“The Wreck of the Zephyr” by Chris Van Allsburg (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013)

The Wreck of the Zephyr
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In 1983, acclaimed picture book writer and artist, Chris Van Allsburg, known for such unforgettable books as The Polar Express and Jumanji, shocked and awed readers with The Wreck of the Zephyr. Thirty years later, with this anniversary edition, he continues to amaze and interest new readers to his books.

This is the unforgettable tale of a lone wrecked sailboat, whose origin story might be that it got washed up by some big waves, but it is too far from the sea for this to be likely. Another tale is one of a boy looking to be the greatest sailor of all time, which leads him to a place where boats don’t simply sail in the water, but also sail off into the sky.

It is a wonderful story about a boy driven to impress everyone to the point where he causes his own downfall, much like Icarus. But it is also a story of magic and far off places that might or might not exist and sometimes only a select few get to know. Told with breathtaking artwork that speaks volumes, The Wreck of the Zephyr is a picture book to delight parents as well as children.

Originally written on November 5, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Wreck of the Zephyr from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: NYT Summer Reading List, Amazon Fights Dirty, Renting Books & More!

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Amazon continues to flex its muscles against Hachette for not getting what it wants and show that it is downright evil.
Amazon has posted its top list of most well-read US cities by ranking book sales by city.
Book Riot gives you the scoop on how to tell a loved one their favorite book sucks.

“Let the Old Dreams Die” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013)

Let the Old Dreams Die
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If you’ve read any books from the bestselling Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, such as Handling the Undead, Little Star, Harbor, or his big international hit Let the Right One In, you know he’s got a knack for telling some cold, dark, scary stories. In Let the Old Dreams Die he presents international readers with his first short story collection, showing his breadth not just as a horror writer, but also as a skilled storyteller.

“The Border” is a story about illegal smuggling across an important line of demarcation, but this particular border agent has a talent for spotting and knowing when someone is smuggling, except in this case it turns out to have more to do with her than she knows. “Eternal/Love” is about what happens when your loved one is brought back from the dead, still human, but irrevocably changed. The book also features some important sequel stories, in “Final Processing” to his book Handling the Undead, and “Let the Old Dreams Die” to Let the Right One In.

The collection is a lot of scary fun, working as a good introduction for readers wanting to try Lindqvist for the first time. But it also satisfies cravings for fans: showing his full spectrum as a writer, and providing some much needed new material in various settings, revealing his skill at telling a story that will leave you unable to sleep the night you finish it.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Let the Old Dreams Die from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Let the Right One In  Handling the Undead  Harbor  Little Star

GUEST POST: “Oh, Those Wild and Crazy Puritans!” by Tom Doyle

Those Puritans never seem to catch a break.

 My debut novel from Tor, American Craftsmen, is a thoroughly modern-day fantasy of military intrigue. My backstory, however, starts with the founding of the English colonies in North America and focuses on Puritan New England.

The Puritans have always had a public relations problem. Yes, they grew in numbers to the point that they could win the English Civil War, but their stance on the arts made them many enemies among more memorable voices. Even the mild Shakespeare didn’t like them (see Malvolio in Twelfth Night).

In America, Thomas Morton, a real-life figure and fictional ancestor of my protagonist Dale Morton, ran a one-man campaign against what he considered the fanatical Puritan settlements, and was arrested and expelled three times for his trouble. Later, the peculiar tensions of Puritan communities would help to generate the notorious Salem witch hunt, over which my fictional present-day characters still hold grudges.

Still, most Americans prefer to look towards the upright Puritans as the national ancestors and ignore the claims of those opportunistic and sometimes cannibalistic rascals in Jamestown. As pointed out by writers such as Edmund S. Morgan and Sarah Vowell, the dilemmas that sprung from all that religious tension and paranoia led to some creative solutions in governance that eventually helped produce the United States.

Enter my modern-day Puritan character, Major Michael Endicott, the sometimes antagonist to the main character, Captain Dale Morton. Endicott is a fictional descendant of the real-life John Endicott of Salem, who was the Puritan’s Puritan. John Endicott was the one who led the attack on Thomas Morton’s settlement at Merry Mount. He also brandished his sword during the trial of Anne Hutchinson, a notorious heretic among the Puritans (and ancestor of another of my characters, Colonel Elizabeth Hutchinson). In America’s first declaration of independence, John’s sword sliced the cross of Saint George the Dragon Slayer from every flag that he saw.

Major Michael Endicott finds that he has to be more realistic than his Puritan forebears about many things. Michael can laugh at his ancestor John wanting veils for women. But Endicott continues to admire his ancestors for their faith, discipline, and freedom. He is above all loyal to his family.

In my earliest draft, Endicott started out as almost totally unsympathetic, which didn’t work. So he evolved into a quite different character: a person trying to maintain his integrity even as his trials and tribulations seem to mock him.

Endicott’s patience and integrity are particularly tried by his encounters with Dale Morton. The pagan and atheistic Mortons and the Puritan Endicotts have continued as enemies for hundreds of years. Endicott believes that at best Dale is untrustworthy due to his seeming instability, and at worst Dale has gone over to the evil practices of his Left-Hand Morton ancestors.

As Endicott pursues the fleeing Dale across the country, he begins to suspect that Dale may be telling the truth about corruption at the heart of Langley or the Pentagon. But if Dale is right, this also means that some terrible deception may have occurred in the Endicott family.

Despite the gravity of the situation and his normally stern demeanor, Endicott tries his best not to take himself too seriously. When things go wrong, even in ways that make him look slightly ridiculous, he faces adversity with a churchy sense of humor and as much patience as he can muster. Challenged by a great threat to the nation, Endicott is perhaps the character that has to grow and change the most, and in that regard his core principles are more help than hindrance.

As Sarah Vowell came to like the Puritan subjects of her book The Wordy Shipmates, I’ve come to like Michael Endicott’s character as well. I hope you find him and my other magical, fictional descendants of the real-life founding colonists, my American craftspeople, entertaining.


About Tom Doyle:

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE’s writing as “beautiful & brilliant.” Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.” A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop, Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest.

Book Report: Twittering From Beyond, George RR Martin Writes It Old School, Tolkien’s Beowulf & More

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The Guardian on the passing of the great Mary Stewart.
The bestselling author explains why he writes his popular series in DOS.
The last 13 feminist bookstores in Canada and the US.

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson (Delacorte, 2013)

Steelheart
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It seems that whenever Brandon Sanderson puts his head down to write something, the resulting story is usually an incredible one that any reader will enjoy. The man is talented; it’s as simple as that. Sanderson had a second young adult novel come out in 2013, after the Rithmatist, and kicks off a new young adult series called The Reckoners with Steelheart. It’s your classic fantasy tale of superheroes, except all the superheroes in this book happen to be supervillains.

It all started with a strange comet and an even t that came to be known as the cataclysm where a certain number of the population gained superpowers and became known as Epics. David got to experience the supreme power of epics first hand when he was at a bank in Chicago, when the epic Steelheart murdered his father. Since then, ten years have passed and David, while living through hard times, has devoted every spare moment to learn what he can about the epics of the world.

He knows a couple of things: each epic possess his or her own unique power and with that power they have a key vulnerability. Some of these “weak points” he has discovered about the epics, others he is still learning. He also knows there is an underground rebel group looking to fight back against the epics one at a time. He’d love to join up with this rebel group, known as the Reckoners, but they’re very good at remaining hidden and undiscovered. But then again he’s also very good at finding things out that you’re not supposed to.

Sanderson takes a great concept of the superhero, makes up a bunch of them, then turns it on its head and makes them all evil. But whether he is writing fantasy or science fiction, the magic abilities of his characters always have limits in some way, just as the superheroes we know so well, like Superman or Spiderman, or the many others. Whether you’re a kid, or an adult who’s a kid at heart, you’ll love Steelheart.

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

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

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“Dangerous Women” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, 2013)

Dangerous Women
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While George R. R. Martin may be taking his time with his next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, he definitely has an ability for finding some great talented storytellers when working with the master editor and anthologist, Gardner Dozois. Dangerous Women is one of those books that you’re very thankful for being a giant tome, as you look forward to finishing the thrilling story you’re currently reading, so you can see how it ends, as well as discovering what the next story is going to be like.

A number of big fantasy name authors make the contents list in this collection, as well as a number of other mainstream authors you may not have read before. Each of them write about heroines or female villains or powerful stories with moving female characters, from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughan and S. M. Stirling, as well as a new novella from George R. R. Martin set within his fantasy world.  Not all the stories are fantasy or horror or science fiction, such as with Carrie Vaughan’s riveting story about female fighter pilots.

The beauty of a collection like this is that the reader has a chance to discover a number of new authors they never planned on reading, or maybe have wanted to try. Also, since the book is called Dangerous Women, it does respectfully feature more stories written by women authors, as it should. Ultimately, it’s a collection that features wall-to-wall female characters everywhere, which sadly cannot be said for most books published these days.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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