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. Actually, it’s the first Thursday of the year… Wait! It’s the first Thursday of the decade!

Time to report!

What is the best book you read in December 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.) And please don’t miss our favorite books of 2019!

As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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14 comments

  1. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “Hermes versus the Eyeball Kid” in segments in Dark Horse Presents. What a bizarre mythological, wrestling-focused… something of a story.

  2. John Smith /

    “The Screaming Staircase” by Jonathan Stroud. This is Book 1 of the Lockwood & Co. series. I started the series with book 5, which must be the end of the whole series, so I already know why London is being invaded by ghosts and spirits, but that’s okay. My favorite character in the series is the sassy ghost in a jar, but he’s only just introduced in Book 1. I still have 3 volumes to enjoy!

  3. “To Be Taught, If Fortunate” by Becky Chambers & “The Rage of Dragons” by Evan Winter. Both stories are amazing with their plot and character development as well as the world-building, but it’s their endings that stuck with you!!!

  4. Paul Connelly /

    Best read Gideon the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) resembles one of Roger Zelazny’s more disreputable novels (Creatures of Light and Darkenss, say, or To Die in Italbar) mixed in with multiple murders in a magical puzzle palace. Orphaned Gideon is the most shunned member of the fading Ninth House of the Undying Emperor, educated largely on comic books and porno mags, aspiring (?) to be a combat soldier on the front lines of one of the Emperor’s distant wars. The only other person the same age is her hated mistress, Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus, ruling necromancer of the Ninth House, who frustrates and belittles Gideon at every turn. But one day the Emperor summons Harrow to a contest that may win her immortality, and she drags Gideon along as her sword-wielding cavalier (never mind that Gideon has been practicing broadsword for combat, not dueling with a rapier). The necromancers of Houses Two through Eight have also been called to the planet of the ruined First House to participate in this affair, and bodies start piling up soon after all the guests have arrived. The necromancers are amoral intellectual heavyweights, while Gideon is cunning but crude (raised on comics!), foul-mouthed, resentful, and easily distracted by a hot babe (raised on porn!) or a damsel in distress (and she has her choice of those). But she’s also brave and given to unexpectedly doing the right thing. This was very entertaining and had a number of loose ends, so happily there will be a sequel (told from Harrow’s viewpoint).

    Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is a rather droll send-up of the notorious “Ancient Eight” secret societies at Yale University, where mock occult rituals are mixed in with the usual frat excesses to help bond the future bank presidents and CIA directors of America. For instance, in the first scene, Skull and Bones students are fingering through the entrails of a homeless mental patient to read the future–the future of interest being what stocks and options to invest in, of course! Petty criminal and suspected lunatic Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the daughter of a New Age-y Jewish mother and an unknown Hispanic father, rescued by Yale because of her ability (or curse) to see ghosts without the aid of magic potions or other pharmacological interventions. Daniel Arlington is the last of a line of (not quite yet) impoverished local aristocrats, similarly recruited to the ninth, unpublicized secret society that keeps watch over the others, so their occult antics don’t land the University in hot water. Soon “Darlington” will grudgingly move on, and the powers that be want Alex to take over his role as leader of the ninth house. But before that can happen, he disappears in a demonic trap, and she has to both get him back and, with the aid of ghosts, solve a murder that one or more of the other houses may be involved in. In between the satirical jabs there is enough mystery and adventure to keep the story very readable, though it gets almost too hectic with multiple twists toward the end.

    Ormeshadow (Priya Sharma) starts off as a naturalistic tale of a boy growing up in rural England in what feels like the first half of the 19th century, but it veers into fantasy or fable at the end. The boy’s parents are forced to move in with his father’s brother, and sexual attraction between his mother and uncle leads to a series of tragic events. Naturalistic stories are often quite dour, and that’s true here. The combination of mood, lyrical writing and the sudden shift into the fantastic mark this as a “literary” novel, I guess. Much of it reads beautifully, but I found the work as a whole not very convincing. The model for this type of tale would be Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams, which I think works a little better, is dreamier and is slightly longer.

    • Thank you for providing those short synopses for all three books. I have copies of all of them, but as I started reading them, I got distracted by their “slow starts”; but, I do want to finish them, especially “Gideon, the Ninth”!

  5. The Distinguished Professor /

    The fifth Novel of Cornwall in Winston Graham’s Poldark series is “The Black Moon,” which sees the birth of Ross’s illegitimate son Valentine Warleggan.

  6. I read very little in December. Well, kind of.

    I reread Point of Knives by Melissa Scott, another Astreiant book.

    I read a snippet from A. J. Demas called Varazda’s Version.

    Finished off Marta Randall’s Collected Stories (about 50% had been read earlier).

    I did read a bunch of fan fiction. I hadn’t really been into it as some authors I follow are against it. I was wanting new material in some universes badly enough that I began going through AO3. Particularly with Yuletide (people ask for various fandoms and others take up the challenges), several bloggers that I follow were posting recommendations.

  7. Katharine Ott /

    The one that kept me coming back to see what was happening was “The Informationist” by Taylor Stevens. It’s the first in a series – the protagonist is a loner, forced by circumstances to learn to fend for herself, and she’s built a reputation of being able to track down anything. Kind of like a female James Bond, but without the support staff. The action in this one took place mostly in some of the smaller countries in Africa. It was great reading, very compelling.

  8. April /

    The best books I read in December are:
    By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis which is a steampunky military war story about an airship captain and her crew and what happens when plans go very awry. Lots of swearing and death but full of laughs as well.

    Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw is the second in the Dr. Greta Helsing series in which she is the local doctor for all things that go bump in the night and more and she finds herself in some trouble while away at a medical convention.

    Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron is a new book in the same universe as her Heartstriker dragon books. The new main character is a salvager and comes across something both interesting and dangerous in her work. Fun and fast moving.

  9. E. J. Jones /

    Best books of December 2019 were The Dead Queens Club (a send-up of the story of Henry VIII set in rural Indiana – it should not work but it absolutely does) and The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which FanLit told me would be wonderful, and it was.

  10. Lady Morar /

    Liza Mundy’s book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II”. Always interested to learn more about the unsung heroines who worked night and day during the wars.

  11. Kevin S. /

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Red Rising by Pierce Brown

    Golden Son by Pierce Brown

  12. Sethia /

    I enjoyed The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, and Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence.

  13. Lois, 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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