LDS author Chris Stewart was elected to the House of Representatives. He is also working with Glenn Beck to republish his The Great and Terrible last days series into a 10-part ebook series, with all of the Mormon parts taken out. Beloved LDS author Gordon Ryan passed away. Richard Paul Evans released a new Christmas novel to some good reviews. Best of the year lists are starting to come out. And I found out about J. Omar Hansen, a playwright and theater faculty member at BYU-I, who has been writing and producing plays for a while now. Please send any additions or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
News and blog posts
Chris Stewart was elected to the US House of Representatives, Utah 2nd District, as a Republican, and will take office in January 2013. Stewart is a former Air Force pilot and businessman. He is also an author of both fiction and non-fiction. He has authored five nationally published military/techno-thrillers, starting with Shattered Bone in 1998. He wrote the six-book The Great and Terrible series of last days thriller novels for Shadow Mountain, starting in 2003-2008. This year the series is being revamped into Wrath and Righteousness, a 10-part ebook series published by Glenn Beck’s Mercury Ink. The ebooks are being released roughly monthly, to be completed in a year. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Mr. Stewart said the six titles in the original series were intended for Mormon readers. The new, expanded series will feature many of the same characters, but references to Mormon scripture and gospel beliefs have been eliminated as part of a revision of some material.” Also, in recent years, Stewart has co-authored (with his brother United States district judge Ted Stewart) Seven Miracles That Saved America and The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World. The second book made the New York Times Bestseller list. This week it was announced that Stewart will co-write Elizabeth Smart’s upcoming memoir. This is the first time that I can think of that a LDS fiction author has served in the US Congress.
LDS author Gordon Ryan passed away on November 14, 2012.
Jennifer Nielson’s The False Prince is one of 25 books on the Publisher’s Weekly list of Best Children’s fiction in 2012. Cara Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand is one of five books on the Publisher’s Weekly list of Best Romances of 2012.
Ally Condie’s Reached and James Dashner’s The Kill Order both made Amazon’s editor picks of Top 20 teen books for 2012.
Jessica George on the Wells brothers’ Dare to Eat a Peach podcast. They discuss the best and worst of the Harry Potter books and movies.
Mormon Literature, or, Who Wins in a Fight: Pre-Mortal Eve or an Incorporeal Futuristic Android? Austin Smith reports book group discussion on the question of embodiment of spirits in Eric Samuelsen’s The Plan and Scott Peck’s “Avek, Who is Distributed”. Eric James Stone also talks about Avek and other SF stories in the recent Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest at Three Different Mormon Futures.
At A Motley Vision, William finds A nod to Mormon history in Ally Condie’s Reached, Scott reprints a paper on Twilight and the CleanFlicks Aesthetic, and compares two versions of a Stewart play in My Final Verdict on “A Roof Overhead”. Theric summarizes the painter Bryan Mark Taylor’s fireside and trends of recent art and Mormons’ potential role in it at Mormon Renaissance, Kent presents as a Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: L. E. Harrington on Reading (1867) and Self Instruction by an anonymous 1867 author, and discusses the history of Mormon theology on Defining Godhead. Mahonri discusses “It is the Myth That Gives Life”: C.S. Lewis and True Myth and shares Leaves of Nauvoo: Reflections of Mormon History From my Honeymoon.
At The Low-Tech World, Scott shares an 1889 quote from Orson F. Whitney and “the True History and Character of My People” and provides links for 19th-century Anti-Mormon Novels in the Internet Archive.
Heather B. Moore on recent Regency Romances by LDS authors (Meridian Magazine).
New Books and their reviews
Michelle Davidson Argyle. Bonded. Rhemalda Publishing, Nov. 1. YA fantasy. Three fairy tale inspired novellas. Based on (or a sequel or prequel of) Cinderella, One-Eye, and Sleeping Beauty.
Michaelbrent Collings. Hooked: A True Faerie Tale. Self, Nov. 17. Paranormal, horror. High school girl meets vampire boy.
Joyce DiPastena. A Candlelight Courting. Self, October. Short story ebook. Christmas historical romance.
Shanda, LDSWBR: “I happily recommend A Candlelight Courting to anyone who enjoys a good, clean romance. I look forward to reading it every year at Christmastime, and maybe a few times in between.”
Richard Paul Evans. A Winter Dream. Simon & Schuster, Oct. 30. Christmas. A modern retelling of the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Kirkus Reviews: “This novel turns biblical archetypes into authentic, believable characters and uses an interesting and credible plot to convey an important message . . . Each chapter begins with one of the narrator’s dreams, and these dreams turn out to be symbolically prophetic, just as Joseph’s dreams in Egypt turned out to be. The first-person narrative voice feels familiar and endearing, and the conversations among the various characters are authentic. Readers will relate to these characters, be moved to tears and laughter by them, and most importantly, be inspired by them. If you know how the biblical story ends, it won’t spoil anything for you to know that this book has a happy ending. Getting there is a journey you should definitely take.”
Rosemarie Howard, Deseret News: “The parallels to the biblical Joseph are easily recognizable and fit organically with the flow of the contemporary story. Evans has done his homework to realistically portray the ad agency world. The dialogue flows well and the main characters feel honest and likable.”
Kate Gordon. Ninth Crossing: Discovery. Self, April 13. Time-travel fantasy romance. “Kate Gordon” is a pen name for the partnership of the late Gordon Ryan and his daughter Kate Armitage. There is a sequel, Conspiracy.
Janet K. Halling. An Unexpected Angel. Cedar Fort, Oct. 9. Christmas short novel. First novel.
Mette Ivie Harrison. Much Ado About Magic. Self, Oct. 9. YA contemporary fantasy. Alternative universe, high school students with magic.
Heather B. Moore. Athena. Covenant, Nov. 1. General/Women. The Newport Ladies Book Club, Book 4. The final volume of the series. This time from the POV of a bachelorette.
Brenda Novak. When Snow Falls. Harlequin MIRA, Oct. 23. Romance. Whisky Creek series, Book 3.
Carol Rummage. Refuge: Dark Light Dance. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, Nov. 13. YA paranormal romance. Orphaned girl falls for mysterious guy with mysterious disease, which cloaks his paranormal nature. First novel.
Christy Monson. John Taylor and the Mystery People. Cedar Fort/Bonneville, Nov. 13. Middle grade speculative/historical. Texting Through Time series, Book 2. Our heroes meet John Taylor as a child in England.
RaeAnne Thayne. A Cold Creek Noel. Harlequin, Nov. 13. Christmas romance.
G. G. Vandagriff. Miss Braithwaite’s Secret. Orson Whitney Press (self), Nov. 11. Regency romance. Third in the Three Rouges series.
Reviews of older books
S. P. Bailey. Millstone City (Geoff B., Millennial Star). “A very well-done novel, a pleasure to read, and filled with surprises. Mormon and non-Mormon readers will find a lot to like in this book . . . Bailey, like all good writers, has learned that a few well-placed details help create real characters for the reader. He also is a master at providing good dialogue. I would also like to mention that this is one of those rare books that sucks you in right from the first page. I did not want to put it down once I started reading. I would like to pick one small nit: the missionaries spent much of the novel trying to escape from the murderer to the mission house, which is some miles away. They are prevented from boarding a bus by the murderer, for example. I could not understand why they didn’t just flag down a taxi in the street, and this plot detail kept on bugging me for pages. I’m not sure if this would bug other readers . . . This novel is a great success. Given all of the garbage out there in the world of contemporary fiction, you could do a lot worse than Millstone City. And if you like action-packed books that are faith-promoting, this is a must read.”
Julie Coulter Bellon. All Fall Down (Mindy, LDSWBR). 4 stars.
Orson Scott Card. Ruins (Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News). “It is full of new characters, intriguing dialogues and exciting plot twists. It is a book that intertwines fantasy and science fiction. Though the plot is drawn out at times, “Ruins” is still worth the read. . . The plot from “Pathfinder” to “Ruins” flows easily. Card picks up the story masterfully and makes it more complex and intriguing. The only downfall of the book is time travel. It is hard to understand and seems too scientific for a fantasy book. Readers will have to pay close attention or they will be lost.”
Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood. iPlates (Shelah Books It). Enjoyment Rating: me 3 stars (out of 5), Isaac (my eight-year-old) 5 stars. “I went into it without knowing much about comic books, but I liked what I saw– basically Carter and Atwood turn the Zeniff/Abinadi/King Noah/Alma cycle (with some Ammon thrown in for good measure) into a story a prepubescent boy would love, with plenty of blood and piles of arms and made up Nephite curse replacements. I can’t really comment on how the book works as a comic book, because I know next to nothing about that, but as entertainment/a gentle push toward doctrinal stories for a Mormon? I think it succeeds . . . iPlates would be the perfect baptism gift for an eight-year-old boy.”
David Farland. Nightingale (Sheila, LDSWBR). 4 stars. “Nightingale is a great read. Though the main character Bron is a teenager, don’t think this book was just written for teens. The action and storyline creates enough interest in Bron and his powers and the mysterious group of people, called the Masaak, who are more powerful than the human species . . . This book is action packed, full of great characters and mystery. I loved how the first book builds up this story that will be continued in books to come.”
Nathan Hale. One Dead Spy (The Horn Book). “The first two books in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series introduce the Revolutionary War hero as a time-traveling, history-teaching storyteller. In One Dead Spy, Hale stalls his execution by thrillingly recounting his adventures to the hangman and a jailor. Big Bad Ironclad! finds Hale narrating a Civil War naval battle. Author/illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation) employs comic panels of varying sizes, a you-are-there style, and over-the-top humor to relate real-life historical events.”
Jennie Hansen. The Heirs of Southbridge (Deseret News).
Frank Holdaway. Undercover Saint (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “The characters are a parody of people found in any ward, yet strikingly individual. There are some outrageously funny inner thoughts and dialog, yet the book is not a comedy. The hero is both obnoxious and loveable. The mystery is very real and the suspense keeps the reader turning pages and sitting on the edge of his seat. There are quite a few LDS doctrinal references, but the book never feels preachy. It contains a lot of inner soul searching and Matthew has to face his inner monsters and take a good look at who he is and what his future holds. This is a hard book to describe. It’s different. It’s riveting. It’s funny. It’s serious. And I liked it.”
Margot Hovley. Sudden Darkness (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). 5 stars. “In a sea of dystopian young adult novels, this one stands out because it is written especially for Latter-day Saint readers and it is also a “last days” novel . . . The theme is one that will catch the attention of adults as well as younger readers as the author explores a modern twist on events leading up to the Second Coming . . . The nuclear facility at nearby Hanford is compromised by a terrorist explosion of an EMP bomb over America that wipes out all electronic equipment leaving fear of a radiation leak. In time they learn the whole country is affected, Washington D.C. has been decimated and the president and most of congress are dead, power is out everywhere, and only the oldest cars and trucks will run . . . Those perpetrating the attack are never identified which is a little disappointing, yet for the story’s purpose perhaps it’s enough to know that without phones, radios, TV’s, or any other electronic gadgets those called to leave their homes and flee to Salt Lake know little about the nature of the attack or future threats, but must act on faith. The characters are realistic and their growth and increasing maturity is handled well. The plot is filled with both action and introspection with a slightly more satisfying ending than found in most dystopian novels. It neatly ends this phase of the story, but immediately opens up the problems and tragedies the characters will face in the next volume of what is bound to be a series.”
Tanya Parker Mills. Night on Moon Hill (Sheila, LDSWBR). 5 stars. “I was immediately surprised about how fast I was pulled into this story. The novel starts with a bang and a big mystery about the body that Daphne finds floating in her swimming pool . . . I wanted to point out that I read the first 100 pages so fast it shocked me! I looked down and there was page “100″. This story is so well written, and with characters that bring you into the story so deeply, you will have this novel read in no time. What will you find in this novel? A great combination of suspense, angst, romance and relationships that will truly make you think. You will also look at life and people a little differently. I love the respect and care that Tanya has given to the tender subjects found within the pages of this novel.”
Robert Marcum. Storms Gather (Deseret News). “A finely crafted work. But while the characters are moral and honorable, they are also beautifully flawed, leaving the story with an aching reality.”
Kristen McKendry. Beyond the White River (Deseret News). “Although it is a fairly predictable romance with a murder mystery thrown in, the author tells a good story with likable characters that keeps the reader turning the pages.”
Matt Peterson. The Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). B-. “This debut middle grade novel is exactly what it appears to be—a fun story that teaches a valuable spiritual lesson. True, it’s like an extended version of something you’d find in The Friend (except with a few more mentions of, um, unmentionables, particularly of the Transformers variety), but it’s still pretty funny. While I found the story a little lacking in plot and character development, I’ll probably be the only one to notice or care. Kids will be too engaged in Andrew’s escapades to worry about analyzing story elements.”
Tristi Pinkston. Turning Pages (Reading for Sanity). 3.75 stars. “I thought this book was a lovely light read. It had enough hints of P & P to keep me happy (and a dash of Austen’s other novels), but thankfully didn’t follow the story line so closely that I could predict every character’s next sentence. Addie and Blake’s romance was charming and squeaky clean, without being ridiculously flowery, overly emotional, or just plain annoying. I could related to Addie on many levels, the foremost being her love of books and libraries, her tendency to love the wrong guy first, and one horrific nightmare of an incident involving a rodent and a very scary book. I’ve read books with greater depth, but lately I haven’t been able to finish any of them. This one was cake.”
Tristi Pinkston. Turning Pages (Shanda, LDSWBR). 4 stars. “I enjoyed Turning Pages as a clean read with good themes that I would happily hand to my 15-year-old to read. I liked Addie and related to her love of books and her beloved library. It was a good reminder that change is the only constant and people are what matter most.”
Jason F. Wright. The 13th Day of Christmas. (LDSWBR). Sheila (5 stars): “It has two of the most memorable characters that I have “met” in a long time . . . This story has so much reality interlaced in it’s pages your heart will hurt for the characters; job loss, death of a child, loss of a spouse, cancer and marital problems. With Jason’s unique writing style that brings his characters to life, you will be wrapped up in Charlee’s fight to live and Marva’s intensity to give of herself and her love for this young girl. Be prepared to shed a few tears before you read the last page of this book.” Mindy (5 stars): “Jason does such an amazing job of instantly pulling me into his books with his well-written plots and wonderful characters. I immediately loved Miss Marva and Charlee . . . I loved this book. So full of heart and love of two friends. It is a fast read, but I wanted to know what happens to these great characters, so I couldn’t put it down. Just remember what I said about the Kleenex, but also this book has a great ending that will leave you satisfied, but possibly crying happy tears.”
J. (James) Omar Hansen is a member of the theatre faculty at BYU-Idaho. His play Bielzy and Gottfried: A Modern Morality Play had its premiere at BYU Idaho’s Snow Black Box Theatre, Oct 24-27 and Oct 30-Nov 3. It will receive a second production at the Echo Theatre in Provo in June 2013. The plays’ blub reads, “Suppose an Agent of Good and an Agent of Evil came together to create a night of theatre. What would be the outcome? Comedy? Tragedy? Picture a modern day Job, a proud Stone Thrower Joseph McCarthy, a devout Christian woman on the brink of a spiritual meltdown, a lost Adam and Pandora, and finally, a dead man who won’t face his past.” It is a collection of smaller dramatic pieces, narrated by God and Satan. In a BYU-Idaho Scroll article about the play, Hansen is quoted as saying, “Most in our culture would not think of a play dealing with religion, morality and our archetypal sacred stories would be a comedy. But it is the juxtaposition of the profane and the spiritual that actually defines our moral lives . . . I hope that laughing at our own foibles and then feeing the pathos in our deepest stories will not answer the problem of morality, but perhaps in some small way give us understanding of it.”
Omar Hansen began his career in 1976 at the Playmill Theatre in West Yellowstone. Hehas a PhD in Playwriting/Theatre History from BYU, as well as playwriting degrees from the University of Utah and Cal State LA. Both Omar and his wife Lori are also storytellers. The Hansens run their own theatrical company, The Great Bear Folk Theatre, at the Historical Romance Theatre in Rexburg. In October the company produced Omar’s one-act musical Horned Romance as part of an omnibus called Haunted Romance. Upcoming works for 2013 are Lori’s one-woman show Becoming an Honorary Crone in February, A Celtic Festival in March (including music, dance, storytelling, and theater) and Omar’s pioneer musical Pioneer Song. Pioneer Song, for which Omar wrote the music, lyrics, and book, previously appeared at BYU-Idaho’s mainstage in 2009. Also, Omar’s short play The Society was one of the plays in the Echo Theater’s Echo 10 Project in August, and also at Walla Walla University’s Festival of One Acts in March. It was published in More One Act Plays for Acting Students, Merriweather Publishing LTD, 2003.
Melissa Lelani Larson’s Martyrs’ Crossing runs at the Echo Theatre in Provo, Nov. 29-Dec. 15. It is about Joan of Arc, from the point of view of two Saints who appeared to her. It premiered in 2004, and has been performed at the Iowa New Play Festival in 2005 and on the BYU mainstage in 2006. It has also been titled “Angels Unaware”. It has been awarded the IRAM award for Best New Play and a KCACTF Meritorious Achievement.
Aaron Edson, composer and Dennis Agle Jr, book. Liken’s The First Christmas. SCERA, Nov. 30-Dec. 22. A Liken the Scriptures musical, based on the video made by the same people a few years ago. “Two years ago, the world premiere of Liken’s Jonah & the Great Fish played to sold-out crowds on the SCERA stage. This Christmas, Liken is returning with The First Christmas. Adapted from one of the most popular movies in the Liken series.”
Breaking Dawn, pt. 2. Bill Condon, director. Stephanie Meyer, Producer. November 16, 2012.
Deseret Books Bestsellers
New York Times Bestseller Lists, Nov. 25, Dec. 2
#11, #16 A WINTER DREAM, by Richard Paul Evans (3rd week). Down from #6. #84 at USA Today, in its 3rd week. Peaked at #33.
A CHRISTMAS GARLAND, by Anne Perry. Drops off the list after one week at #27. Did not make the USA Today list.
#17, #30 DARK NIGHTS, by Christine Feehan (3rd week). Down from #8. Spent 2 weeks on USA Today list, peaked at #29.
Children’s chapter books
RUINS, by Orson Scott Card. Fell off the list after one week at #6. It was #10 on the Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Fiction Bestsellers List.
#8, x MATCHED, by Ally Condie (57th week). The book’s final week on the list before graduating to “series” status.
x, #2 MATCHED TRILOGY, by Ally Condie (1st week). With the publication of the third and final volume, Reached, the series moves up to the “Series” list. Reached hit #6 at the USA Today list in its first week.
HUSH, HUSH SAGA, by Becca Fitzpatrick. Falls off the list after 6 weeks.
Also Earth Unaware, by Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston, is #8 on the Locus Science Fiction hardcover list for November, its second month on the list. Card’s Ender’s Game is #6 on the Paperback list, its 36th month on that list.