Book Report: Lestat and Quiddich Return, Amtrak Wants Writers Aboard, The Rooster Calls & More

At Pottermore.com, J.K. Rowling released the first chapter in a new, 2,400-word story about the Quidditch World Cup.
Book Riot presents some great spring break reading recommendations for you to enjoy.
Amtrak is trying a new program using a writer-in-residence who must commute a long distance to work, providing up to 24 writers with a bed and cabin to write in to help creativity.

“Hild” by Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013)

Hild
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The beauty of the medieval historical novel Hild, by bestselling science fiction author Nicola Griffith is that it is a story about a woman who becomes a powerful and inspirational figure during the Middle Ages. The reason this is special is because most historical fiction novels of this nature, from the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, and Ken Follett to name a few, feature leading male characters in all their books, with female characters playing a secondary, minor role.

Such is not the case with Hild, telling the story of a young girl who is full of life and determination, along with a certain special ability to predict what may happen and soon gains the ear and respect of Edwin of Northumbria in his effort to overthrow the Angles. The book follows her life, growing to become a powerful woman and eventually one of the pivotal figures of the period: Saint Hilda of Whitby.

Hild is a beautifully written novel that takes a little while to get going, but once the reader is fully engrossed in the character, Griffith doesn’t look to tell your average medieval historical novel of back to back action scenes and historic battles, but a moving story of people interacting and living through this tumultuous time and what they did to make a difference. And then of course, there is the captivating cover to draw any reader in.

Originally written on February 12, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

S. I

I have finally embarked upon a long and arduous journey that is reading S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. The book was released in time for Christmas last year, and did so well the printing sold out and they weren’t able to get the second edition released until late February.

Why did it take so long to reprint you ask?

Because the book is a beautiful work of art with numerous loose pieces secreted within specific sections of the book that relate to the story.

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The creators and publisher went all out with using original looking photographs and artwork, a complex map drawn on a napkin, legal paper with handwritten notes, and old typewritten letters. The detail and execution is simply astounding.

Look Inside

With the reading of this book, I plan on making a number of posts on the work of art, not so much going into detail with the story, but with some overtones and how the work feels as a whole and discussing the minutiae that went into creating this book.

The premise is that an old library book is discovered named Ship of Theseus by V. M. Straka. It looks like an actual library book with the detailed shelf location on the spine, stamps and details in the first few pages, lending it further authenticity. Two complete strangers who are fans of Straka are commenting back and forth on just about every page of the book with their thoughts and feelings as well as having outside discussions about themselves and their lives.

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One does not feel the horrible sense of a book being written in and basically destroyed, because the notes and discussions are just as much a part of the book as the actual story is, perhaps more so in some ways; we will just have to see as I progress further.

So far I’ve just read the introduction from the translator of the work which lends it a feel of something created by the Dharma Initiative from Lost, which is exactly what I was hoping from the likes of J. J. Abrams.

I know this is also going to take me some time to read, for it is almost as if I am reading two books at the same time within the same manuscript, or like reading a detailed scholarly journal with tens of footnotes on every page. One cannot simply read the discussion and then read the story, or vice-a-versa, because they are both interrelated.  You read part of the story, then the notes that relate to it, so it s a lot of stopping and starting which simply means it takes longer to read the page.

Nevertheless, I find this a fascinating endeavor, one might even say adventure, which is always the point of a good book, no?

And to give you an idea of the many different loose pieces delicately placed within the book, and to help anyone who may have had some fall out, there is a helpful YouTube video detailing what piece should be with which page.

If you’re interested in Purchasing S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, and would like to support Bookbanter in the process, click HERE.

“Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Infections” by David Quammen (Norton, 2012)

Spillover
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Spillover is one of those books that everyone should really read, even if it’s really scary and after completing it, you’d have problems doing anything without wondering what viruses might be waiting to attach themselves to your skin. Bestselling author David Quammen looks to perhaps scare you with Spillover, but ultimately educate on both the history of these viruses and what the current status is of them today.

The book is divided into parts and features a thorough coverage of viruses like Ebola, SARS, Hendra and AIDS to name a few, as well as infections like hepatitis and malaria. Each part features an interesting history of the particular virus or disease, how it was first discovered and the devastation it has caused throughout the world, and then a look into its current situation and what it might bode for the future. Quammen is quick to point out in the Ebola chapter of how one being infected by the virus is more likely to show symptoms and the less bloody stages one goes through to death, as opposed to the sensationalist portrayal of someone dying of Ebola in Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. The AIDS chapter is perhaps the most fascinating in covering the detailed history of the virus and how it is one that is still killing many and while there are medications that help, it is still one that shouldn’t be easily forgotten about.

After finishing Spillover, in addition to being somewhat terrified, readers will also feel as if they’ve ingested an important volume of knowledge and will feel educated now on most of the world’s known diseases and ready to face the next pandemic when it comes . . . or at the least be a little more hygienic in their daily lives and wash their hands more often.

Originally written on February 17, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

Book Report: Nook Adieu, Literary Fashion, Steig Larsson Points Fingers From The Great Beyond & More

Nook Going Bye-Bye 
The Nook Division at Barnes & Noble continues to shrink.

Stephen King’s Cell
A first look at some images from the upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen King’s zombie book, Cell.

The One Thing You Must Do in Oregon 
Powell’s Books makes it to number 1 on Oregon bucket list.

[READ MORE . . .]

“Words of Radiance, Book Two of the Stormlight Archive” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2014)

Words of Radiance
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It is known as the sophomore slump, where the second book is not as good and simply doesn’t live up to the hype and success of the previous, first book. Generally this applies to a debut author book and its successor, and obviously Words of Radiance is not Brandon Sanderson’s second book (technically it’s his 11th adult novel), it is nevertheless the second book in his Stormlight Archive planned 10-book epic series. This is the series Sanderson has wanted to write since he was a teenager, and since he had well over a decade to work on the first book, it’s now been four years since the release of The Way of Kings, putting a lot of pressure on him in much less time to deliver just as good of a book with the successor.

It seems Brandon didn’t get the memo about the sophomore slump, or if he did, he just laughed at it and threw it away. Words of Radiance is a work of brilliance that is actually better than The Way of Kings in a number of ways.

Firstly, the book is almost a hundred pages longer, putting it at 1088 pages, so what’s not to like about that? The work and dedication the great fantasy publisher, Tor, put into this book is simply stunning. They built on what they did with The Way of Kings, providing a great landscape scene featuring one of the main characters, Shallan, in full resplendent color detail on the inside beginning pages and a full-color captivating map on the ending pages. Throughout the book are wonderful sketches and illustrations linked with the story, as well as ornate chapter headings. And to cap it all off, there is another beautiful wrap-around dust jacket cover by the great Michael Whelan.

And that’s just the physical book. Let’s move on to the story and writing.

The second book of a series, whether it’s a trilogy or a 10-book bonanza, has a lot to prove and impress upon the reader. The first book captivated and hooked them as the reader learned of everything for the first time. The second book has to maintain the reader’s interest with a world and characters they are already familiar with, and kick it up a notch, by introducing new material as well as expanding the complex world. Sanderson does exactly this and more, leaving the reader by the end of the book gasping at its impressive execution, but also comprehending how this can be a 10-book series. It is not that the reader can easily see what is going to happen over the remaining eight books, but through what is introduced and developed in the second book, they can see this furthering and continuing throughout the rest of the series.

Readers of The Way of Kings knew that with the development of the two strong characters in Kaladin and Shallan, they would one day be getting together, and Sanderson skillfully weaves his plot to make this happen. He has also changed the dynamic of the story from the final events of the first book, with Shallan becoming her own leader and a powerful person in her own right, while Kaladin is no longer a slave but a darkeyes of stature, which is unique in itself, along with his special abilities earning him the moniker Kaladin Stormblessed. As Sanderson often does with his magic system after introducing it in the first book, he pushes it to new revelatory levels in Words of Radiance, expanding its complexity and depth, while dumbfounding and impressing the reader with its sheer awesomeness.

As with The Way of Kings, Sanderson uses interludes at poignant, cliffhanger parts of the book, whisking the reader across his invented world to new lands and new characters. Some have been met before in the first book, others are new and fascinating to behold. He reveals a different world, a different people, a different culture, and a completely different way of life in these new characters as compared to those involved in the main story. As well as being entertained and interested, the reader is also wondering how these characters will relate to the main, central characters they have been reading about for hundreds of pages, and if perhaps they may eventually meet. Many fantasy authors employ elaborate maps featuring varied lands and seas and islands, but few ever actually explore their world fully and use its created complexity. It seems in The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson intends to do this, and thoroughly with a planned arsenal of 10 books to do it in.

By the end of Words of Radiance the reader is of course left wanting more, wanting that third book right away, even though it will very likely be another three or four years before it is published. Though if there is one thing Brandon Sanderson has proven to his many readers and fans countless times over, it is that he works hard and long, and delivers a book to the reader’s hands as fast as he possibly can. So one may end up being surprised as to when the third book in The Stormlight Archive will be out. But the ending of the book shouldn’t just leave the reader wanting more, but also leaving them feeling satiated; satisfied with the story they have read that has reached a completion of sorts, which is really what a book of this epic scale should do, since its successor won’t be available for some years to come.

So then, can you read Words of Radiance on its own without reading The Way of Kings?  Technically yes, some of the events of the previous book are referenced and made clear, but everything will make a tremendous amount more sense if you read the first book in the series before starting on this second one. Does the story warrant 1088 pages, or could it stand to have been edited down somewhat? With The Way of Kings, it could’ve stood to have been edited down fifty or so pages, but with Words of Radiance, I have been hooked on every chapter and it hasn’t really slowed down for me at any point.

Ultimately, it is a beautiful book, a work of art in many ways that is a great length and a worthy addition to the epic fantasy lexicon that will look just great on your bookshelf when you’re done. It is so satisfying to know that great books like Words of Radiance are being made and will continue to be made.

Now go get yourself a copy of Words of Radiance and lose yourself in the land of Roshar.

Originally written on March 3, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

You might also like . . .

The Way of Kings  Mistborn: The Final Empire
Elantris  The Rithmatist

  • CLICK HERE for an audio interview with Brandon Sanderson from 2008.
  • CLICK HERE for an audio interview with Brandon Sanderson from 2010.