Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read in September 2021?

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsUsually we do this on the first Thursday of the month (that would be next week) but we’ll be on Fall Break next week, so we’re doing it on the last day of the month this time.

What is the best book you read in September 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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  1. I have to go with When Sorrows Come by Seanan McGuire

  2. I read an eARC of “A Spindle Splintered” by Alix E. Harrow, and it was EXCELLENT. It’s the first book in a duology, but I’m hoping the author considers expanding on the (potential) series because she can take in several directions!

    I listened to the audiobook for “Catalyst Gate,” which is the third and final book in “The Protectorate” Trilogy by Megan E. O’Keefe. It’s a fun conclusion to this space opera, and I’m looking forward to reading whatever the author releases next.

  3. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor was the best book, but I also greatly enjoyed Dread Nation by Justina Ireland and So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow (those last two were…interesting to read back-to-back!).

  4. I finally read Piranesi, having hesitated because I feared it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

    It totally deserves its hype. Beautifully told, unexpected, and with a lot more plot than I initially thought it would have.

  5. Mine would have to be The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar

  6. Katharine Ott /

    I enjoyed an older middle-grade book, “A String in the Harp,” written in 1976 by Nancy Bond. A family loses their mother and travels to Wales where the father has a teaching position. Along with vivid descriptions of Wales, there’s a fantasy element when young Peter finds a harp key that belonged to the Welsh bard Taliesin. The book was a Newbery Honor Award winner. And I also “enjoyed” (it was pretty gruesome)”The Girl With All the Gifts” by M R Carey, a horror/apocalyptic story involving a fungus. This one won all sorts of horror awards, not for everyone though, but an interesting ending that I’m still thinking about.

  7. Paul Connelly /

    Probably Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna was the best for September. The narrator recounts in parallel her own life and that of the European man she eventually marries, with most of the tale set in an unnamed South American country where revolutionaries fight a long guerrilla struggle against a military regime. Parts of the novel verge on magical realism (or just tall tales), but it’s less overtly fantastic than House of the Spirits.

    The Black Coast (Mike Brooks) almost tries to do too many things, but it still mostly succeeds as a series opening fantasy novel. An undead creature known as a draug is taking over the islands where clans of sea raiders live, so the Brown Eagle clan chooses to uproot itself completely and flee to the far distant coast of Narida, which they have only raided against previously, to live there permanently. The residents of the coast are not happy having their former enemies looking to settle in their midst, but their leader’s adopted son goes against his family and welcomes the raiders. There is one other narrative strand related to this, with bloodthirsty raiders loyal to the draug pursuing the Brown Eagles. Also two lesser threads about the sister of Narida’s God-King and about the “Splinter Prince” (a pretender to the throne) whose family the sister is trying to murder, which aren’t well developed but appear to be setting up sequels. There are also culture clashes that require both the raiders and Naridans to crankily become more tolerant, plus odd diacritical marks on pronouns to signify alternate genders, and a heroic word-processing attempt to remove all first person singular pronouns from the text (so instead of a person saying “I think”, they say “this warrior thinks” or “your husband thinks”, etc.). Still, just enough rip-roaring adventure, with sword fights and nobles riding war dinosaurs into battle, that it’s easy to get carried along with the action in spite of the esoteric diversions.

    Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and completes the duology in fine style. Kaz Brekker and his gang got cheated out of their reward by Merchants’ Councillor Van Eck at the end of the previous book, so now Kaz has to get revenge, get money, and get his inamorata Inej (AKA the Wraith) back from Van Eck’s clutches. Meanwhile, in addition to Van Eck, the Shu and the Ravkans want Kuwei, the boy with the formula for the addictive jurda parem. And Kaz’s nemesis, gangster Pekka Rollins, is teaming up with the wealthy Councillor. So Kaz and his crew need to outdo themselves in a complicated con that must get them out of dire peril and leave them with fattened bank accounts. Long, but very entertaining.

    We Cry For Blood (Devin Madson) is the third volume in her Reborn Empire series, which started with the religious oligarchy Chiltae invading the Kisian empire using Levanti mercenaries as cavalry. Then the Levanti turned on both sides and tried to create their own empire. This is not the final volume, and the story’s not close to over. But part of that I felt was due to characters doing illogical and imprudent things that cause their progress to be frustrated. Sinister prophet Leo Vilius gets killed some more times, but he still has a couple of his seven bodies left to reanimate. Emperor Gideon is falling apart under the influence of Leo’s mind control. Rah has been exiled, shunned and cast out multiple times, yet some of his people still are willing to follow him. The situation does change for Cassandra the assassin and Empress Hana (who start the book still stuck in the same dying body), but maybe not for the better. And Miko again gets told she has to be a figurehead Empress because women can’t rule. The story is interesting, but our heroes being mostly incompetent better not be part of a sneaky plan to keep stretching it out.

  8. John Smith /

    I enjoyed “The Everything Box” by Richard Kadrey. I’d previously read the sequel “The Wrong Dead Guy.” I hope Kadrey some day does more books in this series. I’m enjoying the Sandman Slim books, but these two “Another Coop Heist” books are light, silly fun.

  9. Just squeaking in yesterday was my favorite book, Strong Wine by A.J. Demas. Its official release date is October 14, but I managed to score an eARC. It’s the third (and last) of the Sword Dance trilogy. There’s enough references to the earlier two books that I would definitely recommend reading them first (Sword Dance and Saffron Alley). The series is set in an ancient Mediterranean analog. Varazda is a freed eunuch living in an independent city called Boukos and working as a sword dancer and spy. He met Damiskos, ex-soldier from Pheme who now works for the army quartermaster’s office, while both were working at a noble’s country estate. In this book, Damiskos is planning to stay in Boukos for good when he is called home to Pheme by his family. After almost week, there’s no word so Varazda’s family members tell him to chase Damiskos! Meanwhile, things have heated up in Pheme and Damiskos and Varazda need to put their talents to work to untangle several messes. Found family, consent, kindness…this is just a lovely series and I’ve enjoyed all of Demas’s books.

    Otherwise, reread Wheel of the Infinite (Martha Wells) for the umpteenth time, a short by K.L. Noone, and a new book by Lee Welch called Seducing the Sorcerer. A down-on-his-luck groom exchanges a day’s work for a “horse”. It turns out to be a patchwork horse who deposits the main character at the castle of the country’s feared sorcerer. There are several tricksy surprises in the story.

    Beyond those, loads of romances by Mary Calmes, R. Cooper, Jay Hogan, Alison Cochrun, Samantha Wayland, Charlie Novak, Romeo Alexander, S.E. Harmon, Jax Calder, K.M. Neuhold, and Sean Ashcroft.

  10. Kevin S. /

    The Ember Blade (The Darkwater Legacy #1)- Chris Wooding

  11. Jillian /

    I only finished one book because I was so busy this month but it was the 7.5 deaths of evelyn hardcastle by stuart turton and it was amazing.

  12. Michael Voss /

    Legacy of the Brightwash, indie author Krystle Matar’s debut novel. It’s a slow burn, character-driven story, just this week advancing as a finalist in the 7th annual Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and imo deservedly so.

  13. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “Dark Angel: Before the Dawn” tells the story of what happened in the Dark Angel TV series heroine Max’s life before the Pilot episode, and how Logan worked with her brother Seth before he met her.

  14. Lady Morar /

    I continued my musical studies with Saint-Saens: The Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra.

  15. The Distinguished Professor /

    Several different crimes come together in Ian Rankin’s novel “Resurrection Men”. He’s one of my favorite authors for mystery and suspense.

  16. Mike Reeves-McMillan,if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. If your address is outside of the USA, you will get a $5 Amazon gift card.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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