Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read last month?

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIt’s the first Thursday of the month. You know what that means, ’cause we do this on the first Thursday of every month! Time to report!

What is the best book you read in June 2017 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. And we’ve also got a constantly updating list of new and forthcoming releases.)

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

We’ve got a couple of giveaways still current. Find those here!

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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17 comments

  1. mary henaghen /

    I recently desc over ed the author Lisa Gardner. She has a series with main character is DD Waren, a Boston PD Sargent. I love the twists in plots, and having lived in Boston, I love the setting. I finished three books, Hide, Catch me, a Novel, snd The Neighbor.

  2. E.J. Jones /

    I’m interning at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis this summer, so I figured I’d better read more of his work. I had tried and failed to read Slaughterhouse-Five as a high schooler, but it was one of the best books I’ve read all year, much less this month. Given how much the story jumps around, it’s remarkably accessible. And I love Vonnegut’s straight-shooting, pull-no-punches writing style. I also read and loved The Sirens of Titan, also by Vonnegut. That one’s his version of a space opera. I don’t know much about space operas, but I loved Sirens. Especially Selo, the Dobby-like alien who befriends the main character when he arrives on Titan.

  3. Maurice Robinson /
    Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente This book has so many layers, from charming fairytale birds that fall out of trees outside your window and turn into husbands to Russian mafia family/madam/prostitution. Overall, Deathless is a beautiful and charming worlds of wonderful prose – even the underbelly is wrapped in charming candy. In Deathless the characters take on multiple roles/meanings, depending on which layer your eyes encounter them on. Throughout the book Valente slips into and speaks – a surreal effect, like watching the news and realizing the anchor is speaking to you – in character directly to the reader; this creates embedded ‘books’, with prose spread across pages, within the book. I had 12 double-sided pages of composition notes when I finished this book. I haven't written a review, because I'm not sure I caught everything. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, this is definitely a first edition hardcover to have.
  4. April /

    I actually had a pretty dismal June as far as books go. Other than re-reads, the best book I read (listened to on audio) was Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. It had issues but I liked it a lot and Brendan Fraser’s reading of it was excellent.

  5. John Smith /

    I enjoyed “The Guest Cat” by Takashi Hiraide.

  6. GodsgraveI read Godsgrave last month 🙂 Its definitely the best book I read in June, a few things needed tightening, but there were less footnotes and overall its a captivating book.
  7. Paul Connelly /

    Very frustrating June. Started off with either The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley or The Race by Nina Allan and followed with the other.

    The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a fairly quiet Victorian with occasional Irish bomb-throwers and an inscrutable Asian (the title character…also a master of the mystic arts?) and had some very elegant writing. But I was at cross-purposes with the author. She wanted Katsu and Thaniel as the primary focus, but I wanted Grace as the primary focus with Thaniel secondary. Katsu was the anti-“Dune Messiah”…I liked him less and less as the story progressed. I ended up angry at the way Grace was treated in (and by) the story.

    The Race was four stories with varying levels of displacement from our everyday world that had resemblances and correspondences in characters and events, but the stories never came together and became a story for me, and there wasn’t enough story to make the characters engaging in spite of their damaged, sometimes sordid lives. As in Watchmaker, some very nice writing but as a whole it did not work for me.

    Next up was The Chemical Wedding (etc.) via John Crowley’s recasting, an offbeat and sometimes whimsical seeming 17th century tale. The events are like a mash-up of Sir Gawain and the Bible after some hashish was smoked. Does it all meaning anything? Well, some of it probably does, but I suspect a lot is just weird stuff Andreae threw in for the fun of it. Christian Rosenkreuz is a believable fellow even if his adventures are off the wall.

    Then came Boneland by Alan Garner. This seems very thinly related to The Weirdstone of Brisngamen and The Moon of Gomrath. Really it seems mostly about mental illness and being inside the brain of a psychotic genius astronomer who is evolving into the deep ecology of his landscape, like Kerans in The Drowned World. Intense writing with Garner’s usual passion for geology, geography, mythology, archeology and every other science that grounds one in a place. But pretty downbeat and uncomfortable.

    From there it was back to popcorn, soda and Mason Dots with Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee, a continuation of the military space horror dystopia of Ninefox Gambit. Very quick read. But even knowing it’s fantasy/horror in science fiction drag, the science or lack thereof bugs me, like Honorverse and all similar space operatics. They make space so small. Space is all terrifying distances and unutterable hostility to life. Star travel as presented in these books is so fake but we keep churning it out, works that make communication and battle action across vast distances behave at the scale of Napoleonic war engagements or maybe World War II battles.

    Finally there was Josiah Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends, which did not work for me for personal reasons having to do with the central plot conceit. Should have read the description with brain engaged. Suppose Franz Kafka had done a rough draft of his version of Candide, and that got passed on to Jack Vance to finish, but it languished until China Mieville was called to do the final edit. Sound like your cup of tea? Me neither. Too many cooks, etc. Someone else might want to go on to the next two books, but not me.

    So what was best? I guess I have to say Boneland, because Garner is one the four great living fantasy writers, but it was more or less winner by default.

    • You are far more well read than me and most of your references went over my head but I’m really interested to hear why Senlin Ascends did not suit your tastes. Can you do a layman’s review?

      • Paul Connelly /

        Well, emotionally I really did not want read a book about a man losing his wife, in a crowd (as in Senlin Ascends) or any other way. And that is the main plot driver of the novel. Senlin is a naive, very insulated small town schoolteacher who takes his new bride to the Tower of Babel in Sumeria for their slightly delayed honeymoon. Except that, beyond the names, everything seems to resemble England circa 1900 and not anything to do with Babylon.

        The Tower, with uncountable storeys rising into the clouds, is conceived of as a combination Disneyworld, Louvre, United Nations, and Smithsonian Institution by Senlin, but actually it’s more like a Stephen King funhouse by way of Kafka and de Sade. By the end of this book, he makes it past the third storey, so you can tell he’s got a long way to go.

        It bears resemblance to one of those Connie Willis situations where every attempt by the protagonist to make a connection or escape is met with frustration (also like a certain species of unpleasant dream), and I was not relishing going through two more books of that. Connie Willis has some amount of mild humor leavening the frustration in her novels, but I was not finding much humor in Senlin Ascends. It does have a New Weird or neo-Victorian feel in a lot of places, so if that appeals to you, you may have a better reaction to it than I did.

  8. Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch. I'd been meaning to pick it up for months. I was afraid the hype in my brain was too much and it would not live up to my expectations. I was wrong. It was fantastic, easy to read and incredibly imaginative.
  9. I think the only new book i read was the Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. An enjoyable middle grades book about a young Dragon who gets turned into a girl. The secondary characters were engaging although i wanted more of the streetwise friend.

    I also raced through the first 4 Chanur books by C.J. Cherryh for the umpteenth time. I’d have to say those were the best books I read in June. Lionish aliens who are part of a Compact of 6 races encounter a new race that has soft skin and mobile eyes and who has the ability to disrupt the balance of power in the Compact.

  10. Dune by Frank Herbert. First of all, HOW HAD I NOT READ IT BEFORE NOW?! The world building blew my mind – a land of sand and sandworms and various cultures and water as a very very precious resource. It was fascinating. I also was intrigued by how Herbert dealt with character deaths – they were kind of glossed over, so much so that I periodically wondered if a character would be coming back from the dead since their death had been so seemingly insignificant. Such a fascinating book and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

  11. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValleThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. This was such a treat. I love something that is creepy and badass. Plus he has already written other stuff so I can read more of his work right away!
  12. Angela Burkhead, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

  13. Jessica /
    The way of kingsI think the first book of Stormlight Archive is the one. The complex plot and inventive magic system hooked me. The flow of the story is good and there's no flowery words.

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