Bookbanter’s Top 20 Reads of 2015

.1.

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Seveneves
Neal Stephenson

The research at times is mind boggling as he goes from complex aerospace technology to well calculated genetics to thought out sociology. He literally brings the human race to the brink of extinction. [READ REVIEW]

.2.

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Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift[READ REVIEW]

.3.

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Dead Ringers
Christopher Golden

What they have in common is a special house where bad things happened, where bodies were found that had been buried for a long time. [READ REVIEW]

.4.

Sandman Overture
The Sandman Overture
Neil Gaiman

Dream travels to a place and time where he encounters the many manifestations of the sandman across the entire universe. [READ REVIEW]

.5.

Aurora
Aurora
Kim Stanley Robinson

. . . humanity has specifically evolved to survive on Planet Earth, wherever they hope to travel to in the universe they will be landing on a planet or moon where they have not evolved and face high risk to become sick and infected . . . [READ REVIEW]

.6.

Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers
David McCullough

He doesn’t just tell the story of flight, but shows the full lives of the Wrights; how they interacted with each other and lived their daily lives. [READ REVIEW]

.7.

Fifth Heart
The Fifth Heart
Dan Simmons

Sherlock Holmes is in Paris on a foggy night and finds Henry James by the Seine about to commit suicide. [READ REVIEW]

.8.

The Fold
The Fold
Peter Clines

The problem is there have been a few anomalous readings, and one person who was visiting to check out the device, went through with no problem, then flew back home and apparently went insane, claiming his wife wasn’t who she said she was. [READ REVIEW]

.9.

Uprooted
Uprooted
Naomi Novik

The Dragon is an old wizard who lives in his tower, guarding and protecting the realm from the forest. Those who stray into the forest rarely ever come out alive; those that do come out changed, twisted, evil things looking to hurt and kill. [READ REVIEW]

.10.


Saturn Run
John Sandford & Ctein

Then the race is on to get a crew together and get them to Jupiter as quick as possible to find what out what’s going on. [READ REVIEW]

.11.

Stranger
Stranger
Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith

You’re either a normal human or a mutant who is “Changed,” giving you special powers and abilities. There are those who will respect you for being different and others who will despise you, even inside those safe town walls, so watch your back. [READ REVIEW]

.12.

The Best Team Money Can Buy
The Best Team Money Can Buy
Molly Knight

Just as they began the interview in his native Texas, Kershaw learned he had just gotten a new contract with the Dodgers for a record seven-year $215 million deal. But he still did the interview, even though his phone was vibrating nonstop. [READ REVIEW]

.13.


The Marvels
Brian Selznick

When he finds his uncle, he convinces him to let him stay in the wonderfully unusual house of Albert Nightingale which is kind of a combination of Hearst Castle and Winchester Mystery house . . . [READ REVIEW]

.14.

Living Years
The Living Years
Mike Rutherford

But Mike also has plenty of stories and anecdotes to tell and doesn’t hold back when it comes to commentary on “drugs and rock’n’roll.” [READ REVIEW]

.15.


Career of Evil
Robert Galbraith

Thinking it a possible gift from her fiance, she opens it up and discovers a woman’s severed leg inside. [READ REVIEW]

.16.

Saga Volume 4
Saga Volume 4
Brian K. Vaughan

Alana is an actress in an underground entertainment outlet known as the Open Circuit, but there is a lot of stress and strain forcing her to take a drug to cope. [READ REVIEW]

.17.

Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers
Stephen King

The question is should Pete turn in what he has found to the authorities, or perhaps use the money to help his family who are in deep financial troubles and at risk of divorce? [READ REVIEW]

.18.

Solarversia
Solarversia
Toby Downton

The year is 2020 and Solarversia is an MMORPG like no other. It lasts an entire year, as players complete puzzles and obstacles, leveling up and traveling to new places around the planet. By the time the game officially begins, there are 100 million players. [READ REVIEW]

.19.


The Sculptor
Scott McCloud

After having a conversation with a deceased family member he strikes up a deal with death and is able to create art with his bare hands. [READ REVIEW]

.20.


A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
George R. R. Martin

In some ways, these stories are on par and perhaps a little better than the lengthy books, for they are simpler, more straightforward and Martin seems to be having more fun in this world when it’s not tied up with the giant, overwhelming series. [READ REVIEW]

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” by George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Gary Gianni (Bantam, 2015)


In addition to the main events in his Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin has also written a couple of novellas set a century before the events of the series about a fledgling hedge knight. They’ve been published in anthologies, but are collected here for the first time, with some great illustrations by Gary Gianni.

In the first story, “The Hedge Knight,” readers get to meet Dunk for the first time, who is burying his late lord and master whom he was apprenticed to. Before the man died, he knighted Dunk, as was his right. Now Dunk spends his days traveling from town to town in search of jousting tournaments in an effort to earn some coin as well as notoriety as a mystery knight. Along the way he also gains a most unusual squire in Egg, a young boy whose head is completely shaven; he also belongs to a very interesting family.

“The Sworn Sword” features the unlikely duo dealing with an issue involving a river during a very hot summer where Dunk meets a vivacious young redhead. In the final tale, “The Mystery Knight,” Dunk and Egg once again find themselves at a jousting tournament, but there is a lot more going on here than just a number of knights titling at one another.

In some ways, these stories are on par and perhaps a little better than the lengthy books, for they are simpler, more straightforward and Martin seems to be having more fun in this world when it’s not tied up with the giant, overwhelming series. Though the fun is also in reading familiar names and knowing the important people in history they will become. As for the illustrations, they are numerous and appear on almost every page, giving life and vitality to the entertaining book that is A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Originally written on December 4th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Sandman: Overture” by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by JH Williams (Vertigo, 2015)

Sandman Overture

Twenty-five years ago the world was introduced to one of the most important comic series ever created and it launched Neil Gaiman’s career. Gaiman put the series to bed some years ago, but now on the quarter-century anniversary he returns to tell a tale he’s had in his imagination since he began the series, as he says in his introduction. It is a story he has wanted to tell for a long time and now readers finally get the chance to enjoy it.

Fans who’ve read Sandman know of the Endless: Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Death . . . Dream. They know the events – eventual catastrophic ones – of the comic book series. But in The Sandman: Overture, readers get a prequel of sorts. At the beginning of the first Sandman volume, Preludes & Nocturnes, Morpheus is exhausted and has apparently been through a great ordeal and this is that story.

Dream travels to a place and time where he encounters the many manifestations of the sandman across the entire universe. Here a meeting will be conducted and decisions will be made. And then Dream will go on a journey with some unusual companions and meet some family members he didn’t expect to see anytime soon. Again, decisions and choices will need to be made that will affect the entire universe.

One might be hesitant about what to expect when a writer returns to the opus that made him so well known after a quarter century. Will it be a captivating original story or a quick thrown-together thing to milk an already successful series? Fortunately it is the former, and Gaiman shows he had a least one more important story to tell in the Sandman universe that has earned itself a spot next to the other volumes of this popular series.

Originally written on January 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Sandman: Overture from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland Books, 2015)


Cormoran Strike is back with a new case to solve, only this in addition to being of a usual garish and repulsive nature, is a lot more personal. It all begins when his assistant and now admitted partner receives a special package at the office. Thinking it a possible gift from her fiance, she opens it up and discovers a woman’s severed leg inside.

It’s a personal attack on Cormoran, through his assistant Robin Ellacott. Their other cases soon start disappearing when word gets out and they know they need to find who’s behind it all before they go out of business. Strike comes up with four potential suspects from his past, and while he’d like to keep Robin locked up in a safe place, she won’t hear of it and refuses, as he knew she would.

Strike gets the police involved and gives them everything he’s got on the suspects. The police want to focus on a particular man that the private detective thinks isn’t involved, leaving the other three potential murderers for Cormoran and Robin to deal with. In their most intense and tolling case yet, they have to track down where these suspects are now, since it’s been years since Strike last checked in on them; find out what’s been going on around them and find out who the likely killer will be.

The case forces Cormoran and Robin to understand their unique dynamic as partners and how much they care about each other, while their respective girlfriend and fiance rarely see them, straining their relationships. Galbraith shows another side to the characters in this case that hits a lot closer to home, as the reader gets plenty of their personal lives, as well as their professional ones, making them feel like real people. Readers will be just as hooked with this third installment and wanting more.

Originally written on February 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)


To date, Stephen King has published seven short story collections, proving that the prolific writer is still a big fan of the short form. This latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has perhaps one of the more horrifying and chilling covers to grace the front of a book in some time. But this makes sense, since many of the stories in the pages of this collection are both chilling and horrifying. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift.

The anthology kicks off with “Mile 81” where there is an old abandoned vehicle at a defunct rest stop that has a tendency to absorb everything that touches it; one might even say eats. In “The Dune” a man can see people’s futures written in the sand. “Morality” is the story of the collection that really makes you think, as a couple must decide whether they will perform a certain act for a large amount of money, and whether their relationship can survive because of it.

What happens when you die? King decides to present his thoughts in “Afterlife.” In “UR” an ereading device has special powers. “The Little Green God of Agony” is a story about pain in its many forms and if it had a physical presence, what it would look like. “Obits” is a story about a journalist who causes bad things to happen to people when he writes their obituaries. The collection also features King’s novella “Blockade Billy” in its entirety, about an old baseball player who had certain “abilities,” as well as King’s most recent short story published in the summer of 2015, “Drunken Fireworks.”

For those wondering why so many readers love everything King does, the many great stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams makes it easily convincing. The anthology has a little bit of everything: ghost stories, psychological thrill rides, captivating thrillers, and moving stories of fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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A Quick Update

So through the rest of the week and over the weekend, you’ll see a number of reviews published on Bookbanter, which is all part of the lead up to Bookbanter’s Top 20 Reads of 2015. I’m moving the big post to Monday morning, so that I can get all the reviews up that are mentioned in that post. This is the first time I’m going to get the “best reads” post up with reviews on every book mentioned, which I’m pretty happy about.

So be ready.

“Saturn Run” by John Sandford and Ctein (G. P. Putnam and Sons, 2015)


When authors switch genres, it can be a risky move, both for the writer and the readers. John Sandford is a very well known thriller writer, particular for his numerous Prey novels, as well as other thrillers. But one thing Sandford has clearly proven to his readers: he can spin a good yarn.

In Saturn Run, along with some help from Ctein, Sandford has created an epic work of science fiction that is gripping with every turn of the page, filled with scientific details that are well researched, and an original science fiction plot that has elements that have been done time and time again in the genre, and yet feature a story completely new, fascinating and compelling.

The year is 2066. A Caltech intern who is pretty much where he is because of money and his family notices something unusual on the monitor attached to a space telescope: something is approaching Saturn and it’s decelerating. Thus begins the first part of the novel, as a bunch of important people at various levels of the government get together and decide what the hell they’re going to do about this historic information. Also are they going to tell the rest of the world or keep it a secret? Which begs the question: who else saw what they saw and what sort of head start do they have?

Then the race is on to get a crew together and get them to Saturn as quick as possible to find what out what’s going on. China is close behind with their own mission in the works. This is where Sandford’s skill as a thriller writer comes into play as the reader gets page-by-page addictive action with the two countries putting their missions together, launching their vessels, and racing to the finish line.

The final part of Saturn Run is just as enthralling as the rest of the book, as the reader learns what is going on at distant Saturn and what the fall out of it all is going to be. Perhaps having a mystery writer tackling a science fiction book brings a whole new set of ideas and tools to the genre, because there is nothing predictable or conveniently-plotted and easily solvable in Saturn Run, making the reader thoroughly entertained from start to finish.

Originally written on January 17, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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