Sunday Status Update: December 6, 2015

This week, Legolas.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Legolas: Journal Entry 3450029: Visited Isengard today. Very anticlimactic: it turned out the place had already been flooded, so there wasn’t much to see and Saruman wouldn’t come out of Orthanc. Couldn’t even get anything at the gift shop, as most of it was underwater and what wasn’t had already been thoroughly pilfered by Merry and Pippin. Oh, right, yes. We found Merry and Pippin, literally sitting on a mound of plunder. Apparently they didn’t need us at all. Sort of an unsatisfactory day all around. On the upside, I met plenty of Ents, so the next time Galion from back home starts in on his “I have spoken with an Ent” humblebrag story, I’ve got my rebuttal ready and waiting. And guess what? It’s an autograph from Treebeard, made out to “his friend, Legolas.” That’s right, Galion. Read it and weep.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: This week I read A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. I really wanted to like it, but found it disappointingly and surprisingly uninteresting in story and style, though it had its moments. I also read Shame and Wonder by David Searcy, a mixed bag collection of essays, and an OK collection of poetry by Lindsey Tigue — System of Ghosts.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I read several of the stories in Dear Robot, an anthology of epistolary science fiction. Several are laugh-out-loud hilarious; one punched my heart, a few are predictable. One baffled me completely because I didn’t see an “epistolary” part to it. Overall, I’m enjoying the innovative use of a venerable convention. I read a psychological thriller by a Scottish author named Catriona McPherson called The Day She Died. This was well-written and suspenseful, but the female main character makes a decision in Chapter Two that I just couldn’t accept, and I never completely got past it.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Ryan: This week I started listening to Kim Stanley Robinson‘s The Wild Shore. I have been reading a fair bit outside of SFF this year, and I this week finished John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River. I went to see Irving at a writer’s festival in Vancouver this week. Irving offered an engaging interview, but he did not remain afterward to sign books. (He nevertheless did take the time to encourage the audience to buy his most recent novel).

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Moi? Right now, I am busily zipping through Richard Matheson‘’s 1958 novel Stir of Echoes, and am really finding it unputdownable. Matheson seems to be one of those authors who just never lets me down. I hope to get a review of this one out early next week….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: Inspired by Brad’s passionate comic reviews, I started reading some graphic novels (or comics as Brad prefers) via Comixology. I’m starting with Alan Moore‘s classic Watchmen and V for Vendetta, and plan to read Frank Miller‘s Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and SIN CITY series. Brad, did you know you can merge your Amazon and Comixology accounts? Your Kindle comic purchases appear in your Comixology account and Guided View works for them. Kindle versions are usually cheaper, and comics are an expensive habit so this is one way to save cash~ I also discovered the SAGA series by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist), which has accumulated a pile of awards without me ever hearing of it. Read the first episode and it lives up to its billing as “a combination of Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, and Game of Thrones” as a pair of star-crossed lovers flee a galactic war with a newborn baby in tow. So far it’s quirky and fun and very addictive.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tadiana: In the last couple of weeks I read Moon Called, the first book in Patricia Briggs MERCY THOMPSON series, then found I needed to reread Blood Bound, and then followed with the third book, Iron Kissed. Now I’m anxious to start the fourth book! I also read the fourth book in Jim Butcher‘s DRESDEN CHRONICLES series, Summer Knight. Several friends had suggested that if I was interested in checking out this series, I should skip the first few “mediocre” books and just start with book #4. So I did, but I’m not at all sure it was a good idea. The problem is that I wasn’t really invested in the characters, so I got just a little bored. But I have the 5th book in hand, so onward! I also read several SFF short fiction works, including two related novellas by Carlie St. George, The Case of the Little Bloody Slipper and The Price You Pay is Red, that I became aware of thanks to Jana’s Short Fiction Monday review of the first novella last week. Thanks, Jana! Finally, I read and reviewed a YA fantasy novel by Michelle Hauck, Grudging, which was set in an unusual medieval Spanish type of land. My non-SFF reads in the last couple of weeks have included Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” one of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time with its fascinating dual story-telling, Georgette Heyer’s A Quiet Gentleman, and a collection of 16 short stories by that master of the twist ending, O. Henry. Rereading “The Gift of the Magi” for the Christmas season may or may not have brought a tear to my eye.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I finished up with R.A. Salvatore‘s The Spine of the World. Review to come. Inspired by Skye’s fantastic review of Chris Wooding‘s Retribution Falls, I began to listen to it on audio. I’m finding it just as entertaining as anticipated.

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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. Stuart, that’s awesome about reading Amazon books through Comixology. I had no idea. I wonder how new that is? How do you do it?

    As for the terms comics and graphic novels: I’d call the works you listed above GRAPHIC NOVELS, for the most part, even Batman: Year One because, even though they were initially published monthly, they were designed not merely as story arcs, but as stand-alone novels with a plot and thematics that are unified and that end at the end of the last issue. Watchmen and V are certainly Graphic Novels. I’d say that Sin City is mainly a series of interrelated comics. Sagal, too. I don’t use graphic novel as a term that describes quality. There are many very bad graphic novels and many incredible comics, like Sandman, of course.

    The terms can get muddy, but the distinction allows us to argue about how a story functions: more as a part of a whole or as a whole in and of itself.

    Many people use the term graphic novel to describe “Good, quality comics” and the term comics to describe bad sequential art. That distinction is one I am strongly opposed to.

    I’m more interested in finding literary terms: like what’s the difference between poetry and a play? What are the similarities? I’d ask the same question of comics, graphic novels, and comic strips, for example: In ways are they similar and in what ways are they different?

    We have some reviews of Saga on our site, by the way. It’s a hugely popular series and another one that shows that Image is doing it the right way (and showing DC and Marvel how things SHOULD be done in the comic book industry). Saga is one of those comics that is read by men and women, teenagers and adults, and even by comic book fans and by those who don’t think of themselves as comic book readers!
    By the way

    • I have so much to learn (which is really exciting) about comics and graphic novels. I really enjoyed this breakdown of how you look at it Brad!

      And Stuart, Watchmen is on my pile of currently-reading too. I read the very beginning after making my fiance watch the movie and we were interested to see both media begin in nearly identical ways. I’m looking forward to digging into it further, and also seeing what y’all think!

  2. Tim: “fantastic review”? Thanks! I really appreciate it!

    I’m also glad you’re enjoying Retribution Falls so far. I always kind of worry about reviewing Wooding because I’ve read and adored almost every one of his titles, so I feel somewhat biased towards his work? Does anyone else get that?
    Good to hear I’m not the only one who enjoyed the story in this case anyway!

  3. Hi Brad, thanks for the clarification on graphic novels vs. comics. I’ll make sure to use them correctly and set anyone straight who isn’t aware!
    I merged my Amazon and Comixology accounts entirely by accident. When I went to log into Comixology it asked me if I wanted to merge the accounts and I clicked yes without thinking much about it. After a few confirmations, it said that any Kindle purchase will show in my Comixology account, and voila, it works!
    I do wonder what happens in revenue-share terms to Comixology, but as it is a Amazon subsidiary, I suspect that eventually Amazon could merge the two permanently. As long my library is preserved and I can purchase at the lower Amazon prices, I’m okay with that. Though I realize I now give ALL my SFF money to Amazon via Kindle, Audible, and Comixology – I must be their favorite captive customer.
    Skye, I read Watchmen 6-7 years ago, and really thought the movie was excellent and faithful to the tone of the story, so I’m planning to rewatch the Director’s Cut after finishing the graphic novel before composing a review. Planning the same approach for V for Vendetta.

    • Well, Stuart, my ideas are not set in stone, by any means. There are continuing arguments. “Sequential Art” is a great, short way to accurately describe them, but it’s not very catchy for everyday use. But it’s an accurate way of describing an entire art form because it describes comic strips, 100-issue comic book series, and graphic novels. It has nothing to do with quality. It’s like using the words MOVIE, POETRY, and SCULPTURE.

      I love thinking about definitions like these. They allow us to see similarities and differences for a variety of purposes. Definitions are less about right and wrong, for me, than they are about usefulness. I always ask, “why is this term, this distinction, useful? what is it useful for?”

      I look forward to reading more comic book reviews from others on the site (notice I tend to use “comic books” as my fall-back term when discussing GRAPHIC NOVELS and COMICS together). So, if I’m referring to sequential art, I’ll use the term “comic books” usually, but if I’m distinguishing types, I’ll describe a graphic novel as distinct in form from a comic book. That creates some confusion, I know, but I guess it’s the different between when I’ve got my conversational hat on and when I’ve got my professor hat on, and on this site, I tend to switch hats frequently — lord knows why I’m talking about hats.)

      I’ll be quiet now.

  4. When I was in NYC last month, Sandy bought me a copy of Watchmen. I’ll read it over Christmas break.

    • sandy ferber /

      To be quite clear, of the 8+ miles of books at NYC superbookstore The Strand, “Watchmen” is the one that Kat said she wanted when I offered to purchase a book for her. Brad would just flip in this store’s graphic novels/comics section….

  5. Bill, I loved E.K. Johnston’s A Thousand Nights, but, for better or worse, it is YA. I happen to really like that genre, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s not for everyone. I was impressed that it didn’t focus on a romance the way books in the YA fantasy genre almost invariably do, but still kept me glued to my chair.

    • Yes, I was pleased it didn’t go down that road, a path I’ve grown so weary of in YA. Especially when it’s of the insta-love variety . . .

      There was a lot to like in the book. I think had it been a novella I would have liked it quite a bit actually

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