Sunday Status Update: February 21, 2016

This week, Supergirl’s rigorous fitness regimen.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Supergirl: I like other superheroes. Some of them, anyway. But it’s always awkward to hang out with them for too long. The other day I ate lunch with Stargirl and Batgirl (because according to them I spend more time hiding in my cave than Batman, which I think is incredibly unfair). Anyway, somehow we got on the subject of exercise, and they spent like half an hour talking about workout routines and gymnastics practice. They’re hardcore about it. Which left me in the awkward position of trying to make lazing in a sunbeam and growing super-muscles seem really tough and aggravating. I think I dug myself into a bit of a hole, because Batgirl started stabbing her little low-fat salad like she was trying to crack the plate. Stargirl tried to smooth things over, and I think she might even have been making progress. Unfortunately, that was when my plate of barbecue ribs showed up. In fairness, I had no idea it would be that massive.

Bill:This week I read:  Path of Gods by Snorri Kristjansson: an OK read in an OK series; An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, a nicely quiet character-driven book with a wonderful narrative voice; Paleo by Jim Lawson, an excellent collection of graphic stories set in the age of dinosaurs; and After by Jane Hirshfield, a strong poetry collection

Jana: This week I read and reviewed Jordanna Max Brodsky‘s The Immortals, which had a surprisingly good mystery along with the mash-up of ancient Greek mythology and modern-day Manhattan. I’m both pleased with and surprised by the level of skill being implemented within the Urban Fantasy novels I’ve been reading lately; the lack of a compelling “whodunit” is one of the reasons why I gave up on the genre, but I’d be willing to re-think that avoidance if the caliber of craftsmanship is better than it has been. I also started Tim Hanley’s upcoming Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of The Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter, which should be all kinds of fascinating. Review to come!

João: So, it seems I have finally jumped on the MALAZAN bandwagon. Now, I knew I would like it, but I wasn’t expecting to like it this much. People say Gardens of the Moon is the worst and most difficult book to get into but boy did I gulp it down in one sitting (figuratively, it took me like 3 or 4 days to read it). Straight away I was immersed in it, and I think because I have read R. Scott Bakker’s and Paul Kearney’s work I wasn’t that fazed by the idea that not everything will be made clear straight away. I will be intercalating Erickson’s books with Esslemont’s, and will read the novellas as well. I am following this reading order suggested here. One of the things I am most surprised by and I don’t think I’ve seen enough people mentioning it is just how well Erickson is able to put different voices into each character. Every character so far has a singular voice, instantly recognizable (for the most part, it’s not 100%) and it’s all the more impressing given the number of characters. It is weird though how some characters are philosopher’s in their heads but don’t speak like one. I’m currently 600 pages into Deadhouse Gates and I am finding it harder to read than Gardens of the Moon, mostly because so far every plotline has been a travelogue and that’s pretty boring. Things do seem to be converging right now and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. I don’t know if I’ll be reading other works in between MALAZAN novels, or if I’ll go straight through them in one sitting. I’ll perhaps read some novellas now and then as palate cleanser, not sure I can’t take one gigantic complex novel straight after another.

Kevin: It’s been a hectic month for me as midterms are coming up – I’ve managed to put aside some time for reading, but not as much as I’d like. Hopefully that will change after next week! In the meantime, I’ve devoured Pierce Brown’s Morning Star, last of his RED RISING trilogy and Holly Jenning’s Arena. While I have review in the works for both those works, I think the most impressive works I’ve encountered in February are Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Armada. I’m absolutely in love with the gamer culture/ geeky 80s retro feel in both of these novels, and would highly recommend a read!

Sandy: Moi? I am continuing to celebrate the centennial of Leigh Brackett, aka The Queen of Space Opera, by reading the 1977 Ballantine collection The Best of Leigh Brackett  … 10 novellas and short stories from the Golden Age of sci-fi. I haven’t read this collection since the late ‘70s. It is just one of the 21 “Best of” titles that Ballantine put out back then, and I loved reading each and every one of them almost 40 years ago. But this book was one of my favorites of the lot, and now I am rediscovering why. I hope to get a review of this one out shortly…

Stuart: I’ve been reading Frank Miller‘s SIN CITY (The Hard Goodbye) and Vaughan and Staples’ space opera comic SAGA. The Hard Goodbye covers the first story segment in the movie, and the hard-boiled noir story and b/w artwork really work together well, which makes sense since Miller did both. SAGA is an incredibly addictive space opera about star-crossed lovers. It’s got an effortless sense of fun and affection for its quirky characters, while combining some very intense action sequences. The imagination and weird anachronisms on display make this series pretty unique.
As for audiobooks, I’m listening to Octavia Butler‘s Mind of My Mind (1977), the second volume of her PATTERNIST series about psychics living among mere mortals. I also finished Ann Leckie‘s Ancilliary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. I have to say I was enormously disappointed with these two books after the brilliant set-up of Ancillary Justice. Nothing of importance happens other than interminable dialogue and a ridiculous amount of tea-drinking. There is no resolution of the two key plot elements, so clearly there are future volumes planned, but you can count me out.

Tadiana:  I recently received the advance copy of Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched, her ninth MERCY THOMPSON book (or twelfth, depending on whether you count the highly interlocked ALPHA AND OMEGA books). Since I was only on book number five at the time Fire Touched landed on my doorstep, I’ve been busily plowing through the intervening books in the past two weeks: River Marked, Fair Game and Frost Burned, with Night Broken next on my to-read list and then, finally, Fire Touched. Whew! Luckily I’ve really been enjoying this series. It’s imaginative and tightly plotted. Now I just have to write reviews for all these books! My other recent reads have included Sharon Shinn‘s Jeweled Fire, the third book in her ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS series; Jane Yolen‘s Snow in Summer, an Appalachian Snow White retelling, and some SFF short fiction, “Vici” by Naomi Novik and Fifty-one Tales by Lord Dunsany, which I reviewed in last week’s SHORTS feature. I also read a couple of non-SFF books, Sally Hepworth’s The Things We Keep, a moving story of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s and the people around her, and Eva Ibbotson‘s A Countess Below Stairs, a romance set in post-WWI England. FINALLY, I’m currently reading Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander.

Terry: I finished the last of Meg Whalen Turner‘s THE QUEEN’S THIEF series with A Conspiracy of Kings. I really enjoyed this series, despite some believability problems here and there. I also finished Michael Cunningham’s A Wild Swan. While I appreciated what Cunningham was trying to do, the stories soon came to have a disappointing sameness to them, even though it remained fun to see how he would make each fairy tale into a bitter modern story. I also read Cassandra Clare‘s Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, which revealed that I need to go back and read a couple of her later novels to be able to follow completely, though she did a fine job of catching me up so that I wasn’t completely lost. Finally, I read Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, an inventive and intriguing novella that reminded me again what a crazy and wonderful imagination McGuire has. I’ve started two new books, Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, a post-apocalyptic novel about California after global warming has done its worst, and City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, which has been so raved about by my fellow reviewers here at FanLit that I can’t put it off any longer. I’m also planning to start Walter Tevis’s The Man Who Fell to Earth; after I finish it I’ll watch the movie, which has been sitting on my DVR ever since we learned of David Bowie’s death.

Tim: This week, I continued reading the second book of the DEATH GATE CYCLE, Elven Star. I’m not a big fan, but progress continues. Otherwise, I’ve been listening to a course on the cultural history of Japan. It’s funny how a liking for nonfiction can sort of creep up on you.

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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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