“Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2015)

Fables 21 Happily Ever After

Things are coming to a head in this penultimate collected volume before the final showdown that will conclude the long-running, award-winning series. It is a case of good versus evil, as all great battles are, but the lines are severely blurred between who is good and who is evil.

Rose Red has been reborn as King Arthur, having formed the Knights of the Round Table at the Farm, though her prisoner is not as captive as she thinks. And now she must face her Morgan Le Fay, her villain, who turns out to be none other than Snow White, her sister, naturally. Readers get to see some important back story here with the sisters’ mother, who had her own large number of siblings and according to the way things were, these sisters had to kill each other to gain all the magic, and it is the story of Snow White’s and Rose Red’s mother who changed this.

Meanwhile, Bigby is sort of back. Having been turned to glass and then shattered, he was reassembled with a crucial piece still missing. A woman of immense power now possesses that glass shard and is able to control the big bad wolf, as he rampages around New York City, killing and eating like his fabled legend and being very unlike the kind, loving father we know him to be.

As the crescendo builds, Willingham – as he has done for the whole series – builds the tension and adventure and since this is the end, readers have no clue who is going to make it out alive, if anyone actually is.

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

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book News: Book Hangover Cures, Guide To The Hugo Award War, Samuel R. Delany: Race, Sexual Identity and Sci-Fi & More!


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“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.

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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.

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