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 February 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.

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15 comments

  1. Michael Voss /

    Best read in Feb was PAWN’S GAMBIT, by indie author Rob J. Hayes, a followup to his popular Wuxia novel NEVER DIE, that can work as a standalone and imo surpasses the first novel.

  2. Jillian /

    I wasn’t able to finish any books last month but I’m currently reading words of radiance and it’s a masterpiece.

  3. John Smith /

    “Krampus: Shadow Of Saint Nicholas” by Michael Dougherty. This is a graphic novel that was published in 2015. There’s another unrelated Krampus graphic novel that was published by Image the year before, but I haven’t read that, and I don’t think the art is as good. This 2015 book has artwork that uses a really well-done watercolor technique, and not the relentless, omnipresent, plasticky computer-graphics coloring that seems to pollute most graphic novels, children’s picture books, etc., etc., these days.

    If you ever see blog posts about children’s book illustrators and their work, you’ll often see fresh, delightful, amusing pencil sketches in various levels of detail, and then the illustrators seem to say to themselves, “How can I turn my drawings into something completely uninteresting, commercial, dead, inert, and ‘finished’?” If they just finished their illustrations with colored pencils and not a computer, the work would be so much better.

  4. Susan Whitehead /

    Ken Scholes’ The Psalms of Isaak. A five book fantasy/scifi hybrid series with a very twisty plot, good characters and generally well-crafted storytelling. A treat to have stumbled upon something that ended up being a good read.

  5. February was a fantastic month for me with several F/SF books being released and some favorites being reread. I was book-drunk most of the month and have been reading a ton on AO3 because of it.

    For new books, I have to say that my favorite was Winter’s Orbit. It’s trope-tastic. Backwater empire with several vassal planets. There’s an empire-wide agreement that must be signed in order to re-sign a trade (and defense) agreement with a larger polity. To show unity within the empire, the vassal state have someone marry a royal. Jainan’s husband has unexpectedly died in a crash so he and the playboy Kiem are told to marry asap so the treaty can go ahead. Jainan is grieving. Kiem could never be happy constraining his life to the academic and reserved Jainan, right? Then it looks like the crash may not have been an accident…

    Melissa McShane released another book in her Extraordinaires series, Whispering Twilight. Bess has some telepathic powers but can only fully communicate with someone with similar powers. She ends up marooned in South America and falls head-long into a messy political situation. I was disappointed that the tiger on the cover never appears in the book. b-)

    A.J. Demas released Saffron Alley, sequel to Sword Dance. I reread Sword Dance and was very glad of it as I’d forgotten a lot of the details. You know how characters will misunderstand each other in a book because they’re misinterpreting? In these books, the characters are always speaking in each other’s 2nd or 3rd language and the nuances get them. I also liked how consent was handled in the books. Saffron Alley has Damiskos visiting Varazda in the city of Boukos and them negotiating what kind of relationship they want.

    Then to complete the craziness of the month, I reread Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (sequel next year!!!) and Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (new book, not a sequel this June!!!).

    I <3 these books so much.

    How could I forget? A new K.J. Charles, The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting. Two siblings are taking London by storm. The girl is trying to make a great match while the boy is trying to make enough money at the tables to keep up appearances and is romancing an heiress.

    There were also new Roan Parris and Romeo Alexander and I found a new author, Spencer Spears. All contemporary MM romances.

  6. Kevin S. /

    Shoot the Moon- Billie Letts

    Free Fall (Elvis Cole #3)- Robert Crais

  7. Frederick Rossero /

    Network Effect by Martha Wells! Probably most here already know what am amazing writer she is, but sci fi is new to me (having stuck to fantasy in the past), so I’m happily discovering lots of amazing authors. The Murderbot Diaries are completely bingeable and I love everything about them–the writing style, the narrative tone, the queer and polyam rep, the anti-capitalism. But above all, they’re just amazing stories with loveable characters. I loved Network Effect especially for the character growth and resolution of stuff from the previous novellas.

  8. The Distinguished Professor /

    Unsurprisingly, I’ve continuing to enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club series with the next installment, “The Right Attitude to Rain”. I often regal my wife with what’s been happening to Isabel et al while we turn in.

  9. Katharine Ott /

    February was a good book month, quality-wise. Top was “The Seven Sisters” by Lucinda Riley, the first in a series filled with family secrets, history, and romance. Can I afford to continue the series? Also very much enjoyed were: “Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir, dark and bloody, and no one in my reading groups that I can recommend it to; “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, an unreliable narrator with a shocking twist at the end; “Jepp, Who Defied the Stars” by Katherine Marsh, an unusual YA story about a dwarf in the 1500s; “A Winter’s Promise” by Christelle Dabos, a fun SFF about magical new worlds after the Rupture; “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green, SFF filled with a transformer and lots of social media; and lastly “The City of Brass” by S A Chakraborty, Middle Eastern magical fantasy with lots of action. Sorry I couldn’t keep to just one this time!

  10. I read A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas. It’s the fifth in the series and did not disappoint as I’ve fallen in love with the characters and storyline. It’s a romantic fantasy (mature content – FYI). I’m currently reading the Tin Gypsy series by Devney Perry, romantic suspense with a bunch of tattooed motorcycle boys. So far, they are easy, fun reads that keep me turning the pages.

  11. Paul Connelly /

    Best book: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope [Hawkins] is the source of the term “Ruritanian romance” used for a genre of adventure stories set in imaginary central European kingdoms. So this book, published in 1894, is a type of mundane fantasy, with no magic, but with many other resemblances to contemporary fantasy adventures. British tourist Rudolf Rassendyll is inveigled into the perilous role of impersonating his namesake and lookalike, King Rudolf of Ruritania, when the king’s treacherous half-brother, Duke Michael, takes the real king prisoner. Aided by two loyal advisors, Rudolf must maintain the pretense while trying to free the king, and trying (without success) not to fall in love with the king’s betrothed, Princess Flavia. In the process, Rudolf also keeps encountering (usually at swordspoints) the dashing villain Rupert of Hentzau, the evil duke’s not very loyal accomplice. If you aren’t used to 19th century novels, the first few chapters may not be that easy to get into, but the story barrels ahead quite nicely from there.

    The Seeing Stone (Kevin Crossley-Holland) is the first in a trilogy about a boy named Arthur in 1199 CE. Arthur recently turned 13 and is anxious to find out from his father, the local manor lord, what future is planned for him (he hopes to be a knight). The life of the manor is recreated in convincing detail, from its class inequality and injustices to its celebrations and religious piety. Arthur has two tutors, a priest named Oliver and the mysterious Merlin. Merlin gives the boy a large piece of obsidian in which Arthur sees visions of the life of King Arthur playing out, with many parallels to what he’s experiencing half a millenium later. This is marketed as a children’s book–other than the young protagonist, I’m not sure why. The use of very short (1-10 page) chapters makes it easy to read, maybe one factor. Well written start to a series.

    Qualityland (Marc-Uwe Kling) is a satire about the possible outcome of internet trends (with thinly disguised Amazon, Facebook and Trump stand-ins), and it goes for maximum absurdity rather than trying to be subtle. A lot of the gags are pretty funny though. But it does go on a bit long, so that a “wise old man” character can mouth the author’s commentary about why the internet turned out so bad. If you can imagine one of John Brunner’s Dos Passos-influenced dystopias (The Jagged Orbit, Stand on Zanzibar, etc.) updated to a 2020 near future and played mostly for laughs, that gets you close to where this winds up, with the narrative split between hapless prole Peter Jobless, wealthy jerk politician Martyn Chairman, and android presidential candidate John of Us (who all come together at the very end).

    Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic has a cursed house as its main setting in an era and place that haven’t been used much in fantasy: Mexico in 1950. Noemi, daughter of a wealthy businessman, is charged by her father with finding what is wrong with her recently married cousin, who has sent him a very disturbing letter. She travels to the isolated and decaying mansion, High Place, that is home to the transplanted English Doyle family, into which cousin Catalina has married. The Doyles own a silver mining operation that’s been defunct since the Revolution, and all of them are creepy in one way or another, especially the dying patriarch. There’s lots of creepiness, but the suspense level is not high till the end, and it’s hard to stay involved in this unevenly paced horror novel since no character is very sympathetic. Noemi is spoiled and manipulative, Catalina is a cipher, and the Doyle family are puppets of the evil patriarch. And we don’t see much of 1950 Mexico beyond High Place, a bit of a missed opportunity.

  12. Lady Morar /

    “The Ivory Trade: Music and the Business of Music at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition” by Joseph Horowitz. Intrigue abounds where you might not expect it.

  13. Noneofyourbusiness /

    I’ve been looking at old Spelljammer sourcebooks for D&D; the campaign setting where you pilot a magical spacefaring ship, connecting the other campaign settings. I did an in-depth read of the “Kynnspace” product detailing the solar system of Dragonlance.

  14. Mary Henaghen /

    I read Faithless in Death by JD Robb (Nora Roberts) the 51st book in her futuristic police procedural. Your series does get to be that long without it being worth a read.

  15. Cassie Sanchez,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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