“Cemetery Dance” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central Publishing, 2009)

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Preston and Child return with their next deep and dark mystery featuring Special Agent Pendergast, and this may be the creepiest one yet.  This time Pendergast, along with Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta, are investigating a strange series of attacks that soon turn into killings.  The problem with the investigation, led by Captain Laura Hayward, is that the few witnesses, as well as camera footage, points to the attacker being someone who was reported dead and buried ten days ago.

As Pendergast and D’Agosta dig deeper and deeper, they find themselves involved in an underbelly of New York never before seen, involving an unknown and sinister cult that specializes in animal sacrifices, employing Obeah and Vôdou.  While they don’t want to fully admit it, the attacks look like they are being done by what can only be classed as a zombie.  As the city begins to get riled up over this, Pendergast and D’Agosta find themselves caught up in a matter that reaches far back into Manhattan’s early history.

Cemetery Dance will have you turning the page, wanting to get to the end, not just because of the action-filled and faced-paced writing style, but because in your mind you know there’s no such thing as zombies and there has to be a logical explanation for this . . . doesn’t there?

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter

Originally written on May 28th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Douglas Preston check out BookBanter Episode 13.

“The Doomsday Key” by James Rollins (William Morrow, 2009)

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Commander Guy Pierce and Sigma Force return under the prolific writing hands of bestselling author James Rollins.  In The Doomsday Key, Rollins brings lots of different and seemingly individual elements together in a fast-paced adventure that will leave you reading on the edge of your seat.

Three bodies are discovered on three continents, all murdered under mysterious circumstances, and all bearing a unique Pagan symbol: a cross within a circle.  Sigma Force are brought in to investigate.  As the facts are discovered, it is revealed that the giant Norwegian corporation Viatus is somehow behind it all, a company that specializes in crop and seed development.  As Pierce and the gang dig deeper, they find themselves involved in an unsolved mystery that goes back thousands a years.  The question is whether they will all be able to stay alive long enough to solve it.

Rollins has outdone himself in The Doomsday Key using a variety of historical sources from the Domesday Book, to the Druids and Pagan religion, to the history of Neolithic Britain, to the early days of the Christian church.  Combining these with present day biotechnology and the Doomsday Vault – a real seed vault under heavy protection in the Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole – he skillfully brings it all together in an incredible story that is perfect for readers waiting for the next Dan Brown book.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 27th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with James Rollins check out BookBanter Episode 9.

“Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2009)


While just about everyone is hanging around and waiting for The Gathering Storm (due out November 3rd), first in the concluding books of the Wheel of Time series being written by Brandon Sanderson; readers might like to try out one of Sanderson’s first books that has been available for free as an ebook on his website for some time.  It is more in line with his first book, Elantris, than his fantastic Mistborn trilogy, Wheel of Time and Sanderson fans will find plenty to occupy themselves in Warbreaker.

Sanderson delivers another unique magic system all about color and breaths.  Breaths can be bought and ingested, and with each increasing number of breaths, one has more power to do things like bring inanimate objects to life and even create a zombie-type being from the dead.  There is the royal house where all royalty possess many breaths and show this in their ability to glow and whose hair changes color to fit their moods and emotions.  Then there is the land of the gods and those gods who have returned from the dead.  Warbreaker is a complex world that has a lot of detail to offer the reader which, while not one of Sanderson’s best works, nevertheless will delight fans and entertain them until November rolls around.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 25th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Brandon Sanderson check out BookBanter Episode 2.

“The Collected Works of Billy the Kid” by Michael Ondaatje (Norton, 1974)

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From the author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, comes one of his first published works, now available in paperback featuring a new afterword by the author: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.

A short book of only 130-odd pages, it features a collection of stream of consciousness poetry, prose, and photographs surrounding the legend of Billy the Kid.  In the afterword Ondaatje discusses how he began collecting pieces about Billy the Kid early on in his career, researching what he could, and writing short pieces of poetry, imagining what Billy the Kid (also known as William Bonney) was actually like.  The poetry is written in the style of e. e. cummings, with short stanzas bursting with description and scenery as the reader sees through Billy the Kid’s eyes.

The book is not your average story with a beginning, middle and end, but more a collection of poetry, prose and photos, almost like a documentary collection, except Ondaatje wrote a lot of the fiction, drawing from his own life experiences and incidents.  The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is nevertheless a fascinating read featuring Ondaatje at his best, revealing his skill and power with words, while offering up an interesting albeit unusual history on the legendary outlaw.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Our Story Begins” by Tobias Wolff

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In this new anthology, one of our most eminent short story writers, Tobias Wolff, offers up some old stories – some we’ve seen before – as well as new and fresh tales.  Our Story Begins is a perfect introduction to the writing style and complex plot-minded mind of one Tobias Wolff.

This book is an in-depth look at the many facets of life and their most important part: people.  Wolff doesn’t always look to tell a simple and complete story with a beginning, middle and end.  Most of the stories in this collection offer more of an insight into a slice of this world or that life; a snapshot into a relationship or specific decision.  The full consequences and events don’t always unfold, and we may not know as much as we might like with back story; nevertheless, we immediately become attached to these very real characters and the very human decisions they make.

Wolff takes readers on a journey they won’t soon forget with Our Story Begins, as they travel the world and meet some very strange characters, as well as playing a part in some very moving relationships and families.  A required read and book deserving a space on everyone’s shelf as not just a sample of Wolff’s skill, but a supreme example of the contemporary short story.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 14th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Private Midnight” by Kris Saknussemm (Overlook, 2009)

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From the author of the quirky and outright bizarre Zanesville comes a new novel that takes the classic noir detective story and boils it down . . . then bakes it . . . then deep fries it; and throws in a bunch of sex and kinky stuff.  The resulting recipe is Saknussemm’s Private Midnight.

Saknussemm harnesses the voice and feel of a classic, noir detective novel from the very first page.  Detective Birch Ritter has everything a detective of his type needs: a crummy, tough job that takes up all his time, he seems to never sleep, and has a sordid and dark past filled with tragedy and bad choices that constantly come back to haunt him and the reader.  Private Midnight has two stories going on: one is the case that Ritter needs to solve, and the horrifically mangled bodies keep turning up; the other is a strange introduction to a type of therapist who uses elaborate mind-games combined with dominatrix-style sex acts, all with the apparent goal of getting Ritter to pour out his heart and his past, and move on with his used up life.

Whether you’re looking for a gritty detective story or something with some sexual spiciness to it  (or perhaps both), you’ll thoroughly enjoy Private Midnight, with its unique voice and complex story that will leave you turning the page just to find out what’s going to happen next.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 14th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Crown Conspiracy” by Michael J. Sullivan (Ridan Publishing, 2008)

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Released in October 2008, The Crown Conspiracy is the first in a six-book fantasy series known as The Riyria Revelations.  Author Michael J. Sullivan includes all the tropes of a good fantasy story, leading one to think this an ordinary, in some ways stereotypical, fantasy tale.  The Crown Conspiracy is anything but stereotypical or predictable.

Our main characters are nothing but low-life thieves: Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, although they’re very good at their jobs.  The story begins with the introduction of these intrepid characters and their next heist to steal a particular item within the impenetrable confines of the king’s castle.  But as soon as they have their hands on the item, the trap is sprung, and they find themselves part of an elaborate plot.  At their feet lies the lifeless body of the king.

From here, the story kicks into high-gear, taking the reader on a wild ride.  In this world it is important to know who your friends are and who are your enemies; it is also important to keep your enemies closest.  As the story unfolds, we learn that while they may be common thieves, they are very smart people.  They also realize that the idea of being a good person is starting to rub off on them, as they no longer do anything for a fast buck.

By the end of the book, everything seems to have sorted itself out.  Royce and Hadrian are now doing very well for themselves, as well as being close friends of the king.  But clearly all is not as it should, since this is the first book in the series.  Fans will have to wait until April 2009 before they can get their hands on the next chapter in the Riyria Revelations: Avempartha.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 3rd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Michael J. Sullivan check out BookBanter Episode 10.

“Long Walks, Last Flights, & Other Strange Journeys” by Ken Scholes (Fairwood Press, 2009)

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Ken Scholes is the author of Lamentation, the first in a five-book series called the Psalms of Isaak.  For those looking for some other examples of Scholes’ writing (and if you read and loved Lamentation and need something else by him right away), then Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys is the book for you.  Featuring sixteen stories and one novella, it is a great collection that shows the true range of this blossoming author, as well as his love for not just story, but strong characters.

The collection begins with a wonderful preface from Patrick Swenson and a glowing introduction from James Van Pelt.  With the very first story, “The Man With Great Despair Behind His Eyes,” it is clear that Scholes has a knack for telling unique stories.  The story is about Meriwether Lewis and his journey across North America after a special meeting with Jefferson; on the other side of the country he meets with a man close to death who is a supposed time traveler from the twentieth century.  “One Small Step” explores a world where chimpanzees have been trained as workers and mount an uprising against the humans on the surface of the moon.  “Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk” is the story of a toy robotic bear that is the last hope for the world, but with each step is brought closer to his demise, but first he must complete his quest.

With each of these stories, Scholes hasn’t simply created an incredible story, but unique characters that you immediately care about, whether they’re human or not.  You are moved in their journey or quest, supporting them, wanting them to make it to whatever the end is.  When they falter, you falter with them, sadness in your heart; when they triumph, you smile along with them.  Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys will keep you comforted in the wait between Lamentation and Scholes’ next book in the series, Canticle, as you continue to enjoy the great writing from this new author.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 3rd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Ken Scholes check out BookBanter Episode 21.

“Vicious Circle” by Mike Carey (Grand Central Publishing, 2008)

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Mike Carey, author of the great graphic novel series Lucifer, and after the success of The Devil You Know, the first of his Felix Castor series, returns with the next installment in Vicious Circle.  Nothing much has changed for Castor.  Life is still really tough on him, he’s not making a lot of money, and taking whatever jobs he can to stay afloat.  Meanwhile his emotional baggage and history continue to weigh on him, as he tries to ignore his past.  But then he mysteriously lands a job that promises to pay well and does at first.  He must track down a girl, well actually the dead body of a girl, well specifically the ghost of a dead girl whose parents have lost contact with her and want her back.  Castor also gets called on to help a succubus who has turned over a new leaf – even if she is still extremely tantalizing – to find out what is going on in a church that left people dead and the surrounding neighborhood terrified.  Finally he helps out the Metropolitan police department with some very strange and satanic homicide cases.

As the story develops, the plot thickens, and it’s no real surprise that everything is linked.  Seeking out the help of a zombie friend to get him some info, something really weird is also going on in London: people keep dying, more so than usual.  Castor finds himself up to his neck, deep in it, and this time, if he doesn’t do it right, he won’t survive.  Neither will his friends, the only people he cares about.

Carey ratchets up the adventure, the mystery, and the excitement with Vicious Circle that will leave readers gasping for breath at Castor’s near misses, as he barely survives to fight another day.  Just in time for the third book in the series, Dead Men’s Boots.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 16th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Mike Carey check out BookBanter Episode 16.

“WWW: Wake” by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace, 2009)


From an author who has written a number of books and has won just about every award a science fiction author can, comes one of the most original and fascinating novels to be published in a long time.  It’s one of those books that has just as much right to be on a fiction shelf with other literature classics. Wake is the first in a trilogy about a blind girl, Caitlin Decter, who undergoes new and theoretical surgery in Japan to bring back her sight.  With an implant in one eye, signals are sent to a small machine via Bluetooth, which Caitlin refers to as her “eyepod.”  Patches and downloads for the software for the eyepod are made online, as Caitlin returns to Canada.    With a new patch, she begins to see something that is not real life.  She soon realizes it’s a view of the Internet through a browser though she has no control over what she’s seeing.  Then with another patch update, Caitlin begins to see through the eye with the implant and her life is changed.  Yet there is still something on the Internet that is apparently alive, communicating with her at first through her restricted sight and then online with her, and it’s intelligence is growing rapidly.  The book ends at this point, along with something very strange going on in a China, and an ape who is somehow able to paint pictures of people.

Wake is a book that will grow on you as you read it.  Sawyer has done a fantastic job of researching the science, but also throws in lots of references that any savvy Internet user will recognize, appreciate, and be amused by; as well as putting the readers in the mind of a blind person and how they do the amazing things they do each day.  By the end of the book readers will be impatiently wanting the sequel, Watch, due out in 2010.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 16th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Robert J. Sawyer check out BookBanter Episode 11.