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 August 2018 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.


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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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18 comments

  1. Rusty Miller /

    Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. Ridiculous and sentimental.

  2. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett. Wonderful worldbuilding, intriguing plot and great characters. Review here – https://www.alwroteabook.com/2018/08/25/review-foundryside-by-robert-jackson-bennett/

  3. The Last Colony by John Scalzi.

    For a 3rd book in a series, it was great fun to read. With regards to entertainment, Scalzi never disappoints.

  4. Mary Henaghen /

    Can’t believe I didn’t read any books in August! But I also still can’t get over how awesome Space Opera was by Cat Valente, which I read in July it really is that Awsome, and it is still staying with me.

  5. Laura Sunny Jackson /

    Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs: I love time travel, and this one didn’t disappoint. Fast paced action, time travel, a murder mystery, and likable developed characters made for a great YA read.

  6. Noneofyourbusiness /

    DC Convergence: Infinity Inc. #1 did a great job re-introducing the characters of Infinity Inc. and their dynamics with each other. I especially like that Lyta is the daughter of Wonder Woman against instead of some knockoff.

  7. Paul Connelly /

    My favorite book for August was John Crowley’s Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, the story of a crow who gains eternal life in his interactions with primitive humans and lives on into the near future to see humans driving themselves and much of the rest of the earth toward extinction, as they trash the planet. It’s told somewhat in the style of an extended fable or fairy tale, but with a realistic portrayal of human and corvid behaviors. Can’t say why I liked the crow Dar Oakley so much, but I could have kept reading about him for another few hundred pages. Crowley is one of our three finest living fantasy writers, and almost every book by him is a kind of small miracle of craft and heart.

    Also good, Latchkey expands the scope a bit versus Nicole Kornher-Stace’s initial installment, Archivist Wasp. The earlier book focused mainly on Wasp (Isabel) and two ghosts of genetically enhanced super-soldiers; this one includes more people in Isabel’s settlement, as they try to fight off an invasion by a bloodthirsty tribe that’s been displaced from its home by an earthquake, plus we see more ghosts of other Latchkey project soldiers. The ghosts are creatures of energy inhabiting a matrix of memories left from the living persons, but they also physically manifest in pretty ectoplasmic fashion (you can grab a weakened one and stuff it in a bottle). I liked the story because Isabel is a great character, but I didn’t get much depth from the new characters, who were mostly running around trying to escape or to fight off invaders and hungry ghosts. So, a little less focused than the first novel, but I hope she has more in the works.

    I don’t usually read short story collections straight through, but I did with Amanda Downum’s Still So Strange, and that may have been a mistake. As someone many decades removed from adolescence, my saturation point for moody stories about young alienated (or outcast) characters looking for supernaturally assisted sex and/or death is pretty low. I like Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles series, which also has a lot of the melodramatic sex/death supernatural stuff going on, but in those novels it’s surrounded by more story, rather than being as distilled as it is here.

    Barbara Hambly is a very good writer, and Sisters of the Raven and Circle of the Moon are a duology she set in a magical desert kingdom where the magic is drying up. And since magic is used to bring rain, that’s a survival issue. But while male mages are losing their powers, some women are unexpectedly acquiring magical abilities–very upsetting in a society where women are at best third-class citizens (and often well below that in status). So this is a story of prejudices being challenged and cultural assumptions being upended, with all the conflict that brings, interleaved with factions plotting against the fat, sybaritic king (who is really a good guy) and added demonic threats. I’m more familiar with Hambly’s Benjamin January mysteries, which also deal extensively with prejudices (in pre-Civil War New Orleans), but I liked these two books almost as much.

    I finally read the classic Lord Dunsany tale, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, and can see how the poetic language was attractive to fellow writers like Lovecraft. The Homeric repetition of certain phrases does get distracting, but for the most part it’s a charming fairy tale about a town that desires magic to puff up its reputation, and seeks to obtain it by sending the lord’s son out to wed the Elf King’s daughter. Things don’t work out as planned, and by the end of this wry fable they’ve gotten quite a bit more than they bargained for.

    The next three books I borrowed from the library, because no paperback version appeared to be forthcoming (in a timely way, at least). Authors and publishers, take note, if you want my money.

    Four Roads Cross is the fifth published novel in Max Gladstone’s Craft sequence, but by the internal chronology of the series it picks up shortly after the first published book, Three Parts Dead. Craftswoman Tara Abernathy is working for the Church of Kos the Everburning (for barely enough money to keep up with her student loans), while news of the reappearance of Seril, the moon goddess, is leaking out to the dismay of citizens in Alt Coulumb. And Craftspeople associated with old enemy Professor Denovo are using a legal challenge to crash the value of the Church’s bonds. If you’ve never read Gladstone, the world takes a little getting used to–magical lawyers battling in the air between skyscrapers while gargoyles swoop in, with insectile demons and undersea vampires. We see things from many viewpoints besides Tara’s–a priest’s, a policewoman’s, a street vendor’s, and a refugee’s, among others. It’s tending toward having almost too many viewpoints and sub-plots, which tendency becomes even more problematic in the next one, Ruin of Angels. But the dialogue is snappy, the characters generally so sympathetically portrayed, and the world is so original, I wish more people would buy these books. In paperback.

    Was interested in reading The Man in the Tree because I remembered having been impressed by Sage Walker’s previous novel, Whiteout–a couple of decades ago. No longer recall what that earlier novel was about, but The Man in the Tree is a murder mystery of sorts set on a generation starship that is just preparing to leave Earth orbit. The mystery vaguely resembles a certain Agatha Christie tale which I will not name to avoid spoiling things. It doesn’t really get very exciting until fairly late in the story though, while a lot of space is devoted to the technology and nascent social structures that the aspiring starfarers have developed. The biggest drawback to me was the main character, a fiftysomething arbitrator/troubleshooter for interdepartmental conflicts, who gets tasked with the murder investigation but is ill-suited for it. He makes a lot of decisions (and judgments about other people) on impulse, and spends more time thinking about sex than unraveling the case (other than for the purposes of exonerating the suspect that he’s most sexually attracted to). Some of the other characters were interesting, but there was just the one viewpoint character, and he annoyed me.

    Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen is a breezy little interplanetary espionage/conspiracy thriller reminiscent of a minor Roger Zelazny novel. And I love just about everything Zelazny wrote. This is a tad retro in being limited to our solar system. It’s set at a point where some people in high places would like to progress from re-fighting–and this time winning–the last war in their imaginations to starting the real thing again. Our slightly awkward hero, the spy code-named Kangaroo (because of his ability–superpower, really–to psychically open and close a gateway into an empty “pocket universe”), is trying to stop the war, but he’s not sure where his bosses stand and who’s in the pay of which side onboard the Mars-bound cruise ship that he’s taking a forced vacation on. It’s marketed as humorous SF, but it’s very light humor, nothing forced, and quite entertaining. Looking forward to the sequel.

  8. Kevin S. /

    As the Crow Flies- Craig Johnson. #8 in the Walt Longmire series.

  9. I had an excellent month when it came to books. I reread Justice Hall by Laurie R. King and Emergence by David R. Palmer. New books included A Study in Honor by Clare O’Dell, Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, and The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey.

    Justice Hall is still my favorite of the Russell/Holmes series while Emergence has dated badly.

    TSD by Massey is historical fiction at in India from around the 1920s through Partition. Supposedly the English called their natives their ‘sleeping dictionaries.’

    I’m hard-put to choose SoH or ToL as my favorite. I really enjoyed both and am eagerly awaiting the sequels.

  10. Jonathan /

    Magic Triumphs, by Ilona Andrews.

    Their talent for interesting settings, bizarre opponents, and adorable children are in full swing in this book.

    (Conlan is offically the most adorable 1 year-old baby who is occasionally a 35 lb lion kitten to ever cross the page)

  11. The Distinguished Professor /

    Kill as Few Patients as Possible was quite funny as well as relevant.

  12. Lady Morar /

    I like period pieces that give a glimpse at the world of a real bygone era, and longer comics that keep up an engaging story, so I enjoyed Jazz Age Chronicles #2.

  13. John Smith /

    “Revenge Of the Evil Librarian” by Michelle Knudsen. I was just checking the author index here to see if she’s listed, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like the two evil librarian books have been reviewed–I was looking forward to reading the opinions of brilliant, insightful people! Both books were more demonic than I expected–I expected more of a story of subtle schooldays evil, even if magic was involved. I liked that the first book had more of the creepily charismatic “librarian” in it, and I liked that the second book had more magical duel-to-the-death type-stuff.

  14. I haven’t finished it yet, but “Follow the Crow” by B. B. Griffith. It’s pretty amazing! Again, haven’t finished it yet but it is a very good book.

  15. David Miller /

    Adding another Pratchett book to our list: Equal Rites.

  16. I am really enjoying Sleeping Giants Trillogy by Sylvain Neuvel.

  17. Mel Chesley, 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!

  18. Jade City. So awesome. A mix of martial arts and organized crime. I’m surprised it took this long for someone like Fonda Lee to write it. It’s perfect!

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