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 November 2020 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.

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  1. Last month, I read and finished “The Once and Future Witches” by Alix E. Harrow, and let me tell you the blending of fantasy, folklore and history is one of the best I’ve read since reading Katherine Arden’s “Winternight Trilogy.” One of the best things about the book was how the author reiterated the struggles women, minorities, and the lower-income citizens experienced, which influenced them all to demand equal rights and the right to vote.

    Another I finished was “The Empire of Gold” by S.A. Chakraborty. I started reading the book last spring, but I didn’t get to finish it until last month. And, the term “epic fantasy” is attached to this book, and the entire trilogy. “The Daevabad Trilogy” is inspired by “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights,” and the world-building alone will keep you invested in the story from start to finish. Yes, it’ll take some time, but it’s worth it!

  2. I’m not going to do my usual copy/paste of a post off my blog because I read over 30 books (most short novels) this month. Only one or two were F/SF. On the F/SF side, Network Effect by Martha Wells was the best (reread).

    For a few standouts on the romance side,

    The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker. Henry is dumped by his long-term boyfriend for becoming complacent and letting himself go. Henry decides to become healthier and attend a gym where he meets a hunky trainer.

    Throwing Hearts by N.R. Walker
    This one was lovely. Leo is buddies with Clyde, an older gay man, and takes Clyde out to talk and to classes. They sign up for a pottery class. Merrick has been too busy to date while getting his pottery + cafe business up and running. Merrick and Leo notice each other immediately. As a bonus, so do Merrick’s uncle and Clyde later. A really fun, very short novel.

    If you like romance series…I found Four Bears Construction to be a lot of fun. By K.M. Neuhold. I didn’t find Neuhold’s books over all to be as good as Walker’s.

    Yeah, these HEA (happy ever after) books are like popcorn or chips for me. While a few stand out, for most I have to look up the character names and plots in order to write them up properly. But that’s what I seem to need this year.

    If you want to see what else I’ve been reading, I’m on dreamwidth as melita66.

  3. Jillian /

    My favorite book of last month was Murder is easy by Agatha Christie. It wasn’t a very good reading month, but you can never go wrong with Agatha Christie. This mystery was exactly what I expected and was hoping for.

  4. John Smith /

    “Origin” by J.A. Konrath. It’s very pulpy, and a very exciting read about a secret government facility that houses what may be the Devil himself!

  5. Kevin S /

    The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

    Jade City by Fonda Lee

  6. Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler
    Found this while getting help remembering the title of Echoes of Another. Anyway, it’s about altered states – from meditation to flow to exhilaration of extreme sports to good old fashioned hallucinogens.

    And despite my straight-laced nature, this was fascinating. I’m rather glad I didn’t read it or anything like it in my 20’s. Young enough to think “It won’t happen to me” and a degree in chemistry. Anyway, this has huge potential for a SF author (just like we saw lots of parasites after Parasite Rex (which I really need to re-read)).

  7. Noneofyourbusiness /

    The graphic novel adaptation of “Corum: The King of the Swords” by Michael Moorcock, issue #11. The Three-Who-Are-One. Things get even more interesting as three aspects of the Eternal Champion (Corum, Erekosë and Elric of Melniboné) join forces.

  8. Katharine Ott /

    November was a little uneven for me in reading, but the best was “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog” by Adam Gidwitz. It’s hard to summarize, but was a delightful read. And I really liked Emily Tesh’s novella “Silver in the Wood” – with woodland creatures who have lived for hundreds of years. I’m moving fantasy up to the top for next year’s book challenges. Thanks for the opportunity to share!

  9. Paul Connelly /

    Very long list. Best: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke doesn’t have much in common with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell other than, perhaps, the author’s sensibility and command of language. A man lives in the most primitive way in a House that consists of a seemingly infinite series of connected Greek temple-like marble chambers with elaborate symbolic statuary, windows on the sky, and subterranean seas that inundate the lower levels. He only has contact with one other person that he calls the Other, who comes regularly to set him tasks and provide him with a few supplies. The man has no memory of any other life, but evidence of two other people appearing in the House causes him to doubt the Other’s explanations. This make him start reviewing his oldest journals, with disturbing results. I have a feeling readers will either like this very much or dislike it equally. I liked it a lot, for the vivid imagery and the poignancy of the melancholy story.

    Flyaway (Kathleen Jennings) is an Australian “murder ballad” type tale with folkloric beasts, vanished towns and a sinister piper. Narrator Bettina Scott doesn’t exactly reference Merricat Blackwood, but there’s enough of a resemblance to bring Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle to mind, crossed perhaps with the Mabinogion. Tina’s family broke apart on one traumatic night that she remembers imperfectly, and she hasn’t seen her father or brothers since. Her mother has basically confined her to their small neighborhood and kept her in a fugue of obsessive-compulsive rituals to stave off threatening memories. But one day Tina crosses paths with former friends Gary and Trish, who regard her with a mixture of pity and scorn, and they drive out into the bush to find answers to what happened. This is short, creepy and well told.

    If ever a novel needed a dramatis personae after the title page, Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon is it. Maxine Tarnow, decertified financial fraud investigator, her children, ex-husband, and a cast of what seems like hundreds in Manhattan float through the spring of 2001, a year past the dot-com crash, and into the winter of 2002, with the 9/11 attacks coming three quarters of the way through. Maxine is called in by two hackers with an immersive “deep web” virtual world site to check out the billionaire whose firm is buying them out. She finds money being laundered to the Mideast, a buried Long Island server farm with a possibly not entirely human guardian, two jovial Russians with an EMP weapon, a deep state neoliberal hit man, suspect venture capitalists, a fugitive radical (estranged mother of the billionaire’s wife) with plenty of conspiracy theories, and assorted other eccentrics, some of whom don’t survive. New York’s idiosyncrasies, its Jewish culture, and the infrastructure of the internet circa 2001 all figure importantly in the story. It’s not exactly SFnal, but has fantastic elements that are never emphasized and may be just in characters’ minds.

    Monstress Vol. 5 (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) sees the start of the long-threatened war between the Federation (humans) and the Arcanics (magical animal-human hybrids). With the Arcanics in disarray, antiheroine Maika Halfwolf takes charge of the defense of Ravenna against the Federation army. As host for the hideous soul-eating demon Zinn, Maika has to make use of Zinn’s killing power while avoiding being wholly taken over by him. She also needs to get word to the Federation that the Cumaean faction promoting the war has its own cadre of demon-possessed members in its leadership. The plot is getting more coherent, and the beautiful artwork is becoming darker in palette.

    Brief summary of other books I read this month: Yhe Tindalos Asset is the third and maybe last Signalman novella by Caitlin Kiernan, sharply written in a downbeat, New Wave-ish style with burned out secret agents fighting a long losing battle against Lovecraftian horrors. In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, third but not last in that series, Baru’s plan to steal the deadly Kettling plague from the Cancrioth and loose it on Falcrest comes up against the reality of seeing plague victims close up, so her conspiracy takes a new turn. More philosophical discussions slow this one down a bit. The Trouble With Peace (Joe Abercrombie) continues the Age of Madness series with nobles and tribal chieftains fighting among themselves while a very violent anarchist movement gathers in the wake of the world’s industrial revolution–even the few somewhat sympathetic characters from the first book become worse people in this one. Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne is an exciting alien space war story with likable characters and fast-moving action that keeps you from questioning the plausibility of its technology and social structures. The Fourth Island (Sarah Tolmie) is an odd but lyrical novella, somewhere between a folk tale and a fable, about a hidden isle off the Irish coast to which people at death’s door can find themselves suddenly translated. Spectrum 27 annual (Fleskes & Chu) has some fabulous SF art, some less impressive, and more of a feeling of sameness to the art than the older collections by the Fenners. I’m not usually sensitive to issues of representation, but I did feel the human faces portrayed were of a very limited type.

  10. The Distinguished Professor /

    Alexander McCall Smith is a truly brilliant writer. I’ve begun another engrossing and hilarious series of his with “The Sunday Philosophy Club”!

  11. Lady Morar /

    International Piano Competitions Book 2 by Gustav A. Alink. It may just be lists, but it’s good research fodder for my own novel.

  12. I had really good reading month I finished The year of the Witchling by Alexis Henderson, The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty, and Dawnshard and The Rhythm of war by Brandon Sanderson.

  13. John Smith,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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