Sunday Status Update: February 1, 2015

This week, an observation from Naruto Uzumaki, a shinobi of the Village Hidden in the Leaves.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Naruto: Have you ever had one of those days that just makes you question everything about your life? I just did. I was at the ramen shop like I would always be if I had the option, and I was talking with somebody who isn’t a ninja. It was weird. I don’t even know what the term is for someone who isn’t a ninja. In fact, it’s tough sometimes to remember that there actually is a world out there, sort of… beyond whatever we ninjas are doing. I mean, do we have laws or something? Should I be worried about, like, taxes or whether I have health care? Oh well. Point is, this non-ninja was asking me about what ninjas do, and he finally got around to asking me why we shout out the names of our attacks right before we make them. He said something like “Doesn’t that seem like pretty much the stupidest friggin’ idea anyone ever had?” So at first I laughed at him, of course, but then I started thinking about it, and… I mean, it really does seem like the stupidest friggin’ idea anyone ever had. Now I don’t know what to believe. I guess I never considered not bellowing “RASENGAN!!!!” at the top of my lungs when I’m about to unleash the rasengan. Guh, this makes my brain hurt.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Brad: This week I continued to read Jaime Hernandez‘s LOCAS books and Gilbert Hernandez’s PALOMAR series, all of them wonderful LOVE AND ROCKETS stories. I wrote and posted a review of the first LOCAS volume yesterday. I also continued rereading McCloud’s Understanding Comics for class, and even though I’ve read it many times, I’m noticing more than ever all the insightful comments he makes about manga. I also re-read Volume One of Genkaku Picasso, now one of my favorite manga. I’ve also been reading Kitaro, a manga that serves as a great introduction to yokai in Japan.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly progressing through Some of the Best from 2014. Most of the pieces are novelettes, even verging on novellas, and it’s a digital copy so I can’t stare at the screen too long without going all cross-eyed. As is the nature of anthologies, some of the included pieces are more appealing to me than others, but I’m enjoying the opportunity to read short works by authors who are either new or familiar to me. Some of the pieces have been good enough to really spark my interest in the authors’ longer works, which I always hope for when I’m reading a compilation. (Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, Max Gladstone, Marie Brennan, and Kelly Barnhill are now on my Must Read More list.) I also read Deadpool Vol. 6: Original Sin (words by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, pictures by John Lucas, Scott Koblish, and Mark Brooks), which ties in with Marvel Comics’ 2014 Original Sin event. My verdict: Pretty good, but not great. Much of what happens in the collected issues seems to be setting up big events in future issues, which isn’t necessarily a problem so long as the dialogue and action are entertaining, which they are. Lucas’ art is distractingly reminiscent of Todd MacFarlane’s work on Spawn — unrealistic body proportions, strange angles, heavy use of inks. I am not a fan. In good news, I just received my first FanLit ARCs, so I’ll be reading those and putting reviews together shortly. Hurrah!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I missed last week’s Sunday Update, so I have two weeks to report on. I’ve already reviewed several of these books. I read The Apocalypse Codex and The Rhesus Chart to catch up with the novels in Charles StrossLAUNDRY FILES. I still need/want to read the novellas. I read Consider Phlebas, the first book in Iain M. BanksCULTURE series (I am reading these out of order). Since Ryan reviewed that already and I didn’t have much new to say, I just left a mini-review for that on our Banks page. Consider Phlebas is too long for its story, but it could be made into a great movie. The Gripping Hand is the inferior sequel to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s MOTIE series. I finished King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard, a book my husband and I started listening to on a long car ride a couple of months ago. It was an exciting story, but I cringe at Haggard’s Eurocentric, sexist, racist worldview. (How far we’ve progressed since his time!) I read a few of the OZ books — Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, The Emerald City of Oz. These started off well but deteriorated rapidly as it became obvious that L. Frank Baum was just throwing them together because the kids were demanding more. At this point I’m pretty sick of Oz and I’m not sure I’ll finish the series. The best thing I read in the past couple of weeks was Shannon Hale’s Palace of Stone, the YA sequel to her Newbery-winning Princess Academy.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kate: This week I finished Neil Gaiman‘s Trigger Warning and Holly Black‘s The Darkest Part of the Forest. Both were very enjoyable. I especially loved the way Black used fairy tale tropes and fairy lore to create a story that was thoroughly modern in its voice and approach; her protagonist, Hazel, is a believably angsty and intelligent teenager. I’ve also been combing through the fairy tale collections by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow (Snow White, Blood Red; Black Thorn, White Rose; Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, et al.) to find stories that fit the fairy tale class I’m teaching right now. I have read some incredible ones! This unit we’ve been focused on tricksters. I read a remarkable story, “Granny Rumple,” by Jane Yolen that transports the tale of Rumplestiltskin into a Jewish ghetto in Ukraine. It is definitely going on the reading list.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I finished William Gibson’s collection of essays, Distrust That Particular Flavor. I think my favorite parts were his commentaries on the essays, at the end of each one. I am using every climbing tool in my knapsack; pitons, crampons and ropes, to ascend the geologic extrusion of slippery silicon that is The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock – but I fear I’m failing. I keep hoping for a helicopter to come along, piloted by a St Bernard dog with a large cask of brandy, to save me.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Ryan: This week, I started reading Jeanne DuPrau‘s The Diamond of Darkhold, the final novel in her EMBER series. and Glen Cook‘s Shadow Games, one of his hard-boiled military fantasies about the Black Company. At work, I finished Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine and am now reading re-reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Having just finished Robert Silverberg’s excellent “juvenile” novel Time of the Great Freeze (1964), I hope to get a review out for that one early next week. In the meantime, I have another Silverberg novel — The Time Hoppers (1967) — waiting to be read now, as Project Silverberg, Part III continues….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: I’ve again been reading mostly short fiction. I’ll have a review up for the January and February issues of Nightmare Magazine Monday, so stop by then and take a look. I’m also reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, mostly for the insights to the high-end art world; it’s not great writing, but it’s fun and informative. And because I can never be reading only one novel, I’m also perusing Hades by Candice Fox, a serial killer novel. It’s helping rev up my adrenalin! I’m also still reading a bunch of books that I’ve mentioned here before, tasting a short story here, a chapter of urban fantasy there, a scare of horror in the other place, a brain twister of literary criticism in yet another.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: It’s been a snowy week here, and a busy one with work, so it’s been audio books for the most part. Unfortunately, I’ve developed a very bad habit of falling back on my growing collection of DRESDEN FILES audiobooks in a pinch, so rather than doing anything new I reread Dead Beat and Skin Game this week, both by Jim Butcher. I think it has something to do with James Marsters being the reader — his voice buoys me up on a sea of Buffy nostalgia. I also managed to go through a bit more of Poul Anderson‘s The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories, but if things go on this way I definitely need to look into expanding my audio library.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill:This week, in preparation for a review, I read several books by Nicholson Baker (U and I, The Fermata, Vox, House of Holes, Human Smoke) and J.C. Hallman (B & Me, The Hospital for Bad Poets, The Devil is a Gentleman). In addition, I’m currently listening to the fascinating The Invisble History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally and am halfway through Steward O’Nan’s West of Sunset, his novelization of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood at the end of his life. Finally, I’ve continued with George O’Connor’s fantastic graphic retelling of Greek myths, reading Zeus and Athena.

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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. Kat: Having read all of Baum’s OZ books, I can tell you that the thrown-together “doing it for the money” ambiance only gets stronger as they go on. I would recommend stopping while you still have fond memories of the series.

  2. Jana, do you know about Readability? It essentially is a tool by which you can download any article available only on line onto your e-reader. (At least it works for Kindle; I’m not sure about other e-readers.) That might help you with the “staring at the computer screen” thing. It’s another screen, sure, but a bit more malleable.

    • Terry, if I ever end up getting an e-reader, I’ll certainly look into Readability. Thanks for the tip! :) I just have to remember to shift my reading habits when I’m looking at a screen–I can stare at a book for hours on end with no ill effects, but I keep forgetting not to do that at my computer.

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