This Month in Mormon Literature, July 2014

The Mormon Lit Blitz is nearly over, vote now! Lots of award winners. The passing of a singular Mormon artist. The Newport Ladies group wraps up their series. Well-reviewed new YA novels from M. K. Hutchins, J. R. Johansson, and Kasie West. Carys Bray is another ex-Mormon literary author writing about Mormons in a faith crisis. Will it speak to Mormons? Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blogs

The Mormon Lit Blitz has been going on over the last few weeks. Read the 12 finalists, and vote by the end of July 5. The contestants are:

“20/20” by Lindsay Denton
“The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner
“In Remembrance” by Merrijane Rice
“Curelom Riders” by Annaliese Lemmon
“Slippery” by Stephen Carter
“In a Nutshell” by Doug Staker
“And Through the Woods” by Jennifer Eichelberger
“Thick and Thin” by Vilo Westwood
“Platinum Tears” by Marianne Hales Harding
“Sugar Free” by Emily Debenham
“Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales
“Yahweh: Prologue to the Temple” by Jonathon Penny

Ultra Violet, the artistic name of Isabelle Collin Dufresne, passed away on June 14 at the age of 78. Dufresne was an artist and film actress closely associated with Andy Warhol and The Factory. She joined the Church in 1981. Here are remembrances by Mormon New Yorkers Kent Larson and (especially read this very personal essay by) Glen Nelson. In Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years With Andy Warhol, her 1988 memoir, she wrote about her turn to religion after a nervous and physical breakdown. Also see the New York Times obituary.

A Spanish translation of a 2013 Mormon Lit Blitz finalist.

David Zobell’s list of 10 entry-level Mormon works of art that he takes as his models.

Publishers Weekly article about Altered Perceptions, the anthology created to benefit YA author Robison Wells.

Process Profile: Neil Aitken Discusses “I Dream My Father on the Shore” (Lantern Review Blog).

Songs of Joel”. Glen Nelson of Mormon Artists Group on 19th century Mormon poet and songwriter Joel H. Johnson.

The IndieAuthor Hub Conference was held June 7 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Provo Utah.

Awards

Jennifer Quist wins a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artists Award. “Her writing is extraordinarily strong, powerfully handled, and evidence of a rarely encountered original voice.”—Adjudicators

Foreword Reviews IndieFab (Book of the Year) Awards 2013 were announced.

Sarah M. Eden. Longing For Home. Gold Winner for Romance.

Julianne Donaldson. Blackmoore. Silver Winner for Romance.

Chad Morris. Cambridge Hall. Silver Winner for Juvenile Fiction (Children’s)

Laura Anderson won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical fiction for The Boleyn King. Anne Perry was a nominee for Midnight at Marble Arch (historical mystery), Lynn Kurland was a nominee for Dreamspinner (fantasy adventure), Brian McClellan was a nominee for Promise of Blood (epic fantasy), Rebecca Winters was a nominee for A Marriage Made in Italy (Harlequin romance), and Tara Taylor Quinn was a nominee for The Truth about Comfort Cove (Harlequin SuperRomance).

Scott Parkin is a finalist for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future speculative short fiction contest. He has been a finalist 4 times previously.

Magazines and Short Stories

BYU Studies 53:2 (July 2014) is out, with a pretty East Asia print on the cover. It includes two prize winners from its poetry contest (“Foundry” by Jared Pearce and “Horizon” by Darlene Young), and two prize winners from its personal essay contest (“Mossy Pools, Unkempt Paths, and Living Memory” by Patrick Moran and “Be It unto Me” by Rebecca Clarke).
“Spirit Babies and Divine Embodiment: PBEs, First Vision Accounts, Bible Scholarship, and the Experience-Centered Approach to Mormon Folklore” by Eric A. Eliason.
Review of Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow.
Review of Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life: The Autobiography and Teachings of Jim Dandy.
Review of the film Ephriam’s Rescue.

Howard Tayler. “Call of the Caber”. In Iron Kingdoms Excursions, Season 1 Volume 5. Privateer Press. “Heft a massive stone column and crush the enemy in defense of the United Kriels.”

New Books and their Reviews

Traci Abramson, Stephanie Black, Gregg Luke. Twisted Fate. Covenant, June 6. Suspense anthology. Three stories of contemporary suspense.

Denver Acey. The Quantum Breach. Cedar Fort/Bonneville, June 10. Suspense thriller. Previously self-published in 2012 as The Mormon Hacker. Before converting to Mormonism, a man had made millions illegally hacking. He is kidnapped by cyber-terrorists who want him to attack Los Alamos.

Susan Aylworth. Eastward to Zion. Covenant, June 5. Historical. 1852, English man and Irish woman in Australia convert, emigrate to Utah.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian): “James and Eliza are both characters that will stay in a reader’s mind long after the book is closed. Both are hard working, loyal, intelligent, and determined. Eliza tends to be stubborn and has a difficult time deviating from any course she sets for herself. James has a tendency to jump to conclusions. As the story progresses, they mature, and gain united spiritual strength and increased faith . . . Aylworth uses [the basic emigration] facts to create a story that is fresh and exciting with a satisfying plot.

Sian Ann Bessey. The Insider. Covenant, May 8. Suspense. A journalist in Afghanistan finds out that his brother has been killed mysteriously and his niece kidnapped by her mother. He works to uncover the truth.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian) 5 stars: “It’s exciting to see an author get better with each succeeding book. I’ve enjoyed Sian Ann Bessey’s books since her first one, but she is one of those authors who just keeps getting better . . . Bessey creates strong characters with standards and emotions her readers can identify with. Dialog is realistic and the situations and tools used are believable. The plot moves quickly without feeling rushed and errors are minimal. She presents a background that is beautiful and part of the story without allowing it to become a travelogue. Tension is an important factor in this type of story and this one begins with high tension, then builds in a satisfying way to keep the reader reluctant to set the book down until finished.   LDS references are used sparingly and play an important and real role in the story. Though this story has political elements and has a feel of coming straight from today’s headlines, it doesn’t have a partisan slant. There is a note of romance, but it doesn’t overpower the mystery/suspense elements. Mystery, Suspense, and Action readers will enjoy this one.”

Laura Bingham. Dancing With Black. Trifecta Books, June 17. YA contemporary romance. Dancers help each other with domestic abuse, etc.

Dustin W. Bradshaw. Counting Candles. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, June 10. General/Inspirational. Man nearing 40 feels insignificant, then finds out how much he has touched others.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian): 4stars. “Anyone reading Counting Candles is likely to compare it to It’s a Wonderful Life, that long time seasonal favorite of an ordinary man who becomes depressed because of his failure to achieve some grand success in life. James Smith is a character much like George Bailey, but to be honest, I like James better than George. To me he’s more real. Bradshaw does an excellent job of creating characters and in short vignettes demonstrating their contact with James and showing to what that contact leads the character to do to change his/her life for the better. “Feel good” books, such as this, are not known for powerful plots or a great deal of action. Their strength is in their message of hope, love, or outlook on life – sometimes referred to as scattering warm fuzzies. Counting Candles points out that each person has opportunities to make others feel better about themselves, to give encouragement, and do small acts of charity that can change lives for the better. It suggest that helping others is of greater worth than achieving awards, monetary compensation, or other worldly recognition.”

Tayla Branton (Rachel Nunes). The Reckoning. White Star Press, June 30. Unbound #4. Paranormal.

Carys Bray. A Song for Issy Bradley. Hutchinson (UK, June 19) and Ballantine Books (US, August 12). General. Bray, who is British (from Southport, Merseyside), grew up as a member of the Church, but is no longer a member. This is her debut novel. She main previous publication is a short story collection, Sweet Home (Salt, 2012), which won the Scott Prize. ‘Scaling Never’, an excerpt (or early version) of the novel appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Dialogue. The British reviews of the novel have been very strong. See my summary of the reviews, as well Bray’s comments about her connection to Mormonism.

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnson. Earth Awakens. Tor, June 10. The First Formic War #3. Science Fiction. Third in a series of Ender’s Game prequels.

Kirkus: “Large slabs of narrative detail the rancorous rivalry between Ukko and Lem. The previous book’s most interesting character, 8-year-old Chinese genius Bingwen, who worked with O’Toole and Rackham, finds a new job as a medic but otherwise features far too little. The Formics are big, buglike, ferocious, possibly telepathic among themselves and otherwise uninteresting, with technology that involves the manual rotating of huge wheels to turn things on and off. Still to come is a huge, thrilling and altogether improbable battle. The evidence, then, suggests Johnson did most of the writing, with minimal contributions from Card. The weakest installment so far; still, fans will devour it.”

Stephen Carter and Jeff Atwood. iPlates 2: Alma in the Wilderness. Zion Bookworks, July. Graphic novel. Based on Mosiah 12-13, about Alma the Elder, King Noah, Abinadi, and Gideon. The first part this of Alma in the Wilderness was available at Salt Lake ComicCon.

Michaelbrent Collings. The Colony: Shift. Self, May 30. Zombie horror. The Colony #5.

Stephanie Fowers. Jane and Austen. Triad Media, June 30. Contemporary romance.

Shannon Hale. Spirit Animals: Fire and Ice. Scholastic, June 24. Middle grade fantasy adventure. Spirit Animals #4. Hale’s first volume in this multi-author series, which was created by Brandon Mull.

Camille Halverson. Waiting For You.Covenant, June 1. Romance/general. A driven lawyer from a prominent, stable LDS family meets a woman with a shocking past. He falls for her, will he reevaluate his lifestyle?

Amy Harmon. Infinity + One. Self, June 8. A famous but depressed girl and a broken but brilliant boy meet.

Stacie Henrie. Hope at Dawn. Forever, June 24. Historical Christian romance. Of Love and War, #1. German-Americans struggle on the home front during World War I.

Dear Author review: B “I’m always looking for unusual settings or plots and the description of this one promised both. Plus it utilizes an Americana backdrop that I haven’t seen used much in years . . . I thought the story had good historical details in showing the life of rural Iowa farm towns and one room schools. It also taught me a great deal of history I didn’t know such as the banning of the use of all foreign languages in Iowa and how pervasive anti-German sentiments were. I was sorry to see the villains mainly portrayed as fairly stock characters who show up, threaten the good guys and then sink back into the wood work until needed again for more menace. But what about the religious aspects? I can hear long time DA readers asking. Will I feel preached at or badgered about faith? Honestly, I don’t think so. I know I didn’t. Instead, faith is an integral part of Livy and Friedrick’s lives. Going to church is the accepted thing to do on Sunday and they turn to God in times of need and in thanks for prayers answered. I didn’t feel bashed over the head with religion but it is present throughout the story. The main characters are well fleshed out and believable, the conflict is germane to the time and place and it’s nice to learn some new things along the way. If not for the by-the-rote villains, I think I would have enjoyed the story more but I’m still glad I read it.”

Mom With a Reading Problem review: 5 stars. “I love these characters! Both are very relatable in their struggles and their values . . . Overall, I loved this book and devoured it in a few days. The sweet relationship between Livy and Friedrick, the struggles against pride and prejudice, and the acceptance of God’s plan for both of them make this story unforgettable. If you enjoy historical fiction, Christian or inspirational literature, and a little romance, I highly recommend you check out this book. A little note: there are a couple of scenes of violence related to the prejudice against the German-American community of this book, however it is a clean read.”

Karen E. Hoover. Fractured. Trifecta Books, June 21. YA Fantasy. Dragons and other mythical creatures come to life in the contemporary world.

Heather Horrocks. My Spare Lady. Word Garden Press, June 1. Romantic comedy. Chick Flick Clique #3.

Pene Beavan Horton. Devil’s Cataract. Green Fountain Publications, April 22. Romantic suspense. Set in 1950s Rhodesia, a woman has lost her memory, begins to suspect the people who are supposedly helping her. The author was born in South Africa, currently lives in British Columbia.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian). 4 stars. “This book touches on several forms of mental illness, making it a fascinating look at the reasoning and functionality of people with mental problems that are not openly obvious. Set in the 1950s the racial bigotry is appalling and highlights the injustice directed toward the Rhodesian natives and the indifference of the white population to their plight. It also portrays white landowners who are kind and caring, but somewhat patronizing as they treat their black employees almost as children. The background and setting for this story shows a rich, lush land with steep mountains and deep gullies that feels authentic and inviting. The characters are a little stylized, but not annoyingly so as is often the case with African/European stories. Jill has a strong sense of survival, but occasionally suffers from the dumb heroine complex and Jon is a little naive. The story is plotted well and keeps the reader turning pages.”

Dean Hughes. Fresh Courage Take. Deseret Book, May 12. LDS historical. Come to Zion #3. Final book in the series. Will joins the Mormon Battalion in its trek to Mexico, and Liz struggles in Winter Quarters, while Jeff and Abby struggle in modern-day Nauvoo.

Gamila review: “In this volume we follow the characters as they are pressed through their lowest times. I still really loved the honesty of the characters emotions in this book. The ending of the book was sort of abrupt, but we couldn’t stay with the characters forever, I suppose. All the characters do make interesting journeys even if the ending leaves a lot of the rest of their saga untold. Hughes writes a story that is inspiring and relevant to our times. I would highly recommend this series to everyone.”

M. K. Hutchins. Drift. Tu Books, May 31. YA fantasy. Cultures that live on the backs of giant turtles clash. Based on Mayan mythology. Debut novel.

Kirkus: “Original worldbuilding and cosmology spice up a save-the-world romantic adventure . . . Though too much of what Tenjat needs to know is revealed through Eflet, her revelations are so intriguing that her nigh-omniscience is less distracting than it could be. Readers will find watching Hutchins’ unusual magical rules bring about startling consequences for family and political structure utterly fascinating. Totally fresh”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. July/August 2014. Kate Quealy-Gainer. “An informative author’s note points toward Mayan mythology and culture as the foundational inspiration for the setting, along with elements of Hinduism and early Mesopotamian culture, and the resulting mosaic of a world is fascinating in its intricacy. The turtle-eat-turtle island structure calls up Philip Reeve’s predatory mobile cities (in Mortal Engines), but the revelations behind the source of Hell and Deep Hell add a spiritual element not often explored in YA literature. Well-developed characters match the complex setting: both Tenjat and Eflet are refreshingly flawed, often fumbling toward understanding and repeating mistakes as they adjust to new information. Everyman Tenjat in particular offers a nice alternative to the superiority of the “chosen one” trope. Fantasy and speculative fiction fans are the obvious audience here, but readers of historical fiction or those interested in a more anthropological take on the battle between good and evil may find this to their liking as well.”

J. R. Johansson. Paranoia. Flux, June 8. Night Walkers #2. YA Paranormal/Horror. Jack learns how to be a Night Walker, watching the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with before sleep. He learns about others with related powers.

Kirkus: “Can Parker learn to control Darkness, his violent alter ego? Johansson plunges readers directly into this sequel, milking dream sequences—of both Parker and his friends—for suspense while also cultivating the misunderstandings that arise from Parker’s dilemma, especially when his girlfriend comes to believe him to be a liar. The final battle, while nicely tense, seems just a bit too easy for the level of danger involved, but readers should enjoy the adventure nonetheless. A worthy sequel to an imaginative new series.”

VOYA: “The plot of progresses fairly well; the forward momentum and action-filled scenes help to bring readers in. Parker is a well developed, likeable protagonist whose actions and motivations are believable. One flaw is that the narrative is cumbersome. Too many details surrounding the traits and behavior of the Night Walkers make the premise difficult to accept and the story more convoluted than it needs to be. However, the highly unique premise and thrilling plot will undoubtedly be enough to entice some readers. Those who are willing to commit to the book will find its conclusion satisfying and will look forward to the next installment in the series.”

Challenging Reads: “One of the most interesting aspects of this book was Parker’s divided personality. Due to his lack of sleep and control at the beginning of this series, all his pent-up frustration, anger and violence has split itself from his person and become a very own person, Darkness. Darkness is growing more restless because he feels imprisoned in Parker’s body . . . The plot was very fast and due to the shortness of this book, I finished it rather quickly. I liked that it opened a whole new storyline to the plot which made it at least as interesting as the first book where we simply find out about Parker’s abilities and their consequences. The only thing I didn’t like was the story about his Dad. I was a bit disappointed by the conclusion to all this Daddy business.”

Elana Johnson. Elemental Rush. AEJ Creative Works, June 3. Prequel novella to Elemental Hunger.

Elana Johnson. Elemental Hunger. AEJ Creative Works, June 12. New adult futuristic fantasy. Genetic abnormalities result in people with super powers, like shooting fire from hands.

Mindy. 4 stars. “Elemental Hunger starts off strong and doesn’t stop until the end.  I kept reading and reading and reading and when I finally looked at the clock, it was way past midnight.  I enjoyed this world that Elana has created.  The powers of the Manifested are very, very cool and Gabby especially was a favorite.  I enjoyed her journey of figuring out who she is and what she can do.  Along the way she and Adam meet Hanai, who is also learning what types of powers he has, who I instantly loved.  There are is danger, suspense, action with the cool powers and some cool twists that left me screaming, NO WAY and OH NO!”

Josi Kilpack, Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, Julie Wright. Tying the Knot. Covenant, July 2. Newport Ladies Book Club #9. General/Women’s. Blurb: “In this final installment of the beloved Newport Ladies Book Club series, discover what’s in store for Athena, Ruby, Ilana, Olivia, Victoria, Daisy, Paige, and Shannon. From mending marriages to overcoming addictions, the women of this remarkable group meet their triumphs and tragedies as they always have: together.”

Dene Low. Petronella Saves Several More. Laurel Wreath, June 11. The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival #2. MG/YA historical mystery. Sixteen-year-old Petronella is once more thrown into adventure as she uncovers a plot to assassinate King Edward and a Russian archduke in pre-WWI Europe.

J. Lloyd Morgan. Bring Down the Rain. Pendr Publishing (self), May 25. Young Adult General. Starting a new high school is hard, especially as a senior. At age 17, Derek’s family relocates and he discovers going to high school in Utah is vastly different than in North Carolina. Set in 1986.

Kelly Oram. A Is For Abstinence. Bluefields, May 12. New Adult Romance. Sequel to V is for Virgin.

Aimee. 3 stars. “While V is for Virgin was a YA book, this book moves up into the “new adult” genre. Because of the content, it is more suitable for mature audiences. There are no explicit sex scenes, but the whole book revolves around sex, or lack of sex, or wishing for sex or talking about sex. You get the idea. It is not a book I would hand to any teenager I know . . . The flames of passion still burn strong and the chemistry between Kyle and Val is enough to set the book on fire. Their lusty connection continues to build to bursting. It must be noted that Val promotes waiting until marriage for sex. That is absolutely a message I do stand behind for so many reason. I am grateful to see . . . Kelly Oram really has a gift for writing tangible chemistry. The dialogue between characters is real and flows so well . . . This book crossed over my comfort lines with the whole sex theme. Explicit sex scenes aside, I still wouldn’t call this book a “clean romance”. There is also swearing, which goes beyond “mild”. I could have done without that as well.”

Janci Patterson. Everything’s Fine. Self, June 5. Young Adult General/Suspense. A girl tries to find out the truth about her friend’s suicide. The novel won the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2007 under its working title, Haylee’s Journal. Peterson is self-publishing her second novel, after her first, Chasing the Skip, was published by Henry Holt in 2012.

Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler. Shadows Beneath: Writing Excuses anthology. June 28. Speculative fiction. One novella, one novelette, two short stories, as well as extras, by the four members of the Hugo Award winning Writing Excuses podcast team. “I.E.Demon,” by Dan Wells. US soldiers in Afghanistan are tasked with testing new technology built to protect them from bombs. Unfortunately, the technology has a few bugs in it. Also, demons. “An Honest Death,” by Howard Tayler. What do you do when your new life-extension drugs are effective enough to get the attention of Death himself? “A Fire in the Heavens,” by Mary Robinette Kowal. An epic fantasy novelette involving a tidally locked planet, an expedition to a new continent, and what it’s like to see the moon for the first time. “Sixth of the Dusk,” Cosmere novella by Brandon Sanderson. In a land where people use birds to grant them magical talents, a solitary island trapper discovers a plot to destroy his way of life—and maybe his entire culture. Also Transcripts of the original brainstorming sessions for each story, recorded on Writing Excuses. (You can listen to them here.) The first draft of every story, for comparison purposes to the final draft. Transcripts of workshopping sessions we did for each story. (These will run as episodes of Writing Excuses.) A special “visual changes” version of each story, where we compared the first draft with the last one and put a strikethrough on each word deleted and an underline on each word added. (This will allow you to directly see the editing process of each writer.) Plenty of other bonus features for each story, including essays on writing and the editing process, other drafts, and other surprises.

J. Scott Savage. Case File 13: Evil Twins.Harper Collins, June 24. Middle grade fantasy. Case File 13 #3. The three boys take on a mad scientist and evil twins.

Theresa Sneed. Elias of Elderberry Self, May 24. YA Contemporary Fantasy. Sons of Elderberry #1. 15-year old boy is given an ancient papyrus that can give him anything his heart desires.

Janice Sperry. Rebel Princess. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, June 10. Middle grade contemporary fantasy. Middle school girl is the daughter of a gentle princess and evil sorcerer.

Michelle Ashman Bell (Meridian): “Anyone who is a fan of fairytales will fall in love with this cute story. Author Janice Sperry has created a fresh, delightful book that is sure to become a fan favorite. I loved the characters, loved the twists, and several times I laughed out loud! Do not miss, The Rebel Princess.”

Mindy, LDSWBR: 4 stars. “This book is an absolute joy.  I loved Raven instantly.  Her humor and disdain for being a princess is what kept me reading eagerly.  I loved how the author incorporated many different fairytales in this enjoyable story.”

RaeAnne Thayne. Wild Iris Ridge. Harlequin HQN, June 24. Sweet romance. Hope’s Crossing #7.

Dan Wells. Next of Kin. Self, June 29. Horror novella. An “introduction to an all-new John Cleaver trilogy, beginning in 2015 with The Devil’s Only Friend.” “Elijah Sexton was a god of the ancient world. Now he drives a hearse in a Midwest town and keeps his head down. He avoids the world as much as he can, drinking dead memories while his own mind drifts slowly toward oblivion. But when the memories he drains reveal the presence of another fallen god, Elijah is drawn back into a war between humans and monsters–a war that threatens the woman he doesn’t dare to love.”

David J. West. Weird Tales of Horror. Self, June 21. “21 Tales and Poems of Weird Horror spanning centuries and continents, but always disturbingly close.”

Kasie West. On the Fence. HarperTeen, July 1. YA romantic comedy. 16-year old tomboy falls for the boy next door.

PW: “Raised with plenty of male influences—three brothers, her next door neighbor Braden, and a widowed police officer father—Charlie is a star athlete and well-protected from the outside world, especially when it comes to dating. Recently, Charlie has been crushing on Braden, and she’s also getting attention for her looks at her new job at a clothing store. In short, Charlie’s sense of identity is in upheaval, her intense workouts aren’t sufficient relief, and her constant nightmares about her mother’s fatal car accident are stirring up repressed memories. Nightly, Charlie and Braden find solace in sneaking out to talk to each other (Braden’s father is drinking a lot), but Charlie fears that he will never see her as anything more than just a buddy. West builds enjoyable tension and absorbing chemistry between Charlie and Braden, and her depiction of growing up surrounded by brothers is thoroughly enjoyable.”

SLJ: “West crafts a beautiful story that will hook lovers of contemporary teen romance . . . This tale is eloquently written and goes deeper than most teen romances dare to go. For fans of Susane Colasanti and Stephanie Perkins.”

Natalie Whipple. Relax, I’m A Ninja. Self, June 3. YA Urban Fantasy. Anime-influenced. Ninjas in San Francisco.

S. J. Wilkins. Hope. Currawong Press/Walnut Springs, May 16. Historical. Mormon converts in Northwest England in the mid-19th century. British author, first novel.

Jennie Hansen (Meridian). 3 stars. “It is told from two major points of view, that of Manny Shaw a twenty-one year-old factory worker in a remote village and his father, Isaac Shaw, who has been dead for sixteen years . . . Hope is an unusual story in several ways. First the telling of part of the story from the point of view of a dead man who is a witness to what is happening is different. Then there’s the old Victorian writing style that, though it fits the story’s era, feels a little awkward to modern readers. The characters are true to form for a Victorian era novel, but feel a little slow and incomplete for today. Hope and Manny’s mother are both rather bland characters and we never develop strong feelings for either. Manny spends too much time sleeping at crucial times or wallowing in indecision. His dependency on spiritual promptings often feels more like doing nothing followed by spurts of impetuousness. It’s hard to tell whether even the villain is evil or insane. Though real people have ambiguous and contradictory characteristics better character development could strengthen this story. Stories concerning early conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are predictable to some extent and this one has some strong qualities as it also points out the continuing interest of the deceased in the lives of their descendents. It also portrays well the slow development of faith and the process of learning to believe and trust in God. The plot line is developed well, though I think the story could have been improved with some meaningful interaction between Hope and Manny.”

Pamela S. Williams. Living it Down. Walnut Springs, May 30. General/women’s. Blub: “Carrie Burke has it all-marriage to a successful lawyer, two lively teenage daughters, a beautiful home, the gospel. Why isn’t she happy? Confused, joyless, and depressed, she questions her own worth and decides to take an unorthodox “time-out” to reevaluate her life. Her husband Morgan calls it selfish. Carrie calls it self-preservation. Renting the basement apartment in Aunt Sophie’s vintage Victorian home brings its own set of challenges, but also the advantage of friendship with vivacious, creative Lainie McGuire. Coincidence brings an old flame, Todd Kendall – a man Carrie never wanted to see again – back into her life. To guide her daughter through a moral crisis with a predatory boy, she realizes she needs the help of both Todd and Morgan.”

Jennie Hansen (Meridian): “[This] is one of those books I have to give a mixed review. It’s very well written, but I don’t agree with some of the premise behind it . . . There are a lot of good points made in this story concerning personal fulfillment, repentance, and the atonement. The author handles well the unrealistic expectation some people have of achieving perfection in this life. However I’m uncomfortable with having the bishop in this case counsel a woman with whom he had a prior relationship when their relationship is part of her problem. Though the stake president sits in on the first session, they are alone during the rest of their sessions. I also don’t think anything was gained by separation that couldn’t have been gained much more quickly and less painfully by spending more time together and having a few honest, open conversations. The characters are interesting and they grow throughout the story. In the beginning Carrie seems childish with a tendency to over dramatize and in many ways she matures, but at the end she still plays childish games with her marriage. Morgan tends to overwork, and loses patience easily, but eventually decides his marriage and his faith are worth developing greater patience. The older daughter is much like her mother; social, makes friends easily, terribly naive, and has a tendency to over dramatize while the younger daughter is steadier like her father. Their and their teenage friends’ dialog doesn’t feel realistic and one scene where the older daughter tells off her predatory boyfriend seems pointless and accomplishes nothing. Williams has a warm, comfortable style and women dealing with questions concerning adequacy and self esteem could benefit greatly from the truths she points out. She deals well with the quest each person has to find identity, joy, and fulfillment in life and hope for the future.”

Julie Wright. Spell Check. Self, June 10. YA paranormal comedy. Set in Salem, girl discovers witches and magical powers.

Reviews of older books

A Timeless Romance Anthology: Summer Wedding (Rosalyn). 4 stars. “The stories here are clean, romantic–and united by some kind of wedding theme. My favorites were Jacobson’s story about a best man and maid of honor united by wedding hijinks, Julie Wright’s story about jilted bride’s revenge, and Sarah Eden’s, which features a charming Englishman.”

Sarah Dunster. Mile 21 (Reading for Sanity). 3.75 stars. “I really enjoyed this book!  I can completely understand Abish’s frustrations and fears of moving forward with her life.  She’s not a very tactful gal to start with, but then to deal with the heartache (which is so much greater than just losing her husband) and the isolation that came with it on top of it, I totally understood her behavior.  Does she make good decisions?  Ha! No.  Not really one bit.  That’s part of the fun.  Does she grow?  Slowly, painfully, and rewardingly, yes. There were times I thought that the descriptions of the Singles’ Ward activities and drama were a little too — well, I couldn’t decide.  They were either too painfully accurate or too stereotypical.  (It’s been a while since I’ve been in that situation.)  Either way, I completely and fully understood where Abish was coming from.  The phrase “humiliations galore” ran through my head more than once.  However, I laughed out loud definitely more often than I cringed for her.”

Anne Dee Ellis. The End Or Something Like That. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, July/August 2014. “Ellis conveys intense ideas and emotions—from changing relationships to body image to budding romance to deep loss—in spare and exacting prose believable as the internal monologue of a protagonist who struggles to put voice to her feelings. Emmy makes a sympathetic and nuanced character, frustrating but never alienating as she clumsily moves through her grief while dealing with the peers and adults, portrayed here with observant precision, who make up her life. This is a sad novel, but not one wallowing in its misery; rather, with understated humor, compassion, and even-handedness in its staccato sentences, it takes readers on a meaningful journey into grief and uncertainty—and gently leads them back to safety.”

Nicole Hardy. Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin (Shelah Books It). 3 stars. “While the book was funny, and well-written, and readable in a way that few memoirs written by MFAs usually are, I found that it didn’t meet my expectations. This isn’t a criticism of the story– it’s just that as a Mormon woman who got married before the ink on my diploma was dry, and as a Mormon girl who saw herself as a future mother above all things, Hardy’s story was poignant and foreign and very eye-opening. In the church, we are so quick to judge others, to second guess their motives and desires (like Hardy’s desire not to be a mother), to pass people by in the hall that don’t look like us or act like us or go to playgroup with us. We hear so much about being sensitive to single people in a church where being part of a couple is central to the doctrine, but I don’t know what it feels like to be an adult member of the church who isn’t part of a married couple. So I’m incredibly grateful to Hardy for writing honestly, and not bitterly, about that struggle, and also for being honest and vulnerable and open about her choice to explore her sexuality and leave the church when it wasn’t what worked for her.”

Megan Sanborn Jones. Performing American Identity in Anti-Mormon Melodrama (Greg Seppi, AML). “In the U.S. today, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are generally mocked for being uptight, repressed Christian do-gooders. In the 19th Century, however, Utah Mormonism represented licentiousness, murder, heresy and anti-Americanism—it was a foreign menace capable of subverting the American experiment with a theocratic regime directed from Salt Lake City. The exact extent to which anxiety about Mormonism influenced American society is difficult to determine. In this book, Megan Sanborn Jones analyzes a number of melodramas to begin to construct an answer. This book is essentially a reprint of her PhD thesis, and it is an impressive work, though not revolutionary. That being said, a reader who is mostly unfamiliar with contemporary critical theory may not enjoy this book. Personally, I would have loved reading this book in one of my 2nd or 3rd year English classes at BYU . . . I do wish that Jones had taken her study up to 1920 and included early anti-Mormon films. The villainous Mormon was a well-known archetype in early twentieth-century movies. Regardless, this text at least maps the route that such a study would take. I was also disappointed that Jones did not extend her use of critical theory in the introduction to the rest of the text. I also suspect that the work of Slavoj Zizek, with its focus on the psychological and economic currency of popular culture, might have interesting applications to Mormon and anti-Mormon theatre. In any case, Jones is almost certainly correct to avoid descending into an extended philosophical exegesis, since that might distract from her focus on nineteenth-century melodrama. While this is a specialist text that will not interest most readers, I think that scholars interested in understanding the role of Mormonism in nineteenth-century popular culture will probably find this book to be an interesting read. It is certainly not the most approachable text ever written. That being said, after the Introduction, the philosophical-critical language largely drops off, and Jones’ descriptions of anti-Mormon melodramas give the reader a good sense of those works. I hope to hear that some of these dead works get performed some day! They sound delightfully campy.

Annette Lyon. Ilana’s Wish (Sheila, LDSWBR). 5 stars. “Ilana was hard to peg in the other books. She seemed very secretive, unsocial and frankly not very friendly to the other women. In this book we find out why. Ilana after major surgery and an accident a few weeks later, becomes addicted to pain killers. This portrayal of an addict was sad, scary, and so heart breaking. If you have ever been addicted to something you may cry a lot through this novel. This very real and gritty novel shows how hard it is to battle a drug addiction. After reading other peoples reviews of Ilana’s Wish, I could see many of them had a hard time reading this book. I say do not miss out on this novel. This is some of the best writing Annette Lyon has done! She gets to the heart and soul of this deeply broken woman. I almost read this book in one sitting. I so wanted to see her get the help she needed. The outcome is one of hope. Readers will feel strengthened by the courage, friendship and love shown in this book. In my opinion, this is another winner in the series.”

Anne Perry. No Graves as Yet (Jessica Day George). 3 stars. “So this is supposed to be straight up historical fiction about the start of WWI in England, and NOT one of her mysteries. But it starts with murder, and by the time the war begins, five people have died mysteriously. Which would be GREAT, if Thomas and Charlotte Pitt were or Inspector Monk were on hand to solve the crimes. But they’re not. Instead we have two rather bland brothers, who I had trouble telling apart until almost a third of the way through the book. One of the brothers seemed fairly useless, as well. And since the other one isn’t a detective, he just sort of ran around in circles asking questions ineffectually. The book suffered from a lack of a strong, quirky main character, and I believe that may have been a deliberate way of distancing it from her other books. I do think I’ll pick up the next one, SHOULDER THE SKY, but I’m in no rush.”

Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo. In The Shadows (Rosalyn). 5 stars. “I loved this little gem of a book. In an unusual combination of text and gorgeous illustrations by Di Bartolo, this story follows a handful of teenagers in turn of the century Maine . . . I’ll admit I didn’t understand the art at the beginning, though I was intrigued. As I read, the graphic novel added a layer of depth and intensity to the story, because it made it clear that something big, something supernatural was happening. And White’s prose was lovely edition. Romantic, gothic, eerily beautiful–I read most of this in one sitting.”

Brad Torgersen, “The Exchange Officers” (Elitist Book Reviews, review of the Hugo nominated novelettes). “About an American space station where the “astronauts” are avatar-like proxies that are controlled by military “Operators” from a safe distance on Earth. The Chinese have decided to try to take over the incomplete space station, and Chopper (Warrant Officer Dan Jaraczuk) and Chesty (Warrant Officer Mavy Stoddard) are the only Operators able to fight back after the initial EMP. Torgersen jumps from action to flashback–where they meet and begin training with the proxies. He has complete control of the story, it never lags, but still gives you the information you need to begin liking these characters and understand the delicacy of their situation. It’s a fun story with an unexpected ending–my second favorite of the nominations.” (Kowal’s story was his favorite).

Kiersten White. The Chaos of Stars (Rosalyn). 3 stars. “A cute book, but don’t go into it looking for a lot of depth . . . Despite the mythological overtones, the book reads more like a YA contemporary romance: Isadora is determined to resist Ry because she’s decided that loving someone can only lead to pain. Much of the book is about Ry’s equally determined pursuit of Isadora. The danger facing her family felt a little more like an after thought here–long stretches of the book go by without anything dangerous (or even mythological) happening and a lot of the plot twists were pretty easy to see coming. I still enjoyed reading it. Despite Isadora’s self-centeredness, I liked her and her honesty. And the short blurbs at the beginning of each chapter detailing Egyptian mythology from Isadora’s perspective were often laugh-out-loud funny. I blame the cover here for setting up too high of expectations–it’s so gorgeous, it seems to promise something intricate and deep. A fun, light read, this definitely is. But not a complex exploration of mythology. And to be honest, having loved White’s In the Shadows just a week or so ago, I was a little disappointed.”

Theater

Ariel Mitchell, a recent BYU graduate, received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Award at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. While a 10-minute selection of her play was being read by equity actors in a Millennium Stage reading, representatives of the play-publishing company Samuel French, Inc. liked what they heard and decided to publish her play, A Second Birthon June 18. A Second Birth shares the struggles of a poor Afghani girl named Nasima, who is raised a boy to improve the family’s social and economic standing in their community. Mitchell recently finished her first year at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. She and her collaborator are writing a musical comedy about a girl raised by a Mormon father and a Jewish mother who has to choose what she believes without alienating her parents or relatives.

I am Jane. June 15. Weber State (Shepherd Bldg) in Ogden. Juneteenth Heritage Festival.

Madness Lies: The Lear Project. Directed by Andrea Gunoe, co-written by Gunoe and the cast. A collaborative and devised piece of theatre that was performed at Provo’s Covey Center for the Arts in June. This production will focus on the experiences of those who were raised by parents with mental illnesses and will be told using Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear.  It told their stories through their direct words, Shakespeare’s text, music, and movement. Gunoe recently received a MA in Theatre History and Critical Studies from the BYU

The Utah Valley University Theatre Department, chaired by Chris Clark, is featured in the Deseret News. Its production of the contemporary musical “Next to Normal” was honored with Outstanding Production of a Musical at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in March, from among 600 collegiate theater departments vying for the honor. At last year’s Kennedy Center event, UVU won the same distinction in the drama category for its “Vincent in Brixton.”

Saturday’s Warrior, which debuted in 1974, returned to the stage with a contemporized 40th anniversary version of the show in Gilbert, Arizona. June 26-July 12 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts.

Film

Saints and Soldiers: The Void. Coming to theaters Aug. 15.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented a Student Oscar to the BYU animation team for their work on “Owned.” The animation was one of three to receive a Student Academy Award, but BYU animators scored first in their category, receiving a gold medal. BYU’s “Owned” previously received a student Emmy at the College Television Awards in April.

The Cokeville Miracle. Summer 2015. Produced by T.C. Christiansen. Filming finished in July 2014. About a bombing at a Cokeville, Wyoming elementary school in 1986. Miraculously, only the two perpetrators were killed by the bomb. KSL report.

Bestsellers

June 15, 22, 29, July 6

Christine Feehan. Air Bound

NYT Mass-market Paperback: #1, #4, #10, x (3 weeks)

NYT Ebook: #3, x, x, x (1 week)

PW Mass Market Paperback: #3, #8, #12, #17 (4 weeks). 22,575, 13,717, 7986, 5849 units. 50,127 total

USA Today: #5, #35, #74, #134, x (4 weeks)

Richard Paul Evans. Walking on Water

NYT Hardcover: #15, x, x, x (4 weeks).

PW Hardcover: #15, x, x, x (4 weeks). 3666 units. 34,877 total.

Shannon Hale. Ever After High #2: The Unfairest of them All

NYT Middle Grade: #14, #14, #14, x (11 weeks on the extended list)

PW Children’s: #14, #15, #16, #18 (13 weeks). 4203, 4211, 3889, 3573 units. 76,220 total.

Shannon Hale. Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends

NYT Middle Grade: x, x, #15, x

PW Children’s: #24, #25, x, x (35 weeks). 2942, 3030 units. 81,308 total.

Shannon Hale. Spirt Animals #4: Fire and Ice.

USA Today: x, x, x, x, #64 (1 week)

James Dashner. The Kill Order

PW Children’s: #25, #23, #17, #16 (9 weeks). 2932, 3145, 3883, 3853 units. 60,042 total.

James Dashner. The Maze Runner

NYT Series: #3, #3, #2, #2 (89 weeks)

USA Today: #28, #28, #14, #13, #13 (31 weeks)

James Dashner. The Scorch Trials

USA Today: #77, #103, #71, #71, #68 (16 weeks)

James Dashner. The Death Cure

USA Today: #97, #132, #98, #100, #99 (18 weeks)

RaeAnne Thayne. Wild Iris Ridge

USA Today: x, x, x, x, #106 (1 week)

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. Earth Awakens

NYT Hardcover: x, x, #19, x (1 week)

NYT Combined Print & Ebook: x, x, #25, x (1 week)

Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game

NYT Mass-Market Paperback: #20, #15, #6, #10 (87 weeks)

Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

NYT Graphic Hardcover: x, x, #5, #5 (6 weeks)

Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, trenches, mud and blood

NYT Graphic Hardcover: #7, #7, #4, #9 (6 weeks)

Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party

NYT Graphic Hardcover: x, x, #10, x (1 week)

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3 Responses to This Month in Mormon Literature, July 2014

  1. Andrew Hall says:

    The 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz winners have been announced.
    http://blog.mormonartist.net/2014/07/2014-mormon-lit-blitz-winner/

    “After counting and recounting votes in a tight race for literary impact, we are pleased to announce this year’s top finalists:
    Fourth Place: “The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner
    Third Place: “Yahweh: Prologue to the Temple” by Jonathon Penny
    Second Place: “Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales
    and our Grand Prize winner:
    First Place: “Slippery” by Stephen Carter”

    The announcement also includes information on the next contest. “From now through September 30th, we’ll accept entries for a fall Mix-and-Mash Mythos contest.”

  2. Scott Parkin says:

    Turns out I won third prize in the Writers of the Future Contest for this quarter. I’m very excited.

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