This Month in Mormon Literature, August 2015

Wandering RealitiesSteven L. Peck, perhaps the most interesting contemporary author of Mormon fiction, has a new anthology of short stories, Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction, which may be the book of the year. George D. Nelson and Jordan Kamalu’s musical Single Wide received rave reviews at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Sunstone announces its fiction contest winners. Christine Feehan, Jessica Day George, Christine Hayes, J. R. Johansson, RaeAnn Thayne, and J. Scott Savage had national market books published. Sorry it has been six weeks since one of these. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and blog posts

The 2015 Sunstone Fiction Contest winners were announced on July 15. 1st Place: “The Mandelbrot Set,” by Heidi Naylor. (Wrote one judge: “Wow. Who wrote this? Wow.”) 2nd Place: “And Thorns Will Grow There,” by Emily Belanger (Wrote another judge: “Great pace that let the supernatural/horror elements develop at a believable rate while being faithful to the characters.) Tied for 3rd Place: “The Bigamist,” by Eric Freeze (A judge: “Beautifully restrained, felt very truthful with a strong emotional momentum.”) Tied for 3rd Place: “Jane’s Journey,” by Heidi Naylor (again!) (“Beautiful writing, affecting story. Unlike other pioneer ancestor fictions I’ve read.”) Honorable Mention: “Personal J,” by Jennifer Quist (Said judge, “It’s like she lived my teenagehood—but beautifully.”) Look for all these stories in future issues of Sunstone.

An update on the Rachel Ann Nunes plagiarism case against Sam Taylor Mullens. Salt Lake City Weekly.

The first conference of the Latter-day Saint Publishing Professionals Association (LDSPPA) — a new international organization for LDS members and friends who work in the publishing industry or seek to do so. Friday, August 21, 2015, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Provo City Library at Academy Square.

Orson Scott Card’s Career-Defining Story, Ender’s Game. By Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews. A fairly lengthy discussion of the writing, reception, and sequels of Ender’s Game.

Megan Sanborn Jones edited a BYU Studies (54:2) set of reviews written by women, of memoirs by Mormon women. The reviews (which are behind a 99 cent pay wall), are STEPHANIE NIELSON. Heaven Is Here, reviewed by Jacqueline S. Thursby. ELIZABETH SMART, with CHRISTOPHER STEWART. My Story, reviewed by Rosalyn Collings Eves. JANA RIESS. Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor, reviewed by Amy A. Easton-Flake. EMMA LOU WARNER THAYNE. The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography, reviewed by Amy Isaksen Cartwright. JOANNA BROOKS. The Book of Mormon Girl, reviewed by Jacqueline S. Thursby. MELISSA DALTON-BRADFORD. Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family. Reviewed by Rosalyn Collings Eves.

Jana Riess interviews Cinco Paul, who was one of the two LDS screenwriters of the Despicable Me films, along with Ken Daurio. “Cinco and Ken have stepped down from the franchise temporarily to work on The Secret Life of Pets (2016) before returning with Despicable Me 3 (2017). So while they didn’t pen the script for Minions, its release this weekend seemed like a great time for me to check in with Cinco about the intersection of his career and his LDS faith.”

More on Faithful Realism and the Problem with Classification. Scott Hales on the problem with classifying Mormon literature. And if we do use the term Faithful Realism, he would include Todd Petersen’s Rift in the category, but Levi Peterson’s The Backslider and Douglas Thayer’s work out of it.

William Morris at A Motley Vision questions “a conventional wisdom that the great Mormon novelist will inevitably be excommunicated. Or more generally: LDS writers can’t write candidly about the Mormon experience because then they’d be excommunicated.” Generally, the conclusion is that author’s do not need to worry about it. In the comments I write summaries of the cases where authors have alleged a threat of excommunication. In the cases of Brian Evanson and Judith Freeman, they are not very strong. The case of Neil LaBute is a bit stronger, at least the way he tells it. Also at AMV, Scott Hales announced a new Mormon literary criticism anthology project, Tyler Chadwick wrote on narrative ethics, composer Sam Barrett on creating, and Kent Larson on Mormon styles.

The Good Word podcast interviews: Kimberley Griffiths Little, Amy Harmon.

Theatre

Single WideSingle Wide played at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, July 17-25. Single Wide is written by George D. Nelson (book and additional lyrics) and Jordan Kamalu (music and lyrics). It premiered at BYU in 2014, was a finalist for the AML Theatre Award, and won the Blanche and Irving Laurie Musical Theatre Award from The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). Nelson is a BYU Theatre faculty member, and Kamalu is a BYU student. Set in a trailer park somewhere in the United States, the show centers on single mom Katy, with her son Sam and her mother Amanda. As Katy tries to improve her life by attending online college, her mother and son dream to see her with a man who will treat her just right. Enter handsome, brooding stranger Guy, who moves into the trailer next door. Sam approaches Guy, befriends him and begins devising a way to set him up with his mom. Single Wide was one of 20 musical that were performed at the prestigious festival, and was very well received.

The production won 4 Festival Awards, the second most of any production: Outstanding Music Honorable Mention, and five Outstanding Individual Performance Awards.

The Theatre in the Now blog awarded several of its Mikey Awards to Single Wide. These included “Outstanding Musical” (“When it comes to musical theater, characters tend to be larger than life. But those rare occurrences where there’s a musical about real, truthful people, that’s when it gets magical. Single Wide is the full package. An incredible country score. A brilliant book with honest characters. And a company of actors who offered shining performances. There is such promise and hope in this musical that I am excited to see where it goes next.”). “Outstanding Score”-Jordan Kamalu (“NYMF was filled with such extraordinary scores this year that picking just one was hard. But basically what it came down to is being able to remember the music after leaving the theater and the desire to want to listen to the score from top to bottom. Jordan Kamalu’s contemporary country score did both.  If Single Wide doesn’t receive the life it deserves, Kamalu should send his demos, with Petroccia as lead vocals, to Nashville to write for some country superstars.”). “Outstanding Book”-George D. Nelson (“This season proved the struggles of writing a strong libretto but it was George D. Nelson’s characters that captured the attention. From mothers who want nothing but the best from their children to a man struggling with coping with life post war, these people were rich and filled with promise.”) “Outstanding Director”-Jeff Whiting (a BYU alumni) (“With such prime material, Jeff Whiting made bringing Single Wide to life look easy. Whiting guided his company in capturing these stunning true characters. Whiting allowed the actors to discover that trailer trash isn’t a negative connotation, it’s just an unfortunate circumstance to live in.”). Outstanding Orchestration. Outstanding Supporting Actress Award: Jacqueline Petroccia. Outstanding Actress Honorable Mention. Outstanding Supporting Actor Honorable Mention. Most Likely Future Audition Song: “Overdue” (“Though this wasn’t Katy’s big number in Single Wide (that number has some lyrical woes currently), Katy’s “I Want” song has a universal message and the ability to show off some big notes. Emma Stratton made the number hit home.”). Song of the Festival Award, Honorable Mention, “The World Revolves Around Me.” Next Stop Broadway Award, Honorable Mention.

Stage Buddy Review: “Despite the traditional rom-com plot evoked by the synopsis, Single Wide works because none of the characters feel exclusively like archetypes, in fact they all seem to be struggling to escape the confines of what life suggests they should be . . . The country-tinged music and lyrics by Jordan Kamalu often make Single Wide feel like a country show with a plot, and like the most exemplary entries in the genre, the songs succeed because they tell stories of people living on the sidelines of society, without ever looking down on them or turning them into poverty porn. The lives of the people in the show aren’t less dignified because they don’t have the means to inhabit houses without wheels, their dreams aren’t less valid because they aren’t as grandiose as those we’re used to seeing in musical theatre, in fact the story feels fresh because musicals rarely focus on people like this without the aid of a microscope or a moderator that comes from a privileged background to help guide the audience. Best of all is the show’s unabashed admiration for womanhood, best summed up in a scene where Guy (gotta love that his name is so generic!) meets all the women in the trailer park and asks Sam if they’re sisters. For all he knows they very well could be, for Single Wide celebrates sisterhoods that go beyond blood relations and traditional notions of family.”

On Stage Review. “”Single Wide” is a charming musical with an interesting book, a pleasing country-rock score with solid lyrics. The creative writing team of George D. Nelson and Jordan Kamalu has constructed an engaging musical with strong well-rounded characters with authentic and believable conflicts, with an interesting setting, and strong rich themes. The conflicts drive a powerful plot with enough tension to make the story line sustainable and absorbing . . . The musical numbers in “Half Wide” are all effective. Standing out are Derek Carley’s interpretation of Guy’s “Till It Feels Like Home,” “Just Takes One” sung by Stacia Fernandez, and the trio sung by Emma Stratton (Katy), Derek Carley (Guy), and Jacqueline Petroccia (Flossie). “Single Wide” is a new musical for all those who believe in the redemptive power of unconditional and non-judgmental love and the resilience of the human spirit. Hopefully it will find a home on another stage very soon.

Off Broadway review. “The very first installment of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, back in 2004, produced The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which also ended up being one of the Festival’s first entries to make a go at a commercial Off-Broadway run. Junk-food enjoyable though that show might have been, however, it was plasticky and mocking in tone, as though it wanted you to know that it disapproved (or at least didn’t approve) of its subjects. Single Wide, which George D. Nelson and Jordan Kamalu have contributed to this year’s NYMF, takes a radically different approach: It treats trailer park residents as actual human beings. And wouldn’t you know it, the result is as honest and touching as anything NYMF has seen this year (and for many in recent memory) . . . This is powerful, psychologically astute stuff that makes up the core of Nelson’s book, between (mostly) adults who acknowledge and want to atone for their missteps, but don’t want to wallow in their unhappiness, let alone have it continue on forever. This is not to say they’re perfect — far from it, in fact. They’re all struggling against their national inclinations to be worse, and that they won’t always win . . . Kamalu’s songs (with additional lyrics by Nelson) are liberally dosed with the expected country twang, but don’t overly dwell on that; these are musical theatre songs, first and foremost. The opening number, “Payday,” is a simple down-home tribute to maximizing one’s meager income, and its follow-up, “Overdue,” is Katy’s affecting way of translating those financial troubles into her own unique language. She, Guy, and Flossie muse on the brighter days that are always ahead (“Waiting for Tomorrow”), and Amanda reflects on the value of sticking to life even when putting yourself out there feels hopeless (“Just Takes One”). Perhaps the best single number in the tune stack is “While You’re Young,” a lively duet in which Guy and Sam bond over the woman they both love, but the score overall is charming . . . In contrast to many NYMF shows, which are based on flawed or shaky premises that can’t support a full show, Single Wide actually feels too short. Running about 100 minutes without intermission, it all but cries out for more time and space to let us dig even deeper into the hearts and souls of the winning people to whom it introduces us, and whom we can’t stop loving because of how well we know them and how much we want them to succeed. This may technically be a weakness, but it’s tough to think of a better problem for Single Wide — or any musical — to have.”

Broadway World review: “I was treated to a nearly complete project with a heartwarming, albeit a tad clichéd, story that was as wholesome as it was entertaining. George D. Nelson, a professor at and director of the Playwriting Program at Brigham Young University, has crafted a surprisingly tender plot in his book for SINGLE WIDE. His musical, which often feels ripped from the pages of a Lifetime Movie Network teleplay, casts aside the tropes of mocking your typical denizens of trailer parks and uses these stereotyped and broken personas to remind the audience that we’re all worthy of love regardless of our sins. However, his plot manages to stay pretty much drama free until late into the second act . . . There is no denying that SINGLE WIDE has life after NYMF. The audience I saw it with responded enthusiastically to the production. I myself enjoyed it too. Leveling out the tone of the lyrics so that they consistently present audiences with the same show and massaging the book will make the show a much stronger piece. As of now, I could see this musical being kicked around community theaters for years to come. With a bit of work, it could be something that entertains, warms the heart, and has a successful life in a quaint Off-Broadway and then regional theater setting.”

Sherry Allred (author, composer). Nephi and the Sword of Laban. Musical, SLCC Grand Theatre, July 27-Aug. 8. A Book of Mormon musical, first produced in Ogden in 2011. The production, which appears to be self-financed, can be seen as a bit of counter-programing, playing nearly the same time as a run of The Book of Mormon at the Capital Theatre. It is a 2½-hour stage production, covering 1 Nephi Chapter 1 through 2 Nephi Chapter 6. It has 30 original songs written by Allred. Allred says the latest production has 9 new songs and a richer book. Herald Extra preview. Deseret News preview.

Nathan Christensen’s latest play, The Battle Creek Cure was given a reading on July 11 in Bartlesville, OK. It’s 1901, and the ladies of the Women’s Temperance League of Abilene, Michigan, want to tell you all about the latest trends in health and nutrition. They’ll demonstrate proper chewing technique, teach a Victorian exercise routine, and sing vegetarian parlor songs – but how many of them will survive the evening? This is a dark comedy that is alternately unnerving and laugh-out-loud funny.”

Morag Place Shepherd. Poppy’s In the Sand. Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, August.

New books and their reviews

Rachael Anderson. Stick in the Mud Meets Spontaneity. HEA Publishing, June 29. Meet Your Match #3. Contemporary romance.

Brock Booher. The Charity Chip. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, June 9. YA futuristic. “Life on the streets of Lima is already difficult for Julio, but now that digital money has replaced hard currency, survival is virtually impossible. Isak comes to his rescue and offers him a chance at a better life through a hi-tech humanitarian program. The only catch is a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger of the hand. At first life improves dramatically, but when another participant dies mysteriously, Julio suspects that the chip does more than just dispense charity. Nothing comes without a price. Now he must uncover the truth behind the charity chip before someone else suffers the same fate.” Second novel.

Rachelle J. Christensen. Veils and Vengeance. Peachwood Press, July 18. Wedding Planning Manager #2. Cozy mystery. Destination marriage in Hawaii and a murder.

Mindy, LDSWBR. 4 stars. “I love a great mystery that keeps my interest and keeps the pages turning. This book does all that very well. I really enjoyed the first book in the Wedding Planner Mysteries: Diamond Rings are Deadly Things, so I knew I was going to jump right back into another story for Adri. I loved the Hawaiian setting, that was a character on its own. Adri is a fabulous character. Her attention to detail and how she organized she is is entertaining to read.  I enjoyed how Adri had attention from two men. Both were great for her, but one I liked a little bit better. As the story progressed, I enjoyed where the author went with the mystery, doing a perfect job of planting the right amount of seeds to try to throw me off the trail of who the killer was.”

Michaelbrent Collings. The Deep. Self, July 20. Horror. “A woman searching for a sister lost at sea. A man bent on finding lost treasure. A mother who has lost all hope. A maniac who believes all life exists for his pleasure. The man who would keep them all safe. Together, they will all seek below the waves for treasures long buried, and riches beyond belief. But those treasures hide something. Something ancient, something dark.”

Horror After Dark. 4.5 stars. “One thing I’ve noticed with just about every novel I’ve read by Michaelbrent Collings is his characterization.  To be fair, there are certain types of stories that can get by without as much–if the action is the main point, and the individuals expendable.  However, I honestly feel that you can make or break a novel by this element.  If you are working with a limited cast of characters, then you virtually HAVE to make the reader feel for them–whether it’s sympathy, despise, love, hate, or fear–the people in the book must become REAL.  They need to evoke true emotion from the reader.  They need to have their own “presence”.  This is an element that Michaelbrent Collings excels in. Overall, a great novel with terror in the depths of the ocean, and intense moments that kept my mind active all throughout.”

Penny Freeman, editor. Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures. Xchyler Publications, June 27. Short story anthology. 8 stories.

Christine Feehan. Earth Bound. Jove, July 7. Fantasy. Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart #4. Six women who special abilities with the elements of the earth.

Library Journal (starred review): “In Sea Haven to warn his youngest brother, Ilya, that he’s been targeted for death, lethal, psychically gifted killer Gavriil Prakenskii plans to move on, until he saves fragile but elementally powerful Lexi Thompson from being abducted once again by the crazed cult leader who had murdered her family. Gavriil acknowledges that Lexi is destined to be his—and he stays. As danger threatens, the gifted women of the Sea Haven farm and their deadly, fiercely protective spouses close ranks to protect their own. VERDICT Gritty, brutal, and wonderfully magical, this heartfelt romance adds another gripping chapter to Feehan’s addictive series that brings together a family of brothers trained as children to be ruthless assassins with a sisterhood of damaged, gifted women. Unexpected and mesmerizing perfection.

Jared Garrett. Beat. Future House Publishing, July 13. Science fiction/dystopia. “A sci-fi thriller in a dystopian world, fans of the Hunger Games or the movie Speed will love the premise of Beat.” — Adam Glendon Sidwell, author of Chum. Ninety percent of humanity is wiped out by a bug that kills when a victim’s heart rate exceeds 140 to 150 beats per minute.

Jessica Day George. Silver in the Blood. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, July 7. YA paranormal (vampires). “As debutantes in 1890’s New York City, cousins Dacia and Lou know little about their Romanian relations, the mysterious Florescus. Now, upon turning seventeen, the girls must journey to Romania to meet their cousins and their tyrant of a grandmother and learn the secrets of their family.”

PW: “Teenage cousins and New York heiresses Dacia and Lou have always wanted to visit their mothers’ extended family in Romania, but during an unexpected trip to Bucharest their strange and secretive relatives reveal a shocking truth: they come from a long line of shapeshifters. In an enticing gothic romance, George (the Twelve Dancing Princesses series) paints a vivid portrait of fin de siècle Europe, highlighting its architecture, fashion, etiquette, and fascination with the supernatural. With the ability to transform into the Claw (wolves), the Wing (bats), or the Smoke (mist), the Florescu family has protected the infamous Dracula family for generations. Now, Dacia and Lou are supposed to lead a coup to put devilish Prince Mihai Dracula on the throne. Between chapters, diary entries and letters provide further insight into wild Dacia and timid Lou’s evolving characters. George’s well-crafted tale will keep readers rapt as these two best friends deal with the ramifications of refusing to commit murder and treason, navigate romantic suitors (Dacia has several), and come to terms with their newfound abilities.”

SJL: “George’s novel has just enough history, fantasy, and romance to suit a range of readers. Although less dense, this work has a similar feel to Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s “Cecilia & Kate” novels (Harcourt), mixing magic and manners. Most readers will intuit that Prince Mihai is too perfect to trust. However, Dacia and Lou gather strength from each other in less obvious ways. Some secondary characters are not fleshed out, but may play larger roles in future installments. The theme of familial obligation suits the historical period with its emphasis on appropriate behavior and socially acceptable marriage-making. Sprinkle in the Romanian setting and magical female empowerment, and there’s more than enough to keep readers’ attention. VERDICT Proper debutantes and snarling wolves? A winning combination for most libraries.”

Kirkus: “Turn-of-the-last-century socialites discover the bloody secrets of their Old World family in this lush historical fantasy . . . George captures the exquisite beauty of 1890s Romania—city town houses and sprawling country estates, opera halls, artisanal shops, folk dresses, and the stunning “forested slopes of the Carpathians”—while also creating an increasingly foreboding atmosphere for Dacia’s and Lou’s life-changing revelations. Thoroughly researched historical details and bright if naïve protagonists conjure a winning period adventure.”

Christine Hayes. Mothman’s Curse. Roaring Book Press, June 16. Middle grade mystery/ghost story. First novel.

Kirkus (Starred review): “Ghostly portents and horrifying visions drive two children to desperate efforts to avert an impending catastrophe in this debut chiller. Rummaging through estate goods their father has been hired to auction off, Ohio sibs Josie and Fox find two old Polaroid cameras that produce a spectral image of their sad former owner, a suicide victim, in every picture they spit out. The plot thickens with the further discovery of a gold pin that projects Josie back to the 19th century to watch as a love triangle ends with a gunshot and the creation of the Mothman—a cryptid of recent vintage that the author casts here as a vengeful spirit linked to a string of historical calamities. Worse yet, the old pin carries the titular curse, which requires its owner either to save every potential victim of an upcoming disaster or die. But what disaster looms? How to concoct a convincing warning? Can the curse ever be broken? Along with a red-eyed, winged monster who is not at all shy about appearing, even over crowds of terrified onlookers, Hayes folds sudden blasts of bone-chilling cold, conversations with the dead, and plenty of other thrillingly eerie elements into a tale that winds suspensefully to a wild, scary climax. Hindle’s static cartoons add occasional notes of atmospheric gloom. An ectoplasmic extravaganza…tailor-made for reading beneath the bedcovers.”

PW: “Debut author Hayes deftly balances the thriller elements of her story with resonant coming-of-age moments, and Hindle’s eerie b&w cartoons tweak the suspense further. Filled with spooky events and featuring a truly devious villain, the book will have readers racing to solve the mystery, though some may need to sleep with the lights on afterward.”

SLJ: “The fantasy elements (which are based on local legends) and the realistic portions of the plot are strongly crafted, resulting in a balanced blend of genre and literary elements. Hayes’s characters are appealing but flawed, and their relationships will ring true for middle grade readers. Over time, the Fletcher children begin to come to terms with their mother’s death by learning that they can always rely on one another. VERDICT Scary enough to appeal to readers who are growing out of R.L. Stine titles, this may also tempt fans of realistic fiction.”

Bethany Zohner Herbert. The Perfect Fool. Cedar Fort, April 15. Medieval romance/humor. “Plucked from the streets to become a court jester, Farrago’s life couldn’t be better, especially now that he’s flirting with scullery maid Thea. But when Thea turns out to be a queen in disguise, Farrago may become as much a fool in love as in his occupation.” First novel.

Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine. 5 stars. “Herbert has written a romance that is a little bit of everything. It’s weird, whacky, funny, and unusual. I loved it! . . . The characters are delightful and their dialog flows effortlessly, but is quirky and humorous. Farrago is clever and sometimes just plain sneaky, yet lovable. He has a classic case of “foot-in-mouth” disease. Even with all of the humor, there’s much to admire about his adaptability, his loyalty, and staunch adherence to things and people he cares about. The author pulls no punches with her vivid descriptions of life without modern conveniences and provides an easily imagined background for the story. The romance follows the standard plot: boy meets girl, there are obstacles that keep them apart, love conquers all, and then the happy ending, however the author cleverly convolutes these steps to create a story that is hard to second guess.”

Jenni James. Sensible & Sensational. Trifecta Books, June 30. Jane Austen Diaries #6. “When Ellyn Dashwood’s family moves to Bloomfield, New Mexico, she’s not sure if she’ll fit in as easily as her wildly popular twin sister, Maralyn, will. Though they’re identical, the two sisters are exact opposites.”

J. R. Johansson. Mania. Flux, July 8. YA paranormal thriller/horror. Night Walkers #3.

Dark Faerie Tales (4 stars). “Mania is a fast paced thriller that is filled with loveable characters, cute romance, and an intriguing plot. It pretty much starts right where the last book ended and from the first page the action starts and it doesn’t stop until the very end. It has been a little while since I read the first two books in the series and it did take me a little bit to get back into the story. But once I was hooked it was pretty much impossible to put down. I love how original the idea was and combine that with Johansson’s amazing writing this entire series was very unique and enjoyable. I have grown to love all the characters in this series and I am really sad to see their stories come to an end, but Johansson did a wonderful job wrapping up everything nicely. All of my questions were answered and I felt very satisfied. Overall, this was a very entertaining story and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for a fast paced thriller.”

Sally Johnson. Worth Waiting For. Covenant, July 1. Contemporary romance. Skeleton in My Closet #2. “Sophia thought she was over her broken heart, but the news that her roommate has eloped with Sophia’s ex-husband hits her like a ton of bricks. She knows she should be fine with the unexpected revelation—after all, her boyfriend, Luke, is incredible—but it would seem her heart is not as resilient as she thought. And as Luke prepares to leave for his European study abroad, Sophia’s feelings of fear and inadequacy threaten to overwhelm her.”

Mindy, LDSWBR (4 stars). “didn’t realize this was a sequel until I was writing this review.  It can stand alone, but previous dates, and/or other events that were mentioned and not explained make sense now why they weren’t explained in this book. That didn’t take me out the story though, I still really enjoyed it. I really liked Sophia and I sympathized with her.  I thought her inner voice was very funny at times and I appreciated her humor.  This is a great book about letting go and putting your life back together, but also taking your time to really know what you want, and Sophia needed that time.  I loved Luke, he is a great guy, with mounds of kindness and patience.  The other characters were great too. There were some scenes in the last few chapters where I was laughing out loud.”

George Anthon Kibble. Bilwok: Dawn of the Trolls. Cedar Fort, June 9. YA Post-apocalypse fantasy. Trolls and humans. Debut novel.

Deseret News: “Kibbie does a wonderful job of making the story easy to follow and entertaining. The descriptions of the village and the characters make it seem as though the reader is right there experiencing the events of the story along with the trolls. The writing is simple enough that a young child can follow along, and the story is intriguing enough to entertain an adult. There are twists and surprises in the story that will keep all entertained and wishing for more by the end of the book.”

Lynn Larson. Another Time For Love. Covenant, July 15. LDS historical romance/time-travel. Salt Lake City man has left his gospel values to live in the fast lane, but a car accident knocks his consciousness to Alpine, Utah, in 1915.

Wanda Luce. In the Wilds of Devon. Walnut Springs, July 13. Regency romance. Second novel.

Annette Lyon. A Timeless Romance: Annette Lyon Collection. Mirror Press, July 3. Romance anthology. 1 new novella, and five from previous Timeless Romance collections.

Aubrey Mace. Love on a Whim. Covenant, July 15. Contemporary romance. A recent Ivy League law school graduate is forced to take a job as a secretary to an eccentric young millionaire, falls in love with him.

Emily Mah. Restless Earth. Self, July 20. Native American fantasy. The Sky Chariots Series, #1. Set in a fantasy world, using Native American imagery. A native people’s last shaman is stuck in a mountain trying to stop an eruption. A native woman is a genius engineer, hiding her gender and ethnicity in the city.

Emily Mah. Blessing Sky. Self, July 20. Sky Chariots Series #2.

Steven L. Peck. Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction. Zarahemla Books, July 21. Short story collection. “These highly imaginative stories run the gamut from Mormons reverting to a medieval society on Mars to a bishop who is killing the neighborhood dogs. These stories not only entertain and delight, but they challenge and provoke as well. This collection includes several award-winning stories, including: • “Two-Dog Dose”—best short story of 2014, Association for Mormon Letters, • “A Strange Report from the Church Archives”—second place, Irreantum fiction contest, • “Avek, Who Is Distributed”—first place, Four Centuries of Mormon Fiction Contest 2012, • “When the Bishop Started Killing Dogs”—second place, Four Centuries of Mormon Fiction Contest 2012.

Steven Evans, BCC. “Peck is the best LDS science fiction currently out there. And so it is no surprise that Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction is an immensely enjoyable and powerful collection of short fiction, one that highlights both the possibilities and inevitablities of Mormonism. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. Peck has a special knack for writing about commonplace events in the midst of strange, even bizarre surroundings; or, conversely, bizarre events in the most mundane of circumstances. His prior books, The Scholar of Moab and A Short Stay In Hell also capitalized on these thematic explorations (and both books are truly excellent – though A Short Stay In Hell is far shorter and far more haunting). Wandering Realities is a compilation of some of Peck’s shorter stories, some of which we’ve seen before (whether on Facebook or as award-winners with the Association for Mormon Letters). However, even those familiar with some of his stories will find new ones here, not just as filler but as equally enjoyable and thought-provoking as his classic “Two-Dog Dose” or “Let the Mountains Tremble, for Adoniha Has Fallen” (this latter story mixes Mormonism with Edgar Rice Burroughs with a tale of interplanetary religious schism). The organization here reflects Peck’s two primary thematic twists: the first half consists of science fiction settings (“Other Worlds”), and the second half deals with fantastical events in the world, primarily — but not exclusively — the world of Utah Mormonism (“This World”). I am not sure which of the two halves I enjoyed more. “Other Worlds” gives Peck a chance to explore terraforming and the cybernetic singularity and shared consciousness, but “This World” is where Peck is able to be truly devious and fun with the world of Mormonism, illustrating what might happen when truly odd things happen to familiar surroundings. A fine example is his Pleasant Grove story about what happens when a no-rules pinewood derby goes completely off the rails – local leaders are locked in closets, pandemonium ensues as the cultural hall is turned into Thunderdome. It is wondrous and rich, feeding off of our familiarity while showing us new vistas and new depths. Like I said, it is hard to write a review of Peck’s work. Wandering Realities is perfectly satisfying, a treat from beginning to end. This is the sort of book one hopes to receive; it is alternatively touching and funny and poignant, with horrors and wonders. Steven Peck is a gift to Mormon literature, and any opportunity to read his stories is not to be missed.”

Michael Austin, Goodreads. 5 stars. “He is a writer who knows how to use all of his tools—boundary-pushing narrative technique, big ideas, ingenious plot twists, and engaging characters—to push what we mean by both “fiction” and “Mormonism.” Mormon to their core, these stories constantly ask what it means to be a Latter-day Saint, in America today or on Mars a thousand years in the future. Peck asks us to consider the many ways that different contexts and environments shape the way Latter-day Saints understand their common religion . . . The collection is strange, wonderful, eye-opening and amazing. It is a book of revelations and spiritual gifts from an immensely talented author to his religious community, which has long needed somebody to show us how strange and wonderful (and strange) we can actually be.”

Anola Pickett. Callahan Crossroads. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, July 14. Middle grade/historical. “Set in 1918 Kansas City, this old-fashioned family drama brings you to the heart of the World War I home front. Issue-driven and entertaining, it’s a coming-of-age story that will still resonate with readers today.” Third novel.

Sheralyn Pratt. The Kiss that Launched 1,000 GIFs. Self, July 6. Contemporary romance. “Grace and Ashton cohost Battle of the Sexes, a radio program arguing the he-said/she-said issues of the day. Their fiery debates often have listeners wondering if there’s more to their relationship than just talk.”

Sheila, LDSWBR (5 stars). “I read this book in just a few hours because I could not put it down. I loved the ending and the epilogue was sigh worthy. If you are wanting to read a cute romance, with humor, and also playing out the ups and downs of a relationship, The Kiss That Launched a 1000 GIFS is the one for you. I would recommend this book for anyone 18 and older because of some subject matter that is discussed on their talk show.”

J. Scott Savage. Case File 13: Curse of the Mummy’s Uncle. HarperCollins, June 23. Middle grade fantasy/humor. Case File 13 #4. “The trio’s latest monster mystery begins with a family trip to Mexico to explore some forgotten Mayan pyramids alongside a group of archaeologists” and a run-in with a Mayan curse.

RaeAnne Thayne. Redemption Bay. Harlequin/HQN Books, June 30. Romance. Haven Point #2.

Deseret News. “Thayne’s storytelling ability shines in “Redemption Bay.” She quietly leaves hints and then unravels a plot that’s more than a romance story and includes family relationships and dynamics.”

E. B. Wheeler. The Haunting of Springett Hall. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, July 14. YA Victorian fantasy/horror. “Eighteen-year-old Lucy doesn’t remember how she died or why she’s haunting Springett Hall in Victorian England. One thing is certain: she was trying to fix a terrible mistake—one she must set right before oblivion reclaims her. As she pieces together the mystery of her death, shadows try to drag her into a dark abyss, and she struggles against the commands of a disembodied voice.” Debut novel. Wheeler’s creative nonfiction piece, “Imperfect Instruments”, won the 2014 prose award from Segullah literary magazine.

Reviews of older books

Courtney Alameda. Shutter (Reading for Sanity) 4 stars. “The first thing that caught me about this book is that it’s scary. It’s not scary like many YA paranormal novels that tend toward the dystopian—ya know, that your whole life is gonna end in one big catastrophic event, i.e. sun spots, nuclear war, zombies, or everyone’s personal favorite, the totalitarian government. No, this book is more scary in the ghostly and creatures from other realms scary. And I liked that, actually. I liked that in this alternate world, these things were accepted and it was normal that ghosts and other entities were around. Other books from this same genre often start out with the assumption that paranormal happenings are rare and not accepted and that part of the struggle is convincing people they exist . . . It added an extra layer of complexity that I liked. When civilians or government entities are working with the Special Forces team, they are operating within the law and within the normal society and that just makes everything different. This book was written by a children’s librarian, and she’s competent in her writing. It isn’t the sometimes-typical drivel of other paranormal teen books (cause hey, let’s just whip those babies out like nuthin’ and start raking in some cold hard cash) and her writing has a proficiency that I really appreciated. The main character is snarky and a little rough, but it’s handled well, and I thought it made her believable . . . My one complaint about this book is that there is a steep learning curve in the acronyms and language. Because you are immediately immersed in a society where this organization and ghosts are the norm, Alameda has invented a complete lexicon to go with that. So if you’re in the market for a fun paranormal read, this is definitely a good one to check out. I’m hoping she writes another one because there was definitely room for more in this fun world she’s created.”

Marlene Bateman. Crooked House (Jennie Hansen, Meridian) 5 stars. “The characters in this story are distinctive individuals. Perhaps Megan’s teasing of Erica for her obsessive OCD, goes a little too far, but I couldn’t help feeling in sympathy with the girl. Erica’s contact with her husband and children through telephone and skype added to a sense of real life, but was limited enough not to intrude on the story. Dialog is handled well. The setting in the historic district of a college town feels realistic. An old derelict house in need of a great deal of upkeep provides both an interesting backdrop for the story, but also serves as a possible factor in a motive for the attempts on Liz’s life. The romantic relationships of the girls is also handled well, enough to be realistic for college age girls without taking over the story.”

Mary Bradford. Mr. Mustard Plaster and Other Mormon Essays (Harlow Clark, AML). “This reminds me of what draws me to the personal essay as a form, how rich it is with possibilities and connections. Besides bringing a lot of joyful reading, I hope this book will inspire you to write your own essay chains so the people who come after you will know and love and celebrate your humanity, even if you didn’t have to walk from Nauvoo to Salt Lake through five-foot snow drifts uphill both ways.”

Marden J. Clark. Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature (Theric). “It was great. You can get a taste of what it’s like by reading this abbreviated form of the title essay as published in the Ensign, 1977. It leaves out Flannery O’Connor, but includes the sonnet. That part of the essay I often share with my AP classes. It’s good stuff. Anyway, having taken so long to finish the book, I’ve forgotten most of what I wanted to say about it. Which was a lot. He talks about literature and religion and society and specific works of art and life and academics and . . . he talks about a lot of stuff. But it all centers around the paradox hinted at in the title: how limiting forms set us free. It’s a wonderful book and I commend it to you. In fact, if you want to swing by, I’ll give you my extra copy. The only sad thing about this book is that it’s barely aged at all. Published in 1992, collecting essays that go back decades, and still very much the conversation we’re having today. Sigh. Well. At least we can still read what the best minds have had to say. Let’s start there.”

Shannon and Dean Hale. Princess in Black (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B+. “The Princess in Black oozes charm. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s empowering, it’s delightful.  Seriously, what’s not to love? I dare you not to smile through the whole book. It’s impossible, I tell you. My 6-year-old daughter and I highly recommend this adorable tale from a husband-and-wife team who know how to spin a story just right.”

Charlie N. Holmberg. The Paper Magician (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) C+. “YA fantasy is such a saturated genre that it’s always refreshing to find a book that stands out from the norm a little. This first novel in a new trilogy certainly does that. While the magical world she creates is imaginative and different, it’s also confusing. Its rules were never very clear to me. Likewise, the characters (especially Ceony and Emery) aren’t developed enough at the outset to make me really care about what happens to them throughout the rest of the novel. As far as plot goes, there’s some action to liven things up, but much of the story is told through memories and flashbacks, meaning the tale has little momentum to keep it moving forward. In the end, while I appreciated the fresh aspects of Holmberg’s story, I was disappointed by its weak world-building, flat characters and lackadaisical plot. There just wasn’t enough to enthrall me. Too bad, because I really, really, really wanted to love this one.”

Krista Lynn Jensen. Kisses in the Rain (Jennie Hansen, Meridian) 5 stars. “Jensen has created one of the best character driven novels I’ve read in some time. As George and Jace struggle to overcome their personal doubts and insecurities, they learn to overcome obstacles and relate better to other people and to understand themselves. Their faith in God grows too. The setting is vivid and real, the dialog realistic, and excellent use is made of the lush growth and steady rain of the northwest. Though this is a story of growth following abuse and humiliation with its attendant loss of self esteem and undeserved guilt, the plot is absorbing and includes a great deal of action.”

Marion Jensen. Almost Super (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B-. “[It] is just as cute as it sounds. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s quirky, it’s humorous. The book’s a quick, easy read that will leave a smile on your face, no matter how old (or young) you are. Even reluctant readers should find it engaging and non-threatening. That being said, the story doesn’t offer a lot of substance.  It teaches some good lessons, sure, but there’s just not tons going on beneath the surface with this one. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read, if not a really memorable one.”

Shallee McArthur. The Unhappening of Genesis Lee (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B-. Ruminating on the mysteries of the mind always makes for a fascinating journey. Memory is an especially intriguing topic—one I have found even more interesting after a recent visit with my 100-year-old grandmother. The way she could shift from perfect recall to total blankness in the space of a five-minute conversation was just … bizarre. Considering that, it’s no wonder I find the premise of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, a debut novel by Shallee McArthur, so compelling. The world she creates is beguiling in all its potential and complexity. While some of its rules seemed confusing, even contradictory, I found Mementi society undeniably entrancing. Plot-wise, though, the novel is a little scattered. It’s tense and exciting, for sure, just not as tight as it could have been. Likewise, McArthur’s characters felt pretty flat to me. I just didn’t care about them all that much. What kept me reading, I think, was really the food for thought brought up by The Unhappening of Genesis Lee (although it contains spoilers, the Reader’s Guide to this book provides an excellent summary of these deep, fascinating questions).  While the plot/characters/dialogue, etc. felt a little ho-hum, the premise and questions asked in the novel ultimately made it a worthwhile read for me.”

Brandon Mull. Sky Raiders (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B. “When it comes to creating exciting, imaginative middle grade fiction, Brandon Mull knows what he’s doing. Sky Raiders, the first book in his Five Kingdoms series, is an excellent case in point. The book starts with a bang and sprints onward from there. With death-defying challenges around every corner (cloud?), its hero is constantly put to the test. Surviving them requires courage, cunning, and lots of quick maneuvering. Cole’s exploits make for just the kind of page-turning action/adventure middle graders crave. The fact that they take place in a unique and vivid setting make them all the more compelling. Young (and not so young) readers who dare to follow Cole down the manhole will be swept away by the epic and fantastical adventure that awaits them in the Outskirts. I certainly was.”

Janette Rallison. Son of War, Daughter of Chaos (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) C. “ As much as I adore Rallison’s Godmother series, I just can’t get on board with her YA sci fi/fantasy novels.  I appreciate the fact that she’s trying to branch out, try other genres, but in my opinion, these newer books are just … meh. Son of War, Daughter of Chaos is no exception.  It has some bright spots, for sure, but overall, it feels too flat, too long, and way, way too Twilight. Rallison’s novels are all infused with her trademark wit and this one definitely has some of that familiar sparkle. I also like that the whole Setite/Horusian world/war has depth to it, making it feel more real (true, the explanatory passages often get long and boring, but still). My biggest problem with the novel, I think, is that not only did I not really care about the ancient war, but I also didn’t understand its sudden urgency. And while the characters are likable, they just didn’t really speak to me. Overall, then, Son of War, Daughter of Chaos was just an okay read for me. If there are sequels coming, I won’t bother reading them.”

Joan Sowards. Bridges of the Heart (Jennie Hansen, Meridian) 4 stars. “Though the major characters grow and develop more as the story progresses, they’re never as fully developed as they might have been. They’re likable, but neither modern twenty-somethings nor quite adults. Rachel tends to be a little too self-absorbed and Maxson is on the insensitive side. The author conveys their emotions in a convincing way that enables the reader to share those feelings, whether it is stubborn pride, fear, or deep love and concern for each other. She also makes the connection and feelings between distant generations real and convincing. The modern community and college environment settings are realistic, but Sowards shines in the time-travel phase when the background turns to that of a remote nineteenth century South Carolina community. The plot moves along at a satisfying pace and keeps the reader turning pages. Bridges of the Heart is an emotionally satisfying read I can easily recommend.”

Joan Sowards. Bridges of the Heart (Jennie Hansen, Meridian) 4 stars. “Not Sowards’s first published novel, but it is the first book she wrote, therefore it retains a touch of first book naivety and earnestness often found in “first books.” There’s a sense that the author put a lot of heart and soul into a topic she cares about on a deep personal level as her story unfolds concerning the power of love, forgiveness, and eternal families. It’s a book that will have broad appeal for teens as well as adults . . . Though the major characters grow and develop more as the story progresses, they’re never as fully developed as they might have been. They’re likable, but neither modern twenty-somethings nor quite adults . . . The modern community and college environment settings are realistic, but Sowards shines in the time-travel phase when the background turns to that of a remote nineteenth century South Carolina community. The plot moves along at a satisfying pace and keeps the reader turning pages. Bridges of the Heart is a an emotionally satisfying read I can easily recommend.”

Samuel W. Taylor. Heaven Knows Why! (Theric, AMV). “When Taylor’s novel was first serialized in 1948 as The Mysterious Way in Collier’s (see the layout of parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), it passed before the eyes of millions of Americans. This was the first nonpioneer Mormon-charactered (contemporary) novel published for a national audience . . . Does the novel hold up, almost seventy years later? The story has a brilliant bit of innovation by starting with a deus ex machina, then having the characters work through the mess that engenders. Old Moroni Skinner is up in heaven (heaven, incidentally, is a satire of midcentury American capitalism and has not aged as well as the rest of the novel) concerned with his grandson who’s grown up to be the valley trash. He files the paperwork to make a visitation and so he does, making it up as he goes, dropping in on the town apostate and telling his grandson to marry the bishop’s daughter (who is engaged to be married the very next day, unbeknownst to Moroni). And this descends chaos in the form of crazy and coincidence, capturing the very best elements of the comedies of Dickens and Shakespeare. It is exquisitely engineered. The characters are sharp and tear off the page in into the imagination. The hurdles to our protagonist’s success just got greater and greater. And somehow—comedy!—it all works out in the end. (Unless you include the final chapter which returns us to heaven and adds on a painfully heavy dose of predestination to the mix.) In short, this is a terrific look at midcentury Mormon-corridor Mormonism with its uncertain relationship with the Word of Wisdom and heldover pioneer-era Church hierarchies and living breathing human beings. Sp does it hold up? Yes. Most certainly yet. I may not have laughed on every page like Cracroft, but it was a fun, fun ride.”

J.L. Thompson. Enoch in the City of Adam (Jaymie Reynolds, AML). “The attention to detail that is found in Thompson’s writing is seen clearly within the pages of this book. Readers may feel that such expansion of memory and moment builds a thorough picture; however, some readers may feel that the care Thompson lavishes on each written visual periodically bogs down the flow and the pacing of the text. There are some minor grammatical errors and word misuse . . . Thompson does well carrying out clear themes in his writing, including those of good vs. evil, reality vs. delusions of grandeur, and councils seeking or delivering counsel. In this work, thematic ideology is another of Thompson’s strengths. Perhaps, this is what “Enoch in the City of Adam” has in greatest abundance for readers. It’s an interesting exploration that just might prompt one to see the old as new again.”

Karen Tuft. Trouble in Paradise (Jennie Hansen, Meridian) 5 stars. “Tuft has a keen understanding of characterization. Both Andy and Kimberly are likable, but both have flaws that are drawbacks to emotional health. Their struggles to overcome these negative factors from their past make them stronger, more realistic characters. Kim is aware of her fears and the part her mother’s fears and hovering have played in making her fearful of the smallest risks. Andy doesn’t realize his competitiveness and feelings of inferiority to his brother are holding him back until his moment of epiphany strikes. Hawaii is a fun setting for this story and the background features feel authentic without overpowering the story. The plot moves well, though I would have liked the mystery element played up a little more.”

Dan Wells. The Devil’s Only Friend (Wm Morris, 4 stars). “On the one hand, we don’t really need more John Cleaver books. On the other, Wells has become a better writer so that all the things he’s learned to do since he finished the last series show up in this book. This is a tight, psychological thriller mashed up with secret world urban fantasy (of sorts) and a large dose of horror. I’m not sure, though, how I feel about Cleaver — I’m not sure his is a psychology I needed re-opened even if it was clear from the last trilogy that he is needed to face down the threat he uncovered. So I almost only liked it, but it was so well done that I really liked it — thus the four stars.”

Dan Wells. The Devil’s Only Friend (Elitist Book Reviews). “Wells excels . . . [at peeling] back layers of comfort one-by-one until all that is left is the bloody and visceral truth. This doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually all the way until the last pages of this stellar novel. What truly pleases me is how Wells chose to go bigger. He could have easily stayed small-town, and we would have read it and enjoyed it. Instead he went bigger. This is a giant, federally funded, sting operation as they track down a Withered known as the Hunter. John Cleaver is the star of the show, the one person who is able to understand how these god-like beings think. The dynamic this evokes when interacting with the Feds, and with a broken Brooke showcases how much Wells has grown as a writer.”

Dan Wells. Ruins (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B-. “Like the first two books in the Partials trilogy by Dan Wells, Ruins offers a high-stakes, adrenaline-fueled apocalyptic survival story. Laced with humor, romance, and a whole lot of blood, it’s engrossing for sure. In this finale, all the story’s loose ends are wrapped up neatly—probably too neatly—making for a satisfying end to an exciting series. Still, I have the same complaints about Ruins that I did about Partials and Fragments—the characters remain pretty flat and the prose is more tell than show. Overall, then, I liked Ruins, but didn’t love it. Same with the series as a whole. It’s entertaining, just not my favorite.”

Kasie West. The Fill-in Boyfriend (Hikari Loftus, Distilled Pages) 4.5 stars. “A real page-turning read that was sweet, fun, and thought provoking! I read this in one sitting because it was so good and so easy to read. Kasie West includes an underlying social commentary on the effects of social media which certainly got me thinking about the effects social media has on our self-esteem and personal relationships. The writing was so authentic that the story brought me straight back to my high school experiences. I loved all the memories and feelings it brought back as I was reading. Super cute with an ending that was not what I expected. Kasie surprised me with how things turned out and I appreciated that. Well written, great dialogue, and a great set of characters.”

Kiersten White. Illusions of Fate (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B+. “Filled with adventure and magic, Illusions of Fate a fun, enjoyable novel. Although it’s clever and imaginative, it’s true the story isn’t all that original. Still. It’s clean, it’s engaging, it’s an easy, entertaining read that can be enjoyed by both teens and adults (my 13-year-old daughter and I both liked it). Jessamin’s the kind of heroine anyone will find compelling —it’s as easy to sympathize with her plight as it is to cheer on her brave fight against Albion’s evils. All in all, then, Illusions of Fate tells a satisfying story that’s just plain fun to read.”

Pamela S. Williams. What Took You So Long (Jennie Hansen, Meridian). 3 stars. “This is not a tale of young love as most Romances are. Both the hero and the heroine are pushing forty and never been married . . . The characters are likable in this story and are realistic as they struggle to deal with their difficult life situations along with facing new challenges, learning to trust and love, and to move forward when live hands them a path different from the one they once expected. Along with the romances in this story, the author paints an optimistic picture of self-discovery and second chances.”

Film

Sentimental 1940s Western about Mormon pioneers to make DVD debut. Chris Hicks, Deseret News. “The 1946 Western “Bad Bascomb” — an MGM vehicle for Wallace Beery, Marjorie Main and Margaret O’Brien, all big-name stars at the time — is making its home-video debut on DVD at Warner Archive’s online store. “Bad Bascomb” is one of a number of formula Westerns that portrayed Mormons as stoic pioneers often beset by bad guys or American Indians but pacifistic enough to let sympathetic outsiders do the rescuing. This was a trend that began after the 1934 enforcement of Hollywood’s Production Code — the censorship arm that kept movies squeaky clean for the next couple of decades. Before that, Mormons were portrayed as stock villains preying on unsuspecting women for their harems of wives (“Trapped By the Mormons,” “A Mormon Maid”), or as the butt of some polygamy joke (“The Covered Wagon,” “Hands Up!”). But from 1934 through the next 20-plus years, religion could not be mocked or vilified in movies, so Mormons morphed into passive good guys, often as victims. The best of these, and also the best-remembered, are the 1940 biographical film “Brigham Young” and John Ford’s comedy-drama “Wagon Master” (1950), and both are well worth watching. “Bad Bascomb” is not as good as those, but it’s not bad, with some solid action and comedy that plays well — but there’s no denying that it lays on the sentiment with a trowel . . . When a naive Mormon missionary — Elder Moab McCabe (Frank Darien) — happens upon them, he innocently provides them with the perfect escape, explaining that he’s looking for a small caravan of Saints headed for Utah. This leads to an amusing exchange — some cross-talk that would make Abbott & Costello proud — using titles commonly used by Mormons: “You the oldest in the outfit?” Bascomb asks.

No, says McCabe, “Brother Elijah Walker is.”

“Your brother’s older than you?”

“He’s not my brother.”

“They call you ‘elder’ because you’re younger, and him ‘brother’ because he ain’t?” Eventually, Bascomb and Yancy join the Mormons, pretending to be recent converts — the perfect cover, complete with a consistently moving hideout. Then the bulk of the film has to do with their attempts to blend in with the pioneers . . . The pioneers are portrayed as hardworking, good-hearted and faithful, and most of the dialogue seems to have been written by someone familiar with LDS-speak. (It’s interesting to note that, despite quite a bit of campfire singing, there are no Mormon hymns to be heard.) In all, “Bad Bascomb” is a pleasant film to while away a couple of hours, and better than that for fans of the stars.”

Bestsellers

June 28, July 5, 12, 19, 26, Aug. 2

James Dashner. The Maze Runner

USA Today: #96, #88, #75, #85, #79, #72 (85 weeks)

NYT Children’s Series: #2, #1, #1, #1, #2, #2 (145 weeks)

James Dashner. The Scorch Trials

USA Today: #105, #116, #95, #110, #90, #90 (69 weeks)

James Dashner. The Death Cure

USA Today: x, #197, #150, x, #152, #142 (63 weeks)

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. The Princess in Black

PW Children’s: x, x, #24, x, x, x (1 week). 3130 units. 19,901 total.

NYT Middle Grade: #15, #14, x, x, x, #13

Christine Feehan. Earth Bound

USA Today: x, x, x, x, #6, #23 (2 weeks)

PW Mass Market: x, x, x, x, #4, #5 (2 weeks). 22,195, 12,593 units. 34,788 total.

NYT Mass Market: x, x, x, x, #1, #4 (2 weeks)

RaeAnne Thayne. Redemption Bay

USA Today: x, x, x, #72, x, x (1 week)

PW Mass Market: x, x, x, #18, #21, x (2 weeks). 6273, 4788 units. 11,061 total.

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

PW SF: #7, #6

NYT Mass Market Paperback: #13, #9, #10, #19, #17, #14 (99 weeks)

Writers of the Future #31. Anthology includes fiction by Scott Parkin and Amy H. Hughes, and other writing by Orson Scott Card and David Farland.

PW SF: x, #7

Orson Scott Card and Adam Johnson. Earth Awakens

PW SF: #8, x

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