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

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsHappy New Year!

It’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 December 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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13 comments

  1. Sethia /

    I finally read Saga and I loved it! I Can’t believe it took me so long to read it.

  2. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” keeps your attention and runs with it.

  3. SandyG /

    The Story of The Phantom by Lee Falk. I hadn’t read it since the early 70s and was surprised how much of the story I’d forgotten

  4. The Distinguished Professor /

    I’m so glad I started Sabriel, by Garth Nix, again. It’s lost none of its magic!

  5. Last month, I finally got to read “Vengeful” by V.E. Schwab!!!

  6. Lady Morar /

    It’s easy to get lost in Jasper Fforde’s “Lost in a Good Book”, the next entry in the unputdownable adventures of Thursday Next!

  7. John Smith /

    I listened to the entirety of the “Orbs” series by Nicholas Sansbury Smith on audio CDs. I was glad to have more evil mutant aliens to deal with, and their heinous doings! I was sorry that the narrator wasn’t R.C. Bray, with his over-the-top gritty manly-man voice, but Bronson Pinchot ended up doing a good job, especially with the voice of the artificial intelligence, A.I. Alexia.

  8. Paul Connelly /

    The question about December’s best read was, “Do I really want to read another soul-crushingly bleak story about Baru Cormorant?” Well, yes. The Monster Baru Cormorant picks up the story immediately after the point it ended in Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Having sacrificed the lives of many thousands of other people, Baru is now a cryptarch, one of the deep state ruling cabal in the Falcrest Empire (think peak British Empire crossed with early 20th century American eugenics and jingoism). From this position she hopes to bring down the Empire, even if it means plunging the known world into war and ruin. But first she and another junior cryptarch are sent on a mission against Falcrest’s largest rival, the Oriati, to discover secrets of inhuman medical research carried out by the Oriati deep state. As in the first book, everywhere Baru goes she brings death and chaos, but this book is not as totally depressing. Baru IS a monster, a tortured character bent on destruction, but there’s a real human buried inside her damaged brain. And many of the other characters are fascinatingly complex as well. It looks like there will be one more book for the final act in this tragedy.

    The Obelisk Gate is the middle volume in N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, and it starts to explain more of what is really going on (pretty neat that the first book was able to avoid that and get away with it). Including who the “first person” is that’s voicing the “second person” narrative. Although it’s still very interesting, the main characters have a disturbing tendency to observe the law of large numbers: the more people they kill with their magical powers, the less remorse they exhibit. I also found it a bit bothersome that Nassun can learn advanced orogene skills with so little training, and that the stone eaters have get-out-of-jail-free card powers–not a lot makes sense about them. But I am looking forward to the final volume.

    Both of the above-mentioned series reminded me in some ways of Frank Herbert, for the complexity of the plots and multiple conflicting motivations of the large cast of characters. But unlike Dune’s Paul Atreides, who is trying to minimize the horrors among all the future possible timelines his unnatural prescience shows him, the two protagonists in these books stumble blindly into the future leaving horrors in their wakes. It will be interesting to see if there is any redemption in either final book.

    The Labyrinth Index, the latest of Charles Stross’s Laundry novels, continues the trend of the newer books in the series being less enjoyable than the older ones. This one is more bloodthirsty (literally) and less humorous than its predecessors, with about the same level of techno-geekery. But the plot is more incoherent than usual for his tales of computer nerd spies vs. Lovecraftian horrors. Also, the US President is a semi-heroic character, which really strains credulity, given the run of evil con men we’ve had in that office since…well, maybe not forever, but since my long ago childhood, at least.

    Have heard high praise for Joe Abercrombie, so I decided to try a more or less standalone novel of his, Best Served Cold (it is set in the same medieval-ish world as his First Law trilogy). This has to be grimdark, with lots of killing, torture, looting and betrayal. A popular general and her psychopathic kid brother are becoming politically troublesome, so they get stabbed and thrown off a cliff while their royal employer looks on approvingly. The brother dies, but a strange doctor saves the ex-general’s life, and she becomes obsessed with killing the men who tried to kill her, along with their employer. No one is redeemed in this book, all the main characters have a downward moral arc, and many of them are far down the curve to begin with. In quite a few parts you can see why Abercrombie is so admired as a skillful writer, but, while good in its way, the entire 600+ page story becomes a sensory overload of grimness. Mostly it’s realistic, but there are a couple of lesser, unexplained magical characters (Ishri and Shekt) whose backstory must be in Abercrombie’s trilogy.

  9. Katharine Ott /

    December 2018 – I finally got to Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and really enjoyed it – he uses his common theme of a lonely boy who enters a frightening world but finds comfort within – his books are great. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/616572380

  10. Fee Roberts /

    For me, it was The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. I cannot wait for the third book, The Winter of the Witch, to be released on the 9th!

  11. Kevin S. /

    Illuminae- Annie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  12. April /

    Since the true best book I read in December was also my best book of the year, I’ll select a different one.

    Hazard by Devon Monk – this is an urban fantasy based around a hockey player and his magic. What is really great about this story is 1. this isn’t some huge, save the world plot like most UF. It is a story primarily about this one person, his family and his love of hockey. 2. The characters are great – the main and his family are well crafted.

  13. Katherina Ott, 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!

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