An amazing 13 fiction books by Mormon authors on the bestseller lists, led by Brandon Sanderson’s new Mistborn novel An Alloy of Law. Robison Wells’ Varient was named as one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011. Stephen L. Peck’s new novel looks intriguing, James Goldberg and Scott Hales are moving ahead with their Mormon Lit Blitz contest, and new plays by Mahonri Stewart and the trio of Ward L. Wright, Randall Wright and Marvin Payne premiere in Utah. Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
News and blog posts
Varient, by Robison Wells, was named one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011, Children’s Fiction. It was one of 25 books published. The award page said, “Wells’s first novel is a blisteringly fast-paced thriller, set at a boarding school where students are trapped, divided into factions, and unable to escape. Wells keeps readers—not to mention his characters—on their toes, engineering twist after twist in a story that brings elements of boarding school and survivalist novels into grim, futuristic territory.” Sales of Wells’ book were given a boast this week by a Book Bomb arranged by Larry Correia. The book rose in Amazon sales rankings to #7 in its genre and #57 overall.
Shadow Mountain fiction and non-fiction author Chris Stewart is running for the Republican nomination of Utah’s 2nd District seat in the United States Congress. Stewart wrote The Great and Terrible last days fiction series, and co-wrote this year’s national non-fiction bestseller The Miracle of Freedom, Seven Tipping Points That Saved The World.
James Goldberg and Scott Hales have announced a very short story Mormon Lit Blitz contest.
Scott Hales at The Low-Tech World discusses the historical and cultural setting of Nephi Anderson’s 1907 short story “The Inevitable”, and solicits and discusses book reviews for Irreantum, where he is an editor.
A trio of Mormon readers have created a literary blog, Shelf Actualization. They say, “The focus of the site will be delivering literary fiction to the hordes of readers who have fled to genre fiction over the last few decades. Our aim is to show sports-loving, work-a-day slobs like ourselves that they have as much to gain from great books as the career academics and industry professionals who have made good literature the focus of their entire lives. And, as we can build a readership, we hope to bring Mormon stories and authors to a group that has had no exposure to them in the past.”
Ships of Hagoth discusses hypermasculinity in LDS and Christian art.
The Nephite Conspiracy: Mormon elements in James Rollins’s The Devil Colony, by Theric Jepson (A Motley Vision). Theric reviews the nationally-published thriller, which he “pretty much hated”. Ardis E. Parshall at Keppapitchinin had her own negative take on the book earlier this year.
Kimberley Griffiths Little sold GODDESS, pitched as “the YA Red Tent”, to Karen Chaplin at Harper Children’s, in a significant deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in beginning in 2013, by Tracey Adams at Adams Literary (US).
“A Demon by Any Other Name” by Nancy Fulda. Deals with words with loaded meanings.
And lots of great things here at Dawning of a Brighter Day, just scroll down the page and see.
Nancy Fulda’s short story “Movement”, which first appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2011, was reprinted on Escape Pod. The story is a science fiction take on a fictional form of autism, and it prompted lively discussion at the Escape Pad forum. Fulda posted a detailed discussion of the story’s themes and content on her blog.
Eric James Stone’s story “A Lincoln in Time” was published last week in Heir Apparent – Digital Science Fiction Anthology 4. Also his story “A Great Destiny” is now live on the Daily Science Fiction website, where you can read it for free. An interview podcast with Stone can be found at Machine Readable.
Bree Despain’s story “The Lost Letters of Brother Gabriel”, a supplemental story to the Dark Divine trilogy, was released as an estory.
New books, and their reviews
C. K. Bryant. Bound. Dragonfly Press, Nov. 11. The Crystor, #1. YA paranormal romance. Debut novel, self-published.
Ali Cross. Become. Self-published, Nov. 11. Desolation Series #1. YA paranormal fantasy. Daughter of Lucifer goes to Earth, wants to change.
Victoria Fielding. A Piece of Time. Light Sojourn Publishing (self-published), September 2. Heavenly speculative. Troubled girl goes into a coma, and her spirit visits her dead family members in Paradise.
Jennie Hansen (Meridian Magazine). “The heaven drawn by Fielding has strong overtones of LDS understanding of the afterlife, but is much simplified and not too different from the concept of heaven held by most Christian faiths. There are some aspects I felt a little uncomfortable with, but overall it was believable and served the purpose of the story . . . The plot is developed well and builds in a satisfying arc as far as finishing the story nicely. However, there are a few points, left hanging which hopefully will be resolved in the sequel planned by the author. Because the protagonist in this book celebrates her eighteenth birthday early in the story, one might assume the book is young adult, but it touches on issues important to parents, counselors, and other family members as well as teens, and the writing style is more adult than YA generally is, so I chose to treat it as an adult novel. It is an absorbing story, and though some readers may not agree with all of Fieldings’s premises, it is a solid picture of the path from the lowest of self-esteem to a sense of worthiness and hope.”
Chris Heimerdinger. Escape from Zarahemla. Covenant, Oct. Book of Mormon time travel fantasy. Sequel to Passage to Zarahemla (which Heimerdinger made into a film), with crossover characters from the Tennis Shoes series.
Melissa Lemon. Cinder and Ella. Cedar Fort, Nov. 8. YA Fantasy. Two sisters, new take on the story.
Christy Monson. Texting Through Time: A Trek with Brigham Young. Cedar Fort, Nov. 8. YA time travel fantasy. First novel.
Steven L. Peck. The Scholar of Moab. Torrey House, Nov. 15. Dark-comedy/fantasy. Peck, a professor of evolutionary biology at BYU, creates “a dark-comedy perambulating murder, affairs, and cowboy mysteries in the shadow of the La Sal Mountains. Young Hyrum Thane, unrefined geological surveyor, steals a massive dictionary out of the Grand County library in a midnight raid, startling the people of Moab into believing a nefarious band of Book of Mormon assassins, the Gadianton Robbers, has arisen again. Making matters worse, Hyrum’s illicit affair with Dora Tanner, a local poet thought to be mad, ends in the delivery of a premature baby boy who vanishes the night of its birth. Righteous Moabites accuse Dora of its murder, but who really killed their child? Did a coyote dingo the baby? Was it an alien abduction as Dora claims? Was it Hyrum? Or could it have been the only witness to the crime, one of a pair of Oxford-educated conjoined twins who cowboy in the La Sals on sabbatical?” Peck also has a story in the Monsters & Mormons collection, as well as four poems in the Fires in the Pasture collection. He also discusses Mormons and Evolution at the FAIR blog. Torrey House Press, a Utah environmental publisher, was launched in Fall 2010 by Mark and Kirsten Bailey. See the link for some strong advance praise from Margaret Blair Young and others.
Paul Rimmasch. The Lost Stones. Cedar Fort, Nov. 8. YA Adventure. Three search for the glowing stones of the Jaredites, have competition. Going for a Da Vinci Code-type feel. First novel.
Brandon Sanderson. The Alloy of Law. Tor, Nov. 8. Fantasy. Stand-alone Mistborn, set 300 years in the future after the trilogy. It is a Western-type setting. Sanderson plans to write another Mistborn trilogy, that will be separate from this book.
Kirkus Review “Sanderson’s fresh ideas on the source and employment of magic are both arresting and original—just don’t expect rigorously worked out plot details, memorable characters or narrative depth. Think brisk. Think fun. Butch Cassidy territory—ignore the tumbleweeds and enjoy.”
SFF World “Brandon wound up surprising me with this novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it is his shortest novel-length work, but still contains the hallmarks of his previous work – likeable/believable characters, layered plot, detailed magic, and genre savvy – but new things like the added elements of a dynamic fantasy world that is constantly evolving.”
Fantasy Book Review “While the book starts out a little contrived, in a manner I think could have been done a bit better, you cannot argue with the accomplishment that this stand-alone novel has wrought. The characters are enthralling, leaving me wanting more and more. And that’s a problem, considering how short this novel is; just over 300-pages. One of the greatest aspects of Sanderson’s writing is his world building, in particular, his design of new magic systems. Returning to the world of Scadrial and its magics are easily the most brilliantly designed and created I’ve ever had the chance to read.”
RaShelle Workman. Exiled. Self-published, Nov. 11. YA sci-fi romance. First novel.
Reviews of older books
Geek Girl, by Cindy C. Bennett (Reading for sanity). “I don’t think I’ve ever given a book that was given to me free for review 5 stars. I’m breaking that record today. I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down . . . I think my favorite aspect to the story is the message that your past doesn’t define you, that change is possible, and that you should never judge a person based on an outward appearance especially during their teenage years. I loved Jen’s transformation and how Bennett made her so easy to relate to and like. I’ve never been a Goth girl, I don’t pretend to understand her upbringing from a personal perspective, but watching it for eight years now I do believe Bennett created a believeable story and one that I’d gladly have on my classroom shelves.”
What of the Night? Personal Essays, by Stephen Carter (Blair Hodges, By Common Consent). “In this collection Carter seems to dwell slightly more often on the “doubt and inadequacy” side of England’s description as opposed to the “exalted faith and love” side, although his main aim is to “dwell in the tensions” (29). “The Weight of Priesthood” is a masterful rumination on his shifting understanding of the power of the priesthood (33-62). Several essays, in addition to the one about England, deal with death . . . It’s clear that Carter is doing a little more than just communicating his own experiences, though. This is where Mormon testimony bearing is most obvious in his approach. The fact that the essays most often include a message, a take-away, however implicit, indicates that he hopes his stories demand something of the reader, too. He doesn’t always pull this off successfully, and I wasn’t always convinced that a given point was true to my own experience in Mormonism. But that’s because much of the time Carter is trying to figure out, even while expressing, his own place in Mormonism. And the bearing of such testimony seems very Mormon to me. I’m glad Stephen’s still here.”
Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, edited by Tyler Chadwick (Michael R. Collings). “Everywhere in Fire readers will find evidence of artistry, of control and discipline, of structure wedded to content…of poetry. What they will not discover, however, is Mormon verse. That is, doctrine scantly or overtly dressed up in the costumes of rhyme and rhythm. Some poems are firmly embedded within easily recognizable LDS beliefs, but none of them are overwhelmed by those beliefs. Many of the pieces solidly and powerfully affirm and re-affirm the core concepts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without becoming exercises in sentimentality or cliché. And many of them reflect the intriguing recognition that, even without explicit LDS references to matters of faith and practice, they could only have been written by someone with an LDS background . . . Highly recommended.”
Crossed, by Ally Condie (Squeaky books). “Crossed was amazing. It didn’t quite give us as much information as Matched but it is even more beautifully written. I LOVED it.”
A Lost Argument: A Latter-Day Novel, by Therese Doucet (Andrew S., Wheat and Tares). Novels in Which Everything Happens (to be an illusion). “This is a novel about love and romance…but it is also a novel about beliefs and philosophy. And that’s another sense in which it’s difficult to say who this book would be best for. I don’t know what people look for in romance novels, so I can’t say if this would satisfy them as a “romance novel.” Similarly, I don’t know what turns people away from romance novels, so I can’t say whether or not this would turn someone who’s not looking for a romance novel away . . . What happens in A Lost Argument is that Marguerite transforms and matures (fitfully and awkwardly, at times) through a dialogue not only with the other living characters, but with the conflicting parts of herself, and with writers and philosophers dead and gone whose ideas still live on . . . I can say that there’s Mormonism in it, but is it a Mormon novel? I can say that in the end, Marguerite loses her religious beliefs, but is it an ex-Mormon or atheist novel? I can say that Marguerite has crushes and falls in love, but is it a romance novel? I can say that Marguerite name-drops a dozen philosophers, but is it an intro to philosophy primer?” Commenter Paul said, “It sounds like this is a Mormon novel in the same way A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man is a Catholic novel.” Hawkgrrrl said in the comments that after reading it she was reminded of Hesse’s Siddhartha.
Nancy Fulda, Dead Men Don’t Cry: 11 Stories by Nancy Fulda. Self-published, Feb. 2011 (Sift Book Reviews). “I found a good mix of well-imagined science fiction stories in this collection. The strength of the author’s imagination overcame a few minor storytelling deficiencies and left me with an overall positive impression. All of the stories were original, yet they often referred to well-known science fiction classics, and a handful of them delivered a powerful punch I will not soon forget . . . If I rated this collection strictly on the basis of the cloning stories and “The Breath of Heaven” alone, I probably would have awarded four and a half or five stars. However, I am obliged to rate the work as a whole, and for this reason I award three and a half stars. I feel just about anyone could enjoy at least a few stories in the collection, and some may rate a few of the stories, such as “The Breath of Heaven”, as classics in their own right. Overall, I found reading this collection more delight than chore, and I hope Ms. Fulda will continue to challenge us with entertaining, engrossing, and thought-provoking tales.”
A Sense of Order and Other Stories, by Jack Harrell (Shelah Books It). “Enjoyment Rating: 9/10. Jack Harrell’s writing gives me hope that the LDS tradition does have room for excellent writing, and that there is an audience for that writing, even if it’s a small one. His stories take place in settings as varied as rural Illinois, Rexburg, ID, the office of the prophet, and the lone and dreary world. Not all of his characters are LDS, but many are. Some of the stories contain supernatural elements. But all of the stories, regardless of setting or worldview, feel very real and grounded. They also contain an element of hope and faith. I’m eager to read more of Harrell’s work, and hope to become one of the people who can ride on his coattails as a writer.”
Tris & Izzie, by Mette Ivie Harrison (Deseret News). “The cover of the book leads the reader to believe that they are about to read a heart-wrenching love story. Instead, the reader is taken on a magical and mystical journey filled with strange creatures and powerful humans. The plot of the story resembles that of Fablehaven and not the classic story “Tristan and Isolde.” This makes the love story and the high school setting seem out of place. The transition between the normal and magical worlds is rushed, causing the reader to wonder what just happened. The book does have its strengths. Though the outcome of the story is easily predicted, the author keeps the reader engaged throughout the whole book. The characters are likeable and the attention to detail is striking. The author also takes an occasional stab at humor and is very successful. Though the plot of the story is sometimes outrageous, young adults will surely enjoy “Tris and Izzie” because it is an entertaining and quick read.”
Monsters & Mormons, edited Theric Jepson and Wm Morris (Stephen M, Ethesis). Part one of his review.
Marian’s Christmas Wish, by Carla Kelly (Mindy at LDSWBR). 4 out of 5 stars.
Keepers of Blackbird Hill, by Lael Littke (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Littke does an excellent job of steering Jane through both self-discovery and to an appreciation of the long line of ancestors who contributed to the person she has become. The two children are charming and realistic, but none of the other adults are fully developed. We see them only as they interact with Jane in primarily walk on roles. The plot doesn’t drag, but it isn’t fast-paced either. It does hold the reader’s interest and provides a satisfying background for the growth and development of Jane.”
Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor, by Jana Riess (Holly Welker, Pathos). “It’s clear that while Riess’s experiment doesn’t make her a saint, it still does what many interested in religion believe good religion can do: it forces her to evaluate and expand her sense of who is her neighbor, who is allowed to make claims on her, and increases the reserves of graciousness she has at her disposal when someone makes those claims. These successes are what make the story of her failed efforts at sainthood not only worth reading, but worth imitating.”
No Angel, by Theresa Sneed (Sheila of LDSWBR) 4 stars. This book is very different from any angel and demon book I have read. The story is centered on the lives of the guardian angels and the demons known as “Sheydims” in this novel. I loved the perspective that we were given on how people’s guardian’s angels are chosen. I also loved how Heaven was portrayed. It was also equally interesting to see how “hell”; the underworld, where the Sheydim lived, was portrayed. Let’s just say, I don’t want to end up there! . . . No Angel will keep you reading and not wanting any interruptions. Theresa does a wonderful job teaching many life lessons, without beating you over the head.
Varient, by Robison Wells. (Theric) “First, yes, this book is as much fun to read as everyone’s been saying. I allowed myself to be propelled through it as quickly as any book of late . . . Second, what a brilliant setup! And just when you think he’s discovered a new and better way to instill paranoia, he ups the paranoia by a factor substantially larger than five. So. Nonstop excitement (and not of the gratuitous variety where it’s just in stuffed willynilly). Well drawn characters (though those characterizations are totally undercut by new information — bold move). Well integrated twists. My only complaint is that I hate books that end on cliffhangers (no matter how excellent the cliffhanger). If I’d known, I might have waited for the other books to come out first.”
Varient, by Robison Wells (Jessica George). “This book wins both the What The Frak! Plot Twist Award and the Holy Crap Ending Award as well. Book two cannot come soon enough. I went into this book knowing only that it’s about a kid who goes to private school and discovers a sinister secret. But there’s so much more going on. The school, the other students, it’s all so different and so well done that I was perpetually kept on my toes, wondering about what was going to happen next and worrying over Benson, the protagonist, who was clearly going to get into trouble. The nature of the trouble he gets into, though, will mess with your head.”
Jinn and other short plays, by Mahonri Stewart and produced by the Zion’s Theatre Company, is playing November 17-18 at the Off Broadway Theater, Salt Lake City. The blurb says, “Come join us in an evening of spirit and magic as national award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart weaves four short tales for an evening of mystery, drama, emotion and intrigue: The mystical Jinn are locked in bottles and their fates are in the hands of a woman named Calypso– but will she consider them too dangerous to release? Kai has been trapped by the dangerous Snow Queen, and only his childhood friend Gerda can save him… but will Kai want to be saved? The visionary, frontier woman Mercy keeps having visions of a White Mountain, but her prospective love’s sister Ruth doesn’t trust her. Is Ruth’s skepticism of Mercy’s visions justified? A woman finds herself on a boat, accompanied by a mysterious stranger. Will she be able to accept the new existence put before her, or will her old life be too tempting to give up?” The stories are all traditional stories set in modern settings, based on the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Snow Queen”, the Greek myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, and the Arab stories about Jinn, or genie. This is ZTC’s debut performance in Salt Lake City. The three plays are united by a common multimedia approach. Performances begin at 7 pm. The Off Broadway Theatre is located at 272 South Main Street, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $16 for general audiences, and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at theobt.org or by calling (801) 355-4628.
Review of Jinn and other short plays by Jocelyn S. Gibbons, Utah Theater Bloggers. “It is cathartic to experience a play like Zion Theatre Company’s portrayal of Mahonri Stewart’s Jinn and Other Myths. This performance does not just entertain, but also challenges you to analyze the artistic material and also yourself . . . The technical aspects that really worked were realized most fully in “The Snow Queen,” in which the screens play a huge role in visually conveying the mirror of lies from the myth and other important images. Also, the snow effect was quite beautiful—a snow projection all over the stage for the falling snowflakes. But even with the missteps, the technical aspects overall enhanced rather than distracted from the performance . . . Overall the acting was excellent, though some actors rushed their delivery at times, making them hard to connect with and harder to understand . . . Overall, the plays were well acted, always well staged, and left me with questions and a lot to discuss with my date. I recommend this show as a stimulating experience for all.”
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. November 25th – December 19th, at the SCERA Center for the Arts, Orem, Utah. A co-production of BYU Theatre and the SCERA Center. The world premiere of the bluegrass musical adaption of the book by Susan Wojciechowsk, adapted by Ward L. Wright , with music by Randall Wright and Marvin Payne. “The moving tale of Jonathan Toomey–a reclusive carpenter in a small Appalachian village–whose life is changed when he meets an eager boy and his widowed mother who are searching for a new Christmas crèche.”
Breaking Dawn, part 1, the fourth in the five film series based on the Stephanie Meyers books, was released on Friday. So far it is receiving very poor reviews, only 25% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. But that will not stop it from being a hit.
Review: Overcome / Turn Around (C-) (KevinB, LDS Cinema Online). Kevin notes that Brian Brough and his company (SunWorld/Candlelight Media) took their 2007 direct-to-DVD movie Turn Around, and repackaged it for the Christian market, with a new name, Overcome, and using a front company (WisenQuest). Not only that, they used fake names for the actors and creators in the credits, apparently to throw the Christian entertainment community off the Mormon scent. Kevin is rough on the Alma/Saul conversion story. “Overcome’s biggest problem is that the main character’s arc is portrayed in complete black-to-white fashion. Before his transformation, Colton had no redeeming qualities nor any hint he’s actually a good kid just acting out some personal issues. After his transformation, Colton becomes a saint and a perfect example of everything his parents and Church friends were hoping for . . . Many elements of Colton’s pre-transformation personality — his temper, competitiveness, issues with family, attitude towards school, etc — are such that they wouldn’t simply disappear overnight no matter how significant a religious experience he may have had while unconscious. Colton goes from being unrealistically bad to unrealistically good so quickly, it undercuts the ability for modern audiences to identify with the story . . . Parents of wayward teens (as Colton’s parents do in the movie) may hear the story of Alma the Younger and ask: “That’s great for Alma…but how does that help *us*? We’ve prayed fervently as well and no divine manifestation from the Lord has altered our son’s/daughter’s path in life. What hope do *we* have for help and peace?” Other than waiting for a miracle, Overcome doesn’t really have anything to offer those parents.”
New York Times Bestseller lists, November 20th, 27th
(I also note where the books are on the USA Today bestseller list, which lumps all books, hardcover, paperback, fiction, non-fiction, into one 150 book list.)
x, #7 THE ALLOY OF LAW, by Brandon Sanderson (1st week). The highest position that Sanderson has ever reached with one of his non-Jordan novels. #13 on the E-book list, #9 on the Combined Print & E-book list. #37 on the USA Today list.
#8, #9 THE SNOW ANGEL, by Glenn Beck (3rd week). Down from #4. #22 and #24 on the Combined Print & E-book list. #43 on the USA Today list.
#5, #11 LOST DECEMBER, by Richard Paul Evans (2nd week). #13 and #30 on the Combined Print and E-book list. #27 and #47 on USA Today the last two weeks.
A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING, by Anne Perry fell off the list after one week at #35.
Trade Fiction Paperback
#19, #24 HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (69th week). Holding steady.
#33, x DARKEST AT DAWN, by Christine Feehan (1st week).
Mass Market Paperback
x, #34 TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. (3rd week)
Christmas at Cold Creek, by RaeAnne Thayne, reached #140 in its first week on the USA Today list, but did not appear on the NY Times list.
Children’s Chapter Books
#2, #3 CROSSED, by Ally Condie (2nd week). Rick Riordan keeps Condie out of the #1 spot. USA Today #22 and #51, higher than Matched ever made it.
MICHAEL VEY: THE PRISONER OF CELL 25, by Richard Paul Evans fell off the list after 6 weeks.
#6, #5 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (8th week). Improving slightly.
#3, x TIGER’S CURSE, by Colleen Houck (1st week). With the release of the third volume, the series graduates to the Series list. A quick splash its first week, then fell off the list. Tiger’s Voyage was #61 and #144 on the USA Today list.
#6, #6 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer (194th week). Strong again with the release of the newest movie. Several volumes on the USA Today list.
#9, #9 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (5th week). The Death Cure is #125 and #147 on USA Today.
HUSH, HUSH SAGA, by Becca Fitzpatrick fell off the list after four weeks. Silence was #119 on the USA Today list.
Hardcover Graphic books
#1, #3 TWILIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOL. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young C. Kim. (5th week). Finally knocked off of #1 after four weeks at the top. Fell off the USA Today list after two weeks.