This Week in Mormon Literature, January 17, 2014

I am not going to get my Mormon Market Year in Review done until next week, so I am putting up a Week in Review in the meantime. Lots of awards, nominations, and best-of-2013 lists. I caught up on several 2013 novels I had missed, like Liesl Shurtliff’s Middle Grade novel Rump. Check out the story about Carla Kelly and BYU. In film Greg Whitley’s Mitt Romney documentary and a missionary comedy are being released next week. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News, Awards, Best-Of Lists, etc.

Margaret Blair Young (BYU-Provo) and Shelah Miner (BYU Salt Lake Center) are both teaching Mormon Literature classes starting in January. They both provide their syllabi: Margaret Blair Young’s “Literature of the Latter-day Saints”, Shelah Miner. “On Saying Yes (To Teaching Mormon Lit)”. Kent Larson writes about “Is the Demand for Mormon Literature Classes Increasing?” at AMV.

New LDS Fiction (was LDS Publisher)’s 2013 Book Cover Contest, the 5th annual contest, has begun. Voting closes on midnight on the 17th, so hurry!

Eric Samuelsen’s NOTHING PERSONAL and Jenifer Nii’s SUFFRAGE were nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York in 2013. An average of 24 plays are nominated annually nationwide.

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Boston Globe named it one of the “Best Young Adult Books of 2013”.

Pretty Darn Funny, the website comedy series which is produced by Tinder Transmedia, sponsored by Deseret Book, and directed by Jeff Parkin, has received four nominations from the International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards:  Best Comedy Series, Best Writing (Comedy), Best Female Performance in a Comedy (Lisa Valentine Clark),  and Best Supplemental Content – “Footloose Parody”. It did not win in any of the categories, but it went up against some big-budget shows.

Theric Jepson reviews two ongoing works of non-traditional literature, the “mutants at BYU” fictional blog Mormon X and the online comic about a teenage Mormon girl The Garden of Enid.

Romance author Carla Kelly was disinvited to a signing at BYU in August 2013 (this is old but I just noticed it). “I was supposed to take part in a booksigning at Brigham Young University during Education Week next week. I was informed yesterday that I have been uninvited. When I asked the publicity guy at Cedar Fort to find out why, he learned it was because I also write for Harlequin. I have to wonder which of my Harlequin Historicals they read to make their informed decision, but they probably read none of them. This sort of broke my heart yesterday, but today I’m seeing the funny side. One of my Facebook friends suggested that I dedicate my next Harlequin to BYU, and I’m going to do just that. It’ll read something like this: To Brigham Young University, my alma mater, where I studied history and learned some shocking things you can’t write in books, apparently. Thanks for your support.  The book is called The Wedding Ring Quest, and it will be out in March. I do give props to BYU’s excellent history department, where I learned a lot about research and thought, as well as “the hot poop,” as my favorite teacher there used to say. Well, when next I go on campus – we like to see plays there – I’ll probably have to wear a scarlet A.”

Art Trumps Commerce—This Time”. Kirkus Reviews, by Vicky Smith, children’s and teen editor. An article on “Ever After High”, the book/doll joint venture between the publisher Little, Brown and the toymaker Mattel, featuring the work of Shannon Hale. “One of the Mattel reps talked about their new line of dolls: Ever After High. She used all sorts of words those of us in literary criticism and librarianship like to pretend don’t exist: “synergy,” “brand loyalty,” “market saturation.” The dolls are meant to expand on the success of previous Mattel/Little, Brown collaboration Monster High but with a fractured-fairy-tale angle . . . Hale spoke briefly and enthusiastically about the project, stressing the amount of freedom she’d been given to develop the characters and place them in situations she hadn’t dreamed Mattel would approve. Clearly, she had a great time with it. Equally clearly, those of us in the room who like to believe that literature is all about Art were confused. Much as we might decry the marketing-driven approach to children’s books in general, we all really felt that if anyone could pull this off, it would be Shannon Hale. And, by golly, she does. In the first book in the Ever After High series, The Storybook of Legends, Hale takes a concept created by Madison Avenue and has a total blast. She weaves story elements that were no doubt required by Mattel—lots of descriptions of groovy dresses and frankly dopey character names, as well as the basic plot—into a frothy, funny and smart story. Raven’s academic adviser is the witch Baba Yaga, whose cottage runs away from Raven into the pig field; Hunter routinely rips off his shirt to the sound of invisible trumpets whenever he feels pressed to go to the rescue; a Shrinking Potion takes effect with an accompanying scent of hot, buttered toast. And that’s not even looking at Hale’s effervescent verbs. Characters who don’t pledge their destinies poof”; night “once-upons” instead of falling; a distressed Apple feels “cored.” Mystery and depth to come in subsequent books are heralded by the enigmatic Cerise Hood, around whom the Three Little Pigs become unaccountably anxious…. I don’t know that I will ever fall in love with the larger mission of Ever After High, which plainly aims to empty the pockets of as many preteen girls (or their parents) as humanly possible. This whole “synergy” thing makes me nervous. But those girls who buy into the Ever After High concept whole hog and actually read Hale’s book will have a high old time, and it’s really hard to be disgruntled about that.

Utah Original Writing Competition winners announced. I am not sure how many of them are Mormon. “Established in 1958, the competition identifies and awards Utah writers for works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in the form of short stories, essays, poems, and full-length manuscripts for readers of all ages. Submissions must be original works. They cannot be published or accepted for publication at the time of entry. Manuscripts will be reviewed in a blind process by five to seven judges selected from outside of Utah.”

Category A: Novel, judged by Brian Evenson:

First place: The Ghost Town Preservation Society by Julie C. Simon (Cedar City). Second place: Nectar in a Sieve by Gene Washington (Logan). Honorable Mention: Ransom by Spencer Hyde (Provo).

Category C: Book-length Collection of Short Stories, judged by Becky Bradway

First place: Robot Action Pinball by Jason P. Olsen (Price). Second place: These Things Are as Difficult as They Seem by Kate Elizabeth Finlinson (Salt Lake). Honorable Mention: Look Me in the Stars by Christopher B. Husberg (Lehi).

Category D: Young Adult Book, judged by Kurtis Scaletta

First place:  Wink! A Mixed Up Night’s Dream by Kelley JP Lindberg (Layton). Second place: The Cave Troll Man by John S. Bennion (Provo). Honorable Mention: Poisoned Apple Inc. by Zach Largey (Orem). Honorable Mention: The Nettle Spinner by Cathleen Barney (Orem)

Category E: Poetry, judged by David Romtvedt

First place: “The Mailman in the Forest” by Lisa R. Roullard (Salt Lake). Second place: “Arrows Pointing Out the Moon” by Rob Carney (Salt Lake). Honorable Mention: “The Marriage of the Moon and the Field” by Sunni B Wilkinson (Ogden).

Category F: Short Story, judged by Eileen Pollack

First place: “Empty” by Nate Liederbach (Salt Lake). Second place: “Gifted” by Rachel Borup (Salt Lake). Honorable Mention: “Concentration Camp Stories for Doggies” by Anne Vinsel (Salt Lake)

Category G: Narrative Nonfiction/Personal Essay, judged by Michelle Seaton

First place: “Manure” by Dianne Hardy (Logan). Second place: “A Mother’s Tale” by Betsy Lynn Ross (Salt Lake). Honorable Mention: “Fog” by Lorraine Jeffery (Orem)

Fantasy-Faction Best Fantasy Books of 2013. #3. Jordan and Sanderson. A Memory of Light. “Twenty-two years and over four million words later, A Memory of Light has arrived to drag you into the final battle. You will chuckle, laugh out loud, choke up, cry and curse yourself for not being able to read faster. Sure, some questions remain unanswered, some expectations aren’t met and some resolutions aren’t as exciting as we’d imagined them to be, but overall Brandon Sanderson did a hell of a job finishing this series and the concluding book remains one of the years very best.”

#14. Brian McClellan. Promise of Blood.  “The first in The Powder Mage Trilogy is a fantastic and engaging book from debut author Brian McClellan. Powerful sorcerers, trained Marksmen with magical abilities, and long forgotten gods bring color and intrigue to the world of Adro following a bloody revolution that has left the King and his royal cabal dead and a new government run by the people on its way to power. Promise of Blood is filled with engaging characters, original worldbuilding, and a plot that left us unable to put the book down.”

#20. Sanderson. Steelheart. “As in other books set in an alternate-world Earth, Sanderson has managed to take a standard setting and give it a fantastical element. He keeps the familiarity of the setting but changes enough to make it a new and interesting place for the readers to discover. Sanderson’s return to the YA market is filled with his signature worldbuilding and a fast-paced, high action cinematic style that is easy to lose yourself in.”

All the Write Notes review blog. “Our Favorite Books of 2013” included Jennifer A. Nielsen, The Runaway King and Jessica Martiniz’s The Vow.

Nerdy Book Club’s 2013 Nerdy Book Awards. Middle Grade Fiction; Rump: The True Story of Rumplestilskin by Liesl Shurtliff and The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen (out of 16).

Buzzfeed’s “20 Of The Best Children’s Books Of 2013”. Includes Rump: The True Story of Rumplestilskin by Liesl Shurtliff.

Kirkus Reviews. “9 Teen Novels as Good as they are Popular”. Includes Matched, by Ally Condie. “Detractors will legitimately cite less-than-subtle morality and similarities to The Giver, but this one’s a fierce, unforgettable page-turner in its own right.”

Mormon Stories Podcast 454: Josh Hanagarne on Tourette Syndrome, Faith, Family, and being the World’s Strongest Librarian. “Josh Hanagarne is a father, husband, avid reader, librarian, weight lifter extraordinaire, and the author of the amazing book The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family. n this podcast, Heather Olson Beal and John Dehlin interview Josh about his childhood and adolescence, his Tourette’s diagnosis and treatment, his LDS mission experience, his marriage and family, his educational and work experiences, his body building experiences, and his faith/spirituality.  Josh is open, honest, and frank about all of the above.”

Retcon-punch Best Artists of 2013. #11. Michael AllredFF has been a tonal anomaly — a goofy series that basks in its Bronze Age nuttiness while remaining stubbornly honest about its characters. Allred brings that “gee whiz!” honesty in spades. Plus, he manages the unwieldy task of corralling an enormous cast, imbuing even the physically identical characters with distinct personalities. It’s light and happy and never loses sight of what’s fun about this absurd situation. Over at DC, his covers for Batman ’66 have captured the intended tone of the series even better than the stories within. Allred brings a rare infectious enthusiasm to every page.”Allred

New Books and their reviews

Amber Argyle. Witch Fall. Starling Publishing, Jan. YA paranormal. Witch Song series #3 (prequel).

Bookworm Lisa: 4.5 stars. “It was easy for me to become enthralled by the words that Amber Argyle penned. I loved visiting the world of witches who sing to nature to control it. I anxiously awaited each installment into the “Witch Song” trilogy. The world is imaginative and creative. The characters are varied. There are many that you love, and others that you love to hate . . . It has action, adventure, and romance. It’s a clean book, but I would suggest to older YA to adult readers.”

Michael Bast. Death’s Academy. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, Jan. 14. Middle grade fantasy. Comic fantasy/adventure of a boy trying to get into a school for grim reapers. Debut novel.

C. David Belt. The Prophecy. Parables Publishing, April 22. 6, 4.7, x. The Children of Lilith, v. 3.  Vampires and Mormons. Specific Mormon content.

Michaelbrent Collings. Crime Seen. Self, Jan. 14. Horror. A detective peruses a killer who is already dead.

Sarah M. Eden. As You Are. Covenant, Jan. 1. Regency Romance. Jonquail Brothers series #4. Revised version of a self-published novel from 2008.

Maria Hoagland. Family Size. Sisters Ink (self), February 2013. (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “In Family Size, the women of childbearing age in a ward in Lubbock, Texas are not that different from women in many of the wards I’ve lived in. There are some who have kids every eighteen months, like clockwork, others who stop after a couple, and still others who seem to be putting off their family in favor of nice things and travel. And everyone is worried that others are judging them for their choices, which results in the women keeping some things secret that they really might feel better if they got off their chests. The book, told from the point of view of several women in the ward, shows not just the women’s struggles to raise up good families, but also their struggles with identity, competitiveness, and with provincial attitudes. While I enjoyed the women’s individual stories, what is more memorable for me is the critique of our culture that is implicit in the pages.”

Marion Jensen. Almost Super. Harper Collins, Jan. 21. MG superhero fantasy/adventure. Jensen has written for the Mormon market (as Matthew Buckley), this is his national market debut.

Kirkus: “Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them. The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day? A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.”

Adam S. Miller. Letters to a Young Mormon. Maxwell Institute, Dec. 31. Non-fiction, philosophy.  

Rameumpton, The Millennial Star. “If ever a book was written to help youth regain or find a testimony, this one is it.  It does not tell them where one’s testimony is hiding.  It does explain how one plants and develops a strong testimony by living the precepts of God in the right soil, in the right way, for the right purpose.  It places the right kind of philosophy behind our testimonies. While discussing difficult topics, wherein the world’s philosophy is so very distinct from the LDS view, we learn how to establish a strong foundation on some very important and key principles that will help us, and especially our youth, learn how to establish a foundation of faith and to excel in that belief.”

Blair Hodges. 5 stars. “Full disclosure: I work for the publisher. Take that into account, but regardless of whether I worked for the publisher or not I’d still say this book is, hands down, the best book written for Latter-day Saint youth I’ve ever read. The author isn’t cheesy, he isn’t over-enthusiastic, his book doesn’t read like a big Pep Rally for faith. He doesn’t rely on gimmicks, jokes, exclamation marks, or cliches. He isn’t desperate to entertain, so he doesn’t condescend to LDS youth–youth who are typically more savvy than we give them credit for. He manages to preach without sounding preachy. He manages to sound wise without sounding pretentious or ancient. He sounds more like a wise older friend than an imposing authority figure. He rephrases the gospel in a way that will rejuvenate faith, making it fresh and extremely relevant, speaking to many of the big issues we all face, not just youth. That’s why this book will be extremely useful for older Latter-day Saints, too. This book grapples with life as we live it in the real world, in our complex physical bodies with our complex human urges and feelings and desires. Most importantly, the author recognizes he doesn’t have all of the answers, but helped me understand that the plan of salvation is more about living life than answering questions in a big gospel quiz. This book is short and very easy to read, but you’ll want to read it more than once. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.”

FAIR Mormon Blog, Trevor Haylock. “The book covers a wide range of topics of interest to Mormons, including agency, work, sin, faith, scripture, prayer, history, science, hunger, sex, temples, and eternal life. While I did find some new insights in some of these letters, much of what is contained is vague enough that any parent who shares the book with their teenage child may want to read it themselves so they can discuss it together . . . Where Miller is clear on things, he excels by providing much food for thought and discussion. And in spite of its weaknesses, the bright spots in this book make it a worthwhile read for people who will not be troubled by its overwhelming vagueness, although I do believe a parental advisory may be in order.”

Dorothy Keddington. Hearth Fires. Currawong/Walnut Springs, Dec. 31. Romance/suspense.

Lynn Kurland. River of Dreams. Berkley Trade, Jan. 7. Fantasy romance. Nine Kingdoms series #8.

Sarah B. Larson. Defy. Scholastic, Jan. 7. YA Fantasy. “Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard.” Adventure and love triangle romance follow. Debut novel.

PW: “A riveting fantasy . . . Alexa relies on her extraordinary fighting abilities to protect both the country and the prince she is beginning to love. An additional romantic entanglement contributes little, but Alexa is nothing if not resourceful. As a fighter surviving in a brutal world in which magic plays a sinister role, she relies on her own skills, perceptions, and determination to battle her way to the book’s cinematic finale. Alexa’s desire to reclaim her gender identity under her own terms (“I still wished things could be different. I wished I could be a member of the guard and a girl”) gives the story much of its emotional sincerity and psychological depth.”

Kirkus: “Disguises, love triangles and magical battles are classic tropes in fantasy for teens, but this debut fails to lift them beyond the tiresome . . . While she bemoans that pretending to be a boy has become second nature, Alexa’s behavior is stereotypically–unpleasantly–”girly”: throwing tantrums, crying, pouting, cowering, obsessing over her romantic prospects and (despite her vaunted fighting prowess) constantly needing rescue by men, all of whom see through her masquerade. The secondary characters are mere plot puppets; the villains are ludicrously evil-for-evil’s-sake, and the heroes exist only to be desperately in love with Alexa, if never articulating any reason for their devotion. The worldbuilding is equally sketchy; while the dank fecundity of tropical Antion is sensuously conveyed, the narrative timeline is confusing, the magical system arbitrary and the political structure nonsensical. Several subplots go nowhere. It takes more than good guys and bad guys to create an epic adventure; more than heated smooches to portray a resonant romance; and more than acting badass with a sword to be a strong female protagonist.”

Randy Lindsay. The Gathering. Cedar Fort/Bonneville, Jan. 14. Last days speculative. End’s Beginning Series #1. The United States is on the brink of a civil war, a missionary returns home to a world falling apart, his father is assigned to build a gathering place, and a good AG is at odds with a image-focused president. Debut novel.

Jennie Hansen, Meridian. “Though The Gathering has its share of first novel shortcomings such as too many and too abrupt transitions between point of view characters and scenes, the author holds the reader’s attention well and didn’t leave me struggling to guess who the characters are and which segment of the story they fit into. Since this is the start of a series, when looked at as a whole, four points of view and story lines that seem unconnected and fail to merge will presumably catch up with each other later in the overall storyline. Readers may not agree with all of the author’s political views nor with all of his interpretations of last days prophecies, but there is something exciting about reading or listening to various speculations concerning what is to come and Lindsay shows great promise as a writer who researches thoroughly and understands the elements of storytelling. This series shows great promise as one to follow.”

Bookworm Lisa: 4 stars. “Randy Lindsay has written a book that is compelling and entertaining . . . I liked that he wrote the story from two different angles. A family struggling in uncertain times and a politician trying to uncover the truth. Both angles add depth to the story and pain a picture of a world in turmoil.”

Tarrah Montgomery. I’m Not Cinderella. Currawong/Walnut Springs, Dec. 31. YA fantasy. Seventeen-year-old Brinlee is a modern girl living in Idaho. When she discovers a secret portal in her attic bedroom, she accidentally swaps places with the main character from her favorite fairy tale, Cinderella. Debut novel.

Ingrid Ricks. Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story. Berkley Trade, Jan. 7. Memoir. Was previously self-published in 2011, and reached the NYT Bestseller list in June 2013.

Ricks’ story of her childhood. Her strict Mormon mother and her traveling salesman father divorce. The mother marries a tyrannical man, and Ricks spends time with her father, discovers his flaws.

Publishers Weekly article about Ricks and her process of writing, self-publishing, and being published.

Kirkus: “A memoirist’s account of growing up in a devout yet completely dysfunctional Mormon home . . . In clear, graceful prose and in a voice that is refreshingly authentic, Ricks tells an uplifting story of heartbreak, hope and self-salvation.”

Melissa DeMoux, Deseret News: “Ricks paints her mother as an overbearing religious fanatic who trusts the word of the local bishop above all else. The author is less than positive about her dealings with the LDS Church, but she makes it clear that it is her mother’s suffocating version of the religion that was most distressing . . . This story reads almost as a novel even though it is an autobiographical account. Ricks’ strength to overcome despite desperate odds will likely inspire readers with a desire to do the same.”

The Blue Bookshelf: “This story was a huge pity fest. This is the stuff Lifetime movies are made of. Because this book was a memoir, I want to make it clear that I totally respect Ingrid Ricks’ experiences. However, I think her book was low quality. The writing was blah and uninteresting. The exaggerated characters were all good or all bad, and I had no pity for them – except for Ingrid’s mom, who was so vulnerable and weak it bordered on pathetic. I felt bad for her, but not in an interesting, thought provoking way – more like in a Lifetime movie way. Verdict: Because I felt so bad for the mom character, for some reason I feel bad putting this one in the Rubbish Bin. Let’s say it’s on the floor next to the rubbish bin.”

Liesl Shurtliff. Rump. Knopf, April. MG fractured fairy tale. 12-year old Rumpelstiltskin as a sympathetic character.

Kirkus (starred): “Shurtliff turns the Rumpelstiltskin tale on end, providing the heartbreaking yet humorous history of the manikin’s dilemma . . . . In his moment of triumph, children will want to dance alongside the unlikely, likable hero. As good as gold.”

PW: “Debut author Shurtliff upends the traditional characterization of this fairy tale’s antihero, recasting Rumpelstiltskin as a sympathetic and tragically doomed protagonist. His mother dies shortly after childbirth and only manages to utter half a name, Rump, making him the butt of jokes and also influencing his fate . . . Shurtliff fills Rump’s world with common magic and deadpan humor; the picaresque-style narrative gives the maligned character a refreshingly plainspoken voice, while honoring the original story’s hauntingly strange events.”

People Magazine: “A fresh riff on the Grimm Brothers’ Rumpelstiltskin, told with wit from the impish point of view of the troublemaker himself.”

SLJ: “A beguiling take on a classic tale…. This captivating fantasy has action, emotional depth, and lots of humor.”

Denver Post: “It’s a startlingly original book, even in the revisited-fairy-tale trope that “Wicked” begat . . . In Shurtliff’s deft telling, “Rump” turns into the odyssey of a very likeable chap.”

Raeanne Thayne. Island Promises. Harlequin, Jan. 7. Romance anthology. Thayne is one of three authors in this Hawaii anthology.

Natalie Whipple. Blindsided. Hot Key Books, Jan. 2. YA Paranomral. Sequel to Transparent. Girl with powers of invisibility. Transparent was published both by HarperTeen in the US and Hot Key in the UK. The sequel is only being published by Hot Key. So the cartoony cover is like the first UK book, but unlike the more serious looking cover of the first US book. Whipple has a different book coming from HarperTeen in a few months.

Deseret News: ““Blindsided” has a very cinematic feel and reads like a blockbuster action movie. The ending is satisfying and fans of the first book will be pleased with Fiona’s development and the fates of their favorite characters.”

Lani Woodland and Melonie Piper. Pieces of Jade.  Geek Girl, Dec. 16. YA fantasy, pirates.

Julie Wright. Victoria’s Promise. Covenant, Jan. 15. Newport Ladies Book Club #7. Romance/women’s. A producer of a reality dating show finds herself falling for the leading man.

Short Fiction

Karen Stay Ahlstrom. “Machine of Death.” In This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death, ed. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki, 211–22. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2013.  BYU graduate, 2000.  Fiction Director, The Leading Edge: Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I have held several volunteer positions at TLE, including: Fiction Director, Reader, Editing Group Member, and Webmaster ( August 1997 – April 1999.

Orson Scott Card. “Off to See the Emperor.” In Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond, ed. John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen. 47North, 2013.

James Goldberg. “The Revelations & Opinions of the Rev. Clive Japhta, D.D.” Dialogue, 46:1, Spring 2013.

M.K. Hutchins. “Under Warranty.” In Cucurbital 3, ed. Lawrence M. Schoen. Blue Bell, Penn.: Paper Golem, 2013

PD Malamo. “Sun and the Moon”. Conte 9:1. Sept. 2013. “Mallamo whisks us over the border for the gritty and strangely touching “Sun and the Moon,” a story as unflinching as it is redemptive.” A Mexican man works a bloody job to pay for his daughter’s education.

Larry Menlove. “A Regular River Flowing.” The Provo Canyon Review. #3. 2013. A slightly different version of this story first appeared in Words of Wisdom, 2002.

Heidi Naylor. “Mack and Natalie Have Gotten Too Comfortable in Idaho” Detours. Boise, ID: The Log Cabin Literary Center of Idaho, 2013.  Boise State University instructor.

Steven L. Peck. “Démodé”. Nature. Dec. 23.

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.”

Kirkus (starred review. “Brandon Sanderson’s gripping “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” about an innkeeper/bounty hunter who must defeat rapacious ghosts, brutal outlaws and greedy bureaucrats to keep herself and her daughter safe and free.”

Brad Torgersen. “The Hideki Line”. Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume IV . Empire & Great Jones Little Press (January 2, 2014).

David J. West. “Why Crows Steal Shiny Things.” In 100 Worlds, ed. David Nell, 49&ndash58. Dreamscape Press, 2013.

Wymore, James. “The Dark Glass.” In Penny Dread Tales Volume 3: In Darkness Clockwork Shines. RuneWright, 2013.

——, “Fido.” In So It Goes: A Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, ed. Max Booth III. Cibolo, Tex.: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013.

Older books and their reviews

Julie Berry. All the Truth That’s In Me (FoxyJ). “This is a new book that’s been generating a lot of buzz lately; I read it quickly within two days–it’s the kind of book best read in one big chunk of time so you can get caught up in the story. It’s powerfully written–a good blend of suspense and well-crafted plot with a unique voice and language choices.”

Kristin Bryant. The Others (Jennie Hansen, Meridian). “The Others by Kristin Bryant introduces an interesting premise. On a planet far out in space a civilization of people similar to earth’s humans live and observe earth . . . Their ancient records foretell the birth of a savior on another world, who will be their savior too . . . I don’t often review science fiction novels, but I found some of this story’s premises and references interesting as they hint strongly at connections to LDS doctrine and to Christian religions’ suppositions concerning “sheep I have that are not of this fold” and the creation of “worlds without end.” . . . The story is plotted well with enough excitement and adventure to keep the reader turning pages. Even when I found myself unable to suspend belief concerning the odd mixture of primitive and futuristic background elements, the story still held my interest. I suspect there will be a sequel and I’ll read it too.”

Emily Gray Clawson. A Way Back to You (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “While I didn’t understand the final chapter of the novel, when she returns to the present (certain things were altered that seemed kind of unalterable, like the structure of her husband’s brain), and there were problems with the timeline (she repeats many times that they had thirteen years together, but I did the math and they had at least fifteen years together), I really enjoyed the portions of the novel when Annabelle is in the past. There are times when I’d love to live my teen years with the wisdom of my thirtysomething brain, and Annabelle gets that opportunity, which is fun to see.”

James Dashner. The Eye of Minds (Rosalyn). 3 stars. “This was my first Dashner novel, though I’ve heard him speak before at a writer’s conference and he was really funny. This book, of course, isn’t funny–but it is fast-paced and interesting . . . The story/plot here is great. While I suspected part of the final plot twist, I didn’t see all of it coming and the book packs a pretty good surprise. Dashner’s story moves along quickly (I read most of it on a 3 hour car ride this afternoon) and the virtual world he creates is interesting. The writing itself isn’t quite as winning: the writing never got in the way of the story, but it wasn’t ever outstanding enough for me to slow down to savor the writing (as, say, with Gaiman’s books). And I never really connected to the characters, who weren’t especially distinctive to me. However, the plot is strong enough that these complaints won’t really matter to most readers.”

Julie N. Ford. Replacing Gentry (Shelah Books It). 2 stars. “The book is strange. I like the descriptions of Nashville and of feeling like an outsider in the city (I’ve spent lots of time in Nashville, and feel like Ford captures the essence of the city), but the book is riddled with grammatical errors, typos, and clunky writing that shows a lack of editing. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure if the novel was supposed to be supernatural or not, and I’m not 100% sure that the ending cleared things up. I think that with some good editing, this book could have been a lot better than it is, which is too bad because it has some exciting elements.”

James Goldberg. The Five Books of Jesus. Blair Hodges. “This is the best literary treatment of the stories of Jesus I’ve ever read. Beautifully conceived and crafted. Goldberg’s re-telling of the New Testament story of Jesus made me want to revisit the New Testament again. His is not the typical historical fiction approach. Goldberg retells extremely familiar stories in a different register so as to render them fresh and compelling again. He draws interesting connections from the texts I’ve never made before. Wonderful.”

Shannon Hale. Ever After High (Reading for Sanity). 4 stars. “I’m a sucker for a fairy tale, or a retelling/reimagining of one.  I love seeing these old, classic stories given new life.  Shannon Hale has done such a great job with this iteration – the children of the heroes, heroines, villains, and secondary characters we’ve been familiar with all our lives are about to take on the burden of their parents, stepping into their roles for the next generation.  But, what if they don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps?  What if, like Raven, they want to write their own destiny? . . . It didn’t disappoint.  The characters are almost as you’d expect, with some delightful surprises sprinkled along the way.  It’s clear she’s tried to modernize the fairy tales, paralleling their world to ours as much as possible.  Students and teachers rely on their mirrorphones.  The students listen to Taylor Quick and songs like “You Don’t Know You’re Charming”.  They have their own updated spin on classic fairy tale fashions.  Robin Hood’s son and his friends have a band called “The Merry Men”.  Silly?  Yes.  Isn’t that what fairy tales are for? The story reminds me a lot of the Sisters Grimm stories because of the all-encompassing fairy tale characters you’ll read about – but the story lines are vastly different.  It’s a quick read, but definitely one I’ll keep reading!”

Amy Harmon. Making Faces (Shelah Books It). 4 stars. “If I had checked out the Goodreads page for Making Faces before reading the book, I think I would have been highly skeptical of the story (the first ten reviews are obviously from lovestruck teenagers who are part of the Ambrose fan club). Heck, if I’d seen the book jacket, I think I would have been skeptical. But the book doesn’t disappoint. The narrative is complicated, switching back from past to present and between characters. Harmon’s writing is clear and lyrical. Her characters are interesting (not just Fern and Ambrose, but also her wheelchair-bound cousin, Bailey, whose side-story is fascinating), and she does a great job capturing life in a small town. While I’m sure Ambrose is a hottie and if there’s a movie, it will be a success, I also think that the book is much more than just a hot guy and a nerdy girl getting together.”

J. R. Johanson. Insomnia (Rosalyn). 4 stars. “I was probably predisposed to like this one since I’ve met the author and she’s awesome (and a redhead, so naturally we’re kindred spirits . . . ). And while I’m not usually big on thrillers, I did quite enjoy this one. The story line is quite original: Parker is a Watcher, which means he’s forced to inhabit the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with each day . . . What I liked about this book (and what, apparently, some reviewers hate about it) was that Parker was an unreliable narrator. He genuinely doesn’t know if he’s capable of doing some of the horrible things he’s afraid he’s actually done. Sometimes the writing style was fragmented and a bit disjointed, but I think that perfectly reflected Parker’s state of mind. And yes, sometimes (frequently), Parker is a jerk. But he doesn’t want to be that person, and he works toward changing it. The story has some surprising twists and tense moments–a good example of a YA thriller.”

Wendy Knight. Feudlings series (Mindy, LDSWBR). “WOW!  This series is so much fun.  The first thing that drew me in to these books was the cover of Feudlings.  I also thought Feudlings in Flame’s cover was fantastic, too.  The premise of Feudlings is what I loved the most.  Only they can end the feud and only they can destroy each other.  Very cool. Her characters are well-written, very fun and very likable . . . There are some very cool twists and turns, especially in the second book, that I don’t want to give away.”

Gerald D. Lund. To Run With the Swift (Christine Rappleye, Deseret News). “The adventures of Danni, Ricky, her family and her pouch, which were originally bedtime stories author Gerald Lund told to his grandchildren, are an entertaining coming-of-age story that spans generations and crosses continents.”

Jennifer A. Nielsen. The Runaway King (LDSWBR, Mindy). 5 stars. “Another stunning offering from Jennifer Nielsen.  I was blown away by The False Prince and this book was the same.  So many exciting things take place right from the start.  I will not be able to summarize any parts for you, too many spoilers.  I loved, loved all the little seeds that Jennifer planted throughout to make this book thrilling and fresh.  Jaron is still as smart-alecy as ever, and I think that is what I love most about him.  He is too clever for his own good.  Even when he seems to be at the end of his rapidly fraying rope, he is always a step ahead.  I read this book in a matter of hours.  I could not put it down.  Jaron is a character that you will think about and care for long after you finish reading.  The ending of The Runaway King is brilliant.”

Ryan Rapier. The Reluctant Blogger (Shelah Books It). 4 stars. “Another novel, another spouse dead of a brain aneurysm. Because I’ve read SO many books lately about widowed thirtysomethings trying to make sense of their new lives, I didn’t have very high hopes for The Reluctant Blogger. But Rapier and his story of Todd, who starts a blog as an assignment from his therapist, really surprised me. Todd writes about his struggles to raise his kids, especially his teenage daughter, about everyone who wants him to start dating again, and about his relationship with his family and friends. One of the things Rapier does best is tell the side stories. I loved getting to know about Todd’s best friends, his totally normal bishop (who felt like a real person instead of a caricature), his overly rigid dad, and the women he ends up dating. A thoroughly enjoyable read with a satisfying conclusion, which also manages to make insightful commentary about LDS culture (and gentle criticisms thereof), The Reluctant Blogger is the novel that seems (at least of the books I’ve read) to be one of the best LDS novels of 2013.”

Brandon Sanderson. The Rithamitist (Rosalyn) 4 stars. “The more I read from Sanderson, the more impressed I am with his creativity. Each of his series features a different magic system–all fascinating, all plausible . . . I think I loved the world-building here as much as any of the characters: I liked Joel, and I adored Melody, the outcast Rithmatist student who befriends Joel (although it could also be said that Joel befriends her.) I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.”

Kiersten White. The Chaos of the Stars (Gamilia). “I really enjoyed reading Chaos of the Stars. I know that the whole demi-god myth is kind of becoming an overdone trope in the market right now, but Chaos of the Stars has several things that makes it stand out. The first is that it is great as a stand-alone novel that has an interesting world that you would like to visit again, but don’t have to once all the loose ends of the novel are tied up. It is kind of relaxing to read a YA fantasy that doesn’t require a three book commitment. Also, while there is romance, there is no love triangle. Lovely! In addition, there is no super reveal about secret powers in which the female protagonist turns into a super warrior so that she can save the world . . . So, yeah Chaos of the Stars is a fun, light-hearted introduction to the insanity that is Egyptian mythology, and makes itself stand out by throwing aside some popular paranormal romance  conventions and focusing the story on family drama, rather than epic battles. I wanted a bit more tension in the first couple chapters, but other than that I really enjoyed the novel.”



Eric Samuelsen. Clearing Bombs. Plan B, Feb. 20-Mar. 12. During the summer of 1942, economists Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes spent a night on the roof of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, waiting to clear away and control German incendiary bombs.

Mahonri Stewart. Jimmy Stewart Goes to Hollywood. Covey Center for the Arts on March 28-29. Zion Theatre Company. Directed by J. Scott Bronson. About Jimmy Stewart and his difficult rise in Hollywood, focusing on his relationship with actress Margaret Sullavan.


MITT. Greg Whitley, director. Documentary. Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 17. Netflix, January 24. Whitley, the director of New York Doll and Resolved, has been working on this project for six years. It is an independent project, not controlled by Romney. But I seem to remember an election postmortem saying that there was a debate among the Romney campaign whether it should be released during the election or not, with one of the sons saying it should be, but others opposed. But I can’t find the article saying that.

SL Tribune feature story: “”It’s not a puff piece on him,” said Trevor Groth, programming director for the Sundance Film Festival. “It’s a really neutral look at the process.” That said, Groth opined that the movie “would have served him well during the election.”

Deseret News feature story: “Mitt Romney Sundance film gives unprecedented access to man, family.” “When Greg Whiteley began filming Mitt Romney’s six-year quest for the presidency, the documentary filmmaker seldom had his camera trained on the candidate’s family. Like other documentarians of political campaigns, Whiteley was drawn to the intrigue of strategy meetings, filming the candidate and his advisers plotting their next move. But, campaign strategists weren’t as fascinated with Whiteley recording their every word and told him so. “In most cases the candidate and his family are off limits. In my case it was the just the opposite. The campaign wanted nothing to do with me and the family was open,” he said. “I couldn’t explain how or why I got the family to trust me to the degree that they did. But they just did and I went with it. As a result it’s great family drama.”

Inspired Guns. January 24, 2014 in Utah theaters. Missionary comedy. Adam White, director/writer. “Mormon Missionaries begin teaching two birdbrained members of the mafia who think the Elders are messengers from “The Boss” with a hidden message on the next hit.” $175,000 budget. Producers: Jarrod Phillips (some acting and producing, especially Chick Magnets), Michael Hardle (Chick Magnets), Duane Anderson (White on Rice).  White and several of the producers and actors previously made a film called Chick Magnets in 2012. Preview screenings January 14th in Orem, and January 15th in Layton.

The LDS Film Festival is preparing for its 13th iteration, with the schedule to be announced later this month. The festival will be held February 5th-8th (a later date than previous years) at the SCERA Theater in Orem, Utah.

Christmas for a Dollar feature, Provo Daily Herald.

David Spaltro talks about his plans for his A Short Stay in Hell film.

Don Bluth– Drawing from His Imagination. Mariah Proctor, Meridian Magazine.


Jan. 12, 19

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

USA Today #37, #43, #79 (59 weeks)

PW MM Paperback #24, x (13th week). 5,081 units, 79,012 year total.

PW Children’s: #17, #22 (12th week). 7260l, 2740 units. 2013 total: 81,461.

NYT MM Paperback: #3, #4 (64th week)

NYT Ebook: #22, x (20th week)

NYT Combined Print and Ebook: #16, #24

A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

PW MM Paperback; x, #22 (1st week). 6107 units.

NYT MM Paperback: x, #3 (1st week)

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

NYT MM Paperback: #14, x (6th week)

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale

PW Children’s: #11, #10 (13th week). 9373, 4473 units. 2013 total: 85,083.

NYT: Fell off the list.

Spirit Animals #1: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull

PW Children’s #22, x (16th week). 5084 units. 2013 total: 90,545.

NYT Middle: #13, #14

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

USA Today: x, #113, x (3rd week)

NYT YA: #13, #4 (13th week)

The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner

Fell off the list

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

USA Today #154, #136, #32 (12th week).

NYT Series: #10, #9 (65th week)

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One Response to This Week in Mormon Literature, January 17, 2014

  1. Stephan says:

    Thanks for this article. I always love the amount of speculative fiction mentioned in these roundups! Great to see Fantasy Faction mentioned, too. You totally missed these lists featuring Sanderson and McClellan, though. And that site is even being run by a Mormon. ;-)

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