Sunday Status Update: August 31, 2014

This week, Sir Bors shares another legend of the noble Sir Lancelot (as with all other legends of Lancelot, this actually happened in Arthurian myth).

SirBorsBors: So Lancelot went hiking in the woods this week, and some woman shot him in the ass. There he was, probably looking for something to decapitate as per his usual preference, when some huntswoman came traipsing along the trail a ways back, mistook his behind for a simple hind, and let fly an arrow from her bow. And that great and noble knight hight Sir Lancelot was dealt a most doleful blow. In his ass. There’s no real point to this story. It just makes me very happy.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews BillThis week started off not so great with a few disappointing novels:  Frostborn by Lou Anders (Kat had a more positive view) and The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian.  Things picked up with a pair of non-fiction books:  What Galileo Saw:  Imagining the Scientific Revolution by Lawrence Lipking, an interesting look at not just the scientific revolution (one which considered as well the artists and writers of the time) but the stories told about it; and  Rough Likeness, a collection of sharp essays by Lia Purpura, who does just brilliant things with language. The upward trend continued tonight, as I just picked up The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North and am about halfway through. I’m looking forward to finishing it tomorrow night. More on the for-work-rather-than-pleasure side of things, I read  (OK, skimmed) Self-Instruction in art of hair workdressing hair, making curls, switches  braids, and Hair Jewelry of Every Description by Mark Campbell, 40 diagnostic essays from first-year college students, and chapters fourteen and fifteen of Steven Erikson’s The Crippled God for our reread over at

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews KatSchool started this week and I have some really great classes. It is such a privilege to be able to influence the minds of emerging adults! But of course I managed to get plenty of reading done, mostly during my commute (audio) or late at night when the kids were in bed. I read Kirinya and Tendeleo’s Story, the second and third novels of Ian McDonald’s CHAGA series. These didn’t fully satisfy my curiosity about McDonald’s world, but they did increase my admiration for the author. Then I read The Pirate’s Coin, the third novel in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS children’s fantasy series. It was a slight improvement over the previous volumes. The best thing I read this week was Jeff Salyard’s Veil of the Deserters, the second in his BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC. The plot didn’t advance very far, but we did learn a lot and it’s entertaining to hang out with Salyard’s characters, even when they’re just sitting in a bar or riding down the road.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews KateThis week I finished reading The Illusionists, by Rosie Thomas. It was a fun and engrossing (though non-SFF) read about a variety theater in Victorian London. I also finished listening to Home From the Sea, by Mercedes Lackey, which I ended up really liking. I’m going to startSteadfast, another of her ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels, today in my 5-hour drive to Atlanta for Dragon*Con this weekend. Finally, I’ve started reading Stories: All New Tales by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It’s marvelous; yesterday I read a strangely wonderful story about killing Santa by Michael Marshall Smith.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I’m binge-reading Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s a beautiful, terrifying story with exquisite artwork. I’m up to Volume Three. I also finished Jon Sprunk’s second-world fantasy Blood and Iron, which I found entertaining, although predictable and a bit light on character.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews RebeccaI’m currently in the middle of reading Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox, a fantastic read which is also very timely considering I’m seeing her speak tomorrow at the Christchurch Writer’s Festival. After that I’ve got the entirety of Leigh Bardugo’s THE GRISHA TRILOGY to look forward to: Shadow and BoneSiege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. They look excellent. And as it happens, I’ve just finished a massive re-read of all C.S. Lewis’s THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. I haven’t read them since finishing my thesis some years ago, after which I certainly didn’t feel like reading them again anytime soon, but I found to my relief that they still held up as entertaining reads even after so much cross-examining.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews RyanI’ve recently finished Lev Grossman‘s The Magician’s Land, which I felt was very good (The Magician King remains the strongest entry for me) and will almost certainly be a top 10 book for me (and I think FanLit). I also read Haruki Murakami‘s Sputnik Sweetheart, which was good. I have Murakami’s new book from the library. However, it will be hard to get to as I’ve just finished Bill Bryson‘s A Walk in the Woods, a hilarious account of hiking the Appalachian Trail in which he tries to buy gear without saying “Are you shitting me?!” at the cost. I am now very eager to read more of his travelogues, and I just happen to have three of the library’s finest Bryson books on my shelf. (I also recommend Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare.) Last but not least, I read Sam Harris‘s essay on lying, entitled Lying, in which he makes a convincing argument that one should almost never lie.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews SandyHi, all. Wishing all my fellow FanLit contributors and all our loyal readers a happy and safe Labor Day weekend! Don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in NYC, we have had the nicest summer in memory (not a single heat wave!). Anyway, I have recently placed into our hopper reviews for two seldom-discussed sci-fi works: H.G. Wells’ Star-Begotten and Jack Williamson’s The Trial of Terra. Hope they meet with your approval….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews TerryJohn Scalzi‘s Lock In arrived on my doorstep this Tuesday, and I’ve been deep into it every moment that I wasn’t working or sleeping (and there weren’t too terribly many of those moments). It’s one of the best SF mysteries I’ve ever read. In fact, I’m rather inclined to start rereading it the moment I finish (which won’t be long now) to see exactly how he did it — and I rarely reread, and almost never reread a book I’ve just finished.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I (finally) disposed of the dissertation, so I celebrated by reading some books (I suppose there are some who would say my idea of celebration is somewhat skewed, but I’m willing to deal with their disappointment). I read Andrzej Sapkowski‘s The Last Wish (which was good, if a little odd in places… maybe it’s the translation, but sometimes the story just felt a bit off-kilter), I’m most of the way through John Moore‘s Heroics for Beginners (which is funny and tongue-in-cheek, so I’m trying to give it a fair shot despite my lack of enthusiasm for fantasy/comedy in general), and I’ve begun Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (enjoyable so far, though admittedly I’m only on chapter 3).

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Bill, I met Gigi Pandian last year, and after that I tried to read one of her mysteries. I put it down after a while. She talked about the Accidental Alchemist on the panel she was on. For me, she is a warm person with a compelling personal story but her writing has never clicked with me.

    Ryan, A Walk in the Woods remains my favorite Bill Bryson book.

    • I hate to say it, but If it hadn’t been a review title, I would have put this down as well.

      I second your comment on A Walk in the Woods

    • @Marion I just finished I’m A Stranger Here Myself, which I enjoyed a lot. I tried picking up the Murakami novel, but it’s a little too dark for a long weekend. I ended up starting Notes From A Small Island.

  2. The only Bill Bryson I’ve read is A Short History of Nearly Everything, which was quite good.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like Frostborn, Bill. I look forward to your review!

    • That’s another good one (really, I don’t think I’ve read a bad Bryson. He’s got a great voice).

      I was bummed as well; I’d been looking forward to it. Kaidan actually gave up after 80 pages

      Off to some D and D with the boy before tonight’s birthday sushi!

      • @Bill Bryson fans: You should listen to his audio, he reads them himself and they are great. I listened to In a Sunburned Country which is all about his visits to Australia on audio and it was fabulous. And made me want to visit and also not to visit Australia at the same time.

  3. Ryan, you’re talking about the brand new Murakami, right? I’m going to have to wait a few weeks to get hold of that one; too much else on my plate right how.

  4. Ryan, I’m fascinated that you liked Magician King best of the three Magicians books. I really like it, too, but I find that the general consensus online is that it’s the weakest. What did you like about it so much?

    • FWIW, I thought the consensus was that King is best. Bill’s review of Book 3 opens with the suggestion that it’s almost as good as Book 2. Goodreads’ average score for 2 is higher than 1 (3 is highest, but I think that’s more of a “this series was awesome and I’m sad it’s over” score). I think LG would rate 2 ahead of 1 and maybe even that it tops 3.

      • The Magician King was my favorite of the three, with The Magician’s Land a close second and the first book a distant (yet still enjoyable and intriguing read) third. I want to go back and reread the series as one story though; I’m thinking I might appreciate book one a bit more, though not to the point where it equals the other two.

      • Oh, I don’t know where I got that idea then. :) Cause, yeah, I’m with you guys–I loved #2.

  5. I haven’t read The Magician’s Land yet, but for me King was much better than the first book. I know I’m in the minority here, but entitled whiny frat/soror-kids at Hogwarts* never did it for me. In book two, we got into consequences, and it started getting interesting.

  6. I liked I’m a Stranger Here Myself, and his Shakespeare book whose title I can never remember.

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