“The Author or The Character’s Short Living Story” by Facundo Raganato (Kindle, 2015)

The Author

They say that authors love controlling their characters and they love nothing more than to torture them and kill them off if necessary. But readers might not know that there is a cardinal rule with writing that all authors must adhere to: writers must remain true to their characters. For characters to be real people, they can only do certain things certain ways and some things they simply cannot do, for it is “not part of their character.”

Facundo Raganato’s The Author or The Characters’ Short Living Story is a fun literary adventure which has a lot of fun with the notion of what happens when an author creates six characters in his own setting and tries to control and guide them, but ultimately lets them act as the characters they are. The Author also shows up routinely in the story, interacting with the characters, perhaps guiding, perhaps changing their direction, no one really knows. However, all the characters and the Author know there is a Reader out there following the story along and giving the characters life.

The story begins with the Author setting the scene, like sculpting a piece of art, and on a meta level talking about writing and characterization. Then the reader is introduced to the six main characters, who have generic names like Kimberly and Leo and seem unimpressive at first. They are all together in a strange place but have no memory of who they really are – other than their names – and what lives they have come from. As the story progresses, they constantly discuss if they are actually real or just fictitious creations.

As they get to know what little they know about themselves, as well as getting a little info from the Author, they must begin their quest of sorts, working together and facing nonstop conflict and obstacles like a surrounding wall of mirrors or a sewer grate locked tight which they must somehow get open. But their ultimate challenge is when they must each go their separate ways, passing through doors bearing their names, not knowing where they will be taken and if they will ever see each other again.

The Author works on many levels, stimulating the mind about writing and characters working together, but also what it means to be uncertain where the next step will lead, especially when there is a trickster Author involved, and how sometimes working together may be the only way to survive. The few typos in the book do throw the reader out of the story as the writing has a unique style to it that is enjoyable to follow. Reading what little description there is about the book, would-be readers may have some preconceived notions about what to expect from the book, but they will be well surprised as it is a unique work that they have likely not come across before.

Originally written on October 12, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Lost Codex” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller, 2015)

Lost Scoll
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Karen Vail, renowned FBI profiler, is back in her next adventure, only this time she’s doing something a little different: serving as a crucial member of an unusual team designated OPSIG Team Black as they attempt to unravel the story behind two ancient biblical documents.

With the first terrorist attack on US soil in some time, Karen Vail finds herself pulled into something much bigger than she can imagine. As she puts the pieces together and learns of the significance and implications of this attack that will likely turn to more, she is pulled into an elite group sanctioned by the President of the United States. The trail will take this crack covert team from DC to New York to Paris to England and eventually to Israel.

The first sanctioned Bible is purported to have been first recorded in 930CE, and after this document is rediscovered, in 1953, half of it goes missing. Then another document around the same time is discovered near the Dead Sea. Both items have potential revolutionary effects, depending on whose hands they end up in. Naturally there are many people from various “arenas” who would love to possess them, and it ultimately all comes back to the cradle of western religion.

There is good and bad with The Lost Codex. The bad is that since Vail is part of a team, the book doesn’t feature Vail all the time as readers have enjoyed in the past. However, the good is that this crack team has to use the various skills of each member to remain incognito and get to the bottom of these series of attacks. Jacobson has already proven he knows how to write a thriller, and in The Lost Codex, he leads his characters all over the world, infiltrating, researching, following up leads, and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. It’s a thrilling book with a complex and fascinating story that pulls the reader in.

Originally written on October 27, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

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“Less Than Hero” by S. G. Browne (Gallery Books, 2015)

Less Than Hero

It usually only takes a reader a couple of pages to know they’re reading an S. G. Browne novel, as they wrap their minds around a weird and wacky story, and Less Than Hero is another great, prime example of this. Here’s your one-sentence premise: what if some guys who have been human guinea pigs for years, testing new drugs and medications, suddenly developed stranger super powers?

Lloyd Prescott has been in the guinea pig program for a number of years now and it’s what he makes his living from.  For a relatively decent wage, all he has to put up with are some uncomfortable, unsettling side effects. He meets up weekly with a group of guys who are also fellow guinea pigs to hang out, chat about their lives and share info about upcoming trials.

At one of these meetings Lloyd tells everyone about his new-found ability: he can make people fall asleep on command. And then the rest of the group – except one – reveal their strange new powers that they can cause unto others: violent vomiting, seizures, and erections, to name a few. The group decides to use their unusual powers for good and set out to help those in need. Meanwhile in New York there are two super villains – if you will —  who can make people hallucinate and steal their memories.

While the main cast of superheroes could use a little diversity and maybe a female, Less Than Hero has to be the most bizarre yet entertaining superhero story out there. And in true Browne fashion, the reader doesn’t really know where it’s all going to go and what the ending will be like, they just keep going, enjoying the ride all the way.

Originally written on April 8, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Less Than Hero from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Revival” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2014)

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Revival is the sort of book Stephen King would inevitably write, and I mean this in a good way. It’s classic King of the 2000s: not an outright horror story, but definitely with some terrifying elements that give you shivers, some memorable “Kingly” characters, and a story that just makes you wonder.

Revival is a coming of age story for Jamie Morton, unsurprisingly, in a small, quaint New England town where everybody knows each other, and expects to see each other at church on Sunday. And at the Methodist church there’s a new preacher in town, one Reverend Charles Jacobs. Jamie met him the other day and instantly took a liking to him, and soon pretty much everyone is a fan of the new preacher, making Sunday School now a well-attended event, while Mrs. Jacobs soon becomes the apple of a many a boy’s eye.

Revival also features magic, of a sort. The Reverend Jacobs has some interesting hobbies that Jamie gets to see in his special shed where he invents unique devices that seem to use a new form of energy and would likely be very popular if they were sold worldwide. Jacobs jokes about doing this one day, when his experiment is complete. It is then that Jamie starts to realize that his might be more than a hobby, perhaps more of an obsession. But then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and when the reverend recants his faith and decries the inexistence of God to his congregation, he leaves town.

Revival then follows Jamie’s life becoming a guitarist as a teenager and playing in various bands through his twenties, living the life of a nomadic musician traveling from town to town. He also adopts the rock star life and becomes addicted to drugs, because he is a Stephen King character after all. He is at an all time low with his heroin addiction when he meets the Reverend Jacobs again.

Revival is a story of many things and the title aptly applies to many of them. It’s about Jamie’s life and life choices, and Jacobs and what he hopes to accomplish with his inventions. While the eventual reveal of Jacobs’s “quest” is somewhat disappointing (as is the case with a number of King’s endings), overall Revival is an exciting and contemplative read that will leave you contemplating numerous things.

Originally written on January 13, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Revival from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel (Knopf, 2014)

Colorless Tsukuru

If you’re a Murakami fan, holding his latest book is always a cause for excitement, and whether you’re a fan or not, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a work of art in design from Knopf to be admired by any reader and art lover for its design, color and execution. And the good news is the story from Murakami stands up greatly to this beautifully created book.

After the long-windedness and lengthiness of Murakami’s previous 1Q84, Colorless Tsukuru is short and to the point, featuring some great characters and the sort of story fans have come to love from Murakami. It is the story of five young high school friends who become as close as siblings and do everything together; after graduating four of them stay in town, while Tsukuru Tazaki goes away for college. And then something happens which breaks the group apart and all their lives are changed forever. Tazaki is told to leave the group and never return. He does not know what he has done and the four friends refuse to tell him.

Tazaki lives his life through his twenties and early thirties as a designer of railway stations, a passion he has harbored since he was a child. Upon meeting an interesting girl that he begins to care greatly for, she tells him he should visit each of these former friends and find out why they abandoned him so suddenly and for what reason. His pilgrimage will take him back home to familiar sights and sounds, as well as to Europe where everything is different. Along the way he will learn a lot, but because this is a Murakami book, Tazaki will not always know why. Nevertheless, like all good Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the last word is read.

Originally written on September 19, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary” by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)


In addition to creating the first fantasy epic, inventing a complete and insanely, thoroughly detailed world, and even making up its own language and alphabet, as well as teaching for decades, the great J. R. R. Tolkien also wrote a translation to the famous epic Old English poem “Beowulf.” Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien, reveals this translation in its entirety for the first time, and so much more.

Tolkien completed his first translation of “Beowulf” in 1926, but he was by no means done with the poem. Over the ensuing years and decades he continued to make changes and updates and lectured greatly on the epic alliterative poem. Christopher Tolkien presents this ideal translation from Tolkien, and then includes his father’s vast commentary painstakingly collected and organized. The book features notes on how Tolkien translated specific words and stanzas with plenty of additional notes. Included are also lectures and lecture notes Tolkien gave on the epic poem. Finally, the great author even penned his own poem (in both modern and Old English) that acts as a precursor to “Beowulf” as a sort of fairytale written in the same style, but not within the history.

Compared to Seamus Heaney’s very well known and popular translation of the same poem, Tolkien goes for a much more literal adaptation, where some of the moving alliteration is perhaps lost, but the true sense of the poem and the meaning the author or authors were intending is possibly better comprehended. With the description and vocabulary, Tolkien does a great job of making the reader feel as if they are there at Heorot with Beowulf and Hrothgar and the comitatus. He uses an older language of “doths” and “thines” because of the time he is writing in, but also to give a sense of age to the poem, which can be a helping or a hindrance for the reader. Nevertheless, Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf is a very welcome one that will be enjoyed by many and likely taught and studied in future medieval and Old English classes to come.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Spectrum” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2014)


Karen Vail returns for the sixth installment, in Spectrum, and this time Alan Jacobson gives the readers a look at her past and how she went from being a NYPD rookie to one of the best FBI profiler’s. The book begins with an opening throwing the reader in the middle of a case where Vail has some big decisions to make, and then switching off in every other chapter about a Greek family beginning in the 1970s, and while it seems confusing at first, it all comes together at the end.

It’s 1995 and Vail is on her first day of the job as a rookie New York cop with a tough as nails veteran partner looking to please and do everything by the book, but also learn the way of the streets and do the hard work she needs to succeed. She is pulled into a murder case that, as the years pass, becomes a long drawn-out serial killer case. It remains unsolved for over two decades, and each time a new body is found – a woman with a slashed throat and jagged piece of glass protruding from her neck, cuts blinding her eyes, and a strange X and four letters carved into her – Vail is notified and brought in to investigate, to see if they can get any closer to finding out who the killer is.

The other part of the book focuses on a Greek family whose father is involved in a strange fight that turns bad and leads to them being ostracized from their culture. They have to leave their home and everything seems to be against them. Eventually they end up living on Ellis Island in an abandoned building, struggling to get by. The story seems out of place and not exactly clear to the reader, but halfway through the book the link becomes apparent as the reader is able to put the evidence together and understand what the author is doing.

Jacobson clearly had a lot of fun writing Spectrum and readers familiar with Karen Vail will really enjoy reading her history, not just in how she climbed the ranks of the NYPD, then joined the FBI and eventually became a profiler, but also in her personal life with her husband who became her ex-husband and how she raised a child on her own while advancing her career. Like a gripping case, Spectrum has all the pieces and evidence there, and if the reader does some good detective work, they will put it all together and know who the killer is by the end, or be pleasantly surprised. Spectrum is the best Karen Vail novel yet and whether you’re familiar with the series or this is the first one you’re reading, you’ll be hooked from cover to cover.

Originally written on October 5, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Spectrum from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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