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

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

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 September 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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15 comments

  1. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is a true masterpiece. I’m sorry she passed away recently, but glad I saw her speak in last year’s BABEL season and got to meet her in line.

  2. John Scalzi‘s Zoe’s Tale. I really enjoyed it.

  3. The Wife Between Us
    by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

    Going into I thought it was going to be a 3 star read but I found myself still thinking about it days later. I gave it 4.5 stars but I should probably up it to 5.

  4. Paul Connelly /

    Most enjoyable read: The Mortal Word is the fifth volume in Genevieve Cogman’s series about Irene the Librarian. The Library is an interdimensional organization collecting and preserving rare books, by means fair or foul. The Library operatives are human but very long lived (especially if they don’t leave the Library often), and they cross paths in their journeys between worlds with two sets of immortals, dragons (representing Order) and fae (representing Chaos). In this one, Irene is sent to investigate the murder of a ruling dragon’s aide at a peace conference that the Library is brokering between the two hostile immortal factions. The fae are naturally suspect, especially one embodying the archetype of the Countess of Blood (the fae deal with their Chaotic nature by acting out archetypes). There are also a Richelieu-like Cardinal and an overpoweringly sweet and noble Princess on the fae side, several shifty dragons, and an overly ambitious and unscrupulous Librarian that Irene has to deal with. Cogman doesn’t end every single chapter on a cliffhanger (as in previous books), so maybe that’s what gives this one a tad slower feel. But it wraps up nicely with Irene in the middle of a big battle. Like a trip to the literary equivalent of a candy store.

    The Wicked King continues the story begun in Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, which ended with Jude, a mortal abducted as a child by the Faerie lord who murdered her parents, pulling a stunning reversal that made her a major power player in the kingdom. But in this one everyone is working (sometimes against each other) to see that she gets her comeuppance. It doesn’t help that almost every relationship she has is unhealthy to the point of being toxic: the abusive royal that she lusts after, the power-hungry stepfather to whom she’s a disposable asset, the twin sister who will betray Jude for her own happiness, and the fellow spy with no loyalty to her. The next book will have to be an all-out revenge affair. Even though many of the relationships and situations border on the distasteful, the story has a strong protagonist and a very involving narrative that kept me reading late into the night.

    Before the Devil Breaks You is the third book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series. At least one more volume to come. Our six or seven barely adult protagonists have different psychic powers thanks to government experiments that their mothers were subjects in prior to World War I. Now it’s the later 1920s, and the infernal power that the government team (particularly a racist millionaire inventor) was trying to make use of has begun unleashing a flood of murderous ghosts on America. This has some resemblance to a Stephen King tale, although the scary parts aren’t as scary as in King, and there’s more overt exploration of the racism, sexism, homophobia and exploitation of workers that were considered normal and proper by the more respectable elements of society at that time. The characters are likable if not always totally believable, and the story has its exciting moments, but it’s long and sprawling. Also, while the scenes with the individual Diviners usually work well, when they get together as one big team the narrative becomes unwieldy. My parents came of age during the 1920s, so that made the snippets about society back then interesting to me (Bray must have had fun researching the period), but it may try the patience of younger readers.

    I had to DNF Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark at around the halfway point. There were interesting things going on in this novel, which is reminiscent in some ways of Perdido Street Station, thanks to its mix of bizarre creatures and machines in an otherwise grimy, retro urban environment. But decadence becomes boring really fast, and the endless scenes of people taking morphine, cocaine, chloral hydrate, absinthe, whiskey, etc., got very tedious. One assumes that Largo, the naive proletarian hero, eventually gets wised up by the cruel world, and that his involvement with the upper crust (including his actress girlfriend) eventually leads to some personal crisis in the context of the oppressive political situation. But I didn’t want to plow through 200+ more pages to reach that point.

    Since my post for last month vanished into the ether, here’s a brief (for me) recap: Fonda Lee’s Jade War was excellent despite the pretty bad people we’re rooting for. Dave Hutchinson’s Europe at Dawn was very good but I had lost track of the motives of the various factions. Empress of Forever was a real chore for me, Max Gladstone still trending the wrong way since his terrific first few Craft novels. His epistolary tale with Amal El Mohtar, This Is How You Lose the Time War, also didn’t work for me: very eloquent letters, weak frame story, more pretty bad people we’re rooting for. Wilder Girls by Rory Power had an intriguing premise but some character inconsistencies, and it left me doubting that there was any explanation for all the bizarre goings on. That’s it.

  5. Lady Morar /

    Kate Quinn is a real genius! “The Huntress” is yet another testament to her writing ability.

  6. Katharine Ott /

    No 5-star reads for September, but several 4-stars, the best being V.E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic.” I like fantasy with well-defined characters that you care about and some cool magic to help them along in their quests. From my review – “This is a classic, smartly crafted fantasy with characters that I’d like to meet again down the reading road. “The wall gave way, and the traveler and the thief stepped forward and through.”

  7. John Smith /

    I enjoyed “The Brilliant Death” by Amy Rose Capetta. I thought the magic in the story was pretty creative.

  8. SandyG /

    My favorite book of the month was Small Kingdoms & Other a storied by Charlaine Harris. It’s four stories about a high school principal who’ll do anything to make sure her school is successful.

  9. The Distinguished Professor /

    The Poldark novels of Cornwall continue with the second book, “Demelza”.

  10. Conal ONeill /

    September was a good reading month for me. 5 star reads for this month included Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence which is the finale of his really entertaining Book of the Ancestor series. If you have not read this yet, I can heartily recommend the whole series.
    I also enjoyed Stephen King’s newest release The Institute which was another one of Uncle Stevie’s classics

  11. Kevin S. /

    I’m the only person in the galaxy who isn’t a Brandon Sanderson fan, but my best read this month was “The Rithmatist”.

    I also enjoyed “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab.

  12. It took some time, but I finished reading “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon. I listened to the audiobook and re-read excerpts that caught my attention. The story was amazing and the characters were lovable! It was totally worth it!!!

  13. I’d have to say that the best book was The River South by Marta Randall. The sequel to Mapping Winter follows a young girl, Daenet, who is a ward of the Rider’s Guild. She is attacked there, and for her safety is sent south on the river with a Lord and his Rider. There was a bit in the middle where I thought the pace dragged a bit, but I found the characters engaging and was surprised by the end.

    I also read books 2 and 3 of the Echoes series by Sharon Shinn. Echo in Emerald is about Chessie and her echoes Red and Scar. Since being orphaned, Chessie has been able to jump between bodies and she’s passed off her echoes as relatives/friends rather than true echoes. She ends up meeting Dezmen (a lord and friend to the local prince) and helping him solve a mystery.

    Echo in Amethyst is about an echo who names herself Hope after she “wakes up.” Her original, Elyssa, is desperately unhappy (bored) and tortures her echoes. I…was a surprised by the ending of this one.

    Next up were rereads–The Grand Tour or, the Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician or, Ten Years After. These are the sequels to Sorcery and Cecelia or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede. The first book is an epistolary novel, AKA told through letters between Cecelia and Kate who are cousins. One has gone to make her debut in London while the other starts taking magic lessons. The second book is a combination of journal entries and depositions while the third is again told via letters. Charming, but I have to continually remind myself which characters are the magicians!

  14. Sethia /

    My son and I both really enjoyed The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

  15. Paul Connelly, 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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