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

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Happy Independence day to our American readers! We hope you’re taking the day off and getting some reading done.

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 June 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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20 comments

  1. Difficult choice, but I have to go with one not yet published. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

  2. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Midnighter #15 was an action-packed conclusion to its story arc.

  3. Margo /

    A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine was my June favorite. The built world borrows from historical central America, but is so much more. The characters are multidimensional (my favorite is 3 Seagrass aka Reed). The story kept me guessing. So, a success on many fronts.
    I reread Where Oblivion Lives by T. Frohock in June and this one also goes in my best books file, but I think I’ve already lauded it here (if not, you should definitely check it out!).

  4. I read both “Grey Sister” and “Bound” (the short story that’s a follow-up of the events of the previous book) by Mark Lawrence. Both the plot and the character development were well-written and enjoyable!

  5. Paul Connelly /

    Mark Lawrence’s Holy Sister was best June read, last in his Book of the Ancestor trilogy. In the previous books Lawrence has ducked opportunities to add more character depth at the expense of action, and action dominates in this one too. The book starts off in two timelines, one following immediately on the end of Grey Sister, with Nona and the inscrutable Zole trying to escape with a shipheart from both the Noi-Guin assassins and troops of the Scithrowl invaders. The other timeline, a few years later, sees the Scithrowl crushing the emperor’s armies and laying siege to Verity, and with Nona trying to protect her friends while carrying out the Hari Seldon-ish plans of Abbess Glass. Lawrence paints a vivid picture of life suddenly sliding from business as usual (the nuns following their routines, the wealthy partying, Nona sneaking off to assignations with fighter boyfriend Regol) into total panic, as enemy forces close in on the capital city and the defence enlists children, elderly, scholars and nuns. Nona follows her sisters into a hopeless battle, while also trying to get the shipheart to the emperor’s Ark. And she miscalculates in conniving to have her friend Arabella, the golden-haired rich girl who is the object of Nona’s unresolved romantic longing, left behind to guard Sweet Mercy convent. But a separate army is headed for the convent with murderous intent. And getting one shipheart to the Ark may not suffice to gain control over the focus moon. There were a few less involving passages in the earlier going, but it turned into pretty much non-stop action thereafter. The final scenes in the Ark were too hectic, but the bittersweet ending worked well.

    The Unbound Empire (Melissa Caruso) completes her Swords and Fire trilogy. As others have pointed out, the story arc shows Amalia, the aristocratic heroine, stepping into the leadership role expected of her rather than defying those expectations, which is rarer these days in a coming-of-age type tale. She and Zaira, the crude and cynical street girl with the power to incinerate whole armies, have finally arrived at a friendship (when both have gotten this far in life with very few real friends), after almost literally going through hell, the inferno of Zaira’s unleashed powers. Even with those infernal powers, they will have to cheat to defeat the psychopathic Witch Lord Ruven, who can draw on the lifeforce of every creature in his domain. I thought one or two characters got off too easily, but it’s mostly a satisfying conclusion.

    As an ardent fan of P. C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series, it pains me to say that By Demons Possessed, the latest (and possibly next-to-last) installment, while it has its moments, is not as enjoyable as the previous books in the series. The plot: with scant days left for Jame and her cadets to return to the Kencyr military college and be judged worthy or not, she rabbits off on a side mission to distant Tai-Tastigon, the city where she got her start (in God Stalk) 36 years ago (our time, 5 years hers). So there are many compressed re-introductions to characters that we haven’t read about in decades, scattered through frenetic action sequences as the city teeters on the brink of destruction by haunts, demons and rogue gods. As if that’s not enough, we get a foray back to the nightmarish house of the evil Master Gerridon AND a trip to the origin city of the Builders. The only break to the action comes when various characters stop to indulge in interior monologues about what they think of Jame–these don’t quite approach “as you know, Bob” levels, but don’t seem natural either. My impression: everything was too hurried, and a couple of minor logic errors contributed to the feeling that the novel was written hastily. There were some intriguing developments, but I just wished Hodgell had narrowed the scope a little bit and slowed down the pacing a bit more. The endgame for such a terrific series should not be rushed.

    The Raven’s Tower is the first foray into fantasy by Ann Leckie, award-winning author of the Ancillary SF series. In a world with many gods, large and small, humans offer blood sacrifices to appease gods and gain favors in return. As the novel slowly unfolds, in a plot with some resemblances to Hamlet, we discover that when the gods war with each other, the consequences can be much worse for all concerned, human and divine. It’s a book that’s clever but slightly disappointing by the finish, since the characters stay too much in the mold of stock figures in a play based on mythology (Eolo may be one exception, but even he is sparsely limned). When two of the main characters are a very large rock and a swarm of mosquitoes, you’re not going to get great complexity in their portrayal. And, as in Shakespeare, the bodies start piling up as the drama moves to its finish. It’s an interesting read, but it still feels a bit slight in terms of emotional impact.

    The Barrow Will Send What It May is another Margaret Killjoy novella about anarchists on the lam encountering a new supernatural threat in the northwest, this one involving a sorcerer raising people from the dead to attract Lovecraftian entities and precipitate the apocalypse. As with the previous installment, the plot probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it’s a fast read and some of the characters are likable.

    • Kevin S. /

      I have to agree with your comments on The Raven’s Tower. I read it twice within a 3-week period and it just didn’t do anything for me. I never understood how the rock and the swarm were gods. Very underwhelming book.

    • About The Raven Tower, I appreciated Leckie’s foray into the genuinely non-human. I had no trouble believing a rock could be a god, or that an entity who came to earth on a meteorite and could inhabit insects or other small creatures could be one either. Then again, that’s probably why I read fantasy. I liked that she went “old school,” the gods aren’t just constructs of some human need, they are forces, or energies, and that some humans can sense them and interact with them.

  6. The Distinguished Professor /

    The magic of Garth Nix’s The Keys to the Kingdom series continues in Grim Tuesday.

  7. Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower

    I also read Childhood’s End and Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Both also great. I really need to take a break from Dystopian fiction for a while.

  8. Katharine Ott /

    No 5-star books for June, but several great 4-star reads, especially “The Wee Free Men” by Pratchett, I really enjoyed the wit and imagination, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/541325738. Also, Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” Gabel’s “The Ensemble,” and Kwok’s “Girl in Translation.” A month of varied genres, but good reading!

  9. John Smith /

    “Ready Player One” was great fun!! I guess there’s a reason why it’s a best seller! (And I personally hate video games!)

  10. Lady Morar /

    Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is quite a read, with a thoughtful, multi-dimensional narrative.

  11. Sethia /

    I reread the entire Book of the Ancester series by Mark Lawrence (including Bond), and it is just fantastic! Highly recommend to everybody!

  12. E. J. Jones /

    June was such a good reading month for me! Best reads were A Clash of Kings (I’m trying to read slowly to give George R.R. Martin time to write, but it’s so hard!) and Bone by Jeff Smith (all 1350 pages of which I finished really quickly). Other good reads included Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade (Discworld meets opera – hilarious!), Neil Gaiman’s lovely picture book The Sleeper and the Spindle, and Dreyer’s English, a witty guide to editing in English by the copy chief of Random House.

  13. Kevin S. /

    June 2019 was probably my best reading month ever, so it’s hard to pick just one book that was the best! Here are my selections:

    Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix.

    Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) by Garth Nix

    Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2) by Neal Shusterman

    Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1) by James S.A. Corey

    I highly recommend all four of these books!

  14. The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

  15. Best would have to be Air Logic by Laurie Marks. The final book in her Shaftal/Sain series. Everyone in Shaftal has a particular logic strength: water, air, fire, or earth. Some people have 2. People with very strong leanings in one direction can have magical or almost superhuman powers. Air Logic focuses on that power of which the strong ones can tell truths from lies and compel truth from someone. Most were killed when the Sainnites invaded (think vikings). Norina, the last one, is now teaching several children who read as on the autism spectrum.

    Meanwhile the rest of the characters from previous books are there–Karis, Zanja, Medric and Emil have their own stories to tell.

    What attracted me to this series in the beginning, and that caused me to think about it well after I finished the first book, is that Karis and her family are trying to forge peace with the invader Sainnites. They’re not fostering rebellion or battles. Very different from most invasion stories!

    I whipped through the Fence series by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, and Joanna LaFuente. Set at a boy’s boarding school, it focuses on the fencing club and the two new boys–one, the unacknowledged son of a master fence who’s acknowledged son in on the best junior team and is expected to win the state championship, and another well-of scion, ignored by his father, who lost to the golden boy and is trying to get his mojo back. Some m-m romances/sex (off-screen) and a bunch of the hothouse emotions you get in a closed environment like a boarding school.

    Non-genre memoir, The Fourth String by Janet Pocorobba. The story of an American woman who teaches English in Japan. She finds a Japanese woman who gives free lessons in the arts to foreigners and ends up staying 3 years, studying mostly the shamisen. Another hothouse emotion story with Pocorobba dealing with jealousy, uncertainty, imposter syndrome, etc. as well as the joy of mastering an instrument and managing in a foreign culture.

    I think I finished in July, but started it in June…One Night in Boukos by A.J. Demas. A trade mission from Zash is hoping to arrange a trade agreement with Boukos, a city-state in a quasi-Roman or Greek culture. Zash is more Persian in nature and both cultures find the others difficult to deal with. The ambassador disappears into the city on a wild festival night. His secretary Bedar, a eunuch, and the guard captain, Marzana, decide to find him. As they find out some unhappy things about their boss, and meet some interesting people, the hunt goes awry. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve already bought the author’s other book and signed up for some short stories.

    Next up is Paper Son by S.J. Rozan. I’m so pleased to have a new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith novel.

  16. Kevin S, 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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