“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 3: Double Blind” by Max Gladstone (Serial Box, 2016)

This is the third episode in a series, the complete series can be found here.

Things continue to not go so well for CIA operate Gabe Pritchard: his boss is breathing down his neck to develop some useful leads and he continues to get these random and debilitating migraines. But he’s not going to give up on his hunch about Andula Zlata, especially since KGB operative Tanya Morozova always seem to be close by; he also happens to be able to track her pretty well by being able to sense her in his mind.

The terrible headaches he keeps getting are because of what happened in Cairo. And he knows it’s something to be with magic and he’s going to need help from someone very eccentric: the exceedingly British MI6 operative Alestair Winthrop, who also happens to be a sorcerer for the Consortium of Ice. Then Winthrop invites Gabe to an important party where the man brings him face to face with someone he feels will be able to help him: Tanya Morozova.

In this episode, readers (and listeners) get to see the world through some other characters: Nadia Ostrokhina who works with Tanya and Joshua Toms who is Gabe’s partners. Along with the dramatic writing, the audio version has Gabe’s and Joshua’s parts being read by John Glouchevitch, and Tanya’s and Nadia’s part read by Christine Lakin, with a fast-paced back and forth between the readers adding a thrill for the listeners. Plus each episode tends to end in a nail-biting cliffhanger, leaving the reader (and listener) wanting more.

Originally written on February 18, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 3: Double Blind from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 2: A Voice on the Radio” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serial Box, 2016)

This review is for the second episode in the series The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, the first episode can be found here.

This second episode, A Voice on the Radio, opens with Tanya Morozova wanting to talk to her grandfather. The problem is she’s in Prague and her grandfather is deep behind the Iron Curtain, in Moscow. But she has a way of getting in touch with him through some unusual means. Using an old wireless radio that has seen better days and some magical techniques, she is able to get in touch with the her relative. She needs some advice on how best to get Andula to realize she and the Consortium of Ice only want to help her.

The episode focuses on Tanya trying to win Andula over and let her know that the Consortium of Ice just wants to help and protect her. Readers learn in this world the Consortium of Ice wants things to return to how they were before, whatever they might be, while the Acolytes of Fire want some sort of radical change.

Gabe Pritchard discovers Andula and his detective sense begins to tingle. Eventually he finds the young girl talking to Tanya Morozova at a formal event and knows there must be something going on here. The higher ups need evidence to be convinced, so he really needs to find some. Meanwhile his migraines continue to get worse and he enlists the help of a friend to use magic to try to determine what is wrong with him. He hopes it will be a quick easy spell and his head will be better, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The second episode in this magical thriller builds on the first, explaining some of the mysteries from the premiere episode, as well as adding some new ones to continue to pique the reader’s interest.

Originally written on February 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 2: A Voice on the Radio from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 1: A Long, Cold Winter” by Lindsay Smith & Max Gladstone (Serial Box, 2016)

In the 1800s when you wanted to read Dickens, you didn’t simply get a copy of his completed book, but read his latest work in serialized form. Families would gather round and read aloud the latest “installment” of Dickens. In 1984, Tom Wolfe serialized Bonfire for the Vanities in Rolling Stone magazine. Stephen King serialized The Green Mile into six short books in 1996. Michael Chabon serialized Gentlemen of the Road in The New York Times Magazine in 2007.

And then there’s Serial Box, a new publishing concept looking to bring the dramatic tension and excitement of a weekly TV show to the written word. Readers can buy individual “episodes” or subscribe to the entire book and receive the next episode as it is released in their inbox or on their ereader. The serialized books are available in ebook or also on audio in approximate 90-minute episodes.

The year is 1970 and the Cold War is in full force as the USA and the USSR face off against once another and the world stands on the brink of all out war and possible annihilation. Our story begins in the bleak city of Prague, Czechoslovakia, on the edge of the iron curtain. A young student named Andula is being stalked by something not of this world, a magical construct, and she barely has any idea. An operative of the Consortium of Ice, Tanya Morozova, knows how important and powerful the girl is, as a host, and must do whatever she can to help her. The Consortium of Ice is in a long-standing battle against the Acolytes of Fire to harness elemental magic. Meanwhile, CIA agent Gabe Pritchard screws up a case in gaining a potential asset that has been six-months in the making, due to something that changed him in a previous mission in Cairo; now he needs to make good or face the consequences which will be more than losing his job.

The authors do a great job of setting the scene of this gloomy city in the heart of the cold war making it feel like a James Bond story of espionage, and then the magic comes into play in a subtle way, giving the story a whole new feel and dynamic. The readers do their part in giving the characters life and depth, using accents where necessary, and providing added tension to the dramatic story.

The first episode, “A Long, Cold Winter” does what it should: hooking the reader, answering a few questions, but also providing many more, wanting the reader (or listener) to continue with the next episode. This first episode is also free to read through the Serial Box site.

Originally written on February 10, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 1: A Long, Cold Winter from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Riding the Bullet” by Stephen King, read by Josh Hamilton (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Riding the Bulletstarstarstar

Originally only available in e-book, the short story “Riding the Bullet” was published this year in Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories, Everything’s Eventual. It has now been released for the first time in audiobook.

It is the story of a college boy in Maine who discovers that his mother has had a stroke and is ill in the hospital up north.  Without hesitation he leaves school and starts making his way north in the only way he knows how, since he doesn’t have a car: hitchhiking.  He’s done this before, and while it is illegal, he knows when to look out for cops, which guys are good to get rides with, and which are bad.

But this time he hitches a ride with an unexpected driver: one who is already dead.  This driver poses an ultimatum to him: to let his mother live he must sacrifice himself, or let his mother die while he continues to live.  Ultimately it is a decision he will have to think about for a long time, but time is what he doesn’t have.  Once his decision has been made he finds himself on the roadside, his head dripping with blood from a knock on a tombstone in the cemetery he’d been passing through.  Was it all a dream?  Or is the decision he made coming true at this very moment?  All will be revealed when you ride the bullet!

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

Originally published on November 11th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Wavedancer Benefit: A Tribute to Frank Muller” by Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham & Peter Straub (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002)

Wavedancer Benefitstarstarstarstar

Last year a special man was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident where he sustained terrible injuries.  His name was Frank Muller and he was one of the most renowned audiobook readers in the country.  On February 2nd, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, and Peter Straub gathered together for a unique reading at New York’s Town Hall, in honor of the Wavedancer Foundation, a charity specially created for Frank Muller.

John Grisham kicks off the evening, engaging the audience with his southern drawl, and reads an excerpt from his latest novel, The Summons.  He is followed by Peter Straub, who reads from his own latest novel, written in collaboration with Stephen King, Black House.  Then Stephen King announces that he was also going to be reading from Black House, but decided to read a short story that apparently always brought Frank Muller to tears of laughter; the story is “The Revenge of Lardass Hogan.”  It involves a pie-eating contest.  Finally, Pat Conroy closes the night, soliloquizing on the art of writing in the most entertaining and hilarious manner.

All in all, a fabulous night to remember, and for those of use who could not make it there, it is now available in audiobook format for us to enjoy.  All proceeds from the purchasing of this audiobook go to the Wavedancer Foundation.

Originally published on October 14th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

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“Hearts in Atlantis Audiobook” by Stephen King, read by William Hurt and Stephen King (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002)

Hearts in Atlantisstarstarstarstar

The book Hearts in Atlantis was published a few years ago, and the movie came out last year with Anthony Hopkins.  Now it is possible to listen to the entire story on audiobook, read by the soft, deep tones of William Hurt and the sharp but familiar nasal spats of Stephen King; complete and unabridged.

The first story is “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” read by William Hurt, it is essentially what the movie version of Hearts in Atlantis was based on.  Though some prior Dark Tower knowledge is recommended, it is not mandatory as the story naturally has a lot more details with further development of the tale.

In the title story, read by Stephen King, the reader is taken to a college in the sixties, where the war is gearing up, protests are growing, and this new symbol is becoming omnipresent – the peace sign.  The college students have one big problem though: they cannot stop playing hearts, even to the point of dropping out of school.  But if that happens, they’ll be shipped off to Vietnam.

In “Blind Willie” and “Why We’re in Vietnam,” the reader receives viewpoints from two survivors of the war in Vietnam and how they deal with returning to ordinary life where death is not an everyday occurrence.  They each have their own unique and outright insane way of dealing with shell shock.

In “Heavenly Shakes of Nigh Are Falling,” the main character from the first story returns to his old hometown and meets up with his first love.  In each of the stories the characters from “Low Men in Yellow Coats” inevitable show up in some way, creating a vital link between all the stories.

This is Stephen King’s Vietnam story, but at the time it is much, much more.  It takes the reader back to the time of Atlantis, when the great civilization that was American fell beneath the waves.

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

Originally published on October 7th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

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“LT’s Theory of Pets” by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster Audio, 2001)

LT's Theory of Petsstarstarstar

Stephen King brings us a surprise publication with LT’s Theory of Pets, a new audiobook from Simon and Schuster audio.  This is Kin’s latest audiobook release since Blood and SmokeLT’s Theory of Pets is a short story read by the author, recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and therefore a sure Stephen King rarity.

LT is the narrator of the story, telling the story to the other main character.  The story he recounts is one that he tells to many people and as often as possible.  In this story he reveals his theory of pets.

The story is about his relationship with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there anymore.  All that remains is a long, detailed note and the cat.  The cat that LT bought for her years before, but instead of fixating on his wife, the cat immediately attaches itself to LT and a bond is formed; as for the relationship between cat and wife, it borders on cruel and evil.  Then there is the dog that Lt’s wife bought for LT, because he liked the dog on Frasier.  Once again a strange, almost supernatural situation takes place, where the dog attaches itself to LT’s wife, while it and LT become nemeses.

And so the story is told, from beginning to end.  But then you think the tape is coming to an end, a change takes place.  LT’s Theory of Pets takes a turn for the dark and horrific, creating a cold feeling within you, leaving you ill at ease.

With this unique recording, for the first time, you are listening to Stephen King with an audience; you laugh along with them when he tells his funny and sometimes obscene jokes, and then become scared and a chill runs down your spine as you hear a dead silence, punctuated by Stephen King’s nasally voice, and you realize that everyone is just as scared as you.

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

Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.