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 February 2019 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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21 comments

  1. “The Murders of Molly Southbourne” by Tade Thompson was a thrilling read. I’m looking forward to its sequel!

  2. Margo /

    It turns out I finished only one book last month, and that is Blackfish City by Sam Miller. I really liked it!

    • Lois Young /

      I know that’s nominated for the Nebula! Is it that good? I have a copy of the book and am debating if I should read it next, or wait a bit longer?

      • Margo /

        I think it’s good enough to be on awards lists. It’s set in a near (ish) future dystopia. Seems a plausible extrapolation of current trends. But most of all, it’s well written, with characters you can care about and a plot with enough foreshadowing that you feel you’ve figured things out but don’t feel spoon fed.

    • I really liked that book. I was glad to see it nominated.

  3. SandyG /

    I enjoyed In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

  4. Sethia /

    I really enjoyed The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons!

  5. Noneofyourbusiness /

    The free comic book day issue of The Incal is beautifully illustrated and detailed. I can see how this series influenced The Fifth Element.

  6. John Smith /

    “By the book” by Julia Sonneborn.

  7. Kevin S. /

    Once Upon a River by Dianne Setterfield

  8. Paul Connelly /

    Wasn’t wildly enthused about any of February’s reads, but the best was Bone Gap, a the tale of uncanny events in an affectionately portrayed small midwestern town. At first this seems vaguely akin to Ray Bradbury, with perhaps some hints of Clifford Simak or even R. A. Lafferty. A boy and his overly conscientious older brother shelter a Polish student who has escaped from a strange kidnapper. She wins their hearts and those of much of the town, but then the kidnapper finds her again and she disappears. The boy acquires a magical horse that lets him ride out at night a-wooing the beekeeper’s homely daughter, while the Polish woman makes friends with an initially threatening wolf and keeps trying unsuccessfully to break out of the prisons the kidnapper creates for her. Obviously the kidnapper is an all powerful supernatural villain who can do anything/be anywhere/never be killed, and I don’t really like reading about that sort of character. Probably the closest comp is the man with thistle-down hair in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. There also was what seemed to me an overly cruel, O. Henry-ish twist a little past the halfway point that I had to stop and digest, but it related directly to some of the main themes that author Laura Ruby is exploring. Fortunately this is not a tragedy, and eventually the parallels with woman-in-the-underworld myths (like Eurydice or Persephone) become clearer. The book jacket classifies it as magic realism, which fits, and it’s well worth reading despite a few uncomfortable moments.

    Serpent in the Heather, Kay Kenyon’s sequel to At the Table of Wolves, has a more personal type of paranormal warfare being waged than the invasion thwarted in the previous book. Here a Nazi agent is using an unusual “talent” (psychic power) of his own to locate and kill British boys and girls with powerful talents, after leaving a trail of murders on the continent. And, as in the previous volume, members of the British aristocracy are aiding the Nazis, so Kim, our heroine, is sent to infiltrate another upper crust family and help find the murderer. Meanwhile her father, a supposed Nazi sympathizer who is actually a top British agent, is trying to keep a romance with his boss’s secretary alive (and discreet) while also forging ties with allies in the Polish intelligence service. As with the previous book, I found the characters mostly believable but not very memorable, and had some issues with the way the plot was wound up. Both books hit occasional slow spots but otherwise read pretty smoothly and build up suspense well. So, entertaining, but not really challenging.

    Vita Nostra is kind of the anti-Hogwarts magical school book. Translated from the original Russian (authors Marina and Sergey Diachenko), it follows Alexandra (Sasha) as she is coerced into attending the Institute of Special Technologies and kept there by threats against the safety of her family members. All the students at the Institute have been similarly forced into attending, and the better they learn what seems like a nonsensical curriculum, the more likely they are to suffer mysterious deformities and gain sinister powers over reality. Sasha turns out to be a prize student, but that just makes the instructors (some of whom are not human) more determined to push her to the limit, as they try to transform the students into linguistic constructs in the underlying information architecture of existence. If this sounds weird and grim, it’s both, and the few normal young adult activities portrayed are quickly crushed by the overarching purpose of the school. It’s an interesting book but very dour, with the situation of all the sympathetic characters being forced to perform under duress being somewhat reminiscent of one of C. J. Cherryh’s psychologically tense Alliance-Union stories.

    T. E. Grau’s I Am the River is a Vietnam War story with just enough hints of the supernatural to put it in the neighborhood of horror and fantasy genres. A soldier accused of cowardice for not firing at the enemy is loaned out to an ill-starred psychological warfare team illegally operating in Laos. We see it from a third person perspective in real time, as well as in retrospect in a tortured first person viewpoint haunted by bad dreams, heroin and hallucinations. Most of the horror here comes from the realities of war and the distortions of mind and soul that afflict those required to fight. Although it’s a pretty short novel, the jumps backward and forward in time and alternations in narrative voice make it difficult going. I wasn’t totally convinced by the characters, but their world and its terrors were way beyond my realm of experience. So maybe I just didn’t understand.

    • Lois Young /

      “Vita Nostra” became one of my all-time favorite books after I read it! Now, I’m reading “The Library at Mount Char” and “The Night Circus”! Metaphysical fiction is a growing subgenre and, I’m looking forward to witnessing its growth (just like the YA market).

  9. Lady Morar /

    Something is rotten in the state of Thursday Next’s world in “Something Rotten”, and Jasper Fforde brings his first series of books about our favorite Jurisfiction inspector to a close but her adventures continue.

  10. Katharine Ott /

    Another good month for 5-star reads! I enjoyed “Graceling” by Cashore, “Bibliophile” by Mount, “The Name of the Wind” by Rothfuss [https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1101503138], and “His Bloody Project” by Burnet [https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1713734499]. Maybe in March I’ll get to read the second in the Name of the Wind series!

  11. The Distinguished Professor /

    Garth Nix’s Lirael is not only a worthy followup to Sabriel but opens the story and expands the world so much more.

  12. I didn’t read a whole lot in February but I did reread two fabulous books by Rosemary Kirstein: The Steerswoman and Outskirter’s Secret.

    Steerswomen travel the known world documenting everything. They are required to answer any question put to them, as long as you answer their questions in return. Great depiction of the scientific method in action! “Possibilities are two.”

    I’m now in the midst of book 4. Someday, we will get books 5 and 6, hopefully.

    • Paul Connelly /

      Those are great books, especially from the second one on. And it sounds like the author is still working on the next book, based on her occasional blog entries.

      There should be a term–maybe something like transgenre?–for books like this. All the outward trappings say fantasy, but it’s actually hard science fiction. Metropolitan and City on Fire by Walter Jon Williams are examples of the opposite, where all the outward trappings say science fiction but it’s fantasy.

  13. Susan Emans /

    In February, I discovered the Liaden Universe and spent the month reading all the books. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess Agent of Change.

  14. “The Return of the King” by somebody whose name is on the tip of my tongue. ;)

  15. David Miller, 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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