown’s Little Brown Theater is reopening in Springville after a 6 year layoff. The Browns opened the Villa Playhouse Theatre at 254 S. Main in Springville in 1996 and later opened the smaller Little Brown Theatre in a building across the street from the Villa at 239 S. Main. The Villa closed in 2004 and the Little Brown Theatre closed in 2005 after Bill Brown suffered health problems. Joining the Browns in this latest venture will be professional theater technical managers Brent and Sara Harvey, longtime residents of Springville who have 25 years of theater experience. Their family owned the Villa during the early 1990s. The first production, The Assassin’s New Friend, by John Kaasik (not a Mormon) opens on October 28, and continues through November 14th.

The BYU WDA Staged Readings were held last week. The scripts were Erik Orton’s State of the Union, Erica Glen’s The Weaver of Raveloe, and Ariel Mitchell’s A Second Birth.

Film

Three films were released directly to DVD in October, HottieBommaLottie, Snow Beast,  and Dawn of the Dragonslayer.

HottieBoombaLottie was directed, written, and produced by Seth Packard, who is also the lead actor. PG-13. A High School comedy, with a Napoleon Dynamite feel. Packard is the son of BYU Philosophy of Film professor Dennis Packard.  The film was chosen for the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, 2008, and was shown at the LDS Film Festival in January, 2011. DVD release, Oct. 25, 2011. SunWorld is the distributor. Here are some reviews of the 2008 screening.

Variety (review of the 2008 screening): “The only T-shirt missing from Seth Packard’s “HottieBoombaLottie” is the “Vote for Pedro” from “Napoleon Dynamite,” a movie tyro writer-editor-helmer Packard probably viewed countless times before making this first film, about a high school misfit foolishly in love. That the picture is in bright, pop-colored widescreen 35mm, gives off a strong professional sheen and elicits a few laughs isn’t enough to keep it from being a badly miscalculated effort in the end, sure to leave potential buyers with a sour aftertaste. After 70 minutes that zip along on a surface of sometimes cleverly staged antics and juvenile humor that seldom, if ever, gets outright gross, the plot’s climax turns on a thoughtless Columbine massacre spoof that renders the film unplayable in any community affected by serious school violence. As such, it would seem a deal-breaker with any domestic distrib. Yet so key is the scene to the overall story that Packard would have to shoot an entirely new sequence as a replacement. . . . Take away Packard’s clear talent for staging and editing some visually striking action scenes (some of them on Ethan’s little moped), and his script is fairly routine stuff.”

IGN Movies (review of the 2008 screening): 3.5 stars out of 5. “If Jared Hess and John Hughes had a movie baby, then it might be HottieBoombaLottie. Some might argue that Hess’ debut Napoleon Dynamite was already cloned from an errant strand of the Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink creator’s cinematic DNA, but Seth Packard’s outsider teen tome feels like it was poached right from Hughes’ cerebral cortex. The story of a goofy, irrepressibly individualistic teen who not-so-secretly pines for the girl of his dreams, HottieBoombaLottie is a sweet, smart and sensitive comedy about finding love in the last place people often think to look — namely, right in front of their faces . . . Overall, HottieBoombaLottie is (or at least should be) this year’s Napoleon Dynamite, in the sense that it’s an indie movie that should find its way into the mainstream. Unlike other similar oddball love stories, Packard finds real reasons to love his characters, and then makes us love them too. That said, it remains to be seen whether the writer/director/star has stories in him that are slightly less familiar; after all, the genre conventions he’s exploring are more than two decades old. But even as a distant descendant of the films that made teen troubles into movie boilerplate, HottieBoombaLottie reminds one enough of its predecessors — most importantly, in the same upbeat, hopeful and entertaining way — to earn a comfortable spot in the latest generation of a longstanding cinematic family.”

 

Snow Beast. Directed and produced by Brian Brough, written and produced by Brittany Wicombe (Brough’s frequent collaborator and sister).  A remake of a 1977 TV series. Stars John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard). Distributed by Brough’s company SunWorld. DVD released on October 5, 2011. Brian Brough has been one of the most active Mormon filmmakers of the last decade. SunWorld appears to be the new name of his previous production and distribution company, Candlelight Media. Brough produced or directed Saints and Soldiers, Beauty and the Beast, Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration, Turn Around, Passage to Zarahemla, Emma Smith: My Story, One Man’s Treasure, Once Upon a Summer, and Christmas Angel. Upcoming is Scents and Sensibility, yes, a Jane Austen adaptation. He also recently re-released the 2006 film Everything You Want with a new title, Love Surreal, which was the title of the original BYU-produced theater piece that the movie is based upon.

 

Blogmatic 3000 review: “This is not your typical horror movie – for starters just take a look at the DVD box art. See that horrific monster? He stars in a 12-rated film. Yep, this film is rated 12. That’s right, a 12. This is the most family-friendly horror movie to grace screens since Gremlins and its sequel . . . Snow Beast is yet another entry in the (small) canon of films that deal with what seems to be America’s fascination with the sasquatch, aka bigfoot. Only this time rather than presenting a new take on the legend, the filmmakers have gone for comedy-gold and recreated what was, and still is, so fantastic about those old sasquatch movies – man in a rubber suit special effects. Apart from looking like it was shot on digital, watching this film feels like the past three decades never happened. Really. The film has a man in a rubber suit as the monster and only three deaths in the entire film (there actually might be more, but I nodded off halfway through), all of which feature zero SFX bar the odd slap of fake blood and a few scratches on the victim – just like the old sasquatch flicks. Everything about Snow Beast screams bargain basement… And that is why it is so fantastic!”

Dawn of the Dragonslayer, written and directed by Anne K. Black. Co-written by Kynan Griffin. Fantasy film, featuring dragons, filmed in Ireland. Previously known as Paladin. Black was a writer on Pride and Prejudice and The Age of Dragons, and a production designer on lots of Mormon/Utah movies, including those made by her husband, Andrew Black. This is the first commercial film that I can think of that was directed by a Mormon woman, although I am probably forgetting something. Nexia Holdings, a SLC company, is the distributor. The DVD will have its UK release on October 24, 2011. No US release scheduled yet. Here is an interview with Black at the Herald Examiner. A second film, The Virgin and the Warrior, was shot in conjunction with Age of Dragons, and is awaiting distribution.  Film Radar review:  “A pleasant surprise to me as it turned out to be a much richer film then I had anticipated. I was expecting it to be more of a straightforward sword and sorcery thriller instead at its base is a very tender love story and this added development is what truly elevates it . . . Nicola Posener manages to portray a headstrong heroine but yet her character does not come across as anachronistically modern as is often the case. This achievement is helped by the fine screenplay by Anne Black, Justin Partridge, and Kynan Griffin that helps create the period feeling through the dialogue and story points that seem quite authentic.”

Alex Bledsoe review:” It couldn’t have cost much more than most SyFy movies, yet the things that don’t depend on money–talent, the desire to do good work, and belief in the project at hand–nudge it into the realm of real cinema.  It’s low budget, but not low rent . . . To be fair, there’s a certain dourness to the film that prevents it from being as much fun as it might.  But it gets so many other things right, especially compared to what’s normally found in indie fantasy films, that it’s easy to overlook this.  The film was shot on the west coast of Ireland, and thus has an unexpected scenic beauty.

From BYU: The Heartland Film Festival ran October 13-22 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year there is significant representation of BYU student and faculty, both past and present.  It all began with Brandon Arnold‘s feature Much Ado About Nothing, a contemporary East Hollywood High (West Valley, Utah) adaptation of the Shakespeare’s play set in a high school and produced by his high school students. This was followed by Adrian and Bryan Lefler‘s Unicorn City which played next door in the same hour to Tim Skousen‘s feature documentary Zero Percent.  The next evening Tom and Courtney Russell followed up the screening For Robbing the Dead with a Q &A session. In the various shorts program, you would have found Brad Barber‘s Drum Beats, Ian Kelly‘s Kofi and Tyler Carter‘s Dreamweaver.

 

New York Times Bestseller lists, October 23rd, 30th

Trade Fiction Paperback

#22, #22 HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (69th week) Down from the teens.

Mass Market Paperback

#11, #21 TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (2nd week).

#16, #23 DARK PERIL, by Christine Feehan (2nd week).

Children’s Paperback

#5, #8 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (4th week). Volume 2 in the series comes out in November.

Children’s Series

#2, #5 HUSH, HUSH SAGA, by Becca Fitzpatrick.

x, #2 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner.

Fitzpatrick and Dashner both produced third volumes in their best selling series, which means they graduate from the Children’s Chapter Book list to the more competitive Children’s Series list.  Both had impressive debuts at #2.  Neither author was able to dislodge The Hunger Games trilogy from its perch on the top of the list. Dashner’s book reached #16 on the USA Today list, while Fitzpatrick’s reached #19.

Deseret Book

  1. Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack
  2. Obsession by Traci Hunter Abramson
  3. Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 3: A Distant Shore by Anita Stansfield
  4. Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden
  5. Before I Say Goodbye by Rachel Ann Nunes
  6. The Undaunted: The Miracle of the Hole-in-the-Rock Pioneers by Gerald N. Lund
  7. The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
  8. Hunted by Clair M. Poulson
  9. The Great and Terrible Six-Volume Set by Chris Stewart
  10. Throstleford by Susan Evans McCloud

 

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One Response to This Week in Mormon Literature, October 23, 2011

  1. Th. says:

    .

    I’m overwhelmed. So many links this week!

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