The winners of the Mormon Lit Blitz were announced, LDS Publisher revealed her secret identity, a new Orson Scott Card Ender prequel (as Ender’s Game itself hits #1 on the Mass Market Paperback Bestseller list), and okay reviews of the new movie Ephraim’s Rescue. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
News and blogs
The Mormon Lit Blitz ended, and the public voted “Birthright” by Emily Harris Adams as the Grand Prize Winner. The other stories that placed are #2: “In Which Eve Names Everything Else” by Katherine Cowley, #3: “When I Rise” by Kimberly Hartvigsen, and #4: “Actionable Intelligence” by Jonathon Penny. Participants talked about the experience at this round-up discussion.
LDS Publisher revealed herself as Karlene Browning, who was the owner of Rosehaven Publishing & Distribution, Inc. from 2000 through 2006. She is ending her advice/discussion column, but is continuing her website of LDS-authored fiction, moving it from LDS Fiction to New LDS Fiction. She also publishes her own reviews at Inksplasher
Brandon Mull’s The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe won the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award for Young Reader Fiction (age 8-12). Shadow Mountain books often places in several of the categories of this award in recent years. It was awarded at the BookExpo America last week in New York City.
Larry Correia’s Spellbound won an Audie Award for Best Paranormal Book. The awards “recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. The book was read by Bronson Pinochet.
15 Bytes, an arts magazine published by Artists of Utah, has a website with additional content, including nearly daily features on literary, visual, and stage art. Some recent content include an excerpt from Larry Menlove’s upcoming literary thriller and Darrell Spencer’s upcoming novel, which talks about Kolob and Southern Utah.
Nancy Fulda’s open letter to the SFF community on respecting religious people.
At A Motley Vision, Kent Larson’s Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Susa Young Gates on Reading What Is Important, “I’m Addicted to Story”: An Interview with Playwright Melissa Leilani Larson, Mahonri Stewart bids A Fond Farewell, and Sarah Dunster gives us LDS publishing: a new writer’s perspective.
Scott Everett Bronson. Darkness on the Edge of Light, part one. Self, May 31. A collection of four short stories. Includes an introduction by David Farland, “Tattoo”, “A Report from the Terran Project”, “Mother and Child Reunion”, “And the Moon Became as Blood”.
Michael R. Collings blurb: “A collection of four stories that each begin in darkness–in suffering, sorrow, pain, fear, terror, and outright horror…. Reading Darkness on the Edge of Light becomes in essence an experience of grace and restoration. But if that comment implies that there is religious content in the stories, readers need not quail before the prospect of a sermon. Bronson’s stories are stories; his characters, far more than set-pieces to be shifted back and forth to meet some ill-defined theological norm; his plots, explorations of fundamental human truths rather than of doctrinal superficialities.”
Eric James Stone. “Wouldn’t Be Much,” Crimson Fog magazine, June 2013. “It is my first plain mystery story — no science fiction or fantasy involved. But it does involve magic.”
Scott Hales. “The Mechanics of Creation.” Wilderness Interface Zone, June 3. Joseph Fielding Smith teaches Nephi Anderson to drive a Model T, and they discuss Darwin.
New Books and their reviews
Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnson. Earth Afire. TOR, June 4. The First Formic War #2 (Ender prequel).
Library Journal. Starred review. “Card’s gift for strong, memorable characters combined with screenwriter Johnston’s flair for vivid scene-building results in a standout tale of SF adventure that gives Ender series fans fascinating backstory to the classic Ender’s Game. It should also please readers of military SF.”
Kirkus: “The sections that feature highly intelligent, self-reliant children—Card’s trademark—are as excellent as ever; elsewhere there’s plenty of solid action, well-developed characters and prose that’s often disappointingly clumsy. Another solidly engrossing installment, where the aliens are really just a sideshow: What we’re witnessing is how and why Ender’s child armies came to be.”
PW: “Scott and Johnston explore human ignorance and compassion through a tapestry of galactic warfare in the second volume of the Formic Wars trilogy . . . Card and Johnston craft cinematically detailed environments for their space miners, thieves, and outcasts, probing the inner mechanics and conflicts of various groups. Social upheavals and political ineptitude are realized through rich characterization and brisk action, marrying the genre staple of alien invasion with conflicts of conscience.”
Marc Haddock, Deseret News: “Card deftly invests each of these characters with humanity and believable motives, and by telling different parts of the story through individual eyes, he creates intimacy and scope at the same time. The result is an enjoyable story that pulls the reader from page to page. Be aware, as the second volume of a series, every story line is left hanging for the next volume.”
Ender’s Ansible: “Overall, ‘Earth Afire’ feels like less of an extension of ‘Earth Unaware’ and more of a second chapter of First Formic War Trilogy. If you loved ‘Earth Unaware’, I suspect you will miss Victor and his family. Although they are included, Mazer Rackham and Bingwen take the spotlight in this second novel of the First Formic War Trilogy – not that it’s a bad thing. My one complaint is that ‘Earth Afire’, unlike ‘Earth Unaware’, is missing Card’s signature sass. Readers will find fewer sassy lines to quote in ‘Earth Afire’ than in any other Enderverse installment. With that said, I enjoyed ‘Earth Afire’ so much that I know I’ll give it a second read before the week is over. ’Earth Afire’ by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston is a must read for fans of the Enderverse and all science fiction readers.”
Emily Gray Clawson. A Way Back To You. Deseret Book, May 1. Contemporary fantasy romance. A recently widowed woman finds herself back in her 16-year old life. Author’s first commercially published novel, she has self-published before.
Gamila’s Book Review. “I really loved how this book made me think back on what I loved as a teenager and what parts of my young self I have held on to into adulthood.”
Michaelbrent Collins. Strangers. Self, June 3. A family is locked in their house, and a madman outside toys with them.
Michael R. Collins (the author’s father) review. “Easily among the goriest and most intense horror I have ever read . . . Strangers, a thorough re-inventing of Collings’ earlier novella, The Stranger Within, is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for those expecting some kind of fairy-tale ending to a story that is, from its opening words, horrific in the extreme. And what makes it most frightening is not so much the monster, which in this case is a human bereft of all humanity, but the revelation of what lies beneath the pretense so carefully constructed in the first chapter and revealed in all of its perversity and terror in the last. Careful readers will recognize the influence of Dean R. Koontz and Stephen King, the latter from the abrupt echoes of one of his strangest and most memorable character. But the rest is definitely all Collings as his many readers have come to know him. There are twists aplenty, characters whose depths of darkness and isolation astound even themselves, moments of spine-tingling, edge-of-the-chair suspense, sudden appearances and equally sudden disappearances—all designed to make readers wonder who, precisely, are the Strangers.”
Sarah M. Eden. Glimmer of Hope. Shadow Mountain, June 1. Historical Romance. Irish in 1870s Wyoming. A republication of Through All Hopes, which Eden self-published in 2008. Part of Shadow Mountain’s clean “Proper Romance” series.
Shannon Guymon. You Belong With Me. Self, May 28. Contemporary romance. Love and Dessert, book 1.
Sheila, Why Not: 4 stars. “Insight has something for all readers, adventure, romance, fantasy elements,and an exciting twist at the end of the book. You are left wanting to read the second book immediately, even though it is not ready to read yet; soon I hope!”
J. R. Johansson. Insomnia. Flux, June 8. YA Paranormal thriller. The Night Walkers, v. 1. Teen boy spends his nights in other people’s dreams, which is driving him crazy. Then he finds a girl who’s dreams are peaceful, and he becomes obsessed by her, perhaps in a dangerous way. Has he lost his mind, or is someone else a danger to the girl? Flux is a YA imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, a New Age publisher from Minnesota. First novel.
Kirkus: “Johansson, writing from Parker’s point of view, scatters clues and red herrings about. Parker’s plight will convince readers, although they will not know if he’s innocent or psychotic until the final pages. The ending sets up the sequel in what promises to be an interesting new series. The premise combines with the tension resulting from Parker’s psychological quandary to keep pulses pounding.”
LDSWBR, Sheila: 5 stars. “Even though main character Parker scares you with his bizarre actions, he is a very sympathetic character. You can’t help but feel his pain when he longs so much to be able to have a good nights sleep . . . As I was reading this book I felt a more appropriate title for this book would have been, Intense! The story hooks you from the beginning and never sets you free until the end. I was so impressed with the great writing in this book considering this is Jenn’s first published novel. If you are familiar with I’m Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells, it is a creepy and fantastic book. I need to warn Dan that Jenn is fast on his tail for mastering the creepy factor. She has created such a dark tale that keeps the reader guessing and freaked out. This YA thriller I can guarantee you is going to be making a name for itself and its author.”
Elana Johnson. Abandon. Simon Pulse, June 4. YA Dystopian fantasy. Possession #3. Conclusion of the trilogy.
Adam Glendon Sidwell. The Buttersmith’s Gold: Evertaster. Future House Publishing/Trident Media Group, May 2. Middle grade comic fantasy. Companion novella to Evertaster, which came out in 2012, and its upcoming sequel.
Donna K. Weaver. A Change of Plans. Rhemalda, June 1. Romantic suspense. Debut novel.
Gamila’s Book Review. “Alright, so at first I was a little iffy on this book. The opening scenes establish the characters on the cruise ship and all the guys were checking out the main character in stereotypical fashion, but there was more than one character surprise along the way. Even the most shallow characters had some real depth. The plot line swings from romantic adventure cruise to pirate attack to tropical island survival story and I loved it! As a kid I always loved the Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins. The total man versus nature plotlines and it was thrilling to read about the adventure this couple had to go through to survive the elements and carve out a sanctuary for themselves. Something else I loved about this book is that it doesn’t end with at the rescue. It is fascinating to watch Lyn reintegrate into society after subsisting on an island for two years. It is not a painless task. I will probably reread this one.” LDSWBR, Mindy: 5 stars. “This book has everything a reader could ask for. Romance, humor, suspense, love, hope, strong, likeable characters, and a great fast-paced plot that will keep you reading until the end . . . Am I gushing? I’m gushing, but this book deserves it. This book has it all, I laughed and I cried.”
Reviews of older books
Traci Hunter Abramson. Deep Cover (Tim Johnson, Deseret News). “The book’s target audience is definitely skewed toward a female demographic. As a self-disclosed adrenaline movie junkie, there were parts of the book that seemed a little long, but the author’s familiarity with the intelligence community keeps it intriguing, and there were enough Jason Bourne-type sequences to keep it interesting. The story weaves a little Mormon terminology throughout, but not so much to become a dominant theme. Traci Hunter Abramson, a former CIA employee and a Mormon, does a good job allowing religious themes to speak and not shout. Overall, “Deep Cover” is a good read that addresses issues worth pondering in your own relationships.”
Vicki Hall. Journey of Promise (Sandra Nazar, Deseret News). “This story is engaging and riveting from start to finish. However, the somewhat abrupt conclusion may be mildy disappointing. At the very least, it is left open for another sequel.”
Ryan McIlvain. Elders (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “I loved the early chapters of Elders. I’ve known many Elders like McLeod– guys who go on missions because they genuinely want to serve, but belief in the gospel doesn’t come easy. The conversations between McLeod and his father, a former doubter, were especially powerful for me. I think McIlvain also does a nice job presenting a mission in an unvarnished light– the quirks of the other guys, the business-speak of many mission presidents, and the relentlessness of the daily grind. But after the early chapters, the story lost focus. And the ending seemed so hopeless, so nihilistic, and so unresolved that it was a satisfying insight into missionary life but not a satisfying story.”
Ryan McIlvain. Elders (Christine Rappleye, Deseret News).“There’s no doubt about the strength of McIlvain’s writing and his ability to breathe life into what could have been a stale series of missionary recollections. However, McIlvain’s characters seem to embody many, if not all, of the stereotypes seen in missions, including McLeod, the loud, sloppy American content to be a junior companion, and Passos, the Brazilian who is a zone leader after about a year out who is hoping a mission will springboard to education in the United States. Even the “Dear John” letter McLeod’s Missionary Training Center companion receives (in the form of a wedding announcement) seems a bit over the top.There are also other events that would seem a bit unbelievable in just about any mission, like a mission president conducting all of the baptism interviews . . . Those looking for a faith-promoting story about missionaries overcoming their challenges need to keep looking.”
Ryan McIlvain. Elders (Prolusion Six). “This novel on LDS missionary experience is one of the best cultural depictions of a mission I’ve come across in terms of capturing the everyday experience while also being attuned to deeper, political issues that come with global missionary work (situating the church within different cultures, the politics of scriptural translations, etc.) . . . McLeod undergoes something of a crisis of faith, though this trope has become so typical of Mormon and religious fiction that it is hard for McIlvain to tread new ground. And while McLeod’s viewpoint dominates, his character is sometimes confusing and finally exhausting. For all his religious doubts and intellectual hunger, McLeod never seems to think so critically about his native country, and his sophomoric patriotism feels odd and more like a plot necessity. He’s impulsive in the worst ways. By the end, I’m just tired of him. Passos, on the other hand, is a fascinating figure who exhibits a mature but conflicted perspective on his faith. His spiritual devotion is constantly beset by his secular ambitions, his hopes to leverage excellent missionary service into a BYU scholarship, and his wariness towards an American-based church that at times feels so foreign to his native Brazil. If McLeod serves as a pseudo-autobiographical figure for the author (McIlvain left the church in his mid-twenties), Passos is a revelation about what Mormonism might look like for an non-American perspective. It’s a fast-paced read as well; I finished it over a weekend.”
Marcia Mickelson. The Huaca (LDSWBR, Sheila). 4 stars. “The story flows along so well that you can’t quit reading. You want answers to the mystery right along with Ellie. I have to say I was surprised when those answers came. Even though this is written for teens, I can tell you that adults will also be pulled into the stories of Ellie and Gabe. This captivating tale with a flavor of Incan history will be sure to draw you in until the last page is read.”
Branson Sanderson. The Rithmitist (Deseret News).“Sanderson’s world is well drawn, with deep characters and a fully developed “magic” system. Complete with historical facts about the fictional world, the novel leaves the reader hungering for an as yet unpromised sequel. Additionally, it provokes the readers’ thoughts about questions of courage and loyalty in the face of adversity, and leaves the readers on the edge of their seats at the somewhat creepy climax.”The Rithmatist” represents the successful transition of an adult novelist to the young adult fiction genre. Sanderson’s creative plot and steam-punk-like world make for a novel enjoyable for adults as well as teenagers.”
Courtney Miller Santo. The Roots of the Olive Tree (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). “I’m a sucker for a good family saga. The key word here being good. I’ve read too many lately that go on and on with the family part, forgetting that “saga” means story. In other words, something needs to happen, there has to be a plot. The main problem with The Roots of the Olive Tree, a debut novel by Courtney Miller Santo, is that it has none. There’s nothing really driving the novel forward. The book has interesting (although interchangeable and not all that likable) characters, yes. Intriguing plot lines, also yes. Unifying plotline to bring it all together? Nope. Which means that, although Santo’s prose flows along nicely enough, her first novel’s, well, dull. I had enough interest in the Kellers to keep reading their story, but I was also happy for it to end so I could move on to something else. Although it had great potential, it just fell flat for me. And I so, so wanted to love it. Oh well.”
Gale Sears. Belonging to Heaven (Tristi Pinkston, AML). “I enjoyed learning about how the Church was introduced to Hawaii and the courage it took to establish a religion in a land that didn’t seem, at first, to want it. I appreciated seeing Elder Cannon’s moments of insecurity as well as moments of confidence—all missionaries must go through similar moments of doubt and fear, only to be buoyed up by the Spirit and given the fortitude to carry on. Gale Sears remains one of my favorite authors, and I feel this book is a beautiful addition to her already impressive body of work.”
A. L. Sowards. Sworn Enemy (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). 5 stars. “Peter and Genevieve are appealing characters and though we see growth in their characters and can’t help admiring their courage and determination, this isn’t a character study kind of novel. There is a romantic element to their relationship, but the romance is pretty low key. We know only enough about them to care about them and their mission. The emphasis in Sworn Enemy is on the action and there’s plenty of that. The reader is shown the incredible risks undercover and resistance fighters took during World War II and the importance they placed on freedom and loyalty to their countries. Sowards shows the conflicting loyalties of Eastern Europeans such as those in Romania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.”
Aleesa Sutton. Diary of a Mormon Single Female (Scott Hales, MMM).“Begun, in a manner of speaking, when Sutton was eleven, it follows her life from the manic idealism of adolescence to the frustrations of post-BYU Mormon single life. Much of the book is composed excerpts from the hermany journals intercut with snarky or reflective commentary from her older, wiser (but still single) self. Sutton’s main focus is on the many relationships and non-relationships that have helped define her identity as a “Single Mormon Female.” However, her focus is not solely on men and failed relationships. Along with accounts of awkward first dates and sloppy first kisses is a portrait of Sutton coming of age and discovering herself, her dreams, and her faith.Readers of Diary of a Single Mormon Female, of course, will find that it’s similar to other books that have been written about Mormon single life. Admittedly, I’m no expert in the genre, but aspects of Diary remind me of memoirs like Elna Baker’s TheNew York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance and Joanna Brooks’ Book of Mormon Girl as well as novels like Chris Bigelow’s Kindred Spirits and HelynneHollstein Hansen’s Voices at the Crossroads. Readers who appreciated these books, or fell madly in love with them, will likely enjoy Diary . . . Overall, Diary of a Single Mormon Female is an entertaining book with important lessons for all Latter-day Saints, including bishops, Relief Society presidents, and other leaders. As an window into modern-day Mormonism and Mormon identity, Diary also has much to offer readers who aren’t Mormon. In fact, I found Sutton’s experiences much more similar to my own as a Latter-day Saint than those described by Joanna Brooks in Book of Mormon Girl. Like my upbringing in the church, Sutton’s was centered on Seminary, Church dances, Sunday school, and Youth activities. Absent are the relics of Cold War Mormonism that seemed to define Brooks’ youth in her memoir: the apocalyptic food storage, the Cleon Skousen, the Cult of Osmond, the Mormon Nationalism and Culture Wars. Sutton gives non-Mormon readers a view of a milder Mormonism that better reflect, I think, the Church we know today . . . Should you read Diary of a Single Mormon Female? Yes. It is an honest book that has something to offer every reader—whether that reader is a single Mormon female or a modern Mormon man. Besides, if nothing else, it will inspire you to dust off your old journals and look back over the years that have shaped you. That’s one of the nice things about reading about someone else’s life: it gets you thinking about your own.”
Sariah Wilson. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back (Inksplasher). 5 stars. “I always like to get the down-side of a review over with first. So, book cover. Meh. Not really a good one. But don’t let that stop you from giving this book a try. It’s also self-published and I know that automatically puts some readers off. But really. This is good. It’s awesome fun. I promise you, it has NONE of the annoying stuff that a lot of self-pubbed stuff has in it . . . Ugly Stepsister has a fun plot. Some of the plot points have been done before but this story has a unique feel to it. There are some great twists. Lots of angsty teen emotion but tempered with humor . . . Sariah Wilson has hit her sweet-spot with the voice of Mattie. Clever, fun, young, trendy. I can’t wait to read more in this style from her. I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who loves fun contemporary YA romances.”
Ephriam’s Rescue. 23 theaters in Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.
Sean Means, Salt Lake Tribune: 2 stars. “In “Ephraim’s Rescue,” Utah filmmaker T.C. Christensen returns to territory he explored in last year’s survival tale “17 Miracles,” but the results this time are less dramatic and more like an illustrated Sunday school lesson . . . Christensen’s cinematography captures the gorgeous frontier landscapes (all filmed in Utah), but Hanks’ backstory — which details episodes of him finding his faith — and a parallel story of a young settler (James Gaisford) serve more homilies than dramatic tension.”
Cody Clark, Daily Herald: C+. “At the beginning of “Ephraim’s Rescue,” a grizzled frontiersman comes thundering up to a farmhouse on a madly galloping horse, restores health and vigor to a woman who’s been presumed dead for hours, and then rides back out the way he came in. Throw in the William Tell Overture and the self-contained prologue could almost be a lesser known incident in the life of the Lone Ranger. “Ephraim’s Rescue” has more reverent subject matter and a more subdued tone than what’s suggested by that comparison, but attributes a similarly heroic, near mythic stature to its rough-and-ready protagonist. As seen here, Mormon scout Ephraim Hanks, an early Utah settler who, in 1856, played a dramatic role in rescuing emigrants delayed in reaching Salt Lake City by early winter storms, is a little like a Mormon pioneer superhero . . . “Ephraim’s Rescue” has some of the same problems that “17 Miracles” did. There’s an over-reliance on sonorous music and slow-motion photography to punch up the drama of certain scenes. It’s almost comical in some spots, like when a mob of angry hooligans appears at the scene of a Mormon baptism in England. There’s surely no shortage of hooligans in England — ask any soccer fan — but there’s nothing to ground us even a little bit in the persecution of Mormon converts abroad. Baptism, rejoicing — blam. Cue slo-mo hooligans. The film’s sense of humor is also hit-and-miss. An attempt to weave in a running polygamy joke mostly falls flat, while a more organic chuckle neatly arises from Thomas comparing notes with pretty Esther about the romantic attachments they’ve each left behind. Esther, who’s been making a steady (and steadily amusing) play for Thomas’ affections, is apparently aiming to trade up. “He was quite plain, actually,” she says of her former sweetheart. “I just tried not too look at him too much.” Certain scenes come across as forced, with characters shoehorned into this or that predicament for the sake of faith-promoting drama . . . One thing that’s conveyed powerfully from start to finish is Ephraim Hanks’ uncanny ability to give miraculous healing blessings employing Mormon priesthood rites. Hanks apparently manifested this remarkable gift early in life and Christensen gradually shows him put it to use, carefully and respectfully building to scenes that contain nearly the entire ritual. Especially tender is Hanks’ humble insistence on washing his hands before every blessing. As the film’s frontier savior, Darin Southam is both suitably meek and appropriately rugged, if occasionally somewhat inscrutable. Christensen might have served his star better by giving Hanks a little more human frailty. When Hanks says at one point that his personal failings are too numerous to be counted, Southam makes it sound sincere. Aside from a humorous flash of temper at the expense of two ministers, on the other hand, we haven’t seen much to suggest that “Eph” was anything but courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent and so forth. A Boy Scout before his time. Even viewers familiar with the handcart tragedy may not know about Hanks’ role in responding to it. Despite its own shortcomings, “Ephraim’s Rescue” is a worthwhile tribute to a forgotten hero.”
Steve Sallas, Standard Examiner: 2.5 stars. “As far as LDS faith-promoting movies go, “Ephraim’s Rescue” has to be right up there. On the other hand, I think it might also make some of the brethren a little nervous. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while admitting to a restored priesthood, has never been all that keen on overtouting its healing skills. Its stalwart members might believe in healing the sick, and that may even happen on a daily basis, but the church doesn’t go in for the big tent revivals in which a parade of the afflicted are brought forth and commanded to walk again. It’s just not the LDS Church’s style. So when an aging Ephraim Hanks rides up to a farmhouse full of mourners, ushers the attending out the door and proceeds to bless a young woman back to life in the late 1800s, I think the faithful might be a little befuddled . . . Christensen is an accomplished filmmaker who has made the kind of movie he and his fellow Mormons would want to see — and he makes no apologies for it. If you saw and appreciated “17 Miracles,” you will likely be even more moved by “Ephraim’s Rescue,” a more emotional effort that chronicles one of the great, dramatic moments and lesser-known figures in LDS history.”
Trent Toone, Deseret News: “Southam gives a credible performance as Hanks. Audiences will come away from the film wanting to learn more about the life and experiences of the man. There is a sweet love story that develops between young Dobson and a girl named Esther Stock (Mia Ramsey), which audiences should find engaging. The movie’s soundtrack does a plausible job complementing the scenes and characters. Paul Cardall composed and produced the music for the movie. Most compelling of all is the overall story. It’s intended to be dramatic, but it’s also truly inspiring.”
Kevin Burtt, LDS Cinema Online. B-. “There’s something to be said about experience, and Christensen and company already knowing the ropes for portraying 19th century pioneer stories, including costumes, make-up, and snowy filming conditions, makes an alternate pioneer project like this attractive. However, like Ryan Little with his Saints & Soldiers sequel, returning to the same well as a previous film, covering approximately the same story and themes leads to diminishing returns. Ephraim’s Rescue is competent and has a good message, but comes across as more preachy and simplistic than 17 Miracles, along with the feeling of deja vu that we’ve already largely seen this movie already. Darin Southam (One Man’s Treasure) is solid in the lead role of Ephraim, although his more passive character lacks the intensity of personality that Jasen Wade’s Levi Savage brought to the earlier film . . . Christensen, though, doesn’t appear to have his directorial A-game here, utilizing a few too many slow-motion shots attempting to inject dramatic energy in scenes that aren’t inherently dramatic. The dialogue is basic, perhaps to ensure Primary-age children still get the message, and Christensen adds an unnecessary voice-over through much of the film that restates what’s already evident on screen. (Ephraim takes a fork in the road, stops, looks confused for a second, then turns around. Then the voice-over states, “I realized I had taken a wrong turn.” Thanks for that.) The characters in Ephraim’s Rescue never have anything compelling to say; however, Christensen properly allows their actions to speak louder than their words ever could. If you look past the banal platitudes in the dialogue and voice-over there are still some powerful lessons about service and compassion on screen. Ephraim’s Rescue is based largely on the memoir Scouting for the Mormons on the Great Frontier, compiled from oral re-tellings of Ephraim’s life stories collected by his posterity over many decades. Ephraim’s life experiences in the film are taken directly from the text, although how reliably we should take the text itself is another question entirely. The oral history format of the memoir lends itself to tall-sounding tales, exaggerated for effect over time before being recorded in a book, and many of the ‘unbelievable’ elements of Ephraim’s life have that Davy-Crockett-killed-a-bear-when-he-was-three feel . . . The film’s core audience, however — people who want to see larger-than-life pioneer stories — will respond to the meaningful moments in Ephraim’s Rescue without nitpicking historical accuracy. Ephraim Hanks, even with the obvious mythologizing, is a compelling historical figure, and provides a good example of dedication and service. Like most movie sequels (whether this film counts as one or not), Ephraim’s Rescue will appeal to fans of 17 Miracles while being weaker in virtually all areas. T.C.Christensen and company obviously find pioneer stories inspiring (and with good reason), but it may be time to set them aside and go onto something fresh and new next time.”
Jonathan Decker, Meridian Magazine. “In my review of 17 Miracles, I called it “arguably the best film yet from Mormon Cinema.” As terrific as that film is, T.C. Christensen’s follow-up, Ephraim’s Rescue, is even better. As finely-crafted, gorgeously-shot, well-acted, heartbreaking, and spiritually-uplifting as Miracles, this new film avoids the other’s at-times episodic nature by focusing on a smaller number of characters, thereby delivering a more focused story and more fully-formed character arcs . . . True to form for T.C, the film is gorgeous to look at and demands to be seen on a big screen if at all possible. Paul Cardall’s musical score is absolutely lovely, and the efforts of wardrobe and makeup artists are first-rate, delivering a realism that allows audiences to enter this time and place without distraction. Naturally the film’s not perfect; the humor and drama feel a bit forced during the first 20 or so minutes, but once the movie finds its groove it stays there, delivering powerful emotional wallops accompanied by welcome reprieves of humor. As a testament to real men and women who risked their lives for faith, charity, and freedom, and as an expression of belief in Jesus Christ, Ephraim’s Rescue is a powerful work that is to be shared and experienced over and over again.”
Utah Islander: 3 stars. “Finding humor in a pioneer movie is like finding water in a desert. Thankfully, “Ephraim’s Rescue” has a surprisingly healthy amount of the stuff. The latest from local filmmaker T.C. Christensen, “Rescue” tells the story of healer Ephraim Hanks with thoughtfulness, optimism and a wonderfully low-key sense of humor. There are moments of death and heartbreak – this is a pioneer movie, after all – but you’re likely to walk out of the theater feeling better about the world as a whole.”
Eugene Woodbury on Granite Flats, on BYUtv. “There is a wholesome story buried in Granite Flats, about inventive kids working together to solve a puzzle using science and brain power. But instead we’re shown (repeatedly) that small town America is full of drunks, jerks, bullies, and thieves, everybody lies, the FBI can steal stuff from you without a warrant, the military can’t be trusted (and certainly not when it comes to criminal due process), and the CIA wants to fry your brain. Not exactly “seeing the good in the world.” Even when it comes to “traditional family values,” Granite Flats turns into a weird outlier . . . Putting “traditional values” under stress and holding them up for ridicule is the quickest, easiest (and the laziest) way to generate conflict and drama. If BYU-TV can’t script eight hours of television without resorting to malevolent government conspiracies, broken families, and milquetoast religious figures, how do they expect anybody outside the reddest state in the country to do so? When they set out to make Granite Flats, BYU-TV clearly got caught up in the effect they’d imagined it’d have, how it was going to be Touched by an Angel redux, and didn’t bother to nail down the script. Busy counting their eggs before they hatched, they forgot to turn on the incubator. That rotten smell is the result.”
New York Times Bestseller List, June 2, June 9, June 16. Also the USA Today (one list that merges all the lists) and the Publishers Weekly lists.
#9, #19, #19 A STEP OF FAITH, by Richard Paul Evans (4th week). Fell off the Combined Print and Ebook List. PW: #15, #19 (4th week). 4070 and 3045 units sold, for a total of 32,626. Fell off the USA Today list after 2 weeks.
Mass Market Paperback
#5, #1, #5 ENDERS GAME, by Orson Scott Card (33rd week). Combined Print/Ebook: #13, #10, #15 (4th week). Ebook: #18, #13, #22 (4th week). USA Today: #21, #27. #124 (27th week).
x, x, #3 LEOPARD’S PREY, by Christine Feehan. Ebook: #19 (1st week). Combined: #12 (1st week). USA Today: #13, 1st week, then off. PW: #4 (1st week). 23,800 copies.
WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER, by Jessica Day George. Fell off after 1 week at #10.
#6, #15, x THE RITHMATIST, by Brandon Sanderson. Two weeks, then off. PW: #23 (1st week). 2361 units sold, for a total of 6728.
#10, x, x MATCHED TRILOGY, by Ally Condie (14th week).
x, #9, #9 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (47th week).