I like novels and books from small presses, the independents, those that rely on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, word-of-mouth ... for sales. I read two novels and one scholarly book, from respectively, Strange Violin Editions, Leicester Bay Books, and Xlibris.
They are "Byuck," a novel by Theric Jepson, well known in the Mormon literary scene, "The Hand of Glory," by Stephen Carter, another fixture in Mormon lit, and "German Leaves: Opposing Nazi Cannons with Words," by retired academic Ralph P. Vander Heide, a resident of Ogden.
Below are capsule reviews of the books.
"Byuck": This is a crazy book. It's chaotic but hilariously funny. It's a satire on life at BYU in the 1990s and involves two eccentrics, Curses Olai and David Them, to create a rock opera, "Byuck," which deals with avoiding what is regarded as the main responsibilities of being at BYU, namely matrimony and the ensuing white-shirt-and-tie responsibilities of adult life. The novel is intersected with assorted musings and academic contributions from Dave, such as his "Memory Book," and lists of spiritual brainstorming from stake conference, and so on. There are witty caricatures, such as Peter, a "macho" BYU guy.
A lot of people have compared "Byuck" to "Napoleon Dynamite" and I read a review that tagged it with "The Death of a Disco Dancer." As I told the author, I kept thinking of John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces." The plot's not similar but it has some of that creative chaos that makes "Confederacy" so memorable. By the way, the history of Jepson's efforts to get "Byuck" published, including his dealings with Deseret Book, are as chaotic and hilarious.
"The Hand of Glory": This young adult paranormal novel is a genuine horror tale. Carter, who subtitles it "Harrowed Valley Hauntings: Book 1," has written a spooky story with talented, and chilling illustrations from Galen Dara. The back story of "Hand of Glory" is steeped in early Mormon history, with polygamy, sin and blood as a means of settling dilemmas. The protagonist is Paul McCallister, 14, who moves to a small Wyoming town. He's not too happy there, being chased by bullies and wondering where his mom disappeared to. Eventually, Paul's activities energizes ghosts of a long-ago generation, leading to a scary resolution.
I love antiques, old books and magazines, and anything that shows history at its dustiest. My favorite sections of the novel revolve around Paul's visits to an old junk shop run by a distant relative. To sum up, a great read, for kids and adults, but beware, this is not faux scary. It's creepy.
"German Leaves" is not a novel, it's an expanded work of scholarship from academic Ralph P. Vander Heide, who long ago covered the topic while getting a doctorate in German Exile Literature. The topic involves ideas, and writers who became exiles as a result of totalitarianism in Germany, the spread of Nazism.
There's many subtopics in "German Leaves," and my advice is to find sections that pique the readers' interest and delve right in. I particularly enjoyed a section in which the author notes the failure of organized religion to prevent world wars and proposals, in various literary journals, that posit the idea of atheist-based altruism as a preferable alternative to religion. Whatever the topic, Vander Heide has a passion for "German Leaves" and his writing style is both interesting and provocative.
All three of these books can be purchased at amazon.com.
(For a longer version of this column, including interviews with the authors, go to http://blogs.standard.net/the-political-surf/2013/05/15/review-of-three-...)
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org