This Week in Mormon Literature, January 25, 2012

Tons of new books, including a new Shadows/Bean book by Orson Scott Card and a much-hyped debut YA paranormal. The Utah Arts Council Original Writing competition winners were announced, and the LDS Film Festival begins today.  Sorry to be a few days late with this. Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and announcements

The Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition winners were announced late last year.  I list those winners who appear to have a Mormon connection below.  They are all unpublished works.

Biography/Autobiography:  1st Place – Lance E. Larsen, Provo, Seventeen Ways to Float.  Larsen is on the BYU faculty.

Collection of Short Stories: 1st Place – Larkin G. Weyand, Lehi, All the Pennsylvania Left to See. Weyand is a teacher at American Fork High School, also a UVU English department adjunct instructor.   He graduated from BYU, then a MFA from University of Maryland. Two of his recently published stories are “Kissy Kissy” in Blinking Cursor Literary Magazine, Summer 2011 and “No Child Left Behind” in Blood Lotus #21. Aug. 2011.
Honorable Mention – Larry Menlove, Payson, Fur or Feathers, the Teeth or Venom.

Young Adult Book:  2nd Place – Erin R. Jackson, Provo, Banyan Trees.  Jackson is a BYU MFA graduate, and adjunct faculty in the BYU English Department.

Poetry:  1st Place – Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, Cedar City, “The Sand Man”.  On the faculty of Southern Utah University.
2nd Place - N. Colwell Snell, Salt Lake City, “Withdrawal”   Snell (AKA Ned Snell) was named the 2007 Utah State Poetry Society Poet of the Year.  His manuscript, Hand Me My Shadow, won the 2007 Pearle M. Olsen Book Award, the 2007 City Weekly Artys for Best Poetry Collection.  He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005. Both Dubrasky and Snell have poems in the recent Fire in the Pasture anthology.

Short Story:  1st Place – Lance E. Larsen, Provo, “Ode to Milk” (see above)
Honorable Mention – Eirene R. Henderson, Provo, “Burnt Offering”.

Essay:  1st Place – Erin R. Jackson, Provo, “Amputations” (see above).
Honorable Mention – Mikey Stephenson, Murray, “Waiting for the Morning Sun to Rise”.

The Utah State Poetry Society named Lee Snell “Poet of the Year 2011″ and awarded him publication of a hard-cover book of his poetry, called “Night Wind Home.”  Snell, age 71, lives in Highland, UT, and is the brother of noted Utah poet Ned Snell (who won the same award in 2007). He only began writing poetry ten years ago. Snell and his wife served as senior missionaries in Canada in 2003-04.

Matthew J. Kirby’s middle-grade novel Icefall, set in ancient Viking lands, was nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, from the Mystery Writers of America. The winners will be announced at a gala banquet on April 26 in New York.

The Salt Lake Weekly 2011 ARTY Awards were announced on Oct. 20, 2011.  Here are some with Mormon connections.

 Readers’ Choice

Staff Choice

The Sunstone Symposium West will be held February 3-4, at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, UT.  Panels will include:

“I Took it To Mean”: Javen Tanner’s “Eden” and a Poetics of Desire. TYLER CHADWICK. Respondent: THERIC JEPSON.

Monsters and Mormons: Reclaiming Pulp Fiction Mormons from Comic Cliches and Stock Villains. Brian Gibson, THeric Jepson, Erik Peterson. Respondent: Patrick Q. Mason.

Poetry Reading/Panel: Contributing Poets read their work from Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets. Neil Aitkin, Tyler Chadwick, Theric Jepson, Karen Kelsay, Elisa Pulido, Laura Stott, and Holly Welker.

A Whitney Academy membership invitation:  Josi Kiplack, who is the Whitney Awards President, asked me to publish this.  “We are building our Academy list for The Whitney Awards, which is the group who reads the finalists and casts their ballots. Anyone who meets the criteria as an Academy member and would like to be included can then contact me at whitneyawards@gmail.com and be added to the Academy list. They can then read the finalists in any and all of the categories and cast their votes. The Whitney Academy is comprised of industry professionals, including members of LDStorymakers,  authors, retailers, bloggers, critics, publishers, and other individuals and organizations involved and invested in the LDS writing community. For more information about the Whitney Academy, please see the Official Rules.”

There is a new Steven L. Peck short story “Do I Tell Her?” at Daily Science Fiction.

Blog posts and interviews

At A Motley Vision, Theric is continuing his series of analyses of each of the stories in the seminal Bright Angels & Familiars Mormon short story anthology, including “The Weekend” by Donald R. Marshall, the mysterious “The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne (and a guest analysis by Lee Allred with his own diagrammed explanation of the story), “Sayso or Sense” by Eileen Gibbons Kump (which generated a lot of discussion, including a lengthy and welcome visit from Thomas Rogers). This is a wonderful opportunity for some group reading and discussion.

Also at A Motley Vision, Kent Larsen continues his Sunday Lit Crit Sermon with W. W. Phelps on Sacred Poetry, George Reynolds on “Outside Literature”, and Brigham Young on evil.  And an interview with E. M. Tippets/Emily Mah about her self-published LDS-themed novel Paint Me True, her reasons for self-publishing, and working in both the LDS and speculative fiction markets.

Scott Hales at The Low-Tech World talks about Finding Teachable Stories from the anthology Dispensation: Latter-day Stories in his college “American Religious Landscapes” class. He focuses on his concerns with the ability of students to understand the temple imagery in Lisa Torcasso Downing’s “Clothing Esther.” He also creates a fun mock entry from Mitt Romney to the Mormon Lit Blitz, in which Romney and Hunstman superhero dopplergangers “The Iron Rod” and “Liahona” discuss their troubles.

Meanwhile at Mormon Artist they are publishing descriptions of the Semi-Finalists for the Mormon Blitz contest.

Writing Towards The Atonement”, by Jake Clayson at Ships of Hagoth.  Jake discusses Stephen Carter’s essay “Writing as Repentance”, analyses a dream, and talks about literature leading readers towards the atonement.

LDS Publisher is holding her Third Annual Book Cover Contest. Nominations will be accepted until midnight on January 26th.

Doug Thayer was interviewed on KBYU Radio’s talk show Thinking Aloud about his new story collection Wasatch: Mormon Stories and a Novella.  He talks about a violent story about mid-19th century trapper, and the lost art of writing with a strong sense of place.

Blair Hodges looks at Nephi Anderson’s 1898 novel Added Upon in two posts at By Common Consent. In “The War in Heaven from Nephi Anderson’s ‘Added Upon,’” Hodges talks about Anderson’s take on Satan’s plan of salvation in the pre-existence. “Rather than depicting Lucifer as offering to save everyone by force, thus depriving God’s children of their agency (a la evil contemporary government programs and socialism and evil communism), Anderson took a different approach . . . The argument seems to be that people will be forgiven regardless of their decisions. That the consequences for sins would be overlooked.”  In “’To wander at will in the garden of the Lord,’ or: an apologia for ‘Added Upon’” he talks about the power of the book in shaping generations of Mormons’theology.

Kent Larsen continues to mine for poetry gold in 19th century Mormon publications, with his Literary Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine series.  #4 On the Latter-day Dispensation#5 Trials.

An interview with James Gough at the Wired blog “Geek Dad”.

New Books and their reviews

Brodi Ashton, Everneath. Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins), January 24. YA paranormal romance, the first in a trilogy. Ashton is a debut author, and has a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics. Based on the Greek myth of Persephone with a dash of Egyptian mythology: a 17-year-old who’s been banished to the underworld escapes to her former earthly existence with her family and boyfriend. The catch is that she only has six months in the real world before being sent back to Hades, this time forever. Ashton is part of The Six, a SLC writing group which includes Emily Wing-Smith and Bree Despain.

Publishers Weekly: “Jumping frequently between Nikki’s time before and after her capture, this dark romance, Ashton’s debut, is complex and intriguing. Drawing inspiration from such myths as Osiris, Orpheus, and Persephone, it explores the nature of loss and longing and what it means to be alive.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Ashton’s debut is a melancholy, modern retelling of Greek underworld myths . . . The intense prose is slow-motion grieving mixed with mythology, awakening hope and redemption—a mix ideal for angst connoisseurs.”

VOYA (Starred review): “The author brings a fresh, innovative concept to young adult fiction with well-developed characters and a fantastic plot line …. Libraries are advised to buy multiple copies-this one will fly off the shelves.”

Deseret News review. “Dealing with a dark storyline, Ashton is a master of description. While other young adult books have clear villains and heroes, Ashton blurs the line with her characters. The reader will have sympathy for all the characters, despite their actions. They will not know whom to root for. This adds substance and complexity to the overall plot. Its conservative themes are what are most striking about the book. Ashton echoes Stephenie Meyer in her attempt to keep her characters clean and graceful . . . Though the storyline of the book is suspenseful, it tends to be overly dramatic at times. Nonetheless, the reader is able to overlook these moments because of the plot twists and turns.”  Also a review at Fire and Ice (4 stars).

Anna Jones Buttimore. No Escape. Walnut Springs, January. Suspense/romance. New York policeman moves to Wales, meets a woman who is in trouble with drug dealers.

Orson Scott Card, Shadows in Flight. Tor, January 17. Fifth novel in the Ender’s Shadow science fiction series.  One of Card’s shorter novels, at 240 pages.   Card says: “It introduces Bean’s brilliant children – the ones with the same short-life giantism that gives them savant-like abilities in every area. There’s no ebook for a year, but there’ll be an “enhanced ebook” for Kindle and Nook within a couple of weeks, fully illustrated by Nick Greenwood.”  Card is currently in the first residency of an MFA program at Queens University. He has been pretty negative about University writing programs in the past, but he seems to be happy with his current experience.

Publisher’s Weekly: “Card’s fifth novel narrated by Julian “Bean” Delphiki mingles transcendent strangeness and didacticism. On a spaceship cut off from the rest of civilization, Julian is raising his three remarkable children, doomed to die young by the engineered genes that also make them inhumanly brilliant. Triplets Cincinnatus, Carlotta, and Ender are only six years old and already smarter than nearly any adult, but just as emotionally immature as any children. Bean tries setting them up as an incestuously reproducing super-race who will be parents at age eight and dead at 22, but when an unidentified alien ship appears, the children eagerly embrace a less depressing way to prove themselves. Bean’s endless lectures make him appear a mouthpiece for the author; his children’s snarky resentment of being talked down to will similarly ring true for readers.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Bean has secretly steered [his children] towards a surprising, not altogether unexpected but certainly intriguing confrontation . . . The author has always superbly written about children, and here he’s in top form. The original Ender, still roaming the galaxy in search of redemption, rarely gets a mention: bad news for Enders, good news for leguminotes. If you still prefer Ender to Bean after this, you’re really hardcore.”

Deseret News. “Card has demonstrated a remarkable ability to take the reader inside the heads of the brilliant children that populate these books. In “Shadows in Flight,” the author does a masterful job of creating three children with distinct personalities. He also accomplishes the difficult task of developing a believable set of family dynamics that might develop in a group of four individuals living in cramped quarters for four years — and demonstrates a keen understanding of human nature in the process. “Shadows in Flight” is a positive look at the power of a father’s love, and the strength of family bonds.”

Joyce DiPastena, Dangerous Favor. Walnut Springs Press, January 17. “Sweet” historical romance, set in medieval Europe.  Third novel.

Sarah M. Eden. Friends & Foes. Covenant, January 6. Regency romance.  Features characters who previously appeared in Kiss of a Stranger. Previously self-published in 2008 under the title Affectations.

Fire and Ice. 4 stars. “This is the fourth book I’ve read by Sarah M . Eden and I can say she is one of my favorite writers of clean Regency romance . . . This is such a fun, clean read!  Overall I was highly entertained. My only little peeve was the overuse of the word “lud” by Phillip and the fact that the book is very main character driven. The reader doesn’t get a deep sense of any of the side characters or resolution of sub plots that are previously explored.”

M. L. Forman. Albrek’s Tomb. Shadow Mountain, January 24. Adventurer’s Wanted series, Book 3. Middle Grade Fantasy.  The adventurers meet dwarves and a paladin.

K. C. Grant, Venom. Covenant, January 6. Suspense.  Set in Mexico City, an intern realizes her advertising agency employers are involved in something dangerous.  Grant’s third novel, after two Book of Mormon historical fiction novels.

John Gubbins. Profound River. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, January 8. Historical.  About a British nun who wrote the first book on fly fishing  in 1450.  [I do not know if Gubbins is Mormon or not.]

Marie Higgins. Secrets After Dark. Walnut Springs, January 6. Paranormal Romantic Suspense.  A family curse turns a man into a werewolf.

Review by Tristi Pinkston (AML). “I would consider [the style of this book to be a] Gothic paranormal romance rather than a historical. It captures the hallmarks that make the Gothic genre what it is — beautiful woman comes to a house filled with danger, she is warned away, but in the end, she is the one who can solve the mystery . . . As the story unfolds, I enjoyed the plot line and the twists and turns, but I felt it all moved too quickly. I would have enjoyed seeing more details, more characterization — and I felt that the denouement moved way too quickly, with too much information being presented all at once. I also felt that the tone of the story was inconsistent — one moment, the language was just right for the era and genre, and other times, it was too casual, as though I was reading a contemporary book rather than a historical. That said, I did like the book, and don’t mean to sound overly negative. I did feel it could have been stronger in some ways, but I enjoyed the read. What’s perhaps most interesting to me is the author herself. Her first novel was a contemporary chick lit, her second was a historical western, her third was a historical ghost story, and now we have a Gothic paranormal. I think it’s great when an author can explore her many facets and not feel confined to any one particular genre, and I can’t wait to see what Marie Higgins writes next.”

Krista Lynne Jensen. Of Grace and Chocolate. Covenant, January 6. Romance.  Debut novel. A woman’s carefully controlled world is thrown into flux by a long-lost sister and a new man in the ward.

Aaron Jordan. Insanity. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, January 8. Dystopian science fiction/suspence. Set in a world a millennium from now in a post-apocalyptic future.  A medical student tries to discover the secret behind a genetic-based insanity that has nearly destroyed humanity. Second novel.

Lynn Kurland. Gift of Magic. Berkley Trade, January 3.The Nine Kingdoms series, vol. 6.  Medieval fantasy.

Rebecca Winters. The SEAL’s Promise. Harlequin, January 3. Romance.

Holly J. Wood. Invaluable. Deseret Book, December 27. Young Adult/doctrinal.  Debut novel.  16-year old girl with family and romance trouble, begins getting visits from her great-grandmother in her dreams, and she sees eight  stories which teach her the Young Womens values, which give her the courage she needs to face her challenges.

Reviews of Older Books

Cold River, by Liz Adair (Deseret News). “”Cold River” is a light read, with emphasis on romantic entanglements and small-town politics. The dangers Mandy faces are real but easily addressed. She’s never in so much danger that there isn’t someone immediately available to render assistance or explanation . . . Readers expecting a complex thriller or a dark suspense book may be disappointed with “Cold River,” but those looking for light afternoon entertainment will enjoy it. The content is family friendly.”

What of the Night?, by Stephen Carter (Theric Jepson at A Motley Vision). “Stephen Carter’s 2010 essay collection, as you might expect, provides plenty stellar examples of the form . . . As Stephen writes in ‘Writing as Repentance,’ ‘In order to really finish any of my essays, I had to forgo the satisfaction of an answer, promised at the top of either mountain. Instead, I had to forge into the canyon, filled though it was with mist and darkness. Because that was the only place not already built. It was the only place I could create myself without the dominance of one mountain or the other’. This is a good time to quote Joseph Smith: ”By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” Often we would rather be safe, repeating rote stories rather than making Truth manifest. Stephen instead is plumbing the shadowy depths of the canyon between stories, and I wish him godspeed, with a note of thanks for sending us these postcards from his travels.”

Death of a Disco Dancer, by David Clark (Theric Jepson at A Motley Vision). “Zarahemla Books is, in my opinion, the most valuable brand in Mormon letters today. I can’t think of another publisher (of any type) whose books I’m as likely to pick up just because of who them . . . Zarahemla keeps proving my faith in them well placed. They’re the Pixar of MoLit! . . . The Death of a Disco Dancer is a brilliant book. I was lucky that I started reading it the same day my classes had to take a mandated test, freeing me from teaching responsibilities. Before I was a quarter of the way through, I had disturbed my students with merry snorts—and had had to hide my teary eyes—as I tore through the pages in utter glee, trying to read as much as I could before I had to collect their work. In the end, I finished the book in two calendar days. Which is just not something I do anymore . . . But what are this book’s strengths? Let’s start at the end, shall we? Clark has the fortitude to end the story where he should and not ten steps later when all the reader’s question could have reached a more tidy resolution. He has captured a time and place so perfectly it feels like documentary footage of 1981 Scarsdale, Arizona. He’s funny. He drew tears without being the least sentimental. Both the laffs and the tears are fully earned by real characters engaging in real life. He knows the power and the value of a good tangent (with the exception of the bear story, every digression is just the right length and helps us understand Who What and Why with elegance). He engages with the ambiguity of all things stereotypically good (religion) and bad (darn teenagers!). He never drives a joke into the ground until it is no longer funny yet still rising from the grave. He deals with topics heavy (with lightness but not undue lightness—for instance the pathos of dementia with its uncomfortable humor) and light (without ignoring their own little gravities) . . . Highly recommended.”

Static!, by Michael R. Collings (Tales from the Bookworm’s Lair). “I give this horror novel a strong 4.5 stars out of five . . . There are points, especially in the first half (which I found marginally stronger than the second), where I’d almost have sworn I was reading a Stephen King novel. I mean that in the best possible way, as I’m a fan of King’s and think there are few better modern American storytellers. Had STATIC! replaced a few of the literary and film references (which were just a tad metatextual for my liking at times) with pop cultural references and been just a bit more profane, I think we’d have something very much like King’s work.”

Nightingale, by Dave Farland (Deseret News). “”Nightingale” is an thrilling fantasy novel filled with characters that are both real and well beyond imagination. The author does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to characters with unique abilities and real-life problems . . . Reading this book as an e-book offers the reader a unique experience that feels almost like a motion picture.”

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). B+. “It is just as fun and magical as it sounds. With humor, originality and lighthearted prose, it’s simply an enjoyable read. I bought the book for my 9-year-old daughter as a Christmas present, but I loved the story just as much as she did. If my boys could get over the princess thing long enough to give Tuesdays at the Castle a chance, I think they would really enjoy it, too. It’s that appealing.”

A Sense of Order and Other Stories, by Jack Harrell, and Mormon Fairy Tales, by Johnny Townsend (Theric Jepson at A Motley Vision). Theric loved Harrell’s 2010 collection and disliked Townsend’s 2011 collection.  “I did not like Townsend’s book enough to finish it . . . Essentially, every story in the book . . . has the same two-part moral . . . 1. the proper attitude toward Mormonism is the breaking free of its shackles, [or] 2. Mormons aren’t as good as they’d have us believe (often evidenced by the fact that they would have us believe they are good) . . . I suppose it’s handy for Townsend to turn the Church into nothing more than a boogeyman, but it’s cheap and dishonest shortcut-storytelling . . . The real problem (besides everything listed above) is that these stories allow no room for ambiguity. Townsend never lets the reader escape a story without being told exactly what to think. I hate that at the best of times. Doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that the complaint people are always throwing at Jack Weyland? And that’s all you need to know. Mormon Fairy Tales is like a weaker Weyland collection only with a generous seasoning of sex and different politics.  Ambiguity is, however, practically an article of faith in Jack Harrell’s Sense of Order, which you’ll know if you, like me, have drooled over “Calling and Election”  . . . it’s a pretty great book and, by my judgment, the second best book of Mormon fiction I read in 2011 . . . The way the stories overlap and refer to each other (the Adam and Eve imagery, for instance) is notable, and a story like “Godsight”—which I could easily describe to you in language that would make you certain it must be a vile antiMormon tract, is in fact a beautiful meditation on Gethsemene. I kid you not. And that’s what fiction can do. It can be something other than what it seems to be. I don’t care what side of which line you’re on. If your fiction tells me what to think and leaves no room for ambiguity, no thank you. But if your fiction leads me see the world as more beautiful because more complex, then you’re doing something right. A Sense of Order provides just such an effect.”

Pride and Popularity, by Jenni James (Tristi Pinkston, AML). “What this story has – a lot of personality, a way to introduce today’s teens to the wonderfulness that is Jane Austen, a clean read appropriate for a reader of any age level, and many moments that made my heart go pitty-pat. What I wished this story had – I felt that the Mr. Collins portion of the story could have been played up just a little bit more, and I would have liked more foreshadowing of the younger sister running off with the scurrilous Wickham. Both these instances, which were very central to the plot of the original ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ were somewhat skimmed over in ‘Pride and Popularity.’ That said, it’s easy for me to see why this book, and Jenni James, are becoming overnight sensations.”

In God Is Our Trust, by L. C. Lewis (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Some readers of this series have been disappointed in sections that seem to drag with too much explanation of the times and background of the story. Others have been delighted by the enriching trivia. Through the series there has been great growth in the major characters and the overall plot has been satisfying, but I’ve felt some disappointment that other characters have not been developed more, and though there have been interesting subplots, not all have been fleshed out as much as I would have liked. Overall I have enjoyed this series and am sorry to see it conclude.”

Identity, by Betsy Love (Deseret News). “While ostensibly a book written for Latter-day Saints, “Identity” can be enjoyed by all who love a good mystery. This book packs a punch that can seldom be found in the works of most first-time writers. Love uses the lives of regular LDS people to tell a story that will be exciting, engaging and inspiring.”

Monsters and Mormons, edited by Wm Morris and Theric Jepson (Michael Collings). “Perhaps the most intriguing thing that comes to mind upon reading Monsters & Mormons is the extraordinary range of ideas, themes, images, and tales that fit underneath the general umbrella of “Mormon.” . . . In all, Monsters & Mormons generally lives up to its title. Most of the tales could stand on their own in any anthology of horror or science fiction, regardless of their Mormon content; many are first-rate, truly exceptional examples of contemporary storytelling. A few venture perhaps a bit too close to the boundary between imagination and reality as they configure worlds in which priesthood powers and demons intersect—I had a couple moments of feeling distinctly uncomfortable—but most of the 500+ pages proved entertaining, intriguing, occasionally enlightening, always thought-provoking. Strongly recommended.”

The Scholar of Moab, by Stephen L. Peck (Adam Miller at Times and Seasons). “The Scholar of Moab: Inderviduality,” about messy irreducibility and the existence of independent “brains” outside of our own that can colonize us, such as the Book of Mormon, and “The Scholar of Moab: Believing Bees” about the characters’ opposing faith and scientific doubt.

No Angel, by Theresa Sneed (Tristi Pinkston, AML). “I enjoyed this read. I appreciated the explanation of how angels and demons have opposite goals for us – although couched in fiction, it helped me visualize the battle that really is taking place for our souls. I liked the touches of humor and the creativity that went into the creation of the story. It was a paranormal without being too dark. It talked about the premortal life in a way that’s easily recognized by LDS readers, but written in such a way that readers of every Christian faith will appreciate. This is the first in a series, and I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment.”

The Shaken Earth, by Toni Sorenson (Jennie Hanson, Meridian Magazine). 5 stars. “If I were naming the best books of 2011 this book, The Shaken Earth by Toni Sorenson, would hold a place of honor on that list. There are only a handful of other books published this past year that impressed me as deeply as did this one. The author was one of the earliest humanitarian aid workers to arrive in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. From that perspective, her many years working in Africa, and her intense research into the history of the island nation, she developed the story of Yolisha . . . Though The Shaken Earth is filled with tragedy, sad events, unfairness, and so many negative events, the book is not a wallow in depression. It is a story of hope and faith. Yolisha’s story is told in a simple, straight forward style that captivates the reader and keeps the reader turning pages and staying up late to read ‘just one more page.’ Yolisha’s life is in many ways a metaphor of her country. Though beaten down and facing terrible odds, she presses on believing she can make a difference and that there are better times ahead. Sorenson has a gift for storytelling. She creates a seemingly simple story that is layered with metaphors that only those “with eyes to see” catch beneath the surface. Without preaching or cramming religion or history down the readers’ throats she educates on both a spiritual and literary level.”

The Shaken Earth, by Toni Sorenson (Deseret News). “The author skillfully weaves together several threads, including Haiti’s culture and customs, snippets of Haiti’s history, the effects of the earthquake on Haiti’s people and Yolisha’s introduction to the LDS Church.”

Just Shy of Paradise, by Carole Thayne Warburton (Tristi Pinkston, AML). “I really enjoyed this novel. I learned a lot about the history of Cache Valley and the Shoshone Indians who lived in that area. I loved how the author wove history into her contemporary story and looked at it from different angles to present a multifaceted story. I also very much appreciated the unique story line, with a fishing pole at its center.”

Theater

CSI: Provo—Decaffeinated DNA, by Ben E. Millet. Deseret Star Playhouse, Murray, Utah. Through March 24. Comic crime show parody, about an investigation of a murder on BYU campus.  Deseret News review. “”CSI: Provo — Decaffeinated DNA” follows a forgetful UVU science-professor-turned-crime-scene-investigator as he navigates through his first big case and upcoming wedding. Although the storyline itself is simple and somewhat predictable, recurring references to Provo, Mormon and general Utah stereotypes keep the audience interested and laughing from beginning to end . . . With well-meaning cracks at high council Sunday, ward basketball, the “Good News Minute” and an unexpected appearance by “Kurt Bestor,” the audience is likely to experience moments of hysterical laughter and have an overall enjoyable time.”

Utah Theater Bloggers Review. “Visually, I thought that this show was delightful. The backdrops were beautifully drawn and I loved the set piece that represented the BYU campus bell tower . . . The story is extremely simple and Ben E. Millet—who wrote the script—shoehorned every joke possible into the 60-minute show. The story and the humor is clearly aimed at an LDS population; anyone who hasn’t spent time in Utah County would probably be perplexed at a few of the jokes. But all the old standbys are there: church basketball, scrapbooking, caffeine, the BYU honor code, etc. (It’s all done affectionately and nothing sacred is ridiculed.) If you’ve been an LDS Church member your entire life, you’ve probably heard many of these. But there is quite a bit of original humor, and I found myself laughing pretty hard, especially in the second act. The night was capped off with the olio, a music and comedy performance that is a tradition at Desert Star. I found the olio to be the highlight of the evening and more enjoyable than the actual show itself . . . Desert Star has clearly mastered their formula for an evening’s entertainment. If you’re looking for a life-changing evening of theatre, you won’t find it. But if you want to laugh and forget your worries for an hour and a half, Desert Star is the place to be.”

Mahonri Stewart’s Rings of the Tree: A Multimedia Play will be produced on Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, February 4 at the Off Broadway Theater in Salt Lake City; as well as Thursday, February 9, Friday the 10th, and Monday the 13th, at the Grove Theater in Pleasant Grove. Mahonri talks generally about the production at A Motley Vision and about the trend in theatre towards using digital technology like video and multimedia, as this play does, in this blog.

The Little Brown Theater in Springville, UT, and the Zion Theatre Company, will hold a joint fundraiser on Friday, January 27, 2012 and Saturday, January 28, 2012, both from 7:00 to 9:00. There will be staged readings of two new plays written by Mahonri Stewart. “Evening Eucalyptus” on Friday, and “A Roof Overhead” on Saturday. Little Brown Theater, 248 S. Main St, Springville, UT  84663.

Film

The film adaption of Ender’s Game is in full swing. Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) is directing from his own script, adapted from Orson Scott Card’s novel. Summit Entertainment is co-financing and is scheduled to release the film in the U.S. on March 15, 2013. Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) will play Ender, Harrison Ford will play Colonel Hyram Graff, Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) will play Valentine Wiggin, Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) will play Petra Arkanian, and Ben Kingsley will play Mazer Rackham.  Details at Deseret News, Variety, and IMDB.

The 2012 LDS Film Festival will be taking place January 25th through the 28th at the SCERA theater in Orem, Utah.  The primary schedule is available at the official site. Deseret News feature story on the LDS Film Festival.

Kevin Burtt picks some of what he expects to be the highlights: Redemption — a drama about a lawman and a prisoner, set on the western frontier in 1862.  Directed by Tom Russell and starring John Freeman, Margot Kidder, and Barry Corbin. AKA For Robbing the Dead.  Stand Strong — a drama about a family in crisis who learns what success is really about.  Directed by Amy and Shawn Kenney.  The Last Eagle Scout — satirical drama/comedy about a future society without Scouting where one young man tries to finish his Eagle before time runs out.  Written and directed by Kels Goodman.  Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love — the 1931 black & white film adaptation of the Brigham H. Roberts novella (based on the story of Corianton, son of Alma, from the Book of Mormon).  The Measure of a Man — a true story of an orphan in the Great Depression era who travels from Oklahoma to California and ends up raising a large posterity.  Directed by Elizabeth and Andrew Waite. The Letter Writer — latest from LDS Film Festival head Christian Vuissa, a drama about a rebellious teenager who becomes the apprentice to an old writer of life-affirming letters.

Other films of note:

Unicorn City.  Director: Bryan Lefler. Comedy about LARP enthusiasts. Set for a late February theatrical release.  SweetwaterDirector: Brian Skiba. The story of two childhood friends who have grown apart and are suddenly thrust back into each other’s lives when a parent develops cancer. The cast includes William Katt, Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, September Dawn) and John Savage.  Two Brothers. Director: Rick Stevenson. A documentary by a Protestant about two Mormon boys. Elizabeth’s Gift. Director: Rob Diamond.

Unitards premieres this weekend, opening in 20 theaters in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. It was directed, written, and produced by Scott Featherstone, who has previously created lots of advertisements, the direct-to-DVD films Same River Twice (1996) and Return to the Secret Garden (2000), documentaries and LDS Church films (Love Thy Neighbor). It stars his son Sam Featherstone and several other Featherstones.  It is being distributed by Excel Entertainment.  “Lewis Grady just won the student-body elections at Skyline High School and Vice Principal Spooner has big plans for the goof-off high school senior.  Three odd-ball seniors are charged with the unenviable task of instilling school spirit back into their high school. They devise a plan to create an all-men’s dance team comprised of misfits and losers and call themselves UNITARDS.”   KSL feature story about the film.

Kevin Burtt at LDS Cinema Online re-reviews the film Rescued and its re-edited, retitled Christian market version Island of Grace. Brian Brough’s SunWorld/Candlelight media have repackaged three of their LDS films for the Christian market.  Kevin looks at the differences between the two films (both of which appear to be pretty bad).  He concludes, “Wouldn’t the ideal future of LDS film be where an “Island of Grace” version never exists?  Can LDS film reach a point where each film stands on its own, inside and outside the Church, without needing tweaks to be considered “Christian”?”

Review of Shooting Star/Heber Holiday by Randy Astle.  Still a bad movie.

A Deseret News feature story on Shannon Hale and the making of the Austenland movie.

Bestsellers

New York Times Bestseller lists, January 15th, 22nd, and 29th (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.)

Hardcover Fiction

#31, x THE SNOW ANGEL, by Glenn Beck (11th week). Down from #20, and then off the list.

Trade Fiction Paperback

#17, #23, #20 HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (73rd week on the main list [above #20]).

Mass Market Paperback

#2, #4, #7 SPIRIT BOUND, by Christine Feehan (3rd week). Sisters of the Heart, vol. 2. On the USA Today list for 4 weeks, peaking at #18.

ENDER’S GAME and THE LOST GATE by Orson Scott Card fell both fell off the list

Children’s Chapter

#6, #6, x CROSSED, by Ally Condie (7th week).  Back on the list after being off for 3 weeks, and then off again.

Children’s Paperback

#2, #3, #4 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (17th week). Up from #5.

ENTWINED, by Heather Dixon.  Off the USA Today list after being #134 for 1 week.

Children’s Series

#10, #8, #7 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer  (203rd week). Down from #5.

x, x, #10 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (6th week). Back on the list after a couple of months.

Hardcover Graphic books

#5, #5, #4 TWILIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOL. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young C. Kim (14th week). Up from #8.

Deseret Book bestselling fiction

1 Jacob T. Marley  by R. William Bennett  ↔

2 Friends and Foes by Sarah M. Eden  NEW

3 Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 4: In the Valley of the Mountains  by Anita Stansfield  ↑

4 The Great and Terrible Six-Volume Set by Chris Stewart  ↔

5 Letters in the Jade Dragon Box  by Gale Sears

6 Sadie by Rebecca Belliston

7 Enduring Light by Carla Kelly NEW

8 The Promised Land, Vol. 5: The Compass of God by David G. Woolley

9 Whisper Hollow: A Novel by Carol Warburton  ↑

10 Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 3: A Distant Shore by Anita Stansfield

11 The Kissing Tree by Prudence Bice

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6 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, January 25, 2012

  1. Tyler says:

    Just a note, since you mentioned this for Danielle Dubrasky and N. Colwell Snell: Lance Larsen also has some work in Fire in the Pasture.

  2. Darlene says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Your reports are very valuable.

  3. Th. says:

    .

    Great stuff. I’m sorry to say though that I will not be at Sunstone West. Alas.

  4. Katya says:

    I’m glad to see you’re highlighting the ARTYs. They tend to focus on very different works from the Whitneys or AML Awards, so it’s nice to have another lens through which to view Mormon art.

  5. Katya says:

    Does the Whitney Academy need readers in any particular category? (I don’t have time to read all of the nominated books, but I’ve considered volunteering to read just the books in one or two categories, if that would be helpful.)

  6. Jessie says:

    Katya–my understanding is that you can read and vote on books in just one particular category (but you do have to read all the books in the category to vote on it). Send them an email for more information.

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