Many Best Book of 2013 lists have been released. Brandon Sanderson’s three 2013 novels appeared all over the young adult lists, including in the New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2013 and winning an Audible Audience Favorite for Audiobook of the Year. Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s In Me is a new YA historical mystery that has received outstanding reviews, including starred reviews from all of the major reviewing institutions, and making several year-end best of lists. Really, go down the page and look at those reviews, they are stunning. Laura Andersen’s alternative history of Tudor England is also receiving a strong reception. The film version of Ender’s Game is nearing the end of its domestic run, and although it is hard to sniff at $60 million in domestic receipts, it is seen as a disappointment. Yet the book continues to sell strongly. Mormon Artists is uploading a ton of interesting interviews. I also round up the reaction to last months’ New York Times article about fiction by Mormon authors. I will start working on my Mormon Literature Year in Review column this week. Please send me an email telling me your favorite books of the year, and what trends you see in the marketplace, to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
Best Books of 2013 lists
Brandon Sanderson, fresh of his Hugo victory, is raking up significant accolades for his three 2013 novels. Sanderson’s The Rithmatist was named one of the New York Times’ seven “Notable Children’s Books of 2013”. Steelheart was named the Audible Audience Favorite in the voting for Audiobook of the Year. The award citation read, “Steelheart, with a masterful performance by Macleod Andrews, won the overwhelming majority of your votes, and A Memory of Light, the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that Sanderson was chosen to complete, was not far behind. (The Rithmatist is yet another recent hit with rave reviews!) All of this is proof that Brandon Sanderson is a rising star whose books draw in listeners across all genres looking for heart-felt, action-packed, and well-told stories. Luckily, Steelheart is just the beginning and we have the full Reckoners series to look forward to.” The Rithmatist was first runner-up in the voting for Audible Best of Teens category.
Steelheart was also named one of the AV Club’s 5 Unsung Gems of the year. “Lots of young-adult novels are set in dystopian futures, but the genius of Steelheart is that its setting is crafted from the stuff of childhood dreams—superheroes. In another world, Brandon Sanderson’s 18-year-old protagonist might just be another comic-book nerd. But here he’s a freedom fighter using careful study of tyrannical superpowered beings to give humanity a chance. The veteran fantasy author’s world-building expertise is on full display here, making his horrifying vision of Chicago all the more chilling and exciting for readers of all ages to explore.” Steelheart was also among the 15 Barnes and Nobles Best New Books for Teens and among the 20 Amazon Best Teen & Young Adult Books of 2013. A Memory of Light was named one of Amazon’s 20 Best in Science Fiction & Fantasy. In the Goodreads reader poll of favorite Fantasy novels of 2013, A Memory of Light was #2. For Goodreads’ YA Fantasy and Science Fiction category, Steelheart was #6 and The Rithmatist was #19.
Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s In Me was named one of Kirkus Reviews 50 Best Teen Books of 2013, made the School Library Journal Best Books 2013 list (29 books total), New Zealand Listener 50 Best Children’s Books of 2013, and made The Horn Book Fanfare list of best 2013 books for young people.
The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne, was named one of NPR’s Great Reads of 2013. “The World’s Strongest Librarian isn’t just one of the most interesting books of the year because of the author’s incredible story — he started weightlifting as a way to manage his Tourette syndrome — but also because of his considerable charisma and charming prose. “I only knew that everything coming toward me had the potential to wreck me, to derail any plan I could make,” Hanagarne writes of his disorder. But he doesn’t let it, and his chronicle of his fight is as defiant and inspiring as the (strong) man himself.”
Wild Born, by Brandon Mull was named one of Barnes and Nobles 15 Best New Books of 2013 for Kids, and The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen was named among the 15 of Barnes and Nobles Best New Books for Teens.
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game Alive: The Full Cast Audioplay was named Best Science Fiction Audiobook by Audible. Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnson’s Earth Afire was named the #3 Favorite 2013 Science Fiction novel by Goodreads readers.
Larry Correia’s Warbound: Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles was a runner-up in the Audible Favorite Audiobooks competition.
Other finalists in the Goodreads Favorite Books poll were:
Historical Fiction #20. Jamie Ford. Songs of Willow Frost.
Romance #16. Julianne Donaldson. Blackmoore.
Memoir #3. Josh Hanagarne. The World’s Strongest Librarian.
Memoir #13. Elizabeth Smart. My Story.
YA #13. Kasie West. The Distance Between Us.
New Authors #18. Kasie West. Pivot Point.
Middle Grade & Children’s #6. Jennifer A. Nielsen. The Runaway King.
Middle Grade & Children’s #12. Brandon Mull. Chasing the Prophesy.
The 2013 WILLA Literary Award for Women Writing the West, Historical Fiction category, was won by Sandra Dallas for True Sisters. Tributary by Barbara K. Richardson was one of two other finalists in the same category. Both authors are non-Mormons writing critically about 19th century Mormon society.
Replies to Mark Oppenheimer in the New York Times
Last month’s “Week in Review” came out right after the Mark Oppenheimer piece “Mormons Offer Cautionary Lesson on Sunny Outlook vs. Literary Greatness” appeared in the New York Times. It has been a month now, so the story is pretty cold, but it did start some of the most sustained discussion of Mormon literature we have ever seen. Scott Hales gave his own thoughtful reply, as well as linking to many of the other blog posts at A Motely Vision. Other replies: “The Quest for Great Mormon Literature”, by George Handley (Patheos), Fisking the NYT: It isn’t just me. My whole religion can’t be *real* writers!,by Larry Correia, The Missing Mormon Literary Renaissance by Nathaniel Givens (Times and Seasons), Unrealistic Expectations of Mormon Miltons and Shakespeares, by Jettboy (The Millennial Star), Mormons, Genre Fiction, and (No) Full Frontal Snogging, by Leah Libresco (Patheos), Mormon Novelists Make the New York Times, by Tristi Pinkston (Meridian Magazine), Mormons Can’t Write Real Literature?, by Brad Torgersen, Mormon Fiction, by Amy Sorensen, The Sound of Every LDS Author’s Eyes Rolling In Unison by Susan, Quoted in the New York Times, by J. Lloyd Morgan, Literature, Genre, Horror…and Mormons—What?, by Michael R. Collings, and A Reader’s Manifesto, by Rosalyn (Seagullah).
Also note “Is It Something in the Water?” Why Mormons Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Katherine Morris & Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury (Mormon Artist) from December 2010 took on some of the issues that Oppenheimer broached.
The Oppenheimer piece quoted Brian Evenson, saying he had been excommunicated from the Church. In fact, he asked to have his name removed from the Church in 2002, he was not excommunicated. But Evenson often allows himself to be described as an “excommunicated Mormon”. It seems to me that resigning your membership is a different thing than being excommunicated. Deseret News, Aug. 12 2006: “Evenson asked to be excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he says, “not because of a profound disagreement with the doctrines of the church or because of moral differences” but because he felt he couldn’t be both a writer and a Mormon. If he remained a member, he says, he found himself “too consciously weighing the church’s opinion” of what he was writing. Being a member also limited “the way in which I processed emotion in my work,” he says.
Orson Scott Card updates
After five weeks, the Ender’s Game movie has grossed $60 million domestically and $82 million worldwide. It is about done domestically so it will have to do well internationally to recap its $110 million budget, and so far it is not doing that. Box Office Mojo commented after two weeks: “After topping the box office last weekend, Ender’s Game plummeted 62 percent to $10.3 million this weekend. Through 10 days, the sci-fi flick has earned $44 million, which is a bit behind notorious 2013 bomb After Earth.” The words “bomb” and “flop” are being tossed around, and it looks like any chance of a film sequel is gone.
Orson Scott Card announces new sequels to Ender’s Game, called Fleet School. This upcoming set of Ender’s Game sequels is designed for a YA audience. It follows other graduates of the battle school after the defeat of the Formics. It becomes Fleet School, to prepare children to be commanders and explorers in the colonies that will be formed. ‘Fleet School’ will fall after ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Ender in Exile’ within the context of the Enderverse.
How It Should Have Ended (Excerpt from “Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game”) by Eric James Stone. Los Angeles Review of Books. “The climax of Ender’s Game is so powerful not just because of the large-scale stakes of the war arc — the survival of humanity itself and the extinction of an alien race. It is powerful because at the same moment, there is a crucial turning point for Ender’s personal stakes — the desire to save Valentine and the fear of becoming like Peter. What could have been simply another military triumph by the forces of humanity over the aliens, a story told many times before and since, becomes much more complex when juxtaposed with Ender’s internal conflict.”
“The Redemption of Orson Scott Card”, Theric. “If we respect the book so much that we can’t pretend Ender doesn’t matter, then we have to try to be like Ender. Because here’s the thing: you can never make someone else as empathetic as Ender (kitten killer!). Empathy is not a thing you can force on people. Nor is it something I’m comfortable judging the health of in other people. However: Empathy is something we can strive to develop in ourselves. We can’t make Orson Scott Card Ender Wiggin. But we can make ourselves Ender Wiggin.”
Understanding the Missing Empathy of Ender’s Author. Nathaniel Givens.
Other news and blogs
Mormon Artist has gone wild this month putting up interviews with Mormon artists. And these are deep, well-informed interviews, they should not be missed. Recent interviewees include: Annette Lyon, Whitney Call, T.C. Christensen, Jason Gray, Mallory Everton, Michael Ballam, Kathryn Lee Moss, Melissa Leilani Larson, Brittany Scott, Luisa Perkins, Josh Clare, Steven L. Peck, Sarah M. Eden, Mark Hedengren, Eric James Stone, Bryan Mark Taylor, and Michael Mercer.
15 Bytes features poetry selections by Lance Larsen.
Tyler Chadwick has been leading Mormon Poetry Slam, with fourteen poems read by six submitters. Laura Craner Reads “Introduction to the Mysteries” by Patricia Karamesines, Eric W Jepson Reads “The Girl with No Hands” by Laura Stott, and more.
Why Mormon writers are the luckiest. Stephen Carter, Flunking Sainthood. “Every writer’s dream is to find an inexhaustible source of storytelling material: an unexplored mine of myth and metaphor that you can dig in to forever, unearthing fascinating nuggets to refine and mold. The problem is finding that source. The first place you might think to look is to the old standards: the Bible, Grimm’s fairy tales, Norse mythology. It’s all good stuff, but, let’s face it, it’s also been done to death. Is there no new narrative trove for the contemporary writer to plunder? Listen up, folks. I’m about to give away a trade secret. You need to try the Book of Mormon . . . If you’re interested in seeing the kinds of stories that can be harvested from the Book of Mormon, check out my Kickstarter, where I helped create a kick-butt 128-page comic book out of a mere two chapters in Mosiah.”
How to Stop Writing Like a Mormon Using this One Weird Trick. Steven Carter, Wheat and Tares. “This experience of delving into individual stories in the Book of Mormon has made me very aware of how much human tragedy, suffering, and destruction there is to mine in our founding narrative. And it makes me wonder, is taking the Book of Mormon narrative more seriously the way we will finally get our Miltons and Shakespeares?”
The restraining order against Richard Dutcher was dismissed on November 12. And now he is back together with the former girlfriend who filed the restraining order.
Michael Mercer’s Book of Mormon comic project From the Dust is also is doing a kickstarter.
LDStorymakers 2014 Conference Class Guide is now available.
Magazines and short stories
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Vol. 46:3, Fall 2013 contains the short story “Dark Watch” by William Morris, poetry by Clifton Holt Jolley, Shawn P. Bailey, Simon Peter Eggersten, and M. Shayne Bell, and a personal essay by Phillip L. Barlow. This is the first work by Bell that I have seen since 2003. Morris talks about his story here.
The Provo Canyon Review is a literary journal on its third issue. It is published and edited by Chris McClelland and Erin Maggard McClelland, based in Utah. Although at least Erin is Mormon, the journal does not show any proclivity to publish “Mormon fiction.” The first story that I can tell is written by a Mormon author is Larry Menlove’s. “A Regular River Flowing”.
Ryan Shoemaker. “Parley Young: One Mormon Life” Gulf Stream Magazine #10. Short story. Very short vignettes from the life of a strait-laced Peter Priesthood type, full of stereotypes, but pretty funny in the end. (Also “Brigham Kimball: Mormon Missionary Extraordinaire,” Monkeybicycle, July 2013. A shorter version of the Parley Young story.)
Other recent Ryan Shoemaker stories: “Lockdown,” Punchnel’s, April 2013, also in Blue Lake Review, August 2013.
“The New Masculinity“. Short story, in Kuglemass #4, Late 2013. “And just as we’re piling into the minivan, that shadowed figure steps from the gray pick-up truck across the street. It’s Nolan!: 6’5″, steel-toed boots, muddy jeans, fluorescent orange construction vest, hardhat, three-day stubble. He wields an axe. “You stay the hell away from my wife,” he shouts, stabbing the axe handle in my direction. “You hear me, Donaldson?””
David Farland. “Saint Orick”. Short story, in the anthology Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. Bryan Thomas Schmidt, editor. Every Day Publishing, Dec. 3. Farland returns to his Golden Queen novel universe with the tale of Orick, a bear who always wanted to be a Saint, and how he stumbles his way into becoming “Saint Orick””.
Lee Allred. “A Thing Immortal as Itself”. Short story, in the urban fantasy anthology Fiction River: Hex in the City. WMG Publishing, Dec. 3.
AML’s literary magazine Irreantum is on indefinite hiatus. Wm Morris gets into the weeds of how we can best restart Irreantum or create a replacement, in a series of posts at AMV. Scope/positioning, Staffing/Production, Generating Submissions, Financial Models, Starting Up, Readership.
Hat tip to Theric for point out MormonX: Confessions of a Latter-Day Mutant, a . . . blog? Novel? Social commentary? Since early November the anonymous author has been presenting us with a character who introduces himself in this way. “I’m a mutant. Yes, you read that right. I’m a mutant, and I’m also a Mormon. Now, I know that’s not the terminology I’m supposed to use. Believe me, I know. I’ve been seeing counselors at LDS Family Services for the past seven years (apart from the two I was on a mission) in order to overcome my “unnatural power proclivity” or “UPP.” But I hate those terms. That’s not who I am. I am a mutant. For whatever reason, I have powers that humans are not meant to have. I didn’t do anything to get these powers; I just have them. Does that mean I’m going to run out and join the X-Men? No, of course not. To do so would be to betray the other part of me, the first part. First, I am a Mormon. Like Nephi, I was born of goodly parents, and I know that any power that does not come from God, that is not priesthood power, comes from the Adversary. It’s hard sometimes, knowing I have this power at my fingertips and choosing not to use it, but I know that as I continue to put my faith in God, he will give me the strength I need to resist temptation. With God, all things are possible.” And the author keeps up, telling a story of his gradual coming out to his family and friends, and his changing view of his powers (flying), and how he fits into his Mormon community that looks at his kind with wary concern. Check it out.
New Books and their reviews
Laura Andersen. The Boleyn Deceit. Ballantine Books, Nov. 5. Alternative history. Sequel to The Boleyn King, where Anne Bolyen gives birth to a son, and is never executed.
PW: “This entertaining work of alternative history offers plenty to savor for both fans of historical romance and those whose passion is political intrigue . . . Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Allison Weir, Andersen’s novel admirably takes artistic license with history while remaining true to many aspects of real-world history. The romance plot builds gradually, while the political one comes to a more rapid (and, for those who have not read the first volume, perhaps confusing) head—but both seem to foreshadow a mesmerizing conclusion to the trilogy.”
Booklist (starred): “Picking up immediately after where trilogy opener The Boleyn King (2013) left off, this speculative foray into Tudor England resumes Andersen’s plausible reimagining of an England ruled by young King Henry IX . . . Detailed and quick-paced, [The Boleyn Deceit] will have series fans devouring it and emerging eager for the last book. An excellent recommendation for Phillippa Gregory fans.”
Kirkus: “Elaborately threaded with historical details—including astrological charts by John Dee, intrigues orchestrated within his own court, and political maneuvers betwixt England, France and Spain—the second in Andersen’s Boleyn family saga will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Yet, the romances suffer from implausible dialogue and flat characterization . . . Although the romance rings hollow, this is an intriguing re-imagining of Tudor England and the treacheries of court life.”
Michelle D. Argyle. Out of Tune. MDA Books, Dec. 3. Young Adult/New Adult. “20-year-old Maggie is the daughter of two country music legends, and all she wants to do is take to the stage like her parents. There’s only one problem: She’s dismally “tone deaf.” But she’s determined to try, and with the help of her ex-but-maybe-not and a dreamy music therapist, Maggie may just yet be able to reach the stars.”
Jacob Bender. Her Eyes Were In the Stars. Self, Nov. 4. Science fiction romance. “Have you ever taken entirely far longer than you would’ve strictly preferred to get over a lover? Jon Wilson takes centuries, as a malfunctioning hyperdrive hurtles him across space and time! The memory of Tasha, his ex, will both help and haunt him through multiple invasions, holy wars, and apocalypses; his heart-ache will be his one constant while a soldier, slave, monk, smuggler, and knight. He’ll forget her among the force-field legions of an interstellar heroic age, then seek her among the horse-bound knights of a new medieval era.”
Julie Berry. All the Truth That’s In Me. Viking Juvinile, Sept. 26. YA historical mystery.
New York Times, Jennifer Hubert Swan. “We tell young women today to speak up for themselves in matters personal and political, but if we look to examples in classical and contemporary literature, the results of truth-telling can be dire . . . Brutal examples all, but which is worse: not to be able to speak, or to speak the truth and not be believed? This is the question Julie Berry raises in her disturbing and provocative first novel for teenagers. Judith, the dutiful daughter of what seems to be a Puritan family (Berry sets her tale in a frustratingly vague colonial setting), is 14 when she is abducted from her village. Imprisoned by her captor for two years, she returns home with her tongue cut out. Now 18, she is shunned by both family and neighbors, who insist on believing her attacker took “her maidenhood” and view her as a “fallen” woman. “I am shocking. What was done to me was shocking. I am outside the boundaries forever, no longer decent.” . . . When her quiet village is attacked by an army of “homelanders” intent on taking the fertile farmland for themselves, Judith is desperate to save Lucas and the men who follow him into a losing battle. She flees to the one place she never wanted to see again: her kidnapper’s hidden forest lair. Through gestures and grunts, she persuades the madman to use his arsenal of gunpowder to blow up the attackers’ ships. In return, she reluctantly offers to become his wife. But when the plan works and the smoke clears, her kidnapper’s corpse lies among those of their adversaries. The mysterious explosives expert is identified as Colonel Whiting, Lucas’s father and a former war hero who was believed to be already dead. Naturally, the villagers want to know “where in Jesus’ name” he has been, and if the dumbfounded Lucas had any knowledge of his father’s deception. But Judith is unable to tell anyone that Whiting was the monster who took her tongue and that Lucas knew nothing. All these sensational events unfold in just the first quarter of the novel, and you might wonder how Berry will maintain suspense after uncovering one of the major plot points of her story so quickly. But many secrets are yet to be divulged, and Berry discloses them in fleeting flashbacks that add another layer of tension to Judith’s current situation. Judith and Lucas’s tender romance, conveyed mostly through glances, gestures and one very chaste night spent together, is challenged at every turn by circumstances and the young lovers’ own conflicting understanding of the truth and lies that surround them. Readers will be kept enjoyably unsettled until all is finally resolved in the very last pages. Even though society would have us think we’ve left those tragic characters of female mythology behind, Judith’s story reminds us of the need to listen for the often voiceless fears girls may be concealing behind their bravado. With the help of unlikely allies, Judith is finally able to recover her voice, face her accusers and speak “all the truth that’s in me.” She seizes the right that today’s young women often take for granted: to be heard and believed. Julie Berry effectively combines elements of traditional genre literature to create a distinctive novel that includes a powerful message about the value of women’s voices and what is lost when they are silenced.”
Kirkus (starred review). “Eighteen-year-old Judith Finch gradually reveals the horror of her two-year disappearance in a stunning historical murder mystery and romance . . . Set in what seems to be early-18th-century North America, the story is told through the voice inside Judith’s head—simple and poetic, full of hurt and yearning, and almost always directed toward Lucas in a haunting, mute second person. Every now and then, a novel comes along with such an original voice that readers slow down to savor the poetic prose. This is such a story. A tale of uncommon elegance, power and originality.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review). “This melancholy tale of a village outcast unfolds through the thoughts of Judith, who was kidnapped, held prisoner, and maimed by her captor . . . Written as Judith’s internal monologue directed toward Lucas, the boy she loves, Berry’s novel is suspenseful and haunting. Her poetic narrative (“There’s nothing so bright as the stream by day, nothing so black on a moonless night”) will draw readers in, and the gradual unveiling of secrets will keep them absorbed.”
School Library Journal. “The village setting of this novel evokes the rigid religious communities of Colonial times, but Berry cleverly sets her story in an unnamed time and place so the protagonist’s anguish and the town’s mystery are the focus . . . Told from Judith’s narrow, troubled perspective, the story unwinds in taut chapters that peel back what happened two years before and gradually allows Judith to find her voice again. The austerity of the village and its harshly judgmental inhabitants help sustain a mood of dread. Judith does find tenderness in surprising places, and these secondary characters relieve not just her isolation but also offer readers moments of fun and promise as well. Lyrical language, a good mystery, and a compelling heroine-this is a page-turner with substance.”
The Horn Book (starred review). “Berry’s novel is set in fictional Roswell Station, a village that in its appearance and claustrophobic atmosphere seems to resemble an early American colonial settlement. Bit by bit, readers gradually learn “all the truth” from eighteen-year-old narrator Judith, whose present-tense description of unfolding events, along with memories of the past, tells a harrowing tale . . . Berry keeps her readers on edge, tantalizing us with pieces of the puzzle right up until the gripping conclusion. Those who care for such things will appreciate the book’s names: Roswell connotes a place of conspiracy and controversy, cover-ups and hysteria; Judith’s last name, Finch, is fitting (she loves to sing, then loses and recovers her voice); and Lucas, of course, is the light of her life. Readers racing through the story’s murder mystery and thrilling romance may miss much of Berry’s lovely, poetic writing; luckily, many will finish only to turn right back to the beginning, this time to savor a more leisurely paced, equally satisfying read.”
Booklist: Like all things in this cunningly stylized novel, the setting is left undefined; a rough guess is mid-1800s America. The characters and plot, too, are mysteries in need of unfolding, and Berry’s greatest accomplishment is jumbling the time line with confidence, thereby sprinkling every page with minor (or major) revelations. These trappings gild a not-that-unusual melodrama: 18-year-old Judith pines for Lucas, who has chosen another girl. Perhaps this is because Judith is mute, her tongue having been cut off by a madman—who just happened to be Lucas’ father. A few frustrating misunderstandings aside, the story gracefully incorporates everything from the right to education to the horrors of war to the freedom that comes along with acquiring language. What will stick in most readers’ minds, though, is the first-person prose, which ranges from the unusually insightful (“We were four people: the children we’d been, and grown strangers now”) to the just plain pretty (“Will her china face turn bronze beside you as you labor in your fields?”). A strange but satisfying—and relatively singular—mix.
Jessica George. 5 stars. “Okay, wow. I mean . . . wow. Just . . . just read it, okay? I’m not going to tell you anything. I don’t want to ruin anything. I just want you to read this book. Do you like historical fiction? Read this book. Do you like mysteries? Read this book. Do you like romance? Read this book. Do you like The Witch of Blackbird Pond? Read this book. Do you like reading books that are really, really, really good and will keep you up all night reading because you have to know how it ends because you care about the characters so much?”
Common Sense Media. 3 stars. “There’s a lot of rough stuff here, but readers looking for a romance will find plenty to swoon over in the tender gestures between Judy and Lucas. For example, one night she finds him freezing outside his home and secretly curls up with him under the blankets, even though “[e]very moment I tell myself I don’t dare stay any longer.” The ending comes across a bit too neat given all the buildup, but it’s a satisfying finish for the long-suffering couple.”
Sian Ann Bessey. You Came For Me. Covenant, Nov. 1. Romantic suspense. London setting, a female RM kindles a romance with an old friend who has become a celebrity. Bombs and mobsters are also involved.
Whitney Boyd. In the Stars. WiDo, Oct. 31. Chic lit/romance.
D. J. Butler. The Crecheling. Self, Nov. 1. YA science fiction. The Buza System #1.
Shannen Crane Camp. Chasing June. Sugar Coated Press, Dec. 14. YA romance. Sequel to Finding June.
LDSWBR (Mindy): 4 stars. “June is an absolute doll. She is an easy character to love and cheer for. June is quirky and fun . . . Another great book from Shannen. I can always count on her books to be funny, clean, and well-written. Shannen’s writing is fun and solid, and I can see the darling gal she is in the stories she writes. I really liked the relationship between Ryan and June. It really conflicts me, because I love Joseph, but Ryan is likable and a great guy, too. But, he’s not LDS and June has told him he wants to marry in the temple. Joseph does go on his mission, and June’s career takes off as does Ryan’s. The ending definitely sets up another book, which I can’t wait to read!”
Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game Alive. Brilliance Audio, Oct. 29. Audio dramatization of the novel, with actors but no narrator. Seven hours long.
Melissa J. Cunningham. Reluctant Guardian. Clean Teen Publishing, Nov. 29. YA paranormal romance. A 16-year old girl commits suicide, then her spirit must act as a guardian angel to redeem herself. After training, she is assigned a troubled boy who has powers that complicates things, resulting in romance.
Michaelbrent Collings. The Colony: Descent (Volume 3). Self, Nov. 11. Horror. Zombies.
Annette Haws. The Accidental Marriage. Cedar Fort, Dec. 10. General/women’s. “This novel captures the heartbreak of young love caught in the turbulent social crosscurrents of the 70′s, at a time when brave women struggled to find dignity and equality in the workplace, as well as peace at home.”
Jennie Hansen: “The main characters are a mixed bag of strong, positive qualities and annoying negative ones. They’re well developed, complicated, and both their growth and their backsliding make them realistic and give a character driven element to the story. The secondary characters are only developed enough to highlight their impact on the main characters. Though this is a story of one couple’s courtship and marriage, I wouldn’t call it a Romance. Because the elements of establishing a union separate from that of their parents, responsibilities within marriage, women’s rights, and communication play a stronger role than falling in love, I’d classify this book as general fiction or even women’s fiction. The story ends on a hopeful note, but little evidence is given that the characters will actually carry through with their good intentions. The story doesn’t move as much toward an end as it does toward exposure of inequities, an examination of the role upbringing brings to marriage and adult choices, and the unwitting damage brought about by selfish self-interest and pride. I’d recommend this book to those contemplating marriage, newlyweds, and the parents of young adults. It carries a strong message and is entertaining for almost everyone.”
Deseret News: “When they both return to the states, they reconnect and find out that even though they had different upbringings and disagree on some major issues like the role of a woman in the home, they are so passionately in love with each other that they decide those things don’t matter. But they do . . . As if there weren’t enough troubles inside the home, Elliot is a busy student and working full-time, and Nina accepts a new job teaching English in a middle school where women still aren’t accepted in the workplace and she suffers through sexual harassment every day in a time before it had a name or a consequence. Haws combines realistic anecdotes about the ups and downs of marriage and the changing political landscape during the civil rights movement in the 1970s to form a journal-like story of passion, love and compromises.”
Jenni James. Twelve Dancing Princesses. Stonehouse Ink, Nov. 19. YA fantasy. Faerie Tale Collection #9.
Jenni James and BC Sterrett. Andy & Annie: A Ghost Story. Trifecta Books, Dec. 10. Middle grade paranormal. A ten-year-old boy moves into a new house, meets a gril ghost. “The Andy & Annie series by author Jenni James and illustrator BC Sterrett is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Junie B. Jones with a paranormal twist.” This is the first book from Tristi Pinkston’s new Trifecta Books publishing venture.
Riley Janes and Mia Josephs. Unexpectedly Yours. Next Door Books, Nov. 9. Adult romance. Mia Josephs is a pen name for Jolene Perry, maybe Riley Janes is too.
Carla Kelley. In Love and War: A Collection of Love Stories. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, Nov. 12. Historical romance stories. “Carla Kelly shares a treasured collection of wonderfully written stories of dashing war heroes and the sassy heroines who can’t help falling for them. From daring sea captains to genteel lords, there’s a little something for every heart’s fancy.” Previously released in 2012 as an ebook only.
Kristen McKendry. Desperate Measures. Covenant, Nov. 1. Cozy mystery. Mormon mother of eight solves the mystery of a missing friend with the help of her family.
Misty Moncur. In All Places. Eden Books, Dec. 8. YA Historical. Stripling Warrior #3. Book of Mormon series.
Jennifer A. Nielsen. Behind Enemy Lines. Scholastic, Nov. 26. Middle grade fantasy. Infinity Ring #6 (a multi-author time travel series). “World War II is raging across Europe, Dak, Sera and Riq can tip the scales in the Allies’ fabor…if they can pull off the most daring spy mission of all time.”
Deseret News, Marilou Sorensen: “Nielsen has woven a fast-paced thriller in “Behind Enemy Lines” with actual historical events such as locations and times of World War II bombings, rationing, Nazi war criminals and the Allies’ bogus plans to attack Greece to confuse the enemy. Tense moments combine into a series of “clinchers” that will assure fast page-turning.”
Erik Olsen. Quest and Honor. Sweetwater/Cedar Fort, Nov. 12. Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy. Flin’s Destiny #4.
James Owen. The First Dragon. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Nov. 12. YA Fantasy. Chronicles of Imaginarium Geographica #7. Conclusion of the series.
Tara Taylor Quinn. The Moment of Truth. Harlequin, Nov. 5. Romance. Shelter Valley series. Students, unplanned pregnancy, and dog adoption.
Anne Perry. A Christmas Hope. Ballantine Books, Nov. 12. Historical mystery. Set in Victorian London. Perry’s 11th holiday novel.
Pamela Carrington Reid. Small Grain of Sand. Covenant, Nov. 1. Contemporary romance. Set in New Zealand and Tahiti, romance between an ex-Mormon and a Mormon.
Branson Sanderson. Mitosis. Novelette ebook. Goes between Book 1 (Steelheart) and Book 2 of The Reckoners series. YA. Also “Lift”, an excerpt from his upcoming Words of Radiance, the sequel to The Way of Kings.
Brandon Sanderson. “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Novella. In Dangerous Women, George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozios, eds. Tor, Dec. 3. “Set in the Cosmere [the universe in which nearly all of Sanderson’s adult fiction exists] but not on any planet you’ve seen before.”
Diane Stevenson Stone. Mary of the Mayflower. Self, Nov. 12. Middle grade historical. A thirteen-year-old girl in Holland joins the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.
RaeAnne Thayne. A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise. Harlequin, Nov. 19. Romance. Cold Creek #8.
G.G. Vandagriff. The Baron and the Bluestocking. O W Press, Nov. 18. Regency romance.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf. Dead Girls Don’t Lie. Walker Childrens, Sept. 17. YA mystery. A girl’s estranged friend is found dead. She investigates, and finds a shocking truth. “A dark, romantic story of murder and secrets.” Second novel.
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: “The players in Rachel’s murder are all fairly obvious from the beginning, but the ways in which they are involved and the motivations behind their actions remain ambiguous until the final reveal, making readers question along with Jaycee who they know and what the truth really is. Shaw wisely stays away from any climax that brings resolution to the obviously thick and long-held racial tensions that foreground this particular crisis; there is little redemption for the two communities, just the tentative connection between two former friends of a dead girl. Jaycee is a bit clueless at times, particularly when it comes to Skyler, but it’s an authentic adolescent naïveté that insists that the people she has known from childhood must be good people, if only for that reason. Mystery fans will find this a satisfying way to spend an evening.”
Kirkus Reviews: “While the story covers such mature issues as murder, mental illness and racism, it refrains from edgy language and sex (only a few steamy kisses take place). Although the action waxes and wanes, the story’s greatest strength is in keeping readers guessing the killer’s real identity until the final scenes.”
Bloggin’ ‘bout Books: C. “I really, really, really wanted to love [the book] . . . but I just didn’t. Since I grew up in a small town in rural Washington State, I did like the book’s familiar setting as well as the conflict between Mexican migrant workers and small-minded local yokels (not that I like that kind of conflict, I just like that it’s fresh, something I haven’t encountered before in YA lit). It’s a current kind of problem, one I observed firsthand while growing up; it’s a hot topic even now, especially in states like Arizona (my current location), which border Mexico. The whole gang plot, though, seemed a little too melodramatic for rural Washington. It didn’t ring very true to me. I also had a problem connecting to the characters in Dead Girls Don’t Lie. None of them struck me as particularly likable. They didn’t seem to like each other much either, as I felt little warmth between any of them. Add that to a far-fetched plotline with some big holes, and yeah, this one just didn’t do a lot for me. Wolf’s got lots of potential, though, so I’ll keep an eye on her.”
Dear Author. C+. “While I thought the narrative did a clear job denouncing this sort of prejudiced thinking, once again I felt uncomfortable reading from the POV of a white girl tackling these issues. Jaycee very much read like a white girl unpacking her privilege (and doing a pretty good job of it, to be fair) and while that’s nice and everything, it’s not something I care to read about in fiction. I see enough of that every day on the internet. Toss in the facts that she’s a white girl solving the murder of her Latina best friend while enlisting the help of a Latino former gang member? Shades of white savior narratives and characters of color used as props and background “flavor.” That said, I thought the portrayal of a town with deeply-seated prejudices and close-mindedness was spot on . . . Speaking of Jaycee, it was interesting to read a character that came from a background that was both religious and conservative. I don’t mean this from a faith angle; I mean it from a cultural one. Jaycee doesn’t wear the trendiest clothes or sport the latest smartphone (or any smartphone, for that matter). This isn’t presented in the usual over the top “woe is me” sort of way you find in YA novels. It just is. Same with how the church plays a role in Jaycee’s life. It’s a social center where people congregate. It’s how couples often meet. I think this aspect of church life is often overlooked, and it was nice to see that portrayed here even if it was also accompanied by racist gossip. (But sometimes that’s accurate too.) I personally found the mystery to be straight-forward and the culprit to be obvious. True, there were red herrings scattered throughout the novel but I thought them to be blatant rather than subtle. Other readers may feel differently . . . While I thought Dead Girls Don’t Lie was a straight-forward mystery, I found its portrayal of an insular, close-minded town to be well-done. But though I liked the way Jaycee maneuvered the various traps and pitfalls laid before her, I was never able to shake off my discomfort about the race portrayals.”
Alma J. Yates. Christmas Crossroads. Covenant, Oct. 1. General. “JP Morrison relished living life in the fast lane two years ago, he walked away from his family and his faith and didn’t look back. But in recent months, his glittering lifestyle has begun to tarnish, and something about the holidays leaves him feeling empty. Desperate to capture a bit of holiday cheer, JPs plan to spend the holidays with a friend is disrupted when a massive snowstorm leaves him trapped at a gas station not far from his family’s home. Among his fellow stranded travelers is Genie, a beautiful young woman whose character reminds JP of the man he once was and can become again. As the pair work together to create Christmas miracles for the other gas-station refugees, JP finds himself yearning for home. Is it too late for reconciliation, or will JP witness his own holiday miracle?”
Reviews of Older Books
M. Shayne Bell. “Lock Down”. Paul Kincaide, The New York Review of Science Fiction, February 1999. “There are no bad stories [in this collection], but one or two appear rather dull when set beside the dazzle of their companions. ‘Lock Down’ by M. Shayne Bell tells what has already become an old story of time police protecting evil (or, in this instance, indifference) in order to preserve the true time line. Here the focus is a black opera singer in Utah in 1948 when a minor change in circumstances might have brought about a seismic upheaval in American race relations. It is nicely done, a neat study of how much depends on minutiae, but there are major moral questions here and Bell doesn’t even ask the basic one: what’s so great about the true time line if it means defending evil?”
Stephanie Black. The Witnesses. Karlene Browning. “I loved the characterizations in this story. They all rang true for me. I especially liked Alisa Kent, former hard-case enforcer, now shattered by guilt and the mind-bending drugs given to her by the government she helped protect. Her journey to healing was inspiring . . . The pacing was fast. Really fast. Most of the time I like a breather every once in awhile, but this worked. I felt like I was right there on the run with Ian, Alisa and Jill. The political intrigue felt right to me. Not that I know anything about political intrigue, but it made sense. I felt everyone, good and bad guys, had believable motives and acted accordingly. Stephanie Black has done it again and The Witnesses gets 4 ½ stars from me. Fool Me Twice is still my favorite Stephanie Black novel, but only by a hair.”
Stephanie Black. The Witnesses (Deseret News). ““The Witnesses” is a great sequel, well worth its eight-year wait. Author Stephanie Black’s easy writing style and superb plot construction make this book one that even the most seasoned reader will find surprising and enjoyable. While the New America introduced in “The Believer” is a country most would cringe at living in, it matures to a nation full of hope and promise by the end of “The Witnesses.””
Melissa Dalton-Bradford. Global Mom (Catherine Keddington Arveseth, Meridian Magazine). “Plainly said, Global Mom was my favorite book of 2013. It is a stunning memoir of life abroad, as well as an exquisite treatise on life itself; a redefining of the word home and how well we love those that live there . . . Most compelling, however, is her firmness of mind. It ignites the story – runs like a charge below its pages. Who she is, and her ability to harness heaven’s light, even in the blackest of moments, is extremely inspiring. Her strength and grace are remarkable. Particularly when you realize hers is a family of beautiful survivors who have journeyed into unthinkable heartache . . . Gobal Mom skips along like this with colorful anecdotes and generous exposure to world culture. You find yourself running past Versailles, being jostled in a Norwegian Christmas parade, or shopping the boulevard in Singapore next to parasoled ladies in platform shoes. It’s enchanting.”
Ally Condie. Matched, Crossed, and Reached (William Morris, BYU Studies). “What sets Condie’s trilogy apart are its lyrical prose and the complex way it dramatizes the key YA themes of courtship, rebellion, and control, and, above all, the way it explores agency . . . In particular, attunement to art is a key element in the trilogy. Cassia inherits from her grandfather a noncorrelated poem: “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. At first, simply the thrill of a forbidden work of art infects her life, but the poem takes on more and more meaning as the story progresses, and Cassia learns how to use the power of poetry and expression to change herself and the world around her. The importance of poetry is reinforced by Condie’s writing style. At one point some of the characters are navigating through a red rock slot canyon. One of the characters describes the sensation: “It’s as though suddenly you are down close looking at the workings of your own body, watching your own blood run and listening to the sound of your heart beating it through” (Crossed, 119). The same could be said of the prose that, although simple in its sentence structure, flows more gracefully and beats more steadily than YA fiction often does and deploys more and richer imagery. The lyrical prose is sometimes in tension with the demands of descriptive world building that science fiction and fantasy readers have come to expect—Condie’s attempt at technical detail ends up too abstract. However, the poetics is generally strong enough that the metaphor (and all science fiction and fantasy is ultimately metaphor) holds . . . the delights of Condie’s trilogy are, perhaps, even greater for the LDS reader in terms of theme and setting—which feel familiar throughout but also build to the conclusion of the third book, in which there is a moment that resonates not only back through the story but also deep into Mormon cultural memory.”
LT Downing. Island of the Stone Boy (Rosalyn). 3 stars. “Ghost stories aren’t always my favorite genre, but I was intrigued by the premise of this one . . . the primary story resolves around the haunting. I thought Downing did a nice job with those bits–there were definitely some spooky scenes in the story. I thought Bret’s voice as pretty average for middle-grade; clean, but not necessarily distinctive. And not all of the subplots worked for me–I figured out the one involving the owner’s niece pretty early on. Still, I think this would be an enjoyable read, particularly for young readers who enjoy being creeped out.”
Sarah Dunster. Lightning Tree (FoxyJ). “This book started a bit slowly for me–it takes a while for the action to get started and I was a bit confused because I had misremembered some earlier reviews and had a wrong idea about what the main conflict in the story was supposed to be. Also, although I often complain about historical novels that spend too much telling readers all about the historical context, this one was confusing in the beginning because I don’t know much about the history of early Provo and I had no idea what year it was or why Brigham Young had been there and why he was moving back to Salt Lake. Just a bit more explanation of the historical setting would have been helpful in setting the story into context in my brain. That being said, I generally liked the book. I haven’t heard it described much as a YA novel and I’m not sure if it was intended to be one, but the protagonist’s age is only 15 (or 16?) and the struggles she has with identity, as well as her attitude and behavior really fit into YA conventions. This is a coming-of-age story where the protagonist has to confront issues about her past and her family and change her perception of herself. I really liked all the characters–they were complex and nuanced, and very believable. I think the book could have used a bit more editing, both for typos and to tighten up the story a bit, but generally this a quality piece of fiction.
Sarah Dunster. Mile 21 (Shelah Books It). 4 stars. “While Dunster does an excellent job showing the depth and complexity of Abish’s character, revealing details that explain her crustiness and her pain without exactly justifying them, the novel is about more than just Abish. She writes about Rexburg, Idaho and the surrounding countryside with such authority, affection, and clear-headedness that they almost become another character in the novel. I loved the descriptions of the streets and the farms that Abish passes as she runs, and Dunster forces readers to look at some of the inherent contradictions in a community that is as predominantly Mormon as Rexburg. As a runner, reading about someone who uses running as therapy and works through her problems by running long miles along really resonated with me. I think Dunster gets the details right here too– after a while, running is less about breathing and sore quads, and a lot more about getting outside and working oneself into a meditative state. Readers who want to go to some hard and dark places with a character and see some ultimate redemption will enjoy Mile 21. Who knows– they may even be inspired to start running marathons.”
Carla Kelly. Safe Passage (FoxyJ). “I have liked all of Carla Kelly’s books that I’ve read so far, and this one was just as good. I don’t think it was my favorite, partly because there wasn’t as much personal growth in the main character as in some of her other books. I also thought it was interesting that the main focal character was actually the man in the relationship–and even though this book is advertised and presented as a romance, it really felt more like a historical adventure narrative rather than romance.”
Josi Kilpack. Rocky Road (Jennie Hansen, Meridian). “This is the tenth book in the Sadie Hoffmiller culinary series and I found Sadie the most likable in this one. She’s grown a great deal from the annoying busybody snoop of the first few books. I also like that a woman in her fifties is no longer referred to as elderly or a senior citizen. She’s grown past the fearful insecurities that followed some of her middle book misadventures and now appears as a stronger, more sensible, and mature woman who is still curious, but pursues clues in an intelligent and rational manner. Character development of the other characters, though not as in depth as that of Sadie, is well done and allows the reader to see them as realistic people. The flow of action is handled well and the plot is moved forward in an easy, smooth arc with plenty of surprises. There’s quite a bit of technical financial material and legal criteria central to the plot and I applaud the author for explaining these factors without lecturing or overwhelming the reader. Whenever I read a book that transitions this smoothly and builds clarification of technical material seamlessly into the story so well, I suspect the author had the assistance of a good editor. But even a good editor can’t work miracles with a sloppy manuscript and in this case it appears a good manuscript met a good editor.”
Robert Kirby and Pat Bagley. Wake Me For The Resurrection (Roy Schmidt, AML). ““This book is dedicated to anyone who has been forced to seriously consider the possibility that Larry, Moe and Curley were the Three Nephites.” With that kind of opening, you know this book will be a hilarious romp through Mormon culture. Author Robert Kirby and illustrator Pat Bagley both are award winners with the Salt Lake Tribune. I have been following them for years, and am pleased to confess Kirby’s columns and Pat’s cartoons crack me up, and also make me think. This endeavor was first published in 1996 by Buckaroo Books, and this second edition by Leicester Bay Books came out earlier this year. I am grateful to the current publisher for doing this, and encourage readers of this review to visit them at www.leicesterbaybooks.com for more interesting and fun titles . . . If you are an active Mormon, less active Mormon, ex-Mormon, or have never been a Mormon, this book is for you. You will laugh (often out loud, and bordering on the hysterical), you will learn, and often be left to ponder.”
Preston Norton. Blud and Magick (Rosalyn). 3.5 stars. “This book read a bit like a mash-up of Harry Potter and Hex Hall . . . The story was fun: the writing style was light and fast and the teenagers had some pretty good back-and-forth exchanges. The high fantasy style of the first chapter threw me a little, because it was quite different from the style of the rest of the book. Darla herself also seemed a bit passive: lots of things happened to her, but she didn’t really start acting until the end of the book.”
Steven L. Peck. Scholar of Moab. (Theric). “Really, one could write a book as long as this book about this book and not run out of things to say. Happily, most of that copy would be positive as well. It’s a pretty great book. Even when the town goes mad (as, say, in Rift), it’s somehow believable, even though their particular madness is about as mad a madness as any I’ve seen . . . Perhaps the most stable characters in the book (until one goes mad) are the two-headed man. Peck’s drawn this pair with such clarity and compassion that I’m wrought with guilt knowing I would have a hard time meeting such men and seeing past their otherness. Every character in the novel is loved, by the end, by <Redactor>. He is a man of compassion—but aren’t we all when we fully know another’s story?”
Jenny Proctor. The House at Rose Creek (Gamila). “I really enjoyed the House on Rose Creek. One of the main plot lines does center around a non-member who eventually joins the church, which just happens to be the religion of the main love interest. I know this plot trope gets a lot of negative reactions because it has been done a lot and sometimes not all that well. However, I felt that Proctor did an excellent job with the story . . . The romance plotline felt a tad predictable to me and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other plot threads, but over all this was a really enjoyable read with interesting characters and dilemmas that kept me reading until the last page.”
Ryan Rapier. The Reluctant Blogger (Jessie, Segullah). “I was pleasantly surprised and can now recommend this book as one of the best I’ve read this year. Author Ryan Rapier covers a wide variety of sensitive issues with both candor and grace, and the resolution finds a sweet spot of faith-affirming realism that manages to avoid both vapid sentimentality and cynicism. This is not a perfectly written novel–there were some spots where the conceit of blog writing felt a little awkward to me, there are a number of secondary characters included and some are more fleshed-out and believable than others, and the character of the therapist was not very realistic. Those flaws, though, were minor in comparison to the book’s strengths. I think this book could very easily be enjoyed by a number of different audiences and most readers could find something to relate to–Todd deals with issues as a parent, a son and brother, a friend, an employee, and a Church member that we all face (I don’t want to give too many details away for fear of spoiling your reading experience). Despite some of the difficult issues Todd confronts, the tone of the book is always engaging and even humorous at times. For me, the best part of reading the book was a peek inside the head of a modern, Mormon man.”
Ryan Rapier. The Reluctant Blogger (Sarah Dunster, AMV). 4 stars. “I’’m going to say I really liked Ryan’s portrayal, though there were a couple of things I struggled with. The most glaring was that I really, passionately disliked the therapist character. That might be because I dislike and distrust all therapists, so, probably partly my own issue. But that character just seemed so arrogant, and shallow . . . The other difficulties I had were minor. There weren’t very many, and they were mostly “new writer” awkwardnesses that I’m sure I still commit myself. As I read, I found something pretty wonderful in Ryan’s writing. He’s not overly dramatic (except for the part where he screamed while in therapy. But maybe people do that. I don’t know. I just can’t picture a pretty staid, responsible, mature 38 year old doing it. Crying, maybe… growling, maybe. Screaming’s pretty extreme.) But other than that, it was all completely believable. He includes just enough detail, just enough delving into the emotions/mind of the main character, and the supporting characters were, I felt, masterfully portrayed as well. I felt especially for Alex, the main character’s 13 year old daughter. How many men can portray grieving-13-year-old-girl to any degree of accuracy? An impressive feat . . . And to top that off with more wonderfulness, he addresses the issues of homosexuality and the church. A really wonderful guy “comes out” in the course of the novel & the reader experiences at a very deep, real level, what that means in the context of Mormon Culture. Including the protagonist’s struggles, which include prejudice and fear. If I cried at any point in the book, that was it.”
Barbara K. Richardson. Tributary. Torrey House Press, 2012. Richardson has Mormon heritage, although she does not appear to be Mormon. The book’s blub reads, “Willa Cather and Sandra Dallas resonate in Barbara K. Richardson’s fearless portrait of 1870s Mormon Utah. This smart and lively novel tracks the extraordinary life of one woman who dares resist communal salvation in order to find her own.” It was a finalist for the 2013 WILLA Literary Award for Women Writing the West, and was awarded the 2013 15 Bytes Book Award for Fiction, given by the group “Artists of Utah”. David G. Pace, in the award citation, said, “Remarkable as Barbara K. Richardson’s novel Tributary is, it is most remarkable, perhaps, because it seems to be one of the first literary works in memory that positions the history of the Great Basin in the broader context of its time. Set in the years following the arrival of the Mormons to Utah, this sprawling tale told in the first person dignifies the region, if rarely the “saints” who people it, with the weight of its narrative. Here the territory is not just a placeholder in the story of the west—or in modern parlance, a “flyover state.” Its heroine, plucky Clair Martin—the woman with the red stain of a birthmark on her left check—is its product, and its curse, its orphan and its lay prophetess. Clair is a proto-feminist—not entirely likable—and, lucky for the reader, stained with much more than just the splotch on her face . . . Not since Frank C. Robertson’s gritty biography of a homesteading family titled A Ram in the Thicket has the story of this lost generation of the American West been visited so grippingly. Clair is fiercely independent, not willing to marry, though willing to love, not only her beloved Tierre— the nine-year-old black orphan from Louisiana who ends up returning to the high mountain desert with Clair—but a scheming sheepherder whom she beds. Clair is the first to say that she holds a grudge against the Mormons who raised her, trammeled her spirit, attempted to marry her off as a plural wife, and, finally, looked the other way when one of them tried to rape her. And yet still she resonates, as humans tend to do, with the civilizing force of her youth even as she relentlessly critiques it, resists it and stubbornly makes it somehow her own . . . Clair’s dilemma [is] based in longing for both independence and community. The beauty and rigor of Tributary stem from a tension, what author Levi Peterson referred to as “a fierce, grieving thing,” that rises uniquely in the people Clair can’t quite claim as her own any longer (if she ever could), but to whom she can never look away.”
Theresa Sneed. No Angel (Reading For Sanity). 2 stars. “I had a really difficult time with this book. I felt like Sneed assumed that I knew what she meant, and the disjointed writing, the ridiculous amount of acronyms used (that made no sense to me at all), and the fractured story lines just made it unpleasant. This book was chosen for our book club, otherwise, I would have abandoned it within the first few chapters. Sometimes, books from first-time authors take a chapter or two to find their rhythm and end up being a very pleasant read. Unfortunately, I feel like this needed a few more good editing sessions, and perhaps a different review group to make it sensible.”
Dan Wells. Fragments (Rosalyn). 4 stars. “I thought the book was incredibly well done. It did drag a little in a couple of parts, but given that Kira travels from the East Coast to Colorado, that’s not entirely surprising. But mostly I found the novel to be clearly written, fast-paced, and the world built was amazing. Most of the time I find post-apocalyptic stories to be a little depressing or predictable big-brotherish. This was neither. In addition to good storytelling, the book also raises interesting ethical questions about humanity and to what extent it is ethical to save oneself at the expense of others.”
Robison Wells. Blackout (Rosalyn). 4 stars. “I really enjoyed this book . . . If it sound vaguely X-men-ish, well, it is. But still highly enjoyable for that (or maybe because of that) . . . I’ve read some reviews that suggest that the alternating POVs get confusing–I never found them so. In fact, I liked getting into the mind of the three characters, though obviously I connected more to Aubrey and Jack than Alec and Laura. The book is setting up a series, so not everything gets explained or resolved in this book (and having read Wells’ previous books, I was pretty much expecting this). If I had a complaint, it might be that–as with Variant and Feedback–the focus on an intense, quick-paced plot sometimes overshadows character development. Aubrey was probably the most fleshed-out character here, but all of them could have used a little more depth.”
Eric Samuelsen. FAIRYANA. December 3, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC. Plan-B Theatre, broadcast by KUER’s RadioWest. Plan-B blog with essays by Eric, Jerry Rapier, and the cast about the play. “It’s a dark, funny story of three misanthropic, alcoholic writers of a sickeningly sweet children’s television show. They’re pulling out all the stops for the Christmas special, which means resurrecting Snoogums, a character so villainous, he possesses his creator. What better time to rethink cute and cuddly then the holidays?” KUER recording.
Tim Slover. Joyful Noise. Covey Center, December 5 – 7, 12 – 14, and 16 – 21. Directed by Dave Hansen and starring J. Scott Bronson as Handel.
Javen Tanner. This Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long. The Nativity Story told through Poetry and Mask. Presented by The Sting and Honey Company at Leona Wagner Black Box Theater, SLC. December 20-21.
BYU’s Microburst Theatre Festival production that was just invited to KCACTF theater awards. This means that the show, which was directed by George Nelson, will be performed in February at the Regional KCACTF in Los Angeles. Microburst performs seven 10-minutes plays written by BYU students, so their original work will be highlighted as well. Plays and playwrights featured include “Twenty” by Taryn Politis, “A Modest Proposal” by Amy McGreevy, “Rules” by Katie Jarvis, “Stealing Crowe” by Amberly Lourde, “Man vs. Mace” by Amanda Welch, “The Shoelace” by Chelsea Hickman, and “Mississippi Izzie’s” by Chauntel Lopez.
Also BYU’s Amanda Nelson’s play “Goodnight, Graham” has been selected as one of the top six 10-minute plays from the KCACTF region. This means that the play will be featured at the festival in February. Two of the six 10-minute plays will be selected to be considered for further competition at the national level.
Sony Pictures Classics announced Austenland DVD and Blu-Ray release in the USA on February 11, 2014.
Ephraim’s Rescue (David Dye, AML). “As I watched this movie with my family, we found it to be a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening. Old and young alike enjoyed and were attentive to the movie. We came away from our 98 minutes a bit more determined than before to be a family of service, a family who will do a little less complaining and be a little more determined in the face of adversity.”
Studio C, Seasons 1 & 2 (Larry Jackson, AML). “BYU TV has licensed Excel Entertainment to distribute a two-CD set of Studio C sketches, ten from Season 1 and twelve from Season 2. Each episode lasts about 25 minutes. The 555 minutes of mirth and madness include two special features and a set of Season 2 outtakes. They make fun of themselves. Between the sketches in each episode, there are scenes from back stage and other short vignettes. These guys and gals are superb. The humor is clean. The production quality is excellent . . . When the cast and audience are there, Studio C is the funniest place in town.”
Studio C, Seasons 1 & 2 (Gamila). “There were several really funny skits and a couple of just okay ones. Since we are not Downtown Abby fans I think my husband and I didn’t really get the comedy skit about that one as a result. We did however laugh uproariously at the Lady Shadow skit. Which centers around the concept of a dangerous female spy trying to steal a disk, only to sneak out from behind a box nine months pregnant. She then tries to take down four armed guys that really want nothing to do with fighting her. It was hilarious. We also like the flirting university skit and the driving instructor skit. So we really enjoyed the majority of the skits we watched and enjoyed laughing together.”
November 17, 24, December 1, 8
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
USA Today #8, #18, #25, #28, #41 (54th week).
PW Mass market paperback #20, #21, #25, x (8th week). 8518, 6441, 5109 units. 55,911 total.
PW Childrens #11, #13, #15, #14 (9th week). 7970, 5786, 5270, 6208 units. 53,608 total.
NYT Trade Paperback #12, #15, #16, #16 (13th week)
NYT Mass Market Paperback #1, #1, #2, #3 (59th week)
NYT Ebooks #5, #9, #14, #12 (18th week)
Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card
USA Today #74, #92, #149, x, x (5th week)
NYT Paperback Mass-market #12, #12, #20, #17 (4th week)
Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale
USA Today x, x, x, #142, #143 (2nd week)
PW Childrens #18, #17, #11, #11 (8th week). 5183, 5383, 6033, 7514 units. 43,793 total.
NYT Middle #13, x, x, #8 (2nd week)
Spirit Animals #1: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull
PW Childrens #38, #23, #19, #15 (12th week). ?, 3892, 4594, 6101 units. 60,401 total.
NYT Middle #7, #7, #3, #6 (12th week)
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
NYT YA #9, #8, #7, #6 (9th week)
The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner
NYT YA #15, #14, #12, #13
Christmas in Snowflake Canyon, by RaeAnne Thayne
USA Today #106, #140, x, x, x (2nd week)
PW Mass market paperback #17, #18, #19, x (4th week). 8776, 6819, 5891 units, 31,635 total.
NYT Mass-market paperback #20, #23, x, x (2nd week)