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

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIt’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What is the best book you read in August 2021 and why did you love it? It doesn’t have to be a newly published book, or even SFF, or even fiction. 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 with a U.S. mailing address will choose a book from our stacks. If you’re outside the U.S., we’ll send you a $5 Amazon gift card.

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22 comments

  1. I completed both THE BURNING GOD by R.F. Kuang, and THE EMPIRE’S RUIN by Brian Staveley.

    THE BURNING GOD is the final book in THE POPPY WAR TRILOGY and it begins where the previous book ended. Rin is determined to end the war and she’s willing to do so at all costs. The author revealed who Rin was supposed to embody, which made the narrative more gut-wrenching as it continues. This is an excellent grimdark, historical fantasy series all fans should read.

    THE EMPIRE’S RUIN is the 1st book in a new series (it’s a trilogy), which is a continuation of the 1st series which takes place in the same world a few years later. You follow 3 protagonists as they are tested to their limits as they attempt to save their world from an incoming threat(s). This book is an epic fantasy that’s written the way music composer writes their songs. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s long, but the story is engaging from beginning to end; and, you’ll be dying to read the next book (whenever it’s released).

  2. My favorite book of the month was Her New Story by Laura Bradford. A reporter who’s dealing with personal issues misses a big story and is assigned to live on an Amish farm for several months. She either has to find a publishable story or lose her job.

  3. I picked up Book of M and Peng Shepherd, which was really fantastic, even with a few flaws. I found it well paced and suspenseful, and with such rich worldbuilding.
    I also read Piranesi after reading the views of it here, and it absolutely floored me! I loved how innocent the main character was, and how that innocence is never his downfall, as I think it might be in a lesser book. Also brilliantly paced and brilliant worldbuilding. Both of these books also aptly deal with memory (I also read The Kingdoms this month, so memory and memory loss was a bit of an unintentional theme), and I enjoyed these two different perspectives on memory and identity through times of crisis and vulnerability.

  4. Hands down…Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

    My review:
    The first time I read a Malfi book was 2015. Six years later, I can safely say that he has become one of my favorite authors. Horror has always been one of my favorite genres, but in the past so many years, it has moved to the forefront of my favorites. That’s largely due to authors like Malfi. They know what scares us and they leave us wanting more.

    I never go into a plot rehash (I HATE spoilers), so let me just say there’s a sudden death, some buried secrets, ghostly happenings, and a serial killer. Not only do we get scares from this book, we get a good old-fashioned mystery to boot. That’s part of the thrill here. Trying to figure it out as we follow Aaron on his journey through the evidence, and to the past. As always, there’s creepiness. It wouldn’t be Malfi without it. I can only describe it as the willies. Every one of his books has affected me in such a way…in a good way. Anyone who loves horror will get it.

    Honestly, I can’t wait for his next one. I’m also working on reading his backlist (just a few to go), and planning a reread (listen) of Bone White, which is my favorite. Seriously, people. If you have not read his books, you are doing yourself a disservice.

  5. John Smith /

    I very much enjoyed “Leonard (My Life As a Cat)” by Carlie Sorosiak. It’s a middle-grade, suitable-for-all-ages story about a cat who is really an alien from outer space. It was a fun light read. I liked how the cat and the dog and other animals communicate in the book–it seems pretty true to how animals communicate in real life, with looks and vocalizations communicating a lot.

  6. Only thing I read in SF/F genre were rereads–2 Murderbot novellas and the short story, Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory.

    On the contemporary romance side, Dearest Milton James by N.R. Walker is about two people in Australia’s equivalent of the dead letter office trying to locate either the writer or the recipient of a bundle of letters from 40-50 years earlier. There was some hand-waving (there’s no manager/underling fraternization rule?) but very charming and sweet.

    A bunch of books by Mary Calmes who has several series and a few side books where one or both of the main characters is in law enforcement. I liked the Marshals series the best.

  7. Paul Connelly /

    Best: Aurora (Kim Stanley Robinson) is a rather melancholy story about a generation starship to the Tau Ceti system. The human side of the story focuses on Freya, a girl with mild developmental disabilities, whose parents, tense hyper-responsible Devi and amiable Badim, are among the leading scientists of what is apparently the fourth or fifth generation born during the journey. Her mother is, in effect, the chief engineer and ends up having to solve the problems that no one else can figure out. As they near their destination, Devi falls ill and Freya (whose main talent lies in interviewing the many other passengers) has to become more responsible. Devi already questions the motives and sanity of the people that designed this project, and what they find at their destination raises even more serious questions. This is a tale that has a lot of telling rather than showing, partly because one of the characters, the ship’s AI, is tasked by Devi with developing a narrative history of the voyage; this involves training the AI on being more human in its thought processes, and much of the story is the ship’s narrative. Still a very involving story that’s not fast paced yet doesn’t drag, with a non-traditional view of space exploration, possibly a counter to the Earthseed religion in Octavia Butler’s Parable duology.

    In Neal Stephenson’s and Nicole Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., magic used to be real, but science and technology weakened it, with the invention of photography being the killing blow. But an eccentric black ops team is trying to revive it using quantum computers to shield witches from interfering influences. This reads like a Connie Willis time travel romantic comedy (To Say Nothing of the Dog) mashed up with a Connie Willis bureaucracy satire (Bellwether), with witches added to the mix. For the most part it succeeds on that basis, although you have to stick with it for 700+ pages. Apparently only the Department of Defense would think it could recruit witches from various eras without some of them having agendas of their own, which could include subversion of the DoD. And we don’t completely see how that plays out in this tome, but Galland has a sequel, Master of the Revels. I thought our heroes should have been able to reach a compromise with the witch Gráinne, since her objective seems like it would eventually become unsustainable…but then there would be no series.

    Six of Crows is set in Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha” world, with the Grisha being a feared and hated minority having what are basically different super powers. A scientist has come up with a highly addictive and usually fatal drug that drastically amplifies a Grisha’s powers (while under the influence), but the scientist has been kidnapped and taken to Fjerda, the most virulently anti-Grisha nation. So the merchant oligarchs of the island nation Kerch, wanting to control the drug, hire teams of hardened criminals to risk death trying to retrieve the kidnapped man from his supposedly impregnable prison. The hardened thug we follow is Kaz Brekker, a 17 year old gang lieutenant who has mostly taken over the gang he’s a member of, and who assembles a team of other gang members to pull off the retrieval. So this is a sort of heist novel in an imaginary world with an early 19th century feel. None of the pieces are particularly original, but Bardugo puts them together nicely and the pace seldom lags. But this is part one of a duology; I need to get Crooked Kingdom to find out how it all ends.

    Kingdoms of Elfin (Sylvia Townsend Warner) is a collection of related stories from the 1970s that is much admired in certain quarters. The different fairy kingdoms described in the stories exist in pre-20th century European and Middle East nations, and all have idiosyncrasies. The tone is ironic, chilly and amoral; the main character in each tale stands a fair chance of not surviving the end, so in some respects these resemble Lord Dunsany or the Dying Earth tales of Jack Vance, though it doesn’t seem all that likely that either was an influence on Warner. This is the sort of fantasy where somewhat deranged characters are more apt to be pursuing personal obsessions at the risk of death by sad mishap, rather than going on heroic quests where death in battle is a hazard, so it would be an acquired taste for most younger fantasy readers. Witty and offbeat.

  8. Katharine Ott /

    Without question my favorite was “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T J Klune. I’ll put in a plug for “The Arctic Fury” by Greer MacAllister, a gritty 1850s woman-focused survival and courtroom drama that was great, but here’s my Goodreads review for the first book: Klune has penned a delightful story full of compassion and wonder. Linus Baker, a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, has been tasked with visiting an island orphanage to make an assessment. He is told, “The orphanage is non-traditional, and the six children who live there are different than anything else you’ve seen before, some more than others. They’re . . .problematic.” Much of the story involves Linus’ interactions with the children and their “master” Arthur, and I fell in love with all of them. Zoe, the sprite who is caretaker of the island (loved her too!), tells Linus, “Just because you don’t experience prejudice in your everyday doesn’t stop it from existing for the rest of us.” I don’t want to spoil your experience with more details, just go forth and read it!

  9. The *only* book I finished in August was The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty. It was long and I was tired, so it took forever! :P I loved it, though, and feel it was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

    • That book is long, but the story is so immersive that you’re upset with it ends! I can’t wait to read Chakraborty’s anthology of Daevabad (NOT the title), which releases next Spring!

  10. Jillian /

    LONG WAY DOWN BY JASON REYNOLDS! It isn’t sci-fi or fantasy, but it was incredible and it’s a book I’ll never forget. I read it in about an hour but it hurt me more than any other book I’ve read.

  11. The Distinguished Professor /

    Coming off starting to watch “The Indian Doctor” on PBS, I have to say that “The Citadel” by A.J. Cronin is the best classic book about a doctor in South Wales.

  12. Michael Voss /

    Easy choice as I only fimished one book in August, Clayton Snyder’s RIVER OF THIEVES, a light hearted tale about thieves who use a character’s abiliry to self-resurrect to cover their crimes.

  13. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake”. Another massive tome holdover from Diane Christian’s “Heaven, Hell and Judgement” class at UB. It even includes transcripts of the prose portions of his illuminations.

  14. I read the first two books of the The Founders Trilogy, Foundryside and Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennet. I hope the third book comes out soon.

  15. Lady Morar /

    Busoni: Complete Transcriptions for Piano from Bach, Vol.1

  16. Lady Morar,if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners outside of the USA qualify for a $5 Amazon gift card.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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