BOOK REPORT: Book News for the Week of July 29th

Eric Van Lustbader to Self-Publish
In more surprising news, bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader, noted author of the current Jason Bourne series, is jumping on the self-publishing band wagon.

Barry Diller and Scott Rudin Explore Ebook Venture
Hollywood important peeps Barry Diller of IAC/InterActive Corp. and producer Scott Rudin are looking into starting their own ebook publishing company.

How Does Your Publisher Make Money?
In another fascinating blog post from the popular literary agent, Rachel Gardner, she goes into detail, breaking down where publishers make their money and how this is changing with ebooks.

The DOJ Strikes Back
In the continuing case of the Department of Justice versus Apple, Inc. and some of the big publishing houses, over 800 letters and briefs were brushed aside as the DOJ continued to insist that it would be taking the corporations to court over the matter of ebook pricing collusion.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

“Wyrd” Progress Report XX

WORDS WRITTEN: 2663

TOTAL WORDS: 96,714

REASON FOR STOPPING: Finished part three of the book!

It seems fitting to hit a big progress report of number twenty for completing Part Three of the book.  I knew this part was going to take a long time and be a big and focal part of the book, but little did I know it would take over two hundred and fifty pages.  Guess my characters had a lot to say and do that I wasn’t fully aware of when I began that part.  And I’ve now hit page 455 with the start of Part Four of the book.  I know this book is easily going to be the longest project I’ve ever worked on and the end is nowhere near in sight, with I’d say at least a couple years left to go.  And you may ask: Do I feel like I’m halfway through the book with the end of this part, and my answer would be: no.

My goal for the year with Wyrd was to hit page 500, but sometimes goals don’t always get reached like you want them to, at least at this point at the end of July.  I feel I have satisfied what I set out to do with this book at the beginning of the year, and while I may not have hit that specific page number, I’ve reached my goal with the manuscript and am happy with that.  I may not return to this project for the rest of the year, so starting the new part just to hit that page number and then abandon it doesn’t feel right.  Of course, there’s still a lot of the year left to go and I may hit my other goals and still have time left over to come back to this one.  The future isn’t written in stone, which is certainly one of the themes of Wyrd.

“The Forest Laird” by Jack Whyte (Forge Books, 2012)

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Jack Whyte has delighted audiences with his fantastic Arthurian series, The Camulod Chronicles, as well as his Knights Templar trilogy.  He now returns with the first in his Guardians trilogy, as he begins the telling of the story of one of the most renowned people in Scottish history, William Wallace.  Made all the more renowned by Mel Gibson’s incredible portrayal in the award-winning Braveheart, Whyte admits in his introduction that it was hard to tell another story about William Wallace that wasn’t the same as the lengthy movie.  It is, however, recommended that you watch this movie before you read the book, simply so that you have the wonderful, unique sound of a strong Scottish accent freshly in your mind when you begin reading the dialogue in The Forest Laird.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Wallace’s close cousin, Jaime, as it begins when they are young boys, involved in a horrible incident, they soon make a new friend who takes them in and begins their training in warrior skills, and most importantly with the impressive longbow.  Jaime eventually begins teaching to become a priest, while with Wallace’s training as a strong warrior complete, he becomes a forester, looking to protect those in need.  Matters in Scotland begin to take a turn for the worse, as the English exact their control of the independent Scottish and Wallace begins to do his part to stop the English looking to harm his people, and begin the war that will change Scotland forever.

The Forest Laird begins a little slow, as Whyte front loads with a lot of story that needs speeding up, and breaks up the flow with lengthy descriptions on the political state of the country and what England is up to.  Yet, overall the book is an interesting opening chapter into the life of this incredible hero, as Whyte, who has done the research, explores as well as creates his own unique story.

Originally written on March 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Forest Laird from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“King Raven” by Stephen R. Lawhead (Thomas Nelson, 2011)

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Stephen R. Lawhead’s Robin Hood trilogy – Hood (2006), Scarlet (2007), and Tuck (2009) – received much acclaim and became big bestsellers when they were released, as he presented one of the more complete and superior epic tales of this forest hero and his band of merry men.  In 2011, for those looking to read the trilogy for the first time, or for those hardcore fans, Thomas Nelson released all three books in a single mighty volume, allowing readers to put it up on their shelf next to their copies of The Once and Future King and The Lord of the Rings.

Bran ap Brychan doesn’t really know if he ever wants to be king, but his father is a poor king who doesn’t treat his subjects of Elfael as well as he should perhaps, but Bran doesn’t really know what he wants to be.  Then all that changes when a group of Normans invade the Welsh kingdom and his father is killed, making Bran the automatic heir.  Except the Normans seize the kingdom, awarding it to a bishop and care little for Bran and his supposed claim to this throne.  And so begins Bran’s adventure, as he brings together a band of merry men to go see King William and wrest back his kingdom.  Thwarted in London, he is told he can have his kingdom back for a ridiculously high amount of money.  So Bran sets about getting the money the only way he knows how: from those cursed Normans who stole his land, as well as making sure his people are treated right and well.

Stephen Lawhead presents the first of his impressive trilogy on Robin Hood in Hood, explaining his detailed research in the afterword, and pointing out the unlikelihood of this character living in the thirteenth century in Sherwood Forest and going against King John.  Lawhead posits Robin Hood living in the late eleventh century in the time of William the Conqueror and his overtaking of Britain with his Normans.  Bran is a Welshman, and the Normans cared little for this distant part of Britain, except when they wanted to make it their own.  It makes perfect sense that a man out of legend would rise up to help the people against these dastardly Normans.  Lawhead also pulls from Celtic mythology to blend this story that might well have been, seamlessly.  He also does a great job of playing on the many fabled stories and clichés everyone knows about Robin Hood, though tweaking them a little to make them all the more entertaining.  Hood is a great and riveting work of historical fiction that will have any fan of the genre hooked.

In Scarlet, the book opens with the framing tale of Scarlet, who is in prison and sentenced to be hanged.  In the brief time before his execution, Scarlet tells his story of losing everything and becoming a forester when he meets this King Raven.  At first challenged to an archery contest, he reveals his extreme skill, rivaling that of King Raven, better known as Bran, and soon becomes a valuable member of his “merry men.”  But Bran needs a skilled warrior like Scarlet to fight back against these Normans steadily taking control of Wales, as William the Red doles out more land to his cutthroat barons.  The book comes to its climax as Scarlet must choose whether to be executed, or to give up the secret location of King Raven and his men.

In the conclusion to the trilogy, Tuck, told from the viewpoint of the redoubtable friar, it seems the Normans simply won’t give up, and King Raven, also known as Rhi Bran Hood to the people of Wales, must muster not only his skilled foresters, but incite an entire revolt from his people, based mainly in his kingdom of Elfael.  With the treacherous Abbot Hugo and the evil and bloodthirsty Sheriff de Glanville, it will take everyone working together to bring these Normans to their knees once and for all and send the firm message to King William the Red that King Raven and his Welshmen will not be crushed.

Lawhead rounds out the trilogy in a great way, bringing it all to a satisfying close, but still with plenty of action and subplots and complex goings on.  Again blending the history with the Welsh mythology, it is a very enjoyable read seen through the eyes of a new character.  And the King Raven tome allows readers to enjoy the complete saga in one big book and perhaps one very long sitting (though I wouldn’t recommend it), as well as featuring a sample of one of Lawhead’s other books, The Skin Map.

Originally written on March 13, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of King Raven from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948” by Madeleine Albright (Harper, 2012)

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In this moving true story of Madeleine Albright’s past as a child growing up in Europe, readers get to experience her discoveries of her history through her words, many of them a shock to her, especially with her Jewish heritage.  In a way, Prague Winter is a voyage of discovery and with Albright’s clear and honest writing style, readers are swept away by her prose.

This is the harsh story of a world that now seems unfamiliar to us, when a rising Germany controlled by a vicious dictator saw the fate of human existence in black and white, where only the white were allowed to survive in Hitler’s mind.  As a child growing up in what was then Czechoslovakia, it is a heart-wrenching story in some ways, as Albright tells it with skill and drama, mounting the tension that was very real, as she and her family left their home country for England.  But stories continued to unfold of what was happening back in their native nation.

Albright has clearly done a lot of research for this book, not just on her own family, but on the history and sources of the period, along with many photos from that time, it presents a thorough picture of this part of Europe during World War II and the rise of the Fuhrer.  It is also an insight into the culture of the Czechs, a people who do not bow down lightly and whose patriotism and culture is everything to them.  In some ways, Prague Winter reads like a powerful history book that would make great reading for any high school or college student wanting to learn more about the period; and at the same time it is a poignant biography of these people and of this child that was shaped into the incredible woman that she was to become.

Originally written on March 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Prague Winter from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

BOOK NEWS: Book Report for the Week of July 22 on Forces of Geek

 

Author Spamming
Joe Friedlander discusses the pitfalls of being a new author wanting to promote his or her book and what constitutes spamming.

When Good Reads Goes Bad
Good Reads has become quite the popular place for info and commentary about books around the world.  But sometimes this can be taken advantage of, especially by one of its senior librarians.

Your Ereader is a Spy
Agent Rachel Gardner presents an interesting blog post on the Wall Street Journal article about ereaders being able to track and quantify ereaders’ reading and purchasing habits.

Digital Imprints Take Root
Publishers are finally looking into a new avenue of e-edition-only publishing imprints.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

Bookbanter Column: “Get Lost in a Good Fantasy Series, Part 2: Riyria Revelations” on Forces of Geek

Some years ago, author Michael J. Sullivan began writing a fantasy for his daughter: a story that she would enjoy hearing, but also one that he would enjoy reading.  It eventually turned into a six-book epic fantasy series that was published through an independent press.

What was perhaps most unique about the Riyria Revelations was that Sullivan had all six books completely plotted and planned to serve as individual, stand-alone novels, but also linked together into a long series.

The series slowly but surely gained momentum and a following, as more readers and fans were discovered, and the books received more ratings and reviews on the likes of Good Reads and Amazon, and Sullivan received more and more interview requests, including with yours truly.  His popularity and success grew to such a point that after the release of the fifth book in the series, Sullivan finally got that big publishing contract with Orbit Books, who released the series in three volumes late last year and early this year, with two books in each volume.

This is the story of two thieves who change and grow and develop through each of the six books, as readers become so attached to them that by the end they feel like family.  It is also the story of what heritage and history means, and that the past is never truly gone, but also that sometimes these things don’t have to matter as much as people think they do, and it’s important to enjoy life however you can.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

“The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury (Doubleday, 1951)

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The recent passing of Ray Bradbury was a very sad loss for the writing world, as we lost not just one of the foremost science fiction writers of our time, but one of our greatest storytellers and writers period.  But even with his loss, Ray Bradbury will continue to be read and enjoyed by many fans, as well as be discovered by new readers for the first time.  The Illustrated Man is an excellent example for those looking to give Ray Bradbury a try and find out just how good he is.

The book is told with the framing story of the illustrated man – a man covered in tattoos that when stared at by others come to life and tell their own stories.  Stories of a future high-tech nursery where children play amongst real animals, but when their parents threaten to take this supreme toy away, they have a plan to take care of them once and for all.  A story of a future Mars colonized by black people, but now Earth is on the brink of obliteration and the white man needs a new place to live; will the colonists of Mars allow this immigration?  There is the moving story of “The Rocket Man” who loves his wife and son ever so much, but continues to feel the yearning  pull of space and can never remain on Earth too long.  In “The City” some space travelers discover an abandoned city on a planet, but as they search through it, it seems the city is not uninhabited after all.

The stories in The Illustrated Man will move you, they’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you cry; they’ll make you terrified and also make you think about the way your world is and about the way it might one day be.  This is Bradbury at his best and no fan of the short story – no matter the genre – will want to skip this one.

Originally written on July 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Illustrated Man from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The October Country” by Ray Bradbury (Ballantine Books, 1955)

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Ray Bradbury is undoubtedly one of our greatest short stories writers of our time, and perhaps of all time.  Whichever collection of his you find yourself picking up, you will instantly be delighted with his magical worlds and lyrical prose.  A lot of his stories go one step further, leaving you with a sense of wonder and contemplation.  Bradbury shouldn’t be simply considered and categorized as a science fiction or fantasy writer; he ultimately writes about people and their interactions with each other and with reality, albeit true or made up.  The October Country is a perfect example of this, with a most unique anthology of stories.

In the opening tale, “The Dwarf,” we get to meet a most unusual character of short stature who spends his days paying what little money he has at the carnival to visit the Hall of Mirrors where he stares at himself, taller than life.  In “Skeleton,” true horrors are revealed in this brilliant story where a man becomes convinced that his bone structure is trying to escape his body, until he meets a doctor who agrees with him and apparently has a penchant for one’s marrow.  In “The Small Assassin,” a child is a precious thing, but this newborn seems to have a vengeful urge to kill the one who gave birth to it.  “The Scythe” is a story about a poor family discovering an abandoned farmstead; they move in and live off the land, enjoying the food and life it provides, but the father knows there is a cost to bear each day he goes out and scythes the field that was clear the day before.  In perhaps the most haunting tale of the collection, “The Wind,” we pay witness to an invisible force that wants to kill.

The October Country is a powerful collection featuring many of Bradbury’s best stories and revealing his excellence as both a storyteller and a skilled writer.  Readers looking to try Bradbury for the first time would do well to start with this collection.

Originally written on May 18, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The October Country from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas” by John Scalzi (Tor, 2012)

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Most scifi fans are familiar with the curse of the “redshirts.”  For those who are not, it applies to the original Star Trek show where any minor character in an episode wearing a red shirt ultimately ended up getting killed on an away mission before the end of the episode.  Bestselling author John Scalzi takes this humorous concept to a whole new level in his appropriately titled novel Redshirts.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the flagship Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, to begin work in the ship’s xenobiology lab.  It’s a dream come true he thinks, but this soon changes.  He quickly discovers there’s something very strange going on aboard the Intrepid.  First there’s how strange the senior officers act around everyone, and how every time one of them shows up at the lab, Dahl finds himself suddenly alone.  Then there’s the fact that the most unlikely ensigns end up going on away missions, even if they have no experience or skills for said away mission.  Then there’s Lieutenant Kerensky who often seems to end up on these away missions and almost gets killed or mauled or poisoned every time and just when it seems like he’s going to die, the miracle cure is found.  And then there’s the “black box,” a special device that spits out gibberish which the senior officers are always able to understand.  And finally there’s the terrifying fact that an astonishing number of ensigns sent on these away missions end up getting killed.  Dahl needs to put the pieces and clues together to figure this out, but he’s not sure he wants to know the answer.

Scalzi clearly had a lot of fun writing this book, playing with the tropes and stereotypes that scifi show fans know all too well, as well as pushing it to an all new level.  When the climax of the book is reached, Scalzi begins his three codas which serve a purpose but lack the drive and enjoyment of the earlier parts of the book.  Overall, Redshirts is a fun read that any scifi nerd will eagerly gobble up.

Originally written on July 17, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Redshirts from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.