Sunday Status Update: February 24, 2013

This week we hear from the God-Emperor of Arrakis, Paul Atreides.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Brad: I’ve been enjoying Kindle’s Immersion Reading, which allows you the option to purchase very cheaply any of over 15,000 audiobooks if you purchase the digital book first. Usually the price drops $10-20 , and as a result, you can often get the digital book and audiobook for less than it would cost to buy the audiobook alone! Immersion Reading plays the audiobook in sync with the digital book:  The words are highlighted while the audiobook plays. It even turns the pages while it plays. I reread Pride and Prejudice this way the past few weeks, and I’m currently rereading Emma and Wuthering Heights. I’ve also started Beautiful Creatures, which is much better than I thought it would be. However, it seems longer than is necessary. Since I’ve always mentally drifted off while listening to audiobooks, visually being locked into the narrative helps me to stay focused on the audio. I owe Kat a big thanks to making me want to try audiobooks again since she writes so positively about them. I’m even using Immersion Reading with my ten-year-old daughter as we tackle together Tennyson‘s great Arthurian poem IDYLLS OF THE KING.

In comics, I read the reboot issue of Nova, which was terrible. I also read the mediocre ending to Hellblazer (issues #298-300). I still can’t believe they canceled this incredibly long-running, adult series written primarily by British authors. I’m even angrier that they will reboot the title next month as a PG-version written by an American. The character, by the way, was yet one more brilliant creation of that genius Alan Moore (while making a name for himself in the U.S. while writing Swamp Thing). DC is quite good at abusing in some fashion anything Alan Moore created for them. I also read the latest installments of Saga and Daredevil: They remain at the five-star level.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kat: Last Sunday my husband wanted to take our daughters to an annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee, the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War, so I agreed to go as long as we could listen to an audiobook while travelling. I chose J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan which I wasn’t sure if I had ever actually read (my memories of it may come only from Disney World). I absolutely adored the story — it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read — and the audio version read by Jim Dale, the guy who narrates the HARRY POTTER books, is stunning.  This version is on sale right now at Audible ($8.49 for members). It’s also available with Whispersync. Try a sample at Audible. I read two other books this week which were enjoyable but not nearly as good as Peter PanThe Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is an interesting First Contact story, but it’s long and talky. Academ’s Fury, the second book in Jim Butcher’s CODEX ALERA, is action-packed but lacks the immersive quality I look for in epic fantasy. I’m going to continue on with CODEX ALERA, but only because I have the audiobooks free from my library.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kelly: This week I finished Tracy Barrett‘s Dark of the Moon and Deborah Coates‘s Deep Down — reviews to come; they’re both good — and abandoned Chloe Neill‘s House Rules. Now I’m reading Written in Red by Anne Bishop (a paranormal set in an alternate present day) and An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James (a Gothic ghost story).

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Paul: This week, I was far too thoroughly occupied with affairs of state to consider reading anything. Next week, however, I shall read Machiavelli‘s The Prince, which I shall find charming in its own naïve, simplistic way; but hardly germane to the political back-biting and double-dealing with which I shall be forced to deal with shortly thereafter. Now forgive me, as I must sign off. My sister has decided yet again to express her romantic feelings for a man twice her age with a naked knife-fighting session. I must not corrupt the timeline by stopping her from woefully embarrassing herself or destroying any credibility she had as a character rather than a plot device (plot device? Mm? Where did that come from? Doubtless some passing whimsy), but I am perfectly prepared to ruminate endlessly on it and thus allow the concept’s general creepiness to sink in the fullest.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Ruth: I’m currently reading Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is up for a Nebula this year. So far I am loving it, but I freely admit I am a sucker for books set in Regency-era England. I’m also working my way through Catcher in the Ryeone of those books I feel like I should read. I’m liking the prose more than the characters, if that makes sense. And finally, I am reading On Writingby Stephen King.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Steven: This week my science fiction/fantasy reading got sidetracked. I picked up a copy of humor writer Dave Barry‘s newest novel, Insane City, about a young man going to Miami to get married. It starts out sort of like the movie “The Hangover” as protagonist Seth’s friends misplace him and his luggage (with the heirloom wedding ring) at a Miami bar, but Barry’s take on pre-wedding disaster is much better than the hit movie. I literally couldn’t put the book down for a few days until I had finished it. On retrospect, it “might” qualify as speculative fiction in a way, as any book that has Orangutans, Pythons, members of the world leading “Gang of Eleven” (not to mention the even more important “Gang of Six”), homeless Haitians, and medical marijuana brownies, with a battle between a Pirate Ship and pursuing bad guys thrown in, as some of its characters and scenarios has to be fantasy in some way, right? Regardless, I loved the book, now to get back to Manly Wade Wellman‘s John ThunstoneJack Vance, Edgar Pangborn and others who are patiently waiting on their R & R’s (reads and reviews) from me.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Terry: I never seem to be reading what I’m supposed to be reading these days — but I’m reading really good stuff. This week I’ve been reading Karen Russell‘s new short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, which is being marketed as mainstream but which is clearly fantastical and of very high quality. I’m also reading The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin. I read (and reviewedThe Dead Path a while ago, and liked it well enough, but this novel about a world in which the magnetic poles have switched places, bringing literal ghosts in the wake of that disaster, is head and shoulders above Irwin’s first novel. I also decided I needed a shot of adrenaline, and so pulled The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry off the shelf. It’s the third of his JOE LEDGER series, and it moves at the pace of a supersonic jet. It’s very hard to put down! So it’s been a great reading week.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Tim: This week I was on a bizarre STAR WARS kick, and spent a good while in transit, so I took the opportunity to read (brace yourselves, purists) a few of the initial “Expanded Universe” novels — namely the first two books in Timothy Zahn‘s THRAWN Trilogy, Heir to the Empire and Dark Force Rising. I was pleasantly surprised by the books, as I had read some CLONE WARS novel a while back and considered it little better than cheap fanfiction. If the THRAWN books are a little too enamored of the original films to feel exactly original, that was perhaps never their purpose. They certainly help me remember why I once liked the series beyond the laser swords and the space samurai, and if you can look past all the little film references and in-jokes, they’re fun space operas even set apart from the main franchise.

 

Bill:   This week I read The Daylight War, the third book in Peter Brett‘s THE DEMON CYCLE series.  A great read despite a hell of a cliffhanger ending. I also finished A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, which started out great but then petered out disappointingly and, Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells, a decent but not very distinctive YA with a plot that doesn’t really bear out the promise of that great title. Outside of fantasy, sometime in the past week or two I read Karen Russel’Swamplandia, which just didn’t do it for me despite the acclaim.

 


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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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6 comments

  1. Terry, I’m going to get my copy of *Vampires in the Lemon Grove* on Thursday when I and 49 of closest friends have high tea with Karen Russell, and yes, you may envy me. I loved Swamplandia. Since she includes fantastical elements and the literary crowd loves her, I notice they refer to her writing as “magical realism.”

    I’m finishing Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost.

    Emperor Paul, what two adults-or-nearly-adults choose to do with knives in the privacy of their own second rate sequel should not be the business of government. Isn’t there some illicit sandworm-fighting industry you could be regulating or something?

  2. Brad Hawley /

    Kat mentions Whispersync, and I mention Immersion Reading; I think they are related, but slightly different features, for those of you interested. I’m interested, so I’m going to try to articulate the differences. Please let me know if my distinctions are accurate as I find them a bit confusing.

    Whispersync allows you to sync across devices and jump back and forth between audio and visual reading (if you have a digital book available in the Immersion Reading category). For example, I can start reading a book on my Kindle, then I can open my Audible App on my phone and listen to the book PICKING UP AT THE EXACT PLACE I LEFT OFF READING! Then, I can go back to my Kindle Fire and either read the digital book picking up at the place I left off listening on my phone OR listen to the audio book at the place I stopped listening on my phone.

    OR

    I can use IMMERSION READING to open the digital book, hit play at the bottom of the screen, and have the audio book not only pick up where I left off, but also highlight the words in SYNC with the audio book (which is why I was confusing Immersion Reading with Whispersync). The pages are even turned for you.

    Three final points:
    1. I think you have to actually have KINDLE FIRE (perhaps VS) to make Immersion Reading work (That’s not true with Whispersync). Is this correct?
    2. Make sure you buy the digital book BEFORE the Audio book so that the audio book drops in price. It doesn’t work the other way around.(though you get a refund if you make a mistake.)
    3.If you have a Kindle Fire HD, go to the audio books tab, go to the store, and you will see a selection of digital books that are available for free that also have audio books for free so you can try out Immersion Reading. There are some great free titles there, so don’t overlook this free gift on your device!

    I would appreciate any corrections or clarifications. As far as I know, Immersion Reading is unique to Kindle Fire (HD only?), and is one of the ways Amazon is really making sure their reading tablet stays focused on advancing READING technology specifically. I, for one, love my Kindle Fire HD, even though it’s “inferior” as a tablet compared to the obviously impressive IPad.

  3. Brad Hawley /

    Kindle Fire HD not Kindle Fire VS

  4. Marion, are you enjoying Shadowbridge? I liked it very much.

    And your comment about Karen Russell’s Swamplandia will, of course, cause me to read it, or at least get my hands on it for later reading. I already had St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves on the list.

    Brad, the only thing that tempts me to get a Kindle Fire is the ability to read comics on it — not something possible on my cheap basic Kindle. Do you recommend it for that purpose?

  5. Brad Hawley /

    The Kindle Fire HD is wonderful for comics. Comics take up a ton of memory, and you can buy a Kindle Fire HD with 32 GB for $250. That’s a bargain compared to IPad. I think you can get the HD with 16GB for $200. I LOVE my regular Kindle. I think E-Ink is the best thing since sliced bread since I get migraines and hate looking at computer screens. However, I hardly use it any more since I’m always carrying around my Kindle Fire HD so that I can read comics or read a book (or surf the web or watch movies or access my music, etc). I’m an amazon junkie who has always paid for the prime, so everything else I get with it is just bonus for me.

    HOWEVER, one of the worst things about Amazon in my opinion? Their digital comic book technology. Their smart reader that guides you through the panels is absolutely terrible compared to Comixology’s technology. There’s a further mess with DC: they make it look like you can’t get DC comics and read them through the Comixology App on the Kindle Fire, but it’s easy to get around.

    They did this, as far as I can tell, so that Kindle Fire owners will buy Amazon’s digital comics. DON’T BUY COMICS THROUGH THE AMAZON STORE. I wish I could get somebody at Amazon to listen to me. They are wasting money on sub-standard technology, and anybody who has read a Comixology comic through the Comixology app know this. (By the way, Greg asked this exact question about comics and Kindle Fire on an Amazon thread. That’s where we met, and that’s how I heard about this little website called fanlit, and I even ended up writing for them!).

    So, to read digital comics, I recommend reading them through the Comixology app on a tablet (and not on a computer through the website, though that’s okay). If you have a nice phone (I have the Galaxy S3), you can even use the Comixology app on there and link to all your comics. You download them for reading off-line, just like you do with Amazon books. They store them for you for no extra cloud storage charge. (which reminds me, data storage on Amazon costs 1/4 of what Apple charges).

    To summarize, you should buy digital comics through Comixology. Their app and technology is amazing. And they have great sales. And they sell both DC and Marvel in one place (along with comics by most other major companies–but not Dark Horse. This might be the one reason for buying digital comics through Amazon’s store).

    You don’t need a Kindle Fire HD to use the Comixology app. You can read your digital purchases on the computer, on a phone, and on any tablet as far as I know.

    BUT, I just love the Kindle Fire HD because other than Comixology, everything I buy is through Amazon or is available through an app. IT’s cheaper. All my books are right there, as well as my music (I think they charge $25 a year to store up about 250,000 songs, or something ridiculous like that. It’ll pull ’em straight from your iTunes.) But now we are beyond comics.

    Ipad is better than the Kindle Fire HD in a ton of ways, but not in ways that I care about. So I love the Kindle Fire HD (which has also added stereo speakers and bluetooth which the first generation of Kindle Fire did not.)

    Sorry I went on so long. Hope this helps.

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