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

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Sorry this went up so late today. Our server’s been down.

It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What is the best book you read in March 2020 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.

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


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14 comments

  1. Katharine Ott /

    Best book this month was “The River” by Peter Heller. He throws you right into the canoe with two college friends on an adventure that takes a very scary turn. Full of tension and plenty of Canadian nature watching too!

  2. SandyG /

    I enjoyed Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs

  3. Paul Connelly /

    Best read: The King of Crows (Libba Bray) wants to make America pay for its sins in this final volume of the Roaring Twenties-with-ghosts Diviners series. He’s invited tycoon/inventor Jake Marlowe to a rendezvous in Death Valley, and Marlowe thinks he can bring the US Army to capture the King. But the stockpile of uranium Jake’s been tricked out of could give the army of the dead an explosive answer to that. Meanwhile Sister Walker is under arrest and the Diviners are on the run from the FBI, the Pinkertons, Dutch Schultz and the Ku Klux Klan. A strange little girl in Bountiful, Nebraska, has summoned the Diviners with the promise of a way to defeat the King of Crows, but is this another trick? Bray’s prose veers off into poetry throughout this volume, as she interrogates American violence, greed, oppression and the division of people by class, race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic background. I couldn’t make her timeline of events work with the ages of the main characters, but if you can overlook a couple of issues like that, this is an entertaining and sometimes hair-raising finish.

    In Genevieve Cogman’s The Secret Chapter, Irene and Kai are arm-twisted into participating in the theft of a gigantic painting from a Vienna museum, in exchange for a rare book that the Library needs from a Fae acting out the “criminal mastermind” archetype. All the books in this series seem very frothy and not given to taking themselves too seriously, despite the magical battles and associated fatalities, and this one is no exception. (The Burning Page was the only one to have a rather disturbing denouement.) I keep reading these for their value as pure escapist fiction, and this one continues in that mode, with all its focus on the caper and little real character depth.

    After reading T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones, with its updated take on “The White People”, I re-read that and other Arthur Machen tales, including “The Great God Pan”, “The Inmost Light”, “The Shining Pyramid”, “Out of the Earth”, and “The Three Impostors” (a novella made up of linked stories). Machen (along with Lord Dunsany) was a huge influence on H. P. Lovecraft, but even more than HPL his often cruel stories evince a total disregard for the humanity of women. They are usually the victims, and scant care is shown for their horrid fates by the protagonists of the tales–mostly solitary men in early middle-age, obsessed with looking for evidence of the occult (while maintaining a veneer of skepticism to avoid the scorn of their peers). As in Lovecraft, the occult uncovered always proves to be malevolent and antithetical to human life. Unlike Lovecraft (an atheist and skeptic), Machen was an Anglican and “Celtic Christian” mystic, and his love shines for the wild landscape of his native Wales, its small villages, and ancient history of Roman occupation. In this he prefigures Alan Garner rather than HPL.

    Robert W. Chambers was a contemporary of Machen and is known in fantasy circles only for his story collection The King in Yellow, which I also re-read. Chambers is more akin to the then-fashionable Decadents, with a touch of Poe. “The Repairer of Reputations” introduces the notion of the fake book (play) “The King in Yellow” which induces madness in its readers. Could Nabokov have read this “royal in disguise” tale before coming up with Pale Fire? The Chambers story is much briefer and less intricate, but still surprisingly sophisticated in its construction. “The Mask”, “The Court of the Dragon”, “The Yellow Sign”, and “The Demoiselle D’Ys” also involve horror or the supernatural, and “The Street of the Four Winds” again has an air of Poe about it. “The Prophets’ Paradise” is a set of poems that use repetition heavily to achieve a grim effect (these make me wonder if Chambers had read Stephen Crane’s The Black Riders, published in 1895 like The King in Yellow). The remaining tales are more realistic takes on Americans playing at bohemianism in Paris. May seem dated, but worth reading at least once.

  4. HARROW THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir was my favorite of March, and it is also my favorite of the year so far. Tamsyn is a genius if writer who mixes mystery and sci-fi and fantasy together in an atmospheric, character-driven story about necromancers and monstrous beasts. It is a wonderful book.

  5. I read and finished “The Cerulean Queen,” the fourth and final book in “The Nine Realms” series by Sarah Kozloff. It ended with a vibe that reminded me of “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin (well, the books that are out anyway).

    For one of my classes, I read “The New Kid” by Jerry Craft. It’s the first graphic novel to win the Newbury Medal. The story follows Jordan Banks, a Black boy who lives with his working class parents in a large city. When he starts middle school, his parents have him attend an exclusive private school instead of art school. While attending this new school and dealing with new teachers and kids, Jordan must how to deal with stereotypes, prejudice and a new lifestyle while balancing his home life. It’s a fast read and it’s great for children as it’s about issues at school. I recommend this graphic novel to EVERYONE!!!

  6. Mike Voss /

    March reads, all 4.5-5 stars:

    Scott James Magner LANDFALL (Homefront Trilogy Book 2)

    Mark Lawrence DISPEL ILLUSION

    David Wood & C B Mastson SHASTA (Dane Maddock adventures)

    Leigh Bardugo KING OF SCARS

    Django Wexler SHIP OF SMOKE AND STEEL

    Martha Wells ALL SYSTEMS RED

    Hands down best was KING OF SCARS, latest in her Grishaverse series. The writing is superb, the twist at the end magnificently wrought. She just gets better and better, like reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga.

  7. The best book was a reread–Justice Hall by Laurie R. King. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are asked to help Ali (Alistair) from O Jerusalem. Ali’s cousin, Mahmoud (Marsh) is now Duke of an extremely old titled family–a role he never sought. The two of them had abandoned England for the middle east decades before. There’s a possible heir, but the circumstances are odd.

    I also got to read the new entry in this series via an ARC, due out in June, Riviera Gold. Russell (and Holmes a bit later) end up in Monte Carlo and vicinity where they run into expat White Russians, smugglers, and Mrs. Hudson. She had left England at the end of a previous book after her not-so-squeaky-clean-past had caught up to her again. A good entry; I enjoyed it.

    Rebecca Roanhorse’s new book, Race to the Sun, is in Rick Riordan Presents series showcasing diverse voices. Nizhoni is a seventh grader, whose mom left the family when she was a few years old. Recently, she’s begun seeing monsters including one that wants to hire her dad for a new job halfway across the country.

    Lastly, I powered through Alison Bechdel’s Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. I’d read the series in the collections, and this book when it was released but I picked up the ebook. It was great revisiting the vast soap opera of Madwimmin Books, the shared home of Lois, Ginger, and Sparrow and later Stuart and J.R., Mo, Harriet, and Sydney, Carlos, Toni, Clarice, and Raffi and everyone else. It was also what I needed in this time of uncertainty. Having Mo rant about corporations, Reagan, the Bushes, Hilary vs Obama…what would she be saying now?

  8. Noneofyourbusiness /

    I enjoyed the excerpt from “Anna & Froga: Completely Bubu” in the Free Comic Book Day “Colorful Monsters” sampler. Looks like a funny serious; the cat, Ron, is always putting his foot in his mouth especially.

  9. John Smith /

    “Sweet Sorrow” by David Nicholls was pretty good!

  10. The Distinguished Professor /

    I continued reading George Martin’s “Tales of Dunk and Egg” with the second story in the “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” collection, “The Sworn Sword”. Ser Duncan meets Lady Rohanne Webber, which is ironic since they’re ancestors of Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister, respectively.

  11. Kevin S. /

    The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

    Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4) by James S.A. Corey

  12. Lady Morar /

    I wanted to learn about coding like the heroines of “Code Girls”, so I ordered “Coding for Beginners” but it’s about a different sort of coding.

  13. Mike Voss, 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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