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 November 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. Bobby V. Berry, Jr. /

    I have been on a non-fiction computer security kick for a little while and read Hacking the Hacker by Roger A. Grimes. I found the book very approachable and had a lot of references and interviews with people in the business. I recommend this book for anyone curious about computer security.

  2. I’ve had an excellent month. I completed two fantastic self-published books, the urban fantasy Hero Forged by Josh Erikson, and the completely and wondefully unclassifiable The Symphony of the Wind by Steve McKinnon.

    On the trad published end, I finally read Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence and thought it was up there with Wheel of Osheim has his best to date.

  3. I read the latest Rivers of London book, Lies Sleeping and enjoyed it wholeheartedly – gave it 5 stars.

    I also read Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell which I found very interesting as a look at how history can be corrupted by how much gets passed on and the manner it gets passed. It did take a bit for me to warm up to the main character but once I did it was a very good book. Another perfect example of how characters, even those that are only secondary to the story can let you down.

  4. I reread Ursula K. Le Guin‘s A Wizard of Earthsea.

  5. I started “Vita Nostra” by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko last month. It was translated from Russian and published and released last month, and I’ll be finishing the book tonight! It’s one of those books that manages to pull you in from the very beginning! I haven’t read anything like it since I’ve read “The Broken Earth” Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin! Definitely a new favorite; and, I hope we get the next books in this series sooner rather than later.

    I’ll be reviewing “Vita Nostra” within the next week or two on my blog.

    • I read the first few pages and I quite liked it. It’s great to hear that you’ve enjoyed it that much. It’s been on my list (on my bed side, actually). I’ll move it to the top of my list.

  6. The Distinguished Professor /

    The Violet Keystone. A great end to another great series by Garth Nix.

  7. Noneofyourbusiness /

    I felt that DC Convergence: Infinity Inc. #2 had a fitting conclusion with Infinity Inc. being properly recognized by the Justice Society. It was also good to see younger, still active versions of Lyta and Hector in circulation after what happened to them in The Sandman.

  8. Paul Connelly /

    Very long list. To start with the best, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky reverses the roles of Heinlein’s Starship Trooper–it’s still a space war between the humans and the bugs–but in this one the bugs are the “good guys” that we watch evolving a unique arachnid civilization, while the “ark” with the last remnants of the self-destructive human race closes in on their planet. Long tale, very clever and original, yet with a slightly retro style.

    Exit Strategy is Martha Wells’ fourth and final Murderbot Diaries novella. Murderbot has the evidence that GrayCris Corp. poached alien artifacts and tried to kill the terraforming team. But GrayCris has Dr. Mensah, and the Preservation Alliance scientists are trying to negotiate her release. You knew, with Murderbot on the job, this was not going to end without lots and lots of violence and system hacking, and that’s what we get. Good series, definitely different.

    At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon starts a new series based on World War II being fought with sorcery and ESP in addition to guns and bombs. It’s not a new idea (Katherine Kurtz’s Lammas Night was 1983), and more stories have been popping up in this vein since the (very good) Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis. This book follows a British woman returned from America to live in the manor of her upper class father, whom she suspects of being a German sympathizer–when he’s actually a high level British intelligence agent. She’s one of a number of people who have developed psychic “talents” since World War I, and a different branch of British intelligence is trying to use her talent to uncover a German plot to get close to the royal family. In reality the plot is to launch a sneak attack on England via the concerted efforts of multiple German “talents”. The characters in this book are fairly well drawn and there’s the appropriate level of suspense and spy story paranoia. Still, was difficult for me to stay immersed in the story and forget that I was reading a novel: pacing faltered a few times, and in places the characters behaved in ways that didn’t entirely ring true but were convenient for the plot. But I’ll probably try the sequel.

    Barbary Station (R. E. Stearns) wasn’t very promising out of the gate, but got more interesting and a easier to follow as the tale of space pirates battling a rogue AI unfolded. The first few chapters were confusing though–I’m not sure I ever caught the real reason for the two women spaceship hijackers to want to join the pirate crew, but after a while the action and suspense aspects of the story made the characters’ backstory and motivations less important than who was and was not going to survive. Not perfect but I’ll keep an eye out for the sequel.

    I’d read N. K. Jemisin’s other two series a while back, so it was time to jump into The Fifth Season. This is set in a strikingly original world where certain gifted people called Orogenes have the power to cause or quell earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (which happen without human intervention far more often than in our present world). These people are feared, hated and strictly controlled by another class of terrifying augmented humans called Guardians. We follow protagonists in three separate timelines before and after a catastrophic eruption. There’s another child demigod, Hoa, as in the Inheritance trilogy, but he’s not as repellent as Sieh (yet). Few of the characters outside the protagonists are sympathetic…it’s a harsh world with much human cruelty. I was very involved in the story up till it got to the (overly idealized) pirates’ island, which seemed like one arbitrary jump too many. But the ending promises more complications in the next book in the series, which I will be looking for now.

    The Stone in the Skull (Elizabeth Bear) is the first book in a new series–no sequels published yet. Rats! A lot of set-up and introduction of players, mostly interesting, but the actual story part doesn’t get untracked until close to the end, and then it’s rushed and inconclusive. Young Mrithuri is a ruler who is (quite reasonably) afraid of marrying and producing the heir everyone wants, lest she be shunted off the throne by whichever man she weds (and the two leading prospects are unappealing, to say the least). Her distant relation, Sayeh, a widowed fortyish trans woman with an infant son, rules a nearby city with a potentially fatal lack of fresh water. Then there are the Dead Man and the Gage, one flesh and the other metal, traveling in the guise of mercenaries to deliver a message to Mrithuri–I think Bear liked these two a lot more than I did, and their page count seemed excessive. In the end there’s a kidnapping, an attempted assassination, an invasion, and (yup) a volcano exploding, all together. And the Gage is setting off on another long journey. For a novel that had many intriguing parts, there’s very little resolution, even granted it’s volume one in a trilogy. I do want to read the sequel, so it better come out soon.

    A volcano also features in a third book, Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest, a novel told in letters and diary pages and news clippings, about two members of different minority populations on opposite sides of the world. Kaya, a returned expatriate from the mountain people on a Pacific island country, is imprisoned in a volcanic crater by the lowland dominated government for subversive separatist activity. Improbably, she becomes the pen pal of Em, a black American girl living in an unsanctioned settlement on the waterfront of the Gulf Coast. They each bring the plight of the other to the attention of well meaning NGOs, but there are limits to how much some people care about world opinion. A very good story, with perhaps a few more virtuous people than you’d find in real life, but better that than the opposite kind of book.

    For instance, another, grimmer example of an epistolary novel is K. J. Parker’s Purple and Black, about a former member of a clique of pretentious schoolmates who puts his old friends in charge of the government when he inadvertently ends up as emperor and is facing an insurgency. I guess it’s clever and jaunty in its way of expressing the sentiment that no good deed goes unpunished, but by the end it just came across as cynical and discouraging to me.

    So, for the month, I’ll say that Children of Time narrowly edges out Pen Pal and The Fifth Season.

  9. Lady Morar /

    The Eyre Affair, the first “Thursday Next” book by Jasper Fforde, immediately engrosses you in its world and is endlessly re-readable.

  10. John Smith /

    “The String Diaries.” I thought from the description that it would be sort of a witty romp, but it was a very intense chase across the centuries with an insane killer hunting his prey.

    • Yes! I went into this book with similar expectations, not sure why. But found it to be gripping and so, so good.

  11. Gate Crashers by Patrick S. Tomlinson.

    Oh my God! It’s actually funny! And hard-ish science fiction to boot! And unlike a lot of “funny” SF, it’s less “I’m funny! Laugh reader! Laugh!” And much more character and situation driven. In some ways it reminded me of a more mature version of Illegal Aliens by Foglio and Pallota. Anyway, best I’ve read last month. I hope others give this book a chance.

  12. I reread Genrleman Jole and the Red Queen which is fun is a lowkey kind of way. I don’t mind that at all. Then instigated by the Tor.com reread, I reread Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance for the first time. Eh. Not my favorite.

    I then Burgis’s The Girl with the Dragon Heart, sequel to The Girl with the Chocolate Heart. This book focuses on Silke, the streetwise orphan girl from the first book.

    I’ve also been reading the ongoing comics series Mage and Strangers in Paradise and just started the latest League of Extraordinary Gentleman. As part of the later, I also read 3 related stories about Nemo’s daughter. One, River of Souls, about Jany’s last trip was quite good.

    Right now I’m reading an ARC of A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay.

  13. Fee Roberts /

    Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer is one of the best books I’ve read this year. In fact, I read it again for a reading challenge. Yes, it was that good.

  14. Sethia /

    I realy enjoyed Legion by Brandon Sanderson. It was an intresting and thought provoking look into the workings of the mind.

  15. Some great books listed above. November was a good mont for me too. Covenant With Death was amazing, if you’re looking for a book that will take you back to WWI and experience it through the eyes of the young men who signed up in droves, check it out. Amazing. I also read Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik, a SFR that was incredibly well written. This book is her first but Mihalik is on my auto-buy list now.

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