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 April 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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26 comments

  1. I actually read a bit of SF/F this month plus a bunch of contemporary romances.

    Fugitive Telemetry, anyone? So pleased to get another installment of everyone’s favorite SecUnit although I’d had my suspicions about the culprit pretty early on.

    K.L. Noone was a big find for me in April and I’ve plowed through most of her books already. Things of interest:

    Extraordinary trilogy: Sundown, Holiday, Beacon; Homecomings; Refuge at Clifftop

    Set in a superhero world. The bad guys’ kid is now a superhero and involved with a 2nd gen hero (former sidekick) and a 1st gen hero. The kid has been pretending to be a bad guy so he can pass on intelligence and stop the worst of the plans. Lovely romances between the three and angsty back stories and adventures. I’m a long time comics/super hero fan but OMG, I so want more stories in this setting. Content warning: Noone tends to have D/S pairings, but not B/M (from the BDSM range).

    A Demon for Midwinter (there are several later stories): Kris Starr is an aging rock star, trading on the fame of his broken up group. His handler/manager, Justin Moore, does his best to get Kris good gigs. In this universe, everybody has a little magical/psionic talent. Kris is a empathy sender which makes him great at concerts. Justin…has his own secrets. Great love story, very interesting universe.

    Character Bleed trilogy (Seaworthy; Stalwart; Steadfast). No SF/F content except that both MC are SF/F fans. Jason Mirelli, ex-stuntman now action picture/B-movie star is auditioning for a historical drama. An adaption of a Napoleonic War love story. Colby, a serious star is onboard and a producer but is struggling with a terrible relationship and breakup. So, so good.

    Noone has several other magic/fantasy-related stories, some in a common setting, others not. She’s currently posting a novel on AO3 called Magician which is quite good. It’s up to 14/17 chapters with a new chapter every few days. By Luninosity

    And this book was wow. After Ben by Con Riley is the story of Theo, who is finally, slowly coming out of the grief over the death of his partner, Ben. Ben is suddenly attracted to Peter, a fellow gym-goer, but also to Morgan, a witty, sarcastic commentator on a political forum they both follow. Reading about Theo moving through grief towards love was really wonderful.

  2. Frederick Rossero /

    Fugitive Telemetry! 😍 Love me some Murderbot.

  3. Zina /

    My favorite was The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow.
    I love the lyrical prose and the realistic portrayal of magic, i.e. the need to use the will, the words, and the way. The story not only included the triple Goddess in the form of three sisters who are the protagonist, but included voodoo, western magic, and folk magic in the form of recipes and nursery rhymes, which were used as a trail of crumbs to lead oppressed women involved in the suffrage movement to their power in seventeenth century New Orleans. This alternate history takes place after witch craft has been removed form the world and tells the story of how women fight an ancient evil to regain their power without totally disrespecting males.It also positively illustrates the LGBQ community.

    • Zina /

      Ooops. It was Salem. Not New Orleans. My bad.

      • I can’t wait to read this one!

        • Zina /

          Thanks Michelle! It’s a page turner. I couldn’t put it down.

          I found another book, based on retelling of fairy tales, it’s written by a Wiccan, who includes info from her religion and history of the tales. Not to spoil anything, but it kinda fit with the other book, but not. Here’s the title if you’re interested: Magickal faerytales, by Lucy Cavendish.

  4. John Smith /

    I enjoyed the book of short works by Nick Mamatas, “The Planetbreaker’s Son,” that I won from you folks. The main, title story is a really fascinating picture of a possible AI future.

  5. Paul Connelly /

    Best: A Desolation Called Peace is Arkady Martine’s sequel to A Memory Called Empire, with Lsel Station ambassador Marit Dzmare back on the station after helping to get the Teixcalaan Empire involved in a war with aliens encroaching on station space. But her friend (and romantic interest) Three Seagrass from the Empire shows up to rescue her from being executed by the stationers, and they’re off to the undersized fleet that is battling the aliens, to try initiating communication with the enemy. Back in the palace, eleven year old imperial heir Eight Antidote is trying to figure out (mostly by spying on his elders) both what’s going on in the war effort and who the players are in an internal power struggle. An involving story that moves fast, if you make allowances for Martine’s style, which uses close third person viewpoints where you get told everything going through the viewpoint character’s mind, including value judgements, asides and mental fussing (but not shown in a stream-of-consciousness manner). After the first book, I expected it here, so it didn’t slow down the reading experience as much.

    Radiomen (Eleanor Lerman) could almost have started with a “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before!” Loner heroine Laurie, a middle aged bartender, runs afoul of a cult founded by a not very distinguished writer from the “Golden Age” of pulp SF. The quasi-religious group features million dollar acquisitions and celebrity spokespersons, and is accused of harassment and vandalism by ex-members and public opponents. And their prominent tool is a box that measures electrical resistance of people’s skin. You’ve heard it, right? Here the group is called Blue Awareness, and they’re upset by a not quite suppressed memory that Laurie admits to of seeing a non-human entity as a child. Could aliens live among us, normally invisible? Could they be trying to communicate with us using…dogs? Could they be using our radios to communicate with…God? This is a mostly enjoyable novel (in a low-key way) that is not very long but that does have a few stretches that lag a wee bit. It may help if you know your New York City geography. And like dogs.

    The Unbroken by C. L. Clark follows the radicalization of a woman raised to be a soldier for the empire that conquered her home country. Colonial troops are not trusted or respected by the regular army, and often serve as cannon fodder in the empire’s wars. Unlike Baru Cormorant, who sets out to destroy her world’s empire from within, Touraine simply wants to be valued by the system that oppresses her. When her unit is sent back to their native land to suppress a rebellion, her loyalty becomes increasingly compromised. This is a good flintlock fantasy, but one that seems slightly padded given its plot and fairly small cast of important characters. I didn’t really believe in the romance either, and that’s one element in the story mix. First in a series, but this volume does end decisively. As with Devin Madson’s Reborn Empire series, this uses familiar languages (in this case, French and Arabic) in an invented world. In both series, I found that somewhat jarring.

    Road Out of Winter (Alison Stine) had a premise that sounded fairly original, an endless winter causing the breakdown of society in the US. But the execution left a lot to be desired for me. Too many apparent inconsistencies in the plot and character behavior kept puncturing my suspension of disbelief. Wylodine, the narrator, has been left in Ohio to manage the marijuana crop by her mother and her mother’s drug dealer boyfriend, who have headed to California. Now she lives as more or less an outcast in her small town other than when dope needs to be transacted. But she quickly picks up two guys to go west with her when the ever longer winters finally continue into summer. They repeatedly get diverted onto smaller roads and away from civilization, but somehow always manage to find gas, even with the power grid down. They hardly ever encounter other people, but the ones they need to escape from manage to find them again across state lines in spite of the long distances and constant detours. Their truck is hauling a small house trailer, but they drive off-road and over rough terrain with no difficulty. This is marketed with more literary comparisons (The Road, Station Eleven, etc.), and like some other literary SF it relies on coincidences and pretty writing rather than a believable plot and realistic characters.

  6. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “Realmspace” details the solar system of D&D’s most fleshed-out setting, “Forgotten Realms” for Spelljammer. Among other things, they have paranoid people living on the moon under a giant illusion.

  7. Kevin S. /

    The Sun Down Motel- Simone St James

    Age of War (Legends of the First Empire, #3)- Michael J. Sullivan

    Lullaby Town (Elvis Cole, #3)- Robert Crais

  8. Michael Voss /

    Top prize for April goes to The Girl and the Mountain, the second book in Mark Lawrence’s The Book of the Ice trilogy. And like other recent second books I’ve read, it outshines the first.

    Runners-up are all indie writers: Zack Argyle’s debut Voice of War, which held third place in the just-ended Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off until slipping to fourth in the final days of the competition. But making the top 10 of 300 was a feat on its own! Ben Galley’s The Written, and Graham Austin-King’s Lore of Prometheus were also excellent reads, and I’ll be reading more from all three authors.

  9. Katharine Ott /

    My favorite was “The Silver Well”, a short story collection by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins. The stories are all set in the same village of Cerne Abbas, full of mystical memories. “…that sacred well, that magic place where the light falls differently and words become powerful spells.” They range in time period from 44 AD to 2017 and the characters are all experiencing profound emotions – love, loss, hope, et al. I really appreciated that the common setting drew all the stories together and thought the variety of plots very entertaining. Both authors are Australian and have long lists of published works to explore.

    • Kevin S. /

      That sounds very interesting. I’m a James Michener fan and most of his books center around a location (Texas, Hawaii, Poland, Chesapeake, Mexico, Carribean, etc.). The characters change as time marches on. I’ll definitely put “The Silver Well” on my TBR.

      • Katharine Ott /

        I read Michener’s “Chesapeake” maybe 40 years ago and still remember how I enjoyed it. Many pages as I recall! Hope you enjoy “The Silver Well.”

  10. Lady Morar /

    “Goeie Ouwe Radio” (Good Old Radio), a book in my native Dutch about how radios became part of the family home, in a time I remember from childhood.

  11. Mary Henaghen /

    I read the Sumoner Trilogy. By Tharan Manaru. The novice, the inquistor, the Magellan. I love ya trilogies. This one went in some unexpected directions, bit was very satisfying read.

  12. The Distinguished Professor /

    The Department of Sensitive Crimes introduced me to yet another of Alexander McCall Smith’s many series, this time focusing on the Swedish police. Except with more small, funny cases than the Scandinoir genre. I think it’s the cold, dark environment up there that inspires so much dark writing. It does have an effect on the brain chemistry.

  13. Sethia Michaelis /

    I also enjoyed The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence.

  14. Cradle Lake by Ronald Malfi

    As usual, Malfi has a way with totally creeping me out. A feeling of underlying dread throughout the story, which is what I really love in horror. The use of Native American folklore was very effective in getting across the whole “you’re messing around with nature….stop” mindset. Also, nothing is free. In the end, we end up paying, one way or another. Seriously, I have not been disappointed by a single book I’ve read by this author.

  15. Jillian /

    My favorite was Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. It was a perfect satire and truly made me laugh out loud. His ability to poke fun at religion without being offensive was truly impressive and this book proved to be both hilarious and thought provoking.

  16. Zina,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!

  17. Zina /

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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