This Week in Mormon Literature, March 24, 2013

The Association for Mormon Letters Conference is this weekend, March 29-30, at the UVU Library auditorium (Orem, UT). New novels this week by Orson Scott Card, Stephen Carter, Michaelbrent Collings, and Brandon Mull. Please send any information or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blog posts

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 45:4, Winter 2012. Includes two short stories, Levi S. Peterson’s “Sandrine” and Jack Harrell’s “Hank Toy’s Devil,” poetry curated by new poetry editor Tyler Chadwick, and Rosalynde Welch’s book review of Therese Doucet’s A Lost Argument: A Latter-Day Novel.

An interview with Stephenie Meyer at The Guardian. She talks about Twilight, feminism, and true love. She describes herself as a feminist. Talks about her background, and says she did not intend on writing an abstinence message.

Vodnick, a YA fantasy by Bryce Moore, won a Westchester Fiction Award.

The Change, by Rachel Ann Nunes (under the pen name Teyla Branton) has moved forward in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. A contemporary urban fantasy, competing against 99 others in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror division.

Kristen Randle on a new ending for The Only Alien on the Planet.

Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia discuss what they see as bias against political conservatives in Science Fiction in Political Fun with Facebook.

Bryce Haymond on Orson Scott Card’s parable, “Consecration: A Law We Can Live With.”

At A Motley Vision: William on The Matched Trilogy, Patricia says, “Wilderness Interface Zone is issuing a call for nature-themed prose: creative nonfiction or environmental nonfiction, eco-criticism, interviews, hybrid literary forms, and short fiction, including novel excepts, that reflect on your relationship to the natural world, wherever you engage it.” Kent’s Sunday Lit Crit Sermon looks at J. M Turner on Libraries (1888),  Sarah Dunster and Luisa Perkins join as permabloggers, Scott Hales reports on the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference, Sarah Dunster introduces herself, and Scott Hales interviews Margaret Blair Young about her earlier work, AML, and future projects.

New Books

Orson Scott Card. The Gate Thief. Mither Mages book 2. Tor, March 19. Contemporary fantasy.  Sequel to The Lost Gate.

Kirkus: “Card weaves another in a chain of satisfying, teenager-pleasing fantasies . . . Card’s not content just to call on the Norse pantheon; Egyptians and Greeks and Romans and every other sort of deity and demideity mixes it up here, with some nice results—Danny might be a “defiant little asshole,” in the words of his gym teacher, but that’s nothing compared to one tough chick who is “Clytemnestra and Medea rolled into one.” Card has a grand old time romping around in the fields of comparative religion while letting a feud worthy of the Hatfields and the McCoys unfold, with much tongue-in-cheek humor but a touch of gore, too. And will the world remain safe for the Aesir? This fun, inventive tale holds the answer.”

PW: “In this middling sequel to The Lost Gate, Card connects Egyptian myth with his “literalizing of Indo-European gods” to create Danny North, the 16-year-old incarnation of the messenger/trickster god Thoth-Mercury-Hermes-Loki. Danny masquerades as an ordinary teen but is the son of the Norse gods Odin and Gerd. He’s just coming into his full powers as a gate mage when some of the old gods set out to kill him. He’s also so filled with “innate goodness” that he can fend off all the hot girls who want him and subdue his own adolescent hormones. Naturally, he takes on the task of saving Earth and defeating the forces of evil through a heroic act that’s devoid of real consequences. Card’s afterword reveals his struggles with clarifying his unusual and highly complicated world-building, but only the most devoted readers will have sympathy for these creative problems.”

Stephen Carter. The Hand of Glory: The Harrowed Valley Hauntings, book 1. Leicester Bay Books, Feb. 26. YA paranormal suspense. A 14-year old boy and his uncle try to solve a haunting mystery.

Publishers Weekly: “When Paul McCallister’s family moves from Seattle to Harrowed Valley, Wyoming, they settle into a very strange home that has been in the family for generations. When running from a bully after school, Paul steps into “Doc’s Den,” and meets his great Uncle Doc. Doc not only relates why Paul’s house is divided into two mirroring sides, but also gives Paul a painting that his great-great-great grandfather’s second wife created of the house just before she disappeared. Almost immediately after Paul brings the painting home, he begins seeing visions of “Bloody Glory” and weird lights in the painting. A tear in the paper backing of the painting reveals a talisman and, as Paul carries it, he begins losing time and finds himself possessed by the spirit of his ancestress. Paul’s haunting takes him deep into the mystery of Glory’s disappearance and soon it becomes apparent that not only is she trying to tell him her story, there is also second ghost intent on the truth never coming out. As Paul’s ghostly sightings become possessions and his very life becomes endangered, the tension ratchets up, leaving readers hoping that Paul will emerge unscathed. A very interesting family history tied closely to the Biblical story of Abraham and his two wives gives a unique angle to this ghost story. Secondary characters could be slightly more developed, but Paul and Doc both shine and carry this suspenseful story to the end.”

Cami Checketts. Poison Me. Self, March 1. Suspense. A couple try to solve a poisoning mystery at a retirement home.

Michaelbrent Collings. Blood Relations: A Good Mormon Girl Mystery. Self, March 18. Mystery. A Mormon LAPD homicide detective is searching for a serial killer who is after her sister.

James Haberkorn. A Thousand Suns. Cedar Fort/Bonneville, March 12. Suspense. Sequel to Einstein’s Trunk. Twin Falls cowboy/spy Rulon Hurt is shot by an assassin, and his punk wife and Russian spy associate search for the culprits.

Jennie Hansen, Merdian Magazine. 4 stars. “[This] isn’t exactly the usual LDS novel.  In fact there’s no direct reference to the Church, but anyone who is a member will recognize the protagonist’s observance of the Word of Wisdom, objections to swearing, church attendance, and the two elders who show up at the hospital, along with several other stereotypical Mormon cultural and doctrinal bits that show up through the story as dead giveaways . . . In spite of finding some elements of this tale implausible and the author’s knowledge of Twin Falls a little lacking, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  Maybe I just like cowboys and Rulon is a great modern day cowboy.  Yohaba’s name is strange and she never stops talking, but I like her anyway.  She has a great sense of humor and has the courage to do hard things even when they seem impossible and scare her half to death.  I like Boris most of all.  He tries so hard, thinks things through logically based on solid information, but still meets a lot of failure.  His word means something and he abides by his own code of honor.  The secondary characters are definite individuals and sometimes surprising. Some of the plot elements are a bit absurd, yet they fit the story and its characters. Though the story is an odd combination of international intrigue, modern western, and unrequited love, the author makes it work.  I found some points humorous, but overall this is a straight forward serious story.  The first half of the book is told primarily from Rulon’s point of view, though not exclusively.  We also get the POVs of several other characters interspersed here and there.  The second half belongs to Yohaba with frequent shifts to Boris’s POV and occasionally to some of the secondary characters.  The pace is fast, the action non-stop, and the story is a real page turner.”

Vicki Hall. Journey of Promise. Cedar Fort, March 14. Historical. A pioneer couple cross the Atlantic and journey up the Mississippi.

Brandon Mull. Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy. Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, March 12. Volume 3. Middle grade fantasy.

Common Sense Media: 4 stars. “For readers who’ve already logged just shy of 1,000 pages to get to the Beyonders finale, CHASING THE PROPHECY is your reward. Brandon Mull built his Lyrian world with lots of detail, creative characters, and an inventive spirit and now in Book 3 it’s time to save it. Because even the prophecy is in hand by the end of Book 2, Mull’s usual weakness for loads of description and character introspection doesn’t slow the story down quite as much. In fact, there are some poignant moments as some characters contemplate dying for their cause and what it means to them. And there are a few intriguing surprises toward the end that will keep readers guessing, and happy they stuck with the series till the end.”

Darrel Nelson. The Return of Cassandra Todd. Realms/Charisma House, Feb. 5. Suspense. A Christian handyman meets a high school acquaintance, fleeing from her husband who bullied the handyman in school, who is on the run. He has to decide whether to forgive and help her. Second novel. Charisma House (formerly “Strang Communications”) is a leading charismatic/Pentecostal publisher.  They often do “author participation” deals, where the author has to put up money to get a book published. The book is getting several positive reviews from the Christian/Protestant fiction community.

Greg Park. Sividious Stark and the Stadium Between Worlds. Covenant, Feb. 11. YA speculative. A 14-year old boy discovers a portal to the far end of the galaxy, helps a threatened people through his newly discovered magical skills.

Sharon Haddock, Deseret News. “Sets the groundwork for what is hopefully a promising series as this story breaks out of the young adult genre that is generally all too predictable . . . The story is intriguing and there’s just enough action to keep it moving without it becoming tiresome or cliche.”

M. Ann Roher. Mattie. Cedar Fort/Bonneville, March 12. Historical. Girl in Colonial Juarez leaves the Church, but finds romance and faith in the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s.

Reviews of older books

Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood.iPlates. (Modern Mormon Men).“As a seasoned member of the church who still finds the Book of Mormon incredibly dull, I enjoyed that iPlates wasn’t a strict retelling of the narrative. At the end of the comic book, Stephen describes the collection as “historical fiction – with an emphasis on the fiction … featuring 100% of the Book of Mormon’s violence, tons of bonus character development, and a dollop of preaching big enough to keep your mom happy.”Well, Stephen, this time you kept the dad happy. And you also kept my two boys happy for much longer than five minutes.”

Ally Condie. Reached (An Equivalent Centre of Self). 4 stars. One of the things I love about Condie’s books is how she makes classic literature more accessible for teen readers. Reached is no exception. Reached begins with the Rising’s revolution: a nation-wide plague for which only the Rising has the cure. But when a plague-resistent strain breaks out, Cassia, Ky, and Xander must do their part to fight the plague and figure out their places in the newly evolving society. This novel wasn’t as action-packed as I had anticipated for the third volume of a trilogy that includes an uprising, but I liked it despite that. I liked that the novel raised interesting questions about the shape of a revolution–how do we really change society? Are the changes superficial or can we enact real change? What are the costs of that change? I also liked Condie’s thoughtful and lyrical prose. My only real complaint was that the resolution of the love triangle between Cassia, Ky, and Xander wasn’t quite as complicated as I’d hoped it would be–I felt like the question of who she would end up with was answered fairly quickly.”

Heather Dixon. Entwined (Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury).5 stars.“Wow! I just finished this and I am very impressed. This book has strong, compelling characters, a deep back story, interesting and slightly scary magic, and a plot that pulled me into the book and kept pulling me back every time I had to put it down . . . If you love retold fairy tales, read this one. I’ve read other retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and enjoyed them very much, but I have to say that this is broader and deeper than them all, and a rich, amazing experience.”

Sarah Dunster. The Lightning Tree (Eric Samuelsen). “Sarah Dunster’sThe Lightning Tree is an outstanding example of a tough genre in which to publish–Mormon-oriented historical fiction.  To call it that, though, may be to limit its appeal.  Mostly it’s just a really really good novel.  Smart, honest, real, moving. Let me put it this way; if this review seems a bit incoherent, it’s because I’m short sleep right now.  And the reason I’m short sleep is this novel . . . It’s not enough for a novelist to research, say, the MMM.  She has to create for us the atmosphere of it, the role gossip plays, the divisions and dissenters and arguments. Not every character in the novel is an orthodox Mormon, and the ones that are don’t strike us as kinder or better people than some of the dissenters.  And Sarah Dunster nails it. She nails all of it, gets every detail either right, or at least convincingly plausible. It’s like chores.  Ma Alden doesn’t just say to Maggie, ‘do some chores.’  The chores she assigns are specific, varied, and authentic.So the book’s great.  And what I’m really trying to decide here is whether to buy a copy of the book for my Mom’s birthday, or whether I can wait ’til Christmas. (Mother’s Day!  That works!)  Sarah Dunster’s first novel is terrific.  Get it, read it.  I couldn’t put it down.”

Craig Everett. Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune (Deseret News).

Jacob Gowans. Flight from Blithmore (An Equivalent Centre of Self). 2.5 stars. “The premise was a little far-fetched to me, but that’s not something I mind when the story is well told. Here, the story-telling was mixed. The writing itself tended to be clear and smooth-flowing (there were even some parts that glimmered of brilliance). But I struggled getting into this–after the excitement of their initial escape, the characters seem to wander without much real danger until almost the end of the book. I also struggled to relate to the characters . . . Jessie Christensen talks about Mormon lit that feels “bland”–that lacks a distinct voice–and I think that sums up some of my difficulty with the book. Henry and Isabel had so many virtues that they didn’t feel real; the other characters seemed to be pretty one-note: Ruther was the dissolute with an occasional good conscience moment; James was the soldier; Maggie was—I’m not entirely sure what her distinction was supposed to be, except as another female for the group; and the journeyman was a coward.”

Shannon Hale. Palace of Stone (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “I never read Shannon Hale’s first Princess Academy book, so I was a little bit worried that I would find Palace of Stone a little bit difficult to follow. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Palace of Stone is a stand-alone book. It’s true that many of the characters were also present in Princess Academy, but Hale knows how to make characters feel real and memorable even to new readers of the series . . . The book feels very much like a girl power book, and I think my 11yo daughter would enjoy both the story and the message.”

Stacy Henrie, Lady Outlaw (An Equivalent Centre of Self). “I thought the premise for this was cute–and unusual. I liked Jennie and Caleb as characters; I particularly liked that Jennie was feisty and not willing to play the victim (and if people say that red-heads in fiction are a little cliche, well, as a natural red-head myself, I have to admit that I like them). I also enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the history of Southern Utah, as I happen to live in the area. That said, I had a hard time with Jennie’s decision to steal money–this may be a particular quirk of my generally law-abiding personality, but it made it hard for me to relate to Jennie for a while. I also would have liked to see a little more focus on the romance, and less on the banditry (but here, again, this is a personal preference). Generally speaking, it was a nice, clean romance–the writing wasn’t particularly memorable, but it was clear and moved quickly.”

Josi S. Kilpack. Baked Alaska (Deseret News). “Author Josi S. Kilpack has matured a bit in “Baked Alaska,” which is the ninth in a series of culinary mysteries. The story is nicely paced. Hoffmiller’s reactions to her son’s and daughter’s rebuffs feel honest and real.”

Josi S. Kilpack. Baked Alaska (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “There is a long, drawn out romance that is furthered a bit in each book between Sadie and police detective, Pete Cunningham, but the books usually have little romance in them. It’s not even necessary to read the books in order. The books aren’t meant to be romances; they’re primarily a combination of mystery and cookbook, however this one falls more in the women’s fiction category and deals more with relationships and emotions than mystery . . . Kilpack has done a superb job of maintaining Sadie Hoffmiller’s character through so many books.  In my view she’s not really a likable character, yet she is one with whom readers can identify even when they find her exasperating.  She’s a snoopy busybody who easily over reacts and behaves impulsively. She likes to micro-manage- especially her children’s lives.  With all of her confident mother-knows-best approach to life, she has some feelings of inferiority and fear of ridicule and she always means well.  She also has the saving grace of being able to admit she doesn’t have all the answers when it is pointed out to her.  She fits in well in this black widow kind of story filled with women who don’t exemplify the best of their gender. I personally like Pete a lot more than Sadie.  He’s far more reasonable and thoughtful . . . I found the endings of the various mysteries in this volume less than satisfactory.  Motivations are not as well developed as this author usually manages.  However, the resolutions involving Sadie’s children and Pete work out very well.  Overall I think most readers will enjoy Baked Alaska.”

Josie S. Kilpack, Daisy (An Equivalent Centre of Self). 3 stars. “I’ve read two of the other novels in the Newport Ladies book club, and, while I like the concept (the way four different women’s lives are altered over the course of their interaction in a book club), it does introduce one difficulty that this book drives home: the shared parts of the novel start to feel repetitive by the second or third reading. Otherwise, I liked reading about how Daisy begins to change her perspective on life through the events of the novel, and I liked Daisy herself, although the final resolution left me feeling a little incomplete.”

Laura Krumwiede. The Freeakling (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “I loved the first few chapters of Freakling. The descriptions of the way Taemon’s world works were so interesting, and I loved learning about the tensions within his community and his family. But after the accident which took Taemon’s powers took place, I felt like the story went in a different direction than I had expected– it started out with a lot of internal conflict but gradually shifted to where the external conflict seemed more important. So the second half of the book didn’t match the promise of the first half, but the concept of the book was interesting, and Krumwiede sowed many seeds that can be resolved in future installments of Taemon’s story.”

Lisa Mangum. After Hello (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). C+. “I’m not a huge fan of her books. Her newest, After Hello, is definitely my favorite of the bunch, but it still just didn’t quite do it for me. The novel has a fun premise—two strangers race against the clock to find something special in a city full of surprises—that, unfortunately, gets too melodramatic and far-fetched to fulfill its charming promise. Neither Sara nor Sam really spoke to me. They both seemed tortured and wise beyond their years, which gave their story a dark, unrealistic twist. Overall, After Hello is a quick read and not a bad one, it just wasn’t as engaging or as magical as I hoped it would be.”

Ryan McIlvain, Elders (Boston Globe review).“Ryan McIlvain grew up Mormon, and his first novel glows with the love and anger of a former believer. His clear-eyed assessment of “[t]he final irreducible strangeness of the mission” shows the elders scrambling for souls amid competition from newfangled evangelical sects, the dominant Catholic Church, and the country’s most uplifting and universal religion: soccer. That their success depends on storytelling links the missionaries’ work to that of the novelist, a parallel neatly summed up by McIlvain: “The task of a missionary was to distill the infinite into the finite, the inexpressible into the expressible.” Finely paced, keenly observed, and ruefully honest, “Elders” (save for a slightly melodramatic ending) fulfills this task admirably.”

Ryan McIlvain, Elders (Don’t Mind the Mess). “Growing up Mormon it seemed like our lifestyle was completely absent in fiction. LDS writers either wrote fiction that had nothing to do with our culture or wrote so specifically to our culture that the world at large couldn’t enjoy it. Elders is the first book I’ve ever read that is obviously written by a Mormon but not for a Mormon audience. And luckily it’s fantastic . . . Much here rang true to me. The way they talk when they have religious discussions in particular is done well. (You have to be right on with this stuff. There is a very distinctive style to this kind of talk. When I watched Big Love, they’d get it right about 60% of the time and the rest it would irk me to no end.) And as someone who went on a very long and difficult struggle with my faith, the struggles of these two young men who have to be emissaries of a religion they are still learning was something that captivated me. This was one of my 5-star reading experiences. I found the book really well written, which is certainly enough to give 4 stars. 5 are reserved for books that hit me in a way that the others don’t. And this one did. I’m really excited that this book exists.”

Ryan McIlvain, Elders (Alex Beam, The Daily Beast). The Book of Mormon: A Novel. “I’d call Elders a minor classic in Mormon letters, which is akin to darning it (keepin’ it Bible!) with faint praise. But I mean it as real praise. Excellent, Mormon-themed novels are few and far between. This is one of them.”

Ryan McIlvain interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Chad Morris. Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor’s Secret (LDSWBR). Mindy: 5 stars. “I loved everything about this book.  Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor’s Secret is one of the biggest reasons I love reading and reviewing middle grade.  It is one of my favorite reads of the year so far.  Everything about this book is so exciting and fun.  It is a non-stop thrill ride.  You will not be able to stop reading until you are finished.  My favorite thing about The Inventor’s Secret was The Bridge.  To be able to see events from history unfold before your eyes, but be amazing.  There is another great message in this book about facing your fears, and being brave.

Sheila: 5 stars. “I have a particular love for time travel books. Even though this book is written for a middle grade audience, it doesn’t feel like it when you read it. Every age can read and love this book! Though there are great lessons for the reader in this book, they are not preachy or too blatant. I can’t wait to get back on track so I can read it out-loud to my 2nd grade class.

Jennifer A. Nielsen. The False Prince (Shelah Books It). 5 stars. “I’ve read four of the five books in the middle grade category so far, and three of them are all pretty good. But The False Prince is fantastic. I found myself struggling with reading quickly (because the story was engrossing) but also wanting to read slowly enough that I didn’t miss any of Nielsen’s details. Sage is an engaging character, and Nielsen throws in twists and turns in the plot that actually made me gasp. So far, I think this is not just the best middle grade book I’ve read for the Whitneys, but really the best book I’ve read for the Whitneys. My only quibble is that I think the book feels more like a YA than a middle grade, especially since the protagonist is a young teen.”

Kelly Oram. V is for Virgin (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). B-. “Even though I didn’t love the book, I’m glad for the introduction to Oram’s work.  She writes with a strong voice and a forthrightness that’s both refreshing and instructive (without being too preachy).  Contemporary YA seems to be a natural fit for her. That being said, I had a few issues with her latest. Val, for me, is another one of those heroines who’s way too into herself to be likable or sympathetic. Her oh-poor-me-I’m-so-beautiful-that-every-guy-I-meet-falls-in-love-with-me act gets very old very quickly.  Plus, things go a little too smoothly for her.  Like I said before, I can’t root for a heroine who doesn’t have to fight a little bit to achieve her goal. There were other things that bugged me about the story, like how Val’s (supposedly attentive) parents let her date an older guy (without any protest) and attend wild adult parties dressed like a streetwalker (again, they say nothing?). Also, the fact that said older guy—and his buddies—are going after high school girls. And don’t get me started on my love/hate relationship with the book’s Epilogue. So, despite the things I did like about this one, V is for Virgin ended up falling kind of flat for me. Oram’s on my Authors-to-Watch list, though, because I think she’s got some definite potential.”

Susan Palmer. The Tabernacle Bar (Theric’s Unfinished Books). “I received this novel in a big box of Mormon books from my wife’s brother’s wife’s brother as he sloughed off the final remnants of his Mormon past. I don’t know why I chose this one to start with. The box was filled with much more exciting volumes. But this one was slender and engaging and I slipped into it rather quickly. Once I slipped out, however, I found it difficult to return . . . The town is a sort of fictionalized Logan and, you know, everything about the book is fine. But just fine. It has that sort of snide this is what Mormons are really like tone we’ve grown tired of from too much use by too many exMos. In other words, as much as I liked the first half of the book, I find it impossible to believe that the second half will provide me with anything more.”

Luisa Perkins. The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition. “The actual text of Perkins’ novel is a close match to the scenes in the Web series, but included in the familiar story line are a couple of extra scenes and a host of scanned documents about the conspiracy provided by Jared Adair. The book continues to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction with Jared Adair (a character from the alternate-reality game) acting as a co-author.”

Jeff Savage. Air Keep (Forward Reviews). “Savage unfolds the complex tale expertly. Plenty of action sequences involving a myriad of fantastic magical creatures are juxtaposed with the all-too-human angst and emotional travails experienced by the teenage protagonists . . . Though Savage’s Farworld series is written with the teenage reader in mind, it should appeal to anyone who enjoys stories similar to the Harry Potter series, including adults who like fantasy tales set in mystical realms where good ultimately triumphs over evil.”

Rebecca Talley. Aura (LDSWBR). Sheila: “ I’m a big fan of Rebecca’s writing. This is her first offering in the YA paranormal genre. It was a success! It had so many things I’m looking for when I’m selecting something for my teen daughter to read. It had a strong protagonist, who also has very strong morals and values. It showed a teen faced with making important decisions in her life and choosing between good or evil . . . Not only is this a great story of morals, but also a story of action and suspense.” Mindy: 3.5 stars. “I really enjoyed Aura.  I thought Crystal was an amazing character who stands up for herself no matter what the cost.  There was one part towards the end I thought was a little too “trusting” on her part.  But, all in all, there was some great action and suspense.”

Dan Wells. The Hollow City (An Equivalent Center of Self). 3 stars. “This was my favorite of the Whitney speculative finalists . . . For the most part, I enjoyed this one. The writing was compelling, the plot quick moving, and Michael’s narration was fascinating, as the book plays with the question of what is ultimately real. The ending, I felt, wrapped things up a little too quickly without answering all of my questions, but aside from that, it was a good read, if not as compelling as his I Am Not a Serial Killer series.”

Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray. Standing on the Promises, Book One: One More River to Cross. (Ivan Wolfe, AML-list). “I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said when it first came out.  It’s simply amazing, tender, warm, joyful, realistic, intimate – and dozens of other adjectives I could list. When this book first came out, it was one of Deseret Book’s finest moments.  Now that the books are out of print there, Zarahemla has stepped up and re-issued them in an expanded form.  There’s no hint that these are “director’s cuts” that include parts editors at Deseret Books may have cut – instead, more historical information and other stories have come to light, and so Young and Gray have added more in order to do justice to the full story of “black Mormon pioneers.” . . . However, the story itself remains marvelously told.  The narrative voice chosen by Young and Gray (the narrator is herself a fictional character, identified as a great granddaughter of one of the main protagonists, Jane Manning James) is caring and non-judgmental. Even when some white Mormons behave in racist and uncaring ways, the narrator has a more resigned, sad and weary tone, rather than an angry, hurt and disgusted one. The narrative voice wants to tell you stories, not pass judgments – choosing charity over contention in all cases, and this makes the narrative gentle and easy. Not that the events are all that easy, though nothing here can be taken as challenging the church in any way. The book is remarkably faithful, always assuming the truth of the Church and never questioning the basic doctrines.  Prayers are answered, miracles are taken at face value, and Joseph Smith comes across as amicable and friendly.  Events that might seem somewhat challenging to readers unaware of many details regarding early church history (women giving blessings, for example) are treated in a passing manner, rather than made prominent.  The most challenging aspects of this book deal with the flawed nature of early Saints and how even those chosen by God couldn’t quite escape the racism of the societies they inhabited – even there, the narrative emphasizes charity and forgiveness.”

Theater

Scott Bronson. Tombs. March 29, AML Conference. UVU Library auditorium (Orem, UT).

Melissa Leilani Larson. Pride and Prejudice. Staged reading. March 26, BYU HFAC.

The Book of Mormon. Review of a St. Louis production, by Rosalynde Welch.  “As it turned out, the musical wasn’t deeply about Mormonism at all; it was about organized religion generally and its struggle, packaged as it is in ancient texts and foreign traditions, to remain relevant in the present day.Sometimes these efforts fail in tragic or comical ways. But when religion succeeds in connecting with modern challenges and modern ways of knowing, it changes lives, gives hope, and connects communities. I never thought I’d agree with the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, on anything — and I still object to the glibness and vulgarity of their style — but it’s hard to quarrel with that.”  The play also opened to huge box office in London this week.

Utah Valley University’s theater department has swept a nationwide competition, winning a string of six across-the-boards highly prestigious awards. “Vincent in Brixton” was honored as outstanding production, outstanding performance by an actress, outstanding direction, outstanding scenic design, outstanding costume design and distinguished ensemble at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Christopher Clark directed the show. (Deseret News article).

Best Sellers

New York Times Bestseller Lists, March 24, 31

Hardcover Fiction

#10, #12 A MEMORY OF LIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (10th week). Inching down from #7. #29 and #29 on the Combined Print List (Hardcover and Paperback Fiction). #15 and #16 on the PW list. Book Scan says 3500 units were sold last week, for a running total of 263,371 in 2013.

Mass Market Fiction Paperback

#13, #6 THE HOST, by Stephanie Meyer (6th week). #24, #12 on the Trade Fiction Paperback list (11th week). #31 #10 on the Ebook list. #27, #10 on the Combined Print and Ebook list (2nd week). #26 and #11 on the Combined Print list. #27, #8 on the USA Today list (122nd week). #28, #19 on the PW Mass Market list (4th week). 6241 units sold last week, for a running total of 32,971 in 2013.  Really picking up this last week.

x, #14 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card (25th week). And back again.

Children’s Middle Grade

#4, #8 THE FALSE PRINCE, by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2nd week). Out in paperback, it makes the list for the first time.

Children’s Series

#6, x THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer (217th week).

x, #6 THE BEYONDERS, by Brandon Mull (1st week). With the release of vol. 3 Chasing the Prophesy, the series graduates to the Series list. Chasing the Prophesy debuted at #3 at PW Children’s Frontline Fiction. 9859 units sold in its first week. #36 in its debut on the USA Today list.

x, #8 THE MATCHED TRILOGY, by Ally Condie (12th week). Crossed (vol. 2) is released in paperback, and was #21 in its first week on the PW Children’s Frontline Fiction list. 3400 units sold in its first week.

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4 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, March 24, 2013

  1. Andrew Hall says:

    On an unrelated topic, I heard Low on WNYC’s Soundcheck podcast today. (Soundcheck has become my favorite podcast lately. Good mix of music news, commentary, history, reviews, and in-studio performances. Too much to keep up with). They are releasing their 10th album, The Invisible Way, and their 20th anniversary as a band. They do three lovely songs, and talk a little bit. Especially listen to the second song, Holy Ghost, sung by Mimi.

    http://soundcheck.wnyc.org/2013/mar/27/low-minimal-aesthetic-delightfully-weird/

    Some holy ghost
    Keeps me hanging on
    Hanging on
    Some holy ghost
    Keeps me hanging on
    Hanging on

    I feel the hands
    But I don’t see anyone
    Anyone
    I feel the hands
    But I don’t see anyone
    It’s there and gone

    Feeds my passion for transcendence
    Turns my water into wine
    Makes me wish I was empty

    Now I don’t know much
    But I can tell when something’s wrong
    And something’s wrong
    But some holy ghost
    Keeps me

    • Andrew Hall says:

      Low update. Mavis Staples’ (and Jeff Tweedy’s) new album, One True Vine, opens with Low’s “Holy Ghost.” AC Club: “The ink was barely dry on Low’s version when Staples recorded her cover, and yet she manages to sink even more sorrow and fatigue into the song, somehow out-Lowing Low with her measured and deeply powerful delivery. Not every song on One True Vine is quite as compelling, but Staples sings with such grace and dignity that it remains a moving listen.”

  2. Andrew Hall says:

    A couple of mid-bi-week updates.

    The Hugo Award Nominations were announced. Among the nominees were:
    Best Novella: The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson.

    Best Related Work: Writing Excuses, Season Seven. By Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler & Jordan Sanderson. Third year in a row.

    Best Graphic Story: Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia. By Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton. Fifth year in a row.

    Best Fanzine: Elitist Book Reviews. Steve Diamond, with Nick Sharps, Vanessa Christenson, Shawn Boyles, Daniel Smyth, and Bryce Moore.

    Also The Host, a movie based on Stephanie Meyers book, was released this weekend. It has gotten only a 12% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, ouch.

  3. Andrew Hall says:

    Also, Jenifer Nii’s play “Suffrage”, produced by Plan-B, is premiering at the Studio Theatre, Rose Wagner, SLC, April 4-14.
    http://planbtheatre.org/suffrage.htm
    “Two sister wives navigate Utah’s little-known place in history as the second U.S. territory to give women the vote. Who knew we had such a rich feminist history?”
    I don’t think Nii is Mormon, but it appears that the faith of the two women plays an important role in the play. It will be published in an upcoming Sunstone.
    Nii’s comments: http://planbtheatre.org/wp/?p=2792
    Salt Lake Tribune preview: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/entertainment2/56047231-223/women-suffrage-utah-polygamy.html.csp
    Stephen Carter on the play: http://planbtheatre.org/wp/?p=2783

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