“Chu’s Day at the Beach” by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex (Harpercollins, 2015)

Chu's Day at the Beach

The cute little giant panda Chu jumped on the scene in Chu’s Day to the delight of parents and children alike in a fun board book as a circus suffered the deleterious effects of Chu’s sneezing. Now the duo – Gaiman and Rex – are back with the followup, Chu’s Day at the Beach, this time in full picture book format. Now, some parents might be thinking their kids won’t enjoy it as much since it’s not a board book, but when they see the finished product they will realize their kids are going to love this sequel just as much as its predecessor.

As the title says, Chu joins his parents in a trip to the beach. As Chu is enjoying his ice-cream, he takes off his sunglasses and looks up at the sun, making his nose twitch, and then lets out a big squeeze that causes an even bigger problem than blowing away the circus and this time it will take some other characters to help him put everything back together again.

The beauty of the picture book is in the larger artwork from Adam Rex which is vibrant and colorful and simply fascinating to study with the vast menagerie hanging out at the beach in their strange and entertaining anthropomorphic ways. The story’s fun; the artwork is astonishing; all around a great book.

Originally written on January 30, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chu’s Day at the Beach from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse” by Molly Knight (Simon & Schuster, 2015)

The Best Team Money Can Buy

As a long-time, die-hard San Francisco Giants fan — the Los Angeles Dodgers’ biggest rival — wanting to read a book about the nemesis team would seem unlikely and somewhat disingenuous, since I may be planning to “pretend” to read it and then seek to lambaste it, being a book about those evil LA Dodgers. But no, my thinking was, the Giants and Dodgers face each other many times over the course of the 162-game season and this book seemed like a great way to get know this team I watch a significant amount of the time from April to September each year.

The Best Team Money Can Buy is a fascinating book about the Los Angeles Dodgers, not just as a sports team, but as a franchise and business. Molly Knight tells the fraught story of the Dodgers last few seasons, beginning with 2012 when owner Frank McCourt through an ongoing series of cost-cutting measures, gutted the team and brought the franchise to bankruptcy so he could line his pockets and make sure he and his wife had the best mansions to live in. Enter the Guggenheim group featuring iconic Magic Johnson and a few billionaires who snatched up the franchise before anyone else could as the highest bidder and then set out to win the team a World Series ring.

The book opens with a fascinating interview between Molly Knight and multiple Cy Young Award winner and star starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. 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. Knight then takes readers through the next two years, how the franchise acquired the many expensive players such as Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke and one Yasiel Puig to name a few.

The book is a captivating read as Knight isn’t setting out to show the Dodgers as this perfectly polished team where everyone gets along and all they do is play great baseball. She gives each player their back story, talking about where they grew up, how they came to be on the Dodgers, and how they then worked out for the team. It’s common sense that when you put a bunch of competitive millionaires together, some in the same position, tensions will flair. Knight doesn’t hold back in discussing this, but also the many good things the owners have done since the bankruptcy days to make the Los Angeles Dodgers the high achieving, highly-respected baseball team it has been known to be since it left New York. They want to be known as the Yankees of the West.

But readers also see how the Dodgers got only so far in the postseasons of 2013 and 2014 before they were eliminated. Kershaw both times wasn’t able to be the ace he has come to be known for the team, and blames himself for letting the team down, and then how he picks himself up and tries again next year. It is a story of trying to get players who are paid millions of dollars whether they win or lose to want to work as a team and win. Kershaw has won a lot of awards in his short time as a major league pitcher, but it is the elusive World Series ring that he truly cares about adding to his trophy collection.

Originally written on August 3rd, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Best Team Money Can Buy from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book News: Vincent Price Book Gets Food and Movie Tour, The Kickass Women of Fiction, Crafting For Gryffindors & More!


“It Was Colonel Mustard In The Library With The Candlestick!”
6 books for people who love the movie Clue.

Kickass Women 
Sometimes it can be tricky to find books featuring kickass women characters. Look no further.

Asian Books 
Want to stretch your reading mind? How about some books set in Asia? 

[read more . . .]

Writing on the Job

My daily work and life schedule is both a heavy and hectic one that leaves me little time in the day for writing. I start work at 7:30, and get home anywhere between 4:30 and 6:30. Once I’m home I’m spending every free moment with my son, feeding him dinner and getting dinner for myself too. Then he gets put down between 7:30 and 8. Come 10:30, I need to start getting things ready for next day with work, prepping my lunch and stuff.

So that leaves me a two and a half hour window to watch TV, catch up on email, prep Bookbanter posts, and get any writing done. Therefore, I have a very loose schedule that I’ve adapted throughout this year to make it easier and easier on myself because otherwise I just don’t get any writing done. But it’s not easy.

Thankfully, lately I’ve been able to do some “writing” while doing my job of delivering people’s mail. There’s two ways a mail carrier delivers mail: by vehicle (known as the LLV) or by foot. When driving, there’s too much I need to be focused on to think about writing at all, but when walking house to house delivering mail, especially on routes I know well, it’s become pretty automatic and routine for me. And lately I’ve discovered I can do some writing in my head while walking and delivering mail.

Now by writing I basically mean doing all the parts of writing other than actually writing with the pen or typing on the computer, laptop or tablet. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been able to plot scenes, develop storylines, subplots and ideas, create complex characters and just think about pieces I want to be working on and where I want it to go. It’s been a wonderfully freeing and yet distracting experience, as it can get a little repetitive delivering mail house to house by foot, and being able to get lost in my imagination at the same time is a lot of fun.

What I have found though is that I need to make sure once I’m done with work and home for the day is I need to take the time to write up all the thoughts, ideas and notes that I’ve generated that day otherwise it’ll just disappear into the ether. But it’s nice to know I’ve found another outlet for getting some writing done, albeit mentally, with my heavy schedule.

“The Scarlet Gospels” by Clive Barker (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

Scarlet Gospels

To know Pinhead is to fear him. The demon who is a priest of hell can be summoned with a cryptic little box, and then the hooks and chains come, giving a whole new meaning to the term agony. Barker fans have been waiting for the demon’s return for many years and the creature appears in this final showdown in The Scarlet Gospels.

With a nod to the Divine Comedy, Harry D’Amour soon finds himself sucked into a world of trouble. The lead investigator of all things magical and supernatural has to pull together his cadre of helpers and then they find themselves passing through a portal straight into hell. Harry has one goal: to end Pinhead once and for all. But traveling through hell isn’t that easy, especially after his history of pissing off the paranormal and sending numerous demons back to hell from whence they came.

The gang soon discovers that something is terribly wrong in hell. Things are falling apart and looking way worse than they normally would. Pinhead has started his final plan after taking the life of every known magician, witch and wizard and has absorbed all this power; and now he is bringing hell to its knees. Sending the dead and the demons to whatever there is beyond hell, with plans to take on Lucifer himself and make himself ruler of hell. The question is how is Harry going to bring Pinhead’s existence to an end?

The Scarlet Gospels has been building for years, with readers anxiously waiting for some new material, and sadly the result doesn’t deliver as expected. While the story is a fun romp through hell for Harry and the gang, the last part of the books gets to be a little too much of the same thing over and over again. Barker had said this would be it for Pinhead, one final sure ending for him from which he couldn’t return. But by the end of the book, as the reader is left feeling unsettled with how it all came to a close, they’ll also be wondering if this really is it for Pinhead, as his unmoving corpse was never actually seen.

Originally written on July 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

You might also like . . .

Chiliad  Abarat  Coldheart Canyon

Book News: Punk Reading, Recipes From The Kitchen of Bob Belcher, Canadian Bookstores, Eh? & More!


Bookish Jeopardy
How about you test your book knowledge Jeopardy style.

Bookstores North of the Border
Here are 16 must-see Canadian bookstores.

Reading Those Meddlesome Classics
Maybe you’ve wanted to tackle some classics but you know they can be tough reading, so why not try them out in audiobook format?

[read more . . .]

“Saga Vol. 4” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics, 2014)

Saga Volume 4

In the fourth volume of the hugely popular Saga graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, fans can expect more of the same amazing and thrilling storytelling as the story continues to unfold in new and completely unpredictable ways.

The close-knit family – Alana, Marko and dear little Hazel – are enjoying some private time on a fringe planet called Gardenia, after being on the run from their respective governments for a long time. 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. Meanwhile Marko is raising Hazel and seeing very little of his wife, befriending another mother who begins hitting on him, and the overall stress is putting a strain on their relationship.

The secondary story focuses on the Robot Kingdom, where Prince Robot IV’s wife gives birth to his son. Then a plan is hatched by a disgruntled robot janitor, killing the woman and kidnapping the son. Then he travels to Gardenia to complete his nefarious plan, kidnapping Alana and Hazel. Prince Robot IV and Marko must then join forces to save their families.

The wild ride that is Saga continues in this addictive fourth volume which you won’t be able to put down. The art is great as always, filled with vibrant colors that bring these alien worlds and alien people to life. You won’t want it to end, but you also will want to find out what happens next.

Originally written on August 2nd, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Saga Volume 4 from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Saga Volume 1  Saga Volume 2  Saga Volume 3

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company, 2015)

Fifth Heart
starstarstarstarHalf Star

One thing you can never do with Dan Simmons is pigeon hole him under a specific genre. He’s published in most, from epic science fiction to mysteries to horror to thrilling historical fiction. Other than his Blade Runneresque novel Flashback from 2011, his previous four novels have been works of historical fiction; a couple of them have been fantastic, engrossing books — The Terror and Drood — and the other two — Black Hills and The Abominable — were lacking in something. His latest novel, The Fifth Heart, is a return to those earlier, thrilling works as he takes an idea that would hook any literary fan and takes you on one wild ride. The premise is a relatively simple one: what if Sherlock Holmes and Henry James teamed up together to solve a murder?

Sherlock Holmes is in Paris on a foggy night and finds Henry James by the Seine about to commit suicide. Instead, Holmes tells him he will join him on a ship in the morning to cross the Atlantic for James’s native United States to solve a murder that was thought and assumed to be a suicide. Clover Adams was a close friend of Henry James who committed suicide in 1885 under somewhat unusual circumstances. She was a member, along with James, of the Five of Hearts salon. And yet an enigmatic message is sent to the remaining members each year indicating nothing is as simple and clear cut as it seems.

Holmes begins his painstaking investigation, interviewing many and traveling all around Washington DC. James unwittingly becomes his Watson, as he also learns that Holmes is unsure if he is a real person or a fictional character, and that the stories Watson has penned about him with the help of literary agent Arthur Conan Doyle have distorted the facts of his past cases to make them all the more adventurous and grandiose. Holmes takes on many disguises and does what he does best.

Along the way readers will get to meet some fun characters, like Mark Twain and a young Teddy Roosevelt. They will also get to meet some familiar people from Holmes’s world, including Irene Adler and the infamous Professor Moriarty. The mystery will take James and Holmes away from DC to New York and then up to the Chicago to the White City and the World’s Fair where they will attempt to thwart a plot to assassinate the President of the United States.

Simmons clearly had a lot of fun with this novel, throwing as much literary subject matter as history. It is a lengthy novel and he enjoys taking the reader on interesting tangents, which all help to keep the reader enthralled as they have no idea where the story is going to go next. As with The Terror, the language makes it feel like one is reading something penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, with the use of particular language, diction and detail. Simmons fans will not be disappointed, while Holmesian ones will be delighted.

Originally written on August 1st, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

You might also like . . .

Hyperion  Drood  The Terror

Book Report: Author’s Podcasts, Binge Readers Anonymous, Bookish Movies Streaming & More!


If You Have a Reading Problem 
Here are 12 signs you think you might be binge reading and can’t stop.

World’s Coolest Bookstores 
If for some insane reason you need a good excuse to travel, here are the best bookstores on the planet.

August Reads
You may have an opening in your reading schedule and here are five books you might want to check out for this month.

[read more . . .]

There’s Nothing Short About This Short Story

Sometimes when you’re writing stories can get away from you; other times you just follow along and let it take you wherever it’s going . . . aaaaaaand sometimes its both.  About six weeks ago I started a story I’ve had fluttering around in my head for a while. I’d tried to write the short story last year, but wasn’t happy with where it was starting off. It just wasn’t coming out right, so I scrapped it and waited to see if the story would come to me again in some other form I’d be happier with. And it did.

I made time when I could to write what I could of the story and it kept telling its tale as stories do. I wasn’t sure where it would go at first and then it got its shape and I had a vague idea where it was headed and was able to pick this hazy thing in the not too far distance that was the ending. I figured it would end up being about 5000 words, a decent, pretty standard length for a short story.

And then the thing started happening that writers will tell you about that you can’t really teach or even explain when writing. The characters not only start to feel real, they start to act like real people and do things, make decisions, carry out actions you had no clear idea they were able or going to do. In your mind you had a vague concept of where a certain conversation might be headed, and then one of the characters says something totally surprising that actually shocks you as the writer, because you had not clue not only that they wouldn’t say it, but that they couldn’t say it. You didn’t think it was in them, but once it’s out there on the page you realize it’s totally part of their character and it’s just made your story a whole lot better. The same can happen in any sort of action scene where you have the vague idea of the moves and steps the scene will take and then something totally strange happens that just surprises you, so you follow it along and are shocked by it as you realize why it happened and how your story just got a lot better and became more realistic.

So there I was working on the story in the time I could make available, and it was doing its surprising twists and turns making it cooler and more interesting by the page, and I just watched it tear on past that 5K mark and keep on going without slowing. I figured, well maybe it’ll end up being kind of a longish story, plus I could always edit it down a bit if need be, no problems there. And then it going on and on and on, passing 8K and carrying merrily on it’s way to 10,000 words.

Now, there are two ways you can write a story. You can force it, making it go where you want it to, jamming out the dialog you want your characters to use, and carve out the exact ending you want and demand. But you’ll end up with something that will feel artificial, stunted and a complete lie to you the writer. Or you can have a nebulous idea of what you want to write and then let the words and characters do what they want to do and be happy to tag along for the ride and see where it takes you. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out, sometimes it becomes something truly unique and amazing that you never could’ve “forced” into being.

So there the story was zooming pass 10K and I could still see the hazy ending it was aiming towards and we were finally starting to circulate it and then one night I was able to get it all out and put the last sentence on the story ending it at 12,780 words.

Yeah, a little lengthy for a “short” story. I expect when I come back to edit it I’ll be able to get it down under 12K and the good news is TOR.com accepts fiction up to that length.

So you never really know where a story is going to take you and the important thing is not to hold back and try to control your imagination, but just let it take you to new and exciting places.