Status Update: March 4, 2012

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: This week I read Girl Genius: Agatha Awakens by Phil & Kaja Foglio (which only confirmed that graphic stories and I do not get along) and Mark Hodder’s Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, an unfortunately disappointing close to a series that started so promisingly, though the book itself did have a strong ending. My son and I zipped through Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Swiss Family Robinson, while on my own I finished this month’s book club choice, My Name is Mary Sutter solid at its start but really strongly found its voice once the war began to intrude. From then on it was simply excellent. Finally, I’m about 70 pages into The Elegance of the Hedgehog, or roughly 30 pages more than my wife reached before tossing it aside and giving me the evil eye for recommending it to her.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Greg: I’m still slogging along with monsters recently recruited for Demon Squad duty in Ari Marmell‘s The Goblin Corps. Though its taking rather long to finish this book, it’s not any fault of the story — I’m having a good time with it. My recent purchase of a Kindle Fire and the free Comixology app that came with it has reunited me with an old flame: comic books and graphic novels. They have been hogging my reading time. Its like I’m 12 years old all over again. For any former comic fans or for anyone who has wanted to give comics a try, I highly recommend digital comics and Comixology. Besides the Kindle Fire, their app is available for Droid, iPad, and iPhone. They have some great sales — which are only available directly from their site — and a huge selection. The Comixology app also works for comics sold from Amazon. While Amazon does have some really good deals for collected editions, their formatting sux in comparison to Comixology’s.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I didn’t have a lot of time for reading this week because I was traveling for my grandmother’s funeral. She was 100 years old and sharp and witty until the end. I partly credit her love of words for this — she was a reader and she did crossword puzzles daily until she could no longer see them. I did manage to read The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I tried to listen to the audiobook version of Kaza Kingsley’s Erec Rex while we were traveling, but the story didn’t grab us fast enough and the family made me turn it off in favor of an alternative rock radio station. I’ll try Erec Rex some time when it’s not competing with Shinedown and AWOLNATION.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I finished The Folded World by Catherynne Valente, and Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. This second book troubled me. It is a powerful parable about the tribal conflicts in the Sudan. This book is successful as a “message book,” but didn’t completely work for me as a fantasy novel. Does a courageous and illuminating statement about genocide and weaponized rape need to hold up in the areas of world-building and structure as well? I guess this goes to the question of what separates a 5-star book from a 4-star one.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: This week I’ve been concentrating on reading for my paper about Poe for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I’m still reading The Murder of Edgar Allan Poe by George Egon Hatvary — it’s taking me a long time to get through this one because it’s not a very good book. More to my taste is The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard. The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl and The Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker are among the other titles waiting in the wings for this project.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week has been pure insanity, with one major deadline swimming up completely out of nowhere (a week prior to what I had been told), so on the few occasions I managed to limp back to my bookshelf, I felt too wrung out for anything that would require me to… well, think. I tried reading a bit of Larry Niven‘s Ringworld, which I borrowed from a friend long enough ago that I’m beginning to feel the obligation to complete it, but that was just not working. I next read a few short stories in The Dragon Book. Not a bad selection, it looks like. I went straight for a Peter S. Beagle. I’m looking forward this one: I’ve loved Beagle‘s stories in the past.

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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, my 9-yr-old daughter loves the WIMPY KID books. One of the few series I buy new in hardback.

    Marion, you’ve decided me on Who Fears Death. I’ve been keeping an audio review copy around after Kelly’s 5-star review of that novel, but I was fairly certain I wouldn’t like it. I’m going to put it in our Giveaway Stacks.

  2. Kat — I know we all roll our eyes when people say a book’s “not for everyone” but Who Fears Death is not for everyone.

  3. Oh, I agree, Marion. I was waiting for a second opinion on that one. I can understand why it’s been rated so highly by many people, but I read fantasy for fun, and that doesn’t sound like fun.

  4. Yeah, Who Fears Death is not a book to read when you are in the mood for fun. It riveted me, but also drained me.

  5. Ack, Kelly! Your use of the word “riveted” makes me want to snatch it back out of the stacks!! Don’t confuse me!!

  6. Ack, sorry! Nah, find something fun to read. :)

  7. Kat, just to confuse things further, I think Who Fears Death is a four-star book, but not because it’s a good fantasy.

  8. Bill — I’m interested when people say they don’t like or can’t get into graphic novels. I have a friend who is a film-maker, photographer and powerful visual artist, and she likes very few graphic novels. She says she feels like she has to bounce between left brain and right brain too much (and too fast) for it to be an enjoyable experience.

  9. For graphic novels you really need to accept that the art is as much a part of the story telling as the writing, if not more. (I’m sure its easier for me because I actually starting “reading” comics by looking at the pictures before I could even read. Got my first Superboy comic at age 4.)
    Its more like watching a movie but even that’s not exactly right because the best Graphic novels work better than their movie adaptions -Frank Miller’s Sin City immediately comes to mind. There is one Sin City Christmas story called Silent Night that does not have a single work until the last page.
    For anyone having problems with reading graphic novels, digital comics may work even better for you -if their formatted right that is. Because digital comics force you to slow down and view each individual panel, so that you’re not rushing through just reading the text.

  10. Marion-That’s very curious about your friend. As visual as her professions are I’d think graphic novel reading would be more natural for her, especially since movies use story-boards.

    But again, I can see where someone with strong background in literature could over-think the process too.

  11. Girl Genius is the only graphic novel I read — I love the art AND the story. I have tried many other graphic novels and have never finished one, so I understand why Bill doesn’t like them since I usually don’t either. Girl Genius, though, really appeals to me, probably because of the steampunk setting — all that metal makes great art.

    … now that I think about it, I really have a thing for metal and leather (DON’T SAY IT, GREG!). Most of my house furnishings are metal and leather. I think Girl Genius appeals to that particular taste of mine.

  12. Kat- you are soo freakin’ hot. ;)
    Sorry Kat, but you really couldn’t expect me to keep my mouth shut about that comment could you? :)

  13. You’re so predictable, Greg! \m/

  14. Bill /

    I definitely get that the art is a huge part of the story. I grew up on comic books and I absolutely love picture books (I find them much stronger examples of good graphic stories). It’s that for nearly all the non-picture book graphic stories I’ve read, the art plus the writing doesn’t give me enough “there” there. I tend to have the same reaction to short stories–they have to be exceptional to elicit much of a response from me. Neither medium offers me the richness, depth, and sense of time spent with plot and character I really enjoy. That isn’t to say they’re “bad,” just not clearly for me. But hope springs as they say . . .

  15. Rock-on,Kat. Don’t deny your hotness. ;) Sorry- I know I’m incorrigible. Don’t you feel sorry for my poor wife?

    Bill- Oh I get what you’re saying Bill. Plus, the thing I find with Graphic novels or comics is; when they’re not good, they’re really horrible, like crash-and-burn bad.

  16. Sarah /

    Bill, it is so cool that you and your son read Swiss Family Robinson. I loved that book when I read it as a kid, and as an adult I managed to track down the version I’d read from the library – the right cover and end papers – my daughter loved it on audio when she was young.

    Girl Genius works for me as well, (probably the steampunk art) and I don’t usually like/read graphic novels. Mostly for the same reasons Bill stated.

  17. Bill /

    so nice to know other people do that with those books they read as young. I have an entire shelf downstairs in our living room of favorite/important books I read as a kid and then more upstairs. And yes, it was very important they were the same version. That Danny Dunn and the Automatic House with the new fangled cover just wouldn’t do it!

    My son actually just announced yesterday that Swiss Family Robinson is so far his best book of 2012 (I think our annual “Best of . . . “ list is rubbing off on him)

  18. I’m going to try Swiss Family Robinson on audio. Thanks, Sarah!

  19. I hadn’t read graphic novels as an adult until I read Sandman. Then I was converted.

  20. Sandman is one I want to check-out too. I’ve kinda been on the fence about it though.

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