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 September 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 with a U.S. mailing address will choose a book from our stacks.


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20 comments

  1. SandyG /

    I read Seanan McGuire’s new October Daye book, A Killing Frost and couldn’t put it down.

  2. Zina Vassar /

    Cemetery Boys, Thomas.Loved It.

  3. My favorite book of September was THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER (THE DROWNING EMPIRE #1) by Andrea Stewart. Phenomenal read!

  4. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “Corum: The Queen of the Swords” #8 concludes the comic adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s classic novel.

  5. I haven’t written anything up for my blog for September yet so this will be short(er) than normal.

    Trader’s Leap by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller – latest entry in the Liaden Universe series

    A set of Sherry Thomas books – Claiming the Duchess, Beguiling the Beauty, Tempting the Bride, and Ravishing the Heiress – Late 19th century historical romances. I liked them enough to read the set about the related characters, but didn’t like them enough to keep the author on my check-out-her-other-works list.

    reread – Edge of Worlds and Harbors of the Sun by Martha Wells – finishing up the Raksura series.

    Frostgilded by Stephanie Burgis – a short story in the Harwood Spellbook series – a treat for her Patreon and which will be released to the public soonish, if I remember correctly.

    Documenting Light by EE Ottoman – Wyatt is struggling with a sick mother, underemployment, and stronger and stronger feelings about their gender and how its expressed. Wyatt finds an early 20th century photo of two men and wants to know more about it. Wyatt asks a local historian, Grayson, to do some research on it. Grayson is trans and has lost most of his family because of it. Can they help each other?

    best of month – The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner – I’m rereading the series to be ready for the latest, and last book in the series, Return of the Thief, which is being released next Tuesday. YAY! It’s also a giant, compared to the others–480 pages.

    There will be Phlogiston by Alexis Hall – alternative universe, roughly late 19th century about two aristocrats and a rich-but-from-the-gutter industrialist (kinda) who find love.

    FYI, The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford was released as an ebook last Tuesday.

  6. John Smith /

    I read the latest collection of horror-manga by Junji Ito, “Venus In the Blind Spot.”

  7. The Distinguished Professor /

    “Let Them Eat Tweets” was revealing and infuriating.

  8. Jillian Williams /

    I didn’t get to read very much last month so my favorite read was definitely the Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I have yet to read anything from Hale that I didn’t adore and this was no different. The character development was amazing and the story really took a turn I didn’t anticipate.

  9. Mary Henaghen /

    I am halfway through To Sleep in a Sea of Stars and its fascinating and hard to put down

  10. Lady Morar /

    If you ever want to be able to talk about history’s dirty secrets at a party, check out Mental Floss’s “Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History’s Naughtiest Bits”.

  11. Paul Connelly /

    Best: Deeplight “resembles” other Frances Hardinge novels I’ve read in that each is different in period, setting and type of story. This one also differs by having a boy protagonist, Hark. He’s a grifter living on an archipelago called the Myriad in a fantasy world. Decades before the story begins, the sea monsters that islanders worshipped as gods went to war with each other, and none survived. But chunks of the dead gods (“godware”) are a rare and precious commodity in the islands. Hark is emotionally tethered by habit and lack of alternatives to a slightly older boy named Jelt, the main villain. Jelt is manipulative, dishonest and violent, always laying claim to Hark’s loyalty based on a few good deeds done long ago. Hark is sentenced to indentured servitude in a rest home for aged priests (who have no more gods) as a result of one of Jelt’s deals with some smugglers; then another reckless scheme that Jelt involves Hark in results in Hark finding a very powerful item of godware that he uses to revive a drowned Jelt. Of course Jelt wants to use this to sell their services as healers, but the cure may be worse than any ill. There’s lots of exciting undersea action as well as plotting ashore. I could’ve skipped the prologue and had a final chapter that more fully described the outcomes skimmed over by the epilogue in place of the latter. Otherwise this was another very good Hardinge book.

    Shorefall (Robert Jackson Bennett) takes place several years after the events of Foundryside in a world where magical inscriptions (“scrivings”) are used to alter reality for technological purposes. Former thief Sancia has joined with scriving engineers Orso and Berenice to start a new scriving foundry, with former city guard Gregor helping out. Their example has led other scrivers to abandon the cartel of noble house foundries and become independent craft businesses, which is politically destabilizing. Sancia and Gregor have scrived metal plates in their skulls that give them unusual abilities, but at a cost. Gregor’s mother has reached the culmination of a plan to resurrect Crasedes Magnus, an ancient hierophant with the ability to directly manipulate reality. Crasedes wants to bring about a more moral and utopian human society by changing the foundations of reality, and like many such idealists he is willing to shed innocent blood on a gigantic scale to achieve his ends. To do this he needs Clef, the scrived key that Sancia has, and he needs to neutralize the threat of Valeria, the scrived construct that was able to break free of his control. While Foundryside could be read as a standalone, Shorefall is definitely a middle book, so it ends with the world in a much worse state. A few characters have more depth while others feel sketched in, much as in his Divine Cities trilogy. Enjoyable, but not on par with Divine Cities.

    Swift to Chase is a short story collection by Laird Barron. Most of the stories are about a related set of characters, starting with an older generation in Alaska as adolescents in the late 1970s and revisiting some of them and their offspring over the next 40 years. The connections and storylines don’t exactly mesh, so it’s more like variations on a theme. My favorite story, “Ears Prick Up”, about a cyborg warrior dog in the far future, is one of three stories that don’t appear to fit in. All the stories except “Black Dog” (about an unnamed woman and man on a weird first date) feature explicit violence, usually with a supernatural evil cause (or maybe aliens, the CIA, etc.). The related stories are like pieces of a big picture that you never see in total but get tantalizing glimpses of. Good but pretty grim, with some black humor.

    After owning it for many years, I finally read City of Saints and Madmen, a 2001 collection of four “New Weird” linked stories by Jeff VanderMeer. Cover blurbs by other authors praise its erudition, its style, the intensity of its description, and its surrealistic touches, and those are all praiseworthy; but at the same time I dldn’t like it all that much. “Dradin in Love”, the first story, follows a mentally disturbed ex-missionary, returned to the fabled city of Ambergris, who becomes infatuated with the dimly seen image of a woman in a third storey window, with less than salutary results for him. Next comes “The Early History of Ambergris” by a fictional historian, some of which I found humorous, but probably less than the author intended. “The Transformation of Martin Lake” intercuts the tale of Lake, a painter whose art changes drastically after his forced participation in a crime, with a turgid commentary on Lake’s work by an Ambergris art critic. “The Strange Case of X” is a Twilight Zone-ish story of a nameless authority figure interrogating a prisoner who claims to be the popular author of “Dradin in Love” and guilty of a crime in “the real world”. This clever work may be more of a “writer’s book”, one to be fully appreciated by other writers rather than by less than clever readers like me.

    Yet another set of linked stories comprises The Hope, an early James Lovegrove novel. Ultimately this tale is as surreal as VanderMeer’s, but it’s told in a more conventional style (mostly). A five mile long ocean liner with a million passengers on board sets sail for the other side of the sea but is still sailing 35 years later, when most of the stories take place. The titular vessel in some ways resembles King’s Overlook Hotel crossed with a doomed generation starship–but at sea. On the upper tier of the 25+ decks, the wealthy grow old and decrepit in luxury, while at the bottom starvation and murder are commonplace. It’s anarchy in the UK in miniature. The stories are more tightly linked than at first seems to be the case, on this voyage of the damned.

    • I struggled with Swift to Chase because I had some trouble with context. I think you had a better handle on it than I did.I thought the atmosphere was brilliant, creepy and disturbing, which is certainly something Barron does extremely well.

  12. Katharine Ott /

    For some reason, September was a slow reading month. However, I had two books I really enjoyed: “The Eagle of the Ninth” by Rosemary Sutcliff, an exciting adventure story set in England not too long after Hadrian’s Wall was built; and “City of Windows” by Robert Pobi, another exciting story, this one a thriller about a serial killer hunted by an interesting former FBI agent. On to October!

  13. Susan Emans /

    I can’t choose just one! I love The Murderbot Diaries(yes, I’m late to this wonderful series). And I loved Driving the Deep by Suzanne Palmer; this series continues to amaze me, and Fergus is great.

  14. I read some random paranormal novels, but going to go with “Class Act” by Jerry Craft. I know it’s not a speculative fiction book, but I believe everyone should read the “New Kid” series. “Class Act” is a follow up to “New Kid,” which won the Newbury Award, and this time, the story follows Drew, Jordan’s friend, as he struggles to balance his home life (in the projects) with his school life (at an elite school). He is one of the few minority students in the school, so he receives constant attention both wanted and unwanted. Meanwhile, he struggles to find a way to maintain his friendships with those who are different from him (racial and social economically). The book is a graphic novel, which balances the entertainment tone with the mature mood found within the pages.

  15. I read Francis Hardinge’s two Moska Mye books, Fly by night and Twilight Robbery. Such a love of languages, such brilliant plotting. Really loved them.

  16. Kevin S. /

    The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

  17. Jane Routely, 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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