Ruth Arnell (RETIRED)

RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

The Graveyard Book: Even Gaiman’s dead characters seem alive

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Ignore the YA label slapped on this one if that gives you pause. Though that won’t be hard to do because The Graveyard Book opens with a hand in the darkness holding a knife wet with the blood of almost an entire family: father, mother, and older child. The knife lacks only the blood of the toddler son to finish its job. Luckily for the reader (and the boy) he escapes into a nearby cemetery where a mothering ghost convinces the cemetery community to protect him. Another reason to ignore the YA label, or better yet, to revel in it, is that Neil Gaiman’s YA-listed material is stronger than his adult work: tighter, more focused, more intense all around. All that holds true here and The Graveyard Book’s clarity and brevity, often seen as constraints i... Read More

The Windup Girl: Mixed opinions

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

My Body is Not My Own…

Having just finished Paolo Bacigalupi’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel, I’m left rather bereft at how to describe, let alone review, The Windup Girl. I am not a big reader of science-fiction or dystopian thrillers, which means that no obvious comparisons come to mind, and the setting and tone of the novel are so unique (to me at least) that they almost defy description.

Set in a future Thailand where genetically engineered “megodonts” (elephants) provide manual labor and “cheshires” (cats) prowl the streets, the world’s population struggles against a bevy of diseases brought on by all the genetic tampering that’s been going on. Oil has long since run... Read More

Oryx and Crake: A scathing condemnation of the world we are creating

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood details an apocalyptic plague, introduces a new species of creatures that have been genetically designed to replace humanity, and the villain is a mad scientist in love. What could be more “SFF” than Oryx and Crake?

Quite a lot, according to Margaret Atwood, who prefers to describe her novel as “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction.” In interviews promoting Oryx and Crake, Atwood explained that everything that takes place in Oryx and Crake is based on trends that we can see today, as opposed to distant planets that have an allegorical connection to our lives. Atwood is “speculating” about where ou... Read More

Dust: Immaculate plotting

Readers’ average rating:

Dust by Hugh Howey

I know I’ve retired from reviewing, but since I reviewed the first two volumes in the WOOL trilogy (the WOOL and SHIFT books) and there isn’t a review for this third one, I thought I would do a little guest review here for my friends at FanLit because nothing sucks more than the first two books in a trilogy being great and then the third one going right off the rails and exploding in a burst of unresolved plot lines and out of character behavior.

Let me just say, that fate has been avoided here. Dust by Hugh Howey is a sizeable story, taking its time to bring together all the different plot lines and hints it’s spent the first two volumes laying out and weaving them together into a satisfying conclusion. All the little things that have been scratching at the back of your head since the first book — why are th... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Best book you read in June 2013

It's the first Thursday of the month, which means it's time to report!

What is the best book you read in June 2013 and why did you love it? It doesn't have to be a newly published book, or even SFF. We just want to share some great reading material. Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

(And don't forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page.)

As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks. Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in May 2013. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title



Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday, you can come back and identify more.

Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days.

Good Luck! Read More

WWWednesday: May 22, 2013

The things you should read edition:

“‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” by Kameron Hurley

BOOKISH TURN-OFFS?

10 Novels That Are More Action-Packed Than Most Summer Movies

The Nina Allen 101 Women to Read Meme

Read More

WWWednesday, May 15, 2013

For your daily dose of pretty: Many of you probably remember the series of painting of Disney princesses in historically accurate clothing. Well, the same talented artist, Claire Hummel has started doing the Disney villains, and look at her first offering. Maleficient. Gorgeous. Click through for a bigger image and to see the rest of the series.

Coulson lives. Coulson lives!! I'm pretty sure that this is the equivalent of the Marvel fandom pulling an "I believe in fairies!" moment. Also, here's the full trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Which authors write the best action sequences?

The nominees for this year's ... Read More

WWWednesday: May 8, 2013

The very polarizing THOMAS COVENANT series by Stephen R. Donaldson is getting its final installment. Check out the recently released cover art (I think that's a John Jude Palencar cover, though it isn't credited) and read a chapter here.

If you haven't signed up for the Orbital Drop newsletter, you should. They send out an email once a month with their e-book of the month for sale. This month is Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Best book you read in April 2013

It's the first Thursday of the month, which means it's time to report!

What is the best book you read in April 2013 and why did you love it? It doesn't have to be a newly published book, or even SFF. We just want to share some great reading material. Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

(And don't forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page.)

As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks. Read More

WWWednesday: April 24, 2013

Free YA audio books to listen to this summer including The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

A great video discussing the controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card and the reaction to him writing Superman comics. Basically, does it matter if the artist creating something you like is "a dick"?

Rachel Rostad's slam poem "To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang," disc... Read More

WWWednesday, April 17, 2013

The new teaser trailer for Catching Fire is out. I am loving that they don't show the arena at all. People who haven't read the books are going to be surprised!

Also, the final trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness is out. MMMmmmm, such a pretty movie.

Are you behind on your reading? Well, here's something else to make you fall even further behind: A serialized novel where each chapter is a different fairy tale! "Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy made out of 128 separate fairy tales that can be read independently (supposedly) but together weave one epic fairy tale about its main character, from his birth to his (perhaps) death," according to Guy Hasson. You can dive in here.

Tor.uk is offering up the first few chapters of Read More

WWWednesday, April 10, 2013

Smeagol sings Mad World.

Neil Gaiman is more influential than Kim Jong Un.

What happened to the third acorn? Warwick Davis on Willow.

A beautiful fantasy short illustrated film. Dragons and wizards and true love.

Portrait of the Book As Golem, a poem by Jane Yolen, in honor of National Poetry Month.

Science fiction and fantasy books kids should be reading in school, Read More

WWWednesday: April 3, 2013

Whaaaat? It's April already?

One more reason why libraries are awesome.

Rithmatist Sweepstakes. So looking forward to this book.

You can vote for the manliest of man covers over at Baen. Though one of the choices appears to be a feline. I think I'm opting for the Space BeeGee, myself.

An interview with Lady Trent, famed dragon naturalist.

Flying in Place is on sale as an e-book for $2.99. Our Terry says, "I have to give this one... Read More

WWWednesday: March 27, 2013

Would you like some beautiful art to start your week? Check out these blown glass spacecraft. Read More

WWWednesday: March 20, 2013

io9 is hosting a March Madness tournament to decide which TV science-fiction franchise is the  greatest.

Middle Earth is having their own March Madness. Will Frodo upset Sauron?

And if you have no idea what March Madness is all about, here's a video that explains it using Star Wars.

io9 also tells up about a project that generated reading lists based on your Hogwarts house, complete with photos of the bookshelves.

The women over at The Book Smugglers posted the results for their Read More

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy: A manual by Orson Scott Card

Readers’ average rating:

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is an award-winning author of dozens of science fiction and fantasy books, including the Hugo and Nebula award winning Ender’s Game. So who else would you turn to for instruction on how to write a science fiction and fantasy novel? I’m working on a novel — isn’t everyone these days? — and picked up How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy for some instruction. I’m used to writing for an academic audience, so bridging the chasm between peer-reviewed journals and publicly read books is a big step for me. I have to say, though, that I’m not sure this book is really worth all the kudos it has in the writing community, and I think that’s mostly because it hasn’t been updated. The original publication date is 1990. Whole genres of fantasy have come out since 1990, not to mention the advent of the... Read More

WWWednesday: March 13, 2013

I've been gone for the last several weeks. Nothing exciting. It's just that I have depression, and when it gets particularly bad, I kind of go into survival mode and the things that aren't essential to my continuing function as an oxygen-processing organism get shelved for a bit. But things are getting better. So I'm venturing back into WWWednesday territory to say hello! I'm alive! and lots of cool things are happening out there in SF land. And thanks to Kat for giving me the time I needed to get back to healthier.

We've got new nerd trailers galore -- Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Doctor Who spring readily to mind.

If you're not watching Vikings on The History Channel you are totally missing out. It's only three episodes in,... Read More

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest: A beautiful book to read with a child

Readers’ average rating:

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint

From its charming dustcover to the muted two-page illustration at the end, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a beautiful book that I would love to read with, or to, a child. Charles de Lint and artist Charles Vess form a perfect collaboration here, with a wonderful, magical story for middle readers.

This novel is an expansion of de Lint’s novella, The Circle of Cats. De Lint uses as inspiration many of the Appalachian folk-tales, most prominently the strange old story about the King of the Cats, but stays close to his own roots, yarning about the old magic and new magic that imbues the American continent. Lillian is a little girl, an orphan, who lives with her aunt on a farm at the edge of the Tanglewood. Lillian plays in the woods; she scatters scratch for the wild birds after she’s fed the chickens... Read More

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter: Beautifully written but disturbing

Readers’ average rating:



The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a beautifully written story. Clarke evokes a beautiful contrast between the wild gardens and streams Cat inhabits as a child under the watchful eye of her tutor, and the cold, sterile, unfeeling world she inhabits as an adult in contact with other humans. At its core, this is a romance between a human and a cyborg. Though an interesting examination of what it means to be human, and the role of sentience in humanity, I felt that the role of sexual desire in defining humanity was overplayed in this book.

Clarke is especially skilled in describing a world that has suffered through an ecological disaster and is slowly rebuilding itself. The politics of humans versus robots as the economy a... Read More

WWWednesday: January 30, 2013

I don't have an source for this beautiful piece of art. If you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit it appropriately.



Ron Howard is in talks to direct a movie version of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Alan Moore is most known for the graphic novel The WatchmenHere's a guide to reading a bit deeper into his repertoire.

Would you like a flying car?

Read More

Six-Gun Snow White: A beautifully told feminist fairy tale

Readers’ average rating:



Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

C.S. Lewis once wrote his goddaughter, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” It seems an odd statement at first, that one is ever not the right age to read fairy tales, but I think there is something truthful about that assessment. We read fairy tales to our youngsters, to teach them the way of the world, to be wary of strangers, that dragons can be defeated if you are brave enough, to keep your word and to guard your tongue. But after a while, the children grow up enough to go out and fight their dragons and they have no time to sit and read. It is only after the fight, while the burn marks are scarring over and the weight of broken promises rests heavy upon their shoulders, that they have time to come back and read these stories again, and find for ... Read More

Article 5: Dreadfully derivative

Readers’ average rating:

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

So, I put this as my status on Facebook:

Guess which book I’m talking about. I’m reading this YA post-apocalyptic novel where the United States of America has been torn apart by War and now it’s all separated into regions and you can’t move between regions without permission from the central government that is set on enforcing its rules on everybody and then the girl that’s the main character gets abducted from her home by the government and sent to this brutal place with a bunch of other kids but she survives because of this guy that she’s known forever and he loves her and protects her and then they join the rebellion.

My friends have come up with six different novels that match this description, and none of them are correct. That’s the problem with Article 5. It’s been done. Multiple times. And better than this as ... Read More

WWWednesday: January 23, 2013

I'm back and feeling good which means this column has all sorts of goodies in it for you. If you can't find something interesting in here to read, watch, or listen to, you're not trying hard enough!



The Sunday Rumpus interviews Margaret Atwood. Also, this week marks the 63rd anniversary of George Orwell's death, and Margaret Atwood wrote a column about her experiences reading Orwell as a child.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's LIADEN Universe hits its 25th anniversary this year. This is one of my best love worlds. It probably would best be defined as space opera, but its a complex world... Read More

WWWednesday: January 16, 2013

This column is a bit short and lacking in flair because one, I am siiiiiiick, and two, it's my birthday! And apparently I celebrate by reading unreleased Catherynne M. Valente books rather than working on my column. So here we go.

1. An awesome comic teasing Neil Gaiman about his amazing success.

2. An excerpt from George R.R. Martin's upcoming The Winds of Winter. It is due out sometime this year.

3. And here's some video documentaries about The Wheel of Time:
"The Wheel of Time: The Last Chapter"

and

"The Wheel of Time: Legacy"
4. A fascinating diagram of the most and least like... Read More

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