Sunday Status Update: January 31, 2016

This week, Galadriel returns (largely due to the necessity of finding someone who didn’t contribute to the charactextravaganza last week).

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Galadriel: The other day, the Galadhrim sang a lament for Mithrandir’s fall. It was really quite a lovely elegy, and contained a great many deeds I am not entirely sure he accomplished. Quite beautiful. Unfortunately, just as we were reaching one of the subtler portions, someone had the extreme poor grace to break wind. The singer was distracted and went briefly off-key. Needless to say, the entire ceremony was ruined. We are elves, after all. So ever since, accusations have been flying thick and fast. Practically everyone has come under suspicion. Except me, of course. None of them would dare. That being the case, I’m afraid the crime is doomed to remain forever unsolved. In retrospect, perhaps I did overindulge in the Dwarven cheeses.

Not that I’m apologizing. Dwarven cheeses are amazing.

Bill: My second adjunct job opened up this week, so not a lot of reading. But I did finish Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World Ed. By Jonathan Oliver and David Moore, a very good and relatively unique anthology of five novellas set in Shakespeare’s universe (albeit an enlarged version). Positive review up soon. Thanks to picking up the commute, I finally got around to wrapping up listening to The Glass Cage, Nicholas Carr’s excellent look at the downside of automation (highly recommended). As far as books going on now, the Tor reread moves into Chapter Two of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Blood and Bone; I’m a little ways into A World from Dust by Ben McFarland, a look at the role the periodic table plays in life; and I’ve just begun listening to The Fourth Revolution: How the infosphere is reshaping human reality, by Luciano Floridi.

Jana: This week I started (and am really enjoying) A Criminal Magic, by Lee Kelly, in which the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution didn’t outlaw alcohol, but sorcery. Naturally, this works about as well as the Prohibition of liquor did, instantly creating a sub-culture of sorcery dens and smugglers. The concept is a lot of fun, the character voices are distinct, and I’m already making a list of people I want to recommend it to. Review to come soon!

João: Been a bit MIA lately just from exam season and general lethargy toward anything that makes me work. Been reading a lot and dropping a lot of books that don’t interest me. I am starting to be more sanguine about dropping books because reading time is finite and the amount of books to read is virtually unlimited so if it doesn’t interest me from the get go then I’ll move to one that does (this isn’t a hard set rule, books can be slow and fulfilling, but if I don’t care about the characters or plot then not caring about the ending seems like a good heuristic). Read some novellas that I’ll review, notably K.J. Parker’s The Downfall of the Gods which is the best novella from him lately. Claire North‘s THE GAMESHOUSE novellas were also amazing, as if written to please my own Machiavellian soul, though I think the last one suffers from some serious foundational flaws (but still better than a lot of what it’s out there). The first one is the best. I also read City of Blades, like everyone else around here, but I wasn’t head over heels about it. I think I liked the previous one best. Now I am going through Greg Egan’s short story collection Axiomatic and by god is it good. The sheer density of ideas is crazy, and even though some endings fall flat, so far all of them have been amazing and thought provoking.

Kate: I’ve been reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein lately. It’s my third time through the book, and I’m teaching it this semester in Women in Lit, so I’m getting a lot out of the experience. My students always teach me so much about the books we read. For Frankenstein, we’ve been discussing ethics, the human desire to create, and similarities between Victor, the monster, and Robert Walton, the arctic explorer who hears Victor’s story and watches his final showdown with the monster. Walton is my favorite. He wants glory and knowledge just as much as Victor does, but his method of obtaining it–Arctic exploration–is much more palatable to me than digging up dead bodies. I’ve also been reading a ton of short fiction for my sci-fi course. It’s great! Some of those readings will certainly turn into Short Fiction Monday reviews for Tadiana.

Marion: I finished Charles Stross’s LAUNDRY FILES book The Rhesus Chart. It was funny and scary and ended on a note that made me sad.  I finished an ARC of Richard A. Knaak’s urban fantasy Black City Saint. I like the writer’s take on early Christian mythology combined with the realms of Faerie, even though the story is set in Prohibition-era Chicago. I just started Peter Demetz’s 1997 non-fiction work Prague in Black and Gold which is a love/hate letter to his home town.

Ryan: I’m making my way through Kim Stanley Robinson‘s The Gold Coast. I also have novels by John Wyndham and Arthur C. Clarke out from the library, but I’m most excited to read Robinson’s Red Mars since reading that Space X is going to try to get there in the next decade. I’ve also recently read finished Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, which I enjoyed.

Sandy: Moi? I have been continuing my little Leigh Brackett reading project by tearing through the second book in her so-called SKAITH TRILOGYThe Hounds of Skaith. This is a very direct continuation of the first book in the trilogy, The Ginger Star, which I reviewed here on FanLit last week. Hope to get a review out for book #2 very shortly, before moving on to book #3, The Reavers of Skaith

Stuart: After finishing and really liking Frank Miller‘s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, I moved on to Alan Moore‘s Batman: The Killing Joke. It’s the infamous origin story of the Joker, and though it is a very slim 51 pages, it still packs a wallop and some of the best artwork I have ever encountered in a comic. The sides you’ll see of both Batman, the Joker, and Jim Gordon are very unexpected, and it’s the perfect combination of excellent writing and amazing illustrations. It’s a classic worth your time. I’ve now moved on to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sales’ Batman: The Long Halloween, which really captures the crime noir detective side of Batman that is absent from film versions. As for audiobooks, I finished  Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl, which is a grim post-energy dystopian story with no sympathetic characters and a murky plot, so I was actually a bit disappointed since it swept all the awards in 2010. I’ve finally embarked on a long awaited reading of Octavia Butler‘s work, starting with her first novel Kindred published back in 1979, a story of a black woman unwittingly thrown back to pre-Civil War Maryland on a slave plantation via time travel.

Tadiana: This past week my SFF reading has been very diverse, including Neil Gaiman‘s The Sleeper and the Spindle, which has lovely and intricate pen and ink illustrations by Chris Riddell; Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro, the second book in a exciting middle grade steampunk adventure series; Ilona Andrews Clean Sweep, an imaginative urban fantasy/science fiction blend, and the odd online SFF short story or two. I also finished up a newly published non-SFF book, Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, a delight for bookstore lovers, and am working my way through Lois McMaster Bujold‘s upcoming novel Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, the latest book in the Vorkosigan Saga series. Now to take a deep breath, and plunge into writing reviews!

Terry: I was traveling on business this week, which always means that I read more. Isn’t that what airplanes were invented for, anyway, to give everyone more uninterrupted reading time? I finished Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz and started three new books: Wild Swans by Michael Cunningham, retold fairy tales told with bitterness and a modern sensibility; A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, a YA interdimensional travel story that’s actually considerably more involved than that, but you’ll just have to wait for my review; and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s most recent VORKOSIGAN SAGA novel. They’re all good, but it’s the Bujold that’s sweeping me away.

Tim: This week I’ve been reading Brandon Sanderson‘s The Bands of Mourning (in the latter portion of the week, that is), and also dawdling my way through Stephen Donaldson‘s Lord Foul’s Bane. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, but I’m a big fan of some of Donaldson’s other work so I thought perhaps it was time to revisit the series.

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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. Kate, I always love teaching Frankenstein, despite its glaring craft issues (sometimes thanks to its glaring craft issues)

    these updates kill me. Either people are reading new books I was unaware of that I have to add to the never-ending list, or they’re reading new books I’ve been meaning to get to so it’s just a reminder that I haven’t, or they’re reading old favorites that I’ve always want to reread (the Mars Trilogy) and never get around to. Ow! Quit it. Ow! Quit it. Ow! Quit it. And I’ll be back for more next Sunday . . .

  2. I can’t wait for your new short fiction reviews, Kate! Every week the SFM feature leads me to stories that I would have missed but for others’ reviews.

    Terry, we’ll have to talk about Bujold’s Gentleman Jole. I’m in the middle of it, but having some issues, some of which (though not all) are related to the frequent reminiscing about the three-way relationship and occasional threesomes in the past. I guess I’m hardwired for monogamy and, while I respect others’ right to choose something else, it’s not something I’d typically want to read about. It’s a very relationship-based book, and I would like it to include more about political maneuvering and such, like Bujold’s books usually contain.

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