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Archive for June, 2016

The Sweet Sister was nothing I was expecting; in fact, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from a genre new to me, LDS Horror. There were scary moments where I wanted to cover my eyes, but couldn’t stop turning pages; sweet moments filled with wonder, hope and romance; and educational moments where I learned so much about our world’s history.  This book keeps you on your toes, jumping from each character’s vantage point, unveiling clue by clue, until the reader has witnessed the full journey alongside the heroine. Well-written and expertly crafted, this book opened my eyes to the wonder of fiction, of escaping into an alternate reality, and somehow finding a sense of normalcy therein.

Staci Meacham – Layton, Utah

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In the wake of the murders in Orlando, Christ is where we turn for peace. Let us make beauty in the face of ugliness and evil.  And let us stand with those with whom we disagree.  Let us stand together as Americans and as sons and daughters of God.

Unwilling Child

Last Friday night, I was sitting in the Little Theatre of the Conference Center along with 360 of my best friends.  The night before had been the debut performance of our series of four Christmas concerts.  We were doing our warm-up and last-minute rehearsal before the Friday night concert.  Brother Wilberg (the musical director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) told us that we had done very well on Thursday night and he had only a very few items that we needed to review.  He was very pleased, he told us.  And of course, we were gratified and pleased with the praise.  We had worked hard and it felt good to be recognized for that.  Then Brother Murphy (the associate musical director) walked to the piano to go over the concert pieces that he would be conducting.  In contrast to Brother Wilberg, he did not look pleased at all.  He looked…

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I felt honored when Mr. C. David Belt invited me to beta read his new book, The Sweet Sister. I’ve really been enjoying myself as I’ve been reading this story. Here are individual little thoughts that have been rolling through my brain since I began:

– The writing style is unique — one that I don’t recall ever noticing in any other book I’ve read. Throughout the book are certain recurring elements that stand out to me, and I will point out a couple that I like the best:

1) For one thing, I’m trying to remember the last time I read a book where the different main characters each trade off taking turns being the originating point-of-view of the chapter. Here’s a Peggy chapter — where we take an exclusive trip through her mind. Now here’s a Derek chapter, a Peggy one again, and now Todd’s turn… Back to Derek, then Peggy, then Todd again, an occasional somebody else (and because the “somebody else” chapters are just occasional, it’s just the right frequency to help keep me enthralled overall), and so forth. Personally, I quite like how Mr. Belt tours us around the various characters’ thoughts and feelings in this manner. It’s not necessarily each character takes a turn being “narrator” — because the book isn’t in “first-person” — but I definitely feel like I’m able to mentally and emotionally connect with each character whose mind we explore.

2) And speaking of exploring the characters’ minds, the other recurring element I want to touch on is all the specific stuff that the characters say to themselves, inside their brains — which is all italicized throughout the text of the book. I’m often finding myself saying, “Bwahh!! I know, right!!? That’s EXACTLY what I would’ve said in this situation!!!” And sometimes I get done reading a paragraph where something significant happens that causes me to really think, and in my mind I’m like, “Okay Peggy (or whoever), HERE’S what you need to do next……” and what’s crazy is that, a couple of pages later, she DOES what I hypothetically TOLD her she should do! This has happened a couple of times, at least. Kinda gets me stoked to see how many times it may happen again. But one more itty bitty thing I get a kick out of, regarding the italicized thoughts… Oodles of times, the character bickers with his or her self, and it’s always hilarious, and I love it.

– I enjoy how there’s a ton of actual world history weaved into the fiction. How there’s ample interesting mythology and legend included in the mix. It’s entertainment and education swirled together, like a chocolate/vanilla swirl soft-serve ice cream cone from Crown Burger or Macey’s grocery store…… Mmmmmm…

– During the time when Mr. Belt was finishing writing up the first draft of the book, there was this one evening — prior to choir (I’m in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with him) — where I was having one of my first substantial conversations with him, and it was here that he explained to me how he was an “LDS horror” author. I remember him saying something like (I paraphrase), “And sometimes when I tell people I write LDS horror, they’re often taken aback and aren’t so sure what to think about it…” Because there really aren’t that many authors out there who write LDS horror, right? Right. And so when Mr. Belt told me he was an LDS horror author, I wasn’t exactly “taken aback” per se, but my interest was definitely piqued, and I was eager to learn more about what went into his LDS horror stories. I’m happy to report that, so far, while The Sweet Sister falls under the “LDS horror” category, it’s not “overbearing” horror, if you will. It’s not “too much to handle,” for readers who may naturally be rather sensitive in the horror genre of media. I’d say I’m naturally somewhat sensitive to horror stories; I tend to steer way clear of too-much-gruesomeness-and-gore. But The Sweet Sister, while it does periodically describe a small amount of gore, is never too much for me, and the gruesome scenes never linger too long in any part of the story — they come and go fairly quickly. Lighter scenes of wholesome mystery jump into view all the time. There’s a wonderful balance — a nice ratio — of slightly heavier intensity mingled with calmer, chiller thriller. There are LDS people out there who would hear the words “LDS horror” and flip out a bit in disapproval, but I sincerely think if they give at least The Sweet Sister a shot, they maybe — just maybe — might be pleasantly surprised. They really might like it. Especially when The Sweet Sister story often displays specific scenarios where the characters hold fast to the values, virtues, and standards they hold dear (e.g. the LDS Church standards).

– It’s a gripping book, to me. I’m never a fan of having to set the book down. I never want to. I’m constantly understanding that there’s so much ANSWER to the current riddle I’m reading about, lying ahead of me in the story, and I’m always finding myself uber-excited to get closer and closer to where I’m sure the answer must be. I WANT TO KNOWWWWWW.

– Mr. Belt really hits the nail on the head with what young single adults’ social lives and dating lives (especially what it’s like to be a young single adult in the dating world in the American Mormon culture) are actually like. I’m a 30-year-old young single adult, living in this young single adult dating world. (If I’m not mistaken, I think I remember reading at the beginning of the story that Peggy is also 30-years-old?) While I’m reading The Sweet Sister, I’m continually discovering parts about Peggy’s life and emotions and thought-processes that are so relatable to me. She is so real. I’d be really intrigued to know how a 20-/30-something-year-old young single man might relate to the Derek and Todd characters.

– Hmmmm… Trying to think if there’s anything else I feel I really should write here… I’m sure I’ll come up with some more later! THIS BOOK ROCKS, DAVID.

Sincerely,

Alison Barton (4/28/16)

 

After finishing reading the first half of Mr. Belt’s new book The Sweet Sister, I prepared and sent to him all the thoughts that had rolled through my mind while reading up unto that point. Then I continued forth and read the second half. And now I have just a few more parting thoughts regarding my experience diving into the story:

– As the story kept on progressing, it kept getting more and more exciting, which felt natural, so that’s really great.

– Over time, I found my interest becoming more and more latched to one character in particular: Morgaise. Upon arrival at one certain point in the story – not far into the second half – I took a breath and metaphorically looked myself square in the eye and said to myself, “Self? I’m pretty sure our official ‘most interesting character’ here is Morgaise. Hands down. No arguments about it.” Which kind of turned out to be a profound prediction of sorts, because Morgaise did, in fact, end up turning out to be quite the fascinating person to pay attention to, with actual written proof from the author.

– Mr. Belt asked me how I felt about the way the story ended, and I told him I was very pleased…

– I’m thankful for all the little moments I had during my reading when I saw a word, went like “what in tarnation is THAT word?” and looked it up, learned what it meant, and added it to my list of new words for my vocabulary. Including the following examples: silphium, woad, Pila, Iceni, and abattoir. Yet another smart way Mr. Belt uses this opportunity to write a book, to enlighten the minds of his readers – along with the way (and I reiterate) he infuses lots and lots of neat historical facts and artifacts and actual legends how they were originally told back in their day.

The Sweet Sister grabbed my attention and held on tight oodles as I read it from cover to cover. I say that most earnestly. I also told this to Mr. Belt: “To be able to write a novel that’s interesting and flows well – let alone to be able to write a novel in the first place – is a remarkable feat to accomplish.” Mr. Belt not only accomplished writing a novel (among multiple other novels he’s written), but he went above and beyond and created a work of art. GREAT WORK, DAVID!

Sincerely,

Alison Barton

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The Sweet Sister is a spooky, suspenseful ride that seamlessly blends the present and the past.  It impressively blends the myths and legends of many different cultures into an incredible tapestry that is both satisfying and fascinating.  I really enjoyed the quirky, relatable protagonist, and the many great twists in the plot. Highly recommended!
Michael Young, author of The Hunger, The Last Archangel, The Canticle Kingdom

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