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Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, Book 2)
Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, Book 2)
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.29
88 used & new from $13.30

64 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Sequel That Builds on Where "Way of Kings" Left Off; You Won't be Disappointed!, March 4, 2014
It is known as the sophomore slump, where the second book is not as good and simply doesn’t live up to the hype and success of the previous, first book. Generally this applies to a debut author book and its successor, and obviously Words of Radiance is not Brandon Sanderson’s second book (technically it’s his 11th adult novel), it is nevertheless the second book in his Stormlight Archive planned 10-book epic series. This is the series Sanderson has wanted to write since he was a teenager, and since he had well over a decade to work on the first book, it’s now been four years since the release of The Way of Kings, putting a lot of pressure on him in much less time to deliver just as good of a book with the successor.

It seems Brandon didn’t get the memo about the sophomore slump, or if he did, he just laughed at it and threw it away. Words of Radiance is a work of brilliance that is actually better than The Way of Kings in a number of ways.

Firstly, the book is almost a hundred pages longer, putting it at 1088 pages, so what’s not to like about that? The work and dedication the great fantasy publisher, Tor, put into this book is simply stunning. They built on what they did with The Way of Kings, providing a great landscape scene featuring one of the main characters, Shallan, in full resplendent color detail on the inside beginning pages and a full-color captivating map on the ending pages. Throughout the book are wonderful sketches and illustrations linked with the story, as well as ornate chapter headings. And to cap it all off, there is another beautiful wrap-around dust jacket cover by the great Michael Whelan.

And that’s just the physical book. Let’s move on to the story and writing.

The second book of a series, whether it’s a trilogy or a 10-book bonanza, has a lot to prove and impress upon the reader. The first book captivated and hooked them as the reader learned of everything for the first time. The second book has to maintain the reader’s interest with a world and characters they are already familiar with, and kick it up a notch, by introducing new material as well as expanding the complex world. Sanderson does exactly this and more, leaving the reader by the end of the book gasping at its impressive execution, but also comprehending how this can be a 10-book series. It is not that the reader can easily see what is going to happen over the remaining eight books, but through what is introduced and developed in the second book, they can see this furthering and continuing throughout the rest of the series.

Readers of The Way of Kings knew that with the development of the two strong characters in Kaladin and Shallan, they would one day be getting together, and Sanderson skillfully weaves his plot to make this happen. He has also changed the dynamic of the story from the final events of the first book, with Shallan becoming her own leader and a powerful person in her own right, while Kaladin is no longer a slave but a darkeyes of stature, which is unique in itself, along with his special abilities earning him the moniker Kaladin Stormblessed. As Sanderson often does with his magic system after introducing it in the first book, he pushes it to new revelatory levels in Words of Radiance, expanding its complexity and depth, while dumbfounding and impressing the reader with its sheer awesomeness.

As with The Way of Kings, Sanderson uses interludes at poignant, cliffhanger parts of the book, whisking the reader across his invented world to new lands and new characters. Some have been met before in the first book, others are new and fascinating to behold. He reveals a different world, a different people, a different culture, and a completely different way of life in these new characters as compared to those involved in the main story. As well as being entertained and interested, the reader is also wondering how these characters will relate to the main, central characters they have been reading about for hundreds of pages, and if perhaps they may eventually meet. Many fantasy authors employ elaborate maps featuring varied lands and seas and islands, but few ever actually explore their world fully and use its created complexity. It seems in The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson intends to do this, and thoroughly with a planned arsenal of 10 books to do it in.

By the end of Words of Radiance the reader is of course left wanting more, wanting that third book right away, even though it will very likely be another three or four years before it is published. Though if there is one thing Brandon Sanderson has proven to his many readers and fans countless times over, it is that he works hard and long, and delivers a book to the reader’s hands as fast as he possibly can. So one may end up being surprised as to when the third book in The Stormlight Archive will be out. But the ending of the book shouldn’t just leave the reader wanting more, but also leaving them feeling satiated; satisfied with the story they have read that has reached a completion of sorts, which is really what a book of this epic scale should do, since its successor won’t be available for some years to come.

So then, can you read Words of Radiance on its own without reading The Way of Kings? Technically yes, some of the events of the previous book are referenced and made clear, but everything will make a tremendous amount more sense if you read the first book in the series before starting on this second one. Does the story warrant 1088 pages, or could it stand to have been edited down somewhat? With The Way of Kings, it could’ve stood to have been edited down fifty or so pages, but with Words of Radiance, I have been hooked on every chapter and it hasn’t really slowed down for me at any point.

Ultimately, it is a beautiful book, a work of art in many ways that is a great length and a worthy addition to the epic fantasy lexicon that will look just great on your bookshelf when you’re done. It is so satisfying to know that great books like Words of Radiance are being made and will continue to be made.

Now go get yourself a copy of Words of Radiance and lose yourself in the land of Roshar.

Originally written on March 3, 2014 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 14, 2014 12:37 PM PDT


Burning Paradise
Burning Paradise
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Alien is All Around Us, January 23, 2014
This review is from: Burning Paradise (Kindle Edition)
From the Hugo award winner of Spin and author of Julian Comstock comes his thrilling new novel, Burning Paradise. The year is 2015 and Cassie Klyne lives in a United States that is not ours, in a time different from our own. The world has been at peace since the Great Armistice of 1918, there was no World War II or Great Depression, and it seems like Earth is a pretty decent place.

But Cassie is the daughter of parents who were part of a special group that has been studying the facts and asking questions for decades and now knows the truth: that an alien entity has encompassed the earth in the form of a parasitic layer and is able to control and manipulate radio communication. In this way it has controlled events in the world since the dawn of radio communication. And then it launched an attack against this special group, targeting many of the people – like Cassie’s parents – and killing them with its special creations that appear to be human, but are stronger and bleed a smelly green goo.

Now Cassie is on the run once again from these alien beings, looking to find out what they really are, but also to see what can be done to stop this alien entity that now controls the planet. Joining with other members of the group, the mission will take them deep into South America with a special device intended to stop the alien intruder and free humanity once again.

Wilson has created a compelling alternate world with details and characters that make it feel like our own. Blending some interesting science with some great storytelling, Burning Paradise is a great example of good science fiction.

Originally written on November 29, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Codex Born: (Magic Ex Libris: Book Two)
Codex Born: (Magic Ex Libris: Book Two)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Libromantic Magic Gets Bigger, Better and Crazier, January 23, 2014
Jim C. Hines brings back his unlikely hero and protagonist, in libriomancer Isaac Vainio, after putting him through the ringer in the first Magic Ex Libris book, Libriomancer. Hines does just what you should with a sequel to a fascinating and absorbing series, opening the world a little more in its magical complexity, providing some new wow moments, and learning more about the interesting characters. The key perhaps to Codex Born is that Hines doesn’t bother with too much setup, throwing the reader in headfirst with breakneck action and kickass magic.

A wendigo has turned up dead and Isaac, libriomancer at large, is brought in to investigate. He brings along his brilliant and beautiful buxom Dryad girlfriend, Lena (pictured inaccurately on the cover), who brings her girlfriend, psychiatrist Nidhi Shah, along to help. It’s a complicated trifecta of a relationship, but together there’s a lot of brain power and magical ability. The trail takes them into a secret, ancient group of libriomancers from far away who hate the supposed creator of libriomancy, Johannes Gutenberg, and have plans to end his domination. Vainio will have to make the choice when he gets to the bottom of everything and truly understand where his allegiances lie.

After reading Libriomancer, readers will be excited to see where Hines takes his characters with Codex Born, what new books and authors he will plunder for cool magical abilities, and where he’s going with his world. This sequel goes where no reader will predict, blowing it all wide open and changing the entire paradigm that had been established about libriomancy in the first book. Exactly what a great sequel should do.

Originally written on December 12, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Blood Brothers: A Short Story Exclusive (Order of the Sanguines)
Blood Brothers: A Short Story Exclusive (Order of the Sanguines)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Times in San Francisco, January 23, 2014
If you’re looking for something to hold you over after enjoying the great start of the Order of the Sanguines series with Blood Gospel, before you get your hands on the sequel, Innocent Blood; or if you’re interested in trying the series and want to get a taste for it, then Blood Brothers is the story for you. Just $0.99 for the ebook short story, it represents a link between the first and second books in the series and does a great job of giving the reader a flavor for the storyline and plot.

When he was a young reporter, back in the late ‘60s, Arthur Crane exposed the secrets behind the cult murderer known as the Orchid Killer. And now in the present day Crane wakes to find an orchid on his pillow, the signature of the murderer, and triggers some strong memories within him, opening up links to his estranged brother.

Family, joy, death and sadness; “Blood Brothers” has it all in a short story set in San Francisco that takes the reader on a wild ride both into the past and present and across the streets of the iconic city. Whether you’re a Rollins, Cantrell or Order of the Sanguines fan, or just want to give this story a try, you’re in for a real treat.

Originally written on January 15, 2014 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Doctor Sleep: A Novel (The Shining Book 2)
Doctor Sleep: A Novel (The Shining Book 2)
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Danny the Down and Out Drunk, January 23, 2014
On December 1st, 2009, Stephen King posted a poll on his website asking his fans what book they’d like him to write next: a Dark Tower stand alone novel, or a sequel to The Shining. Voting ended on December 31st, with The Shining sequel coming out ahead, and yet King ended up writing and publishing the Dark Tower book first, called The Wind Through the Keyhole. And now, four years later, the fans finally get their Shining sequel, ominously called Doctor Sleep.

Our formerly young hero, Danny Torrance, is now fast approaching middle age, and has been spending the decades trying to forget and get away from his nightmare past at the Overlook Hotel through the medium of alcohol. Working at hospitals and nursing homes, he rarely keeps the jobs for long once they find out his daily unstoppable vice.

Danny eventually ends up in a small New Hampshire town where he finds a place to stay through a new friend, and is forced into AA for his own good. He settles down in this small town, working at the nursing home, helping the elderly, and working alongside a prescient cat who somehow knows to enter the room of those who will die that day. Danny then soon follows and aids the old-aged resident into a comfortable death with his shining ability.

Soon the years begin to fly by, but it’s a life for Danny and he’s happy and settled. And then he receives a psychic email from a young girl, Abra Stone, who he has been receiving mental snippets about through her years. She also possesses the shining ability, and it’s much stronger than Danny’s. Danny knows she’s important, just not how important.

When the two finally meet and communicate vocally in person as well as telepathically, Danny learns of the strange creatures that are after Abra and why. These beings are not human and are known as the True Knot; they have been around for a very long time and are semi-immortal. While they possess similar shining abilities, they are psychic vampires who hunt down children with the shining ability and then slowly torture them to death, absorbing their life essence that slowly dissipates from the dying child they call steam, keeping them young and healthy.

Only now the True Knot is very, very hungry. They are weakening and becoming sick and need a strong dose of steam, which will be provided by the slow death of Abra Stone. There will be a great showdown between the True Knot and Danny and ka-tet and it will take place at the only possible location it ever could and it will be a bloody and merciless one.

As with some King novels, Doctor Sleep takes a little while to get going, as the reader trundles through Danny’s alcoholic years, and the first third of the book could’ve used some editing, but once the story gets into its plot, things speed up and the reader becomes locked in until the last sentence. Doctor Sleep doesn’t come near to the original horror and fear of The Shining, but it’s a different story and has its own terrifying darkness and fear all of its own that will leave the reader looking over his or her shoulder for a while.

Originally written on November 13, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Interrupt
Interrupt
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Neanderthals in the Bright Light of Day, January 23, 2014
This review is from: Interrupt (Kindle Edition)
Jeff Carlson, author of the Plague Year trilogy and The Frozen Sky, is back with his next science fiction thriller, employing some of the things that made his previous novels so addicting and riveting, as well as presenting a story that is both shocking and gripping.

A catastrophic global event related to excessive solar flares and reactions with the sun is triggered, blighting the planet. Before anyone knows what’s going on, they find themselves not themselves, but regressing to some primitive form, behaving like Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. A Navy pilot deep in the Pacific, a computational biologist and an autistic boy are all pulled together in a strange way in this changed world. Many have died already; more will lose their lives, but those willing to survive will have to do what it takes.

Carlson has taken a couple of seemingly disparate and interesting what if ideas and brought them together. With plenty of action scenes, Interrupt covers some familiar ground from his previous books with a dominating military presence and how people act when put under extreme stress situations. Interrupt is classic Carlson.

Originally written on November 14, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Parasite (Parasitology Book 1)
Parasite (Parasitology Book 1)
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Tapeworm Horror at its Best, January 23, 2014
With the completion of the Newsflesh trilogy that has earned Mira Grant some dedicated readers, she turns to a new series, this one a duology called Parasitology, leaving the zombies behind for now and taking on a perhaps more frightening and realistic subject: parasites. The time is the near future and the concept is what if we kept a tapeworm in our intestines, known as the Intestinal Bodyguard, which could help cure sickness and prevent things like allergies? Sounds great. But what if these tapeworms became sentient and intelligent?

Sally came back from the dead; she suffered a horrible accident that essentially killed her but thanks to SymboGen she was brought back to life along with her Intestinal Bodyguard. She’s a different person now, changed from who she was; calmer, quieter, less likely to anger. She’s living with her parents again, still getting used to being alive and being a person once more. She has monthly visits with SymboGen as they continue to check on her and perform their experiments to make sure everything inside her is working fine. She works at an animal habitat center and she has a boyfriend; life for Sally now ain’t too bad.

Except things are starting to get weird; some people are starting to act not like people. They’re acting as if someone else is in control of them, turning violent against other people, really violent, and then falling into a sort of catatonic state. It’s seems totally random and no one really knows who’s going to get hit with this weird state next. And SymboGen isn’t saying if they know anything about this. But Sally knows they have to know something, and she’s going to need to work out what exactly is happening to these people and what can be done about it; because if it’s to do with the Intestinal Bodyguard, then this could happen to her too, at any time.

Grant uses a vaguely similar template for Parasite as she did with Newsflesh, and the reader can’t help but think of these people acting weird as being “zombielike,” but she presents plenty of fun surprises and explores some interesting concepts that leave the reader questioning just about everything, plus one gets to learn way more than they wanted about parasites, Mira Grant style.

Originally written on September 23, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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The Cuckoo's Calling
The Cuckoo's Calling
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars J. K. Rowling Like You've Never Reader Her Before, January 23, 2014
Originally The Cuckoo’s Calling was supposed to be an experiment to see how well a catchy well-written mystery from a new author would sell and be read, but when someone in the know told the wrong person, the story broke out that Robert Galbraith was in fact a pseudonym for an author named J. K. Rowling. Rowling wasn’t happy about this, and someone probably lost their job over it, but the secret is out and sales for the mystery immediately went through the roof. Nevertheless, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a great example of what a good mystery is and shows Rowling’s breadth as the talented writer she is.

Cormoran Strike lost his leg in Afghanistan and is now a private detective who doesn’t really have any cases, has a lot of debt, and the love of his life just left him. He’s in a bad place and not sure where to go next. He gets a new secretary from the temp agency, who he can’t really afford, but she seems nice and he can’t say no to her at first.

Then John Bristow walks into his office who knows of him through a family connection. His sister, the rich supermodel, Lula Landry, known to her friends as Cuckoo, plunged to her death from her penthouse apartment months ago. The police ruled it a suicide, but Bristow doesn’t believe them. So he hires Strike to find out if she was murdered and who did it.

Strike may be in dire straits with a lot of things, and may not have much respect amongst his friends and family, as well as anyone else who knows of him, but he is a good detective. And with the help of his new secretary who quickly becomes fascinated by the work, they slowly put the pieces together and find out way more than they bargained for.

Rowling does a great job of writing a compelling novel in the style of Agatha Christie but with a good modern feel. The reader is kept hooked, wondering on the full story and who’s behind it all until the very end. The book is also listed as the first of the Strike series, so presumably Rowling will be penning more of these mysteries, and fans will no doubt be delighted.

Originally written on September 27, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Boxers (Boxers & Saints)
Boxers (Boxers & Saints)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mighty Gods of the Boxer Rebellion, January 23, 2014
From the author of the award-nominated graphic novel American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, comes an epic and original undertaking on the catastrophic event known as the Boxer Rebellion. Yang uses an innocent simplicity to the story and artwork that leaves the reader contemplating the big picture. One part of a diptych, along with Saints, this is the first graphic novel ever to be nominated for the National Book Award Longlist.

The year is 1898 and the place is China, but the country that has been so familiar and known to its inhabitants is changing. Foreign missionaries roam the countryside, converting Chinese to the new Christian faith, while foreign soldiers roam around bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao is a young boy who has had enough of these “foreign devils.” Secretly learning martial arts from a stranger in town, he feels his calling from the old gods of China and recruits an army of Boxers. They begin to mount their defense, fighting back against the foreigners, killing and freeing the Chinese. Their final showdown will be at the great city of Peking.

Boxers does an excellent job of explaining the history of the period, as well as revealing the mythology and beliefs of the people in mounting their defense. While the story has a feel of fiction, it is a moving tale that remains true to the history and culture. It is an excellent example of how some graphic novels can go one long step further than just a regular work of nonfiction.

Originally written on October 2, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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Saints (Boxers & Saints)
Saints (Boxers & Saints)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Saint of the Boxer Rebellion, January 23, 2014
The companion volume to Boxers, the duology is the first graphic novel to make an appearance on the National Book award Longlist. Saints is the other side of the tale, focusing on a young girl and her journey across China after meeting briefly with Bao, and presents a completely different side to the Boxer Rebellion.

Four-Girl has had a tough life so far. She is the unwanted fourth daughter of the family who is expected to do her chores, work herself to exhaustion, and act like the dutiful child she is. But she knows she is hated by everyone, with her ugly features, and wants to just be the evil little devil everyone thinks she is. So she does the worst thing she can think: she converts to Christianity and begins to learn about the faith from one of the foreign devil priests. She takes a new, Christian, name, Vibiana. But the Boxer Rebellion is ramping up, going against and slaughtering her new Christian people, to defend the Chinese of her family and heritage. Four-Girl will have to choose where her allegiances lie.

Saints is a wonderful tale of the other side of this tumultuous time, exploring the Christian side of events and creates a delightful quest in Vibiana going on her own journey, sometimes with the likes of Joan of Arc as a companion. The art and sparing use of color lend credence to the story, making it a memorable one.

Originally written on October 2, 2013 ŠAlex C. Telander.

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